EXME 12 / 22.02
Midday Express of 2012-02-22
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
The European Commission has today proposed to suspend EUR 495 184 000 of Cohesion Fund commitments taking effect on 1 January 2013, representing 0.5 % of GDP and 29% of the country's cohesion fund allocations for 2013. This unprecedented step follows the Commission's repeated warnings to Hungary urging it to step up its efforts to end the country's excessive government deficit, and its subsequent failure to take appropriate action. On 11 January this year, the European Commission concluded, as part of the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP), that Hungary had not taken effective action to bring its deficit to below the target of 3% of GDP by 2011 in a sustainable and credible manner ( see IP/12/12 and MEMO/12/7). The European Commission therefore proposed to step up the Procedure. This recommendation was endorsed by the Council of Ministers on 24 January, paving the way for a suspension of part of the Cohesion Fund commitments for Hungary.
The European Commission has authorised under EU state aid rules a grant from the European Cohesion Fund to the Klaipeda Port authority for the extension and improvement of quays for the new passenger and freight ferry facility in Klaipeda (Lithuania). The Commission concluded that the measure was necessary in order to improve the accessibility of Lithuania by sea and boost regional development, while not compromising the functioning of the neighbouring ferry terminals.
The European Commission will investigate whether financial arrangements between public authorities and the airports of Saarbrücken, Zweibrücken, Lübeck-Blankensee (Germany) and Klagenfurt (Austria), as well as rebates and marketing agreements concluded between these airports and some of the airlines using them, are in line with EU State aid rules. The opening of proceedings gives interested third parties an opportunity to submit comments on the measures under assessment; it does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
The European Commission has authorised RON 1169 million (approximately €270 million) of public funding for the closure of three uncompetitive coal mining units owned by National Hard Coal Company JSC Petrosani (CNH SA). The Commission found the measure to be in line with EU state aid rules because production aid will decrease over time and Romania committed to carry out accompanying measures to mitigate the social and environmental impact of the closure.
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules a recapitalisation of HUF 30 billion (app. €100 million) and a loan under the Hungarian liquidity scheme of approximately HUF 120 billion (approximately €400 million) for the Hungarian bank FHB. After an in-depth investigation (see IP/10/1731), the Commission concluded that the measures were in line with its guidance on state support for banks during the crisis because the revised restructuring plan will restore the bank's viability while ensuring that the distortion of competition created by the aid is kept to the minimum.
In December 2011 compared with November 2011, the euro area (EA17) industrial new orders index rose by 1.9%, after a fall of 1.1% in November. In the EU27 new orders increased by 1.3% in December 2011, after a decrease of 1.2% in November. Excluding ships, railway & aerospace equipment, for which changes tend to be more volatile, industrial new orders gained 2.5% in the euro area and 2.6% in the EU27. In December 2011 compared with December 2010, industrial new orders decreased by 1.7% in both zones. Total industry excluding ships, railway & aerospace equipment fell by 0.8% in the euro area, but rose by 0.9% in the EU27. Compared with 2010, the average new orders index for 2011 increased by 8.3% in the euro area and by 7.6% in the EU27.
State aid: Commission approves extension of the Italian guarantee scheme for credit institutions
The European Commission has approved until 30 June 2012 the extension of a scheme allowing to provide state guarantees for credit institutions in Italy, initially approved in December 2011 ( MEX/11/1215).The Commission found the extension to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis ( IP/08/1495) as revised in its Communication of 1 December 2011 ( IP/11/1488). The measures are well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The Commission, therefore, concluded that the guarantees are compatible with Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), that allows to grant aid to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state.
Commission Action team leaves for Spain
Brussels, 22 February 2012 – The European Commission Action team is going to Spain, where unemployment is affecting almost 50% of young people. The current situation is due in particular to early school leaving – Spain's rate is very high compared with the EU average, with high levels of graduate unemployment and segmentation of the labour market characterized by frequent use of temporary contracts. Unemployment affects all groups of young people, but most at risk are those with low skills. Starting tomorrow, the Action team will be working on the ground with a team of national experts in order to find targeted actions to tackle youth unemployment. To that end they will see how to use the EU structural Funds that are still to be allocated. Combating youth unemployment requires coordinated action between education and labour market. Short term solutions focussing on the support of education and training, such as increasing the skills of youth unemployed through immediate training, strengthening the role of apprenticeships and vocational training, including via programmes as Erasmus and Leonardo da Vinci, encouraging entrepreneurship, are all concrete actions that can be considered. The discussions will also focus on how to support and to accelerate the implementation of investments in the SME sector as a key driver of job creation. Spain has already taken measures targeted to labour market reforms and the reform of active labour market policies, therefore the Action team, working in cooperation with the national authorities and social partners, will focus on complementing and speeding the implementation of these reforms. The President of the European Commission, Mr Jose Manuel Barroso, launched this intensive joint effort at the informal meeting of the European Council on 30 January, calling for an extra effort to be made to tackle youth unemployment and prevent the alienation of young people from the labour market; and to focus on helping hard-pressed SMEs. The President proposed to create Action teams of Commission and national experts, with the involvement of national social partners, to develop targeted plans to be included in the National Reform Programmes which will be submitted to the European Commission (mid-April) as part of the European semester of EU economic governance. President Barroso will report back on initial results at the European Council on 1-2 March 2012.
Berlin climate change and ICT innovation centres host visit by Commissioners
Climate change and ICT hubs in Berlin, which are part of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) knowledge and innovation communities, will host a visit by Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, on 23 February. The morning will begin with a strategy meeting with the directors of the 'Climate KIC' and 'EIT ICT Labs'; these are public-private partnerships bringing together top universities, research institutes, industry, start-up companies and public bodies. The two Commissioners will then see young entrepreneurs at the European Energy Forum Campus, Berlin's low-carbon innovation centre, and three start-up companies created as part of the Climate KIC's activities. In the afternoon, at the EIT ICT Labs hub, Commissioner Vassiliou will meet students from the "software campus" among others. Commissioner Vassiliou will also meet Annette Schavan, the German Federal Minister of Education and Research, to discuss the Commission's proposals for the future of the EIT and its new programme for education, training, youth and sport, Erasmus for All (see IP/11/1398). A briefing followed by a press corner with the Commissioners will take place at Climate-KIC Germany (Messelbau, Torgauer Strasse 12-15, 10829 Berlin) at 09:30.
Today President Barroso received the Chairman of the High Level Group of Independent Stakeholders on Administrative Burdens, Dr. Edmund Stoiber, who handed over the Group's report "Europe can do more" on best practice in Member States to implement EU legislation in the least burdensome way.
Today, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, announced that the EU stands ready to provide additional support to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), following a meeting with the Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali. The announcement comes ahead of an international conference on the future of Somalia that will take place on 23 February in London and is subject to UN Security Council endorsement of a strengthened AMISOM. The High Representative and Vice President of the Commission, Catherine Ashton and EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, will be in London to reaffirm that stabilising and developing Somalia, together with the African Union and international partners, is an EU priority. The new commitment will contribute to the proposed increase in troop strength active in the African Union-led Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). EU aid covers costs such as troop allowances, medical care, housing, fuel, and communication equipment.
In February 2012, the DG ECFIN flash estimate of the consumer confidence indicator improved in both the EU (up to -20.1 from -20.8 in January 2012) and the euro area (up to -20.2 from -20.7 in January 2012).
The first Entrepreneurship Awards for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) were announced at the Royal Academy of Science in Brussels this evening in the presence of Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. The three overall winners were chosen from among nine start-up companies created as part of the EIT's knowledge and innovation communities (KICs) in the areas of climate change, sustainable energy and ICT.
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