Midday Express of 2009-04-02
European Commission - MEX/09/0402 02/04/2009
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EXME09 / 02.04
News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Direction Générale Communication
02 / 04 / 09
The Commission has launched its first ever consultation devoted to Small and Medium Enterprises in the publishing sector: books, newspapers, and magazines. Publishing now provides nearly 700 000 jobs, in around 80 000 companies across today’s 27 Member States, most of them SMEs. The consultation will map out how publishing SMEs are responding to the evolving business environment and the changes brought about by new technologies. The results will help to better understand the difficulties publishing SMEs face and identify ways action at national and EU level can strengthen the sector during difficult economic times.
More and more European air passengers are being offered the choice to use their normal mobile phone to send text messages, browse the web or even make calls on board airplanes. One year after the European Commission put in place common rules for safe use of mobile phones on aircrafts and for simple and non-bureaucratic authorisations of this essentially cross border service, 27 European aircraft have been equipped to allow the secure use of standard GSM handsets onboard aircraft while flying in European airspace. The number of aircrafts enabled for in-flight use of mobile phones is expected to double by the end of the year.
The European Commission has authorised, under EC Treaty state aid rules, a Dutch measure to help businesses to deal with the current economic crisis. Authorities at national, regional and local level may grant aid of up to €500 000 per firm in 2009 and 2010 to businesses facing funding problems because of the current credit crunch. The aid will be granted in the form of grants, interest rate subsidies, loans and public guarantees. The scheme meets the conditions of the Commission’s Temporary Framework giving Member States additional scope to facilitate access to financing in the present economic and financial crisis (see IP/08/1993). In particular, it is limited in time and scope and concerns only companies that were not in difficulties on 1 July 2008. It is therefore compatible with Article 87(3)(b) of the EC Treaty, which permits aid to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State.
Today, at the second High Level Conference on Counterfeiting and Piracy, Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, together with Members of the European Parliament, will launch a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy. By enhancing cooperation across the EU, the Observatory will be at the forefront in the fight against fake goods.
La Commission européenne présente aujourd’hui un train de mesures visant à étoffer et consolider la coopération entre les universités et les entreprises. Ces mesures font partie intégrante du soutien qu’elle apporte aux États membres en vue de la modernisation de leurs systèmes d’enseignement supérieur. La Commission propose de faire du Forum université-entreprise, déjà convoqué en 2008 et 2009, un espace européen de dialogue. Établissements de l’enseignement supérieur, entreprises, associations professionnelles, intermédiaires et pouvoirs publics sont représentés au sein de cette structure, qui facilite et encourage l'échange de bonnes pratiques, le débat sur des problèmes communs et la recherche conjointe de solutions.
The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is quickly moving towards reaching full operational status. Today, it published the call for proposals for its first two to three Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs), which are to be selected by the end of January 2010. The KICs are highly integrated public-private partnerships between higher education, research, business and entrepreneurial actors and will be the operational engine of the EIT.
Orbis Pictus or the Gate to the World of Creative Human Imagination is one of the larger events accompanying the European Year of Creativity and Innovation. The outstanding Czech artist Petr Nikl has, together with other 15 creators, conceived an interactive exhibition which is being presented in Brussels as part of a world tour; it is also included in the cultural programme of the Czech EU Presidency.
Member States have made significant progress in developing coexistence legislation during the last years. This development of the legislative framework has gone hand in hand with a moderate expansion of the cultivation of GM crops. At the present time there is no indication of the need to deviate from the subsidiarity-based approach on coexistence. The Commission will continue to develop recommendations for crop-specific technical segregation measures together with Member States and stakeholders. These are the main conclusion of the second report from the European Commission on the coexistence of GM crops with conventional and organic farming, published today.
EU27 real agricultural income per worker fell by 3.5% in 20082, after increasing by 9.3% in 2007. This decrease was the result of a fall in real agricultural income (-5.7%) and a reduction in agricultural labour input (-2.3%). This decrease in EU27 real agricultural income in 2008 was itself the result of: an increase in the value of agricultural output at basic prices in real terms (+3.9%);a steep rise in input costs in real terms (+10.3%); unchanged subsidies net of taxes in real terms (0.0%) and an increase in depreciation in real terms (+2.5%). These estimates for the EU27 published by Eurostat are based on data supplied by the national authorities in the Member States.
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control of all the US operating assets of Chesapeake Corporation of the US and its US subsidiaries and Chesapeake's shares in Chesapeake Asia Pacific Limited and Chesapeake UK Holdings Limited (together Chesapeake) by Irving Place Capital Partners III (Cayman), L.P. (IPC Fund) of the Cayman Islands and OCM Principal Opportunities Fund IV (USA), L.P. and OCM European Principal Opportunities Fund II (USA), L.P. (Oaktree Funds) of the US. IPC Fund and Oaktree Funds are private equity groups. Chesapeake manufactures paper and plastic packaging. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
The European Commission welcomes the vote today by the European Parliament which confirms the first reading agreement reached between Parliament and the Council on the revision of the European ecolabel and the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). The agreement comes less than a year after the Commission presented the proposals as part of a package of measures on sustainable consumption and production. The revised Ecolabel scheme will reduce bureaucracy that has slowed the system down in the past. There will also be a stronger focus on products and services that have the most significant environmental impacts and the highest potential for improvement, including the possibility for Ecolabel criteria to be developed for food and drink products in the future. Lower fees, higher environmental standards, exclusion of dangerous substances and simplified criteria linked to public purchasing and other EU policies are just some of the benefits of the revised Regulation. The fundamental changes to the EMAS scheme focus on the needs of small organisations (SMEs and small public authorities). The major new elements include establishing a sectoral approach to promoting best practice in environmental management and extending EMAS to non-EU countries. There will also be more emphasis on promoting the scheme at European level. The revision includes elements strengthening compliance with environmental legislation and reinforced environmental reporting, using core performance indicators to report on energy efficiency, material efficiency, water, waste, emissions and biodiversity. The aim of the revision is to increase the participation of companies and reduce the administrative burden and costs to SMEs. Both schemes will remain voluntary.
The European Commission adopted today a Regulation which sets a transitional period from 1 July 2009 to 31 December 2010 during which traders will have the option of submitting electronic entry or exit summary declarations on goods before they enter or leave the EU. Unanticipated delays have occurred in the implementation process of electronic entry or exit summary declarations so that not all actors will be in a position to submit those declarations by 1 July 2009. In order to increase security in the international trade in goods, the EU has introduced in 2006 the obligation for traders to submit electronic advance information to customs authorities in order to enable them to carry out computerized risk analysis on the basis of such information before the goods are presented to customs (IP/06/1821). During the transitional period, goods not declared in advance will be submitted to risk analysis after arrival or before departure of those goods. The Regulation can be found at these web links: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/customs/procedural_aspects/general/community_code/article_5660_en.htm http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/common/legislation/legislation/customs/index_en.htm Further information on the security aspects of customs can be found at this web link: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/customs/policy_issues/customs_security/index_en.htm Further information on the Community Customs Code and its implementing provisions can be found on this web site: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/customs/procedural_aspects/general/community_code/index_en.htm
EU Health Commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou, will visit Addis Ababa, headquarters of the African Union (AU), from April 2 to April 5. Commissioner Vassiliou will attend a high level conference, on April 3, to launch a series of training activities aimed at strengthening capacity in the Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) field in 2009-2010. SPS measures are today seen by African trading partners as a key barrier to trade. The overall aim of the visit is to generate interest in order to give SPS, and food safety in particular, a prominent position in policies at national, regional and continental level in Africa. This conference "Institutionalising SPS in Africa: promoting Regional Integration in rules, standards, controls and procedures," the first of its kind, is organised jointly by the European Commission and the African Union Commission (AUC) in the context of the programme “Better Training for Safer Food in Africa.” It marks an important step towards strengthening the involvement of the public and private sectors in the development and implementation of activities to improve food safety and protect the health of citizens in Europe and in Africa. Participants in the conference range from Ministers from the EU and Africa, representatives of African Regional Economic Communities, specialised and standard setting bodies and international organisations to farmers and producers' associations. While in Addis Ababa, Commissioner Vassiliou will meet counterparts from the AUC, notably Commissioner Rhoda Peace Tumusiime (Rural Economy and Agriculture), Commissioner Elizabeth Tankeu (Trade and Industry) and Commissioner Bience Gawanas (Social Affairs). Also on her agenda are bilateral discussions with the Ethiopian Minister for Health and the Minister of Agriculture on issues of common interest, involving joint visits to the "Fistula'' hospital and the flower farm "ET-Highland flora".
The European Commission has expressed its serious concern at the recent action by Iceland to declare a unilateral mackerel quota of 112 000 tonnes for 2009. "In setting such an exaggerated level of quota, Iceland is acting in contradiction to its international obligations to cooperate on the conservation of this key resource in the North East Atlantic," said Joe Borg, EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. "An Icelandic fishery of that dimension completely undermines the successful multilateral management of the stock by the EC, Norway and the Faroe Islands since 1999." Up until the last two years, Iceland had little or no catches on this stock. In 2008, Iceland fished over 60 000 tonnes in an unregulated fishery, as the country itself admitted to the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC). In October 2008, the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands (the so-called Coastal States) fixed a total allowable catch for this stock, allowing for catches of up to 605 000 tonnes for 2009, with a quota for Iceland in the NEAFC context of 1 738 tonnes. The Commission considers that the overall catch fixed by the Coastal States for 2009 is well within safe biological limits for the stock. However, should Iceland fish its unilateral quota, the level of which has no scientific or historical justification, it would result in a complete reversal of the improved trends in this stock and would nullify the conservation efforts of the Coastal States undertaken over the last ten years.
The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Joe Borg, arrives today in the Netherlands province of Zeeland. During a one-day visit, Mr Borg will be discussing topical maritime policy, fisheries and aquaculture issues with leading Zeeland personalities and stakeholders. He will visit local companies and sites to see at first hand some of the many initiatives and activities underway in this prominent maritime region. To begin his visit, Mr Borg will be received by the Queen's Commissioner for the province, Ms Karla Peijs. He will then travel to the Proeftuin Zeeland testing area, where he will be briefed on the National Water Plan, Natura 2000 initiatives and recent developments in the fisheries and aquaculture industries. Later in the morning the Commissioner will visit the Neeltje Jans fishery, whose innovative projects include a "hanging cultures" technique for harvesting mussels. The subsequent leg of Mr Borg's trip will comprise a tour of sea farms and hatcheries involved in various pioneering aquaculture projects. During a tour of the Scheldt Coordination Centre, the Commissioner will discuss issues ranging from maritime safety and coastal flood prevention to regional environmental aspects and maritime spatial planning. A meeting at the Pilots' Club (Loodsensociëteit) to round off the visit will provide an opportunity for the Commissioner and Ms Peijs to review the most important issues raised during the day, with a view to pursuing dialogue at a later stage.
• Memo European Counterfeiting and Piracy Observatory: Frequently Asked Questions (see IP/09/528)