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Midday Express of 2013-01-30
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
The European Commission today announced a comprehensive package of measures to deliver better quality and more choice in railway services in Europe. Rail is a vital part of EU transport, with a key role in addressing rising traffic demand, congestion, fuel security and decarbonisation. But many European rail markets are currently facing stagnation or decline.
In January the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) increased by 1.4 points in both the EU (to 90.6) and the euro area (to 89.2). In the EU, confidence improved in services, construction, retail trade and among consumers, while deteriorating slightly in industry. In the euro area, confidence picked up in construction, services and among consumers and remained broadly unchanged in industry and retail trade. In both regions, the ESI rose for the third consecutive month but remains well below its long-term average.Among the seven largest EU Member States, the ESI registered increases in Germany (+2.5), the Netherlands (+1.0), Spain (+0.5) and the UK (+0.5). It remained unchanged in Italy and broadly stable in France (‑0.3), while deteriorating in Poland (-1.3).
In January 2013, the Business Climate Indicator (BCI) for the euro area remained broadly unchanged at -1.09. While their assessment of current order books (overall and export) worsened, industry managers became less pessimistic in their production expectations and assessments of both past production and adequacy of stocks of finished products.
A new university ranking, set up with funding from the European Union, is being publicly launched under the Irish EU Presidency in Dublin today (30 January). The new 'multi-dimensional' listing marks a departure from traditional approaches to ranking university performance, most of which focus disproportionately on research excellence. Instead, it will rate universities according to a broader range of factors, in five separate areas: reputation for research, quality of teaching and learning, international orientation, success in knowledge transfer (such as partnerships with business and start-ups), and contribution to regional growth. Some 500 universities from Europe and across the world are expected to sign up to take part in the ranking and the first results will be published in early 2014.
The winners of the fourth EU Health Prize for Journalists were announced by Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy at an award ceremony in Brussels yesterday evening. The winning articles, selected from 557 submissions from journalists across the EU, cover issues related to healthcare and health services - with an additional "special prize" on smoking cessation.
Today EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, will take part in the second UN High Level Meeting on the post-Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda beyond 2015, which this time takes place in Monrovia, Liberia. The meeting will be co-chaired by David Cameron, UK Prime Minister and Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, President of Liberia.
The European Commission has prohibited under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of TNT Express by UPS. The Commission found that the take-over would have restricted competition in 15 Member States when it comes to the express delivery of small packages to another European country. In these Member States, the acquisition would have reduced the number of significant players to only 3 or 2, leaving sometimes DHL as the only alternative to UPS. The concentration would therefore have likely harmed customers by causing price increases. During the investigation, UPS offered to divest TNT's subsidiaries in these 15 countries and allow the buyer to access its intra-European air network for five years. The Commission carried out an in-depth assessment, including a market test where customers and other interested parties were consulted. However, these remedies proved inadequate to address the identified competition concerns.
Improving legislation: international Regulatory Reform Conference with participation of Vice-President Šefčovič and including a public session of the "Stoiber group", Berlin, 31 January–1 February
Accountability, transparency and participation are key elements for good governance. At the International Regulatory Reform Conference (IRRC) in Berlin, decision-makers from the political and business arena, as well as experts from administration, academia and civil society from all over the world will exchange views on current trends, innovative methods and best practices for improving legislation. On 1 February, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, alongside with Chancellor Merkel, will share his thoughts on new impulses through regulatory reform. On 31 January, the Commission's High Level Group on the Reduction of Administrative Burdens (chaired by Dr Edmund Stoiber) will hold its fifth public meeting in five years. A press conference is scheduled for 31 January at 12h30 at the German Federal Foreign Office with representatives of the German Federal Government, the Estonian Government, the OECD, the GIZ, the German National Regulatory Control Council and the Chair of the High Level Group on Administrative Burdens, Dr Stoiber. To find out more, visit the conference website and the European Commission's better regulation website .
Kroes launches 10 point plan for telecoms single market and broadband
VP Neelie Kroes will today tell industry that 2013 is " year of broadband." and that "the telecoms single market needs to be more than just rhetoric."One thing is clear to me: the overall (digital) strategy is the right one but broadband needs to be at its heart: It's digital oxygen, economic oxygen." All the new services "that transform people's lives and boost business' bottom line are built on that bedrock." "I am in a fighting mood and Europe can't wait," "I plan a package of ten steps (in 2013) to make the European telecoms market more integrated, coherent and efficient, giving digital Europe its broadband boost." UNDER EMBARGO UNTHIL 18H00 CET ( SPEECH/13/80)
Commissioner Andor: exploiting the employment potential of personal and household services
Formal employment in personal and household services is important because it helps to create new job opportunities, in particular for the relatively low-skilled; find solutions for persons in need of personal care; achieve a better work-life balance by calling on service-providers to do more daily tasks performed at home, including caring for children and the elderly; fight undeclared labour; and ensure quality services and good working conditions. This is the key message that Lazlo Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion is delivering today at the Conference on Personal and Household Services gathering various stakeholders. Andor will underline that we are likely to face a doubling up of the number of people with age-related disabilities and in need of special care while the pool of potential carers will shrink significantly as working age cohorts become smaller and the employment rates of women increase. He will stress that personal and household services are at the same time a solution for the persons in need of care, a way to achieve a better work-life balance especially for women with dependent children and/or parents and an opportunity to create jobs for the relatively low-skilled. Andor will remind that the Commission published a Staff Working Document on "Exploiting the potential of personal and household services" as part of the Employment Package in April 2012 and that it has conducted a public consultation based on that document. "The issue will be addressed in the Social Investment Package that the Commission will present in February" and "later this year the Commission will propose the establishment of an EU platform on undeclared work" Andor will conclude. Speech will be available at 14h30: SPEECH/13/81
Commission clears acquisition of Austrian Gas Grid Management AG by EVN Netz, OÖ Ferngas Netz, Gasnetz Steiermark and GAS CONNECT AUSTRIA
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control over the Austrian gas distribution area manager AGGM (Austrian Gas Grid Management AG) by EVN Netz GmbH, OÖ. Ferngas Netz GmbH, Gasnetz Steiermark GmbH and GAS CONNECT AUSTRIA GmbH. AGGM was formerly solely owned by GAS CONNECT AUSTRIA. EVN Netz, OÖ. Ferngas Netz and Gasnetz Steiermark are mainly active in the distribution of gas in Austria and have some activity in the electricity, heating, water-distribution and waste disposal sector in Austria. GAS CONNECT AUSTRIA is active in the transmission and distribution of gas. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Commission clears acquisition by US clothing firm PVH of rival Warnaco
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition by PVH Corp of The Warnaco Group. PVH (formerly known as Phillips-Van Heusen) designs and distributes (primarily through wholesale distribution) apparel, footwear and related accessories under a number of owned and licensed brands, including inter alia Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, IZOD, Van Heusen, ARROW, Bass, Geoffrey Beene, Chaps, Kenneth Cole New York, MICHAEL Michael Kors, Sean John and Donald J. Trump Signature Collection. Warnaco designs and distributes intimate apparel, sportswear, jeanswear and swimwear products under a number of owned and licensed brands, including inter alia Warner's, Olga, Calvin Klein, Chaps and Speedo. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Commission clears acquisition of Melco Elevator Vietnam by Mitsubishi and Mitsubishi Electric
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of MELCO Elevator Vietnam Co. Ltd by Mitsubishi Corporation and Mitsubishi Electric Corporation. Mitsubishi is a general trading company. Mitsubishi Electric is active in the manufacture and sale of electric and electronic equipment. Both Mitsubishi and Mitsubishi Electric are headquartered in Japan and active worldwide. VMEC, based in Vietnam, supplies, installs and maintains escalators, moving walkways and lifts and also sells their product component parts in Vietnam. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Bee Health: Commission will propose a set of ambitious and proportionate measures to be presented for first discussion with Member States following EFSA's Report on Neonicotinoids
Tomorrow, the Commission will present a discussion paper to Member State experts at a meeting of the standing committee on pesticides. The aim is to exchange views on the range of policy options available, in light of the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) report findings published on 16 January, which assessed the effect of three pesticides, belonging to the neonicotinoid family, on bee health. "Protecting the health of our bee population is of great importance not only for our European agricultural sector but also for our eco-system and environment as a whole. That is why, back in May 2012, the Commission asked EFSA to carry out a scientific risk assessment review on the effect of these pesticides on the declining bee population. The results are in, and we now need to carefully assess all the policy options that are available to us before bringing forward any legislative and harmonised proposals" said Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health and Consumers. The EFSA findings identified risks to using three neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, which are mainly used to treat seeds prior to sowing, on oilseed rape, maize and cereals. No concerns were highlighted for sugar beet. For the evaluation, EFSA used a new risk assessment scheme that was developed further to a request of the Commission in 2011. Members of the European Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee debated the EFSA conclusions on 23 January and the AGRI Council also discussed the issue on 28 January. For more information: http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/liveanimals/bees/pesticides_en.htm
The report presents the Commission's analysis on the steps Romania has taken in the past six months and shows where further steps are needed. President Barroso said, "This report comes just after the election of a new government in Romania. It contains clear recommendations on the rule of law and judicial independence which I hope will be taken up as part of ongoing reform in Romania. Steps have been taken to address the serious concerns we raised in July and our report explains clearly where further progress is needed."
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