Georgia: EU disburses €13 million grant in Macro-Financial Assistance
The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, disbursed €13 million in grants to Georgia. This represents the grant part of the first tranche of the EU's €46 million Macro-Financial Assistance programme (MFA) for Georgia. This tranche also includes €10 million in loans. The second tranche, amounting to €23 million, is planned to be disbursed in mid-2015. Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxations and Customs, said: "Europe is living up to its commitment. The EU is helping Georgia ease its financing constraints while supporting the government's economic reform agenda. We support Georgia's efforts to maintain macroeconomic stability while implementing growth-enhancing reforms and facilitating closer economic integration with the EU." The Macro-Financial Assistance programme is intended to strengthen Georgia's balance of payments and budgetary position and to support reforms aimed at reinforcing economic governance, increasing social inclusiveness and promoting closer economic integration with the EU. Please find the full press release here. (for more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Johannes Bahrke – Tel.: +32 229 58615).
Commission and Parliament Implement New Rules on Transparency Register
A new version of the EU Transparency Register is being launched today. This 'second generation' of the Register changes the requirements for registrants and improves the accessibility to the website for organisations seeking to register and for the general public. Since 25 November we have seen over 550 new organisations sign up to the register. There are now over 7500 organisations registered in total. A full press release is available here (for more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456).
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of New Britain Palm Oil by Sime Darby
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of New Britain Palm Oil of Papua New Guinea by Sime Darby of Malaysia. Both companies are active in the plantation, production and processing of palm oil. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given particularly the parties' geographic complementarity within the EU and the presence of other suppliers of palm oil products. The operation was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7417. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100).
Mergers: The Commission clears acquisition of joint control over PT Hitachi Construction Machinery Finance Indonesia by Hitachi Group and Itochu Group
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over PT Hitachi Construction Machinery Finance Indonesia (the “joint venture”), by Hitachi Group of Japan and Itochu Corporation of Japan (“Itochu Group”). Hitachi Group manufactures construction machinery with a focus on hydraulic excavators and sells wheel loaders and off-road dump trucks worldwide. Itochu Group trades globally goods in various industries such as textile, machinery, energy, etc. and is also active in insurance, logistics services, construction and finance. The joint venture provides financial services to end-customers and dealers in relation to the purchase of construction machineries and trucks in Indonesia. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns because the joint venture has no activities in the European Economic Area (EEA). 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.7469. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100)
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over NYK Ports by Macquarie Infrastructure and NYK Americas
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over NYK Ports LCC of Japan by Macquarie Infrastructure Partners III, L.P. and NYK Group Americas Inc., both of the United States. Macquarie Infrastructure is a fund investing mainly in infrastructure in the United States and Canada. NYK Americas offers marine transportation and global logistics services in North America. NYK Ports is a terminal operator providing stevedoring services in the United States and Canada. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, in particular because NYK Ports has no activities in the European Economic Area (EEA). 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.7427. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100)
State aid: Commission approves prolongation of Polish bank guarantee scheme
The European Commission has authorised under EU state aid rules a prolongation of the Polish bank guarantee scheme until 30 June 2015. The scheme covers guarantees and other liquidity support measures in favour of different types of solvent credit institutions in Poland. It was initially approved in September 2009 and prolonged several times, last time in July 2014. In February 2012, the pricing conditions of the scheme were brought in line with the requirements of the Commission's 2011 Communication on state aid to banks during the crisis. Other conditions of the original scheme remain unchanged. The Commission found the prolongation of the scheme to be in line with its guidelines on state aid to banks during the crisis because it is well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. During the application of the extraordinary crisis rules for state aid to banks, the Commission is authorising guarantee schemes on banks’ liabilities for periods of six months in order to be able to monitor developments and adjust conditions accordingly. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register, under the case number SA.40480. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)
State aid: Commission approves prolongation of Polish credit union resolution scheme
The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, the prolongation of the Polish credit union resolution scheme until 30 June 2015. The Commission found the prolongation of the scheme, initially approved on 18 February 2014, to be in line with its guidelines on state aid to banks during the crisis. In particular, the prolonged measures are well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. More information is available on the Commission's competition website in the public case register under the case number SA.40096. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)
European Commission and South Korea agree to an equivalence agreement on organic trade
The European Commission and the Republic of Korea have announced that, from 1 February 2015, processed organic products certified in Europe or in South Korea may be sold as organic in either region. Until now a separate certification procedure has been necessary. Welcoming today’s announcement, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan stated: “The organics sector continues to be one of the most dynamic production sectors in EU agriculture, and the Republic of Korea is an important growing market. This agreement will cut red tape, especially for Small & Medium-Sized Enterprises and therefore make it easier for European producers to export, thereby stimulating growth and jobs. This is good news for over 200 000 organic farmers in the European Union, as well as for the tens of thousands of businesses in this sector.” By removing this requirement for two separate certificates, with the additional fees, inspections and paperwork that this entails, organic producers gain easier access to two major markets in organic products with a combined value of more than 23 billion Euro and 550 million consumers increasingly seeking organic foods. More information: Organic Farming and FAQ. (for more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel: +32 229 56185)
Pesticides: Experts endorse new EU list of candidates for substitution
A Commission proposal to establish an EU list of 77 candidates for substitution was today endorsed by EU Member State experts. Candidates for substitution (CfS) are pesticides for which national authorities need to carry out an assessment to establish whether more favourable alternatives to using the plant protection product exist, including non-chemical methods. The aim is to encourage more sustainable crop protection. This new list is the result of a comprehensive review of the active substances which are currently on the market and extensive consultation with stakeholders. It is based on an independent study tasked by the Commission. The study contains a comprehensive analysis of all active substance on the market on 31 January 2013. The findings of the study provided a solid evidential basis for the listing of an active substance as a CfS in a comprehensive database that will be updated on a regular basis. The list is neither to be misconstrued as a list of banned substances, nor as a ranking of CfS. All active substances featuring on the list will still be available on the market and are deemed safe, but could be substituted in time when a viable alternative is made available. Approval periods for CfS are limited to a maximum of 7 years. However, current approval periods will not be affected. Read the press release. More information is available online. (for more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Aikaterini Apostola – Tel. +32 229 87624)
Commissioner Moscovici welcomes the adoption of measures against tax evasion and aggressive tax planning
The European Commission has welcomed the Council’s adoption of an anti-abuse clause in the Parent Subsidiary Directive today, marking an important step in the EU’s fight on tax evasion and avoidance. The revision of the Directive is part of an Action Plan to respond more effectively to aggressive tax planning and tax evasion, which was presented by the Commission in 2012. As certain companies have exploited provisions in the Directive and mismatches between national tax rules to avoid being taxed at all in any Member State, the Commission proposed to close these loopholes. The new 'de minimis' anti-abuse clause has now been formally adopted by the Council. ”With the Council's adoption of the anti-abuse clause of the Parent Subsidiary Directive today, the European Union is living up to its pledge of tackling tax evasion and aggressive tax planning. Today, we are building on the existing EU legislative framework to ensure a level-playing field for honest businesses in the EU's Single Market and we are closing down loopholes that could be exploited for aggressive tax planning. This achievement paves the way for other measures in this area. In particular, we are committed to extending the automatic exchange of information on tax rulings and we will present a legal proposal by Spring 2015," said Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said in a statement. (for more information: Vanessa Mock – Tel.:+32 229 56194)
EU reconfirms its commitment towards children's vaccinations
EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, will today attend the GAVI Alliance conference – a non-profit organisation focused on saving children's lives and protecting people's health by increasing access to immunisation in poor countries. The event, which takes place in Berlin, is designed to help GAVI gather the necessary funds to be able to immunise another 300 million children. The EU has pledged an amount of €200 million for the period 2016-2020 to support this goal, which is more than double the amount committed in the previous period. Commissioner Mimica will participate in the afternoon session ‘pledging to reach every child’ where he will highlight the potential of vaccination for saving the lives of children (the conference will be web-streamed here). EU support for GAVI complements the efforts done to strengthen health systems in our partner countries, since health is one of EU priorities in order to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth. (for more information: Catherine Ray - Tel.: +32 229 69921; Sharon Zarb - Tel.: +32 229 92256)
Commissioners Stylianides and Hahn visit Jordan and Lebanon
On 28-31 January Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides, and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn will pay a joint visit to Jordan and Lebanon. Currently, Lebanon and Jordan are hosting together the largest number of Syrian refugees in the region. Commissioners Stylianides and Hahn will meet with representatives of the Jordanian and Lebanese governments, the UN and NGOs to discuss the challenges faced by host communities and the worsening situation for refugees. While Commissioner Stylianides plans to also visit refugee camps and humanitarian projects, Commissioner Hahn will have a number of meetings with interlocutors in the context of the broader bi-lateral co-operation between the countries and the European Union. (for more information: Catherine Ray - Tel.: +32 229 6992; Irina Novakova – Tel.: + 32 2 295 75 17; Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 2 296 64 30)