MEX 14 / 30.07
30 / 07 / 14
Following the agreement by the European Union on a package of significant additional restrictive measures targeting sectoral cooperation and exchanges with the Russian Federation, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy issued a joint statement, saying that the measures were “meant as a strong warning: illegal annexation of territory and deliberate destabilisation of a neighbouring sovereign country cannot be accepted in 21st century Europe.” The decisions will limit access to EU capital markets for Russian State-owned financial institutions, impose an embargo on trade in arms, establish an export ban for dual use goods for military end users, and curtail Russian access to sensitive technologies particularly in the field of the oil sector.
The European Commission has adopted a “Partnership Agreement” with Portugal setting down the strategy for the optimal use of European Structural and Investment Funds throughout the country. Today’s agreement paves the way for investing €21.46 billion in total Cohesion Policy funding over 2014-2020 (current prices, including European Territorial Cooperation funding and the allocation for the Youth Employment Initiative). Portugal also receives €4.06 billion for rural development and €392 million for fisheries and the maritime sector. The EU investments will help tackle unemployment and boost competitiveness and economic growth through support to innovation, training and education in Portugal’s cities, towns and rural areas. They will also promote entrepreneurship, fight social exclusion and help to develop an environmentally friendly and a resource-efficient economy. Later today, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn will participate in a meeting with the Portuguese prime minister and other members of the government in Lisbon to mark the launch of the Partnership Agreement. Commenting on the adoption, President Barroso said: ”The adoption of the ‘Partnership Agreement’ is vital to continue the support to Portugal’s recovery and development. It is very much geared towards improving competitiveness, creating jobs and promoting social inclusion. It is now paramount to use the nearly €26 billion in an efficient and productive manner, directly benefiting Portuguese people.” Portugal is the 10th EU Member State to have adopted its Partnership Agreement.
The European Commission is allocating an additional €2 million to respond to the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded. This EU funding will help contain the spread of the epidemic and provide immediate healthcare to the affected communities. It brings the Commission’s aid to fight the Ebola epidemic to €3.9 million. The Commission is in close contact with Member States. In addition, the EU has deployed health and humanitarian experts to the affected countries.
An off-the-record technical briefing on the EU response to the Ebola outbreak will be held after the Midday briefing today in the Commission’s press room.
The European Commission has selected 106 key projects that will benefit from over €320 million in EU support to improve TEN-T (trans-European transport network) infrastructure. These projects will use the EU’s financial support to speed up the completion of the TEN-T network, as well as studying innovative ways of reducing the transport sector’s environmental footprint.
In 2013 in the EU28, the unemployment rate for non-EU citizens (21.3%) aged 20 to 64 was more than twice the level for citizens of the reporting country (10.0%), referred to as “nationals”. However, the share of people unemployed for 12 months or more was at almost the same level for non-EU citizens (48.6%) and for nationals (49.4%). As regards employment, the rate for non-EU citizens aged 20 to 64 in the EU28 stood at 56.1%, while it was 68.9% for nationals. The share of employees aged 20 to 64 with a temporary contract was higher for non-EU citizens (20.2%) than for nationals (12.4%). The pattern was the same for the proportion of part time employment, which was more widespread amongst non-EU citizens (27.5%) than amongst nationals (18.4%).
Another step in the finalization of the Banking Union’s architecture: publication of Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) Regulation
Today, the Regulation establishing a Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) for the Banking Union has been published in the Official Journal of the EU, only one year after the European Commission presented its proposal. The Single Resolution Mechanism will implement in the Eurozone the new rules set for all 28 Member States by the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD) in order to put an end to the old paradigm of bank bail-outs, which cost taxpayers’ hundreds of billions of euros in the crisis. The Single Resolution Mechanism will allow for the timely and effective resolution of cross border and domestic banks, over a weekend if necessary. The Regulation will enter into force on 19 August. The provisions relating to the cooperation between the Single Resolution Board and the national resolution authorities for the preparation of the banks’ resolution plans will apply from 1 January 2015 and the Single Resolution Mechanism should be fully operational from 1st January 2016. Today’s publication contributes to making the Banking Union a reality. See also MEMO/14/295 and MEMO/14/475 for SRM and MEMO/14/294 for Banking Union.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Vencorex by PTT Public Company Limited
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Vencorex of France by PTT Public Company Limited of Thailand, via its Dutch subsidiary PTTGC International. Vencorex produces and sells globally various chemicals, including toluene diisocyanate and raffinates, used primarily in polyurethanes foams and coatings, as well as aliphatic diisocyanates and derivatives used in coatings for cars, plastics, floors etc. PTT Public Company Limited is active globally in various sectors, including energy, natural gas, distribution of refined fuels, lubricating products and various chemicals. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, in particular because the parties’ activities do not overlap and the vertical links are limited. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7303 .
Mergers: The Commission clears acquisition of Ipreo by Goldman Sachs and Blackstone
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Ipreo Holdings LLC (Ipreo) of the USA by the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc (Goldman Sachs) of the USA and the Blackstone Group L.P. (Blackstone) of the USA. Ipreo is active, globally, in the financial information industry as a provider of financial information products. Goldman Sachs is a global investment banking, securities and investment management firm. Blackstone is a global alternative asset manager and provider of financial advisory services. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given the very low combined market shares resulting from the transaction. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7261 .
State aid: Commission approves prolongation of Portuguese guarantee scheme
The European Commission has authorised, under EU State aid rules, the extension until 30 June 2014 of a guarantee scheme for credit institutions in Portugal. The scheme was initially approved in October 2008 (see IP/08/1601) and prolonged several times, last in December 2013 (see MEX/13/1912). The Commission found the extension of the measures to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 , IP/11/1488 and IP/13/672). In particular, the extended measure is well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register, under the case number SA.38900 .
State aid: Commission approves second prolongation of Portuguese guarantee scheme on EIB lending
The European Commission has authorised, under EU State aid rules, a second prolongation, until 31 December 2014, of a Portuguese scheme providing State guarantees to banks that guarantee European Investment Bank (EIB) loans granted to companies in Portugal. The scheme was initially approved on 27 June 2013 (see IP/13/617) and first prolonged in December 2013 (see MEX 13/1812). The Commission found the prolongation of the measure to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 , IP/11/1488 and IP/13/672). In particular, the prolonged measure is well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The scheme will allow the continuation of funding provided by the EIB to the real economy and prevent the disruption of the credit granted by the EIB through the banks participating in the scheme. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register, under the case number SA.38778 .
Antitrust: Commission closes its investigation into the refusal by several manufacturers of prestige/luxury watches to supply spare parts to independent repairers
The European Commission has closed its antitrust investigation in the sectors of the supply of spare parts and the provision of repair and maintenance services for luxury/prestige watches in several member states (notably France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK). The investigation concerned watches which are typically worth repairing and maintaining (in that regard, the Commission focused on watches sold above a certain retail price). The Commission investigated, further to a complaint by the European Confederation of Watch and Clock Repairers’ Association (CEAHR), whether the discontinuance of the supplies of spare parts by prestige watch manufacturers to independent watch repairers (i.e. repairers that do not belong to their respective official networks for repair and maintenance services) may constitute an infringement of EU competition rules on restrictive agreements and abuse of a dominant position (Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, respectively). Following a comprehensive investigation, the Commission has concluded that there is limited likelihood of finding such an infringement. The Commission has accordingly decided to close its antitrust probe (see web statement for more background on the case).
At the occasion of the first World day against Trafficking in Persons, Commissioner Cecilia Malmström reminded that trafficking in human beings “happens in the EU and affects us all”. Today “is an occasion to renew our commitment to work together for eradicating human trafficking. It is a day to reflect our personal and collective responsibility towards the victims. Our behaviour creates demand that fosters all forms of exploitation, and this must stop. We owe it to the victims”, explained the Commissioner for Home Affairs. She called upon all citizens to be aware that “The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the goods we use every day could be products of slavery”, before emphasizing that” addressing trafficking in human beings must remain a political priority – in Europe and beyond our borders”.
In July the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) remained broadly stable in the euro area (+0.1 points at 102.2), while it decreased slightly in the EU (by 0.6 points to 105.8).
In July 2014 the Business Climate Indicator (BCI) for the euro area decreased marginally by 0.04 points to +0.17. Managers’ more optimistic views on expected production and, to a lesser extent, the current level of overall order books were offset by an important decline in their assessments of past production. Managers’ assessment of stocks of finished products and export order books remained broadly unchanged.
New EU-wide technical standards have been agreed that will help users of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) smart chips and systems comply with EU Data Protection rules and the Commission’s 2009 recommendation on RFID. A “data protection impact assessment” process has also been agreed. Among the practical effects of these new standards, people using electronic travel passes, or buying clothes and supermarket items with RFID tags in the label, will know that smart chips are present thanks to a new RFID sign. Retailers using RFID technology to improve stock management and prevent theft will be confident that they are respecting current EU data protection rules. Vice President Neelie Kroes said: “Smart tags and systems are part of everyday life now, they simplify systems and boost our economy. But it is important to have standards in place which ensure those benefits do not come at a cost to data protection and security of personal data“.
EU Timber Regulation: new scorecard shows mixed progress to date
In March 2013, the EU Timber Regulation entered into application outlawing the placing of illegal timber on the internal market. A scoreboard published today by the Commission shows a mixed picture with regard to the implementation of the Regulation across the EU. To be effective, the legislation needs to be applied in full in an efficient and effective way, but there is still room for improvement in a number of Member States. The scorecard grades Members States against three main obligations under the legislation – designation of competent authorities, laying down the rules on penalties applicable to infringements, and an adequate system of checks. Illegal logging – the harvesting of timber in contravention to the laws and regulations of the country of harvest – is a global problem, causing deforestation, climate change and a loss of biodiversity, lost revenues for governments and legitimate operators, and disempowering local and indigenous communities. The Timber Regulation, which is part of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan , aims to combat the problem by developing responsible trading practices and obliging suppliers to ensure their timber complies with national legislation in the place of harvest. An overview can be consulted here: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/forests/timber_regulation.htm
The new scoreboard is part of a more robust approach that aims to ensure uniform application of the Timber Regulation across the Union.