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EXME 11 / 20.12
Midday Express of 2011-12-20
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Against the backdrop of Europe's persistent jobless youth rate of 21%, the Commission is pleading for Member States, workers' representatives and business to join forces and take decisive action to tackle youth unemployment. The new 'Youth Opportunities Initiative', adopted by the Commission today, calls on Member State to work on preventing early school leaving; helping youngsters develop skills relevant to the labour market; ensuring work experience and on-the-job training and helping young people find a first good job. The Commission is also urging Member States to make better use of the European Social Fund which still has €30billion of funding uncommitted to projects. In addition, the Commission has put forward a set of concrete actions to be financed directly by EU funds.
The European Commission has today adopted a Quality Framework for Services of General Interest (SGI) in the EU. They provide an essential safety net for citizens in areas such as health care, care for the elderly, child care, assistance to disabled persons and social housing. They also have a key role to play in the knowledge economy in the area of schools, training centres and university. At a time when public authorities are confronted with the need for fiscal consolidation, it is essential to ensure that right framework is in place so that high-quality services can be provided as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
After extensive public consultations, the European Commission has adopted a revised package of EU state aid rules for the assessment of public compensation for services of general economic interest (SGEI). The new package clarifies key state aid principles and introduces a diversified and proportionate approach with simpler rules for SGEIs that are small, local in scope or pursue a social objective, while better taking account of competition considerations for large cases.
Les pouvoirs publics dépensent chaque année 18% du PIB en biens, services et travaux. En ces temps de restrictions budgétaires et de difficultés économiques dans la plupart des États membres, encore plus que d'habitude, la politique des marchés publics doit assurer une utilisation optimale de ces fonds, afin de soutenir la croissance et la création d'emplois et contribuer ainsi à la réalisation des objectifs de la stratégie Europe 2020. La révision des directives relatives aux marchés publics annoncée par la Commission aujourd'hui fait partie d'un programme d'ensemble visant à une modernisation en profondeur de la commande publique dans l'Union européenne. Ce programme comporte, outre la révision des directives, une directive sur les concessions, jusqu'à présent non régulées au niveau européen et qui présentent des spécificités justifiant un texte séparé, tout en gardant la cohérence avec la réforme générale.
The European Commission has today finalised a series of aid programmes to support reforms in countries wishing to join the EU. The funding, totalling almost EUR 1 billion, comes under the 2011 budget of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA), and will be available to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, as well as Kosovo , Turkey, and Iceland.
The European Commission decided today to extend the list of goods subject to export controls, to prevent their use for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. As of today, trade of certain anaesthetics, such as sodium thiopental, which can be used in lethal injections, to countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty, will be tightly controlled. Furthermore, the scope of the EU regulation has been enlarged to include other products such as spike batons that previously were not prohibited.
Après un examen approfondi, la Commission européenne a conclu que jusqu'à présent le mécanisme de financement des retraites du personnel fonctionnaire de France Télécom est compatible avec les règles de l'UE relatives aux aides d'Etat du fait que les contributions réduites ont été compensées par le paiement d'une soulte de 5,7 milliards d'euros par France Télécom à l'Etat français en 1997. Cette décision est, néanmoins, subordonnée à l'alignement complet, à partir de juillet 2012, du calcul de la contribution annuelle de France Télécom sur celui de ses concurrents. La décision n'affecte en rien les contributions des salariés, ni le montant de leur retraite.
The European Commission found the second restructuring plan of Bank of Ireland (BoI) to be in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the restructuring plan contains a major restructuring effort ensuring that BoI will refocus its business model and will considerably reduce its dependence on wholesale funding. The plan ensures a sustainable future for the bank without continued state support and includes appropriate measures to minimise distortion of competition.
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules support measures of up to €400 million to be provided by the United Kingdom for the creation of social investment company Big Society Capital (BSC). The object of BSC is to invest in social companies, mainly Social Investment Finance Intermediaries (SIFIs) that have difficulties in procuring affordable funding from the markets. The Commission found the measure to be in line with EU state aid rules, in particular because BSC's business model contains a number of safeguards to ensure that its investments do not distort competition at the level of the SIFIs. Moreover, SIFIs are required to re-invest the capital by lending to frontline social sector organisations under strict conditions, to avoid crowding out private investors and distorting competition. The Commission approved the measure for five years.
The European Commission found a resolution scheme for distressed credit unions in Ireland to be in line with EU rules that allow aid to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State. In particular, the measure is limited in time and scope, ensures adequate burden-sharing and contains safeguards to avoid undue distortions of competition.
The European Commission has decided to refer Italy to the Court of Justice (CoJ) for not complying with a Commission decision of October 2009 finding that Ixfin S.p.A., a company active in the sector of contract manufacturing, call centres and logistics, had received unlawful state aid and needed to repay it. To date, Italy has not recovered the aid from Ixfin, which has been in bankruptcy proceedings since 2006.
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules the split-up of Westdeutsche Landesbank (WestLB), which will lead to sale and eventual winding down of its banking activities. According to the restructuring plan, submitted by the German government with the agreement of the shareholders, the so-called Verbundbank activities will be carved out in order to accommodate the Verbundbank. On 30 June 2012, all assets and liabilities not carved out to the Verbundbank or sold will be transferred to the EAA. After 30 June 2012, WestLB will not engage in new banking business and will be transformed into a servicing platform including a run-down vehicle that holds legacy positions transferred to or hedged by EAA. A reduced number of employees will continue in the asset management and servicing company.
State aid: Commission approves prolongation of guarantee scheme for export contracts in Poland
The European Commission has approved the prolongation until 31 December 2016 of a guarantee scheme to cover certain risks of Polish exporters not performing on their export contracts, initially authorised on 18 July 2007 (see case N105/2007). Guarantees can be issued at the request of Polish exporters for the direct benefit of foreign customers. The Commission concluded that the extension of the guarantee scheme does not constitute state aid as it is in line with its notice on guarantees (see IP/08/764), in particular because the scheme is self-financing and the premiums charged cover the normal risks associated with granting the guarantees, the administrative costs of the scheme, and a yearly remuneration of an adequate capital.
State aid: Commission approves sale of RZB shares by Hypo Niederösterreich
The European Commission has authorised Hypo NOE Gruppe Bank AG (Hypo Niederösterreich) to sell its 1.17% stake in Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich AG (RZB) to several private buyers in accordance with a share purchase agreement concluded on 12 October 2011. The Commission concluded that the transaction does not constitute state aid within the meaning of Article 107(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), because there is no indication that the sale was carried out below market value. The Austrian authorities notified the sale for purposes of legal certainty.
Commission clears joint control of TAG by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and OMV Gas
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the proposed acquisition by Italy's Cassa Depositi e Prestiti ("CDP") of the 89% stake owned by the Italian company ENI in Trans Austria Gasleitung ("TAG"), a joint venture currently jointly controlled by Austrian OMV Gas and ENI. CDP is a joint-stock company under public control of the Italian Government. OMV Gas is active in oil exploration and production, refining and distribution of mineral oil products, petrochemical industry, exploration production and distribution of gas. TAG is active in the provision of natural gas transportation services to Italy and, to a lesser extent, of gas transportation services to customers in Austria. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
EU27 real agricultural income per worker has increased by 6.7% in 2011, after an increase of 12.6% in 2010, according to first estimates issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. This increase results from a rise in real agricultural income (+3.9%), together with a fall in agricultural labour input (-2.7%). These estimates for the EU27 are based on data supplied by the national authorities in the Member States. Between 2005 and 2011, EU27 real agricultural income per worker is estimated to have increased by 18.3%, while agricultural labour input has fallen by 15.2%. The increase in EU27 real agricultural income in 2011 is mainly the result of a rise in the value of agricultural output at producer prices in real terms (+7.5%), while input costs in real terms grew (+9.7%). The falls in the real value of subsidies net of taxes (-1.2%) and in depreciation in real terms (-0.1%) have a marginal impact. Real agricultural income per worker in 2011 is estimated to have risen in 19 Member States and to have fallen in eight. The highest rises are expected in Romania (+43.7%), Hungary (+41.8%), Ireland (+30.1%), Slovakia (+25.3%), Luxembourg (+25.2%), the Czech Republic (+23.5%), Bulgaria (+23.2%) and Denmark (+20.2%), and the largest falls in Belgium (-22.5%), Malta (-21.2%), Portugal (-10.7%) and Finland (-9.6%).
Commission appoints new Director General for DG Communication
The Commission has today appointed Mr Gregory Paulger as Director General for DG Communication. Mr Paulger, who is British, is currently Director for 'Youth and Sport' in the Education and Culture Directorate General. He previously held Director posts in both the Education and Culture DG and the Information Society and Media DG. He was Head of Cabinet to Commissioner Viviane Reding from 1999-2003 and previously Member of Cabinet of Commissioner Jean Dondelinger. Mr Paulger, who is married with two children, also holds the honorary title of "Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" of the French Republic. The appointment takes effect on 1 January 2012.
Vice President Tajani at the Mercosur Summit in Uruguay
Today, 20 December, Vice President of the European Commission Antonio Tajani, responsible for industry and entrepreneurship, is representing the European Commission, on behalf of President Jose Manuel Barroso, for the annual Summit of the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil), in Montevideo, Uruguay. During the visit, Vice President Tajani also met with President of Uruguay José Mujica Cordano, Minister for Tourism and Sports Héctor Lescano, and Minister for Industry, Energy and Mining Roberto Kreimerman and signed important agreements in areas of industrial cooperation, SMEs, raw materials, standardization and tourism.
Today, the European Commission has adopted a new assistance package for the Occupied Palestinian Territory for 2012, which amounts to €160.4 million.
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the Spanish supplier of the baking industry Panrico by US based alternative investment manager Oaktree. The Commission found that the transaction would not raise competition concerns because there are no overlaps between the parties' activities.
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