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Midday Express of 2010-01-15

Commission Européenne - MEX/10/0115   15/01/2010

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EXME 10 / 15.01

MIDDAY EXPRESS

News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

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

15 / 01 / 10

The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation concerning the "Baltic Max Feeder" scheme over a potential breach of EU rules on restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union - TFEU). The Commission is in particular concerned that the scheme, whereby European ship owners collectively agree to cover the costs of removing feeder vessels from service, may be aimed at reducing capacity and therefore at pushing up charter rates for such vessels. Typically, feeder vessels collect shipping containers from different ports and transport them to central container terminals where they are loaded onto bigger vessels.

EU Trade Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner will visit Central American countries from the 18 to 21 January on a trip that includes Costa Rica, Guatemala and El Salvador. She visits Central America to drive forward the negotiation process for an EU-Central America Association Agreement and to hold discussions on bi-regional trade and investment issues.

Regional Policy Commissioner Paweł Samecki will make a keynote speech at the Conference on Territorial Dialogue in Palma de Mallorca on 18 January. This high-level meeting, co-organised by the EU Committee of the Regions and the Spanish Presidency of the European Union, will provide a forum for local and regional stakeholders to exchange views on the new strategy for sustainable growth and employment, known as the EU 2020 Strategy.

Euro area annual inflation was 0.9% in December 2009, up from 0.5% in November. A year earlier the rate was 1.6%. Monthly inflation was 0.3% in December 2009. The annual average rate of inflation in 2009 was 0.3%, down from 3.3% in 2008. EU annual inflation was 1.4% in December 2009, up from 1.0% in November. A year earlier the rate was 2.2%. Monthly inflation was 0.2% in December 2009. The annual average rate of inflation in 2009 was 1.0%, down from 3.7% in 2008. These figures come from Eurostat.

The first estimate for the euro area (EA16) trade balance with the rest of the world in November 2009 gave a 4.8 bn euro surplus, compared with -7.0 bn in November 2008. The October 2009 balance was +6.6 bn, compared with -1.2 bn in October 2008. In November 2009 compared with October 2009, seasonally adjusted exports fell by 0.4%, while imports rose by 0.3%. The first estimate for the November 2009 extra-EU27 trade balance was a 5.8 bn euro deficit, compared with -24.4 bn in November 2008. In October 20092 the balance was -4.8 bn, compared with -18.3 bn in October 2008. In November 2009 compared with October 2009, seasonally adjusted exports rose by 1.9% and imports by 1.5%. These data are released by Eurostat.

  • Retail financial services: Commission consults on a study on tying and other potentially unfair commercial practices

The European Commission published today an external study which it had commissioned on "tying and other potentially unfair commercial practices in the retail financial services sector". Tying occurs when two or more products are sold together in a package and at least one of these products is not sold separately, such as tying a current account to a mortgage or a consumer loan. Other potentially unfair practices include conditional sales practices and aggressive commercial strategies. The objective of the study, which does not necessarily represent the views of the European Commission, was to present a comprehensive inventory of these practices in all 27 EU Member States and to analyse the potential impact of these practices for different stakeholder groups. The study is a follow-up to the December 2007 White Paper on the Integration of EU Mortgage Markets (IP/07/1955). The study will be open for consultation until 14 April 2010. The study and the consultation document are available at: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/consultations/2010/tying_en.htm

  • Commission clears acquisition of Océalis by SFRD and Europ Assistance Holding

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control of Océalis of France by French companies SFR Développement (SFRD) and Europ Assistance Holding. SFRD invests in new companies active in the mobile communication sector and Internet. Europ Assistance Holding provides assistance, support and counselling services to physical or legal entities in France and abroad. Océalis provides teleassistance services. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

  • Commission clears acquisition of HSE by AXA

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control of Home Shopping Europe GmbH (HSE) of Germany by AXA LBO FUND IV, controlled by Group AXA of France. AXA is an international group active in the provision of life and non-life insurance and related financial services. HSE operates a 24-hour home shopping service in Germany and sells over the internet. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

Rediffusion

The 2010 European Border Breaker Awards (EBBA's) were presented by the European Commission in a TV show spectacle on the opening night of the EuroSonic Noorderslag Festival in Groningen (the Netherlands), in the presence of H.R.H. Princess Máxima of the Netherlands, numerous VIP’s and 1200 visitors. The awards' show, which featured live performances by eight of the ten award-winning acts, will be broadcast throughout Europe in the coming days and weeks. After an online vote, the Belgian winner Milow was awarded the first ever Public Choice EBBA.

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