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European Commission - Daily News

Daily News 18 / 03 / 2016

Brussels, 18 March 2016

Building the Energy Union by completing the internal energy market: Commission releases €200 million for cross-border energy networks
Today, the European Commission has opened a call for proposals under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) to help finance key EU energy infrastructure projects. €200 million will be made available for projects which aim at eliminating bottlenecks preventing the free flow of energy across EU countries. Once finalised, the projects will help complete the EU internal energy market and create a resilient Energy Union with a forward-looking climate change policy, a priority of the Juncker Commission. EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: "With this call for proposals we are actively investing EU money where it is most needed and where it will bring most gains. With the necessary investments, EU consumers will be able to enjoy the benefits of a modern, reliable and sustainable EU-wide energy system. A fully functioning energy market with well-connected energy networks is an essential building block for the Energy Union."This EU money is expected to act as a catalyst for speeding up the implementation of the projects and attracting much needed financing from private and public investors. With a total of €800 million for grants foreseen in 2016, this is the first of two CEF energy calls for this year. The deadline to submit applications is 28 April 2016. A decision on the selection of proposals to be funded is expected to be adopted by the end of July. Find more information about the CEF energy call for proposal and the Energy Union online. Furthermore, the Investment Plan for Europe (EFSI) has already helped to finance 21 projects in the energy and climate action sector. (For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - Tel.: +32 229 56186; Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)


Investment Plan for Europe: another €150 million for Italian SMEs

The European Investment Fund (EIF) and Credito Valtellinese s.c. (CREVAL) have signed an InnovFin agreement in Italy to provide €150 million in loans to innovative small and medium sized businesses in Italy. This transaction benefits from the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe. Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "Innovation is a key driver for job creation and economic growth in Europe. We want to help Italian businesses access the capital they need to turn their innovative ideas into reality. With today's €150 million agreement we are doing exactly that." More information is available online. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Siobhán Millbright – Tel.: + 32 229 57361)


Antitrust: e-commerce sector inquiry finds geo-blocking is widespread throughout EU

The European Commission has published initial findings on the prevalence of geo-blocking which prevents consumers from purchasing consumer goods and accessing digital content online in the European Union. The information was gathered by the Commission as part of its ongoing antitrust sector inquiry into the e-commerce sector, launched in May 2015. In particular, the replies from more than 1400 retailers and digital content providers from all 28 EU Member States show that geo-blocking is common in the EU for both consumer goods and digital content. 38% of the responding retailers selling consumer goods and 68% of digital contentproviders replied that they geo-block consumers located in other EU Member States. Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said "The information gathered as part of our e-commerce sector inquiry confirms the indications that made us launch the inquiry: Not only does geo-blocking frequently prevent European consumers from buying goods and digital content online from another EU country, but some of that geo-blocking is the result of restrictions in agreements between suppliers and distributors. Where a non-dominant company decides unilaterally not to sell abroad, that is not an issue for competition law. But where geo-blocking occurs due to agreements, we need to take a close look whether there is anti-competitive behaviour, which can be addressed by EU competition tools." The press release is available online in EN, FR, DE and all other languages. The factsheet is available in EN. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)


State aid: Commission approves aid for Finnish LNG terminal at Hamina

The European Commission has found that Finland's plans to grant €28 million to build a small scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Hamina, on Finland's South-East coast, are in line with EU state aid rules. The project improves security of energy supply in the region and contributes to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, in line with EU energy and environmental objectives and without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. In particular, ending the energy isolation of the Baltic Sea Region and integrating it fully into EU energy markets is a key building block for the EU’s Energy Union strategy and one of the priorities of the Juncker Commission. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "The Hamina LNG terminal is one of several planned in Finland. These small scale LNG terminals will provide a new source of cleaner fuel for the maritime industry and diversify Finland's gas supply sources. It is a good example of EU state aid rules encouraging sound public investment and helping the EU reach its energy security and environmental goals." A full press release is available online in EN, FR, DE, FI and SV. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)


New Development Education and Awareness Raising programme to be announced

Today EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, will announce a new Development Education and Awareness Raising (DEAR) programme call for proposals, following wide consultations with civil society organisations across Europe. €90 million of funding to European Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities, including small and grassroots organisations, will be made available. The announcement will be made at the Civil Society Organisations Forum, taking place on March 17-18, in Brussels. Ahead of the event, Commissioner Mimica said: "The active engagement of the European public in global development issues is fundamental. During the migration crisis, civil society organisations have played a key role in the response which shows how powerful the involvement of the public and civil society has become. This new call for proposals will support civil society organisations in doing just that." The DEAR programme supports projects designed and led by Civil Society Organizations and Local Authorities (LAs), on topics such as climate change, migration or gender equality, workers' rights, and sustainable consumption. The programme will also raise awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a universally agreed framework adopted by the United Nations in 2015 that involves all countries and people in order to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. (For more information: Alexandre Polack – Tel.: +32 229 90677; Sharon Zarb – Tel.: +32 229 92256)


Road Transport: Commission adopts common rules to facilitate enforcement and enhance road safety

The European Commission has today adopted a series of rules applicable to road hauliers and road passenger transport operators. They include a common classification of serious road safety infringements under transport legislation, as well as new specifications for smart tachographs (the device that records driving times of lorry, bus and coach drivers) making the best use of new digital technologies such as Galileo. The objective is to enhance road safety, contribute to a fairer competition between road transport operators and to facilitate a consistent enforcement of EU rules across borders. More information is available here. A Road Transport Conference bringing together Member States and stakeholders will be held in Brussels on 19 April.(For more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Alexis Perier - Tel.: +32 229 69143)


EUROSTAT: Fourth quarter of 2015 - Euro area job vacancy rate up to 1.6% - EU28 rate up to 1.7%

The job vacancy rate in the euro area (EA19) was 1.6% in the fourth quarter of 2015, up from 1.5% in the previous quarter and the fourth quarter of 2014, according to figures published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The job vacancy rate in the EU28 was 1.7% in the fourth quarter of 2015, up from 1.6% in the previous quarter and the fourth quarter of 2014. A EUROSTAT press release is available online. (For more information:Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: + 32 229 67094)


EUROSTAT: Fourth quarter of 2015 - Annual growth in labour costs up to 1.3% in euro area - Stable at 1.9% in EU28

Hourly labour costs rose by 1.3% in the euro area (EA19) and by 1.9% in the EU28 in the fourth quarter of 2015, compared with the same quarter of the previous year. In the third quarter of 2015, hourly labour costs increased by 1.1% and 1.9% respectively. These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The two main components of labour costs are wages & salaries and non-wage costs. In the euro area, wages & salaries per hour worked grew by 1.5% and the non-wage component by 0.7%, in the fourth quarter of 2015 compared with the same quarter of the previous year. In the third quarter of 2015, the annual changes were +1.5% and +0.2% respectively. In the EU28, hourly wages & salaries rose by 2.0% and the non-wage component by 1.4% for the fourth quarter of 2015. In the third quarter of 2015, annual changes were +2.1% and +1.2% respectively. A EUROSTAT press release is available online. (For more information:Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: + 32 229 67094)




Commissioner Johannes Hahn visits Bosnia and Herzegovina

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, will be in Sarajevo on Monday 21 March for an official visit. The Commissioner will meet key interlocutors of the country including the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency Chairman Mr. Bakir Izetbegović, as well as Presidency members Mladen Ivanić and Dragan Čović, Foreign Minister Mr. Igor Crnadak, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers Mr. Denis Zvizdić, the Prime Minister of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mr. Fadil Novalić, and the Prime Minister of Republika Srpska Ms. Zeljka Cvijanović. The aim of the mission will be to discuss with the political representatives about the latest developments and country authorities' efforts to further deliver on the EU integration path of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ahead of the visit Commissioner Hahn said: "I am encouraged by the country authorities' efforts to deliver on the necessary steps towards the EU, in line with Bosnia and Herzegovina citizens' expectations. It is essential that these reform efforts continue in order for the country to move forward on its EU path". Videos and photos of the visit will be available on EbS. (For more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Alceo Smerilli – Tel.: +32 229 64887)


Federica Mogherini in Lebanon on Monday 21 March

The High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini will travel to Lebanon on 21 March. During her visit she will meet with the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Tammam Salam, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri. This visit comes in the framework of the strong EU-Lebanon partnership, and is aimed at discussing developments in the country at these difficult times, and addressing common challenges such as the Syria crisis, the impact of refugees and the fight against terrorism. At the London conference, the EU and Lebanon agreed to do more to sustainably address the needs of refugees and host communities and on how to support the economic and social resilience of the country. A factsheet on the EU support to Lebanon in dealing with the refugee crisis is also online. Videos and photos of the visit will be available on EbS. (For more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 2 29 69921; Nabila Massrali – Tel.: +32 2 29 69218)


Le Commissaire Moscovici est en déplacement au Mans aujourd'hui

Pour ce 4eme déplacement en région en France qui a pour but de rapprocher l'Europe de ses territoires, le Commissaire Moscovici a souhaité mettre l’accent sur la recherche et l’innovation, et sur la complémentarité des universités et des entreprises en la matière. Le Commissaire rencontrera des équipes dont le travail au quotidien illustre cette complémentarité. Il s’agit notamment de celle de l’Institut des Molécules et matériaux du Mans, de celle du laboratoire d’acoustique de l’Université du Maine, et de celle du centre de transfert de Technologie du Maine. Ces deux derniers établissements bénéficient de fonds européens. Après ces visites, Pierre Moscovici s’entretiendra avec des acteurs économiques locaux, des universitaires et des étudiants. Dans la perspective de ce déplacement, le Commissaire Moscovici a déclaré : "L’innovation et la recherche sont un socle de développement important pour l'Europe, qui se construit aussi au cœur des régions et des territoires. Je me réjouis d’échanger avec des chercheurs, universitaires et entreprises de la région du Mans sur leurs projets et la manière dont l'Europe est à leurs côtés, eux qui sont des artisans de la relance de l’économie européenne". (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Audrey Augier – Tel.: +32 229 71607)


Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Thyssen participate in the Annual Convention for Inclusive Growth

On Monday 21 March, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, will open the first edition of the Annual Convention for Inclusive Growth taking place in Brussels, together with the Secretary of State for Social Affairs and Employment of The Netherlands, Jetta Klijnsma. Vice-President for the Euro and Social dialogue, Valdis Dombrovskis, will close the event. The Convention will also be attended by Allan Larsson, special adviser to President Juncker on the European Pillar of Social Rights (speech is available online). The Annual Convention for Inclusive Growth, which takes up the torch of the previous Convention of the European Platform against Poverty, will gather around 400 policy makers and representatives of the civil society. The aim of the Convention is to discuss what the EU can do to ensure that all citizens reap the benefits of truly inclusive growth. This includes fighting poverty, reducing unemployment and making sure no one is left behind. The Convention will also provide an opportunity to discuss the European Pillar of Social Rights, on which the Commission has launched a broad consultation on 8 March. Commissioner Thyssen commented: "The Annual Convention for Inclusive Growth reflects our firm commitment to reconnect policy making with the expertise and views of the civil society. I am confident that it will lead to a fruitful exchange on social policies and notably on building the Pillar of Social Rights. I want to involve as many people as possible, from all walks of life so that the Pillar is as representative and realistic as possible in the context of a rapidly changing world." The event is open to accredited journalists and will also be web streamed. Vice-President Dombrovskis' closing remarks will be made available here, Commissioner Thyssen's speech here and the agenda of the Convention can be found here(For more information:Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: + 32 229 67094; Annikky Lamp – Tel.: +32 229 56151)


Commissioner Cecilia Malmström meets with US Trade Representative in Brussels

EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrӧm meets today with US Trade Representative Michael Froman in Brussels as part of the joint efforts to keep up an accelerated pace in the negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The meeting will focus on market access issues, notably services, public procurement and industrial tariffs. The Commissioner and the Trade Representative will take stock of negotiations and build on recent progress made, notably in the field of regulatory cooperation. In the evening, the two will take part in the German Marshall Fund's Brussels Forum, where they will participate in a discussion on TTIP and other trade issues moderated by David Ignatius of the Washington Post. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Clemence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509)


Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete in Vienna for high-level EU-OPEC meeting

On 21 March EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete attends the high-level EU-OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) meeting in Vienna. The meeting will focus on the challenges caused by the recent downward trends in oil prices and analyse possible future trends in the oil market in the light of a sharp decline in investment in oil exploration and production. The discussions will also reflect on how the current times of low oil prices can be an opportunity to phase out environmentally harmful fossil fuel subsidies, and to promote measures on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Commissioner Arias Cañete said: "Excessive oil price volatility is harmful for the economies of both producing and consuming countries. As we demonstrated in the Paris climate talks last year, Europe's commitment to a clean energy future is non-negotiable. Eliminating fossil fuels subsidies worldwide is certainly a step in the right direction. I look forward to discussing with OPEC countries how we can best work together to ensure the global clean energy transition." The EU's oil imports are expected to account for more than 90% of its total oil consumption by the next decade. OPEC comprises 13 oil producing nations which account for over one-third of the global oil supply all together. The EU has held meetings within the EU-OPEC dialogue since 2004. (For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen - Tel.: +32 229 56186; Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)


Competition: Commissioner Vestager meets Chinese counterparts in Beijing to discuss competition policy and economic reform

During her visit to Beijing, Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager had various meetings with her counterparts in the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of State Administration of Industry and Commerce, the National Development and Reform Commission, the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, and the Development Research Center of the State Council, to discuss cooperation on competition issues between the EU and China, as well as China's reform agenda. Following her meetings, Commissioner Vestager said: "The meetings confirmed our shared interest in strengthening our cooperation on competition matters. They provided me with a first-hand sense of the challenges and urgency of China's reform—in particular the ambition to let the market shape the economy, for domestic and foreign operators alike. I believe the European experience of building our open single market and our history of restructuring and liberalising a number of sectors contains useful ideas in this respect. In particular, I shared with my Chinese counterparts the Commissions experiences as enforcer of state aid control within the single market." For more details see website of DG Competition. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)




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