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European Commission - Daily News

Daily News 16/12/15

Brussels, 16 December 2015

President Juncker addresses the European Parliament on preparations for the European Council and calls for swift adoption of the new package on external borders

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, today set out at the European Parliament plenary what can be expected at this week's European Council (17-18 December). Setting out the comprehensive package of measures to strengthen the European Union's external borders that the Commission adopted yesterday, President Juncker said, "We want to defend everything that Schengen represents, and as we prepare for a new year, our determination is stronger than ever. So let me tell you: Schengen is here to stay." In its latest response to the refugee crisis, the Commission is proposing a new European Border and Coast Guard. "We Europeans no longer have many borders – we have one and we have a shared responsibility to protect it," said President Juncker. Underlining the principle of shared responsibility, the President made it clear that "Member States will continue to keep their competence and sovereignty on their borders. They will continue to manage the external border day to day. The European Border and Coast Guard will assess migratory flows across the whole of the Union, identify our weak spots, and require Member States to take action when needed. Member States will be able to request joint operations and rapid border interventions. But where urgent problems persist and no action is taken, the Commission will assume its responsibility for the system as a whole and take together with the Member States appropriate decisions for the European Border and Coast Guard to intervene. If there is a serious problem at our external border, we cannot stand aside and do nothing. We have to act." President Juncker called on the European Parliament and Council to treat the proposals as a matter of urgency. The President's speech can be found here. (For more information: Margaritis Schinas – Tel.: +32 229 60524; Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456)


Refugee Crisis: Commission Presents Borders Package, Adopts Progress Reports on Migration in Greece, Italy and the Western Balkans, and Proposes Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme with Turkey

Yesterday, the European Commission has adopted a substantial package of new measures setting out a common approach to managing Europe's external borders and preserving the security of the internal Schengen area of free movement. The Commission has also reported on progress made by Greece and Italy in implementing the Hotspot system, and the steps taken by countries on the Western Balkans' route following October's Leaders Meeting. The Commission has also proposed a temporary suspension of Sweden's obligations under the EU relocation scheme. Finally, the Commission has proposed a voluntary humanitarian admission scheme with Turkey. European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "In an area of free movement without internal borders, managing Europe’s external borders must be a shared responsibility. The crisis has exposed clear weaknesses and gaps in existing mechanisms aimed at making sure that EU standards are upheld. Therefore, it is now time to move to a truly integrated system of border management." European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos added: "The current migration and security challenges know no borders, and require a truly European approach. Where Frontex used to be limited to supporting Member States in managing their external borders, the new Border Agency will go beyond this. What we are creating today is more Europe: to manage our external borders, to step up returns of irregular migrants, to allow our asylum system to function properly for those in need and to strengthen checks at the external borders of the European Union." A recording of First Vice-President Timmermans' and Commissioner Avramopoulos' press conference can be found here. (For more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382; Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Tim McPhie – Tel.: +32 229 58602; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 80423)


Commission confirms and welcomes the participation of Ireland in the EU relocation scheme

The Commission has today confirmed the participation of Ireland in the EU relocation scheme. In line with its 'opt in' under the Lisbon Treaty, Ireland notified the Commission on 6 October of its wish to participate in this Council Decision and to relocate 600 applicants for international protection from Italy and Greece. In accordance with the Treaty provisions, the Commission has today confirmed that the Council Decision now applies to Ireland. Relocations to Ireland can start immediately. On 14 September 2015, the Council adopted a Decision to implement a European relocation scheme for 40,000 applicants for international protection, following a Commission proposal to support Italy and Greece in coping with the extraordinary arrivals they were facing. The Relocation Scheme is accessible to persons who arrive on the territory of Italy and Greece from 15 August 2015 until 16 September 2017, from nationalities whose average asylum acceptance rate is over 75%. At the time the Decision was taken this concerned Syrians and Eritreans. It now also concerns Iraqis. For more information on relocation and the state of play of on-going relocations, see here. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 80423)


Agreement on Commission's EU data protection reform will boost Digital Single Market

Yesterday, an agreement was found on the European Commission's EU Data Protection Reform with the European Parliament and the Council, following final negotiations between the three institutions (so-called 'trilogue' meetings).More than 90% of Europeans say they want the same data protection rights across the EU – and regardless of where their data is processed: this will soon be a reality. The Reform package will put an end to the patchwork of data protection rules that currently exists in the EU. Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, welcomed the agreement: "The agreement is a major step towards a Digital Single Market. It will remove barriers and unlock opportunities. The digital future of Europe can only be built on trust. With solid common standards for data protection, people can be sure they are in control of their personal information. We should not see privacy and data protection as holding back economic activities. They are, in fact, an essential competitive advantage. Today's agreement builds a strong basis to help Europe develop innovative digital services." An agreement was first reached on the General Data Protection Regulation, which will enable people to better control their personal data and allow businesses to make the most of the opportunities of the Digital Single Market by cutting red tape and benefiting from reinforced consumer trust. Another deal was struck on theData Protection Directive for the police and criminal justice sector which ensures that the data of victims, witnesses or suspects of crimes, are duly protected in the context of a criminal investigation or a law enforcement action. These harmonised rules will at the same time facilitate cross-border cooperation of police or prosecutors to combat crime and terrorism more effectively across Europe. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality added: "Today we deliver on the promise of the Juncker Commission to finalise data protection reform in 2015. These new pan-European rules are good for citizens and good for businesses. Citizens and businesses will profit from clear rules that are fit for the digital age, that give strong protection and at the same time create opportunities and encourage innovation in a European Digital Single Market. And harmonised data protection rules for police and criminal justice authorities will ease law enforcement cooperation between Member States based on mutual trust, contributing to the European Agenda for Security." See press release here. (For more information: Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253; Melanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)


EU announces new decisions to better manage migration and to address the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement

The European Commission has today announced a total of 16 actions worth almost €300 million to address the root causes of irregular migration and displacement, and to increase the positive impact of migration on the economic and social development in countries of origin, transit and destination of migratory flows. This includes a package of 10 actions for an amount of €253 million in the Horn of Africa, decided today by the first Operational Committee meeting of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, set-up at record speed to respond to the challenges of instability, irregular migration and forced displacement. Further Operational Committee meetings will be held as of the beginning of 2016 to decide on new actions. EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said: "The adoption of the five-pillar action plan at the Valletta Summit on migration was a major first step towards a renewed partnership with African countries to address migration, mobility and forced displacement through concrete action. Today we are taking the second step, showing the real work has started. The fast-tracked approval of today's new projects proves that this is not business as usual". A press release and two factsheets are available. (For more information: Alexandre Polack - Tel.: +32 229 90677; Sharon Zarb – Tel.: +32 229 92256)


Record EU humanitarian budget adopted for 2016

The European Commission has today adopted its humanitarian aid budget for 2016. With nearly €1.1 billion as an initial allocation, it is the highest EU humanitarian budget for life-saving relief in man-made and natural disasters to date. The record budget comes as global humanitarian needs are increasing due to the growing number of refugees and displaced persons as a result of armed conflict, the increasing impact of natural disasters, climate change and the economic crisis. The delivery of aid and access to beneficiaries has also become more dangerous. "Next year we'll have a record budget due to tragically high levels of needs. The EU will continue to play its role to address the needs of the most vulnerable and can be proud to remain among the leading global donors of humanitarian assistance in 2016. At the same, I call on other donors to step up their commitments. From the refugee crisis to the impact of natural disasters, a stronger global response is needed." said Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. The 2016 humanitarian budget will address the external dimension of the refugee crisis in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, the Western Balkans and Iraq. It will also assist people affected by other conflicts, such as in South Sudan and Ukraine, and it will address the needs of communities affected by complex and recurring crisis in the Sahel region and Lake Chad Basin. The funding will also help vulnerable people caught up in many of the world's 'forgotten crises', such as to displaced people in Colombia, Myanmar and Afghanistan, which otherwise escape the attention of the international community. Read more in the press release here. (For more information: Alexandre Polack – Tel.: +32 229 90677; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)


Making progress on better regulation: Commission endorses better law-making deal and appoints REFIT Platform members

On 15 December, the Commission endorsed a new Inter-institutional Agreement (IIA) on Better Law-Making with the European Parliament and Council to improve the quality and the results of European legislation. The agreement will enter into force once approved by all three institutions. The Commission has also approved today the appointment of the 18 members of the stakeholder group of the new REFIT Platform, an important tool to identify how existing laws might be improved with the help of those that have to comply with and benefit from them every day. These are important steps in implementing the Better Regulation for Better Results Communication that the Commission adopted in May 2015. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "The Commission is committed to change how we do business in Brussels, and these are two important steps. The three institutions are agreeing to focus their energy on joint priorities where European action is clearly needed, and to give just as much attention to reviewing and improving existing rules. The REFIT Platform's expertise will also help us to have an open, transparent and inclusive dialogue on how to best remove any unnecessary burdens and improve the quality of our laws." A press release and memo are available. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tim McPhie – Tel.: +32 229 58602)


Agreement on Commission's proposal to increase protection of children in criminal proceedings

Yesterday, an agreement was found with the European Parliament and the Council, following final negotiations between the three institutions (so-called 'trilogue' meetings), on the Commission's proposal to increase the protection of children in criminal proceedings. Commissioner Věra Jourová, EU's Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, welcomed the agreement: "Children need specific safeguards when facing criminal justice as they are particularly vulnerable. This proposal will better protect the 1 million children in the EU who are estimated to come into contact with police and judiciary every year. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights states that we must act in the child's best interests.Today’s breakthrough is an important step to better protect children and their rights if suspected or accused of a crime." The rules will make sure that children will in most cases be assisted by a lawyer. Children are also set to benefit from other safeguards such as being assisted by their parents (or other appropriate persons) or not being questioned in public hearings. Children will also have the right to an individual assessment to make sure that their specific needs concerning protection, education, training and social integration are taken into account. Finally, children should be detained separately from adult inmates, to prevent ill-treatment and abuse. More information can be found in the press release and here. (For more information: Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253; Melanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)


EU provides €30 million to support reform efforts in Armenia

The European Commission has announced a new support programme of €30 million to help Armenia provide better work opportunities to it citizens, strengthen the country's fiscal governance, and improve the participation of Armenia's civil society in the democratic decision making processes. Announcing the package, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, said: “This renewed support to our eastern neighbour will allow crucial reforms to take place. This is good news for Armenian citizens as these reforms, be it through better public services or increased job opportunities will benefit them directly.” A press release and a factsheet are available. (For more information: Maja Kocijancic - Tel.: +32 229 86570; Alceo Smerilli – Tel.: +32 229 64887)


Bringing candidate countries closer to the EU with cross-border cooperation: Commission adopts a programme for Italy, Albania and Montenegro

Yesterday the European Commission adopted the new cross-border cooperation programme for Italy, Montenegro and Albania, worth nearly €93 million, with almost €79 million coming from the European Regional Development Fund and the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). This is the last cross-border cooperation programme to be adopted in 2015. Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu said: "I am glad to have adopted this programme today: it is a perfect example of how the EU mobilises its resources to bring candidate countries closer to the EU. Our interreg programmes are known to be real European success stories, as they create a real sense of solidarity and belonging beyond borders." Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said: "This new cross-border cooperation programme contributes to pave the way for smart and sustainable economic development of the beneficiary area, which includes two candidate countries (Albania and Montenegro). The programme will support competitiveness of SME’s, environment protection and promotion of climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as the improvement of public infrastructure and transport." A press release is available here. (For more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570)


Ministers agree on fishing catch limits for 2016

EU ministers have reached an agreement on fishing opportunities for 2016 in the Atlantic, North Sea and Black Sea, following discussions at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 14 and 15 December. Karmenu Vella, the EU's Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, had presented the Commission's proposals to the Council and participated in the negotiations. Reacting to the outcome of the Council, Commissioner Vella said: "Our responsibility to our citizens and to the sector is to deliver on the objectives and ambitions of the Common Fisheries Policy. One of the fundamental objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy is that stocks are fished at a level that can keep them at maximum sustainable yield. We cannot jeopardise the longer term sustainability for the shorter term considerations. With this said, I am happy to announce that we have made good progress together with the Member States." The Commission's goal, and one of the pillars of the EU's reformed Common Fisheries Policy(CFP), is to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels by 2020 at the latest. Fishing at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) levels allows the fishing industry to take the highest amount of fish from the sea while keeping fish stocks healthy. Europe started in 2009 with only 5 Total Allowable Catches of stocks to MSY. Yesterday's agreement will bring 36 stocks to MSY in the North Sea, the Atlantic and the Baltic Sea and sets the foundation so that all stocks are fished at sustainable levels in the next two years. The CFP also aims to eliminate the wasteful practice of discards in EU fisheries by gradually introducing an obligation to land all catches. The agreement therefore includes so-called quota "top-ups" for some fisheries that will come under the landing obligation in 2016. Full remarks by Commissioner Vella at press conference can be found here. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Iris Petsa – Tel.: +32 229 93321)


Aviation: Commission adopts new rules on aircraft tracking

Only days after the adoption of the new Aviation Strategy and the update of the Air Safety List, today the Commission took further action to enhance air safety by adopting new rules on aircraft tracking. These rules, which cover flight recorders, underwater locating devices and aircraft tracking systems, aim to address the issues raised by the accident of Air France flight AF447 in June 2009 and the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in March 2014. EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: "For the general public, it is not understandable that aircrafts are not permanently tracked wherever they fly. The rules we adopted today aim to address this deficiency. They are also another concrete step to show that safety of European citizens is an absolute priority of the Commission." 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)


EU welcomes Liberia to the World Trade Organisation at the 10th Ministerial Conference in Nairobi

The European Commission welcomes the decision of the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to approve the accession of Liberia to the WTO. Once it will have ratified this decision, Liberia will become the 163rd Member of the WTO. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, who is present at the 10th Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Nairobi this week greeted the news saying: “The EU is very pleased to welcome Liberia - our partner in the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific group - as a new member of the WTO. This is a clear and tangible demonstration of our joint commitment to integrate the world's least developed countries into the global trading system.” More background information on Liberia’s accession is available here. In her statement at the plenary of the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference, Commissioner Malmström reminded that the EU has worked hard to make this conference a success and that a substantially different approach is needed if the WTO is to regain the central role it deserves in trade negotiations: “For the last two years we have worked intensively to set the stage for this Ministerial Conference. The European Union, as a strong and dedicated supporter of the multilateral system, is clearly worried by this situation. We have to deliver for the world's Least Developed Countries. The time has come to conclude this deal and there is no better place than Nairobi to do it.” The full speech as well as photo and video footage of Commissioner Malmström at the plenary is available online. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56 185; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184)


State aid: Commission approves restructuring aid to Hungarian bank MKB

The European Commission has concluded that Hungarian plans to grant state aid for the restructuring of Hungarian bank Magyar Kereskedelmi Bank Zrt (MKB) are in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the Commission found that MKB's restructuring plan will enable the bank to become viable in the long-term and ensured that the bank's owners contribute to the cost of restructuring while limiting the distortions of competition created by the aid. Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: "Today's decision is an important step for the restructuring of MKB. Once it has cleaned up its balance sheet, MKB can focus on lending to Hungarian businesses and retail clients, and follow its restructuring plan to become viable on its own in the long run." A full press release is online in EN, FR, DE and HU. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

Mergers: Commission clears Trafigura's acquisition of de facto sole control of Nyrstar

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of sole control of Nyrstar of Belgium by Trafigura of the Netherlands. Trafigura is one of the world’s leading independent commodity traders, specialising in oil, minerals and metals markets. Nyrstar is an integrated mining and metals business, with established positions in zinc and lead. The Commission has concluded that the proposed acquisition of control of Nyrstar by Trafigura would not raise competition concerns in the European Economic Area (EEA) market for zinc metal because the companies are not close competitors and alternative suppliers would remain active after the merger. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. Trafigura has been building up its stake in Nyrstar over time until reaching a level of around 20% that, on the basis of historical attendance rates of Nyrstar's shareholders' meetings, leads to control over a stable majority of votes. Therefore the transaction is deemed to be notifiable under EU merger rules. A full press release is online in EN, FR, DE and NL. More information is available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7779. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of Amlin by MS&AD in insurance sector

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Amlin plc of the United Kingdom by MS&AD Insurance Group of Japan, via its wholly owned subsidiary Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance. Both Amlin and MS&AD provide non-life insurance and reinsurance. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because either the overlaps between the companies' activities are not significant or the increment in market shares resulting from the transaction is very limited. The transaction was assessed 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.7803. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of SolarWinds by Thoma Bravo and Silver Lake Group

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of SolarWinds by Thoma Bravo and Silver Lake Group, all of the United States. Thoma Bravo and Silver Lake Group are both private equity firms. SolarWinds designs, develops and supplies enterprise-class information technology infrastructure management software to IT professionals to manage on-premise, hybrid cloud and public cloud environments. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, given the limited increase in market shares resulting from the merger and the presence of other strong competitors in the relevant markets. 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.7856. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)


EUROSTAT: Annual inflation up to 0.2% in the euro area

Euro area annual inflation was 0.2% in November2015, up from 0.1% in October. In November 2014 the rate was 0.3%. European Union annual inflation was 0.1% in November2015, up from 0.0% in October. A year earlier the rate was 0.3%. These figures come from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In November2015, negative annual rates were observed in twelve Member States. The lowest annual rates were registered in Cyprus (-1.5%), Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia (all -0.9%). The highest annual rates were recorded in Belgium (1.4%), Malta (1.3%) and Sweden (0.8%). Compared with October2015, annual inflation fell in ten Member States, remained stable in two and rose in fifteen. The largest upward impacts to euro area annual inflation came from vegetables and restaurants & cafés (both +0.10 percentage points) and fruit (+0.08 pp), while fuels for transport (-0.54 pp), heating oil (-0.21 pp) and gas (-0.10 pp) had the biggest downward impacts. A Eurostat press release can be found here. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Annikky Lamp – Tel.: +32 229 56151)


EUROSTAT: Euro area international trade in goods surplus €24.1 billion

The first estimate for euro area (EA19) exports of goods to the rest of the world in October 2015 was €181.1 billion, an increase of 1% compared with October 2014 (€180.1 billion). Imports from the rest of the world stood at €157.0 bn, nearly stable compared with October 2014 (€157.7 billion). As a result, the euro area recorded a €24.1 billion surplus in trade in goods with the rest of the world in October 2015, compared with +€22.4 billion in October 2014. Intra-euro area trade rose to €150.1 billion in October 2015, up by 1% compared with October 2014. A Eurostat press release can be found here. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184)




Commission strengthens top management: appoints new Director-General for DG Justice and Consumers, three Deputy Directors-General and a Director

The European Commission has appointed, as of 1 February 2016, Ms Tiina Astolaas Director-General for Justice and Consumers. As of today, Ms Sixtine Bouygues and Mr Margaritis Schinas will join the top management team of DG Communication as Deputy-Directors General. Finally, Ms Claire Bury will move across from DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs to become Deputy Director-General of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology as of 1 January 2016. All four managers will bring highly relevant expertise to their new jobs. More information about their backgrounds is available in the press release here (also in FR, DE, FI, EL). The Commission has also appointed Mr Matthias Oel to the position of Director “Migration and Security funds” in DG Migration and Home Affairs. Mr Oel, a German national, has been working in the EU institutions in Brussels – the European Commission and the Council – since 1995. He joined DG Migration and Home Affairs in 2012, first as Head of the "DG HOME Task Force Greece" and then, as of 2013, as Head of Unit "Asylum". (For more information: Alexander Winterstein - Tel.: +32 229 93265; Andreana Stankova – Tel.: +32 229 57857)    


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