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EXME 10 / 17.03

MIDDAY EXPRESS

News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

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

17 / 03 / 10

I. Résultats de la Commission du 17 mars 2010 – Outcome of Commission meeting of 17 March 2010

Most EU Member States until 2008 were steadily improving their innovation performance. The economic crisis may, however, be hampering this progress, according to the 2009 European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS) published today. Early indications show that the worst hit are Member States with lower levels of innovation performance, potentially reversing the convergence process witnessed over recent years. Meanwhile, the latest statistics show that the EU is having difficulty in catching up with the US in innovation performance, although it maintains a clear lead over the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, despite rapid improvements in China.

Today, the Commission adopted a €190 million support package for banana exporters from African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states. This proposal was part of the historic Geneva Agreement on Trade in Bananas. The EU concluded this deal with Latin American countries and the US in December 2009 which settles 15 years banana disputes. It also cuts the tariff which the EU applies to bananas imported from Latin American countries. Today's measures aim to support ACP banana exporters to adjust to this new trading environment, taking into account each country's specific situation. The measures will focus on three goals: boosting the banana sector's competitiveness, promoting economic diversification and addressing broader social, economic and environmental impacts.

Today the European Commission examined the updated stability and convergence programmes (SCPs) of Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and the United Kingdom. These assessments have to be seen against the background of the sharp economic and financial crisis which has had a major impact on public finances. Reflecting the working of automatic stabilisers and discretionary stimulus measures implemented in line with the European Economic Recovery Plan (EERP) to cope with the exceptional economic circumstances, a large majority of Member States is currently subject to the excessive deficit procedure following corresponding Council decisions in 2009. Of the countries assessed today, only Bulgaria, Estonia, plan to keep their general government deficits below the 3% of GDP reference value set in the Stability and Growth Pact over the programmes' period. Overall, for the majority of the fourteen programmes, the growth assumptions underlying the budgetary projections are assessed as rather optimistic, implying that budgetary outcomes might be worse than targeted. Furthermore, in several cases, the budgetary consolidation strategy is not sufficiently backed up by concrete measures from 2011 onwards.

The European Commission has made legally binding commitments offered by the French electricity group EDF. These commitments were offered in response to the Commission's concerns that EDF's contracts with large electricity consumers may hinder the entry and expansion of EDF's competitors on the French market. Under the commitments, EDF will make sure that every year a significant number of customers are free to contract with other electricity suppliers. Resale restrictions will also be removed. The decision will increase competition in the French electricity wholesale market to the benefit of large customers and the economy as a whole.

The European Commission has made legally binding commitments offered by the French electricity group EDF. These commitments were offered in response to the Commission's concerns that EDF's contracts with large electricity consumers may hinder the entry and expansion of EDF's competitors on the French market. Under the commitments, EDF will make sure that every year a significant number of customers are free to contract with other electricity suppliers. Resale restrictions will also be removed. The decision will increase competition in the French electricity wholesale market to the benefit of large customers and the economy as a whole.

La Commission a proposé aujourd’hui des directives de négociation en vue de l’adhésion de l’Union à la convention européenne des droits de l’homme (CEDH). Le traité de Lisbonne offre la base juridique permettant à l’UE d’adhérer à la CEDH, qui est l’instrument le plus important de protection des droits de l’homme et des libertés fondamentales en Europe. L’adhésion de l’UE à la convention renforcera encore davantage le système de protection des droits fondamentaux de l’UE.

II. Other news

Consumer advocates, consumer authorities, service industries and EU policy makers are convening for the European Consumer Summit, taking place in Brussels on 18-19 March, under the theme "Services: access, choice and fairness". Commissioner John Dalli is expected to outline his vision for EU consumer policy for the coming years. The Summit will focus on those service sectors that are the most relevant for consumers and which are underperforming for them, based on the market intelligence gathered as part of the Consumer Markets Scoreboard. These include energy and banking. The Summit outcomes will feed directly into the reflection on future policy on consumer services.

Hourly labour costs in the euro area (EA16) rose by 2.2% in the year up to the fourth quarter of 2009, compared with 3.0% for the previous quarter. In the EU27, the annual rise was 2.4% up to the fourth quarter of 2009, compared with 2.9% for the previous quarter. The two main components of labour costs are wages & salaries and non-wage costs. In the euro area, wages & salaries per hour worked grew by 2.0% in the year up to the fourth quarter of 2009, and the non-wage component by 2.7%, compared with 2.8% and 3.5% respectively for the third quarter of 2009. In the EU27, hourly wages & salaries rose by 2.2% and the non-wage component by 3.0% in the year up to the fourth quarter of 2009, compared with 2.8% and 3.5% respectively for the previous quarter. The breakdown by economic activity shows that in the euro area hourly labour costs rose by 1.4% in industry, 3.7% in construction and 2.4% in services in the year up to the fourth quarter of 2009. In the EU27, labour costs per hour grew by 1.9% in industry, 3.1% in construction and 2.5% in services. These figures are published by Eurostat.

In the construction sector, seasonally adjusted production fell by 2.2% in the euro area (EA16) and by 2.0% in the EU272 in January 2010, compared with the previous month. In December 2009, production decreased by 1.0% in the euro area, but rose by 0.8% in the EU27. Compared with January 2009, output in January 2010 dropped by 12.5% in the euro area and by 8.4% in the EU27. These first estimates are released by Eurostat.

  • CAP: European Commission launches a call for tenders for a study "Impacts of renewable energy on European farmers"

The aim of this study is to analyse the actual contribution of renewable energy produced on-farm to the overall EU targets on renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions reduction, as well as its potential in the medium-term. It should assess the role played by renewable energy production in the farm economy, income and allocation of production factors, as well as identify and analyse the drivers that have led to their rapid expansion in certain regions and the barriers to further deployment or uptake in other regions with significant potential. The maximum budget attributed to this project is € 500 000. The deadline for submitting offers is 7th May, 2010. The Commission intends to award the contract during the third quarter of 2010, following the evaluation of the offers received. The contractor will have to carry out the study within 12 months from the signature of the contract. Details are available at: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/agriculture/tenderdocs/2010/77521/index_en.htm

  • Commission clears acquisition of Pets at Home by KKR & Co

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control of Pets at Home Ltd of the United Kingdom by KKR & Co of the USA. KKR & Co is active in the provision of a broad range of alternative asset management services and capital market solutions. Pets at Home is a retail supplier of pet-related products. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

  • State aid: Commission approves prolongation of Portuguese recapitalisation scheme for credit institutions

The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, the prolongation until 30 June 2010 of a Portuguese recapitalisation scheme for credit institutions. The Commission found the prolongation of the measure, initially approved on 20 May 2009 (see IP/09/818), to be in line with its guidance on support measures for banks during the financial crisis (see IP/08/1495 and IP/08/1901). In particular, the extended measure is limited in time and scope. The Commission 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).

  • Commission clears STI Freight JV between HAVI and KeyLux

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed German-based STI Freight Management joint venture between HAVI Global Logistics of the USA and McKey Luxembourg, which belongs to Keystone Group (also of the USA). HAVI is active in food and non-food logistics and distribution, food processing, packaging, related administrative services and promotional marketing. KeyLux is a provider of freight forwarding, logistics and distribution services to the food sector. STI Freight will be active in the provision of food and non-food freight forwarding services by regrouping the activities of the companies currently collectively known as the "STI Global Network". The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

  • Commission clears joint control of EES by Mitsubishi, JGC and Ebara

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to an operation whereby Japanese industrial group Mitsubishi Corporation, Japanese engineering firm JGC Corp and Ebara Corp , a Japanese maker of water-processing equipment, acquire joint control of Ebara Engineering Service Co (EES). EES is active in design, construction and operation of water treatment facilities and the provision of related services. JGC is active in design, construction and operation of industrial plants and refineries. Ebara produces fluid transfer machinery (pumps, compressors, etc.), environmental facilities and related equipment (water waste, solid waste treatment etc.) and precision machinery for semiconductor industry. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

  • Autre matériel diffusé

• Memo on The innovation performance in the EU Member States in 2009

• Memo on Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) – Supporting ACP countries in adjusting to new trade realities – Questions and Answers

• Memo La Commission européenne propose des directives de négociation en vue de l'adhésion de l'Union à la convention européenne des droits de l'homme (CEDH) – foire aux questions

• Speech by Commissioner Rehn 'A Strategy for Growth and Jobs until 2020', Brussels

• Speech by Commissioner Potočnik 'Can the CAP bring considerable benefits to our environment?', Brussels

• Speech by Commissioner Andor 'Moving forward on the Posting of Workers Directive', Oviedo

• Speech by Commissioner De Gucht 'On the EU Trade Agreement with Colombia and Peru'

  • A disposition au secrétariat d'Amelia Torres (BERL 03/301):

Notification préalable d'une opération de concentration:

AkzoNobel/Rohm and Haas powder coatings business


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