Daily News of 2014-06-18
European Commission - MEX/14/0618 18/06/2014
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MEx 14 / 18.06
18 / 06 / 14
Just a few days ahead of the European Council, the Commission pushes the EU's smart regulation agenda further. A Communication adopted today shows that the implementation of the Commission's Regulatory Fitness and Performance programme (REFIT) is in full swing and that EU law is indeed becoming lighter, simpler and less costly. In addition, the Commission is stepping up the momentum of smart regulation by presenting a number of new initiatives for simplification, withdrawals of pending proposals and repeals of existing legislation. The first edition of an annual scoreboard assesses the progress made in all policy areas and for each individual initiative, including on the side of Council and Parliament.
The Communication, the scoreboard and infographics are available at the REFIT webpage www.ec.europa.eu/refit .
From today onwards, innovative climate projects from around Europe will be able to benefit from more EU funding under the new LIFE sub-programme for Climate Action. The first call for proposals under this funding programme will provide €44.26 million to support projects that aim to develop or implement novel ways to tackle climate change in Europe. Interested organisations and partnerships are invited to submit their proposals until 16 October. The funding available in this call is part of the EU LIFE programme 2014-2020 and constitutes part of the 20% of all EU spending that will be devoted to climate action over the next 7 years.
In April 2014 compared with March 2014, seasonally adjusted production in the construction sector grew by 0.8% in the euro area (EA18) and by 0.6% in the EU28, according to first estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In March 2014, production in construction fell by 0.3% and 0.2% respectively. In April 2014 compared with April 2013, production in construction increased by 8.0% in the euro area and by 7.2% in the EU28.
Actual Individual Consumption (AIC) is a measure of material welfare of households. Based on first preliminary estimates for 2013, AIC per capita expressed in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) varied from 49% to 138% of the EU28 average across the Member States.
Today Regional Policy Commissioner Hahn and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Damanaki will present a new Strategy for the Adriatic Ionian Region to promote sustainable economic and social prosperity in the Region through growth and creation of jobs. The Communication and its accompanying Action Plan, adopted and transmitted today to EU members states, follow the request of the European Council in December 2012 to present a Strategy by the end of this year. The Strategy is the EU's third macro-regional Strategy. Eight countries are participating: four EU Member States (Croatia, Greece, Italy and Slovenia) and four non-EU countries (Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina). It builds on the Maritime Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Seas adopted in 2012. The Communication and its Action plan spell out the main objectives of the Strategy to improve the region's attractiveness, competitiveness and connectivity, while preserving the environment and ensuring healthy and balanced marine and coastal ecosystems. The Strategy also provides a valuable opportunity for EU candidates and potential candidate countries participating to work alongside Member States - contributing to the integration of the Western Balkans into the European Union.
Commissioners Hahn and Damanaki will be holding a Press Roundtable at 13.15 today in the Berlaymont, Room 4/A (access restricted): if you wish to attend please mail firstname.lastname@example.org . See also IP/14/69
Today the Commission decided to seek clarifications from Italy and Slovakia on their application and implementation of the EU's Late Payment Directive . The request for information in both cases takes the form of a letter of formal notice under EU infringement procedures. According to the Commission's information, Italy is not applying the Directive correctly in practice. The Commission has received a number of complaints which highlighted the fact that in Italy the public authorities take on average 170 days to make payments for services or goods provided, and 210 days for public works. Moreover, some Italian public bodies use contracts that apply interest rate terms to late payments which are clearly lower than the interest rate required by the Directive (which must be at least 8% above the European Central Bank’s reference rate). The Commission was also informed that some Italian public bodies postpone the issue of work progress reports in order to enable them to delay payments that are due to be made to companies performing public works.
Better protection of taxpayers' money in EU public procurement
The European Commission has today adopted a proposal adjusting the financial rules for public procurement by EU institutions. Once in place, the new rules will ensure better protection of the Union's financial interests. In order to protect the EU budget from the earliest stages, a specialised central panel will be able to exclude companies and individuals from accessing EU contracts, or even impose financial penalties. This will allow much swifter action than now, effectively showing a red card to those trying to participate in EU tenders who are involved in fraud or corruption. The rights of defence of such companies or persons will of course be guaranteed. The proposal also aims at enhancing public control and transparency – it is proposed to make public any exclusions or financial penalties imposed. With this decision, the Commission has seized the opportunity to align the EU Financial Regulation with the three new directives on public procurement adopted earlier this year (see MEMO/14/20). This proposal will be now discussed within the European Parliament and the Council. The European Court of Auditors will also provide its opinion. The new rules are expected to enter into force by the end of 2015.
New Director in the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs
The Commission has appointed Mr Carlos Martinez Mongay as Director of 'Economies of the Member States II' in the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs. Mr Martinez Mongay, who is Spanish, is currently Head of Cabinet to Vice-President Almunia, Commissioner for Competition Policy. He was previously Head of Unit at the Economic and Financial Affairs Directorate-General, including units monitoring the economies of various Member States, and an Advisor on EMU matters to Commissioner Solbes. Mr Martinez Mongay holds a PhD in Economics from the University of the Basque Country and is author of more than 50 papers and books on economics and economic policy. Before joining the European Commission, he was a Professor of Foundations of Economic Analysis in Zaragoza, Spain. The date of effect of this decision will be determined later.
The EU's Council of Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Ministers will meet on 19 and 20 June in Luxembourg. Key employment and social issues under discussion will be this year's draft Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs), the endorsement of a report on adequate social protection for long-term care needs in an aging society by the Social Protection Committee and a general approach on the proposal to establish a Platform against undeclared work. Key health and consumer issues under discussion include regulations on medical advices, the economic crisis and health care, and nutrition and physical activity.
On 20 June in Luxembourg, Vice-President Rehn, Commissioner Barnier, Commissioner Lewandowski and Commissioner Šemeta will participate in the meeting of the EU's Council of Economic and Finance Ministers. This will be the first Economic and Finance Ministers Council meeting since the Commission presented its country-specific recommendations to Member States on their economic and fiscal policies and recommended to close excessive deficit procedures for some Member States. The Council is expected to endorse those proposals. The European Commission’s convergence report which recommends that Lithuania adopt the euro on 1st January 2015 will also be discussed. On the legislative front, the Council will be called to reach political agreement on closing an important loophole in the Parent-Subsidiary Directive which has been used by some companies to escape taxation. The Commission will present the draft EU budget for 2015. Finally, it will update the Council on the ongoing work on the implementing legislation relating to recently agreed rules on bank resolution and how individual banks will pay towards the resolution funds.
Commissioner Mimica: Button batteries, they may be small but the risks are not
EU Consumer Policy Commissioner Neven Mimica speaking at the sidelines of an awareness raising event about the dangers button batteries pose to health when swallowed or inhaled: "Button batteries are found in all kinds of electrical devices we have at home, many of them easy to reach by our children - calculators, TV remote controls, bathroom or kitchen scales, reading lights and greeting cards. Most of us are not aware of the dangers these small items bring along: if swallowed, they cause fatalities. My goal is to raise awareness among parents, who should know the risks and take good care that appliances and devices which use button batteries are kept away from their children. I also call for manufacturers to take these risks into account when designing new products and put the safety of consumers first".