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European Commission Spokesman's Briefing for 00-10-31

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 Service Presse et Communicationb

31/10/2000


CONTENTS / CONTENU

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

  • [01] Less money needed for agricultural policy in 2001
  • [02] Commission will operate a computerised blacklist to guard against fraud
  • [03] La Commission présente ses "dossiers" de réforme concernant les ressources humaines
  • [04] Commission adopts guidelines for internal audit
  • [05] EU-Latin America : Commission presents priorities for follow-up to Rio Summit
  • [06] Autonomous trade measures for Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
  • [07] Commission adopts 14th monitoring report on steel aid cases
  • [08] Commission approves aid to Schiffsanlagenbau Barth GmbH (Germany)
  • [09] La Commission ouvre la procédure d'examen à l'encontre de trois régimes d'aides fiscales des provinces basques
  • [10] Commission closes investigation of aid to Ford Genk (Belgium)
  • [11] La Commission prend une décision négative sur les crédits d'impôt que l'Espagne accorde pour les investissements étrangers et engage une procédure contre une loi française similaire
  • [12] La Commission rapporte une décision antérieure ordonnant la récupération d'une aide auprès de Tubacex (Espagne)
  • [13] Commission closes procedure against possible Dutch illegal State aid to NS Cargo
  • [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

  • [14] Statement by Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission
  • [15] Pourparlers sur la pêche avec le Maroc
  • [16] August 2000 volume of retail trade up by 2.4% in euro-zone ; EU15 up by 3.0%
  • [17] Structural Funds - Objective 2 : Commission approves the programming documents (SPDs) for Austria for 2000-06
  • [18] Commission asks Greece to pay fines due in Kouroupitos Case
  • [19] Philippe Busquin hosts internet-chat on genetics and the future of Europe

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

    [01] Less money needed for agricultural policy in 2001

    The European Union's agriculture budget for 2001 will require euro 930 million less than originally foreseen in the European Commission's budget proposal from May 2000, according to new estimates for agricultural expenditure. The Commission today adopted the second letter of amendment for the 2001 Budget on this basis. "The new estimates show that there is room to redeploy money in the budget without cutting the obligatory payments to farmers. The new forecasts will make it easier to find a common agreement on the budget between Parliament and Council", said Budget Commissioner Michaele Schreyer.

    [02] Commission will operate a computerised blacklist to guard against fraud

    The European Commission has agreed to enhance its Early Warning System, improving its ability to prevent fraud against the EU budget. Under the new Early Warning System, the Commission will make no payments to a contractor before computerised checks of a database detailing all parties with which it has had a contractual relationship. The database will identify any contractors not fulfilling their obligations towards the Commission and blacklist them. This measure launched by Budget Commissioner Schreyer to improve the Commission's financial safeguards is Action N° 95 of the Commission's Reform Strategy.

    [03] La Commission présente ses "dossiers" de réforme concernant les ressources humaines

    La Commission européenne a adopté une feuille de route présentant un programme de "dossiers" comportant une trentaine de propositions de réforme pour les trois prochains mois. Prochainement, la Commission approuvera quatre grands dossiers de réforme, axés essentiellement sur la politique relative aux ressources humaines, mais comprenant également d'autres mesures destinées à améliorer la gestion et le contrôle financiers. Ensemble, ces propositions satisferont aux engagements pris dans le cadre de la stratégie de la réforme le 1er mars 2000. Le premier dossier a été adopté aujourd'hui.

    [04] Commission adopts guidelines for internal audit

    The European Commission has defined the conditions for ensuring an effective and independent Internal Audit Capability within each DG. It has adopted the Charter according to which the Internal Audit Service (IAS), under the responsibility of Vice-President Neil Kinnock, will provide the College with professional advice on the quality of internal control systems right across the Commission. Finally, it has approved the Charter of the Audit Progress Committee (APC), whose task it will be to ensure that recommendations of the IAS are effectively implemented. The APC is chaired by Budget Commissioner Michaele Schreyer and VP Kinnock is a member by right. Commissioners Viviane Reding and António Vitorino have been appointed to the APC, alongside an external member to be appointed by the Commission.

    [05] EU-Latin America : Commission presents priorities for follow-up to Rio Summit

    The European Commission has adopted a Communication which sets out the general principles and actions that it will take in implementing the priorities established during the first summit of Heads of State and Government of the countries of Latin America, the Caribbean and the EU held in Rio on 28 and 29 June 1999. The Communication highlights the priority that the Commission attaches to the region. It focusses on three short-term key priorities at regional level: promotion and protection of human rights, creation of an Alliance for the Information Society and setting up of a joint "Social Initiative". Activities in these areas will also form the core for Commission input into the EU-Latin America Summit in 2002 in Spain. Other Rio Summit priorities are being integrated into Commission strategies for individual countries and sub-regions. The Communication provides an overview on the actions planned with Mercosur-Chile, the Andean Community, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

    [06] Autonomous trade measures for Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

    The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Council Regulation extending the autonomous trade preferences accorded by the Council on 18 September to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo (IP/00/586 of 07 June 2000) to include the FRY and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. For both countries the granting of these trade preferences is linked to their readiness to engage in effective economic reforms and in regional co-operation with the other countries concerned by the EU Stabilisation and Association Process. The aim of the proposal is (1) to extend the autonomous trade preferences contained in Council Regulation 2007/2000 to the FRY while repealing the tariff quotas for aluminium products and keeping Kosovo as a separate beneficiary ; (2) to extend provisionally the preferences to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (until an interim agreement under the terms of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, currently under negotiation, enters into force) ; (3) to adjust the tariff quotas for certain fishery products in the light of the extension and, (4) to remove the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

    [07] Commission adopts 14th monitoring report on steel aid cases

    The European Commission has adopted the 14th monitoring report on Article 95 ESCS steel aid cases. According to its decisions taken in 1994 and 1995, the Commission presents to the Council twice a year its analysis of the implementation of the conditions attached to the authorisation of the aid in question which was approved for restructuring of certain steel companies as an exceptional exercise considering the strict rules contained in the ECSC Treaty. The aid is therefore subject to strict conditions whose compliance the Commission is monitoring.

    [08] Commission approves aid to Schiffsanlagenbau Barth GmbH (Germany)

    The European Commission has cleared DEM 14,477,000 (euro 7,42 million) of restructuring aid granted in favour of Schiffsanlagenbau Barth GmbH (SAB), a metal working and machine building enterprise in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Germany). The aid is in conformity with the requirements of the EU guidelines on State aid for rescuing and restructuring firms in difficulty.

    [09] La Commission ouvre la procédure d'examen à l'encontre de trois régimes d'aides fiscales des provinces basques

    La Commission européenne a décidé d'ouvrir la procédure formelle d'examen à l'encontre de trois régimes d'aides fiscales des provinces basques. Les mesures en cause accordent aux entreprises nouvellement créées jusqu'au 31.12.1994 une exemption de l'impôt des sociétés ("vacances fiscales") pendant dix exercices fiscaux consécutifs. La Commission estime en effet que ces mesures sont des aides d'Etat au sens du Traité CE et qu'elles peuvent être considérées comme illégales puisque non notifiées avant leur mise en oeuvre. En ayant le caractère d'aides au fonctionnement, ces aides suscitent aussi des doutes quant à leur compatibilité avec le marché commun. En effet, elles sont octroyées dans des régions - les provinces d'Alava, Guipuzcoa et Vizcaya - qui ne sont pas éligibles à ce type d'aides. L'ouverture de la procédure formelle d'examen permettra de recueillir les observations du gouvernement espagnol ainsi que des tiers intéressés avant que la Commission ne prenne une décision finale sur la compatibilité des aides en cause.

    [10] Commission closes investigation of aid to Ford Genk (Belgium)

    The European Commission has decided to close the State aid investigation procedure regarding planned regional investment aid of euro 6.5 million (BEF 262.5 million) to Ford's Genk plant due to withdrawal of the notification. The procedure had been initiated on 3 May 2000 (see IP/00/430) since the Commission had doubts that the aid is necessary for the location of the project - the adaptation of the plant to produce a new model of the "Ford Transit" - in the region in question. The Belgium authorities withdrew their notification of the State aid in September 2000 and the Commission consequently decided to end the investigation procedure.

    [11] La Commission prend une décision négative sur les crédits d'impôt que l'Espagne accorde pour les investissements étrangers et engage une procédure contre une loi française similaire

    La Commission européenne a décidé que les crédits d'impôt en faveur des investissements étrangers prévus par la loi espagnole sur l'impôt des sociétés sont incompatibles avec les règles relatives aux aides d'Etat dans le secteur sidérurgique. Elle a également décidé d'ouvrir la procédure officielle d'enquête prévue par lesdites règles concernant le système français d'exonération temporaire en faveur des filiales créées à l'étranger.

    [12] La Commission rapporte une décision antérieure ordonnant la récupération d'une aide auprès de Tubacex (Espagne)

    La Commission européenne a décidé de rapporter la décision négative qu'elle avait arrêtée en 1997 à l'égard de mesures en faveur de Tubacex S.A., producteur de tubes en acier inoxydable sans soudure établi à Llodio (Álava), au Pays basque, en Espagne. La Commission avait initialement conclu que les mesures, à savoir des accords de rééchelonnement de dettes envers la sécurité sociale et des accords de remboursement passés avec le Fonds de garantie salariale (FOGASA), constituaient des aides illégales. Toutefois, à la lumière d'un arrêt rendu par la Cour de justice européenne, la Commission a revu sa décision et conclu qu'il n'y avait pas eu d'aide.

    [13] Commission closes procedure against possible Dutch illegal State aid to NS Cargo

    The European Commission has decided to close the State aid procedure that it had opened in April 1999, concerning Dutch aid to NS Cargo for a shuttle train Rotterdam - Prague. In April 1995, the Dutch Government had notified a proposed one-time investment aid to NS Cargo for combined transport equipment, amounting to NLG 500000, to be used in a combined transport shuttle linking Rotterdam with Prague. In a decision of 20 September 1995, the Commission had allowed such investment aid under the applicable State aid rules for combined transport. At a later stage, new elements indicated that the aid in question might not relate to investments made by NS Cargo, but to operating expenses related to hiring waggons for the train in question. Because of it doubts concerning the nature of the aid and because operating aid is, as a rule, not allowed under the EC Treaty, the Commission opened an investigation procedure in April 1999. In its answer, the Dutch Government stated that it could not be ascertained anymore whether NS Cargo used the aid to cover operating or investment expenses. It expressed the intention of reclaiming the money from NS Cargo. In July 2000, the Dutch Government informed the Commission that NS Cargo had paid the aid back with interest and provided proof for this. The Commission has consequently decided to close the procedure.

    [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

    [14] Statement by Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission

    "On behalf of the European Commission and as a private citizen I want to express again the strongest and firmest condemnation of the terrorist attack occurred yesterday in Madrid in which 3 people were killed and more than 50 were injured. This attack took place in a Member State governed by democracy and the rule of law. It aimed at spreading terror and antagonism within the Spanish population at large. It is frightening to think that the attack could have caused many more casualties, including schoolchildren. The Commission sends a message of sympathy to the families of the three victims and to those injured. We also want to express a message of solidarity to all who suffered the immediate consequences in their houses and belongings. I also renew the Commission's expression of solidarity to the Spanish people, and our encouragement not to surrender democratic principles to terror and extortion. The European Union is probably the best example of overcoming old differences by building institutions based on peace and tolerance, where divergent views are expressed and joint solutions sought and found. I reiterate the Commission's commitment to use all instruments provided by the Treaty to promote European policies against terrorism."

    [15] Pourparlers sur la pêche avec le Maroc

    Comme suite à la réunion du 16 octobre dernier à Casablanca entre le Commissaire européen à l'Agriculture, au Développement rural et à la Pêche, Franz Fischler et les autorités marocaines, les deux parties se sont réunies à Bruxelles, le 30 octobre 2000. A cette occasion, la délégation marocaine a présenté sa position sur les perspectives de coopération dans le domaine de la pêche entre le Royaume du Maroc et l'Union européenne. Les deux parties ont abordé les grandes lignes d'une coopération mutuellement équilibrée. Les deux parties ont convenu de se réunir une fois par semaine alternativement à Rabat et à Bruxelles pour poursuivre les échanges de vues sur les différents volets qui pourraient faire partie de cette coopération. La prochaine réunion se tiendra à Rabat le 8 novembre prochain.

    [16] August 2000 volume of retail trade up by 2.4% in euro-zone ; EU15 up by 3.0%

    (! embargo 12 am !) In August 2000 the volume of retail trade gained 2.4% in the euro-zone and 3.0% in the EU15, as compared to August 1999, Eurostat estimates today. Strongest growth rates were registered by "household goods" (3.4%) in the euro-zone as well as by "household goods" (4.5%) and "textiles, clothing and footwear" (3.9%) in the EU15. Compared to July, sales increased by 0.3% in the euro-zone and by 0.4% in the EU15. The volume of retail trade rose strongly in Sweden (6.0%), Ireland (5.9%), the Netherlands (5.0%), Finland (4.8%) and the United Kingdom (4.5%). Italy was the only Member State where the sales decreased (-2,0%).

    [17] Structural Funds - Objective 2 : Commission approves the programming documents (SPDs) for Austria for 2000-06

    The European Commission has approved six draft "single programming documents" (SPDs) concerning economic and social conversion (Objective 2 of the Structural Funds) in Austria. Under these programmes, the European Union will contribute euro 635 million to areas undergoing conversion in the Länder of Carinthia, Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Salzburg, Styria and Vorarlberg. The assistance provided by these EU funds will mobilise a total of almost euro 3,400 million, of which over 70% will come from private investors. This should create 13,800 new jobs and maintain 30,000 existing ones. The six SPDs cover the period 2000 to 2006.

    [18] Commission asks Greece to pay fines due in Kouroupitos Case

    In the absence of communication of concrete measures complying with the judgement of the European Court of Justice of 4 July (Koroupitos Case C- 1997/387), the European Commission has sent a first letter to the Greek authorities requesting the payment of euro 1,760,000 covering the financial penalty of euro 20,000 per day for the first three months (July to September 2000). The Commission has also informed the Greek authorities that it will in future present a monthly payment request indicating the amount of payment due for each month. In order to comply with the above- mentioned judgement of the ECJ, Greece has to take the following measures: adopt a regional plan for the management of waste and a regional programme for the disposal of dangerous waste in the area of Chania ; close the illegal dump of Kouroupitos and ensure the rehabilitation of the site. In its judgement delivered on 4 July 2000 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided to impose a financial penalty of euro 20,000 per day on Greece for non-compliance with a previous judgement of the ECJ for breach of EC legislation on waste. In its judgement the ECJ declared that "by failing to take the measures necessary to ensure that waste is disposed of in the area of Chania without endangering human health and without harming the environment in accordance with Article 4 of Council Directive 75/442/EEC of 15 July 1975 on waste and by failing to draw up for that area plans for the disposal of waste, pursuant to Article 6 of Directive 75/442, and of toxic and dangerous waste, pursuant to Article 12 of Council Directive 78/319/EEC of 20 March 1978 on toxic and dangerous waste, the Hellenic Republic has not implemented all the necessary measures to comply with the judgment of the Court of 7 April 1992 in Case C-45/91 Commission v Greece and has failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 171 of the EC Treaty (now art. 228)"

    [19] Philippe Busquin hosts internet-chat on genetics and the future of Europe

    "Like me, this summer you probably followed the latest stages in the race for the human genome between an international public research consortium and a large American company. The final sprint for the finish somewhat overshadowed the scientific and technical performance, rather putting the underlying ethical, economic and political issues in the spotlight. I would like us to think together about the consequences for society of genetic advances, particularly trying to imagine their implications for basic values, quality of life, and social and economic development in Europe. With this in mind I have suggested organising a major conference, which will take place in Brussels on 6 and 7 November. But in parallel with the debate between the experts at the conference, I would like to involve other "experts" - people like you and me, who have questions, opinions and comments on these issues that they would like to discuss." Join European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin on the Internet on 7 November "live" from 18.30 to 20.30 Central European Time. The discussion will take place in the eleven official languages of the European Union. Questions may be put in any of those languages and may also be sent in advance to: chat- busquin@cec.eu.int

    MIDDAY EXPRESS


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


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