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Daily News – 25.06.2013

EXME 13 / 25.06


25 / 06 / 13

President Barroso met the Head of the Tunisian Government, Ali Larayedh

Today President Barroso welcomed the Head of the Tunisian Government Mr. Ali Larayedh. This was their first meeting. They discussed Tunisia's political progresses made in the past two years, regional development, economic recovery and security. EU – Tunisia bilateral relations namely support through the SPRING program and the dialogue on migration and mobility was addressed as well.

President Barroso meets the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

Today President José Manuel Barroso met the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Mr Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. In today's meeting they looked at how to improve cooperation between the two organisations. President Barroso welcomed the opening of a new Permanent Observer Mission of the OIC in Brussels which will certainly contribute to a more regular dialogue, increased cooperation and deeper relationship.

The discussion also focused on the Arab awakening and on security challenges in the whole region, from Syria to the Sahel. Both leaders concurred that political polarisation and huge economic and social needs have to be addressed to prevent instability from growing. 

President Barroso explained the EU engagement in the Middle East and North African countries through its Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity, whose aim is to support political and economic transition reforms. Respect for democracy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion or belief, are key for the success of democratic transformation. The EU has mobilised significant additional resources in grants (around €500M in new grants in 2011-2013 through the SPRING programme) and loans, and has set up Task Forces (with Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt) to facilitate coordinated action for investment in the respective countries.

Regarding Syria, President Barroso said that only a political solution can ensure a stable, inclusive and democratic Syria. The EU strongly supports the joint US-Russia call for a peace conference on Syria in Geneva. The EU is currently the main donor with €900 million committed both in Syria and neighbouring countries in response to the crisis. Recently an additional 400 million were announced by President Barroso to address the appalling humanitarian situation.

EU investment for education and youth employability pays off, OECD report confirms

The European Commission today welcomed the launch of Education at a Glance 2013, an annual report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which analyses the education systems of the 34 OECD member countries, including 21 EU Member States, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. The report identifies challenges for European education systems that must be tackled by the EU and its Member States working together, and confirms the importance of policies aimed at modernising education systems and increasing opportunities for young people to study or train abroad. "Investing in education always pays off in the long run and Member States cannot afford to forget this when it comes to allocating public budgets. As the report confirms, cutting back on education spending in general, and on teachers' salaries in particular, can hinder our objective of providing efficient and high quality education systems," said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.

Other news

President Barroso and Commissioner Piebalgs meet President-elect of Paraguay

President Barroso and Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs will meet today Horacio Cartes Jara, President-elect of Paraguay. These meetings will be a good occasion to discuss future EU - Paraguay relations, the situation in the Mercosur and the current negotiation process for an Association Agreement. Later this year, Commissioner Piebalgs will visit the country to represent the EU at the Ceremony of Inauguration of the President on August 15. The Commissioner's visit will also be an opportunity to discuss future cooperation with Paraguay in the period 2014-2020. EU cooperation with Paraguay for 2007-2013 was €130 million and focuses on education, economic integration and the fight against poverty (via sectoral budget support). For more information please click here.

EU Employment and Social Situation: Quarterly Review highlights advantages of traineeships; latest migration trends

Temporary contracts can be a good opportunity for a young person to get into the labour force in particular if they are linked to education or training (as is common in Germany and Austria), according to the latest Employment and Social Situation Quarterly Review . However, when young temporary workers are on short-term contracts involuntarily (e.g. in Spain and Poland) there is a risk that they remain trapped in insecure working conditions. The Review also highlights the latest migration trends in Europe and confirms that quality childcare leads to long-standing benefits for the child. Commissioner László Andor commented: "Our latest analysis confirms the advantages of apprenticeships and traineeships in terms of helping young people to get a quality job. This underlines the urgency for all Member States to make the Youth Guarantee a reality before the end of 2013.”

Digital Agenda: Open standards would save public sector €1 billion a year

The Commission today releases a new policy to help public authorities avoid dependence on a single ICT supplier. Following the recommendations in this new "against lock-in" approach could save the EU's public sector more than €1.1 billion a year. For example, open tendering procedures can attract increased numbers of bidders with better value bids (doubling the number of bidders typically lowers contract size by 9%).

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes says: "Open standards create competition, lead to innovation, and save money. The guide issued today is here to help national authorities grab every opportunity for innovation and efficiency."

Helping businesses to access EU finance: single portal now includes Structural Funds

From today businesses around Europe will have easier access to much needed finance as the European Commission expands the single portal on EU finance, to include EU Structural Funds: the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). Launched last month, the new single portal on EU finance provides easy, complete and up-to-date information on how entrepreneurs and SMEs can access over €100 billion of EU financing from various 2007-2013 programmes. Today’s additions will double the number of partner banks and funds to over 1 000., further strengthening a vital information source for SME financing through guarantees, loans and venture capital ( MEMO/13/606).

European Commission calls for EU wide ban on synthetic '5-IT' drug

Ahead of the International Day Against Drug Abuse & Illicit Trafficking, the European Commission has today proposed an EU-wide ban on ‘5-IT’, a synthetic substance with stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. The Commission has asked EU Member States to prevent the drug spreading freely across Europe by submitting it to control measures. “The rapid spread of new psychoactive substances is one of the biggest challenges in drugs policy. With a borderless internal market, we need common EU rules to tackle this problem", added Vice-President Reding.

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of NYSE Euronext by InterContinental Exchange

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of NYSE Euronext ("NYX") by the InterContinental Exchange ("ICE"). NYX and ICE operate exchanges providing trading and clearing services, particularly in the field of derivatives. The Commission's investigation confirmed that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns as NYX and ICE are not direct competitors in the markets concerned and would continue to face competition from a number of other competitors.

Mergers: Commission clears creation of Ardent Mills joint venture by US-based groups ConAgra Foods, Cargill and CHS

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the creation of a joint venture to operate under the name of Ardent Mills S. à r. l. by ConAgra Foods Inc., Cargill Incorporated and CHS Inc of the US. ConAgra is a food company; Cargill supplies food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services; while CHS is active in the energy, grains and food sectors. Ardent Mills will be active in North America in the operation of flour mills and the sale of various grades of flour, bakery mixes and other outputs from the milling process. The operation 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.6928 .

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of R&R by PAI partners

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of R&R Ice Cream by PAI partners SAS. R&R, registered in Luxembourg, is a manufacturer of ice cream products. PAI partners is a French private equity fund, focused on the acquisition of medium to large-sized companies, headquartered or managed in Europe. The operation 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.6942.

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of BMC Software by investment funds Bain Capital and Golden Gate Capital

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint-control over BMC Software Inc. by Bain Capital Investors, LLC and Golden Gate Capital Opportunity Funds, L.P. BAIN and Golden Gate are private equity investment firms. BMC Software is a provider of IT management software solutions. The operation 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.6953 .

Premier décaissement de la Commission européenne pour la consolidation de l'État au Mali

Un paiement de 90 millions d’euros vient d'être effectué par la Commission européenne en faveur du Mali dans le cadre du « Contrat d'Appui à la Consolidation de l'État ». A cette occasion, le Président de la Commission européenne, José Manuel Barroso, a déclaré : «Ce décaissement, qui fait partie du paquet d’aide de 523M€ que j’ai annoncé lors de la Conférence des donateurs ‘Ensemble pour le renouveau du Mali’ le 15 mai dernier à Bruxelles, confirme l’engagement fort de l’Union européenne en faveur de la consolidation de l’Etat malien. » Le Président Barroso a ajouté : «Je salue la signature de l’accord intervenu le 18 juin en vue de la tenue effective des élections le 28 juillet et j'encourage les autorités maliennes à poursuivre leurs efforts pour la mise en œuvre de la feuille de route de transition et du Plan pour la Relance Durable du Mali.» La Conférence « Ensemble pour le renouveau du Mali », a permis de recueillir 3,285 milliards d’euros de promesses d’aide, provenant de 56 bailleurs bilatéraux et multilatéraux.

Partnership in action: EU Outermost Regions present investment and growth plans for 2014-20

Commissioner Johannes Hahn will today receive strategic growth plans for the EU’s eight Outermost Regions, with an individual path for each to make the best use of EU Structural Funds, in conjunction with other EU policies. Commissioner Hahn, responsible for coordinating all EU policies for these territories, will be discussing the Action Plans in Brussels with Presidents and Vice-Presidents from the eight regions. He commented: "These new strategies are important tools to help Europe's Outermost Regions play to their strengths and boost their economies. Of course by virtue of their geography, these regions do face big challenges. But they also have unique assets. The action plans will identify how they intend to make the most of these, with the support of the whole range of EU instruments."

Commissioner Piebalgs attends Development Policy Forum on Africa’s economic transformation

Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, will today deliver a speech at the Development Policy Forum “Africa's economic transformation: The role of natural resources” organised by the Friends of Europe in Brussels. Commissioner Piebalgs will attend the morning session of the forum, which will look mainly at the role of natural resources in the future of Africa’s continent. In a recent meeting between the African Union and the European Commission it was agreed that cooperation on economic diversification, industrialisation and increasing the added-value of Africa’s natural resources would be strengthened. The forum will also mark the launch in Brussels of the 2013 African Economic Outlook, a report that has established itself as a flagship publication on the macroeconomic situation and outlook in Africa. More information on the conference available here .

Vice-President Kallas: Making the most of alternative energy to drive transport forward

With Europe far from able to produce all the energy it needs, now is the time to invest in our own sustainable and smart energy. This complements the recent European Council conclusion that investing in energy infrastructure, as well as innovation, should be a priority. Not only do we need to reduce the pollution that cars and trucks cause, we also need to reduce their consumption of oil-based fuels and in transport generally, Vice-President Siim Kallas will tell a conference as part of this year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week . “This is the idea behind the Commission’s initiative to promote clean power in transport, by making sure that the right infrastructure gets built. It is our chance to create the conditions for a new market for alternative fuels to power transport,” Kallas will say. “If we are to secure an uninterrupted and affordable supply of energy, we need to make significant investments in new and intelligent infrastructure. That will be important for jobs, for sustainable growth and will enhance EU competitiveness.” The speech will be available on Rapid this afternoon.

Commission launches passenger rights awareness campaign

Vice-President Kallas will officially launch a new information campaign on passenger rights at Brussels Zuid/Midi train station tomorrow, 26 June, at 15:00. This summer, for the first time, millions of holiday-makers travelling in the EU will be protected by comprehensive passenger rights – whether travelling by air or rail, and now also by ship, bus and coach. But research shows that two-thirds of passengers are not aware of their rights. This is why the Commission is launching a new campaign to inform the many people gearing up to travel this summer about their passenger rights, and how to claim them if needed.

EU enlargement on 1 July 2013 - Croatia within the EU in figures

On the occasion of the entry of Croatia into the EU on 1 July 2013, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, publishes a selection of economic and social indicators drawing a portrait of the new Member State. For comparison purposes, data are also provided for the existing EU27 and the enlarged EU of 28 Members.

What Commissioners said

'No city is an island' - speech at the Covenant of Mayors ceremony

VP Neelie Kroes used a speech to telecoms companies (ECTA) today to emphasise the role of competition in a connected single market.

Kroes said that after 20 years of encouraging commerce across borders “we cannot leave those cross-border businesses high and dry”, they need “fast services on fast networks,” and for that Europe needs a competitive telecoms marketplace. She confirmed that the single market package she will table over summer is a broad and balanced package: “I'm looking beyond the interest of any one company, any one country, any one sector. I'm looking at the whole thing. At the whole ecosystem and the whole European economy that depends on connectivity for its competitiveness.” Kroes invoked the successful liberalisation of the airline industry as an example for telecoms to follow, saying that change was bitterly opposed by national governments and incumbent airlines, but everyone now agrees it needed to happen.

László Andor: Tackling the jobs crisis in Greece: which ways forward?

"Social dialogue is crucial to the competitiveness of all our economies and to our European way of life. It is also a key component of the European social model. Social dialogue, collective bargaining and consultation are — so to speak — in our genes", said László Andor at the International Labour Organisation conference in Athens today. "Some claim that social dialogue and strong industrial relations institutions are a barrier to competitiveness. There is no empirical evidence to back that up. On the contrary - in EU Member States where social dialogue is well established and industrial relations institutions are strong, the economic and social situation tends to be more favourable and subject to less strain". Andor concluded: "The social partners are in the real economy and know what is necessary — and what is achievable. That is why they must be involved in designing reforms to improve the EU’s economic competiveness". (embargo 14:30 - full speech available on line after 14:30)