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Brussels, Friday 2 March 2012

Top News from the European Commission
4 March – 30 March 2012

Background notes from the Spokespersons' service for journalists.
The European Commission reserves the right to make changes.

Monday 5 March: Progress report on Women in economic decision-making positions 2

Wednesday 7 March: Commission issues Communication on improving the implementation of EU environment law 3

Monday 12 March: Confiscating and freezing criminal assets 4

Monday 12-17 March: World Water Forum in Marseille 5

Wednesday 21 March: Meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) - donor coordination group for the Palestinian people 7

Date to be confirmed: Commission proposes a Regulation on Central Securities Depositories 8

Monday 5 March: Progress report on Women in economic decision-making positions

The news:

The Commission will present a report assessing progress made towards better gender balance on company boards in the EU. The report comes a year after Vice-President Reding met with CEOs from some of Europe's publicly listed companies to discuss the under-representation of women on boards (MEMO/11/124).

The background:

Promoting more equality in decision-making is one of the goals in the Women's Charter (see IP/10/237), which was initiated by President José Manuel Barroso and Vice-President Reding in March 2010. The Commission then followed these commitments by adopting a Gender Equality Strategy in September 2010 for the next five years (see IP/10/1149 and MEMO/10/430), which includes exploring targeted initiatives to get more women into top jobs in economic decision-making.

There is both an economic and a business case for better gender balance in company boardrooms and management. More women now graduate than men in Europe (59% vs. 41%), yet their professional careers lag behind men's. This underused pool of qualified workers represents an untapped potential for the economy. At the same time, companies can benefit from more women at the top. Studies show a number of strong links between gender balance and performance in creativity, innovation, financial reporting, auditing and internal controls. Women-friendly companies can also attract more female customers and female talent.

The event:

Vice-President Viviane Reding will give a press conference at 12:30 p.m.

IP and MEMO will be available on the day.

The sources:

Justice Newsroom:

Vice-President Reding's website:

The contacts:

Matthew Newman +32 2 296-2406

Mina Andreeva +32 2 299-1382

Wednesday 7 March: Commission issues Communication on improving the implementation of EU environment law

The news:

The European Commission will issue a Communication on how to capitalise on the benefits of EU environmental law. The aim is to help Member States implement and enforce EU law more effectively. This will improve response on the ground and boost knowledge at EU level.

The background:

Delayed or inadequate implementation of EU environment law harms the environment and human health, generates regulatory uncertainty for industry and jeopardises the effectiveness of the Single Market. The costs of not implementing current legislation are estimated to be around €50 billion a year. Long-term remediation costs can be much higher than the costs of prevention.

A major obstacle to implementing environmental law is incomplete knowledge of the state of the environment and the most effective ways of dealing with problems that arise. In parallel, Member States also need to improve the speed and effectiveness of their responses to complaints.

This communication will outline measures to help Member States achieve a fully systematic approach to knowledge collection and dissemination. It contains measures to encourage more responsiveness on environmental issues and addresses inspections and surveillance, complaint mechanisms and other methods of improving implementation.

The event:

The Communication will be addressed to the European Parliament, Member States, their citizens and all actors in the area of implementation and enforcement.

A press release and MEMO will be available on the day of adoption.

The sources:

For more information:

The contacts:

Joe Hennon +32 2 295 35 93

Monica Westeren +32 2 299 18 30

Monday 12 March: Confiscating and freezing criminal assets

The news:

Organised and serious crime is profit-driven and creates enormous illegal wealth every year. As criminal groups operate across borders, they hide and re-invest profits all over the EU. The EU must step up its efforts to protect our economies, by going after criminals' assets more decisively.

The Commission will propose a Directive to make it easier for Member States to confiscate assets derived from serious and organised crime. It will establish a new EU legal framework to simplify existing EU rules and fill gaps which have benefitted criminals until now.

The proposed legislation will enhance the ability of Member States to confiscate assets that have been transferred to third parties, as well as assets not directly linked to the offence for which a criminal has been convicted.

The background:

On 20 November 2008 the Commission adopted a Communication on the "Proceeds of organised crime – ensuring that crime does not pay" (see IP/08/1748). It proposes ten strategic priorities on confiscation and asset recovery and emphasises the importance of enhancing co-operation among Member States in tracing assets.

With the "EU Internal Security Strategy in Action" (see IP/10/1535 and MEMO/10/598), adopted on 22 November 2010, confiscation has also been made a strategic priority as a way of fighting organised crime.

The event:

IP and MEMO will be available on the day, as well as footage of confiscated assets around the EU.

Press conference by Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs

  • Available on EbS

The sources:

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs

Homepage DG Home Affairs:

  • I-072298 Announcement: Confiscated assets

The contacts:

Michele Cercone: +32 229-80963

Tove Ernst: +32 229-86764

Monday 12-17 March: World Water Forum in Marseille

The event:

The 6th World Water Forum, the world's largest forum around water, will take place in Marseille this year. The European Commission will be represented by Janez Potočnik, Environment Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, Development Commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Commissioner and Connie Hedegaard, Climate Change Commissioner.

The news:

The European Commission is fully committed to tackle the multitude of challenges our world is facing relating to water. There can be no sustainable development without taking decisive action to safeguard this precious resource, vital for life. This is why the Commission will be present in Marseille at the highest level, with four commissioners leading on the environmental, development, climate and humanitarian water concerns.

Commissioner Potočnik will represent the Commission during the Ministerial Conference and endorse the Declaration on water challenges foreseen for adoption on 13 March. He will speak about water and the green economy in a high-level roundtable and will discuss pathways to achieving good status for all EU waters by 2015, the goal of the Water Framework Directive.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the European Water Initiative (EUWI), an international policy partnership that has helped to provide millions of people with access to water and sanitation.

During the World Water Forum Commissioner Piebalgs will highlight the concrete achievements of the European Union Water Initiative across the world. He will also underline the need to pursue this milestone programme, to enable it to further increase international cooperation in water management and enable even more people to access water and sanitation worldwide.

Since 2004, more than 32 million people have been connected to drinking water and 9.5 million to sanitation facilities thanks to EU support.

Lack of clean water can lead to emergencies and is an acute challenge during conflicts and in the aftermath of natural disasters. This is why securing access to water and sanitation is a humanitarian priority – one that will be highlighted at the World Water Forum by the Commissioner Georgieva. Together with ministers and other high level policy-makers, she will discuss how to strengthen the mechanisms for access to water and sanitation. Commissioner Georgieva will also join the Prince of Japan in a panel on water-related disasters.

Commissioner Hedegaard will be the keynote speaker of two sessions:

- Adapting to Climate Change in Europe, and

- Responding to Climate and Global Challenges in an urbanizing world.

Also scheduled for World Water Forum is a first presentation of Climate-Adapt, the EU web-based tool designed to help decision-makers draw-up climate adaptation strategies which will be launched on 23rd March

The background:

Every three years since 1997, the World Water Forum mobilises creativity, innovation, competence and know-how in favour of water. It gathers all stakeholders around today’s local, regional and global issues that cannot be undertaken without all stakeholders into a common framework of goals and concrete targets to reach.

The goal of the 6th World Water Forum is to tackle the challenges our world is facing and to bring water high on all political agendas. There will be no sustainable development while the water issues remain unsolved. Everywhere on the planet, for all and everyone, the Right to Water (recognised by 189 states at the UN one year ago) must be guaranteed and implemented.

The European Union Water Initiative was launched in Johannesburg at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2002 with high-level political support from the Presidents of the Commission and the Council. By involving the EU and partner regions (donors, governments, civil society and the private sector), it has proven to be an excellent example of how development cooperation policy on access to water and sanitation and management of water resources can be implemented through effective partnerships and innovative funding.

The sources:

Announcement in the midday express on 9 March

For more information:

The contacts:

Alejandro Ulzurrun +32 2 295 48 67

Wednesday 21 March: Meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) - donor coordination group for the Palestinian people

The news:

The annual spring meeting of the donor coordination group for the Palestinian people, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), will be held in Brussels on 21 March 2012. The meeting is hosted by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, and presided over by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre in his capacity as the Chair of the AHLC. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Quartet Representative Tony Blair are expected to participate in the meeting.

The background:

Since its establishment in 1993 the AHLC has served as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people. The strategic role of the AHLC is to underpin political efforts to achieve a two-state solution including by supporting Palestinian institution building. At its last meeting in New York in September 2011, the donor group concluded that the Palestinian Authority has the necessary institutions in place to form a Palestinian state.

At the upcoming meeting, the outlook for 2012 will be assessed with a focus on the Palestinian macroeconomic situation and the budget of the Palestinian Authority. The meeting will discuss steps that can be taken to enhance the sustainability of the Palestinian Authority, strengthen private sector-led growth, and improve the situation on the ground.

Developments since the last meeting will be assessed based on evaluation reports from, among others, the World Bank, IMF and the UN. The AHLC meeting was first hosted by the High Representative in Brussels in April 2011.

The event:

Annual spring meeting of the donor coordination group for the Palestinian people.

The sources:

  • Available on EbS

Press details will be announced at a later stage. Journalists not accredited with the EU institutions should contact if they wish to have access to the Berlaymont press centre. They should be in possession of a valid press card and a letter of recommendation from their editor.

The contacts:

Maja Kocijancic +32 2 298 6570

Michael Mann +32 2 299 9780

Date to be confirmed: Commission proposes a Regulation on Central Securities Depositories

The news:

The Commission will take another important step in the regulation of the financial sector to meet G20 commitments. It will propose a set of rules targeting a key actor in financial markets: central securities depositories (CSDs). The provisions of the proposal will ensure that the transactions between buyers and sellers of securities will be settled in a safe and timely manner. To achieve this, common standards will be introduced across the Union for securities settlement and the institutions that are responsible for these transactions, i.e. the CSDs. 

The main objectives of the proposal are to:

- increase the safety of settlements, in particular for cross-border transactions, by ensuring that buyers and sellers  receive their securities and money on time and without risks;

- increase the efficiency of settlements, in particular for cross-border transactions, by introducing a true internal market for the operations of national CSDs;

- increase the safety of CSDs by applying high prudential requirements in line with international standards.

The background:

CSDs are systemically important institutions for the financial markets because they operate the infrastructures (so-called securities settlement systems) that enable the settlement of virtually all securities transactions worth over 900 trillion euro per year. Settlement is an important process, which ensures the exchange of securities against cash following a securities transaction (for instance an acquisition or a sale of securities). CSDs also track how many securities have been issued, by whom, and each change in the holding of such securities. Finally, they play a crucial role for the financing of the economy, as almost all the collateral posted by banks to raise funds flows through securities settlement systems operated by CSDs.

While generally safe and efficient within national borders, settlement across borders presents higher risks and costs for investors than domestic operations. For example, cross-border trades do not settle on the intended settlement date far more frequently than domestic trades. Cross-border settlement costs are also up to four times higher than domestic costs. Meanwhile, cross-border transactions in Europe continue to increase.

The proposed Regulation will complete the European regulatory framework for securities markets. There are three main steps in the securities transactions:

Trading – this is regulated by MiFID

Clearing – this will be regulated by EMIR

Settlement – this is not yet regulated.

The event:

IP and MEMO will be available on the day.

The sources:

For more information:

Commissioner Michel Barnier's website:

The contacts:

Chantal Hughes +32 2 296 44 50

Audrey Augier +32 2 297 16 07

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