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EXME 13 / 06.03

Midday Express of 2013-03-06

News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne

International Women’s Day: Zero tolerance for female genital mutilation

Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding and Commissioner Cecilia Malmström have today joined human rights campaigners to call for zero tolerance for female genital mutilation (FGM). The Commission organised a high-level roundtable event to discuss how the European Union can help Member States to eradicate the practice – thought to have affected several hundred thousand women in the EU. The Commissioners were joined by Members of the European Parliament and the world’s leading anti-FGM campaigners, including ‘desert flower’ Waris Dirie, Khady Koita and Chantal Compaoré – First Lady of Burkina Faso. In parallel, today the Commission launched a public consultation calling for views on how best to develop measures at EU level to fight female genital mutilation. The consultation will run until 30 May 2013. The Commission has also announced EUR 3.7 million in funding to support Member States' activities to raise awareness of violence against women and a further EUR 11.4 million for NGOs and others working with victims.

Tourism's robust and resilient performance expected to continue in 2013

The tourism sector is one of the few sectors that have continued to grow and create jobs, despite the crisis. Seven out of ten Europeans travelled in 2012 (the same proportion as in 2011). And of EU holiday makers, as many as 88% spent their vacations somewhere within the EU, either in their own country or in another Member State. The industry's robust and resilient performance is expected to continue in 2013: three quarters of respondents to a recent EU survey (75%) are planning to go on holiday this year, although 34% will adapt their holiday plans to take the economic situation into account. Holiday plans for 2013 closely resembled the destinations chosen in 2012. Spain (12%), Italy (8%) and France (7%) are still the most preferred destinations, and 51% plan to take a holiday in their own country.

Antitrust: Commission opens formal proceedings against the Lithuanian railway incumbent, AB Lietuvos geležinkeliai

The European Commission has opened formal antitrust proceedings against the Lithuanian railway incumbent AB Lietuvos geležinkeliai ("LG") to investigate whether it limited competition on the rail markets in Lithuania and Latvia by removing a railway track, in breach of EU antitrust rules that prohibit the abuse of dominant market positions. The removal of this track could have prevented customers from using the services of other rail operators for the transport of freight between Lithuania and Latvia. The opening of proceedings does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation; it means that the Commission will treat the case as a matter of priority.

State aid: Commission opens in-depth inquiry into potential aid for large electricity consumers exempted from network charges in Germany

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to find out whether an exemption for large electricity consumers from network charges granted in Germany since 2011 constitutes state aid. If this turns out to be the case the Commission will further examine whether the exemption is likely to unduly distort competition in the EU or whether it can be justified. Opening an in-depth investigation does not prejudge its outcome. It allows Germany and third parties to comment on the measure under review.

State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into public funding of five Dutch professional football clubs

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to find out whether measures of five municipalities in the Netherlands in favour of local professional football clubs comply with EU State aid rules. None of those measures, taken in 2010 and 2011, was notified to the Commission, who was alerted by concerned citizens. The Commission also found that measures taken by a sixth municipality did not constitute State aid. The opening of an in-depth investigation does not prejudge its outcome. It gives the Netherlands and all interested parties the opportunity to comment on the measures in question.

State Aid: Commission approves Finnish short-term export-credit insurance scheme

The European Commission has found a Finnish short-term export-credit insurance scheme to be in line with EU state aid rules. The scheme is limited to insurance cover that is currently not available on the private market and it ensures that adequate rates are charged under the scheme. The Commission authorised the measure until 31 December 2015.

State aid: Commission opens in-depth inquiry into state measures in favour of Hellenic Defence Systems S.A.

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to find out if State support measures granted by Greece in favour of Hellenic Defence Systems S.A. (HDS, or Ellinika Amyntika Systimata A.E. – EAS in Greek) comply with EU state aid rules. These measures include a direct grant by the State of €10 million, a capital increase of €158 million and several State guarantees for loans of up to €942 million during the period 2004-2011.

State aid: Commission opens in-depth inquiry into possible Greek state aid to Larco General Mining and Metallurgical Company S.A.

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to verify whether State support measures granted by Greece to Larco General Mining and Metallurgical Company S.A. (Larco) for an amount of over EUR 105 million comply with EU state aid rules. The Commission has doubts that the measures are in line with EU rules, in particular the rules on state aid for the rescue and restructuring of companies in difficulty. Opening an in-depth investigation does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation, however. It gives Greece and other interested third parties the opportunity to comment on the measures the Commission is assessing.

State aid: Commission opens in-depth inquiry into a €31.3 million capital increase and a rescue aid package for Cyprus Airways

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into a number of public support measures in favour of Cyprus Airways. At this stage, the Commission has doubts whether these measures are in line with EU state aid rules. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties an opportunity to comment on the measures under assessment. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. However, the Commission emphasises that no further state aid measures in favour of Cyprus Airways should be implemented without the Commission's prior approval.

Euro area GDP down by 0.6% and EU27 down by 0.5% during the fourth quarter in 2012

GDP fell by 0.6% in the euro area (EA17) and by 0.5% in the EU27 during the fourth quarter of 2012, compared with the previous quarter, according to second estimates published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In the third quarter of 2012, growth rates were -0.1% and +0.1% respectively. Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, GDP fell by 0.9% in the euro area and by 0.6% in the EU27 in the fourth quarter of 2012, after -0.6% and -0.4% respectively in the previous quarter. During the fourth quarter of 2012, GDP in the United States was stable compared with the previous quarter (after +0.8% in the third quarter of 2012). Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, GDP rose by 1.6% in the United States (after +2.6% in the previous quarter). Over the whole year 2012, GDP fell by 0.6% in the euro area and by 0.3% in the EU27.

Commission clears acquisition of Renesas by Innovation Network Corporation

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of control of Renesas Electronics Corporation (''Renesas''), Japan, by Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (''INCJ''). Renesas is active in manufacturing and design of semiconductor products and solutions. INCJ provides financial, technological and management support services to businesses. INCJ is also active in the manufacturing and design of semiconductor products, as well as downstream in the supply of small- and medium-sized Liquid Crystal Display products. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.

Antitrust: Commission reduces fines of Saint-Gobain and Pilkington for their participation in car glass cartel

On 28 February, the Commission has reduced the fines imposed on Saint-Gobain and Pilkington in a decision adopted on 12 November 2008 regarding a cartel in the market for car glass (see IP/08/1685). The corrections became necessary because of two errors in computing the fines. In particular, some of the sales of these two companies should not have been included in the sales figure used as a basis to set their respective fines. Consequently, in the amendment decision, the Commission has reduced the final amount of the fines imposed on Saint-Gobain by € 16 million (from €896 to €880 million) and on Pilkington by € 13 million (from €370 to €357 million).

From iron and steel to nanotechnology – Commissioner visits North Rhine-Westphalia

European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn will tomorrow visit North Rhine-Westphalia to meet government officials and give a keynote speech at a conference "Successful R&I in Europe 2013" in Düsseldorf. This networking event is addressed to enterprises, research institutes and universities to encourage them to find new partners for European Research & Innovation projects. While in Düsseldorf, the Commissioner will discuss the Commission's proposals for the future of science and innovation policy in Europe with Minister-President Hannelore Kraft and Minister for Innovation, Science and Research Svenja Schulze. She will also visit AMO GmbH, a German SME playing a key role in the upcoming European graphene flagship project and two Fraunhofer Institutes (Laser Technology (ILT) and Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME), all outstanding examples of the investment in innovation that traditional industrial regions in Europe need to secure the jobs of the future.

De Gucht in Vietnam for trade talks with South East Asian partners

After receiving Thai trade minister Boonsong and minister U Soe Thane of Myanmar this week in Brussels, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht heads to Hanoi today to continue talks with economic and trade ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on 7-8 March. Top of the agenda will be how to strengthen trade and investment relations between the two economic blocs. The EU successfully concluded a free trade deal with Singapore in December 2012, and negotiations are ongoing with Malaysia and Vietnam. On 9 March, the Commissioner will attend the EU-ASEAN Business Summit, which promotes the dialogue between governments and the private sector, as well as business-to-business relations. Up to 500 industry representatives are expected to attend, representing the automotive, banking, pharmaceutical and other sectors. For further information: http://ec.europa.eu/trade/creating-opportunities/bilateral-relations/regions/asean/

Commissioner Hedegaard to visit Oslo, Norway

Today and tomorrow, 7 March, Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard will travel to Oslo, Norway, where she will attend the conference "How to achieve an effective global climate agreement in 2015?”. Other participants of the conference include Gambian Minister of Environment Ms. Fatou Gaye, Norwegian Minister of the Environment Bård Vegar Solhjell, Leader of the Norwegian Conservative Party Erna Solberg and Leader of the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature, Lars Haltbrekken. The Commissioner is also to have meetings with the Norwegian Minister of Environment Bård Vegar Solhjell and the Ministry of Finance's State Secretary Kjetil Lund.

New Director for DG Internal Market and Services

Joaquim Nunes de Almeida has been appointed Director "Public Procurement" in DG MARKT. Mr Nunes de Almeida is currently Head of Unit in DG HOME, responsible for police cooperation and access to information and was previously Head of Unit in charge of counter-terrorism. He has been involved in the development of numerous security policies, including information exchange, police cooperation, access to privately held data, critical infrastructure protection, violent radicalisation or Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. Formerly Mr Joaquim Nunes de Almeida was a member of the Cabinet of António Vitorino, where he worked mostly on asylum and migration policies and prior to this he was an assistant to the Director-General of the Internal Market John Mogg. His career in the Commission dates back to 1995, when he joined the public procurement directorate of the Internal Market DG. He worked for competition and corporate law firms, in Brussels and Lisbon, from 1989 to 1994.  He is Portuguese and studied law at the University of Lisbon and at the College of Europe in Bruges. The appointment will take effect on 1 April 2013.

Salame felino et Mela Rossa Cuneo obtiennent le statut d'indication géographique protégée

La Commission européenne a ajouté un nom de produit agricole et alimentaire à la liste des indications géographiques protégées (IGP). Il s'agit, pour l'Italie, du saucisson de porc " Salame felino " produit dans la province de Parme. La Commission a également approuvé la demande d'enregistrement de la pomme rouge italienne " Mela Rossa Cuneo ", cultivée dans une partie de la province de Cuneo et de la province de Turin comme IGP: cette décision devrait être publiée dans les prochains jours dans le Journal Officiel de l'Union Européenne . Ces 2 noms rejoindront la liste de plus de 1000 produits déjà protégés en vertu de la législation sur la protection des indications géographiques, des appellations d'origine et des spécialités traditionnelles. Des renseignements sur les produits de qualité ainsi que la liste des dénominations protégées sont disponibles en ligne à l'adresse: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/quality/schemes/index_fr.htm

Autre matériel diffusé :

Joint message by the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, on the passing away of President Hugo Chávez - rediffusion

Speech by President Barroso: "Ensuring Sustainable Growth: The challenges ahead for a stronger Europe" - rediffusion

Memo "Last year 88% of holidaymakers stayed in the EU. Where will they go in 2013"

Memo "Latvia and the euro" - rediffusion

Memo "Joint statement by the spokespersons of High Representative/Vice-President Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Štefan Füle on the no-confidence vote taken by the Moldovan Parliament on 5 March 2013" – rediffusion

Speech by President Barroso: "Ensuring Sustainable Growth: The challenges ahead for a stronger Europe" - rediffusion

Memo "Press points by Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, at the end of his Lebanon visit" - rediffusion

Speech by Commissioner Karel De Gucht: "Open Markets: Making the Case"

Speech by Vice-President Rehn: "Vice President Rehn's press point with Latvian Finance Minister Andris Vilks" - rediffusion

Speech by Vice-President Rehn: "Vice-President Rehn's remarks at the ECOFIN press conference" - rediffusion


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