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EXME 14 / 24.07
24 / 07 / 14
Ukraine: Commission presents proposals for possible targeted measures
At its meeting on 22 July, the Foreign Affairs Council stressed its readiness "to introduce without delay a package of further significant restrictive measures". To this the end the Council requested "the Commission and the EEAS to finalise preparatory work on possible targeted measures and present proposals for taking action, including in the areas of access to capital markets, defence, dual use goods, and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector. The result of this work will be presented on Thursday 24 July". The Foreign Affairs Council also agreed to expand the restrictive measures with a view to targeting individuals or entities who actively provide material or financial support to or are benefiting from the Russian decision-makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine.
In line with this request, the Commission has presented to the Council a document outlining a number of measures that could be taken in the areas set out by the Council conclusions and the procedure that should be followed to adopt the relevant legal instruments. The document builds on the preparatory work conducted by the Commission services, in cooperation with the EEAS, in response to the mandate given by the March European Council. The Commission is ready to table the necessary legislative proposals in all areas identified, once so requested by the Council.
The European Commission today announces the first results of its new €3 billion SME Instrument, launched under Horizon 2020 to help innovative small firms get ideas from the lab to the market. In total, 155 SMEs from 21 countries (EU Member States or countries associated to Horizon 2020) will each receive €50,000 to finance feasibility studies to develop their innovation strategy. In addition, SMEs can benefit from up to three days of business coaching. Spanish SMEs were particularly successful in the first round, with 39 proposals selected, followed closely by SMEs from the UK and Italy. In total, there were 2,666 applications for the first grants. Successful applicants will be formally notified in August. Thereafter, their names will be publicly announced by the Executive Agency for SMEs ( EASME), which manages the programme.
The European Commission has concluded that a UK scheme called "Contracts for Difference" that promotes the generation of electricity from renewable sources is in line with EU state aid rules. In separate investigations, the Commission has also found that public support worth GBP 9.7 billion (around € 12.3 billion) to five offshore wind farms is in line with the state aid rules. The Commission found, in particular that all projects further common EU objectives, such as the promotion of renewable energy and environmental protection, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.
The European Commission has concluded that the proposed UK Capacity Market is in line with EU state aid rules. The scheme aims to ensure that sufficient electricity supply is available to cover consumption at peak times. The Commission found in particular that the scheme will contribute to ensuring the security of energy supply in the United Kingdom (UK), in line with EU objectives, without distorting competition in the Single Market. This is the first time that the Commission has assessed a capacity market under the new provisions on capacity markets in the new Environmental and Energy State Aid Guidelines (see IP/14/400).
The European Commission has found the new German Renewable Energy Act (EEG 2014) to be in line with EU state aid rules. The EEG 2014 provides support for the production of electricity from renewable energy sources and from mining gas. It also reduces the financial burden on energy-intensive users and certain auto-generators by reducing their level of payment of the EEG-surcharge. Finally, the EEG 2014 provides that the aid will be progressively allocated through tenders which will gradually be opened to operators located in other Member States. The Commission has concluded that the EEG 2014 will further EU environmental and energy objectives without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of MZLZ Retail by Aéroports de Paris and Aelia
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over the Croatian company MZLZ Retail by the French companies Aéroports de Paris (ADP) and Aelia. ADP is active in setting up, operating and developing airport facilities. Aelia is active in retail services in airports, train stations and on board aircraft. MZLZ Retail is managing two travel retail shops at Zagreb Airport. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, given the parties' moderate combined market positions resulting from the proposed transaction and the fact that the competitive landscape would not be modified. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7152 .
Copyright: summary report of the public consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules
The European Commission published yesterday a summary report of the public consultation on the review of EU copyright rules , which provides a qualitative overview of the input received from a wide range of stakeholders, including consumers, rights holders, business and institutional users of copyright works, collective rights management organisations and governments. The insights and information gathered through the consultation are an essential element in the review process that the Commission has initiated with regard to the EU copyright legislation. The consultation, open from 5 December 2013 to 5 March 2014, generated a great interest and received more than 9,500 replies, one of the highest response rates ever for a Commission consultation. The extensive interest in the consultation and the broad array of views collected confirm the importance and the complexity of the subject and will inform the next steps in the review.
Commission publishes encouraging second round of EU-wide test results for horse meat DNA in beef products: measures to fight food fraud are working
A second round of coordinated pan-European testing for horse meat DNA in beef products was launched in April this year. This testing was a follow-up to the exercise carried out in 2013 in the wake of the horse meat crisis, where 4.6% of products tested positive. This second round of testing was requested and co-financed by the Commission. The findings are encouraging as they show that the situation has significantly improved, with only 0.61% of samples testing positive. EU Commissioner for Health, Tonio Borg said "Today's findings confirm that our collective efforts are bearing fruit and that increased controls to uncover food fraud are having real impact. Restoring the trust and confidence of European consumers and businesses in our food chain is vital for our economy given that the food sector is one of the EU's largest economic sectors. I believe that this on-going work will continue to pay dividends. Fraudulent practices must be tackled through joined-up efforts to target the weakest links in the food supply chain." To find out more, see IP/14/877
Organic farming: latest brief shows rapid growth of sector
In the last decade, both the number of organic farms and the area dedicated to organic farming have grown by 50% or more. Organic area in the EU increased by about 500 000 hectares per year. As a result there are more than 186 000 organic farms across Europe, cultivating an area of 9.6 million hectares according to the latest Brief on organic farming published today by the European Commission. Based on an earlier 2013 report on organic farming , the brief provides an overview of areas and holdings, type of production and characteristics of organic farmers. Organic production patterns vary between EU Member States. However, across the EU, permanent pasture accounts for the biggest share of the organic area (about 45%) followed by cereals (around 15%) and permanent crops (about 13%). Organic animal production remains limited in comparison with the total animal production in the EU (about 1%). Organic farm managers tend to be younger than conventional farmers in the EU. In 2010, farmers younger than 55 represented 61.3% of the total in the organic sector but only 44.2% in non-organic agriculture. In the context of the sector's considerable and rapid growth, the Commission has proposed new updated and adjusted rules for the sector which are currently discussed with the European Parliament and the Council. The proposed new rules seek to improve the current system, so that the sector can grow in a sustainable way and respond to future challenges while keeping its long term relationships with consumers (see IP/14/312 and MEMO/14/215).
Commission, COST sign €300 mln research and innovation agreement
The European Commission signed today a new seven year partnership agreement with COST (the inter-governmental organisation for European Cooperation in Science and Technology) worth around €300 million. This new agreement, under Horizon 2020, will foster better access and integration for researchers from less research-intensive countries. COST will now dedicate at least 50% of its overall budget to activities involving researchers from such countries, accelerate capacity building, broaden networking opportunities to young investigators and strengthen the build-up of new science and innovation communities. Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said: "We welcome COST's renewed engagement to building a stairway to scientific excellence and innovation. Its package of measures should boost science and innovation capabilities notably in less-research intensive countries and regions in the EU and beyond." COST's statement can be found here .
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