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European Commission Spokesman's Briefing for 99-11-24

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-Parole 24/11/1999b


CONTENTS / CONTENU

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

  • [01] The EU Economy : 1999 review
  • [02] Automne 1999 : prévisions économiques pour 1999-2001
  • [03] Commission launches debate on future environmental priorities
  • [04] Commission calls for better integration of environment in EU policies, and an improved system of Environment and Integration Indicators
  • [05] Internal Market : Commission presents strategy for the next five years
  • [06] Leased lines : Commission acts to bring down cost of communications in Europe
  • [07] La Commission propose de rendre les réalisations de la politique structurelle plus visibles pour les citoyens
  • [08] All euro rule for Structural Funds
  • [09] La Commission approuve la liste des zones allemandes en reconversion pour la période 2000-2006 (objectif 2)
  • [10] Commission proposes dialogue with Albania to pave way for negotiations on Stabilisation and Association Agreement
  • [11] La Commission agit contre la France et le Luxembourg pour non-respect de l'ouverture des marchés de l'électricité
  • [12] La Commission adopte la version préliminaire du code de bonne conduite administrative qui régira les relations entre le personnel de l'institution et le public
  • [13] Commission shapes its policy on State guarantees
  • [14] La Commission ouvre une enquête concernant des aides envisagées par l'Italie en faveur de l'usine Fiat de Melfi
  • [15] Commission approves R&D aid to the steel company Sidmar (Belgium)
  • [16] La Commission clôt la procédure concernant les mesures d'exonération des charges sociales en faveur des entreprises situées à Venise et Chioggia pendant la période 1995-1997
  • [17] Commission launches investigation into aid which Germany plans to grant for VW's "open factory" in Dresden (Saxony)
  • [18] La Commission accepte les aides visant la création d'emploi en faveur des entreprises opérant en Sardaigne
  • [19] La Commission décide d'ouvrir une enquête sur des aides accordées par la Belgique à Cockerill Sambre S.A.
  • [20] New guidelines for State aids in agriculture
  • [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

  • [21] British beef : protocol of understanding reached between France and UK
  • [22] La Commission adopte le premier rapport sur les besoins d'harmonisation dans le marché intérieur du gaz naturel
  • [23] Commission welcomes the removal of the wall in Usti-nad-Labem (Czech Republic)
  • [24] ACP leaders hold second summit
  • [25] First meeting of EU-Japan Consumer Associations Dialogue (EJCD)

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

    [01] The EU Economy : 1999 review

    The EU Economy Review, a new publication replacing the Annual Economic Report, was published for the first time today. Responding to a growing demand for comprehensive economic information and analysis, the new publication provides an in-depth survey of economic developments and policy challenges facing the European Union, the euro area and the Member States. Moving towards Stage Three of EMU and beyond, the EU should be increasingly analysed as a single economic entity where economic policy is coordinated in a well defined framework alongside the centrally set monetary policy by the European Central Bank (ECB). In addition to evaluating the policy mix and the short-term economic outlook, the "EU Economy : 1999 Review" contains five thematic studies on issues that require timely attention by policy makers : the origins of EU unemployment ; tax-benefit systems and incentives to work ; the long-term economic and budgetary implications of population ageing ; price level differences in the EU ; and European equity market developments.

    [02] Automne 1999 : prévisions économiques pour 1999-2001

    Selon les prévisions économiques de l'automne 1999 publiées par la Commission européenne, l'économie de l'Union européenne passera à une vitesse supérieure durant le second semestre de 1999 en raison d'une amélioration de l'environnement international et de la bonne résistance manifestée par la demande intérieure à l'égard du ralentissement mondial. La croissance du PIB réel dans l'UE et la zone euro devrait s'accélérer, passant de 2,1% en 1999 à 3% (2,9% pour la zone euro) en 2000 et 2001. Les perspectives pour 1999 concordent avec les dernières prévisions de la Commission (publiées au printemps dernier) mais celles pour 2000-2001 sont révisées à la hausse. En 2000 comme en 2001, l'inflation devrait se maintenir nettement au-dessous de 2%, malgré le contrecoup de la hausse des prix du pétrole. Tant en ce qui concerne la croissance économique que l'inflation, l'évolution devrait être plus homogène entre les Etats membres qu'en 1999.

    [03] Commission launches debate on future environmental priorities

    The European Commission adopted a Global Assessment on the overall results of the European Union's 5th Environment Action Programme. At the same time this report launches a debate with the other Institutions, stakeholders and citizens on the future of EU policy for protecting the environment. The report concludes that further efforts need to be undertaken in integrating environmental objectives into other policy areas and that stakeholders and citizens have to become more involved.

    [04] Commission calls for better integration of environment in EU policies, and an improved system of Environment and Integration Indicators

    The European Commission has adopted a working paper called "From Cardiff to Helsinki and beyond" which assesses the strategies by different sectoral Councils for protecting the environment. The report is a contribution by the Commission to the Helsinki European Council (10-11 December), which will review overall progress on the integration of environmental concerns and sustainable development into EU policies. The European Council in Cardiff (June 1998) and subsequent European Councils in Vienna and Cologne had asked sectoral Councils to report on how environmental objectives were taken account of in their work. The Commission now concludes that these Councils have made encouraging first steps in this respect but that further efforts are needed. In a separate report, also adopted today, the Commission presents the work on environment and integration indicators.

    [05] Internal Market : Commission presents strategy for the next five years

    The European Commission has adopted a Communication setting out its strategy for the European Union's Internal Market over the next five years. The Strategy centres on four main objectives, namely improving the quality of life of citizens, enhancing the efficiency of the EU's product and capital markets, improving the business environment and exploiting the achievements of the Internal Market in a changing world. Within each of these objectives, the Strategy includes specific target actions which will be subject to an cycle of evaluation and priority-fixing, taking into account the actual functioning of product and capital markets and feedback received from citizens and business on their experiences with the Internal Market. The first such evaluation will take place in April 2000 and subsequent evaluations will take place annually. The strategy is based on ideas set out in a consultative Communication presented in October (see IP/99/728) which have been adjusted and complemented in the light of the reaction of the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and other interested parties. To "prime the pump", the Communication identifies nearly 100 initial target actions to be completed over the next 18 months, of which 30 are new initiatives.

    [06] Leased lines : Commission acts to bring down cost of communications in Europe

    The European Commission has adopted a Recommendation on the pricing of short-distance leased lines. The Recommendation sets price ceilings for short distance leased lines that incumbent telecommunication operators charge. Leased lines are short distance communications links that incumbent telecommunications companies rent to other network operators. These short distance circuits constitute essential building blocks for the internal communications networks of European businesses. Leased lines are increasingly used also by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to have a permanent high speed access to the Internet. The sector of leased lines, data networks and business communications is becoming increasingly important in particular with the emergence of e-commerce, and already represents about 25% of the total telecommunications market in some Member States. The Recommendation also encourages unbundling of the local loop and other measures to stimulate competition in the local access networks.

    [07] La Commission propose de rendre les réalisations de la politique structurelle plus visibles pour les citoyens

    Afin d'accroître la visibilité de la politique structurelle de l'Union européenne, la Commission européenne a adopté un règlement relatif aux actions d'information et de publicité que doivent conduire les Etats membres pendant la période 2000-2006. En fixant des règles communes d'information et de publicité, l'objectif est d'informer, de manière plus transparente, les bénéficiaires des fonds structurels et de sensibiliser l'opinion publique au rôle joué par l'UE dans le développement de ses régions.

    [08] All euro rule for Structural Funds

    The European Commission has proposed an "all Euro" rule for the Structural Funds. The framework regulation on the Structural Funds for the new programming period 2000-2006 already states that Commission decisions, commitments and payments shall be denominated and carried out in euro. However, financial plans, statement of expenditure and implemented reports could still be presented to the Commission in euro or in national currency. This shall be changed. The only remaining exceptions to the use of the euro are statements of expenditure and implementing reports relating to commitments of past periodes which are governed by past regulations. This exception will apply both to EMU and non EMU Member States. Once four committees have given their opinion on the "all Euro"- regulation, the Commission can adopt it, hopefully before the end of this year.

    [09] La Commission approuve la liste des zones allemandes en reconversion pour la période 2000-2006 (objectif 2)

    La Commission européenne vient de donner son approbation de principe à la liste des zones allemandes en reconversion socio-économique éligibles à l'objectif 2 des Fonds structurels pour la période 2000-2006. Il s'agit de zones confrontées à des problèmes de reconversion dans les secteurs industriels et des services, de zones rurales en déclin ou de quartiers urbains en difficulté. Elles couvriront environ 10,3 millions d'habitants et concernent tous les Länder de l'Ouest de l'Allemagne ainsi qu'une partie de Berlin.

    [10] Commission proposes dialogue with Albania to pave way for negotiations on Stabilisation and Association Agreement

    The European Commission has adopted a report on the feasibility of negotiating a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Albania. The report pays tribute to the enormous efforts made by the government and people of Albania since the major political crisis that hit the country in 1997 and, more recently, during the Kosovo crisis. The response of the Albanian people towards the influx of refugees broad great credit to their country. The report is a first step towards establishing a much closer relationship between Albania and the European Union (EU) - a relationship that both Albania and the EU wish to enhance. It notes the progress thus far, and encourages the Government of Albania to persevere with reform. It assesses the steps that are needed in order for Albania to be in a position to embark on full-scale negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU. It sets out the main problems now facing the country, such as the lack of security and public order, widespread corruption and the general weakness of its economy. The report invites the Albanian government to prepare a status report, including a timetable, on actions taken or envisaged in order to meet clear economic, political and institutional requirements. The Commission also announced its intention to launch further technical talks with the Albanian side in order to clarify certain aspects of a new agreement, in particular the establishment of a Free Trade Area and the approximation of legislation with EU standards.

    [11] La Commission agit contre la France et le Luxembourg pour non-respect de l'ouverture des marchés de l'électricité

    La Commission européenne a décidé d'adresser une lettre de mise en demeure à la France et au Luxembourg pour non-transposition en droit national des dispositions de la Directive concernant des règles communes dans le secteur de l'électricité.

    [12] La Commission adopte la version préliminaire du code de bonne conduite administrative qui régira les relations entre le personnel de l'institution et le public

    La Commission européenne a adopté une première mouture du code de bonne conduite administrative. Ce code vise à garantir un service public de qualité, transparent, efficace et courtois. Une adoption définitive du code est prévue au début de l'année 2000.

    [13] Commission shapes its policy on State guarantees

    The European Commission has adopted a "Notice" summing up its approach to State aid in the form of State guarantees. The document explains under which conditions the Commission considers that a State guarantee includes elements of State aid and when it does not. The Notice also clarifies that, if aid is involved, this aid is granted when a guarantee is given and not when it is actually honoured. The Commission intends in this way to make its policy in this area as transparent as possible. However, the Notice does not deal with the conditions under which aid in the form of guarantees can be found compatible with the common market. For this decision the same rules apply as for other forms of State aid.

    [14] La Commission ouvre une enquête concernant des aides envisagées par l'Italie en faveur de l'usine Fiat de Melfi

    La Commission européenne a décidé d'ouvrir une procédure d'enquête approfondie à l'encontre d'aides d'un montant de 40 millions d'euros (78 milliards de lires) envisagées en faveur de l'usine Fiat de Melfi (Basilicata). La Commission n'a pas pu établir à ce stade que les aides prévues respectent les prescriptions de l'encadrement automobile et invite l'Italie à présenter ses observations dans un délai d'un mois.

    [15] Commission approves R&D aid to the steel company Sidmar (Belgium)

    The European Commission has approved an aid notified by Belgium totalling euro 3.4 million (BEF 137.9 million) to the steel company Sidmar for funding five Research & Development projects carried out in the Research Centre of the Group, OCAS NV. The aid is compatible with the Steel Aid Code and therefore with the ECSC Treaty.

    [16] La Commission clôt la procédure concernant les mesures d'exonération des charges sociales en faveur des entreprises situées à Venise et Chioggia pendant la période 1995-1997

    Les aides en faveur des entreprises de Venise et Chioggia sous forme de dégrèvement des charges sociales en faveur de la création d'emploi, prévues à l'article 2 du décret ministériel du 5.8.1994, sont approuvées seulement pour les PME, les autres entreprises implantées dans une zone éligible aux aides à finalité régionale, et toute entreprise recrutant des catégories de travailleurs éprouvant des difficultés particulières à s'insérer ou à se réinsérer dans le marché du travail. En revanche les aides en faveur du maintien de l'emploi prévues à l'article 1 du décret ministériel du 5.8.1994 sont déclarées incompatibles avec le marché commun.

    [17] Commission launches investigation into aid which Germany plans to grant for VW's "open factory" in Dresden (Saxony)

    The European Commission has decided to launch a thorough investigation into regional aid totalling euro 100 million (DEM 194 million) which Germany plans to grant to Automobilmanufaktur Dresden GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen AG (VW). The Commission has so far not been able to establish whether the planned aid meets the requirements of the motor vehicle framework. It is asking Germany to provide within one month all the necessary information for the assessment of the case.

    [18] La Commission accepte les aides visant la création d'emploi en faveur des entreprises opérant en Sardaigne

    La Commission européenne a constaté que les aides à l'emploi notifiées par les autorités italiennes en faveur des entreprises de la Sardaigne sont conformes aux lignes directrices communautaires concernant les aides à l'emploi. Elle a donc décidé de ne pas soulever d'objections à l'égard de ce régime.

    [19] La Commission décide d'ouvrir une enquête sur des aides accordées par la Belgique à Cockerill Sambre S.A.

    La Commission européenne a décidé d'ouvrir une enquête concernant des aides à l'emploi accordées par la Belgique en faveur de l'entreprise sidérurgique Cockerill Sambre pour un montant total de 13.8 millions d'euros (BEF 553 millions). A première vue, ces aides paraissent incompatibles avec le Code des aides à la sidérurgie. La Commission invite la Belgique à présenter ses observations et à lui fournir toute information utile pour l'évaluation de l'aide dans un délai d'un mois.

    [20] New guidelines for State aids in agriculture

    The European Commission has adopted comprehensive guidelines to grant State aid in the agricultural sector. The new guidelines codify and simplify the rules applied by the Commission in the past. In addition, a number of important changes are made to ensure that the European Union rules for State aids are consistent with the new rural development policy introduced as part of the Agenda 2000 reforms. In accordance with the principles laid down by the European Court of Justice, State aid must make a real contribution to the development of certain economic activities or certain regions. State aid which is simply intended to improve the financial situation of the recipient without any counterpart from the beneficiary cannot be considered compatible with the EC Treaty. Furthermore, the Commission is reflecting on a new framework for promotion and advertising of agricultural products. Thus the guidelines adopted today simply make a reference to the existing guidelines published in 1987.

    [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

    [21] British beef : protocol of understanding reached between France and UK

    A protocol of understanding was agreed yesterday by the European Commission, the French and the British Governments to resolve the dispute on France's refusal to lift the embargo on British beef. The protocol summarizes the clarifications obtained on the five points (traceability, controls, tests, derived products, labelling), which were discussed between Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne, French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany and British Agriculture Minister Nick Brown at their meeting in Brussels on the 2nd of November. Mr Byrne welcomed the agreement : "I am pleased that we have reached a common understanding. I hope that this will help to overcome France's objection to lifting the embargo on British beef. I have always said that I would prefer a quick and amicable solution to this conflict and I feel that today's agreement will contribute to this. What we have managed to achieve is to provide important clarifications on how the DBES scheme will operate." Mr Byrne has also informed the German government about the protocol of understanding and repeated his call for the German government to take the promised action to lift the import ban on British beef.

    [22] La Commission adopte le premier rapport sur les besoins d'harmonisation dans le marché intérieur du gaz naturel

    La Commission européenne a adopté le 23 novembre le premier rapport sur les besoins d'harmonisation dans le marché intérieur du gaz naturel. Ce rapport examine en détail les domaines où des mesures d'harmonisation pourraient se démontrer nécessaires pour la réalisation d'un véritable marché intérieur du gaz naturel. Il s'attache surtout aux obstacles potentiels du commerce transfrontalier : différences techniques entre les réseaux de gaz des entreprises de gaz naturel dans l'Union européenne ; obstacles qui limitent le commerce transfrontalier ; gestion de la capacité des interconnecteurs transfrontaliers et problème des goulots d'étranglement. En outre, le rapport étudie les conséquences de la libéralisation du marché du gaz européen sur le commerce avec les pays tiers, ainsi que les domaines dans lesquels des règles et standards différents entre Etats membres pourraient être considérés comme trop hétérogènes dans le cadre d'un marché libéralisé du gaz. Néanmoins, comme la phase de transposition n'est pas encore terminée, il est proposé de présenter l'an prochain un autre rapport qui analysera plus en détail la situation sur la base de l'expérience acquise et des commentaires des parties intéressées.

    [23] Commission welcomes the removal of the wall in Usti-nad-Labem (Czech Republic)

    The European Commission today welcomed the decision taken by the city council of Usti-nad-Labem (Czech Republic) to remove the wall built last month in a Roma neighbourhood. Following contacts with the Czech government and representatives of the Roma community during the last month, Günter Verheugen, Commissioner for Enlargement said : "The decision to dismantle the wall is very welcome and will enhance the image of the Czech Republic and its human rights record. I hope that the decision of the City Council of Usti-nad-Labem will be followed by a constructive dialogue between all concerned to address the social problems of the Roma. The European Commission will reinforce its dialogue with the governments of the candidate countries and with representatives of the Roma communities to support efforts to overcome their difficulties."

    [24] ACP leaders hold second summit

    European Commissioner for Development, Poul Nielson, will represent President Romano Prodi at the second summit of ACP Heads of State and Government in Santo Domingo on 25 and 26 November 1999. The meeting is held at a particularly critical time. ACP partners are preparing for a common platform and jointly agreed goals in the new round of multilateral trade negotiations and in their future relations with Europe. Development will indeed be a key issue at the Seattle WTO Ministerial. The European Union has been very active in preparing the new round with regard to promoting developing countries interest and active participation in these negotiations. The EU has provided substantial support to assist the ACP States to play an active role in the entire process. According to Mr Nielson, only a comprehensive agenda can ensure that market-access interests of all countries are represented. The EU is in this respect committed to duty-free access for essentially all products originating from the Least Developed Countries. On the eve of a new phase in EU/ACP relations, the ACP Summit is expected to discuss some of the outstanding issues in the present EU/ACP negotiations to be concluded in the forthcoming Ministerial meeting on 7 and 8 December 1999 in Brussels. Commissioner Nielson will emphasise his commitment to preserving the nature and uniqueness of EU/ACP relations and to successfully concluding the negotiations before the end of the year.

    [25] First meeting of EU-Japan Consumer Associations Dialogue (EJCD)

    On 25-26 November 1999, European and Japanese Consumer Associations will hold their first ever Dialogue Meeting. The European delegation is composed of various consumer organisations representing the Consumer Committee of the European Union and representatives of the European Commission, which has played a leading role in setting up this Dialogue. The goals of the European-Japanese Consumer Dialogue are : to highlight how consumer interests can be defended in view of new world-wide challenges ; to provide a forum for discussion and consensus building on important public policy issues by consumer groups in Japan and the EU ; to add a clear consumer approach to the EU-Japan Business Dialogue. The EU-Japan Consumer Dialogue (EJCD) meeting will begin with opening addresses made by Vice-Minister Seiji SHIMPO of the Economic Planning Agency (EPA) and Ambassador Ove Juul Jørgensen, Head of the European Commission's Delegation in Japan. The working sessions will concentrate on various issues, including round table discussions on food safety and financial services. Giving consumers a more powerful voice in the EU and in the world is one of the key objectives of the Commission's new three year programme for the years 1999-2001. Since 1998, a Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue has been formally in place to provide the political framework where Consumer Associations of the US and the EU meet to discuss items such as biotechnology, procurement, technical barriers to trade in goods, services, intellectual property, multilateral issues and the environment.

    MIDDAY EXPRESS


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


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