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EXME 12 / 05.12
Midday Express of 2012-12-05
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Measures to help Member States tackle unacceptable levels of youth unemployment and social exclusion by giving young people offers of jobs, education and training have been proposed by the European Commission.
The European Commission has fined seven international groups of companies a total of € 1 470 515 000 for participating in either one or both of two distinct cartels in the sector of cathode ray tubes ("CRT"). For almost ten years, between 1996 and 2006, these companies fixed prices, shared markets, allocated customers between themselves and restricted their output. One cartel concerned colour picture tubes used for televisions and the other one colour display tubes used in computer monitors. The cartels operated worldwide. The infringements found by the Commission therefore cover the entire European Economic Area (EEA). Chunghwa, LG Electronics, Philips and Samsung SDI participated in both cartels, while Panasonic, Toshiba, MTPD (currently a Panasonic subsidiary) and Technicolor (formerly Thomson) participated only in the cartel for television tubes. Chunghwa received full immunity from fines under the Commission's 2006 Leniency Notice for the two cartels, as it was the first to reveal their existence to the Commission. Other companies received reductions of their fines for their cooperation in the investigation under the Commission's leniency programme.
In the context of its State Aid Modernisation (SAM) initiative, the European Commission has adopted proposals to amend two Council Regulations governing EU state aid control. The reform of the Procedural Regulation of 1999 is aimed at focussing state aid enforcement on the most significant distortions of competition in the internal market and to speed up decision making. The proposed amendments to the Enabling Regulation of 1998 would allow the Commission to adopt more block exemptions for aid with limited impact on the internal market, for example in the field of culture or innovation. The Commission proposals will now be discussed in Council and in the European Parliament.
The European Commission has temporarily approved, under EU state aid rules, an emergency recapitalisation totalling €1.5 billion that Austria intends to grant to Hypo Group Alpe Adria (HGAA). The bank needs the aid to comply with regulatory equity ratios. The Commission temporarily approved the aid for reasons of financial stability.
Every day, numerous operators (EU and non-EU) of the food supply chain deliver safe and diverse foodstuffs and beverages to over 500 million European consumers, representing an average of 15 % of household expenditure. The agro-food sector is a vital economy driver in the EU which encompasses 17 million enterprises in agriculture, the food processing industry and related services. The High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain, established in 2010, has presented its report today. It shows that around 80 % of the initiatives contained in the Forum's Roadmap have been satisfactorily implemented. The Forum looks forward to a consensus yet to be reached on the best way to implement the principles of good practice put forward last year to improve business-to-business relationships ( IP/11/1469). All parties showed their clear willingness to continue discussions in a constructive way and the Commission encourages stakeholders to put forward a satisfactory solution at the earliest opportunity. In parallel the Commission will assess all possible options for tackling unfair trading practices in the food chain, including legislation, and will launch an impact assessment.
Reflecting the difficult economic situation, EU officials face a loss of -1.1% in 2012. This is the result of the formula for calculating annual pay adjustments. It follows an effective fall in purchasing power of -3.6% in 2011. In total, the loss in EU officials' purchasing power between 2004 and 2011 is -7.6%. The formula, known as 'The Method', tracks the evolution of national civil servants' purchasing power, up or down, from a basket of 8 Member States (UK, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg – a sample explicitly chosen by the Member States in 2004 and representing 76% of EU GDP). In other words, it applies the political decisions taken by those national governments concerning the salaries of their own civil servants to the salaries of EU staff.
The Commission is issuing new guidelines to improve understanding of how aquaculture can be carried out inside Natura 2000, the EU-wide network of protected natural areas. The guidelines explain how best to ensure that activities related to aquaculture are compatible with EU nature legislation and Natura 2000 provisions in particular. They emphasize the significance of the aquaculture sector for food production, and highlight the key role of the Natura 2000 network in delivering the objectives of EU Biodiversity policy. The guidelines focus on the implementation of the provisions on appropriate assessment under the Habitats Directive.
In October 2012 compared with September 2012, the volume of retail trade fell by 1.2% in the euro area (EA17) and by 1.1% in the EU27, according to estimates from Eurostat. In September retail trade decreased by 0.6% and 0.2% respectively. In October 20124, compared with October 2011, the retail sales index fell by 3.6% in the euro area and by 2.4% in the EU27.
Commission clears acquisition of Europool by SNCF and Strukton Rail
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the joint acquisition of the Dutch company Europool by SNCF Participations SAS, controlled by the French Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF), and the Dutch company Strukton Rail BV. Europool has sole control of the Dutch company Eurailscout Inspection & Analysis BV (Eurailscout) and joint control of the German company Erdmann-Software GmbH (Erdmann-Software). By the same concentration SNCF Participations SAS acquires sole control of a newly-created French subsidiary of Eurailscout (the Service Company). Eurailscout is active in mobile collection and monitoring of data relating to the state of the railway infrastructure. Erdmann-Software is active in the development and sale of software for data related to the measuring and monitoring of railway infrastructure. The Service Company will be active in mobile collection and monitoring of data relating to the state of the railway infrastructure mainly in France. SNCF is active in various economic activities, including railway, road and overseas transportation of goods and passengers and it is the operator on behalf of the French rail network manager ‘Réseau ferré de France’ of technical services for the building of the transportation plan and the management of railway traffic as well as maintenance, works and engineering services on the French railway network. Strukton Rail is active in the development, installation and maintenance of rail systems. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Endorsing the European Commission's approach to innovation- driven, strategic growth
Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, and Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, have today been presented with a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which supports the main principles behind the Commission's thinking for the next period of EU spending in 2014-20. The report concerns the use of so called 'Smart Specialisation ' strategies to design better public policies for boosting innovation-driven growth in EU regions through EU investments. "Smart specialisation" is a strategic approach to economic development through targeted support for research and innovation and was announced in the 'Innovation Union ' flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The aim is to ensure more effective and efficient innovation policy strategies at national and regional level to maximise the impact of EU investment. More information: Factsheet on Research Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation ; “Smart Specialisation Strategies for Innovation-driven Growth” OECD report
Commissioner Andor: tackling poverty by investing in people
"If the European Union is to come out of the crisis stronger, more cohesive and more competitive, we need to tackle the social situation and the long-term challenges too. And we need to do that by focusing on structural reform and social investment." stated László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the second Annual Convention of the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion. This flagship initiative in the Europe 2020 Strategy aims at reducing the number of people at risk of poverty with at least 20 million by 2020. However he underlined that since its launch, the situation in our Member States has not improved and that the crisis has further increased and deepened the inequalities. He stated that: "Social protection is not there just as a remedy when things are going badly. It is a social investment — an investment in our future prosperity and well-being. We need to modernise the European social model so that it mobilises a larger share of Europe's human capital. This is why the Commission will present early next year a Social Investment Package for Growth and Cohesion." EMBARGO 14h30 – Speech/12/907
State aid: Commission authorises state aid for the German forest climate fund (Waldklimafonds)
The European Commission has today authorised a German state aid scheme with a budget of €101.5 million which aims at supporting the adaptation of forests to climate change. The aid under the scheme can be granted from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2016 for restoring forests, increasing forest cover, improvement of soil quality, prevention of pests, provision of technical support, information materials and purchase of forestry land. The scheme is compatible with the Community Guidelines for State Aid in the agriculture and forestry sector 2007-2013. The full text of the Commission decision will be published in the State Aid Register on DG Competition’s website under the reference number SA.35243.
New Director Appointed in DG MARKT
Mrs Kerstin Jorna has been appointed Director of the "Intellectual Property" Directorate of DG MARKT. Kerstin joined the Commission in 1990 and has held various positions in the Internal Market Directorate, amongst them assistant of the Director General as well as being a member of the negotiating team for the Nice Treaty in the Secretariat General. She has also had a stint as Spokesperson for regional policy and institutional affairs. Kerstin joined successively the cabinets of Michel Barnier, Günther Verheugen and Jacques Barrot. She is a German national, studied law in Bonn, Hamburg and Bruges, is married and has four children. The decision will take effect on December 16, 2012.
Vice-President Siim Kallas: Bridging transport’s financing gap - fair charging for the road ahead
Maintaining and expanding Europe’s transport network is essential if the EU is to remain a world leader in export industries, manufacturing and logistics. But today, there is a clear financing gap - and EU public investment in transport infrastructure has been falling over the last decades. Charging for the use of Europe’s congested road network is a logical and fair way to create a new funding resource base, European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas told a conference on road pricing. Users, rather than taxpayers, should be paying to maintain transport infrastructure, he said. “Charging for using roads has several advantages. It has an important part to play in shaping more sustainable transport behaviour and giving incentives for consumers to buy and use cleaner vehicles,” Kallas said. “Apart from promoting rational use of limited road space, pricing can provide long-term funding for regular and timely maintenance of infrastructure. Equally importantly, it helps to make road use more even, and eases congestion,” he said. Vice-President Siim Kallas will deliver his speech at 16.30 today. After that time the speech can be consulted here: SPEECH/12/905 .
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