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EXME 12 / 25.07
Midday Express of 2012-07-25
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
In the recent LIBOR scandal, serious concerns have been raised about false submissions of banks' estimated interbank lending rates. Any actual or attempted manipulation of such key benchmarks can have a serious impact on market integrity, and could result in significant losses to consumers and investors, or distort the real economy. The European Commission has today acted to address this kind of market manipulation, by adopting amendments to the proposals for a Regulation and a Directive on insider dealing and market manipulation, including criminal sanctions, initially tabled on 20 October 2011 (see IP/11/1217 and IP/11/1218). Today's amendments will clearly prohibit the manipulation of benchmarks, including LIBOR and EURIBOR, and make such manipulation a criminal offence.
The European Commission initiated in mid-April the review of the auction time profile of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) and proposes today a Decision to clarify the provisions of the EU ETS Directive on the timing of auctions of emission allowances.
Road crashes are still the biggest cause of death and disability for young people, in both the world and Europe. 19% of road fatalities in the EU in 2010 affected young people aged between 18-25 years old (although this age group comprise only 10% of the total population). This means that those aged between 18-25 face almost twice as high a risk of dying in traffic accidents. The European Commission is therefore dedicating its 4th European Road Safety Day to young people. The day is marked by a conference, jointly organised with the Cyprus Presidency, which will takes place on 25 July in Nicosia. The conference brings together youth groups, road safety organisations and road safety officials from all EU Member States, as well as from neighbouring countries for a day of discussions, presentations and workshops.
The European Commission has concluded that around €3.3 billion of restructuring aid granted to the German Landesbank NORD/LB to meet its capital requirements are in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found that the restructuring plan submitted by the German authorities ensures that the bank is viable, that the public authorities that granted the aid receive adequate remuneration for it and that the bank uses the public support to strengthen its capital in the coming years by not paying dividends to shareholders and not making acquisitions.
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules restructuring aid for the German bank BayernLB in the form of a capital injection of €10 billion, a risk shield of € 4.8 billion and liquidity guarantees based on commitments presented by Germany to fundamentally restructure the bank and on condition that BayernLB repays €5 billion of state aid in the next seven years. The Commission concluded that the restructuring plan would enable the bank to become viable without continued state support and provided for a sufficient contribution by the bank's owners to the cost of restructuring, while minimising distortions of competition.
The European Commission has concluded that restructuring aid granted by Spain to UNNIM Banc SAU (UNNIM) in the context of the sale of its banking activities to Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) is in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found that UNNIM's restructuring plan adequately addresses the structural problems that led to the bail-out of the bank, whilst avoiding undue distortions of competition.
The European Commission has concluded that the sale of Dexia Banque Internationale à Luxembourg (Dexia BIL) did not involve state aid in the meaning of the EU rules and closed its in-depth investigation opened in April. The Commission found, in particular, that the sales price was in line with the market. Several other investigations regarding state support in favour of Dexia are ongoing.
After an in-depth investigation, the European Commission concluded that a PLN 150 million loan (around € 37,5 million) granted by the State-owned Polish Industrial Development Agency (IDA) to Crist Shipyard was in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found that the loan was granted on market terms and therefore did not give Crist an undue economic advantage. As a result, the loan does not constitute state aid in the meaning of EU state aid rules.
La Commission européenne a approuvé sous conditions une aide à la restructuration de 31 millions d'euros en faveur du groupe électroménager français FagorBrandt. Après l'annulation de sa décision de 2008 autorisant l'aide par le Tribunal de l'Union européenne, la Commission a réexaminé le cas pour tenir compte du jugement et a fixé des conditions plus strictes à l'approbation de l'aide. D'une part, FagorBrandt aura interdiction de commercialiser les produits de la marque Vedette pendant trois ans supplémentaires, jusque fin 2016. D'autre part, FagorBrandt devra accroître sa contribution aux coûts de la restructuration afin de tenir compte de l'effet cumulé d'une aide publique antérieure. Moyennant le respect de ces deux conditions, l'aide remplit les critères des lignes directrices sur les aides d'Etat aux entreprises en difficulté. Elle ne fausse donc pas les conditions de concurrence au sein du marché intérieur dans une mesure contraire à l'intérêt commun.
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether the Maltese tonnage tax scheme is compatible with EU state aid rules. On the basis of available information, the Commission has concerns that the favourable tax treatment allowed by the EU Guidelines on state aid to maritime transport for the transport of passengers and freight by sea may have been extended to other categories of beneficiaries that are not suffering from the same handicaps and are therefore not entitled to lower taxes. The opening of an in-depth inquiry gives interested parties the possibility to comment on the measures. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
The European Commission has proposed appropriate measures to Ireland under EU state aid rules to abolish the unlimited state guarantee enjoyed by the Voluntary Health Insurance Board (VHI) by the end of 2013. VHI is a statutory body offering voluntary health insurance. Its statute does not provide for liquidation or winding up, with the consequence that VHI cannot go bankrupt. As a result, its creditworthiness is improved, providing VHI with an undue financial advantage over its competitors. If no agreement is reached on the proposed measures within one month, the Commission may open a state aid investigation.
The European Commission has opened an in-depth inquiry to investigate whether a joint venture between the Italian Province of Trento and the Italian telecommunications operator Telecom Italia to build a fibre infrastructure is in line with EU state aid rules. At this stage, the Commission has doubts whether the project is carried out on terms that a private player operating under market conditions would have accepted. The opening of an in-depth inquiry gives interested third parties an opportunity to comment on the measures under investigation. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, an Austrian aid scheme to support freight rail transport with a total budget of €1 118 million in the period 2012 to 2017. The Commission found the measure to be in line with EU state aid rules mainly because it creates a level playing field for competition between rail freight and road freight transport by allowing to compensate rail freight companies for additional costs faced by rail transport but not by road transport. This will ensure a higher level of frail freight transport without unduly distorting competition, in line with the EU's transport and state aid policies.
The European Commission has concluded that financial arrangements between the airport of Tampere Pirkkala in Finland and Ryanair do not constitute state aid in the meaning of EU rules because they are in line with market terms. In another case, the Commission has found investment aid in favour of the Chania airport in Greece to be in line with EU state aid rules, in particular because it is well-targeted and proportionate to the objective pursued. In a third decision, the Commission ordered Ireland to recover incompatible state aid in the form of preferential airport taxes for certain short-haul destinations from the airlines that benefitted from this measure, as they distort competition between airlines.
The European Commission has informed the Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck of its objections regarding agreements concluded with four generic competitors concerning citalopram, a blockbuster antidepressant. The Commission is of the preliminary view that the agreements aimed at preventing the market entry of cheaper generic medicines, in violation of EU antitrust rules. The Statement of Objections is also addressed to Merck KGaA, Generics UK, Arrow, Resolution Chemicals, Xellia Pharmaceuticals, Alpharma, A.L. Industrier and Ranbaxy, which belonged to the generic groups that concluded the agreements. The sending of a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation.
Commission clears acquisition of joint control of Jupiter Shop Channel by Bain Capital Investors and Sumitomo
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition by Bain Capital Investors and Sumitomo Corporation of joint control of Jupiter Shop Channel. Bain is a US based private equity investment firm. Sumitomo is a Japanese integrated trading company active in various sectors such as metal products, transportation and construction systems, chemicals and electronics, media, networks and lifestyle retail, and mineral resources globally. Shop, currently a subsidiary of Sumitomo, is a direct marketing/retailing company operating a television shopping channel in Japan (Shop Channel) and an internet shopping site intended primarily for Japanese consumers. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Enregistrement de cinq dénominations de produits agricoles
La Commission européenne a ajouté cinq dénominations de produits agricoles et alimentaires à la liste des appellations d'origine protégées (AOP) et des indications géographiques protégées (IGP). Il s'agit, pour l'Italie, du fromage " Squacquerone di Romagna " (AOP) et du raisin " Uva di Puglia " (IGP), pour le Danemark, des carcasses et morceaux d'agneau " Vadehavslam " (IGP) et, pour la Slovénie, de la viande séchée de porc " Kraški zašink " (IGP) et pour la Hongrie, du cultivar de rosier " Szőregi rózsatő "(IGP). Ces dénominations s'ajoutent à la liste de plus de 1000 produits déjà protégés en vertu de la législation sur la protection des indications géographiques, des appellations d'origine et des spécialités traditionnelles. Des renseignements sur les produits de qualité ainsi que la liste des dénominations protégées sont disponibles sur l'internet à l'adresse: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/quality/schemes/index_fr.htm
New Deputy Director-General for DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology
Mr Roberto Viola has been appointed Deputy Director-General to this vacant post and will be in charge of Directorates B,D,F and G. (DDG2). The date of this appointment will be determined later. Mr Viola is currently Secretary General of the "Autorità per le garanzie nelle comunicazioni" (the regulator and competition authority for the communication industries in Italy).
Directorate-General Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid will have a new Deputy Director-General
On 1 August Mr Klaus Rudischhauser will take up his new appointment and will be responsible for the Coordination of Directorates B, C & D (DGA.1). Currently Mr Rudischhauser is Director of Directorate B (Quality and Impact) of DG EuropeAid. He has also served in DGs Environment, External Relations, Administration and Transport and Energy. Prior to coming to the Commission he worked at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and headed a consultancy in Brussels. He holds an engineering degree in ecology from the Technical University of Munich.
Directorate-General Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid will have a second New Deputy Director-General
Mr Marcus Cornaro has been appointed Deputy Director-General responsible for Coordination of Directorates E,F,G & H (DGA.2), this will take effect from 1 August 2012. These four Directorates cover the European Union's geographic programmes in Africa, the Neighbourhood, Latin America and Asia. Mr Cornaro, who is Austrian – and has degrees in law and international relations - has been Director for Neighbourhood for the last five years, has 25 years' experience in development co-operation and financial assistance. 15 years were spent "in the field" in Mali with UNDP, in Zimbabwe and Uganda for the Austrian Foreign Ministry and in Asia (Head of EU Delegation to Vietnam).
New Director appointed in Directorate-General Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection
On 16 September 2012 Ms Florika Fink-Hooijer who has been appointed Director for "Strategy, Policy and International Cooperation" (Directorate ECHO.A) will take up her post. A German lawyer by training, Dr Fink-Hooijer has spent much of her career in crisis management and conflict prevention. She is currently the Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva. Her previous posts include successive assignments as member of several cabinets as well as managerial positions in external relations and in the SG.
The Joint Research Centre will have a new Director in Ispra
The "Institute for Environment and Sustainability" (Directorate JRC.H) in the JRC will have a new Director in the form of Ms Maria Betti, the date for her appointment will be determined later. Maria Betti joined the European Commission in 1991 and worked at the JRC ITU in Karlsruhe until she was seconded to the IAEA in August 2008 as Director of the Environment Laboratories Division.
The European Research Council Executive Agency in Brussels (RTD) will have a new Director
The Commission has appointed Mr Pablo Amor as Director of the ERCEA. Mr Amor has been working at the ERCEA as Head of the Grant Management Department since 2009 on secondment from the Commission. Before joining ERCEA he was Head of the Communications Unit at DG RTD and prior to this was acting Head of Delegation for Uruguay and Mercosur. He has also worked in the Washington Delegation on joint EU-US projects. Mr Amor who has an MBA from Stanford University, will take up his post on 1 August 2012.
A new Director for the Research Executive Agency (RTD) in Brussels
Mr Gilbert Gascard has been appointed by the Commission as Director of the Research Executive Agency in Brussels. This decision will take effect from 1 November 2012. Gilbert Gascard, is of Belgian nationality and graduated from Solvay Management School in 1976. He joined the European Commission in 1983 and has since then had several middle management positions in various Commission services (DG BUDG, DIGIT, MARE). In 2000, he was appointed Director for Resources in DG Education and Culture. Since the end of 2005, he has been the Director of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA).
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