Midday Express of 2013-07-19
European Commission - MEX/13/0719 19/07/2013
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EXME 13 / 19.07
19 / 07 / 13
Yesterday, the Commission, ECB and IMF successfully completed the 11th review of the economic adjustment programme for Ireland.
In a statement, the three institutions underlined that Ireland's programme remains on track. Discussions with the Irish authorities focused on how best to address the remaining challenges, especially the fiscal deficit, unemployment, and banks' nonperforming loans.
The key objectives of the programme are to address financial sector weaknesses and put Ireland’s economy on the path of sustainable growth, sound public finances and job creation, while protecting the poor and most vulnerable. Formal cconclusion of this review, which is subject to the approval process of both the EU and the IMF, would make available disbursements of €2.3 billion by the EFSF, €0.8 billion by the IMF, and €0.3 billion by bilateral creditors. This would bring authorised disbursements to 97.9% of the total international assistance envisaged under the programme. The next review mission is scheduled for October 2013.
New Chemical Requirements for Toys enter into force
The EU’s new chemical requirements for toys, which are among the strictest requirements in the world, start to apply from tomorrow 20 July 2013. Substances which are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction as well as 55 allergenic fragrances are now banned from use in toys, while labelling is now required for 11 potential allergens. Furthermore, strict limits apply for 19 so-called “heavy elements” (such as lead or barium).
The chemical provisions which were applicable until now already included a large safety margin and required that only safe toys were be placed on the market. Nevertheless, the new requirements further strengthen the high level of protection of children’s safety in the EU. European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: “Toy safety and protection of children’s health is one of the Commission’s highest priorities. The Commission will continue to follow up scientific developments to ensure that chemical requirements for toys are swiftly adapted to scientific progress.”
President Barroso meets Archbishop Desmond Tutu
President Barroso met this morning with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town. They discussed the situation in Europe and in South Africa and global issues, in particular fight against poverty, human development and women empowerment. President Barroso praised Archbishop Tutu's role in South Africa as a religious and civic authority. Archbishop Tutu thanked EU's action and role in promoting peace and development throughout the world. Read also President Barroso's speech at the University of Cape Town.
The European Research Council (ERC) has selected 287 top early career scientists for funding in its sixth Starting Grant competition, enabling them to pursue cutting-edge fundamental research. The researchers will receive nearly €400 Million in total, with grants worth up to €2 million each over up to five years. Competition for these prestigious awards continued to increase, with overall demand for grants up by 50% this year. There was also an increase in the share of successful female researchers, from 24% to 30% of all candidates. This Starting Grant competition was the last under the EU's Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7). The next calls will fall under the new EU research and innovation programme Horizon 2020, which foresees a major increase in funding for the ERC.
Consumer market study
Up to €8.6 billion could be saved by EU consumers by switching from their internet provider to one with cheaper tariffs. A new EU study estimates that EU consumers could save, on aggregate, up to €8.6 billion per year by switching their internet provider: The Staff Working Document published yesterday examines consumer experience of Internet access and provision across the EU. It found that over a third of respondents had experienced problems with their Internet provider over the last year. The biggest reported problems were internet outages, slower than advertised speeds and poor customer service. Barriers to switching, such as early termination fees, long contract duration, difficulties in comparing offers and service interruptions when switching were also identified. Many customers experienced high levels of satisfaction when switching providers and that on average; they saved €14.7 per month.
Regional policy: A motor for growth in the current crisis? Commissioner Hahn debates with Open Europe in Berlin
Today in Berlin the role of EU Regional Policy as an investment and growth policy in the current crisis will be the subject of an important debate jointly organised by the Open Europe think tank and the EC Representation in Berlin. The debate will reflect on the radical reforms to the policy currently being finalised and the relevance of regional funds for all member states and regions in Europe. Titled "EU Regional Policy: a Motor for Growth or a Waste of Money?" the lunchtime debate at the EC Representation will be attended by a wide audience including representatives from NGO's, ministries, parliamentarians, journalists and academics. A new paper "EU Cohesion Policy, Contributing to Employment and Growth in Europe" is also being launched in Berlin. For further information: Debate on "EU Regional Policy: a Motor for Growth or a Waste of Money?” ; Q&A on the legislative package for EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 ; EU cohesion policy – contributing to Employment and Growth in Europe
State aid: Commission approves run-off plan for Austrian bank Kommunalkredit Austria AG
The European Commission has found the run-off of Kommunalkredit Austria AG to be in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, Kommunalkredit will cease new lending, thus not competing on the markets any longer, and ultimately, after the full-run down, exit from the market altogether. This will minimise distortions of competition brought about by the state support. The plan foresees that Kommunalkredit will normally be able to finance the costs of its run-off without new State support. However, the Austrian State will provide contingent capital and liquidity support, if needed. The Commission concluded that the run-off is compatible with EU state aid rules for banks during the financial crisis (see IP/09/1180). In March 2011, the Commission approved a package of aid measures for the restructuring of Kommunalkredit (see IP/11/389). According to the bank's restructuring plan, the nationalised Kommunalkredit was to be sold by 31 December 2012. As the sale failed due to the persisting difficult market environment, the Austrian authorities decided to put Kommunalkredit in run-off.
Nouveau soutien de l'Union européenne au Niger pour la réhabilitation de la route menant à la frontière avec le Nigéria
L’Union européenne finance un nouveau projet qui remettra en état de service 111km du tronçon dégradé de la route entre la ville de Zinder (au Niger) et la frontière avec le Nigéria. Cette nouvelle initiative d’une valeur de 19,5 million d’euros bénéficiera non seulement à l’économie du Niger et en particulier aux 3 millions d’habitants de la région de Zinder (seconde ville du Niger) mais aussi à l’ensemble de la région. Cette action fait partie du projet de réhabilitation de l’axe transsaharien allant d’Alger en Algérie à Lagos au Nigéria. La détérioration avancée du tronçon de cette route a augmenté les coûts de transports et allongé la durée des trajets entre la ville de Zinder et la ville de Kano (centre économique du Nord Nigéria), conduisant à un ralentissement des activités économiques en plein essor entre les deux pays. Grace à l’entretien périodique et la réhabilitation de cet axe routier, l’UE espère faciliter, entre autres, l’approvisionnement du Niger en céréales à partir du Nigéria en cas de crise alimentaire. L'exportation du pétrole produit dans la raffinerie de Zinder sera également facilitée grâce à l’amélioration du réseau routier. Un programme routier d'environ 98 million d'euros est déjà en cours d'exécution auquel s’ajoute ce nouveau programme de 19,5 million d'euros. Les travaux commenceront au début de 2014 et dureront 18 mois.
The European Commission is mobilizing an additional €10 million to deliver urgently needed relief to 2.5 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – one of today’s most complex and protracted humanitarian crises. This additional funding brings the Commission’s emergency aid to DRC and the Great Lakes Region to €71 million this year, making the EU the country’s largest humanitarian donor. It comes as fighting in Eastern DRC intensifies, with dire consequences for civilians.
Commissioners' weekly activities
Upcoming Commission activities for the weeks ahead