| TRADE: EU comments on the US car imports investigation
The European Union submitted its formal comments to the United States Department of Commerce in the framework of an on-going investigation on the impact of automotive imports on the US national security. In the EU’s view, this current investigation lacks legitimacy, factual basis and violates international trade rules, just as the similar investigation that led to the imposition of steel and aluminium tariffs earlier this year. In its submission, now available online, the EU reiterates its firm opposition to the proliferation of measures taken on supposed national security grounds for the purposes of economic protection. This development harms trade, growth and jobs in the US and abroad, weakens the bonds with friends and allies, and shifts the attention away from the shared strategic challenges that genuinely threaten the market-based Western economic model. The EU and the US industry specialise in largely different market segments and over the last 5 years imports from the EU have been stable. While there is no economic threat to the US automobile industry which is healthy, imposing restrictive measures would in fact undermine the current positive trends of the US automobile sector. EU car companies operate in the US, they export about 60% of their US production to other countries, improving the US trade balance and providing 120,000 direct and 420,000 indirect jobs. Trade restrictions are likely to lead to higher input costs for US based producers, thus in effect becoming a tax on American consumers. The impact of potential new US tariffs on imported cars would be aggravated significantly by the likely countermeasures of US trading partners, as evidenced by the reaction to the US section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminium. The EU has also requested to participate in the public hearing to be held by the Department of Commerce scheduled for 19 and 20 July.
Migration: Commission steps up emergency assistance to Spain and Greece
The European Commission has awarded an additional €45.6 million in emergency assistance to support Spain and Greece respond to the migratory challenges they face. In view of increased arrivals,Spain will receive €25.6 million to improve the reception capacity for arrivals at its southern coast and in Ceuta and Melilla as well as to help increase returns. Another €20 million has been awarded to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to improve reception conditions in Greece, notably on the island of Lesvos. Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship said: “The Commission continues to deliver on its commitment to support Member States under pressure. Spain has seen arrival figures increase during the past year and we need to step up our support to help manage the numbers and return those who have no right to stay. And while the EU-Turkey Statement has greatly contributed to lowering the number of arrivals in Greece, the country is still facing significant migratory pressure, in particular on the islands. Over €1 billion has now been awarded in emergency assistance to help Member States manage migration.” With the new funding decisions an important milestone has been reached: In total, the Commission has now mobilised over €1 billion in emergency assistance to help manage migration under the current financial framework (2014-2020) – support that has gone to the Member States most affected such as Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Sweden and now also Spain. You can find the full press release here.
Rule of Law: Commission launches infringement procedure to protect the independence of the Polish Supreme Court
Today, the European Commission has launched an infringement procedure by sending a Letter of Formal Notice to Poland regarding the Polish law on the Supreme Court. On 3 July, 27 out of 72 Supreme Court judges face the risk of being forced to retire – more than one in every three judges – due to the fact that the new Polish law on the Supreme Court lowers the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65. According to the law, current judges are given the possibility to declare their will to have their mandate prolonged by the President of the Republic. There are no criteria established for the President’s decision and there is no possibility for a judicial review of this decision. The Commission is of the opinion that these measures undermine the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges, and thereby Poland fails to fulfil its obligations under Article 19(1) of the Treaty on European Union read in connection with Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. While the Polish Supreme Court law has already been discussed in the Rule of Law dialogue between the Commission and the Polish authorities, it has not been satisfactorily addressed through this process. Given the lack of progress and the imminent implementation of the new retirement regime for Supreme Court judges, the Commission decided to launch this infringement procedure as a matter of urgency. The Polish government will have one month to reply to the Commission. At the same time, the Commission stands ready to continue the ongoing rule of law dialogue with Poland, which remains the Commission’s preferred channel for resolving the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland. A full press release is available here.
RegioStars Awards 2018: vote for the best Cohesion Policy project of the year
As of tomorrow, people can start voting for the 2018 RegioStars’ public choice award, among the 21 finalists shortlisted this year. The 2018 RegioStars will reward the best Cohesion Policy projects in 5 categories: achieving industrial transition; promoting a low carbon lifestyle; making public services better and more accessible; dealing with migration in the long term; and preserving the EU’s cultural heritage. Commissioner for Regional policy Corina Creţu said: “Each year our RegioStars Awards set the bar higher and higher and show how EU funds can be used in the best possible way. I’m looking forward to meeting the brains and talents behind these 21 great projects.” Commissioner Creţu will indeed meet all finalists tomorrow in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The event, which will take place at 16:00 CET in room C4.1 (LOW building), is open to accredited journalists. The ‘RegioStars Awards’ is a yearly competition that selects the best Cohesion Policy projects. The winners in all 5 categories will be announced on 9 October, in the context of the 2018 EU week of Cities and Regions.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of part of the over-the-counter business of PGT by Teva
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of part of the over-the-counter business of the joint venture PGT by Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd of Israel. PGT is currently controlled by The Procter & Gamble Company of the US, and Teva has a 49% non-controlling interest in the joint venture. Through this transaction, PGT will be dissolved. Teva will re-acquire control over the over-the-counter products (i.e., drugs sold without prescription in pharmacies) which it had previously contributed to PGT. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, because the companies’ activities are generally complementary. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8889.
Mergers: Commission clears the acquisition of ZPG by Silver Lake
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of ZPG of the UK by Silver Lake Group of the US. ZPG operates property and household related digital brands primarily in the UK, including the property portal Zoopla and the comparison website uSwitch. Silver Lake is an investment group focused on private investments in large scale companies in technology markets. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because there are only minimal overlaps between the activities of ZPG and Silver Lake’s portfolio companies. 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.8957.ES.
Commissioner Hahn visits Serbia
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, is in Belgrade, Serbia today to discuss the next steps in Serbia’s accession process. Commissioner will have bilateral meetings with President Aleksandar Vučić and Prime Minister Ana Brnabić. During his visit Commissioner Hahn together with President Vučić will witness the Signing ceremony of the annual IPA (Instrument of Pre-Accession) Financing Agreement covering support to the Justice sector and the horizontal support to alignment to EU acquis, between Mrs Jadranka Joksimovic, Serbian Minister of European integration and Mr Sem Fabrizi, EU Head of Delegation to Serbia. Photo and video of the visit will be available on EbS.