Daily News of 2013-12-11
European Commission - MEX/13/1211 11/12/2013
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EXME 13 / 11.12
11 / 12 / 13
Ukraine: Message of HR/VP Ashton to Maidan protesters
"I am still in Kiev. I was among you on Maidan in the evening and was impressed by the determination of Ukrainians demonstrating for the European perspective of their country. Some hours later I observe with sadness that police used force to remove peaceful people from the centre of Kiev. The authorities did not need to act under the coverage of night to engage with society by using force. Dialogue with political forces and society and the use of arguments is always better than the argument of force."
(See also Commissioner Füle's speech at the European Parliament yesterday: SPEECH/13/1055).
At the press conference, Commissioner Barnier presented the outcome of the meeting on the key files on which banking union is being constructed. He underlined the good progress made in record time given the complexity of the files, and expressed his hope that definitive compromises can be reached in the coming days. On the single resolution mechanism, an extraordinary ECOFIN meeting will take place next week to finalise Council’s general approach. On the draft directives on Bank recovery and resolution and Deposit Guarantee schemes, the Council now has a mandate to finalise negotiations with the European Parliament. There is no time to lose: agreements are necessary before the end of the year to allow the legislative procedure to be finalised before the end of the current parliamentary term. And this is crucial, as these new rules will help build a stable financial sector which is the basis for a healthy economy.
The European Commission has today for the first time presented calls for projects under Horizon 2020, the European Union's €80 billion research and innovation programme. Worth more than €15 billion over the first two years, the funding is intended to help boost Europe's knowledge-driven economy, and tackle issues that will make a difference in people's lives. This includes 12 areas that will be a focus for action in 2014/2015, including topics such as personalised healthcare, digital security and smart cities. See also: MEMO/13/1122 .
The European Commission has imposed fines of € 10 798 000 on the US pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and € 5 493 000 on Novartis of Switzerland. In July 2005, their respective Dutch subsidiaries concluded an anticompetitive agreement to delay the market entry of a cheaper generic version of the pain-killer fentanyl in the Netherlands, in breach of EU antitrust rules. Fentanyl is a pain-killer 100 times more potent than morphine. It is used notably for patients suffering from cancer.
State aid: Commission approves termination of ING's impaired asset measure
In January 2009, the Dutch State and ING agreed to transfer a portfolio of US mortgage backed securities (referred to as Alt-A securities) with a nominal value of around USD 39 billion (around € 28 billion) to the Dutch State. The transaction took the form of a total return swap in which the State de facto bought 80% of the securities but the purchase price was paid over the life time of the securities. In November 2009, the Commission approved the measure, based on an adjustment of the transfer price, in the context of ING's restructuring plan (see IP/09/1729). This adjustment took the form of additional fees paid over time by ING to the Dutch State in order to compensate for the initially too high transfer price paid by the Dutch State. Today the Commission approved an amendment to the transaction which will allow the Dutch State an early exit from this measure. The Commission concluded that the amendment did not entail additional state aid because the correction to the transfer price of the Alt-A securities, initially to be paid over time, will be paid upfront by ING to the Dutch State at the moment of the termination.
The European Commission welcomes today's judgment by the General Court which dismisses Cisco Systems' appeal of a Commission decision of October 2011 to clear the acquisition of Skype by Microsoft (case T-79/12). The judgement confirms the Commission's assessment of new markets and technologies under the EU Merger Regulation. The Commission's decision to clear the transaction did not put the development of innovative products and services at risk.,The Commission will continue to ensure that competition in nascent and fast evolving markets is maintained.
Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of the Rainbow Business by RBSG, Corsair and Centerbridge
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over the Rainbow Business, by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBSG), Corsair Capital LLC (Corsair) and Centerbridge Partners L.P. (Centerbridge). The Rainbow Business is one of the businesses which RBSG has committed to divest in connection with the Commission’s State aid approval decision of 14 December 2009 on RBSG’s restructuring. It is currently wholly owned by RBSG and consists of certain parts of RBSG branch-related retail and SME business and certain mid-corporate accounts in the UK. Centerbridge and Corsair are US-based private equity firms. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns since there are no significant overlaps between the parties' activities that would be related to the Rainbow Business. 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.7081 .
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Hilding Anders by KKR and Arle Capital
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the planned acquisition of Hilding Anders Midco AB of Sweden by KKR & Co. L.P. of the US and Arle Capital Partners Limited of the UK. Hilding Anders is currently solely controlled by Arle Capital and is active in the development, manufacture and marketing of beds, mattresses and related products. KKR provides a broad range of alternative asset management services to public and private market investors and capital market solutions for the firm, its portfolio companies and clients. Arle Capital is a private equity firm that manages a diversified portfolio of investments headquartered in Europe. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, in particular because there are no overlaps between the activities carried out by KKR and its portfolio companies on the one hand and Hilding Anders on the other hand. The overlaps between the activities carried out by the portfolio companies of KKR and Arle Capital are minimal. 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.7073 .
Consultation on treatment of waste shipped out of the EU
The Commission has launched an on-line questionnaire to collect relevant data and views on possible EU measures to ensure our waste continues to be treated in a manner which respects the environment, even after it leaves the EU. The consultation aims to understand stakeholders’ views on certification as a tool to manage the way waste exported from the EU is treated in non-OECD countries. Contributions to the consultation are particularly sought from representatives of raw materials consuming industries and the waste management sector, including SMEs, as well as from NGOs and international, national and sub-national authorities with responsibility for waste shipments. The consultation is open until 17 March 2014 and its results will be used as one of the bases for formulating EU policy in this area.
In 2011 the Commission Communication on commodity markets and raw materials committed to “examine the feasibility of applying a global certification scheme for recycling facilities to the export of waste streams, building on environmentally-sound management criteria”. To this end, a study was commissioned to consider four options: (1) No EU certification scheme, (2) Voluntary EU certification scheme, (3) Mandatory EU certification scheme, (4) Mandatory EU certification scheme including mandatory third-party verification. The results of the study, together with a stakeholder consultation meeting in Brussels on 12 June 2013, indicated that additional investigation into this issue was needed, therefore a consultation was launched. Link to consultation: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/raw-materials/public-consultation-waste/index_en.htm
Cultural and creative organisations wishing to bid for funding in 2014 through Creative Europe, the European Union's new programme for the cultural and creative sectors, can start to prepare their grant applications from today. They will find the first details of funding opportunities ('calls for proposals') here . To help prepare their application, the new Creative Europe Programme Guide contains a wealth of information about the funding process. Nearly €170 million in funding is available under the programme's first calls for 2014. Individuals cannot apply directly for grants; instead they should contact relevant organisations such as cultural associations, festivals, theatres and film distributors etc. which make the application, or their national Creative Europe desk.
The European Commission today publishes the first tranche of funding 'calls' for research grants totalling €800 million in 2014, under the new Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). Part of the new Horizon 2020 programme, the MSCA support European research training and career development. The first calls are targeted at research organisations, universities, companies and non-governmental organisations. Overall, the MSCA will allocate more than €6 billion in 2014-2020.
President Barroso visits Panama (programme updated)
On 13-14 December, President Barroso travels to Panama.
This two days visit starts with a bilateral meeting with President Martinelli in Panama City. The two presidents will discuss EU-Panama bilateral relations and trade issues. They will also discuss public security, a major concern for the region. After the meeting there will be a signature ceremony of the EU-Panama agreement on security (scheduled at 10:45 local time/16:45 Brussels time). A press conference of the Presidents is scheduled at 11:00 local time (17:00 Brussels time).pres
Afterwards, President Barroso travels to Buenaventura to take part in the events related to SICA (Sistema de Integración Centroamericano). At 18:30 local time (00:30 Brussels time), following the EU-SICA Summit, President Martinelli will announce that the EU has been granted the status of observer to SICA. A press conference of President Barroso is scheduled at 18:40 local time (00:40 Brussels time).
On 14 December morning, President Barroso participates in the 42nd Summit of SICA, with six Central American countries with whom the EU has concluded its first ever region-to-region association agreement (Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala), plus two other SICA members, Belize and Dominican Republic, that belong to the group of ACP countries. President Barroso’s participation in the SICA summit follows those of Mr. Obama in May 2013 and Mexico's Peña Nieto last February. At the beginning of the Summit, President Barroso will be invited to make a speech.
On the same day, President Barroso also visits the works of expansion of the Panama Canal scheduled to be completed by 2015. The expansion aims to double the cargo going through the canal which was first opened in 1914. The international trade and the maritime industry will benefit directly from the expansion through lower shipping costs, and global consumers will eventually benefit from the greater capacity and efficiency of the Panama Canal. The project is also expected to bolster Panama’s strategic positions as a transhipment hub and business centre for much of Central and South America. A consortium led by Spanish company Sacyr Vallehermoso (SVO.MC) and Italy’s Impregilo (IPGI.MI) is executing part of the expansion works.
President Barroso’s speeches will be made available after delivery.
Vice-President Siim Kallas, the EU transport commissioner, is travelling to Israel on 11 and 12 December 2013 for discussions on EU–Israel cooperation in the area of transport. This visit follows the recent signature of a comprehensive EU–Israel air transport agreement. During the visit, Vice-President Kallas and Israel's minister of transport and road safety, Israel Katz, will open the first meeting of the EU–Israel Joint Committee set up under the EU–Israel aviation. Vice-President Kallas will discuss closer cooperation between the EU and Israel in the field of aviation including in aviation safety, security and air traffic management. Vice-President Kallas will visit the port of Ashdod on the Mediterranean coast. The visit will also focus on road safety, in particular innovative research and technology to improve safety.
Commissioner Piebalgs to sign agreements for new support to Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa, and Timor-Leste
Today, EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, will meet high level representatives from the African Portugese-speaking countries and Timor-Leste (the so-called PALOP-TL group) to discuss priorities for PALOP-TL programming for the period 2014-2020. The Commissioner will also sign a number of funding agreements for a total of 23 million euros that will strengthen good governance in the partner countries. This will be achieved through various activities including training, exchange of experiences and good practices at regional level. One project will establish a training institution for financial and economic management in Portuguese language. Another one will improve the skills of audit courts, parliaments and civil society in controlling public finances. Other activities will support the fight against corruption, money laundering and organised crime as well as the improvement of public services. A video statement will be available after the meeting (scheduled at 17.00) on this website .
Commission convenes high-level conference to take stock on anti-microbial resistance in Europe
A conference organised by the European Commission on the European antimicrobial resistance (AMR) five year action plan and its future challenges will take place in Brussels on 11 December 2013. The conference will provide a platform to discuss this action plan at the mid-stage of its implementation, looking at the issue both from a human health and veterinary perspective. Against the background of the rising threats from antimicrobial resistance, discussions will focus on future challenges and the drivers and possible limitations of the plan to reduce the rising threat of AMR. This conference will bring together, for the first time, high level experts at EU level from both the human and veterinary sectors to discuss the cumulative effect of the use of antimicrobials. Representatives from EU Member States, International Organisations, European stakeholders associations and non-EU countries have also been invited. This conference is organised following the 2012 European Parliament " Report on the Microbial Challenge – Rising threats from Antimicrobial Resistance " which called on the Commission to publish a progress report on the actions taken so far. The conference conclusions will be incorporated into this progress report foreseen for publication early 2014. See also: http://ec.europa.eu/health/antimicrobial_resistance/events/ev_11122013_en.htm
It is well known that there has been a general trend of improved educational attainment in the EU across generations. However, is this general trend visible for all levels of education and in all Member States? A recent report1on the Intergenerational transmission of disadvantages published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union provides some statistical analyses of these questions. In the EU28 in 2011, adults aged 25-59 were asked about the level of education of their parents, and this was then compared with the respondent’s level of education. Among respondents whose parents had a low level of education, 34% had a low level of education themselves, 48% had a medium level and 18% a high. Among respondents whose parents had a medium level of education, 8% had a low level of education, 59% a medium and 33% a high. For respondents with parents with a high level of education, only 3% had a low level of education themselves, 33% had a medium level and 63% a high.
Reaction of the European Commission/EEAS to the Court of Auditors report on EU Financial Support to the Palestinian Authority. "We welcome in particular the Court's conclusion that the Commission and EEAS have succeeded in implementing this support in spite of difficult circumstances and that there is no evidence of corruption or mismanagement. By helping the Palestinian Authority the EU is making a tangible contribution to the preparation for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ultimately, sustainability of the EU’s assistance in this field can only be ensured by political progress on intra-Palestinian reconciliation and, above all, by an end to the Israeli occupation."
Progress report on the implementation of the Common Approach on EU Decentralised Agencies
The Commission endorsed in its meeting of 10 December the first progress report on the implementation of the Common Approach on EU decentralised agencies". The Common Approach on EU decentralised agencies agreed in July 2012 by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission is a very important step for defining a more coherent and efficient framework for the functioning of agencies. In its Roadmap of December 2012, the Commission set out in detail how it intended to follow-up on the Common Approach: it listed 90 issues for which action was needed either on its side, and/or on the side of agencies, the Member States, the European Parliament and the Council, including specific deliverables with deadlines.
A year after the adoption of the Roadmap, the progress report shows how much progress has already been made, in close cooperation with and with the active contribution of agencies themselves. For instance, guidelines are being proposed in relation to several important issues: prevention and management of conflicts of interest, agencies' headquarters agreements, performance budgeting, communication activities, anti-fraud strategies. The Commission also invited agencies to report separately on 15 actions (see Annex I to the report).
In addition to the initiatives listed in the Roadmap, the report also covers the revision of the founding acts of some existing agencies (CEPOL, EASA, ERA, EUROJUST, EUROPOL, GSA and OHIM), the proposals to create two new agencies (the European Resolution Board and the European Public Prosecutor Office) as well as the revision of horizontal legal acts (Staff Regulations and Framework Financial Regulation).
Roadmap implementation will continue into 2014 and beyond, in accordance with the deliverables and deadlines set in the Roadmap. The Commission will report again on the state of play by the end of 2014. The implementation of the Common Approach is however not only a responsibility for the Commission and the agencies. The European Parliament and the Council also play an important role (in particular when discussing and deciding on agencies' founding acts in the legislative procedure), as well as the Member States (for instance in relation to the conclusion of headquarters agreements with the agencies located on their territory).
What Commissioners said
European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič presented today the European Commission's position ahead of the European Council. Main topics to be discussed at the next week's European Council's are economic and Monetary Union, and economic and social policy; the EU's common security and defence policy; enlargement and the Task force on the Mediterranean.
"Neelie Kroes today addresses the IAPP Data Protection Congress, setting out the opportunities of "big data", a new asset class for the European economy. Europe needs to embrace the opportunities of data – not see it as a dirty word. She sets out the challenge of ensuring systems that are empowering, transparent and secure, and the role of the EU's Data Protection Regulation ; as well as other measures to ensure privacy, making Europe the natural home of secure online services. But the speech is clear that data protection should not mean data protectionism. "