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EXME 12 / 19.09
Midday Express of 2012-09-19
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Today the European Commission set out its plans to develop a global initiative that will create opportunities for some 10,000 people from 2014-2020 to volunteer worldwide in humanitarian operations.
The European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn today announced the Commission's proposal to allocate EUR 670 million to Italy following two severe consecutive earthquakes and hundreds of aftershocks in the region of Emilia Romagna during May/June 2012, spreading out into the neighbouring regions of Veneto and Lombardy. The aim of the support, the highest ever amount allocated from the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF), is to cover the huge costs of restoring essential infrastructure, providing shelter and rescue services as well as protecting the cultural heritage of the region.
After an in-depth investigation, the European Commission has concluded that restructuring aid amounting to CZK 2.5 billion (€100 million) granted to the Czech state-owned air carrier Czech Airlines is in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found that the restructuring plan adequately addresses the financial problems of Czech Airlines. A significant capacity reduction, efficient cost and revenues management and the sale of assets should ensure the company's long-term viability without continued state support, whilst avoiding undue distortions of competition.
The European Commission has concluded that restructuring aid granted by Austria to the Austrian bank Österreichische Volksbanken AG (ÖVAG) is in line with state aid rules. Public support was granted to ÖVAG in the form of capital injections totalling €1 250 million, liquidity guarantees totalling €3 000 million and an asset guarantee of €100 million. The Commission found that the restructuring plan is suitable to make the bank viable in the long term, ensures that the bank and its shareholders sufficiently contribute to the cost of restructuring and minimises distortions of competition.
The European Commission has concluded that UK plans to grant £19,9 million (around €22,9) investment aid to Energy Works (Hull) Limited for the construction and commissioning of an ''energy from waste'' gasification plant in Kingston upon Hull are in line with EU state aid rules. The facility will generate 25MW of electricity from 190kT of waste. The renewable energy content of the combined feedstock will exceed 80%. The Commission found that the aid, funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using biodegradable waste to produce electricity and by diverting waste from landfill. Moreover, the project will contribute to the security and diversification of energy supply, in line with EU objectives.
The European Commission has ordered Slovenian authorities to recover €10 million of state aid it granted to the leisure equipment manufacturer Elan group in 2008. The Commission's investigation found that the 2008 capital injection was not in line with EU state aid rules, because a private player operating under market conditions would not have accepted to invest on similar terms. The capital injection therefore procured an undue economic advantage to Elan that its competitors did not have. The measure was unlawfully put into effect by Slovenia and Elan now needs to pay back the undue advantage with interests.
The European Commission is inviting comments from interested parties on commitments offered by four international publishers - Simon & Schuster (CBS Corp., USA), Harper Collins (News Corp., USA), Hachette Livre (Lagardère Publishing, France), Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck (owner of inter alia Macmillan, Germany) – and Apple. The proposed commitments aim to alleviate concerns that these companies may have engaged in an anti-competitive concerted practice affecting the sale of e-books in the European Economic Area (EEA). If the market test confirms that the commitments are suitable to address the Commission's competition concerns, the Commission may make them legally binding on the companies.
In a new Communication on "The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe's engagement with Civil Society in external relations", the European Commission announces it will engage further and will provide more support to civil society organisations (CSOs) in its partner countries. The Commission recognises that Civil Society organisations can be efficient independent development actors. It commits to promote a more conducive environment for civil society organisations, so that they can fully play their role in the delivery of social services, transparency and good governance advocacy, and contribute to policy making.
In the construction sector, seasonally adjusted production fell by 0.3% in the euro area (EA17) and by 0.2% in the EU27 in July 2012, compared with the previous month. In June 2012, production decreased by 0.6% and 1.4% respectively. Compared with July 2011, production in July 2012 dropped by 4.7% in the euro area and by 6.1% in the EU27.
The need to implement urgently measures to ensure adequate, safe and sustainable pensions for the future as outlined in the European Commission's February 2012 Pensions White Paper is the main message from European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor to the European Forum for Manufacturing's roundtable on pensions at the European Parliament. "The challenges of an ageing population and the economic crisis are huge, but by implementing the policies sketched out in the White Paper we can ensure that pensions remain adequate, affordable and sustainable — provided action is taken in time", he confirmed. "The White Paper seeks to support Member States and maximise the added value of the EU in tackling the common challenges that our pension systems face." Andor points at the pension reforms already carried out in a number of Member States and encourages other countries to do the same in line with the Country Specific Recommendations adopted during the European Semester 2012. He also notes that the Commission has proposed a Directive to ensure the portability of pension rights between Member States, which is an important factor for pan-EU labour mobility."People who exercise their right to free movement should not be penalised. This represents a barrier to the mobility of individuals, and prevents European economies from reaping the benefits of the Single Market. In today's labour market, characterised by a demand for more flexibility, people need to be able to easily change jobs." This proposal is currently being actively discussed in the Council of Ministers under the Cyprus Presidency.
!!! EMBARGO 18.20 CET!!!
Commissioner Andor to encourage Croatia to continue efforts on employment and social inclusion
European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor will visit Zagreb on 20 and 21 September to take stock of progress made by Croatia in the context of preparation for its accession to the EU, due on 1 July 2013. Andor will meet the President of Croatia Ivo Josipovic, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Vesna Pusic, Social Policy Minister Milanka Opacic, Regional Development and EU Funds Minister Branko Grcic, Deputy Minister of Science and Education Marja Lugaric, and Labour and Pension Minister Mirando Mrsic. He will encourage the Croatian Government to implement the recently announced labour legislation reform and to address remaining structural weaknesses in the labour market, particularly with regards to employment of women and older people. He will highlight the need for Croatia to participate in the Europe 2020 Strategy and notably integrate its targets for employment and social inclusion, and urge the Croatian Government to prepare to take full advantage of the European Social Fund (ESF) to co-fund projects to invest in human capital. He will also meet with Croatian social partners and remind them of the enhanced role which the Treaty of Lisbon gives them. Andor will also award contracts for two specific schemes under the Instrument for Pre-Accession to further strengthen investment in human capital in Croatia. The first scheme includes some 7 contracts, worth around €1 million, on "Improving access to sustainable employment of long-term unemployed highly educated persons" and the second scheme includes some 30 contracts, together worth around €4 million, on "Modernisation of school curricula in VET schools in line with the changing needs of the labour market/economy".
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