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EXME 12 / 18.12
Midday Express of 2012-12-18
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
The European Union's Nobel Peace prize money will fund four projects under the EU Children of Peace initiative and details of the projects were announced today by Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission.
The European Commission has today adopted a Communication which sets out parallel tracks of action to be undertaken during this Commission's term of office to ensure that the EU's copyright framework stays fit for purpose in the digital environment. It follows the Commission's orientation debate on content in the digital economy held on 5 December 2012 on the initiative of Commission President José Manuel Barroso (see MEMO/12/950).
The European Commission has today adopted seven new priorities for the digital economy and society. The digital economy is growing at seven times the rate of the rest of the economy, but this potential is currently held back by a patchy pan-European policy framework. Today's priorities follow a comprehensive policy review and place new emphasis on the most transformative elements of the original 2010 Digital Agenda for Europe .
The European Commission today awarded over €1.2 billion funding to 23 highly innovative renewable energy demonstration projects under the first call for proposals for the so-called NER300 funding programme. Projects will be co-financed with revenues obtained from the sale of 200 million emission allowances from the new entrants' reserve (NER) of the EU Emissions Trading System.
The European Commission has decided today to extend its suspension of legal action against Austria and Belgium over their quota restrictions on the number of non-nationals permitted to enrol on degree courses for doctors, dentists, physiotherapists and vets. Today's decision means that the Commission is prolonging its current freeze on infringement proceedings, in place since 2007, for a further four years until December 2016. The suspension is conditional on both countries gathering definitive evidence on why these courses should be an exception to EU Treaty rules on free movement of citizens, which normally guarantee EU nationals with relevant entry qualifications full access to higher education in any Member State.
At the 8th Intergovernmental Conference on Accession of Iceland held in Brussels today, 6 more negotiation chapters were opened and the competition chapter was provisionally closed. The chapters opened cover the areas of free movement of goods, taxation, regional policy and external relations.
An important step was taken today in developing solutions for the major challenges Europe faces in managing water. The Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) adopted by the European Innovation Partnership on Water, chaired by Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik sets out priority areas where solutions are needed. Action Groups will now draw up tools and mechanisms to promote innovations in water policies and technologies. 40 million euros of research funding will be made available in 2013 to support demonstration projects related to the priority areas.
By the end of the year new EU rules to better care for passengers when travelling by sea and inland waterway will be protected by a set of minimum rights anywhere within the European Union. As from 31 December, passengers travelling by sea will have the right to claim compensation for loss or damage in the event of accidents.
Today, EU Commissioner for Development, Mr. Andris Piebalgs, will announce a grant to the World Bank Multi Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) in support of water and energy in Central Asia. The signing of the contribution agreement will take place during a meeting with Mr. Philippe Le Houérou, Vice President of the World Bank.
Plus d'un million de personnes pourront avoir accès à l'eau potable et à l'assainissement de base en milieu rural en Côte d'Ivoire grâce à un programme que vient de lancer la Commission européenne. Ce programme, qui s'inscrit dans le cadre de l'initiative européenne pour les Objectifs du Millénaire pour le Développement (OMD), prolonge les interventions d'urgence et de réhabilitation engagées entre 2006 et 2010 et cible les zones les plus touchées par la crise ivoirienne. Les objectifs principaux sont la remise en état d'infrastructures hydrauliques, au bénéfice de 350.000 personnes, et la fourniture d'infrastructures d’assainissement, au bénéfice de 650.000 personnes.
Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg, today welcomed the vote on Alternative Dispute Resolution and Online Dispute Resolution (ADR-ODR) in the Internal Market and Consumers Committee. This vote confirms the agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council on the two proposals put forward by the European Commission in 2011. Member States will start implementing the ADR/ODR rules after their final adoption by Parliament, in the second quarter of 2013.
The Commission is today proposing a new framework to enhance the EU's ability to enforce its rights in the international trading system. Ensuring the EU's trade partners respect the agreed trade rules is essential to make trade agreements work for the EU economy. The proposal covers the EU's trade responses in cases of illegal trade measures in other countries, and it will allow effective action to safeguard the interests of EU companies and workers. The proposal is for a framework to enable the Commission to take executive action when the trade interests of the EU are at stake, rather than reacting on a case by case basis when the EU rights are not respected. Today's proposal would allow the EU to implement trade responses in a more streamlined, efficient manner in order to encourage the offending country to remove the illegal measures.
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether a payment of dividends in September 2012 by Caixa Geral Finance Limited, an affiliate of Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD), is in line with EU State aid rules. In June 2012 CGD received a rescue capital injection from the Portuguese State amounting to €1.65 billion. The Commission had authorised the capital increase, subject to commitments including, in particular, a ban on the payment of dividends and coupons on hybrid capital (see IP/12/805). The Commission will investigate whether the dividend payments involve a misuse of the rescue aid that CGD had received and whether they constitute, in turn, state aid to the recipients. The opening of a formal investigation procedure gives interested third parties an opportunity to submit comments on the measures under examination. It does not prejudge the outcome.
Internet access and use is widespread amongst the EU population. In the EU27, more than three quarters of households had access to the internet in 2012, compared with just under half in 2006. The proportion of households who have a broadband internet connection has increased more significantly. In 2012, 72% of EU27 households had access to the internet via a broadband connection, compared with 30% in 2006.
Commission clears acquisition of Apex Tool Group by Bain Capital Investors
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition by Bain Capital Investors of Apex Tool Group, both US-based companies. Bain Capital Investors is active worldwide as a private equity investment firm. Apex tool is a manufacturer and supplier of hand and power tools, chain products and specialty products for industrial, commercial and DIY applications. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Report from the Commission on the implementation of the European School Fruit Scheme
More than 8 million children and 54.000 schools benefited from the School Fruit Scheme (SFS) in 2010/11, according to a new report on the implementation of the EU scheme. Although the scheme only started in the autumn of 2009, initial results show that it has been successfully embedded in Member States and that its efficiency is increasing. Of the 27 Member States, only Finland, Sweden & the UK have chosen not to implement it. Even though it is too early to judge the Scheme's long-term impact, the short-term results provided by most of the national and regional evaluations indicate that it has led to an increase in the amount of fruit and vegetables consumed by children and the report concludes that, if the Scheme is given long-term continuity, it can be seen as an appropriate tool to exercise positive influence on children's eating habits. As part of the CAP Reform package the Commission proposed to raise the budget to €150m (from €90m) and increase the rate of EU co-financing, which has been seen as an obstacle to a higher uptake of funds. For the future, with the Court of Auditors having also commented on the scheme in its current form, the Commission has already launched an impact assessment to analyse the SFS and the separate School Milk Scheme to improve synergies between the 2 schemes and examine different options for how they should develop in the future, including a possibility of a new wider scheme. Today's report will now be forwarded to the Council and the European Parliament. For full report, see http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/newsroom/97_en.htm
New EU support for renewable energy and food security in East Africa
Today, the European Commission announced support for two new projects in East Africa to bolster energy and food security. The projects will support the development of a power interconnector between Burundi and Rwanda in the East African Community, and a boost in livestock trade in the Horn of Africa. The first project, managed by the East African Community Secretariat, will tackle chronic power problems in East Africa by connecting the region's electricity markets. It will increase cross-border trade of electricity and address imbalances between supply and demand, network saturation, power outages and blackouts, voltage drops, and energy losses. Another project, implemented by the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources, will support the Horn of Africa in the identification and export certification of livestock, which is crucial for enhancing regional trade. The project will also help countries in the region to set up a strategy to detect animal diseases. For more information: http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/documents/aap/2012/pr_aap_2012_eastern-africa.pdf
Promoting access to renewable energies in the Indian Ocean region
A new project funded by the European Commission and managed by the Indian Ocean Commission will focus on promoting access to modern, reliable and sustainable energy services at acceptable cost for the consumers in the region. Countries in the Indian Ocean are dependent on imported fossil fuels (mainly petroleum and coal): at least 81% of primary energy is imported. The development of alternative renewable energy sources and energy efficiency has thus become a priority for governments in the region as well as for regional organisations. The total EU contribution to these new projects in East Africa and the Indian Ocean is €37 million. For more information: http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/documents/aap/2012/pr_aap_2012_eastern-africa.pdf
Autre matériel diffusé :
Joint statement by the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso on the recent parliamentary elections in Japan – rediffusion
Speech by Commissioner Michel Barnier at the Transatlantic Corporate Governance Dialogue: "The European banking union, a precondition to financial stability and a historical step forward for European integration" - rediffusion