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EXME 12 / 11.05
Midday Express of 2012-05-11
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Following the output contraction in late 2011, the EU economy is estimated to be currently in a mild recession. While uncertainty about economic and financial prospects remains high, strong policy actions and major advancements in the EU institutional framework have brought about an easing of financial market tensions in the beginning of 2012 and a tentative stabilisation of confidence, expected to further strengthen over the forecast period. Together with an expected acceleration in global growth, the recovery is forecast to set in slowly from the second half of the year on. The picture presented in the interim forecast in February is broadly confirmed for 2012, with real GDP projected to stagnate in the EU and to contract by -0.3% in the euro area. For 2013, growth is forecast at 1.3% in the EU and 1.0% in the euro area. Unemployment is expected to remain high at 10% in the EU and 11% in the euro area over the forecast period. Inflation is set to moderate gradually as the impact of higher oil prices and tax increases fades away. Fiscal consolidation is forecast to progress, with public deficits in 2013 declining to 3.3% in the EU and just below 3% in the euro area. The economic situation differs considerably across Member States, also in view of the ongoing adjustment to the large disparities in external positions and structural conditions that have come to the fore over the last years.
Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission today signed the EU-Iraq Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the Foreign Minister of Iraq, His Excellency Hoshyar Zebari. This first ever framework agreement between the EU and Iraq establishes a comprehensive platform for enhancing ties and cooperation in a wide range of areas: from political matters such as countering terrorism and promoting human rights, to trade and investment in key areas such as energy and services.
Europe in figures - Eurostat yearbook 2012 presents a comprehensive selection of the statistical data available at Eurostat, together with explanatory text. The yearbook is an introduction to European statistics and provides guidance on the vast range of data freely available from the Eurostat website and its online databases. The yearbook shows how key indicators have developed in the EU27, the euro area and the Member States. Data for the EFTA countries, the Candidate countries, the US and Japan are also included when available. The 2012 yearbook has thirteen chapters on different statistical areas: economy and finance; population; health; education and training; labour market; living conditions and social protection; industry, trade and services; agriculture, forestry and fisheries; international trade; transport; environment; energy; and science and technology.
Monthly Labour Market Fact Sheet – May 2012
EU unemployment continued to increase in March 2012 (up by 193 000 from February, hitting a new record high of 24.8 million), though the unemployment rate remained at the February level of 10.2 %. This is 0.8 percentage point higher than in March 2011, corresponding to 2.1 million more people unemployed. In the euro area, the unemployment rate has reached 10.9% in March 2012. 20 Member States recorded an increase in unemployment over the year to March 2012. The most significant rises were seen in Greece (from 14.7% to 21.7%), Spain, Cyprus, Portugal and Italy. On the other hand, unemployment declined during the past year in the Baltic States and, to a lesser extent, in Germany. Divergence among EU labour markets increased further, as the gap between the lowest and highest unemployment rates, namely in Austria (4.0 %) and Spain (24.1 %), exceeded 20 percentage points for the first time. Youth unemployment remains critical, as its rate climbed twice as fast as that for adults over the last twelve months. It rose again by 0.1 percentage point in March 2012, to 22.6 %. This is 1.6 percentage points up on March last year. Huge contrasts persist between Member States, with youth unemployment rates well above the 50 % mark in Spain and Greece. Long-term unemployment is also at a high, as it accounted for 4.3 % of the active population in the fourth quarter of 2011, up by 0.3 percentage point on the year. Hiring activity remains positive but on-line labour demand declined further in April 2012, while the number of hours worked by temporary agency workers had declined for the second consecutive month in February 2012. Responding to the worsening employment situation across Europe, the Commission put forward an "Employment Package" on 18 April, showing ways to boost job creation and make labour markets more dynamic and inclusive. Mobilising the potential of Europe's labour force is essential for a sustained economic recovery and for the achievement of the 75% employment target by 2020. Human capital investments, such as job-search support, re-skilling, vocational training and active inclusion measures are a key ingredient in exiting the crisis and are being financed across the EU from the European Social Fund. More broadly, counteracting the employment crisis requires urgently stepping up stability and growth enhancing policies, accelerating the delivery of the Europe 2020 strategy and strengthening investment in growth. At the end of May, the Commission will propose country-specific recommendations for all 27 Member States. For the full report: http://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=7718&langId=en
Today in Sopot, Poland, at the ESPO conference on port financing and investment, Vice-President Siim Kallas outlined the European Commission's ports policy review. Vice-President Kallas underlined the importance of transparency in financing and the need for a level playing field for ports competing across Europe, so ports can fully be exploited in the logistical chain and serve the European economy. This will boost the performance of the ports, create more quality employment and ensure a stable environment for investment. The Commission wants to ensure that ports can operate in an efficient and transparent way, make use of their strategic role in the transport system and allow people to do business in the most sustainable and efficient way. Transparency and access to the market could be granted by establishing clear rules, without disrupting longstanding business models if they are working well, not least as an incentive to attract long-term investments. Ports also need adequate financing – public and private – to cope with rising demand. Public financing should be used in a transparent and effective way. Connections to the hinterland must be facilitated by integrating the ports seamlessly into the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). This week, the Commission launched a stakeholder consultation to collect their opinions on the state of play and the way forward. In September the Commission will organise a high-level conference to discuss the outcome of this consultation with the sector. The Commission intends to present proposals by spring 2013.
Report on implementing the EU organic farming Regulation
A new report on the way EU rules on organic production and labelling have been applied has been published by the European Commission today. As required under the Regulation 834/2007, it analyses the experience gained in applying European organic legislation since 2009, centring on 4 main areas - the scope of this Regulation, the prohibition on the use of GMOs in organic production, the functioning of the internal market and the system of controls, and the import regime. The report concludes that it is too early to table proposals to adjust the Regulation, based on the limited experience since 2009, but states that this will stimulate a constructive debate on the organic farming regulation – with the European Parliament, the Council, and other stakeholders – on the basis of which the Commission may come forward with proposals at a later stage. It suggests that a wide range of topics could be considered, such as the simplification of the legislative framework, co-existence rules between organic and GMO production, improving the system of controls, and improving the equivalence regime in trade of organic products. EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development Dacian Cioloş stated: “This report creates the opportunity to explore ways in which to adjust and improve the EU's organic policy and legal framework, opening the Inter-institutional debate to all stakeholders.” By the end of 2009, the area devoted to organic farming (sum of fully converted and in-conversion area), certified under Regulation (EC) No 834/2007, covered 8.6 million ha in EU-27, compared to 2005 it covered around 6.5 million ha. This represents an increase of 33 % over the period 2005-2009. The organic farming area reached 4.7 % of the total utilised agricultural area (UAA) of EU-27 in 2009, compared to 3.6 % in 2005. The report is published at: www.organic-farming.europa.eu
EU to press for improved fisheries management in the Mediterranean and Black Seas
The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) will meet in Morocco, Marrakesh from 14 to 19 May 2012. The European Commission represents the EU at the meeting. The agenda includes the review of the work concerning the Black Sea, advice on fisheries conservation and management, and the cooperation with other international partner organisations. The GFCM will also discuss the future role of the Task Force, established in 2011 to modernise the GFCM and its institutional and legal framework. The Task Force's work carried out so far will be validated at a dedicated meeting on 11-12 May. The EU intends to table a number of proposals: conservation and management measures for red coral, sharks and cetaceans, in line with the scientific advice of the GFCM Scientific Advisory Committee; a set of minimum standards for fisheries management in the Black Sea; guidelines for an improved decision making framework and presentation of scientific information for multiannual management plans. The EU hopes that through close coordination and cooperation with the non-EU partners the joint measures are agreed to improve sustainability of fishing activities and to preserve the environmental richness of the Mediterranean and Black Seas. The GFCM is a Regional Fisheries Management Organisation for the Mediterranean and Black Sea and connecting waters. It has 24 members, including the EU and 9 EU member states (Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Romania, Slovenia, and Spain). Japan, Russia, Georgia and Ukraine are observers.
Commission clears acquisition of Edison by EDF
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of Edison S.p.A. of Italy, by the French Electricité de France S.A.. EDF is active in generation and wholesale supply of electricity, transmission, distribution, retail supply and other electricity-related services in France and other countries, including Italy, as well as wholesale and retail supply of natural gas. Edison is active in generation, trading, wholesale and retail supply of electricity and exploration, production, transportation, storage, distribution, wholesale and retail supply of natural gas, in Italy. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
The Commission welcomes yesterday's decision by the European Parliament to grant discharge to the Commission in respect of the implementation of the 2010 budget. This decision to grant discharge to the Commission for the management of EU funded programmes comes at a critical moment when discussions between the European Parliament (EP) and the Council on future EU programmes are advanced. This positive decision is the result of very constructive discussions which allowed all institutions involved – the Parliament, the Council and the Commission- to underline the recent progress made, as well as to look at where further improvements are required.
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of joint control over the North Sea wind farm Borkum Riffgrund I of Germany by DONG Energy Borkum Riffgrund of Germany and Boston Holding of Denmark. The Commission found that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns because it will not alter the market structure.
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