Daily News of 2014-02-19
European Commission - MEX/14/0219 19/02/2014
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EXME 14 / 19.02
19 / 02 / 14
"It was with shock and utter dismay that we have been watching developments over the last 24 hours in Ukraine. There are no circumstances that can legitimise or justify such scenes. We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and their families. We condemn in the strongest terms the use of violence as a way to solve a political and institutional crisis. It is the political leadership of the country that has a responsibility to ensure the necessary protection of fundamental rights and freedoms. We call on all sides to immediately put an end to the violence and engage into a meaningful dialogue, responding to the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people.
The EU has been offering its sincere assistance to facilitate political dialogue between the sides and de-escalate the situation. We continue to believe that constitutional reform, formation of a new inclusive government and creating conditions for democratic elections constitute the only way-out of this deep and long-lasting political crisis. We have made it clear we stand ready to support Ukraine on this road of reforms, towards democracy, stability and prosperity. We have made it clear that our offer of political association and economic integration remains on the table, and does not constitute the final goal in our cooperation.
Yet, we have also made it clear that the EU will respond to any deterioration on the ground. We therefore expect that targeted measures against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force can be agreed by our Member States as a matter of urgency, as proposed by the High Representative / Vice President." Watch the statement on EBS .
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht met United States Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman in Washington D.C. to review progress on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations that were launched in July 2013. Following two days of meetings, the EU Trade Commissioner said that the negotiations had made good progress and now needed to step up a gear. A chapter where particularly good progress has been made is one on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises where the objective is that SMEs benefit from the trade agreement just as much as large companies. Both sides have explored ways to remove unnecessary trade barriers between the EU and the US markets without lowering the protection of people's health, safety, rights at work, privacy and financial security, and the environment. Commissioner De Gucht emphasised that in TTIP, “there will be no give and take on standards” and that there will be areas where the EU and the US will not agree, such as on hormone beef which is prohibited on the EU market. With their meetings, Commissioner De Gucht and USTR Froman prepared the ground for the EU-US Summit on 26 March, which will be preceded by the next round of TTIP negotiations on 10-14 March. Please also see IP/14/164 and SPEECH/14/140
President Barroso holds talks with leaders of France, Germany and EU businesses on boosting competitiveness
President Barroso will attend a joint meeting with French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European business leaders in Paris this evening to discuss how EU policies can help to make Europe more competitive. The meeting, an annual gathering with the European Roundtable of Industrialists, will focus in particular on how energy and industrial policies can boost growth and jobs in Europe. President Barroso will stress how the European Commission has been promoting an "industrial Renaissance" in Europe, including by setting a target to increase industry's share in the EU's GDP from 16% to 20% by 2020. He will also highlight that continued structural reforms, common rules to make the most of the EU's single market, international trade agreements, an ambitious climate and energy policy and promoting innovation and new technologies are the best ways to make our economies fitter for the future. A press statement will be published before the meeting, which takes place from 18.30-20.30.
Mergers: Commission clears joint venture "BIP & Drive" by Cintra, Abertis and Itínere
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the creation of the joint venture BIP & Drive S.A. by Cintra Infraestructuras, S.A. , Abertis Autopistas España S.A. and Itínere Infraestructuras, S.A. , all of Spain. BIP & Drive will distribute electronic toll payment devices known as On-Board Equipment ("OBE") in Spain. Abertis belongs to the Abertis Group, which manages mobility and telecommunications infrastructures all over the world, including in Spain. Cintra is active in the construction of roads and motorways and manages toll road concessions in Europe, in particular in Spain, as well as in Canada and the United States. Itínere, which is part of Citigroup, manages motorway concessions and provides services related to urban and intercity transport infrastructure in Spain. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns, despite the joint venture's parents' strong presence on the market for the exploitation of toll motorways in Spain. Indeed, the market investigation confirmed that they will have neither the ability nor the incentive to restrict the access of BIP&Drive's competitors to motorways under their concessions. In particular, the Spanish legislation governing the interoperability of electronic toll systems provides for a non-discrimination principle regarding third party access to the toll infrastructure, and the parties demonstrated that any foreclosure strategy would be unprofitable. In addition, there are over 50 active OBE providers in Spain and the barriers to entry into this market are low. BIP & Drive will therefore face sufficient competitive constraints after the transaction. 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.7075
Antitrust: Presentation of Preliminary Results of the Data Collection concerning Merchants' Costs of accepting Cash and Cards
On Wednesday 19 February DG Competition has presented the preliminary results of the data collection carried out by the Commission with the assistance of Deloitte Consulting regarding merchants' costs of accepting cash and card payments. The presentation can be downloaded here.
Since the results are preliminary and only concern a specific number of large retailers DG Competition has not drawn conclusions yet; further work is required. A final, more comprehensive report is expected to be published before the summer. The data collection took place in the context of the Commission's current and possible future competition enforcement cases. However, the preliminary results for large merchants do not exceed the benchmarks proposed in the draft Interchange Fee Regulation published in July 2013.
The Network of European Consumer Centres across the EU handled more than 80,000 enquiries from citizens across the EU in 2013. This represents an increase of 11% compared to 2012. Neven Mimica, Commissioner for Consumer Policy, said: “By helping Consumers across national borders the European Consumer Centres make a valuable contribution to the Single Market. The results of the ECCs' work are proof that the funding provided by the Commission’s Consumer Programme ultimately benefits the people who need it most, EU consumers and reputable and innovative businesses”.
In December 2013 compared with November 2013, seasonally adjusted production in the construction sector grew by 0.9% in the euro area (EA17) and by 1.0% in the EU28, according to first estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In November 2013, production in construction fell by 0.2% and 0.8% respectively. In December 2013 compared with December 2012, production in construction declined by 0.2% in the euro area, but rose by 0.8% in the EU28. Average production in construction for the year 2013, compared with 2012, dropped by 2.9% in the euro area and by 2.2% in the EU28.
Major industry commitment to EU rail research initiative
Today, global leaders in railway technology are confirming their commitment to the European Commission's recently announced Shift2Rail initiative . Major European companies are attending a conference in Athens to discuss how they can contribute to the ambitious objectives of Shift2Rail. This €920 million public–private partnership aims to accelerate the market take up of innovative solutions in the rail sector, making passenger and freight rail transport more attractive to users and slashing costs to the benefit of public purses. The conference is hosted by the Greek Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks and comes as the Commission has announced its intention to triple funding for rail research and innovation to €450 million (2014-2020), compared to €155 million in the previous period, as part of the Shift2Rail initiative. Eight companies have individually pledged to contribute at least €30 million of own funds to Shift2Rail. Apart from Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens, these companies include rail equipment manufacturers Ansaldo STS, Thales and CAF, as well as infrastructure managers Trafikverket and Network Rail. Alongside these companies, many smaller and medium sized companies, but also research institutes and academics, as well as railway undertakings and infrastructure managers are present in Athens to voice their support for the initiative and discuss how they can contribute to Shift2Rail. The first projects under Shift2Rail are expected to be launched in 2015.
Over the past five years, throughout the southern Mediterranean there has been some progress in policy creation and implementation to support businesses, as well as business success stories - in spite of the considerable political and economic turmoil experienced by the region. This afternoon in Brussels the Union for the Mediterranean will hold its ninth ministerial meeting on Euro-Mediterranean industrial cooperation, with the aim of enhancing support for SMEs and well as further developing its ultimate ambition to create a Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area. European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani will represent the EU and co-chair the meeting with Jordan's Minister for Industry & Trade, Hatem Hafez Al-Halawani Al-Tamimi.
The future of education in Greece and Europe and the importance of the cultural and creative sectors for jobs and growth will be the focus of high-level meetings in Athens tomorrow (20 February). Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, will participate in the events. The Commissioner will discuss the EU's education policies and the results of recent international studies on education and employability with the 'Teachers for Europe' network at the Michael Cacoyiannis Foundation (17:00). Earlier in the day (09.30), the Commissioner will also address the 'Financing Creativity' conference, organised by the Greek Presidency of the Council of the EU. The event, taking place at the Athens Concert Hall and bringing together over 400 culture professionals and policy makers, will focus on what the EU and its Member States can do to improve access to finance for cultural and creative sectors, as well as discussing other measures to improve their prospects in the economy.
The first Competitiveness Council under the mandate of the Greek EU Presidency will take place in Brussels on 20-21 February 2014. On 20 February, Mr Kostas Hatzidakis, Minister for Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, will chair the Council for the industry and internal market points. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship; Vice-President Joaquín Almunia, Commissioner for Competition; Commissioner Michel Barnier responsible for Internal Market and Services and Commissioner Tonio Borg, responsible for Health. On 21 February, Mr Christos Vasilakos, Secretary General for Research and Technology at the Ministry for Education and Research, will chair the Council for the research and space points. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship and Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, responsible for Research and Innovation.