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EXME06 / 27.2


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

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

27 / 02 / 06

Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, will visit Kaliningrad on 28th February 2006. Her visit to this region of the Russian Federation, which is physically separate from Russia and which borders Poland and Lithuania, demonstrates the European Commission’s commitment to supporting Kaliningrad’s development. During the visit, the Commissioner will meet Presidential Aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky and Governor Georgy Boos to discuss Kaliningrad’s prospects, transit between mainland Russia and Kaliningrad, and future EU support to the region. During the visit the Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner will also make a speech at the Kant Russian State University.

The European Union and Switzerland will sign today a Memorandum of Understanding setting up the arrangements by which Switzerland will finance projects in the new EU Member States for a total amount of one billion Swiss Francs (about €645 million) over a period of five years. The projects will start in 2006 and will cover support for public administration reforms, environment and infrastructure, promotion of the private sector, and human and social development. This financial contribution being made in connection with Switzerland benefiting from access to the enlarged Internal Market and to a number of EU programmes and activities, some of which will be ratified by the Council today. EU-Switzerland contacts will take another step forward when the Commission opens a delegation in Berne in the coming months.

The European Commission and Japan signed today an Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. The Agreement will provide a stable framework for the development of nuclear trade between the two parties and facilitate co-operation in areas of common interest, such as safeguards.

Charlie McCreevy, European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, has welcomed the publication of a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) that outlines a work programme for convergence between US Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). This convergence programme is an important step in bringing about mutual recognition of accounting standards between the EU and the US, and reflects comments made by Committee of European Securities Regulators (CESR) concerning equivalence between GAAP and IFRS. The convergence work covers those areas that the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has identified in its Roadmap as important for lifting the GAAP reconciliation requirement in 2009, at the latest.

The Commission has adopted a proposal renewing the provisions on travellers' allowances as from 1/1/2007. Traveller's allowances are the monetary thresholds or the quantitative limits which travellers entering the EU from third countries are allowed to import duty free. The main component of the proposal is to increase the benefit current monetary threshold of € 175 to € 500 for air travellers and to € 220 for other travellers. For the citizen, this proposal will not only provide benefits in terms of increased monetary thresholds but will also avoid inconvenience in declaring goods of relatively limited value. At the same time, it will reduce the administrative burdens for Member States in collecting relatively small amounts of duty. The proposal also contains other adjustments to reflect the position today.

  • Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Turkey: Commission sends vaccine supplies

The European Commission has sent 2.5 million doses of trivalent vaccine against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) to Turkey, to help control an outbreak of FMD in bovine animals in the region of Thrace. The Commission decided to supply vaccines containing all three antigens required for the spring vaccination campaign in Thrace. Turkey notified the World Organisation on Animal Health (OIE) and the Commission of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Thrace in early February, despite reported vaccination of over 90% of the bovine population in this area against the disease last autumn. Following a visit to Thrace by experts from the FAO based European Commission for the Control of FMD (EUFMD), it was confirmed that the outbreak has been caused by a re-emerging strain of the FMD virus, against which vaccination was stopped many years ago. The vaccines sent by the Commission are due to arrive in Turkey today, and vaccination will begin immediately. The vaccination campaign will be closely followed by EUFMD experts on the ground and a first progress report should be available in time for the Tripartite meeting between the neighbouring countries, FAO, EC and OIE in Paris at the end of February.

  • Commissioner Kyprianou visits Nigeria

Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, will visit Nigeria from 1-4 March, in what will be his first trip to Africa as European Commissioner. During his time there, he will meet with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Health Minister Eyitayo Lambo, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Alhaji Adamu Bello, and Minister for Information and National Orientation Chukwuemeka Chikelu, amongst others. Avian influenza will be high on the agenda during the Commissioner’s visit, in view of the current outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus in birds and poultry in Nigeria. Mr Kyprianou will receive an update on the avian influenza situation from the national authorities and discuss ways in which the EU could assist the Nigerians in their efforts to tackle the disease. The Commissioner will also take the opportunity, while in Nigeria, to meet with Mohamad Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Commissioner Kyprianou said, “I am very glad to have the opportunity to visit Nigeria and discuss first hand the avian influenza situation there. The Commission is very concerned about the impact that avian influenza could have on developing countries where people often live in close proximity with poultry and rely on poultry for their subsistence. In addition, as the spring migratory season approaches, many birds will be returning from Africa to their summer nesting grounds in or via Europe. We cannot predict what this will mean for the EU in terms of avian influenza outbreaks. What we can do is support and help countries which are battling against this disease in their flocks, while continuously looking to strengthen the EU’s own defences against this virulent virus.” The Commissioner is also planning to visit Egypt on 25-26 March

  • Statement by Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn, on the adoption of the Aid Regulation for the Turkish Cypriot community by the Council

The Commission welcomes today’s decision of the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) to adopt the Regulation establishing an instrument of financial support for encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community. Adopting this Regulation enables the EU to bring assistance where it is urgently needed in fields such as energy and environment. Many concrete projects can now be realised which bring the Turkish Cypriot community closer to the European Union. The Aid Regulation will also allow the Commission to prepare the Turkish Cypriot community for the future application of EU Law following a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. The adoption of the aid package should be seen as a first step by the EU towards putting an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and facilitating the reunification of Cyprus as laid down in the conclusions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 26 April 2004. The Commission encourages the Council to move towards adoption of the proposal made in 2004 on trade between the EU and the Turkish Cypriot community. In line with its long-standing position, the Commission remains fully committed to supporting a resumption of UN-led talks for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue as soon as possible.

  • Commission clears acquisition of AVR and NV AVR by CVC and KKR

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control of AVR-Bedrijven NV (AVR) and NV Afvalverwerking Rijnmond (NV AVR), both of the Netherlands, by CVC Capital Partners Group SARL (CVC) of Luxembourg and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P (KKR) of the US. CVC and KKR are private equity firms with interests in a range of different businesses. AVR and NV AVR are active in the collection, processing and management of hazardous and non-hazardous waste. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure..

  • Commission clears acquisition of Sanyo by Goldman Sachs, Daiwa and SMBC

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control of Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. (Sanyo) of Japan by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (Goldman Sachs) of the US, Daiwa Securities SMBC Principal Investments Co. Ltd. (Daiwa) of Japan and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) of Japan. Goldman Sachs is active in global investment banking, securities and investment management. Daiwa is active in investment, asset management and consulting. SMBC is a banking and financial services company. Sanyo manufactures electric and electronic products (home appliances, audiovisual equipment, cameras, air conditioning products, etc.).The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

  • Commission clears acquisition of Frans Maas by DSV

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control of Koninklijke Frans Maas Groep N.V. (Frans Maas) of the Netherlands by DFDS Transport Group A/S (DFDS Transport) of Denmark, controlled by DSV A/S of Denmark. DFDS Transport is active in freight forwarding by road, sea and air and in contract logistics services. Frans Maas provides freight forwarding and logistics services. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure

  • Commission clears acquisition of the EOSH and EDF Swiss assets by ATEL

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control of EOS Holding (EOSH assets) of Switzerland, as well as specifically identified electricity assets currently belonging to the EDF group (EDF Swiss assets) by the undertaking NewCo. The latter results from the restructuring of the undertakings Motor-Columbus AG (MC) of Switzerland and Aare-Tessin AG (ATEL) also of Switzerland. MC is a holding company whose main activity is to hold a controlling participation in ATEL. ATEL is active in the electricity sector. In Switzerland, ATEL is active in all segments of the electricity value chain. In the EU, ATEL is active in the generation of electricity in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy and in the supply of electricity to wholesalers/traders, retailers and/or large final industrial customers in other EU countries. The EOSH assets are active in electricity generation, transmission, and trading. In the EU, the EOSH Assets are only active in France, Germany, and Italy. EDF Swiss assets are active in the electricity generation and supply in Switzerland and France. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

The European Commission has opened a detailed investigation under the EU Merger Regulation into Inco's acquisition of Falconbridge. Both companies are Canadian and both are active in the mining, processing and refining of various metals. The Commission's initial market investigation has found that the proposed transaction gives rise to competition concerns on certain nickel and cobalt markets. A decision to open an in-depth inquiry does not prejudge the final result of the investigation. The Commission now has 90 working days (until 12 July 2006) to take a final decision on whether the concentration would significantly impede effective competition within the European Economic Area or a significant part of it.

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