General Market

Daily News 19 / 04 / 2017

President Juncker and Members of the Commission at the IMF/World Bank Spring meetings in Washington DC

As of tomorrow, President Juncker and several Members of the Commission will travel to Washington DC (USA) for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Spring Meetings on 20-22 April. President Juncker, Vice-President Dombrovskis, Commissioner Hahn, and Commissioner Moscovici will represent the Commission at different events hosted in that framework. The G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meetings will also be held in the margins. President Juncker will meet, among others with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres. He will also have a working dinner with Sir Suma Chakrabarti, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; Mr. Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank; Mr. Rolf Wenzel, Governor of the Council of Europe Development Bank; Mr. Jin Liqun, President of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank; Mr. Takehiko Nakao, President of the Asian Development Bank; Mr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, and Mr. Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank. The other Members of the Commission present in Washington also have a variety of high-level bilateral meetings, speaking engagements and other commitments. A more detailed calendar is available here. (For more information: Margaritis Schinas – Tel.: +32 229 60524; Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153)

Commission renews cooperation for sustainable development of the blue economy in the Western Mediterranean

Today, the European Commission launches a new initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the Western Mediterranean region that will increase maritime safety and security, promote sustainable blue growth and jobs, and preserve ecosystems and biodiversity. Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said: “Millions of holiday makers have a happy association with the Western Mediterranean. Like the millions more who live across the region, they understand the fragile link between conserving national habitats and traditions and ensuring economic viability. Blue economy is important for each of the countries involved and they have recognised the strength of working together.” The initiative is an example of EU’s successful neighbourhood policy as five EU Member States (France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Malta) and five Southern partner countries (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia) will work jointly on their shared interests in the region. Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, said: ”This new regional initiative recognises and taps into the economic potential of the Mediterranean Sea and its coast lines to further enhance economic growth, contribute to job creation and eventually the stabilisation of the region. It is an important step towards closer coordination and cooperation among participating countries.” The enhanced cooperation is particularly timely as just three weeks ago the Commission secured a 10-year pledge to save Mediterranean fish stocks in the Ministerial MedFish4Ever Declaration. Among others, the initiative’s targeted actions include cooperation between coast guards, response to accidents and oil spills, habitat conservation, biotechnology, data sharing, marine knowledge and coastal tourism. For more information on the priorities and specific actions of the initiative a full press release and MEMO are online. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: + 32 229 56185; Iris Petsa – Tel.: + 32 229 93321)


Commission launches public consultation on how excise duties are applied to alcoholic beverages

The European Commission has today launched a public consultation on how excise duties are applied to alcohol and alcoholic beverages (“excise duty structures”). EU excise duty rules for alcohol aim to prevent trade distortions in the Single Market, ensure fair competition between businesses, and reduce administrative burden for businesses. Concretely, the rules define product categories, methods to charge the duty and provide for reduced rates and exemptions from excise duty. However, these rules have not changed since 1992 and a recent Commission report has recommended clearer tax rules to support small producers of alcoholic beverages and to fight the sale of dangerous counterfeit alcohol. The Commission is also keen to reduce costs for smaller businesses. In December, EU Finance Ministers requested that the Commission carry out the necessary studies to prepare a possible legislative proposal to revise the common rules. The aim now is to identify ways to alleviate the administrative burden for both Member States and business, while reducing distortions in the internal market. Excise duties are indirect taxes on the sale or use of specific products. They are usually applied as an amount per quantity of the product – e.g. per 1,000 litres in the case of alcohol. Revenues from excise duty go directly to the coffers of EU Member States. The consultation will run until 7 July 2017 and is available here. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Patrick McCullough – Tel.: +32 229 87183)


Eurostat: Mars 2017: Le taux d’inflation annuel de la zone euro en baisse à 1,5% – Celui de l’UE en baisse à 1,6%

Le taux d’inflation annuel de la zone euro s’est établi à 1,5% en mars 2017, contre 2,0% en février. Un an auparavant, il était de 0,0%. Le taux d’inflation annuel de l’Union européenne s’est établi à 1,6% en mars 2017, contre 2,0% en février. Un an auparavant, il était de 0,0%. Ces chiffres sont publiés par Eurostat, l’office statistique de l’Union européenne. En mars 2017, les taux annuels les plus faibles ont été observés en Roumanie (0,4%) ainsi qu’en Irlande et aux Pays-Bas (0,6% chacun). Les taux annuels les plus élevés ont été enregistrés en Lettonie (3,3%), en Lituanie (3,2%) et en Estonie (3,0%). Par rapport à février 2017, l’inflation annuelle a baissé dans dix-sept États membres, est restée stable dans six et a augmenté dans cinq autres. Un communiqué de presse est disponible ici. (Pour plus d’informations: Annika Breidthardt – Tél.: +32 229 56153; Juliana Dahl – Tél:+32 229-59914)

Eurostat: Février 2017: Excédent de 17,8 milliards d’euros du commerce international de biens de la zone euro – Excédent de 1,7 mrd d’euros pour l’UE28

D’après les premières estimations pour le mois de février 2017, les exportations de biens de la zone euro (ZE19) vers le reste du monde se sont établies à 170,3 milliards d’euros, en hausse de 4% par rapport à février 2016 (163,2 mrds). Les importations depuis le reste du monde ont quant à elles été de 152,6 mrds d’euros, en hausse de 5% par rapport à février 2016 (144,9 mrds). En conséquence, la zone euro a enregistré en février 2017 un excédent de 17,8 mrds d’euros de son commerce international de biens avec le reste du monde, contre un excédent de 18,2 mrds en février 2016. Le commerce intra-zone euro a progressé à 149,1 mrds d’euros en février 2017, en hausse de 5% par rapport à février 2016. Un communiqué de presse est disponible ici. (Pour plus d’informations:Daniel Rosario – Tel.: + 32 229 56185; Kinga Malinowska- Tel.: +32 229 Kinga 51383)



First Vice-President Timmermans on a visit to Romania

Tomorrow, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans will travel to Bucharest, Romania, where he will participate in a Citizens’ Dialogue to exchange views with Romanians on the White Paper on the Future of Europe and the 60-year anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. During the visit, the First Vice-President will meet Prime Minister Sorin Mihai Grindeanu, the Minister of Justice, Tudorel Toader, and the Minister of the Interior, Carmen Daniela Dan to discuss progress in bringing forward the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) reform. He will also discuss these matters with representatives from the Romanian Parliament including the Speaker of the Senate, Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Liviu Dragnea. These meetings will be followed by a joint discussion with members of the Justice and European Affairs Committees of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. The First Vice-President will also attend a meeting with the leaders of parliamentary opposition parties and will further discuss the CVM with the relevant partners and stakeholders in the field of justice. A joint press conference with the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior and First Vice-President is scheduled for 13:00 (local time). The Citizens’ Dialogue will take place at 17:30 (local time) and will be followed by a press doorstep. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Katarzyna Kolanko – Tel.: +32 229 63444)

La Commissaire Thyssen rencontrera les autorités et partenaires sociaux belges dans le cadre du Semestre européen

Demain 20 avril, la Commissaire responsable de l’emploi, des affaires sociales, des compétences et de la mobilité de travailleurs, Marianne Thyssen, sera en Belgique dans le cadre du Semestre européen, le cycle annuel de surveillance budgétaire et socio-économique européenne. Le matin, elle rencontrera d’abord le Premier Ministre Charles Michel et le Vice Premier Ministre Kris Peeters. Cette rencontre sera suivie d’une conférence de presse qui sera diffusée ici. Le discours de la Commissaire sera publié ici. La Commissaire Thyssen participera ensuite à un échange de vues au parlement fédéral avec les comités budgets et finances et affaires sociales et avec le comité d’avis sur les affaires européennes. Son discours sera publié ici. L’après-midi est réservé à une rencontre avec les Ministres régionaux et communautaires de l’emploi et à une discussion avec les partenaires sociaux interprofessionnels au sein du Conseil national de travail et du Conseil central de l’économie. L’objectif de cette journée de rencontres est de préparer les recommandations spécifiques par pays que la Commission européenne proposera en mai au Conseil. (Pour plus d’informations: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: +32 229 67094)

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

General Market

Daily News 18 / 03 / 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)




The Commissioners’ weekly activities

General Market

Remarks of Commissioner Avramopoulos at the Press Conference on 4 March 2016 Ahead of the Meeting of EU Heads of State or Government on 7 March 2016

Dear all,

Things have been moving quickly in the last few days – both on the ground, but also here.

As more than 10,000 people are stuck at the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and hundreds continue to arrive, it is more than time for quick but also substantial actions. 

That is why we have presented an emergency humanitarian assistance instrument on Wednesday to support those Member States that are particularly affected by the refugee crisis. 

That is also why the Commission has been working extremely hard and closely with Greek authorities and UNHCR on a comprehensive contingency plan, but also – together with other European Member States – to make sure massive relocations pick up in the next few days.

Several pledges have been done in the last few days, and I count on Member States to deliver on these.

However, we cannot lose sight of the bigger picture, and what is at stake: Schengen and our unity.

That is why today, we are presenting a Roadmap towards a return to a normal functioning of our Schengen area, without internal border controls.  

While the exceptional and temporary controls that are happening now in eight countries of the Schengen zone are according to the rules, we cannot forget the objective: that they are indeed exceptional and temporary, and that we should return to a border-free internal Schengen zone as soon as possible.

Of course, that means that we have to address serious deficiencies at our external borders. As you all know, we are working very closely with the Greek authorities, to help them address these challenges comprehensively.

Because we cannot have free movement internally if we cannot manage our external borders effectively.

This of course also means that we count on the Member States and the European Parliament to make swift progress on the European Border and Coast Guard. Member States should already now start the necessary preparations for the mandatory pooling of resources.

The EU should be able to manage its external borders under this new system by the summer already.

Let me be crystal clear on the ultimate objective of today’s roadmap: it is to move from unilateral decisions on the reintroduction of border controls towards a coordinated approach and to lift ALL internal border controls by the end of this year.

Schengen itself is of course only one piece of the larger migration puzzle. And this goes even beyond the European Union.

That is why our cooperation with Turkey and the summit on Monday are so crucial.

President Tusk and my colleagues, First Vice-President Timmermans and Commissioner Hahn were in Turkey yesterday and today where the meetings were constructive and fruitful, to prepare the summit on Monday.

Progress was made on a few crucial items to stem irregular migration such as readmission from Greece and fighting against smugglers.

With the acceleration of returns of irregular migrants from Greece to Turkey over the last few days, the EU-Turkey Action Plan is starting to bear fruit.

But we need to see the flows from Turkey go drastically down soon.

The EU is committed to supporting Turkey. Today we present the second report on the visa liberalisation roadmap for Turkey and I want to commend the visible progress made by our partner.

Furthermore, today we also allocate €95 million for the first projects under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey to be provided for immediate educational and humanitarian assistance.

The summit on Monday with Turkey will be decisive and concrete steps need to be taken to:

  • stem the flows from Turkey to Greece

  • step up returns and readmissions

  • fight the ugly smuggling business

At the same time, we are in constant contact with Member States to start delivering soon on the Humanitarian Admission Scheme with Turkey, and transfer refugees directly and safely from Turkey to Europe.

Better external border controls and cooperation with Turkey will also result in fewer flows.

But we also have to open up legal channels, for people in need of protection to come safely to Europe.

Monday will also be the moment to come together and decide to speed up massive relocations as well as resettlement in the days and weeks to come.

Ladies and gentlemen, yes, we are at a critical moment, but it is not the first one and we will have many more, as long as people continue to flee to our region. Neither Turkey nor Greece are at the root of this problem.

That is why we continue to work towards a solution and stability in Syria and Libya.

We should not spare efforts to achieve this.

The European Union was built on solidarity and resilience, out of fragmentation.

It is precisely in testing times like these, that we should rely on that solidarity and that resilience, and deepen mutual trust because it is the only way to move ahead.

General Market

Daily News 04 / 03 / 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)


The Commissioners’ weekly activities