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Daily News of 2013-12-04

Commission Européenne - MEX/13/1204   04/12/2013

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MEx 13 / 1204

DAILY NEWS

04 / 12 / 13

Antitrust: Commission fines banks €1.71 billion for participating in cartels in the interest rate derivatives industry

The European Commission has fined 8 international financial institutions a total of €1 712 468 000 for participating in illegal cartels in markets for financial derivatives covering the European Economic Area (EEA). Four of these institutions participated in a cartel relating to interest rate derivatives denominated in the euro currency. Six of them participated in one or more bilateral cartels relating to interest rate derivatives denominated in Japanese yen. Such collusion between competitors is prohibited by Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement. Both decisions were adopted under the Commission's cartel settlement procedure; the companies' fines were reduced by 10% for agreeing to settle. See also MEMO/13/1090 .

Lampedusa follow up: concrete actions to prevent loss of life in the Mediterranean and better address migratory and asylum flows

Today the Commission is proposing ways to increase solidarity and mutual support in order to prevent migrants' death in the Mediterranean. The main action areas proposed are the result of the work carried out by the Commission chaired Task-Force for the Mediterranean, with the aim to bolster EU's policies and tools in the short to medium term. "Two months ago the tragedy in Lampedusa triggered a very wide and emotional reaction across Europe - a chorus of voices calling for actions to avoid such disasters in the future (…). Today we are putting on the table measures and proposals for a truly European response that can make a difference," said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

European Commission welcomes Greek government ahead of Presidency

Greece's prime minister, Antonis Samaras, and several Greek ministers will visit the European Commission today to discuss Greece's upcoming EU Presidency. The visit will kick off with a bilateral meeting between President Barroso and Prime Minister Samaras, who will then join the college of commissioners and the visiting Greek ministers for a plenary debate, followed by a working lunch. The Presidency's three main priorities are: promoting growth, employment and cohesion; deepening the Union, especially the Economic and Monetary Union; and migration, border management and mobility. The Presidency is also highlighting the importance of maritime policy. President Barroso and Prime Minister Samaras will hold a press briefing after the visit at 14.00 at the Berlaymont. President Barroso's speech will be available afterwards.

Youth employment: Commission proposes standards to improve quality of traineeships

The Commission has proposed a Quality Framework for Traineeships, setting out guidelines to enable trainees to acquire high-quality work experience under safe and fair conditions, and to increase their chances of finding a good quality job. Under the proposal, Member States should ensure that national law or practice respects the principles set out in the guidelines. Traineeships are a key element of the Youth Guarantee proposed by the Commission in December 2012 and adopted by the EU's Council of Ministers in April 2013. "Traineeships are crucial for improving the employability of young people, and to ensure a smooth transition from school to work. It is unacceptable that some trainees are currently exploited as free or cheap labour. Member States must ensure that trainees receive valuable training and experience to get a job. These proposed guidelines would enable trainees to acquire high-quality work experience under good working conditions", said Commissioner Andor.

Other news

State Aid: Commission authorises €945 million worth allocation of free greenhouse gas emission allowances for modernisation of Bulgarian electricity sector

The European Commission has concluded that Bulgarian plans to allocate €945 million worth carbon emission trading allowances free of charge to modernise the electricity sector are in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found that the funds will be used for modernising production infrastructure, diversifying the energy mix or constructing new installations. This will contribute to opening up energy markets, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the security of supply, in line with EU objectives, without unduly distorting competition in the internal market.

State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into tax exemptions given to certain Belgian companies

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to determine whether Belgium’s implementation of a system of support for innovative companies is in line with EU rules on state aid. The Commission will examine in particular the terms on which a certain number of Belgian companies have benefited from tax relief. The opening of an in‑depth investigation gives third parties an opportunity to comment on the measure under assessment. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

Aides d’État : La Commission approuve une aide de 21,3 millions d'euros à SOITEC pour le projet de R&D « GUÉPARD »

La Commission européenne a conclu qu'une aide octroyée par la France au groupe SOITEC pour la réalisation du projet de recherche et développement (R&D) « GUÉPARD » était conforme aux règles de l'UE relatives aux aides d'État. Ce projet vise à développer une nouvelle technologie photovoltaïque à concentration (« CPV »). L'aide répond à une véritable défaillance de marché sans susciter de distorsion indue de la concurrence.

State aid: Commission approves £21 million aid to UK spacecraft manufacturer SSTL for development of low-cost radar satellite

The European Commission has found that UK plans to grant £21 million (around €24 million) support to Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) for the research and development (R&D) project NovaSAR are in line with EU State aid rules. The project aims to develop, launch and demonstrate a low-cost, medium-resolution, space-based Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite including service demonstration and applications development. The aid addresses a genuine market failure without giving rise to undue distortions of competition.

State aid: Commission approves aid for innovative medical services in remote areas of Saxony

The European Commission has found German plans to support the setup of a platform for telemedicine services in eastern Saxony in line with EU state aid rules. The platform will allow providing medical services at a distance where the actors, for instance doctors and patients, cannot meet in the same location. The Commission concluded that, in line with EU objectives, the aid will make medical care more accessible for citizens, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of German and Dutch gas supply and storage joint ventures by Gazprom

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of (i) joint control over WINZ and Wintershall Services of the Netherlands and (ii) sole control over Wingas and WIEH of Germany by the Russian energy company Gazprom. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not raise any competition concerns.

Mergers: Commission clears the acquisition of joint control over Stentex by Medtronic Vascular and Backston

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over LLC Stentex of Russia by Medtronic Vascular of Ireland and Backston of Cyprus. Stentex will manufacture and sell cardiovascular devices (coronary stents and related delivery systems) in the Russian Federation and potentially in Belarus and Kazakhstan. Medtronic Vascular is active in the development of intellectual property rights in connection with medical technology and medical devices, globally. Backston is part of Renova Group, a Russian company active in the field of asset management and direct portfolio investment funds owning and managing assets in metals, mining, machine building, construction development, energy, telecommunications, nanotechnologies, utilities and the financial sector in Russia, the European Economic Area (EEA), South Africa and the US. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, in particular because the parties' activities do not overlap in the EEA. 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.7084 .  

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Bosch Rexroth Pneumatics Holding by Triton

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Dutch Bosch Rexroth Pneumatics Holding ("BR Pneumatics"), by British investment fund Triton. BR Pneumatics manufactures pneumatic drive and control components for industrial, truck and marine applications. Triton invests in medium sized businesses in Northern Europe. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, because the target's activities do not overlap with Triton's portfolio companies and there are no significant vertical relations. 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.7065 .  

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Ansaldo Energia by Fondo Strategico Italiano

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Ansaldo Energia by Fondo Strategico Italiano, both of Italy. Ansaldo Energia supplies power generation systems and components. Fondo Strategico Italiano is a holding company, controlled by the state-owned Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, whose corporate mission is to support economic growth and infrastructure development in Italy. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, because the parties, and their subsidiaries, are not active in the same product and geographic markets or in any vertically related market. 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.7086 .  

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Finnish healthcare services company Terveystalo by UK-based investment fund EQT VI

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Terveystalo of Finland by EQT VI of Guernsey, UK.  Terveystalo provides healthcare services almost exclusively in Finland and has as its core business occupational healthcare services. EQT VI is part of EQT, a group of private equity funds which counts in its portfolio BSN Medical, HTL-Strefa and Atos Medical, all active in the sector for medical products, among others in Finland. BSN Medical provides wound care, compression therapy and orthopedics products, HTL-Strefa blood micro-sampling devices and Atos Medical products for ear, nose and throat. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, because competitors of BSN Medical, HTL-Strefa and Atos Medical would still have a sufficient number of alternative customers and Terveystalo's competitors would still have a sufficient number of alternative suppliers for these medical products supplied by EQT’s portfolio companies. The transaction 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.7058 .  

President Barroso receives the 2013 CGDC Award from the hands of Bill Clinton

The President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso today receives the Center for Global Dialogue and Cooperation’s Award for "Enhancing Mutual Understanding and Dialogue amongst Diverse People". The Official Award Ceremony takes place on December 4th, at 7pm, in Vienna, as a closing event of the 3rd Center’s Annual Meeting.

The award, which will be presented by former President Bill Clinton, recognizes President Barroso’s "remarkable ability to foster positive global trends, his great contribution to the dissemination of values such as honesty, and transparency, as well as his active efforts in strengthening cooperation between diverse people and cultures". "Through his vision, outstanding commitment and expertise he inspires the next generation of world leaders, change-makers and citizens", the award statement says.

The Center for Global Dialogue and Cooperation is a politically independent, international non-governmental organization. Its awards are granted every year to exceptional individuals to acknowledge their inspirational personality and outstanding commitment to promoting peace and cooperation amongst diverse people through their vision and leadership. Previous award recipients are General Wesley K. Clark in 2011 and President Bill Clinton in 2012.

The President's acceptance speech will be available afterwards.

President Barroso meets King Abdullah II of Jordan

This afternoon President Barroso will meet with the King Abdullah II of Jordan. The EU has been developing a close partnership with Jordan, grounded on an Association Agreement, in force since 2002 .

During this meeting, President Barroso is expected support further deepening of the EU-Jordan relations in the area of trade and investment. This would have a tangible impact on the Jordanian economy in terms of boosting investment and supporting the ongoing process of domestic economic reform.

The two leaders will also discuss mobility issues, in particular launching negotiations for a Mobility Partnership in January 2014.

As Jordan is a key player in the Middle East, President Barroso and King Abdullah II will address the promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in the region. On Syria, President Barroso will offer his views on humanitarian and development assistance in response to the Syria crisis, which is close to €2 billion. Furthermore, the EU support for refugees and host communities in Jordan sums up to €224 million. The leaders will likely exchange views on the Geneva II conference, to be convened on January 2014.

More info on EU-Jordan relations: http://eeas.europa.eu/jordan/index_en.htm and http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/jordan/eu_jordan/political_relations/index_en.htm .

Commissioner Barnier welcomes the trilogue agreement on the EU co-financing of the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation, the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG), and the Public Interest Oversight Board (PIOB)

Following the agreement reached last night to renew the co-financing of the IFRS Foundation, EFRAG and the PIOB, Commissioner Barnier said: "The harmonisation of financial reporting and auditing rules at global level is essential for the sake of transparency, comparability and the smooth functioning of the global capital markets and an integrated market for financial services in the EU. This agreement to renew the financing programme of the IFRS Foundation, the EFRAG and the PIOB is a very important step towards ensuring that these organisations continue to play an important role in the development of accounting and auditing standards and that the EU’s interests are properly taken into account in that process."

October 2013 compared with September 2013: Volume of retail trade down by 0.2% in euro area, down by 0.4% in EU28

In October 2013 compared with September 2013, the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade fell by 0.2% in the euro area (EA17) and by 0.4% in the EU28, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In September retail trade decreased by 0.6% and 0.4% respectively. In October 2013 compared with October 2012, the retail sales index fell by 0.1% in the euro area and rose by 0.5% in the EU28.

Second estimate for the third quarter of 2013: Euro area GDP up by 0.1% and EU28 up by 0.2%; -0.4% and +0.1% respectively compared with the third quarter of 2012

GDP rose by 0.1% in the euro area (EA17) and by 0.2% in the EU28 during the third quarter of 2013, compared with the previous quarter, according to second estimates published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In the second quarter of 2013, growth rates were +0.3% and +0.4% respectively. Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, seasonally adjusted GDP fell by 0.4% in the euro area and rose by 0.1% in the EU28 in the third quarter of 2013, after -0.6% and -0.1% respectively in the previous quarter.

Protected quality farm products: Commission approves three new applications

The European Commission has approved the addition of three new quality farm products to the register of protected designations of origin (PDOs) and protected geographical indications (PGIs). These are, for Spain, " Cordero Segureño " (PGI), lamb meat from the Segureño breed, raised in the steep wide hills and valleys at the meeting-point of the provinces of Albacete, Almería, Grenada, Jaén and Murcia ; " Aceite Sierra del Moncayo " (PDO), an extra virgin olive oil obtained by an exclusive blend of olive varieties unique to the area between the wide, flat terraces of the Ebro River and the Iberian mountain ranges and ; for the United Kingdom, " Pembrokeshire Earlies"/"Pembrokeshire Early Potatoes " (PGI), potatoes planted, grown and harvested in the county of Pembrokeshire in West Wales, known for their distinctive strong fresh, earthy, nutty flavour and aroma, as well as for being the earliest potatoes available in Wales. 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.

Justice and Home Affairs Council 5-6 December 2013 in Brussels

European Union Justice and Home Affairs ministers will meet in Brussels on 5-6 December 2013. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner and Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs. Agenda items include: the free movement of EU citizens, the EU's data protection reform for Justice and the Task Force for the Mediterranean and the freezing and confiscation of proceeds of crime in the EU for Home Affairs. (for more information: MEMO/13/1094 - M. Andreeva – Tel. +32 229 91382 – Mobile +32 498 99 13 82 - M. Cercone - Tel. +32 229 80963 - Mobile +32 498 98 2349)

What Commissioners said

Vice-President Kallas: Using transport to make the most of Europe’s cities

Europe is home to some of the world’s most successful and attractive cities; they are our main engines of economic growth but they are also where many of transport’s negative impacts are strongest. “Successful, sustainable and beautiful cities which attract millions of visitors do not happen by themselves,” Vice-President Siim Kallas, EU transport commissioner, will say today at a conference hosted by the POLIS cities and regions network. “If you plan for attractive, clean, efficient and socially integrated cities, then that is what you get. But if you don’t plan, the risk is that the opposite can happen — smoke-filled gridlocks and chaotic urban jungles.” This is why urban transport lies at the heart of the European Commission’s plans for sustainable smart growth and the transition to a resource-efficient economy where clean air is a top priority, Kallas will say. “It’s why we have designed European transport policy to play a key part in the longer-term thinking for our cities, so they will stay clean, smart, sustainable and attractive.” The speech will be available on RAPID at 13:00.

Vice-President Kallas: Connecting Europe – using transport to bring the Baltic region closer

Rail Baltic is the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in the history of the Baltic States. For these countries, nothing could be more politically and economically important than to have good links to Europe’s heartland.  "As Western Europe becomes increasingly interlinked, a more thinly populated Eastern Europe risks being left behind. We must not allow this to happen. That is why Rail Baltic should be built as soon as possible," Vice-President Siim Kallas, EU transport commissioner, will say today at a seminar at the European Parliament. The focus now is to set project priorities to get the funding required and make sure that Rail Baltic gets built.  Since the list of potential projects is very long, Member States need to think hard about these priorities, because competition for funding from the Connecting Europe Facility will be tough, Kallas will say. "I cannot stress enough how important a role this new high-speed line will play as a part of the nine major corridors that will become the transportation backbone for Europe's single market." "It is now up to Member States to work together and start building the projects so that Rail Baltic becomes a reality." The speech will be available on RAPID at 16:00.

"It’s crunch time for the WTO", warns EU Trade Commissioner at WTO Ministerial

At the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Bali, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht warned that “the very foundations of the WTO” could be put into question if talks on trade facilitation, agriculture and development issues fail. The Commissioner underlined in a press briefing that “the European Union's support for the WTO remains unshaken” and that a deal on trade facilitation could help developing countries save around €325bn per year. However, he stressed that “the clock is ticking” and that failure of the talks “won't just spell the end of our ability and credibility to achieve valuable multilateral deals on a global scale, but it will also leave the WTO rules based system on life support. I fear this will spell the end game for the Dispute Settlement Mechanism too - perhaps a slower death, but death all the same.”

Commissaire Barnier ouvre la conférence organisée par la Caisse des Dépôts 'Comment assurer le financement à long terme de l’économie européenne dans un contexte de crise ?'

Suite au livre vert sur le financement de long terme, la Caisse des Dépôts organise une conférence avec les parties prenantes pour poursuivre le débat. A cette conférence au Comité des Régions cet après-midi (14.30), Commissaire Barnier dira: "Il est temps de retrouver une vision de long terme. (…) Si nous réussissons, nous aurons fait la démonstration qu’investir à long terme peut nous permettre de résoudre nos problèmes à court terme. (…) Nous créerons aujourd’hui les emplois de demain. (…) Nous ferons la preuve de la valeur ajoutée de l’Europe, ce qui est la meilleure manière de répondre aux populistes. (…) Il faut souligner l’importance du contexte macroéconomique et de la stabilité du cadre législatif, réglementaire et fiscal pour soutenir l’investissement à long terme. (…) …il n’y a pas de solution miracle pour favoriser l’investissement à long terme, et qu’il est nécessaire d’agir simultanément sur plusieurs leviers. (…) Il est indispensable d’accompagner la diversification du système de financement européen. (…) Une option innovatrice à explorer est un livret d'épargne européen, une sorte de livret bleu, et qui serait au service des importants besoins de financement des PMEs en particulier. (…) Il est maintenant temps que les investisseurs et les épargnants reprennent confiance et se tournent à nouveau vers le financement de projets à long terme."

Full speech available later at SPEECH/13/1018 .

Towards a federal Europe: what we can learn from our central banks

Yesterday Vice-President Reding delivered a speech at an event for the 25th Anniversary of the Österreichische Nationalbank, where she spoke of the future of European integration, saying "We have to make sure that democracy keeps up with reforms. Complexity is an enemy of democracy. Whether it is about laying off civil servants, privatising state companies or raising the retirement age – questions like these need to be debated in the open, in the European Parliament. They must not be decided by unaccountable experts behind closed doors. To ensure this, we need a true Political Union."


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