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05 / 11 / 13
This morning, the Commission published its Autumn European Economic Forecast. It confirmed encouraging signs of economic recovery in Europe in recent months. The forecast showed that, after contracting up to the first quarter of this year, the European economy started to grow again in the second quarter and real GDP is set to continue growing in the remainder of this year.
The forecast shows growth in the second half of 2013 at 0.5 % compared to the same period in 2012 in the EU. On an annual basis, real GDP growth this year is estimated at 0.0 % in the EU and -0.4 % in the euro area. Looking ahead, economic growth is forecast to gradually gather pace over the forecast horizon, to 1.4 % in the EU and 1.1 % the euro area in 2014, reaching 1.9 % and 1.7 % in 2015, respectively. On publication of the forecast, Vice-President Rehn said, "There are increasing signs that the European economy has reached a turning point. The fiscal consolidation and structural reforms undertaken in Europe have created the basis for recovery. But it is too early to declare victory: unemployment remains at unacceptably high levels. That’s why we must continue working to modernise the European economy, for sustainable growth and job creation."
Today European Commission President Barroso hosts a 9th meeting with around twenty representatives from philosophical and non-confessional organisations in the Commission's headquarters in Brussels. This high-level meeting, taking place in the context of the European Year of Citizens 2013, was called under the motto 'Putting citizens at the heart of the European project in times of change'.
After the meeting, at 13:30, Commission President Barroso, European Council President Van Rompuy and Vice-President of the European Parliament Surján will hold a joint press conference which will be transmitted live on EbS. Press release , list of participants and President Barroso's press statement will be available before the press conference.
For more information on the European Commission's dialogue with philosophical and non-confessional organisations and churches, religious communities, visit: http://ec.europa.eu/bepa/activities/outreach-team/dialogue/index_en.htm . Information on the European Year of Citizens 2013 is available on the dedicated website .
The EU internal energy market is essential both to ensure secure energy at affordable prices and to fight climate change. In some very specific cases public intervention might be necessary to attain public policy objectives. But it needs to be balanced, taking into account the costs and the distortions it can create in the market. The European Commission today presented a Communication which gives guidance to Member States on how to make the most of public interventions, how to reform existing ones - especially renewable energy subsidy schemes - and how to effectively design new ones. This concerns back-up capacities for renewable energy, mostly fossil fuel energy which is produced when there is no sun or wind. EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said: "The ultimate aim of the market is to deliver secure and affordable energy for our citizens and business. Public intervention must support these objectives. It needs to be cost-efficient and be adapted to changing circumstances." If public interventions are not carefully designed they can severely distort the functioning of the market and lead to higher energy prices both for households and businesses. The aim of this Communication is therefore to give the Member States the necessary information, guidance and best practice in hand to make good choice for their national schemes. More Information here: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/gas_electricity/index_en.htm
The European Commission today welcomed the latest Court of Auditors' report on the management of the EU budget. The report confirms the major improvement in the current programming period compared to the last, with a substantial decline in the headline 'error rate' over the past decade. The EU's accounts have consistently received a clean bill of health since 2007, and the level of error in EU spending has dropped considerably compared to years prior to that. This is due to a fundamental overhaul in accounting practices, tighter rules on EU spending, stricter supervision, and stronger control measures. In 2012, the Commission corrected or recovered €4.4 billion, in the framework of the multiannual correction process. Such corrective measures are vital given that, according to the Court, Member States are still not doing enough to protect the 80% of EU funds that they manage. (see also MEMO/13/947)
Le Commissaire européen au Développement, Andris Piebalgs a annoncé aujourd'hui un nouveau soutien au Mali de 615 millions d'euros (sujet à l'approbation du Parlement européen et du Conseil) entre 2014 et 2020. Le nouveau soutien se focalisera sur la réforme de l'Etat, la sécurité alimentaire, l'éducation et la construction de la route reliant Gao, Kidal à la frontière algérienne. Ce nouvel appui a été annoncé lors du déplacement conjoint officiel dans la région du Commissaire Piebalgs, du Secrétaire Général des Nations Unies, Ban Ki-Moon, ainsi que d'autres bailleurs de fonds. Le Commissaire a commenté: "Nous sommes aux côtés des autorités maliennes pour les appuyer dans la mise en œuvre des programmes de réduction de la pauvreté."
The EU and the US today announced they will hold a second round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks in Brussels from Monday 11th – Friday 15th November 2013. The week-long round of negotiations replaces the talks originally scheduled for 7th-11th October but which were postponed due to the shutdown of the US government. This round of negotiations will now put the TTIP discussion process fully back on track in terms of the planned negotiation timeline. The teams of negotiators from either side of the Atlantic are expected to discuss services, investment, energy and raw materials, and regulatory issues. The talks in Brussels will be followed by a third round of negotiations to be held in Washington DC the week of the 16th December.
The European Commission is inviting comments on the conditions under which Member States can grant public funding to rescue and restructure firms in difficulty. The proposal aims to ensure that such support is targeted at the cases where it is needed most and that investors in failing firms carry their share of the costs of restructuring, rather than leaving the burden for taxpayers to bear. The proposal applies only to non-financial firms in difficulty; a separate set of rules is in place for banks and other financial institutions (see most recently IP/13/672). Comments can be submitted until 31 December 2013. The Commission plans to adopt new guidelines in the first half of 2014. The Commission will carefully analyse all the comments received before taking any final position.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Austrian furniture retailer Kika/Leiner by South African rival Steinhoff
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of the Kika/Leiner group of Austria by Steinhoff International Holdings Limited of South Africa. Both Steinhoff and Kika/Leiner operate retail stores selling furniture, kitchens, household goods, products for home decoration, electrical appliances and consumer electronics in Europe. Steinhoff also manufactures and sells furniture at the wholesale level in Europe and provides certain logistics, supply chain management and warehousing services. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns, in particular because Steinhoff and Kika/Leiner’s market shares are limited in all geographical markets where their activities overlap. 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.6983 .
Mergers: Commission clears the acquisition of RBSPK and RWBB by RZB
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of home savings and loan association Raiffeisen Bausparkasse GmbH ("RBSPK"), of Austria, and Raiffeisen Wohnbaubank AG ("RWBB"), of Austria, a financial entity specialised in the issuing of mortgage bonds in relation to residential home projects, by Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich AG ("RZB"), of Austria. The parties' activities overlap in the market of loans granted to individuals for housing purposes and real estate leasing. The Commission found that the overlap in real estate leasing was very limited meaning that the transaction would not have an appreciable effect on competition in this market. As regards loans granted to individuals for housing purposes, the Commission's investigation found that the combination of the parties' offerings did not raise any competition concern and that a number of strong competitors would remain in the market after the merger. The Commission therefore concluded that serious doubts as to the compatibility of the transaction with the internal market could be excluded. The case 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.7007 .
Staff teams from the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund visited Bucharest 22 October - 5 November to conduct discussions on the first review of the economic programme supported by an IMF Stand-By Agreement and a status update of the precautionary balance of payments programme with the European Union.
Staff-level agreement has been reached. The programme remains broadly on track. All end-September 2013 performance criteria were met and progress was made toward meeting most of the structural benchmarks.
The European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) backed today with a large majority (19 votes for, 1 against and 0 abstentions) the European Commission's proposal for a Directive on the protection of the EU's financial interests. The new EU-wide rules as proposed by the European Commission in July last year will do two things: first, introduce common definitions of fraud throughout the EU, making sure that fraud against the EU budget is considered a crime everywhere in the EU. Second, set a minimum level of sanctions regarding fraud against the EU budget, including imprisonment, in order to deter fraudsters. "EU money must not be pocketed by criminals. The logic is simple: If you have a "federal budget" – with money coming from the 28 EU Member States – then you also need federal laws to protect this budget. Let's be clear: if we, the EU, don't protect our federal budget, nobody will do it for us," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner.
In September 2013, compared with August 2013, industrial producer prices rose by 0.1% in both the euro area (EA17) and the EU28, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In August prices remained stable in the euro area and increased by 0.1% in the EU28. In September 2013, compared with September 2012, industrial producer prices fell by 0.9% in the euro area and by 0.5% in the EU28.
The European Commission has appointed the 15 groups of independent experts to advise on priorities for Horizon 2020, the next EU research and innovation programme. The advisory groups are the most diverse yet, drawing on public, private and civil society sources. Nearly 40% of their members have not advised on previous EU research programmes, ensuring a 'fresh approach' in the new programme. Advisory groups have also for the first time overcome the underrepresentation of women, with female participation averaging 52% across the groups. The diverse composition of the groups will help in deciding how EU-funded research and innovation can help address major concerns for Europe, such as providing better healthcare and clean, efficient energy.
In 2050, will the economy be fundamentally altered because home 3D printers mean you can press a button to print your own clothes, a new sofa or kitchen table? Will cancer be a thing of the past thanks to nano-robots which can detect and destroy tumours? What will society look like when many live to over 100 years old? Vice-President Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda, is inviting people to join a voting and ranking process on 11visions of what the world could look like in 20-40 years. The Commission is seeking views on living and learning, leisure and working in Europe in 2050, to steer long-term policy or research planning.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warns today that the world's annual greenhouse gas emissions are still much too high to meet the agreed international goal of holding global warming below 2°C. Commenting on the report, Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said: ''This is yet another call for climate action which shows the world is not getting its act together fast enough. The bad news of the report is that current carbon cuts are too slow to prevent dangerous climate change. But the good news is that we have options to close the gap although time is running out.''
In 2012, 827 million passengers travelled by air in the EU27, a rise of 0.7% compared with 2011. Looking back over a longer period, air passenger transport has increased by 10.0% compared with 2009, the low point following the financial crisis, but only by 3.6% compared with 2008.
La Commission approuve deux nouvelles demandes d'enregistrement de dénominations protégées
La Commission européenne a approuvé la demande d'enregistrement dans la liste des appellations d'origine protégées (AOP) et des indications géographiques protégées (IGP) de deux nouvelles dénominations. Il s'agit, pour la France, du" Poulet des Cévennes / Chapon des Cévennes " (IGP), élevé sur parcours naturel et présentant une chair jaune et ferme, juteuse et non grasse, et de la " Gâche vendéenne " (IGP), viennoiserie de forme ovale à la mie serrée et fondante et au goût de beurre et de crème fraîche. Ces décisions de la Commission devraient être publiées dans les prochains jours au Journal Officiel de l'Union Européenne. Ces noms rejoindront alors la liste de plus de 1100 produits déjà protégés en vertu de la législation sur la protection des indications géographiques, des appellations d'origine et des spécialités traditionnelles. Des renseignements sur les produits de qualité ainsi que la liste des dénominations protégées sont disponibles en ligne à l'adresse: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/quality/schemes/index_fr.htm
What Commissioners said
Commissioner Hahn in Greece: tackling waste and protecting environment is key for prosperity
The vital role that EU Regional Funds can play in the recovery of Greece and its regions is the focus of this week's visit of Regional Policy Commissioner Hahn to Corfu and Epirus. Speaking to a public conference at the Ionian university in Corfu, Commissioner Hahn focused on the importance of environmental projects for Corfu's economy which is 80% reliant on tourism. He said "Illegal landfills are still a problem in Greece. EU regional Funds can help but in the next financial period the costs of rehabilitation will have to be met with national Funds. Ecological waste-management is an opportunity and important issue, not only for the Ionian Islands, but for Greece as a whole. An investment which is worth its money as people take increasingly environmental standards as one of their decisive criteria for where to go on holiday."
The VPS will be taking part in a conference organised by the EP to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the co-decision procedure. His speech will go over how this procedure has become the cornerstone of the EU decision-making process over the past 2 decades, which is now used for the adoption of 90% of all acts, and will look into the future of the procedure, including how to make it more efficient and transparent.
Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič will debrief on the outcome of the recent European Council Meeting, covering a wide range of issues, from the digital economy and innovation, the economic situation, the deepening of the EMU, youth employment, SME financing and smart regulation to migration, Eastern Partnership and US intelligence activities in Europe.