Daily News of 2013-10-16
European Commission - MEX/13/1016 16/10/2013
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EXME 13 / 16.10
16 / 10 / 13
In a set of annual reports adopted today, the European Commission assesses the progress towards EU accession made in the Western Balkans and in Turkey over the past year. Given the Icelandic government's decision to put accession negotiations on hold, a simplified report on Iceland takes stock of the current state of its alignment with the EU. Presenting the annual Enlargement Package, Commissioner Stefan Füle said: 'Enlargement is a process in making and despite the economic crisis it is a good policy – it constitutes part of the solution. Enlargement continues to be one of the most effective EU policies. By addressing 'fundamentals' first - such as the fight against corruption, sound economic governance, freedom of expression and media, human rights and protection of minorities - it strengthens political and economic stability in the aspiring countries and the EU as a whole.''
The EU, together with the US and other partners want to see the vulnerable waters around Antarctica better protected - in recognition of their global ecological and scientific importance. In a joint declaration the EU, US, France, Australia and New Zealand call for the adoption of proposed marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, in the Ross Sea Region and in East Antarctica at the next meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, CCAMLAR, in Australia later in October. See full text: MEMO/13/901 and Q&A.
Commission proposes applying EU ETS to European regional airspace from 1 January 2014
In the light of the recent progress made at International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The European Commission today proposed amending the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS) so that aviation emissions would be covered for the part of flights that takes place in European regional airspace. The adjustment in the legislation would apply from 1 January 2014 and until a planned global market-based mechanism (MBM) becomes applicable to international aviation emissions by 2020, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Draft budget 2014: Commission amends its proposal
The Commission is proposing today to amend the 2014 EU draft budget, taking into consideration updated forecasts and estimates (via "amending letter no. 2"). The changes include a revision of the own resources based on a new forecast for customs duties and sugar levies to be collected in 2014. The amending letter also covers the annual update of the estimates for agricultural expenditure and reduction in direct payments via the so called "financial discipline" instrument (see below). To reduce administrative costs in the next financial period (2014-2020), certain responsibilities for implementing EU policies would be delegated to executive agencies. This is reflected in the proposal and will result in a reduction of EUR 4.9 million compared to the draft budget 2014 both in commitments and payments. "Amending letter no. 1" was proposed by the Commission on 18 September 2013 ( IP/13/840). The amendment will be submitted to the Council and the European Parliament and will be included in the annual budgetary procedure. For more details, see the full text of the amending letter here .
CAP Direct Payments: Budget update means 2.45% rate of Financial Discipline this year
The Amending Letter No 2 to the 2014 draft budget updates the estimates for agricultural expenditure in the 2014 draft budget (see text above) and allows the Commission to make a separate proposal to the Council to adapt the rate of Financial Discipline foreseen for this year’s Direct Payments within the Common Agriculture Policy – to apply a rate of 2.45% [2.453658%], rather than the rate of 4.00% [4.001079%] previously introduced (see DN 10.10.13). When the draft 2014 budget was proposed, the budgetary estimates, including the new agricultural crises reserve financed from financial discipline, were €1 471.4 million above the 2014 budgetary sub-ceiling for the first pillar of the CAP in the MFF. This meant that, by exempting the first €2000 of farmers’ Direct Payments from any reduction (in line with the Council and the European Parliament in the recent CAP reform package), a rate of 4.00% was needed in order to make the necessary savings. However, the Amending letter has now updated the figures, notably confirming that the amount of assigned revenue carried forward into the 2014 budget year will be substantially higher than originally expected. With these updated figures, it is now only necessary to save €902.9 million. Consequently, with the €2000 threshold, the Commission is now proposing to adjust the applicable rate to 2.453658% in order to respect the MFF budgetary ceiling. This proposal will now be put to Council, with a view to agreement by December 1. If Member States are unable to adopt the proposal by then the rate of 4.001079% would apply. This decision refers to Direct Payments claimed by farmers in 2013 (applications were submitted in May), which will be paid out from December 1 onwards, ie from the 2014 budget. NB This year, Member States have the possibility to make 50% of the payment from October 16. The financial discipline mechanism does not apply to Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia where Direct Payments are still being phased in.
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to verify whether the new Gibraltar corporate tax regime selectively favours certain categories of companies, in breach of EU state aid rules. The Commission will in particular examine the exemption for passive income such as royalties and interest from corporate tax. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties an opportunity to submit comments on the measures under assessment; it does not prejudge the outcome.
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether marketing agreements concluded between public authorities and airlines using Girona-Costa Brava and Reus airports in Catalonia are in line with EU State aid rules. The opening of proceedings gives interested third parties an opportunity to submit comments on the measures under assessment; it does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
The European Commission has found a 12-months phasing-out of excise duty reductions granted by Belgium to seven biofuel producers to be in line with EU state aid rules. The seven producers, who were selected in 2006 following a call for application, will continue to benefit from the reduction until 30 September 2014 for a limited volume of biofuels, so as to ensure a smooth transition towards a new biofuel support scheme to be put in place in 2014. The new scheme that will be notified to the Commission before the end of 2013 will promote the production of particularly sustainable biofuels.
The European Commission has launched an in-depth enquiry to determine whether the funding granted to steel group Duferco by the Walloon region of Belgium complies with the European Union's state aid rules. The launch of the enquiry will allow interested third parties to submit their comments on the measure and is without prejudice to the final outcome of the investigation.
Following a judgment by the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) (case C-73/11 P) on its previous decision (case C25/2005), the European Commission has adopted a new decision confirming that a Slovak SKK 416.5 million (€11 million) write-off of tax debt in favour of Frucona Košice, a.s. was incompatible with EU state aid rules. The non-payment of taxes that its competitors had to bear has given Frucona Košice an undue economic advantage. In order to redress the distortion of competition caused by the debt write-off, the company has to pay the due amounts with interest.
The European Commission has found a 1 950 million PLN (approx. €465 million) support measure for the construction of a series of gas pipelines and modernisation works in different parts of Poland to be in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission has concluded that the project will further EU energy goals without unduly distorting competition in the internal market.
The European Commission has found that aid to four projects aimed at improving and expanding the Greek gas network complies with EU state aid rules. These projects aim at increasing the gas transmission capacity and security of gas supply within Greece and indirectly at reducing CO2 emissions. The Commission has concluded that the aid furthers EU energy goals without unduly distorting competition in the EU internal market.
Aides d'Etat: La Commission accueille favorablement l'arrêt du Tribunal de l'Union concernant la subvention annuelle pour France Télévisions
Dans un arrêt rendu ce jour (affaire T-275/11), le Tribunal de l'Union européenne confirme la Décision de la Commission européenne de juillet 2010 autorisant le financement de France Télévisions par une subvention budgétaire annuelle (voir IP/10/979), en rejetant le recours interposé par TF1 contre cette décision. Cet arrêt est important car il confirme l'approche suivie par la Commission dans son examen des aides d'Etat à la radiodiffusion publique, en application de l'article du Traité sur les compensations aux services d'intérêt économique général (Article 106(2) du TFUE). (for more information: MEMO/13/904 - A. Colombani – Tel. +32 229 74513 – Mobile +32 460 75 2063)
Mergers: Commission approves the acquisition of German life insurance provider Heidelberger Leben by UK-based private equity firm Cinven
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition by the private equity firm Cinven of Heidelberger Lebensversicherungen AG ("Heidelberger Leben"). The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns as Heidelberger Leben, which is currently part of the Lloyds Banking Group, provides life insurance only in Germany, while the companies controlled by Cinven active in life insurance and insurance distribution (Guardian Financial Services and Partnership) focus on the UK. Furthermore, the two parties have limited market shares both in life insurance and insurance distribution. The transaction 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.7042
Employment: Commission proposes Globalisation Fund support to help former workers of Nokia, First Solar and Vestas Group
The European Commission today proposed to provide €9.8 million from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) to help 3,719 workers made redundant by Nokia and subsidiaries in Finland ( IP/13/949), €2.3 million to help 875 workers made redundant by solar module manufacturer First Solar in Germany ( IP/13/950), and a further €6.3 million to help 611 workers made redundant by wind turbine manufacturer Vestas Group in Denmark ( IP/13/951). The EGF money would help those workers upgrade their skills and find new jobs by offering them a package of services including career advice, vocational training, and entrepreneurship promotion. "Redundancies like these are major shocks to regional economies. Helping these workers to manage their difficult transition to new job opportunities is important, and the Globalisation Fund is an instrument that has proven its worth over the year " said László Andor, EU Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
Commission launches public consultation on new rules for states aids in agriculture, forestry and rural areas
The European Commission is launching a public consultation on draft new rules on block exemption for State aids in the agriculture and forestry sectors and in rural areas. Institutions, public authorities, organisations, companies and citizens are welcome to submit their contributions by 19 November 2013. The current so-called Agricultural Block Exemption Regulation, due to expire soon, allows Member States to grant certain categories of State aid without prior notification to the Commission. In this context, as well as in the framework of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and a general State aid modernisation initiative, the Commission is preparing new rules, set to enter into force on 1 July 2014. The draft rules widen the agricultural block exemption and include new categories of aid, for example for the forestry sector and for smaller enterprises in rural areas that receive funding from the Rural Development Fund. These new rules should significantly reduce the administrative burden for the authorities involved, thus also enabling potential beneficiaries to benefit from State aids more quickly. The draft proposal will also be discussed with Member States in mid-November and be further developed to take into account the consultation's results.
Euro area annual inflation was 1.1% in September 2013, down from 1.3% in August. A year earlier the rate was 2.6%. Monthly inflation was 0.5% in September 2013. European Union annual inflation was 1.3% in September 2013, down from 1.5% in August. A year earlier the rate was 2.7%. Monthly inflation was 0.4% in September 2013. These figures come from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.
The first estimate for the euro area (EA17) trade in goods balance with the rest of the world in August 2013 gave a 7.1 billion euro surplus, compared with +4.6 bn in August 2012. The July 2013 balance was +18.0 bn, compared with +13.8 bn in July 2012. In August 2013 compared with July 2013, seasonally adjusted exports rose by 1.0% and imports by 0.2%. These data are released by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The first estimate for the August 2013 extra-EU28 trade balance was a 2.8 bn euro deficit, compared with -14.9 bn in August 2012. In July 2013 the balance was +10.3 bn, compared with +1.2 bn in July 2012. In August 2013 compared with July 2013, seasonally adjusted exports rose by 0.3% while imports fell by 1.1%.
A newly formed group of Electronics CEOs meets today to begin a new push to put Europe the leading edge in the design & manufacturing of micro- and nano-electronics. The recently adopted European Electronics Strategy aims to achieve a number of milestones by 2020: to facilitate industry investment of €100 billion; to double the value of EU micro-chip production; and, in the process, to create 250,000 new direct jobs in Europe. Chaired by Ben Verwaayen (former CEO of BT and Alcatel) the Electronic Leaders Group (ELG) brings together the leaders of Europe's 10 largest semiconductor and design companies, equipment and materials suppliers and of the three largest research technology organisations (see Annex for full list of members). The ELG will establish, by the end of the year, a strategic roadmap showing how they can reverse the downward trend of chip production in Europe.
Today marks World Food Day - an occasion to remind ourselves that around a third of food, i.e. 1.3 billion tons, is wasted globally every year. About 90 million tonnes of food is wasted annually in Europe – agricultural food waste and fish discards not included. Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Environment, said: "When 870 million people go hungry every day, there can be no excuse for wasting one third of the world's food. The EU has set itself an ambitious target, and is aiming to halve edible food waste by 2020." Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health, added: "It is vital to work with all actors involved in the food supply chain – from farm to fork - if we are to be resource efficient and tackle avoidable food waste without compromising on safety." The Roadmap to a resource-efficient Europe identified food as a key sector where resource efficiency should be improved. Following up on this and the public consultation on sustainable food , the Commission services are currently examining how the concept of resource efficiency can be better applied to the production and consumption of food, with a focus on avoiding food waste. The Commission plans to come forward with an initiative in this area in the coming months.
EU congratulates SlovakAid on ten years of development cooperation
EU Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, will today welcome ten years of SlovakAid during a speech at the anniversary event in Bratislava. The event, which will be hosted by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Miroslav Lajčák, will bring together stakeholders and the development community to recognise the contribution that SlovakAid has made to development since its creation ten years ago. Since 2003, Slovakia has made substantial efforts in increasing its official development aid from initially around €13 million to now more than €60 million per year.
During his speech, Commissioner Piebalgs is also expected to call on Slovakia to redouble its efforts to reach the aid targets of 0.33% of its Gross National Income (GNI) in Official Development Assistance (ODA), by 2015 (Slovakia’s ODA in 2013 is set to remain at about 0.09% of its GNI). Slovakia recently became the 27th member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) – an important step which highlights the country's commitment to becoming a serious development player.
Au cours d'un débat qui se déroulera le jeudi 17 octobre 2013, le Président de la Commission européenne, José Manuel Barroso, Didier Reynders, Ministre Fédéral belge des Affaires étrangères, du Commerce extérieur et des Affaires européennes et Jean-Claude Marcourt, Ministre wallon de l'Economie discuteront des enjeux économiques, politiques et citoyens de l'Europe de demain. Ce débat, au programme de la visite officielle du Président Barroso en Wallonie, s'inscrit dans la série des « Dialogues avec les citoyens » organisés tout au long de cette Année européenne des citoyens 2013. Il se déroulera à quelques mois des élections européennes en mai 2014. Le Président rencontrera aussi des étudiants à l'Université de Liège et inaugurera le chapiteau de la campagne "Jeunesse en mouvement", qui accueillera du 17 au 19 octobre de nombreux acteurs actifs en matière de la jeunesse. Vous pouvez suivre tous les dialogues à cette adresse: http://ec.europa.eu/european-debate/index_fr.htm . L’Année européenne des citoyens ( IP/13/2) , http://europa.eu/citizens-2013/fr/home .
Commissioner Vassiliou presents Erasmus+ at Education Training & Youth Forum
Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, will highlight the increased European Union support which will be available from January under the new Erasmus+ programme when she opens the 2013 European Education, Training and Youth Forum in Brussels tomorrow (17 October). Erasmus+ will provide grants for more than four million people across the EU – most aged under 25 – to study, train, work or volunteer in another country. This international experience is aimed at increasing knowledge of foreign languages and other skills which boost employability. Envisaged to have a budget of nearly €15 billion in 2014-2020, Erasmus+ will be open to students, apprentices, teachers, youth leaders and volunteers. Commissioner Vassiliou will emphasise the importance of strong partnerships between education, youth, business and civil society, with more focus on modernisation and quality in education and training so that qualifications and skills match labour market needs. The Forum gathers 350 policy-makers and experts from 34 European countries. Doris Pack, Chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education, and Dainius Pavalkis, Lithuania's Minister of Education and Science, will also address the event. The discussions at the Forum feed into policy at EU and national level. The two-day Forum takes place at the Sheraton Brussels Hotel, Place Rogier 3.
On the eve of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, my thoughts are with the 1.2 billion people still living in extreme poverty. Overcoming poverty is a key objective of EU development policy and remarkable progress has been achieved. The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing extreme poverty by half has already been achieved, ahead of the 2015 deadline. The EU is making an important contribution to this progress - over 46 million people have been assisted through social transfers for food security over the last decade and almost eight million people have received some education and training to allow them to make a living. We are currently discussing a global agenda after 2015 and the aim should be to deliver a worthy successor to the MDGs, which will guide us towards a decent, and poverty free, life for all by 2030.
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting of October will take place in Luxembourg on 17th October 2013. The meeting will focus solely on fisheries affairs and the Commission will be represented by Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki. A press conference will be held at the end of the discussions (available by video streaming at http://video.consilium.europa.eu).
Commissioner Hedegaard to participate in African ministerial conference on environment in Botswana
Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, will participate in the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) on 17-18 October in Gaborone, Botswana. The agenda includes preparations for next month's UN climate conference in Warsaw. Commissioner Hedegaard will use the opportunity to highlight EU climate change priorities and key programmes in Africa and explore possible areas of future collaboration. She will make a keynote speech at the conference and host an EU-Africa round table on climate change. Commissioner Hedegaard also plans to have bilateral meetings with the African Union, host country Botswana, chair of AMCEN Tanzania, South Africa, Ethiopia, Swaziland and others.