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European Commission

Top News

Brussels, Friday 24 May 2013

Top News from the European Commission
25 May – 21 June 2013

Background notes from the Spokesperson’s service for journalists
The European Commission reserves the right to make changes

Wednesday 29 May: Commission presents the 2013 Country-Specific Recommendations 2

Thursday 30 May: The Commission, the Council and the Parliament bring together religious leaders to exchange ideas on European citizenship 4

Thursday 30 May: The Commission adopts its monthly infringements package 7

Friday 31 May: European Commission joins forces with civil society to fight trafficking in human beings 8

Wednesday 5 June: Stepping up efforts to fight against cigarette smuggling - the Commission presents an EU-wide strategy 10

Wednesday 5 June: Commission presents Convergence Report for Latvia 11

Thursday 13 June: Commission to present 112 eCall facility for cars 12

Wednesday 19 June: The Commission adopts new Regional Aid Guidelines 13

In June: Action Plan to galvanise the EU’s steel industry 15

Wednesday 29 May: Commission presents the 2013 Country-Specific Recommendations

The news:

On 29 May, the European Commission will adopt its annual set of policy recommendations to EU Member States. The recommendations are based on a detailed assessment of the economic, employment and budgetary situation in each country and on the policy plans they have submitted. Where required, the Commission will recommend further budgetary, structural and growth-enhancing measures which Member States should adopt over the following 12 months. Recommendations will be made to Member States that are not in a macroeconomic adjustment programme, and a separate recommendation will be made to the euro area as a whole. The recommendations will be endorsed by the European Council in June and formally adopted by the Council in July.

On this occasion, the European Commission will also present recommendations for certain Member States in Excessive Deficit Procedure and for those which underwent in-depth reviews in the context of the Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure. As a complement to this exercise, the Commission will also present a Communication on the adjustment path for each Member State towards its medium-term objective of a balanced budget in structural terms, as defined in the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance (the ‘Fiscal Compact Treaty’)

The background:

The presentation of the Country-Specific Recommendations is a key moment in the European Semester, the EU's calendar for economic policy coordination. It begins each year with the Annual Growth Survey, which sets out general economic policy guidelines for the EU as a whole. The priorities in the 2013 Annual Growth Survey were endorsed by the European Council in March this year. Taking those priorities into account, Member States have over the past two months submitted their medium-term budgetary plans and annual structural reform plans to the Commission. The Country-Specific Recommendations are the Commission's response to these.

The Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) is the corrective arm of the strengthened Stability and Growth Pact. Its purpose is to ensure that Member States can reduce excessive deficits and debt levels in a timely and lasting way. Member States currently in the EDP must comply with the recommendations and deadlines decided by the EU Council to correct their excessive deficit. The Commission has also received a mandate under the Fiscal Compact Treaty to report on how Member States are meeting their medium-term budgetary objectives, which is important as the Commission focuses on ensuring sustainable public finances over time.

The event:

At its meeting on 29 May, the Commission will adopt 24 sets of proposed country-specific recommendations (for the 27 Member States plus the euro area - excluding the programme countries). In parallel, new recommendations for certain Member States in Excessive Deficit Procedure will be presented, for subsequent consideration by the ECOFIN Council in June. The Commission will also adopt a general Communication setting out the key messages contained in the recommendations, and will answer questions on the decisions at a press conference the same day.

Press releases will be available on the day, along with the text of the Communication adopted by the Commission, the 24 sets of recommendations and 29 Commission staff working documents containing an economic analysis of the 27 Member States, Croatia and the euro area as a whole. These will be accompanied by the appropriate proposals for Recommendations under the Excessive Deficit Procedure and the Communication on the path towards the medium-term objective.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

Europe 2020 website:

http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/index_en.htm

2012 country-specific recommendations and staff working documents:

http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/making-it-happen/country-specific-recommendations/2012/index_en.htm

2013 National Reform Programmes and Stability or Convergence Programmes:

http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/making-it-happen/country-specific-recommendations/index_en.htm

The contacts:

Olivier Bailly +32 2 296 87 17 olivier.bailly@ec.europa.eu

Sarah Collins +32 2 296 80 76 sarah.collins@ec.europa.eu

Simon O'Connor +32 2 296 73 59 simon.o'connor@ec.europa.eu

Vandna Kalia +32 2 299 58 24 vandna.kalia@ec.europa.eu

Audrey Augier +32 2 297 16 07 audrey.augier@ec.europa.eu

Thursday 30 May: The Commission, the Council and the Parliament bring together religious leaders to exchange ideas on European citizenship

The news:

This year's annual high-level meeting of religious leaders will take place on 30 May at the Commission's headquarters in Brussels, under the motto 'Putting citizens at the heart of Europe in times of change'. Against the background of the European year for Citizenship 2013, participants will exchange views on, amongst others, the question how to bring Europe closer to its citizens and how to intensify the dialogue with citizens and societal organisations. The meeting will be hosted by José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and co-chaired by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and László Surján, Vice-President of the European Parliament.

Around twenty senior representatives from Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions and from the Hindu community from all over Europe will be present; amongst them:

  • The Right Reverend Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter;

  • His Excellency Monsignor Manuel Clemente, Bishop of Porto;

  • Her Excellency Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, Presiding Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Germany;

  • His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church;

  • His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel de France, President of the Conference of European Churches;

  • Imam Taher Tujgani, President of the European Council of Moroccan Ulamas;

  • Mrs Bharti Tailor, President of the Hindu Forum of Europe and Secretary General of the Hindu Forum of Britain;

  • His Excellency Chief Rabbi Albert Guigui, Chief Rabbi of Brussels and Permanent Representative at the Conference of European Rabbis;

The background:

The European Year for Citizenship 2013 has the objective to launch a broad debate amongst citizens, businesses, civil society and government organisations about the rights that every EU citizen has, and about the future of Europe. To achieve this goal, the European Commission collaborates closely with many stakeholders to run the European year at the national level in each Member State. This year's regular meeting of religious leaders is an opportunity to invite the representatives of churches and religious communities to contribute directly to the debate on the future of Europe.

The open, transparent and regular dialogue between the European Commission and churches, religious communities, as well as philosophical and non-confessional organisations, is enshrined into primary law by the Lisbon Treaty (Art 17 TFEU). Beyond regular seminars with the different interlocutors, there is one annual high-level meeting with religious leaders and one with philosophical and non-confessional representatives.

The event:

The High-level Religious Leaders meeting will take place in the Berlaymont building on Thursday 30 May 2012 from 10h00 to 14h00. A press release and the list of participating religious leaders will be published on the day. A press conference of the three Presidents together with the religious leaders will be held in the European Commission's press room at 12h00.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

Information on the European year for Citizenship 2013:

http://europa.eu/citizens-2013

Information on the European Commission's dialogue with churches, religious communities and philosophical and non-confessional organisations:

http://ec.europa.eu/bepa/activities/outreach-team/dialogue/index_en.htm

Website of José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/president/index_en.htm

The contacts:

Pia Ahrenkilde-Hansen +32 2 295 30 70 pia.ahrenkilde-hansen@ec.europa.eu

Cezary Lewanowicz +32 2 299 30 50 cezary.lewanowicz@ec.europa.eu

Dirk Volckaerts +32 2 299 39 44 dirk.volckaerts@ec.europa.eu

Thursday 30 May: The Commission adopts its monthly infringements package

The news:

On Thursday 30 May, the European Commission will adopt its monthly infringements package. These decisions cover all Member States and most of EU policies and seek to enforce EU law across Europe in the interest of both citizens and businesses.

The background:

Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) gives the Commission the power to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations under EU law.

There are three successive stages: Letter of formal notice, reasoned opinion and referral to the Court of Justice.

If, despite the ruling, a Member State still fails to act, the Commission may open a further infringement case under Article 260 of the TFEU. After only one written warning, Commission may refer a Member State back to the Court and it can propose that the Court imposes financial penalties based on the duration and severity on the infringement and the size of the Member State.

The event:

A comprehensive Memo on all referrals and reasoned opinions, specific IPs on each referral and a Memo on the procedure will be available on the day on Rapid:

http://europa.eu/rapid/

The sources:

For more information on infringements:
http://ec.europa.eu/eu_law/infringements/infringements_en.htm

On the general infringement procedure: MEMO/12/12

The contacts:

Overall coordination:

Olivier Bailly +32 2 296 87 17 olivier.bailly@ec.europa.eu

Jonathan Todd +32 2 299 41 07 jonathan.todd@ec.europa.eu

On specific infringements, please contact the spokesperson in charge.

Friday 31 May: European Commission joins forces with civil society to fight trafficking in human beings

The news:

Trafficking in human beings is a severe human rights violation, the slavery of our times. Children, women and men, are deprived of their liberty, exploited and traded as commodities for profit.

Recent statistics from the European Commission have revealed that a growing number of people are being trafficked in the EU, whilst at the same time convictions for trafficking offenses are decreasing. Working towards the elimination of trafficking in human beings cannot be achieved without a strong cooperation amongst all possible actors across the EU and beyond.

The Commission is now launching an EU Civil Society Platform against Trafficking in human beings, with the participation of over 100 civil society organisations from EU Member States and Croatia who are joining forces against trafficking in human beings.

The EU-wide Platform will serve as a forum for civil society organisations working at European, national and local levels, in the field of human rights, children's rights, women's rights and gender equality, migrants' rights and shelters.

The background:

Working towards the elimination of trafficking in human beings cannot be achieved without a strong cooperation amongst all possible actors across the EU and beyond.

With the "EU Strategy towards the eradication of trafficking in Human Beings (2012-2016)", the Commission is focusing on concrete actions that will support and complement the implementation of EU legislation on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims (Directive 2011/36/EU) - whose deadline for transposition was 6 April 2013.

Cooperation with civil society is essential - not least at a time where growing numbers of victims are being identified in the EU (IP/13/322 and MEMO/13/331).

The important role of civil society organisations was highlighted in the 2012 EU Strategy towards the eradication of trafficking in Human beings Strategy (IP/12/619 and MEMO/12/455), which foresees concrete initiatives, including to strengthen the role of civil society.

The event:

IP will be available on the day

Press statement by Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/malmstrom/welcome/default_en.htm

Homepage DG Home Affairs:

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/index_en.htm

European Commission Anti-trafficking website:

http://ec.europa.eu/anti-trafficking/

The statistical report on trafficking in human beings:

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-is-new/news/news/2013/docs/20130415_thb_stats_report_en.pdf

The contacts:

Michele Cercone +32 2 298 09 63 Michele.Cercone@ec.europa.eu

Tove Ernst +32 2 298 67 64 Tove.Ernst@ec.europa.eu

Wednesday 5 June: Stepping up efforts to fight against cigarette smuggling - the Commission presents an EU-wide strategy

The news:

On 5 June, the European Commission will adopt a comprehensive package to strengthen the fight against illicit tobacco trade, especially cigarette smuggling. This criminal activity deprives Member States of over €10 billion revenue every year in terms of unpaid taxes and duties. While helping to fund criminal organisations, this problem damages not only national revenues but also threatens legitimate business. Given that smuggling is an international problem with criminal networks operating across borders, a coordinated EU approach is the only effective way to tackle the problem.

The background:

The European Commission and Member States have already taken action to curb illegal tobacco trade. In 2011, the Commission presented an Action Plan to tackle smuggling at the EU's Eastern land border to address the problem of excise goods that are mainly smuggled from the EU's Eastern neighbours (IP/11/783, MEMO/11/454). Despite these efforts, the overall illicit trade in tobacco products is increasing. With the EU facing a rising illicit influx of brands coming from outside the EU as well as increased illicit production and distribution inside the EU, a comprehensive approach is necessary to tackle the problem of illicit tobacco trade.

The event:

Press materials will be made available on the day.

The sources:

Information on OLAF:

http://ec.europa.eu/anti_fraud/index_en.htm

Information on Commissioner Šemeta:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/semeta/index_en.htm

The contacts:

Emer Traynor +32 2 292 15 48 emer.traynor@ec.europa.eu

Natasja Bohez-Rubiano +32 2 296 64 70 natasja.bohez-Rubiano@ext-ec.europa.eu

Wednesday 5 June: Commission presents Convergence Report for Latvia

The news:

On 5 June the Commission will publish its convergence report assessing whether Latvia fulfils the criteria for adopting the euro. This is an important phase of the procedure which started in early March: if the assessment is positive, the Commission will make a recommendation to the Council of Ministers.

The formal decision paving the way for the adoption of the Euro would be taken at the Council of the Economic and Finance Ministers on 9 July after due consultation of the European Parliament and discussion in the European Council (i.e. among the Heads of State or Government). This would allow Latvia sufficient time for thorough technical preparations for introducing the euro on 1 January 2014.

The procedure would be fully completed once the Council of Ministers, acting by unanimity of its euro area Member States and Latvia, has irrevocably fixed the exchange rate of the lats to the euro.

The background:

The Commission and the ECB prepare convergence reports every two years or at the request of a Member State which wants to adopt the euro. On 5 March 2013, Latvia formally asked the Commission to deliver an extraordinary convergence report with the aim of joining the euro from 1 January 2014.

The convergence criteria, which are set out in Art. 140 (1) of the Treaty, consist of five stability-oriented economic conditions regarding price stability, public finances (debt and deficit), exchange rate stability and the convergence of long-term interest rates.

In addition, the Treaty requires that other factors relevant to economic integration and convergence – including external balance and financial and product market integration – should be taken into account in the assessment. The national legislation on monetary affairs must also be in line with the EU Treaty.

The event:

Press point: Olli Rehn, Vice-President in charge of Economic and financial Affairs and the Euro will present the Commission's Report in the press room at 12:00 (Berlaymont).

  1. Available on EbS

Press material: the convergence report and a press release will be available on that day.

The sources:

More information: MEMO/13/166.

The contacts:

Simon O'Connor +32 2 296 73 59 Simon.O'Connor@ec.europa.eu

Audrey Augier +32 2 297 16 07 Audrey.Augier@ec.europa.eu

Vandna Kalia +32 2 299 58 24 Vandna.Kalia@ec.europa.eu

Thursday 13 June: Commission to present 112 eCall facility for cars

The news:

On 13 June the European Commission will propose to fit new passenger cars and light vehicles from 2015 with the eCall system, which will become mandatory in order to obtain EU-wide type approval. The “eCall” system automatically connects car occupants to emergency services after a severe accident and speeds up the arrival of emergency teams by giving the location of the vehicle. To ensure the interoperability and continuity of the EU-wide eCall service, the Commission also proposes infrastructure for the proper handling of eCalls in national emergency response centres. Once fully operational eCall is expected to save hundreds of lives each year.

The background:

The EU is fully committed to reducing the number of road accidents and mitigating their consequences.

The EU-wide, harmonised implementation of an interoperable eCall service has been in the agenda of the Commission since 2005 and is a priority action for the deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems. As an important road safety measure, the deployment of the eCall system is also a priority for the EU automotive sector, within the CARS 2020 action plan, presented by the Commission in November 2012.

In September 2011, the European Commission approved Recommendations to Member States to ensure that mobile operators upgraded their infrastructure so that eCalls could efficiently be passed on to emergency services and that mobile operators treated calls from eCall devices like other 112 calls.

The event:

The European Commission Vice Presidents Antonio Tajani and Siim Kallas will present the proposals at the midday briefing in the Commission's press room. A press release and memo will be available on the day. Experts from the DGs involved will be present for a technical briefing.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

More information on eCall:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/esafety/ecall/index_en.htm

The contacts:

Carlo Corazza +32 2 295 17 52 carlo.corazza@ec.europa.eu

Sara Tironi +32 2 299 04 03 sara.tironi@ec.europa.eu

Wednesday 19 June: The Commission adopts new Regional Aid Guidelines

The news:

On 19 June, the European Commission is due to adopt new Guidelines on state aid aiming to promote the regional development of disadvantaged areas, replacing its current Guidelines of 2007 and Communication of 2009 (see IP/05/1653, and IP/09/993).

The Guidelines set out the criteria under which areas could qualify for regional aid due to their disadvantaged socio-economic situation compared to the EU and national average. In addition, the guidelines lay down the principles under which the Commission will assess the compatibility of notified regional aid (both for schemes and individual aid).

The modernised Guidelines aim to target the areas most in need at both EU and national level and to ensure that regional aid goes to investments that would not take place without the aid in disadvantaged regions, therefore bringing real value added for regional development. The new guidelines reflect the principles laid down in the state aid modernisation (SAM) strategy adopted by the Commission in May 2012, which aims to foster growth in the Single Market by encouraging an effective and efficient design of aid measures, focusing scrutiny by the Commission on cases with the biggest impact on the internal market, streamlining rules and allowing for faster decisions by the Commission.

The background:

The Commission needs to review the current regional aid Guidelines in due time and before the end of 2013 so as to allow Member States sufficient time to identify the regions most in need for the next programming period 2014-2020 and to prepare their regional development strategy after 2013. The revision process was launched in January 2011 with a workshop with Member States followed by two rounds of public consultations in January 2012 and January 2013. Based on the comments received and recommendations from a commissioned study and other available studies, the Commission services published a draft of the new Guidelines on 14 January 2013.

The event:

Vice-President Joaquín Almunia, the European Commissioner for Competition, will present the main elements of the Guidelines in the Commission's press room (to be confirmed). A press release will be available on the day.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

Public consultation on the revision of the Regional aid Guidelines

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2013_regional_aid_guidelines/index_en.html

Information on State Aid Modernisation:

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/modernisation/index_en.html

Information on Commissioner Almunia:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/almunia/index_en.htm

The contacts:

Antoine Colombani +32 2 297 45 13 Antoine.Colombani@ec.europa.eu

Maria Madrid Pina +32 2 295 45 30 Maria.Madrid-Pina@ec.europa.eu

In June: Action Plan to galvanise the EU’s steel industry

The news:

The European Commission will issue the Action plan for the European Steel Industry, aiming to help the steel sector confront its current challenges and foster innovation, growth and employment. The Commission’s Steel Action Plan would imply reinforcing of the sector-specific component of relevant policy areas such as better regulation, climate change, energy, trade, resource efficiency, raw materials and competition.

The background:

With employment of 360,000 people, turnover of around €170 bn and a presence in the manufacturing value chain of many downstream sectors, the steel industry has a strategic place in the EU economy. But developments over the past few years – fierce global competition, the economic crisis, the evolution of prices of raw materials and energy, and some excessive legislation - have presented new challenges for EU steel producers. Since 2011, several steelmakers in the EU therefore took decisions to reduce output and temporary or permanent steel plant closures affected several EU countries.

In 2012 and early 2013, European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, and Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Laszlo Andor, held four High-level Roundtable meetings on the future of the European Steel Industry with the aim of offering a platform for dialogue between industry, the trade unions and the Commission. The European Parliament adopted a resolution on the steel industry in December 2012, in which it welcomed the Commission's initiative of quickly developing a European action plan to preserve and enhance the competitiveness of the steel sector. The Competitiveness Council of February 2013 also supported the action plan’s presentation.

The event:

A press conference and a technical briefing will be held on the day of adoption. A press release, a press MEMO and the Communication itself will be available on the day.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

Information on the EU’s steel industry and policies:

http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/metals-minerals/steel/index_en.htm

The contacts:

Carlo Corazza +32 2 295 17 52 Carlo.Corazza@ec.europa.eu

Sara Tironi +32 2 299 04 03 Sara.Tironi@ec.europa.eu


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