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Daily News of 2014-06-16

European Commission - MEX/14/0616   16/06/2014

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EXME 14 / 16.06

DAILY NEWS

16 / 06 / 14

Commission statement after the meetings on security of gas supply in Kiev

This weekend's trilateral consultations on energy security in Kiev finished after meetings between EU Energy Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan, Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolev and Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller. A bilateral meeting between Commissioner Oettinger and the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also took place. Being aware of all the arguments from Russia and Ukraine and the state of play as regards open bills, Commissioner Oettinger developed a proposal for a package solution (please see espresso sent out early morning). The Ukrainian side was ready to accept this proposal, but for the moment the Russian partners were not. The Commission is convinced that a solution is still possible and in the interest of all parties concerned. At a press conference today in Vienna Commissioner Oettinger underlined that he stands ready to continue the dialogue and to invite the parties concerned for further trilateral consultations.

The press statement by Commissioner Oettinger in Vienna, following the trilateral meeting on energy security between the EU, Russia and Ukraine will soon be available online on EBS .

Statement by Commissioner Šemeta on Taxation Trends in Europe

Our recent recommendations to Member States stressed the need to lower labour taxes in order to create jobs in Europe.

Today's Tax Trends report confirms the Commission's concerns.

Labour taxation is still too high, while growth-friendly bases, such as environmental taxes, are under-used in many countries.

The tax shift away from labour, which we have consistently called for to allow our businesses to regain competitiveness, still has to materialise.

Tax rates do not necessarily need to rise to have stable revenues. In this respect, the steady increase in VAT rates across the EU, which the report reveals, could be curbed if VAT systems were more efficient.

Many Member States could even lower their standard VAT rate if they broadened their tax base and relied less on reduced rates.

The statistical evidence in today's Tax Trends report should convince Member States that our recommendations for tax reforms are the right ones, and that growth-friendly taxation must be put at the heart of their structural reforms.

For more information please also refer to STATEMENT/14/196 .


Other news

President Barroso awarded in Santander

President Barroso is today in Santander to deliver a key note speech at the opening seminar for the summer season of the International University Menendez Pelayo. The speech on "Europe leaving the crisis behind” was followed by a ceremony where the President received an award of the International University Menéndez Pelayo. The seminar was organised by the University and by the Associacion de Periodistas de Información Económica (APIE). 

“Europe leaving the crisis behind” seminar aims at analising how the EU can rebuild its position in the global economy after more than five years of crisis.

Global Partnership for Education Conference - 26 June – sign up now!

An event to raise global funding for the Global Partnership for Education, a multilateral body committed to ensuring every child has access to a quality, basic education, is taking place on June 26 in Brussels. Co-hosted by the European Commission, it will bring together more than 500 key players in education to show their commitment to education by making solid pledges at the conference. The benefits of education to health, economic development and stability are clear, yet aid funding for education has fallen by an average of five percent each year since 2010. Participants include the Chair of the Global Partnership for Education and former Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, ministers from more than 40 developing countries, and from donor countries, UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova, UN Special Envoy for Education, Gordon Brown; and EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs. Registration for media closes today, sign up now here .

Customs: Tackling smuggling and fraud in excise goods

Around 816 million cigarettes and 240 000 litres of alcohol were seized by EU customs over a 10 month period in 2013, a report published by the Commission today reveals. The report details the planning, implementation and results of "DISMANTLE", a targeted customs operation to tackle the risk of smuggling and fraud in excise goods. Between March and December 2013, customs controls were increased at the eastern border, on the basis of common risk criteria and real-time information exchange between EU customs authorities. During that period, seizures in smuggled tobacco reported in the Common customs risk management system increased considerably – by 105% compared to the same period in 2012. Around 1/3 of the quantity seized came from source countries targeted through DISMANTLE, notably Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. Half of the total seizures of smuggled tobacco came by sea from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, while the remaining 10% were of unknown origin. Based on the findings of DISMANTLE, the report presents a number of specific recommendations to ensure better risk targeting of smuggled excise goods in the future.

Eurostat - Taxation trends in the European Union

The overall tax-to-GDP ratio in the EU28 up to 39.4% of GDP in 2012 - Labour taxes remain major source of tax revenue. The overall tax-to-GDP ratio, meaning the sum of taxes and compulsory social contributions in % of GDP, in the EU28 stood at 39.4% in 2012, up from 38.8% in 2011. The overall tax ratio in the euro area (EA18) increased to 40.4% in 2012 from 39.5% in 2011. In 2013, Eurostat estimates show that tax revenues as a percentage of GDP are set to continue rising in both zones.

Eurostat - Euro area annual inflation - May 2014

Euro area annual inflation was 0.5% in May 2014, down from 0.7% in April. A year earlier the rate was 1.4%. Monthly inflation was -0.1% in May 2014. European Union annual inflation was 0.6% in May 2014, down from 0.8% in April. A year earlier the rate was 1.6%. Monthly inflation was -0.1% in May 2014.

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition by Centrica of Bord Gais Energy

The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control by Centrica of the United Kingdom of Bord Gáis Energy Limited of Ireland. Centrica is an integrated energy company, which produces, sources and supplies gas and electricity for residential and business customers in the UK and North America. BGE is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bord Gáis Eireann, with a focus on the purchase and supply of gas and electricity for residential and business customers in the Republic of Ireland. On the basis of national markets for the wholesale supply of gas there would be no overlap in the Republic of Ireland. The Parties' activities overlap in a market for the wholesale supply of gas in the UK. However, the increment is small, the combined market share is modest and the Parties continue to face competition from numerous other players. Therefore, the transaction does not create a risk of input foreclosure with regard to the retail markets in the UK or the Republic of Ireland. Moreover, while BGE has significant activities in the markets for the retail supply of gas in the Republic of Ireland and Centrica has significant activities these markets in the UK, the Parties' competitors in the market for the wholesale supply of gas have sufficient economic alternatives to sell their supplies. Therefore, the transaction does not create a risk of customer foreclosure with regard to the retail markets in the UK or the Republic of Ireland. The Commission therefore concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns. The transaction was examined under the normal procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website in the public case register under the case number M.7228 .

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of ParexGroup by CVC

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of the mortar producer ParexGroup of France by the Luxembourg-based private equity group CVC Capital Partners. There are no horizontal overlaps between the activities of ParexGroup and CVC or any of its portfolio companies. But CVC, jointly with another private equity fund Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, controls Univar which is a distributor of commodity and specialty chemicals that can be used in the production of mortar. The Commission concluded that the vertical link between Univar and ParexGroup would not raise competition concerns because Univar's competitors would still have a sufficient number of clients and ParexGroup's competitors would still have a sufficient number of alternative suppliers of specialty and commodity chemicals after the transaction. 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.7249 .

Commission welcomes Council's approval of new rail innovation partnership

The European Commission welcomes today's adoption of "Shift2Rail" by the Council. Shift2Rail, the new €920 million public–private partnership, aims at accelerating the uptake of innovative solutions in the rail sector. The initiative had already been approved by the European Parliament on 15 April. Vice-President Siim Kallas said: “Shift2Rail is a major breakthrough. It will drive innovation to reduce the costs of rail services, enhance capacity and provide more reliable, frequent, user-friendly rail services for customers. This can only be achieved if all actors in the rail sector work in partnership. I urge businesses and academic researchers to respond to the call for Associated Members and to future open calls – we need everyone working together to make sure we get more passengers and freight onto Europe's railways.”

Multimodal journey planners: Commission pushes for better travel solutions

The European Commission has published today an analysis of the current situation of multimodal travel planners in Europe and its plans for the way forward. The multimodal journey planners currently available are all limited either geographically or in their coverage of transport modes, rarely offering cross-border information. The Commission is giving new momentum to efforts to develop Europe-wide all-in-one journey planners that would allow planning and booking journeys involving several means of transport with a single online tool, even across borders. The publication of this analysis coincides with the 10th European ITS Congress , one of Europe's largest events in Intelligent Transport Systems and Services (ITS) that is taking place in Helsinki on 16th and 17th June 2014.

Commission welcomes Council's approval of the extension of SESAR

The European Commission welcomes today's adoption of the Regulation extending the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) Joint Undertaking until 2024. This is a strong recognition of the results that this programme has already achieved to date. This extension will secure the necessary resources for achieving the technological pillar of the Single European Sky. From the total budget of 3.7 Bn€ for the public-private partnership during the period 2007-2024, the European Union contribution is about 1,3 Bn€. European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: “SESAR 2020 Research and Innovation programme will provide Europe’s aviation sector with many more forward-looking ways of tackling and solving the challenges it faces. In turn, this will create new business opportunities to benefit Europe’s society and wider economy. It is why I believe that what SESAR produces and provides is not only vital for the Single European Sky (SES) to achieve its ambitious goals, but also for us to achieve the Europe 2020 growth strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy.”

Legal highs: European Commission takes strong action with EU-wide ban on four new substances

Today, the European Commission has proposed a new Regulation for an EU-wide ban on four new psychoactive substances, currently being used as alternatives to illicit drugs. These new substances have already been linked to numerous fatalities and intoxications across the EU. The Commission is therefore proposing to ban the manufacturing and marketing of these new drugs and make their consumption subject to criminal sanctions across Europe. "Today's proposal is an important step in protecting our citizens – more and more young people are put at risk because of the growing number and availability of these dangerous substances," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. "In a borderless internal market, it is crucial to have common EU rules to tackle these new substances.  Legal highs are not legal: they are lethal. The Commission is proposing to ban the following substances: MDPV, 25I-NBOMe, AH-7921, and methoxetamine (for more detailed information on these drugs). A risk assessment carried out by the Scientific Committee of the Lisbon-based European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) also showed that these four substances do not provide any concrete medical benefits. Today's proposal follows the procedure for risk-assessment and control of new psychoactive substances set up by the Council: Decision 2005/387/JHA . It is now for the EU Ministers in the Council to agree on implementing this ban, voting by a qualified majority.

Landmark agreement between the European Commission and South Korea on 5G mobile technology

In a world-first agreement signed in Seoul this morning, the European Commission and South Korea have joined together to lead the global race to develop 5G mobile technologies. 

They also agreed on the need for harmonized radio spectrum to ensure global interoperability of 5G technologies.

3rd Annual Conference on Public Procurement - Smart Public Procurement: Efficient Management through e-Procurement

Following the adoption of the revised legislation on public procurement and the Directive on e-invoicing in public procurement ( MEMO/14/179), the European Commission and the Greek Presidency of the EU are organising a conference on smart public procurement on 20 June 2014 in Athens, Greece. The conference should be especially beneficial to stakeholders in countries still undergoing the process of modernisation of their public procurement systems. Smart procurement means lean and transparent procedures, less bureaucracy, a high level of professionalism, getting the best value for money for public buyers and economic operators having easy access to public procurement. End-to-end e-procurement is an essential contributor to achieve these overarching objectives.

The conference will be webstreamed: http://webcast.ec.europa.eu/eutv/portal/index.html .

New rules to strengthen statutory audit quality across the EU have entered into force

Today, new EU rules to improve the quality of statutory audit across the European Union entered into force, following publication in the Official Journal of the EU on 27 May 2014 . The reform of the EU statutory audit market is another step towards restoring the confidence of investors in financial information. The revised Directive includes measures to strengthen the independence of statutory auditors, make the audit report more informative, and strengthen audit supervision throughout the Union. The Regulation introduces stricter requirements on the statutory audits of public-interest entities, such as listed companies, credit institutions, and insurance undertakings, to reduce risks of excessive familiarity between statutory auditors and their clients, encourage professional scepticism, and limit conflicts of interest. As of today, Member States have 2 years to implement the revised Directive. The Regulation will also become directly applicable in mid-2016 to ensure that by the time of its application, every Member State will have put in place the provisions necessary to comply with the Directive. Throughout this process, the Commission will work with the Member States, the national supervisory bodies, and the stakeholders to facilitate a consistent and effective implementation of the new rules across the EU.

Boosting the EU's response to radicalisation and violent extremism

The latest evolutions of the terrorist threat and of radicalisation patterns call for more efforts to counter all types of extremism that leads to violence. On 17th June Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, will host a High Level conference in Brussels where experts, practitioners and policy makers from all over Europe will share their experiences and discuss concrete actions to better prevent violent extremism. "In some EU Member States, much is being done to counter violent extremism, but others are lagging behind. All Member States need to be brought up to speed. An acute challenge is how to prevent Europeans from travelling to participate in the conflict in Syria. Thousands of families around Europe are facing this tragic problem but have no one to turn to for help. We need to do much more to support them at the local level, developing concrete tools like family support hotlines and exit programmes", said Commissioner Malmström. New concrete measures are now taking shape. The Commission is preparing for the launch of a European knowledge hub on Prevention of Radicalisation leading to Terrorism and Violent Extremism to be operational early 2015. The future Knowledge Hub should serve as a forum for the exchange of good practices, as a think tank formulating policy recommendations and for experts to harness research. It should also work as a service provider and operational tool to help Member States and stakeholders in their efforts, by, for instance, sending out expert teams to support authorities in setting up training of field personnel, exit programmes or hotlines. For the functioning of the Hub the Commission has earmarked €16 million (between 2015-2018). Important tools have been developed in the past, including setting up the Radicalisation Awareness Network, to support Member States' efforts to tackle radicalisation. But more can be done, for instance to address challenges faced online and encourage so called de-radicalisation or exit programs. At the high-level meeting, these online challenges will be discussed by participating experts and authorities, as well as high-level representatives from the technology industry.


What Commissioners said

President Barroso's phone call with President Putin

On Friday, 13 June, President Barroso spoke on the phone with President Putin to discuss the current political-security situation in Ukraine. President Barroso recalled the EU positions, namely the need for a de-escalation and the importance of a cease fire. He also urged the disarmament of separatist groups, a halt to the flow of arms and illegal fighters into Ukraine and the repeal of the law approved by the Duma's Federation Council. They discussed ongoing gas talks, and the upcoming signature of the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with Ukraine.

President Barroso visited Georgia

Following his meeting with Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili on 13 June in Tbilisi, President Barroso referred to the "unique relationship" between the European Union and Georgia, "which will soon be given a concrete expression with the signature of the Association Agreement, including the DCFTA – Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area – in Brussels on the 27 June."

President Barroso visited Azerbaijan

Travelling to Azerbaijan from 13-15 June, President Barroso and Commissioner Füle met with President Ilham Aliyev and other senior representatives of the Azerbaijani state. The visit is seen by the EU as an opportunity to reinvigorate EU-Azerbaijan relations and inject new momentum into bilateral negotiations on a new contractual basis of the bilateral relationship. During a press point with President Aliyev, President Barroso said: "Let me say that Azerbaijan is a very important partner for the European Union. We have achieved a reliable strategic partnership in the energy field. And we want to build on this, moving to a long-term association grounded on democracy and shared values, in particular fundamental freedoms."


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