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Brussels, Friday 31 May 2013
Top News from the European Commission
Background notes from the Spokesperson’s service for journalists
Wednesday 5 June: Stepping up efforts to fight against cigarette smuggling - the Commission presents an EU-wide strategy 2
Wednesday 5 June: Commission presents Convergence Report for Latvia 3
Tuesday 11 June: Commission to propose extending automatic information exchange to combat tax fraud and evasion 4
Tuesday 11 June: Action Plan to galvanise the EU’s steel industry 5
Thursday 13 June: Commission to present 112 eCall facility for cars 6
Wednesday 19 June: The Commission adopts new Regional Aid Guidelines 7
Thursday 20 June: The Commission adopts its monthly infringements package 9
Wednesday 5 June: Stepping up efforts to fight against cigarette smuggling - the Commission presents an EU-wide strategy
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 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.
Press materials will be made available on the day.
Information on OLAF:
Information on Commissioner Šemeta:
Emer Traynor +32 2 292 15 48 firstname.lastname@example.org
Natasja Bohez-Rubiano +32 2 296 64 70 natasja.bohez-Rubiano@ext-ec.europa.eu
Wednesday 5 June: Commission presents Convergence Report for Latvia
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 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.
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).
Press material: the convergence report and a press release will be available on that day.
More information: MEMO/13/166.
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
Tuesday 11 June: Commission to propose extending automatic information exchange to combat tax fraud and evasion
On 11 June the European Commission will adopt a proposal for a Directive which could extend the automatic exchange of tax information to cover the full range of income.
In recent years, tax fraud and evasion have taken place on a such a scale that they are now an issue of major concern for the European Union and the world as a whole. On 6 December 2012 the Commission put forward an action plan to boost efforts to combat tax fraud and evasion. This plan underlines the importance of the automatic exchange of information on this subject.
At the European Council meeting on 22 May, which focused on tax fraud and evasion, the Commission undertook to present a legislative proposal to ensure the automatic exchange of information on a wide range of income.
Algirdas Šemeta, the European Commissioner responsible for taxation and customs union, audit, anti-fraud and statistics, will present the proposal in the Commission press room. A press release will be made available on the day.
Information on combating tax fraud and evasion:
Information on Mr Šemeta:
Emer Traynor +32 2 292 15 48 email@example.com
Natsja Bohez-Rubianio +32 2 296 64 70 firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday 11 June: Action Plan to galvanise the EU’s steel industry
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.
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.
Press conference with Vice-President Tajani will be held on 11 June 2013 in Strasbourg. A press release, a press MEMO and the Communication itself will be available on the day.
Information on the EU’s steel industry and policies:
Carlo Corazza +32 2 295 17 52 Carlo.Corazza@ec.europa.eu
Sara Tironi +32 2 299 04 03 Sara.Tironi@ec.europa.eu
Thursday 13 June: Commission to present 112 eCall facility for cars
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 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 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.
More information on eCall:
Carlo Corazza +32 2 295 17 52 email@example.com
Sara Tironi +32 2 299 04 03 firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday 19 June: The Commission adopts new Regional Aid Guidelines
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 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.
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.
Public consultation on the revision of the Regional aid Guidelines
Information on State Aid Modernisation:
Information on Commissioner Almunia:
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
Thursday 20 June: The Commission adopts its monthly infringements package
On Thursday 20 June 2013, 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.
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.
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:
For more information on infringements:
On the general infringement procedure: MEMO/12/12
Olivier Bailly +32 2 296 87 17 email@example.com
Jonathan Todd +32 2 299 41 07 firstname.lastname@example.org
On specific infringements, please contact the spokesperson in charge.