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EXME 12 / 06.02
Midday Express of 2012-02-06
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
State aid: Commission approves extension of bank support schemes in Greece
The European Commission has authorised, under EU State aid rules, an extension until 30 June 2012 of two support schemes for financial institutions in Greece. The first scheme concerns the recapitalisation of credit institutions by the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund and was initially approved in September 2010 (see IP/10/1092). The other scheme is a package of measures that was first approved in November 2008, consisting of a recapitalisation scheme, a guarantee scheme and a liquidity scheme (see IP/08/1742). The Commission found the extended schemes to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis, (see IP/08/1495 , IP/08/1901 and IP/11/1488) in particular because they are limited in time and scope and foresee sufficient safeguards to limit distortions of competition. They are, therefore, an appropriate means for remedying a serious disturbance in the Greek economy and, as such, are compatible with the internal market under Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
Commission clears acquisition of joint control of Tokyo Gas over T-Power
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control by Tokyo Gas over T-Power, a full-function joint venture operating a gas-fired cycle gas turbine power station in Belgium. As a result of the transaction, T-Power will be jointly-owned by Tokyo Gas, Tessenderlo Chemie, Siemens AG and ITOCHU. Tokyo Gas is an integrated energy company primarily active in Japan. Tessenderlo Chemie is internationally present as a manufacturer of chemical and specialty products. Siemens is a electronics and electrical engineering company. ITOCHU is a Japanese group active in a broad range of industries, including business investments in energy projects in around the world. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Tax Coordination: TPG discusses FATCA, VAT and national tax reforms
Improving and accelerating tax coordination in key areas that can contribute to economic stability and growth is the focus of today's meeting of the Tax Policy Group (TPG) in Brussels. Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for Taxation, Customs, Anti-Fraud and Audit, is chairing the TPG, which brings together high level representatives of EU Finance Ministers. The Group will be updated on the Commission's progress to find a pro-business approach with the USA in the application of the FATCA legislation in the EU. The future of VAT is also a topic for discussion today, including tackling VAT fraud and evasion. The Commission's Communication on VAT last December will help to provide the basis for this discussion (see IP/11/1508). Finally, the TPG will exchange views on the tax policy elements of national reform programmes and consider how to strengthen tax coordination in the context of the European Semester, in line with the AGS orientations (see MEMO/11/821). This is the fifth meeting of the Tax Policy Group, which was re-launched by Commissioner Šemeta in October 2010 ( IP/10/1312).
Today, Eurostat publishes for the first time a News Release with quarterly data on government debt. This new euroindicator complements the annual data already published in the twice yearly EDP notifications by providing a more short term trend in government debt for the euro area and the EU as well as for the Member States. This new quarterly euro-indicator will be issued around four months after the end of the quarter of reference. Annual EDP data notified by Member States in April and October are the subject of a thorough verification by Eurostat, which can lead to a revision of past quarterly data. At the end of the third quarter of 2011, the government debt to GDP ratio in the euro area (EA17) stood at 87.4%, down compared with 87.7% at the end of the second quarter of 2011. In the EU27 the ratio increased from 81.7% to 82.2%. Compared with the third quarter of 2010, the government debt to GDP ratio rose in both the euro area (from 83.2% to 87.4%) and the EU27 (from 78.5% to 82.2%). At the end of the third quarter of 2011, securities other than shares accounted for 79.3% of euro area and 79.7% of EU27 general government debt. Loans made up 18.0% of euro area and 15.8% of EU27 government debt. Currency and deposits represented 2.8% of euro area and 3.8% of EU27 government debt. Due to the involvement of EU governments in financial assistance to certain Member States, and in order to obtain a more complete picture of the evolution of government debt, quarterly data on intergovernmental lending (IGL) is also published. The share of IGL in GDP at the end of the third quarter of 2011 is similar for both the euro area and the EU27, amounting to 0.8% and 0.6% of GDP respectively.
Commissioners Piebalgs and Potočnik participate in the EU civil society event ahead Rio+20
Tomorrow, Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissioner for Development, and Janez Potočnik, EU Commissioner for Environment, will underline the link between fighting poverty and sustainable development at the conference "EU Civil Society on the road to Rio+20". The event is organised by the European Economic and Social Committee and participants include representatives of civil society organisations and business groups. The aim of the conference is to voice organised civil society's position ahead of Rio+20. Commissioner Piebalgs will highlight that sustainable development is a central point of his recent policy proposal "An Agenda for Change". He will stress that there is a clear link between the green economy and the fight against poverty as both issues are about access to drinking water, food, sustainable energy and healthy environment. Commissioner Potočnik will underline the need for a 'green economy roadmap' at the Rio conference, defining a common vision and charting a path towards it. The event will take place one day ahead of official European launch of the United Nations Year of Sustainable Energy for All in Brussels. Commissioner Piebalgs is a member of the High Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All, under the leadership of UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.
Nuclear Waste: European citizens have a say on final disposal of nuclear waste
European citizens are invited to contribute to how research and development for disposing of radioactive waste is being organised at European level. The Implementing Geological Disposal Technical platform (IGD-TP) is carrying out a public consultation on its deployment plan until 13 February. The platform brings together European scientific research centres, waste management agencies, industry and international organizations and civil society. It aims at having the first operating geological disposal facility for hazardous waste in Europe by 2025. Highly active radioactive waste from nuclear reactors has to be buried deep under the ground to protect the environment and guarantee the health and safety of citizens. The work therefore supports the implementation of the recently adopted EU Nuclear Waste Directive. The IGD Technology Platform is co-funded by the Euratom 7th Research Framework Programme. More information on the public consultation here: www.igdtp.eu
Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, will travel to Latin America this weekend for bilateral visits to Brazil and Mexico, the EU's two strategic partners in the region. She will hold talks with the Presidents and Foreign Ministers of both countries.
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