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Daily News – 01.10.2014

Daily News of 2014-10-01

Commission Européenne - 01/10/2014

MEX 14 / 01.10


01 / 10 / 14

State aid: Commission adopts a package of decisions regarding public support to airports and airlines in Belgium, Germany, Italy and Sweden

The European Commission has adopted seven decisions following in-depth investigations concerning public support granted to airports and airlines in Belgium, Germany, Italy and Sweden. In particular, the Commission has concluded that the airports of Zweibrücken (Germany) and Charleroi (Belgium) received state aid which was incompatible with EU rules and must now be recovered. In addition, the Commission has opened an in-depth investigation concerning state financial support granted to certain airlines flying from Bruxelles-National airport (Zaventem). The decisions are based on the Commission's new guidelines on state aid to airports and airlines (see IP/14/172) adopted in February 2014 as part of its State Aid Modernisation (SAM) strategy (see IP/12/458). For further information on each of the decisions please see MEMO/14/544 .

Other news

State aid: Commission orders recovery of incompatible aid from certain terrestrial digital platform operators in Castilla-La Mancha

The European Commission has concluded that subsidies worth €46 million granted in the Spanish region of Castilla-La Mancha to finance the digitisation and extension of the terrestrial television network in remote areas were incompatible with EU state aid rules. The measure only benefits terrestrial digital technology, in breach of the principle of technological neutrality, and also discriminates between different terrestrial operators. As a result, some operators of terrestrial platforms received a selective advantage over their competitors and have to pay it back to the Spanish state. In June 2013 the Commission had already concluded that similar measures covering other regions of Spain were incompatible with EU state aid rules (see IP/13/566).

State aid: Commission decides Nürburgring racetrack in Germany received incompatible state aid

After an in-depth investigation, the European Commission has concluded that public support measures in favour of the racetrack, leisure park and hotels at Nürburgring in Germany were incompatible with EU state aid rules and gave the companies then owning or operating them an undue competitive advantage. The beneficiary companies are all in insolvency proceedings. The Commission has also found that their assets have been sold in an open and transparent tender at their market value. The buyer is therefore not liable to pay back the incompatible aid.

State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed public financing for Volkswagen in Portugal

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether Portugal's plans to grant €36.15 million public financing to Volkswagen Autoeuropa, a subsidiary of the Volkswagen group, for an investment project in the Setubal region are in line with EU state aid rules. The opening of a formal investigation gives interested third parties the possibility to comment on the proposed measure. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

State aid: Commission takes two state aid decisions regarding German paper mill Propapier

The European Commission has concluded after a thorough investigation that a German measure authorising investment aid to Propapier for the construction of a paper mill in Eisenhüttenstadt (Brandenburg, Germany) is in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, it has concluded that the positive effects of the aid on regional development outweigh its negative effects on competition. The Commission has re-assessed this case, after the annulment of its original decision of 2008 by the EU General Court, in light of the guidance provided by the court (case T-304/08). In a separate investigation, the Commission also found that a new waste water plant and surrounding infrastructure built by the German state do not involve state aid, as they are general infrastructure, not dedicated specifically to Propapier. Moreover, the wastewater treatment fees charged to Propapier cover the incremental costs and involve no state aid.

Aides d’État: la Commission ouvre une enquête approfondie sur des mesures en faveur de Kem One SAS en France

La Commission européenne a ouvert une enquête approfondie concernant un prêt et d'autres aides publiques sous forme notamment de subventions et avances remboursables consenties par la France en faveur de Kem One SAS, un producteur des produits chloro-chimiques et de PVC. La Commission examinera notamment, d'une part, si le prêt a été octroyé aux conditions de marché comme l'affirment les autorités françaises et, d'autre part, si l'ensemble des mesures sont à même de garantir le retour à la viabilité à long terme de l'entreprise sans susciter une distorsion indue de la concurrence au sein du marché unique. L’ouverture d’une enquête approfondie permet aux tiers intéressés de présenter leurs observations. Elle ne préjuge pas de l'issue de l'enquête.

State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into part of public financing of Brussels public IRIS hospitals

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to ascertain whether specific deficit financing measures granted by the Brussels public authorities only to the public IRIS hospitals in the Brussels Capital region and not to private hospitals in the region, are in line with EU state aid rules. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives the Belgian authorities, the complainants and other interested third parties an opportunity to submit their comments. It does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation.

State aid: Commission extends in-depth investigation into Gibraltar corporate tax regime to include tax rulings practice

The European Commission has extended the scope of an ongoing in-depth investigation opened in October 2013 to verify whether the new Gibraltar corporate tax regime selectively favours certain categories of companies, in breach of EU state aid rules (see IP/13/955). The Commission will now also examine the Gibraltar tax rulings practice. The extension of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties an opportunity to submit comments on the measures under assessment. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

Autre matériel diffusé :

The European Commission has authorised public funding for the closure of an uncompetitive coal mine in Italy, the Nuraxi Figus mine, the only operational coal mine in Italy. Council Decision 2010/787/EU on state aid to facilitate the closure of uncompetitive coal mines allows Member States to grant, under certain conditions, aid to the coal industry with a view to facilitating the closure of uncompetitive hard coal mines until December 2018. The Nuraxi Figus mine is operated by Carbosulcis S.p.A. and produces coal used for the production of electricity. Coal production will cease at the end of 2018. The closure plan results in a gradual decrease of the overall amount of aid granted to cover production costs, in line with the Council Decision. Moreover, the plan includes measures to mitigate the environmental impact of the production of coal. Italy has also committed to support miners who will lose their jobs and their re-adaptation in order to help them find new jobs outside the coal industry. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.20867 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.

There has been a marked decrease in the number of on-going infringement cases in recent years whilst the number of cases resolved through in problem solving mechanisms such as EU Pilot has increased, according to the 31st Annual Report on monitoring the application of EU law, just published by the European Commission. This reflects the determination of the Commission to work with the Member States to resolve problems arising from failure to comply with EU law at an early stage. The correct application of EU law is a cornerstone of the EU Treaties and at the heart of the Commission's regulatory fitness programme (REFIT).

Neelie Kroes today delivers her final speech to the telecoms sector – and she intends to go out with a bang: explaining how she would run the telecoms industry if she was in charge of it: "make specific complaints: 'Regulate my rival' is not a general message that will resonate". Adapt fast: "The future market won't be characterised by rent-seeking, and protectionism. It won't feature players stuck in gilded national cages. It won't achieve profit by relying on dated revenue streams…" Go very big or stay small: "(we need) large, strong pan-European players alongside smaller niche players." And get ready for the internet of things: "Soon we will see everything connected. Will the telecoms sector lead us there or will you be dragged along behind." Kroes will tell industry association ETNO that she welcomes their new "Think Digital" manifesto and that it will allow them to play a more positive role in shaping Europe's digital future in the next 5 years. "Sometimes I think the telecoms sector is its own worst enemy … and you're probably all looking forward to the very near future when you won't have to put up with me anymore." But she will leave the warning to be supportive of telecoms single market plans for the industry's own sake. If the sector wants easier mergers it needs to change the market – a single EU market means easier mergers.

Today the ceremony for the Award for Roma Integration to civil society organisations from the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey will take place in the Midday Press Briefing Room in Brussels. It will start at 17:00 and is expected to last one hour. Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle will announce 7 winners of the prize, one from each of the countries. It is the first time that the European Commission presents such dedicated awards to NGOs in the pre-accession and candidate countries that are working in support of Roma communities. The event is open to media and can be followed live on EBS .

In 2012, EU28 inland freight transport amounted to 2 186 billion tonne-kilometers, down by 11.7% compared with its level in 2007. Road transport was still by far the dominant freight transport mode (74.5% of total inland freight transport performance in 2012) and its share has remained almost unchanged since 2007. This information comes from a publication issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, on modal split of inland freight transport in the EU.

EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Androulla Vassiliou addressing today the Jean Monnet Conference said: "In this period where the European project is sometimes misunderstood, perceived as complex and even called into question by a growing minority in several member states, I believe it is high time that we give to students and the young generation the right keys to understand the EU, its functioning, its history and its political dynamics. I consider it as being a civic duty for our education systems to provide European students with the right tools so they can understand better the democratic process they live in and participate fully into it".

The second ministerial conference of the Global Alliance took place yesterday, 30 of September, in Washington and gathered global decision-makers at invitation of EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström and US Attorney General Eric Holder. The Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online has been up and running since 2012. Concrete goals have been set and additional countries have joined forces, but the fight to eradicate the online exploitation of children is far from complete. Ministers and representatives from participating countries, experts from law enforcement authorities, the private sector, victim advocacy groups and frontline organisations assessed how to expand the fight against global proliferation of child sexual abuse online.

"The threat to young people posed by online sex predators is on the rise. Challenges are constantly evolving. Every time a picture of an abused child is shown that child is being abused, over and over again. The global alliance shows our collective willingness to fight this hideous crime, something we can only do by working together. Our collective promises must become a reality", said Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström.

(for more information: IP/14/1062 - M. Cercone - Tel. +32 229 80963 - Mobile +32 498 98 2349)

Mr Koen Doens, recently appointed as Director of "Human and Society Development" in Directorate-General Development and Cooperation, has been transferred to the function of Director "East and Southern Africa and ACP Coordination" within the same Directorate-General. Mr Doens, who is Belgian, is currently Head of the Spokesperson's Service of the European Commission. He was previously Head of Cabinet of Louis Michel, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid. Before joining the European Commission, Mr Doens worked in the Cabinets of the Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister and the Trade Minister and was posted as a Belgian diplomat in Syria, Iran and the Russian Federation. Koen Doens holds a Masters Degree in Classical Philology and a Masters in International Politics. The date of effect will be 1 November 2014.

Ms Lotte Knudsen will be transferred to the function of Director "Human and Society Development" in the Development and Cooperation Directorate-General. Ms Knudsen has been Director for "Criminal Justice" in the Justice Directorate-General since 2010 and was Acting Director for Security in the same DG for two years. Lotte Knudsen has worked in different services in the Commission, including the Secretariat General, External Relations including relations with the United States, enlargement and as an Assistant. Ms Knudsen attended the College of Europe and the Ecole Nationale d'Administration. The date of effect will be 1 December 2014.

What Commissioners said

European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, opened today the Sustainable Energy for All Committee meeting taking place in Brussels. He reconfirmed the European Union and the biggest supporter of the SE4ALL initiative and reminded of our commitment to help developing countries provide access to sustainable energy services for 500 million people by 2030. Strong political ownership, ensuring the necessary implementation capacity is in place and delivering financing and ensuring rapid results on the ground were mentioned by the Commissioner as the three key conditions to achieve that all-important enabling environment for investments. He also presented a brand new initiative called –the Electrification Financing Initiative, or ElectriFI : " Through this innovative instrument, EU grants will complement private financing, bridging potential financial gap in order to make a project bankable.  This will provide the security investors and banks are expecting to boost investments. If investments are successful, the grants will be converted into loans, at concessional rate, and the EU will be “reimbursed”.  We will then be able to reinvest our grants in new projects, allowing more and more people to get access to electricity services. ElectriFi is more than a financing proposal, in that it puts forward a business model to leverage more private investments and involve more key stakeholders in all areas of expertise on a global level."

"I welcome today's entry into force of the Readmission Agreement between Turkey and the EU. It concludes a long process and represents a significant step forward. Thanks to this agreement it will be possible to swiftly return persons who are irregularly residing on the territories of the Parties in full respect of international law and fundamental rights, including the principle of non-refoulement. The entry into force of the Agreement will therefore help to better manage the irregular migration flows arriving to the EU from the Turkish territory. A full and effective implementation of the Readmission Agreement is also one of the requirements included in the Roadmap towards the Visa-free regime with Turkey. Therefore today's entry into force of the agreement represents important progress in the perspective of visa liberalisation," said today Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.

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