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European Commission - Daily News

Daily News 10 / 12 / 2015

Brussels, 10 December 2015

The December infringements package: Commission acts for full, proper and timely implementation of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses

To help citizens and businesses benefit fully from the internal market, the European Commission continuously engages with and, if necessary, initiates infringement procedures against Member States which do not respect European law. The European Commission also closes pending cases where the Member State concerned, in cooperation with the Commission, has solved the problem and ensured compliance with EU law, thus rendering a referral to the Court of Justice of the EU unnecessary. This month, as part of its monthly package of infringement decisions, the Commission took a number of decisions (including 4 letters of formal notice accompanied by a press release, 34 reasoned opinions, 9 referrals to the Court of Justice of the EU, and 83 closures). Notably, the Commission has formally requested Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Sweden to fully implement the Deposit Guarantee Schemes' Directive – a step towards a fully-fledged Banking Union, and a pre-condition for the future use, by Member States within the Banking Union, of the European Deposit Insurance Scheme proposed by the Commission (see IP/15/6152). With regards to the Common European Asylum System, the Commission has urged Greece, Croatia, and Italy to correctly implement the Eurodac Regulation, and has requested that Greece and Malta communicate on their national measures taken to fully transpose the Asylum Procedures Directive and the Reception Conditions Directive. Finally, the Commission decided to refer 5 Member States to the Court of Justice of the EU in a number of other areas covering environment (Greece and Poland), Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (Austria and Germany), Mobility and Transport (Austria, Germany, Finland, and Poland), and Health and Food Safety - Poland. A summary of the key decisions as well as the contact details of the relevant Spokespersons and the corresponding press releases can be found in the fact sheet. On the general EU infringement procedure, a memo is also available here. (For more information: Alexander Winterstein - Tel.: +32 229 93265; Uldis Šalajevs – Tel.: +32 229 67560)

 

Giving Europeans more choice in financial services: the European Commission consults

The European Commission is today launching the Green Paper on Consumer Finance, a three-month consultation on how to create a stronger European market for consumer financial services. Consumer financial services such as bank accounts, mortgages and insurance are an essential part of daily life. But many people find it hard to access these services across borders; and many businesses find it hard to provide them. The Commission's goal is to make it easier for those companies that so wish to offer financial products at the retail level in other EU Member States, which would give consumers access to a far greater range of products. People should also be able to take those products with them if they move to another EU country to work, study or retire. Jonathan Hill said: "Financial products like bank accounts, mortgages and insurance are hugely important in the daily lives of millions of Europeans. But people often miss out on the best deals, or pay over the odds because of the barriers that exist in the European market. In this, as in other areas, the single market can bring benefits by helping consumers enjoy more competition and pick from the best that Europe has to offer. I hope that citizens and businesses will respond to this consultation to share their experiences and suggest how we can best tackle these barriers."In parallel to the consultation, the Commission is seeking feedback via social media. People can post a short video setting out the problems have faced accessing financial services across Europe, with the hashtag #MyMoneyEU. More details here. Commissioner Hill's press conference on the Green Paper can be followed live on EbS. To read the full press release, see here. (For more information: Vanessa Mock – Tel.: + 32 229 56194; Patrick McCullough - Tel.: + 32 229 87183)

 

Refugee Crisis: New €13 million in humanitarian aid for refugees in Western Balkans

The European Commission is to release further emergency humanitarian aid of €13 million, aimed at supporting refugees along the Western Balkans route. The support will principally go to refugees in Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. "Given the harsh winter conditions many refugees are facing along the Western Balkans route, this additional humanitarian aid will provide people in need with key essentials such as temporary shelter, food, health, water and sanitation. It will help reduce the pressure on the over-stretched capacities of the most affected countries", said EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides. The funding will top up humanitarian aid already provided to the Western Balkans in 2015. With today's announcement, total EU humanitarian aid to the Western Balkans now stands at €21.74 million. Read more in the press release here. (For more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 229 69921; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)


Investment Plan for Europe: EIF and iwoca sign €60 million deal to support over 3000 small businesses in the UK

The European Investment Fund (EIF) and iwoca have signed their first COSME agreement in the UK to help over 3000 small businesses gain access to finance. The initiative benefits from the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) – the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe. The guarantee scheme will allow iwoca to lend £40 million (€60 million) to over 3,000 small businesses in the UK. iwoca's technology-driven risk platform automatically analyses thousands of data points for each application, allowing a business to get approved for up to £100,000 within hours. EU Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, said: “Thanks to EU funding, more than 3,000 SMEs in the UK will be able to access £40 million in funding through new loans. I am very pleased to see that the Investment Plan for Europe is becoming a reality on the ground, creating new jobs and benefiting small businesses”. (For more information see press release or contact Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Siobhán Millbright – Tel.: + 32 229 57361)

 

UN climate conference: EU-led ambition coalition growing stronger

The European Union has been building a strong coalition of developed and developing countries from Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific and Latin America sharing the highest level of ambition in the international climate talks. The recent announcement of the alliance between the European Union and 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States is the concrete result of the long-standing European coalition-building work, see IP/15/6273. Furthermore, the European Union welcomes the announcement by the United States of America government that it is joining the European Union and many of its long-standing partners in this ambition coalition. The EU's chief negotiator to the Paris talks, EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: "The ambition coalition led by the European Union is growing stronger. After yesterday's game changer announcement, our call to other players has been heard. The EU has built a strong alliance that represents more than 100 countries and the majority of parties at the UN climate talks. We are both developed and developing countries, big and small, rich and poor, and will not accept an agreement that is not fit for purpose. In the remaining hours of these negotiations together we will push to strike the most ambitious global climate deal." The Paris climate conference, scheduled to run from 30 November to 11 December, is due to conclude a new international agreement to limit global average temperature rise and avoid the most dangerous consequences of climate change. Listen to recorded statements by Miguel Arias Cañete and #HighAmbitionCoalition. (For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - Tel.: +32 229 56186; Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)


 Aviation: Commission updates the EU Air Safety List

Only days after the adoption of a new Aviation Strategy for Europe, the European Commission has today updated the EU Air Safety List, the list of airlines that are subject to an operating ban or operational restrictions within the European Union. Kazakh carrier Air Astana is released from the list while Iraqi Airways is added. EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: "Offering the highest level of air safety to European citizens is a priority of the Commission. On Monday we updated the EU's safety rules as part of the Aviation Strategy and today we are updating the EU's Air Safety List. I am satisfied that we were able to clear Air Astana after six years of work. In the interest of European citizens, we are however forced to maintain other Kazakh carriers on the list and to add Iraqi Airways". A press release is available in EN, FR and DE. (For more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Alexis Perier - Tel.: +32 229 69143)

 

Romania and Hungary: €189 million of EU funds for increased cross-border cooperation

Yesterday the Commission adopted a new cross-border cooperation programme between Romania and Hungary worth €231.8 million, with €189.1 million coming from the European Regional Development Fund. Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu said: "I am very glad to have adopted this programme. It means further support will be provided to Romanian and Hungarian people so they can continue working together to create new opportunities in the region. Investments under this programme will have a positive and tangible impact on the economic competitiveness of the border region, on job creations, but also on the quality of people's everyday lives." The main objectives of this programme are to increase employment and cross-border labour mobility, enable joint economic growth and enhance cooperation in the prevention of natural risks. The programme also aims at regenerating deprived rural and urban areas and improving cross-border health care services. The descriptions of the 2014-2020 programmes are available on Commissioner Crețu's webpage and on the Inforegio website. (For more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)

 

Meuse-Rhine Euroregion: adoption of a new cross-border cooperation programme

The Commission adopted yesterday the "Interreg" programme for the Meuse-Rhine Euregion, covering the border region of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. It is worth €140 million, with €96 million coming from the European Regional Development Fund. These countries have a long history of intense cross-border cooperation. The five partner-regions - Limburg in the Netherlands, Limburg, Liège and the German-speaking Community in Belgium, and Aachen in Germany - founded this entity in 1976, which makes it one of the oldest Euroregions. The descriptions of the 2014-2020 programmes are available on Commissioner Crețu's webpage and on the Inforegio website. (For more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)

 

Commission proposes new rules to improve transparency and monitoring of EU fleet fishing internationally

Today, the Commission proposed a new system to grant and manage fishing authorisations, allowing authorities to better monitor both EU vessels fishing outside Union waters and international vessels fishing in our own waters. Monitoring the activities of the EU fishing fleet, wherever they are, is crucial to promote sustainable fishing and combat illegal operations. The proposal forms part of the implementation of the new Common Fisheries Policy, which requires EU vessels fishing inside or outside the EU to be subject to the same rules and standards. EU vessels will not be able to fish in third country waters or in the high sea unless they have been previously authorised by their flag Member State, i.e. the state under whose laws the vessel is registered or licensed. To obtain authorisation, they will have to show that they comply with a set of criteria that the EU considers essential – for instance that they have an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number and a valid fishing license, and have not been found guilty of infringements. A press release and memo are available online. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Iris Petsa – Tel.: +32 229 93321)

 

Antitrust: Commission accepts commitments by Bulgarian Energy Holding to open up Bulgarian wholesale electricity market

The European Commission has adopted a decision that renders legally binding the commitments offered by Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) to end competition restrictions on Bulgaria's wholesale electricity market. Commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager, said: "Territorial restrictions that divide energy markets along national lines prevent us from achieving a true European Energy Union. Today's decision will end these restrictions in Bulgaria and make the Bulgarian wholesale electricity market more open and transparent." The Commission had concerns that BEH may have abused its dominant position on the market for the wholesale supply of electricity at non-regulated prices. BEH has offered commitments that will make it easier to trade electricity, improve price transparency and help connecting Bulgarian wholesale electricity market with neighbouring countries. The Commission is satisfied that the commitments offered by BEH will address its competition concerns. A full press release is available in EN, FR, DE and BG. More information, including the full non-confidential version of the commitments, will be made available on the Commission's competition website in the public case register under case number 39767, once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)

 

Eurostat: More than 410 000 first time asylum seekers registered in the third quarter of 2015

During the third quarter of 2015 (from July to September 2015), 413 800 first time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the Member States of the European Union (EU), a number almost double that of the second quarter of 2015. During the third quarter of 2015, the number of Syrians and Iraqis seeking international protection has more than tripled compared with the previous quarter to reach almost 138 000 and 44 500 respectively; while the number of Afghans has doubled to more than 56 500. They represent the three main citizenships of first time asylum applicants in the EU Member States over the third quarter 2015, accounting for more than half of all first time applicants. A Eurostat press release is available here. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 80423)


 

STATEMENTS

EU opens door of financing for SMEs shifting to the circular economy

This morning at the European Investment Bank's conference 'Financing the Circular Economy', EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, presented some instruments to facilitate access to credit for businesses, in particular for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), shifting to the circular economy model. The European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the Ministry of Economy of Luxembourg signed an amendment to the InnovFin Delegation Agreement that will enable higher-risk, yet innovative sustainable business models to access credit through InnovFin - an EU finance support programme under Horizon 2020, a framework programme on Research and Innovation under the responsibility of Commissioner Moedas. Commissioner Vella highlighted: "Today's event is all about making real changes on the ground. We want to give businesses more certainties when they innovate. New ideas also mean taking risks. The EU will help companies take the innovative risks needed to make real breakthroughs with more durable, repairable and more resource-efficient products". His full speech is available online as well as video coverage of the conference. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Iris Petsa – Tel.: +32 229 93321)


 Vice-President Ansip speaks about digital industry and participates in a Citizens' Dialogue in Germany

Vice-President Ansip, in charge of the Digital Single Market, is today in Berlin, Germany, to discuss European digital priorities with German citizens and companies. This morning, he spoke at the annual conference of Bitkom – the Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media. He said: "There will be no Industry 4.0 if we do not create the right conditions for investment, innovation and digital growth. This is where the plan for building a Digital Single Market comes in. It is our blueprint for digitising European industry. It addresses areas vital for industry's digital transformation: the free flow of data, technical standards, interoperability, platforms, broadband, could computing." He added: "Traditional industry must be open to startups. Industry must learn that nurturing and buying startups is an efficient innovation strategy" (full speech can be found here). This afternoon, Vice-President Ansip will participate in a Citizens' Dialogue to discuss why Europe needs to be fit for the digital age (the debate will be livestreamed here at 13:00 CET). (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Marie Frenay - Tel.: +32 229 64532)

 

Commissioner Bieńkowska speaks about autonomous driving and the future of the car industry

This afternoon Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, will deliver a closing speech at the Seminar on Autonomous Driving held by the Forum for Mobility and Society. Commissioner Bieńkowska will say: "Since the Volkswagen fraud case emerged all eyes are on the automotive industry. It has highlighted the need for rapid regulatory reform and stronger enforcement action at all levels. We have taken determined action to introduce the most robust emissions testing procedures in the world. And early next year, we will present proposals to improve the overall system that allows cars to be placed on the market. But we should not lose sight of what the automotive industry can do for society. Our consumers must come first! This event focuses our attention back on the long-term trends and opportunities. Autonomous driving will redefine the car industry in the future." The event coincides with the launch of the new High Level Group on Automotive Industry ‘GEAR 2030’. The composition of the group is being finalised on the basis of open applications and should include representatives of the car industry, consumers, trade unions, NGOs, ICT associations and academia. GEAR 2030 will be invited to develop recommendations to reinforce the competitiveness of the European automotive value chain and proposea work plan for the smooth rollout of autonomous vehicles. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Heli Pietila – Tel.: +32 22964950)

 

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva discusses the EU budget in the Czech Republic

European Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva is paying an official visit to the Czech Republic on 10 and 11 December. She is meeting with the Prime Minister Mr Bohuslav Sobotka, Mr Andrej Babiš, First Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, members of the Czech Parliament dealing with EU affairs and Budget issues and representatives of business organisations and NGOs. The topics she will discuss cover current challenges the EU is facing and improving the way the EU budget is spent under the EU budget focused on results initiative (information in CS is here). Vice-President Georgieva is also speaking at the University of Economics in Prague. (For more information: Alexander Winterstein - Tel.: +32 229 93265; Andreana Stankova – Tel.: +32 229 57857)

 

Vice-President Šefčovič and Commissioner Bulc represent the Commission at the Transport Council

Vice-President for the Energy-Union Maroš Šefčovič and Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc represent the Commission at today's Transport Council in Brussels. Commissioner Bulc will debate with and gather views from the Ministers on social aspects of road transport. The objective is to assess whether the existing social legislation applicable to the sector needs clarification and to discuss what could be done in order to better enforce existing rules. The Commissioner will also present the Aviation Strategy, adopted by the College on 7 December. Other points at the agenda include a presentation by the Dutch Minister of the work programme of the incoming Dutch Presidency and a debate on road safety. Vice-President Šefčovič will join the Council for a presentation of the Report on the State of the Energy-Union. (For more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Alexis Perier - Tel.: +32 229 69143)

 

Commissioner Oettinger discusses Digital Single Market plans in the UK

Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, is today in London to discuss how the EU and the UK can make the most of digital opportunities. This morning, the Commissioner spoke at the plenary meeting of the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) where he focused on future connectivity needs and the ongoing review of the EU's telecoms rulebook, one of the cornerstones of the Commission's plans for the Digital Single Market. He also met Sharon White, Chief Executive of the UK communications regulator (OFCOM) to discuss EU telecoms and audiovisual media rules. This afternoon, Commissioner Oettinger will meet Ed Vaizey, UK Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, to discuss topics related to the Digital Single Market including the Commission and the UK's respective assessments of online platforms. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Marie Frenay - Tel.: +32 229 64532)

MEX/15/6292


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