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European Commission - Daily News

Daily News 04 / 03 / 2016

Brussels, 4 March 2016

EU announces first projects under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey: €95 million to be provided for immediate educational and humanitarian assistance

Today the European Commission announced the first projects under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, pledging €55 million to address the immediate needs of Syrian school-children in Turkey for access to formal education, and €40 million in humanitarian aid through the World Food Programme (WFP) working in close cooperation with the Turkish Red Crescent. Visiting refugees camps in south-east Turkey in the provinces of Gaziantep and Kahramanmaraş Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, said: ''Children of Syrian refugees in Turkey need access to formal education so that they can hope to build a normal life in the future. Education is an absolute priority and a human obligation for us all. The new funding of €55 million announced today will help bridge existing gaps and put 110.000 Syrian kids into schools, on top of the 200.000 schoolchildren the EU already supports. This will complement the commendable efforts of the Turkish authorities to provide education to refugees''. Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, stated: "We have been providing humanitarian aid to refugees in Turkey since the beginning of the crisis and the new Refugee Facility allows us to deliver more and better aid. The new €40 million in humanitarian aid we are providing to the World Food Programme will help to reach 735 000 Syrian refugees with food aid". The full press release is available online (For more information: Maja Kocijancic - Tel.: +32 229 86570; Alexandre Polack – Tel.: +32 229 90677; Alceo Smerilli – Tel.: +32 229 64887; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)


Back to Schengen: Commission proposes Roadmap for restoring fully functioning Schengen system

The Commission today presented a detailed Roadmap of the concrete steps needed to return order to the management of the EU's external and internal borders. The creation of the Schengen area without internal borders has brought important benefits to European citizens and business alike, yet in recent months the system has been severely tested by the refugee crisis. The European Council of 18-19 February set the clear mandate of restoring the normal functioning of the Schengen area, and to do so in a concerted manner, while giving full support to Member States facing difficult circumstances. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "Schengen is one of the most cherished achievements of European integration, and the costs of losing it would be huge. Our aim is to lift all internal border controls as quickly as possible, and by December 2016 at the latest. For this purpose, we need a coordinated European approach to temporary border controls within the framework of the Schengen rules instead of the current patchwork of unilateral decisions. In the meantime, we must fully implement the measures set out in our roadmap in order to strengthen control of our external border and improve the functioning of our asylum system. We must also continue to work with Turkey to fully implement the Joint Action Plan and substantially reduce the flow of arrivals." Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos added: "With this roadmap, we are presenting the next steps that we must take together to restore a normal functioning Schengen Area as soon as possible, and this requires taking a number of important actions. First, all Member States need to apply the rules - the 'wave through' approach must end and Member States must grant access to asylum applicants, but refuse entry to those who merely wish to transit. Secondly, we must remedy the serious deficiencies at our external borders – as indeed an internal area without border controls is only possible if we have a strong protection of our external borders. For this, the Commission's proposal for a European Border and Coast Guard – presented in December – needs to be adopted by Member States without delay so that it can start functioning during the summer already. It is now time for Member States to pull together in the common interest to safeguard one of the Union's crowning achievements." You can find the full press release here. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Tim Mc Phie - Tel.: +32 229 58602; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 80423)


Commission Visa Progress Report: Turkey makes progress towards visa liberalisation

The Commission has today adopted the second report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its Visa Liberalisation Roadmap, highlighting the steps made by Turkey since the last report of October 2014.  At the EU-Turkey Summit of 29 November, Turkey committed to accelerating the fulfilment of the Roadmap, including by anticipating the application of all the provisions of the EU-Turkey Readmission agreement, with the objective of completing the visa liberalisation process by October 2016, provided all the benchmarks have been met by then. Today's report welcomes the new level of engagement and determination demonstrated by the Turkish authorities. Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos took note of a number of important steps forward and encouraged further acceleration of the reform process: "I commend the efforts made by Turkey. While being on the frontline of the Syrian refugee crisis, the Turkish authorities have showed a renewed determination and commitment to the visa liberalisation dialogue since the EU-Turkey Summit. I trust Turkey will implement as a matter of urgency the priority measures identified in today's report and that we can continue the efforts towards fulfilling the visa liberalisation conditions together. The Commission will continue to assist Turkey in the implementation of the Roadmap". The Report notes that, especially after the EU-Turkey Summit of 29 November 2015, Turkey has accelerated the reform process aimed at fulfilling the requirements of the Roadmap. In particular, Turkey, which is offering hospitality and assistance to more than 2.5 million refugees from Syria, has recently made it possible for these refugees to access the labour market, which is expected to facilitate their social inclusion and self-reliance. Turkey also took important measures to ensure access to public services for refugees, including schooling for children. In parallel, Turkey has started to introduce more strict visa and admission rules in respect of nationals coming from countries which are sources of significant irregular onward migration from Turkey to the EU. In addition, Turkey has continued to strengthen its overall border surveillance and management capacities.You can find the full press release here. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Tim Mc Phie - Tel.: +32 229 58602; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 80423)


Commission awards €3.5 million in emergency funding to Greece for reception facilities for migrants and refugees

The European Commission has awarded €3.5 million in emergency funding to Greece. The funding will help cover the running costs for human resources in the First Reception Centres that will be set up on the Greek islands of Kos, Lesvos, Samos, Chios and Leros. The money comes from the Internal Security Fund (ISF) and should strengthen Greece's capacity to effectively manage the unprecedented migratory flows into the country by ensuring an adequate functioning of the identification, registration and reception of third country nationals. The emergency funding will be used to significantly increase the number of specialised staff, which should help to reduce the duration of registration procedures. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud - Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst - Tel.: +32 229 86764; Tim McPhie - Tel.: +32 229 58602; Markus Lammert - Tel.: +32 229 80423)


EUROSTAT: Asylum in the EU Member States; Record number of over 1.2 million first time asylum seekers registered in 2015; Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis: top citizenships

In 2015, 1 255 600 first time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the Member States of the European Union (EU), a number more than double that of the previous year. The number of Syrians seeking international protection has doubled in 2015 compared with the previous year to reach 362 800, while the number of Afghans has almost quadrupled to 178 200 and that of Iraqis has multiplied by 7 to 121 500. They represent the three main citizenships of first time asylum applicants in the EU Member States in 2015, accounting for more than half of all first time applicants. A full press release is available online. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 22986764)


Investment Plan for Europe: €1 billion in finance for SMEs in Italy

The European Investment Fund (EIF) and Fondo di Garanzia per le PMI have signed a COSME counter-guarantee agreement to provide €1 billion of financing to 20,000 SMEs in Italy. This transaction benefits from the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe. EU Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: "Italy is steaming ahead when it comes to SME financing agreements under the Investment Plan, with far more deals signed than in the other Member States. This is very welcome since SMEs are the backbone of the Italian economy and they should not struggle to access financing for their projects. I hope the EFSI-backed deal signed today will enable those 20,000 small businesses to bring their ideas to life." (For more information see press release in EN or IT or contact Vanessa Mock – Tel.: +32 229 56194; Siobhán Millbright – Tel.: + 32 229 57361)


Commission proposes EU accession to international Convention to fight violence against women

Today, the European Commission has proposed for the European Union to ratify the Council of Europe's Istanbul Convention, a comprehensive international treaty on combatting violence against women and domestic violence. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: "Our proposal sends a clear message: victims of violence against women must be better protected across Europe. One in three women in the EU has experienced physical or sexual violence, or both. More than half of all women have experienced sexual harassment after the age of 15. These figures are unacceptable and this goes against our values. The proposal for the EU to ratify the Istanbul Convention is a step forward both for our fight against violence and in guaranteeing gender equality. To ensure coherent implementation at all levels, I also call on those Member States who have not yet ratified the Convention to do so swiftly. "After accession, the EU and its Member States, within their respective competences, will ensure that a number of rights and obligations are in place to protect women (criminalisation of gender-based violence, accessibility of shelters, support through telephone lines…). A press release and a factsheet are available online. (For more information: Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253; Mélanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)


Agriculture: the Commission approves two new products from Austria and Italy to the quality register

The Commission has approved today the addition of two new products to the quality registers of Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) and of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). From Austria, 'Heumilch' (TSG) is cow's milk produced traditionally from animals not being fed fermented fodder or 'genetically modified' feed. For Italy, 'Pane Toscano' (PDO) is a bread made following a typical method in Tuscany requiring the exclusive use of sourdough starter, water and soft-wheat wholegrain flour from wheat varieties grown, produced and packaged only in the Tuscany Region. Salt is notably absent from 'Pane Toscano''s ingredients. These new denominations will be added to the list of over 1,330 products already protected. More information: webpages on quality products and DOOR database of protected products.(For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel: +32 229 56 185; Clémence Robin – Tel: +32 229 52509)


Mergers: Commission clears creation of a joint venture between Avril Pôle Animal and Tönnies

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the creation of a joint venture between Avril Pôle Animal (‘APA’) of France and Tönnies International Holding Gmbh of Germany, belonging to the Tönnies group (‘Tönnies’). APA has activities throughout the oil and protein sectors, including the slaughtering of pigs and the production, marketing and sale of pork products for human and animal consumption. Tönnies is active in the purchasing and slaughtering of pigs and beef cattle, as well as the processing, packaging and sale of meat products. The joint venture will process, package and sell at retail level fresh pork and beef products of French origin for human consumption. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns, because the joint venture's market position in the European Economic Area (EEA) will be very limited. 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.7841. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of DOC Kaas by DMK

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of DOC Kaas B.V. of the Netherlands by DMK Deutsches Milchkontor GmbH of Germany.  DMK is a milk cooperative which produces dairy, cheese and whey-based products. DOC Kaas is a milk cooperative active in the production of Dutch-type cheese and other types of hard and semi-hard cheese, as well as cream and whey-based products derived from the cheese production process. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because the companies' combined market shares will remain minimal or moderate in the affected markets and customers will continue to have a number of alternatives. 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.7573.  (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)


Mergers: Commission partially refers acquisition of certain UDG Healthcare businesses by McKesson to UK; clears proposed merger outside UK

The European Commission has today taken two decisions regarding the proposed acquisition of certain businesses from UDG Healthcare plc of Ireland by McKesson Corporation of the United States. McKesson operates in particular in the distribution and delivery of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. UDG will sell McKesson the following assets (i) its pharmaceuticals wholesale business in the UK and Ireland; (ii) TCP, a healthcare services provider in Ireland; and (iii) MASTA, a travel healthcare business in the UK. The Commission has partially referred the assessment of the transaction to the UK competition authority, at the latter's request. After a preliminary investigation, the Commission has found that the proposed transaction would threaten to significantly affect competition in certain markets in the UK. Those aspects will now be examined by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) under UK's national law. At the same time, the Commission has approved the part of the transaction affecting the European Economic Area (EEA) outside the UK. The Commission concluded that that part of the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns, in particular because strong competitors would remain active in 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.7818. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)



Speech by President Juncker at the 14th Norbert Schmelzer lecture, The Hague on "Die Europäische Union - eine Quelle der Stabilität in Krisenzeiten"

President Jean-Claude Juncker gave yesterday the 14th Norbert Schmelzer lecture in The Hague in which he recalled the European Union's efforts to manage the refugee crisis and urged countries to live up to agreed commitments. "We are the richest continent in the World – 500 million citizens – and seem not to be able to cope with 1 to 2 million refugees teaching our continent."  The President said he felt ashamed  that Jordan alone had accepted over 2.5 million refugees from Syria and that in Lebanon 25% of the population was refugees, while Europe cannot even cope with 1%. The Commission, in cooperation with Member States, has worked tirelessly to ensure more humane conditions for refugees coming to Europe, has out in place resettlement and relocation mechanisms to ensure more solidarity and has proposed a €700 million emergency humanitarian assistance package, as well as an Action Plan with Turkey. All these elements need to be implemented to effectively tackle the refugee crisis. The  President warned against complacency. He notably reiterated the Commission's determination to continue pushing Member States to stick to their commitments on relocation and resettlement and that migrants should not be able to choose their host country. He warned against the erection of walls or fences between Schengen countries, which would risk undoing the achievements of the Internal Market. "The Internal Market will not survive this refugee crisis, if we do not come to a common understanding on securing our external borders and if we do not put a stop to the politics where every country unilaterally does what it pleases. Restoring borders between two Schengen countries will destroy our common market," the President warned. In April the Dutch people will vote in a referendum on the EU's Association Agreement with Ukraine. President Juncker took the opportunity to underline the agreement's vital contribution to Europe's stability.  He also stressed  that this was not about any future accession of Ukraine to the EU, but about a Trade agreement with Ukraine. "I would be delighted if the Netherlands said 'yes'. Because this is not about Dutch politics, it's about Europe." While the President focussed mainly on the current migration challenges Europe is facing, he also recalled the successes of Europe's Banking Union that has made the European Union more resilient to external shocks and the Commission's Investment Plan for Europe which has already mobilised 61 billion of fresh investment capital - only three months after the Plan was put forward. The full speech is available online. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456)



La Haute Représentante/ Vice-Présidente Federica Mogherini en visite à Rabat, Maroc le 4 mars

La Haute-Représentante/Vice-Présidente de l'Union pour les affaires étrangères et la sécurité Federica Mogherini se rendra à Rabat aujourd'hui pour une visite durant laquelle elle s'entretiendra avec le Ministre des Affaires étrangères Marocain Salaheddine Mezouar. Cette visite sera l'occasion de faire le point sur les relations bilatérales entre le Maroc et l'Union Européenne, l'état de notre partenariat et de discuter de nos intérêts communs, y compris suite à la décision du Tribunal de l'UE sur l'accord agricole entre l'UE et le Maroc sur laquelle l'Union européenne a fait appel. L'UE et le Maroc ont développé, depuis de longues années, un Partenariat durable scellé par un Accord d'Association couvrant les nombreux domaines de notre coopération bilatérale. Ce partenariat repose sur l'écoute, le partage, la solidarité et le respect mutuels entre partenaires. (For more information: Catherine Ray - Tel.: +32 229 69921; Nabila Massrali – Tel.: +32 229 69218)


HR/VP Federica Mogherini travels to Argentina on 9th March

The High Representative and Vice President Federica Mogherini will travel to Argentina on 9 March 2016 for meetings with President Macri, Foreign Minister Malcorra and other members of the government. The visit will mark the great importance which the European Union attributes to Argentina's role in Latin America and G20 partner. As agreed between the HRVP and Foreign Minister Malcorra during their meeting at Davos in January, the EU and Argentina are determined to seize the current opportunities to significantly step up their cooperation, both bilaterally and bi-regionally in fora like Mercosur and EU-CELAC. (For more information: Catherine Ray - Tel.: +32 229 69921; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)



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