Midday Express of 2010-02-22
European Commission - MEX/10/0222 22/02/2010
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EXME 10 / 22.02
News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Direction Générale Communication
22 / 02 / 10
The European Commission today proposed that the European Union should press for a ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna to enter into force within the next year. The Commission is deeply concerned that overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna driven largely by international trade is seriously depleting stocks of the species. The proposal will be discussed with Member States in order to reach a common EU position for the next meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), taking place in Doha, Qatar, from 13 to 25 March 2010.
The European Commission today adopted a proposal to prolong the exceptional autonomous trade preferences which the European Union grants to Western Balkan countries until 2015. The aim of this proposal is to ensure that Western Balkan economies continue to benefit from an unlimited duty free access to the EU market for nearly all products originating in these countries and territories. Together with the bilateral agreements in place, these trade preferences support economic integration with the EU and hence foster political stability and economic progress in the entire region.
Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič today opened a stakeholder hearing on the European Citizens' Initiative, the results of which will feed into the preparation of the legal proposal on the ECI which the Commission will publish shortly after Easter. Mr Šefčovič described the ECI, introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, as "an initiative that is all about taking the EU outside the 'Brussels beltway' and giving it full democratic expression". It will allow one million citizens from a number of Member States to call directly on the Commission to make proposals on an issue which is important to them. The public consultation, launched in November, generated 323 contributions from citizens, organisations and public authorities, showing considerable interest across Europe in this new legal right. Mr Šefčovič underlined two particular issues raised in the consultation process: the need for a simple, common and reliable system for the verification of signatures, and a system to ensure the admissibility of particular initiatives. Based on the input from today's event, which is being streamed on the internet, and from the public consultation, the Commission will now finalise its legislative proposal. Mr Šefčovič hopes it will be possible to have the ECI on the statute books by the end of the year. For more information, see speech SPEECH/10/37.
In 2009, nearly 1.5 billion nights were spent in hotels and similar establishments in the EU27, a decrease of 5.1% compared with 2008, after an annual change of -0.2% in 2008 and +3.5% in 2007. The number of hotel nights spent by residents in their own country in 2009 fell by 1.6% and hotel nights spent by non-residents fell by 9.1%. The decline in the number of hotel nights in the EU27, which began in the middle of 2008, slowed down during 2009. The number of hotel nights fell at an annual rate of 8.0% in January-April 2009 (compared with the same period of the previous year), of 4.1% in May-August and of 3.6% in September-December. These estimates, which include nights spent whether for business or leisure, come from a publication from Eurostat.
The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, the prolongation until 30 June 2010 of a Portuguese Guarantee Scheme for credit institutions. The Commission found the prolongation of the measure, initially approved on 29 October 2008 (see IP/08/1601), to be in line with its October 2008 Guidance Communication on state aid to overcome the financial crisis (see IP/08/1495). In particular, the extended measure is limited in time and scope. The Commission has therefore concluded that the prolongation of the scheme represents an appropriate means of remedying a serious disturbance in the Portuguese economy and as such is compatible with Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control of Becker Group by Klöckner & Co, both of Germany. Klöckner is a manufacturer-independent distributor of steel and metals, as well as plastics and building materials. Becker group is active in the distribution and processing of flat steel and non-ferrous metals. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Within five to eight years structured e-invoicing will become the predominant invoicing method throughout Europe according to the final report of the Expert Group on e-Invoicing. Building on the report’s recommendations, currently under public consultation, the European Commission organises, jointly with the Spanish Presidency, a conference on "Electronic Invoicing in Europe" in Madrid the 27 and 28 of April 2010. The discussion and debates at the conference will contribute to the Commission's assessment of the different options available to facilitate the emergence of an interoperable pan-European e-Invoicing environment. Four sessions addressing the current obstacles to a full deployment of e-invoicing solutions are planned on: "SMEs and E-invoicing", "Interoperability", "Standards" and the "Legal framework for electronic invoices". The number of places is limited and participation will be on a first come first served basis. Registration will be available at: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/newsroom/cf/itemshortdetail.cfm?item_id=4005&lang=en The report is open for consultation until 28 February 2010. The report together with information on the consultation is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/payments/einvoicing/index_en.htm http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/ict/e-invoicing/
European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, in charge of Industry and Entrepreneurship, met today with ministers in charge of the automotive industry. They discussed the economic challenges facing the European car industry, what short-term measures could be made available, as well as the medium term strategy ensuring a sustainable recovery from the crisis.