Daily News of 2014-04-29
European Commission - MEX/14/0429 29/04/2014
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EXME 14 / 29.04
29 / 04 / 14
The European Commission has today rendered commitments offered by Samsung Electronics (Samsung) legally binding under EU antitrust rules. According to these commitments, Samsung will not seek injunctions in Europe on the basis of its standard essential patents (SEPs) for smartphones and tablets against licensees who sign up to a specified licensing framework. Under this framework, any dispute over what are fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (so-called "FRAND") terms for the SEPs in question will be determined by a court, or if both parties agree, by an arbitrator. The commitments therefore provide a "safe harbour" for all potential licensees of the relevant Samsung SEPs. Indeed, potential licensees that sign up to the licensing framework will be protected against SEP-based injunctions by Samsung (see also MEMO/14/322). The Commission has also taken a prohibition decision in a separate investigation concerning Motorola (see IP/14/489).
The European Commission today adopted a decision which finds that Motorola Mobility's (Motorola) seeking and enforcement of an injunction against Apple before a German court on the basis of a smartphone standard essential patent (SEP) constitutes an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by EU antitrust rules in view of the particular circumstances in which the injunction was used (see also MEMO/14/322). The Commission has ordered Motorola to eliminate the negative effects resulting from it. The Commission has also taken a decision in a separate investigation concerning Samsung (see IP/14/490).
A trilateral meeting between EU Energy Commissioner Oettinger, the Ukrainian Energy Minister Prodan and the Russian Energy Minister Novak is scheduled to take place on Friday, 2 May in Warsaw. The aim of the talks is to follow up the letter which President Barroso has sent to President Putin on 17 April. Details as regards the practical arrangements for the meeting will be announced in due course.
Vice-President Siim Kallas has signed, on behalf of the EU, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the new €1 billion Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) loan programme to Ukraine. The new MFA programme is intended to assist Ukraine economically and financially in the current critical stage of its development. It is part of the package to support Ukraine announced by the European Commission on 5 March and endorsed by the European Council on 6 March. "This assistance, combined with the previously decided €610 million MFA programme, will provide much-needed help to the Ukrainian Government for its financing needs. It is a concrete sign of the EU's support to the Ukrainian people in a difficult situation, along with the other long-term financial assistance," said European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas. The EU MFA is designed to help Ukraine cover part of its urgent external financing needs in the context of the stabilisation and reform programme recently prepared by the Ukrainian authorities with the help of the IMF. The assistance is aimed at reducing the economy’s short-term balance of payments and fiscal vulnerabilities. The disbursement of the assistance will be conditional on specific economic policy conditions outlined in the MoU and on the successful implementation of an IMF Stand-By Arrangement (SBA), which is expected to be approved shortly by the IMF Executive Board. The policy conditions focus on public finance management and anti-corruption, trade and taxation, energy sector and financial sector reforms, along with the provision of increased social subsidies for those in the most vulnerable situation.
The European Commission has approved 20 programmes to promote agricultural products in the European Union and in third countries. The total budget of the programmes, the grand majority of which will run for a period of three years, is € 46,5 million of which the EU contributes € 23,3 million. The selected programmes cover a variety of product categories, such as quality products (PDOs, PGIs and TSGs), organic products, fresh fruit and vegetables, wines, milk and milk products, flowers, processed fruit and vegetables, processed cereals and rice, egg labelling, as well as combinations of different product categories. The third countries and regions targeted are: North America, Russia, China, Middle East, South East Asia, India, Latin America, Norway, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Turkey.
Commission to host Informal Ministerial meeting on Climate Change
EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard will host an informal international ministerial meeting on climate change on 30 April in Brussels. The meeting will be co-chaired by Commissioner Hedegaard and Norwegian Climate and Environment Minister Tine Sundtoft. Around 35 countries are expected to attend, including Bangladesh, Colombia, Ethiopia, Marshall Islands, Morocco, Senegal and Tanzania. Climate envoys from Poland, Peru and France – chairs of the UN climate conferences in 2013, 2014 and 2015 - will also participate, as will several EU Member States. The discussions will focus on key aspects of the new global climate agreement due to be adopted next year – emission reduction targets, adaptation to climate change, and support for developing countries – as well as how to make progress this year towards raising the ambition level of international climate action before 2020. The meeting will serve to prepare the ground for the next round of UN climate negotiations in June, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's summit of world leaders on climate change in September, and the annual UN climate conference in December.
The European Commission's annual report on the European fishing fleet shows some progress towards achieving a balance between capacity and available fishing opportunities. However more remains to be done to ensure that stocks are managed in accordance with the objective of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) and the Commission considers that there is still a need for active fleet capacity adjustment measures by Member States in order to achieve this.
The Commission is seeking stakeholders’ views about the impact of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy over the past three years and on the role it should play in the future. The Commission's 2011-14 CSR Strategy set an ambitious agenda to strengthen its implementation at international level and created a number of models on how to practically implement its principles ( MEMO/11/730). More and more CSR is becoming a valuable tool to improve a company's competitiveness: encouraging social and environmental responsibility in the corporate sector can also bring benefits in terms of cost reductions, access to capital, improved customer relationships, human resource management and innovation capacity.
The main challenge entrepreneurs are facing in Europe is not the lack of great ideas but the fear of turning ideas into reality. Many people with great ideas refrain from entrepreneurship because of their doubts. There are as many people wanting to start a business in Europe as there are in the US, yet we see a significantly lower level of involvement in start-ups on this side of the Atlantic. Only 6% of the adult population of Europe is engaged in a new business, compared with 13% in the US. That’s why the European Commission is launching today the Watify platform together with ICT stakeholders. Its ambition? Promoting digital entrepreneurship by taking away these doubts, it’s estimated that 1, 5 million additional jobs would be created in the EU Internet Economy, if the entire EU mirrors the entrepreneurship performance of the US or Sweden.
Quality food products: four new products get EU protection
The European Commission has approved the addition of four new quality food products to the register of protected designations of origin (PDOs) and protected geographical indications (PGIs). These are, for Slovenia, " Prekmurska šunka (PGI), a smoked and dried ham made from a fresh hind leg of pork in the area of Prekmurje, in north-eastern Slovenia. "Prekmurska šunka" is in fact the 20th Slovenian food product to be granted EU protection; and the 21st Slovenian product to be registered is " Piranska sol " (PDO), sea salt from the saltpans of Sečovlje and Strunjan on the Slovenian cost, produced according to a more than seven-century old tradition. The salt is harvested on a daily basis and produced on a natural base of algae and minerals known as "petola", which makes it purer and whiter ; for France, " Noisette de Cervione - Nuciola di Cervioni " (PGI), a hazelnut with a heart shaped kernel grown in northern Corsica since ancient times. The production reached a peak at the beginning of the 20th century, after lemon trees that had died further to an exceptional frost were replaced by hazel plantations. Finally, for Norway, " Tørrfisk fra Lofoten " (PGI), naturally dried Atlantic cod from the Lofoten and Vesterålen islands, a tradition in the area that dates back to early 12th century. "Tørrfisk fra Lofoten" is the first Norwegian quality food product registered in the EU – and the 17th non-EU product to be registered. The denominations will be added to the list of more than 1,200 products already protected. For more information: see webpages on quality products and DOOR database of protected products.
In April the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) decreased slightly in the euro area (by 0.5 points to 102.0), while it continued to increase in the EU (by 0.9 points to 106.2). In the euro area, the slight decrease in sentiment was mainly due to a worsening of confidence in services and construction, which are the two sectors where confidence still scores below its long-term average. In industry and retail trade, sentiment remained virtually unchanged compared to March. Confidence among consumers improved. Amongst the five largest euro area economies the ESI declined in the Netherlands (-1.0), Spain (-1.0) and Germany (-0.4), remained broadly stable in France (-0.3) and increased slightly in Italy (+0.5).
The European Commission has found the restructuring plan of Eurobank Group to be in line with EU state aid rules. The plan will enable the bank to become viable in the long term without unduly distorting competition. Greece has committed to a comprehensive set of measures covering both the restructuring of Eurobank's activities and the credit policy of the group. On the basis of the plan, the Commission has approved under EU state aid rules the restructuring aid granted by Greece to Eurobank Ergasias S.A., including recapitalisations by the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) in 2012 and 2013, as well as the HFSF's backstopping of the ongoing recapitalisation. The Commission has also approved Eurobank's acquisition of Nea Proton Bank and New Hellenic Postbank, whose integration within Eurobank will reinforce the viability of the group without unduly distorting competition.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of IBM's x86 server business by Lenovo
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of assets belonging to International Business Machines Corporation ("IBM") of the US by Lenovo Group Limited ("Lenovo") of Hong Kong. Lenovo will acquire IBM's x86 server business and related networking assets ("IBM's x86 Server Business"). IBM's x86 Server Business develops, manufactures, markets and provides services for IBM's range of x86 servers and related products. Lenovo is active in the development, manufacturing and marketing of desktop and notebook PCs, workstations, servers, storage drives and IT management software. Both, IBM's x86 Server Business and Lenovo manufacture and market servers but their combined market shares are low and several strong players would remain in the market after the merger. The Commission therefore concluded that the merger would not raise competition concerns. 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.7200 .
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of DuPont's Glass Laminating Solutions/Vinyls (GLSV) business (USA) by Kuraray of Japan. The clearance is conditional upon the divestment of GLSV's PVB film production facility in Uentrop (Germany), where the merged entity would have otherwise faced insufficient competitive constraint from the only one remaining player, leading to higher prices. Both parties to the transaction are active in the manufacture and supply of the following products which are part of one vertical chain: Vinyl Acetate Monomer (VAM), Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA), Polyvinyl Butyral (PVB) resin and PVB film. The main impact of the transaction is in PVB film, which is used as an interlayer in the manufacture of laminated safety glass in the architectural and automotive industries. PVB film ensures that when the glass breaks the fragments remain stuck to the film in between.
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the insurance company MetLife Assurance Limited ("MAL") by rival Rothesay Life Limited ("Rothesay"), both of the United Kingdom. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise any competition concerns, in particular because the merged entity will continue to face strong competition after the merger.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of controlling stake by Anchorage Capital in Ideal Standard
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over the producer of kitchen and bathroom products Ideal Standard of Luxembourg by the US private equity companies Anchorage Capital and Bain Capital. Ideal Standard is currently solely controlled by Bain Capital. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, in particular because the activities of the portfolio companies of Bain Capital and Anchorage Capital on the one hand and the activities of Ideal Standard on the other hand do not overlap. 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.7206 .
In April 2014 the Business Climate Indicator (BCI) for the euro area decreased slightly by 0.13 points to +0.27. Managers' evaluation of the past and expected production, as well as of the current level of export order books worsened, while their assessment of overall order books improved and their appraisal of the stocks of finished products remained broadly unchanged.
New Director appointed
The Commission has decided to appoint Ms Magdalena KOPCZYNSKA as Director 'Innovative & Sustainable Mobility' in the Mobility and Transport Directorate-General. Ms Kopczynska, who is Polish, is currently Head of the Maritime Transport and Logistics Unit in that DG. Previously, she worked as the Head of Unit for Urban Transport, Clean Transport and Intelligent Transport Services in the same DG. Ms Kopczynska joined the European Commission in 2006 to work in the Internal Market and Services DG. Prior to joining the Commission, Ms Kopczynska worked for three years as the Director of the Brussels Office of the Polish Private Employers Confederation 'Lewiatan', representing Polish entrepreneurs vis-à-vis European institutions. From 1999-2003 she worked for the Warsaw local administration, as Director of the Promotion Department and then as the Head of Cabinet of the Mayor. A graduate of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow with a degree in English literature, Ms Kopczynska worked for several years in the public relations domain. She also has a post-graduate degree in communications from Warsaw University. This decision takes effect on 1 May 2014.