05 / 12 / 13
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
A year ago that the Commission presented its Action Plan to further strengthen the fight against tax evasion. This included more than 30 measures to help Member States protect their tax bases and recapture some of the huge revenues lost to tax evasion and avoidance every year (see IP/12/1325). This Action Plan kick-started an intensified campaign within the EU. Meanwhile, in the past year, there has also been unprecedented international progress in the area of tax good governance. Mr Heinz Zourek, Director-General of DG TAXUD, will give an update on the developments in fighting tax evasion and avoidance over the past year and look ahead to where work still needs to be done, at an on-the-record technical briefing in the press room at 12:30. Watch it live here . Commissioner Šemeta also sent a written update on the state of play in fighting tax evasion to EU Finance Ministers yesterday, ahead of next week's ECOFIN.
Enter body The European Commission has updated the European list of airlines subject to an operating ban or operational restrictions within the European Union. On the basis of safety information received from several sources, the Commission has decided to put all airlines from Nepal on the safety list. Good enough progress was made in the Philippines, Sudan, Zambia, and several other countries, to think about positive changes to the list in 2014. Airlines registered in Libya remain on the list on the basis of voluntary Libyan restrictions applicable since the Libyan revolution.
In 2012, 124.5 million people, or 24.8% of the population, in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared with 24.3% in 2011 and 23.7% in 2008. This means that they were in at least one of the following three conditions: at-risk-of-poverty, severely materially deprived or living in households with very low work intensity. The reduction of the number of persons at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU is one of the key targets of the Europe 2020 strategy. In 2012, the highest shares of persons being at risk of poverty or social exclusion were recorded in Bulgaria (49%), Romania (42%), Latvia (37%) and Greece (35%), and the lowest in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic (both 15%), Finland (17%), Sweden and Luxembourg (both 18%).
President Barroso meets with Plácido Domingo to discuss Creative Europe programme and other wider cultural issues
This afternoon President Barroso will meet with Plácido Domingo, the world-renowned tenor and President of Europa Nostra, a citizens’ movement for the safeguarding of Europe’s cultural and natural heritage. They will discuss the “Creative Europe” Programme, a Commission's proposal adopted on 19 November by the European Parliament. The budgetary amount for the Creative Europe programme for the 2014-2020 period has been set at €1.46 billion, an increase of 9% compared to current levels. The "Creative Europe programme" has been adopted by the Council and will enter into force as from January 2014.
Cultural heritage in the EU and copyright issues (a matter of great importance for the Commission) might also be on the agenda.
In the evening, Plácido Domingo and Commissioner Vassiliou will participate in the Citizens Dialogue on the future of Europe, organised by the European Commission in BOZAR.
Androulla Vassiliou and Plácido Domingo open heritage exhibition in Brussels
Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Plácido Domingo, the opera tenor and President of Europa Nostra, will open a photographic exhibition featuring winners of the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards today (5 December, 17h30) at the Commission's Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels..
Following the opening, Commissioner Vassiliou and Placido Domingo will take part in a 'Citizens' Dialogue' at the city's Palais des Beaux Arts ( IP/13/1194).
"The exhibition highlights the immense talent and dedication which exists in our heritage sector, as well as our pride in Europe as a continent of culture, creativity and excellence," commented Commissioner Vassiliou. The exhibition, which runs until 20 December, includes 33 heritage projects from 33 countries which have won the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards since 2002. The Prize highlights excellence in four areas: restoration, research, dedicated service; and education, training and awareness-raising. The exhibition is part of a series of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Europa Nostra, including the conference "Cultural Heritage for Europe, Europe for cultural heritage". All events require registration. The EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards are organised every year with support from the Culture Programme, which has invested €40 million in co-financing heritage projects since 2007. For more information, see IP/13/279 .
Président Barroso au Sommet de l’Elysée pour la Paix et la Sécurité
Le Président de la Commission Européenne José Manuel Barroso participera au Sommet de l’Elysée pour la Paix et la Sécurité en Afrique, qui se tient à Paris, les 6 et 7 décembre 2013. Le 6 décembre, à 14 heures, Mr. Barroso délivrera un discours à la séance d'ouverture, en présence d’une quarantaine de chefs d’Etat, de gouvernement et de délégation des pays africains. Le Président participera aussi aux réunions entre chefs d'état et de gouvernement.
M. Ban-Ki moon, Secrétaire général des Nations unies, et Mme Zuma, Présidente de la commission de l’ Union africaine, y seront également. L'UE est, avec les Nations Unies (NU) le seul partenaire invité hors Afrique, marquant ainsi le rôle clé joué par l'Union en Afrique et la complémentarité des actions bilatérales, européennes et multilatérales.
Le Sommet, qui témoigne de l’évolution politique des relations de la France avec les pays africains, discutera la paix et sécurité en Afrique , le partenariat économique et de développement et le changement climatique .
Ce Sommet de l'Elysée aura lieu quatre mois avant le Sommet UE-Afrique, qui se tiendra les 2 et 3 Avril 2014, à Bruxelles.
The EU and the Republic of Azerbaijan today officially launched a Mobility Partnership. The Partnership is establishing a set of political objectives and identifying a number of areas in which further dialogue and cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan will continue in order to ensure that the movement of persons is managed as effectively as possible.
The European Commission has adopted a package to simplify its procedures for reviewing concentrations under the EU Merger Regulation. This package widens the scope of its simplified procedure to review unproblematic mergers, bringing the total ratio of cases treated under this procedure to 60-70%. The Commission has also reduced the amount of information required for notifying transactions in all cases, whether under the simplified procedure or not. This is expected to bring significant benefits for businesses and advisers in terms of preparatory work and related costs. The merger simplification package will be applicable as of 1 January 2014. See also MEMO/13/1098
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of most of Nokia Corporation's devices & services business (the "D&S business") by Microsoft Corporation. The D&S business mainly produces and sells smartphones and feature phones. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise any competition concerns, in particular because there are only modest overlaps between the parties' activities and the links between Microsoft's mobile operating systems, mobile applications and enterprise mail server software with Nokia's smart mobile devices are unlikely to lead to competitors being shut out from the market.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of parts of Pastor Vida by Allianz and Banco Popular Español
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over parts of Pastor Vida, S.A. de Seguros y Reaseguros, of Spain, by Allianz SE, of Germany and Banco Popular Español, S.A., of Spain. The acquired business provides life risk products and manages pension funds. Allianz is active in insurance and asset management, and BPE in banking, insurance and asset management. The parties' activities overlap in life insurance services and insurance distribution in Spain, as well as in asset management and other insurance related markets in Spain and Portugal to a limited extent. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given the parties' moderate combined market positions resulting from the proposed transaction and the presence of a number of strong players providing life risk insurance and insurance distribution in Spain. 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.7045 .
State aid: Commission prolongs shipbuilding framework
The European Commission has extended the validity of its framework for assessing state aid in the shipbuilding sector by six months, until 30 June 2014. The current rules were adopted in December 2011 (see IP/11/1514) and were bound to expire at the end of 2013. The provisions of the current shipbuilding framework will be integrated unchanged in two dedicated texts: regional aid to the shipbuilding sector will be assessed as part of the new regional aid guidelines, that will enter into force on 1 July 2014 (see IP/13/569) and innovation aid for shipbuilding will be dealt with under the new Framework on Research, Development and Innovation, that is currently being revised (see consultation page). It is expected that the new Framework on R&D&I will also become applicable as of that date.
The public consultation on copyright launched today invites stakeholders to share their views on territoriality in the single market, harmonisation, limitations and exceptions to copyright in the digital age; fragmentation of the EU copyright market; and how to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of enforcement while underpinning its legitimacy in the wider context of copyright reform. Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said: "My vision of copyright is of a modern and effective tool that supports creation and innovation, enables access to quality content, including across borders, encourages investment and strengthens cultural diversity. Our EU copyright policy must keep up with the times." The consultation is open until 5 February 2014. To learn more about the process and to submit your contribution, please visit the following website: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/consultations/2013/copyright-rules/index_en.htm
What Commissioners said
Yesterday President Barroso received the 2013 Center for Global Dialogue and Cooperation's Award in Vienna in recognition of his work for global dialogue and cooperation. The award distinguishes President Barroso's "remarkable ability to foster positive global trends, his great contribution to the dissemination of values such as honesty, and transparency, as well as his active efforts in strengthening cooperation between diverse people and cultures".
In his acceptance speech, President Barroso stressed the importance of the global dialogue as a basis for working towards a common ground. He said: "To tackle global challenges together, you need a true dialogue, and not just parallel monologues. (…) Dialogue also demands both sides to listen with the same openness and to show some basic willingness to change their mind".
This morning, Digital Agenda Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, addressed industry representatives at the European Competitive Telecommunications Association's (ECTA) conference, and tackled head on the issues which are obstacles to achieving a much-needed single market for telecoms. She asked:
"How do you explain why it costs more to call or text across borders than within them, even when there is no objective extra cost? How do you explain to an innovative start-up why they face different costs and diverging quality to provide the same services? And how does that fit with the promise of a fast-developing digital world; with new gadgets and new services appearing all the time? Will connected cars have to pay roaming surcharges? Come on. That is not what a single market is about."
European Union Justice and Home Affairs ministers will meet in Brussels on 5-6 December 2013 (see MEMO/13/1094). Speaking to Home Affairs Ministers today on the topic of free movement, Vice-President Viviane Reding said: "Free movement is a right, but it comes with duties. Free movement is a right to free circulation; it is not a right to migrate in Member States' social security systems. The Commission is proposing five actions aimed at helping national and local authorities to effectively apply EU free movement rules." Full speech: SPEECH/13/1025 . European Commission's 5 actions on free movement: IP/13/1151