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EXME 11 / 30.06
Midday Express of 2011-06-30
News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Direction Générale Communication
With effect from 1st July 2011 to 30 June 2012 EU mobile operators will again be obliged to lower retail prices for roaming calls in line with EU rules first introduced in 2007 and amended in 2009. Consumers opting for the EU-regulated "Eurotariff" will pay no more than 35 cents per minute for calls made and 11 cents per minute for calls received while abroad in the EU. This is the last in the series of regulated price cuts under the current EU Roaming Regulation, which expires end June 2012.
With up to 49% of Europeans living in areas where EU air quality objectives are still not met, air pollution is one of the main environmental worries facing EU citizens. As part of a comprehensive review of Europe's air policies intended to set new long-term objectives beyond 2020, the European Commission is launching a public consultation on its current policy in this area. For the next twelve weeks, views are being sought on the strengths and weaknesses of the existing legislative framework and progress on its implementation. This web-based consultation is part of a broader process of reflection that will feed into a review due no later than 2013.
Funding worth €35 million for 42 eco-innovation projects selected under the 2010 Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) is now coming on stream, as applications are ongoing for the 2011 call for proposals. Last year's successful applicants include a non-invasive method to repair leaks in water pipes; acoustic panels to dampen noise from railways using rubber from old tyres; biodegradable interior panels that can reduce the weight of an aircraft by 15%; a fermentation process that allows CO2 recovery in breweries; and a prefabricated housing system made of locally sourced renewable materials (wood and straw). The 42 projects cover a wide range of environmental innovations that have one thing in common: they all contribute to protecting our precious environment while sharpening Europe's competitive edge.
The EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the EU's first trade deal with an Asian country, will apply as of 1 July 2011. It is unprecedented in terms of the scope and speed of tariff liberalisation and breaks new ground in tackling significant non-tariff barriers across all sectors, including automotive, pharmaceutical and consumer electronics. South Korea and the EU will eliminate 98.7% of duties in trade value within 5 years from the entry into force of the FTA. By the end of the transitional periods, import tariffs will be eliminated on all industrial products, and most agricultural products, with a few exceptions, such as rice.
The EU and the Republic of Indonesia signed on 29 June 2011 in Brussels an aviation agreement which will restore a sound legal basis for developing future aviation relations between Indonesia and EU Member States.
European Commission invites nominations for disabled-friendly cities
The European Commission has today opened nominations for the second edition of the “ Access City Award ” – the European award for disabled-friendly cities. The annual prize aims to showcase cities that lead the way in improving access for people with disabilities in fundamental aspects of city life. It will highlight the most successful initiatives allowing disabled people to participate fully in society and have equal access to their rights. The award is part of the EU's wider effort to create a barrier-free Europe. Improved accessibility brings lasting economic and social benefits to cities, especially in the context of demographic ageing. Cities with at least 50,000 inhabitants have until 20 September to submit a nomination. Approximately 80 million Europeans have a disability of some kind. With the ageing of our societies, the number of people with a disability or those with reduced mobility is growing every day. At the same time, four out of five Europeans live in towns and cities. Giving everyone access to transport, public spaces, services and technology has become a real challenge. Improving access brings economic and social benefits and contributes to the sustainability and inclusiveness of the urban environment. www.accesscityaward.eu
Health Claims: Commission welcomes publication of EFSA's fifth set of opinions on Article 13 claims
The European Commission welcomes the publication of the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) fifth set of opinions covering more than 530 health claims on food products (also known as "Article 13 claims"). It follows the publication of the first four series of opinions published on 1 October 2009, 25 February 2010, 19 October 2010 and 8 April 2011. The five sets of opinions cover more than 2,700 health claims of the approximately 4,600 submitted for scientific advice. In total, the Member States submitted to the Commission more than 44,000 health claims. The Commission consolidated these into a list of approximately 4,600. Due to the large number of health claims received and the delay in submissions by stakeholders to Member States, the deadline of 31 January 2010, stipulated in the Health Claims Regulation, for the adoption of a list of permitted health claims could not be met. Five more opinions on 35 remaining claims are expected to be published in July. The publication of these five opinions, in line with the review of the approach announced on 27 September 2010 ( IP/10/1176), will finalise the assessment of all claims on substances other than the so-called "botanicals." The Commission will then establish in one step the list of permitted health claims for all substances other than "botanicals." Subsequently, consideration will be given to the claims concerning the "botanicals" (which include, for example, Linum usitatissimum, Aloe barbadensis, Hypericum perforatum, Echinacea pallida). The Commission foresees an adoption of the Health Claims Regulation by early 2012. For more information please visit: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/ndaclaims/ndaclaims13.htm and http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/labellingnutrition/claims/health_claims_en.htm
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Italian luxury goods company Bulgari by the Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton Group ("LVMH") of France. The Commission's investigation showed that the acquisition would not significantly alter the competitive structure of the markets concerned, as Bulgari holds small market shares only and LVMH will continue to face effective competition from several other manufacturers of luxury goods. Bulgari and LVMH both produce and sell high-end watches, jewellery, perfumes and cosmetics, as well as fashion and leather goods, including accessories. LVMH owns and operates several selective distribution retail chains.The investigation showed that the combined activities of LVMH and Bulgari do not give rise to high market shares under any plausible market definition.The Commission therefore concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or any substantial part of it.
State aid: Commission approves extension of the Portuguese guarantee and bank recapitalisation schemes for credit institutions
The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, the extension until 31 December 2011 of the Portuguese recapitalisation scheme and the Portuguese guarantee scheme, as well as an increase in the budget of the schemes respectively to EUR 12 billion and EUR 35 billion. The extensions are in line with the guidance on State aid to financial institutions during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 , IP/08/1901 and IP/10/1636) In particular, they are necessary to address the current economic situation in Portugal and they are limited in time and scope. The Portuguese recapitalisation scheme was initially approved on 20 May 2009 (see IP/09/818) and extended on 17 March 2010 (see MEX/10/0317) and on 23 July 2010 (see IP/10/997). It was extended a third time on 21 January 2011 (see MEX/11/0121). The Portuguese guarantee scheme was initially approved on 29 October 2008 (see IP/08/1601) and prolonged on 22 February 2010 (see MEX/10/0222), on 23 July 2010 (see IP/10/997), and on 21 January 2011 (see MEX/11/0121).
Commission clears acquisition by Reggeborgh of North Sea Group
The European Commission has granted clearance under the Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control by Reggeborgh Invest B.V. over North Sea Group Beheer B.V., both of the Netherlands, by way of purchase of shares. As a result of the transaction, North Sea Group, which is currently jointly controlled by Reggeborgh and Stichting Administratiekantoor Van der Sluijs Groep Holding, will be acquired by Reggeborgh. North Sea Group is active in trade in and the supply of petroleum products for land and waterbound use in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany while Reggeborgh is active in the construction industry. The transaction was examined by the Commission under the simplified merger review procedure.
Community Fisheries Control Agency : positive assesment of joint control plans in EU fisheries
During its annual seminar with Member States and the Commission, the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA) in Vigo, Spain, assessed the effectiveness of 'joint deployment plans'. Such plans are the main tool at EU level to ensure operational coordination of the fisheries control and inspection activities by Member States in order to use human and material resources in the best and most efficient way. Plans have been drawn up and carried out for a number of important fisheries such as cod in the Baltic Sea, and bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic. The seminar concluded that European added-value has been generated when compared with stand-alone Member States operations, namely by promoting uniformity and effectiveness of control, increased transparency of the control activities, a level playing field for the fishing industry and cost-effective use of national control resources. The meeting also served as the public farewell of the first CFCA Executive Director, Harm Koster, who approaches the end of his mandate. More information: http://cfca.europa.eu/pages/home/press_releases/pressrelease_290611_en.htm
New "Agricultural Markets Brief" on high commodity prices and volatility
The Commission's DG Agriculture has published a new "Agricultural Markets Brief", which looks at recent factors driving price developments in agricultural markets over the long term. Changes to the fundamentals of agricultural markets including rising demand, slowdown in yield growth and growing sensitivity to stock changes are all factors which have contributed to upward pressure on prices and rising volatility but they do not give the full picture. Factors outside of agriculture including the increasing linkage with energy markets and the co-movement across commodity markets also strongly influence the volatility observed in agricultural markets. Efforts should be concentrated on improvement in market transparency and attempts to reverse the slowdown in agricultural productivity growth. This Brief and background data is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/analysis/tradepol/commodityprices/index_en.htm
Euro-area citizens and residents have selected the winning design of a new euro coin that will be issued next January to commemorate 10 years of euro banknotes and coins. Close to 35 000 people voted in an online competition from a choice of five designs that had been pre-selected by a professional jury following a design competition among citizens from the whole euro area. The new commemorative 2-euro coin will be issued by all euro-area Member States. It is estimated that some 90 million of these coins will be put into circulation.
Euro area annual inflation is expected to be 2.7% in June 2011 according to a flash estimate issued by Eurostat. It was 2.7% in May. Euro area inflation is measured by the Monetary Union Index of Consumer Prices (MUICP). To compute the MUICP flash estimates, Eurostat uses early price information relating to the reference month from Member States for which data are available as well as early information about energy prices. The flash estimation procedure for the MUICP combines historical information with partial information on price developments in the most recent months to give a total index for the euro area. No detailed breakdown is available. Experience has shown the procedure to be reliable (19 times exactly anticipating the inflation rate and 5 times differing by 0.1 over the last two years). Further information can be found in Eurostat News Release 113/2001 of 5 November 2001.
The European Union has a small budget, but with a big impact for Europe's citizens. The Commission's proposal for a multi-annual budget for 2014-2020 responds to today's concerns and tomorrow's needs. It focuses on priority funding at the EU level that provides true added value. For instance, a Connecting Europe Facility that funds cross-border projects in energy, transport and information technology to strengthen the backbone of our internal market; significantly more money for Research and Innovation to invest in our competitiveness; and more funds for Europe’s youth – these are just some of the new elements in the Commission proposal. At the same time, this innovative EU budget remains focused: The overall amount proposed for the next seven years is €1,025 billion in commitments (1.05% of the EU GNI) and €971.5 billion (1% of EU GNI) in payments.
Brussels, 29 June 2011 - The Commission has today backed a series of proposed changes to staff rules in a continuing drive for greater efficiency and economy.
The current economic climate calls for ambitious measures not only from public administrations in Member States, but also from European institutions and agencies. So the Commission has authorised Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič to start consulting staff representatives on draft proposals which would lead to savings of more than €1 billion by 2020. The Commission will present a formal proposal to the Council and European Parliament later this year.
The European Commission has authorised, under the EU Treaty’s rules on State aid, a plan by the German government to exempt selected groups of passengers to and from certain German islands from a newly-created tax on air transport. This is to avoid penalising islanders who already pay more comparatively for air travel.
The European Commission has cleared under EU state aid rules a joint plan for Anglo Irish Bank (Anglo) and Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) whereby they will be merged and resolved over a period of 10 years. The two Irish financial institutions received massive state support during the crisis after they overexposed themselves to the commercial loan and property development sector, which eventually caused their downfall. Their exit from the market deals with the distortions of competition caused by the support.
La Commission européenne a conclu que la garantie illimitée d'État conférée à l'lnstitut Français du Pétrole Énergies Nouvelles (« IFP ») par son statut d'établissement public constitue une aide d'État compatible avec le Marché Intérieur, pour autant que les activités économiques de l'IFP soient uniquement exercées à titre accessoire et demeurent en lien avec son activité principale de recherche publique.
La Commission européenne a conclu que la procédure de transferts d'équipement des ports publics français au secteur privé permet de garantir des transferts aux prix du marché. Ces transferts ne constituent donc pas des aides d'Etat. Cette décision repose sur les engagements pris par la France pour renforcer le contrôle sur les conditions de transfert des équipements, répondant ainsi aux doutes exprimés par la Commission en avril 2009 (voir IP/09/561) .
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules Slovenia's plan to grant financial support towards the closure of the Trbovlje Hrastnik coal mine located in the central region of Zasavska. The Commission found the plan to be in line with the December 2010 Council Decision 2010/787/EU on state aid to facilitate the closure of uncompetitive hard coal mines (see PRES/10/344 and IP/10/984).
Brussels, 30 June 2011 - The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed merger of the respective Polish bank subsidiaries of Raiffeisen Bank International AG of Austria (RBI) and EFG Eurobank Ergasias S.A. of Greece. . The Commission's investigation has shown that the merger of Raiffeisenbank Polska S.A (RBPL) and Polbank, does not raise any competition concerns in the Polish banking and insurance markets where both are relatively small to medium players Under the proposed transaction each of RBI and EFG would as a first step exchange shares in their respective Polish subsidiaries RBPL and Polbank and then as a second step, merge Polbank into RBPL.
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