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Daily News – 24.07.2013

EXME 13 / 24.07


24 / 07 / 13

Towards a more competitive and efficient European defence and security sector

The successive waves of cuts in defence budgets and the persisting fragmentation of defence markets in Europe threaten Europe’s capacity to sustain effective defence capabilities and a competitive defence industry. This also jeopardises Europe’s capacity to meet the new security challenges in an autonomous and effective way. This is why the European Commission has presented today a Communication which contains an Action Plan to enhance the efficiency and competitiveness of Europe’s defence and security sector. The Communication foresees measures to strengthen the internal market for defence, to promote a more competitive defence industry and to foster synergies between civil and military research. Besides these, the Communication also explores options in other areas such as energy, space and dual-use capabilities. The Commission invites Heads of State and Government to discuss this Communication at the European Council in December 2013, together with the report prepared by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. See also MEMO/13/722 .

A press conference with President Barroso ( SPEECH/13/657), Vice-President Tajani ( SPEECH/13/656) and Commissioner Barnier ( SPEECH/13/659) will take place at 12:30. Their press statements will be available after delivery.

New rules on Payment Services for the benefit of consumers and retailers

In order to adapt EU payments market to the opportunities of the single market and to support the growth of the EU economy, the European Commission adopted today a revised payment Services Directive ("PSD2") and a proposal for regulation on interchange fees for card-based payment transactions. This package is aimed to provide legal certainty to all market participants and ensure a level playing field in the EU by facilitating the internal market for card, internet and mobile payments; and by promoting transparency through information on the fees charged in relation to such payments. There will be big benefits for consumers and merchants not only in terms of lower costs, but also in terms of security and protection against fraud, possible abuses and payment incidents. The package also promotes the development of innovative mobile and internet payments, which will benefit EU competitiveness. See also MEMO/13/719 .

Other news

Fighting fraud: Annual report underlines need for strong measures to protect EU budget

Fraud affecting the EU budget increased slightly in 2012 compared to 2011, according to the Commission's annual report on the "Protection of the EU's Financial Interests". On the expenditure side, in total, €315 million in EU funds were affected by fraud, or 0.25% of the expenditure budget. This compares to €295 million the previous year. The reason for this increase lies almost entirely with two cases of fraud in pre-accession funds, involving large sums. On the revenue side of the budget, suspected or confirmed fraud amounted to €77.6 million, representing 0.42% of the total traditional own resources collected for 2012. This compares to €109 million the previous year. See also MEMO/13/720 .

State aid: Commission finalises discussions on restructuring plans for Portuguese banks CGD, Banco BPI, BCP

The European Commission has concluded that the restructuring plans of the three Portuguese banks Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD), Banco BPI (BPI) and Banco Comercial Português (BCP) are in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the plans demonstrate that the banks are viable without continued state support, contribute to a sufficient level to the costs of restructuring and include adequate safeguards to limit the distortions of competition created by the state support.

State aid: Commission consults on draft Guidelines for supporting risk finance investments

The European Commission is consulting the public on draft guidelines on how Member States can support the provision of risk finance to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Based on the results of a first consultation in July 2012 (see IP/12/789), the draft proposes more flexibility in defining eligible companies and forms of financing. It is aimed at further enhancing the ability of SMEs to access finance, in line with the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy . Comments can be submitted until 17 September 2013. In light of the submissions, the Commission will then adopt new guidelines at the end of 2013.

State aid: Commission's competition service consults on additional categories for revised General Block Exemption Regulation ('GBER – part II')

Following the adoption of a revised Council Regulation enabling the European Commission to adopt state aid exemptions for additional categories of aid on 22 July 2013 (see IP/13/728), the Commission's competition service consults the public on a first proposal for such additional categories to be included in a revised General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER – part II). This consultation follows a first consultation on the review of the GBER in May 2013 (see MEX/13/0508), which took place before the adoption of the Council Regulation and therefore did not cover the additional categories now proposed. In light of submissions received in the two consultations, the Commission will prepare a consolidated proposal for a revised GBER, on which stakeholders will be consulted again in late 2013. The revision of the GBER is part of the Commission's state aid modernisation (SAM) initiative (see IP/12/458).

State aid: Commission opens in-depth inquiry into alleged aid to German pharmaceutical companies in financial difficulties

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to verify whether a German scheme, granting companies in financial difficulties exemptions from rebates that pharmaceutical companies are obliged to offer to German public sickness funds and private health insurers, is in line with EU state aid rules. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties an opportunity to comment on the scheme under assessment. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

"East Kent Goldings" registered as a Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO)

The European Commission has added the denomination " East Kent Goldings " (United Kingdom) to the list of protected denominations of origin (PDOs). " East Kent Goldings " are hops with delicate floral aromas of lightly sweet lemon used for brewing, which are produced, processed and packaged in a defined area in East Kent. More than 1,100 products are already protected by the legislation on protection of Geographical Indications (PGIs), Denominations of Origin (PDOs) and Traditional Specialties (TSGs). More information on quality products as well as the list of protected denominations are available at the following address:

New Director General for Directorate-General Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid

The European Commission has appointed Mr Fernando Frutuoso de Melo as new Director General for Development Cooperation – EuropeAid. He replaces Mr Fokion Fotiadis, who retires at the end of October. DG DEVCO - EuropeAid is the Directorate-General responsible for formulating EU development policy and defining sectorial policies in the field of external aid, in order to reduce poverty in the world, to ensure sustainable development and to promote democracy, peace and security, in close coordination with the European External Action Service (EEAS). It covers Development Policy, under Commissioner Piebalgs, as well as the European Neighbourhood Policy, under Commissioner Füle. It acts in Eastern Europe, South and East Mediterranean, Africa, Asia, Pacific, Caribbean, Central and South America. Mr Fernando Frutuoso de Melo, 58, is a longstanding Portuguese Commission official. He was recruited in 1987 after passing a general competition and has a wide experience in several policy areas, including important management responsibilities. He has worked for 10 years in the Directorate-General for Development, where he was first appointed Head of Unit in 1993. He has later worked in DG Human Resources and DG Fisheries, before joining in 2004 the private office of Commissioner Olli Rehn, then responsible for enlargement. In 2006, he was appointed Director in the Secretariat General of the Commission, being responsible mainly for relations with the European Parliament. In 2009 he joined the private office of President Barroso, as Deputy Head and in May 2012 was appointed Deputy Director General in DG Human Resources and Security. Before joining the Commission he worked in the Portuguese civil service and in the private sector. This decision will take effect as of 1 November 2013.

July 2013: Flash Consumer Confidence Indicator

In July 2013, the Directorate General for Economic and Monetary Affairs Flash Estimate of the Consumer Confidence indicator improved markedly in the euro area (-17.4 after -18.8 in June 2013) and, particularly, the EU (-14.8 after -17.5 in June 2013).