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Daily News – 23.02.2016

European Commission - Daily News

Daily News 23 / 02 / 2016

Brussels, 23 February 2016

Investment Plan for Europe: €2 billion in fresh loans for 20,000 Spanish businesses

The European Investment Fund (EIF) and Compañía Española de Reafianzamiento (CERSA) – part of the Spanish Ministry of Industry - have signed the first InnovFin and COSME counter-guarantee agreements in Spain. These transactions benefit from the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe, and they are expected to trigger nearly €2 billion in fresh loans. European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: "Both EFSI deals signed in Madrid are really positive for small, innovative companies, and for the Spanish economy. The Investment Plan is already bearing fruit in Spain and I expect many more investment projects and SME financing agreements in Spain in the coming months." (For more information see here or contact Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Siobhán Millbright – Tel.: + 32 229 57361)


Eurobarometer: The role of the euro in international trade

The European Commission published today a Flash Eurobarometer on "Possible obstacles to using the euro in international trade" as perceived by companies in France, Germany, Italy and the UK in the aircraft and shipbuilding, energy, financial services, and electrical and mechanical engineering industries. The survey confirms that the euro is widely used by European firms in their invoicing practices with nearly eight out of ten companies invoicing more than 75% of their export in euro. Two thirds of the surveyed firms in France, Germany and Italy said they did not use any other currency for export invoicing than the euro. If companies did use other currencies, this was mostly due to client preference and the important role of the US dollar in global finance. Also, firms' trade invoicing practices appear not to be markedly affected by the European sovereign debt crisis, with around four fifths of the companies saying the crisis had no effect on their use of the euro in trade invoicing. The Flash Eurobarometer survey was conducted to feed into the Commission report on "Invoicing currencies in International Trade – Drivers and Obstacles to the Use of the Euro" which was discussed by euro area Finance Ministers on 11 February 2016 and is also published today. The report found no obvious evidence of widespread concerns in any economic sector for obstacles at micro-level that could limit the use of the euro for trade invoicing. (For more information (Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Audrey Augier – Tel.: + 32 229 71607)


EU and Brazil to work together on 5G mobile technology

This afternoon, Commissioner Oettinger, in charge of the Digital Economy and Society, and Brazilian Minister of Communications André Figueiredo, will sign an agreement to work together on the development of 5G mobile technology. In the future, everybody and everything will use 5G. By 2020, there will be 26 billion connected devices and 70 percent of people will own a smartphone. 5G will be the backbone of the EU Digital Single Market, industries of the future, modern public services and innovative applications such as connected cars, smart homes or mobile health services. To face this global challenge, the EU wants to join forces with Brazil to strengthen cooperation in this strategic area and to make sure that 5G does not develop in silos at the international level. The signing ceremony takes place at 13.00 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (press release to be available in English, Portuguese, Spanish, German and French). Both Vice-President Ansip, responsible for the Digital Single Market, and Commissioner Oettinger are at the Mobile World Congress to highlight EU digital priorities. Yesterday, Vice-President Ansip gave a keynote speech on "Mobile as the foundation for digital identity". He said: "We have already started to prepare the ground for future technology advances, with our proposal to allocate new spectrum within the 700 MHz band for wireless broadband services. It will allow 4G mobile services to be rolled out more cost-efficiently while we work together on 5G to become a widespread reality in Europe".  Commissioner Oettinger has delivered several speeches on 5G. He said: "Our 5G action plan for Europe needs eventually to cover all sectors if we are to secure our leadership in 5G technologies, deploy new networks in time and most importantly contribute to the digitalisation of European industry and society". (The Commissioner's speeches/blog can be found here). (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Marie Frenay - Tel.: +32 229 64532)


Commissioners Navracsics and Thyssen will debate the forthcoming Skills Agenda with Education Ministers

Education Ministers will tomorrow debate the forthcoming Skills Agenda, which the Commission will present later this year to encourage the development of skills required both on today's labour market and in the long term. Commissioners Tibor Navracsics, responsible for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, and Marianne Thyssen, in charge of Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, will represent the Commission in the debate. Commissioner Navracsics said: "While employers complain about not finding enough people with the right skills, five million young people are unemployed. This situation calls for a Europe-wide effort to equip young people with the skills they need for a constantly changing job market. We need a closer relationship between schools and businesses, and we have to foster a broader set of horizontal skills, both through training and education." Commissioner Thyssen said: "Skills are a high priority for this Commission. Urgent action is needed to make sure that our workforce has the skills needed to keep pace with a fast-changing labour market. The upcoming EU Skills Agenda will tackle this challenge." Education Ministers will also take stock of progress made after their declaration in Paris last March: following the terrorist attacks, they committed to strengthening social inclusion and fundamental values through education. The November attacks further underlined the need to act against youth radicalisation.Finally, Ministers are set to call for increased investment in education and training in order to promote economic growth, employment and social inclusion; this will constitute the Education Ministers' contribution to the European Semester. The Council will be followed by a press conference which can be followed here. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt - Tel: +32 229 67083, Axel Fougner +32 229 13213)


European Commission welcomes entry into force of new insurance rules

The European Commission welcomes today's entry into force of the Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD) which aims to create a level playing field between insurance distributors across the European Union (IP/15/5293). It will guarantee that customers get the same standards of choice and service when buying insurance, regardless of the Member State in which the insurance was bought. The Directive will ensure appropriate standards of transparency by setting out the necessary information to be provided to consumers before they sign up to an insurance contract. There are also specific rules for the distribution of insurance-based investment products in order to give consumers comparable levels of protection when investing their savings. Finally, it clarifies procedures for cross-border business and contains rules for the supervision and sanctioning of insurance distributors. Today's Directive is part of a package of measures aimed at improving consumer protection. It updates previous legislation in the area (Insurance Mediation Directive, 2002) and complements other rules on the sale of investment products (MiFID II) and packaged retail and insurance-based investment products (PRIIPS). Member States now have 24 months to transpose its provisions into national law. For further information, see here. (For more information: Vanessa Mock - Tel.: +32 229 56194; Letizia Lupini - Tel.: +32 229 51958)


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of European budget hotel chain by PAI Partners

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of B&B Hotels (France), by PAI Partners, of France. B&B Hotels manages and operates budget hotels, serving both business and leisure travellers, in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic. PAI Partners is a private equity firm which manages and advises private equity funds which in turn control companies active in sectors such as business services, food, consumer goods, general industrials as well as health care. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, in particular because the Parties are not active in the same markets. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7931. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)

Defence: Group of Personalities presents recommendations on defence research

President Juncker's political guidelines set the objective of making the EU a stronger global actor. Today's complex security challenges require a competitive and efficient defence and technological industrial base, which in turn entails more investment in research and innovation. Against this backdrop, in March 2015 the Commission set up a high-level group of personalities to advise on how the EU can support research related to Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). At its third and final meeting in Brussels today, the group of politicians, academics, think tankers and defence company CEOs presented its final recommendations to the chair of the group, Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, and HRVP Federica Mogherini. Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said “We need more research and innovation to help Europe obtain cutting-edge defence and security capabilities." Federica Mogherini added: "Europe needs the technological capacity to be a strong partner in global security." The findings of the report will feed into the Commission's work on a "Preparatory Action" - a term used to describe the testing of a new policy approach requiring limited existing financial resources. A Preparatory Action for CSDP-related research outside Horizon 2020 was already announced in the 2013 Communication on defence and security and confirmed by the European Council conclusions of June 2015. The Commission will also consider the group's recommendations in the context of the European Defence Action Plan. Due later in 2016, the Action Plan will develop a general framework for stronger cooperation in defence to improve access to technologies and innovation and make Europe's defence sector more competitive. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Heli Pietila – Tel.: +32 229 64950)

Easy, transparent, secure: public consultation results indicate how digital public services should look like in the EU

The Commission today published the first results of its public consultation on how to boost digital public services in the EU. The survey focused on the next EU eGovernment Action Plan for the period 2016-2020, an initiative for a Digital Single Market. The Action Plan will encourage modernising public administrations, connect them across borders and facilitate easy and efficient interaction with people, organisations and businesses. More than 80% of respondents to the public consultation, mainly individual citizens, highlighted that they expect e-government services to be accessible to all and transparent. They also consider that public services should guarantee that they fully protect personal data. 86% of respondents consider the 'once-only' principle as an important practice: people, organisations and businesses should be able to provide information to a public administration only once. The aim is to cut red tape so that users do not have to submit the same data and fill in the same forms again and again. This would also encourage public administrations to adopt more efficient systems. A full analysis of the public consultation will be published by the end of March and the Commission will present its eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020 in April 2016. More information can be found here. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Marie Frenay - Tel.: +32 229 64532)




Istanbul High level summit: Commissioner Mimica meets with Somali President

Commissioner for International development and Cooperation, Neven Mimica, will today attend the Somalia High Level Partnership Forum co-organised by the Federal Government of Somalia, the United Nations and Turkey. This is the third and last Forum at ministerial level within the framework of the New Deal Compact for Somalia (essentially a 'Compact' or agreement between the recipient country and the donor community, to guide a partnership between all the parties to transition the country out of fragility). The objective of the Forum is to review progress made last year in the implementation of the Compact, address challenges and consider the ways to extend the partnership with Somalia beyond 2016. Commissioner Mimica will make a keynote speech at the forum. He will also meet with the President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The main objective of this meeting is to underline the importance of the continuation of political processes; to urge for significant reforms in the security sector, and the need to agree on post-Compact working arrangements between Somalia and the donor community. "2016 should be the year for Somalia to take again full ownership of the country", Commissioner Neven Mimica stresses. "All partners of Somalia should respect and support this process through the transparent and accountable political hand-over." Commissioner Mimica's speech will be available here. (For more information Alexandre Polack - Tel.: +32 229 90677; Sharon Zarb – Tel.: +32 229 92256)