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EXME 13 / 22.02
Midday Express of 2013-02-22
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
The 16th EU-Ukraine Summit will take place in Brussels on 25 February. The Summit will be hosted by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. Ukraine will be represented by President Viktor Yanukovych.
Protection from second hand smoke has improved considerably in the EU, according to a report published by the Commission today. 28% of Europeans were exposed to second hand smoke in bars in 2012 – down from 46% in 2009. The report is based on self-reporting by the 27 Member States, following the 2009 Council Recommendation on Smoke-free Environments (2009/C 296/02), which called upon governments to adopt and implement laws to fully protect their citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke in enclosed public places, workplaces and public transport. The report dispels concerns about smoking bans impacting negatively on the revenues of bars and restaurants, by showing that the economic impact has been limited, neutral and even positive over time. However, the report also illustrates that some Member States are lagging behind, in terms of comprehensive laws protecting public health, and enforcement.
The European Commission has temporarily approved under EU State aid rules a number of measures that the Dutch State intends to take in favour of SNS REAAL and its subsidiaries. SNS REAAL will be recapitalised by EUR 300 million EUR and will also receive a bridge loan of EUR 1.1 billion. At the same time, SNS REAAL's banking subsidiary – SNS Bank – will receive a recapitalisation of EUR 1.9 billion. The Commission's approval of the support measures is conditional on the presentation within six months of a restructuring plan from the date of the decision. The Commission will take a final position on the support granted on the basis of this restructuring plan.
EU27 international trade in goods with Ukraine grew strongly from 2000 to 2008, then fell sharply in 2009 before partially recovering between 2010 and 2012. While EU27 exports to Ukraine more than quadrupled between 2000 and 2012, from 5.5 billion euro in 2000 to 23.8 bn in 2012, imports from Ukraine tripled, from 4.8 bn in 2000 to 14.6 bn in 2012. Since 2000, the EU27 has always recorded a trade surplus with Ukraine, increasing from 0.6 bn in 2000 to a peak of 10.5 bn in 2008, and then reaching 9.3 bn in 2012. Ukraine accounted for around 1% of the EU27’s total trade in goods in 2012, and was the EU27's 22nd most important trading partner.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Dexia by the Belgian State investment fund SFPI/FPIM
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of Dexia sa/nv by the Belgian State investment fund "Société Fédérale de Participations et d'Investissement / Federale Participatie- en Investeringsmaatschappij ("SFPI/FPIM")". SFPI/FPIM is an investment company fully owned by the Belgian State which invests in public and private companies of strategic interest, on its own behalf and on behalf of the Belgian State. Dexia is active in financial services, in particular public finance, including project finance, and asset management in several countries, mainly in France, through a number of subsidiaries. Since the divestiture of Belfius, Dexia has only a de minimis presence in Belgium. The case, which stemmed from the recapitalization of Dexia by the Belgian and the French State approved by a Commission state aid decision of 28 December 2012 (see IP/12/1447), was not found to be problematic as, amongst other things, Dexia is a bank in run-off and as such, is either divesting or winding down its subsidiaries and ceasing its activities. 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.6812 .
Commission approves prolongation of Lithuanian bank support scheme until 30 June 2013
The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, the prolongation of a Lithuanian aid scheme for banks until 30 June 2013. The scheme covers guarantees, asset relief and recapitalisation measures in favour of banks operating in Lithuania. All conditions of the original scheme, as last amended on 27 July 2012, remain unchanged. The Commission found the prolongation of the measures, initially approved on 5 August 2010 (see IP/10/1032) and prolonged on 21 January 2011, 27 June 2011, 6 March 2012 and 27 July 2012 (see MEX/11/0121 , MEX/11/0627 , MEX/12/06.03 and MEX/12/27.07) to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 , IP/08/1901 , IP/09/322 , IP/10/1636 and IP/11/1488). In particular, the prolonged measures are well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The Commission has therefore concluded that they represent an appropriate means of remedying a serious disturbance in the Lithuanian economy and as such are compatible with Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
Commission support to enhance sustainable tourism
Europeans made just over one billion trips in 2011, but every tourist also leaves waste behind, uses water and energy and has an impact on the communities they visit. Informed and collaborative sustainable destination management is therefore essential for European tourism destinations to remain viable in the long term. To contribute to the development of sustainable tourism and help tourism destinations track their performance, today the Commission presented a Tourism Indicator System Toolkit at the conference European tourism indicator system for sustainable management at destination level in Brussels. The toolkit provides an easy and useful way for tourism destinations to measure and monitor the sustainability of their activities, allowing them to share and benchmark their progress and performance, make better management decisions and create adequate policies. The tourism sector's competitiveness is closely linked to its sustainability, as the quality of tourist destinations is strongly influenced by their natural and cultural environment and their integration into a local community. In perspective, on the basis of the successfully implementation of the System, a European award, based on sustainable management indicators, to promote tourist destinations respecting environmental, social and economic criteria, could be envisaged. For more details on the European Tourism Indicator System, please visit: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/tourism/index_en.htm - Tourism communication 2010: “ Europe, the world’s No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe ”.
Commissioner Hedegaard to visit Warsaw for talks
Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, will visit Warsaw on 25 February for a day of talks with Polish ministers, parliamentarians and business representatives. On the agenda will be preparations for the annual UN climate change conference, which Poland will host in Warsaw in November 2013, as well as a range of other climate-related policy issues. Commissioner Hedegaard will have meetings with Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Janusz Piechociński, Olgierd Dziekoński, Secretary of State in the Chancellery of the President, Minister of Environment Marcin Korolec, and Secretary of State for European Affairs Piotr Serafin. She will also have a working lunch with members of both chambers of the Polish Parliament and a meeting with representatives of the business community.
More than 87,000 legal practitioners trained in EU law
Over 87,000 judges, prosecutors, lawyers, notaries, bailiffs and court staff have been trained in EU law or the law of another member state, according to a new report by the European Commission today. The report – which covers data for 2011 – charts progress towards the EU’s goal of ensuring that half of all legal practitioners in the EU receive some form of European judicial training by 2020 ( IP/11/1021). The aim is to equip legal practitioners to apply European law – which is part of their role as judges and lawyers at national level. It will also help to build mutual trust between Europe's different legal systems and improve the implementation of European legislation. This will benefit people and businesses in Europe, who will be able to rely on swift decisions and proper respect for the rules. The report points out that overall, the EU is making good progress and if current rates continue until 2020, would be on course to reach its goal. By issuing regular reports, the Commission wants to keep track of progress across all member states and legal professions. In a conference on judicial training on 10 April 2013, the European Commission will share its views on how to work together with stakeholders at both European and national level to ensure that training is accessible to legal practitioners across the EU. The report is available under the European e-Justice Portal – judicial training section: https://e-justice.europa.eu/content_eu_texts_and_documents_on_judicial_training-121-en.do
While financial market conditions in the EU have improved substantially since last summer, economic activity was disappointing in the second half of 2012. However, leading indicators suggest that GDP in the EU is now bottoming out and we expect economic activity to gradually accelerate. The pick-up in growth will initially be driven by increasing external demand. Domestic investment and consumption are projected to recover later in the year, and by 2014 domestic demand is expected to take over as the main driver of strengthening GDP growth.
Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Energy said: "I welcome this major step enhancing the safety of offshore oil and gas production in the EU. Past accidents have shown the devastating consequences when things go badly wrong offshore. Recent 'near-misses' in EU waters reminded us of the need for a stringent safety regime. These rules will make sure that the highest safety standards already mostly in place in some Member States will be followed at every oil and gas platform across Europe. Furthermore, the new law will ensure that we react effectively and promptly in the event of an accident and minimise the possible damage to the environment and the livelihoods of coastal communities."
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