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Midday Express of 2009-03-05

European Commission - MEX/09/0305   05/03/2009

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EXME09 / 05.03

MIDDAY EXPRESS

News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

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

05 / 03 / 09

A new report made public by the Commission underlines the crucial role that soils can play in mitigating climate change. Soils contain around twice the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and three times the amount to be found in vegetation. Europe's soils are an enormous carbon reservoir, containing around 75 billion tonnes, and poor management can have serious consequences: a failure to protect Europe's remaining peat bogs, for example, would release the same amount of carbon as an additional 40 million cars on Europe's roads. The report, a synthesis of the best available information on the links between soil and climate change, underlines the need to sequester carbon in soils. The technique is cost competitive and immediately available, requires no new or unproven technologies, and has a mitigation potential comparable to that of any other sector of the economy. In line with the Thematic Strategy for soil protection (see IP/06/1241), the current trend of soil degradation needs to be reversed, and soil management practices must be improved if a high rate of soil carbon sequestration is to be achieved.

A new report on "Barriers to E-commerce", presented today by EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva shows that online shopping is increasingly popular in the EU, but warns that barriers to cross border trade are holding back its development. The report published today presents a detailed analysis of current trends in e-commerce across the EU – including per country, most purchased items and obstacles for consumers and business online. Between 2006 and 2008 the proportion of EU consumers buying at least one item over the internet increased from 27% to 33%. These average figures mask the huge popularity of online shopping in countries like UK, France and Germany where more than 50% of internet users have made online purchases in the last year. In the Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland) the proportion of internet users who bought products and services online was 91% in 2008. Countries like Italy and Spain are also fast growing markets. Against this pattern of fast growing national markets, the extent of online purchasing cross border remains small, at only 7% in 2008 (compared to 6% in 2006). The report warns that numerous obstacles - linguistic, practical and regulatory as well as important trust issues – are holding back the development of online shopping in the EU.

The European Commission will provide a total of €247 million in humanitarian aid to vulnerable people in twelve African countries. The following allocations are to be made: Sudan – €110 million; Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – €45 million; Chad – €30 million; Burundi and refugees in Tanzania – €20 million; the Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger) – €13 million; Uganda – €12 million; Zimbabwe – €5.5 million and Kenya – €3 million. An additional €8.5 million are for ECHO Flight, a special humanitarian air service. All funds are channelled through the Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) under the direct responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel.

The European Commission has committed €225 million to the Government of Zambia for a 6 year period (2009-2014) to support the country's efforts to improve the efficiency of its poverty-focused public programmes and to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Zambia is the first country to sign this form of enhanced general budget support called "MDG Contract" to highlight the contractual nature of this predictable, long-term financial commitment and its focus on MDG-related results, most notably in health and education.

The European Commission has welcomed, in a letter published today, the Romanian telecoms regulator's move to bring its regulation of mobile termination rates – wholesale charges operators pay each other for connecting calls on their networks – in line with the forthcoming Commission Recommendation. In the meantime, the Commission also called on the regulator to align the mobile termination rates charged by the third and fourth mobile operators in Romania with those allowed for the two largest operators. The Commission's letter acknowledged the reasonably low level of rates for the two largest operators (5.03 eurocents per minute) and said that in the absence of objective cost differences, this interim rate should also be applied to the other operators as soon as possible. As part of the cost of a call between customers of different operators, termination rates are included in everyone's phone bill and therefore eventually paid by the calling consumer.

Danuta Hübner, Commissioner for Regional Policy, will address the European Summit of Regions and Cities in Prague on 6 March. The event, which gathers more than 500 presidents of European regions and city mayors, will focus on the regional response to the economic and financial crisis and the importance of territorial cohesion in addressing the major challenges faced by Europe. Commissioner Hübner will present the initial findings of the public consultation on the Commission's 'Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion', which highlights the need to mobilise the strengths of all the EU's regions and cities in order to increase the Union's overall competitiveness.

Today, the Commission adopted two proposals on a revised mechanism for Schengen evaluation. The mechanism enables verification of the application of the Schengen rules in the Member States. These proposals supplement the current mechanism and introduce unannounced visits to ensure a high level of implementation of the Schengen rules in the Member States.

Social policies can help mitigate the impact of the economic crisis on the most vulnerable in Europe and on the economy as a whole, while paving the way for recovery. The 2009 'Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion', to be discussed by Employment Ministers on 9 March, focuses on the contribution of social policies in responding to the crisis, and on Member States' renewed strategies for delivering on shared EU social objectives. The report will contribute to the Spring European Council on 19-20 March.

La Commission européenne a adopté aujourd'hui un règlement relatif à l'introduction par les voyageurs de produits d'origine animale dans l'UE. Ce règlement, qui remplacera les règles actuelles, entrera en vigueur le 1er mai 2009. Cette nouvelle législation entend expliquer clairement au grand public les règles régissant l'introduction de produits d'origine animale dans l'Union européenne. En effet, des produits d'origine animale introduits dans l'UE dans les bagages des voyageurs ou par la poste peuvent menacer la santé du cheptel communautaire en étant vecteurs de certaines maladies animales comme la fièvre aphteuse ou d'autres maladies pouvant également être transmises à l'homme. Le grand public joue donc un rôle important en évitant d'introduire ces maladies dans l'UE.

GDP fell by 1.5% in both the euro area (EA15) and the EU27 during the fourth quarter of 2008, compared with the previous quarter, according to first estimates released by Eurostat. In the third quarter of 2008, growth rates were -0.2% in the euro area and -0.3% in the EU27. Compared with the fourth quarter of 2007, seasonally adjusted GDP declined by 1.3% in both the euro area and in the EU27, after +0.6% and +0.7% respectively for the previous quarter.

  • Commission clears acquisition of Wellmann by Strabag and Kemna

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control of Hermann Wellmann Tiefbau GmbH & Co. KG (Wellmann) of Germany by Strabag SE (Strabag) of Austria and Kemna Bau Andreae GmbH & Co. KG (Kemna) of Germany. Strabag and Kemna are both active in construction services and the production and sale of building materials. Wellmann is active in construction, recycling of building materials and mining of sand and gravel. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

Rediffusion

La Commission européenne a donné son feu vert, en vertu du règlement CE sur les concentrations, au projet d’acquisition de v.d. Linde Arzneitmittel GmbH (v.d. Linde) par Sanacorp Pharmahandel GmbH (Sanacorp), deux grossistes allemands en produits pharmaceutiques. La Commission estime que la concentration ne devrait pas entraver de manière significative le jeu d'une concurrence effective dans l’EEE ou une partie substantielle de celui ci.

  • Autre matériel diffusé

• Memo sur La politique immobilière de la Commission à Bruxelles

• Memo on E-commerce in the EU

• Memo on Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion 2009

• Speech by Commissioner Kroes 'Collective Redress – delivering justice for victims', Brussels

• Speech by Commissioner Rehn 'Turkey as an energy hub for Europe: prospects and challenges', Brussels

• Opening remarks of President Barroso at the press conference presenting the Commission's contribution to the Spring European Council, Brussels

• Speech by Commissioner Kuneva 'Barriers to eCommerce in the EU', Brussels

• Speech by Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner 'Transforming the Arctic', Brussels

• Speech by Commissioner Rehn 'Europe Re-united: Five Years on', Brussels

• Speech by Commissioner McCreevy 'Closing remarks: Financial inclusion and education in the EU', Brussels

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

Notification préalable d'une opération de concentration :

Oaktree / Apollo / Countrywide


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