Daily News of 2014-02-06
European Commission - MEX/14/0206 06/02/2014
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EXME 14 / 06.02
06 / 02 / 14
As part of the fight against tax fraud, the Commission has today asked for a mandate to negotiate VAT administrative cooperation agreements in with Russia and Norway. An estimated €193 billion in VAT revenues (1.5% of GDP) was lost due to non-compliance or non-collection in 2011. While this loss is attributed to a mix of different factors, VAT fraud is certainly an important contributor. Cooperation agreements with the EU's neighbours and trading partners would improve Member States' chances of identifying and clamping down on VAT fraud, and would stem the financial losses this causes. (See Memo/14/90).
President Barroso met with Prime Minister Ly today. Mr Ly is in Brussels for a follow-up of the Donors Conference for development in Mali, held in Brussels on 15 May 2013.
The leaders discussed the current situation in Mali. European Commission President Barroso reaffirmed his commitment and support to Mali’s political transition, institutional reform and stabilization process. After the meeting the leaders addressed the media. President Barroso's statement will be available shortly.
'Blue sky’ basic science is focused on advancing knowledge, but it can sometimes generate unexpected applications. That is why the European Research Council (ERC) provides top-up funding, 'Proof of Concept', for its grant holders to bring their pioneering work closer to market. The final results of the latest grant competition for this funding were announced today: a total of 67 leading researchers, who already hold ERC grants, have received up to €150,000 each. The projects cover everything from an exploration of the molecular foundations of psychiatric disorders to technological innovations that could help rescue skiers caught in avalanches, or measure extreme waves (more information on projects here).
Mergers: Commission clears joint venture in synthetic rubber sector between JSR and MOL
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over Vierium Investment Zrt of Hungary by JSR Corporation of Japan and MOL Hungarian Oil and Gas Company Plc. of Hungary. Vierium is a newly created company, which will manufacture and sell solution polymerised styrene butadiene rubber (S-SBR), used among others in the production of tyres. MOL is an oil and gas company active mainly in Central and South-Eastern Europe. JSR is a Japanese chemical manufacturer, also active in the European Economic Area (EEA), with a focus on the production and sale of petrochemical and fine chemical products. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given the parties' limited market share and the presence of a number of strong competitors producing S-SBR 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.7074 .
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over RGL by ADM and ATR
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over RGL (Rostocker Getreide Lager) GmbH & Co. KG by ADM Hamburg Aktiengesellschaft and ATR Landhandel GmbH & Co. KG (ATR), all of Germany. ADM Hamburg is controlled by Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) of the US, a major international processor of oilseeds, corn, wheat, cocoa and other agricultural commodities and a major manufacturer of vegetable oil, protein meal and other value added food and feed ingredients. ATR produces and trades grain, oilseeds and pulses and sells agricultural supplies such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and animal feed compound. RGL is active in handling and storing agricultural commodities in the German Rostock deep-sea port. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given RGL's negligible activities within the territory of the European Economic Area. 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.7117
Students and academic staff from Latin America will have more opportunities to study or train in European universities thanks to increased support from Erasmus+, the new European funding programme for education, training, sport and youth. This is the message that Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, will deliver at the 9th International Congress of Higher Education which takes place in Havana, Cuba, from 10-14 February. During her visit to the island, the Commissioner will also hold talks with senior government figures including the Ministers for Foreign Affairs (Bruno Rodriguez), Higher Education (Rodolfo Alarcon Ortiz), Education (Elsa Velazquez), Culture (Rafael Bernal) and Foreign Trade and Investment (Rodrigo Malmierca).
Commission report on appropriate relations with the European Space Agency (ESA)
The Commission’s communication of November 2012 identified certain structural issues in the current EU/ESA relations. A progress report published today emphasises the importance of their relations for the implementation of the EU flagship space programmes, Galileo and Copernicus, and acknowledges ESA’s key role in them as the agency responsible for research and technological development and the evolution of the space infrastructures. The EU delegates a large share of its space budgets to ESA and this trend will increase in the current financial period. The EU will spend over € 12 bn on space activities in 2014-2020. The Commission therefore is looking to establish such working arrangements with ESA which should guarantee that activities entrusted to ESA deliver the expected results and are conducted in the most efficient, effective and accountable manner, strictly following EU rules and procedures, in an “EU-like” environment. The report presents a preliminary analysis of several scenarios for the evolution of these relations, which will be the subject of a ministerial discussion in the Competitiveness Council on 21st February.
Nearly 70% of Europeans download or stream films for free, whether legally or illegally, according to a new European Commission study on audience behaviour. It also finds that 40% of smartphone owners and more than 60% of tablet owners watch films on their devices. The study suggests that the European film industry can increase revenues by exploiting different types of profit-making online platforms to increase the availability of films and reach new audiences. Nearly 5 000 people aged from 4-50 were asked about their film habits and preferences.
"The European Social Fund plays a fundamental role in the development of human capital and thereby in strengthening the competitiveness of the European workforce and of the European economy. Each year the ESF helps over 15 million people to upgrade their skills, facilitates their integration into the labour market, combats social exclusion and poverty and enhances the efficiency of public administration. The start of the new financing period is a great opportunity to further enhance the impact of the support provided by the cohesion policy funds and in particular the ESF", said László Andor at a conference on the ESF in the 2014-2020 period. "We start the new financial period on a sound basis. There is a sound regulatory framework which is sufficiently robust to ensure concentration and coherence, but at the same time sufficiently flexible to accommodate national specificities. There is adequate funding. Now is the time for real work to start", Andor concluded. See also IP/14/115 and MEMO/14/84 .
On the International Day of Zero Tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the European Commission is reaffirming its commitment to eradicating the unacceptable practice. Female Genital Mutilation, internationally recognised as a violation of women’s human rights and as a form of child abuse, is thought to have affected 500,000 victims in the EU alone, and more than 125 million worldwide. Vice-President Reding said: "The EU will fight to end female genital mutilation – not only on International Day of Zero Tolerance, but on all 365 days of the year. We need to work with Member States, the UN, NGOs and with the communities affected."
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The European Cybercrime Centre (EC³) was created one year ago within Europol. It has since cooperated successfully with a number of Member States and third states in the fight against cybercrime. During this year, cybercrime has become an ever more prominent topic on the political agenda, with the adoption of the first European Cybersecurity Strategy and the Directive on Attacks against Information Systems, but also with a renewed focus on the need for a more effective fight against cybercrime in many Member States. On the occasion of the first anniversary of the launch of the EC³, the European Commission will organise a conference: The European Cybercrime Centre within Europol (EC³) - First Achievements and Future Priorities . The event will take place on Monday, 10 February 2014, in Brussels (Commission's Charlemagne building). Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström will open the event and the EC³ will present a report on its first year of activities. Sessions will focus on future threats in the cybercrime realm and on ways in which national law enforcement agencies, the EC³ and the private sector can position themselves – independently and in cooperation – to successfully tackle these threats. For registration, please contact HOME-CYBERCRIME@ec.europa.eu .
A new platform launched by the European Commission will improve the safety of patients that undergo blood transfusions. From today, national health authorities can use the web-based Rapid Alert system for Blood and Blood Components (RAB) to exchange information so that cross-border incidents related to the safety of blood are prevented or contained, and immediate measures can be taken to ensure patient safety. RAB will be used alongside existing national vigilance systems. For example, if a national authority detects a problem with a certain sample of blood, and, using its traceability system, realises that blood from the same donor(s) was sent to other Member States, it can immediately alert the countries in question so that they take appropriate measures. In addition, by using RAB, blood authorities will strengthen their collaboration with those authorities responsible for medical devices used in donation, testing and transfusion of blood (for example to alert other Member States about a safety issue detected in a certain device), and for disease outbreaks with potential implications for cross-border donation. For more information on blood: http://ec.europa.eu/health/blood_tissues_organs/blood/index_en.htm