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European Commission Spokesman's Briefing for 06-12-21
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MIDDAY EXPRESSNews from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Direction GĂ©nĂ©rale Communicationb
 Slovenia's countdown to the euroWith only ten days to go before Slovenia adopts the euro, the final practical changeover preparations are well under way and everybody, from the banks to the retail sector and consumers themselves, seems to be ready. Commercial banks and retailers have received, or are about to, euro banknotes and coins and since last week households have also been able to procure themselves 'mini-kits' to familiarise themselves with the euro.
 Commission welcomes Romanian and Bulgarian colleagues : staff recruitment from two new Member States will accelerate in 2007With just over one week to go before Bulgaria and Romania join the European Union, preparations are well under way to welcome not only two new Commissioners, but also hundreds of officials at all levels of the European Commission. Following the Commission's adoption of a communication setting the overall number of posts earmarked for Romanians and Bulgarians over the next five years, the 230 nationals of Bulgaria and Romania already employed at the Commission under temporary contracts will be joined, after 1 January 2007, by increasing numbers of compatriots occupying permanent posts.
 Jobs and Growth : Commission urges targeted use of Rural Development funds to close jobs gap in rural areasEurope's rural areas must exploit their potential or risk falling further behind urban areas in meeting Lisbon employment targets, particularly in the remotest and most agricultural areas, according to a European Commission Communication published today. The report underlines that there are a broad range of instruments at European and national level that can be used to close the jobs divide between rural and urban areas. In particular, Rural Development measures should be fully exploited for employment and growth along with cohesion and employment policies. The Communication was presented by Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for agriculture and rural development. It is accompanied by a detailed report on the employment situation in rural areas.
 Ouverture totale Ă la concurrence du fret ferroviaire le 1er janvier 2007 : pour un rail offensifLe 1er janvier 2007 seront ouverts Ă la concurrence l'ensemble des services ferroviaires de transport de marchandises. Cette nouvelle Ă©tape du processus de revitalisation du rail engagĂ© par la CommunautĂ© depuis plusieurs annĂ©es devrait marquer un tournant pour le fret ferroviaire dont la part de marchĂ©, aprĂ¨s avoir dĂ©clinĂ© depuis 1970 dans la plupart des Etats membres, doit repartir Ă la hausse.
 La Commission va soutenir 13 projets europĂ©ens dans le domaine de la sĂ©curitĂ© routiĂ¨re, pour un montant de â‚¬8,1 millionsDans le cadre de sa stratĂ©gie visant Ă rĂ©duire de moitiĂ© le nombre de victimes d'accidents de la route pour 2010, la Commission europĂ©enne a dĂ©cidĂ© de soutenir 13 projets europĂ©ens en matiĂ¨re de sĂ©curitĂ© routiĂ¨re, en leur accordant des subventions pour un montant total de â‚¬8, 1 millions. Tel est le rĂ©sultat de l'appel ouvert lancĂ© le 21 juin 2006 en vue de l'octroi de subventions Ă des projets en matiĂ¨re de sĂ©curitĂ© routiĂ¨re.
 Council decision on 2007 fish quotas confirms gradual approach to sustainable fisheries"Every December Fisheries Council is difficult and this year was no different. The European Commission's proposal for the 2007 TACs and quotas was aimed at reinforcing the gradual but sustained approach that offers the best chance of reconciling the need to rebuild depleted fish stocks with the needs of fishers whose livelihoods depends on continued fishing activities. The result was a proposal that has been severely criticised by all sides as being for some too drastic, and too weak for others. Yet, despite the difficulties, I believe that the agreement reached tonight reinforces our gradual but sustained approach to delivering sustainable fisheries", commented Joe Borg, Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs. He was speaking in the early hours of Thursday morning after the unanimous adoption of the Presidency compromise on fishing possibilities for 2007.
 La ligne europĂ©enne unique d'assistance tĂ©lĂ©phonique pour les enfants disparus est en bonne voieUn comitĂ© de reprĂ©sentants des Etats membres, rĂ©uni Ă titre extraordinaire par la Commission europĂ©enne le 20 dĂ©cembre, a approuvĂ© l'initiative lancĂ©e par cette derniĂ¨re en vue de rĂ©server des numĂ©ros d'appel gratuits communs Ă tous les Etats membres de l'UE pour des services Ă valeur sociale. Ainsi, notamment, le numĂ©ro Â«116000Â» sera mis Ă la disposition des lignes d'assistance tĂ©lĂ©phoniques pour les enfants disparus. Les Etats membres sont invitĂ©s Ă concrĂ©tiser le plus rapidement possible cette initiative majeure en faveur des droits de l'enfant.
 Andris Piebalgs inaugurates the EU-funded Natural Gas Metrology Centre in Boyorka, UkraineEuropean Energy Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, together with the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Klyuyev, inaugurated today the Natural Gas Metrology Centre in Boyarka, Ukraine, which has been given support from EU funds. The establishment of the Centre in Boyarka is the first EU-Ukraine effort towards ensuring a transparent system of gas transit to Europe.
 EU and USA sign new agreement on energy efficiency of office equipmentThe EU and the USA have signed a new agreement to continue the ENERGY STAR programme for office equipment for another five years. The agreement features innovative and demanding energy efficiency criteria for computers, copiers, printers and computer monitors, and is expected to yield 30 TWh electricity savings - the approximate equivalent of the electricity demand in Hungary - in the EU over the next three years. ENERGY STAR is part of the Commission's strategy to better manage energy demand, contribute to the security of energy supply and mitigate climate change.
 Cohesion policy 2007-2013 : Malta becomes the first Member State to have plan and priorities agreed with the CommissionRegional policy Commissioner Danuta HĂĽbner and Employment and social affairs Commissioner VladimĂr `pidla congratulated the Maltese authorities for becoming the first Member State to have officially agreed with the European Commission on the national plan and priorities for Cohesion policy 2007-2013. Malta had sent electronically its National Strategic Reference Framework to the European Commission on November 21. The document described how EU funding will be used to deliver growth and jobs in the new programming period to start on January 2007. The adoption procedure has now been completed as the European Commission issued its decision on elements of the Maltese plan, including priorities, indicative annual allocations, and list of operational programmes.
 Commission provides â‚¬2 million in humanitarian aid for Somali refugees in KenyaThe European Commission has allocated â‚¬2 million in humanitarian aid to support the rising number of Somali refugees in Kenya. Since the beginning of 2006, Kenya has seen a steadily increasing refugee influx from Somalia. Each day around 1,200 Somali refugees arrive currently in Kenya. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has so far registered 32,000 new arrivals this year on top of the 126,000 Somalis already living in refugee camps in Kenya. The aim of the Commission's assistance is to support activities covering the basic needs of the new Somali refugees (shelter, food, basic health services, sanitation).
 Benita Ferrero Waldner annonce la nomination de Bernard Kouchner comme membre du groupe d'Ă©minents experts internationaux au Sri LankaLa Commissaire europĂ©enne Benita Ferrero Waldner a annoncĂ© aujourd'hui la nomination de l'ancien ministre franĂ§ais Bernard Kouchner en tant qu'Â«Ă©minent expertÂ» de l'UE au sein du groupe international indĂ©pendant d'Ă©minents experts (GIIEE) au Sri Lanka. Le GIIEE a pour mission de superviser les travaux menĂ©s par la commission d'enquĂŞte nationale sur les atteintes rĂ©centes aux droits de l'homme. Le soutien actif apportĂ© par l'UE Ă cette initiative constitue une preuve supplĂ©mentaire de l'engagement rĂ©solu de l'Union en faveur du respect des droits de l'homme au Sri Lanka et d'un rĂ¨glement pacifique du conflit.
 Commission approves regional aid maps 2007-2013 for Austria, Finland, Spain, Sweden and the UKThe European Commission has approved under EC Treaty state aid rules the regional aid maps covering the period 2007-2013 for Austria, Finland, Spain, Sweden and the UK. These decisions form part of a wider exercise to review regional aid systems in all Member States in accordance with the new Regional Aid Guidelines (see IP/05/1653 and MEMO/05/491) adopted in December 2005. The new guidelines aim at re-focussing regional aid on the most deprived regions of the enlarged EU, while allowing to improve competitiveness and to provide for a smooth transition. The maps of thirteen other Member States have already been approved by the Commission (see IP/06/1176, IP/06/1393, IP/06/1451 and IP/06/1528,).
 Commission decides Swedish digital terrestrial platform operator Teracom received no aidThe European Commission has concluded that the Swedish state-owned terrestrial network operator Teracom did not receive illegal subsidies under EC Treaty state aid rules in connection with the development of the digital terrestrial television platform in Sweden. According to complaints, Teracom received financial support from the Swedish State which was used to give digital terrestrial transmission in Sweden an unfair competitive advantage over other types of digital transmission platforms such as cable and satellite. However, the Commission found these complaints to be unfounded.
 Commission concludes that award of third Czech 3G mobile phone licences not an aidThe European Commission has decided under EC Treaty state aid rules that the lower price at which the third 3G licence was granted by the Czech Government in 2005 did not involve state aid within the meaning of the EC Treaty. There was no discrimination against the winners of the first two licences in 2001.
 Commission opens in-depth investigation into funding of Amsterdam broadband networkThe European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation under EC Treaty state aid rules into the â‚¬1.5 million investment by the city of Amsterdam in a glass fibre telecommunications network. This investigation will enable the Commission to determine whether the participation by the city, alongside private investors, constitutes state aid and, if so, whether such aid could be found compatible with the EC state aid rules. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested parties the opportunity to submit their comments to the Commission on the proposed measure. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
 Commission endorsed new German film fundThe European Commission has endorsed Germany's new film fund on the basis of EC Treaty state aid rules. The fund, which has a total budget of â‚¬180 million, provides direct grants to film producers to encourage the production of feature films, documentaries and animation films. Aid is only awarded in favour of films with cultural content, determined on the basis of a cultural test. The Commission's assessment of the scheme was based on the criteria set out in its 2001 Communication on state aid for cinema and audiovisual works (see IP/01/1326). The scheme has been approved until 31 December 2009.
 Commission endorses â‚¬17.3 million aid to Polish machinery company Huta Stalowa WolaThe European Commission has approved under EC Treaty state aid rules â‚¬17.3Â million of restructuring aid in favour of Huta Stalowa Wola (HSW), a Polish industrial machinery company. HSW is not a steel producer and is therefore eligible for restructuring aid. After an in-depth investigation initiated in November 2005 (see IP/05/1454), the Commission has concluded that the measures are limited to the minimum necessary and do not create undue distortions of competition.
 Commission endorses â‚¬4.4 million (ÂŁ3 million) aid to innovative regional equity platform for SMEs in the UK's West MidlandsThe European Commission has endorsed under EC Treaty state aid rules aid of â‚¬4.4 million (ÂŁ3 million) to Investbx, an innovative platform for raising capital for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the West Midlands, United Kingdom. Investbx will provide extensive information to investors and assist expanding SMEs to raise equity in the range between â‚¬0.7 and â‚¬2.9 million (ÂŁ0.5 and ÂŁ2 million), which the market currently fails to provide. This is the first case investigated using the in-depth economic assessment set out in the new Guidelines on State Aid to Promote Risk Capital Investments in SMEs (IP/06/1015).
 Commission clears acquisition of Ferretti by CandoverThe European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control of Ferretti S.pA. (Ferretti) of Italy by Candover Partners Limited UK controlled by Candover Investments plc (Candover) of the UK. Candover is a private equity investor. Ferretti designs, produces and sells luxury motor boats. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
 Commission clears acquisition of InTechnology by ArrowThe European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control of InTechnology plc of the UK by Arrow Electronics Inc. (Arrow) of the US. Arrow distributes electronic components and electromechanical products, interconnect products and computer products. InTechnology distributes computer products. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
 Commission closes inquiry after Thule abandons acquisition of control over SchneekettenThe European Commission will not adopt a final decision under the EU Merger Regulation on the proposed acquisition by the Swedish car accessory producer Thule of the Austrian snow chain producer Schneeketten following the parties' agreement to abandon the deal.
 Commission approves proposed acquisition of Kion by KKR and Goldman SachsThe European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the German Kion Group by two US companies, the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) and the international banking group Goldman Sachs. Kion is a manufacturer of counterbalanced forklift trucks and warehouse equipment. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not significantly impede competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it.
 Commission approves proposed acquisition of Huntsman Petrochemicals (UK) by SabicThe European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Huntsman Petrochemicals (UK) Limited by Sabic UK Petrochemicals Holdings Limited, owned by the Sabic group of Saudi Arabia. The Commission concluded that the operation would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it.
 La Commission ouvre une enquĂŞte approfondie sur le rachat de la compagnie aĂ©rienne Aer Lingus par RyanairLa Commission europĂ©enne a ouvert une enquĂŞte approfondie en application du rĂ¨glement CE sur les concentrations concernant l'acquisition prĂ©vue de la compagnie nationale irlandaise Aer Lingus par le transporteur aĂ©rien Ă bas coĂ»ts Ryanair. L'enquĂŞte initiale menĂ©e sur le marchĂ© par la Commission rĂ©vĂ¨le que l'acquisition envisagĂ©e crĂ©erait de graves problĂ¨mes de concurrence dans le secteur du transport aĂ©rien de passagers et qu'elle pourrait notamment rĂ©duire le choix des consommateurs et entraĂ®ner des tarifs plus Ă©levĂ©s que si les deux transporteurs restaient sĂ©parĂ©s. La Commission dispose Ă prĂ©sent d'un dĂ©lai de 90 jours ouvrables (jusquâ€™au 11 mai 2007) pour prendre une dĂ©cision finale sur la question de savoir si l'opĂ©ration de concentration entraverait ou non de maniĂ¨re significative une concurrence effective dans l'Espace Ă©conomique europĂ©en ou une partie substantielle de celui-ci. La dĂ©cision d'ouvrir une enquĂŞte approfondie ne prĂ©juge pas du rĂ©sultat final de l'enquĂŞte.
 Commission approves proposed acquisition of Scania by MANThe European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the planned acquisition by MAN AG of Germany of Scania AB, Sweden. After an investigation of all markets affected, the Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it.
 Import of second-hand cars into Poland : Commission refers case to ECJThe European Commission has decided to bring Poland before the European Court of Justice for requiring technical tests prior to the registration of imported used cars without imposing these conditions on domestic cars already registered in Poland. The Polish authorities require imported second hand cars to undergo technical tests before they can be registered in Poland. Second-hand cars imported into Poland must undergo roadworthiness tests which are more expensive than other types of technical tests in Poland. These controls are not required if identical cars of the same age, model or type, which are already registered in Poland, change hands. The Commission considers that the Polish measure is not justified since it is neither necessary nor proportionate to the objectives claimed by the Polish authorities - the protection of public order, public health and the environment.
 Car taxation : infringement procedures against Denmark and FinlandThe European Commission has sent Denmark and Finland formal requests to amend their rules concerning car registration taxes. These requests take the form of "reasoned opinions", the second stage of the infringement procedure laid down in Article 226 of the EC Treaty. As regards the case against Denmark, the way registration tax is calculated on foreign company cars and leasing cars made available to a person living in Denmark means that the total amount of the registration tax will have been paid in full after more or less eight years of registration, thus resulting in a taxation which is not proportionate to the duration of the registration of the vehicle in Denmark. The case against Finland concerns the lack of an explicit rule establishing that a person who will only be staying in Finland for a limited time should be exempt from registration tax for his or her vehicle. Moreover, the Commission decided to refer Finland to the Court of Justice on the rules that applies for registration tax on second- hand cars. The Commission considers that the rules used to calculate the registration tax levied on second-hand cars imported from other Member States discriminates against them in comparison with similar Finnish cars.
 TVA : procĂ©dures dâ€™infraction contre l'Autriche, la France et l'ItalieLa Commission europĂ©enne a Ă©mis diffĂ©rents avis motivĂ©s adressĂ©s Ă l'Autriche (pour l'application dâ€™un taux rĂ©duit aux livraisons de biens liĂ©es au traitement des dĂ©chets et des eaux usĂ©es et le prĂ©lĂ¨vement de la TVA sur les voitures prises en leasing dans d'autres Etats membres), Ă la France (pour l'application d'un taux rĂ©duit Ă certains services fournis par les avocats) et Ă l'Italie (pour l'extension de l'amnistie fiscale, le condono fiscale, aux dettes de TVA nĂ©es en 2002). L'avis motivĂ© correspond Ă la deuxiĂ¨me Ă©tape de la procĂ©dure d'infraction prĂ©vue Ă l'article 226 du traitĂ© CE. Si les Etats membres concernĂ©s ne mettent pas leur lĂ©gislation en conformitĂ© dans les deux mois suivant la rĂ©ception de l'avis, la Commission peut dĂ©cider de porter les affaires devant la Cour de justice europĂ©enne.
 FiscalitĂ© directe : la Commission demande Ă la Belgique de mettre fin Ă la discrimination envers les associations caritatives Ă©trangĂ¨resLa Commission europĂ©enne a adressĂ© Ă la Belgique une demande officielle lui enjoignant de mettre fin Ă la discrimination envers les associations caritatives Ă©trangĂ¨res. La Belgique autorise la dĂ©duction fiscale des dons en faveur des organisations caritatives, Ă condition que celles-ci soient Ă©tablies en Belgique. Les dons aux organisations de ce type enregistrĂ©es dans les autres Etats membres ne donnent pas droit Ă la dĂ©duction. La Commission estime qu'il s'agit lĂ d'une discrimination contraire au principe de libre circulation des capitaux, inscrit Ă l'article 56 du traitĂ© CE. La demande se prĂ©sente sous la forme d'un "avis motivĂ©" Ă©mis conformĂ©ment Ă l'article 226 de ce traitĂ©. Si la Belgique n'y rĂ©pond pas de faĂ§on satisfaisante dans les deux mois, la Commission peut saisir la Cour de justice europĂ©enne de cette affaire.
 Commission welcomes final adoption of the Health Claims RegulationMarkos Kyprianou, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, welcomed on 20 December the final adoption by the European Parliament and the Council of the Regulation on Health and Nutrition Claims. The new legislation will ensure that any claim made on a food label in the EU is clear, accurate and substantiated. "The Health and Nutrition Claims Regulation will allow EU consumers to be fully aware of what they are eating", said CommissionerÂ Kyprianou. "They can no longer be duped by false or confusing assertions on food labels. Under the new rules, if a food claims to offer some added benefit, then it will have to be true." For more information, see: <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/labellingnutrition/index_en.htm">http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/labellingnutrition/index_en.htm
 Commission welcomes final adoption of Regulation on Fortified FoodsMarkos Kyprianou, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, welcomed on 20 December the final adoption by the European Parliament and the Council of the Fortified Foods Regulation. This Regulation lays down common EU rules on the addition of vitamins, minerals and other substances to foods. MrÂ Kyprianou said: "Vitamins and minerals are an essential part of a healthy diet, but there is also the risk of having 'too much of a good thing'. These new rules will enable EU citizens to find the proper balance in their intake of vitamins and minerals. It is another step forward in ensuring that consumers are well informed and protected when it comes to the food that they are eating." For more information, see: <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/labellingnutrition/index_en.htm">http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/labellingnutrition/index_en.htm
 International trade in services : EU25 surplus in trade in services increased to â‚¬56.9 billion in 2005In 2005, EU25 external trade in services recorded a surplus of â‚¬56.9 billion, an increase compared to â‚¬47.6 billion in 2004 and â‚¬38.5 billion in 2003. This increased surplus was mainly due to a higher surplus in transportation (â‚¬+18.4 billion in 2005 compared to â‚¬+14.4 billion in 2004), and in "other services" (â‚¬+54.3 billion in 2005 compared to â‚¬+47.8 billion in 2004). The deficit registered for travel was slightly higher (â‚¬-15.5 billion compared to â‚¬-14.4 billion). The surplus registered in other services in 2005 was mainly due to the surpluses recorded in other business services (â‚¬+30.0 billion), financial services (â‚¬+20.9 billion), computer and information services (â‚¬+8.3 billion) and construction services (â‚¬+4.9 billion). The largest deficit was registered in royalties and license fees (â‚¬-8.0 billion). These data are issued by Eurostat.
 Farm income grows in 2006 in both 'old' and 'new' Member StatesAgricultural income increased by 2.6% in the EU-25 in 2006, growing by an average of 3.6% in the EU-10 and 2.1% in the EU-15. The highest income growth was in the Netherlands, with enjoyed an increase of 17.6%, while income in France and Germany rose by 8.6 and 5.1% respectively. Among the new Member States, both Lithuania and the Czech Republic saw increases of 6.9%. Average farm income in the 'new' Member States now stands around 58 percent above the pre-accession level. The main factors behind the increase were high prices of products including cereals, oilseeds, potatoes and fruit and increased production of cattle and pigs. The restructuring of the labour force also played a significant role in some countries. Among the factors having a dampening effect on incomes were the avian flu crisis, increasing energy costs, and the strength of some currencies vis-Ă -vis the euro.
 Autre matĂ©riel diffusĂ©Free movement of workers after accession of Bulgaria and Romania - frequently asked questions
Ouverture totale du marchĂ© de transport ferroviaire de marchandises, le 1er janvier 2007
Commission guidelines on national regional aid for 2007-2013 â€“ Austria â€“ frequently asked questions
Commission guidelines on national regional aid for 2007-2013 - Finland â€“ frequently asked questions
Commission guidelines on national regional aid for 2007-2013 - Sweden â€“ frequently asked questions
Commission guidelines on national regional aid for 2007-2013 - Spain â€“ frequently asked questions
Commission guidelines on national regional aid for 2007-2013 - UK â€“ frequently asked questions
Liste des porte-parole de permanence du 23/12/2006 au 02/01/2007
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