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EXME06/ 18.10


News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Direction GénéraleCommunication

18 / 10 / 06

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

The European Commission has adopted a proposal to establish a European Institute of Technology (EIT). The proposed organisation of the EIT is in the form of a small central governance structure and a network of 'Knowledge and Innovation Communities', which will carry out the tasks of the EIT. Subject to approval by the European Parliament and the Council, the EIT could begin operations in 2008, with an estimated budget of up to €2.4 billion for the period 2008-2013, to be financed by public and private sources. The Institute will be a flagship for excellence in innovation, research and higher education in Europe. It will be a reference model in the way it combines the worlds of academia, research and business so as to enable Europe to face the challenges of a globalising, knowledge-based world economy more effectively.

(! embargo 13h30 !) La Commission européenne a présenté une proposition visant à ouvrir totalement à la concurrence les marchés des services postaux de l'Union européenne d'ici à 2009, conformément à l'échéance fixée dans l'actuelle directive postale. Se fondant sur de nombreuses recherches, la Commission estime qu'il s'agit de la meilleure façon de maintenir le service universel tout en continuant à améliorer la qualité et le choix pour les consommateurs et les entreprises de l'Union. Avec l'ouverture totale du marché, les opérateurs nationaux ne disposeront plus du monopole, appelé "domaine réservé", pour les envois d'un poids inférieur à une certaine limite (50 grammes actuellement). Les Etats membres pourront choisir parmi plusieurs moyens flexibles de financer le service universel ou auront la possibilité de répartir les obligations de service universel entre les opérateurs. La proposition clarifie ces différentes options. La proposition de nouvelle directive constitue la dernière étape d'un long processus de réforme qui a déjà permis d'ouvrir à la concurrence des pans importants des marchés postaux de l'Union, avec des résultats très positifs.

  • Commission adopts tightened intervention criteria for maize

The European Commission has adopted a Regulation changing the rules for the eligibility of maize for intervention. Since EU enlargement, the maize market has become unbalanced and intervention stocks are piling up (5.1 million tonnes at the moment). Maize grains tend to degrade more rapidly when stored than other grains. To make sure that maize offered to intervention is suitable for long-term public storage and to guarantee that only maize of good quality is eligible for intervention, an adjustment of the current quality criteria for maize buying-in is required. Therefore the Commission agreed to upgrade some of the quality standards for intervention : the maximum moisture content as well as the maximum percentage of broken grains and grains overheated during drying will be reduced and a specific maximum weight will be introduced. The Regulation will now be published in the Official Journal in the next few days and the revised criteria will apply from the first of November.

La Commission européenne a adopté une décision enjoignant la Cour de justice européenne d'infliger à la Grèce le paiement d'une somme forfaitaire et d'une astreinte pour non-respect de sa décision de 2002 concernant la récupération d'une aide d'Etat, d'un montant estimé à €160 millions au moins, octroyée par la Grèce à Olympic Airways entre 1998 et 2002. Le non-respect de cette décision par la Grèce avait déjà été confirmé par l'arrêt de la Cour du 12 mai 2005.

The European Commission has come to the preliminary conclusion that Italy has violated Article 21 of the EU Merger Regulation because of unjustified obstacles placed in the way of a merger between Abertis of Spain and Autostrade of Italy (both active in the management of toll motorways). This is a merger of a European dimension falling within the exclusive competence of the Commission under the EU Merger Regulation. In particular, the Commission has serious doubts about the compatibility with Article 21 of a binding opinion delivered by the Ministers of Infrastructures and of Economic Affairs on 4 August 2006 as well as of a decision adopted on 5 August 2006 by the public entity responsible for granting motorway concessions in Italy (ANAS), rejecting Autostrade's application for authorisation to merge with Abertis. The Commission preliminary assessment is that it cannot consider at this stage that these measures aim at protecting legitimate interests compatible with the general principles and other provisions of Community law. The Commission approved the Abertis-Autostrade merger on 22nd September 2006 (see IP/06/1244).

The European Commission has decided to take Germany to the European Court of Justice for provisions regulating the supply of hospitals with medicines by external pharmacies. For example, Germany requires pharmacies not only to supply medicines, but also to provide personally counselling at the hospital by the director of the supplying pharmacy. Bundling "local" elements with other contractual elements leads to a "hidden" regional supply. By requiring that the same pharmacy market must fulfil all requirements at the same time, access for EU-pharmacies is still hampered. In the eyes of the Commission this constitutes an impediment to the free movement of goods. The Commission is convinced that an unbundled contract, i.e. contracting different tasks to different contractors, does not impair the supply quality.

The European Commission has taken the Netherlands to the European Court of Justice over its rules restricting the seeding of mussels and oysters coming from other Member States into Dutch coastal waters. The Commission does not agree with the Dutch argument that this is necessary to protect the vulnerable habitats of such waters, as the kind of protection sought by the Dutch authorities is already guaranteed by a parallel licensing regime in execution of the Dutch nature protection law. The Commission has referred this case to the European Court of Justice arguing that the Netherlands makes the free movement of goods in the internal market difficult.

The European Commission has closed an infringement procedure against Germany concerning the parallel import of plant protection products. Further to an amendment to German law, importers can now rely on the fact that they can clear their stocks after the voluntary retraction or revocation of the authorisation of the reference product. Before this amendment, the German legislation stipulated that the marketability of plant protection product ended immediately. Re-import-traders of these products were not allowed to sell the products that were left in their stocks at the time of revocation.

II. Other news - Autres nouvelles

  • Commission clears acquisition of MME-CH by WFH and MME

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control of MME Vertriebsgesellschaft Schweiz AG (MME-CH) of Switzerland by Walter Frey Holding AG (WFH) of Switzerland and Mitsubishi Motors Europe B.V. (MME) of The Netherlands. WFH is active in the import, wholesale and retail of cars. MME distributes Mitsubishi brand cars in Europe and MME-CH imports and sells Mitsubishi cars in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

  • Commission welcomes conciliation on groundwater directive

The European Commission welcomes the agreement reached last night between the European Parliament and the Council on its proposal of 2003 for a new directive to protect ground water from pollution. Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for the Environment, said: "Besides its obvious value as a drinking water resource, groundwater has a high environmental value - it is a key element in the water cycle. At the moment, we do not have enough data about the quality of this vitally important resource in Europe. The new Directive will help us find out more and make sure that our groundwater is not being polluted. It will ensure a high level of protection based on a common European approach, at the same time leaving a considerable degree of flexibility to the Member States on how to achieve the environmental objectives it contains." Member States will be required to monitor and assess groundwater quality on the basis of common criteria and to identify and reverse trends in groundwater pollution. The Directive introduces a mixed regime – on one hand, compliance to quality standards and on the other hand, measures to prevent or limit inputs of pollutants into groundwater. The Member States will have to establish some of the standards themselves at the most appropriate level, taking into account local or regional conditions. In addition to the Water Framework Directive, the groundwater directive is also related to the Nitrates Directive, the Landfill Directive and the future Soil Framework Directive. Together, these Directives make up a framework which paves the way for improved evaluation of groundwater environmental quality in Europe.

Le vainqueur du concours du logo du 50ème anniversaire de l'UE a été annoncé le 17 octobre lors d'une cérémonie tenue à Bruxelles. Ce concours a attiré un nombre étonnamment élevé de participants - 1.701 - de tous les Etats membres, ainsi que de la Bulgarie et de la Roumanie. La Commission et toutes les autres institutions européennes utiliseront le logo vainqueur lors d'événements organisés en 2007 pour marquer le 50ème anniversaire du traité de Rome. Les Etats membres et les autorités nationales, régionales et locales sont également invités à se servir du logo pour leurs propres manifestations. Le vainqueur Szymon Skrzypczak a décroché le prix de €6.000. Les logos de Tore Rosbo et Jenny Lundgren ont remporté la deuxième et la troisième place, récompensées respectivement par des prix de €4.000 et €2.000. Les trois meilleurs ont aussi reçu un trophée, et l'ensemble des dix finalistes un diplôme. Les prix ont été présentés par Mme Margot Wallström, vice-présidente de la Commission européenne, et par M. Alejo Vidal-Quadras, vice-président du Parlement européen, qui ont assuré la coprésidence du jury final. Les trois autres membres du jury étaient M. Hans Brunmayr, directeur général chargé de la presse, de la communication et du protocole au Conseil, Mme Jillian van Turnhout, vice-présidente du groupe "activités diverses" du Comité économique et social européen, et Mme Claude Du Granrut, membre du Comité des régions et conseillère régionale de Picardie (France).

The first estimate for the euro area trade balance with the rest of the world in August 2006 gave a €5.8 billion deficit, compared with -2.7 billion in August 2005. The July 2006 balance was +1.6 billion, compared with +7.4 billion in July 2005. In August 2006 compared with July 2006, exports, seasonally adjusted, rose by 3.2% and imports by 2.4%. The first estimate for August 2006 extra-EU25 trade was a deficit of €21.5 billion, compared with -14.6 billion in August 2005. In July 2006, the balance was -12.5 billion, compared with -3.6 billion in July 2005. In August 2006 compared with July 2006, exports, seasonally adjusted, rose by 2.5% and imports by 3.2%. These data are released by Eurostat.

  • Andris Piebalgs meets Yuriy Boiko, Energy and Fuel Minister of Ukraine

European Energy Commissioner Piebalgs and Ukrainian Energy and Fuel Minister Boiko meet today at 17h45 in Brussels to assess the progress in the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on energy cooperation between the EU and Ukraine in view to the forthcoming EU-Ukraine Summit in Helsinki next week. Since the signature of the Memorandum in December last year, significant progress has been reached in four areas defined by the Memorandum (nuclear safety, integration of electricity and gas markets, security of energy supplies and coal). Joint efforts will continue in the future with several projects in preparation and in cooperation with the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The projects will aim at supporting further integration of the Ukrainian energy market with the EU through necessary reforms in oil, gas and electricity sectors in Ukraine as well as enhancing transparency of cross border energy flows on all Ukrainian borders. "Ukraine's commitment to bringing its energy market closer to EU standards is an important contribution to enhancing security of energy supplies in Europe", said Commissioner Piebalgs. Images of the meeting can be obtained from EBS and there will be a VIP Corner at 18h45 in the Berlaymont Building.

The European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner will travel to Kazakhstan on a bilateral visit on 19th/20th October. In Astana she looks forward to meeting President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev, and other leading members of the government, and in Almaty she will meet leaders of opposition parties, as well as representatives of NGOs. The visit comes at a moment when EU Enlargement and the development of the European Neighbourhood Policy are bringing Central Asia closer to the EU. Important security and economic interests argue for a higher profile of this region in European external policy. The European Union is seeking to strengthen its partnership with the countries concerned, and a new strategy for Central Asia is likely to be adopted in 2007.

European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Joe Borg will arrive this evening in Scotland for the first leg of a visit that will take him from Aberdeen to the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland. The visit will start tomorrow morning, in Aberdeen, with a debate with leaders of the UK offshore industries. The focus of the discussion will be the Green Paper on a future Maritime Policy published by the Commission last June. After meeting Scottish Members of the European Parliament and regional representatives, Commissioner Borg, accompanied by Scottish Minister for Environment and Rural Development, Mr Ross Finnie, will travel to Lerwick where he will stay until Friday morning. Following an early morning visit to Lerwick fish market on Friday, Mr Borg will travel to Stornoway before returning to Edinburgh in the afternoon.

Les 19 et 20 octobre, la Direction générale de la traduction de la Commission européenne tiendra à Bruxelles une conférence sur le thème 'Pour la création d'une maîtrise européenne en traduction'. Cette conférence, la toute première du genre, accueillera des spécialistes des Etats membres de l'Union européenne, mais aussi de Bulgarie et Roumanie ; quelque soixante-dix établissements d'enseignement supérieur voués à la traduction seront ainsi représentés au côté d'organisations internationales telles que l'ONU, l'OTAN ou l'OCDE et d'associations professionnelles pour débattre la question de la formation de traducteurs dans l'Union. Premier pas vers l'élaboration du cursus type d'une maîtrise en traduction à l'échelle du territoire communautaire, la conférence est l'une des initiatives destinées à promouvoir le multilinguisme dans l'Union qu'avait annoncées une communication de la Commission à ce sujet .

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