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EXME 13 / 19.04
Midday Express of 2013-04-19
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Students and teachers in Europe are keen to "go digital", computer numbers have doubled since 2006 and most schools are now "connected", but use of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) and digital skill levels are very uneven. These skills and support for teachers to deliver them need a strong boost, according to a survey on the use of digital technologies in schools in Europe published by the Commission.
Antitrust: Commission market tests commitments proposed by Penguin for the sale of e-books
The European Commission is inviting comments from interested parties on commitments offered by Penguin (Pearson Group, United Kingdom). The proposed commitments aim to alleviate concerns that Penguin may have engaged in an anti-competitive concerted practice affecting the sale of e-books in the European Economic Area (EEA). They are substantially the same as those proposed by Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hachette, Holtzbrinck and made legally binding by the Commission in December 2012 (see IP/12/1367). If the market test confirms that Penguin's commitments are suitable to address the Commission's competition concerns, the Commission may make them legally binding on Penguin.
(for more information: IP/13/343 - A. Colombani – Tel. +32 229 74513 – Mobile +32 460 75 2063)
The European Union to boost cooperation with Latin-American and Caribbean countries and foster competitiveness and innovation
Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs and Vice President of the Commission Olli Rehn will sign today a Memorandum of Understanding between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the EU to further enhance their cooperation, with the aim of improving the economic and social development of the Latin American and Caribbean countries. On the IDB side the Memorandum will be signed by its President Luis Alberto Moreno. With this arrangement, the IDB and the EU will explore potential synergies and collaboration opportunities in areas of shared interest such as citizen security, renewable energies and energy efficiency, environment and climate change, trade and private sector development, and public financial and fiscal management. The signature will take place during the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Spring meetings in Washington DC, where Commissioner Piebalgs will also announce new funds of almost five million euro for the Competitive Industries and Innovation Programme Multi-Donor Trust Fund. This contribution is part of a total commitment to the programme of 20 million euro, of which 15 million euros will be used to finance projects in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. On the World Bank's side, the Agreement will be signed by Janamitra Devan, Vice-President for Private Sector Development. The Programme objectives are to assist developing countries build innovative, competitive economies by harnessing the private sector to sustainably raise the living standards of the poor and to generate employment; identify specific opportunities for industry expansion, private sector innovation and entrepreneurship through targeted technical assistance; and promote direct and transparent collaboration between governments and the private sector. Commissioner Piebalgs will represent the European Commission at the World Bank-IMF Development Committee meeting on 20 April in Washington DC. While in Washington, he will also attend the first meeting of the Sustainable Energy for All Advisory Board - a UN initiative to provide universal access to energy by 2030, as well as numerous side events of the World Bank-IMF Spring meetings.
Speaking in Bratislava at Globsec 2013, a leading foreign policy and security forum in Central Europe, Vice-President Šefčovič said: "The unprecedented scale of the crisis has revealed deep structural flaws in the design of the EU. These flaws are not new however; until now there was simply no political will to address them by making the necessary reforms. In this regard, the crisis has had one positive effect: it has forced us to focus our attention on the need to tackle these flaws." He highlighted the need for a reformed economic and monetary union, but also a new political union pillar, adding: "When times are good, when there is peace and prosperity for all, it is easy to be 'United in diversity'. But we need also to be 'United in adversity'." Other forum participants included President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia, Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia and former US President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski. Full speech: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-13-337_en.htm
The EU27 external current account recorded a surplus of 31.4 billion euro (0.9% of GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared with a surplus of 21.8 bn (0.7% of GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a second estimate released by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In the fourth quarter of 2012, compared with the fourth quarter of 2011, the balance of the goods account moved from a deficit to a surplus (+3.4 bn euro compared with -16.8 bn) and the deficit of the current transfers account decreased (-19.9 bn compared with -22.7 bn). The surplus of the income account fell (+11.7 bn compared with +23.4 bn), while the surplus of the services account was slightly reduced (+36.2 bn compared with +37.8 bn).
Among the 43 million part-time workers in the EU27 in 2012, 9.2 million wished to work more hours, were available to do so and can therefore be considered to be underemployed. Since the start of the economic crisis the proportion of part-time workers wishing to work more hours and available to do so has grown steadily, from 18.5% in 2008 to 20.5% in 2011 and 21.4% in 2012. In 2012, the largest proportions of people wishing to work more hours and available to do so among part-time workers were found in Member States where the share of employed persons working part-time is relatively low: Greece (66%), Spain (55%), Latvia (53%) and Cyprus (50%). On the other hand, the smallest proportion was found in the Netherlands (3%), where part-time working is the most common, followed by Estonia (8%) and the Czech Republic (10%).
Energy: Commission publishes report on financial support for energy efficiency in buildings
Today the Commission published a report on financial support for energy efficiency in buildings stressing that the EU needs to improve the financial support in this sector if it wants to meet its 2020 and 2050 targets. To this end more financing should be made available and key barriers such as a lack of awareness and expertise regarding financing, relatively high initial costs and perceived credit risk associated with investments must be removed. Member States are in the driver seat for ensuring that more cost-effective investments in building renovation take place. To achieve this, close cooperation between public authorities, finance providers and the building sector is essential, as is the engagement of building owners themselves. The Commission estimates that the European building stock alone has a cost-effective energy savings potential of 65 Mtoe. In monetary terms, this translates to an investment requirement of around €60 billion per year. The report will constitute the basis for a discussion at the Informal Energy Council on 22 April. The full report is available here: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/efficiency/buildings/buildings_en.htm
The transatlantic partnership can, and still does, set much of the global agenda: by pursuing similar values that have made global aviation safer and more liberal, European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas told an audience at the International Aviation Club in Washington DC.
“We can still do more to make the most of this important partnership,” Kallas said. “Our ambition must be nothing less than to create a genuine transatlantic open aviation area. That means more regulatory convergence, free flows of investment, and no restrictions on air services – with access to the domestic markets of both sides,” he said. “If truly transatlantic airlines are to be created, which is in both our interests, US investment laws need to be reformed.”
On aviation emissions, it is vital that Europe and America keep working closely together to find common ground at ICAO, Kallas said. “Climate change is not only happening in Europe. What we need is a global solution in ICAO to a challenge that is faced by the entire aviation community,” he said.
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Invensys Rail, the railway signalling division of the Invensys Group of the UK, by Siemens of Germany. The Commission's investigation confirmed that Invensys Rail and Siemens are not close competitors and that the merged entity would continue to face competition from a number of other strong competitors, such as Thales, Alstom, Bombardier and Ansaldo.
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