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EXME 14 / 26.02


26 / 02 / 14

Antitrust: Commission makes Visa Europe's commitments to cut inter-bank fees and to facilitate cross-border competition legally binding

The European Commission has rendered legally binding the commitments offered by Visa Europe to significantly cut its multilateral interchange fees (MIFs) for credit card payments to a level of 0.3% of the value of the transaction (a reduction of about 40 to 60%) and to reform its rules in order to facilitate cross-border competition. Vice President Almunia said: "The cap on inter-bank fees for Visa Europe's credit cards and the commitments ensuring cross-border competition are excellent news for European consumers, since the fees paid by retailers end up on their bills. Today's decision adds to what has already been achieved through the Commission's antitrust investigations concerning inter-bank fees." See also MEMO/14/138 .

President Barroso travels to Nigeria

Today, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, travels to Nigeria. He will join some 30 world leaders at the Nigeria’s Centenary Celebrations in Abuja. President Barroso will also deliver a speech on "Human Security, Peace and Development – Agenda for 21st Century Africa", in a conference hosted by President Goodluck Jonathan. President Barroso and President Goodluck Jonathan will also meet for bilateral talks. Political, trade and cooperation relations between the EU and Nigeria are built on the 2000 Cotonou Agreement (ACP-EU Partnership Agreement). In 2009, the EU and Nigeria formalized their commitment in the form of the “Nigeria EU Joint Way Forward”. Nigeria is now the second biggest in Africa and an important trade partner for the EU, especially for oil and gas.

Visit the website of the Delegation of the EU to Nigeria and ECOWAS .

Winter 2014 forecast: Recovery gaining ground

The European Commission's winter forecast foresees a continuation of the economic recovery in most Member States and in the EU as a whole. After exiting recession in spring 2013 and three consecutive quarters of subdued recovery, the outlook is for a moderate step-up in economic growth. Following real GDP growth of 1.5% in the EU and 1.2% in the euro area in 2014, activity is seen accelerating in 2015 to 2.0% in the EU and 1.8% in the euro area. These figures each represent an upward revision of 0.1 percentage points compared with the autumn 2013 forecast. The forecast remains based on the assumption that the implementation of agreed policy measures at EU and Member State level sustains improvements in confidence as well as financial conditions and advances the necessary economic adjustment in Member States, by increasing their growth potential.

Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič welcomes broad agreement on statute and funding of European political parties

After 18 months of intense negotiations, the Council and European Parliament last night reached broad agreement on a Commission proposal to increase the visibility, recognition, effectiveness, transparency and accountability of European political parties. Vice-President Šefčovič said: "This ambitious agreement is an important step towards consolidating European democracy." The proposal provides European-level legal status for European political parties and their affiliated foundations, tackling the most important obstacle they face when operating in and across Member States. In return, to be recognised as a European political party or a European political foundation, such organisations will have to meet high standards on internal governance, accountability, transparency, and respect for the values on which the Union is founded. All aspects of party funding will be subject to a comprehensive set of rules, including strict reporting and control requirements. A regime of administrative sanctions will be introduced in case of infringements. There will be no impact on the overall amounts made available under the EU budget, but the rules governing such funding will be streamlined and adapted to their specific situation and needs. European political parties would have to publish the names of donors contributing more than €3,000/year, while the annual limit on individual donations would rise from €12,000 to €18,000. A few points remain subject to final endorsement by Coreper on 5 March, then the agreement must be formally adopted by the co-legislators. It will not enter into force in time for this year's European elections.

Débat sur l'avenir de l'Europe: le Commissaire Barnier et le Ministre français Repentin vont débattre avec les citoyens à la Plaine Saint Denis

L’avenir de l’Europe, les droits des citoyens et la reprise sont les sujets qui seront abordés lors du 46ème dialogue avec les citoyens, qui aura lieu à la Plaine Saint Denis demain, le 27 février 2014, et auquel participeront Michel Barnier, Thierry Repentin et 350 citoyens. Le débat se tiendra de 17h30 à 20h00 CET aux docks de la Plaine Saint Denis et sera précédé d'une conférence de presse. Il pourra être visionné en webstream . Les citoyens de toute l'Europe peuvent également y participer sur Twitter (hashtag #EUDeb8) et Facebook . «L'euroscepticisme se nourrit de la crise, de simplifications dangereuses et de caricatures. Nous devons débattre, expliquer le projet européen et continuer à améliorer l'Europe.", a déclaré M. Michel Barnier, membre de la Commission européenne chargé du marché intérieur et des services. «Le dialogue qui aura lieu demain est une occasion pour les citoyens d'obtenir des réponses à leurs questions et de faire porter leur voix auprès des institutions dont le travail est de former l'intérêt général européen».

Commission makes senior management changes

The College has decided to transfer two senior managers to Director-General posts and appoint a new Director. Mr Matthias RUETE, who has been Director-General of the Mobility and Transport Directorate-General since 2010, will become Director-General in the Home Affairs Directorate-General. Mr Ruete, a German national, was also Director General for Energy and Transport from 2006-2009. Previously he was a Director for Enterprise and Industry, for Enlargement and for Transport. He also served as Deputy Head of Cabinet to French Commissioner Edith Cresson. Mr Ruete holds a Masters (London) and Doctorate (Giessen) in law and the German state exams in law. Before joining the European Commission, he lectured in Constitutional, European and International Public Law at Warwick University. The date of effect of this decision will be determined later. Mr Ruete's replacement as Director-General of the Mobility and Transport Directorate-General will be Mr João AGUIAR MACHADO, who is currently Deputy Director-General in the Trade Directorate-General, responsible for services, investment, intellectual property, government procurement, and bilateral trade relations with Asia, Africa and Latin America. Mr Aguiar Machado has spent his entire Commission career working on trade issues, including periods as Commercial Counsellor at the Commission’s Delegation in Tokyo, and Counsellor for WTO Affairs at the Commission’s Delegation to the International Organisations in Geneva. He has also held several Head of Unit and Director posts in DG Trade. Mr Aguiar Machado, who is Portuguese, holds a Masters in International Economics and Finance from the Instituto Superior de Economia in Lisbon, and a Diploma of advanced studies on European integration from the College of Europe in Bruges. The date of effect of this decision will be determined later. Finally, Mr Pierre BASCOU has been appointed Director 'Direct support' in the Agricultural and Rural Development Directorate-General. Mr Bascou, who is French, is currently a Head of Unit in the same DG, responsible for agricultural policy analysis and conception. He was previously a Head of Unit responsible for economic analysis of EU agriculture and also, among other things, worked on economic statistics in the field of agriculture in the Statistical Office of the European Commission (Eurostat). Mr Bascou holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics from Imperial College London, and an 'Ingénieur' in agronomy from ESA Toulouse. This decision takes effect on 16 March 2014.

What Commissioners said

European Parliament and Council back Commission proposal for strengthened European rules on UCITS

The European Parliament and the Council have reached political agreement on the European Commission’s proposal to strengthen the rules for Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities (UCITS). These new rules will significantly increase the level of protection enjoyed by UCITS investors. They are a key step towards restoring investor confidence in the wake of the financial crisis. Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said: "This agreement on the so-called UCITS V will bring significant improvements to the protection of UCITS investors when it comes to the safe-keeping of UCITS assets by the depositary. It will ensure that the abuses seen at the time of the Madoff scandal cannot be repeated. We must always remember that the UCITS framework is widely viewed as a gold standard for fund regulation globally, and it is important to maintain this."

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