EXME 12 / 27.06
Midday Express of 2012-06-27
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Minimum sanctions for tax crimes, a cross-border tax identification number, an EU tax-payer's charter and stronger common measures against tax havens. These are just some of the concrete ideas that the Commission has put forward today to improve the fight against tax fraud and evasion in the EU. Taking a holistic approach, today's Communication looks at ways to strengthen current measures and sets out possible new initiatives for eliminating fraud and evasion in Europe.
Efforts to increase the healthy lifespan of EU citizens by two years received a major boost today as 261 projects were submitted for inclusion in the European Innovation Partnership for active and healthy ageing.
The employment and social situation in the EU remains subdued despite small improvements according to the Quarterly Review published today. Differences between Member States remain significant, with around half the Member States experiencing some economic growth and the other half either in stagnation or seeing a decline in the first quarter of 2012.
La Commission européenne a ouvert une enquête approfondie en vue de déterminer si les compensations reçues par la Société nationale Corse-Méditerranée (SNCM) et la Compagnie Maritime de Navigation (CMN) pour la desserte des lignes maritimes entre la Corse et Marseille sont conformes aux règles de l’UE en matière d’aide d’État. La Commission a notamment des doutes sur la nécessité et la proportionnalité de l'obligation de service public ainsi que sur le mécanisme de compensation. L’ouverture d’une procédure formelle d'examen donne la possibilité aux tiers intéressés de faire part de leurs observations sur les mesures examinées; elle ne préjuge en rien de l’issue de l’enquête.
The European Commission has extended the scope of an in-depth investigation, opened in 2007 (see IP/07/1309), concerning the Italian regional airport Alghero, to investigate whether additional support measures are in line with EU state aid rules. The extension of the procedure gives interested third parties the opportunity to submit comments on the additional measures; it does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
The European Commission has temporarily approved, under EU State aid rules, a conversion of existing state owned preference shares of €4,465 billion into equity and a liquidity guarantee amounting to €19 billion in favour of the Spanish BFA group and its subsidiary Bankia. Spain has committed to provide a restructuring plan for BFA and Bankia within six months. The approved aid does not include announced capital injections sought by BFA and which are currently under assessment by the Spanish authorities.
The European Commission has concluded that certain provisions of Cyprus's and Estonia's development plans for the electricity sector allocating carbon emission trading allowances free of charge are in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found that the funds (€371 million for Estonia and €194 million for Cyprus) granted will be used to modernise the production infrastructure, diversify the energy mix and to build new installations to replace capacity. This will contribute to liberalising energy markets, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the security of supply, in line with EU objectives.
After an in-depth investigation (see IP/09/1862), the European Commission concluded that two contracts signed in December 2006 between the Diputación Foral de Bizkaia and Habidite Technologies País Vasco SA for the set-up of a construction module factory in Alonsotegi and the delivery of 1500 modular homes contained illegal state aid. The measures had not been notified to the Commission before they were granted and were therefore unlawful. However, as the project was suspended during the investigation, no aid has been disbursed and no recovery is necessary.
Following an in-depth investigation, the European Commission has concluded that a €130 million aid amount granted to the state-owned airline Air Malta for its restructuring is in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found that the restructuring plan adequately addresses the financial problems of Air Malta. The restructuring measures foreseen, which include a significant capacity reduction and the sale of assets, should ensure long-term viability without continued state support, whilst avoiding undue distortions of competition.
State aid: Commission approves extension of Portuguese guarantee scheme for credit institutions
The European Commission has approved until 31 December 2012 the prolongation of a scheme allowing to provide state guarantees for credit institutions in Portugal. The Portuguese guarantee scheme was initially approved on 29 October 2008 (see IP/08/1601) and prolonged on 22 February 2010 (see MEX/10/0222), on 23 July 2010 (see IP/10/997), on 21 January 2011 (see MEX/11/0121), on 30 June 2011 ( MEX/11/0630) and on 21 December 2011. The Commission found the extension of the measures to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 and IP/11/1488). In particular, the measures are well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The Commission, therefore, concluded that the guarantees are compatible with Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), that allows to grant aid to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state.
Commission wants to hear public views on how to improve its regulations
Today, the European Commission launches a consultation on the implementation of smart regulation in the EU. Smart Regulation is about ensuring that EU laws are designed and enforced to maximise the benefits for EU citizens and businesses at minimum costs. In its 2010 Communication on Smart Regulation in the EU , the Commission set out a strategy to improve the way it designs, enforces, evaluates and revises European policies and legislation to benefit people and businesses. After nearly two years, the Commission is now taking stock of the progress made and drawing lessons from its experience. The consultation is aimed at hearing the views and suggestions of all interested citizens and stakeholders. It focusses on how to improve the quality and relevance of proposed and existing EU legislation, to make implementation more effective, and to ensure that the views of those affected by it are better taken into account. The consultation also focusses on how the European institutions and Member States can best collaborate to achieve the goals of smart regulation. The consultation is open until 21 September and is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/governance/better_regulation/smart_regulation/consultation_2012/consultation_en.htm
Supreme Court judges meet to discuss independence of Hungarian judiciary
Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner, is today meeting supreme court judges from around Europe to discuss the issue of independence of the judiciary in Hungary. When deciding to refer Hungary to the European Court of Justice on the independence of its data protection authority and measures affecting the judiciary (the sudden reduction of the retirement age of judges, prosecutors and public notaries) on 25 April 2012 (IP/12/395) the Commission also announced that it would convene a meeting with the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the EU to discuss ongoing concerns about the independence of the judiciary in Hungary more generally. Such an exchange with professionals involved in the administration of justice will contribute to a better mutual understanding of the ongoing legislative work concerning the judiciary in Hungary and of the experiences in other EU Member States in this area. Five representatives from the Hungarian government (the Hungarian Minister of Justice) and the Hungarian judiciary (the Presidents of the National Judicial Office and the National Judicial Council and judges from the Hungarian Constitutional and Supreme Courts) were invited to the meeting but declined participation collectively. The meeting will take place at 16.00 Brussels time. For more information please contact Mina.firstname.lastname@example.org .
High implementation puts strain on EU Budget 2012
The Commission publishes today an overview of the implementation of budget 2012 as at 31 May. In the first five months of the year, almost 87% of commitments have been allocated whereas some 60% of payment appropriations have been made to beneficiaries of EU funds. At this stage, it is too early to anticipate an accurate forecast for the implementation rates by the end of the year. However the shortfall could amount to several billion of euros, notably for Cohesion Policy, Rural development and science and research. "This traditional report on the implementation of the annual budget should be a warning sign to both the Council and the European Parliament as we brace ourselves for tough negotiations on budget 2013; over the years both institutions have consistently adopted ever higher increases of commitments (future payments to beneficiaries of EU funds) than payments despite warnings from the Commission that this is not sustainable". The next information note on the implementation of the annual budget will be published in Autumn.
Mobility Partnerships conference: past, present and future
EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström will participate today in a conference on the implementation and future developments of Mobility Partnerships, together with Vlad Filat, Prime minister of the Republic of Moldova, as well as practitioners and policymakers from partner countries, EU Member States and partner institutions. They will build upon the positive experiences of previous Mobility Partnerships to promote a more sustainable and forward-looking relationship between the EU and third countries. Mobility Partnerships represent the most advanced framework of cooperation and partnership between the EU, EU Member States and third countries, offering a concrete framework for dialogue and cooperation on issues such as asylum, legal migration, border cooperation or the fight against human trafficking, for a coherent EU migration policy. Mobility Partnerships consist in a joint political declaration agreed on between the EU and its Member States, on the one hand, and a third country, on the other hand. Their goal is to ensure, through dialogue and practical cooperation, that there is a responsible and joint management of migratory flows that protect the interests of the Union, of its partners and of the migrants themselves. The EU has launched four Mobility Partnerships so far, with the Republic of Moldova ( IP/08/893), Cape Verde ( IP/08/894), Georgia ( IP/09/1853) and Armenia ( IP/11/1257). It is also about to start negotiating with Azerbaijan and aims to establish more Partnerships with Southern Mediterranean States, such as Tunisia and Morocco. Their content promotes the movement of people between the EU and its partners in a way that is beneficial to both sides, covering issues such as: short-stay visa facilitation, labour migration agreements, capacity building to manage legal migration, efficient matching of labour demands and needs, return and reintegration programmes for migrants, social security agreements. However, cooperation in the framework of Mobility Partnerships is not limited to mobility and legal migration, but also encompasses the three remaining pillars of the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility: maximising development impact of migration, improving asylum systems and preventing and fighting against irregular migration and trafficking in human beings ( IP/11/1369 and MEMO/11/800).
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