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EXME06 / 2.2

MIDDAY EXPRESS

News from the Press and Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Direction Générale Presse et Communication

02 / 02 / 06


I. Résultats de la Commission du 1er février 2006 -
Outcome of Commission meeting of 1st February

(voir aussi - see also ME of 1.2)

Increased flexibility in future budgets in order to better react to a rapidly changing world (almost €5 billion over the 2007-13 period) ; establishing basic rules for the new European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (€3,5 billion); a comprehensive review of the EU budget in 2008/9 - these are major new elements in the Commission proposal for a renewed Inter-Institutional Agreement (IIA). "With this proposal the way is now cleared for a constructive negotiation between the Parliament, the Council and the Commission", commented Commission President José Manuel Barroso. "We need to have an agreement by April. Everyone understands very well that otherwise the execution of many EU programmes will be problematic as from 1st of January 2007. We have to act fast while being prudent, responsible and realistic. The credibility and effectiveness of the enlarged Union is at stake", added Dalia Grybauskaite, Commissioner for Financial programming and Budget.

La Commission européenne a décidé de traduire à nouveau la France devant la Cour de justice européenne pour ne pas s'être conformée à un arrêt rendu par la Cour en 2003 à propos d'une législation sur les biotechnologies. Malgré l'arrêt de la Cour et les avertissements ultérieurs de la Commission, la France n'a encore adopté qu'une partie de la législation nationale mettant en application la directive relative à l'utilisation confinée de micro-organismes génétiquement modifiés. Cette directive a pour objet de protéger l'environnement et la santé humaine des dangers potentiels des essais biotechnologiques en laboratoires. La Commission demandera également à la Cour d'imposer à la France une astreinte journalière de €168,800 applicable à partir du jour du second jugement de la Cour dans cette affaire.


II. Other news - Autres nouvelles

  • Commission statement on VAT reduced rates agreement (01/02)

László Kovács, European Commissioner for Taxation and Customs, welcomed the fact that there is now unanimous agreement on the Value Added Tax reduced rates package, which was established at the ECOFIN meeting last Tuesday by 22 out of 25 Member States. "I am very satisfied that the three countries that originally expressed reservations have now rallied to this compromise proposal. It is a sound and balanced compromise, which offers legal stability for the Community as a whole and offers firm guaranties to some sensitive economic sectors in our Member States. I wish to underline, that this solution will bring concrete advantages to all Member States. The Commission has been working very closely with the Austrian Presidency throughout these intensive negotiations, and our efforts were mutually reinforcing to construct an agreement to the benefit of Europe. I also believe that the balance achieved is fully in line with the spirit of the renewed Growth and Jobs strategy of the European Union."

M. Markos Kyprianou, commissaire européen à la santé et à la protection des consommateurs, a lancé aujourd'hui à Bruxelles un projet baptisé "Plateforme européenne d'information sanitaire", également connu sous le nom de "La santé en Europe". Co-financé à hauteur de €1,4 million par le programme de santé publique de l'UE, ce système d'information sanitaire est géré par l'Union européenne de radiotélévision (UER). Il s'agit d'un projet multimédia ayant pour but de créer un réseau de radiodiffuseurs de service public et d'autres médias à travers l'Europe et de favoriser l'échange de reportages – sous la forme de documentaires télévisés, d'émissions de radio et d'articles à publier dans la presse ou sur l'Internet – consacrés à des questions de santé.

On 8-9 February 2006 the European Commission will present a proposal for a Decision requiring producers and importers of lighters to make their products child-resistant. The proposal will be discussed by the Committee of Member States under the General Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC. An estimated 34 to 40 people, often children, die annually in the EU due to children playing with unsafe lighters. Many more people suffer serious and permanent injuries. Considerable material damage caused by accidents with lighters is also reported every year. Simple devices can be added to lighters to make them child-resistant, at an average cost of just 4 eurocents per lighter. Safety standards were agreed on a voluntary basis within the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) in 2002, but they are not applied. However, producers abide to similar safety requirements in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A US study showed a 60% decrease in fires started by children after a law on child resistant lighters was passed in the United States - proving the benefits of such legislation.

Le Parlement européen a adopté ce matin l'accord sur le projet de législation européenne qui améliore le temps de conduite et de repos des chauffeurs routiers et renforce les contrôles sur les camions. Ainsi, les chauffeurs vont pouvoir bénéficier d'un repos d'au moins deux jours pleins toutes les deux semaines et d'un repos journalier plus long. Ces nouvelles règles clarifient les règles existantes et rapprochent les pratiques des différents Etats européens. Elles contribuent également à la sécurité routière. "L'ouverture des marchés doit être accompagnée des règles applicables à tous pour assurer des conditions de travail équitables. Ces règles sociales européennes créent de nouveaux droits pour les travailleurs et protègent contre le dumping social", s'est réjoui Jacques Barrot, Vice-Président de la Commission en charge des transports.

  • Commission clears joint venture between Cognis and Golden Hope

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control of the Cognis Group's global oleochemicals and plastics additives businesses by Cognis B.V. of the Netherlands and Golden Hope Plantations Berhad (Golden Hope) of Malaysia. The Cognis Group is a manufacturer of speciality chemicals. Golden Hope's activities include the cultivation, processing and sale of palm oil, palm kernels, fruits from the palm oil tree and rubber. The joint venture will be active in the manufacture, marketing and sale of fatty acids, glycerine, fatty alcohols and methyl ester in Malaysia.

  • Opening of tariff quota for bananas from ACP countries

The Management Committee for Bananas gave a favourable opinion on a European Commission proposal to open a duty-free tariff quota of 615,000 tonnes for ACP countries for the period March-December 2006. The proposal will now be put for formal approval to the Commission. Under the new rules, from March to December 2006, 468,150 tonnes will be made available on a "first come, first served" basis in five tranches of 93,630 tonnes each. The tranches will be made available every two months. The remaining 146,850 tonnes of the tariff quota will be reserved for operators who actually imported bananas from ACP countries in 2005. The licences for these operators will be proportional to the quantities they imported from ACP countries in 2005. On 29 November 2005, the EU adopted a new "tariff-only" import regime for bananas from countries enjoying Most Favoured Nation status, applying from 1 January 2006 (see IP/05/1493). The regime also includes a duty-free annual import quota of 775,000 tonnes for bananas originating in ACP countries. To avoid disruption of trade with ACP countries before the adoption of the tariff quota for these countries, the Commission adopted in December interim measures for January and February 2006. An overall amount of 160,000 tonnes has already been made available for this period. The tariff quota proposed today (615,000 tonnes) covers the rest of 2006.

L'indice des prix à la production industrielle dans la zone euro a augmenté de 0,2% en décembre 2005 par rapport au mois précédent. Dans l'UE25, les prix ont également augmenté de 0,2% en décembre 2005. En novembre, les prix avaient connu une baisse de 0,2% dans la zone euro et une hausse de 0,7% dans l'UE25. En décembre 2005, par rapport à décembre 2004, les prix à la production industrielle ont progressé de 4,6% dans la zone euro et de 6,2% dans l'UE25. Ces données sont publiées par Eurostat. Par rapport à 2004, l'indice moyen des prix à la production industrielle a augmenté en 2005 de 4,1% dans la zone euro et de 5,2% dans l'UE25.

  • Andris Piebalgs participates in the 34th Sanderstolen Energy Conference in Norway

The European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs gave a presentation this morning on "Natural Gas - Crucial for Europe's Energy Security" at a conference organised by the Energy Policy Foundation of Norway. Sanderstolen meetings are annual gatherings of major international energy sector stakeholders and aims at discussing current challenges in the energy sector. In his presentation, the Commissioner presented the role of natural gas for Europe's energy mix, he assessed developments in the gas market which are shifting from a regional to a global scale due in particular to a rapidly increasing share of liquified natural gas. During the afternoon the Commisioner will hold bilateral meetings on energy security issues with Odd Roger Enoksen, Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy, and with Malcolm Wicks, UK Minister for Energy. No speech available.

European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, will participate in the EU-China Ministerial Troika on 3 February in Vienna, together with Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik and EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana. The meeting with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Li Zhaoxing, is expected to cover EU-China bilateral relations, including preparations for a new Partnership and Cooperation agreement and trade issues. Human rights, and international and regional affairs, will also be discussed.


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