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EXME 12 / 26.06
Midday Express of 2012-06-26
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
The European Commission has today called for a European effort to boost Key Enabling Technologies (KETs). The global market in KETs, which comprises micro- and nanoelectronics, advanced materials, industrial biotechnology, photonics, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing systems, is forecast to grow from € 646 Billion to over € 1 Trillion between 2008 and 2015; this is a jump of over 154%, or more than 8% of the EU's GDP. Rapid growth in jobs is expected, too. In nanotechnology industries alone, the number of jobs in the EU is expected to increase from 160,000 in 2008, to around 400,000 by 2015. The European Commission tabled its strategy today to boost the industrial production of KETs-based products, e.g. innovative products and applications of the future. The strategy aims to keep pace with the EU’s main international competitors, restore growth in Europe and create jobs in industry, at the same time addressing today's burning societal challenges. As a matter of fact, Europe is a global leader in KETs research and development with a global share in patent applications of more than 30%. Despite this, the EU is not translating its dominant R&D base into the production of goods and services needed to stimulate growth and jobs. This is why the Commission calls for a European effort to boost KETS.
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Altimate, a French company active in the distribution of software and IT hardware products, by Arrow, a US company also operating in this market. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns because of the limited overlap between the parties' activities and because the merged entity will face sufficient competition.
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the US-based SPX Corporation's repair shop equipment business (SPX' Service Solutions Business) by Robert Bosch of Germany. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns because the parties would continue to face sufficient competitive constraints on the markets concerned.
Today EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Vietnamese Minister for Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang officially launch negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and Vietnam. Both sides seek for a comprehensive agreement covering tariffs, non-tariff barriers as well as commitments on other trade related aspects, notably procurement, regulatory issues, competition, services, and sustainable development.
The EU signed today an ambitious and comprehensive Trade Agreement with Colombia and Peru. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht signed the deal together with Danish Ambassador Jonas Bering Liisberg representing the Presidency of the Council of the EU, the Colombian Minister for Trade Sergio Díaz-Granados, and the Peruvian Minister for Foreign Trade José Luis Silva Martinot. Once fully implemented the Commission estimates that the trade deal will relieve EU exporters of €270 million in duties annually; it will further open up markets on both sides as well as increase the stability and predictability of the trading environment.
Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, will on 27 June in Brussels sign a new EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh.
One year after the launch of the Danube Strategy, which brings together 8 Member States and 6 neighbouring countries, Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn is set to make a tour of the region to meet those who are putting the plan into action. The trip is also an opportunity for him to see at first-hand the progress being made through macro-regional cooperation, and to raise awareness, at political and public level, of the added value of the strategy. In the course of his tour which will lead through seven countries – Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria - the Commissioner will meet with high-level politicians and stakeholders. He will also visit a very wide range of Danube Strategy projects. The trip is timed to coincide with the annual Danube Day celebrations in the region.
In the framework of the EU-Moldova Cooperation Council, the Republic of Moldova and the European Union have today signed a comprehensive air services agreement which will make Moldova a full partner of the EU in aviation by gradually integrating into the European common market.
EU and the Republic of Moldova sign agreement on protection of Geographical Indications
The European Union and the Republic of Moldova signed today in Brussels an agreement to protect their respective Geographical Indications (GIs). Moldova will ensure a high level of protection for more than 3,200 EU GIs for food products, wines and spirits already protected within the EU. The agreement also aims at promoting trade in quality agricultural products and foodstuffs between both parties. "This agreement is a further step in strengthening our system of GIs around the world, but also a way of bringing Moldova closer to the EU", said EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Dacian Cioloș. The agreement aims at better informing consumers on the origin and quality of products and protecting them from being misled. The agreement reflects the European Union and Moldova's converging views on quality policy, consumer protection and intellectual property, while responding to EU Member States' efforts to protect Geographical Indications internationally. Furthermore, with it, Moldova is adapting its domestic legislation to the highest standards of intellectual property rights protection. The development of Geographical Indications is expected to contribute significantly to the diversification of wine production in the Republic of Moldova. The initial protection of 2 wine Geographical Indications originating from Moldova (Româneşti and Ciumai PDO wines) is expected to help the marketing of these products on the EU market. It will also encourage the development of a GI protection system in Moldova, for example through its extension to other categories of products. It should also encourage new initiatives valorising the GIs system, bringing tourism to regions and supporting marketing strategies for new markets. Similar bilateral agreements have already been concluded with several EU trading partners, for example with Switzerland and South-Korea, or are currently under negotiation. After Georgia, Moldova is the second among the EU Neighbourhood Countries to take this important step forward in promoting and protecting the quality of agricultural production. For more information see: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/quality/door/list.html for the DOOR database for details of the EU GIs in agricultural products and foodstuffs; http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/markets/wine/e-bacchus/index.cfm?event=pwelcome&language=EN for the e-Bacchus database for wine GIs; http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/spirits/index.cfm?event=searchIndication for spirits.
Ireland: Commission gives green light for €2.3 billion payment and publishes staff working paper on EU-IMF programme
The European Commission has completed the sixth review of the EU-IMF supported financial assistance programme for Ireland. In the light of this, the Commission authorises the disbursement of €2.3 billion to the country. An additional €0.5 billion is also expected to be disbursed from bilateral EU donors. This would bring total EU funding disbursed to Ireland so far to approximately €34.9 billion (€32.8 billion from the EFSM/EFSF; €2.1 billion from bilateral EU donors) since the launch of the programme in 2010. It represents 82% of the total amount committed by the EFSF/EFSM to Ireland. In parallel, European Commission today publishes a staff working paper assessing implementation of the programme as well as prospects and risks. The Commission working paper once again highlights the strong track record of policy implementation that Ireland has achieved under the programme. The fiscal deficit for 2012 is projected to be within the programme ceiling, significant progress has been achieved in repairing the country's banking system and important structural reforms are being implemented. The report also points to the challenges that Ireland continues to face. These include a deficit that remains large, the high and increasingly long-term unemployment rate, and still growing non-performing loans. This comes in addition to the country's vulnerability to a further deterioration of confidence and growth outlook in its main trading partners, in particular in the euro area. The joint review by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund took place in Dublin 17-26 April 2012.
Commissioner Dalli visits the US
Health and Consumers' Commissioner John Dalli is to discuss a variety of issues covering all three pillars of his portfolio (health, consumer policy, food safety) during an official visit to the United States from 27 to 29 June. The Commissioner will participate at the third Trilateral European Union-China-United States Consumer Product Safety Summit together with Inez M. Tenenbaum, Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Sun Dawei, Vice Minister of General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ). The topic of the Summit is "Product safety surveillance from factory to front door: a cooperative effort". Commissioner Dalli will meet with Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Deputy Bill Corr to discuss, among other subjects, ageing and Alzheimer's disease, eHealth, healthcare reform and tobacco. Tobacco will also be a topic discussed during his bilateral with Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with (ia) export of dairy products, medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Further meetings are scheduled with Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), to discuss animal health and livestock exports, as well as with Rich Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to exchange information on financial consumer protection activities on both sides. Other appointments include breakfast with the American Association of Retired People, lunch with the European American Business Council and meetings with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the United States Trade Representative's office. For more information: Commissioner Dalli's website
Commission clears joint control of marine fuels trading joint venture
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the proposed acquisition of joint control of Singaporean company Cockett Marine Oil Pte Ltd and South African company Cockett Marine Oil South Africa (Pty) Ltd (together the "Cockett Group" joint venture) by Dutch company Vitol B.V. ("Vitol") and South African company Grindrod Limited ("Grindrod"). Vitol is active in the physical trading of energy commodities relating in particular to the oil and gas sector. Grindod is active in the movement of cargo by road, rail, sea and air through integrated logistics services utilising specialised assets and infrastructure. The Cockett Group is active in reselling marine fuels, also known as bunker trading. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Commission clears acquisition of Alix Partners by CVC
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of the USA-based global corporate consulting provider Alix Partners LLP ('Alix Partners') by CVC Capital Partners SICAV-FIS S.A. ('CVC', Luxembourg). CVC provides investment advice and manages investments on behalf of CVC Funds. CVC Funds hold controlling interests in a number of companies in various industries including chemicals, utilities, manufacturing, retailing and distribution, primarily in Europe, the US and the Asia-Pacific region. Alix Partners engages in the provision of corporate consulting services to businesses worldwide. The parties are not active in the same markets. The operation was therefore examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Commission clears acquisition of K+S AG's nitrogen fertiliser business by EuroChem
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition by OJSC Mineral and Chemical Company EuroChem ("EuroChem"), of control of K+S AG's nitrogen fertiliser business ("K+S Nitrogen"), by way of purchase of shares and assets in several undertakings. EuroChem is active in the mining of minerals, coal and the manufacture and sale of mineral fertilisers. K+S Nitrogen is active in the sale of straight nitrogen and NPK fertilisers produced by independent companies. K+S AG is registered in Germany, while EuroChem is registered in Russia. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Fusions: La Commission approuve la prise de participation de Naxicap Partners au capital d'Accent Jobs For People
La Commission européenne a autorisé conformément aux dispositions du Règlement sur les concentrations l'acquisition projetée par Naxicap Partners conjointement avec Achares et Pro-Struct du contrôle en commun d'Accent Jobs For People, qui exerce une activité de recrutement et de sélection active dans le secteur de la prestation de services de travail temporaire en Belgique et aux Pays-Bas. La transaction a fait l'objet d'une notification à la Commission européenne en date du 25 mai 2012 en vue d'obtenir son autorisation dans l'EEE et était éligible à une procédure simplifiée compte tenu de l'absence de chevauchements horizontaux ou verticaux.
State aid: Commission approves extension of UK credit easing scheme
The European Commission has approved the extension of a UK scheme, which aims at reducing the cost of finance for businesses with a turnover of up to £250 million (around €300 million), until 31 December 2012. The UK credit easing scheme, which was originally restricted to small and medium sized businesses with a turnover of up to £50 million (around €60 million), approved by the Commission on 14 March 2012 ( see IP/12/244), has been subject to several changes and amendments as regards eligible companies, minimum allocation of guarantees to banks, eligible debt instruments, pricing to banks, disbursement of the benefit and extension of period of draw-down, issuance of floating rate notes, foreign currency issuance, and reimbursement for costs which are all part of the current extension. The Commission found that the changes and amendments to the scheme do not change its earlier assessment that the scheme is in line with the special state aid rules for banks during the crisis (see IP/11/1488). In particular, the measure is apt to address the exacerbation of tensions in sovereign debt markets that took place in 2011 and has continued in 2012 and that has put the banking sector under increasing pressure, particularly in terms of access to term funding markets.
State aid: Commission approves prolongation of the Danish bank support schemes
The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, the prolongation of a Danish scheme for the winding-up of banks and of a guarantee scheme for merging banks until 31 December 2012. Both schemes aim at enabling market-based solutions for ailing banks, be it via an orderly winding-down or by keeping a bank in business by means of a merger. The Commission found that, in the persisting difficulties on the financial markets especially small and medium-sized banks in Denmark experience difficulties to access market funding and concluded that the schemes constitute an appropriate response. The Commission initially approved the winding-up scheme in September 2010 (see IP/10/1266). This scheme was further amended in August 2011 (see MEX/11/0801) and December 2012 (see MEX/11/1209). The merger scheme was initially adopted in February 2012 (see IP/12/144).
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