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Midday Express of 2010-12-16

Commission Européenne - MEX/10/1216   16/12/2010

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EXME 10 / 16.12

Midday Express of 2010-12-16

News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

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

EU puts the fight against poverty at the heart of goals for jobs and growth

Over 80 million people in the EU are still living at risk of poverty and a quarter of these citizens are children. The economic crisis has exacerbated this situation, exposing vulnerable groups even more. With the 2010 European Year against Poverty and Social Exclusion drawing to a close, the EU must continue to step up its efforts for the decade to come on this key issue. Bringing vulnerable groups into the heart of our societies and labour markets is central to sustainable and inclusive growth. Poverty reduction is an engine for this future growth. At the initiative of the European Commission, EU leaders have already set, for the first time ever, a concrete numerical target to reduce poverty and social exclusion by at least 20 million by 2020. Today's communication, 'The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion' sets out ways to help Member States move up a gear in fighting social exclusion. Countries now have to set their own ambitious national targets, reporting annually on their progress. The Commission will support these efforts, mobilising – among others – policies like social protection, employment and education, as well as EU funding. It will also promote new partnerships and new ways of combating poverty through social innovation to test new policy ideas.

Commission approved over € 182 million euro financing for European Union Solidarity Fund assistance relating to flooding disasters of May-June 2010

The European Commission on Wednesday approved the applications of 6 countries (5 Member States and Croatia) for Solidarity Fund assistance relating to the flooding disasters of May and June 2010 in Central Europe for a total amount of around over € 182 million. The amounts of aid proposed per country are over € 105 million for Poland, over € 20 million for Slovakia, over € 22 million for Hungary, over € 5 million for the Czech Republic, almost € 4 million for Croatia and over € 5 million for Romania. Before the grants can be paid out these amounts will have to be confirmed by the budget authority (EP and Council) early in 2011 and are likely to be paid out in March 2011.

Towards interoperability for European public services

The European Commission has today adopted an initiative to encourage public administrations across the EU to maximise the social and economic potential of information and communication technologies. The Communication 'Towards interoperability for European public services' looks to establish a common approach for Member State’s public administrations, to help citizens and businesses to profit fully from the EU’s Single Market. Making full use of the Single Market often obliges citizens to deliver or collect information or documents they need to work, study or travel within the EU and send them to public administrations in another Member State. Businesses face a similar reality. That is why it is vital that administrations provide efficient, effective cross-border eGovernment services, as reflected in the eGovernment Action Plan just adopted by the Commission (see IP/10/1718), in accordance with the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581 , MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200). The need for effective interoperability is a central part of the Digital Agenda, one of the flagship initiatives in the Europe 2020 Strategy. The Commission's Communication introduces both the European Interoperability Strategy and the European Interoperability Framework, which should guide ICT policy for public bodies across the Union.

Environment: Commission biodiversity campaign wins international award

The European Commission's campaign to highlight awareness of biodiversity loss has won a prestigious award in the field of communication, a "European Excellence Award.” These awards – which are chosen by an independent jury of 30 leading communications professionals – are intended to honour outstanding achievements by communications professionals. The award is in the Environment and Ecology category. The campaign, which centres round a viral film and the slogan “weareallinthistogether”, has reached millions of Europeans around the continent, and will continue until next year.

Digital Agenda: review shows strong SME interest and government backing for ICT to assist the elderly

The European Commission today presented a report on the progress of the Ambient Assisted Living joint programme (AAL JP) which highlights very high levels of involvement by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in projects, strong levels of financial support by participating countries and recommendations to ensure ongoing positive results. This €600 million research and development funding programme involves 23 countries and the EU to improve the quality of life of senior citizens through smart ICT-based solutions. The report is addressed to the European Parliament and Council of Ministers and is an important step to reinforce the AAL JP, one of the key actions of the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581 , MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200). The AAL JP can make an important contribution to the forthcoming pilot European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (see IP/10/1609).

Digital Agenda: ENIAC and ARTEMIS public-private partnerships delivering, but need more industry and Member State commitment

The European Commission has today endorsed a report by a panel of independent experts which calls on EU industry and Member States to reinforce their support for ARTEMIS and ENIAC, two public-private partnerships (established as Joint Undertakings) for collaborative research in the fields of nanoelectronics and embedded systems (used widely in cars, smart phones, power plants and elsewhere. The experts concluded that the current partnership model is good for industry, good for Member States, and good for Europe. However, they also found that more financial resources are needed from EU Member States and that industry needs to demonstrate a stronger commitment towards a European strategy if ARTEMIS and ENIAC are to realise their full potential. Boosting European research and development in information and communications technologies is a key objective of the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581 , MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).

The European Competition Network at work

To know more about the national competition authorities in the EU, what they do and how they interact, read the Special Issue of the ECN Brief as well as the 5th issue of the Brief itself. The special issue provides a portrait of the network, the priorities of the national authorities and recent developments. The ECN was established as a result of the reform of the EU antitrust rules as a forum for discussion and cooperation in relation to the enforcement of the EU rules on restrictive agreements and the abuse of dominant market positions, Articles 101 and 102 TFEU. The network operates on the basis of Council Regulation 1/2003 which created enhanced cooperation mechanisms between the Member States' competition authorities and the Commission. The ECN Brief was launched in January 2010 and is available here: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/ecn/brief/index.html and on the websites of Member States' competition authorities.

State aid: Commission temporarily authorises BGN249 million rescue aid for Bulgarian railway company

The European Commission has authorised under EU state aid rules, state financing worth BGN249 million (approximately €128 million) for the Bulgarian railway operator BDZ EAD. The aid is in line with EU rules on rescue aid (see MEMO/04/172), because it is limited in time and scope. The Commission approved the measure temporarily, until it can take a position on the restructuring plan to be submitted by Bulgaria within maximum six months.

State aid: Commission carries out in-depth review of restructuring of Hungarian FHB

The European Commission has opened, under EU state aid rules, an in-depth investigation into the proposed restructuring of FHB, a Hungarian bank which benefitted from two aid measures provided by the State. At this stage, the Commission has doubts whether the aid was properly remunerated and not used for the expansion of the bank at the expense of its competitors. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives third parties the possibility to comment and does not prejudge the final outcome.

Commission clears acquisition of sole control by DnB NOR Bank over Bank DnB NORD.

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control by NOR Bank ASA ("DnB NOR Bank"), a Norwegian bank over Bank DnB NORD A/S ("Bank DnB NORD"), a Danish bank. Both are active within the provision of banking services to individuals, businesses and institutional customers. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure."

Commission clears acquisition by Sasol Synfuels International and Qatar Petroleum of Oryx GTL.

The European Commission has granted clearance under the Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint-control by Sasol Synfuels International (Pty) Limited, which belongs to Sasol Group, and Qatar Petroleum over Oryx GTL Limited. Sasol Synfuels International is a business development company mandated to implement coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids projects globally. Qatar Petroleum is active in all phases of oil and gas industry including exploration, development, production, processing, transportation and storage of crude oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids, liquefied natural gas, refined products, petrochemicals and fertilizers. Oryx GTL is active in the production of diesel, naphtha and LPG. The operation was examined by the Commission under the simplified merger review procedure.

Commission clears acquisition of joint control by AXA Private Equity and CIR over KOS

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control over KOS S.p.A. ("KOS") by AXA Investment Managers Private Equity Europe SA ("AXA Private Equity" – a French private equity fund) and Compagnie Industriali Riunite ("CIR" – an Italian company mainly active in energy, media, automotive components, healthcare and financial services). KOS is an Italian company, currently solely controlled by CIR. It is active, exclusively in Italy, in the management of social and residential health care services for the elderly as well as in the provision of hospital services. The Commission examined the transaction under the simplified merger review procedure.

State aid: Commission approves extension of the Austrian aid scheme for financial institutions

The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, a six months extension until 30 June 2011 of the Austrian scheme for financial institutions. The extended scheme includes a reduced overall budget for the state measures. The extension of the recapitalisation measures is in line with the requirements of the Commission's 2010 Communication on support measures for banks during the financial crisis (see IP/10/1636). In particular, it requires the presentation of a restructuring plan in the event of granting recapitalisation measures. The Commission also found the extension of the measures, initially approved on 9 December 2008 (see IP/08/1933), to be in line with its guidance on state aid to financial institutions during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 and IP/08/1901). In particular, they are well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The Commission has therefore concluded that the extended measures represent an appropriate means of remedying a serious disturbance in the Austrian economy and as such are compatible with Article 107(3)(b) of the TFEU.

State aid: Commission approves extension of two Polish support schemes for financial institutions

The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, a six months extension until 30 June 2011 of the Polish recapitalisation scheme and the Polish guarantee scheme. The budgets for the extended Polish schemes remain unchanged. The extension of the recapitalisation scheme is in line with the requirements set out in the Commission's 2010 Communication on support measures for banks during the financial crisis (see IP/10/1636). In particular, it requires the presentation of a restructuring plan in the event of granting recapitalisation measures. The Commission also found the extension of the measures, initially approved on 21 December 2009 (see IP/09/1979) (Polish recapitalisation scheme) and on 25 September 2009 (see IP/09/1360) (Polish guarantee scheme) to be in line with its guidance on state aid to financial institutions during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 and IP/08/1901). In particular, they are well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The Commission has therefore concluded that the extended measures represent an appropriate means of remedying a serious disturbance in the Polish economy and as such are compatible with Article 107(3)(b) of the TFEU.

Linking of national registers of road transport undertakings to improve compliance with the rules

The European Commission adopted today new rules for linking national electronic registers of road transport undertakings. This linked-up database will be called the "European Registers of Road Transport Undertakings" (ERRU) and should be operational by 1 January 2013. ERRU will allow a better exchange of information between Member States, so that the competent authorities can better monitor the compliance of road transport undertakings with the rules in force. Undertakings that do not respect the rules when operating abroad will face the consequences in the Member State where they are based. This will create fairer competition conditions in the road transport market. The set-up of the national registers and their interconnection are required under the legislation on the access to the market of road transport undertakings (Regulation (EC) No 1071/2009).

Commission building awarded first energy performance certificate of a public building in Brussels

Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and Brussels Region Minister in charge of the Environment, Energy and Urban Renewal Evelyne Huytebroeck, will present tomorrow the first energy performance certificate of a public building in Brussels to the Commission's "Demot 28" building. The award follows the transposition in Belgium's Brussels-Capital Region of the EU Directive on energy performance of buildings. This requires an energy certificate to be placed in a prominent place in the building clearly visible to the public. The certificate must show its annual primary energy consumption and related carbon dioxide emissions per square metre, against the benchmark of public buildings in Brussels. Energy performance will be categorised by class, similar to the scale on electrical appliances, running from G to A, with subdivisions by + or -. The "Demot 28" building, which has an energy performance one quarter better than the average for that type of building, qualifies for a D+ ranking. In agreement with the Institute of Environmental Management of Brussels Region (IBGE), the Commission will certify nine buildings during a pilot phase, while the remaining Commission buildings will be certified before June 2011. The certification ceremony will take place tomorrow at 13h at 28, Rue Demot, 1040 Etterbeek.

Commission allocates additional € 1.35 million for Congolese refugees and displaced people in Central African Republic

Today the European Commission increased in €1.35 million its humanitarian funding to provide food, water, medical assistance and sanitation to victims of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo that have seek refugee in the Central African Republic (CAR). The new aid will add to the €6.9 million of funding already allocated in May 2010, and will benefit Congolese refugees, CAR citizens that have escaped violence by moving to other parts of the country, and the hosting populations overwhelmed by the massive arrival of these people. Kristalina Georgieva, Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, said "Many people still live far from their homes in refugee camps and have limited ways of covering their basic needs. Our humanitarian aid aims to convey vital assistance by addressing the food requirements and basic needs of the most vulnerable refugees and internally displaced people who have settled in CAR as well as the host population which has also inevitably become vulnerable." In the South West of CAR, Congolese refugees who fled from violence in Equateur Province at the end of 2009 have not been able to return to their country until now. There are currently 223,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) and refugees and a further 1.4 million residents who rely on humanitarian assistance in the Central African Republic. For further information: http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm

L'Union Européenne vient en aide aux populations vulnérables de Djibouti

La Commission Européenne a approuvé aujourd'hui une décision de financement en faveur de Djibouti pour un montant de 1.54 million d'euros. Ce financement permettra l'achat de produits alimentaires dans ce pays, qui souffre de manière récurrente de la sécheresse, et qui a souffert de la hausse des prix des denrées alimentaires. La mesure adoptée ce jour est la continuation d'un projet d'aide alimentaire déjà en cours - consistant à fournir des vivres pour les filles réfugiées scolarisées. Il permettra d'élargir ces activités en faveur des enfants malnutris, des enfants scolarisés, des femmes enceintes, et des tuberculeux hospitalisés principalement en zone rurale. Ce programme prévoit également une composante de renforcement des capacités nationales à répondre rapidement à de telles situations. Full text of the press release available on Commissioner's Piebalgs website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/piebalgs/headlines/press-releases/

The EU supports transport infrastructure and agriculture in Zambia

Today, the European Commission made available €49.9 million from the European Development Fund in support to the implementation of the country’s National Development Plan, to finance three new programmes in transport infrastructure (roads and aviation) and support to public sector capacity in Agriculture. The projects approved today will contribute to unlock some of the constraints to growth and poverty reduction in Zambia, in relation to infrastructure access (by road and by air) and in the agriculture sector, helping the country to meet the Millennium Development Goals. The main project is the Great East Road Rehabilitation (€ 38 million). The project forms part of the regional integration agenda and supports the rehabilitation of the Great East Road in Zambia, the major East-West axis linking Zambia to Malawi, and further to the deep sea port of Nacala in Mozambique. It will therefore contribute to the socio-economic development of Zambia by developing trade axis for the movement of services, goods and people. The second project is the Aviation Sector Support Programme (€3 million). This programme addresses and responds to the issue of non-compliances of Zambia's civil aviation safety, security and economic oversight system with international standards, which led to the banning of Zambian Air Carriers to enter the Community Airspace (blacklisting) in July 2009. This non-compliance limited the ability of the sector to contribute to tourism growth and economy development in the country. The third and last project is the Support to the Agriculture Performance Enhancement Programme (€8.9 million), an institutional development programme supporting the capacities of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MACO) and the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development (MLFD) to deliver appropriate services to spur agriculture growth in partnership with the private sector. Full text of the press release available on Commissioner's Piebalgs website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/piebalgs/headlines/press-releases/

Animal welfare: voluntary end to the surgical castration of piglets by 2018

The European Commission welcomes the announcement made earlier this week that several main actors in the pig meat chain have agreed on a plan to voluntarily end the surgical castration of pigs in Europe by 1 January 2018. As a first step, from 1 January 2012, surgical castration of pigs, if carried out, shall be performed with prolonged analgesia and/or anaesthesia. A European partnership will be established in order to develop the tools necessary to reach the goals and to make sure that eventual costs are shared in a fair way. On the invitation of the European Commission and the Belgian Presidency and following a workshop on alternatives for pig castration, representatives of European farmers, meat industry, retailers, scientists, veterinarians and animal welfare NGOs met in Brussels to discuss the issue of pig castration and its possible alternatives. The parties signed a European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs, which sets the basis for the voluntary cooperation between the actors. Surgical castration of pigs is an animal welfare concern. Castration is practiced to avoid undesirable sexual or aggressive behaviour and the development of boar taint, the odour or taste that can be evident during the cooking of pork products derived from non-castrated male pigs. Different alternatives to the procedure are already being applied in the EU and elsewhere. The Declaration, the first of its kind at EU level for animal welfare, is an open invitation for every actor in the European pig sector to join this voluntary initiative. For more information on the European Declaration on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs, please see: http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/welfare/farm/initiatives_en.htm

Euro area annual inflation stable at 1.9%

Euro area annual inflation was 1.9% in November 2010, unchanged compared with October. A year earlier the rate was 0.5%. Monthly inflation was 0.1% in November 2010.

EU annual inflation was 2.3% in November 2010, unchanged compared with October. A year earlier the rate was 1.0%. Monthly inflation was 0.2% in November 2010. These figures come from Eurostat.

Euro area hourly labour costs rose by 0.8%

Hourly labour costs in the euro area (EA16) rose by 0.8% in the year up to the third quarter of 2010, compared with 1.6% for the previous quarter. This is the lowest increase registered since the start of the series in 2000. In the EU27, the annual rise was 1.2% up to the third quarter of 2010, compared with 1.5% 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 0.7% in the year up to the third quarter of 2010, and the non-wage component by 1.2%, compared with 1.5% and 1.9% respectively for the second quarter of 2010. In the EU27, hourly wages & salaries rose by 1.2% and the non-wage component by 1.1% in the year up to the third quarter of 2010, compared with 1.6% for both components in the previous quarter.The breakdown by economic activity shows that in the euro area hourly labour costs rose by 0.3% in industry, 0.6% in construction and 1.1% in services in the year up to the third quarter of 2010. In the EU27, labour costs per hour grew by 0.7% in industry, 0.4% in construction and 1.5% in services. These figures are published by Eurostat.

Rediffusion

EU and Jordan sign air transport agreement

The European Union and Jordan have today signed a comprehensive air services agreement which will open up and integrate their respective markets, strengthen cooperation and offer new opportunities for consumers and operators. The agreement will establish a "Euro Mediterranean Aviation Area" between Jordan and the EU based on common rules and a liberalisation of the air markets. The signing reflects the substantial deepening of the EU–Jordan relationship, which has now culminated in an "advanced status partnership" and a new ENP Action Plan. It coincides with King Abdullah II of Jordan's visit to the President of the Commission José Manuel Barroso and High Representative Catherine Ashton on 15 and 16 December.

Mergers: Commission approves the acquisition of Motorola's mobile network business by Nokia Siemens Networks

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Motorola Network Business of the US by Nokia Siemens Networks B.V. of The Netherlands. After examining the operation, the Commission concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or any substantial part of it.

Connie Hedegaard, Commissioner for Climate Action, welcomes agreement to cut emissions from vans

Today, the EU takes a new step towards limiting the pollution from vans. The European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission reached an informal agreement on the Commission's proposal setting CO2 emission standards for light commercial vehicles (vans). It still requires formal approval. This proposal is a follow-up of the regulation setting CO2 emission standards for passenger cars ( Regulation 443/2009) and is one of the last outstanding measures announced in the EU Strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles ( Communication COM(2007) 19) .

Commission welcomes decision by European Parliament and Council to repeal eight outdated metrology directives

European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani welcomes the European Parliament's decision to repeal eight metrology directives. The Commission proposal is therefore adopted as the vote of the European Parliament confirms a first reading agreement with the Council. The reason to repeal the legal acts is that they are no longer necessary, technically outdated and/or applied more seldom, as in the case of the directive on weights for use on non-automatic weighing scales. The directives were laid out in the 1970’s with the aim of harmonising legislation at a time when the different legislation of Member States constituted barriers to trade within the internal market.

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