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EXME 12 / 25.04
Midday Express of 2012-04-25
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
The European Commission has adopted a Regulation that exempts from EU state aid rules aid of up to € 500 000 per company over a three-year period that is granted as compensation for the provision of services of general economic interest (SGEI). Compensation of this magnitude is deemed unproblematic because it is too low to have any impact on trade and competition. This is the last pillar of a new package of state aid rules for SGEI, the bulk of which has been adopted in December 2011 (see IP/11/1571 and MEMO/11/929).
The European Commission found that public support in favour of "Zweckverband Tierkörperbeseitigung in Rhineland-Palatinate" (ZT) - a local provider of services for the disposal of dead animal carcasses and slaughterhouse waste - was incompatible with EU state aid rules and has ordered Germany to recover incompatible aid of approximately €30 million from the beneficiary. The Commission's investigation found, in particular, that ZT had no extra costs for discharging a public service, because it had sufficient spare capacity besides its normal operations to master an epidemic outbreak, and was therefore not entitled to receive public compensation.
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether a Spanish plan to compensate digital terrestrial broadcasters for the extra costs of parallel broadcasting, while services are re-allocated to another frequency to free the digital dividend, is in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission will investigate in particular whether the measure is proportionate and necessary. At this stage, the Commission also has concerns that the measure may favour terrestrial broadcasters over other available technologies. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested parties the possibility to comment on the proposed measure and increases legal certainty for the beneficiaries of aid. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. At the same time, the Commission has approved aid to enable certain households to continue receiving free-to-air channels after the reallocation of frequencies.
La Commission européenne a ouvert une enquête approfondie afin de déterminer si les accords financiers conclus entre les pouvoirs publics et l’aéroport de Nîmes (France), ainsi que les remises et les accords de commercialisation convenus entre l’aéroport et Ryanair, sont conformes aux règles de l’UE en matière d’aides d’État. L’ouverture d’une procédure d’enquête donne la possibilité aux tiers intéressés de faire part de leurs observations sur les mesures soumises à examen; elle ne préjuge en rien de l’issue de l’enquête.
La Commission européenne a autorisé la France à prolonger un régime de crédit d'impôt pour la création de jeux vidéo, dans la mesure où il vise à promouvoir la culture. La Commission a conclu que ce régime, dont le budget est estimé à 45 millions d'euros par an, contribue à orienter la production de jeux vidéo vers des projets à contenu culturel, en accord avec les règles de l'UE relatives aux aides d'Etat.
The European Commission has opened five distinct in-depth investigations to assess whether the Romanian state-controlled hydropower producer Hidroelectrica S.A. purchased or sold electricity at preferential tariffs to several electricity traders, industrial clients and electricity producers, in order to favour beneficiaries by lowering their operating costs, increasing their revenues or a combination of the two, in breach of EU state aid rules. The opening of an in-depth investigation allows interested third parties to comment on the proposed measures. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
The European Commission has authorised rescue measures to facilitate the merger of two Danish banks, Vestjysk Bank and Aarhus Lokalbank. The merger is intended in particular to address the funding challenges of the continuing bank, but also to improve its capital basis to meet the new capital requirements. The Commission therefore approved the measures for reasons of financial stability for a period of six months, or, if Denmark submits a restructuring plan within six months, until the Commission has adopted a final decision on this plan.
European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Androulla Vassiliou has told Member States that they need to urgently modernise their higher education systems and remove barriers to a fully functioning European Higher Education Area (EHEA) in response to the crisis and rising youth unemployment. Speaking ahead of the two-yearly meeting of higher education ministers in Bucharest (Romania), in the framework of the Bologna Process, Commissioner Vassiliou underlined that action is essential to help drive jobs and growth in Europe.
A team representing the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) will compete in the final of one of the world's leading business competitions in New York City on 26 April. The five-strong team, who will present a project aimed at boosting the use of solar power in Africa, received a "good luck" message from EU Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou, on the eve of their participation in the anti-poverty HULT Global Case Challenge . Thousands of students, representing over 130 countries and six continents, competed across five cities and online to reach the final, which takes place at New York Public Library in the presence of former US President Bill Clinton and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus. The Clinton Global Initiative will receive $1 million (approximately €800 000) to implement the best project.
Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission, is travelling to Brunei today to meet with Foreign Ministers of the 10 ASEAN Member States and the Secretary General of ASEAN. The EU-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, which will take place on 26-27 April, is set to strengthen the European Union's relations with South-East Asia. This year's meeting coincides with the 35th anniversary of the official relations between the EU and ASEAN.
World Malaria Day: Winning the fight against malaria
It is estimated that in 2010 there were 216 million cases of malaria, resulting in 655,000 deaths. 81% of these cases and 91% of deaths happened in Africa. Across the globe, 86% of victims were under 5 years old. Thanks to the efforts of EU and international community, malaria deaths have fallen by 25% since 2000. As the world’s largest donor of development assistance, the EU is at the forefront of ensuring that this progress continues. In total, the EU has provided more than €1 billion to the Global Fund to Fight Malaria, AIDS and Tuberculosis (29% of their work covers malaria.) It has also invested almost €200 million in research on malaria during the last decade. For instance, an EU-UNICEF partnership to distribute insecticide treated mosquito nets in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Niger that began at the end of 2007 is making a major impact on the number of people sleeping under nets. For more details and further examples of EU work to fight Malaria please visit: http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/news/24-04-2012_malaria_en.htm
Gender balance in senior management boosted by appointment of two women in the Secretariat General
The College has appointed Ms Elizabeth GOLBERG as the Director responsible for “Smart Regulation: Evaluation, Impact Assessment and Application of EU Law” in the Secretariat-General. The date of effect will be determined later. Ms Golberg, who is a Dutch national, is currently a Head of Unit in the Secretariat-General, responsible for external institutional relations, including the EEAS and the G8/G20. In a second appointment, Ms Sabine WEYAND will, on 1 May 2012, become the Director responsible for "Relations with the European Council/Council, International Relations and G8/G20 Co-ordination" in the Secretariat-General. Ms Weyand, who is German, is currently a Head of Unit in the Secretariat General, responsible for relations with Coreper I. Both women were appointed entirely on merit, although as a consequence, the percentage of women in senior management in the European Commission will rise from 25.6% to 26.1%. This compares to 4% in 1995.
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