Daily News of 2013-12-09
European Commission - MEX/13/1209 09/12/2013
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MEx 13 / 09.12
09 / 12 / 13
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has today updated its guidance on the use of portable electronic devices (or PEDs) on board planes — including smartphones, tablets, MP3 players and e-readers. This first step will permit the use of all portable electronics in "flight mode" or "airplane mode" — i.e. not transmitting — throughout the journey, including taxiing, take-off and landing. Until now, all portable electronic devices had to be completely switched off during taxiing, take-off and landing. In a following step, we want to look at how to connect safely to the network while on board. This is why Vice-President Kallas has asked EASA to accelerate their review of the safe use of transmitting devices on board — new guidance on this will be issued in the coming months.
EU signs in for EXPO MILANO 2015
The formal participation agreement for the European Pavilion in the World Expo 2015 is being signed today in Milan in the presence of the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and the Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta. The EU exhibition will illustrate the EU's key role in global food security in line with the EXPO theme "Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life". The EU space will showcase how EU policies address this world-wide challenge. Feeding the planet entails more than just food supply. It requires well-functioning market and trading systems, clear standards on food safety while respecting the global environment, human rights and guaranteeing peace. This edition of the Expo aims to become a milestone of planetary debate on food and sustainability and will be a platform for political discussions and policy initiatives on these issues. In this context, the EU theme statement will be: "Growing Europe's Future Together for a Better World". Connecting with the themes of the Expo, it will involve the visitor in the development of a sustainable future for Europe and the world. The EU participation is being coordinated by the Commission's in-house scientific service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), because of its strong scientific and technical competence in the theme of the Expo and the proximity of JRC's Ispra site to Milan.
The EU's Council of Economic and Finance Ministers will take place in Brussels tomorrow. The European Commission will be represented by Vice President Olli Rehn, Commissioner Michel Barnier and Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta. Banking union ranks high on the agenda of this meeting. There are 3 legislative proposals, which will be discussed: the Single Resolution Mechanism, the Directive on bank recovery and resolution and the proposal on deposit guarantee schemes. They are all interconnected.
The Council will be also called on to reach political agreement on strengthened rules on the taxation of savings income. Important files with respect to the economic governance will be also on the agenda: the annual growth survey, the implementation of the Stability and Growth pact, the assessment of the Economic Partnership programmes. Further, the presidency will also report on a Council Regulation establishing a facility for providing financial assistance for Member States whose currency is not the euro.
The European Commission's report on patent settlement agreements concluded between originator and generic companies in the pharmaceutical sector in 2012 shows that the number of settlements that may give rise to antitrust concerns is continuously low. This shows the industry's increased awareness of potentially problematic practices. As such settlements may delay the market entry of cheaper generic medicines, this is good news for consumers and taxpayers. The report also finds that the overall number of patent settlements has increased as compared to the previous monitoring periods. This demonstrates that companies can successfully settle their disputes within the boundaries of the EU antitrust rules.
State aid: Commission approves amendment to LBBW restructuring plan
The European Commission has found an amendment to the restructuring plan of German bank LBBW, originally approved in December 2009 (see IP/09/1927), to be in line with EU state aid rules. In the initial restructuring decision, LBBW had committed to improve its corporate governance through a number of measures, including the conversion of LBBW into a joint-stock company. Germany contends that the substance of the corporate governance reforms that LBBW committed to carry out has been fully implemented and that a change of the company's legal status has now become superfluous. Germany provided a study by an independent expert stating that LBBW's current state of corporate governance meets that of a stock holding company. Moreover, Germany committed to continue maintaining the agreed corporate government measures for LBBW also after the end of the restructuring period. The Commission's assessment confirmed the corporate governance change at LBBW. Therefore the Commission agreed that there is no longer a need to convert the bank into a joint-stock company.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of MH Power Systems by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of sole control in a newly created company MH Power Systems, Ltd ("MHPS") by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd ("MHI"), both of Japan. Hitachi, Ltd ("Hitachi", Japan) will also have a non-controlling stake in MHPS. MHI is a listed company headquartered in Tokyo and active in the businesses of shipbuilding and ocean development, power systems, nuclear energy systems, machinery and steel infrastructure systems, aerospace systems, and medium-volume mass production items. MHPS will be active in thermal power generation systems, geothermal power systems, environmental equipment, fuel cells and other related businesses. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, in particular because the overlaps between the parties' activities are limited. 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.7016 .
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of GO4LNG by Vopak and Swedegas in Swedish energy sector
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control over GO4LNG Göteborg AB of Sweden by Vopak LNG Holding Sweden BV, controlled by Koninklijke Vopak NV of The Netherlands, and Swedegas AB of Sweden. Vopak is a global independent tank storage provider, specialised in the storage and handling of liquid chemicals, gases and oil products. Swedegas is the certified transmission system operator for the Swedish high-pressure gas transmission system. GO4LNG will build, maintain and operate a liquefied natural gas distribution terminal in Gothenburg (Sweden). The Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns, because the parties' activities do not overlap. Moreover, there are no vertical relationships 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.7090 .
The European Commission is pushing for its proposal for a simple one-stop shop approach to authorising telecom operators' business. Neelie Kroes said: "The Commission wants to harmonise and simplify operating requirements because that is the best way to help expand competition and cross-border services." “This is about not only existing telecoms companies, but for the companies of tomorrow. “We need a regulation that delivers more than a short-term sugar-hit for companies, one that will endure and be useful over the long-term. That is why we designed it the way we did.” This is one of a series of six press releases explaining the key elements of the Connected Continent Regulation – next week: Roaming!
16.2%: that’s the size of the gender pay gap, or the average difference between women and men’s hourly earnings across the EU, according to the latest figures released today by the European Commission. The figure has not moved an inch in the space of a year. According to a report published by the European Commission today, the pay gap between women and men is still a reality in all EU countries and it shows that the biggest problem in fighting the EU pay gap is the practical application of equal pay rules and the lack of legal action brought by women to national courts. Vice-President Reding said: "The principle of equal pay for equal work is written in the EU Treaties since 1957. It is high time that it becomes a reality in the workplace as well."
All 28 European Union Member States today committed to implementing a set of recommendations, proposed by the European Commission, to step up the economic and social integration of Roma communities. The Council Recommendation was adopted unanimously by ministers meeting in the Council less than six months after the Commission’s proposal and it is the first ever EU-level legal instrument for Roma inclusion. Vice-President Reding said: “Today’s agreement is a strong signal that Member States are willing to tackle the challenging task of Roma integration head-on (…)The key tools for Roma integration are now in Member States' hands and it is important that words are followed with action,". Commissioner Andor added: "Adoption of the Recommendation is an important demonstration of the Member States' joint commitment to invest more, and more effectively, in human capital so as to improve the living conditions of Roma people across Europe".
What Commissioners said
President Barroso's statement on his attendance at the State Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso will attend the State Memorial Service in Johannesburg for Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, 10 December. President Barroso said the following: "I had the great privilege to meet Nelson Mandela on a number of occasions and like many others, I admired his example of selflessness, courage and wisdom. The world community owes a debt of gratitude to this great statesman and human being. The outpouring of emotion in Africa, Europe and all over the world on the passing away of Madiba is a testament to his influence across the globe. I will have the honour to represent the European Commission at the State Memorial Service in Johannesburg".
Results of the phone conversation between President Barroso and President Yanukovych of Ukraine
President Barroso spoke with President Yanukovych on the phone to reiterate the need for a political solution to the current tensions, through dialogue with the opposition and civil society. He recalled the need to respect civil freedoms and to exert maximum restraint. He announced that the High Representative/Vice-President, Cathy Ashton, would travel to Kiev this week to support a way out of the political crisis. President Barroso also recalled the EU's position of signing the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area once the conditions are met.
Statement of President Barroso on the outcome of the WTO Global Trade talks in Bali
On learning of the outcome of the Bali talks, President Barroso said the following: "I'm delighted at the news this morning of the global trade deal in Bali. This will give a real boost to the global economy. Potential gains for the global economy could be as high as $1 trillion. Trade costs for mature economies will see reduced by 10%, the deal will help developing countries save around 325 billion euros a year and the agreement will bring vital help to the poorest people across the globe in the least developed countries. The WTO is back on track and delivering reform. This is the first comprehensive WTO deal since 1995 which will deliver improvement on trade facilitation, development issues and agriculture, including food security. The European Commission, on behalf of the European Union, has greatly contributed to this successful outcome. I would like to pay tribute to the central role that Commissioner de Gucht and his team have played to make this deal happens".
Commissioner Ciolos welcomed the deal reached in Bali on the World Trade Organization negotiations: "I am delighted that we have reached an agreement. (…) It is critically important to maintain a credible WTO(…). A number of issues in the package which are important for agriculture, in particular in developing countries – and the EU has tried to be as constructive as possible in finalising these issues. A number of issues are also particularly important for EU agriculture. (…) We have found an agreement that Tariff Rate Quota must be properly administered – both in terms of transparency, and in terms of obligations for developed countries to provide market access where TRQs are consistently underfilled. On Export Competition, we have found language which renews our commitment to eliminating export refunds in parallel with disciplines on all other export measures with equivalent effect." On public stockholding for food security purposes, he underlined that "no-one, and certainly not the EU, has ever questioned the right of a country to provide food for free or at low prices to needy citizens. (…) What the debate has really been about is ensuring that national choices on farm policy do not harm other countries' farmers or food security. I believe we have found a form of language which respects this." Commissioner Ciolos also said: "This is a positive outcome for EU agrifood exporters – for example with the potential to have more access to underfilled TRQs in other developed countries."