Daily News of 2014-05-06
European Commission - MEX/14/0506 06/05/2014
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EXME 14 / 06.05
06 / 05 / 14
On 7 May in Brussels, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, will meet Japanese Prime Minister Abe for the twenty second summit meeting between the European Union and Japan. The Summit is the culmination of a nine-day visit of Prime Minister Abe to six EU Member States. The ongoing twin negotiations for a Strategic Partnership Agreement and a Free Trade Agreement, launched in April 2013, will be at the centre of the Summit's agenda. European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger will also be present.
Today in Athens the Commission and the Greek Presidency are launching the eSkills for jobs campaign, driven by the need to fill the ICT skills gap Europe is currently facing. A recent study tells us that by 2020, the number of ICT management, architecture and analysis jobs will grow by 44% compared to 2011. Michel Barnier, acting Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: “Digital skills are the new literacy: they are essential for employability. I am concerned that the lack of e-skills may be hindering growth in the tech sector and, as a consequence, European innovation and competitiveness. Today's decision to launch the e-Skills for Jobs campaign is an important step to help prepare young people for the jobs of today and tomorrow." Also today in Athens, the Greek Government and ICT industry will establish the Greek National Coalition for the Digital Economy, similar to the EU's established Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs, aimed at supporting Europe's future entrepreneurs. European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes said: "There is constant digital job growth in Europe despite the crisis... The Greek Coalition is an inspiring model for other countries that should also move forward with their own coalitions."
The European Commission has announced today a support package for Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, worth €60 million. This support package will help public institutions, citizens and the business community to seize the benefits and opportunities of the Association Agreements with the EU, including the possibility of access to the EU market.
Support to the Republic of Moldova (€30 million) targets competitiveness of small business, development of national legislation in line with EU quality standards and promotion of export and investment opportunities, communication and information campaigns on the trade agreement with the EU.
Support to Georgia (€30 million) is focused on modernisation of public institutions linked to the implementation of the Association Agreement, competitiveness of rural business and trade opportunities with the EU and protection of the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups.
In March 2014 compared with February 2014, the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade rose by 0.3% in both the euro area (EA18) and the EU28, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In February retail trade increased by 0.1% and 0.3% respectively. In March 2014 compared with March 2013 the retail sales index increased by 0.9% in the euro area and by 1.6% in the EU28.
The European Commission's 2013 report on competition policy shows that competition enforcement helps promoting growth and competitiveness across the EU. Antitrust enforcement prevents dominant companies' from shutting out competitors from the market and creates the conditions for lower input prices for EU industry. Merger control keeps markets open and efficient. State aid policy maintains a level playing field for companies in the Single Market and helps to steer public resources towards growth-enhancing objectives. Competition enforcement is also an essential counterpart to ex-ante regulation and a key tool to preserve the EU's principal asset – the Single Market.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of German shopping centre CentrO by Unibail–Rodamco and CPPIB
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over CentrO by Unibail-Rodamco SE of France and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board ("CCPIB") of Canada. CentrO is a shopping and leisure centre located in Oberhausen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Unibail-Rodamco is a commercial property company specialised in shopping centers in Europe, offices and conventions and exhibition centers in Paris. In Germany, Unibail-Rodamco is active mainly through MFI AG. CPPIB is an institutional investor which invests in public equities, private equities, real estate, infrastructure and fixed income investments. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, because of the moderate market shares of the merged entity, the presence of other strong competitors and the countervailing buyer power of larger tenants. 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.7203 .
Mergers: Commission clears Ineos' acquisition of Sasol's solvents business
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Sasol Solvents Germany GmbH ("SSG"), a German subsidiary of Sasol Limited of South Africa, by Ineos Investment S.A. ("Ineos"), belonging to the Ineos Group of the UK. Ineos produces a wide range of chemicals and petrochemicals worldwide. SSG produces a variety of solvents, including synthetic ethanol, isopropanol ("IPA") and methyl ethyl ketone. The business to be acquired consists of two manufacturing facilities in Herne and Moers, in Germany. The parties' activities overlap on the market for industrial ethanol, where both Ineos and SSG produce synthetic ethanol. Although the merged entity would be the only producer of synthetic ethanol in the European Economic Area (EEA), the Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns on the market for industrial ethanol and its segments for hydrous grade (96% purity) and anhydrous grade (99% purity). This is because the merged entity will continue to face strong competitive pressure from large suppliers of fermentation ethanol in the EEA. In addition, the transaction takes place after Sasol's public announcement of its intention to close its synthetic ethanol production plant in Herne. The Commission also examined vertical links between the production of IPA and propylene on the one hand, and the production of IPA and isopropyl acetate, on the other hand. These vertical links do not give rise to competition concerns because the merged entity's combined market shares will remain moderate. 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.7162 .
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of a real estate portfolio in Milan by AXA and PSPIB
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over a portfolio of real estate assets in Milan by AXA and PSPIB. AXA is a French global insurance group active in life, health and other forms of insurance, as well as in investment management. PSPIB is a Canadian pension investment manager that invests funds for the pension plans of the Public Service, the Canadian Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Reserve Force. The real estate portfolio in Milan currently solely owned by AXA comprises four buildings for office and retail use. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns, in particular because it would not significantly alter the market structure. 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.7211 .
Richard Kuehnel has been appointed as Head of Representation in Germany (Berlin). He will take up office on 1 June 2014. With over 20 years of practice in diplomatic and European affairs, Mr Kühnel brings with him sound experience of relevance for this position.
The European Commission has appointed Maria de Aires Soares as the Head of its Representation in Portugal. She will take up office on 16 May 2014. Mrs Soares brings to her new role proven leadership and management skills, an extensive knowledge and experience of the European institutions, a track-record of working with a variety of stakeholders and a strong background in political analysis and communicating policy.
What Commissioners said
Yesterday, President Barroso commented on Portugal's exit of the economic and financial adjustment programme, foreseen for the 17th of May. The comments of the President came after he participated in a regular meeting of the Eurozone leaders (including President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, President of the ECB Mario Draghi and President of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem), which was also attended by Vice President of the Commission Siim Kallas, acting Vice President for Monetary and Financial Affairs and the Euro. Amongst others, President Barroso said: "The successful exit from the programme shows the immense capacities of Portugal and its people to work together to emerge stronger from the crisis. This should give Portugal the confidence it needs to be able to respond to the challenges that lie ahead, and to build a more prosperous and fair society."