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European Commission - Daily News

Daily News 18 / 11 / 2016

Brussels, 18 November 2016

Space: Successful Galileo launch adds to Europe's strong position in space

With the successful launch of four Galileo satellites yesterday, the Galileo constellation now has 18 satellites in orbit out of the minimum 24 needed for worldwide coverage. This is the first time that a European launcher, Ariane-5, was used for Galileo. The new satellites will now accelerate the deployment of Europe's own global satellite navigation system Galileo. Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President for the Energy Union, said: "The latest Galileo launch shows that Europe is at the forefront of space technological developments and now has autonomous access to space. Galileo will bring concrete benefits for people, companies and public authorities. With its precise satellite navigation services, it will underpin a range of services from transport, agriculture, health, electricity grids, financial transactions, rescue operations and many others". Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “The Galileo launch was a great success. With more satellites in orbit, Galileo will soon be able to offer the first services for its users. We will also build on the success of the Ariane V launcher to guarantee Europe's autonomous access to space and strengthen Europe's position as a key space player." As an important part of the Commission's Space Strategy, Galileo will bring extra accuracy in global positioning and timing information services once operational. As part of the initial services, to be available soon, Galileo will help to support search and rescue operations, emergency services and police forces as well as provide freely accessible satellite data on positioning, velocity and timing. Galileo is expected to become fully operational from 2020. By then, it should help to improve in-car navigation and mobile phone signals, help road and rail transport become safer and act as a catalyst for R&D and high-tech job creation around Europe. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Mirna Talko – Tel.: +32 229 87278)


First disbursement of EU Solidarity Fund aid to reach Cyprus after the wildfires of last summer

Today the European Commission has decided to grant Cyprus almost €730,000 from the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF), as an advance payment following the Cypriot request for EUSF assistance after the drought and the wildfires of June 2016. "In the wake of natural disasters, the EU Solidarity Fund is a concrete expression of European solidarity. Cyprus is set to receive a first EUSF payment following the terrible drought and forest fires of June in order to support reconstruction efforts and regenerate economic activity. This first disbursement of aid shows that we are standing side by side with Cyprus," said Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu. The amount of this advance was calculated on the basis of the preliminary assessment of the application received from Cyprus on 5 September, which found that the financial contribution from the EUSF was likely to amount to almost €7.3 million. In accordance with EUSF rules, the advance payment amounts to 10% of this sum. Once it has completed the assessment of the application, the Commission will propose a definitive amount of aid, to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council. (For more information: Jakub Adamowicz - Tel.: +32 229 50595; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr - Tel.: +32 229 56169)


Investment Plan for Europe: EUR 20 million for Portuguese SMEs

The European Investment Fund (EIF) and Portuguese bank Caixa Económica Montepio Geral (Montepio) have signed a guarantee agreement to provide EUR 20 million for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Portugal. This agreement would not have been possible so soon without the backing of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe. Under the new agreement, Montepio will provide loans to innovative SMEs and mid-caps over the next two years. EIF's guarantee is provided under the “EU InnovFin finance for Innovators” initiative, backed by Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. European Commissioner Carlos Moedas, responsible for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "Just one month after the EIB and Montepio signed an agreement under the Investment Plan, today we are announcing a further EUR 20 million for Portuguese businesses. The Commission's Investment Plan has proven to be a great resource for stimulating innovative SMEs and start-ups, and for creating new jobs and growth opportunities." (For more information see here or contact Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Siobhán Millbright – Tel.: + 32 229 57361)


European Union to head Kimberley Process on conflict diamonds in 2018

The Kimberley Process, the international initiative to stem the trade in conflict diamonds, has appointed the European Union as its Chair for 2018. Consistent with Kimberley Process rules, the EU will serve as Vice-Chair in 2017, during the Australian Chairmanship. The European Union will have a unique opportunity to strengthen the effectiveness of the Kimberley Process as its Chair, in particular in the context of the upcoming reform process. During its Chairmanship, the EU will reinforce and promote an open dialogue among the three pillars that make up the Kimberley Process - Governments, industry and civil society. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), launched in 2002, sets out requirements for participating States to control imports and exports of rough diamonds. The European Union has been at the forefront of the KPCS since the outset, chairing the Working Group on Monitoring, overseeing the Scheme's peer review mechanism and dealing with issues of non-compliance. A full press release is available online. (For more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel. +32 229 86570; Adam Kaznowski – Tel.: +32 229 89359)


EU and Vietnam reach new milestone in combatting illegal logging and promoting trade in legally produced timber

Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella and Vietnamese Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong, agreed in principle on a comprehensive and ambitious Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement(FLEGT VPA) against illegal logging. Vietnam is a major timber importing and processing country which has seen an exponential growth of its forest-based industries over the past decade and which plays an important role in the global market. The Agreement will ensure that Vietnamese exports of timber and timber products to the EU will be from verified legal sources. With the substance of the deal agreed, the EU and Vietnam hope to sign the VPA next year, following a final review by lawyers from both parties. This VPA, for which negotiations started in October 2010, is the EU's second VPA with an Asian country following Indonesia. Once the VPA is fully implemented, Viet Nam's shipments of timber and timber products to the EU will be accompanied by a FLEGT license, demonstrating the legal origin of these products. Commissioner Vellasaid: "This is an ambitious agreement and a decisive step towards eliminating illegal logging and the trade of illegal timber products. Once fully implemented, the Agreement will boost confidence in the legality of bilateral timber trade and deliver wider social, economic and environmental benefits." In addition to illegal logging, the EU and Vietnam are also working closely together to crack down on wildlife trafficking, tackling the roots of the problem and targeting the organised criminal groups controlling this illegal trade. A press release, factsheet, and more information are availablehere. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel. +32 229 56172; Iris Petsa – Tel.: +32 229 93321)


Commissioners Bulc and Andriukaitis reiterate the Commission's commitment to safer roads and pay tribute to victims

This Sunday marks the yearly World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, an initiative endorsed by the United Nations to remember all those killed or injured on the roads. Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc and Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis recorded a joint message to express their sympathy and reiterate the Commission's commitment to road safety. The two Commissioners recall that "In the EU, 70 people die on the roads every single day. Moreover, each day 370 people get injured and suffer life-changing consequences. Whether we are pedestrians or cyclists, drivers or passengers, we all must behave responsibly – for our own safety and for the safety of others. Those victims are a permanent reminder of the need to do more." Their full message is available here. Last year, 26 100 people died in road accidents in the European Union (EU). While this represented a small increase compared with 2014, the trend over the last 20 years has been a fall in the number of road traffic victims in the EU. Compared with 1995, the number of road fatalities has been reduced by almost 38 000 persons, from nearly 64 000 to slightly over 26 000 in 2015. More information is available in the Eurostat press release here. (For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - Tel.: +32 229 56186; Alexis Perier - Tel.: +32 229 69143)


Renewable Energy for Africa – Commission's commitment on concrete actions to unlock the green potential

Commissioner for International and Development Cooperation, Neven Mimica, issued today a joint statement on the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) together with Professor Alpha Condé, President of Guinea and African Union Coordinator for the AREI. With new ambitious targets set for 2020, the European Union reaffirms its leading role in supporting the African continent in the fight against climate change. Concrete actions and initiatives to meet the objectives are at the core of the EU-African commitment, both partners reaffirming their desire to hold regular dialogues at government level, notably in the margins of international events and in the framework of our joint Africa-EU strategic cooperation. During the signing ceremony, Commissioner Mimica said: "As the hottest year on record draws to a close, the European Union confirms its strong commitment in Africa for both reducing emissions and improving energy access for those in need. But we must ensure that these pledges materialise into new projects and tangible results.  Concretely, by 2020, the EU has promised to facilitate investments that will increase the renewable electricity generation capacity of at least 5 Gigawatt. This is already half of the 10 Gigawatt goal of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative for 2020." You can find the joint statement here, and more general information on the links between development cooperation and climate action in this factsheet. (Pour plus d'informations: Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322; Christina Wunder – Tel.: +32 229)


State aid: Commission clears PLN 7.95 billion Polish support for closing coal mines [updated: 18/11/2016 at 12:11]

The European Commission has found Poland's plans to provide PLN 7.95 billion (approximately €1.79 billion) of support to alleviate the social and environmental impact of closing uncompetitive coal mines by 2018 to be in line with EU state aid rules. Responsibility for decisions on whether or not to close public coal mines rests with Member States. EU state aid rules, in particular Council Decision 2010/787/EU, allow Member States to support the closure of uncompetitive coal mines in order to alleviate the social and environmental impact. The Commission's assessment has found that, in line with the Council Decision, the aid aims to ease the closure process by providing financial support totalling PLN 7.58 billion (approximately €1.71 billion) to those workers who have lost, or will lose, their jobs due to the closures. In particular, the state support will fund severance payments, compensatory pensions and social security benefits for these workers. Furthermore, it will be used to secure mine shafts and decommissioning of mine infrastructure, repair damage to the environment caused by mining and re-cultivate land after the mine closures. The remainder of the aid will cover production losses of the mines until closure. The Commission concluded that the support was in line with EU state aid rules. The full press release is available online in EN, FR, DE and PL. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)


European Institute of Innovation and Technology selects winning innovation partnership in Food

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has announced the winning team selected to set up EIT Food, the new pan-European partnership bringing together leading businesses, universities and research organisations. The mission of EIT Food is to drive innovation in the food sector, focusing on issues such as sustainability and consumers' trust. Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the EIT, welcomed the announcement: "Innovation and education have a crucial role in helping us tackle the big societal challenges of today and tomorrow and keeping Europe competitive in the global race. Ensuring that Europe's citizens have access to safe, high-quality, sustainably produced food is one of these big challenges. I am therefore very pleased to see the EIT getting this strategic partnership underway. With the support and funding of the EIT, EIT Food has a great opportunity to attract the best researchers, students and entrepreneurs.” The winning team was selected following an invitation to submit proposals, launched in January 2016, and a rigorous evaluation by external experts and the EIT Governing Board. To facilitate EIT Food's launch, the EIT will provide the winning partnership with a start-up grant of up to EUR 4 million to ensure that it is fully operational as soon as possible. Provided that it achieves the expected results, EIT Food could receive funding in the range of EUR 400 million from the EIT over the coming years. The EIT is an independent EU body set up to boost innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe. EIT Food joins five existing innovation partnerships in the areas of climate (Climate-KIC), digitisation (EIT Digital), energy (KIC InnoEnergy), health (EIT Health) and raw materials (EIT Raw Materials). (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Joseph Waldstein - Tel.: +32 229 56184)


Mergers: Commission clears merger of IPIC and Mubadala

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed merger of International Petroleum Investment Company ("IPIC") and Mubadala Development Company, both of the United Arab Emirates. IPIC is a public joint stock investment company with a mandate to invest in energy-related assets worldwide. Mubadala is is a public joint stock investment company engaged in global investments across a range of sectors, including energy, utilities, real estate, public-private partnerships, aerospace, and basic industries and services. The Commission concluded that the proposed merger would raise no competition concerns because of the companies' negligible market shares in the areas where their activities overlap. 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.8235. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Angela Nardella- Tel.: +32 229 86801)


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over Grand Central by Hammerson and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over Grand Central, a shopping centre in Birmingham, UK, by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and its current owner Hammerson of the UK.  The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board manages professional investment in real estate, public and private equities, infrastructure and fixed income instruments. Hammerson owns, develops and manages commercial real estate in Europe. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, because of its limited impact on the market structure. 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.8217M.8217. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Angela Nardella- Tel.: +32 229 86801)


EUROSTAT: EU28 current account surplus €13.3 bn

The EU28 seasonally adjusted current account of the balance of payments recorded a surplus of €13.3 bn in September 2016, compared with surpluses of €13.1 bn in August 2016 and €13.5 bn in September 2015, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. A press release is available here. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Annikky Lamp – Tel.: +32 229 56151)




Joint Statement on the occasion of Universal Children's Day on 20 November

On the occasion of Universal Children Day on 20 November, High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini and Comissioners Mimica, Avramopoulos, Stylianides, Jourová, and Navracsics, made the following statement: "We usually hear that children and youth are the future of our societies. The truth is that they are also the present. Our children are agents of change within their families and communities and their right to be heard and to participate in a meaningful way to the development of society must be fully respected. This is why we expect all States to invest in our children. Global peace and security cannot be achieved without fair and sustainable development and respect for all the rights of all children. Our children will be what we will help them to be. The world is what we and they make of it. It is a responsibility we all share - it is a duty we cannot elude." The full statement is available online. (For more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel. +32 229 86570; Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322; Natasha Bertaud – Tel. +32 229 67456; Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253; Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083)


Statement of Commissioner Andriukaitis: leading the fight against Antimicrobial Resistance

On the occasion of the 9th European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD), which takes place every year on 18 November, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, said that "Since we became aware of the dangers of antibiotic resistance, the European Union led the way in the fight against this massive threat for humankind.  Our actions at EU level have had a clear added value, as recognised by independent evaluators, and have provided a framework to guide and coordinate activities on Antimicrobial Resistance at European and international level. But more work is needed. To further cement the EU's position as global leader in the fight against Antimicrobial Resistance the European Commission will launch, in 2017, a second Action Plan building upon and strengthening the work already done and supporting Member States in the implementation and monitoring of their National Action Plans." The latest annual surveillance results published today show that in 2015, antibiotic resistance continued to increase for most bacteria and antibiotics under surveillance. Resistance to last line antibiotics that treat pneumoniae (carbapenem) increased from 6.2% in 2012 to 8.1% in 2015. More data and a full press release are available online. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Aikaterini Apostola - Tel.: +32 229 87624)




Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn travel to United Arab Emirates (UAE)

High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn will travel to the United Arab Emirates on 19th November 2016. During her visit, HR/VP Mogherini will discuss with her Emirati interlocutors ways to strengthen the privileged partnership between the EU and the UAE, and regional issue. While in Abu Dhabi they will both participate in the 7th annual Sir Bani Yas Forum hosted by the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, a high-level international gathering of eminent decision makers and leading experts for discussions of the current issues facing the Middle East. The HR/VP will also have a number of bilateral meetings. On Sunday and Monday Commissioner Hahn will also travel to Riyadh and Jeddah for meetings with Saudi authorities as well as with regional financial institutions to discuss cooperation on projects of mutual priority in the neighbourhood. (For more information: Nabila Massrali – Tel: +32 229 69218; Maja Kocijancic – Tel: +32 229 86570; Lauranne Devillé – Tel: +32 229 80833; Alceo Smerilli – Tel: +32 229 64887)


Commissioner Malmström in Milan

Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström is today in Milan to meet with Italian politicians and representatives of the business sector and civil society. At a conference entitled "The European trade policy at a crossroad", the Commissioner highlighted in her speech the social and economic benefits of trade deals, such as the recent EU-Canada agreement (known as CETA), which stands to benefit Italian small and medium-sized businesses – as well as Italian foodstuffs such as Mortadella Bologna and Gorgonzola, which are offered protected status. She also stressed the importance of public debate on trade led by national governments at an early stage, in order to ensure trade deals have the public support they need. At a later meeting with Eurocities – attended by mayors of towns and cities across Europe - the Commissioner set out her view that EU trade policy should be informed by values such as human rights, labour rights and the protection of the environment – and encouraged EU cities to take part in the EU's new award for fair and ethical trade, which will reward the positive work done in this field by an EU city. The speech to the mayors at Eurocities is available here. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Axel Fougner - Tel.: +32 229 57276)


Commissioner Moscovici is in Lisbon 

Today, Commissioner Moscovici is visiting Lisbon as part of the Commission's outreach on Autumn package of the European Semester, which sets out economic and social priorities for the EU, euro area and Member State levels for the year ahead. He will participate in a hearing before the European Affairs Committee and the Budget Committee of the Portuguese Parliament. He will also discuss the economic and fiscal situation of Portugal and taxation policy issues on the EU agenda during his meetings with Finance Minister Mario Centeno and Bank of Portugal Governor Carlos Costa. A joint press point, which will be live webstreamed on EbS as from 15:15 CET, will conclude the meeting with Mario Centeno. Ahead of this visit, Commissioner Moscovici said: “Portugal is leaving its economic crisis behind it, though Portuguese society continues to feel its effects. There is still work to do to strengthen the fundamentals of the economy and address the country's economic and social challenges. But my message in Lisbon today will be one of encouragement and confidence.” (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel: +32 229 56 153; Audrey Augier – Tel: +32 229 71 607)


Commissioner Stylianides in Stockholm on Monday

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides will be in Stockholm on Monday where he will meet with Ms Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister, with Mr Anders Ygeman, Minister for Home Affairs and with State Secretary Lars Westbratt of the Ministry of Migration. Discussions will focus notably on humanitarian aid, especially in relation to the refugee crisis and civil protection. Commissioner Stylianides will also meet with the Parliament Riksdagen where he will deliver a speech. (For more information: Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)


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