Midday Express of 2013-07-11
European Commission - MEX/13/0711 11/07/2013
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EXME 13 / 11.07
11 / 07 / 13
The international higher education landscape is changing dramatically, with greater competition from countries such as China and India. Europe's 4 000 universities need to change the way they operate - not only internationally, but also in how they deliver education to European students in their home countries. Today, the European Commission launches a new strategy, 'European higher education in the world', aiming to ensure European graduates gain the international skills they need to work anywhere in the world and that Europe remains the most attractive destination for international students. The new Erasmus+ programme, to be launched in 2014, will for the first time mainstream opportunities for students from outside Europe to spend part of their studies at a European university, or vice versa. 135 000 student and staff exchanges between the EU and the rest of the world will be funded - 100 000 more than under the existing Erasmus Mundus programme, in addition to 3 million student and staff exchanges within the EU. See also SPEECH/13/629
Improving governance of the marine space: an opportunity for Blue Growth in the Mediterranean
Commissioner Maria Damanaki will present the way ahead on the establishment of maritime zones, including Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), in the Mediterranean. A large part of the Mediterranean is currently beyond the jurisdiction or sovereignty of coastal states. Its marine biodiversity therefore remains largely unprotected in these areas. A new study by the European Commission finds that the establishment of maritime zones, including Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), in the Mediterranean would bring economic advantages in line with the EU's Blue Growth and sustainability agendas. Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries stated: "There are huge untapped opportunities in the Mediterranean Sea, which could come to fruition by establishing Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). The proclamation and establishment of maritime zones remains the sovereign right of each coastal State. It is our joint EU responsibility to ensure that the right conditions are in place for the blue economy to flourish. Mediterranean coastal states could agree on their maritime zones on the basis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Dialogue with non-EU Mediterranean partners should be pursued on these lines". (See IP/13/681).
During his visit in Warsaw today, President Barroso launched, together with the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the first of a series of three General Assemblies on "Forms of imagination and thinking for Europe" that will take place across Europe in 2013 and early 2014 and will serve as an inspiration for the "New Narrative for Europe". In his opening speech, the President said: "A New Narrative for Europe project is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to values championed over the centuries by millions of Europeans who have been fighting for peace, for human dignity, for freedom. These values that are now enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty, our Treaty, are the source of our strength; a prerequisite for an Union in which every single individual must have the opportunity to live up to her or his potential in an ever-changing world". President Barroso is also meeting Prime Minister Tusk and the President of Poland, Bronisław Komorowski bilaterally. Read the President's statements: SPEECH/13/625, SPEECH/13/626, SPEECH/13/627 (will be available later today).
Latest figures show that over 190 million people hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), allowing them to get emergency healthcare and so enjoy worry-free holidays when travelling within the European Union, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland. László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion commented: "The European Health Insurance Card is a real success, with two out of five Europeans now holding a card that could save them time and money if they fall ill or get injured during a trip abroad. Most of the time, the EHIC works without any problems. However, if a Member State fails to fulfil its obligations under EU law and refuses to recognise the card, the Commission will take action to defend the rights of European citizens".
Around 1000 start-ups and other highly innovative companies will receive grants from a new €100m funding round from the European Commission’s Future Internet Public-Private-Partnership to develop apps and other digital services, in areas such as transport, health, smart manufacturing, energy and media.
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: “I promised action at Le Web in Paris last December and now I am delivering."
House prices, as measured by the House Price Index (HPI), fell by 2.2% in the euro area and by 1.4% in the EU in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the same quarter of the previous year, according to data published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Compared with the fourth quarter of 2012, house prices fell by 1.0% in the euro area and by 0.6% in the EU in the first quarter of 2013.
The European Commission invites comments on a proposal to revise its guidance notice for assessing when minor agreements between companies are not caught by the general prohibition of anticompetitive agreements under EU competition law. The proposal aims at updating the present Notice, in particular taking into account recent developments in the case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Comments can be submitted until 3 October 2013. In light of these comments, the Commission will then adopt a new notice in 2014.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of South Staffordshire by KKR & Co.
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of South Staffordshire Plc and associated companies of the UK by Selena Bidco Limited, a company controlled by KKR & Co. L.P. of the USA. KKR is a global investment firm active in the provision of a broad range of alternative asset management services to public and private market investors and capital market solutions. South Staffordshire PLC is primarily active in the supply of water services in the South Staffordshire and Cambridge water supply area. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns because South Staffordshire PLC and KKR or its portfolio companies are not active on the same markets and none of the portfolio companies currently controlled by KKR are active in a market which is upstream or downstream of the market in which South Staffordshire Plc is active. 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.6955 .
State aid: Commission approves prolongation of the Danish bank support schemes
The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, the prolongation of a Danish scheme for the winding-up of banks and of a guarantee scheme for merging banks until 31 December 2013. Both schemes aim at enabling market-based solutions for ailing banks, be it via an orderly winding-down or by keeping a bank in business by means of a merger. The Commission found that, in the persisting difficulties on the financial markets, especially small and medium-sized banks experience difficulties to access market funding. The schemes constitute an appropriate and proportionate response and therefore remedy to a serious disturbance in the Danish economy and are therefore in line with of the Member State in the sense of Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The Commission initially approved the winding-up scheme in September 2010 (see IP/10/1266). This scheme was further amended in August 2011, introducing a compensation scheme (see MEX/11/0801) and in December 2011, introducing two further mechanisms to support the sale of ailing banks (see MEX/11/1209). The merger scheme was initially adopted in February 2012 (see IP/12/144)
The European Commission today proposed to strengthen legislation on national inspections of waste shipments to ensure that all Member States have similar levels of control. Currently around 25 % of waste shipments sent from the EU to developing countries in Africa and Asia are thought to contravene international regulations. At destination, waste is often dumped or mismanaged resulting in serious negative impacts on human health and the environment. Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "It's time to crack down on lax checks. We need strict controls in all Member States – that's the best way of stopping dishonest exporters from taking advantage of the system. Today's proposal harmonises inspection procedures for waste shipments throughout the EU and will help to avoid mismanagement of waste and save resources.”
Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for Consumer Policy, said: "From daily essentials like toothpaste to that little luxury of a new lipstick or aftershave, consumers are now better protected and have clearer information about the cosmetics they buy. The new rules also make enforcement easier, bringing greater peace of mind and confidence in the products purchased." Greater confidence should also benefit producers. With many world leaders in this sector, and with over 4000 cosmetic manufacturers, the cosmetics industry is a major asset for the EU in the globalised economy. The sector creates directly and indirectly over 1.5 million jobs.
The European Commission will increase its humanitarian aid by €8 million to the Central African Republic (CAR), Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva announced today in the capital Bangui. Commissioner Georgieva is visiting CAR where the humanitarian situation is deteriorating rapidly. The additional funding will support immediate life-saving activities such as distributing essential food and survival items as well as providing shelter, health, protection, water, hygiene and sanitation.
Future of Europe Debate: Commissioner Damanaki speaks with Citizens in Crete, Greece
On 12 July 2013, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, will be in Crete (Greece) to hold a debate with over 500 citizens on the future of Europe to listen to their concerns and hopes for the future. Commissioner Damanaki spoke of her expectations ahead of the dialogue: "I look forward to our dialogue with citizens in Crete. It's not very often that we get a chance to discuss openly at this level. Though, these opportunities are, more than ever, necessary today in the midst of the economic crisis. To regain trust in the European Union, we have to try to include everyone in the dialogue, by explaining citizens' rights and discussing with them how Europe can recover. Greece's immense potential for Blue Growth is one way towards this. As Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries I will discuss with them how together we can make the most out of our seas and coasts." Europe's growth strategy to recover from the economic crisis and the potential for the region of Crete will be at the centre of the debate between Commissioner Damanaki and the citizens. The debate can be followed live on via web stream. Citizens from all over Europe can also participate via Twitter. (See IP/13/684)
Supporting a European Citizens' Initiative to become simpler, clearer and fairer
The Commission today adopted changes to the annexes of the legislation governing European Citizens' Initiatives, or ECIs. The changes will reduce and simplify the information required by some Member States to verify the identity of supporters of individual initiatives. For example Luxembourg will no longer require a personal identification number, and Ireland will no longer require the place of birth. The Netherlands will allow Dutch nationals residing outside the Netherlands to sign a Dutch statement of support, which is not currently possible. This closes a small loophole that in some cases unfairly prevented Dutch nationals living outside the country from supporting any ECIs at all – if they lived outside the EU or in a Member State which only allowed its nationals to support ECIs. In addition, small improvements are made to usability by clarifying the language in the forms to be filled in by supporters. All these changes draw on the first year of experience of this unique experiment in transnational participatory democracy. They will automatically come into force at the beginning of October, assuming there are no objections from the Council or European Parliament. Organisers of ongoing ECIs when the changes enter into force will be able to use the new-style forms and continue to use the previous ones.
Proposal of 2015 as European Year for Development
The EU's proposal that 2015 should be the European Year of Development has been adopted by the Commission and will now be considered for adoption by the Council and European Parliament. 2015 will be a pivotal year for development; it is the last year for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the year in which the major decisions will be taken on what their replacements will look like. The EU is the biggest donor of the official development assistance (ODA) in the world. Four years after the adoption of the Agenda for Change (the European Commission's blueprint to refocus its development aid to make sure that it reaches those sectors and countries which need it most), 2015 is the ideal time for donors and stakeholders to come together to look at what has been achieved so far, and most importantly, what still needs to be done. Despite the current economic downturn, support for development remains high across the EU, with some 85% of EU citizens saying that Europe should continue helping developing countries despite the economic crisis, according to a recent Eurobarometer survey. The 2015 Year of Development will be a key opportunity to raise awareness of development across Europe, and to show European taxpayers know that every euro spent on development benefits both people living in some of the world's poorest countries, and EU citizens themselves.
This year's G20 Summit takes place from 5 to 6 September in St. Petersburg, Russia. The European Union will be represented by Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy. Only accredited journalists will be able to access the G20 media centre in St. Petersburg. Media wishing to follow this G20 summit are reminded that the accreditation procedure put in place by the Russian G20 presidency is open until next Monday, 15 July at midnight (Moscow time, 22:00 Brussels time) at http://en.g20russia.ru/docs/about/for_media.html .
For more information on the accreditation procedure, as well as on transport and accommodation arrangements, please consult our MEMO .
What Commissioners said
Commissioner Johannes Hahn: "No time to lose in preparing the next generation of EU programmes for 2014 – 20!"
Welcoming yesterday's adoption of a series of reports paving the way for a radical reform of EU Regional Policy by the European Parliament's Regional Development Committee, Commissioner Hahn said: "The reforms adopted by the European Parliament's Regional Development Committee will equip Member States to accelerate the use of European structural and investment funds for jobs and growth. We have no time to lose. The reforms will focus our investments on the key areas for economic development: SME support, research and innovation, the digital agenda and the low-carbon economy - as set out in the Europe 2020 Agenda. Crucially, our new policy will mobilise the full potential of Europe's regions to deliver this growth agenda". See also IP/13/670 and MEMO/13/678