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Midday Express of 2008-07-23

European Commission - MEX/08/0723   23/07/2008

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EXME08/23.07

MIDDAY EXPRESS

News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

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

23 / 07 / 08

I. Résultats de la Commission du 23 juillet 2008 – Outcome of Commission meeting of 23 July 2008

The European Commission has adopted its fourth report on certain third countries' maintenance of visa requirements in breach of the principle of reciprocity. The report shows that further progress towards full visa reciprocity has been achieved.

La Commission européenne a décidé ce jour, en vertu des règles du traité CE sur les aides d'État, qu'un investissement public, d'un montant de quelque 350 millions d'euros en faveur d'une nouvelle piste sud à l'aéroport de Leipzig/Halle, constitue une aide d'État compatible. Elle a toutefois également décidé que l'octroi de garanties à concurrence de 500 millions d'euros à la société de colis express DHL, au cas où l'aéroport de Leipzig ne serait pas en mesure de remplir les conditions d'un accord-cadre concernant l'installation par DHL de sa plate-forme européenne dans cet aéroport, est incompatible avec le marché unique. La Commission a conclu, en particulier, que la garantie illimitée accordée à DHL lui permettait de bénéficier d'une couverture de ses risques commerciaux à des conditions qu'un investisseur privé n'aurait pas acceptées, et qu'elle fausserait la concurrence. Elle avait ouvert une procédure d'enquête en novembre 2006 (voir IP/06/1603).

The Commission has today approved a series of reports assessing the progress in Bulgaria and Romania of judicial reform and the fight against corruption under the Co-operation and Verification mechanisms set up when both countries joined the EU last year. The Commission has also adopted a separate report on the management of EU funds in Bulgaria. These reports assess the progress and shortcomings that exist in Bulgaria and Romania on the commitments made at the time of accession. The Commission concludes that genuine efforts and some progress have been made, mainly in terms of judicial reform but much more needs to be done by both countries to fight high level corruption and in Bulgaria on organised crime. The reports highlight the need for sustained political commitment and implementation on the ground if the benchmarks set at the time of accession are to be met in full. The reports put forward a series of concrete follow up measures. Progress in meeting the benchmarks and in dispelling doubts about the two countries ability to deal with corruption will allow their citizens to reap the full benefits of EU membership and enhance their confidence in the rule of law. In the case of Bulgaria, the Commission has taken a formal decision to suspend certain EU funds until the Bulgarian authorities are able to demonstrate that sound financial management structures are in place and operating effectively.

The European Commission has today approved Spain's application for funding worth a total of €10.5 million from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF). This application was submitted after 1,521 employees at the car component manufacturer Delphi (plus employees from eight suppliers) were made redundant in Puerto Real, in south western Spain. The Spanish authorities asked the Commission for EGF funding towards a package of measures aimed at getting the 1,589 dismissed workers back into the labour market as quickly as possible.

The European Commission adopted today a proposal for a regulation banning the trading of seal products within, into, and from the European Union to ensure that products derived from seals killed and skinned in ways that cause pain, distress and suffering are not found on the European market. Trade in seal products would only be allowed where guarantees can be provided that hunting techniques consistent with high animal-welfare standards were used and that the animals did not suffer unnecessarily.

La Commission européenne a décidé aujourd'hui d'ouvrir une procédure formelle d'examen concernant des arrangements financiers relatifs au terminal 2 de l'aéroport de Munich. Cette procédure d'examen porte sur certains prêts qui pourraient avoir été consentis à un taux de référence inférieur aux taux du marché et qui pourraient avoir bénéficié de garanties publiques. La Commission a en outre conclu que les investissements réalisés dans le terminal par l'entreprise publique Flughafen München GmbH ne constituent pas des aides d'État, étant donné que l'aéroport a agi comme le ferait un investisseur privé en la matière. La Commission a également décidé que l'utilisation de l'aéroport de Munich par Lufthansa ne recèle aucune aide d'État.

La Commission européenne a décidé de ne pas soulever d'objection à l'égard du prolongement d'un projet pilote du gouvernement fédéral autrichien visant à encourager un changement modal en faveur de la navigation intérieure. Ce programme pilote accorde une prime environnementale à de nouveaux services de navigation intérieure sur le Danube.

II. Other news - Autres Nouvelles

The Commission has extended the scope of its disaster risk reduction programme (DIPECHO) to countries in the south-west Indian Ocean region, with a new decision for €5 million. The funds will be channelled through the Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel.

The European Commission has welcomed the adoption by EU Member States of a new Regulation applying the EC's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for the period from 1 January 2009 until the end of 2011. This decision will allow the EU to maintain preferential access to its market for 176 developing countries. The renewed preference system will be updated and improved, ensuring that GSP is targeted at those countries that need it most. GSP provides real economic value to developing countries, with €57 billion worth of trade under the scheme in 2007.

On 17 July, the European Central Bank announced its decision to formally launch the TARGET2 -Securities ("T2S") project. European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, Charlie McCREEVY and Christine LAGARDE, Minister of Finance of France and President of the Council of EU Finance Ministers, have welcomed the formal ECB decision to invest in the T2S project.

En 2007, le système d'alerte rapide pour les denrées alimentaires et les aliments pour animaux (RASFF) a enregistré un nombre record de notifications – soit 7 354 au total –, preuve que cet outil destiné à garantir la sécurité alimentaire des Européens fonctionne bien. Selon le rapport annuel 2007 du RASFF, 961 alertes et 2 015 notifications d’informations ont été reçues l’année dernière, donnant lieu à 4 339 notifications d’informations complémentaires. Ce chiffre élevé est dû, pour l’essentiel, à l’augmentation des notifications d’informations complémentaires, qui ont connu une hausse de 13,5 % par rapport à 2006. Un grand nombre des notifications envoyées en 2007 avaient trait à des contrôles officiels réalisés sur le marché intérieur (43 %), tandis que 42 % concernaient des produits en provenance de pays tiers qui avaient été bloqués aux frontières par les autorités de contrôle de l’Union européenne en raison de la détection d’un risque. Tout comme en 2006, la catégorie de produits qui a donné lieu, en 2007, à la plupart des alertes était celle des produits de la pêche (21 %).

The ESA, EFTA Surveillance Authority, adopted last week a decision not to raise objections to the Norwegian State’s investment in a project in the western part of Norway (Mongstadt) whose objective will be to test, verify and demonstrate different concepts and technologies capable of reducing costs and risks related to large scale CO2 capture. "This decision provides an important precedent for considerations of state aid cases related to projects that will be necessary for further advancement of technologies for capture and underground storage of CO2 ("CCS") from industrial processes using fossil fuels, first and foremost power generation in coal- and gas-fired power plants", said Commissioner Piebalgs.

According to the latest revisions, the EU27 external current account recorded a deficit of 26.5 billion euro in the first quarter of 2008, compared with a deficit of 30.4 bn in the first quarter of 2007 and a deficit of 7.3 bn in the fourth quarter of 2007. In the first quarter of 2008, compared with the first quarter of 2007, the deficit of the goods account rose (-53.7 bn euro compared with -44.3 bn), while the surplus of the services account decreased slightly (+17.4 bn compared with +18.9 bn). The surplus of the income account more than doubled (+24.0 bn compared with +9.5 bn). The deficit of the current transfers account remained stable (-14.2 bn compared with -14.5 bn). The surplus recorded in the services account (+17.4 bn euro) is mainly the result of surpluses in financial services (+8.6 bn), "other business services", which includes miscellaneous business, professional and technical services (+8.0 bn), computer & information services (+3.9 bn) and transportation (+3.8 bn), partially offset by deficits in travel (-6.8 bn) and royalties & license fees (-3.3 bn). In the first quarter of 2008, the EU27 external current account recorded a surplus with the USA (+23.2 bn euro), Switzerland (+11.4 bn), Canada (+4.5 bn) and Hong Kong (+2.1 bn), and a deficit with China (-33.7 bn), Russia (-14.4 bn) and Japan (-5.2 bn). These provisional data, issued by Eurostat, are subject to revision.

In May 2008 compared with April 2008, the euro area (EA15) industrial new orders index fell by 3.5%. In April the index rose by 2.0%. In the EU27 new orders decreased by 4.7% in May 2008 after growing by 3.6% in April. Excluding ships, railway & aerospace equipment industrial new orders declined by 2.5% in the euro area and by 2.4% in the EU27. In May 2008 compared with May 2007, industrial new orders fell by 4.4% in the euro area and by 2.8% in the EU27. Total industry excluding ships, railway & aerospace equipment dropped by 4.0% in the euro area and by 2.3% in the EU27. These estimates are released by Eurostat.

  • Commission clears acquisition of Akers by Altor

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control of Akers Group (Akers) of Sweden by Altor Fund II (Altor), also of Sweden. Altor is a private equity fund company. Akers manufactures and distributes rolls used in the steel and aluminium industries. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

  • Commission clears acquisition of PGHL by Cinven

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control of Partnership Group Holdings Limited (PGHL) of the UK by PAG Acquisitions Limited (PAG), a UK company set up for the purpose of this transaction and owned by funds managed and advised by Cinven Limited, also of the UK. Cinven is a private equity investor. PGHL provides long term life insurance products. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

  • Repeal of fruit and vegetable marketing standards moves a step closer

European Union Member States yesterday held a preliminary vote on Commission proposals to repeal specific marketing standards for 26 types of fruit and vegetables. While not binding, the vote gives a strong indication that these standards will be repealed when the formal vote is taken later in the year. The Member States did not reach a qualified majority either for or against the proposal. If, after allowing time for appropriate scrutiny by our trading partners, this vote were repeated later in the year, the rules would be repealed under the Commission's responsibility. The Commission's initiative to get rid of these standards followed a declaration made last year during the reform of the Common Market Organisation for fruit and vegetables. It is a major element in the Commission's ongoing efforts to streamline and simplify the rules and cut red tape. The proposal would also allow Member States to exempt fruit and vegetables from specific marketing standards if they are sold with a label "products intended for processing" or equivalent wording. Such products could be either misshapen or under-sized and could for example be used by consumers for cooking or salads etc. In this era of high prices and growing demand, it makes no sense to throw these products away or destroy them. "This is a concrete example of our drive to cut red tape and I will continue to push until it goes through," said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. "It shouldn't be the EU's job to regulate these things. It is far better to leave it to market operators. It will also cut down on unnecessary waste and benefit consumers." The proposals would maintain specific marketing standards for 10 products which account for 75 percent of the value of EU trade: apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes, tomatoes. Member States could exempt even these from the standards if they were sold in the shops with an appropriate label. They would abolish specific standards for 26 products: apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocadoes, beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflowers, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers, cultivated mushrooms, garlic, hazelnuts in shell, headed cabbage, leeks, melons, onions, peas, plums, ribbed celery, spinach, walnuts in shell, water melons, witloof/chicory, while setting new general minimum standards for the marketing of fruit and vegetables. For practical reasons, all of these changes would be implemented from 1 July 2009.

  • Autre matériel diffusé

• Memo on Report on Progress in Romania under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism

• Memo on Report on Progress in Bulgaria under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism

• Memo on Report on the Management of EU Funds in Bulgaria

• Memo on Progress Reports on the Cooperation and Verification mechanism – procedural aspects

• Memo on The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) 2009-2011

• Memo on Questions and Answers on the 2007 RASFF annual report

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

Notification préalable d'une opération de concentration :

EMCC

BNP PARIBAS / CHOMETTE / GE / CAPITAL FRANCE HOTEL

OMV / LEHMAN / MET / JV


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