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Midday Express of 2012-02-23

European Commission - MEX/12/0223   23/02/2012

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EXME 12 / 23.02

Midday Express of 2012-02-23

News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne

Interim forecast: euro area in mild recession with signs of stabilisation

The unexpected stalling of the recovery in late 2011 is set to extend into the first two quarters of 2012. However, modest growth is predicted to return in the second half of the year. On an annual basis, real GDP in 2012 is now forecast to remain unchanged in the EU (0.0%) and to contract by 0.3% in the euro area. Uncertainty remains high and developments across countries are uneven. The inflation forecast for 2012 has been revised slightly upwards compared with the autumn, due to persistently high energy prices and increases in indirect taxes. It now stands at 2.3% in the EU and 2.1% in the euro area.

Commission Action team leaves for Slovakia

The European Commission Action team is travelling to Slovakia, one of the Member States with very high youth unemployment. Slovakia has 35.1 % of young people without a job. The skills mismatch on the labour market between demand and supply is one of the main causes. Other reasons for this high rate are an increasing proportion of Roma children at risk of not completing secondary education, weak links between the labour market and education institutions (the tertiary education attainment rate is well below EU average) and one of the lowest participation rates in the EU in lifelong learning. Unemployment affects especially the young Roma population and job seekers in central and eastern Slovak regions, caused by large regional disparities in the labour market. In order to best address youth unemployment, concrete actions will be discussed with a team of national experts to re-focus where possible the EU structural Funds that are still to be allocated. Short term solutions focussing on enhancing active labour market policies for youth, devising tailor-made career guidance, counselling and job search assistance, strengthening the role of apprenticeships and practical training, including via programmes as Erasmus and Leonardo da Vinci, or increase practical on-the-job learning in tertiary education, are few examples of concrete actions that can be considered. The dialogue will also focus on how to stimulate the SME sector as the key driver for growth and jobs. In Slovakia, the percentage of EU planned investments in SME represents 5.4% of all investments, compared to the EU average (16%). The Action team, working in cooperation with the national authorities and social partners, will focus on complementing and accelerating the implementation of measures taken in Slovakia, like the Action Plan on Youth policy (2012-2013) which is currently being drafted, or the joint action plan of the European Commission and Slovakia already in place and focused on speeding up the implementation of structural funds. The President of the European Commission, Mr Jose Manuel Barroso, launched this intensive joint effort at the informal meeting of the European Council on 30 January, calling for an extra effort to be made to tackle youth unemployment and prevent the alienation of young people from the labour market; and to focus on helping hard-pressed SMEs. The President proposed to create Action teams of Commission and national experts, with the involvement of national social partners, to develop targeted plans to be included in the National Reform Programmes which will be submitted to the European Commission (mid-April) as part of the European semester of EU economic governance. President Barroso will report back on initial results at the European Council on 1-2 March 2012.

Commission Action team leaves for Portugal

The European Commission Action team is travelling to Portugal, one of the Member States suffering from very high youth unemployment. In Portugal, 35.4 % of young people are without a job. This situation is mainly due to labour market segmentation, low level of qualifications or a high percentage of the long-term unemployment among the youngsters. Youth unemployment affects all young age groups and the impact is even greater among the less skilled ones. The economic crisis had an important impact and exacerbated these structural problems. The European Commission Action team will be working jointly with a Portuguese team of experts to see how the 14% of EU structural Funds that are still to be allocated could be re-focused to make a rapid difference to youth unemployment. For example, the funds could be used for short term measures targeted to traineeships, guidance towards professions relevant for labour market needs, support self-employment, strategies to reduce early school leaving or the labour code reform. The discussion will also focus on how to stimulate the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as the key driver for growth and jobs. Another way of supporting young people in the short and mid-term term is to offer more apprenticeships and traineeships for example via programmes Erasmus and Leonardo da Vinci. On all these aspects the Commission Action team will work with the national authorities and social partners to find the best solutions and deliver quick results on the ground. The work of the Action team is complementary to the special "Support Group" for Portugal, created by the European Commission in autumn 2011 that is already advising on accelerating the absorption of EU funds and their re-focussing on a broader range of growth-enhancing areas. Both are, thus, underpinning the implementation of the reforms undertaken within the EU/IMF programme which is designed to help Portugal's economy back on its feet. The President of the European Commission, Mr Jose Manuel Barroso, launched this intensive joint effort at the informal meeting of the European Council on 30 January, calling for an extra effort to be made to tackle youth unemployment and prevent the alienation of young people from the labour market; and to focus on helping hard-pressed SMEs. The President proposed to create Action teams of Commission and national experts, with the involvement of national social partners, to develop targeted plans to be included in the National Reform Programmes which will be submitted to the European Commission (mid-April) as part of the European semester of EU economic governance. President Barroso will report back on initial results at the European Council on 1-2 March 2012.

Fisheries: Commission acts to reduce discards in the West of Scotland

The European Commission today used emergency powers, under Article 7 of Council Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002 to reduce and avoid excessive discarding of haddock in the West of Scotland. The emergency measure adopted will permit the fishermen to land the catches rather than discard fish. It will come into force with an immediate effect for 6 months initially. Incidental catches of haddock have increased due to the recent progress in the recovery of the stock. To comply with rules on so-called "catch composition", fishermen would be forced to discard haddock for which they have a quota. Excessive discards were expected, thus threatening the stock's capacity to reproduce. Regulatory-induced discarding, if allowed to continue, would limit and endanger the further rebuilding of the stock. Removing the haddock from the catch composition rule allows exploiting the stock rationally, prevents excessive discarding, and protects the other stocks better. Recognising the urgency to protect the stock, the Commission has instigated emergency measures. This allows for a derogation to be enacted for 6 months initially, with the possibility to extend it for another 6 months. Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: "We will act swiftly to avoid unnecessary discards. Today's decision proves it. The situation in the fishery has changed, and the very rules that were adopted three years ago to protect the stock now threaten its sustainability. Thanks to the emergency powers, we can urgently amend the rules when the new developments require it." http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/news_and_events/press_releases/2012/20120223/index_en.htm

Merger: Commission clears creation of a joint venture between IHC MERWEDE and DEME

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the creation of a joint venture between IHC Merwede Holding B.V. of the Netherlands and the Belgian company DEME N.V. IHC is active in the development of technology and the construction of equipment for dredging activities, marine mining and various offshore activities. DEME provides services in the field of dredging, land reclamation, marine hydraulic engineering, and environmental sectors. The joint venture, to be known as OceanflORE will provide deep sea mining services. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

Autre matériel diffusé :

Discours par le Président Barroso: "Des décisions à la mise en œuvre" - rediffusion

Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Demetris Christofias, President of Cyprus - rediffusion

Statement by Vice-President Rehn on Hungary - rediffusion

Memo: "Commissioner Barnier appoints members of a High-level Expert Group on possible reforms to the structure of the EU banking sector" - rediffusion

Memo "Statement by Commissioner Karel De Gucht on ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)" - rediffusion

Memo "Remarks by High Representative Catherine Ashton at the end of the first meeting of the EU-Jordan Task Force, Dead Sea, Jordan" – rediffusion

Memo "Statement by Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik following the 12th special session of the UNEP Governing Council" – rediffusion

Speech by Vice-President Almunia on "Modernising State aid control" - European Economic and Social Committee – plenary meeting - Brussels, 23 February 2012

Speech by HR/VP Catherine Ashton: "Opening Remarks at the first meeting of the EU-Jordan Task Force" - rediffusion


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