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EXME 13 / 25.04
Midday Express of 2013-04-25
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
In its monthly package of infringement decisions, the European Commission is pursuing legal action against Member States for failing to comply with their obligations under EU law. These decisions covering many sectors aim at ensuring proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses. The Commission has taken today 141 decisions, including 20 reasoned opinions and 4 referrals to the European Union's Court of Justice: against Greece and Italy for not having correctly implemented the Directive banning battery cages for laying hens; against Slovakia for refusing to pay an old-age benefit to pensioners living in other countries and against Spain for discriminatory real estate tax rules.
The European Commission invites comments from interested parties on commitments offered by Google in relation to online search and search advertising. The Commission has concerns that Google may be abusing its dominant position in the markets for web search, online search advertising and online search advertising intermediation in the European Economic Area (EEA). Google has made proposals to try to address the Commission's four competition concerns. Interested parties can now submit their comments within one month. The Commission will take them into account in its analysis of Google's commitment proposals. If the Commission concludes that they address its four competition concerns, it may decide to make them legally binding on Google.
The European Commission has approved 22 programmes to promote agricultural products in the European Union and in third countries. The total budget of the programmes, the large majority of which will run for a period of three years, is € 71,94 million, of which the EU contributes € 35,97 million. The selected programmes cover olive oil, milk and milk products, meat, fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, organic products, eggs, wines and spirits and horticultural products, as well as quality products registered and protected as PDOs (Protected Designations of Origin), PGIs (Protected Geographical Indications) and TSGs (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed).
The European Commission is publishing today the European Financial Stability and Integration Report (EFSIR), which is being presented at a joint conference with the European Central Bank (ECB) in Brussels. This event brings together policymakers, financial market leaders and academics for discussion on financial stability and integration in Europe.
Commissioner Vassiliou addresses Education Ministers in Helsinki
The European Commission's new initiatives to support the modernisation of education and training will be discussed at the Council of Europe Standing Conference of Ministers of Education in Helsinki, Finland, tomorrow (26 April). Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, will brief ministers from nearly 50 European countries on the Commission's efforts to step up the impact of education policies in today's challenging conditions. The Commissioner will make special reference to the Rethinking Education strategy and future 'Opening Up Education' initiative, as part of a wider debate on good governance and quality education. The Rethinking Education strategy, launched last November, provides guidance on how to ensure that investment in education and training is smart, targeted and effective. There are currently over two million job vacancies in Europe that cannot be filled due to a lack of relevant skills, particularly in IT. The Opening Up Education initiative, due to be unveiled this summer, aims to ensure that Europe seizes the potential of the digital revolution to boost efficiency, quality, excellence and accessibility in education and training, by taking full advantage of the opportunities provided by ICT and open educational resources. Commissioner Vassiliou will be the keynote speaker in the official opening session of the conference. Commissioner Vassiliou will also hold bilateral meetings with EU Ministers to update them on progress in the negotiations on the Erasmus for All , the new programme for education, training, youth and sport, which is due to be launched on 1 January 2014. Based on the current figures on the table, 4 million people would receive grants to study, train or volunteer abroad by the end of the decade, compared with 2.5 million people under comparable programmes in 2007-2013. The skills gained through this international experience, including foreign language fluency, intercultural awareness and versatility, can improve people's employability. To find out more: Helsinki programme ; DG Education and Culture, Commissioner Vassiliou's website, Twitter @Vassiliou's website, Twitter @VassiliouEU.
Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič in two-day visit to Berlin
Vice-President Šefčovič will today (25) travel to Berlin to address the Bundestag's European Affairs Committee on the latest developments in the EU, including the Multiannual Financial Framework and the European Semester. While in Berlin, he will also meet President of the Bundestag Prof. Dr. Norbert Lammert, European Affairs Minister Michael Link, and Dr Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, Chief European Policy Adviser at the Chancellery.
Commission launches consultation of third pillar retirement products
The European Commission is today launching a public consultation on third pillar retirement products (individual pension plans). The consultation focusses on consumer protection, more specifically on the pre- and post-contractual information given to consumers as well as the selling practices covering marketing, inducements and advice given in the sector. The consultation is open to all stakeholders and will be available in all EU languages. It will run for 12 weeks until 19 July 2013. Pension funds are a very important and fundamental choice in the life of a consumer. Currently there are no specific EU rules for such products which may take on various legal forms ranging from "life insurances" to "investment products". This results in legal fragmentation which does not allow the consumer to be protected in a consistent way in all EU countries. The results of the consultation will be taken into account for the preparation of possible future initiatives in this field. Link to the consultation: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/health_consumer/dgs_consultations/ca_current_consultations_en.htm
Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, made today the following statement: I regret the decision of the Swiss Government to continue the quantitative limitations adopted last year to the free movement of EU citizens who are nationals of eight Member States and to extend such restrictions to the nationals of the other Member States. The Agreement allows the clause to be invoked for citizens of the 25 Member States* this year for the last time, provided that the number of residence permits issued in the last years for the nationals of these 25 Member States as a whole had reached the threshold. The measures adopted today by the Swiss Government are contrary to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons since they differentiate between groups of Member States. The EU attaches great importance to the free movement of persons in the overall context of its relations with Switzerland. These measures disregard the great benefits that the free movement of persons brings to the citizens of both Switzerland and the EU. I regret the decision of the Swiss Government to depart from the approach followed in 2008 and 2009 when the safeguard clause was not invoked despite the possibility offered by the Agreement. *Except for Bulgaria and Rumania, still under transition period.
Europe's best digital entrepreneurs are under the spotlight tonight with the presentation of the " Europioneer awards " in Amsterdam. Alexander Ljung & Eric Wahlforss of SoundCloud are European Entrepreneurs of the Year while Jon Reynolds of SwiftKey is Young European Entrepreneur of the Year (under 30 years).
Some 460 refugee families from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia will soon be able to improve their living conditions thanks to housing projects launched as part of the Western Balkans Regional Housing Programme. The first four projects under the Programme were approved recently. These amount to a total value of EUR 8.7 million, out of which EUR 7.1 million will be financed by the RHP Fund. The housing solutions available include construction of apartment buildings, pre-fabricated houses and provision of building materials for the renovation of existing houses.
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President Barroso's video message at the European Parliament's public hearing on "Food surplus to feed deprived people": "The EU cannot afford to turn its back to those who need it most" - rediffusion