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EXME 14 / 06.03


06 / 03 / 14

News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne

Extraordinary meeting of EU Heads of State and Government on Ukraine

The European Commission agreed yesterday on a package of support identifying a number of concrete measures to assist economically and financially Ukraine. These measures should be seen as the Commission's contribution to a European and international effort to support Ukraine's economic and political reforms, and will be presented to the EU Heads of State and Government meeting today.

President Barroso said: "The most immediate priority for the EU is to contribute to a peaceful solution to the current crisis, in full respect of international law. In parallel, the international community should mobilise to help Ukraine stabilise its economic and financial situation. The European Commission has proposed a package designed to assist a committed, inclusive and reforms oriented Government in rebuilding a stable and prosperous future for Ukraine. What we propose could bring overall support of at least €11 billion over the next couple of years from the EU budget and EU-based international financial institutions."

Joint press conference by European Council President Van Rompuy and European Commission President Barroso is foreseen around 15:00CET and will be transmitted live on EbS . President Barroso's press remarks will be available later.

For more information: IP/14/219 . Please also refer to MEMO/14/159 . Read also President Barroso's statement from yesterday's press conference.

EU-US trade talks to continue next week in Brussels

A fourth round of EU-US trade talks for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will kick off in Brussels this coming Monday, 10 March 2014. The talks will help pave the way for a future trade and investment deal which facilitates trade between the European Union and the United States. Negotiators will discuss a wide range of topics covering different aspects of the agreement. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht recently stated that the EU and the US now start “to get into the heart of the negotiations” ( STATEMENT/14/12). In tandem with next week's talks, the EU will host a series of meetings for stakeholders including business, labour, environmental and consumer groups in Brussels on Wednesday 12 March 2014. This is part of the Commission's ongoing efforts to hear from as wide a range of interests as possible. The meeting will be open to the press upon registration with by 7 March. On Friday 14 March, the EU and US chief negotiators will hold a closing press conference to debrief about the progress made.

Other news

New European rules for airports safety

The European Commission is putting in place today a legal framework providing common standards for safe design, operation and maintenance in over 700 EU and EEA airports.

This new rules will allow for the necessary flexibility in case of deviations from the airports design rules in existing infrastructures. They also outline the steps for the conversion of existing national airports' certificates to new certificates based on the European rules.

"Tech is too important to be left to men!"

As International Women's Day approaches, European Commission Vice-President @NeelieKroesEU called all women – and men - in the digital sector to join her campaign to promote careers for women in tech by making a short video about life in the digital sector and sharing it on the " Every Girl Digital " Facebook page.  Speaking out against the lack of women in the digital sector, VP Kroes said: "Tech is too important to be left to men alone! Every week I meet more and more inspiring women in tech." “ICT is no longer for the geeky few – it is cool, and it is the future! Only 9% of app developers are women? Come on! Give coding a try, see how fun it can be!" "We wanted to provide a platform for women to tell their stories about getting ahead in tech. And there are so many success stories out there – so please share yours and help us to inspire the next generation!”.

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Esso's European Fuel Card Business by WEX and Radius

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over the European Fuel Card Business of Esso ("target") by Wright Express International Holdings Limited, ultimately controlled by WEX Inc. of the US and Radius Payment Solutions Limited of the UK. WEX provides card payment solutions. WEX is mainly active outside the European Economic Area (EEA), except for the UK. Radius is an independent fuel card sales and management business active across Europe. The target comprises the commercial fuel card business of Esso with activities in Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise any competition concerns given the parties' moderate combined market positions resulting from the acquisition and the very limited increment arising from the transaction in Ireland. 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.7156 .

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of ITI by Brookfield and MOL

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over International Transportation Inc. (ITI) by Brookfield Infrastructure Fund GP II LLC (Brookfield), both of the US and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (MOL) of Japan. ITI provides stevedoring and other port terminal services in the US ports of Los Angeles and Oakland. Brookfield is a general partner of funds with investments in property, renewable power infrastructure and private equity. MOL provides shipping and seaport terminal services worldwide. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns because ITI has no actual or foreseen activities within the territory of the European Economic Area (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.7192 .

Commission concludes in-depth reviews to identify macroeconomic imbalances and assesses progress in fiscal consolidation

The European Commission has published its conclusions emerging from the in-depth reviews (IDRs) carried out into 17 Member States' economies In the same document, the Commission assessed progress in the correction of fiscal deficits in the Member States concerned, updating its opinions on Draft Budgetary Plans from last year. This is a key step in the now well-established European Semester of economic policy coordination, the yearly economic governance cycle through which the Commission works with the Member States to create the conditions for sustainable growth and employment based on sound public finances, in line with the Europe 2020 growth strategy.

What Commissioners said

President Barroso: European Commission 'on the side of Ireland'

President Barroso has said that the Commission will continue to support Ireland following its successful exit from the EU/IMF financial assistance programme. "The European Commission has always been on the side of Ireland, one could even say one of your best friends. During the EU/IMF programme, I personally made the case to other European leaders for lower interest rates and longer maturities on Ireland's loans. And I have always said that the commitments Euro area Member States made in June 2012 should be fully respected, not just in terms of the letter of the agreement but also in terms of the spirit. This is a message I am happy to repeat here tonight. The European Commission will continue to stand by Ireland now that you have exited the programme." In a speech following his conferral with an honorary doctorate from University College Cork on 5 March, President Barroso praised Ireland's recovery efforts and said that the country has become an example for others. "Today Ireland's experience and expertise can directly benefit other European countries who are still working through their programmes. They are interested in the way you helped bring about an effective turnaround," he said. "The OECD is increasingly citing best practice examples drawn from the Irish economy. Ireland has returned to "normal" in EU terms and I really expect it to engage and to use its influence in Europe to help us shape the right policies for the post-crisis era.

Vice-President Kallas: Aviation in Europe - contributor to growth and competitiveness?

Europe relies on aviation for the international transport links that make it a global hub of social and economic connectivity and to compete on the world stage. International aviation is, however, going through a period of unprecedented change that shows no sign of slowing down. "Europe needs to maintain a strong and competitive aviation industry with EU-based carriers right at the centre of the global network that connects the EU with the rest of the world," Vice-President Siim Kallas, in charge of transport, said at a seminar held at the European Policy Centre. "There are significant prospects of growth for Europe’s aviation industry and market. If we are able to make the most of them, it will mean that our wider economy benefits as the sector raises its performance, efficiency and takes the opportunities offered by new markets," Kallas said. Modernisation and competitiveness are vital, he said, along with the need to optimise Europe’s airspace and airports. "This is how Europe can remain a vibrant and natural crossroads for global aviation," Kallas said. The speech will be available on RAPID.

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