Brussels Daily
03 Oct 2014


Brussels Daily

European Week of Regions and Cities: “Growing together – Smart investment for people”

From Monday 6 to Thursday 9 October, some 6,000 policymakers and practitioners from across Europe will gather in Brussels for the 12th annual ‘OPEN DAYS:  European week of Regions and Cities’ – the world’s single largest event in Regional and Urban Policy. Co-hosted by Commissioner Johannes Hahn and the Committee of the Regions, this year’s theme “Growing together – Smart investment for people” will see a special focus on strengthening the institutional capacity of national authorities, which, according to the Sixth Cohesion Report, published in July 2014, will be receiving a 70% investment boost in 2014-2020.  Speaking ahead of the event, Commissioner Hahn commented: “This year’s OPEN DAYS is an important moment for regions and cities to consider how best to seize the opportunity that our reformed Cohesion Policy offers. We need to ensure the planned use of EU investments in Member States is going to deliver on Europe2020 goals, as we have designed the reformed Policy to do.”

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook

The European Commission has authorised, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of WhatsApp Inc. by Facebook, Inc., both of the United States. Facebook (via Facebook Messenger) and WhatsApp both offer applications for smartphones (so-called “apps”) which allow consumers to communicate by sending text, photo, voice and video messages. The Commission found that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are not close competitors and that consumers would continue to have a wide choice of alternative consumer communications apps after the transaction. Although consumer communications apps are characterised by network effects, the investigation showed that the merged entity would continue to face sufficient competition after the merger.

Antitrust: Commission closes investigation into internet connectivity services but will continue to monitor the sector

The European Commission has closed an investigation into practices by European telecoms operators in the internet connectivity markets. Inspections were carried out in July 2013 (see MEMO/13/681). Following a review of the evidence obtained during the investigation, the Commission has come to the provisional view that the observed practices do not appear to breach EU antitrust law with a view to shutting out competitors from either the internet transit market or internet content markets. The fact that the Commission carries out unannounced inspections, under its responsibility to ensure EU antitrust rules are complied with, never prejudges the outcome of an investigation. The Commission assesses the information collected through inspections impartially. This sometimes leads, as today, to the closure of a case for lack of evidence of anti-competitive conduct.

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of Novartis Animal Health division by Eli Lilly

The European Commission has cleared the proposed acquisition of the Novartis Animal Health business (“NAH”) of Switzerland by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company (“Eli Lilly”) of the United States under the EU Merger Regulation. The Commission’s investigation confirmed that the proposed transaction does not raise competition concerns, in particular because a number of strong players would remain in the markets after the merger.

SMEs still struggled in 2013, in spite of signs of positive economic recovery

In 2013, economic conditions remained challenging for SMEs in most Member States. Economic results suggest there is a recovery, but it is uneven and not yet following a robust trajectory. These are the conclusions of the annual SMEs Performance Review and country-specific SBA factsheets published today by the European Commission. In 2013, the numbers of SMEs and their value added stood above pre-crisis levels of 2008, but SMEs’ employment was still some way below that mark since it was down by 1.9 million employees, 2.16% below the 2008 level. Furthermore, year-on-year developments call for further caution. In 2013, value added continued growing by 1.1% but this represents a continued slowdown compared to previous years’ growth rates: 1.5% in 2012 and 4.2% in 2011. In addition,  the number of SMEs and the size of their workforce declined by 0.9% and 0.5% respectively, on the back of overall weak economic growth and falling inflation in the EU economy (MEMO/14/549).

Seventh round of negotiations on EU/US trade deal end

Today the seventh round of week-long negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) ends. The EU and US negotiating teams, meeting in Chevy Chase (Maryland), focused on the regulatory part of the agreement. EU and US chief negotiators Ignacio García Bercero and Dan Mullaney will hold a press conference at 3.30 pm this afternoon (Fri. 3 Oct.). It will be streamed live on EBS+ .

Teachers’ salaries start to increase in Europe

In 2013/2014, teachers saw their salaries increase in 16 European countries (BE, DK, DE, EE, FR, HR, LU, HU, MT, AT, SK, FI, UK, NO, MK, TR) compared with the previous school year, according to a Eurydice report carried out for the European Commission. The rises were chiefly due to salary reforms and adjustments to the cost of living. The survey covers teachers and school heads at pre-primary, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary level. In about half of the 33 European countries featured in the report, teachers’ purchasing power1 in 2014 is still below the 2009 level.

Protecting vulnerable deep-sea fish species: Commission proposes to moderately decrease fishing opportunities 2015-2016

The European Commission has today proposed fishing opportunities for deep-sea fish stocks in EU and international waters in the North-East Atlantic for 2015-2016. In line with scientific advice, the Commission proposes an increase of total allowable catches (TACs) for 4 stocks, a decrease for 9 stocks, and a status quo for 5 stocks as compared to 2014. “Deep sea ecosystems and fish stocks are particularly vulnerable to human activities, such as fishing, and need appropriate protection”, said European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki about the proposal. ”Sustainable management is the only way we can ensure the future of deep-sea fisheries. It is good news that the scientific advice allows for increases for a number of these stocks, but unfortunately the situation is bleak for most other stocks.”

Scheme for business start-ups by mothers with young children wins top prize at EEPA 2014

The seven winners of the 8th edition of European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA) were announced today. The Grand Jury Prize winner came from Hungary. The project, Encouraging Business Start-ups by Mothers with Young Children, helps mothers to acquire the entrepreneurial skills and mind-set needed to start a business and run it successfully. In Hungary, half of mothers with small children are not able to return to their job at the end of their maternity leave and employment of mothers with children under three is well below the EU average. Encouraging Business Start-ups by Mothers with Young Children is an exceptional project that helps mothers to acquire the entrepreneurial skills and mind-set to start a business and make it profitable. Since 2010, The Mother Company of the Year competition has allowed 443 mothers of young children to present their businesses whilst the Business Mums’ Conference brings together mothers who are interested in business with those who are already entrepreneurs.

Commission report analyses electricity tariff deficits in several Member States

Electricity tariff deficits first emerged in countries hit hardest by the economic crisis, with Spain, Portugal and Greece exhibiting the largest deficits. However, tariff deficits can also be found in several other Member States including France, Bulgaria, Malta and Romania. This is amongst the findings of a report published today by the Commission’s Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs. It looks into the causes of electricity tariff deficits, which arise when the tariffs for the regulated components of the retail electricity price are set below the corresponding costs borne by energy companies. The paper identifies the different cases of electricity tariff deficits in Member States. It shows that the drivers or causes of the deficits are broader than just a bad economic situation. Several factors related to the design of the electricity markets are found to have an influence on the prevalence of a tariff deficit. For further information please see:

Commission kicks off consumer awareness campaign in Poland

Martine Reicherts, the EU’s Justice Commissioner is today kicking off the Consumer Rights Awareness Campaign in Warsaw, Poland, informing citizens of their consumer rights under EU law and pointing them to the right places where they can get advice and help in case of questions or problems. Commissioner Reicherts said: “We must raise awareness of existing consumer rights: just having EU rights and obligations in the statute book is not enough. We need to bring them to life. If we want our rules to be effective, we must make sure that consumers and businesses know their rights and obligations.” With household budgets under pressure, EU consumer policy not only ensures that consumers are treated fairly – but that they can get the best deal possible. It is vital to ensure that consumers are aware of their rights under EU law so they can use them every day, when shopping online or on the high street. That is why under the new rules , EU consumers can rely on enhanced price transparency, a ban on pre-ticked boxes on the internet, an extension of the period to change your mind from 7 to 14 days, better refund rights, and better protection in relation to digital products. The European Commission is also making available today guidance in all EU languages to Member States for the implementation of new EU rules on consumer rights.

Eight Member States exceeded their 2013/14 milk quota

Eight Member States – Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, Austria, Ireland, Cyprus and Luxembourg, – exceeded their milk quotas for deliveries in 2013/2014, and must therefore pay penalties (“superlevy”) totalling roughly € 409 million. Despite the overrun of the quotas in these Member States, total EU deliveries remained 4.6% below the total quota volumes, compared with 6.0% in 2012/13.  In addition, the Netherlands overshot its direct sales quota by 3 300t (4.2%) and faces an additional levy of € 918 000. The number of Member States exceeding their quotas remains limited and the concerned surplus production accounts for 1.0% of all milk delivered or covered by direct sales (0.1% in the previous milk quota year). Some 20 Member States remained under quota, of which 14 at more than 10% below their delivery quota. The dairy quota regime will be abolished on 1 April 2015.

August 2014 compared with July 2014: Volume of retail trade up by 1.2% in euro area – up by 1.4% in EU28

In August 2014 compared with July 2014, the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade rose by 1.2% in the euro area (EA18) and by 1.4% in the EU28, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In July retail trade fell by 0.4% in both zones.

In August 2014 compared with August 2013 the retail sales index increased by 1.9% in the euro area and by 2.5% in the EU28.

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