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EXME 09 / 17.12
News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Direction Générale Communication
17 / 12 / 09
La Commission européenne a envoyé une lettre à la Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA), l'autorité allemande de réglementation des télécommunications, lui demandant d'améliorer la compétitivité de la fourniture de lignes de téléphonie fixe. Le marché est actuellement encore dominé par l'opérateur en place, Deutsche Telekom (DT). L'offre de Deutsche Telekom signifie que d'autres opérateurs peuvent revendre aux consommateurs l'utilisation des lignes fixes qu'ils ont louées à l'opérateur en place, mais Deutsche Telekom facture à ces opérateurs le même prix qu'il facture à ses propres clients. Les nouveaux opérateurs ont de ce fait du mal à proposer aux consommateurs une offre compétitive. La Commission veut que l'autorité allemande de réglementation des télécommunications contraigne DT à mettre ses lignes fixes à la disposition d'autres opérateurs de télécommunications. Elle demande aussi à BnetzA de surveiller les prix de gros facturés aux nouveaux opérateurs fournissant des services concurrents utilisant le réseau de Deutsche Telekom.
The 30th anniversary of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) provides a great opportunity to reflect about the world's situation of women's rights. In spite of progress in the promotion of gender equality, discriminations on the basis of gender are still pervasive in all societies. Gender equality is a chapter of close co-operation between the European Union and international and regional organisations. In particular, the European Union engages with partner countries to combat the practice of discriminatory laws. Through its financial instruments, the EU supports complementary efforts by civil society organisations, such as activities on advocacy, monitoring and support to victims.
Les négociateurs marocains et de l'UE ont signé un procès verbal agrée mettant fin aux négociations entamées depuis près de 4 ans en vue d'un futur accord pour l'amélioration des conditions du commerce bilatéral des produits du secteur agro-alimentaire et de la pêche. La conclusion des négociations sera soumise à l'approbation des autorités respectives. En particulier, l'accord prévoit le renforcement de la position des exportateurs européens sur le marché marocain notamment dans le secteur des produits agricoles transformés, représentant un intérêt offensif important pour l'UE où une libéralisation totale est progressivement prévue dans les 10 ans à venir à l'exception des pâtes alimentaires, produit pour lequel une limitation quantitative est prévue. Dans le secteur des produits agricoles, l'accord permettra la libéralisation immédiate de 45% de la valeur des exportations du commerce de l'UE et 70 % en 10 ans. Le secteur des fruits et légumes, conserves alimentaires, des produits laitiers, des oléagineux bénéficieront pleinement d'une libéralisation totale. Le secteur de la pêche sera également libéralisé pour les produits de l'UE (91% au bout de 5 ans et dans sa totalité dans les 10 ans).
On 11 December 2009, the European Union and Switzerland concluded negotiations on a bilateral agreement for the protection of their respective Geographical Indications for agricultural products and foodstuffs. After finalisation of the preliminary procedures, the draft agreement will protect the Geographical Indications of each of the two parties on the territory of the other.
The European Commission has authorised, under EU State aid rules, a measure adopted by Austria to limit the adverse impact of the current financial crisis on exporting firms. The Commission found the measure to be in line with its Temporary framework for state aid measures to support access to finance in the current financial and economic crisis (see IP/08/1993). In particular, the measure requires a higher remuneration than that offered by the private market and tackles the problem of the current insufficiency of the short-term export credit insurance cover in the private market. The Commission authorised the measure until 31 December 2010.
There is no reason to expect electricity disturbances this winter under normal weather conditions. This is the main conclusion of the report presented today by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) at the Electricity Cross-Border Committee meeting.
The 2010 EU budget will see jobs and the economy top spending. Over €64bn (or 45%) of the €141bn of EU funds will go on measures linked to research, education and innovation. Research funding will grow by nearly 12% (€7.5bn) and energy and transport by more than 10% (€2bn). Financing for strategic energy projects, broadband in rural areas and cash to help rural communities cope with new challenges in agriculture will also provide a welcome boost to Europe's economy with the final €2.4bn of the €5bn European economic recovery plan being secured for 2010. Agricultural spending will continue to be stable next year at nearly €44bn with over €14bn (+2.6%) to promote rural development and additional emergency aid of €300m to help milk producers. The biggest increase in EU spending in 2010 will be for projects to fight crime, terrorism and manage migration flows, with this area growing by 16.2% on 2009 to almost €1bn.
The European Commission has presented the results of the first-ever survey on creativity and innovation in schools. The results show that 94% of European teachers believe creativity is a fundamental competence to be developed at school, and 88% are convinced that everyone can be creative. In order to achieve that, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are considered very important among teachers (80%): computers, educational software, videos, online collaborative tools, virtual learning environments, interactive whiteboards, and free online material and courses. These results were presented at the Closing Conference of the European Year of Creativity and Innovation in Stockholm, 16 – 17 December.
The European Commission is providing €50 million in humanitarian aid to vulnerable drought-affected people in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. The funds are channelled through the Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) under the responsibility of Commissioner Karel De Gucht.
In the construction sector, seasonally adjusted production decreased by 0.6% in the euro area (EA16) and by 0.4% in the EU272 in October 2009, compared with the previous month. In September, production fell by 0.8% and 0.5% respectively. Compared with October 2008, output in October 2009 dropped by 7.7% in the euro area and by 6.9% in the EU27. These first estimates are released by Eurostat.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "Today, the Commission is prolonging nine national crisis support schemes to the financial sector for six months. We consider that state support may still be needed to help the recovery of the banking sector. These decisions show that state aid policy is an effective instrument to coordinate Member States' actions. I would however also invite Member States to start preparing for the phasing-out of these schemes when they are not needed any more, to avoid that banks get addicted to state support." The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, the prolongation of nine national crisis support schemes to the financial sector that were due to expire at the end of 2009. The Member States concerned are: Austria (extended until 30 June 2010). The Commission approved the original measures on 9 December 2009 (see IP/08/1933), a prolongation with some modifications was approved on 30 June 2009 (MEX/09/0630). Denmark (the recapitalisation scheme, only until 31 December 2009). The Commission approved the original measure on 3 February 2009 (see IP/09/206) and the first prolongation and amendment on 17 August 2009 (see MEX/09/0817). Finland: (the guarantee scheme, until 30 June 2010). The Commission approved the original measures on 13 November 2008, modifications on 5 February 2009 (see IP/08/1705) and prolongation of the Scheme until 30 December 2009 on 30 April 2009 (see IP/09/681). Germany (until 30 June 2010) The Commission approved the original measure on 27 October 2008 (see IP/08/1589), the replacement of this decision on 12 December 2008 (see IP/08/1966) and the first prolongation on 22 June 2009 (see MEX/09/0622). Hungary (the recapitalisation scheme, until 30 June 2010). The Commission approved the original measures on 12 February 2009, with an extension of the Scheme until 31 December 2009 on 3 September 2009 (see IP/09/253 and MEX/09/0903). Latvia (until 30 June 2010) The Commission approved the original measures on 22 December 2008 (see IP/08/2054) and extension of the Scheme until 31 December 2009 on 30 June 2009 (see MEX/09/0630). Slovenia (the guarantee scheme, until 30 June 2010). The Commission approved the original measure on 12 December 2008 (see IP/08/1964) and the extension of the scheme until 31 December 2009 on 22 June 2009 (see MEX/09/0622). The Netherlands (guarantee scheme, until 30 June 2010). The Commission approved the guarantee scheme on 30 October 2008 and the first prolongation and amendment on 7 July 2009 (see IP/08/1610 and MEX/09/0707). United Kingdom (the recapitalisation and credit guarantee schemes, only until 28 February 2010). The Commission approved the original measures on 13 October 2008, modifications on 23 December 2008 (see IP/08/1496 and IP/08/2057) and extensions of the Schemes until 13 October 2009 on 15 April 2009 (see IP/09/586) and until 31 December 2009 on 13 October 2009 (see MEX/09/1013). The Commission found the prolongation of these measures to be in line with its Communication on state aid to overcome the financial crisis (see IP/08/1495 because their positive effect on financial stability outweighs the distortions of competition brought about by the prolongation of the aid. The Commission has therefore concluded that they represent an appropriate and proportionate means of remedying a serious disturbance in the economies of the Member States concerned and as such are compatible with Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.
From 1 January 2010, the new "VAT Package" enters into force across the EU, including new provisions which will see VAT for business-to-business services paid in the country of consumption rather than the country where the supplier is located, while for business-to-consumer services, VAT will continue to be paid in the Member State in which the supplier is established. In preparation for the entry into force of these new rules, the Commission today adopted a proposal on implementing measures for the VAT Directive 2006/112, which includes a number of measures related to the VAT Package, in particular to prevent situations of double taxation that could arise as a result of diverging interpretations of the new rules. For example, there are guidelines for suppliers on establishing the location and tax status of the customer, as this will determine the rate of VAT that must be paid. Other guidelines focus on the provisions within the VAT Package which complement or provide exceptions to these general new rules. The VAT Package, which was adopted by Member States at the ECOFIN Council in February 2008 (see IP/08/208), also provides for a faster, more effective electronic procedure for businesses to reclaim the VAT that they pay in a Member State other than the one in which they are established. For more information, see: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/index_en.htm
The European Commission has signed an administrative cooperation agreement with Feroe Islands which marks a new step in the parties' efforts to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The EU has been committed in the fight against IUU fishing for over a decade, but intensified its actions by adopting the IUU Regulation in September 2008. The Regulation forms part of the EU fisheries control policy and will enter into force on 1 January 2010. The agreed records between the parties recognise that the control system in place in the Feroe Islands equals the level of control laid down in the European Regulation. The agreement will also enhance the cooperation in the fight against IUU fishing between the respective authorities. One of the core elements of the IUU Regulation is the introduction of a catch certification scheme which will ensure that all maritime fisheries products which are to be traded with the EU are obtained in compliance with existing conservation and management measures. The IUU Regulation is a transparent and non-discriminatory instrument applying to all fishing vessels engaged in the commercial exploitation of fishery resources in all maritime waters, and seeks to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing in as much as they are linked to the EU either through trade to and from its territory or the involvement of EU nationals in IUU fishing activities conducted under any flag. It also provides a comprehensive legal basis for operational cooperation between third countries and the EU to combat more efficiently IUU fishing. More information on the implementation of the IUU Regulation
The European Commission has made a payment to Germany from the European Globalisation adjustment Fund (EGF). € 5.5 million will go towards helping 1,300 dismissed workers from the Nokia production plant in Bochum (North Rhine Westphalia) back into employment. The redundancies follow a general trend amongst mobile phone manufacturers towards shifting production of mobile phones and accessories to 'emerging' markets, mostly in Asia. The payment follows approval by the Budgetary Authority (the European Parliament and the Council) on 21 October 2009, and by the Commission on 31 July 2009 (see also IP/09/1212). Germany's application for assistance was received on 6 February 2009.
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control of Banque LBLux S.A. of Luxemburg (LBLux) by Bayrische Landesbank AöR, Germany (BayernLB'), controlled by the Free State of Bavaria, Germany. BayernLB provides universal banking services, predominantly in Germany. LBLux is currently jointly controlled by BayernLB and Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen Girozentrale and is active in corporate and private banking and provides financial market services. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
The European Commission adopted today a co-financing Decision granting €14 million to programmes in seven Member States aiming to combat organisms harmful to plants and to prevent them from spreading further in the European Union. This is the largest sum contributed by the EU for such purposes since the entry into force of the regime of plant health co-financing in1997. The funds are granted to Germany, Italy, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain, as these were the Member States that requested such aid. Most of the funds are devoted to the control of numerous outbreaks in Portugal of pinewood nematode (Bursaphelenchus xylophilus), which is a microscopic worm harmful to coniferous trees. European coniferous species are highly susceptible and the pest could have devastating effects for European pine forests. The financing of the actions assists Portugal to contain pinewood nematode within the existing demarcated zone. This, in turn, helps to safeguard the territory of the other Member States and protect Union trade interests in relation to third countries. Financing also assists Spain in the actions taken against a single isolated outbreak of pine wood nematode, which was detected in November 2008 and successfully eradicated in 2008/2009. Money is also allocated for the control of two types of beetles, the Asian longhorn beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) and the Chinese longhorn beetle (Anoplophora chinensis). Both insects attack a wide range of woody plant species and are mainly present in Asia. Moreover, funds are made available to control the red palm weevil (Rynchophorus ferrugineus) in Malta, which attacks palm trees. For more information on the Community plant health regime, see: http://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/organisms/index_en.htm
Ukraine is one of the rising stars of Eastern Europe. Its key geographical position and fertile soils give it huge agricultural potential which has yet to be fully realised. Although agricultural output has still not recovered from its collapse after independence, Ukraine is still a net exporter of agricultural products and is a leading global grains and sunflower oil exporter. However Ukraine's capacity to achieve its full export potential has been hindered by restrictions on exports, aimed at controlling inflation. The latest MAP (Monitoring Agri-trade Policy) published by the Commission's Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development looks at Ukraine's trade patterns globally and with the EU. Its accession to WTO in 2008 has increased trading opportunities for the EU and others. The EU has replaced Russia as Ukraine's main agricultural trading partner for both imports and exports. Ukraine is a growing market for the EU particularly for exports of final products and this looks set to continue with the launch of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations in 2008. The MAP is available at http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/publi/map/index_en.htm
The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) announced today its first three Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs). KICs are highly integrated partnerships, bringing together excellent higher education, research and business around the topics of climate change mitigation and adaptation (‘Climate-KIC'), sustainable energy (‘KIC InnoEnergy') and the future information and communication society (‘EIT ICT Labs') respectively. The launch of the KICs marks a crucial step in setting up the EIT, which is designed to become a role model for boosting innovation in Europe and thereby contributing to the goals of the future EU 2020 strategy.
• Memo A new digital strategy for Europe on the agenda of the Telecoms Council, 18 December 2009
• Memo Frequently-asked questions about the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)
• Memo Frequently-asked questions about the EIT's Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs)
• Memo State aid: Overview of national measures adopted as a response to the financial/economic crisis
• Memo Antitrust: Commission confirms sending Statement of Objections to alleged participants in bananas cartel in Southern Europe
• Statement of President Barroso at the UN High Level Segment, Copenhagen