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EXME 12 / 21.12
Midday Express of 2012-12-21
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
The European Commission's 2012 State Aid Scoreboard revealed that the volume of national support to the financial sector actually taken by banks between October 2008 and 31 December 2011 amounted to around €1.6 trillion (13 % of EU GDP). The bulk (67 %) came in the form of State guarantees on banks' wholesale funding. Support to the real economy on the basis of temporary crisis rules dropped to € 4.8 billion in 2011, a fall of more than 50% compared with 2010, reflecting both a low uptake by companies and the budgetary constraints of most EU Member States.
European researchers have made progress towards finding an alternative to adding sulphur dioxide to red wine and other foodstuffs, such as dried fruit, holding out the hope of making future festive seasons healthier for millions.
The European Commission has invited interested parties to comment on commitments proposed by Lufthansa, United and Air Canada to address competition concerns about their transatlantic cooperation. The Commission has concerns that this cooperation may harm premium passengers on the Frankfurt-New York route because it could result in higher prices, in breach of EU antitrust rules. The parties have offered to make landing and take-off slots available at Frankfurt and/or New York to facilitate the entry of competitors on this route. The parties are also prepared to enter into fare combinability and special prorate agreements with competitors to enable them to offer tickets on their flights and facilitate access to connecting traffic. If the market test confirms that the proposed commitments remedy the competition concerns, the Commission may adopt a decision under Article 9 of Regulation 1/2003, making the commitments legally binding on the parties.
The European Commission has approved a request from the Spanish authorities made on 13 December 2012 to extend the temporary restriction on access for Romanian workers to the Spanish labour market until 31 December 2013 due to serious disturbances on its labour market. These restrictions cannot be continued after the end of 2013 as temporary restrictions on the free movement of Romanian and Bulgarian workers must be lifted in all Member States as from 1 January 2014.
The European Commission is to contribute nearly two million euros to INTERPOL in support of its efforts to combat wildlife crime and protect the world’s natural resources from the illegal international trade in wild flora and fauna. Over the next three years, funding worth EUR 1.73 million will support the world police body’s Project Combat Wildlife Crime under the umbrella of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), which also includes the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank (WB), and the World Customs Organisation (WCO).
The European Commission has today adopted a new programme to support cooperation on police services between the EU and the Eastern Partnership (EaP) neighbouring countries.
The European Commission has announced additional EU funding for Ukraine for 2012 today. The support is part of the Eastern Partnership and will focus on energy reform and the involvement of citizens in local development.
The EU will invest €84,8 million in Bosnia and Herzegovina to support reforms necessary to help the country move forward on its path towards European integration. The funding will focus on increasing the efficiency of the judiciary, strengthening the country's parliaments, improvements in the transport sector and on inclusion of vulnerable groups, including refugees and internally displaced persons. It will also help strengthen the law enforcement agencies in the fight against organised crime, terrorism and corruption, and will advance Bosnia and Herzegovina's alignment with EU laws and standards.
The European Commission announced that it has allocated €171,6 million today to support Serbia's efforts to implement its EU reform agenda. The funding will focus on increasing the efficiency of the judicial system, developing asylum capacities and the fight against organised crime, including trafficking in human beings and firearms. Measures to support the fight against corruption are also foreseen.
Aujourd'hui, l'Union européenne et la République de Guinée ont signé le document de stratégie pays et le programme indicatif national (DSP/PIN) pour la coopération avec la Guinée. Cette signature était suspendue jusqu'à l'adoption récente par les autorités guinéennes d'un calendrier précis en vue de l'organisation d'élections législatives. Cette signature marque ainsi officiellement la reprise de la coopération au développement de l'UE en Guinée.
Ferran Tarradellas Espuny will take up office as Head of the European Commission Regional Office in Barcelona on 1 January 2013. Mr Tarradellas joined the European Commission in 2000 initially working as a media contact in the Directorate General for Energy and Transport. He then held the posts of Spokesman for Energy and later for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis response, working closely with Commissioners Andris Piebalgs and Kristalina Georgieva, respectively. He currently works in the Press Department of the Representation of the European Commission in Madrid. Before joining the European Commission he worked as a journalist for different media, including Catalan newspaper Avui, the news agency Europe Today, the magazine El Sol and as a freelancer for other local newspapers in Spain and Andorra. Ferran Tarradellas holds a bachelor in Journalism and in Modern History. Mr Tarradellas' journalistic background and his long experience in different areas of the European Commission will enable the Commission's Office in Barcelona to play a key role in communicating with local citizens and the media and help to boost relations between the European Commission and the Governments and Parliaments of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, as well as local authorities and other stakeholders.
EU Globalisation Fund pays €12.7 million to help 2 823 redundant workers in Denmark and Germany
The European Commission has made payments of €12.7 million to Denmark and Germany from the European Globalisation adjustment Fund (EGF) to help 2 823 dismissed workers back into employment, following their redundancies in the wind turbine industry and in printing machinery manufacturing. €7.4 million will help 720 former workers of the Vestas Group, a Danish manufacturer of wind turbines, and €5.3 million will help 2103 former workers of manroland AG, a German manufacturer of printing machinery, and three of its subsidiaries and suppliers. In both cases the money will contribute to financing measures to help the redundant workers to find jobs e.g. by training, mentoring and coaching. These payments follow approval by the European Parliament and the EU's Council of Ministers of the proposals made by the Commission on 13 September 2012. For more information see also: IP/12/956 for Vestas Group and IP/12/957 for manroland AG.
Quarterly Report on Euro Area presents new approach to analysing housing market overheating
In view of the central role that overheating housing markets played in previous years in a number of euro area Member States, the latest Quarterly Report on the Euro Area presents an analytical toolkit for assessing housing market imbalances. It is centred around an analysis of cyclical overvaluation of house prices based on an approach which allows unsustainable developments such as pronounced boom and bust phases to be distinguished from milder cyclical movements. Other sections of the Quarterly Report look at various issues related to fiscal policy. One contribution presents new empirical evidence on the relationship between fiscal decentralisation and fiscal discipline. The analysis suggests that decentralisation can be beneficial for budgetary outcomes, and that it works best when subnational authorities are relatively self-reliant on own revenue sources. A further section explores the economic implications of various forms of housing taxation. Property tax revenue is generally small in relation to national output, indicating potential scope for shifting tax burdens away from labour and corporate income taxation and onto residential property holdings. A final contribution looks at sovereign bond spreads in the euro area, finding that the crisis has caused investors to generally demand a higher compensation for bearing a given level of sovereign risk, but that fundamentals alone do not explain the associated rise in spreads. General policy uncertainty, in particular regarding the integrity of the euro area, may explain some of the risk aversion and would necessitate consistent policies and a strengthening of EMU's framework, which in turn would support growth. Link to the complete report: http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/publications/qr_euro_area/2012/qrea4_en.htm
Commission approves Commission approves amendments to KBC restructuring
The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules and in the context of the monitoring of the KBC restructuring decision of 19 November 2009 (IP/09/1730), amendments to the KBC restructuring plan. The amendments include the introduction of an incentive structure to the asset relief measure (the State Protection Measure) to encourage KBC, subject to strict conditions, to reduce the exposure of the Belgian State to the assets covered by the portfolio. The Commission found that the amendments are likely to provide an advantage to KBC and are in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (see IP/08/1495). In particular, the measures are well targeted, proportionate and the distortion of competition limited because of the additional commitments provided by Belgium and KBC. The Commission therefore concluded that they are as such compatible with Article 107(3) (b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
The Commission clears acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company, both US companies. The Walt Disney Company is active in motion pictures and television production, video games, merchandise licensing, music and book publishing. It also operates Disneyland Paris. Lucasfilm Ltd is a privately held company active in motion picture and television production, as well as in the visual effects, sound, video games and merchandise licensing business. The Commission analysed the horizontal overlaps between the parties' activities in the markets relating to (i) home entertainment, (ii) publishing and distribution of gaming software, (iii) merchandise licensing, (iv) license of broadcasting rights and (v) production, acquisition and distribution of films for theatrical release and concluded that these overlaps are very limited. Moreover, the transaction does not give rise to any vertically affected markets. The Commission therefore concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area. The operation was examined under the normal merger review procedure. The operation was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information will be available on the competition website, in the Commission's public case register under the case number M.6791 .
Commission clears acquisition of Dematic by AEA Investors and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the proposed acquisition by AEA Investors and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board ("OTPP") of joint control of Dematic Holding. AEA is part of a US private equity investment group which has its primary business activity in identifying investment opportunities for investors, structuring investment transactions and managing and disposing of such investments. OTPP is a Canadian corporation which administers the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and manages its investments. Dematic is a company based in Luxembourg which designs, manufactures, integrates and services automated handling systems which are used in warehousing and distribution operations. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Commission clears creation of joint venture by SSPF and GM France
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the proposed creation of the joint venture Auto Distribution Provence SAS (ADP) by General Motors France SAS (GM France) and SSPF SAS (SSPF), all of France. ADP will be active in the retail distribution of new Opel vehicles and used vehicles, in the provision of maintenance and repair services and in the supply of Opel branded products and services in France. GM France is mainly active in the importation and wholesale distribution of GM branded vehicles and the supply of GM branded original spare parts in France. SSPF is a holding company of the Maurin Group, which is active in the retail distribution of motor vehicles and related products and services as well as in the wholesale distribution of original spare parts of various brands. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation under the EU Merger Regulation into the proposed acquisition of Mach of Luxembourg by Syniverse of the US. Roaming is the sending and receiving of calls, SMS and data while travelling abroad. The parties are data clearing houses (DCHs) that settle the usage records of subscribers that roam on mobile operators' networks. Mobile operators use these services to determine the wholesale payments they make to each other for the roaming of these subscribers. These payments are ultimately incorporated in consumers' phone bills. The Commission's initial investigation indicated that the merger may raise competition concerns on various roaming technology markets. The Commission now has 90 working days, until 15 May 2013, to take a final decision on whether the proposed merger would significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA). The opening of an in-depth enquiry does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
In December 2012, the DG ECFIN flash estimate of the consumer confidence indicator remained broadly unchanged in both the EU (-24.1 after -23.8 in November 2012) and the euro area (-26.6 after -26.9 in November 2012).
The European Commission announced today the release of an additional € 2 million to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees arriving from Syria in Lebanon.
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