Daily News of 2014-05-21
European Commission - MEX/14/0521 21/05/2014
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EXME 14 / 21.05
21 / 05 / 14
President Barroso wrote today to President Putin on behalf of the European Union and its 28 Member States in reply to President Putin's letter of 14 May to several Member States of the European Union.
President Barroso reiterated the EU's readiness to continue substantive trilateral discussions in order to ensure the stabilisation of gas supplies into Ukraine and gas deliveries via Ukraine into the EU, and to help find a rapid and sustainable solution acceptable to all parties. "It is the European Union's clear expectation that all sides will remain reliable and responsible supply and transit partners, which is also very much in their own interest. The European Union and other international donors have already provided significant support to Ukraine and will remain committed. I also expect a constructive approach from the Russian Federation to solve the issues at hand", wrote President Barroso.
Meeting between the European Commission and the Government of Georgia
The European Commission meets the Government of Georgia, led by Prime Minister Garibashvili, in Brussels today.
The meeting confirms Georgia's unique relationship with the EU. The European Commission is fully committed to political association and economic integration with Georgia, and to support Georgia's programme of key political, judicial and economic reforms. The EU and Georgia share the common objective of a democratic, stable and prosperous Georgia and look forward to the early signature of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement . These are also the main subjects for discussion at the meeting.
European Commission President Barroso and Georgian Prime Minister Garibashvili will address the press at 14:30 CET, the press point will be broadcasted live via EBS . Press material will be available afterwards.
The European Commission has adopted new rules that will facilitate the granting of aid measures by Member States in support of research, development and innovation (R&D&I) activities. The new R&D&I state aid Framework sets out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid to companies to carry out R&D&I activities. Moreover, the scope of measures that no longer need to be notified to the Commission for prior approval has been widened under the new General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). These new rules will help Member States reach the targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, while at the same time limiting distortions in the Single Market. See also MEMO/14/368 . They constitute a key component of the Commission's State Aid Modernisation package (see IP/12/458).
As another milestone of its state aid modernisation (SAM) initiative, the European Commission has considerably extended the scope of exemptions from prior notification of state aid granted to companies. Under the revised General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER), Member States will be able to grant more aid measures and higher amounts without having to notify them to the Commission for prior authorisation, because they are less likely to lead to undue distortions of competition in the Single Market. This will significantly reduce the administrative burden for Member States and local authorities and increase legal certainty for aid beneficiaries. The Regulation will enter into force on 1 July 2014. See also MEMO/14/369 .
The European Commission has also introduced new transparency requirements concerning state aid granted by Member States to undertakings. For each state aid award above €500,000, Member States will be required to publish the identity of the beneficiary, the amount and objective of the aid and the legal basis. See also IP/14/588 .
Today, the European Commission hosts a high level conference on Energy Security .
Key note speakers are European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger. Following the March European Council conclusions the European Commission will conduct an in-depth study of EU energy security and present by June 2014 a comprehensive plan for the reduction of EU energy dependence. This Conference aims at providing input to the European Energy Security Strategy which the European Commission will present ahead of the June European Council.
The closing session on "Security of Supply for Europe – The way ahead" takes place from 15:00-16:00 in the Commission's Charlemagne Building, Room de Gasperi and is open to media upon registration. It will also be broadcast live via EBS .
In the EU28, household electricity prices rose by 2.8% on average between the second half of 2012 and the second half of 2013, after an increase of 6.0% between the second half of 2011 and 2012. Household gas prices increased by 1.0% on average in the EU28 between the second half of 2012 and 2013, after a rise of 8.2% between the second half of 2011 and 2012.
The number of Member States which have offered assistance to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina has risen to nineteen in response to record-breaking floods which have caused widespread devastation. Twelve EU civil protection experts are on the ground -coordinating the European assistance and supporting local authorities. Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response is in Serbia today and will continue visiting the affected countries in the coming days.
Commission withdraws 53 legislative proposals
A list of 53 legislative proposals which the Commission decided to withdraw in the context of its 2014 work programme was published today in the Official Journal. The withdrawals take effect today.
They include proposals identified in the context of the Commission's efforts to make EU law lighter, simpler and cheaper under its Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme. Examples are: the proposals for a simplification of VAT tax obligations and for a Framework Directive on Soil which did not receive sufficient support in the Council, a proposal for a Community Patent converted into enhanced cooperation and a proposal for a Statute on a European Private Company which was replaced.
The Commission considers it a practice of good legislative management to withdraw proposals that do not advance in the legislative process in order to allow for a fresh start or for alternative ways to achieve the intended legislative purpose. This practice will be continued in the context of the Commission's REFIT programme.
The withdrawals are published in the Official Journal 153 of 21 May 2014 .
The Commission today is taking the first step to reducing CO2 emissions from trucks, buses and coaches. Emissions from heavy duty vehicles (HDVs) are currently estimated at around a quarter of all emissions coming from transport and are expected to grow further in the future. To curb this unsustainable trend, the Commission is now proposing a strategy that outlines the way to certify, report and monitor emissions from HDVs and which prepares the ground for proposing legislation next year. The strategy complements the existing rules for emissions from cars and vans which is already helping to reduce emissions from new vehicles, decrease pollution levels in cities and promote the production of innovative new vehicles.
The European Commission has today published a report on the governance of the EU's Macro-Regional Strategies. The cooperation method of these Strategies has gained impetus and support across Europe since the first for the Baltic Sea Region was adopted in 2009. Common challenges are tackled by a number of countries - both EU and non EU members- working together, streamlining their resources to ensure an effective and joined -up response. But today's report shows that while the results of individual projects and initiatives in the Baltic Sea and Danube regions are positive – even more political leadership and clearer decision-making is needed to build on the progress so far. The report recommends changes to improve the impact, results and the sustainability of existing, and particularly future strategies – such as that of the Adriatic-Ionian and Alpine Regions which European Countries have asked for and should be adopted formally later this. This concerns primarily national and regional administrations, but also a wider range of stakeholders, and the European Commission itself.
The Ecodesign Regulation adopted today by the European Commission will ensure that transformers become progressively more efficient as new power transformers put into service in the EU internal market will have to fulfil minimum energy efficiency requirements from 1 July 2015. The resulting energy savings have been estimated at 16TWh per year from 2020 onwards, which corresponds to 3.7 Mt of avoided CO2 emissions. This is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of Denmark: 32 TWh per year. Although power transformers are generally very efficient devices, cost-effective marginal improvements in their efficiency can yield substantial energy savings, taking into account their typical service life of 30 years or more. Given that the number of installed transformers in Europe in 2011 has been estimated at 3.6 million, a figure that is expected to increase to almost 4.7 million in 2025, the impact of today's decision will be considerable.
The European Commission has found UK plans to compensate certain energy-intensive users from higher electricity costs triggered by a mandatory carbon price floor to be in line with EU state aid rules. The UK carbon price floor, a tax on carbon-intensive fuels, is aimed at reducing the use of electricity produced by fossil fuels. The compensation partially offsets the higher electricity costs, similarly to what is done for the costs of the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). The Commission concluded that the measure would further EU energy objectives without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules Estonia's map for granting regional development aid between 2014 and 2020. The map is based on the new regional aid guidelines adopted by the Commission in June 2013 (see IP/13/569), which set out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid to businesses for regional development purposes. The guidelines aim to foster growth and greater cohesion in the Single Market.
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules Austria's map for granting regional development aid between 2014 and 2020. The map is based on the new regional aid guidelines adopted by the Commission in June 2013 (see IP/13/569), which set out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid to businesses for regional development purposes. The guidelines aim to foster growth and greater cohesion in the Single Market.
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules Spain's map for granting regional investment aid between 2014 and 2020. The map is based on the new regional aid guidelines adopted by the Commission in June 2013 (see IP/13/569), which set out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid to businesses for regional development purposes. The guidelines aim to foster growth and greater cohesion in the Single Market.
The European Commission has approved Lithuania's map for granting state aid between 2014 and 2020 within the framework of the new regional aid guidelines adopted by the Commission in June 2013 (see IP/13/569). The new guidelines set out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid to businesses for regional development purposes. They aim to foster growth and greater cohesion in the Single Market.
The European Commission has approved the UK's map for granting state aid between 2014 and 2020 within the framework of the new regional aid guidelines adopted by the Commission in June 2013 (see IP/13/569). The new guidelines set out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid to businesses for regional development purposes. They aim to foster growth and greater cohesion in the Single Market.
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules Ireland's map for granting regional investment aid between 2014 and 2020. The map is based on the new regional aid guidelines adopted by the Commission in June 2013 (see IP/13/569), which set out the conditions under which Member States can grant state aid to businesses for regional development purposes. The guidelines aim to foster growth and greater cohesion in the Single Market.
First Natura 2000 Award winners to be announced this evening
The winners of the first Natura 2000 Awards will be announced at a ceremony in Brussels this evening. The winners will receive trophies from the European Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potočnik, along with members of the award Jury. Natura 2000 is a network of over 27 000 protected sites that covers 18 % of the EU landmass and 4 % of marine areas, protecting and enhancing Europe’s natural heritage. These Awards recognise excellence in Natura 2000 site management, showcasing the value of the network for local communities and economies. Reflecting the wide range of work carried out across the Natura 2000 network, they include five categories: Conservation, Socio-Economic Benefits, Communication, Reconciling Interests/Perceptions, and Networking & Cross-Border Cooperation.
The press release ( IP/14/584) with the name of the winners will be published tomorrow morning.
Social innovation can be a tool to create new or better jobs, while giving an answer to pressing challenges faced by Europe. Michel Barnier, European Commissioner, awarded yesterday three European Social Innovation prizes to ground-breaking ideas to create new types of work and address social needs. The winning projects aim to help disadvantaged women by employing them to create affordable and limited fashion collections, create jobs in the sector of urban farming, and convert abandoned social housing into learning spaces and entrepreneurship labs.
The European Commission conference on Mobilising Social Policy Innovation ( IP/14/562 , SPEECH/14/392) held on the 19 and 20 May showed broad agreement amongst the participants on the need for social policy innovation and social enterprises to be given a greater role in delivering the social outcomes European citizens expect. Social policy innovation needs to be based on partnerships bringing together public sector, civil society organisations, social entrepreneurs and other private actors. "Social policy innovation is crucial to realising our vision of Europe, the vision that the Europe 2020 Strategy seeks to build — a Europe based on a social market economy fit for the 21st century and capable of fostering smart, sustainable and inclusive growth", said László Andor. "The time for action is now. Social policy innovation needs to be embedded in policy-making and linked to social policy priorities", he added.
New Principal Advisor appointed
The Commission has decided to appoint Mr Robert GIELISSE, a Dutch national born in 1952, to the post of Principal Advisor to the Director General of the Budget Directorate-General. Mr Gielisse joined the Commission in 1983, and has since 1993 served in various Head of Unit positions dealing with Own Resources within the Budget Directorate-General. As Principal Advisor, Mr Gielisse will be responsible for the running of the EU28 Public Internal Control Network, in partnership with the Member States. He will also work on the re-engineering process in (potential) candidate countries to ensure they meet EU accession requirements on Public Internal Financial Control and External Audit. In pursuing these objectives, he will be managing a special Task Force. Mr Gielisse has a Master's degree in economics from Erasmus University in Rotterdam and a Bachelor's degree in law from the University of Amsterdam. In addition, he has earned Certified Internal Audit and Certified Government Audit Professional designations from the Institute of Internal Auditors Inc., USA. This appointment will take effect on 1 June 2014.
What Commissioners said
The key message I have come to convey today is that the European Union is fully committed to helping Ukraine to address its major economic challenges. In the short-term, our efforts are focused on providing exceptional Macro-Financial Assistance, worth EUR 1.6 billion, in long-term, low-interest loans. I can confirm that first EUR 100 million of the EU Macro-Financial Assistance has been disbursed to Ukraine today. We will make a second larger disbursement of EUR 500 million soon. I heard today that the Ukrainian Parliament has completed the ratification of the Memorandum of Understanding and the Loan Agreement. Provided the agreed reforms are implemented effectively and on schedule, we expect to be able to disburse the whole EUR 1.6 billion during the course of this year. This Macro-Financial Assistance is designed to help Ukraine cover part of its urgent external financing needs, reducing the economy’s short-term balance of payments and fiscal vulnerabilities. Similar to the stand-by arrangement that was recently agreed with the IMF, the Macro-Financial Assistance aims to underpin the bold economic stabilisation programme recently launched by the Ukrainian administration. The objective is to improve transparency and governance practices. The successful implementation of the reforms supported by the EU and IMF programmes is essential for stabilising Ukraine’s economy in the short term – and for creating a favourable business environment that can nurture sustainable and inclusive growth in the long term. In addition, in the very near future Ukraine will receive a budget support grant from the European Union of EUR 250 million, through the ‘State Building Contract’ which, as a whole, is worth EUR 355 million. The main objective of this assistance will be to promote good governance practices, more accountability and inclusive socio-economic development.