Daily News of 2014-06-13
European Commission - MEX/14/0613 13/06/2014
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EXME 14 / 13.06
13 / 06 / 14
Following a phone call yesterday (Thursday) with President Poroshenko, President Barroso stated that he "welcomed his peace initiative and direct talks with Russia; the fact that now President Poroshenko and President Putin are speaking directly is a positive step forward." President Barroso also referred to the Association Agreements with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia: "I want to reiterate our willingness, as European Union, to pursue talks with Russia, to discuss the concrete implementation of these agreements, in case there are any concerns on the Russian side. Of course we have to respect the content of these agreements, what was already decided by the governments of these countries, but if there are some concerns, if there are technical issues that the Russian authorities want to clarify, we are ready for it."
Today, the European Commission has made the first disbursement of €250 million to Ukraine to support institutions and reforms in the country (for more information please refer to IP/14/676). This payment is part of the "State Building Contract" programme signed on 13 May after the joint meeting between the European Commission and the Ukrainian government in Brussels. "Today's disbursement is one of many steps we are currently making to help the government of Ukraine in addressing the short-term needs as well as preparing for the implementation of the Association Agreement.", Commissioner Füle said.
Europe is more than ever reliant on its Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) to ensure that our food meets some of the highest food safety standards in the world. Besides its main role of ensuring food safety since its creation 35 years ago, a 2013 annual report RASFF shows that it is a crucial tool to trace back and withdraw products where fraud was detected. EU Commissioner for Health, Tonio Borg said: "RASFF is a vital tool to respond to food safety risks in Europe, since information is swiftly exchanged to protect European consumers. The horsemeat scandal illustrated the RASFF system in action and food products adulterated with horsemeat were traced back to source and withdrawn from the market". To conclude: "Today we get closer to European consumers through an innovative on-line tool - the new RASFF consumers' portal - giving them access to information about recall notices and public warnings by public health authorities and business operators in a given EU country". Of the 3 205 original notifications transmitted in RASFF in 2013, the vast majority (2 710, 84.6%) concerned food, 272 concerned feed (8.5%) and 223 notifications concerned food contact materials (6.9%).
For more information and the full report see also Questions and Answers: MEMO/14/422
Good news for Europe's more than 507 million consumers: as of today, new EU legislation will bolster their rights throughout the European Union. The new EU Consumer Rights Directive has entered into force today, strengthening consumers' rights wherever and whenever they shop in Europe – online or on the high street. Businesses will also benefit from these new rules which create a level-playing field, making it less costly for traders to offer their products and services to consumers across borders. To make sure these new rules are applied in a uniform manner across the EU, the Commission is also publishing a guidance document for national authorities. Vice-President Reding said "Today Europe is putting an end to consumer rip-offs online. A confident consumer is the best possible news for our single market. Putting consumers in the driving seat by boosting their confidence is the cheapest stimulus package that Europe can put in place. I count on Member States to be good traffic cops by giving effect to these new rules."
The European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund take note of the Portuguese government's intention to await the pending Constitutional Court rulings concerning adopted budgetary measures before formulating a comprehensive response. These rulings are not expected before the IMF and EU programme expires at the end of June. We take note of the government's decision not to seek an extension of the programme and to allow its expiration without completing the 12th and final review and without receiving the associated final tranche. We welcome the government's firm commitment to identify the measures needed to fill the fiscal gap created by the Constitutional Court rulings, in order to reach the budgetary targets agreed under the programme. We encourage the government to continue with the ongoing process of structural reform. Sound economic policies for the medium term will be essential to reinforce the recovery and ensure sustainable growth and job creation. We remain ready to assist the authorities and the Portuguese people as they continue in this effort.
Teams from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Commission (EC) visited Bucharest during June 2-12, 2014 to conduct discussions on the third review under the IMF Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) and on the first review of Romania’s precautionary balance of payments programme with the European Union. The economy has continued to recover and is now expected to grow by 2.8 percent this year. Fiscal imbalances have been reduced and the current account deficit has remained low. Looking forward, the teams have had constructive discussions with the Romanian authorities on how to ensure further progress and have reached agreement on important policies in this regard. However, some issues remain outstanding. The discussions with the Romanian authorities will continue from respective headquarters.
The European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group today launched a new generation of EU financial instruments and advisory services to help innovative firms access finance more easily. Over the next seven years, it is expected that the "InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators" products will make available more than €24 billion of financing for research and innovation (R&I) by small, medium and large companies and the promoters of research infrastructures. This finance is expected to support up to €48 billion of final R&I investments.
The European Commission has set out criteria under which Member States can support transnational projects of strategic significance for the EU and for the achievement of Europe 2020 objectives, in line with EU state aid rules. This is part of the Commission's State Aid Modernisation (SAM) initiative, aimed at fostering growth and competitiveness in the EU. The communication will enter into force on 1 July 2014. Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy, Joaquín Almunia, said: "The rules on support for important projects of common interest give Member States a tool to address market failures in financing large transnational projects of a strategic importance."
For additional information please also refer to MEMO/14/423
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Gates by Blackstone
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Gates Worldwide Limited ("Gates"), by Blackstone Group L.P. ("Blackstone"), both of the US. Gates is a global provider of power transmission and fluid power solutions and services. Blackstone provides asset management and financial advisory services. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, because the activities of Blackstone and Gates neither overlap horizontally nor are vertically related. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
The first estimate for the euro area (EA18) trade in goods balance with the rest of the world in April 2014 gave a 15.7 billion euro surplus, compared with +14.0 bn in April 2013. The March 2014 balance was +16.7 bn, compared with +21.8 bn in March 2013. In April 2014 compared with March 2014, seasonally adjusted exports fell by 0.2% and imports by 0.5%. These data are released by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The first estimate for the April 2014 extra-EU28 trade balance was a 1.3 bn euro surplus, compared with +8.5 bn in April 2013. In March 2014 the balance was +4.1 bn, compared with +14.7 bn in March 2013. In April 2014 compared with March 2014, seasonally adjusted exports fell by 1.0% and imports by 0.9%.
The number of persons employed increased by 0.1% in the euro area (EA18) and by 0.2% in the EU28 in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the previous quarter, according to national accounts estimates published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In the fourth quarter of 2013, employment also increased by 0.1% in the euro area and by 0.2% in the EU28. These figures are seasonally adjusted. Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, employment increased by 0.2% in the euro area and by 0.7% in the EU28 in the first quarter of 2014 (after -0.4% and 0.0% respectively in the fourth quarter of 2013). According to estimates from Eurostat, 224.2 million men and women were employed in the EU28, of which 146.1 million were in the euro area, in the first quarter of 2014. These figures are seasonally adjusted. These quarterly data on employment provide a picture of labour input consistent with the output and income measure of national accounts.
Every 2 years, policy makers, industry, consumer organisations and many others from across the world gather to discuss how to cooperate in order to reinforce product safety. The aim of the International Product Safety Week is to promote the safety of consumer products and international cooperation. This year focus of attention is on strengthening international co-operation and supporting approaches such as "seamless surveillance" to strengthen consumer safety at every point of the supply chain from design to destination. European Consumer Policy Commissioner Neven Mimica, the Executive Director and Chairman-Designate of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Elliot F. Kaye, and Sun Dawei, the Chinese Vice Minister of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), will attend some of the many conferences and events taking place.
The European Commission has today published a report on the development of the dairy market situation and the operation of the 2012 " Milk Package ". It describes the rather positive outlook for the dairy market, takes stock of the implementation of the provisions and possibilities of the "Milk Package" and outlines further considerations in view of the end of the quota system in 2015.
European Maritime and Fisheries Fund: Commission publishes breakdown by Member State
Following the recent adoption of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) ( IP/14/458), the European Commission will, this afternoon, set out the breakdown of the fund by priority and Member State . The breakdown covers the €5.75bn which will be implemented under shared management by Member States. The total EMFF budget, including shared and direct management, is of €6.4bn for the period 2014-2020. With the reform of its Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the EU has acted against overfishing and the practice of throwing unwanted fish back in the sea. The EMFF is the financial instrument to help deliver these objectives by providing financial support to fishermen, fish farmers and coastal communities and by funding projects to help boost growth and jobs in the European maritime economy.
Connie Hedegaard to discuss climate action with Bulgarian and French officials next week
Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard will make official visits to the Bulgarian and French capitals to discuss the 2030 climate and energy framework and the ongoing preparations for the UN climate summit in Paris next year. On Monday, the Commissioner will visit Sofia, where she will meet President Rosen Plevneliev as well other government officials and non-governmental stakeholders. On Wednesday, the Commissioner will travel to Paris to meet with Nicholas Hulot, Special Climate Envoy of the French President and Harlem Désir, Secretary of State for European Affairs. She will also speak at two events organised by the Maison Européenne des Pouvoirs Locaux Français and the European Climate Foundation in Paris respectively. On Thursday, the Commissioner will also meet with Michel Sapin, Minister for Economy and Finance; Ségolène Royal, Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy and Annick Girardin, Secretary of State for Development and Francophonie.
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting of March 2014 will take place in Luxembourg on 16th and 17th June 2014. The Commission will be represented by Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Cioloş and Commissioner for Health, Tonio Borg. The Agriculture points will be discussed on Monday 16th and the Fisheries and Health points, on Tuesday 17th June. A press conference will be held at the end of the discussions on each day.
The public debates and the press conferences can be followed by video streaming .
Commissioners' weekly activities
Upcoming Commission activities for the weeks ahead
Following their visit to Moldova, President Barroso and Commissioner Füle arrived in Tbilisi yesterday (12 June). After a meeting with the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, they attended a joint press point, where President Barroso said: "We stand by you, we stand by a democratic, prosperous and united Georgia."
The full speech is available online .
Commissioner Michel Barnier delivered a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC setting out a strategic vision for the EU and the US on strengthening the Transatlantic Partnership beyond TTIP. He said: "Important though the TTIP may be, the relationship between the US and Europe cannot and must not be reduced to that of only a free trade area. It has to be a stronger political relationship."
Commissioner Damanaki: Forced labour allegations in Thai prawn industry “raise grave questions”
Condemning the evidence provided by recent reports in the media and by NGOs on the human rights situation in Thailand’s prawn industry, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, stated: "The alleged human rights abuses in the Thai prawn industry are shocking and raise grave questions. We cannot accept that dubious operators disregard human rights, health provisions and sustainability requirements this way. There is no place for forced labour in our world. The situation needs to be investigated thoroughly. We may also have to intensify our probe from the perspective of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fisheries".
"Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union needs to be strengthened with a well-designed mechanism of fiscal transfers between Member States using the euro ", said Commissioner László Andor in a lecture at the Hertie School of Governance today in Berlin. "Through such a scheme, it would be possible to create a European safety net for the welfare safety nets of individual Member States. The earlier such a mechanism is agreed and launched, the better for everybody, including those countries which today enjoy higher levels of employment and may consider themselves to be safe from the impact of financial crises. A basic European unemployment insurance scheme would have a strong economic rationale, since it would provide a limited and predictable short-term stimulus to economies undergoing a downturn in the economic cycle – something that every country is going to experience sooner or later. Such a scheme could therefore boost market confidence in the EMU, and thus help to avoid a vicious circle of downgrades and austerity in the euro zone. This would help to uphold domestic demand and therefore economic growth in Europe as a whole."
European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has called on governments and sport organisations to step up their efforts to encourage gender equality in sport. Speaking at the Women in Sport World Conference in Helsinki today, she said: "There is certainly a great need to reach a more balanced representation of women and men in key positions of coaching and leadership in sport governing bodies; but equally, to create a safe environment which will welcome girls and women. And there is a need to change the attitude and culture of the whole management, of all the coaches and others working with the athletes." Inspired by the Commission's campaign to increase women's presence on corporate boards, Commissioner Vassiliou said sport organisations should be encouraged to make public pledges on gender equality initiatives. "My main aim is to ensure that in the years to come, sport will be made more attractive to all girls and women, whatever age or background," she added.