Daily News of 2014-02-28
European Commission - MEX/14/0228 28/02/2014
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EXME 14 / 28.02
28 / 02 / 14
News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne
Euro area annual inflation is expected to be 0.8% in February 2014, stable compared with January, according to a flash estimate4 from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Looking at the main components of euro area inflation, food, alcohol & tobacco is expected to have the highest annual rate in February (1.5%, compared with 1.7% in January), followed by services (1.3%, compared with 1.2% in January), non-energy industrial goods (0.6%, compared with 0.2% in January) and energy (-2.2%, compared with ‑1.2% in January).
The euro area (EA18) seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 12.0% in January 2014, stable since October 2013. It was also 12.0% in January 2013. The EU28 unemployment rate was 10.8% in January 2014, stable since October 20134. It was 11.0% in January 2013. These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Eurostat estimates that 26.231 million men and women in the EU28, of whom 19.175 million were in the euro area, were unemployed in January 2014. Compared with December 2013, the number of persons unemployed increased by 17 000 in both the EU28 and the euro area. Compared with January 2013, unemployment decreased by 449 000 in the EU28, and by 67 000 in the euro area.
Women in Europe still work 59 days ‘for free’ – this is what the latest figures released today by the European Commission show. The gender pay gap has barely moved in recent years and still stands at around 16%. The latest figures mean European Equal Pay Day is marked on 28 February, for the second year in a row. The EU-wide event marks the date in the new calendar year from which women really begin to be paid for their work as compared to men. Vice-President Reding said: "European Equal Pay Day reminds us of the unequal pay conditions women still face in the labour market. The pay gap has only narrowed marginally in recent years (…) Following years of inaction, it is time for a change. The European Commission is currently working on an initiative to trigger change, so that in the near future we will no longer need an Equal Pay day."
Innovative small and medium-sized companies in Europe will be able to apply from tomorrow for grants to help get their brightest ideas from the lab to the market. In total, some €3 billion in funding will be available under the " SME Instrument " over the next seven years as part of Horizon 2020, the EU's new research and innovation programme. Funding is competitive and project proposals have to be in line with call topics published on the Participant Portal , the gateway to EU research funding. In 2014, some €250 million of funding will be available under the SME Instrument's permanently open call. Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will speak at an information event for SME organisations in Brussels on March 3. Journalists wishing to attend should contact RTD-SME-EVENTS@ec.europa.eu .
The European Commission’s online Single Market Scoreboard has been updated as regards two main governance tools: transposition of Single Market-related directives and infringements in that area for the reference period between May and November 2013. After having fallen steadily, the EU’s average transposition deficit – the percentage of Single Market directives that have not been transposed into national law in time – has gone up slightly to 0.7%. With regard to the application of Single Market law, the number of infringements has not changed over the last six months. The number of open infringements has gone down by 38% since the EU Pilot project started operating in November 2007.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control of Arnotts by Apollo and Ulster Bank
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over Arnotts of Ireland by the US private equity firm Apollo Management L.P. and Ulster Bank Ireland Limited, a subsidiary of UK-based Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Arnotts, which is currently controlled by Ulster Bank and Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, operates non-specialized retail stores in Ireland. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns because there are only minimal overlaps in the retail activities of Apollo and Arnotts. 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.7150 .
Second – even more successful - European Citizens' Initiative received by Commission
The Commission has officially received the second successful European Citizens' Initiative, with properly validated support from at least one million European citizens in at least seven Member States. Support for the One of Us ECI, whose organisers call on the EU to 'establish a ban and end the financing of activities which presuppose the destruction of human embryos, in particular in the areas of research, development aid and public health', has been checked and validated by the national authorities of the Member States. Support for the initiative outstrips support for the first successful ECI, Right2Water, both in the number of Member States where a minimum threshold of support was reached, and in the total statements of support. Support crossed the minimum threshold in 18 Member States (Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain). Overall, the ECI received 1,721,626 validated statements of support. The ball is now in the Commission's court. Within the next three months, it must invite the organisers to Brussels to explain their ideas in more depth, and a public hearing will be arranged in the European Parliament. Then the Commission must decide whether it will act by adopting legislation, act in some other way to achieve the goals of the ECI, or not act at all. Whichever route is taken, the Commission must explain its reasoning through a Communication adopted by the whole College of Commissioners.
Cybersecurity is now at the top of the political agenda. We need better technology to protect our data, and that means research as well as political responses. Research funding is now available under the Horizon 2020 research programme. Funding falls into two categories: Societal Challenges and Leadership in enabling and industrial technologies .
20 projects already underway are showcased in Brussels today – Find out online if there is one from your country?
The European Commission is calling on those involved in creating smart cities to publish their efforts in order to help build an open planning movement from the ground up. The challenge is being issued to city administrations, small and large companies and other organisations to go public with their ICT, energy and mobility plans, so that all parties can learn from each other and grow the smart city market. Through collaboration as well as traditional competition, the Europe will get smarter, more competitive and more sustainable.
European Union Justice and Home Affairs ministers will meet in Brussels on 3-4 March 2014. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner and Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs. The main agenda items for the Justice Council (4 March) include the reform of the EU data protection rules, recovering cross-border debts, cross-border insolvency law, the European Public Prosecutor's Office, better safeguards for child suspects and the future developments in the Justice and Home Affairs area.
Commissioner Piebalgs to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, announcing increased funding for 2014-2020
European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, will visit the Great Lakes region (4-6 March), together with the Belgian Minister for International Cooperation, Jean-Pascal Labille. He will meet Presidents and various Ministers of both countries, as well as representatives of civil society. He will announce the overall EU funding from the European Development Fund to both countries for 2014-2020. The new funding underlines the strong EU commitment to peace, security and development in these countries and the Great Lakes region overall. The Commissioner will also present new EU projects: a programme against gender-based violence in the DRC and a nutrition programme in Rwanda.
Commissioners' weekly activities
Upcoming Commission activities for the weeks ahead
What Commissioners said
President Barroso meets African heads of State while in Nigeria
President Barroso delivered a speech at the opening session of the 100th anniversary of the unification of Nigeria on behalf of the European Union on 27 February 2014. On this occasion he also had several bilateral contacts with other Heads of State and Government from African countries. He had a working meeting with the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Ouedraogo, in which they discussed the regional situation, economic integration in West Africa and the EU-ECOWAS cooperation. President Barroso announced the doubling of the regional envelope for West Africa in the 11th European Development Fund. Bilateral meetings were also held with the Ethiopian Prime-Minister, the President of Burkina Faso, the President of Chad, the President of Senegal and the President of Mauritania, the latter also in his capacity as current President of the African Union. The situation in Somalia, South Sudan, Sahel and Central African Republic was discussed in these meetings. The role of the European Union in assisting in the stabilisation of conflict areas was praised by all Heads of State and Government; as well as the EU action in favour of economic and social development. All of President Barroso's interlocutors confirmed their participation at the next EU-Africa Summit to be held on 2/3 April in Brussels.
In a speech at the opening of the Seminar on Cultural Politics organized at Harvard University (Boston), Commissioner Vassiliou argued that beyond its intrinsic value as a fundamental part of life, culture contributes to social cohesion, economic growth, job creation, innovation and competitiveness. She underlined how the cultural and creative industries contribute to the European economy, and explored what policymakers can do to unlock their full potential. 'Cultural diplomacy is a real opportunity to show the richness and diversity of EU cultures to other regions of the world. But it is also a way of sharing European values, such as freedom of expression, free and equal access to information, the independence of cultural life and expression and an inclusive society. It can create the necessary conditions for the development of grassroots initiatives and a stronger civil society', she said (EMBARGO 18:00 CET).