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EXME 13 / 01.03

Midday Express of 2013-03-01

News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne

Passenger rights: better protection for bus and coach travellers in the EU

Today, Regulation (EU) No 181/2011 on bus and coach passenger rights becomes applicable, providing bus and coach travellers throughout the EU with new rights. The regulation lays down travellers' basic rights, and imposes a number of obligations on bus and coach companies and terminal managers concerning their responsibility towards the passengers. Every year around 70 million passengers travel by buses and coaches in the EU.

Digital Agenda: Commission insists German operators should not be allowed special treatment on mobile rates

The European Commission has halted plans of the German telecoms regulator (BNetzA) which could result in mobile termination rates (MTR) more than 80% higher than in many other Member States. This could mean that German consumers pay unjustifiably high prices for their mobile calls. Termination rates are the rates telecoms networks charge each other to deliver calls between networks, and each operator has market power over access to customers on its own network. These costs are ultimately included in call prices paid by consumers and businesses.

Environment: New timber regulation comes into force

On 3 March, new legislation comes into effect to counter the trade in illegal timber. The new EU Timber regulation will affect everyone in the wood trade. It prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber on the European market in an effort to tackle the problem of illegal logging across the world. Illegal logging has severe economic, environmental and social impacts: it is associated with deforestation and climate change, it can undermine the efforts and livelihoods of legitimate operators, and it can also contribute to conflicts over land and resources.

Antitrust: Commission sends second statement of objections to ENI and Versalis in synthetic rubber cartel after General Court judgment

The European Commission has informed ENI S.p.A. and its affiliate Versalis S.p.A., previously known as Polimeri Europa S.p.A., that it intends to re-impose a 50% fine uplift for recidivism, representing €90.75 million, in the context of the synthetic rubber cartel investigation. The Commission had originally imposed fines on these two companies in November 2006 for participating in a cartel in this sector (see IP/06/1647). The uplift imposed for recidivism had been annulled by the General Court on 13 July 2011 (cases T-39/07 and T-59/07). The General Court ruled that the Commission had not explained sufficiently its conclusion that one and the same undertaking had repeated an infringement. The Commission has now provided full details on this issue to remedy the Court's criticism. The sending of a statement of objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the re-opened investigation. The addressees now have the opportunity to reply to the Commission's objections before any amending decision
re-imposing the fine uplift is taken.

Euro area unemployment rate at 11.9% and in EU27 at 10.8% in January 2013

The euro area (EA17) seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 11.9% in January 2013, up from 11.8% in December 2012. The EU27 unemployment rate was 10.8%, up from 10.7% in the previous month. In both zones, rates have risen markedly compared with January 2012, when they were 10.8% and 10.1% respectively. These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Eurostat estimates that 26.217 million men and women in the EU27, of whom 18.998 million were in the euro area, were unemployed in January 2013. Compared with December 2012, the number of persons unemployed increased by 222 000 in the EU27 and by 201 000 in the euro area. Compared with January 2012, unemployment rose by 1.890 million in the EU27 and by 1.909 million in the euro area. Among the Member States, the lowest unemployment rates were recorded in Austria (4.9%), Germany and Luxembourg (both 5.3%) and the Netherlands (6.0%), and the highest in Greece (27.0% in November 2012), Spain (26.2%) and Portugal (17.6%).

Euro area annual inflation down to 1.8% in February 2013

Euro area annual inflation is expected to be 1.8% in February 2013, down from 2.0% in January, according to a flash estimate from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Looking at the main components of euro area inflation, energy (4.0% compared with 3.9% in January) is expected to have the highest annual rate in February, followed by food, alcohol & tobacco (2.7% compared with 3.2% in January), services (1.6%, stable compared with January) and non-energy industrial goods (0.8%, stable compared with January).

European Commissioner of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries visits Azores and Madeira

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki will visit Azores and Madeira on 4 and 5 March 2013. On March 4, Maria Damanaki will visit Azores where she will have discussions with Mr Vasco Alves Cordeiro, President of the Regional Azorean Government and officials of the Regional Government of Azores. A joint press conference is scheduled with Mr Vasco Alves Cordeiro. Commissioner Damanaki will also have a meeting with European Parliament members from the Azores and hold a separate meeting with stakeholders (fishing industry, maritime industry, NGOs, citizen's organisation, processors etc.). On March 5, Maria Damanaki will visit Madeira. She will have discussions with Mr. Alberto João Jardim, President of the Regional Madeira Government, with members of the Regional Assembly of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, with officials of the Regional Madeira Government for Fisheries, and with a member of the European Parliament from Madeira. She will equally have a meeting with stakeholders of the island. The agenda includes discussions about several aspects of the Common Fisheries Policy reform, the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, and specific issues of local and regional interest.

Commissioner Andor: Fighting homelessness through social investment

"Homelessness is probably the most severe form of poverty and social exclusion in our societies. It quickly reduces a person’s physical and mental health, it is a waste of productive potential and it imposes a high cost on our societies. Ever wider layers of the society are affected by this phenomenon, including young people, migrants, Roma people and families with children. We owe it to ourselves to act swiftly and decisively on this matter". This is the key message that László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion delivered on 1 March at the Irish Presidency Conference on Homelessness in Leuven. Andor recalled that the Social Investment Package makes many useful suggestions as to how EU funds can be used for effective social investment, in particular as prevention has shown to be the most cost-efficient approach to homelessness. "Social investment today helps to prevent member States having to pay much higher financial and social bills tomorrow", said Andor. "We have an obligation to protect and guarantee the basic human rights of all people residing within our territory. Living in homelessness should not be penalised. Discrimination and prejudices, denial of access to even the most basic services should be combatted, including in the context of the free movement of workers and third country migration", Andor concluded. See SPEECH/13/175

Commission approves prolongation of Hungarian bank support scheme until 30 June 2013

The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, the prolongation of a Hungarian aid scheme for banks until 30 June 2013. The scheme covers recapitalisation measures in favour of banks operating in Hungary. All conditions of the original scheme, as last prolonged on 30 July 2012 (see EXME/12/30.07), remain unchanged. The Commission found the prolongation of the measures, initially approved on 12 February 2009 (see IP/09/253) and prolonged on 3 September 2009, 17 December 2009, 23 June 2010, 7 December 2010, 23 June 2011 and 8 March 2012 (see EXME09/0903 , EXME/09/1217 , IP/10/789 , EXME/10/07.12 , EXME/11/23.06 and EXME/08.03) 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 Hungarian economy and as such are compatible with Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

Commission clears acquisition of Avolon Capital Partners by Avolon and Wells Fargo

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition by Avolon and Wells Fargo of joint control of Avolon Capital Partners ("ACP"). Both Avolon and ACP are based in Ireland and are active in the acquisition of aircraft and the provision of aircraft operating leasing services. The US-based Wells Fargo is a provider of banking, insurance, investment, credit card, mortgage, consumer and commercial finance services. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

Commission clears acquisition of Amylin Business by Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition by Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals (a subsidiary of AstraZeneca PLC), both global biopharmaceutical companies active in the development, manufacture and commercialization of treatments in several areas, of Amylin Business, which focuses on the development and commercialization of four compounds manufactured by Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Inc., namely exenatide, pramlintide, metreleptin and AC165198. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

La Commission prévoit une hausse de la récolte céréalière en 2013

La production céréalière totale de l'Union européenne à 27 devrait s'établir à 287,6 millions de tonnes, soit une augmentation de 5,6 % par rapport à la récolte 2012, selon les premières prévisions de récolte céréalière 2013, présentées par la Commission au Comité de gestion de l'Organisation Commune de Marché unique du 28 février 2013. En tenant compte de la récolte céréalière de la Croatie (3,5 millions de tonnes, soit environ 1% de la production de l'UE à 27), la production céréalière totale se situerait, pour l'UE-28, à 291,1 millions de tonnes. Cette augmentation devrait alléger le bilan de l'UE par rapport à la situation de la campagne en cours, en particulier les stocks de fin de campagne.  La surface totale des terres affectées à la culture céréalière dans l'UE-27 en 2013 devrait se situer à 56,9 millions d'hectares et ainsi augmenter de 0,2 % par rapport à 2012. En tenant compte de la superficie céréalière de la Croatie (596.000 hectares, soit également environ 1% de la superficie de l'UE-27), la superficie céréalière totale se situe, pour l'UE-28, à 57,5 millions d'hectares. Le maintien des prix à un niveau élevé, sur le marché mondial, depuis juin 2012 a incité les agriculteurs européens à semer davantage de blé tendre. L'estimation de rendement s'établit à 5,1 tonnes à l'hectare pour l'ensemble de l'UE (aussi bien UE 27 que UE 28). A l'exception du Royaume-Uni touché par des précipitations excessives, les conditions de semis pour les céréales d'hiver ont été satisfaisantes. Par ailleurs, aucun dégât majeur dû au gel n'est à signaler jusqu'à présent. Le détail des prévisions, est disponible sur la page http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/cereals/balance-sheets/index_en.htm

Rediffusion

Rail – statement by Vice President Kallas following today's ECJ rulings (Spain, Hungary,Germany, Austria)

Today the ECJ has ruled in four infringement cases brought by the Commission concerning the extent of independence from other rail operators required of an infrastructure manager under the 1st railway package.

EU hosts meeting on cooperation with Ukraine and Eastern Partnership

A high-level meeting took place between the European Union and major international and European financial institutions in Brussels today to discuss the Eastern Partnership and Ukraine in particular.

Autre matériel diffusé :

Youth Employment: Commission welcomes Council agreement on Youth Guarantee - rediffusion

Speech by President Barroso at the IBEC CEO Conference 2013: "Let's choose growth" - rediffusion

Speech: Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Enda Kenny, Taoiseach of Ireland, Mr Eamon Gilmore, Tánaiste of Ireland and Mr Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament – rediffusion

"Speech by President Barroso at the Trinity College Historical Society" – rediffusion

Memo "Preparation of Economic and Finance Ministers Council, Brussels, 5 March"

Memo "EU data protection reform: Vice-President Reding and Polish Minister for Administration and Digital Affairs Boni want rules that are good for citizens and good for business"

Memo "Remarques du Commissaire Michel Barnier lors de la Conférence de presse tenue au Parlement Européen sur les règles imposant des exigences en capital plus strictes pour les banques" – rediffusion

Memo "Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth: EU Capital Cities - essential partners for Europe 2020" - rediffusion

Speech by L. Andor: "Homelessness in the EU and the Social Investment Package"

Speech by Commissioner Malmström: "'Smart Borders': for an open and secure Europe" - rediffusion

Speech by Commissioner L. Andor: "Youth guarantee, Social Investment Package and Free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania" – rediffusion

Speech by Vice President Rehn at Policy Network conference / London: "Deeper Integration in the Eurozone and Britain's Place in Europe" – rediffusion

Top News from the European Commission

Calendrier hebdomadaire du 04 au 10 mars 2013


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