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EXME06 / 13.9


News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

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

13 / 09 / 06

I. Résultats de la Commission de ce jour -
Outcome of today's Commission meeting

The European Commission has tabled a 10 point programme for action at national and European levels to foster innovation as a main asset of the EU economy. This will form the basis for the discussion by European leaders at the informal Summit due to take place in Lahti, Finland on 20 October 2006. The programme points the way forward to accompany industry-led innovation with public policies at all levels as a core element of the renewed Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs. The Commission seeks to develop the concept of "lead markets" where public authorities, facilitate industry-led innovation by creating conditions for a successful market uptake of innovative products and services in a focussed way. Primary targets are areas that respond to societal demands (e.g. areas such as transport or health, internal security, eco-innovation, see example below). The Commission calls upon Member States to make the structural reforms necessary to deliver the results required. The Commission underlines that Europe does not need new commitments from Member States but political leadership and decisive action.

La Commission européenne a adopté la communication du vice-président Jacques Barrot présentant les principaux résultats de l'activité des coordonnateurs du réseau transeuropéen de transport (RTE-T). Les six personnalités désignées en juillet 2005 pour évaluer l'avancement de certains projets RTE-T ont également formulé des recommandations quant à la mise en œuvre efficace de ces projets prioritaires.

The European Commission has found that 8 suppliers and 6 purchasers of road bitumen in The Netherlands participated in a cartel from 1994 to 2002 to fix prices in violation of the EC Treaty competition rules' ban on restrictive business practices (Article 81). These 14 companies have been fined a total of €266.717 million. Bitumen suppliers (BP, Esha, Klöckner Bitumen, Kuwait Petroleum, Nynäs, Shell, Total and Wintershall) and construction companies (Ballast Nedam, Dura Vermeer, Heijmans, Hollandsche Beton Groep (now part of Koninklijke BAM Groep), Koninklijke BAM Groep and Koninklijke Volker Wessels Stevin) fixed the gross price of all road pavement bitumen sold in the Netherlands, and agreed uniform minimum rebates for the construction companies that were cartel members, and a smaller maximum rebate for all other road builders. This restricted price competition and disadvantaged smaller road building companies. Shell and KWS had their fine increased as they began and led the cartel. Shell's fine was also increased for being a repeat offender. KWS's fine was also increased for having tried to obstruct the Commission's investigation.

  • Commission transmits proposals to Council on active substances for plant protection

The European Commission has decided to transmit to Council amended proposals on six active substances for use in plant protection products (see MEX/06/0614). The Commission had initially proposed the authorisation of these active substances, subject to very stringent safety conditions and restrictions in use. However, some concerns on the application of the relevant safety requirements on public health grounds proposed by the Commission could not be addressed. For two active substances (dinocap and carbendazim), the Commission will modify its proposals to authorise their use in plant protection products under very strict safety conditions and with a precautionary 3 year authorisation period rather than the 7 year authorisation initially proposed by the Commission. For the remaining four substances (fenarimol, flusilazole, metamidophos and procymidone), the Commission will modify its proposal and grant an authorisation under very strict safety conditions and with a shorter precautionary 18 months authorisation period, instead of 7 years initially proposed. The proposals are linked to the Commission's widescale review of all the active substances for use in plant protection products which are on the EU market, as foreseen by the Plant Protection Products Directive 91/414/EC. The decision on whether or not to authorise the active substances in question and include them in the annex of Directive 91/414/EEC must be taken before the end of 2006 - the deadline set for the first phase of the review. It is now up to the Council to decide whether or not to agree to the proposals.

The European Commission has approved under EC Treaty state aid rules the regional aid maps covering the period 2007-2013 for Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. These are the first regional aid maps approved by the Commission under the new Regional Aid Guidelines (see IP/05/1653 and MEMO/05/491). These decisions form part of a wider exercise to review regional aid systems in all Member States. When it adopted the Regional Aid Guidelines in December 2005, the Commission emphasised its objective to re-focus regional aid on the most deprived regions of the enlarged Union, while allowing for the need to improve competitiveness and to provide for a smooth transition.

Suite aux modifications apportées par les autorités françaises au plan de restructuration initial de la Société Nationale Corse-Méditerranée (SNCM), la Commission européenne a décidé d'étendre à ces nouvelles mesures la procédure formelle d'examen entamée le 19 août 2002. Ces mesures comportent l'octroi de nouvelles subventions à la SNCM, dont la Commission doit examiner la compatibilité avec les règles européennes sur les aides d'Etat. Elles ont été suivies de la cession partielle de cette compagnie à des investisseurs privés, Veolia Transport et Butler Capital Partners.

The European Commission has authorised an Austrian scheme which intends to encourage the development of combined transport in order to achieve a traffic shift of freight from road to other modes of transport. The aid covers the period 2006-2012 and has a total budget of €15 million. The planned measures will help to achieve the national and EU Kyoto target.

La Commission européenne a décidé d'autoriser la modification d'un régime d'aide d'Etat à caractère social en faveur de certaines catégories de passagers qui souhaitent rejoindre la France métropolitaine à partir de la Martinique. Cette modification permettra de compenser le désavantage dont souffrent les habitants de cette île qui doivent payer des coûts de transport bien plus élevés que les habitants de la France métropolitaine.

The European Commission has decided not to raise any objections to the €5 million aid which Slovakia is proposing to grant to the Bana Dolina mining company. The aid was found to be compatible with the proper functioning of the common market.

The European Commission has decided not to raise any objections to the €965,000 aid which Slovakia is proposing to grant to the Hornonitrianske Bane Prievidza a.s. mining company. The aid has been found compatible with the proper functioning of the common market.

The European Commission has proposed negotiating directives for a new enhanced agreement with Ukraine to replace the existing Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The enhanced agreement should take a comprehensive and ambitious approach and include a Free Trade Area. The proposed negotiating directives will now go the Council of Ministers for approval, with a view to beginning negotiations early in 2007. The decision comes on the eve of the first visit of the new Ukrainian Prime Minister to Brussels. Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovitch will meet Vice President Guenther Verheugen and Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and will take part in the EU-Ukraine Cooperation Council.

II. Other news - Autres nouvelles

  • Commission clears acquisition of Corona by Macquarie

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control of Corona Energy Holdings Limited (Corona) of the UK by Macquarie Internationale Investments Limited, a subsidiary of Macquarie Bank Limited (Macquarie) of Australia. Corona is active in the supply of natural gas to non-domestic customers in Great Britain. Macquarie is not currently active in the supply of gas to end-users (domestic or non-domestic) in the UK but owns a regional gas distribution network in Wales and the West country and also jointly owns a gas metering business. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

Faisant suite à l'invitation du gouvernement de Mauritanie, la Commission européenne a décidé de déployer dans le pays une mission d'observation électorale de l'Union européenne pour les élections législatives et municipales, qui doivent avoir lieu les 19 et 26 novembre 2006. Cette mission sera conduite par Mme Marie-Anne Isler-Beguin, membre française du Parlement européen, en tant que chef observateur des élections.

Entrepreneurs and industry sectors received on 12 September high-level support for business relations in China. Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen participated in the third EU-China Business Summit in Helsinki. Its overriding theme was "Boosting Innovations – the New Era of the EU-China Economic Cooperation" by putting innovations at the forefront of enhancing the competitiveness of both Chinese and European enterprises in the increasingly globalised environment. The Summit was attended by political and business leaders including Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, Wen Jiabao, and the Prime Minister of Finland and EU President-in-Office, Matti Vanhanen.

European Regional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hübner has visited Lower Saxony, Germany, to discuss ways to create quality jobs and growth through innovative projects co-funded by the European Union in 2007-2013. The Commissioner met Lower Saxony Prime Minister Christian Wulff and the members of his Cabinet as well as businessmen and investors. She also visited two sites in Cuxhaven where projects are currently planned in the old fishing port and the Lehfeld district. These urban renewal projects will be realised under the future "Convergence" Operational Programme in the framework of the new Cohesion policy.

  • Stavros Dimas at international ministerial consultations

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas will participate in informal international ministerial consultations on climate change in Rüschlikon, Switzerland, on 14-15 September. These consultations, among more than 30 countries, form part of preparations for the next annual United Nations conference on climate change, to take place in Nairobi in November. The informal meeting is being hosted by Kenya, which will chair the November conference, and Switzerland. Discussions will focus on the key issues for the Nairobi conference: priorities for Africa and developing countries, adaptation to the negative impacts of climate change, technology transfer, the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism and the elaboration of a global climate regime for the period after 2012, when the Protocol's targets expire. Commissioner Dimas said: "Our meeting in Nairobi in November not only provides an important next step in our discussions on the development of an ambitious global action plan to tackle climate change, it will also allow us to focus on the priorities of Africa, one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change. I welcome this initiative by Kenya and Switzerland, as an important contribution to securing an ambitious outcome in Nairobi."

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