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EXME 12 / 13.12
Midday Express of 2012-12-13
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
The European Commission has adopted a decision that renders legally binding commitments offered by Apple and four international publishers - Simon & Schuster (CBS Corp., USA), Harper Collins (News Corp., USA), Hachette Livre (Lagardère Publishing, France), Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck (Germany; owner of inter alia Macmillan). The Commission had concerns that these companies may have contrived to limit retail price competition for e-books in the European Economic Area (EEA), in breach of EU antitrust rules. To address these concerns, the companies offered in particular to terminate on-going agency agreements and to exclude certain clauses in their agency agreements during the next five years. The publishers have also offered to give retailers freedom to discount e-books, subject to certain conditions, during a two-year period. After a market test (see IP/12/986), the Commission is satisfied that the final commitments remedy the identified competition concerns it had identified.
The European Parliament voted today on proposed measures to help increase the capacity of Europe's airports, reduce delays and improve the quality of services offered to passengers. In its vote on the "airports package" the Parliament gave strong support for the Commission's proposals to improve slot allocation as well as to improve the transparency of noise decisions. The Parliament referred the proposals on ground handling back to the Parliamentary Committee for further consideration.
Today, the EU has announced the launch of three new programmes in support of democratic reforms and stability in Lebanon. The funding is provided as part of the regional EU "Support to Partnership Reform and Inclusive Growth" (SPRING) programme. The projects aim to promote sustainable democratic reforms in targeted areas such as the protection of human rights, electoral reform and social stability and build on already on-going EU assistance.
In 2011, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in Luxembourg, expressed in purchasing power standards (PPS), was more than two and a half times the EU27 average. The Netherlands, Ireland, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Germany were between around 20% and 30% above the EU27 average, while Belgium and Finland were between 10% and 20% above average. The United Kingdom and France registered GDP per capita nearly 10% above the EU27 average, while Italy and Spain were around the average. Cyprus was around 5% below the EU27 average, while Malta, Slovenia and the Czech Republic were between 15% and 20% lower than the average. Greece, Portugal and Slovakia were between 20% and 30% below the average, while Estonia, Lithuania, Hungary and Poland were around one third below. Latvia was just over 40% lower, while Romania and Bulgaria were between 50% and 55% below the average.
Quality of Public Expenditure in the EU
Today the Commission publishes the report "Quality of Public Expenditure in the EU", as requested by the Heads of State or Government on 28-29 June 2012 to monitor the impact of budget constraints on growth-enhancing public expenditure and on public investments. The report reviews trends in the composition of public expenditure in the EU during the economic and financial crisis and the subsequent fiscal adjustment. It discusses different notions of expenditure efficiency, with a special focus on healthcare and on public administration reform. It also reviews the scope for possible actions within the EU budgetary framework to prioritise growth-friendly and efficient expenditures. Finally, it spells out a possible way forward to further support quality of expenditure in national policies in the context of the European Semester. The evidence shown in the report suggests that Member States should do more to prioritise growth-friendly spending items, such as education and training, R&D, selected investment projects etc., within national policy frameworks. Public investment projects in particular should be carefully assessed based on their likely contribution to potential growth. The full report can be consulted here: http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/publications/occasional_paper/2012/op125_en.htm
"Too many young people are neither in employment nor in education or training. The biggest risk for them is to drift away from society, into social exclusion and poverty. A lack of skills, and of the right skills, is still one of the most important factors in unemployment. A response is needed urgently" stated László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the conference 'Youth on the Move' organised today by the Committee of the Regions in Brussels. He took the opportunity to present the Youth Employment Package presented on 5th December. The Package includes a proposal for a Recommendation for Youth Guarantees, a scheme that ensures that all young people up to 25 years of age receive a quality offer of a job, continued education, apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education and a European Quality Framework for Traineeships. He insisted that regional and local authorities clearly have a key role to play in implementing the Youth Employment Package. He therefore called on European regions and local authorities to mobilise and work with the Commission to create a better present and a sustainable future for our younger generation. He concluded that "In view of the enormity of the youth unemployment crisis, we have to invest in Europe's youth now. The costs of not doing so would be catastrophic."
Commission clears acquisition of Dorna Sports by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control of Dorna Sports of Spain, by Bridgepoint Advisers Group Limited of the United Kingdom, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB). Dorna is active as international sports management, marketing and media company. Bridgepoint is a private equity investor in various sectors, including financial services, healthcare and media. CPPIB is a professional investment management organization, investing the assets of the Canada Pension Plan. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Animal health: Member States back Commission exemption on BSE testing for healthy cattle
Measures to introduce a new BSE testing regime were endorsed by experts meeting in the Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH). Under these measures, all Member States, except Bulgaria and Romania, will be able to stop testing healthy cattle at slaughter for BSE. This new testing regime will not only still far exceed the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) international standard, but will also annually save the EU budget, €36 million. The testing regime of at-risk cattle (e.g. fallen stock, casualty slaughter and clinical suspects) will however remain unchanged. The removal during slaughter of specified risk materials (the organs harbouring the BSE infectivity in an animal affected by BSE), which is the central measure for the protection of human health will also not be affected by the new measures. Healthy slaughtered cattle have been included in the BSE surveillance system since January 2001 in an effort to gather appropriate epidemiological data to follow the evolution of the BSE prevalence. Thanks to the significant improvement of the BSE situation in most Member States, the minimal age of animals to be tested has already been raised progressively since 2009 from over 30 months to over 72 months. A scientific report published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on 15 October 2012 estimated that even with no healthy slaughter animals tested, the performance achieved by the existing BSE at risk testing was over 50 times greater than the relevant international standard established by the OIE. The new regime is expected to enter into force by end of March 2013.
Food: List of permitted health claims to enter into force
From 14 December 2012 the Health Claims Regulation (EC) No 432/2012 which authorises 222 health claims on food products enters into force. The Regulation which was adopted on 16 May 2012 foresaw a transitional period allowing food companies to adapt their commercial practices to the new requirements. This transitional period expires tomorrow. Only permitted health claims featuring on the list and those which are still under consideration by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) can be used on food packaging across the EU. The list of permitted claims will protect EU consumers against misleading claims and will ensure a level playing field for food business operators. The priority now is to finalise the review of all health claims submitted for evaluation to EFSA which were put 'on hold' when establishing the list of permitted health claims. For more information: http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/labellingnutrition/claims/health_claims_en.htm ; http://ec.europa.eu/nuhclaims/
Commissioner Piebalgs attends the 7th Summit for African, Caribbean and the Pacific Heads of State
On 13 and 14 December, European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, participates in the Summit for African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) in Equatorial Guinea to discuss the future of the group after 2020, when the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) expires. The EU's commitment to support developing countries, remains firm but the world has changed considerably since the Cotonou Agreement was signed in the year 2000; so it is appropriate to reflect on those changes and discuss what comes next. The Commissioner will also attend a High Level Panel on energy, where he will stress the importance it has to development: No energy means no sustained or sustainable economic growth; no sustainable agriculture; no quality healthcare; and no decent education. The summit will as well be an opportunity to meet several Heads of State of the region to reinforce EU partnership with the ACP countries as a way to join forces in order to beat poverty and take up other global challenges being faced.
In a move to make it easier and cheaper for enterprises to do business and for citizens to enjoy the benefits of the Single Market, the European Commission announced a major package of measures to strengthen and improve the European regulatory framework and ensure the EU's "regulatory fitness". It includes a new programme to cut any unnecessary regulatory costs at EU and national level. It follows up on the administrative burden programme. And it sharpens the tools - impact assessments, evaluations, public consultations - that allow EU legislation to keep fit. This package is set to help the EU to grow and compete in difficult times. Its importance was recognised by the European Council on 18-19 October 2012.
Businesses hit by the economic crisis will be thrown a lifeline under a new proposal from the European Commission today to modernise Europe’s rules on cross-border business insolvency, helping to give otherwise viable businesses a ‘second chance’. The Commission is proposing to modernise the current rules on cross border insolvency which date from 2000. Benefitting from ten years of experience, the new rules will shift focus away from liquidation and develop a new approach to helping businesses overcome financial difficulties, all the while protecting creditors' right to get their money back.
The European Commission has today adopted an Action Plan outlining future initiatives in the areas of company law and corporate governance. European company law and corporate governance should make sure that companies are competitive and sustainable. The Commission's analysis and consultations over the last two years clearly indicate that further improvements can be made, by encouraging and facilitating long-term shareholder engagement, by increasing the level of transparency between companies and their shareholders and by simplifying cross-border operations of European undertakings. On the basis of its reflection and the results of the consultations, the Commission identified several lines of action in the area of company law and corporate governance that are fundamental to putting in place modern legislation for sustainable and competitive companies.
The European Commission today welcomes the adoption by the European Parliament and Council of new legislation on bilateral investment agreements. This is a key step in respect of foreign direct investment, which has become an exclusive EU competence under the Lisbon Treaty. Some 1,200 Bilateral Investment Agreements had been concluded by Member States with non-EU countries prior to the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, and the status of these agreements needed to be clarified under the new Treaty rules.
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Orange's mobile telephony business in Austria by Hutchison 3G (H3G). The approval is conditional upon the implementation of a commitments package that will facilitate the entry of new players into the Austrian mobile telecommunications market. The Commission had concerns that the elimination of one out of only four mobile network operators in Austria could have led to less competition and higher prices, to the detriment of end consumers. To address these concerns, H3G submitted remedies, offering in particular to divest radio spectrum and related rights and to provide wholesale access to its network. In light of these commitments, the Commission concluded that the transaction would no longer raise competition concerns.
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