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EXME 12 / 17.12
Midday Express of 2012-12-17
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
The Commission's Task Force for Greece has presented its third quarterly report on technical assistance for Greece. The report describes the assistance provided by the Task Force, the Member States, international organisations and other specialist bodies to support Greece in the implementation of its ambitious reform agenda.
New EU rules which will improve Member States’ ability to assess and collect the taxes that they are due will enter into force on 1 January 2013. The Directive on Administrative Cooperation in the field of taxation lays the basis for stronger cooperation and greater information exchange between tax authorities in the EU. One of the key aspects of the Directive is that it brings an end to bank secrecy: one Member State cannot refuse to give information to another just because it is held by a financial institution.
From 1st January 2013, new EU VAT rules enter into effect, which will make life much simpler for businesses across Europe.
First, electronic invoicing will have to be treated the same as paper invoicing, enabling companies to choose the VAT invoicing solution that works best for them. This has the potential to save businesses up to €18 billion a year in reduced administration costs.
The European Commission today adopted a proposal for a new directive on marine equipment (the "MED"). Marine equipment represents a significant fraction of the value of a ship, and its quality and good operation are critical for the safety of the ship and its crew, as well as for the prevention of maritime accidents and pollution of the marine environment. The marine equipment industry is a high added-value sector with high levels of investment in research and development.
New environmental rules on marine fuels, entering into force today, will substantially reduce air pollution and its impacts on human health. Air pollutants from maritime shipping are transported over long distances and as a result contribute increasingly to the air quality problems in many European cities. Without any action, sulphur emissions from shipping in EU sea areas would exceed those from all land-based sources by 2020. The revised legislation will put an end to this trend reducing not only sulphur emissions but more importantly particulate matter, marking a clear step forward in protection of people's health and the environment.
The European Commission has temporarily approved, under EU State aid rules, a €3.9 billion recapitalisation of Italy's third largest bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena S.p.A ("MPS") for reasons of financial stability. The measure will enable the bank to comply with recommendations from the European Banking Authority. The approval is conditional upon the submission of a restructuring plan within six months from today's decision.
Five hundred universities from across Europe and the world are expected to take part in a new international university ranking initiated by the European Commission, it was announced today. The new listing, U-Multirank, will differ from existing rankings by rating universities according to a broader range of performance factors, aimed at providing a more realistic and user-friendly guide to what they offer. The new 'multi-dimensional' ranking will rate universities in five separate areas: reputation for research, quality of teaching and learning, international orientation, success in knowledge transfer (eg partnerships with business and start-ups), and regional engagement. Universities are being invited to sign up for the new ranking in the first half of 2013, and the first results are due in early 2014. U-Multirank will be formally launched at a major conference on 30-31 January in Dublin under the Irish Presidency of the European Union.
Grants of up to €2.4 million will be awarded to universities or research institutions in less developed regions in Europe, under a pilot programme of the European Commission. The aim of the so-called ERA Chairs initiative is to attract outstanding academics to places that want to be on the international map for top research.
A new report on the EU's Food Facility, set up in 2008 to counter the negative effects of the food crisis, show that in three years, the EU has improved the lives of over 59 million people in 49 countries, and provided indirect support for 93 million others (by for instance enabling people to benefit from increased opportunities for trade in the area, and to learn improved skills from neighbouring farmers).
The first estimate for the euro area (EA17) trade in goods balance with the rest of the world in October 2012 gave a 10.2 bn euro surplus, compared with -0.7 bn in October 2011. The September 2012 balance was +9.5 bn, compared with +0.8 bn in September 2011. In October 2012 compared with September 2012, seasonally adjusted exports fell by 1.4% while imports increased by 0.6%. These data are released by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The first estimate for the October 2012 extra-EU27 trade in goods balance was a 9.4 bn euro deficit, compared with -11.3 bn in October 2011. The September 20122 balance was -12.5 bn, compared with -11.4 bn in September 2011. In October 2012 compared with September 2012, seasonally adjusted exports decreased by 1.7% while imports rose by 0.3%.
Hourly labour costs in the euro area (EA17) rose by 2.0% in the year up to the third quarter of 2012, compared with 1.9% for the second quarter of 2012. In the EU27, the annual rise was 1.9% up to the third quarter of 2012, the same as the previous quarter. These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The two main components of labour costs are wages & salaries and non-wage costs. In the euro area, wages & salaries per hour worked grew by 2.0% and the non-wage component by 1.7% in the year up to the third quarter of 2012, compared with 2.1% and 1.4% respectively for the previous quarter. In the EU27, hourly wages & salaries rose by 2.0% and the non-wage component by 1.9% in the year up to the third quarter of 2012, compared with 2.0% and 1.6% respectively for the second quarter of 2012.
Medical research in EU gets boost through 8th IMI call for proposals
The European Union's Innovative Medicines Initiative, a partnership between the public and private sectors to develop new treatments for patients, has today launched new calls for research projects to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR), explore better ways to classify diseases and create a European pluripotent stem cell bank. The AMR calls aim at developing new drugs targeting Staphylococcus aureus, the leading cause of antibiotic-resistant healthcare-associated infections worldwide, and Gram-negative bacteria (e.g. E-coli), which are responsible for two thirds of the 25,000 annual AMR-related deaths reported in Europe. With cases on the rise, new antibiotics are urgently needed to treat these infections. The total budget of the calls is €242.7 million. For more details, visit: http://www.imi.europa.eu/content/8th-call-2012
Commission approves extension of Portuguese guarantee scheme for credit institutions
The European Commission has authorised, under EU State aid rules, the extension until 30 June 2013 of a guarantee scheme for credit institutions in Portugal. The Portuguese guarantee scheme was initially approved on 29 October 2008 (see IP/08/1601) and prolonged on 22 February 2010 (see MEX/10/0222), on 23 July 2010 (see IP/10/997), on 21 January 2011 (see MEX/11/0121), on 30 June 2011 ( MEX/11/0630), on 21 December 2011 (see MEX/11/1221) and on 27 June 2012 (see MEX/12/0627). The Commission found the extension of the measures to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 and IP/11/1488). In particular, the extended measures are well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The Commission therefore concluded that they represent an appropriate means of remedying a serious disturbance in the Portuguese economy and as such are compatible with the internal market pursuant to Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Commission approves prolongation of Portuguese recapitalisation scheme for credit institutions
The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, the prolongation of a Portuguese recapitalisation scheme for credit institutions until 30 June 2013. The scheme aims at strengthening financial stability in Portugal and to ensure banks' compliance with regulatory capital requirements. The Commission acknowledged the problems Portuguese banks experience in accessing market funding in the persisting difficulties on the financial markets in Portugal. The Commission concluded that the scheme constitutes an appropriate and necessary response, in line with Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that allows to grant aid to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State. The Commission initially approved the Portuguese recapitalisation scheme in May 2012 (see MEX/12/0530).
Commission clears acquisition by Mittal Investments of certain UK assets of Anglo American and Lafarge
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition by Mittal Investments of a package of assets to be divested by Anglo American and Lafarge as a condition of clearance by the UK Competition Commission of the companies' proposed construction materials joint venture in the UK. Mittal Investments is an investment company affiliated with ArcelorMittal SA, a globally active steel and mining company. The assets sold by Anglo American and Lafarge are involved in the production and supply of aggregates, high purity limestone, cement, ready-mixed concrete and asphalt in the UK. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
L’UE lutte contre la malnutrition des enfants au Niger et contribue à un meilleur accès à l’eau potable
Dans le cadre de l'Initiative d'accélération des Objectifs du Millénaire pour le Développement (OMD) au Niger, l’UE va mettre en œuvre de nouvelles actions pour réduire la malnutrition chez les enfants de moins de 5 ans, accroître l’accès à l’eau potable, et sensibiliser la population aux pratiques d’hygiène et d’assainissement dans les régions de Maradi, Zinder et Tahoua. Un second projet visera à accroître les capacités locales de gestion administratives et financières en vue d’assurer une mise en œuvre efficace de l’aide communautaire. Entre autres, 618 points d'eau seront construits ou réhabilités. Les conditions d'hygiène et d'assainissement seront aussi améliorées par la réalisation de 1.910 latrines familiales, 32 latrines publiques ainsi que 180 systèmes d’évacuation des eaux grises. http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/documents/aap/2012/pr_aap_2012_ner.pdf
The High Level Group on wine planting rights, established last April at the request of European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Cioloş, has finished its work today. This group of experts, comprising representatives from the 27 Member States, from the sector, as well as observers from the Council, from the European Parliament and from Croatia, has drafted a report accompanied by conclusions. These conclusions will be presented to the Council and the European Parliament. They will feed into the on-going debate on this point within the framework of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Singapore's Minister of Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang, today completed final negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the European Union and Singapore. The agreement reached today is one of the most comprehensive the EU has ever negotiated and will create new opportunities for companies from Europe and Singapore to do business together. The growing Singaporean market offers export potential for EU, industrial, agricultural and services businesses. An EU-Singapore FTA will be the EU's second ambitious agreement with a key Asian trading partner, after the EU-Korea FTA, which is in operation since July 2011.
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