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European Commission - Daily News

Daily News 14 / 10 / 2016

Brussels, 14 October 2016

Investment Plan for Europe: new EFSI deals in Latvia, Spain and France

The European Investment Fund has signed a new SME financing agreement in Latvia with Altum. The European Investment Bank has also signeda new project in Spain with Bankia to improve their digital services to clients, as well as a deal with DAHER in France to finance innovation and technological advancement in the aeronautics industry. These agreements and projects are backed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe, which allowed them to happen sooner than without the EFSI support. Speaking about the agreement with Altum in Latvia,Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: "This is a step forward in making finance more accessible for innovative projects in Latvia's small and medium-sized enterprises. It is also a sign that the EFSI is improving the geographic distribution of its supported projects. I hope that the distribution can be further enhanced also for larger strategic investment projects." (For more information: Alexander Winterstein - Tel.: +32 229 93265; Siobhan Millbright - Tel.: +32 229 57361)


EU Code Week starts tomorrow: learn how to create computer apps, websites and much more

The fourth EU Code Week (15-23 October) kicks off tomorrow with thousands of events all over Europe where people, from children to seniors, can learn how the computer works behind the screen. They can try and create games, build a website or find out about hardware and robots. Code enthusiasts in 46 countries will give programming workshops in schools, libraries, universities, tech companies and other locations. Schools are especially encouraged to enrol in the CodeWeek4All challenge and teach at least 50% of their students some coding. The aim is to give people of all ages hands on programming experience. Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: "I invite all schools to take part in the CodeWeek4All challenge. It is important for young people to understand that they can build fun and useful things with code. In the near future 90% of jobs - in careers such as engineering, accountancy, nursing, medicine, art, architecture, and many more - will require some level of digital skills. Increasingly, that includes programming and basic coding skills." Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said: "Digital skills, including coding, are important for businesses. The Gigabit society needs IT-skilled people to make the infrastructure of the future work. I would encourage everyone to try out some coding during EU Code Week – you may find it fun and it could help you find a good job." More information can be found here(For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Marie Frenay - Tel.: +32 229 64532)


Commission presents REFIT evaluation of the Visa Information System

As part of the Commission's better regulation agenda, ensuring that EU legislation remains fit for purpose, the Commission has today adopted an Evaluation Report on the implementation of the Visa Information System (VIS), analysing the use of fingerprints at the EU's external borders and the use of biometrics in the visa application procedure. The Report is part of the Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) programme and is the first in a series of evaluations of the EU's information systems for borders and security. Today's Report looked at the VIS legal framework and examined whether the instrument is fit for purpose, delivers on its objectives at a reasonable cost and has a clear EU added value.  The evaluation found that the VIS meets its objectives and functions well but would need to be further developed to respond to new challenges in visa, border and migration policy. VIS remains one of the most advanced systems of its kind, with close to 23 million visa applications and 18.8 million fingerprints registered by the end of March 2016. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans,responsible for Better Regulation, said, "We need our visa systems to continue to be strong, reliable and effective for the security of our Union and the European citizens they serve. Our border management systems are facing unprecedented pressures and it is therefore essential that we evaluate them, not only to see  whether they are still fit for purpose today, but especially to ensure that they remain so in the face of future challenges." Based on the evaluation carried out, the Commission recommends that the VIS is further developed to improve its interconnectivity with other systems, including the proposed Entry-Exit System (EES) and the EU Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) which the Commission will put on the table later this year. The full Evaluation Report, the accompanying Staff Working Document and Executive Summary are available online. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tim McPhie – Tel.: +32 229 58602)


EU Solidarity Fund: Commission supports Germany after the floods in Bavaria

Today the Commission has proposed mobilising aid worth €31.5 million from the EU Solidarity Fund following the floods of the Spring 2016 in Bavaria. In May and June 2016, the region of Niederbayern (Lower Bavaria) in Germany was affected by heavy spells of rainfall triggering rivers to burst their banks and flooding in several villages. The disaster caused damage to public infrastructure and buildings, private homes, businesses and farmland. Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Creţu said: "This financial aid will lend a helping hand to the German population affected by the widespread flooding of this spring; this is EU solidarity in action." The proposed aid is intended to help restore essential infrastructure, reimburse the cost of emergency measures and cover the costs of some of the clean-up operations. A press release is available online, also in FR and DE. (For more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)


European Commission staff delivers support for Italian earthquake victims

On Thursday, Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva handed over cheques of nearly €50,000 raised by EU civil servants in the aftermath of the earthquake which devastated the villages of Amatrice, Accumoli and Pescara del Tronto on 24August. Some €27,000 was raised in the Commission's canteens and cafeterias and went to the Italian Red Cross. A further €21,000 was raised through direct staff transfers to 'Give EUR Hope'. This money will go to reconstruction projects in the affected area. This solidarity action took place between 1 and 16 September. Vice-Presidents Georgieva and Šefčovič as well as Commissioners Andriukaitis, Thyssen and Jourová took part in its launch in the canteen of the Commission headquarters Berlaymont. More information is available here, while pictures are accessible on EbS(For more information: Alexander Winterstein - Tel.: +32 229 93265)


Novi Sad to be European Capital of Culture in 2021

The first ever European Capital of Culture in a candidate country for EU membership has been selected: Novi Sad is to hold the title in 2021 following a recommendation from a panel of independent experts to the European Commission. The European Capitals of Culture is an initiative of the European Union. Its objectives are to safeguard and promote the diversity of cultures in Europe, highlight the common features they share and foster the contribution of culture to the long-term development of cities. On this occasion, Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner responsible for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: "I am very pleased that in 2021 we will have our first European Capital of Culture in a candidate country. The opening of this prestigious European programme to those countries seeking full membership is a way to bring them closer to and reinforce their cultural links with the Union. I congratulate Novi Sad on its successful bid. I am confident that Novi Sad will give visitors from Europe and all over the world the opportunity to discover the city and its cultural assets, but also to appreciate the diversity of cultures in Europe as well as our shared values. I am confident that the title will bring Novi Sad significant long-term cultural, as well as economic and social benefits, as we have seen with many previous European Capitals of Culture." The competition for European Capital of Culture in a candidate country was launched by the European Commission in December 2014. It was open to cities from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The title is now recommended by a panel of independent experts in the field of culture, responsible for assessing the competing cities. Two cities had been short-listed after the initial pre-selection round in December 2015: Herceg Novi (Montenegro) and Novi Sad (Serbia).The Commission now has to formally endorse the panel's recommendation. Started in 1985 on the initiative of the then Greek Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri, the European Capitals of Culture initiative has developed into one of the most ambitious and popular cultural projects in Europe. Cities in candidate countries or potential candidates for EU membership can receive this title every third year as of 2021. Novi Sad will share the title with Timisoara (Romania) and a city in Greece, to be selected in November among the three shortlisted candidates (Elefsina, Kalamata and Rhodes). (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Joseph Waldstein - Tel.: +32 229 56184)


Mergers: Commission clears joint acquisition of Portuguese gas distribution company GGND by Marubeni, Toho Gas and Galp Energia

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over Galp Gás Natural Distribuição ("GGND") of Portugal by Marubeni Corporation, Toho Gas Co., Ltd., both of Japan and Galp Energia, SGPSof Portugal. GGND manages gas network distribution operations in different regions of Portugal. It is currently controlled by Galp Energia, an integrated energy company active across the entire crude oil and natural gas value chain, as well as in electricity generation. Marubeni is a global trading company active in various industries including energy and energy related projects. Toho Gas is mainly active in gas supply and related services in Japan, but has so far no market presence in the European Economic Area. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because it creates no new overlaps 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.8211. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Angela Nardella - Tel.: +32 229 86801)


Eurostat: 1 in 7 persons aged 15 or over eats at least 5 portions of fruit or vegetables daily

Regular consumption of fruit and vegetables is considered as an important element of a healthy and balanced diet. In the European Union (EU) however, slightly more than a third (34.4%) of the population aged 15 or over did not eat them on a daily basis in 2014, while less than 15% (14.1%) consumed at least 5 portions each day. This is the consumption promoted by the EU-wide "5-a-day" campaign, following a recommendation by the World Health Organization that individuals consume "a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day (excluding potatoes and other starchy tubers)". A press release is available here. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172Aikaterini Apostola – Tel. +32 229 87624)


Excédent de 18,4 mrds d'euros du commerce international de biens de la zone euro

D'après les premières estimations pour le mois d'août 2016, les exportations de biens de la zone euro (ZE19) vers le reste du monde se sont établies à 160,3 milliards d'euros, en hausse de 8% par rapport à août 2015 (148,1 mrds). Les importations depuis le reste du monde ont quant à elles été de 141,9 mrds d'euros, en hausse de 4% par rapport à août 2015 (136,9 mrds). En conséquence, la zone euro a enregistré en août 2016 un excédent de 18,4 mrds d'euros de son commerce international de biens avec le reste du monde, contre +11,2 mrds en août 2015. Le commerce intra-zone euro a progressé à 121,6 mrds d'euros en août 2016, soit +6% par rapport à août 2015. Un communiqué de presse est disponible en ligne. (Pour plus d'informations: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Axel Fougner - Tel.: +32 229 57276)




President Juncker addresses European Policy Centre

On 13 October President Juncker delivered a speech to the European Policy Centre, Brussels, marking the think tank's 20th anniversary. The President reflected on the euro crisis and the refugee crisis, arguing that both offered important lessons on how the EU functions. He pointed to a series of bold political measures that the Commission had adopted in response, including the Banking Union, the European Border and Coast Guard and the EU-Turkey Statement. "Each of these measures is a game-changer," said President Juncker. "Together, they are the work of a political Commission. For the European Union, they mean strengthening the foundations of our common project and taking it to the next stage." Turning to Europe's young people, the President highlighted the EU's Erasmus programme and the new plans for a European Solidarity Corps: "When they join hands across borders, our young people write new pages in an old story." (For more information: – Alexander Winterstein Tel.: +32 229 93265; Natasha Bertaud - Tel.: +32 229 67456)


#BringBackOurGirls: Statement on the release of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria

High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, Commissioner for International Cooperation & Development Neven Mimica and Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid & Crisis Management Christos Stylianides welcomed the release of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria and issued a statement. "After two and a half years away from their homes and families, 21 Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, are finally released. Amongst all the troubles in the world today we celebrate. It is time to give these girls hope, life, a future. Yet we cannot forget all the others who remain abducted with their families and those who have suffered from the violence of Boko Haram (…) All efforts must continue to bring the perpetrators of this terrible act to account. The EU remains ready to assist the Government of Nigeria in its fight against Boko Haram, and in its humanitarian, development and reconstruction efforts (…) The EU provides humanitarian assistance to this vulnerable group, especially children". Read the full statement here(For more information: Nabila Massrali - Tel.: +32 229 69218; Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322, Daniel Puglisi - Tel.: +32 229 69140)




Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič participates in the Visegrád Group Presidents' Summit in Rzeszów

Tomorrow the European Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič participates in the Summit of the Presidents of the Visegrád Group in Rzeszów in Poland. Jointly with the Presidents of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman; Hungary, János Áder;  Poland, Andzej Duda; and Slovakia, Andrej Kiska; Vice-President Šefčovič will participate in a panel discussion on the security of the gas market in Central and Eastern Europe."Building the Energy Union is about the diversification of supplies and connections; as well as about being a driver to the modernisation of the economy and investing in jobs and growth for the benefits of businesses and citizens. I look forward to discuss these issues with the Presidents of the Visegrád Group countries", said Vice-President Šefčovič ahead of the event. More information on the Energy Union is available here. (For more information contact Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Nicole Bockstaller - Tel.: +32 229 52589)


Commissioner Avramopoulos in Tallinn to discuss migration and security

Commissioner Avramopoulous will be in Tallinn on Monday 17 October where he will meet with the President of the Republic Kersti Kaljulaid, the Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas and Minister of Interior Hanno Pevkur to discuss migration, security and the preparation of the upcoming Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU. Commissioner Avramopoulos will also visit the European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice (eu-Lisa) where he will meet with Executive Director Krum Garkov and the staff of the Agency to discuss its role in the management of IT systems and how the Agency can support the better use of information systems and how interoperability of information systems can be improved to address information gaps. A joint press conference will take place at 16h30 with Interior Minister Hanno Pevkur.(For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 80423; Katarzyna Kolanko – Tel.: +32 229 63444)


Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska on official visit to Iran

On 16 October, Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, will travel to Iran to advance cooperation with the EU to create mutual opportunities for companies and SMEs in Europe and Iran. The Commissioner will initiate an informal broad based industrial dialogue which will cover a number of key sectors of common interest such as textile, automotive, raw materials, tourism, construction and pharmaceuticals/biotech. In this context, she will deliver an opening speech at the EU-Iran Conference on Economic, Industrial and Investment opportunities alongside Mr Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade. Meetings are also planned with Ms Masoumeh Ebtekar and Mr Masoud Soltanifar, Vice Presidents of Iran, as well as Mr Mohammad Javad Zarif, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mr Ali Tayebnia, Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance. Ahead of the mission, Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska said: "The EU is committed to expand its economic ties with Iran. My mission aims at meeting Iranian authorities and business representatives, build trust and find solutions enabling a business environment that brings European and Iranian businesses together." The lifting of economic sanctions opens up the possibility of enhanced trade and investment flows. The visit is part of the gradual engagement with Iran as agreed at the EU High Level visit in April. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)


Commissioner Phil Hogan participates in Citizens' Dialogue in Spain

The Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Phil Hogan, participates today in a Citizens' Dialogue in Toledo, Spain. He will be joined on stage by Ms Isabel García Tejerina, Acting Minister of Agriculture, Food and Environment and by Mr Francisco Martínez Arroyo, Regional Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development of the Regional Government of Castilla-La Mancha. The discussion will focus on agriculture, rural development and the future of the EU. The Citizens' Dialogue can be followed live via webstream. Before arriving in Toledo, Commissioner Hogan spent the morning in Madrid where he delivered a keynote speech at the Annual Congress of Interporc, the Spanish professional organisation for pork. He also attended the 2016 edition of the "excellence awards for innovation to Spanish rural women 2016" recognising projects which promote women's employment in the territory, through agri-food activities. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel: +32 229 56 185; Clemence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509)


Commissioner Crețu in Ecuador for Habitat III, the U.N. Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development

From Sunday 16 October to Thursday 20 October, Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Crețu will participate in the U.N. Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador, where the global New Urban Agenda will be adopted. On Sunday the Commissioner will participate in the World Mayors Assembly, before speaking at the opening plenary session on behalf of the EU and its Member States on Monday. On Wednesday, Commissioner Crețu will present the EU's Voluntary Commitments for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, alongside Member States, cities and partners.  "The New Urban Agenda will be a cornerstone in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Our work in the context of the Urban Agenda for the EU, with its 12 thematic partnerships, its multi-level governance and its focus on peer-learning will feed into this global agenda," said Commissioner Crețu ahead of the conference. The United Nations General Assembly convened the Habitat I Conference in 1976 in Vancouver, Canada, as governments began to recognize the need for sustainable urban development, in the face of rapid urbanisation, especially in the developing world. In Resolution 66/207 and in line with the bi-decennial cycle (1976, 1996 and 2016), the U.N. General Assembly decided to convene the Habitat III Conference to reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable urbanization, to focus on the implementation of a New Urban Agenda, building on the Habitat Agenda of Istanbul in 1996. More information on the conference, its programme, as well as on EU urban policy is available online. (For more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)


Commissioner Thyssen participates in Interparliamentary Conference on Stability, Economic Coordination and Governance in Bratislava

On Monday 17 October, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, will travel to Bratislava to attend the Interparliamentary Conference on Stability, Economic Coordination and Governance. Commissioner Thyssen will discuss ways to strengthen the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union with Members of the Slovak Parliament, and will give a keynote speech on the subject which will be made available here. Ahead of the event Commissioner Thyssen said: "A European Pillar of Social Rights can drive forward much needed structural reforms at national level – reforms that are essential for upward convergence in the Euro area. What is particularly needed for the Economic and Monetary Union is to strengthen the ability of labour markets and social protection systems to withstand and mitigate negative events; while also supporting lasting growth." (For more information:Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: +32 229 67094)


L'UE plaide pour une meilleure gouvernance des océans au Sommet extraordinaire de l'Union africaine sur la sécurité maritime

Le Commissaire de la Commission européenne en charge de l'Environnement, des Affaires maritimes et de la Pêche, Karmenu Vella, sera le chef de la délégation de l'UE au Sommet extraordinaire de l'Union africaine sur la sécurité, la sureté, et le développement maritime à Lomé, Togo. Pour la première fois, ce Sommet extraordinaire de L'Union Africaine se concentrera sur la criminalité organisée aux points de rencontre des frontières terrestres et maritimes et qui prend la forme de la piraterie maritime, la pêche illicite, non déclarée et non réglementée, et des trafics et de contrebande (drogue, personnes, armes etc.). Le sommet touchera aussi des questions de préservation du milieu marin. Le 15 Octobre, les Chefs d'Etat africains vont signer la "Charte africaine de la sécurité maritime, la sécurité et le développement" (Charte de Lomé). Pour le Commissaire Vella, "la lutte contre la criminalité maritime et la promotion de la sécurité maritime est vraiment un défi que l'Afrique et l'Union européenne doivent relever main dans la main. Je souhaite que la Charte de Lomé accélère les efforts amorcés en ce sens en Afrique. Avant la fin de l'année, en collaboration avec la Haute Représentante, je présenterai une initiative sur la gouvernance internationale des océans et proposerai des actions pour assurer l'exploitation durable de nos océans et de leurs ressources". Dans le cadre de sa visite, le Commissaire visitera un projet de 43 millions € de l'UE pour protéger Lomé contre les inondations récurrentes pendant la saison des pluies, et participera à la cérémonie de signature d'une mise en place d'un réseau d'information (projet de 7,5 millions €) pour améliorer la sûreté maritime dans le Golfe de Guinée.(Pour plus d'information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Iris Petsa - Tel.: +32 229 93321)


European Commission appoints new Head of Representation in Lithuania

Mr Arnoldas Pranckevičius has been appointed as the new Head of the Commission Representation in Vilnius. He will take up office on 16 October 2016. Mr Pranckevičius brings over ten years of European and International affairs experience as well as strong communication skills to this post. He has been Adviser for External Policies in the Cabinet of the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz since 2012 and joined the European Parliament as an official in the Directorate General for External Policies in 2006.  Mr Pranckevičius obtained his Master's Degree in European Affairs from the Paris Institute of Political Studies and his Bachelor's Degree in International Relations from Colgate University, New York. The Commission has its Representations in all 28 EU Member States as well as Regional Offices in Barcelona, Belfast, Bonn, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Marseille, Milan, Munich and Wrocław. The Representations report to the Commission's headquarters on significant developments in the Member States. A complete press release for Mr Arnoldas Pranckevičius is available online, also in LT, FR and DE. (For more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382; Alexander Winterstein - Tel.: +32 229 93265)


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