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EXME 12 / 22.03
Midday Express of 2012-03-22
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Close to three quarters of Europeans think that the EU should propose additional measures to address water problems in Europe, according to a Eurobarometer survey published today. A sizeable majority – 68 % – think that water-related problems are serious. Droughts, floods and chemical pollution are seen as significant challenges. 62 % of citizens also feel they are not sufficiently well informed, while 67 % think the most effective means of reducing water-related problems would be awareness-raising about water-related problems. Heavier fines for polluters, a fairer pricing policy or financial incentives (tax breaks or subsidies) also gained support. Against that backdrop, 73 % of Europeans call for more measures at EU-level to reduce water problems.
In 2010 the EU’s share in global trade with mechanical engineering products amounted to 37.2%, which is around 3% above its share in 2000. This development contrasts to the performance of the US and Japan, whose shares fell from 25.6% to 17.4% and from 21.3% to 15.6%, whereas China's share increased to 13.0% from only 3% in 2000. These are some of the results of the new Study on the Competitiveness of the EU Mechanical Engineering Industry, presented in Brussels today. This comparison of the EU with its most important competing nations underscores the strength of its Mechanical Engineering enterprises (ME) – well-established suppliers in the global market – that successfully expanded their market shares although emerging competitors tapped into the market.
Responding to the continuous deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria and on its borders, the European Commission is allocating an additional €7 million to finance life-saving assistance to those who have been wounded or forced to flee the ongoing violence in the country. This brings the overall contribution by the Commission to €10 million.
The EU gives new support to the government of Namibia for improved disaster preparedness and emergency response
The European Commission has signed a decision to enhance Namibia's national capacity to coordinate and manage disaster response camps. The objective of this project is to support the government's efforts in disaster risk management in order to ensure that the needs of displaced populations in relocation sites are effectively identified and addressed. Last year Namibia suffered from the worst floods in decades, affecting close to 300,000 people and displacing 60,000, and to which the government reacted by declaring a state of emergency. The Commission's decision builds upon last year's EU emergency response that provided support in the form of relief items, emergency health, water and sanitation, and hygiene promotion. With the new funding, the EU assists the government the Republic of Namibia in laying the foundations for medium to long term disaster preparedness and for improved emergency response to national disasters. This 300,000 EUR project responds to the government's request to support its efforts to institutionalise camp coordination and camp management, as well as information management and planning for relocation sites.
EU uses Regional Development Fund to guarantee up to €1 billion worth of loans for Greek enterprises
EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn has yesterday in Athens added another element to boost growth by launching a new Guarantee Fund for Small and Medium-Sized enterprises (SMEs) for Greece. This new facility, agreed in cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) will help SMEs which have been worst hit by the crisis to access credit, by providing the banks in Greece with sufficient liquidity. This is another step to assist the country in optimising the use of EU Structural Funds: some €500 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) will guarantee loans with an expected leverage of €1 billion through EIB loans to SMEs. Banks will act as intermediary bodies. Commissioner Johannes Hahn commented: "Today's decision is crucial to put the Greek economy back on track and give the country new hope. The European Commission and the European Investment Bank have acted in great cooperation to find tailor made solutions for Greece and secure small businesses financing. This is of crucial importance to turn the wheel around and get business off the ground in Greece". This initiative comes in addition to a number of financial tools already designed to boost the Greek economy: up to the end of 2015, the total available credits to be injected to SMEs amount to about €4.352 billion including expected leverage (direct grants: €1.972 billion not yet disbursed, funding via the special programme for small companies JEREMIE : €360 million, ETEAN-Entrepreneurship Fund (National Fund for Entrepreneurship and Development): €900 million, ETEAN Guarantee: €160 million, new Guarantee Fund: €500 million). The European Commission has already created the temporary possibility for Greece to use an increased co-financing rate of up to 95% of EU contribution for the financing of projects with structural funds. Greece is now using this possibility, which has lead to payments of top-ups or advances to the country. This increased co-financing rate does not change the allocation of EU funds to Greece for the funding period of 2007 until 2013, which remains at 20,2 billion Euro. Greece only has to co-finance a lower part itself, to enable a quicker realisation of projects.
Commission clears creation of a joint venture by Compagnie de Saint- Gobain S.A. and Trakya Cam Sanayii A.Ş. in the automotive glass sector
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control by the French undertaking Compagnie de Saint- Gobain S.A. and the Turkish undertaking Trakya Cam Sanayii A.Ş. of a newly created Joint Venture which will engage in the manufacture and sale of automotive glass in Russia. Compagnie de Saint- Gobain is active in the production and sale of glass, ceramics, plastics and building materials and distribution of building materials. Trakya is active in the production and sale of glass, glassware, glass packaging and chemicals. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
From blast furnaces to biomedicine – Commissioner visits Luxembourg science park
European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn will tomorrow visit a university science park in Luxembourg that is helping turn the former steel town of Esch-Belval into a centre for bio-medical and other research. The "Cité des Sciences" is being built in the shadow of the town's former blast furnaces, closed in 1997, and is an outstanding example of the investment in innovation that Europe needs to secure the jobs of the future. While in Luxembourg, the Commissioner will meet also with Francois Biltgen, Minister of Culture, Higher Education and Research, and members of the Grand Duchy's High Commission for Research and Innovation (Comité supérieur de la Recherche et de l'Innovation) to discuss the Commission's proposals for the future of science and innovation policy in Europe.
The European Commission has asked the European Court of Justice to impose a fine on Portugal because it has not respected a 2010 Court judgment requiring it to follow EU telecoms rules when deciding who should provide universal service in Portugal. The Commission is suggesting a lump sum of €7 571/day and a daily penalty payment of €38 984 until the obligations are fulfilled.
The European Commission has decided to refer Hungary to the EU's Court of Justice because it continues to impose a specific tax on the turnover of telecoms operators in violation of EU rules. This tax was one element of a "crisis tax" introduced in October 2010 on three major sectors of the economy (retail commerce, telecoms and energy) to improve Hungary's budgetary position. The Commission considers this tax to be illegal, because EU telecoms rules allow sector-specific charges only to cover the specific costs of regulating the sector, and not to generate additional revenue for the central budget. Increasing the financial burden of telecoms operators could have an impact on consumers' bills, distort competition and impede investment in a sector expected to drive growth under the Digital Agenda.
The European Commission is referring Cyprus to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to take measures to ensure that serious breaches of EU environmental law are considered criminal offences and punished. The deadline for transposing Directive 2008/99/EC on the protection of the environment through criminal law was 26 December 2010. However, Cyprus has still not adopted the measures necessary to implement the Directive in national law. In accordance with the Lisbon Treaty, the Commission will ask the Court to impose on Cyprus a daily penalty payment of € 5909.40 until the adoption of all the necessary national measures for a complete transposition. Today, the Commission also sent a reasoned opinion – the second stage in the infringement procedure – to Belgium urging it to complete the transposition process for the same Directive within two months. If the Belgian authorities fail do so within this time period, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice. The Commission welcomes that Greece and Finland have communicated complete transposition measures adopted in their national laws. As a result, the Commission is now closing the infringement cases against these countries.
The European Commission has decided to refer Finland to the European Union’s Court of Justice for failing to fully implement a directive on the promotion of clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicles. So far, Finland has only partially brought its national legislation into line with this Directive although it was required to do so by 4 December 2010. The Directive has been transposed in mainland Finland but measures concerning the Province of Åland are still missing. In accordance with the Lisbon Treaty, the Commission will ask the Court to impose on Finland a daily penalty payment of €13,277.25 until the adoption of all the necessary national measures for a complete transposition.
The Commission considers that Bulgaria did not comply with the requirements of the Competition Directive when it assigned in 2009 the five spectrum lots available for digital terrestrial broadcasting via two contest procedures, limiting without justification the number of undertakings that could enter the market concerned. Moreover, the selection criteria of the contest procedures were disproportionate and therefore not in line with the requirements of the Competition, Authorisation and Framework Directives. Applicants were not allowed to have links with content providers (TV channels operators), including operators active only outside Bulgaria, or with broadcasting network operators. The decision takes the form of a reasoned opinion, the second step in infringement proceedings under Article 258 of the TFEU. Bulgaria now has two months to inform the Commission of the measures taken to address the breach of EU Law and allow effective entry into the Bulgarian digital terrestrial broadcasting industry. If the national authorities do not reply satisfactorily within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice.
The European Commission has requested Cyprus to clarify two issues linked to former Cypriot civil servants working in another EU member state or for the EU institutions. Both the age criteria in determining pension rights and the risk of facing disciplinary measures linked to moving to the EU institutions dissuades civil servants from exercising their right to free movement and therefore breaches EU law. (…) The Commission's request takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures. Cyprus now has two months to inform the Commission of measures it has taken to bring its legislation into line with EU law. Otherwise the Commission may decide to refer Cyprus to the Court of Justice of the EU.
The European Commission has requested Greece to recognise professional qualifications acquired in other Member States and end discrimination against holders of post-graduate diplomas obtained in other Member States. On the grounds that some non-Greek universities do not provide undergraduate studies, Greek rules refuse to recognise some post-graduate diplomas acquired in other Member States as equal to those originating from Greek universities.. By contrast, the Greek authorities do recognise post-graduate diplomas acquired at universities based in Greece. This results in indirect discrimination in the Greek labour market against those EU citizens holding such diplomas issued from other Member States. The Commission considers that an incorrect evaluation or the refusal to take into consideration a post-graduate diploma obtained in another Member State, leads to discrimination with regard to employment purposes, and in particular to working conditions, including professional benefits such as promotion, as required by Article 45 TFEU and, by analogy, by the judgment of the EU's Court of Justice in case C-586/08 . The condition therefore breaches EU law on free movement of workers. The request takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion' under EU infringement procedures. Greece now has two months to reply. If the reply is not satisfactory, the Commission may decide to refer Greece to the EU's Court of Justice.
The Energy labelling directive is a key instrument to promote energy efficiency and raising consumers' awareness. By giving consumers comparative information on the energy consumption of the products they buy, the energy label aims at triggering more cost-effective and energy saving decisions from consumers. In addition, it encourages manufacturers to develop products with a good energy efficiency rating. Moreover, defining common EU thresholds related to energy efficiency (B, A, A+ etc.) provides Member States with a clear framework when it comes to purchase requirements. This framework is useful also for other stakeholders such as private companies in their advertising activities. The EU legislation aims at giving these possibilities in all countries. Despite letters of formal notice sent on 18 July 2011, Czech Republic and Poland have not yet informed the Commission of the full transposition of the Directive into their national legislation. Therefore the Commission has today decided to send reasoned opinions to these Member States. If they do not comply with their legal obligations within two months, the Commission may refer them to the Court of Justice.
The Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) had to be implemented by Member States by 5 December 2010. The timely transposition of EU legislation is a priority for the Commission, especially since unnecessary delays in implementing may jeopardize the achievement of the EU renewable energy objective. However, Finland, Greece, and Poland have not yet informed the Commission of the full transposition of the Directive into their national legislation. Therefore, the Commission has today decided to send Reasoned Opinions to these Member States. If the Member States do not comply with their legal obligation within two months, the Commission may decide to refer them to the Court of Justice..
Italy is failing to comply with EU legislation on water protection. The shortcomings relate to various aspects of the integration of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) into national law. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion. If Italy fails to reply within two months, or its reply is deemed unsatisfactory, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.
The European Commission is sending Slovakia two reasoned opinions about its environmental legislation. The first concerns impact assessments, as the Commission is concerned that the potential environmental effects of the 2007-2010 road-building programme in Slovakia were not assessed as required by EU law. The second issue concerns a failure to transpose legislation on packaging and packaging waste. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore sending two reasoned opinions. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.
The European Commission is asking Poland to bring its national law into line with EU rules on proper disposal of end-of-life vehicles. The Commission is concerned about continued shortcomings and the slow pace of changes to Polish legislation. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion. Poland has two months to comply with the request. Failing this, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.
The European Commission is urging Sweden to bring its national legislation on assessing the effects of plans and programmes on the environment into line with EU rules. The current legislation on strategic environmental assessments in Sweden still contains shortcomings. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore sending a reasoned opinion. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.
The European Commission has today acted to ensure that two Member States (Bulgaria and Luxembourg) comply with their obligations to implement EU rules on defence procurement. The Commission is concerned that they have failed to fulfil their commitments under the Directive regarding procurement of arms, munitions and war material (and related works and services) for defence purposes, and also the procurement of sensitive supplies, works and services for security purposes. If the Directive is not fully implemented in all Member States, companies and taxpayers alike cannot reap the benefits of easier access to a transparent and open - hence more competitive - defence market. The Commission's request to Bulgaria and Luxembourg takes the form of a reasoned opinion. If the national authorities do not reply satisfactorily within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice and ask for the payment of financial penalties.
La Commission a décidé aujourd'hui de classer les procédures d'infraction contre la Belgique et le Luxembourg concernant la condition de nationalité pour l'accès à la profession de notaire. Les procédures contre l'Allemagne, la France et l'Autriche ont été classées en février. Ces Etats membres qui avaient été condamnés par la Cour de Justice dans ses arrêts du 24 mai 20111 ont mis fin à cette discrimination en modifiant leur législation. La Commission a aussi décidé de classer les procédures d'infraction contre la Lituanie et Malte qui ont aussi mis fin à leur condition de nationalité pour les notaires.
The European Commission has today requested Poland and Greece to complete the steps necessary to implement EU rules to ensure that airport charges are transparent and non-discriminatory. Following these rules is important to avoid passengers in the EU paying more than they should for air travel. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. If these Member States fail to inform the Commission within two months of the remaining measures taken to ensure full compliance with the law, the Commission could refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.
European Commission has today asked Austria and Portugal to adopt national legislation on the inland transport of dangerous goods in accordance with their obligations under European Union law. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. If Austria or Portugal fail to inform the Commission within two months of measures taken to ensure full compliance with the Directive, the Commission could refer the cases to the EU Court of Justice.
The European Commission has today asked Luxemburg to adopt national legislation on driving licences in accordance with its obligations under European Union law. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. If Luxemburg fails to inform the Commission within two months of measures taken to ensure full compliance with the Directive in this respect, the Commission could refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.
Aujourd'hui, la Commission européenne a adressé un avis motivé à la Belgique, Chypre et au Portugal pour non-communication des mesures de transposition de la Directive 2009/18 relative aux enquêtes après des accidents maritimes. Il s'agit d'une procédure normale en cas de non-communication persistante de ces mesures malgré une mise en demeure. L'envoi d'un avis motivé est la dernière étape procédurale avant la saisine éventuelle de la Cour de justice.
Aujourd'hui, la Commission européenne a adressé un avis motivé à l'Autriche, Chypre, la Hongrie et le Luxembourg pour non-communication des mesures de transposition de la Directive 2009/21 concernant le respect des obligations des Etats du pavillon. Il s'agit d'une procédure normale en cas de non-communication persistante de ces mesures malgré une mise en demeure. L'envoi d'un avis motivé est la dernière étape procédurale avant la saisine éventuelle de la Cour de justice.
The European Commission has today requested Cyprus to adopt national legislation on transportable pressure equipment in accordance with its obligations under European Union law. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. If Cyprus fails to inform the Commission within two months of measures taken to ensure full compliance with the Directive, the Commission could refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.
La Commission européenne a officiellement demandé aux autorités belges de modifier la législation fédérale et régionale en vigueur qui se révèle discriminatoire à l'égard des contribuables non-résidents dont les revenus sont entièrement ou presque entièrement perçus en Belgique. (…) Les demandes de la Commission prennent la forme d'avis motivés, la deuxième phase de la procédure d'infraction de l'UE. Pour chacun des deux cas, en l'absence de réponse satisfaisante dans un délai de deux mois, la Commission pourra traduire la Belgique devant la Cour de justice de l'Union européenne.
La Commission européenne a officiellement demandé à la Belgique de revoir sa façon de taxer certains revenus immobiliers prenant leur source hors de Belgique. (…) Cette demande a été adressée sous la forme d'un avis motivé, qui constitue la deuxième étape de la procédure d'infraction. En l'absence d'une réponse satisfaisante des autorités belges dans ce délai la Commission pourrait saisir la Cour de Justice de l'Union Européenne.
The Commission has decided to refer Germany to the European Court of Justice for excluding certain non-resident companies from the benefits of its corporation tax fiscal unity regime (Organschaft). Under German law, a company cannot be part of a fiscal unity if its registered office is outside Germany even if its place of effective management is in Germany. In practice, even if such a company would be fully liable to pay tax in Germany, it would be deprived from the tax benefits of the fiscal unity regime. One of the benefits of this regime is the domestic offsetting of profits and losses within the fiscal unity in Germany. This breaches EU rules on the freedom of establishment. The Commission therefore considers that German rules disadvantage foreign companies in comparison with domestic competitors and that these companies may be deterred from establishing business in Germany.
The European Commission has officially asked Sweden to amend its tax rules on pension funds. The Swedish legislation at stake discriminates against non-resident pension funds compared to domestic pension funds when it comes to taxing dividends distributed in Sweden. (…) The request takes the form of an additional reasoned opinion (the second stage of an infringement procedure). If the rules are not brought into compliance within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The European Commission has formally requested the United Kingdom to amend its legislation providing for exit taxes on companies. The UK legislation at stake results in immediate taxation of unrealised capital gains in respect of certain assets when the seat or place of effective management of a company is transferred to another EU/EEA State. However, a similar transfer within the UK would not generate any such immediate taxation and the relevant capital gains would only be taxed once they have been realised. The Commission considers that the United Kingdom has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU rules by maintaining these restrictive provisions. Exit taxes may breach the freedom of establishment as they make it more expensive to transfer a company seat or place of effective management to another Member State than to another location in the UK. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion (second step of EU infringement proceedings). In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer the United Kingdom to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
To make the EU single market work better for workers and for business, the Commission has proposed new rules to increase the protection of workers temporarily posted abroad. Worker protection and fair competition are the two sides of the EU single market's coin, yet findings suggest that minimum employment and working conditions are often not respected for the one million or so posted workers in the EU. To address the specific issues of abuse where workers do not enjoy their full rights in terms of for example, pay or holidays, especially in the construction sector, the Commission has put forward concrete, practical proposals as part of an enforcement Directive to increase monitoring and compliance and to improve the way existing rules on posted workers are applied in practice. This will ensure a level playing field between the businesses involved, excluding companies that don't follow the rules.
The European Commission proposes to improve business opportunities for EU firms in procurement markets. The main objective of the initiative is to help open worldwide public procurement markets and to ensure European businesses have fair access to them. The proposal also aims to ensure that all companies (both European and non-European firms) are on an equal footing when it comes to competing for business in the EU's lucrative public procurement market.
The European Commission has decided to investigate whether the Dutch telecoms regulator (OPTA) should oblige KPN (the main Dutch telecoms operator) to give alternative operators access to its infrastructure so they can also offer high-speed broadband connections to business customers. Without this access, business customers may not have a choice of competitive deals from different operators, and could therefore pay higher prices. The Commission has serious doubts whether OPTA's decision not to regulate access to KPN's fibre-to-the-office (FttO) networks and to high-quality wholesale broadband is compatible with EU telecoms rules. In the Commission's view, OPTA's approach could have a negative effect on competition and the future development of fibre investment and innovation. The Commission also believes that OPTA's plans, if implemented, could affect trade between Member States. Conditions for access to the fibre network in The Netherlands will determine the cost and the ability of other operators (including those established in other Member States) to provide telecoms services. The Commission has therefore suspended OPTA's plans.
Autre matériel diffusé :
BE: C-08/47, LU: C-58/51
DE: C-08/54, FR: C-08/50 at AT: C-08/53