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Midday Express of 2008-07-17

Commission Européenne - MEX/08/0717   17/07/2008

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EXME08/17.07

MIDDAY EXPRESS

News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

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

17 / 07 / 08

EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva today announced the results of an EU-wide investigation into websites offering mobile phone services such as ring-tones and wallpapers. The enquiry, which was carried out on more than 500 websites across the 27 Member States, Norway and Iceland, found that 80% of the sites checked need to be further investigated for suspected breaches of EU consumer rules. Many of the websites target children and young people. Problems found included: unclear price information where prices are incomplete did not include taxes or customers are unaware that they are signing up to a subscription. Large numbers of websites do not provide some of the required contact information about the trader. Other problems relate to misleading information where key information is hidden in very small print or hard to find on a website or the word "free" is used to mislead consumers into a long-term contracts. The breaches vary in the degree of seriousness. More than 495 million mobile phones are owned by Europeans. Ring-tones alone were estimated to make up 29% of the overall "mobile content" market in Europe in 2007 (about 10% higher than 2006). The value of European ring-tone sales in 2007 was estimated at €691 million. Seven countries Norway, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Iceland, Romania, Greece) are publishing the names of the websites which they found to have irregularities (see MEMO/08/516).

The European Commission has approved under the EC Treaty state aid rules a €1.7 million public aid to help bring broadband to unserved areas of Lazdijai and Alytus district municipalities in Lithuania. The support, which involves EU, national and local public funds, is aimed at narrowing the gap between rural and urban areas as regards access to affordable broadband services. The Commission found that the public support is justified by the benefits to consumers and by the safeguards put in place to preserve competition.

The European Commission has authorised, under the EC Treaty’s rules on state aid, a €2.4 million loan guarantee by the Greek State to rescue the fibre yarns producer Varvaressos S.A. As all the requirements of the Community guidelines on state aid for rescuing and restructuring firms in difficulty are satisfied and the Greek authorities made the necessary commitments, the Commission considers that the aid does not threaten to unduly distort competition in the Single Market and is therefore compatible with the EC Treaty (Article 87).

The European Commission has approved a €7.5 million Sardinian film support scheme until 2010 under the EU state aid rules. The three-year scheme covers all Sardinia's measures to support films of regional and cultural interest. The Commission found that the scheme is compatible with the cultural derogation of the EC Treaty, as well as with the rules in the 2001 Cinema Communication concerning aid to film production.

The European Commission has declared unlawful under EC Treaty state aid rules an aid granted to Poste Italiane in the form of excessive renumeration paid by the Italian Treasury for funds collected from Poste Italiane’s customers’ current accounts and deposited with the Treasury as of 2005. Italy did not notify the scheme to the Commission before its implementation so that the aid unlawfully granted must be recovered from Poste Italiane. The Commission's in-depth investigation, opened in September 2006 (see IP/06/1256), found that the interest rates from the Italian Treasury unduly favoured Poste Italiane. This unlawful aid is liable to give Poste Italiane an unfair advantage over its competitors on the liberalised postal and financial markets in Italy. The scheme which led to this benefit to Poste Italiane was repealed in the Italian budgetary law of 2007.

Danuta Hübner, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, will today call for new ways to show the results of Cohesion Policy. She will address a conference in Warsaw entitled 'European Cohesion Policy as a factor in Growth and Convergence', at which the Polish Ministry of Regional Development will present a report on the impact of Cohesion Policy on Poland's economy.

The European Commission has approved a EUR 150 million capital injection for the French public-television holding company, France Télévisions. The measure aims to enable the public channels to fulfil their general-interest mission in 2008 by offsetting the reduction in commercial revenues that followed the announcement that advertising would eventually be banned on such channels. The Commission has taken the view that the capital injection was justified given the net costs that these specific missions involve and the French authorities' commitments regarding control of the funds. This decision is unrelated to current discussions on possible new types of public financing for France Télévisions, which will have to be notified at a later date to the Commission.

In 2008, the European Commission will provide a total of €42 million in assistance to Lebanon under the European Neighbourhood Policy. Core sectors for this assistance are the development of the private sector, local development in Northern Lebanon and the modernisation of the justice system.

The European Commission has approved a €43 million Latvian film support scheme until 31 December 2013 under EC Treaty state aid rules. The six-year scheme covers all Latvia's film support measures including film development, production and distribution of Latvian and European films, particularly in rural Latvia. The Commission found that the scheme is compatible with the cultural derogation of the EC Treaty and in line with the 2001 Cinema Communication rules concerning aid to film production. The Latvian authorities will implement any changes that may be required after the expiry of the Cinema Communication.

The European Commission has authorised, under EC Treaty state aid rules, €47 million of aid, which the German authorities intend to grant to Wacker Schott for the production of solar wafers in Thüringen, Germany. The project involves investments of €322 million and is expected to significantly increase direct and indirect employment. The Commission found the measure to be compatible with the requirements of the Regional Aid Guidelines 2007-2013 (see IP/05/1653) and in particular with the rules on large investment projects. At the same time, the Commission opened a formal investigation under EC Treaty state aid rules into €48 million aid for a similar project of solar wafer production by Deutsche Solar in Saxony, Germany. In this case, the Commission has concerns that the aid is in fact part of a single investment project. According to the Regional Aid Guidelines 2007-2013, if this proves to be the case, the current proposed aid would need to be reduced. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested parties the possibility to comment on the proposed measure. It does not prejudge the outcome of the procedure.

Except in the case of unusual weather conditions, no disturbances of electricity supply are expected for this summer. This is the main conclusion of the analysis of the situation for this season prepared by the Association of the European Transmission System Operators (ETSO) and presented to the Electricity Cross-Border Committee of the European Commission at the request of Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. ETSO and the European Commission also discussed the preparatory and coordination measures by ETSO members in order to avoid or mitigate the impact of any potential disturbances in electricity supply this summer.

  • Commissioner Vassiliou visits the European Food Safety Authority in Parma

European Commissioner for Health Androulla Vassiliou will be visiting the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in Parma, Italy, today and tomorrow, July 17 and 18. It's the Commissioner's first visit to EFSA since she took over the Commission's Health portfolio in early April. Today, Commissioner Vassiliou will have a bilateral meeting with the Italian under-secretary of the Ministry of Health Mrs. Martini. EFSA's Executive Director, Catherine Geslain-Laneelle will provide background information to the Commissioner on the authority from its establishment to the present time. The Commissioner will also be briefed about EFSA's workflow and will exchange views with the members of the Scientific Committee and Panels. On Friday, Commissioner Vassiliou will be briefed about EFSA's priorities for the near future and she will meet and address EFSA's staff.

  • Commission publishes preliminary impact Assessment report on Private Placement – revealing need for further preparatory work

The European Commission has undertaken extensive consultation and impact assessment work over the last year and a half to analyse whether there are significant barriers to cross-border private placement and the options for overcoming them. The Commission has just published its findings in the form of a preliminary impact assessment report http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/investment/legal_texts/index_en.htm#nonlegis.The impact assessment suggests that there is a prima facie case for action at EU level. Private placement regimes are an established feature of securities framework in developed financial systems around the world, and at national level in some Member States. In other Member States, no effective or complete private placement arrangements exist. There are barriers and impediments to cross-border placement in many EU Member States arising from the patchwork of national rules and arrangements. These add transactional costs, generate significant legal uncertainty and may in some cases prevent transactions from taking place. The impact assessment work reveals that EU legislative action would be required to establish an effective and comprehensive EU level private placement regime. This could entail adjustments to recently adopted financial services Directives.

In the construction sector, seasonally adjusted production increased by 0.2% in the euro area (EA15) and by 0.3% in the EU27 in May 2008, compared to the previous month. In April3, production decreased by 0.6% and 0.5% respectively. Compared with May 2007, output in May 2008 dropped by 1.1% in the euro area, but gained 0.7% in the EU27. These first estimates are released by Eurostat.

  • Commission clears acquisition of Lindorff by Investor and Altor

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control of Lindorff Group AB (Lindorff) of Sweden by Investor AB of Sweden and Altor Fund II and Altor 2003 (together Altor), also of Sweden. Investor is an investment holding company, listed on the Stockholm stock exchange. Altor manages private equity investment funds, with portfolio companies active in a variety of industrial sectors. Lindorff provides debt collection services to clients in the banking, finance, telecommunications, commerce, utilities and public sector. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

  • Commissioner Vassiliou visits the European Food Safety Authority in Parma

European Commissioner for Health Androulla Vassiliou will be visiting the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in Parma, Italy, today and tomorrow, July 17 and 18. It's the Commissioner's first visit to EFSA since she took over the Commission's Health portfolio in early April. Today, Commissioner Vassiliou will have a bilateral meeting with the Italian under-secretary of the Ministry of Health Mrs. Martini. EFSA's Executive Director, Catherine Geslain-Laneelle will provide background information to the Commissioner on the authority from its establishment to the present time. The Commissioner will also be briefed about EFSA's workflow and will exchange views with the members of the Scientific Committee and Panels. On Friday, Commissioner Vassiliou will be briefed about EFSA's priorities for the near future and she will meet and address EFSA's staff.

Rediffusion

Council yesterday adopted, by qualified majority, the emergency package of restructuring measures to tackle the fuel crisis in the fisheries sector proposed by the Commission on 8 July (see IP/08/1120). The package will promote the restructuring of those segments of the European fishing fleet which have been hardest hit by the current fuel crisis, while cushioning its short-term social and economic impacts for those who commit to taking long-term action. The core of the measures, adopted yesterday in the form of a Council Regulation, consist of temporary derogations to the European Fisheries Fund, allowing funds to be targeted quickly where they are needed most to address the underlying causes of the crisis, and to provide short-term support to the hardest-hit segments of the fleet that commit to restructure. Joe Borg, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries welcomed the constructive approach taken by Ministers to ensure rapid action.

  • Autre matériel diffusé

• Memo on EU crackdown of ringtone scams. Frequently Asked Questions

• Speech by Commissioner Dimas "Young global leaders are key to tackling climate change" at the Meeting of Young Global Leaders at the European Parliament

• Speech by Commissioner Kuneva "Ringtone scams investigation", Brussels

• Speech by Commissioner Kroes "The way ahead for the Broadcasting Communication", Strasbourg - Embargo 15h30 -

A disposition au secrétariat de Jonathan Todd (BERL 03/315):

Notification préalable d'une opération de concentration :

Kenwood/JVC/Holdco


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