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European Commission Spokesman's Briefing for 98-09-30

Midday Express: News from the EU Commission Spokesman's Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: EUROPA, the European Commission Server at <http://europa.eu.int>

MIDDAY EXPRESS

News from the Spokesman's midday briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi du Porte-Paroleb

30/09/98


CONTENTS / CONTENU

[I] Résultats de la Commission de ce jour - Outcome of today's Commission meeting

  • [01] Commission adopts communication on application of EU competition rules to vertical restraints
  • [02] La Commission évalue le programme de convergence de la Grèce
  • [03] Commission assesses Finland's stability programme
  • [04] Commission calls for EU-wide action NOW to promote entrepreneurship and improve the competitive position of European businesses
  • [05] La Commission approuve un régime d'aides régionales en faveur des PME en Extremadure
  • [06] Commission approves aid to Sunparks International in Belgium
  • [07] La Commission approuve une aide à la R&D en faveur de l'entreprise Sollac
  • [08] Commission approves aid to Seagate Strategic Research Programme (Northern Ireland)
  • [09] Aid to Agrana Stärke GmbH to build and convert starch production facilities in Austria
  • [10] Aid for promotion of agricultural products in Belgium (Flanders)
  • [11] Exemption from energy and carbon dioxide tax in favour of Agroetanol in Sweden
  • [12] Ouverture d'une procédure d'infraction contre la loi italienne sur l'étiquetage de l'huile d'olive
  • [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

  • [13] Conference on "Industrial dialogue on enlargement : a challenge for east and west" in Vienna

  • [I] Résultats de la Commission de ce jour - Outcome of today's Commission meeting

    [01] Commission adopts communication on application of EU competition rules to vertical restraints

    The European Commission has adopted a Communication on the application of the European Union (EU) competition rules to vertical restraints (agreements between producers and distributors). The basic idea is to introduce a very wide block exemption regulation that will exempt from the application of Article 85 EU Treaty all vertical restraints concerning intermediate and final goods and services except for a limited number of hardcore restraints. The principle objective of a wide block exemption regulation is to grant companies who lack market power a safe harbour within which it is no longer necessary for them to assess the validity of their agreements under the EU competition rules. In order to preserve competition and to limit the extent of this exemption to companies which do not have significant market power, the exemption regulation will establish market share thresholds, beyond which companies cannot avail themselves of the safe harbour.

    [02] La Commission évalue le programme de convergence de la Grèce

    La Commission européenne a adressé une recommandation au Conseil des Ministres concernant le programme de convergence grec. Il s'agit de la première application concrète des nouvelles procédures prévues par le pacte de stabilité et de croissance pour la surveillance des politiques économiques et budgétaires des pays qui ne participeront pas à la zone euro le 1er janvier 1999. L'objectif principal du programme de convergence de la Grèce est le respect, par ce pays, des conditions permettant de participer pleinement à l'euro à partir de 2001. Ce programme est conforme aux grandes orientations de politique économique arrêtées au Conseil européen de Cardiff. Il importera de faire baisser comme prévu l'inflation à 2,5% en 1999 et de maintenir la stabilité des prix par la suite. L'objectif du gouvernement est de ramener le déficit budgétaire à 2,4% du PIB en 1998, puis de le combler progressivement les années suivantes pour revenir à 0,8% du PIB en 2001. Quant à la dette publique, elle devrait passer de 108,6% du PIB en 1998 à 99,8% en 2001. Sur la base de la recommandation de la Commission, le Conseil devrait adopter un avis officiel sur le programme grec le 12 octobre.

    [03] Commission assesses Finland's stability programme

    The European Commission made a recommendation to the Council of Ministers on Finland's stability programme. This is the first concrete application of the new procedures in the stability and growth pact for monitoring the economic and budgetary policies of countries that will adopt the euro on 1 January 1999. The Commission concludes that the economic and budgetary policies presented in the Finnish stability programme are in line with the requirements of the stability and growth pact and the broad economic policy guidelines agreed at the Cardiff European Council. In particular, the government's objective of achieving a budgetary surplus of 2.3% of GDP in 2002, would create a sufficient safety margin against the effects of cyclical variations without breaching the Treaty reference value of 3% of GDP for the government deficit. However continued budgetary consolidation efforts are needed, in particular at the level of central government, to deal with expenditure pressures resulting from the ageing of the population. The Commission's analysis was based on the Finnish stability programme presented on 7 September. On the basis of the Commission's recommendation, the Council is expected to adopt a formal opinion on the Finnish programme on 12 October.

    [04] Commission calls for EU-wide action NOW to promote entrepreneurship and improve the competitive position of European businesses

    The European Commission adopted a Communication and Action Plan which responds to the BEST (Business Environment Simplification) Task Force's recommendations for improving and simplifying the business environment, and proposes a comprehensive strategy to promote entrepreneurship throughout the European Union (EU) to improve the competitive position of European businesses, thus stimulating growth and job creation. Entrepreneurship is one of the four pillars in the employment guidelines for Member States. The Action Plan contains a time-table for the appropriate authorities to initiate action either at an EU, national or regional level. The Commission will also draw up indicators of performance in cooperation with the Member States so that the progress made in implementing the Action Plan can be measured and evaluated.

    [05] La Commission approuve un régime d'aides régionales en faveur des PME en Extremadure

    La Commission européenne a approuvé des aides du gouvernement régional d'Extremadure (Espagne) en faveur des petites et moyennes entreprises (PME) localisées dans la région. Dans le but de renforcer la compétitivité des PME, les aides seront destinées à financer des programmes de mise en place de systèmes d'assurance qualité, promotion de services d'information aux entreprises et promotion de l'innovation technologique et de la recherche et du développement. Au total, le volume d'aides pourra atteindre au maximum PTA 464 millions (2,77 millions d'Ecus). Les mesures couvriront la période 1998-1999. Dans sa décision, la Commission a tenu compte du fait que les bénéficiaires sont des PME situées dans une zone défavorisée où le niveau de vie est anormalement bas. En conséquence, les aides sont considérées compatibles avec les règles européennes d'aides en faveur du développement régional.

    [06] Commission approves aid to Sunparks International in Belgium

    The European Commission has decided to approve restructuring aid in favour of Sunparks International NV, a company exploiting all-weather holiday parks. The aid consists of a guarantee by the Belgian authorities of 75% on two loans. These loans amount up to ECU 8.6 million (BEF 350 million) and ECU 3.7 million (BEF 150 million) and are partially secured. The Commission considered the aid compatible with the European guidelines on state aid for rescuing and restructuring firms in difficulty as the viability of the company will be restored and there is a large contribution of the private sector to the plan. Furthermore, it is noted that the Belgian authorities have given the undertaking that it will be the last time restructuring aid will be given to the company.

    [07] La Commission approuve une aide à la R&D en faveur de l'entreprise Sollac

    La Commission européenne a décidé de ne pas soulever d'objections à l'égard d'une aide que l'Etat français entend octroyer à l'entreprise sidérurgique Sollac, filiale d'Usinor. L'aide est constituée par une avance remboursable de FF 6,15 millions et est éligible sous le régime général d'aide à la recherche "Grands Projets Innovants - procédure Technologies- clés", approuvé par la Commission en 1989. L'aide aura un effet d'incitation puisqu'elle permettra le recours à des collaborations avec des universités et des entreprises, pas seulement en France mais aussi à l'étranger, notamment en Allemagne et en Suède. L'aide respecte ainsi les règles de l'encadrement communautaire des aides à la recherche et développement et celles du Code des aides à la sidérurgie.

    [08] Commission approves aid to Seagate Strategic Research Programme (Northern Ireland)

    The European Commission has authorised aid of ECU 10.5 million by the United Kingdom government in favour of a research and development (R&D) project conducted by Seagate Technology (Northern Ireland). The aim of the aided project is to advance knowledge in key technologies critical for the performance of read-write magnetic heads. The scope of the planned R&D includes hard disk drives heads, tape devices heads and sensors based on similar electromagnetic technologies. The Commission's analysis of the aided project led to the conclusion that the project consists of at least 50% of industrial research, the remaining part being pre-competitive developments. The total cost of the project is approximately ECU 35 million, and the aid intensity is 30%. The Commission considered that the aid is compatible with the European Framework for Aid to Research and Development.

    [09] Aid to Agrana Stärke GmbH to build and convert starch production facilities in Austria

    The European Commission has decided to adopt a final negative decision regarding investment aid in favour of the company Agrana Stärke GmbH. The Commission found that the notified measure constituted State aid incompatible with the common market and that it may therefore not be granted. Agrana Stärke GmbH which has its company seat in Vienna is a producer of starch and starch products. The envisaged investments which were to increase its production capacity were intended to allow Agrana to adapt to the changed economic environment after Austria's accession to the European Union. Because of the existence of important structural surpluses in the starch sector, for which restitutions have to be granted in order to allow exports to third countries, the Commission does not normally allow aids for this sector. A clause in the Austrian Act of Accession stipulates that the Commission should act flexibly with respect to transitional national aid schemes designed to facilitate restructuring in the processing sector of agricultural products. In accordance with this clause, the Commission has previously allowed several aids for investments to restructure Austrian production in the starch sector which did not entail an increase in capacity. However the investments involved in this case entailed a significant increase in starch production by the company concerned. For this reason, the Commission was unable to accept the Austrian arguments that the Commission should clear the aid in accordance with the flexibility clause.

    [10] Aid for promotion of agricultural products in Belgium (Flanders)

    The European Commission has decided to open the procedure provided for in Article 93(2) of the Treaty in order to launch an investigation into Flemish aid measures for the promotion of agricultural products. At present the Commission has doubts about the compatibility with the Treaty of certain publicly funded promotion campaigns which are undertaken by VLAM (Vlaams Promotiecentrum voor Agro-Marketing). These doubts concern, in particular, the promotion of fruit and vegetables under the "Flandria" label and the promotion of ham under the "Duke of Flanders" label in a manner which appears to place excessive emphasis on the origin of the products, and which may therefore infringe Article 30 of the Treaty on quantitative restrictions on imports. Furthermore, it appears that the measure is partly financed by parafiscal levies which fall on products imported into Belgium from other Member States. It is the constant practice of the Commission to consider the financing of State aids by parafiscal levies on products imported from other Member States as an infringement of State aid rules.

    [11] Exemption from energy and carbon dioxide tax in favour of Agroetanol in Sweden

    The European Commission has decided to approve a Swedish State aid project concerning a five year (plus two possible extensions of two years) energy tax exemption in favour of Agroetanol AB for the production of 50 000 litre bioethanol annually worth between SEK 80 and 150 million (ECU 9 to 17 million). Nevertheless, the Commission has recommended the Swedish authorities to modify the aid so that it is possible to monitor the production costs differential of bioethanol and fossil fuels during the first five years of the exemption period as well as during any possible extension period so that it will be possible to react to changes of this differential, if necessary, by reducing the tax exemption so that State aid will not be granted to the company in excess of the extra production costs it incurs in producing bioethanol in comparison to the production costs of fossil fuels.

    [12] Ouverture d'une procédure d'infraction contre la loi italienne sur l'étiquetage de l'huile d'olive

    La Commission européenne a décidé d'ouvrir une procédure d'infraction contre l'Italie en raison de sa loi concernant l'étiquetage d'origine de l'huile d'olive extra vierge, de l'huile d'olive vierge et de l'huile d'olive. En effet, l'Italie, après avoir notifié à la Commission le projet de loi, l'a approuvée. Etant donné que la Commission avait déjà manifesté son intention de présenter une initiative législative en matière d'étiquetage de l'huile d'olive, l'Italie est obligée de respecter un délai de 12 mois entre la notification et l'application d'une loi nationale en ce domaine. Cette règle n'a pas été respectée par l'Italie dans ce cas étant donné que l'Italie a mis la loi en vigueur après un délai très court. De plus, la Commission a reçu de deux Etats membres des objections à l'égard du projet présenté.

    [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

    [13] Conference on "Industrial dialogue on enlargement : a challenge for east and west" in Vienna

    A conference on 5 October 1998 in Vienna will bring together industry federations and business representatives from the European Union (EU) and the Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) with the aim of launching a new initiative to help businesses in the candidate countries to gear up for competition in the Single Market. The initiative will create a network between EU and CEEC industry federations in order to foster cooperation and to discuss possible joint actions. The conference will be organised by the Austrian Industry Federation (VÖI), with the active support of the Austrian Council-Presidency and the European Commission. The key speakers of the Conference include Mr Thomas Klestil (President of the Republic of Austria), Commissioner Martin Bangemann (responsible for industry), the Ministers for Economic Affairs of both Austria and Hungary, Mr Hannes Farnleitner and Mr Attila Chikán, and Baron Georges Jacobs, President of the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE).

    MIDDAY EXPRESS


    From EUROPA, the European Commission Server at http://europa.eu.int/
    © ECSC - EC - EAEC, Brussels-Luxembourg, 1995, 1996


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