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European Commission Spokesman's Briefing for 08-07-16

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>


CONTENTS / CONTENU

[I] Résultats de la Commission du 16 juillet 2008 – Outcome of Commission meeting of 16 July 2008

  • [01] Tobacco taxation: Commission proposes increasing excise duties (see also MEMO/08/506)
  • [02] Plan d’action pour une consommation, une production et une industrie durables: l’Union européenne veut promouvoir les produits et les technologies respectueux de l’environnement
  • [03] La Commission ouvre une enquête sur les aides accordées « Sernam », ancienne filiale routière et ferroviaire de la SNCF
  • [04] Commission launches a formal investigation into State aid to polish haulage undertaking C. Hartwig Katowice
  • [05] Commission approves financing for inter-island maritime transport in the Azores
  • [06] Commission thumbs-down for proposed aid to Villasor sugar refinery in Sardinia
  • [07] State Aid: the Commission authorises EUR 14 million in aid for French PAMELAT project by Latécoère
  • [08] State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into funding to Volvo Aero for aircraft engine components
  • [09] State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into Italian aid for the Sulcis integrated power plant
  • [10] State aid: the Commission approves continuation of guarantees schemes for working capital loans in Eastern Germany
  • [11] State aid: Commission authorises €231 million Hungarian film support scheme
  • [12] State aid: Commission rejects current plans for Gdynia and Szczecin shipyards; sets deadline for final resolution
  • [13] Antitrust: Commission prohibits practices which prevent European collecting societies offering choice to music authors and users
  • [II] Other news - Autres Nouvelles

  • [14] Concentrations: la Commission autorise le rachat de l'entreprise de construction Kirchhoff par Strabag
  • [15] Concentrations: la Commission autorise le projet d'acquisition de ConvaTec par Nordic Capital, sous réserve du respect de certaines conditions
  • [16] Concentrations: la Commission autorise le projet de rachat d'Abitec par Danisco
  • [17] Commissioner Figel' opens Tempus offices in Jerusalem and Ramallah to upgrade co-operation on education and training
  • [18] Commission signs Joint Declaration with Israel to reinforce co- operation and dialogue in education and training
  • [19] The European Community signs a Science & Technical cooperation agreement with New Zealand
  • [20] Commission launches consultation on requirements for a sustainability scheme for biomass for energy purposes
  • [21] Control of agricultural spending: Commission launches procedure to reduce payments to Greece
  • [22] Intellectual Property: Commission adopts forward-looking package
  • [23] Industrial Property Rights: Commission launches strategy to drive innovation from the laboratory to the marketplace
  • [24] Financial services: Commission proposes improved EU framework for investment funds
  • [25] Euro area annual inflation up to 4.0%
  • [26] 17/07/08 Budget Council: Conciliation and First Reading of the Draft Budget 2009
  • [27] Enregistrement de huit dénominations de produits agricoles
  • [28] CAP: Call for tender for an evaluation of measures carried out for the outermost regions and the smaller islands of the Aegean Sea
  • [29] Autre matériel diffusé Midday Express of 2008-07-16 Reference: MEX/08/0716 Date: 16/07/2008 EXME08/16.07

    MIDDAY EXPRESS

    News from the Communication Directorate General's midday briefing

    Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Direction Générale Communicationb

    16/07/08


  • [I] Résultats de la Commission du 16 juillet 2008 – Outcome of Commission meeting of 16 July 2008

    [01] Tobacco taxation: Commission proposes increasing excise duties (see also MEMO/08/506)

    The European Commission today presented a Report and a proposal for a Directive to amend the current EU excise duty legislation on tobacco. The draft Directive foresees a gradual increase in the EU minimum taxation levels on cigarettes and fine cut tobacco up to 2014. It also updates the definitions of different types of tobacco products so as to remove loopholes which allow certain cigarettes or fine cut tobacco to be presented as cigars, cigarillos or pipe tobacco and therefore benefiting from a lower tax rate. Today's proposal will narrow differences between Member States' tobacco taxation levels and so help tackle intra-EU tobacco smuggling. It would also make the taxation rules more transparent, thereby creating a level playing field for manufacturers and giving flexibility to Member States to set minimum taxes. It also aims to contribute to reducing tobacco consumption by 10% within the next 5 years.

    [02] Plan d’action pour une consommation, une production et une industrie durables: l’Union européenne veut promouvoir les produits et les technologies respectueux de l’environnement

    Améliorer la performance environnementale et, plus particulièrement, l’efficacité énergétique des produits et encourager leur pénétration sur le marché, tels sont les grands objectifs du train de mesures que propose aujourd’hui la Commission européenne. Ce dispositif présente une série de mesures, contraignantes ou non, destinées soutenir la mise en œuvre d’une politique dynamique et cohérente dans l’Union et l’échelle internationale, en favorisant la conception de produits écologiques, en informant le consommateur par un étiquetage renforcé et en encourageant l’achat de tels produits par les marchés publics et des incitations fiscales.

    [03] La Commission ouvre une enquête sur les aides accordées « Sernam », ancienne filiale routière et ferroviaire de la SNCF

    La Commission européenne a décidé aujourd'hui d'ouvrir une enquête sur les aides accordées par l'Etat français la société Sernam, l'ancienne filiale routière et ferroviaire de la Société nationale des Chemins de fer français (SNCF). L'enquête porte sur l'application faite par la France d'une décision prise en 2004, qui autorisait une aide de €503 millions Sernam, et demandait la récupération d'un montant additionnel de €41 millions, déj perçu par l'entreprise.

    [04] Commission launches a formal investigation into State aid to polish haulage undertaking C. Hartwig Katowice

    The European Commission has today decided to launch a formal investigation into a restructuring loan by the State to the Polish haulage undertaking, C. Hartwig Katowice. The Commission has also decided to scrutinize the measures taken by PKP Cargo, a State-controlled rail freight operator, in favour of C. Hartwig Katowice and the price it paid for its takeover.

    [05] Commission approves financing for inter-island maritime transport in the Azores

    The European Commission today gave its agreement to a Portuguese aid scheme that aims to promote regional development in the Autonomous Region of the Azores. The so-called SIDER ("Sistema de Incentivos para o desenvolvimento Regional dos Açores") focuses on four areas of action: local development, the tourism sector, promotion of quality and innovation and strategic projects for regional development. The scheme covers the period of 2007 to 2013. The estimated annual budget for the maritime sector will not exceed €5 million.

    [06] Commission thumbs-down for proposed aid to Villasor sugar refinery in Sardinia

    The European Commission today decided that the €3.5 million in aid that Sardinia had wanted to grant Villasor sugar refinery is not compatible with the rules on State aid in agriculture. The aid had been intended as compensation to the refinery for its losses stemming from the 2001-02 drought on the island. The relevant State aid rules provide for compensation in case of drought only to primary producers and not to processing plants like the Villasor refinery.

    [07] State Aid: the Commission authorises EUR 14 million in aid for French PAMELAT project by Latécoère

    The European Commission has given the green light to aid worth EUR 14 million proposed by France for the research and development project PAMELAT ("pointe avant mixte Latécoère"), conducted by Latécoère, under the EC Treaty rules on State aid. The project concerns research and development of composite materials for aircraft nose sections. Following an in-depth examination of the aid granted to Latécoère, the Commission concluded that it was compatible with the single market. This grant is justified by a market failure related to the project's high level of risk and uncertainty.

    [08] State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into funding to Volvo Aero for aircraft engine components

    The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation, under EC Treaty state aid rules, into €39 million of public funding notified by Sweden for a research and development project lead by Volvo Aero Corporation. The project concerns components for GEnx, an engine developed by General Electric for aircraft such as Boeing's 787 and 747 models. The Commission's concerns include doubts about whether a market failure exists and whether the project would not have been undertaken in the absence of the aid (i.e. absence of incentive effect). The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested parties the possibility to comment on the proposed measure. It does not prejudge the outcome of the procedure.

    [09] State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into Italian aid for the Sulcis integrated power plant

    The European Commission has opened a formal investigation under EC Treaty state aid rules into an Italian aid for the Sulcis integrated coal burning power plant project in Sardinia. Italy intends to subsidise the operation of a still-to-be-built power plant by purchasing part of its electricity at a price which is above the market price. The plant would be required to sell the rest of its electricity to the local energy-intensive industries below the market price. The Commission is concerned that this arrangement may give an undue competitive advantage to the plant operator, who would receive operating aid, and also to the end-users, who would be able to purchase electricity at artificially low prices. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested parties the possibility to comment on the proposed measure. It does not prejudge the outcome of the procedure. In the meantime, however, the Commission intends to request Italy to put the project on hold.

    [10] State aid: the Commission approves continuation of guarantees schemes for working capital loans in Eastern Germany

    The European Commission has authorised, under the EC Treaty’s rules on state aid, the continuation of guarantee schemes in the German Länder Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen, after some amendments introduced by Germany. Under EU Treaty state aid rules, the granting of operating aid is strictly limited to the less developed regions of the EU and can only be used to solve temporary bottlenecks in economic development. As the guarantee schemes in question have been amended to be better targeted to firms having real difficulties to finance their working capital requirements, the Commission has decided to endorse their prolongation until 2013.

    [11] State aid: Commission authorises €231 million Hungarian film support scheme

    The European Commission has approved, under EC Treaty state aid rules, a €231 million Hungarian film support scheme, which will run until 31 December 2013. The six-year scheme covers all Hungary's film support measures, including the Hungarian film tax incentive. It is designed to promote the development of film culture in Hungary. The Commission found that the scheme is compatible with the cultural derogation of the EC Treaty, in line with the 2001 Cinema Communication rules concerning aid to film production. The Hungarian authorities will implement any changes that may be required after the expiry of the Cinema Communication.

    [12] State aid: Commission rejects current plans for Gdynia and Szczecin shipyards; sets deadline for final resolution

    The European Commission has concluded that the current restructuring plans submitted by the Polish authorities for the Gdynia and Szczecin shipyards do not comply with the guidelines on rescue and restructuring aid and that on this basis the aid paid to the shipyards would be incompatible with EC Treaty state aid rules and give rise to serious distortions of competition. However, the Commission cannot exclude that recent expressions of interest from private investors could lead to an acceptable solution within a short space of time. In view of the formal undertakings given by the Polish Government to submit, by 12th September, alternative, viable restructuring plans that would comply with the applicable state aid rules, the Commission has postponed its decision. In the Commission's view, unless the new plans comply fully with EC Treaty state aid rules, and in particular remedy the shortcomings which the Commission has identified in the current plans, it will have no option but to adopt a negative decision and require repayment of the aid.

    [13] Antitrust: Commission prohibits practices which prevent European collecting societies offering choice to music authors and users

    The European Commission has adopted an antitrust decision prohibiting 24 European collecting societies from restricting competition by limiting their ability to offer their services to authors and commercial users outside their domestic territory. However, the decision allows collecting societies to maintain their current system of bi-lateral agreements and to keep their right to set levels of royalty payments due within their domestic territory. The prohibited practices consist of clauses in the reciprocal representation agreements concluded by members of CISAC (the "International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers") as well as other concerted practices between those collecting societies. The practices infringe rules on restrictive business practices (Article 81 of the EC Treaty and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement). The Commission decision requires the collecting societies to end these infringements by modifying their agreements and practices, but does not impose fines. The removal of these restrictions will allow authors to choose which collecting society manages their copyright (e.g. on the basis of quality of service, efficiency of collection and level of management fees deducted). It will also make it easier for users to obtain licences for broadcasting music over the internet, by cable and by satellite in several countries from a single collection society of their choice.

    [II] Other news - Autres Nouvelles

    [14] Concentrations: la Commission autorise le rachat de l'entreprise de construction Kirchhoff par Strabag

    La Commission européenne a autorisé, en vertu du règlement CE sur les concentrations, le projet de rachat de l'entreprise allemande Kirchhoff par le groupe autrichien Strabag. Les deux parties sont présentes sur les marchés de la construction, notamment routière, en Allemagne et sur plusieurs marchés de matériaux de construction, en particulier la production de mélanges d'asphaltes. Compte tenu de la faible part des marchés de la construction détenue par les parties et de leur part modeste des marchés locaux des matériaux de construction, la Commission est parvenue la conclusion que l'opération n'entraverait pas de manière significative l'exercice d'une concurrence effective dans l'Espace économique européen (EEE) ou une partie substantielle de celui ci.

    [15] Concentrations: la Commission autorise le projet d'acquisition de ConvaTec par Nordic Capital, sous réserve du respect de certaines conditions

    La Commission européenne a autorisé, en application du règlement CE sur les concentrations, le projet d'acquisition de l'entreprise américaine ConvaTec par l'entreprise Nordic Capital de Jersey (Îles anglo-normandes). La décision de la Commission est subordonnée l'engagement de Nordic Capital de céder l’intégralité de ses activités dans le domaine des produits de traitement des plaies ainsi que ses activités liées aux aiguilles ophtalmiques, localisées dans les deux cas sur le site de Redditch. Au vu de cet engagement, la Commission est parvenue la conclusion que l’opération envisagée n’entraverait pas de manière significative l’exercice d’une concurrence effective dans l’Espace économique européen (EEE) ou une partie substantielle de celui-ci.

    [16] Concentrations: la Commission autorise le projet de rachat d'Abitec par Danisco

    La Commission européenne a autorisé, en vertu du règlement CE sur les concentrations, le projet de rachat d'Abitec (Royaume-Uni) par Danisco (Danemark). Danisco est un producteur international d'ingrédients alimentaires, notamment d'émulsifiants, qui possède des sites de production dans le monde entier. Abitec, jusqu'ici filiale d'Associated British Foods (ABF), produit des émulsifiants sur un seul site au Royaume Uni. La Commission est parvenue la conclusion que l’opération n’entraverait pas de manière significative l'exercice d'une concurrence effective dans l’Espace économique européen (EEE) ou une partie substantielle de celui-ci.

    [17] Commissioner Figel' opens Tempus offices in Jerusalem and Ramallah to upgrade co-operation on education and training

    The European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Ján Figel', today opened a National Tempus Office in Israel and reopened one in the occupied Palestinian territory. The move intensifies co-operation on education and training matters with Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Both Israeli and Palestinian universities now fully profit from participation in the EU's external co-operation programmes in higher education, Tempus and Erasmus Mundus.

    [18] Commission signs Joint Declaration with Israel to reinforce co- operation and dialogue in education and training

    On the occasion of an official visit to Israel, the European Commissioner in charge of Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Ján Figel', today signed a Joint Declaration with the Israeli Minister of Education, Prof. Yuli Tamir. This Joint Declaration on co-operation and dialogue in education and training will be an effective tool to contribute to the objectives of the 2005 Action Plan under the European Neighbourhood Policy, namely to gradually integrate Israel into European policies and programmes. For this purpose, the Commission and the Israeli Government want to launch an enhanced policy dialogue on greater compatibility of education systems and to increase educational mobility and exchanges through the EU's Erasmus Mundus and Tempus programmes.

    [19] The European Community signs a Science & Technical cooperation agreement with New Zealand

    Today the European Community signed an S&T cooperation agreement with New Zealand bringing the total number of S&T cooperation agreements the EC has signed with third countries to 33. This international agreement which replaces the administrative arrangement concluded between the two Parties in 1991 shall help to better prepare and coordinate the research cooperation.

    [20] Commission launches consultation on requirements for a sustainability scheme for biomass for energy purposes

    The European Commission is inviting all stakeholders, including energy companies, project developers, equipment manufacturers, government services, agricultural and forest industry, environmental NGOs and all other interested stakeholders, including from outside the EU, to help identify the need to develop at EU level sustainability criteria for biomass for energy purposes.

    [21] Control of agricultural spending: Commission launches procedure to reduce payments to Greece

    The European Commission has launched the procedure aimed at reducing by 10 percent the payments to Greece for area-based agricultural and rural development aid measures because of continuing shortcomings in its national control system. The shortcomings concern principally the existing Greek Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS), which is ineffective due to outdated and inaccurate data. An accurate LPIS is, however, essential to ensure the correct management and control of area-based payments. In order to remedy the shortcomings of their existing LPIS, the Greek authorities committed themselves in the context of an Action Plan established in spring 2006 to set up a new operational LPIS by the end of 2008. A recent audit by the Directorate-General for Agriculture shows that this key element of the Greek Action Plan is presently not on schedule.

    [22] Intellectual Property: Commission adopts forward-looking package

    The European Commission today adopted two initiatives in the area of copyright. First, the Commission proposes to align the copyright term for performers with that applicable to authors, in this way bridging the income gap that performers face toward the end of their lives. Secondly, the Commission proposes to fully harmonise the copyright term that applies to co-written musical compositions. In parallel, the Commission also adopted a Green Paper on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy. The consultation document focuses on topics that appear relevant for the development of a modern economy, driven by the rapid dissemination of knowledge and information. Both of these initiatives comprise a unique mix of social, economic and cultural measures aimed at maintaining Europe as a prime location for cultural creators in the entertainment and knowledge sectors.

    [23] Industrial Property Rights: Commission launches strategy to drive innovation from the laboratory to the marketplace

    The European Commission today adopted a Communication on a new industrial property rights strategy for Europe. Together with the creation of a Community patent and integrated patent jurisdiction, the Communication outlines a number of actions as the keystone to maintain a high quality industrial property rights system for the EU in the 21st century. It sets out to support inventors in making informed choices on the protection of their industrial property rights and calls for robust enforcement against counterfeiting and piracy. The Communication also aims to ensure that industrial property rights in Europe are of high quality and that they are accessible to all innovators, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)..

    [24] Financial services: Commission proposes improved EU framework for investment funds

    The European Commission has proposed an important revision of the EU framework for investment funds, which provides consumers with access to professionally managed investments on affordable terms. These funds, known as 'UCITS' (Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities) at the end of last year accounted for over €6.4 trillion of assets in total which is equivalent to half of the Union's GDP and represents 11.5% of European household financial assets. The new provisions will increase the efficiency of the current legislative framework in a number of key areas. First, it will allow UCITS managers to develop their cross-border activities and generate savings consolidation and economies of scale. Currently EU funds are on average 5 times smaller than US funds and the cost of managing them are twice as high as in the US. Second, investors will benefit from a greater choice of investment funds operating at lower costs. Third, the proposal also seeks to improve investor protection by making sure that retail investors receive clear, easily understandable and relevant information when investing in UCITS. These improvements will help reinforcing the competitiveness of UCITS on global markets. Currently 40 % of UCITS originating in the EU are sold in third countries, mainly Asia, the Gulf region and Latin America. As part of the Commission's Better Regulation Strategy and its firm commitment to simplify the regulatory environment, the new Directive will replace 10 existing directives with a single text. The proposal now passes to the European Parliament and Council for consideration..

    [25] Euro area annual inflation up to 4.0%

    Euro area annual inflation was 4.0% in June 2008, up from 3.7% in May. A year earlier the rate was 1.9%. Monthly inflation was 0.4% in June 2008. EU annual inflation was 4.3% in June 2008, up from 4.0% in May. A year earlier the rate was 2.1%. Monthly inflation was 0.4% in June 2008. These figures come from Eurostat.

    [26] 17/07/08 Budget Council: Conciliation and First Reading of the Draft Budget 2009

    Ministers are due to adopt tomorrow July 17th, at first reading, the draft general budget for the financial year 2009 following a conciliation meeting with representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission. Background: The Commission presented its preliminary draft general budget on May 6th 2008. The next stage of the budget procedure will be the preparation of Parliament's first reading in the Autumn. The Commission will also present in the Autumn, if necessary, a number of letters of amendment before the Council's second reading, which is scheduled for November 2008. The final adoption of the EU budget 2009 will take place during the European Parliament plenary December.

    [27] Enregistrement de huit dénominations de produits agricoles

    La Commission européenne a ajouté huit dénominations de produits agricoles et alimentaires la liste des appellations d'origine protégées (AOP) et indications géographiques protégées (IGP). Il s'agit des produits portugais "Arroz Carolino das Lezírias Ribatejanas" (riz – IGP), "Alheira de Vinhais" (saucisson fumé – IGP) et "Presunto de Vinhais" ou "Presunto Bísaro de Vinhais" (jambon – IGP), des produits espagnols "Gamoneu" ou "Gamonedo" (fromage – AOP) et "Ajo Morado de Las Pedroñeras" (ail – IGP), du produit français "ail de la Drôme" (IGP), de l'oignon tchèque "Všestarská cibule" et du fromage slovaque "Slovenská bryndza". Les huit dénominations s'ajoutent la liste d'environ 800 produits déj protégés en vertu de la législation sur la protection des indications géographiques, des appellations d'origine et des spécialités traditionnelles. Des renseignements sur les produits de qualité ainsi que la liste des dénominations protégées sont disponibles sur l'internet l'adresse: <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/foodqual/quali1_fr.htm">http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/foodqual/quali1_fr.htm

    [28] CAP: Call for tender for an evaluation of measures carried out for the outermost regions and the smaller islands of the Aegean Sea

    The European Commission has launched a call for tender for an ex-post evaluation of the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and relevance of the measures carried out for the outermost regions (POSEI) and the smaller Aegean islands within the context of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The evaluation will concentrate on: (i) the supply of essential products for human consumption, for processing and as agricultural inputs, and (ii) the measures aimed at assisting local agricultural production in the seven outermost regions: the Canary Islands (Spain), the Azores and Madeira (Portugal) and the French overseas departments (Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion and Martinique) and the smaller Aegean islands. The maximum budget attributed to this project is EUR 500 000. The deadline for submitting offers expires on 1 October 2008. The Commission intends to award the contract before the end of 2008, following the evaluation of the offers received. The contractor will have to carry out the evaluation within 10 months from the signature of the contract. Details are available at: <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/agriculture/tenderdocs/2008/180434/index_en.htm">http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/agriculture/tenderdocs/2008/180434/index_en.htm

    [29] Autre matériel diffusé

    • Memo on Excise duty on tobacco products: frequently asked questions (See also IP/08/1149)

    • Memo on Action Plan for sustainable consumption, production and industry

    • Memo on Communication on an Industrial Property Rights Strategy in Europe – FAQ

    • Memo on Commission Proposal on a Directive for Term Extension – FAQ

    • Memo on Improved Framework for investment funds – FAQ

    A disposition au secrétariat de Jonathan Todd (BERL 03/315):

    Notification préalable d'une opération de concentration :

    SUN CAPITAL / SCS GROUP

    ROBERT BOSCH / SAMSUNG / JV From EUROPA, the European Commission Server at http://europa.eu.int/


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