Daily News of 2013-11-20
European Commission - MEX/13/1120 20/11/2013
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EXME 13 / 20.11
20 / 11 / 13
EU Children of Peace: a lasting legacy of the Nobel Peace Prize supporting thousands of children worldwide
The European Commission will continue to support children affected by conflict through new humanitarian projects in the 'EU Children of Peace' initiative. At an event in Brussels this afternoon, Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva will announce how the initiative will develop in 2014. The European Union established 'EU Children of Peace' last year after it was honoured with the Nobel Prize for Peace, investing the Prize money in helping children who are living in conflict and post-conflict environments. It will continue to make a difference for even more children in the year ahead. A press release on the new projects will be published here at 15:00 this afternoon.
The Commission has decided today to refer to the EU Court of Justice: Austria (1 case), Belgium (2 cases), Finland (1 case), Germany (1 case), Greece (2 cases), Ireland (1 case), Italy (1 case), Portugal (1 case), Sweden (1 case).
The Commission will also send 58 reasoned opinions to 17countries. With a total of 248 decisions, the Commission aims at ensuring proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses.
EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs will today unveil significant funding to support the development efforts of Central Asian countries between 2014-2020, during a Press point with the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Linas Linkevičius (scheduled at 12.30). The press point will follow the EU-Central Asia Ministerial plenary session held today in Brussels. The amount that will be announced includes the bilateral allocations for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and regional allocations and multi-country funds, to support the region’s efforts on sustainable management of natural resources, socio-economic development, including education, and regional security.
The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules a support scheme for the construction or renovation of football stadiums in the Belgian regions of Flanders and Brussels. The stadiums are to be used by first and second league football clubs. The Commission concluded that, in line with EU objectives, the scheme will make sport more accessible for citizens, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.
The European Commission has found a Danish support scheme for the production of, and innovation in, written media to be in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission concluded that, in line with EU objectives, the scheme will support media pluralism and the dissemination of high quality socio-political news to citizens in Denmark, without unduly distorting competition in the internal market.
The European Commission has found that €8.61 million of public funding that The Netherlands intend to grant for a green transportation scheme supporting the use of electric vehicles in the city of Amsterdam is in line with EU state aid rules. The scheme will further EU objectives by decreasing the number of conventional vehicles emitting CO2 and improving the air quality of the city, without unduly distorting competition in the internal market.
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether a UK scheme allowing publicly-backed funds to invest in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is being implemented in line with EU state aid rules. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties the possibility to comment on the measure under assessment. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
The European Commission has found that aid for the construction and operation of a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal, to be developed in the Klaipėda Seaport in Lithuania by AB “Klaipėdos nafta”, complies with EU state aid rules. The project aims at increasing the security of gas supply within Lithuania by diversifying its supply sources. The Commission has concluded that the aid furthers EU energy goals without unduly distorting competition as the development of the LNG terminal will integrate Lithuania into the EU gas market and will stimulate competition on the Lithuanian gas markets.
The European Commission considers that the public subsidy granted by France to Société Aéroports du Grand Ouest, a company situated in Nantes in western France, for the construction of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes Airport, is compatible with the EU rules on State aid. The project will help improve regional connectivity without unduly distorting competition in the internal market.
A la suite de deux jugements rendus par le Tribunal de l'Union européenne (cas T-349/03 et T-565/08), la Commission européenne est parvenue à la conclusion que certaines aides accordées par la France à la Société nationale Corse Méditerranée (SNCM), dans le cadre de sa restructuration et de sa privatisation, étaient incompatibles avec les règles de l'UE relatives aux aides d'Etat. La SNCM a perçu un avantage économique indu, d'une valeur d'environ 220 millions d'euros, par rapport à ses concurrents et doit donc le rembourser.
The European Commission has referred Germany to the EU's Court of Justice for failing to comply with a Commission decision of January 2012 ordering the recovery of incompatible state aid from Deutsche Post (see IP/12/45 and MEMO/12/37). The Commission's decision had found that a combination of high regulated prices and pension subsidies granted by Germany gave Deutsche Post AG an undue economic advantage over competitors and was therefore incompatible with EU State aid rules. The Commission ordered Germany to recover the incompatible aid from Deutsche Post and abolish the relevant provisions for the future. Almost two years after the Commission's decision, this has still not been done.
The European Commission has decided that aid granted by France to ALSTOM and the Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) – through their joint subsidiary METROLAB – for the implementation of the research and development (R&D) project Métro du Futur ('Metro of the Future') was in line with EU State aid rules. The project aims to develop a fourth-generation automated metro system, i.e. one which is 'fully automatic' and driverless. The aid addresses a genuine market failure without giving rise to an undue distortion of competition.
Commission finds Polish social insurance debt write-off involves no state aid
The European Commission has concluded that a Polish scheme granting social insurance debt write-offs to companies that are subject to compulsory contributions, because they carry out economic activities, does not involve state aid in the meaning of the EU rules (Article 107 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union - TFEU). Between 1 January 1999 and 28 February 2009, due to inconsistencies in the legal provisions on the Polish compulsory social contributions system, local public social security institutions and the companies themselves were encountering difficulties to correctly determine the compulsory contributions they were subject to. The proposed measure waives debts in respect of compulsory social security contributions due for that period. The Commission's investigation found that the measure treats alike all companies that are in a comparable legal and factual situation, in the light of the objective pursued by the write-off. Consequently, the write-off provides no selective advantage and is therefore a general measure falling outside the scope of Article 107 TFEU. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.36200 .
Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of Hastings Insurance Group by Goldman Sachs
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Hastings Insurance Group ('HIG') by Goldman Sachs. HIG provides broking and underwriting services for private car insurance and other non-life insurance in the UK. Goldman Sachs is a global investment banking, securities and investment management firm. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, because there are no significant overlaps between the parties' activities. 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.7051 .
The European Parliament will today vote on the European Commission’s proposed law to improve the gender balance in Europe’s company boardrooms. The plenary vote follows an endorsement for the Commission’s initiative from the Parliament’s two leading committees, the Legal Affairs (JURI) and Women’s Rights & Gender Equality (FEMM) committee on 14 October 2013. The most recent figures also confirm that, following the Commission's determined action in this area, the share of women on boards across the EU has been on the rise for the past three years and has now reached 16.6%, up from 15.8% in October 2012. Vice-President Viviane Reding will give a press conference in Strasbourg at 16:30 CET, which will be broadcast live on EBS .
Erasmus+, the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport, due to begin in January, was approved today by the European Parliament. Aimed at boosting skills, employability and supporting the modernisation of education, training and youth systems, the seven-year programme will have a budget of €14.7 billion - 40% higher than current levels. More than 4 million people will receive support to study, train, work or volunteer abroad, including 2 million higher education students, 650 000 vocational training students and apprentices, as well as more than 500 000 going on youth exchanges or volunteering abroad. Students planning a full Master's degree abroad, for which national grants or loans are seldom available, will benefit from a new loan guarantee scheme run by the European Investment Fund. Erasmus+ will also provide funding for education and training staff, youth workers and for partnerships between universities, colleges, schools, enterprises, and not-for-profit organisations. See also MEMO/13/1008.
European culture, cinema, television, music, literature, performing arts, heritage and related areas will benefit from increased support under the European Commission's new Creative Europe programme, which was approved by the European Parliament today. With a budget of €1.46 billion over the next seven years – 9% more than current levels – the programme will provide a boost for the cultural and creative sectors, which are a major source of jobs and growth. Creative Europe will provide funding for at least 250 000 artists and cultural professionals, 2 000 cinemas, 800 films and 4 500 book translations. It will also launch a new financial guarantee facility enabling small cultural and creative businesses to access up to €750 million in bank loans. See also MEMO/13/1009
On 1 January 2013, the population of the EU28 was estimated at 505.7 million, compared with 504.6 million on 1 January 2012. This means that the population of the EU28 grew by 1.1 million in 2012, an annual rate of +2.2 per 1 000 inhabitants, due to a natural increase of 0.2 million (+0.4‰) and net migration of 0.9 million (+1.7‰).
Protected quality farm products: Commission approves two new applications
The European Commission has approved the addition of two new quality farm products to the register of protected designations of origin (PDOs) and protected geographical indications (PGIs) from Portugal, " Sal de Tavira"/ "Flor de Sal de Tavira " (PDO) and " Maçã Riscadinha de Palmela " (PDO). "Sal de Tavira"/"Flor de Sal de Tavira" is a sea salt hand-harvested in the salt pans of the Ria Formosa National Park, a lagoon in the Algarve region. "Maçã Riscadinha de Palmela" is a very juicy and aromatic apple of the Riscadinha variety grown in several municipalities around Palmela, south of Lisbon. The denominations will be added to the list of more than 1,200 products already protected. More information: webpages on quality products and DOOR database of protected products.
New Director for the Communications Networks, Content and Technology Directorate-General
The College has decided to appoint Mr Giuseppe ABBAMONTE as Director “Media and data” in the Communications Networks, Content and Technology Directorate-General. Mr Abbamonte, an Italian national, is currently the Head of the Trust and Security Unit in that DG, responsible for enhancing internet security and on-line privacy across the EU. Under his supervision the unit produced the recently adopted European Cybersecurity Strategy and a proposal for a European Law on network and information security. In his twenty years at the Commission Mr Abbamonte has worked in the transport, competition, consumer, justice and digital agenda departments. In both the Health and Consumers and Justice Directorates-General, he was the head of the legislative unit, responsible for the drafting of most EU consumer laws. Before joining the Commission he was an associate in the law firm Allen & Overy in Milan for four years, where he dealt mainly with commercial law and competition law. He is the author of several publications mainly in English law magazines.
What Commissioners said
Climate negotiations are known for alarming words and few urgent actions. But if we make a step back we can see a different picture. A paradigm shift in climate change thinking is occurring. Global economic leaders agree: we need to factor climate change into all our decisions and future policies. But to do this, we need to get serious about getting a global agreement by 2015. Not just empty words, but commitments – and ACTION – is what matters. In Warsaw we must already make the first steps. We need to make sure all countries will prepare pledges for 2030 by next year and we must deepen our mitigation ambitions until 2020. This would a crucial measure of stepping up our determination to keep the world from warming below 2 degrees.