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EXME 13 / 30.05
30 / 05 / 13
A number of important infringement decisions have been adopted today, including 5 referrals to the EU Court of Justice against Estonia, France, Greece, Slovakia and the United Kingdom; and 15 reasoned opinions, concerning 11 countries (AT, BE, CZ, EE, EL, FI, HU, IT, LT, PL, UK). With a total of 143 decisions, the Commission aims at ensuring proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses.
President Barroso, together with the President in Office of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and the vice-president of the European Parliament, László Surján, met today with the representatives of churches and religious communities to exchange views on how to bring Europe closer to its citizens. This year's high-level meeting, which took place in the Commission's headquarters in Brussels under the motto “Putting citizens at the heart of the European project in times of change”, is the 9th in a series of meetings launched by President Barroso in 2005. Since 2009 the Lisbon Treaty enshrines this regular dialogue of the European Union institutions with churches and religious communities, as well as with philosophical and non-confessional representatives, into primary law. Today’s meeting took place within the context of the European Year of Citizens 2013 and 20 years after the inclusion of the EU citizenship in the treaty. Speaking points by President Barroso available here after the press conference.
Today (Thursday 30th May), the ‘Two-Pack’ laws enter into force, thereby completing budgetary surveillance cycle and further improving economic governance for the euro area. The new measures mean increased transparency on budgetary decisions, stronger coordination in the euro area starting with the 2014 budgetary cycle, and the recognition of the specific needs of eurozone countries under severe financial pressure. The entry into force of the Two-Pack also paves the way for further steps to be taken to reinforce the Economic and Monetary Union, as set out by the Commission in its ‘Blueprint for a Deep and Genuine EMU’ published last November (see IP/12/1272 ; MEMO/12/909).
The Commission recommended yesterday that the Council abrogate the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) for five countries: Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania.
The Commission also recommended that the Council open an EDP for Malta.
Moreover, the Commission adopted Recommendations to the Council with a view to extend the deadlines for correcting the excessive deficit in six countries: Spain, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia.
In addition, the Commission recommended that the Council decides that no effective action has been taken by Belgium to put an end to the excessive deficit and that the Council gives notice to Belgium to take measures to correct the excessive deficit.
This memo provides an overview of these recommendations and provides information on the procedures and the conditions for being granted additional time to correct the excessive deficit.
In May the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) picked up again. The indicator's recovery starting in autumn last year had been interrupted by flat developments in March and deteriorations in April. May brought increases of 0.8 points in the euro area (to 89.4) and 1.1 points in the EU (to 90.8).
In May 2013, the Business Climate Indicator (BCI) for the euro area increased by 0.28 points to ‑0.76. While production expectations deteriorated slightly, managers' appraisal of the stocks of finished products, order books (overall and export) and past production improved. The latter component saw a particularly sharp increase.
In a world facing an increased risk of natural and other disasters the new Copernicus programme will ensure the regular observation and monitoring of the atmosphere, oceans, and continental surfaces, providing reliable, validated and guaranteed information to support a broad range of environmental and security applications and decisions. At the same time, it is a driver for economic growth, encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises to develop user-driven services - thereby creating growth and jobs in a sector of the economy that is clearly future-oriented. Therefore, the European Commission today proposed the new earth observation programme called Copernicus, with a budget of €3.786 bn for the period 2014 – 2020. This amount will be needed to pay for the development, launch and operations of a series of satellites (the 'Sentinels') and to establish six operational services which will transform satellite imagery into readily usable information products ( MEMO/13/482).
The European Commission is taking new action to help Member States recover national treasures which have been unlawfully removed from their territory. European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani proposed today to strengthen the possibility for restitution available to Member States, since the current legislation is not proving sufficiently effective in achieving the recovery of unlawfully removed national treasures. The changes would ensure that more cultural goods will be recovered, the deadline for restitution claims will be extended, any possessor of an object requiring compensation for returning the object would be required to prove it was not knowingly acquired illegally, and information sharing between national authorities on the movement of culturally significant objects will be improved. The loss of cultural objects, classified as "national treasures of artistic, historic or archaeological value" is a particularly severe form of illicit trafficking of cultural property. It deprives citizens of their history and identity and endangers the preservation of Member States' cultural heritage.
The European Commission has informed to OPCOM S.A. and its parent company CNTEE Transelectrica S.A. of its objections regarding OPCOM's business practice of requiring OPCOM's electricity spot market participants to hold a Romanian VAT registration. The Commission takes the preliminary view that OPCOM, the operator of the only power exchange in Romania, is discriminating against companies on the basis of their nationality/place of establishment, in breach of EU antitrust rules. The sending of a statement of objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation.
"The time has come to put an end to cigarettes for teenagers. The time has come to rule out increasingly flavoured and attractive tobacco products targeted at very young people. Tobacco products should not look like toys or cosmetics, or taste like vanilla or chocolate. Tobacco products should look and taste like tobacco products and Europe needs solid legislation to ensure this", Commissioner Tonio Borg said on the eve of World No Tobacco Day (full message available here). In addition, Tobacco products proposal: Setting the record straight on 10 common myths, starting with "Myth # 1: The proposal is about interfering with people's freedom of choice"…
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Catherine Ashton travels this week to Singapore where she is to represent the European Union in the Shangri La dialogue on 31 May-1 June. After the forum the High Representative will discuss EU-Singapore bilateral relations with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Foreign Minister Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam. The Shangri La dialogue or Asia Security Summit is organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies as an independent forum for defence ministers, military chiefs and security stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific region.
The latest figures on the fish stocks in EU waters indicate that the European Commission's efforts to phase out overfishing have paid off. In a consultation document adopted today the European Commission reports on the state of European fish stocks and sets out its intentions for proposing fishing opportunities for 2014. 39% of assessed fish stocks in EU waters of the Northeast Atlantic are now overfished, down from 47% last year and 95% in 2005. The policy is starting to show real benefits for the fishing industry as well with the latest data on profits indicating an increase of 40% on the previous year. Nevertheless, progress still needs to be made.
Commissioner Damanaki welcomes agreement on reform of Common Fisheries Policy
Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs has welcomed the agreement on a new, reformed fisheries policy for the EU reached between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. "This is a historical step for all those involved in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. We are going to change radically the way we fish in the future" (see IP/13/488 and MEMO/13/482)
The European Commission has welcomed progress on an important proposal to make life easier for citizens and businesses in the European Union’s Single Market, following a vote today in the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI). The Committee voted to back a Commission proposal making it easier for businesses and consumers to recover money from a debtor in another EU country. "Today’s vote by the Legal Affairs Committee is another step forward for a Europe for citizens and a Europe which helps small businesses," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner.
What Commissioners said
Yesterday, the Commission published the country-specific recommendations 2013, tailored policy advice to Member States to help move Europe beyond the crisis (see IP/13/463). Presenting the recommendations at a press conference, President Barroso called for a "European consensus" on the reforms that are needed to bring back growth, competitiveness and jobs. "The crisis has left us with the strong conviction that we need to reform, and to reform now. The cost of inaction will be very high. The benefit of taking action now is that Europe will emerge stronger from this crisis," he said (see SPEECH/13/473).
As part of the package, Vice-President Olli Rehn announced a series of decisions on the Excessive Deficit Procedure, where he explained that the progress made on reducing deficits has allowed the pace of fiscal consolidation to slow down in the EU. However, he urged Member States to "use the breathing space thus created to implement the structural reforms to facilitate the on-going adjustment and strengthen the foundation for growth and job creation" (see SPEECH/13/481).
László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, called on Member States to urgently implement the Youth Guarantee, promising young people a job, training or further study when they leave school. "The Commission wants Member States to take decisive action to tackle the current unacceptable levels of youth unemployment. This is one of Europe's most urgent economic and social problems," he said (see SPEECH/13/479).
The recommendations also covered the importance of tax policies for growth. "Efforts are being made to redesign tax systems in a way that supports jobs and growth, and that – crucially – ensures fairness," said Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, Statistics, Audit and Anti-fraud. "The more sombre message is that an awful lot more needs to be done. So my message to Member States with these CSRs on taxation is: Keep up the good work, follow through and go further" (see SPEECH/13/480).
On Wednesday evening, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, awarded the first Social Innovation prizes for three ground-breaking ideas that seek new ways to create more and better jobs in Europe. The winning projects aim to reduce youth employment by sharing jobs among young and older employees, to extend the reach and quality of small-scale social care and health services via an app, and to improve access to the job market for economically deprived by making their skills widely visible. "One of the most positive things about social innovation is that it brings together two sides of the same coin: it offers solutions to help overcome current difficulties in our societies, while at the same time creating new jobs and opportunities, therefore supporting the development of our economies, through the new activities that it generates", the President said. The Commission had launched the Social Innovation Competition in memory of Diogo Vasconcelos on the 1 October 2012. See press release .
"I welcome the results of the trilogue on Schengen. This is an important step towards a more European and better functioning Schengen area for the benefit of the European citizens. I am happy to see that we are very close to a sound Schengen governance based on clear and transparent rules that will make the system more efficient. The new mechanism, which gives the Commission a central role, will allow to better ensure that the rules are respected. This will strengthen trust among Member States and, by reinforcing its European dimension, will contribute to protecting one of the most cherished achievements of the EU, the freedom of movement. All the EU institutions have been working very constructively to find a solution and I am confident that the result of the trilogue will soon be formally endorsed by the European Parliament and by the Council." Technical briefing off the record on the state of play of the Schengen proposals at 13:00 in the press room.