Cohesion Policy: Commission commits more than 66 billion euro to promote economic development across Europe
The European Commission has adopted today 40 new programmes under the European Cohesion Policy to support economic development and social cohesion across the European Union. An additional 10 programmes will be adopted before the end of this month. Together, these 50 programmes will be worth more than 66 billion euro. With these decisions, 266 Cohesion Policy programmes, worth more than 256 billion euro, have now been approved for the 2014-2020 budgetary period. These programmes are vital, performance-guided investments that have an important impact on people's everyday life. They help boost economic competitiveness, enhance research and innovation, promote entrepreneurship, tackle unemployment, fight social exclusion and support the shift towards a low-carbon economy in Europe. The Commission will adopt the remaining programmes as soon as possible. With a budget of 351,8 billion euro for a total of 387 programmes for the period 2014-2020, the European Structural Funds are the EU's main investment policy. A full press release is available here. (for more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595, Christian Wigand – Tel.:+32 229 62253, Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169, Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764)
18 further Rural Development Programmes get green light
The European Commission has today approved a further 18 Rural Development Programmes (RDPs) aimed at improving the competitiveness of the EU farming sector, caring for the countryside and climate, and strengthening the economic and social fabric of rural communities in the period until 2020. Taken together, the RDPs for Belgium (Flanders), Estonia, Finland (Åland), France (National Rural Network Programme, Mayotte), Germany (Bavaria, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Nordrhein-Westfalen), Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal (Azores, Madeira), Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (National Framework) and United Kingdom (England) offer funding worth 14,3 billion EUR from the EU budget, which will be co-financed by further public funding at national/regional level and/or private funds. Welcoming today's decisions, EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan said: "Boosting the knowledge base of our farm sector is an important aspect of the RDPs. I am pleased to confirm that the 18 programmes adopted today will, together, provide more than one million places on training courses." A press release and all country factsheets are available online. (for more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel: +32 229 56 185; Clémence Robin – Tel: +32 229 52 509)
EU Council backs European Commission proposal to fight against the manipulation of financial benchmarks
The EU has today taken a further step towards restoring public trust in financial benchmarks in the wake of recent scandals over the manipulation of the LIBOR (London interbank offered rate) and EURIBOR (Euro Interbank Offered Rate) benchmarks. In a move welcomed by the European Commission, the Council has given its backing to new proposed rules to enhance the robustness and reliability of benchmarks, which are used in financial instruments (e.g. bonds, shares, futures or swaps) and financial contracts (e.g. mortgages or consumer contracts) in the EU. "Manipulating benchmarks amounts to stealing from investors and consumers and undermines confidence in markets. I welcome the backing given by the Council today. The proposed regulation will ensure that we have benchmarks that are robust, reliable and representative," said Jonathan Hill, Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union. A full press release is available here. (for more information: Vanessa Mock – Tel: + 32 2 295 61 94; Maud Scelo – Tel: + 32 2 298 15 21)
State aid: Commission approves reintroduction of Danish bank support schemes
The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, the reintroduction until 30 June 2015 of a Danish scheme for the winding-up of banks, which includes a compensation scheme and two other mechanisms facilitating the sale of failing banks. The measures aim to enable market-based solutions for banks in difficulties, either via an orderly winding-down or by a sale through a competitive process. The Commission considered that the measures are limited in time and scope, ensure adequate burden-sharing and contain safeguards to avoid undue distortions of competition. The Commission therefore concluded that they were compatible with the guidelines on state aid to banks during the crisis. The Commission initially approved the winding-up scheme in September 2010. It was amended in August 2011, introducing a compensation scheme, and in December 2011, introducing two further mechanisms to support the sale of ailing banks. It was last prolonged in January 2014 until 30 June 2014. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register, under the case number SA.40029. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren - +32 229 94889)
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of telecom infrastructure operator TDF by Brookfield
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of TDF S.A.S. of France by Brookfield Infrastructure Fund GP II LLC of the United States. TDF provides over-the-air and wireless services to broadcasters and telecom operators. It also owns and operates terrestrial infrastructure used for the transmission of TV, radio, and telecom signals. Brookfield is active in asset management with investments in property, renewable power and infrastructure assets. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, in particular because there is no overlap between the companies' activities. 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.7481 (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso +32 229 80100).
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Paroc by CVC
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Paroc of Finland by CVC Capital Partners of Luxembourg. Paroc produces mineral wool insulation materials. CVC is a private equity group. There are no overlaps between the activities of Paroc and CVC or any of its portfolio companies. However, CVC controls Ahlsell, a distributor of installation products, including mineral wool insulation products. The Commission concluded that the resulting link between Paroc and Ahlsell would not raise competition concerns because Paroc's competitors would still have a sufficient number of alternative distributors and Ahlsell's competitors would still have a sufficient number of alternative suppliers of insulation products after the acquisition. 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.7457 (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso +32 229 80100).
Eurostat: Flash estimate for the fourth quarter of 2014; GDP up by 0.3% in the euro area and by 0.4% in the EU28
Seasonally adjusted GDP rose by 0.3% in the euro area (EA18) and by 0.4% in the EU28 during the fourth quarter of 2014, compared with the previous quarter, according to flash estimates published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In the third quarter of 2014, GDP grew by 0.2% in the euro area and by 0.3% in the EU28. Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, seasonally adjusted GDP rose by 0.9% in the euro area and by 1.3% in the EU28 in the fourth quarter of 2014, after +0.8% and +1.3% respectively in the previous quarter. During the fourth quarter of 2014, GDP in the United States increased by 0.7% compared with the previous quarter (after +1.2% in the third quarter of 2014). Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, GDP grew by 2.5% (after +2.7% in the previous quarter). Over the whole year 20143, GDP rose by 0.9% in the euro area and by 1.4% in the EU28. A Eurostat press release is available online. (for more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Annikky Lamp – Tel.: +32 229 56151)
Commissioners' weekly activities
Upcoming Commission activities for the weeks ahead