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EXME 13 / 26.03
Midday Express of 2013-03-26
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Innovation performance in the EU has improved year on year in spite of the continuing economic crisis, but the innovation divide between Member States is widening. This is the result of the European Commission Innovation Union Scoreboard 2013, a ranking of EU Member States. While the most innovative countries have further improved their performance, others have shown a lack of progress. The overall ranking within the EU remains relatively stable, with Sweden at the top, followed by Germany, Denmark and Finland. Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are the countries that have most improved since last year. Drivers of innovation growth in the EU include SMEs and the commercialisation of innovations, together with excellent research systems. However the fall in business and venture capital investment over the years 2008-2012 has negatively influenced innovation performance.
The employment and social situation in the EU remained critical in the fourth quarter of 2012 with employment receding overall and unemployment rising further, while households' financial situation remained serious according to the European Commission's latest Employment and Social Situation Quarterly Review. The adverse effects of public budget cuts and tax increases on employment and living standards are increasingly apparent in certain Member States. The Review also notes that net immigration from outside the EU has slowed down and that the crisis has adversely affected fertility.
Nine EU-based companies have today been recognised for their energy-saving efforts, thanks to the installation of energy-efficient lighting technologies. The winners of the European Commission's 2013 GreenLight Awards have achieved yearly electricity savings equal to the total consumption of around 1200 households (3 568,5 MWh - on average, a household consumes 3MWh/year). The winners include the international brewer AB Inbev (Belgium), which, by renovating its production facilities, achieved average energy savings of 73% in its lighting. The French fast food chain Quick, which refurbished 52 of its restaurants in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, achieved energy savings of 991 MWh/year, a 69% drop in lighting energy consumption. Brussels Airlines upgraded a maintenance hangar, reducing consumption by 68%.
Thirty young leaders from the worlds of business, academia and research shared their inspiring ideas with policy-makers and business executives at the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Foundation's Annual Innovation Forum in Brussels today. The young professionals, entrepreneurs and students presented ideas for business opportunities in areas ranging from healthcare to energy production and market information. The EIT Foundation young leaders' programme aims to discover a new generation of talented entrepreneurs who can drive the development of sustainable innovation in the EU.
The winners of the 2013 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards were unveiled today by the European Commission and Europa Nostra (see details below). The 30 winners, selected from nearly 200 nominated projects, are honoured for their achievements in four areas: conservation, research, dedicated service, and education, training and awareness-raising. The award ceremony will take place on 16 June at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens, in the presence of Karolos Papoulias, the President of Greece, Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Plácido Domingo, the world-renowned opera singer and Europa Nostra President. The event is held under the auspices of the Greek President. Of the 30 winning projects, six will be named as grand prix laureates in Athens and one of the winners will receive the public choice award, based on an online poll conducted by Europa Nostra.
The European Commission today adopted a consultative paper that launches a public debate on how best to design a new international agreement to combat climate change. The Consultative Communication raises key questions and invites the views of stakeholders on the new agreement, which is to be completed by the end of 2015 and to apply from 2020.
The European Commission has extended the scope of an investigation into credit default swaps (CDS) to include the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA), a professional organization of financial institutions involved in the over-the-counter (OTC) trading of derivatives. The Commission's inquiry found preliminary indications that ISDA may have been involved in a coordinated effort of investment banks to delay or prevent exchanges from entering the credit derivatives business. Such behaviour, if established, would stifle competition in the internal market in breach of EU antitrust rules. The opening of an investigation does not prejudge its outcome.
The current demographic situation in the EU27 is characterised by continuing population growth as well as by an ageing population. On 1 January 2012, the EU27 population was estimated at 503.7 million, a growth of 6% compared with 1992. Over the same period, the share of those aged 65 years or older in the population increased from 14% to 18%. As well as the population age structure, family structures are also changing, influenced by fewer marriages, more divorces and an increasing share of children born outside marriage.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Enterprise by Ferrovial
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of Enterprise of the UK by Ferrovial of Spain. Enterprise is a provider of infrastructure construction and maintenance services to the public sector and to utility companies in the United Kingdom. Ferrovial is a Spanish-based supplier of support and infrastructure services which is active in the British market via its wholly-owned subsidiary Amey. In the absence of any substantial horizontal overlap or vertical link, the Commission has concluded that the transaction would not raise any competition concern. 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.6701.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Exception Group Limited by Goldman Sachs and TPG Lundy
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the proposed acquisition of joint control over Exception Group Limited of the UK by The Goldman Sachs Group of the USA and TPG Lundy, ultimately controlled by the TPG Group based in the USA. Exception manufactures and supplies printed circuit boards ("PCBs") and provides electronics manufacturing services. Goldman Sachs provides financial services as a global investment banking, securities and investment management firm. The TPG Group is a global private investment firm. TPG Lundy, based in the Cayman Islands, is a newly formed investment vehicle. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns. First, none of the companies controlled by Goldman Sachs or the TPG Group is active in the same markets as Exception. Second, although the TPG Group company Isola manufactures copper clad glass fibre laminates, which are used in the production of PCBs, Exception's presence on the PCB markets is limited and both Exception and Isola will continue to face several strong competitors after the transaction. Moreover, Exception and Isola are both jointly controlled by the TPG Group and different shareholders. These co-controlling parent companies of Exception and Isola would not have any incentive to favour another TPG Group company. The operation was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.6837
EU Commissioner Piebalgs participates in the UN panel on post-2015 development agenda
Commissioner Piebalgs will attend a meeting of the High Level Panel on the Post Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda which takes place on 26-27 March in Bali, Indonesia. This High Level Panel – on which Commissioner Piebalgs has been appointed a member last year - was set up by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in July 2012 to advise on the global development framework beyond 2015, once the MDGs come to an end. The meeting is co-chaired by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia, David Cameron, UK Prime Minister and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia. The High level panel will discuss what the future development priorities should be, together with representatives from UN organisations, governments, private sector and civil society. For more information: http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/indonesia/press_corner/all_news/index_en.htm
New EU support to boost growth and trade in the African, Caribbean and Pacific
The EU has just announced new support to fund four programmes that will support economic cooperation in countries across the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states. Worth a total allocation of € 57 million, the new EU support will increase economic growth and make it more inclusive to the poor through better regional integration and increased competitiveness (for example by providing technical assistance like training and sharing expertise with unions, businesses and institutions). The funding will also be used to improve and reform the administration of tax systems, which is crucial to helping to modernise the economy in the ACP region.
Commission allocates € 88 million for 2013/2014 School Fruit Scheme
The Commission has today adopted the final distribution of EU funds for the distribution of fruit & vegetables in schools – under the so-called "School Fruit Scheme"- for the 2013/2014 school year. Some 24 Member States (plus Croatia upon accession) have decided to participate in the programme for the coming year with only Sweden, Finland and the United Kingdom opting out. Out of €90 million of EU funds available, the main beneficiaries of the Scheme in 2013/2014 will be Italy, who is set to receive over € 20.5 million, followed by Poland (€ 13.6 million), Germany (€ 12 million), Romania (€ 4.9 million), France (€ 4.7 million), Hungary (€ 4.5 million), Spain (€ 4.4 million) and the Czech Republic (€ 4.2 million). This will be the fifth year of the Scheme's application since its launch in 2009 and the number of children benefitting from the scheme has risen steadily. In 2011/2012 school year – the most recent year for which figures are available – more than 8.1 million children in participating Member States benefited from the Scheme by receiving portions of fruit and vegetables in school. The Scheme is co-financed, which means that EU funds must be matched by national or private contributions. The Scheme is an important EU-wide initiative in efforts to encourage healthier eating habits amongst school children as they are more likely to become lifelong habits if developed at an early age. Improved nutrition plays an important role in combating health problems related to poor nutrition, such as child obesity. More information, including the distribution of funds for all Member states (also for 2012/13) participating is available at http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/newsroom/111_en.htm
Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response and Akihiro Ohta, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan have exchanged letters providing a framework to further enhance EU-Japan cooperation in disaster management.
The European Commission adopted today its last Monitoring Report on Croatia's preparations for joining the EU. The Commission assesses that Croatia has completed the ten priority actions identified in the previous report in October, and has shown the will and ability to fulfil all outstanding commitments in good time before accession. The Commission concludes that Croatia will be ready to join the European Union on 1 July 2013.
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