Midday Express of 2013-06-19
European Commission - MEX/13/0619 19/06/2013
Other available languages: none
EXME 13 / 19.06
19 / 06 / 13
The European Commission has called for the next European Council to agree on practical measures to get Europe growing again, focused on youth employment and financing for SMEs.
To drive forward an agreement at the European Council, scheduled for 27-28 June, the Commission has adopted three contributions on tackling youth unemployment, better regulation and the review of the compact for growth and jobs. These were adopted this morning, while a fourth, a joint report with the European Investment Bank on increasing lending to the economy, will be adopted shortly.
"Europe is doing a lot to work its way out of the crisis. The Commission has documented this in the detailed analysis that accompanies our country specific recommendations. But still our growth performance is very unsatisfactory and we have a social emergency in parts of Europe. We can use the European Council meeting at the end of next week to bring a new consensus and renewed momentum, uniting the EU around agreement on what we will do to get our economy growing again. Today we bring forward concrete measures to fight youth unemployment and to support, together with the EIB, the financing of the real economy, especially SMEs. The ingredients of the consensus are on the table, now we need to make it happen," President Barroso said after the college meeting, which was largely focused on the upcoming European Council.
Communication package will also be available at the President Barroso's website .
The European Commission has imposed a fine of € 93,8 million on Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck and fines totalling € 52,2 on several producers of generic medicines. In 2002, Lundbeck agreed with each of these companies to delay the market entry of cheaper generic versions of Lundbeck's branded citalopram, a blockbuster antidepressant. These agreements violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit anticompetitive agreements (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – TFEU). These generic companies were notably Alpharma (now part of Zoetis), Merck KGaA/Generics UK (Generics UK is now part of Mylan), Arrow (now part of Actavis), and Ranbaxy.
Commission Vice-President Joaquín Almunia, in charge of competition policy, said: "It is unacceptable that a company pays off its competitors to stay out of its market and delay the entry of cheaper medicines. Agreements of this type directly harm patients and national health systems, which are already under tight budgetary constraints. The Commission will not tolerate such anticompetitive practices".
On Wednesday, 19 June, the European Commission is due to adopt new Regional Aid Guidelines, replacing its current Guidelines of 2007 and Communication of 2009.
The new Regional Aid Guidelines aim at targeting aid to the most disadvantaged regions in order to achieve growth and income convergence over the next seven years, in a context of tight public budgets.
The modernised Guidelines aim to ensure investments that would otherwise not take place in disadvantaged regions, therefore bringing real value added for regional development.
The press release on the new Regional Aid Guidelines will be published and distributed after adoption by the Collège.
ANA has a 50-year concession to operate the 8 main airports in Portugal, (Lisbon, Porto, Faro, Beja, and 4 airports in the Azores) and also (via a subsidiary), 2 further airports in Madeira. The sale of ANA to the French company Vinci Concessions S.A.S. for €3.08 billion was part of the privatisation plan prepared by Portugal as one of commitments made in the context of the Economic Adjustment Programme for Portugal.
The Commission has found that the negotiation process used by Portugal was open, transparent, and that the eligibility conditions of bidders relating to their size and experience of airport operation were not discriminatory.
The Commission has also found that none of the conditions Portugal attached to the sale significantly reduced the sales price and that a private seller might have attached similar conditions.
Finally, the Commission has noted that the timetable of the process allowed sufficient time in each phase for bidders to carry out a proper valuation of the assets upon which to base their bids.
The European Commission has authorised under EU state aid rules an amendment to the restructuring plan for 3.Maj, one of the Croatian shipyards in difficulty. The Commission concluded that any distortion of competition that may arise from the modest increase in the total amount of restructuring aid would be offset by the additional compensatory measures proposed by Croatia. This clears the way for the privatisation of the yard by 1 July 2013, the date of Croatia's EU accession, as required by the Act of Accession.
The European Commission has concluded that a Spanish €260 million scheme to finance the digitisation and extension of the terrestrial television network in remote areas of Spain was incompatible with EU State aid rules. The measure favours the terrestrial digital technology to the detriment of others. The operators of terrestrial platforms received a selective advantage over their competitors using other technologies and therefore have to pay it back to the Spanish taxpayer.
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to verify whether a public support measure granted in 2012 by Sweden and Denmark to Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) is in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission has also examined other measures in favour of SAS in 2009, 2010 and 2012 and has come to the conclusion that they were carried out on market terms and therefore do not involve state aid.
The changes made to the proposal by the French authorities after the opening of the Commission investigation ensure fair competition between horse‑race betting operators.
As part of the opening‑up to competition of online horse‑race betting, France notified the Commission of a proposal for a parafiscal levy of 8% on stakes from this betting in order to finance a service to improve the bloodline and promote horse‑breeding, which would be entrusted to horse‑racing companies. France considered this service to be a service of general economic interest.
The Commission takes the view that the new scheme is compatible with the internal market under the exception provided for in Article 107(3)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which authorises aid to facilitate the development of certain economic activities, subject to certain conditions.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of parts of UBIS' business by IBM Italia
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of parts of Unicredit Business Integrated Solutions S.c.p.a. (“UBIS”), a subsidiary of the Italian bank UniCredit S.p.A., by IBM Italia S.p.A. of Italy belonging to IBM. The parts of UBIS' business to be transferred to a new company controlled by IBM Italia provide several IT services mainly to companies of the Unicredit group. The Commission's investigation found that the overlaps in the parties' activities were very limited and that a number of strong players would remain active after the merger. The Commission therefore concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns. The operation was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website in the public case register under the case number M.6921.
Support Group for Cyprus launched
Today, the European Commission has set up a Support Group for Cyprus, which had been announced by President José Manuel Barroso earlier this year. The new team will work closely with the Cypriot authorities and provide technical expertise to underpin the implementation of the economic adjustment programme, agreed in April between Cyprus, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The Support Group will help to alleviate the social consequences of the economic shock by mobilising EU funds and support the Cypriot authorities' efforts to restore financial, economic and social stability. Moreover, it will bring in expertise to facilitate the emergence of new sources of economic activity.
The general coordination of the Support Group, the staff of which will be based in Brussels and Nicosia, will be ensured by Commission Vice-President Olli Rehn, who is responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro. To deliver a broad range of expertise, the Support Group will draw on contributions from all relevant Commission services, as well as from Member States. It will be headed by Mary McCarthy, advisor in the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs.
Based on first preliminary estimates for 2012, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita expressed in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) varied from 47% to 271% of the EU27 average across the Member States. The highest level of GDP per capita in the EU27 was recorded in Luxembourg with a level of more than two and a half times the EU27 average. Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden were around 30% above the average. Denmark, Germany, Belgium and Finland were between 15% and 25% above the average, while the United Kingdom and France were around 10% above. In Italy and Spain, GDP per capita was just below the EU27 average. Cyprus was around 10% below the average, while Malta, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece and Portugal were between nearly 15% and 25% lower. Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Hungary and Latvia were between 30% and 40% lower than the average, while Romania and Bulgaria were more than 50% below the average. These figures for GDP per capita, expressed in PPS, are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. They cover the 27 EU Member States, three EFTA countries, one acceding state, four candidate countries and two potential candidate countries.
In the construction sector, seasonally adjusted production rose by 2.0% in the euro area (EA17) and by 0.9% in the EU27 in April 2013, compared with the previous month, according to first estimates released by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In March 2013, production declined by 1.8% in the euro area and by 1.3% in the EU27. Compared with April 2012, production decreased by 6.6% in the euro area and by 5.9% in the EU27 in April 2013.
A general approach on the Commission's proposal for a Directive on the portability of supplementary pension rights , which would make it easier for workers to move to another country, is due to be agreed at the EU's Council of Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Ministers in Luxembourg on 20-21 June. The Council is also due to try to agree a general approach on the Commission's proposal for a Regulation on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund 2014-2020 (EGF). The Council will also have a policy debate on the European Semester 2013 with a view to giving its position to the 27-28 June European Council on the country-specific recommendations (CSRs) proposed by the Commission on 29th May. The Council will also hold a policy debate on youth employment, with a view to contribute to the discussion on this topic at the June European Council.
EU- US export control conference taking place in Brussels
Representatives from 34 countries participated in a conference from June 17-19 to discuss how countries can better work together and cooperate on export control, thereby reducing the threat of global proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The International Export Control Cooperation and Outreach Dialogue, which took place at the European Commission Headquarters in the Berlaymont building, is jointly organised under the EU's Export Control in Dual Use Goods programme and the US Department of State's Export Control and Related Border Security Programme. Attendees included licencing and customs agencies, export control authorities, NGOs and exporters from across the world. During the conference, experts shared best practice and expertise on their experience in controlling exports. The conference is expected to have further developed the work programme of the existing EU-US Export Control Outreach working group, which will bring export security and cross border cooperation going forward. The EU has an export control strategy on dual use items, set up to provide advice to countries on key areas of export controls (eg. enforcement, legal matters, licencing, raising awareness, and enforcement) and is part of the EU's Instrument for Stability. It was put in place as a result of the 2003 European Security Strategy, which was set up to identify the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as a key threat to security. For more information please see the Instrument for Stability website
What Commissioners said
After the G8 summit, European Commission President Barroso and European Council President Van Rompuy issued a joint statement on the G8 summit outcome stressing: "Overall, we are pleased that our ambitions for this summit have been broadly achieved." The EU actively contributed to the discussion of all items on the agenda.
This morning, Vice-President Rehn opened the annual Brussels Economic Forum with a keynote speech on the future of the Economic and Monetary Union. He highlighted the progress made to ensure financial stability, sound public finances and deeper integration in the euro area. He also stressed the work that remains to be completed, such as macroeconomic rebalancing, pursuing structural reforms and completing the banking union. He concluded with a commitment to explore ways at EU level to help SMEs secure the credit they badly need.
The Brussels Economic Forum takes place every year and gathers economic decision makers, legislators and opinion leaders, amongst others who tackle current economic issues through high-level and substantive debate. This year's key lecture at the event was given by Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation and former EU Trade Commissioner."