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EXME 11 / 21.12
Midday Express of 2011-12-21
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Today, the European Commission announced additional funding for projects targeting the most off-track Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 36 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. This additional funding will focus on reducing hunger and child mortality and securing better maternal health and drinking water and sanitation facilities. With today's decision the EU is delivering on its €1 billion MDG initiative, announced in September 2010, at the UN MDGs Summit in New York.
"Quality statistics are vital for evidence based decision-making and the sound implementation of EU policies. They are also important in helping citizens to understand the EU and become involved in the democratic process", said Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner responsible for Eurostat.
Mr Dušan Chrenek will take office as head of representation in Slovakia on 1 January 2012. "I welcome the appointment of Mr Chrenek as Head of Representation in Bratislava. He is going to represent the European Commission in Slovakia in challenging times. I am sure that he will contribute significantly to our efforts to provide high quality service and information to all EU citizens," said EU Vice-President Viviane Reding.
Today, the European Commission proposed the EU accept Russia and seven more countries as parties to an international convention designed to prevent child abduction. The 1980 Hague Convention ensures the prompt return of children abducted by one parent to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights. International abduction by a parent is a global problem affecting several thousand children each year. Today's move will effectively extend protection for children in the EU to eight new countries: Russia, Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Gabon, Morocco, Seychelles and Singapore. The Convention has been ratified by 86 countries to date, including all EU members.
The European Union easily explained: Commission launches website dedicated to children
The European Commission has today launched a special website – the 'Kids' Corner' – dedicated to children and young people. The website includes information about children's rights as well as games, quizzes and information about the EU and its Member States. It was first announced in the EU's Agenda for the Rights of the Child ( IP/11/156). The Kids' Corner is specifically written in a style children can understand. Children can easily learn important facts and figures about the EU, its history and its countries through games and quizzes in 22 EU languages. While Europe and its future are much discussed in the media today, it is not always easy to understand why, and how, certain decisions are made. It is clear that decisions taken on a European level have a direct influence on the daily lives of all Europeans – young and old. That is why knowledge and learning about the EU should be directed at everyone – not just adults. It is also important for young people to understand what the EU is and how it functions. The Commission therefore decided in its Agenda for the Rights of the Child to create a single entry point for children on the Europa website. The Kids' Corner offers: a 'games and quizzes' section where children can learn more about Europe in a fun way; a facts and figures section to explain what the EU is all about; a section about children's rights which contains games, videos and information designed for two separate age groups. Children and teenagers can learn about their rights, for example, the right to be heard and to receive information, and, as a result, take an active part in shaping their own future. The Kids' Corner also links up and integrates the existing website 'Teachers' Corner', which contains material so that teachers can explain how the EU was founded and how it functions. For more information: http://europa.eu/kids-corner/
Feed and food safety: Reallocation of € 14 millions for the support of EU Reference Laboratories in 2012
The Commission has today adopted the Commission's proposal endorsed by the Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal health held on 6th December 2011 to earmark € 14 millions for the support of EU Reference Laboratories (EU-RLs) in 2012. With this financial support the European Commission encourages the EU-RLs to continue with their active contribution in providing technical support to the Commission and the Member States towards implementation of EU policies for consumer protection and animal health, such as the excellent work done by the EU Reference laboratory for Escherichia coli to manage the 2011 crisis. There are 43 designated European Union Reference Laboratories. EU-RLs provide essential scientific and technical support in the area of feed and food safety and animal health and are the main pillar of the EU laboratory network comprising EU-RLs, National reference Laboratories and Routine Laboratories. The functioning of the EU-RLs is co-financed by the annual EU grant and the Member States hosting the EU-RL, this later covering in particular costs related to buildings and facilities. EU-RLs have submitted their 2012 work programmes and corresponding budget estimates that have been assessed by the Commission considering EU priorities and Member State needs. In 2012, the EU-RLs will receive EU grants totalling of €14 million in order to co-finance their activities at the rate of 100 % of eligible costs as described in the work programmes. For more information please visit: http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/controls/reference_laboratories/index_en.htm and http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/diseases/laboratories/index_en.htm
Commission publishes draft State aid rules related to EU Emissions Trading Scheme for 2013-2020
The European Commission has published a draft set of temporary measures aimed at enabling Member States to compensate under EU state aid rules for the risk of carbon leakage as defined in the new Directive on the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) for the period 2013-2020. ‘Carbon leakage’ describes the prospect of an increase in global greenhouse gas emissions when companies shift production outside the EU because they cannot pass on the cost increases induced by the EU ETS to their customers without a significant loss of market share or profits. Based on the available facts and on input from a public consultation, the Commission has identified a small number of sectors that are at significant risk of carbon leakage as a result of increased CO2 costs in electricity prices. These sectors should be able to receive compensation that is limited to the minimum necessary. The Commission proposal aims at balancing three objectives: to prevent a significant risk of carbon leakage due to the increase of CO2 costs in the electricity prices, to preserve the price signals created by the EU ETS to achieve cost-effective decarbonisation and to minimise competition distortions in the internal market by avoiding subsidy races within the EU at a time of economic uncertainty and budgetary discipline. The draft also contains proposals on Investment aid for highly efficient power plants, including new power plants which are ready for the environmentally safe capture and geological storage of CO2 (CCS-ready) and on certain derogations from the auctioning principle for the power sector in some new Member States and corresponding investments for the modernisation of electricity generation. The Commission and the Member States will discuss the draft rules in January 2012. The final rules are expected to be adopted during the first quarter of 2012. The draft rules are available at: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2012_emissions_trading/index_en.html
Commission approves extension of Portuguese guarantee scheme for credit institutions
The European Commission has approved until 30 June 2012 the extension of a scheme allowing to provide state guarantees for credit institutions in Portugal. 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), on 21 January 2011 (see MEX/11/0121) and on 30 June 2011 ( MEX/11/0630). The Commission found the prolongation of the measures to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (IP/08/1495) as revised in its Communication of 30 December 2011 on the application, from 1st of January 2012, of state aid rules to support measures in favour of banks in the context of the crisis ( IP/11/1488). The extended measures are well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The Commission, therefore, concluded that the guarantees are compatible with Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), that allows granting aid to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state.
Commission consults on review of R&D&I rules
The European Commission is inviting stakeholders' comments on the review of EU state aid rules for supporting research, development and innovation (R&D&I). The Commission is interested in statistical information and qualitative comments on national R&D&I policies, at large, and on national state aid support measures for R&D&I, in particular. On the basis of the replies received to the published questionnaire, the Commission will prepare a first draft of a revised EU Framework for State aid for R&D&I which it expects to publish in the second half of 2012 for consultation. The review was launched in August 2011 by the publication of a mid-term review on the application of the current framework that will expire at the end of 2013. Comments can be submitted until 24 February 2012. Previous documents and the consultation are available at: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2012_stateaid_rdi/index_en.html
Commission clears acquisition by Aviva and Pelayo of joint control over PMV
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control over PMV by Aviva and its current parent Pelayo. PMV, as well as its two parents Aviva and Pelayo, are based in Spain and provide insurance services in this country. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
The European Commission today proposed legislation to strengthen European co-operation in civil protection which will provide a more efficient, effective and rapid response to disasters as well as enhanced prevention and preparedness actions. The proposals will allow Europe to move beyond the current system of ad hoc co-ordination to one where assistance is pre-planned and where delivery can be guaranteed wherever a disaster strikes.
Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission, today announced her intention to fill three positions in the European External Action Service. Aivo Orav will become Head of the EU Delegation to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Samuel Žbogar will become Head of the EU Office in Kosovo. John Gatt-Rutter will become EU Representative to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the creation of a joint venture between Volkswagen Financial Services AG ("VWFS") and the Belgian company s.a. D'Ieteren n.v. for the provision of financial services related to the sale of Volkswagen group vehicles on the Belgian market. The Commission concluded that the creation of the joint venture, to be known as Volkswagen D’Ieteren Finance SA ("VDFin"), would not raise competition concerns because the proposed transaction will not significantly alter the market structures and the merged entity will face competition from other players.
The European Commission cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Infront Sports and Media AG of Switzerland by private equity Bridgepoint Capital Group Limited of the United Kingdom. The Commission concluded that the transaction will not raise competition concerns due to the limited overlaps between the parties' activities and to the fact that sufficient alternative sources of supply will continue to be available to the merged entity's customers in all markets concerned.
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Spicers Ltd.'s business of office supplies in continental Europe (Spicers CE) by the Spanish company Unipapel S.A.. The Commission's investigation confirmed that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns because of sufficient competitive constraint on all markets where the merged entity will operate.
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