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Daily News – 24.10.2016

European Commission - Daily News

Daily News 24 / 10 / 2016

Brussels, 24 October 2016

Investment Plan for Europe: Just under EUR 600 million boost to investment with four agreements across three countries

Four agreements benefitting from the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe, are being signed today. The agreements include EUR 250 million to support upgrading public infrastructure in Lisbon and EUR 230 million in loans for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Greece. To recap, as of mid-October, the operations approved under the EFSI now represent a total financing volume of EUR 24.8 billion which is expected to trigger a total investment of around EUR 138 billion. Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: "Today's agreements provide further evidence that the Investment Plan is working to deliver on our number one priority: stimulating investment for the purpose of job creation. We are beginning to see a substantial increase in the number of agreements being signed. This shows strong support for our recent proposal to extend the EFSI. It is particularly pleasing that these agreements demonstrate that the Plan is working right across Europe." (For more information see here or contact Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Siobhán Millbright – Tel.: + 32 229 57361)

 

L'Europe soutient les micro-entreprises grecques avec €15 millions en prêts

Le Fonds européen d'investissement et la Banque coopérative Pancretan ont signé un accord de garantie de micro-finance visant à soutenir plus de 1000 micro-entreprises à Crète, Athènes et Thessaloniki, sous le Programme européen pour l'emploi et l'innovation (EaSI). L'accord EaSI permettra à Pancretan d'offrir €15 millions sur 5 ans à plus de 1000 micro-entrepreneurs, plusieurs parmi eux expérimentant des difficultés d'accéder au crédit des sources bancaires traditionnelles. Pancretan ciblera principalement des emprunteurs au chômage qui visent à démarrer une nouvelle entreprise. Grâce au programme européen, les micro-emprunteurs pourront bénéficier de prêts à un taux d'intérêt réduit et sans devoir fournir de garanties. La Commissaire à l'emploi, aux affaires sociales, aux compétences et à la mobilité du travail, Marianne Thyssen, a dit: "Avec cet accord, nous montrons notre engagement à contribuer à la reprise économique de la Grèce, en donnant les outils nécessaires à plus de 1000 petites entreprises pour développer leur activité et créer des emplois." Le Programme de la Commission européenne pour l'emploi et l'innovation sociale a pour objectif l'augmentation du taux d'emploi, la protection sociale adéquate, l'amélioration des conditions de travail et la lutte contre l'exclusion sociale et la pauvreté. Le régime de garantie EaSI a été lancé en juin 2015, est financé par la Commission européenne et géré par le Fonds européen d'investissement. (Pour plus d'informations: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: + 32 229 67094)  

 

Commissioner Christos Stylianides concludes a visit to Iran to discuss humanitarian issues

Commissioner Christos Stylianides is concluding his second visit this year to Iran. During his three-day stay, the Commissioner met with the national authorities, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister of Interior and representatives from the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA) and visited humanitarian projects across the country. "The EU and Iran are equally concerned with the humanitarian situation in the region. I am pleased to see the outstanding and strategic efforts of Iran to provide quality assistance to Afghan refugees. Our funding contributes to these efforts and especially to supporting the education of Afghan children. During my visit, I also discussed the increased cooperation in the field of civil protection and disaster risk reduction that the EU and Iran agreed in April this year." said Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian aid and Crisis Management. During his visit, Commissioner Stylianides announced additional €6 million in humanitarian funding to help Afghan refugees in Iran, bringing the overall EU humanitarian support to €12.5 million in 2016. Importantly, he raised international awareness on the humanitarian challenges in the country and laid the foundations for further closer humanitarian cooperation with Iran. A full press release and EbS photo and video coverage are available. (For more information: Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)

 

European Commission approves new financial assistance programme for the Turkish Cypriot Community

The European Commission has approved a new €33 million financial assistance programme for the Turkish Cypriot community. This renewed funding is the continuation of a successful EU-funded programme with particular emphasis on the economic integration of the island and on improving contacts between the two communities and with the EU. Projects under the Aid Programme range from the construction of infrastructure such landfills, to grants for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises and Civil Society Organisations; scholarships and support for confidence building measures such as the Committee on Missing Persons. The Programme is managed directly by the Commission for the benefit of stakeholders in the Turkish Cypriot community. Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue Valdis Dombrovskis said "The EU Aid Programme is another strong signal of the Commission's support for economic and social development within the Turkish Cypriot community. Such support underpins the Commission's continued commitment to the UN-led settlement negotiations." The Commission's Structural Reform Support Service also provides support to the UN-led settlement negotiations at the request of the two communities, in order to provide advice on EU law. Since February this year, the Commission's Structural Reform Support Service has been in charge of the EU Aid Programme and is responsible for coordinating all the Commission's work in facilitating the process for the settlement of Cyprus, in liaison with the President Juncker's Personal Representative to the UN Good Offices Mission in Cyprus. (For more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382)

 

Commission supports ambitious global actions to tackle greenhouse gas emissions in the maritime sector

Only days after the adoption of a  landmark international agreement to tackle aviation emissions, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is expected to step up its efforts to address emissions in the maritime sector. Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc is today in London for the opening of the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the IMO, held until 28 October. Commissioner Bulc will meet with the Secretary-General of IMO, Mr Kitack Lim, with the chairman of the Environment Protection Committee, Mr Arsenio Dominguez and with representatives from industry. Later this week, the Committee is expected to adopt a mandatory global data collection system for the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of ships. This is a first important step to address greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping sector as outlined in theEuropean Strategy for low-emission mobility adopted by the Commission in July 2016. Other agenda items include the revision of the efficiency standards of new ships and discussions of a global sulphur cap in maritime fuel. (For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - Tel.: +32 229 56186; Alexis Perier - Tel.: +32 229 69143)

 

Human and Animal Health: Evaluation of the Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan shows clear added value of European action

The Commission published today the evaluation of the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Action Plan (2011-2016). The evaluation concludes that the Action Plan had a clear EU added value acting as a symbol of political commitment, stimulating several actions within Member States, and has served to strengthen international cooperation. The Action Plan has also provided a framework to guide and coordinate activities on AMR at international level in the area of monitoring and surveillance and on R&D. The evaluation shows that there is a clear need to support and assist Member States in developing and implementing national action plans to reduce differences between them in the use of antimicrobials and prevalence of infections, to foster collaboration across sectors, to improve knowledge of citizens and to strengthen monitoring and surveillance systems by developing expertise on methodologies, solid indicators and instruments. The evaluation demonstrates the need of continuing coordination and collaboration on AMR research on developing new antimicrobials, rapid diagnostic tests, vaccines and alternative treatments, new business models, to sustain investment and increasing the knowledge on the transmission of AMR for a better understanding of the mechanisms causing resistance. Furthermore, given the cross-border nature of AMR, strong EU voice at international level remains necessary, to raise awareness, to encourage countries to consider their own measures against AMR and to take global measures such as WHO implementing policies and the development of OIE standards. The available evidence and the assessments made by Member States in recent years show that given the urgency of the threats of AMR, if no action is undertaken, AMR might result in 10 million deaths globally each year. This is a convincing basis to continue efforts on AMR, while respecting the respective competencies of the EU and of its Member States. For more information see here. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Aikaterini Apostola - Tel.: +32 229 87624)

 

State aid: Commission approves German support to cogenerated electricity; opens in-depth investigation into surcharge reductions

The European Commission has found German plans to support high-efficiency cogeneration to be in line with EU state aid rules. They promote energy efficiency, lower CO2 emissions and lead to a better integration of cogenerated power into the electricity market. At the same time, the Commission will start an in-depth investigation into reductions for certain users from the surcharges imposed to finance the support. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Cogeneration plants not only produce electricity but also put to use the heat generated in the process. The German cogeneration support scheme we approved today can make an important contribution to EU energy and climate goals. It improves the integration of highly efficient electricity cogeneration into the market whilst keeping electricity prices low for customers. At the same time, we need to examine in more detail the impact on competition of reductions for certain users from the surcharge that finances the scheme."A full press release is available online in EN, FR and DE.(For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

 

State aid: Commission approves German electricity demand response scheme

The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules a German measure to stabilise the electricity network by reducing electricity consumption of large consumers. The Commission concluded that the measure improves the security of electricity supply whilst maintaining competition in the Single Market. Under the measure German network operators can enter into flexible, weekly contracts with customers for a total of 1500 megawatt of capacity. This allows the network operators to remotely and at short notice reduce the consumption of those customers in exchange for the payment of a fee. The measure will help the network operators to stabilise the electricity network by cutting demand when necessary. A full press release is available online in EN, FR and DE. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

 

State aid: Commission approves €60 million public support for environmentally friendly buses and related infrastructure in Portugal

The European Commission has found Portuguese plans to support the purchase of low-emission buses for public infrastructure in urban areas to be in line with EU state aid rules. The measure contributes to reducing CO2 emissions while limiting distortions of competition in the Single Market. In June 2016, Portugal notified a €60 million scheme aiming to support the replacement of old conventionally propelled buses with new low-emission buses and related refuelling/recharging infrastructure. The measure will be open to all green technologies currently available – (i) compressed natural gas or liquid natural gas buses, (ii) electric or hybrid buses, and (iii) hydrogen buses. The Portuguese government will support 85% of the eligible costs through funding from the EU Cohesion Fund. Bus operators will bear the remainder. The Commission concluded that the project's contribution to EU environmental goals clearly outweighs any potential distortion of competition brought about by the public financing. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "This measure will help to improve air quality in Portugal and is aligned with Europe's objective to reduce emissions. It supports the transition towards greener public transportation in urban areas without distorting competition." The full press release is available online in EN, FR, DE and PT. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

 

Mergers: Commission clears joint acquisition of furniture producer Cofel by Pikolin and Steinhoff

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over Cofel of France by the Steinhoff group of South Africa and Pikolin of Spain. Cofel, currently wholly-owned by Pikolin, manufactures and sells furniture, in particular bedroom furniture, at the wholesale level mainly in France and at the retail level in Belgium. Steinhoff's retail activities in Europe focus on furniture, home decoration and electronics. Steinhoff also manufactures and sells furniture at the wholesale level and provides certain logistics, supply chain management and warehousing services. Pikolin mainly manufactures and sells bedroom furniture at wholesale level, including through Cofel. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of its limited impact on the market. 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.8164. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Angela Nardella - Tel.: +32 229 86801)

 

Mergers: Commission clears joint acquisition of Petco by CVC and CPPIB in pet retail sector

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over the U.S. company Petco by CVC of Luxembourg and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board ('CPPIB'). Petco is a pet specialty retailer. CVC invests in companies active in various industries, including chemicals, utilities, manufacturing, retailing and distribution primarily in Europe, the US and the Asia-Pacific region. CPPIB invests in public equities, private equities, real estate, infrastructure and fixed income instruments. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because the activities of CVC and CPPIB on the one hand and the activities of Petco on the other hand do not overlap and they are not active on related markets. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8184. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Angela Nardella - Tel.: +32 229 86801)

 

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Rackspace Hosting by Apollo Management

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Rackspace Hosting, Inc. by Apollo Management, L.P., both of the US. Rackspace's principal activity is the provision of IT services. Apollo invests in companies and debt issued by companies in various areas throughout the world including IT consulting, security and financial businesses. The activities of Rackspace and Apollo's portfolio companies overlap in the worldwide provision of IT outsourcing services, in particular in the segment of public cloud computing services. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because the overlaps between the activities of Rackspace and Apollo's portfolio companies were limited, and a number of strong players would remain in the market after the merger. 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.8215. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Angela Nardella - Tel.: +32 229 86801)

 

EU agri-food trade figures in August 2016 show increase in pig meat exports

The monthly value of EU agri-food exports in August 2016 reached €10.6 billion, exceeding the export values in August of previous years. Highest increases in monthly export values (August 2016 compared to August 2015) were recorded for the USA (€+221 million) and China (€+106 million). Also, agri-food exports to other Asian countries (Vietnam, Japan, South Korea) increased by €50 million or more each. Exports of pork and infant formula did particularly well compared with August 2015 while exports went down for milk powder and raw hides and skins. Analysing the EU export performance over the last twelve months per product category, export values increased in particular for pig meat (€+1.2 billion; +31% compared to export values in the 12-months period one year ago). Agri-food imports from third countries also increased in value over the last 12 months, most particularly for Ivory Coast (+21%), Argentina (+7%), Peru (+14%) and Australia (+12%). All figures for August 2016 and the 12-months period can be found online. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Clémence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509)

 

Eurostat: Government debt fell to 91.2% of GDP in euro area

At the end of the second quarter of 2016, the government debt to GDP ratio in the euro area (EA19) stood at 91.2%, compared with 91.3% at the end of the first quarter of 2016. In the EU28, the ratio decreased from 84.5% to 84.3%. Compared with the second quarter of 2015, the government debt to GDP ratio fell in both the euro area (from 92.1% to 91.2%) and the EU28 (from 87.5% to 84.3%).A press release is available here. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Annikky Lamp – Tel.: +32 229 56151)

 

Eurostat: Seasonally adjusted government deficit down to 1.5% of GDP in the euro area

In the second quarter of 2016, the seasonally adjusted general government deficit to GDP ratio stood at 1.5% in the euro area (EA19), a slight decrease compared with 1.6% in the first quarter of 2016. In the EU28, the deficit to GDP ratio stood at 1.8%, a slight decrease compared with 1.9% in the previous quarter.A press release is available here. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Annikky Lamp – Tel.: +32 229 56151)

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

The EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States: Taking the partnership further

High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini will co-chair the first stand-alone meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on 25 and 26 October 2016 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, together with the incumbent CELAC President, Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic Miguel Vargas Maldonado. The Foreign Ministers from both regions will take stock on the progress of implementing the action plan for the regions, adopted at last year's Summit in Brussels. The outcomes of this partnership so far include improvements in public safety, the creation of jobs, exchange of students, and action on climate change. Foreign ministers will also sign an agreement establishing the EU-LAC Foundation as an international organisation. This will further advance our partnership by fostering mutual understanding and knowledge as well as linking inter-governmental processes to business, academia and citizens of both regions. At the same time, the European Union will reaffirm its commitment to the Latin American and Caribbean regions and sign new cooperation projects worth €74 million. Overall, the EU will commit over €710 million in key sectors such as climate change, governance, security and inclusive growth. The programmes will support sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean and lead to the improvement of the living conditions of their populations. Furthermore, a EU-CARIFORUM Foreign Ministers meeting will be co-chaired by HR/VP Mogherini, where the participating ministers will discuss the issues of Financing for development and Climate change.(For more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Christina Wunder – Tel.: +32 229 92256)

 

Crossing a border for a medical treatment: Commission publishes data from 23 Member States

Today, at the conference "Towards amplified awareness of EU rights to cross-border care", in Brussels, the Commission published data from 23 EU countries on their use of the Cross-border Healthcare Directive in 2015. Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis emphasised the importance of this legislation for patients' rights and called for further work to improve patient information and National Contact Points coordination. He regretted the low awareness among EU citizens of patients' rights to cross-border healthcare. The Commissioner underlined the importance of enhanced cooperation with patient organisations, healthcare providers and insurers. He also highlighted the European Reference Networks (ERNs), as an excellent example of how cooperation between health systems can help patients suffering from a rare and complex disease by offering healthcare providers better access to key knowledge and expertise. "Some medical conditions arise too infrequently for all countries to invest in the expertise to diagnose and treat them. ERNs – the first of which are expected to become operational in 2017 - can overcome this problem by pooling expertise from across different EU countries", said the Commissioner. The 2015 data in full, and more information on cross-border healthcare, is available online. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Aikaterini Apostola - Tel.: +32 229 87624)

 

Le Commissaire King en visite officielle à Paris

Aujourd'hui, le Commissaire King sera à Paris où il rencontrera le Ministre de la Justice, Jean-Jacques Urvoas, pour discuter d'une coopération plus étroite dans les domaines de la sécurité et de la justice, visant à lutter contre le terrorisme et à prévenir la radicalisation. Le Commissaire King rencontrera également Harlem Désir, Secrétaire d'Etat en charge des Affaires européennes. Le Commissaire se rendra à l'Assemblée Nationale française, où il rencontrera la Présidente de la commission des affaires européennes à l'Assemblée nationale, Danielle Auroi, et le Président de la Commission des lois constitutionnelles, de la législation et de l'administration générale de la République, Dominique Raimbourg, ainsi que le Président du Sénat, Gérard Larcher. Le Commissaire King discutera également de  la coopération entre les autorités chargées de l'application de la loi, avec le procureur de la République française François Molins. Par ailleurs, le Commissaire participera à une visite de l'aéroport Charles de Gaulle-Roissy. (Pour plus d'informations: Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Katarzyna Kolanko – Tel.: +32 299 63444)

 

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

MEX/16/3529