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European Commission - Daily News

Daily News 21 / 12 / 2016

Brussels, 21 December 2016

Security Union: Commission steps up the fight against terrorist financing 

Today, the European Commission has adopted a package of measures to strengthen the EU's capacity to fight the financing of terrorism and organised crime, delivering on the commitments made in the Action Plan against terrorist financing from February 2016. The proposals will complete and reinforce the EU's legal framework in the areas of money laundering, illicit cash flows and the freezing and confiscation of assets. Presented alongside the third Progress Report on the Security Union, today's proposals will ensure a strong and coordinated European response in the fight against terrorism financing and organised crime, bringing the EU one step closer towards an effective and genuine Security Union. The proposals aim to make it harder for terrorists and criminals to finance their activities whilst making it easier for the authorities to detect and stop their financial movements. They consist of three new legislations. First, a Directive to criminalise money laundering will set common minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in the area of money launderingwhich will make it easier and more effective for judicial and law enforcement authorities to pursue complex money laundering cases. Secondly, the current ruleson cash entering and leaving the EU will be updated to make them more robust and to give customs authorities more scope to act when there are indications that cash is related to criminal activity.Finally, the Regulation on the mutual recognition of criminal asset freezing and confiscation orders making it possible to prevent criminals and terrorists from using their funds. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans stated: "With today's proposals we strengthen our legal means to disrupt and cut off financial sourcesof criminals and terrorists. We must ensure we have the right tools in place to detect and stop suspicious financial flows and to support better cooperation between law enforcement authorities so that we can better protect the security of European citizens." Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said: "Terrorism remains a major threat to our safety. We must stay a step ahead to stop terrorists in their tracks and the fight against terrorism financing is part of it. That's why today we are proposing that money laundering be subject to effective criminal sanctions right across the EU. We are proposing cross-border freezing and confiscation of criminal assets within the EU, and putting an end to criminals circumventing cash controls at the EU's external borders." Security is one of the priorities of the Juncker Commission. After adopting the European Agenda on Security in 2015, , the Commission identified the cutting of terrorists' access to funds as one of the priority actions to be taken to complete an efficient and sustainable EU Security Union in April 2016. A press release and Q&As are available here. (For more information: Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229-86764; Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253; Patrick McCullough – Tel.: +32 229-87183; Mélanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)  


Security Union: Commission proposes to reinforce the Schengen Information System to better fight terrorism and cross-border crime

The Commission is today proposing to strengthen the operational effectiveness and efficiency of the Schengen Information System (SIS), as announced in the Communication setting out the way forward towards the achievement of an effective and sustainable EU Security Union and as reiterated in President Juncker's State of the Union Address. Consulted 2.9 billion times in 2015, SIS is the most widely used information sharing system for border management and security in Europe. The proposed improvements will further enhance the ability of the system to fight terrorism and cross-border crime, improve border and migration management and ensure an effective information exchange between Member States to increase the security of European citizens. Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: "With today's proposals, we extend the scope of the Schengen Information System to close information gaps and improve information exchange on terrorism, cross-border crime and irregular migration – contributing to a stronger control of our external borders and an effective and sustainable EU Security Union. In the future, no critical information should ever be lost on potential terrorist suspects or irregular migrants crossing our external borders." Commissioner for the Security Union, Julian King, said: "The Schengen Information System is central to Europe's internal security. Today's measures will deliver important technical and operational improvements so it's easier to detect and identify those who wish us harm. It will also improve cooperation and information sharing between Member States and with relevant EU agencies. Much more remains to be done though: SIS is only as good as the data inputted into it. We'll bring forward further improvements in 2017."  A press release, a Q&A and a factsheet are available. (For more information: Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 22980423)


Visa reciprocity with the U.S. and Canada: Commission reports on recent developments

The European Commission is today reporting on progress towards achieving full visa reciprocity with Canada and the United States, evaluating the developments over the past five months. Since the last report, following contacts at political and technical level, the EU and Canada have agreed a clear timeline for achieving full visa waiver reciprocity. There have, however, not been comparable indications of progress with the United States, despite sustained efforts. Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said: "Guaranteeing full visareciprocity with Canada and the U.S. remains a priority for the EU. That is why I welcome the commitment and decision of the Canadian authorities to ensure full visa reciprocity for all EU citizens by 1 December 2017. This progress proves that our diplomatic contacts and negotiations have delivered important results. Similarly, we will continue keeping this issue high on the agenda with the new U.S. administration and will continue reiterating the importance of achieving full visa reciprocity for all EU citizens with the U.S. as well." Today's stock-taking follows the Communications adopted in April and July, in which the Commission noted that full visa waiver reciprocity with Canada and the United States had not been achieved for citizens of some EU Member States and announced that it would report back on further progress made in the discussions before the end of the year. A press release and a Q&A are available. (For more information: Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 22980423)


Commission proposes to modernise the Customs Union with Turkey

The European Commission asked the Council for a mandate to launch talks with Turkey to modernise the existing 20-year-old EU-Turkey Customs Union. The upgrade of the EU-Turkey trade relation forms an essential part of the efforts made by the EU and Turkey to deepen their relations in key areas of joint interest identified at the EU-Turkey Summit of 29 November 2015 and in the EU-Turkey statement of 18 March 2016. By making this proposal, the Commission continues to deliver on the commitments it has made. Turkey is the EU's 5th largest trading partner, and modernising the Customs Union to reflect current EU-Turkey trade relations would bring substantial economic benefits for both partners. The modernisation and extension of the Customs Union could unlock further opportunities for EU companies in the agri-food and services sectors and the public procurement market. Respect of democracy and fundamental rights will be an essential element of the agreement. A full press release is available online. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: + 32 229 56185; Axel Fougner - Tel.: +32 229 57276)


VAT: Commission proposes options for Member States to derogate from the current EU system, under certain conditions

The Commission has today put forward a proposal which, if adopted, would enable EU Member States to apply a different VAT system to the rules currently in force across the EU. In order to protect the Internal Market, this derogation would be available only under certain strict conditions. Currently, all businesses in the production and supply chain of goods are partly responsible for the collection of VAT. Today's proposal for an optional General Reverse Charge Mechanism ('reverse charge') means that EU countries would be able to apply temporarily a system which derogates from the current fractionated payment of VAT. Sales between businesses of more than €10,000 could be invoiced free of VAT, with only the final consumer being liable for the full VAT costs. This proposal comes at the request of certain Member States who argue that such a mechanism would help to put an end to a specific type of cross-border tax fraud known as carousel fraud which involves goods being sold back and forth between businesses in different countries. While VAT is charged on some of the transactions, the revenue does not find its way to the national authorities. Following the adoption, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Union, Pierre Moscovici said: "Some Member States have expressed the wish to use an optional general reverse charge mechanism for VAT on their domestic market. Today, we are fulfilling our promise to deliver on this proposal, while setting out principles to ensure the integrity of the internal market. The first priority for this Commission is to put in place a definitive VAT system for the EU based on the destination principle. Once again, I call on Member States to support our ongoing efforts to modernise the EU's VAT system and to create a robust and fraud-proof single European VAT area. This is the only long-term viable solution for the internal market when national treasuries are losing €160 billion in VAT revenues every year." The full proposal takes the form of an amendment to the so-called 'VAT Directive' and would require unanimous agreement by all Member States to become law. More information on the VAT Action Plan from earlier this year is available here. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Patrick McCullough – Tel.: +32 229 87183)


Commission sets out the strategic way forward for the EU's Customs Union

The European Commission today adopted its long-term plan to give fresh impetus to the management of the Customs Union, a basic pillar of the European Union which supports and protects the Single Market. The role of customs authorities in ensuring our safety and security in the EU is increasing. A strong and well managed system helps to protect the public against terrorist, health, and environmental threats while at the same time fostering and developing competitive businesses. Today's Communication sets out a strategic vision for the Customs Union which would see cooperation among national authorities increase in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial affairs, Taxation and Customs said: "Common threats require common actions from Europe. National customs authorities have an important role to play across the EU to protect our interests. From trade facilitation and border security to civil protection and the fight against the smuggling of illegal weapons and counterfeit goods, the European Commission wants to equip national customs and their 120.000 dedicated people with the right tools to handle this crucial mission. Next year we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Customs Union. Let's further improve this great achievement for the years to come." A full press release is available here. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Patrick McCullough – Tel.: +32 229 87183)


Commission registers European Citizens' Initiative calling for European Free Movement Instrument

The European Commission has today registered a European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) inviting the Commission to guarantee the right of free movement for "Europeans of good standing" within the EU through a 'Universal Instrument'. The ECI calls on the Commission to identify an appropriate method of granting such an instrument, suggesting a unified laissez-passer document as an option. The College of Commissioners discussed the legal admissibility of the proposed ECI and agreed that it meets all the conditions necessary for registration under the ECI Regulation. This registration starts a one-year process of collection of signatures in support of the proposed ECI by its organisers. The Commission's decision to register concerns only the legal admissibility of the proposal. The substance of the initiative has not been discussed or assessed. The conditions for admissibility, as foreseen by the ECI Regulation, are that the proposed action does not manifestly fall outside the framework of the Commission's powers to submit a proposal for a legal act, that it is not manifestly abusive, frivolous or vexatious and that it is not manifestly contrary to the values of the Union. Should the ECI receive one million statements of support within one year, from at least seven different Member States, the Commission will have to react within three months. The Commission can decide either to follow the request or not follow the request and in both instances would be required to explain its reasoning. A press release is available here. (For more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382; Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253)


Air pollution: Commission tightens screws on car emissions testing further

Member States meeting in the Technical Committee of Motor Vehicles yesterday voted by a large majority on the latest Commission proposal to curb air pollution with Real Driving Emissions (RDE) testing. Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market and Industry, said: "This is very good news. The Commission's determination to make car emissions testing increasingly robust is paying off. Car manufacturers should seize the opportunity to sell and export environment-friendly and internationally competitive cars. They should design cars with lower particle emissions and introduce the necessary filters in petrol cars that are already widely used for diesel. Public health is at stake. We have no time to lose." The third package of implementing measures on real driving emissions tests (RDE Act 3) will extend on-the-road tests to cover particle number (PN) emissions. In practice, this means all petrol vehicles with direct injection systems will need to introduce Gasoline Particle Filters (GPF) to reach the particle limits under real driving tests, which will apply from September 2017 for new vehicle types and by September 2018 for all new vehicles. RDE Act 3 also fine-tunes the testing methods to take into account that short city trips starting with a cold engine account for most city pollution, and will make the real-world emission performance of a car more transparent to its owner. More information is online here as well as in the FAQs on EU legislation on vehicle type approval and on emissions. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: + 32 229 56184)


President Juncker temporarily assigns the Digital Economy and Society portfolio to Vice-President Andrus Ansip

As decided by President Juncker on 28 October 2016, Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger will be the Commissioner responsible for Budget and Human Resources as of 1 January 2017, following Vice-President Georgieva's resignation from her post as Member of the European Commission as of 31 December 2016 at midnight. Today, President Juncker has decided to transfer temporarily, as of 1 January 2017, Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger's current portfolio of Digital Economy and Society to Vice-President Andrus Ansip. This will come in addition to Vice-President Ansip's current responsibilities which already entail coordinating many of the key files under this portfolio, working closely with other Commissioners, the European Parliament and the Council on several important proposals in this area. Given his experience, expertise and good network amongst Members of the European Parliament, Prime Ministers and relevant Ministers, Vice-President Ansip is ideally placed to ensure continuity in this portfolio during this temporary period. In addition, President Juncker invited Commissioner Oettinger to work closely with Vice-President Ansip to allow an orderly transition of this important portfolio. (For more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382)


European Commission reprimands former Commissioner Neelie Kroes for negligent breach of EU rules [Updated: 28/03/2017 at 16:56]

Today, the European Commission discussed the situation concerning former Commissioner Neelie Kroes and concluded two things: First, that she had violated the Code of Conduct of Commissioners because she had not included in her Declaration of Interests of 2004 the fact that she held a post as Director of Mint Holdings Limited since July 2000 – even if this activity was not effectively exercised nor paid for. Taking note of the opinion of the Ad Hoc Ethical Committee of 16 November 2016 concerning the fact of continuing to feature in the Register as a Director, the Commission however also concluded that Ms Kroes cannot be blamed for violating Article 245 TFEU, if she has not been and could not reasonably have been aware of still holding the post. The Commission took note of Ms Kroes' apologies expressed in her letters of 16 September and 26 September 2016. Second, the Commission concluded that Ms Kroes was in breach of Article 7(4) of Regulation 422/67 in conjunction with Article 245 TFEU because she omitted to declare her income for the year 2015 whilst having accepted the transitional allowance. She therefore did not act with the necessary diligence. The Commission further concluded that, while it did not have sufficient elements nor legal grounds to seize the Court of Justice of the EU regarding these breaches and to seek a financial sanction – notably in view of the fact that the Commission has immediately recovered the money and thus prevented any loss for the budget of the Union following the information later provided by Ms Kroes –, Ms Kroes deserved a reprimand which the Commission expressed. Ms Kroes has been informed of the Commission's decision by a letter of the Secretary-General of the European Commission. You can find the link to the Commission decision here. (For more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382; Alexander Winterstein - Tel.: +32 229 93265)


State aid: Commission welcomes Court judgment in Spanish Goodwill cases

The European Commission welcomes today's judgment by the EU Court of Justice fully upholding two Commission decisions of October 2009 and January 2011, regarding the tax amortisation of financial goodwill for foreign shareholding acquisitions in Spain (joined cases C-20/15 P and C-21/15 P). In doing so, the Court set aside an earlier ruling by the General Court from November 2014. The Commission in its decisions had concluded that, by allowing companies to deduct the financial goodwill arising from shareholdings in foreign companies from their corporate tax base, the Spanish measure gave those companies a selective advantage over their competitors in breach of EU state aid rules. Today's judgment confirms this finding. As a result of the judgment, the Commission decisions of October 2009 and January 2011 are reinstated, including Spain's obligation to recover the aid granted under the measure. The Commission will now work with the Spanish authorities to implement them.  A MEMO is available online. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Yahoo by Verizon

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Yahoo Holdings, Inc. by Verizon Communications Inc., both of the US. Verizon (through AOL) and Yahoo are both active in a number of content, search, communication services and advertising services. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise any competition concerns given the companies' moderate market positions, the limited increments brought by the proposed transaction and the presence of a number of strong players providing such services. Both parties have user data that can be used for advertising purposes. The Commission also analysed potential data concentration as a result of the acquisition with regard to its potential impact on competition in the Single Market. It excluded any competition concerns because a large amount of such user data will continue to be available on the market after the transaction. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8180. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889


Concentrations: la Commission approuve l'acquisition du contrôle exclusif du groupe Aramis par PSA

La Commission Européenne a autorisé, en vertu du règlement européen sur les concentrations, l'acquisition du contrôle exclusifde la société française Celor SAS, tête du Groupe Aramis, par l'entreprise française Automobiles Peugeot SA, tête du Groupe PSA. Le Groupe Aramis est actif exclusivement en France dans la distribution de véhicules automobiles de tourisme, principalement d'occasion. Le Groupe PSA est actif mondialement dans la fabrication, la distribution, l'entretien et la réparation de véhicules automobiles, ainsi que le financement de véhicules automobiles. La Commission a conclu que la concentration envisagée ne soulèverait pas de problèmes de concurrence, compte tenu des chevauchements limités entre les activités des entreprises concernées. La transaction a été examinée selon la procédure simplifiée de contrôle des concentrations. De plus amples informations sont disponibles sur le site internet concurrence de la Commission, dans le registre public des affaires sous le numéro d'affaire M.8291. (Pour plus d'informations: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)


Mergers: Commission clears joint acquisition of NETTIT by BANKIA and EVERIS

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over Nettit Colaborative Payment, S.L. by Everis Initiatives, S.L. and Bankia, S.A., all of Spain. Nettit is an emerging company active in the supply chain finance sector. Supply chain finance, also known as reverse factoring, is a set of financial practices and technologies that support the trade flows and financial processes of end-to-end business supply chains. Everis, controlled by the Japanese group NTT Data, is active in business consulting and IT strategy solutions worldwide. Bankia provides financial services, insurance, asset management and lending in Spain. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the companies' moderate combined market shares. 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.8267. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889


EUROSTAT: Protection sociale en 2014: 28,7% du PIB de l'UE consacré à la protection sociale - Ratios les plus élevés en France et au Danemark

Depuis 2011, les dépenses de protection sociale ont légèrement augmenté dans l'Union européenne (UE), passant de 28,3% du PIB en 2011 à 28,7% en 2014, selon les données d'Eurostat, l'office statistique de l'Union européenne. En 2014, les deux principales sources de financement de la protection sociale au niveau de l'UE étaient les contributions publiques provenant des impôts, comptant pour 40% des recettes totales, et les cotisations sociales pour 54%. La moyenne de l'UE continue de masquer de fortes disparités d'un État membre à l'autre. En 2014, les dépenses de protection sociale représentaient au moins 30% du PIB en France (34,3%), au Danemark (33,5%), en Finlande (31,9%), aux Pays-Bas (30,9%), en Belgique (30,3%), en Autriche ainsi qu'en Italie (30,0% chacun). En revanche, les dépenses de protection sociale étaient inférieures à 20% du PIB en Lettonie (14,5%), en Lituanie (14,7%), en Roumanie (14,8%), en Estonie (15,1%), en Bulgarie et en Slovaquie (18,5% chacune), à Malte et en Pologne (19,0% chacun), en République tchèque (19,7%) et en Hongrie (19,9%). Ces écarts reflètent des différences de niveaux de vie, mais illustrent également la diversité des systèmes nationaux de protection sociale ainsi que des structures démographiques, économiques, sociales et institutionnelles propres à chaque État membre. Un communiqué de presse est disponible ici. (Pour plus d'informations: Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: + 32 229 67094)


EUROSTAT: Comment l'UE se situe-t-elle en matière d'agriculture, de sylviculture et de pêche? - Les derniers faits et chiffres sur ces domaines

Quels États membres sont les principaux producteurs de céréales, de tomates ou de pommes? Quelle quantité de lait de vache est collectée dans les laiteries de l'Union européenne (UE)? Quels États membres produisent le plus de fromage, de beurre ou de crème? Et lesquels produisent le plus de viande de bœuf, de porc ou de volaille? Combien de personnes travaillent dans le secteur agricole dans chaque État membre de l'UE? Comment les prix ont-ils évolué au cours des dernières années? Quelle est l'importance des ressources forestières dans l'UE? Combien de tonnes de poissons ont été capturés et quelle est la production de l'aquaculture? Les réponses à ces questions et à bien d'autres se trouvent dans l'édition 2016 du livre statistique sur l'agriculture, la sylviculture et la pêche, publié aujourd'hui par Eurostat, l'office statistique de l'Union européenne. Cette publication couvre des données sur la production et comprend un large éventail d'indicateurs tels que la taille des fermes et les prix des produits agricoles, ainsi que des données liées à des aspects propres aux caractéristiques environnementales de l'agriculture (par exemple les méthodes d'irrigation, l'utilisation des pesticides ou le bois à usage énergétique). Un communiqué de presse est disponible ici. (Pour plus d'information: Daniel Rosario – Tel: +32 2 29 56185; Clémence Robin – Tel: +32 229 52 509)


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