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European Commission

Top News

Brussels, Thursday 31 October 2013

Top News from the European Commission
2 – 29 November 2013

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

Monday 4 November: Commission will propose new measures to reduce use of plastic bags 2

Tuesday 5 November: Autumn European Economic Forecast 4

Tuesday 5 November: Commission tackles government interventions in electricity markets 5

Wednesday 13 November: Commission adopts a new Communication on state aid for cinema 6

Wednesday 20 November : The Commission adopts its monthly infringements package 7

November: European Semester 2014 - Commission publishes annual economic priorities for the EU and views on euro area draft budgets 8

Monday 4 November: Commission will propose new measures to reduce use of plastic bags

The news:

The European Commission will put forward on 4 November a proposal that aims to reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags. Through an amendment of Directive 94/62/EC on packaging or packaging waste, Member States will have the flexibility to choose between a number of measures, including charges, national reduction targets and a ban.

In 2010, an estimated 98.6 billion plastic carrier bags were placed on the EU market, which amounts to every EU citizen using 198 plastic carrier bags per year. Out of these almost 100 billion bags, the vast majority are lightweight bags, which are less frequently re-used than thicker ones. Consumption figures vary greatly between Member States, with annual use per capita of lightweight plastic carrier bags ranging between an estimated 4 bags in Denmark and Finland and 466 bags in Poland, Portugal and Slovakia. The low weight and small size of plastic bags means they often escape waste management and end up in the marine environment, where their eventual decay can take hundreds of years.

Some Member States have already taken action to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags through pricing measures, agreements with the retail sector and bans on certain types of bags, but no specific measures exist at the EU level. In March 2011 EU environment ministers discussed the environmental impact of plastic carrier bags and the concerns they raised indicated that effective EU action is needed.

The proposal builds on feedback from stakeholders gathered during a public consultation in summer 2011.

The background:

The longevity of plastic bags means that there are now some 250 billion plastic particles with a combined weight of 500 tonnes floating in the Mediterranean Sea alone. These particles can cause suffocation in sea creatures that ingest them accidentally or mistake them for food. Plastics break into tiny particles, and have a high potential for contaminating soil and waterways as they may contain additives such as persistent organic pollutants.

The event:

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik will give a press conference on 4 November at 12:30 and there will be a press release and a MEMO, as well as a Video News Release (VNR).

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

More details about Directive 94/62/EC on packaging or packaging waste:

Commissioner Potočnik's website:

The contacts:

Joseph Hennon +32 2 295 35 93

Monica Westerén +32 2 299 18 30

Tuesday 5 November: Autumn European Economic Forecast

The news:

On 5 November, the European Commission will publish its annual autumn economic forecast covering the period 2013-2015. The forecast will include data on Gross Domestic Product (GDP), inflation, employment and public budget deficits and debt, amongst others. These forecasts focus on all 28 EU Member States, plus the candidate countries Turkey, Iceland, Montenegro, Serbia, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as other non-EU countries such as USA, Japan, China and Russia.

The background:

The European Commission produces macroeconomic forecasts three times year: in the spring, autumn and winter. They serve as a basis for various fiscal and macroeconomic surveillance procedures, such as in the context of the European Semester.

The autumn forecast will provide a clearer picture of Member States' compliance with the Council of Ministers' Recommendations both under the Stability and Growth Pact and the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure. In this context, the forecasts will feed into the Commission's fiscal, budgetary and macroeconomic assessments due mid-November.

The event:

Press Conference at 10:30 with Vice-President Rehn in the Berlaymont Press Room in Brussels. Press release with a link to the report will be available on the day.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

Spring European Economic Forecast (published 3 May 2013): IP/13/396

European Commission websites:

The contacts:

Simon O'Connor + 32 2 296 7359 simon.o'

Vandna Kalia + 32 2 299 5824

Audrey Augier + 32 2 297 1607

Tuesday 5 November: Commission tackles government interventions in electricity markets

The news:

The European Commission plans to adopt a Communication on public interventions in the electricity market. The Communication provides guidance to Member States on how to make the most of public interventions, how to effectively design new and how to reform existing ones, especially support schemes for renewable energy and how to guard against the risk of unnecessary market distortions.

The background:

The EU has set itself ambitious climate and energy targets. By 2020 it should achieve a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20% share of renewables and a 20% saving in primary energy use. Furthermore, by 2050 the EU's greenhouse gas emissions should be cut by 80-95%. This will be achieved by higher shares of renewable energy, energy efficiency improvements and better and smarter energy infrastructure.

As the internal energy market is a precondition to materialise all these goals the Heads of State or Governments have set a clear deadline to establish a genuine European internal energy market by 2014.

The event:

Tuesday 5 November 2013 in the BERL press room:

9:30 Technical Briefing off the record

15:00 Press Conference with EU Energy Commissioner Oettinger

An IP and a MEMO will be available.

The sources:

For more information on the internal energy market:

The contacts:

Marlene Holzner: +32 2 296 01 96

Nicole Bockstaller: +32 2 295 25 89

Wednesday 13 November: Commission adopts a new Communication on state aid for cinema

The news:

On 13 November, the European Commission will adopt a new Communication on state aid for films and other audiovisual works.

The Communication contains detailed criteria which define how Member States may financially support the production and distribution of films in line with EU state aid rules. It replaces the criteria which have been applied since 2001 and amends them.

The aim of the Communication is to encourage creation and cultural diversity everywhere in the European Union and to set the conditions for a successful European audiovisual sector, where cross-border productions can be set up easily.

The background:

EU Member States provide an estimated €3 billion per year in film support: €2 billion in grants and soft loans, as well as €1 billion in tax incentives. Around 80% of this is for film production.

Financial support is important to ensure a continued and meaningful European film production. In 2001, the Commission published for the first time rules on the application of the state aid rules to aid for film production (the "Cinema Communication"). These rules expired at the end of 2012.

Therefore, the Commission started a review process in 2011, which led to three public consultations of Member States and stakeholders.

The event:

Joaquín Almunia, Vice President of the Commission in charge of competition policy, will present the new Cinema Communication at 12:30 CET in the Commission's press room.

  1. Available on EbS

A press release and Memo will be available on the day.

The sources:

Competition website:

Vice-President Almunia's website:

The contacts:

Antoine Colombani +32 2 297 45 13, Twitter: @ECspokesAntoine

Maria Madrid Pina +32 2 295 45 30

Wednesday 20 November : The Commission adopts its monthly infringements package

The news:

On Wednesday 20 November 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.

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:

The sources:

For more information on infringements:

On the general infringement procedure: MEMO/12/12

The contacts:

Overall coordination:

Olivier Bailly +32 2 296 87 17

Jonathan Todd +32 2 299 41 07

On specific infringements, please contact the spokesperson in charge.

November: European Semester 2014 - Commission publishes annual economic priorities for the EU and views on euro area draft budgets

The news:

In mid-November (date to be confirmed), the European Commission will publish a number of important documents to kick off the fourth European Semester, the EU's economic policy-making calendar:

  • The Annual Growth Survey will set out general economic and social priorities for the EU for the coming year. The AGS is a roadmap for member states to follow when drawing up future budgets and reform plans, and sets the scene for the specific recommendations the Commission makes to member states each spring.

  • The Alert Mechanism Report will screen all 28 EU economies for potential economic risks, providing an early warning on imbalances such as housing booms or banking crises. It indicates which countries warrant an in-depth review of their economies.

  • This year marks the first time the Commission will publish its opinions on euro area countries' draft budget plans for 2014. This is a feature of new economic governance rules (known as the Two Pack), which came into force in May 2013 and which allow for closer coordination of euro area budgets and economic policies.

  • There will also be reports on action taken by certain member states under the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP), as well as Commission opinions on the "economic partnership programmes" submitted by euro area member states under the EDP. Also a novelty of the new economic governance system, the programmes set out structural reforms to be undertaken to correct the deficit in a lasting way.

  • Finally, the Commission will release its annual Joint Employment Report, which will provide an overview of labour market and social trends and reforms, and a report on the functioning of the Single Market.

The background:

The European Semester was introduced in 2010 to help member states work towards the same goals, as set out in the EU's long-term growth strategy, Europe 2020. The Semester sets out a clear timetable for budgetary and economic policy-making, ensuring that member states talk to each other before adopting reforms that could have impacts on their neighbours.

The sources:

Europe 2020 website

The contacts:

Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen +32 2 295 30 70

Sarah Collins +32 2 296 80 76

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