Daily News of 2014-06-26
European Commission - MEX/14/0626 26/06/2014
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EXME 14 / 26.06
26 / 06 / 14
European Council, 26-27 June
EU leaders are gathering in Belgium today for a two-day meeting of the European Council: In the afternoon of 26 June, they will attend a ceremony in the city of Ypres to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I. President Barroso and President Van Rompuy will lay a floral wreath and inaugurate the "Peace bench" at the Menin Gate. President Barroso will also participate in the dinner of Heads of State and Government at the City Hall. On 27 June, the Association Agreements with Georgia and with the Republic of Moldova will be signed and the signature process with Ukraine will be completed, each providing for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. In his remarks ahead of the European Council yesterday, President Barroso said: "I do not hesitate to call these Agreements historic. […] For Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, the signature of the Agreements will be a recognition of the significant progress made over recent years and of their strong political determination to come closer to the European Union; of their shared outlook on a prosperous economic model; and of their desire to live by the European spirit and the European values. For the EU, these signatures will be a solemn commitment to accompany Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine each step of the way along the road of transforming their countries into stable, prosperous democracies." Following the traditional meeting with the President of the European Parliament, the first working session will concentrate on the European Semester, justice and home affairs, and energy security and climate change. The European Council will meet with the Ukrainian President and discuss the situation in Ukraine over lunch. The Heads of State and Government will then discuss the nomination of the next President of the European Commission and adopt the strategic priorities for the European Union in the years to come.
A press conference is scheduled to take place following the meeting on 27 June, exact time to be confirmed.
Last year 12 690 unaccompanied minors submitted an asylum application in the EU. Some of them have no one to turn to in EU Member States and find themselves in extremely vulnerable positions, facing particular challenges in the early steps of the asylum procedure. In the light of a recent judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU, the Commission is proposing to clarify which Member State is responsible for examining applications made by unaccompanied minors. The proposal will, in particular, improve the situation of those minor applicants for international protection who have no family, siblings or relatives on the EU territory. "The rights of the child must always come first. We need clearer and more predictable EU asylum rules for unaccompanied minors. Our proposal will ensure that the best interests of minors will always prevail in the Dublin procedure and that these minors will not be needlessly transferred from one EU State to another," said Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström.
Today, new EU rules to strengthen regulation and transparency of remuneration in banks and investment firms in the European Union ( IP/14/210) have entered into force following publication in the Official Journal of the EU on 6 June 2014 ( OJ L 167). The new rules relate to the identification of categories of staff whose professional activities have a material impact on an institution's risk profile (so-called ‘material risk takers’). This matters because the risk takers are the people who have to comply with EU rules on variable remuneration (including bonuses). These standards supplement the requirements of the Capital Requirements Directive (CRD IV) which entered into force on 17 July 2013 (see MEMO/13/690) and which strengthened the rules regarding the relationship between the variable (or bonus) component of total remuneration and the fixed component (or salary). For performance from 1 January 2014 onwards, the variable component shall not exceed 100% of the fixed component of the total remuneration of material risk takers. Under certain conditions, shareholders can increase this maximum ratio to 200%.
The Commission today adopted a proposal for a new programme that will help Member States to modernise their administrations and provide interoperable digital services at national and European level. The new programme, ISA2,will build on the success of its predecessor, ISA (Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations), by ensuring seamless electronic cross-border or cross-sector interaction between European public administrations.
This is essential, because in today's Europe, more and more citizens work and relocate, and businesses trade and operate, across the Union. When they do this, they frequently have to interact electronically with Member State administrations.
The full text of the proposal is available online .
EU1 international trade in services has increased significantly in the last decade. EU exports of services to the rest of the world rose from €367 billion in 2004 to €684 bn in 2013, while imports increased from €321 bn to €511 bn. Since exports have risen more strongly than imports, the trade surplus has almost quadrupled between 2004 and 2013, from €45 bn to €173 bn.
Pharmaceutical Industry: an asset of the European Economy
The European Commission launched today a comprehensive public exchange of views to strengthen the competitiveness of the EU´s pharmaceuticals industry.
The main challenges for the European pharmaceutical industry are: new and old, believed already to be defeated, health threats; high R&D costs; intellectual property issues; increased international competition; constraints in public budgets. In particular demographic transition is considered a major challenge with the number of EU residents aged 65 and over is expected to increase dramatically, from 92 million in 2013 to 148 million in 2060. Health-related spending generally increases with the age of a person and the prevalence of chronic diseases like diabetes or dementia will rise with an ageing population.
With its annual output of € 220 billion, its approximately 800.000 employees and as the world’s major trader in medicinal products, the EU pharmaceutical industry is of strategic importance for the European economy. Since the world market for medical products is expected to reach nearly $ 1.17 trillion by 2017, this sector is considered a long-term growth market.
The document, which follows the Process on Corporate responsibility in the area of pharmaceuticals concluded in 2013, identifies major policy areas for the future, such setting priorities for new therapies, fostering public-private cooperation, facilitating the availability of specific medicines (like orphan drugs or biosimilars), fostering ethics in the sector, improving access to medicines worldwide and reinforcing the presence of the European pharmaceutical industry in the global market.
The Commission will organise an event in autumn in order to prepare future policy decisions by bringing together relevant decision makers from the relevant public administrations, patients, healthcare professionals, trade unions and industry representatives. More info on Competitiveness in Healthcare industries .
State aid: Commission authorises prolongation of Greek liquidity support measures for credit institutions
The European Commission has found that the extension of public liquidity support measures for Greek credit institutions until 31 December 2014 was in line with EU state aid rules. These measures include a regime of state guarantees on debt instruments issued by banks and a system of lending of government bonds. Both aim to boost banks' access to liquidity. The Commission concluded that these measures are appropriate, proportional and limited with regard to their duration and form. They are therefore compatible with the Commission's rules on state aids to banks. More information is available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register, under the case number SA.38857 .
Under the EU Merger Regulation, the European Commission has authorised EDF’s proposed acquisition of Dalkia France, Dalkia Investissement and the other subsidiaries of Dalkia in France (‘Dalkia’). EDF is France’s primary producer and supplier of electricity, while Dalkia offers a full range of energy services. The two companies therefore operate primarily in related areas in the energy sector. The Commission looked at the effects of the transaction on the markets where EDF and Dalkia are both present. The Commission found that the increase in market share was limited and that there would still be a sufficient number of competitors after the merger to prevent any distortion of competition to the detriment of consumers.
Mergers: Commission clears merger between Carphone and Dixons
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the merger between Carphone Warehouse plc and Dixons Retail plc both of the United Kingdom. Carphone retails a range of mobile connectivity, mobile devices and related services in the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Sweden and Ireland. Dixons retails high technology consumer electronics, mobile devices, personal computers, domestic appliances, photographic equipment and related services in UK, Ireland, Greece, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Slovakia and Sweden. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, since the parties are not close competitors and given the competitive pressure that other physical retail outlets and online retail channels will continue to exert on the merged entity. 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.7259 .
Vice-President Kallas: European Railway Agency on track to the future after 10 successful years
From its origins 10 years ago, the European Railway Agency has fulfilled its core task of working to build a more efficient, interoperable, and safer European railway system, Vice-President Siim Kallas, in charge of transport, will say at an event in Valenciennes, France, to mark the 10th anniversary of the European Railway Agency. “I cannot stress enough how important ERA is for the future of our railways,” Kallas will say. “Now that we have a political agreement between Member States on the technical pillar of the Fourth Railway Package, the Agency will face new tasks, more responsibilities, and a much stronger presence. But it will mean much more than that: ERA is on the brink of a major change in status.” The Agency will become a truly European rail authority with a direct impact on third parties, and play a more significant part in supervising national rules and monitoring national safety authorities, Kallas will say. “The Fourth Railway Package will allow us, finally, to give EU citizens and businesses the rail service they deserve. The European Railway Agency lies at the heart of that vision.”
The speech will be available on RAPID this afternoon. For more information please see also IP/14/736
I welcome today's ratification by the Turkish Parliament of the Readmission Agreement signed in December, as it represents a significant step forward in the cooperation between the European Union and Turkey. The Agreement reflects our shared interest for a more effective migration and border management setting out clear obligations and procedures for the authorities of Turkey and the EU Member States in order to swiftly return persons who are irregularly residing on their territories, in full respect of international law and fundamental rights. A full and effective implementation of the Readmission Agreement is also one of the requirements included in the Roadmap towards the Visa-free regime with Turkey, and today's decision by the Turkish Parliament represents an important progress in the perspective of visa liberalisation.
New funding to support education in developing countries over the next seven years, through the Global Partnership for Education, (or GPE), was today announced by European Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs. Speaking at the EU-hosted Global Partnership for Education’s Second Replenishment Pledging Conference, the Commissioner underlined that the new €375 million (US$510 million) support will contribute to providing basic education in the close to 60 countries where the Global Partnership for Education currently works.Announcing the commitment, Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said: ‘As a former teacher myself, I have always been strongly committed to ensuring that all children receive a quality education, no matter where they live. That’s why we are proud to partner with the GPE on today’s event – it shows our firm ongoing commitment to education, and I hope today’s event will also encourage other donors to redouble their efforts; not only to get children into schools but also to improve the standards of education they receive there.’
Fish stocks in Northeast Atlantic recover, whilst serious overfishing in Mediterranean: Commission sets out plans for 2015 fishing season
While in the North and West of Europe, overfishing has fallen from 86% of the stocks in 2009 to 41% in 2014, there are still serious problems of overfishing in the Mediterranean Sea with 96% or more of the Mediterranean bottom-living fish being overfished. That's the key message Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, passes in this year's report on the state of fish stocks and the preparation of setting next year's fish quotas. The document is now open to the views of stakeholders, before the Commission makes its proposals for the 2015 fishing opportunities during the autumn. See IP/14/724 and MEMO/14/442
As the European Council meets today and tomorrow to agree – amongst other things – on the future strategic priorities in the area of justice, the European Commission is already working to deliver on one of the priorities: strengthening mutual trust in each other's justice systems. The European Commission is hosting a European Judicial training workshop today and tomorrow to boost the training of legal practitioners. Over 140 judicial trainers from EU Member States will share good practices, exchange ideas and find new partners to develop further training. The two-day workshop will bring the EU one step closer in achieving its goal of having 50 % of all legal practitioners (corresponding to a total of 700.000) trained in EU law by 2020 ( IP/11/1021). Vice-President Reding said: "Mutual trust is the bedrock upon which EU justice policy is built, and high-quality training of legal practitioners is paramount in fostering this trust (…) To date, we have already succeeded in training over 130.000 legal practitioners in EU law and this figure will continue to rise as 35% of the new EU Justice financial programme will be dedicated to judicial training. This is the best investment Europe can make to ensure the EU's single market and our area of justice deliver the most for citizens and businesses alike".
The use of new substances imitating the effects of illicit drugs (‘legal highs’) has risen considerably among young people in the EU, according to preliminary figures released today in a Eurobarometer study on young people and drugs. On the occasion of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the European Commission is therefore reiterating its commitment in taking firm action to protect young people from the dangers of 'legal highs'. "The European Commission has proposed strong legislation to protect young people against these harmful new psychoactive substances. Today's findings prove that we have no time to loose: we need to have the new rules in place swiftly, so that we can react swiftly if new dangerous substances emerge on European market," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner. "’Legal highs’ are lethal, and this growing problem in Europe is putting our young people at risk. A borderless internal market means we need common EU rules to tackle this problem ".
EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn will be joining high-level politicians and representatives from the 14 member countries of Europe's Danube "Macro-Region" for their 3rd Annual Forum in Vienna on 26-27 June. Ministers, civil society and business representatives from the 14 Danube countries will discuss and decide how best to drive the region forward. A special focus will be on competitiveness, social inclusion and good governance, following the European Commission's recent report calling for stronger political leadership of EU Macro-Regions. ''Greening the River" and renewing the Danube fleet will also be high on the agenda. Following recommendations in the governance report, the Danube countries' Foreign Affairs Ministers will be meeting alongside the Forum to propose concrete arrangements for a better managed leadership of the Strategy. Speaking ahead of the Forum, European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn commented: "The EU Danube Strategy clearly shows the value of working together on issues such as energy security, navigation, improved water quality and enhanced technology transfer. The Strategy develops initiatives and projects based on the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. To make sure the potential of this new approach is fully utilised, we need more commitment, involvement and ownership. We all need to play our part in moving from words to action – and ensure that the Danube Region continues to be a model for other macro-regional initiatives."
Plant Health: Latest report reveals: import controls are an effective tool in protecting European consumers
A Commission report published today presents key findings on the controls carried out at Europe's borders to prevent harmful plant pests from entering the EU market. This EUROPHYT report reveals that 7 000 consignments mainly imported from non-EU countries were intercepted in 2013. In about one third of the cases insects, fungi, bacteria or viruses were found; the number of interceptions with such harmful organisms increased by 18%, compared to 2012. Fruit and vegetables fall amongst the highest category of consignments that were prevented from entering the EU marketplace. These included mainly mangoes, gourds, basil, aubergines, guavas and peppers, coming from India, Pakistan, Ghana, Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Bangladesh. As a result of specific EU safeguard measures, the number of interceptions from Thailand, Vietnam and Israel decreased significantly in 2013. There were over 2 000 interceptions of wood packaging material, originating mainly from Russia, China, USA, Belarus and India. EUROPHYT is an IT rapid alert system, managed by the Commission, which facilitates the cross-border flow of information and notifications between national authorities in the EU and Switzerland.
For more information on EUROPHYT:
Article 318 evaluation report adopted
Today, the Commission adopted its annual evaluation report for 2013 giving an overview of the progress made in implementing the main financial programmes across different spending areas. The report illustrates the results achieved and how they contribute meeting the European Union's strategic objectives. Article 318 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) requires the Commission to submit such a report each year in the context of the EU's discharge procedure.
Read the report online.
Guidelines to help business users save money and get the most out of cloud computing services are being presented to the European Commission today. Cloud computing allows individuals, businesses and the public sector to store their data and carry out data processing in remote data centres, saving on average 10-20%. These guidelines will help professional cloud users ensure essential elements are included in plain language in contracts they make with cloud providers. Relevant items include: the availability and reliability of the cloud service, the quality of support services they will receive from their cloud provider, security levels, and how to better manage the data they keep in the cloud.