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European Commission - Daily News

Daily News 11/02/2016

Brussels, 11 February 2016

Preparation of the Eurogroup meeting and of the ECOFIN Council meeting

This afternoon, Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Moscovici will participate in the Eurogroup meeting. The Commission will present its 2016 Winter Economic Forecast, which was published on 4 February. Ministers will also discuss the economic and fiscal situation of Portugal, following the conclusion of the post-programme surveillance mission and after the Commission adopted last week its opinion on the Portuguese draft budgetary plan for 2016. The Commission, along with the other institutions, will give an update on the ongoing first review of Greece’s stability support programme. The Commission will also contribute to a discussion on the quality of public finances and on the use of the euro in global markets and countries outside the euro area. Commissioner Moscovici will represent the Commission at the press conference at the end of the meeting (streamed live on EbS). On Friday 12 February, Vice-President Georgieva, Vice-President Dombrovskis, Commissioner Moscovici and Commissioner Hill will represent the Commission at the ECOFIN Council meeting. Ministers will exchange views on measures to prevent terrorist financing following the presentation of the Commission's Action Plan in January. The Commission's presentation of the recently launched Tax Avoidance Package is also on the agenda. The package aims to put in place a coordinated EU-wide response to corporate tax avoidance. Ministers will discuss the proposals and the timeline for the package. The Council will adopt a recommendation to the European Parliament on the discharge of the implementation of the EU budget for 2014. Ministers will also present their views on the EU budget 2017. The Chair of the High Level Group on Own Resources, Mario Monti, will update ministers on the group's work. Vice-President Dombrovskis will represent the Commission at the press conference (streamed live on EbS) following the meeting. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Vanessa Mock – Tel.: + 32 229 56194; Patrick Mc Cullough – Tel.: + 32 229 87183; Audrey Augier – Tel.: + 32 229 71607)


Labour market shows positive signs: highest overall EU employment rate since 2008

The 2015 winter edition of the Employment and Social Situation Quarterly Review shows improvements on the EU labour market. Employment and activity rates have continued to increase in the EU, across all population groups and most notably for older workers (55 - 59 years). In the third quarter of 2015, the overall EU employment rate has even reached its pre-crisis level, although the progress is unevenly distributed among Member States. In addition, unemployment has continued to recede and the share of long-term unemployed persons in total unemployment has slightly gone down. Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen commented: "We see more people in employment in the EU. This is a very encouraging development, also in view of the population ageing. However, we must not overlook the huge disparities across Member States. We still have a long way to go to reach the employment target of 75% that the EU set itself for 2020. We need to pay particular attention to long-term unemployment. Although we are starting to see a gradual decline in the number of long-term unemployed, there are still more than 10 million Europeans unemployed during one year or more. We must urgently implement the Council Recommendation on long-term unemployment adopted in December to support those who have been worst hit by the crisis." (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: + 32 229 67094)

Only half of Europeans know emergency number 112: Commission takes action to inform young people

Today, 11 February is the European 112 Day, a day aimed at raising public awareness of Europe's emergency number, 112. With this free-to-call number, people across Europe can immediately reach the local police, ambulance or fire services. The 112 number was introduced 25 years ago, yet a survey shows that only 48% of EU citizens know that 112 is the emergency number to call in all Member States. Differences also remain between EU countries (Poland and Luxembourg having the highest awareness levels with 83% and 80%, respectively). This is why the Commission pursues its efforts to inform Europeans, especially the youngest ones, and is reaching out this year to the Erasmus+ network to enlist its support. Commissioner Oettinger, in charge of the Digital Economy and Society, and Commissioner Navracsics, responsible for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: "112 became the single European emergency number a generation ago. It is especially important that young people - who increasingly travel, study or work across borders – know the number that can save lives across the EU. We urge all those involved in the Erasmus+ programme to help spread the message about 112." More information can be found here. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Marie Frenay - Tel.: +32 229 64532)


European Commission and Mexico to start negotiations on the trade of organic products

The European Commission and the Government of Mexico announced today the start of negotiations towards a bilateral agreement on trade in organic products. Commissioner Hogan arrived in Mexico, where he met the Mexican Minister of Agriculture José Calzada, after an official visit in Colombia where an agreement on trade in organic products was also concluded. Phil Hogan said: "I very much welcome the start of negotiations with Mexico with a view to concluding an agreement on trade in organic products. The European organic sector continues to be one of our most dynamic production sectors and Mexico has great potential in developing opportunities for organic farmers and businesses." The next steps in this dialogue will include, in the coming months, reciprocal on-the spot visits to learn more about the operation of the respective organic systems. A future agreement on trade in organic products will not only be based on the recognition of each other's production rules and controls systems as equivalent, but will also aim at fostering technical dialogue and cooperation between the parties to the benefit of producers and consumers of organic products. The EU market for organic products amounts to some 40% of the world market – second only to the USA (43%). In recent years, the value of the EU market has grown by more than 6% a year with sales of organic products totalling some €22.2 billion in 2013. More information in English and Spanish is available online. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: + 32 229 56185; Clémence Robin - Tel.: +32 229 52509)


State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into measures for Spanish postal operator Correos

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether State measures since 2004 in favour of Correos, the publicly-owned Spanish postal operator, were in line with EU State aid rules. The Commission will assess in particular, whether the public funding that Spain granted to Correos has overcompensated the company for carrying out its postal public service obligation as well as whether a number of other measures have given Correos an undue advantage in breach of EU state aid rules. A full press release is available in EN, ES, DE and FR.  The opening of an in-depth investigation procedure gives the Member State and interested parties the opportunity to comment on the measures under scrutiny. It does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Kurt Geiger by Cinven

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Kurt Geiger Topco Limited of the Cayman Islands by Cinven Capital Management (V) General Partner Limited, part of the Cinven group, of the UK. Cinven provides investment management and advisory services to a number of investment funds active in various areas. One of Cinven's portfolio companies is Camaïeu, a clothing retailer. Kurt Geiger is a London-based retailer of shoes and accessories for men and women. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns given the companies' low shares in the markets where their activities overlap. The operation was assessed under the simplified merger procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website in the public case register under the case number M.7921. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)




High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini in Munich for International Syria Support Group meeting,  Middle East Quartet meeting, and Munich Security Conference

The High Representative / Vice-President for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini is from today in Munich where she will participate in the meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG).  The ISSG is to discuss how to foster efforts to put an end to the Syrian civil war, in line with the 2012 Geneva Communique and UNSC resolution 2254. HR/VP Mogherini represents the EU in these talks. On Friday 12 February, the HR/VP will host a meeting of the Middle East Quartet at the level of Principals. They will review the latest developments on the ground and discuss what can be done to promote a just and lasting peace. Finally, Federica Mogherini will also attend this year's Munich Security Conference, where she will also have a number of bilateral meetings. (For more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 229 69921; Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570)


Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič brings the Energy Union to Norway

On 11-12 February, Vice-President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič will visit Norway in order to exchange information on the state of play of the Energy Union and underline the Commission's interest to strengthen energy cooperation with Norway. Ahead of the visit, Vice-President Šefčovič said: "Norway is a very important ally of the EU. It is our second largest exporter as well as an ally in calling for a transition towards a decarbonised economy as part of the imperative to stop climate change". The Vice-President will meet the Norwegian Foreign, Energy and Environment Ministers, visits the Hydroelectric Power Plant in Kvilldal and discusses the Energy Union at the Oslo Energy Forum and with representatives of the Norwegian Parliament. Norway is a key strategic partner for the EU and a major and reliable supplier of oil and gas. The vast hydropower capacity of Norway – the source of 96% of its electricity - makes it a partner to balance variable renewable production in northern Europe that is expected to grow in the next decade. In this context, the upcoming launch of the North Sea Link Interconnector will play a central role. This is an EU Project of Common Interest and earmarked for Connecting Europe Facility funding. This is a seal of European confidence on the potential of this project to interconnect the European grids and energy markets. The North Sea Link Interconnector will be the world’s longest undersea interconnector. It will increase the security of electricity supplies and provide opportunities for shared use of renewable energy all countries to meet the renewable and climate change targets. Please consult the web for more information on the Energy Union and the EU-Norway energy dialogue. (For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - Tel.: +32 229 56186; Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)


Commissioner Mimica visits Burkina Faso to show solidarity and support

On behalf on the European Commission, Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, will visit Burkina Faso on February 12, to welcome the peaceful and successful elections which concluded a remarkable transition process. The visit of the Commissioner will also be an opportunity to show support to the country, following the terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou and in the northern part of the country on 15 January that killed 32 people and injured more than 60. Ahead of the visit, Commissioner Mimica said: "I want to welcome the peaceful and successful elections that were the last step of an exemplary transition process. This is a victory for Burkina Faso and good news for the region and the continent. I also want to reiterate our solidarity after the January attacks and underline the fact that Europe is strongly committed to support Burkina Faso and the Sahel countries in their fight against terrorism and extremism."  More information available here. (For more information: Alexandre Polack – Tel.: +32 229 90677; Sharon Zarb – Tel.: +32 229 92256)


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