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EXME 13 / 20.03
Midday Express of 2013-03-20
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
The cooperation of the EU with its partner countries is stronger and is delivering positive results, indicate the country and regional reports on the progress of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2012 published today. Two years after the launch of a new approach to the ENP, achievements are encouraging in many areas of cooperation, although 2012 has been a challenging year due to political instability and difficult socio economic conditions. Still, political reforms are uneven in partner countries and progress towards deep and sustainable democracy is not always linear.
Citizens in the European Neighbourhood area are generally positive about the relations their country has with the European Union, shows the findings of the EU Neighbourhood Barometer, released today. This opinion is strong in the Southern Neighbourhood, where more than half of those surveyed describe them as good.
Today the European Commission lowered the fees and charges that small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have to pay to register chemicals. This step should help SMEs that produce or trade chemicals to remain competitive during the current difficult market situation. Depending on the size of the company, SMEs could benefit from reductions from 35% to 95% in relation to standard registration fees, and from 25% to 90% in relation to standard fees for authorisation requests. Registration makes companies responsible for the safe use of chemicals under REACH, the EU’s chemicals legislation. It was recently identified by SMEs as the most burdensome piece of EU legislation ( IP/13/188), and a recent review of REACH indicated it poses a disproportionate burden on SMEs, relative to larger companies ( IP/13/85).
The European Commission has authorised an amendment to the restructuring plan for Brodotrogir, one of the Croat shipyards in difficulty. Indeed, the distortion of competition that may arise from the modest increase in the total amount of restructuring aid is offset by the additional compensatory measures proposed by Croatia, in line with EU Guidelines on state aid for restructuring companies in difficulty. Moreover, Croatia committed to sign the privatisation contract for the yard within two weeks from the receipt of the Commission decision. This will allow the completion of the privatisation process by 1 July 2013, i.e. the date of accession of Croatia to the EU, as foreseen in the Act of Accession.
The European Commission has concluded two separate in-depth investigations into support measures granted to Ducroire of Belgium and to SACE BT of Italy by their respective state-owned parent entities, Office National du Ducroire (ONDD) and SACE. In the case of SACE BT, the Commission found part of the aid to be in line with EU state aid rules, because it was granted on market terms. For Ducroire, the Commission found that part of the measure supported activities that were not open to competition and therefore did not constitute state aid. However, in both cases part of the state support was granted in breach of EU state aid rules because it subsidised insurance products that were readily available from private operators on the market. This procured an undue economic advantage to the beneficiaries, which they now have to pay back to the Italian and Belgian States.
The European Commission has found a UK scheme to fund front-end engineering design (FEED) studies on carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration projects to be in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the measure will contribute to fighting climate change, in line with EU objectives, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.
After an in-depth investigation, the European Commission concluded that the acquisition of bonds worth PLN 120 million (around €40 million) of Nauta Shipyard by the State-owned Polish Industrial Development Agency (IDA) was in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found that the bonds were acquired on market terms and therefore did not give Nauta an undue economic advantage. As a result, the financing does not constitute state aid in the meaning of EU rules.
After growing steadily between 2002 and 2007, the total weight of goods handled in maritime ports in the EU27 remained nearly stable at 3.9 billion tonnes in 2008. It then fell by 12% to 3.4 bn tonnes in 2009 as the result of the economic crisis. From 2010 the weight of goods handled increased again, to reach 3.7 bn tonnes in 2011, still below the level recorded in 2008. Compared with 2010, the weight of goods handled increased by 2% in 2011. For sea transport of passengers, the number of passengers embarking or disembarking in maritime ports in the EU27 has fallen steadily from a peak of 414 million passengers in 2007, to reach 385 mn in 2011. Compared with 2010, the number of passengers decreased by 4% in 2011. These figures are published in a report from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, on port activity for goods and passengers in the EU, as well as Norway, Croatia and Turkey.
Commission consults on review of de minimis Regulation
The European Commission invites stakeholders' comments on the first draft of its proposal for a new de minimis Regulation, replacing Regulation No 1998/2006. In the context of the Commission's State Aid Modernisation initiative (SAM, see IP/12/458) the draft proposes to gradually introduce a central register of all de minimis measures. A sufficient transitional period is foreseen for the set up. Following repeated requests from stakeholders, the draft also substantially clarifies and simplifies the rules. This is expected to reduce considerably the administrative burden for small aid measures. The consultation is open form 20 March to 15 May 2013. Details are available at: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2013_de_minimis/index_en.html
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Tennet Offshore 8 by Tennet Offshore and Mitsubishi Corporation
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control by Tennet Offshore of Germany, wholly owned by TenneT Holding B.V., and Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan, over TenneT Offshore 8. Beteiligungsgesellschaft mbH ("HoldCo I") of Germany. TOG is active in the offshore electricity transmission sector in Germany. MC operates in general trading activities in various industries, including energy, metals, machinery, chemicals and food. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website in the public case register under the case number M.6875.
President José Manuel Barroso and the European Commission will meet the Russian Government led by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow on 21 March 2013. These executive-to-executive talks will cover a wide range of EU-Russia cooperation, from discussions on the EU-Russia New Agreement to trade issues, energy cooperation, transport and mobility. As part of this visit, President Barroso will also meet with President Putin.
Autre matériel diffusé :
Memo "An important step towards a real banking union in Europe: Statement by Commissioner Michel Barnier following the trilogue agreement on the creation of the Single Supervisory Mechanism for the Eurozone" - rediffusion
Memo "Statement of European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle to the members of the Foreign Affairs and European Integration committees of the Kosovo Assembly" – rediffusion