EXME 13 / 06.12
06 / 12 / 13
European Commission President Barroso and the President of the European Council Van Rompuy expressed their condolences on the passing away of Nelson Mandela, "one of the greatest political figures of our times".
In their joint message the two Presidents stated: "This is a very sad day not only for South Africa, but for the entire international community. We mourn the death of one of the greatest political figures of our times. Nelson Mandela was not only key in transforming South Africa into the democratic country it is today.
Nelson Mandela represents the fight against racism, political violence and intolerance. He represents justice, freedom and respect for human rights. He taught us all a major lesson in reconciliation, political transition and social transformation. Only a person with his profound humanity, moral integrity and authority and clear vision for the future of his country, could have achieved this. While we grieve today, there is no better way we can honour his memory than by reaffirming our collective commitment to uphold the values of true and deep democracy for which Nelson Mandela fought tirelessly.On behalf of the European Union, we convey our most heartfelt condolences to his family and to the government and people of South Africa."
On President Barroso's request the flags in front of European Commission's buildings are flying at half-mast.
As the political and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) has progressively deteriorated over one year now, the European Commission has continued to mobilise its development aid to help people and improve their security. As President Barroso will confirm during his intervention today in the Elysee Summit on Peace and Security in Africa, the European Union has engaged to funding with €50 million the African-led International Support Mission in the CAR (AFISM-CAR). The AFISM-CAR will contribute to the stabilization of the country and the protection of local populations, creating conditions conducive to the provision of humanitarian assistance and the reform of the defense sector and security.
New Narrative for Europe: President Barroso attends the second general assembly in Milan
President Barroso takes part in the general assembly on forms of imagination and thinking for Europe in Milan on Sunday evening and Monday morning. This is the second assembly organised within the framework of the project “New Narrative for Europe” proposed by the European Parliament and implemented by the European Commission following the call the President of the European Commission made in his State of the Union address in 2012. The goal of this initiative is to invite artists, writers, thinkers, scientists and cultural practitioners to come up with a vision of Europe that can reconnect European citizens to the process of building the European Union in the present and in the future. The key speeches are delivered by the President of the European Commission José-Manuel Barroso, the Prime Minister of Italy Enrico Letta and the Prime Minister of Slovenia Alenka Bratušek. In the context of the event, President Barroso will have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Letta on Monday. He will also attend the signing of the EU's participation act regarding the world exhibition EXPO 2015 in Milan on the same day. "New Narrative for Europe" website: http://ec.europa.eu/debate-future-europe/new-narrative/index_en.htm .
Ahead of the Council of Employment, Social Policy and Health Ministers on 9 and 10 December (see MEMO/13/1104) which will seek to reach a so called 'general approach' agreement on the Commission's March 2012 proposal for a Directive to facilitate and improve enforcement of the rules laid down in the 1996 Posted Workers Directive , the European Commission issues a MEMO on the posting of workers, setting out the existing EU safeguards against social dumping.
The EU's Council of Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Ministers will meet on 9 and 10 December in Brussels. Key issues under discussion on 9th December will be the proposed Directive to enforce EU rules on posting of workers, a proposal to improve co-operation between Public Employment Services, implementation of measures to tackle youth unemployment, the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union, Roma inclusion and improving the gender balance in Europe’s boardrooms. On 10th of December, the Council will discuss the medical devices package and future EU work on modern, responsive and sustainable health systems.
The European Commission can confirm that on 3 December 2013, Commission officials initiated unannounced inspections in several Member States at the premises of a number of companies active in the manufacture, distribution and retail of consumer electronics products and small domestic appliances. The Commission has concerns that the companies concerned may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit anticompetitive agreements or concerted practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union - TFEU).
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of controlling stake in eService of Poland by EVO Payments International of the United States
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over Centrum Elektronicznych Usług Płatniczych "eService" S.A. of Poland by EVO Payments International, LLC, of the United States and Powszechna Kasa Oszczędności Bank Polski S.A ("PKO") of Poland. eService is currently solely controlled by PKO and primarily provides payment processing services for transactions made at merchants' premises and through the internet in Poland. EVO Payments International provides electronic transaction payment processing and related services in the US, Canada and the European Economic Area (EEA), mainly in Germany and Spain. PKO is active in banking and financial services almost exclusively in Poland. The transaction leads to horizontal overlaps between the activities of EVO and eService in payment processing of transactions made via internet, and vertical links between the activities of PKO as service provider enabling merchants to accept payment cards and the activities of eService for payment processing of transactions at merchant's premises. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given the parties' moderate market shares and the presence of a number of strong players providing merchant acquiring services and payment processing services both at merchants' premises and through the internet. 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.7082 .
State aid: Commission prolongs R&D&I framework by six months
The European Commission has extended the validity of its state aid framework for research, development and innovation (R&D&I) by six months, until 30 June 2014. That framework sets out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid for R&D&I activities. The current rules entered into force on 1 January 2007 (see MEMO/06/441) and were bound to expire at the end of 2013. The Commission intends to adopt a new framework in spring 2014, with a view to having new rules will in force on 1 July 2014. The revision of the R&D&I Framework, together with the revision of the General Block Exemption Regulation's rules on R&D&I aid (see IP/12/627 , MEX/13/0508 and IP/13/736), is embedded in the Commission's State Aid Modernisation initiative (see IP/12/458). The Commission will soon publish a proposal for a revised R&D&I framework for consultation.
The EU28 external current account recorded a surplus of 35.6 billion euro (1.1% of GDP) in the third quarter of 2013, compared with a surplus of 30.3 bn (0.9% of GDP) in the third quarter of 2012, according to first estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.
In the third quarter of 2013, compared with the third quarter of 2012, the deficit of the goods account turned into a surplus (+1.4 bn euro compared with -6.8 bn), while the deficit of the current transfers account decreased (-16.6 bn compared with -18.5 bn). The surpluses of the services account (+39.6 bn compared with +43.0 bn) and of the income account (+11.2 bn compared with +12.6 bn) were reduced.
Aujourd'hui, le Président Barroso a envoyé un message de félicitations au Président désigné de la Confédération suisse, Didier Burkhalter en soulignant que sa "présidence arrive à une année charnière pour les relations entre la Suisse et l'Europe. Le soutien important que vous avez reçu des parties à l'Assemblée fédérale est un signe très positif, aussi en vue des prochaines négociations portant sur le cadre institutionnel horizontal entre l'Union européenne et la Suisse. J'espère sincèrement qu'à partir des travaux préparatoires que nous avons engagés jusqu'ici, nous pourrons renforcer nos relations afin de trouver une solution permanente aux questions institutionnelles qui nous occupent depuis quelques années. Ceci permettrait la conclusion de nouveaux accords sur une coopération plus étroite entre la Suisse et l'Union européenne dans de nombreux secteurs, y compris l'électricité, les programmes d'échange pour la jeunesse, la recherche, l'audiovisuel et la culture, créant ainsi une situation avantageuse pour la Suisse et l'Union."
The European Film Awards annually honour the greatest achievements in European cinema. During this year's ceremony, which takes place in Berlin tomorrow (7 December), Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, will present the most prestigious prize, the European Film of the Year. Legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Belle Du Jour, Potiche) will receive a lifetime achievement award and Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar (Talk to Her, All About My Mother, The Skin I Live In, I’m So Excited) will be honoured with the European achievement in world cinema award.
Justice Ministers today reached an agreement on a general approach on the European Commission's proposal for a Europe-wide preservation order ( IP/11/923), to ease the recovery of cross-border debts for both citizens and businesses. The proposal facilitates cross-border debt claims and gives creditors more certainty about recovering their debt, thereby increasing confidence in trading within the EU’s single market. “Today’s breakthrough in negotiations on the European Account Preservation Order is a breakthrough for Europe's small businesses – the backbone of our economies. In these economically challenging times, companies need quick solutions to recover outstanding debts," said Vice-President Viviane Reding.
Justice Ministers are expected to reach agreement today on a European Commission proposal ( IP/13/750) to complete the legal framework for Europe-wide patent protection. The proposal will update EU rules on the jurisdiction of courts and recognition of judgements (the so-called “Brussels I Regulation”) and thereby pave the way for a specialised European patent court – the Unified Patent Court – to enter into force. “By making changes to the rules on recognition of judgements, we are paving the way for the new Unified Patent Court to begin its work. I am pleased to see that Ministers will be giving their agreement to this important Commission proposal in record time,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding.
Member States in the Council today approved Creative Europe, the new programme supporting the cultural and creative sectors. With a budget of nearly €1.46 billion over the next seven years, a 9% increase on current levels, Creative Europe will give thousands of people in cinema, TV, culture, music, performing arts, heritage and related areas the opportunity to increase their international visibility in Europe and beyond. The new programme was adopted by the European Parliament on 19 November ( IP/13/1114) and is due to be signed by the Parliament and Council on 11 December. The programme will enter into force in January.
Protected quality farm products: Commission approves three new applications
The European Commission has approved the addition of three new quality farm products to the register of protected designations of origin (PDOs) and protected geographical indications (PGIs). These are, for the Czech Republic, " Valašský frgál " " (PGI), a round cake produced in Valašsko, with a fine yeast-based dough and a typical topping prepared with dried fruits, vegetables or curd-cheese and, for Germany, " Holsteiner Tilsiter " (PGI), a semi-hard, tangy flavoured cheese traditionally produced from cow's milk in Schleswig-Holstein. " Puruveden Muikku ", a silver coloured fish caught in the part of Lake Saimaa called Puruvesi, will be Finland's 10th protected denomination. The names will be added to the list of more than 1,200 products already protected. More information: webpages on quality products and DOOR database of protected products.
Commission fosters debate on potential "local food" labelling scheme
The European Commission has published today a report exploring the possibilities of adopting a local farming and direct sales labelling scheme in the future, as requested by the current legislation on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs . Describing the main features of local farming, short food supply chains and direct sales in the EU, the report and the accompanying Staff Working Document examine the challenges faced by small-scale producers and short food supply chains and present existing policy tools at EU level. Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Cioloş said: "Increasing the role of local food systems is an answer to a clear expectation among EU citizens. It is also particularly important for farmers and for the diversity of EU agriculture. Via direct sales and closer contacts with consumers, EU farmers can add value to their products, boost their sales and better understand the expectations of EU citizens with regard to food and food production methods. That's why we want to encourage farmers to develop local food systems and to discuss the best ways to increase the visibility of their products". The Commission calls on the European Parliament, the Council, Member States and regions to reflect on whether existing policy tools and measures are appropriate and provide adequate flexibility for this type of farming and sales. Demand for quality, fresh and local food is increasing across the EU, often combined with environmental, climate and social expectations, based on the assumption that local, seasonal and ecologically-sound food chains have the potential to contribute to reducing carbon emissions and food waste.
Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, publishes today for the first time the European Resource Efficiency Scoreboard. The scoreboard presents a set of 30 robust and easily understandable indicators for assessing the use of natural resources in the EU and for monitoring the progress towards a resource-efficient and circular economy.
The scoreboard indicators provide statistical support for the implementation of the Resource-efficient Europe initiative, one of the seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. It will provide the basis for a yearly analysis of the progress of the EU.
12% of internet users across the EU have already fallen victim to online fraud. 8% have had to deal with identity theft. A new report by the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net) takes a look at the scams faced by consumers when shopping online. The report focuses on fraud in cross-border e-commerce and what consumers can do to protect themselves from online fraud. It has been prepared based on the complaints reported by consumers to ECC-Net in 2012. For more information see also: MEMO/13/1102
Member States back Commission proposal setting up clearer origin labelling rules for pork, sheep, goat and poultry meat
New EU rules introducing origin or provenance labelling rules for fresh, chilled and frozen meat of pork, sheep, goat and poultry have been supported by a qualified majority of Member States in the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health yesterday. Under these rules, EU consumers will be able to know where the meat they buy comes from – a demand they have clearly expressed. Consumers will be able to make well informed choices taking into account the concept of "origin", "reared" and "slaughtered", each concept being clearly defined at EU level. The proposal introduces a compulsory labelling system that establishes a link between a given meat and the animal it was obtained from. According to these new rules, animals born, raised and slaughtered in the same Member State can be labelled with the terms "Origin: Member State (or third country)" while in other cases the rearing and slaughtering places will be indicated on the label. A detailed set of rules adapted to each type of production is established in order to guarantee that the place of rearing is in fact where the animal spent a substantial part of its life. The proposal will now be formally adopted by the Commission and published in the Official Journal in the coming days. The new Regulation will apply from 1 April 2015, so as to allow for the agri-food sector to adapt. The Commission outlined a first draft proposal in September, and the text has been discussed with Member States and adjusted so as to get widespread support among Member States. Similar rules already exist for fresh beef meat, and the 2011 Food Information to Consumers Regulation identified the need for a clear and harmonized approach to labelling these other meats, requesting the Commission to propose rules at EU level.
Commissioners' weekly activities
Upcoming Commission activities for the weeks ahead
What Commissioners said
EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn was speaking in Marseilles on December 5 at the OECD ministerial there and also at the roundtable of Mayors and Ministers. The discussion centred around how to co-ordinate national and local policies to foster growth and well-being across national, regional and local levels of governments. Speaking to the special ministerial panel discussing the launch of new OECD principles for effective public investment, Commissioner Hahn said "The OECD principles for effective public investment have emerged from our joint work on the role of institutions and right conditions to maximise the impact of development and investment strategies. I welcome these principles. I believe they will become a cornerstone of our goal for better spending and boosting smart growth. I also believe they are perfectly consistent with our fundamental reform of Cohesion Policy. "Commissioner Hahn also addressed city mayors and ministers on the role of cities in producing growth for Europe. He said "The EU's strategy for growth and jobs, Europe 2020, cannot be delivered without the active participation of cities. Cities need to be seen as key partners for the national and European authorities. They need new governance, not just more money. This is now recognized at EU level. That's why I have initiated a direct dialogue with mayors of capital cities. EU Member States too are supporting idea of a new Urban Agenda."