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Daily News – 26.01.2012

Midday Express of 2012-01-26

European Commission - 26/01/2012

EXME 12 / 26.01

Midday Express of 2012-01-26

News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne

Successful conference brings European Citizens' Initiatives a step closer

More than 400 people today packed into a conference that marks a key stage in final preparations for European Citizens' Initiatives (ECIs). Speakers include European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, responsible for ECIs, Danish Minister for European Affairs Nicolai Wammen, MEPs closely involved with the instrument and senior representatives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and Dailymotion.

State aid: Commission grants temporary approval to Latvian support for Latvian Mortgage and Land Bank and opens in-depth review into the measures for the bank's transformation

The European Commission has granted a temporary clearance of the Latvian support measures needed for the phasing out of commercial activities of the Mortgage and Land Bank (MLB) whilst opening an in-depth investigation to assess whether aid to MLB is in line with EU state aid rules.

Setting up the European Cloud Partnership

One year after announcing her intention to develop a European Cloud Computing Strategy, Vice President Kroes is fleshing out that promise with the first cash commitment and details of what the final strategy will look like. With plans for cloud-friendly and uniform EU data protection rules now adopted by the Commission, Kroes has told the World Economic Forum in Davos that the stage is now set for the cloud to boost SMEs, cut costs for all, and help Europe get to grips with its copyright and piracy problems. Today's key announcement is a European Cloud Partnership with EUR 10 million initial funding. This will be the largest and most sophisticated partnerships of its kind in the world. Cloud computing is internet-based computing. It refers to services provided off your computer like webmail, streamed music and customer databases. Cloud services save time and money for nearly all businesses and individuals. ( SPEECH/12/38)

State aid: Commission declares Greek state aid in the cereal sector incompatible with EU law

The European Commission today adopted a negative final decision on aid granted by the Greek state to the cereal sector (case C36/2010). The aid, granted from 2008, took the form of (i) loans amounting to EUR 150 million granted to unions of agricultural cooperatives with the guarantee of the state, and (ii) the subsidisation of the interest for these loans. The aim of the aid was the financial support of cereal producers, following the over-production of cereals in 2008 and the subsequent fall of prices. The Commission opened a formal investigation at the end of 2010 since the preliminary investigation raised doubts as to the conformity of the aid measure with the EU State aid rules. The Commission’s formal investigation revealed that the aid in question is incompatible with the internal market. Greece must therefore recover the aid concerned from the beneficiaries. The non-confidential version of this decision will be made available under the case number in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/newsletter/index.html

Infringement

Animal Welfare: Commission urges 13 Member States to implement ban on laying hen cages

Today, the European Commission, via a letter of formal notice requesting for information, called on Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Romania to take action to address deficiencies in the implementation of EU legislation concerning the welfare of animals, and specifically to implement the ban on "un-enriched" cages for laying hens which applied as of 1st January 2012, as laid down by Directive 1999/74/EC . The political decision for the ban on "un-enriched" cages was taken in 1999. Member States have had twelve years to ensure a smooth transition to the new system and to implement the Directive. However, so far, and notwithstanding the repeated calls by the Commission, the above mentioned Member States have failed to adequately comply with the EU law.

Protection of biodiversity: Commission refers Poland to Court for not respecting the EU rules on conservation varieties of vegetable seeds

Today the European Commission decided to refer Poland to the European Court of Justice for failing to protect biodiversity and conserve "old" vegetable seed varieties. The Directive 2009/145/EC , on conservation varieties of vegetable seeds, requires introducing more simplified marketing requirements, than those used for vegetable seeds cultivated for intensive agricultural production. Poland did not adequately transpose the text and has thus failed to fulfil its obligations under the EU law.

Distance marketing of financial services: Commission refers Portugal to the Court of Justice

Today, the European Commission has decided to refer Portugal to the Court of Justice of the European Union for inadequate transposition of Directive 2002/65/EC , concerning the distance marketing of consumer financial services into its national law. Portugal has not respected the timeline for adopting amendments to its national law and thus failed to adequately protect some consumer rights.

Taxation: Commission refers the United Kingdom to the Court of Justice for abolishing the "remedy for repayment of taxes paid in mistake of law"

The European Commission has decided to refer the United Kingdom to the EU's Court of Justice for abolishing the "remedy for repayment of taxes paid in mistake of law" without proper transitional rules. Under EU law, taxes that must be reimbursed when these taxes have been levied in breach of EU rules should be repaid according to the national rules on internal tax reimbursements. This reimbursement should not be made impossible or excessively difficult. In this respect, a retroactive limitation of the rights of taxpayers without proper transitional rules goes against this principle. The UK retroactively abolished one of the remedies used by taxpayers seeking reimbursement of taxes paid in breach of EU law. No proper transitional rules are provided for (except in certain limited circumstances). As a result, it is therefore practically impossible in certain cases to exercise the rights conferred by EU law. This goes against EU rules as this measure exceeded the limits of national procedural autonomy (Article 4(3) of the Treaty on the European Union).

EU gas market: Commission refers Ireland and the United Kingdom to Court to ensure European law is properly implemented

The best way for ensuring security of supply and affordable energy prices is to have a competitive internal EU energy market. An efficient and properly functioning internal market in natural gas will give consumers the choice between different companies across national borders. EU legislation aims at facilitating cross-border gas trade and increasing the capacity on gas markets. The European Commission considers that Ireland and the United Kingdom are not fully in line with EU gas market rules and has decided today to refer these countries to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Commission takes legal action against Bulgaria for failing to fully implement the first railway package

The European Commission has decided today to refer Bulgaria to the European Court of Justice for having failed to implement correctly different parts of the legislation known as the first railway package. This concerns the implementation of the provisions on charges which railway undertakings have to pay for access to the infrastructure.

Driving licences: Commission requests Finland and Portugal to adopt measures on driving licences

The European Commission has decided today to refer Finland and Portugal to the EU's Court of Justice over their failure to adopt national legislation updating requirements for physical and mental fitness to drive. Two directives adopted in 2009 ( Directive 2009/112/EC and Directive 2009/113/EC) have updated and adapted to scientific progress the minimum standards of physical and mental fitness for driving a power-driven vehicle1. The amendments review the existing minimum requirements on eyesight, diabetes and epilepsy. Finland has until now not fully transposed these Directives into national law, while Portugal has yet to fully transpose Directive 2009/113/EC , although they were required to do so by 15 September 2010.

Digital Agenda: Commission closes infringement case after UK correctly implements EU rules on privacy in electronic communications

The European Commission has closed an infringement case against the UK in recognition that UK national legislation has now been changed to properly implement EU rules on ePrivacy and data protection on the confidentiality of communications such as email or Internet browsing. The Commission believes UK law and institutions are now well-equipped to enforce the privacy rights of UK users.

Free movement of goods: Greece to establish fair play on parallel importation of medicinal products

The European Commission has today requested Greece to amend its legislation on fixing of prices of parallel imported medicine in order to comply with EU rules on the free movement of goods. The national measures in force and/or practices hinder the trade of parallel imported medicine. The Commission takes the view that rules or practices which result in imports being channelled in such a way that only certain traders can effect these imports, whereas others are prevented from doing so is a violation of Article 34 TFEU.

Internal Market: Commission acts to ensure implementation of EU rules in the area of defence procurement

The European Commission has today acted to ensure that two Member States (Germany and The Netherlands) comply with their obligations to implement EU rules on defence procurement. The Commission is concerned that they have failed to fulfil their commitments under the Directive regarding procurement of arms, munitions and war material (and related works and services) for defence purposes, and also the procurement of sensitive supplies, works and services for security purposes. If the Directive is not fully implemented in all Member States, companies and taxpayers alike cannot reap the benefits of easier access to a transparent and open - hence more competitive - defence market.

Internal Market: Commission acts to protect policy-holders and to ensure level playing field in the Bulgarian health insurance sector

The European Commission has today acted to ensure that Bulgarian voluntary health insurance undertakings are subject to EU insurance rules. The Commission is concerned that the Republic of Bulgaria has failed to apply the First and Third Non-life Insurance Directives ( 73/239/EEC and 92/49/EEC) to voluntary health insurance undertakings. If these rules are not properly applied there is a risk of insufficient prudential regulation and supervision of the insurance sector. The Bulgarian rules outlined above are liable to deter or impede cross-border investments. In addition, by not applying EU insurance rules to all health insurers, Bulgaria precludes a level playing field on the health insurance market.

Marchés publics: la Commission agit pour garantir la transparence de la procédure et assurer l'égalité de traitement des candidats dans le cadre d'un marché de travaux de modernisation d'infrastructures routières à Bucarest

La Commission européenne a demandé aujourd'hui à la Roumanie de respecter les règles de l'UE sur les marchés publics en ce qui concerne un marché attribué par la municipalité du 3ème arrondissement de la ville de Bucarest. Le marché, d'un montant d'environ 110 millions d'euros, a été attribué sous la forme d'un accord-cadre d'une durée de quatre ans.

Internal Market: Commission acts to ensure implementation of simplified EU rules on mergers and divisions in six countries

The European Commission has today acted to ensure that five Member States (Cyprus, Italy, Romania, Slovenia and Spain) comply with their obligation to implement simplified rules on mergers and divisions. The Commission is concerned that the five Member States have failed to fulfil their commitments under the Directive regarding simplified reporting and documentation requirements in case of mergers and divisions ( 2009/109/EU). The deadline for implementing the rules in question was 30 June 2011. The Commission has also requested the United Kingdom to implement those parts of the Directive it has so far failed to. The aim of the Directive is to simplify requirements on reporting and on publication of draft terms with regard to mergers and divisions. If the Directive is not fully implemented in all Member States, companies cannot reap the benefits of the reduced administrative burdens achieved by the Directive. Timely and correct implementation of the Directive is necessary to achieve this aim.

Taxation: The European Commission requests Belgium to amend its rules on the notional interest deduction

The European Commission has officially asked Belgium to amend its legislation on the notional interest deduction. Current Belgian rules provide that a notional interest deduction is granted for Belgian real estate and permanent establishments, while no deduction is granted for foreign real estate and permanent establishments. The Commission considers that this is contrary to EU rules as laid down in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The freedom of establishment (Articles 49 and 54 TFEU) prohibits the exclusion of foreign permanent establishments, and the free movement of capital of (Article 63 TFEU) prohibits the exclusion of foreign real estate. It should be noted that the Commission does not challenge the notional interest deduction as such, only its discriminatory application. Notional interest is fictitious interest on own assets. Belgium allows to deduct such interest to take into account the risk of investing own assets in a business activity.

Taxation: Commission requests Ireland to modify its taxation of motor vehicles less than 3 months old

The European Commission has today formally requested Ireland to modify how motor vehicles less than 3 months old are taxed so as to make the rules comply with EU law. The EU Court of Justice has established that a vehicle starts to lose its value as soon as it is bought or brought into use. According to EU case law on car taxation, the amount of tax due can not exceed the amount of tax supported by similar vehicles that are already registered in the national territory and are incorporated in their value. However, under Irish legislation vehicles which are less than 3 months old or cars which have travelled less than 3000 km bear the same tax burden as new vehicles. This is a discrimination of these vehicles which are proportionally more taxed than new vehicles purchased in the country.

La Commission européenne demande au Luxembourg de modifier ses règles en matière de TVA

La Commission européenne a officiellement demandé au Luxembourg de modifier ses règles en matière de TVA concernant les groupements autonomes de personnes. Les règles actuelles aux Luxembourg sont incompatibles avec le droit de l'Union européenne. Selon la réglementation luxembourgeoise, les services rendus par un groupement autonome à ses membres sont totalement exonérés de TVA à condition que les activités taxées des membres n'excèdent pas 30% de leur chiffre d'affaire annuel (sous certaines conditions 45%). Par ailleurs, les membres du groupement sont autorisés à déduire la TVA facturée au groupement sur ses achats de biens ou services. Enfin, les opérations effectuées par un membre en son nom mais pour le compte du groupement sont considérées comme non taxables. La Commission européenne estime que cette réglementation contredit le droit de l'Union européenne lequel contient des règles strictes.

Pharmaceuticals: Commission calls on Italy to comply with EU rules on marketing authorisation of generic drugs

Today the European Commission has formally requested Italy to apply EU legislation concerning the marketing authorisation procedures of generic drugs. Italy has not respected the timeline for adopting the relevant EU amendments to its national law, and thus continues to fail to adequately protect manufactures. In particular, in Italy, a law prevents manufacturers of generic products to submit their request for marketing authorisation prior to the penultimate year of the lifetime of a patent on a reference product.

Free movement: Commission upholds EU citizens' rights

The European Commission has given the Czech Republic and Lithuania two months to comply with EU rules on the free movement of EU citizens and their families across the EU. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion (the second step in the three-step EU infringement process). The Free Movement Directive aims to ensure EU citizens can fully enjoy their rights to freely travel, live and work anywhere in the European Union. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission can refer the countries to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Environment: Commission urges Belgium and Luxemburg to comply with EU water legislation

The European Commission is sending a reasoned opinion to Belgium and Luxemburg for their failure to transpose EU water legislation into national law. Neither Member State has notified the Commission about the transposition of Directive 2009/90/EC on technical specifications for chemical analysis and monitoring of water status, which should have been in place by 1 August 2011. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending reasoned opinions and asking Belgium and Luxemburg to comply within two months. If they fail to do so, the Commission may refer the cases to the EU Court of Justice and ask for immediate financial penalties.

Environment: Commission urges Cyprus and Greece to clean up waste landfills

The European Commission is urging Greece and Cyprus to comply with the requirements of EU landfill legislation in Cyprus and on the Greek islands of Zakynthos and Corfu. Landfills operating in breach of EU waste legislation constitute a serious threat to human health and the environment. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending reasoned opinions and asking Greece and Cyprus to comply within two months. If they fail to do so the Commission may decide to refer the cases to the EU Court of Justice.

Environment: Commission asks France to comply with European packaging waste legislation

The European Commission is concerned that France has incorrectly implemented the definition of packaging and packaging waste in its national law, as required by EU waste legislation. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending France a reasoned opinion to ask it to amend its national legislation accordingly. If France fails to reply within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Environment: Commission asks Italy to strengthen laws on environmental liability

The Commission is concerned that Italy has incorrectly implemented EU legislation on environmental liability, leading to insufficient protection for Italian citizens. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending Italy an additional reasoned opinion to ask it to adjust its national legislation accordingly. If Italy fails to reply within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Environment: Commission urges Italy to comply with extractive mining waste rules

The European Commission is asking Italy to bring its national legislation into line with European norms on extractive mining waste. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion and asking Italy to comply within two months. If it fails to do so, the Commission may refer the cases to the EU Court of Justice.

Environment: Commission urges Poland to comply with nature protection rules

The European Commission is warning Poland over a breach of nature protection legislation. The case concerns a failure to assess the environmental impact of open-cast mining in a Natura 2000 conservation area at Goplo Lake in North Central Poland. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion and asking Poland to comply within two months. If it fails to do so, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Environment: Commission urges Germany to comply with EU waste legislation

The European Commission is taking action against Germany for failing to meet the deadline for transposing the Waste Framework Directive into national law, which should have been in place since 12 December 2010. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending Germany a reasoned opinion. If Germany fails to adopt and communicate the necessary legislation within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice and ask for financial penalties.

Rail: Commission requests Netherlands to completely implement railway interoperability directive

The European Commission has today asked the Netherlands to fully implement a directive concerning railway interoperability, which is aimed at enabling the rail sector to compete more effectively with other transport modes. The Netherlands have so far failed to notify the Commission of all measures taken to fully implement directive 2008/57/EC into national law. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. If the Netherlands fails to inform the Commission within two months of the measures it has taken to ensure full compliance with EU law, the Commission could refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Driving licences: Commission requests Denmark, Lithuania, the United Kingdom and Portugal to adopt measures on driving licences

The European Commission has today asked Denmark, Lithuania, the United Kingdom and Portugal to adapt their national legislation on driving licences so as to ensure that EU rules can be applicable as of January 2013. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. If the four countries fail to inform the Commission within two months of measures taken to ensure full compliance with the Directive, the Commission could refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Maritime Safety: Commission requests the United Kingdom to comply with new safety rules and standards for passenger ships engaged in domestic voyages

The European Commission has today asked the United Kingdom to adopt national legislation to implement the new safety rules and standards for passenger ships to comply with European Union law. If this Member State fails to inform the Commission within two months of the measures it has taken to ensure full compliance with EU law, the Commission could refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Rediffusion

Commission proposes a comprehensive reform of data protection rules to increase users' control of their data and to cut costs for businesses

The European Commission has today proposed a comprehensive reform of the EU's 1995 data protection rules to strengthen online privacy rights and boost Europe's digital economy. Technological progress and globalisation have profoundly changed the way our data is collected, accessed and used. In addition, the 27 EU Member States have implemented the 1995 rules differently, resulting in divergences in enforcement. A single law will do away with the current fragmentation and costly administrative burdens, leading to savings for businesses of around €2.3 billion a year. The initiative will help reinforce consumer confidence in online services, providing a much needed boost to growth, jobs and innovation in Europe.

EU High Representative/Vice President Catherine Ashton and UNRWA's Commissioner General Filippo Grandi sign in Gaza € 55,4 million agreement

The European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/ Vice President Catherine Ashton, and the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Filippo Grandi, signed today at the Gaza Training Centre in UNRWA's compound a € 55,4 million financing agreement towards UNRWA’s General Fund.

Autre matériel diffusé :

Memo "EU law: Commission acts to ensure that European legislation is fully and properly implemented"

Memo "Data protection reform: Frequently asked questions" - rediffusion

Memo "Tribute to legendary Greek film maker Theo Angelopoulos" - rediffusion

Déclaration du Président de la Commission européenne suite à sa rencontre avec les Présidents des partis politiques européens - rediffusion

Speech by Vice President Kroes at the World Economic Forum: "Setting up the European Cloud Partnership"

Speech by Vice President Šefčovič: "A New Chapter in the Democratic Life of the EU: Warming Up for the Citizens' Initiative"

Speech by Commissioner Lewandowski: "The Commission's proposal for the 2014-2020 MFF – too ambitious or too realistic?"

1 :

These minimum standards are contained in the driving licence directives (Directive 91/439/EEC applicable now and Directive 2006/126/EC applicable from 2013).

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