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Midday Express of 2012-05-31

European Commission - MEX/12/0531   31/05/2012

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EXME 12 / 31.05

Midday Express of 2012-05-31

News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne

Citizenship education now taught in all European countries but specialist training for teachers lacking

All EU Member States have integrated 'citizenship education' into their national school curricula - albeit with different approaches, according to a report published today by the European Commission. Improving knowledge and skills for teaching the subject remains a challenge, however, with only two countries (UK - England and Slovakia) offering training for specialist teachers. The report indicates a general consensus that citizenship education should aim to develop critical thinking, analytical skills and attitudes to foster active participation in school and society.

Environment: A new approach to assessing toxic chemical mixtures

The Commission undertakes to address potential risks associated with chemical mixtures are properly understood and assessed. Every day, we are exposed to mixtures of chemical substances, and these combinations may affect us in ways that the individual substances do not. EU laws set strict limits for the amounts of particular chemicals allowed in food, water, air and manufactured products, but the potentially toxic effects of these chemicals in combination are rarely examined. Under the new approach, the Commission will identify priority mixtures to be assessed, ensure that the different strands of EU legislation deliver consistent risk assessments for such priority mixtures, and fill in gaps in the scientific knowledge needed to assess the mixtures.

Regional Fisheries Management Organizations: Fit for the future

On 1 June, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki will host a full day event to discuss on how Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) need to manage fisheries in the most efficient and sustainable way across the world's oceans. This conference brings together, for the first time, representatives, chairs and executive secretaries from 15 RFMOs stretching from the North Atlantic to the South Antarctic and from the Indian Ocean to the West Pacific. The event aims to enhance dialogue amongst RFMOs and to exchange views with European fisheries managers and Members of the European Parliament on policies which will make RFMOs fit for the challenges of the future. Guest speaker Dr Jane Lubchenco, US Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, will explain how US fisheries policy initiatives relate to RFMO management.

Catherine Ashton wins 2011 BusinessMed Blue Award

Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission, was on Wednesday awarded the 2011 Mediterranean Blue Award ‘Mare Nostrum’ by the Union of Mediterranean Confederations of Enterprises (BusinessMed). The award is given for efforts to promote peace and economic development in the Mediterranean region. The winner is selected by the Presidents and members of BusinessMed, which brings together 12 national business organisations. The ceremony took place during BusinessMed’s General Assembly in Brussels. Started in 2007, this was the first time the prize has been awarded since the dramatic events of the Arab Awakening.

Flash estimate - May 2012 Euro area inflation estimated at 2.4%

Euro area annual inflation is expected to be 2.4% in May 2012 according to a flash estimate issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. It was 2.6% in April.

The European Union and the BRIC countries - A range of statistics to compare the EU with Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The EU has strategic partnerships with all the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. Even though the BRIC countries have certain aspects in common, such as large populations, large land coverage and rapid economic growth, there are equally large economic and social differences between them. In order to compare the four BRIC countries and the EU, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, releases a publication "The European Union and the BRIC countries". This publication contains data on demography, economy, health, education, labour market, trade in goods, agriculture, energy and environment, transport and communication as well as science and technology.

ENPARD Conference on Strategic Modernisation of Agriculture in EU Neighbourhood countries

Senior agriculture officials from European Neighbourhood countries meet today and tomorrow in Brussels to discuss the strategic modernisation of the agricultural sector in their countries at a Conference on the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture & Rural Development (ENPARD). ENPARD is a new policy initiative, part of the EU's commitment to inclusive growth and stability in its Neighbourhood, which recognises the potential importance of agriculture in terms of food security, sustainable production and rural employment. The conference will be opened jointly by Commissioner Dacian Cioloş (Agriculture & Rural Development) and Commissioner Štefan Füle (Enlargement & European neighbourhood Policy). The objective is to present the Programme's vision and approach to high level officials in charge of agriculture, rural development and international cooperation from all European Neighbourhood Policy partner countries South and East of Europe. It will also provide the opportunity for in-depth discussions on how the Programme can best respond to the difficulties of agriculture and rural areas in their countries. Participants will hear from the experiences in the EU-12 in modernizing agriculture and rural areas, through the presentation of lessons learnt under SAPARD and IPARD programmes, which yielded significant results during the pre-accession phase. For more information, see http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/events/enpard-workshop-2012_en.htm

Closure of this year's Spanish and French Bluefin Tuna purse seine fishery

The Bluefin Tuna purse seine season lasting from 16 May to 14 June came to an early end this year for France and Spain. The purse seine quota allocated to both countries was exhausted yesterday at 20:00 and both Member States have decided to call back their vessels to port. The Commission has closely cooperated with both Member states since the beginning of the fishing campaign and welcome their decision to act swiftly and rapidly. The 6 Spanish and the 9 French purse seiners were operating together in Joint Fishing Operations, which has lead to a more rapid exhaustion of their quota. This is a clear indication that the ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) and EU rules are effective since no vessels can continue to remain at sea once the quota is exhausted. The Commission, in close coordination with France and Spain as well as with other Member States continues to closely monitor the other fishing activities on Bluefin Tuna, namely done by small scale fisheries and by traps.

European Union – United States Partnership on Organic Trade enters into Force

From June 1, 2012, organic products certified as organic in the European Union may be sold as organic in the USA without additional certification requirements – and vice versa - as the historic partnership on organic trade signed between the world's two largest organic-producers on 15 February 2012 ( IP/12/138) enters into force. This "equivalency arrangement" will facilitate trade on a growing market and support jobs and businesses on a global scale. The organic sector in both regions is valued at roughly €40 billion combined, and rising every year. "This agreement comes with a double added value. On the one hand, organic farmers and food producers will benefit from easier access, with less bureaucracy and less costs, to both the U.S. and the EU markets, strengthening the competitiveness of this sector. In addition, it improves transparency on organic standards, and enhances consumer confidence and recognition of our organic food and products,” EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development Dacian Cioloş stated today. This partnership eliminates significant barriers, especially for small and medium-sized organic producers, who previously had to obtain separate certifications to two standards in order to trade products on both sides of the Atlantic. For more information, see http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/home_en and http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/news_en

Transport security: the Commission creates an expert group to assist in the development of EU policy

Today the European Commission adopted a staff working paper on transport security, focusing on the potential areas for development of EU transport security policy. In parallel with the staff working paper the Commission adopted a decision establishing an expert group on land transport security. The group will provide a forum for Member States representatives to discuss topics where there would be added value for action at EU level. The expert group will be complemented by a stakeholder group on land transport security. The first meeting of the expert group will take place by the end of 2012. For more information see MEMO/12/395 .

Infringements:

Data retention: Commission takes Germany to Court requesting that fines be imposed

More than two years after the national law transposing the EU Data Retention Directive was annulled by the German Federal Constitutional Court, Germany has still not complied with the Directive. As a result, today the Commission referred the country to the European Court of Justice, requesting it to impose financial penalties.

Digital Agenda: Commission asks Court of Justice to fine five Member States for missing telecom rules implementation deadline

Commission asks Court of Justice to fine five Member States for missing telecom rules implementation deadline The European Commission has decided to refer five Member States - Belgium, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Slovenia - to the EU Court of Justice because they have still not implemented the revised EU telecoms rules into their national laws. The official deadline for doing so was 25 May 2011. The Commission has also suggested the Court impose a daily penalty payment on each Member State (see table below) which would be paid as from the date of the Court's ruling until full transposition of the rules into national law is notified. The other 22 countries which have implemented EU telecoms rules guarantee more competitive markets for consumers and businesses and give EU customers new rights, such as switching their phone operator in one day without changing the number or being informed without delay when their personal data is stolen online (see IP/11/622).

Environment: Commission refers Germany to Court over incomplete cost recovery for water services

The European Commission is concerned Germany is not fully applying the principle of cost recovery for water services. Under the Water Framework Directive , Member States must price water in a way that provides an adequate incentive to use it efficiently. Whilst Germany is of the opinion that such cost recovery should apply only to the supply of drinking water and the disposal and treatment of wastewater, the Commission considers that Germany's exclusion of other relevant activities such as hydro-power from the definition of water services hinders the full and correct application of the Water Framework Directive. Therefore, upon the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission has decided to refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Health and safety: Commission requests Spain to comply fully with EU rules on fishing vessels

The European Commission has requested Spain to amend its legislation on health and safety requirements on fishing vessels in order to comply with the requirements of EU legislation on the matter ( Directive 93/103/EC). In particular, the Commission has requested Spain to clarify the definition of the term "owner" of a fishing vessel so as to clearly determine who is responsible for complying with EU health and safety requirements on fishing vessels, as required by the Directive.

Pensions: Commission requests The Netherlands to end discrimination against pensioners living abroad

The European Commission has requested The Netherlands to stop discriminating against pensioners who live abroad when paying out an allowance for elderly taxpayers. This results from the Dutch Government applying a discriminatory condition for entitlement to the koopkrachttegemoetkoming oudere belastingplichtigen (purchasing power allowance for elderly taxpayers).

Marché du gaz de l'UE : La Commission demande à la France de réviser son système de prix réglementés pour les consommateurs non résidentiels

La Commission européenne a demandé aujourd'hui officiellement à la France de mettre sa législation nationale sur les tarifs réglementés du gaz naturel pour les clients finaux non résidentiels en conformité avec les règles de l'Union. Selon le droit de l'Union relatif au marché intérieur de l'énergie, les prix sont déterminés en premier lieu par le jeu de l'offre et de la demande. La fixation par l'État de tarifs pour les clients finaux non résidentiels, comme prévu dans le "Code de l'énergie" français, constitue un obstacle pour les nouveaux venus sur le marché. Si la France ne se conforme pas à ses obligations légales dans un délai de deux mois, la Commission pourra saisir la Cour de Justice.

Internal energy market: Poland called upon to comply with EU legislation

The best way for ensuring security of supply and competitive energy prices for all is to open energy markets to competition. An efficient, interconnected and transparent European internal energy market will make the market more accessible to different suppliers and thereby offer consumers a wider choice between different companies supplying gas and electricity. The Electricity and Gas Directives of the Third Energy Package had to be transposed by the Member States by 3 March 2011. To date Poland has not informed the Commission of all the necessary transposition measures for fully transposing the Electricity Directive. Consequently, the Commission sent today a reasoned opinion to Poland to urge it to comply with its legal obligation. Poland now has two months to respond. If it fails to comply the Commission may refer it to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Free movements of goods: Commission requests Italy and Romania to implement EU rules on intra-EU transfers of defence products

The European Commission has today decided to request Italy and Romania to transpose EU rules on defence products (Directive 2009/43/EC) into national law, which these Member States should have done by 30 June 2011. Today's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. If the Member States concerned do not inform the Commission within two months of the measures taken to ensure full compliance with their obligations under the Directive, the Commission may decide to refer them to the EU's Court of Justice.

Environment: Commission urges Romania and Slovakia to comply with EU legislation on end-of-life vehicles

The European Commission is urging Romania and Slovakia to bring their national law on end-of-life vehicles into line with EU legislation. These Member States have failed to notify the Commission about the transposition of legislation updating a ban on hazardous metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium in materials and components of vehicles. These measures should have been in place since 31 December 2011. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore sending reasoned opinions and asking the countries to comply within two months. If they fail to do so, the Commission may refer the cases to the EU Court of Justice.

Environment: Greece asked to comply with waste and waste water legislation

Brussels, 31 May 2012 – The Commission has asked Greece to improve its treatment of waste water and the functioning of a landfill facility. Twelve areas in Greece fail to treat their urban waste water to sufficient standards and a landfill site in Kiato is operating inadequately – this constitutes a serious threat to public health and the environment. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending two reasoned opinions to Greece, asking for the correct implementation of the relevant legislation. If Greece fails to reply within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Environment: Commission urges Italy to ensure adequate pre-treatment of waste landfilled in Rome

The European Commission is asking Italy to comply with the requirements of EU landfill legislation in Rome. Due to a narrow interpretation of what constitutes sufficient pre-treatment of waste by the Italian authorities, the Malagrotta landfill in the Lazio region contains waste that has not undergone the required pre-treatment, and the Commission is concerned that this might also be the case for other landfills in Lazio. Landfills operating in breach of EU waste legislation constitute a serious threat to human health and the environment. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion and asking Italy to comply within two months. If it fails to do so the Commission may decide to refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Environment: Hungary and Romania asked to ensure protection of their wildlifehabitats

The Commission has asked Hungary and Romania to step up the protection of habitats. Both countries have permitted activities or developments in environmentally sensitive areas without performing the appropriate impact assessments beforehand. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion to Hungary and an additional reasoned opinion to Romania, asking them to correctly implement the relevant habitats protection legislation. If Hungary and Romania fail to comply within two months the Commission may refer their case to the EU Court of Justice.

Sanctioning employers of irregular migrants: Finland, Portugal and Slovenia need to act

Some Member States are still failing to apply EU rules on sanctions and measures against employers who exploit irregular migrants. Today, the Commission decided to advance infringement proceedings and issue reasoned opinions requesting Finland, Portugal and Slovenia bring their laws into line with the Employer Sanctions Directive ( Directive 2009/52/EC), which should have been implemented by 20 July 2011. The Directive targets employers who take advantage of irregular migrants' precarious position and employ them for what are usually low-paid jobs with poor working conditions. It also strengthens the rights of the individual migrant by requiring employers to pay outstanding wages.

'Blue Card': Commission urges Slovenia to apply rules on highly qualified migrants

A number of Member States still make it too difficult for highly skilled people to come to the EU for work, prompting the Commission to act. Despite having been warned in July 2011, Slovenia has not complied yet with EU rules on work permits for highly qualified migrants. Today, the Commission decided to formally request Slovenia to fully transpose the rules of the Blue Card Directive, whose deadline for implementation expired on 19 June 2011.

Consumers: Determined Commission action ensures timeshare protection in all EU countries

Today, the European Commission closed an infringement case against Spain on the Timeshare Directive ( Directive 2008/122/EC) after the country notified the Commission of a new law (Decreto-ley) transposing the rules. The Commission also closed a case against the UK following its recent transposition of the Directive for Gibraltar. As the Commission also closed cases against Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia on 22 March, this means that all Member States have now transposed the Directive into their national law.

Internal market: Commission requests Austria and Poland to fully transpose EU rules in the area of defence procurement

Austria and Poland have been asked to notify to the European Commission within the next two months the measures they are taking to transpose EU rules on defence procurement (Directive 2009/81/EC). 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 – and hence more competitive - defence market.

Directive «services»: la Commission clôture la procédure d'infraction contre la Grèce - tous les Etats membres ont désormais formellement transposé la directive

Bruxelles, le 31 mai 2012 - La Commission européenne a décidé de classer la procédure d'infraction contre la Grèce pour transposition incomplète de la directive "services" ( 2006/123/CE). La Grèce a en effet informé la Commission de l'adoption de toutes les mesures nécessaires à la transposition complète de la directive. La Commission sera toutefois attentive à la mise en œuvre effective de ce texte et se réserve la possibilité d'ouvrir, en cas de mauvaise application, une procédure d'infraction.

Commission requests Germany, France, Poland and Portugal to transpose EU rules on harmonized rail systems

The European Commission has today sent reasoned opinions to Germany, France, Poland and Portugal because of their failure to adopt national rules transposing the railway interoperability directive into national law. The deadline to adopt these measures was 31 December 2011. Failure to comply with the Commission's reasoned opinions may trigger a referral to Court.

Maritime Safety: Commission requests Italy to comply with new standards for equipment placed on board ships

The European Commission has today asked Italy to adopt national legislation implementing the latest marine equipment standards, as introduced by EU law. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures. If Italy fails to inform the Commission within two months of the measures it has taken to ensure full compliance with EU law, the Commission could refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Car Taxation: Commission requests Cyprus to change registration tax rules on second-hand vehicles

The European Commission has today formally requested Cyprus to change the way in which it levies registration tax on second-hand motor vehicles transferred from other Member States.

Rediffusion

Commission sets out the next steps for stability, growth and jobs

The European Commission has adopted a package of recommendations for budgetary measures and economic reforms to enhance financial stability, boost growth and create employment across the EU. The recommendations are country-specific, taking account of the individual situation of each Member State. The Commission has also issued recommendations for the euro area as a whole, and set out its vision for the EU-level policy action needed to complement the national measures to deliver an ambitious, two-tiered EU growth initiative. It has also presented the conclusions of twelve in-depth reviews in the context of the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure and made recommendations to the Council relating to the Excessive Deficit Procedure.

Autre matériel diffusé :

Opening remarks by President Barroso on the next steps for stability, growth and jobs – rediffusion

Memo "EU law: Commission acts to ensure that European legislation is fully and properly implemented"

Memo "2012 country-specific recommendations in the context of the European Semester: Frequently asked questions" – rediffusion

Memo "Following in-depth reviews, Commission calls on Member States to tackle macroeconomic imbalances" - rediffusion

Memo "Excessive Deficit Procedure recommendations on Bulgaria, Germany and Hungary: Frequently asked questions" – rediffusion

Memo "Questions and answers on toxic chemical mixtures"

Memo "Commission adopts working paper on transport security"

Memo "Joint statement by European Union Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki and United States Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmposphere Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D." – rediffusion

Speech by Commissioner Damanaki: "Oceans and Seas: our common future" – rediffusion

Speech by Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta on Country Specific Recommendations - rediffusion

Speech by Commissioner László Andor: "Getting people into jobs"- rediffusion

Speech by Vice-President Neelie Kroes: "Call 116 000 – efforts to save missing children" - rediffusion

Speech by Vice President Siim Kallas: "Building bridges: making more of rail's potential to link Europe and Asia"

Speech by Commissioner Karel De Gucht on "Reshaping transatlantic relations"

Speech by Vice-President Reding: "Observations on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the future of the European Union"

Discours du Commissaire Cioloș: "L'agriculture au cœur de la politique de voisinage"


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