Brussels Daily
08 Dec 2014


Brussels Daily


Preparation of Economic and Finance Ministers Council (ECOFIN)

On 9 December in Brussels, Vice-President Georgieva, Vice-President Katainen, Commissioner Hill and Commissioner Moscovici will participate in the meeting of the EU’s Council of Economic and Finance Ministers. On the agenda are several legislative proposals in the field of taxation: the Council is due to reach political agreement on the anti-abuse clause of the Parent Subsidiary Directive and shall decide on the mandatory exchange of information in the field of taxation. Ministers will be also updated of the work on the common Financial Transaction Tax. The Council will be called on to agree on a draft regulation determining the contributions to be paid by banks to the EU’s single resolution fund. On the non-legislative activities front the Commission will present to the Council Investment Plan for Europe, as well as the work of the joint Commission-European Investment Bank task force set up in September to identify potentially viable investment projects. The Commission will also present to the Council the Annual Growth Survey 2015 and the Alert Mechanism Report 2014, which mark respectively the launch of the European Semester and the launch of the Macro-imbalances monitoring cycle. The Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the EU budget for 2013 will be also presented to the Ministers. A press conference will be concluding the event.

New EU support to fight Ebola

EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, has today announced€61 million of new support in response to the Ebola crisis in the affected countries of West Africa, during a visit to Guinea. This will include direct support to the governments of Guinea and Liberia to help them cushion the impact of the economic effects of the outbreak, as well as measures to address security issues in affected countries. In response to the EU’s call for the mobilisation of qualified health workers, Greece is sending a team to West Africa, including doctors, a nurse and a paramedic, through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Greece is also funding much-needed material in the epidemic response. This was announced by the EU Ebola Coordinator Christos Stylianides and the Greek Minister of Health, Mavroudis Voridis, on Saturday 6 December, in Athens. Read more on the EU’s response to Ebola emergency and the EU’s medium/long term support through development cooperation.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of CIAT by United Technologies Corporation

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of CIAT Group of France by United Technologies Corporation (UTC) of the US. CIAT supplies customers across the world with heating ventilation and air conditioning (‘HVAC’) systems from its manufacturing plants in Europe and China. UTC is a multinational corporation that provides high technology products and services for building systems and aerospace industries worldwide. UTC’s Carrier business unit is active in HVAC systems. The Commission’s investigation found that the proposed transaction does not raise any competition concerns as the market share increments in most cases remain modest and customers will continue to have an adequate number of alternative suppliers in all markets. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website in the public case register under the case number M.7375.

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of HSBC Life’s UK pensions business by the Swiss Re Group

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of the United Kingdom pensions business of HSBC Life (UK) Limited (“the Target”) by Swiss Re Group of Switzerland (via its subsidiary ReAssure). Swiss Re Group is a leading wholesale provider of reinsurance, insurance and other insurance-based forms of risk transfer for both life and non-life products. The Target comprises various UK personal pension schemes, some executive pension plans and individual buy-out policies together with an associated annuity book and certain other assets, liabilities and employees necessary for the portfolio’s underwriting, management and administration. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of the companies’ moderate combined market shares on the markets concerned. 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.7414.

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of joint control over Kensington by Blackstone and TPG

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over Kensington Group plc and certain Investec Bank plc assets (“Kensington”) of the United Kingdom by Blackstone Group L.P (“Blackstone”) and Koala HoldCo, LLC, both of the United States. The latter is a portfolio company of TPG Global, LLC and TPG Special Situations Partners, LLC (“TPG”). Kensington is a residential mortgage lender based in the UK. Blackstone is a global alternative asset manager and provider of financial advisory services. TPG is a global private investment firm. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, in particular because there are no overlaps between the companies’ activities. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.More information will be available on the competition website, in the Commission’s public case register under the case number M.7437.

Transport Eurobarometer: congestion and maintenance are the major challenges for EU roads

Today the European Commission published the results of a Eurobarometer survey on the quality of transport in the EU. The main findings of the survey revealed that respondents who use cars have a split opinion about whether the quality of road transport in the past five years has improved or not. 38% of them said it has improved, 40% that it has deteriorated, and 18% said that it remained the same. But whatever the opinion on quality, most considered congestion (60%) and maintenance (59%) to be the most serious problems about roads in Europe. These findings are even more relevant as the survey highlighted the dominance of car as a preferred mode of transport for both daily commuting (54%) and journeys over 300 km (66%). Improving road maintenance (56%) was also mentioned as the top priority for improving road safety by all respondents, closely followed by zero alcohol tolerance (49%). Commissioner Violeta Bulc said: “Today’s survey shows that good infrastructure, better connections, and cheaper tickets are the main concerns of EU citizens. That is why we need to remove technical and administrative barriers to ensure that transport services can really operate across the whole EU, without national boundaries. Also we cannot assume that transport services will always be there, or be safe, unless we maintain them. Transport is about people. That is why in all of my initiatives, the main objective will be to contribute to travellers needs and to set the conditions for the European transport economy to flourish.” The full Eurobarometer and summary are available here.

Eurostat: Opening of the European Census Hub, a new, easy and flexible way to access population and housing census data from all EU countries

How many single parent families live in your area? How many residents in your area were born abroad? When did they arrive in the country? What proportion of dwellings in your area are over 50 years old? And how many of these are unoccupied? How does your area compare with other parts of Europe? There is now an easy and flexible way to get answers to these questions: the Census Hub. It provides detailed information to find out more about individuals, families, households and housing in your country, region and even town. A press release is available online.

European Green Capital: From Copenhagen to Bristol

Today in Copenhagen, Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime affairs and Fisheries, officially hands the European Green Capital title to Bristol for 2015. Commissioner Vella stated on this year’s winner: “Citizens of Bristol should be very proud, and I congratulate them on winning the title of European Green Capital 2015. Bristol offers inspiration to other European cities that also want to evolve towards a greener future. European cities that understand the fundamental concept of this award; a Green Capital serves its citizens. I wish Mayor Ferguson and his team the best of luck for the coming year.” The Commission will also launch European Green Leaf 2015, a new competition for smaller cities which show a strong commitment to green growth and a better environment. The Green Leaf is aimed at cities with 50 000 to 100 000 inhabitants, and more than 450 European cities can now apply.



Commissioner Jonathan Hill welcomes the General Approach agreement reached in Council on the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2)

“The Council General approach on the revised Payment Services Directive marks another step towards creating a more secure, competitive and consumer-friendly rules for payments in Europe,” said Jonathan Hill in a statement, the EU Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union. “It is important to now find a compromise with the European Parliament so the new rules can come into force: they will help to build a genuine digital single market and increase consumers’ confidence in online payments. Not least, they will make those payments cheaper.”

Vice-President Ansip: Accelerating growth through a connected Europe

The world is going digital and Europe needs to keep up with the digital revolution. Our single market needs to adapt, because Europe is still divided by national borders when it comes to digital. “We have already started work on a clear long-term strategy: to stimulate the digital environment, to minimise legal uncertainty and create fair conditions for all,” Vice-President Andrus Ansip, in charge of the Digital Single Market, said at the GSMA Mobile 360 conference in Brussels. But none of these objectives can be achieved without a fully functioning single market in telecoms: world-class networks and communication services to underpin the delivery of digital services across all of Europe. “This is why the Telecoms Single Market package is so important. It is designed to stimulate and attract the investment that Europe’s telecoms sector needs,” Vice-President Ansip said. “I encourage EU ministers to intensify and complete the technical discussions so that negotiations with the European Parliament can start as soon as possible.” He also believes more ambition is needed: “Without it, we won’t move forward in any meaningful way, which won’t help either people or business. And the whole objective is to make everybody’s lives easier.Speech

Commissioner Stylianides comments on World Food Programme funding shortage for Syria

I am deeply concerned by the World Food Program’s (WFP) suspension of food assistance for more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. This is a stark reminder of the overwhelming impact of this biggest humanitarian tragedy of our times,” said the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides in a statement. “The European Union collectively has led the international response to the Syrian crisis advocating at all levels for large-scale and cost-effective international assistance and providing more than €3 billion in support. €666 million come from the European Commission’s humanitarian budget, out of which €115 million were provided to WFP’s operations in the region, making WFP our second-largest humanitarian partner, after the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR). 


Juncker Commission to take oath of independence at the European Court of Justice

On Wednesday 10 December, President Jean-Claude Juncker and the Members of the College of Commissioners are taking their formal oath of office in Luxembourg, at the Court of Justice of the EU.

The European Union (EU) has announced financial support through its Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) to Myanmar and Laos

Myanmar will receive EUR 688 million (USD 900 million) under EU’s bilateral cooperation programme over the period 2014-2020 to reinforce support to the country’s multiple transition. The funds will help to develop rural areas and agriculture; improve food and nutrition security; support education; improve governance and the rule of law; and contribute to peacebuilding. With this support over the next 7 years, the EU will build on its on-going initiatives for the benefit of all people in Myanmar. Laos will receive EUR 60 million (KIP 60 billion, USD 75 million) under the EU’s bilateral cooperation programme over the period 2014-2015 to improve basic education and food and nutrition security and strengthen good governance as well as the rule of law and human rights. In addition to the bilateral cooperation, Laos will continue receiving support under other EU thematic and regional instruments and programmes. These cover a wide range of issues, including civil society, environment including forestry and climate change as well as trade.

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in Washington D.C. from 8 – 9 December

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström travels to Washington D.C. in her first trip outside the EU, since taking up her mandate as Commissioner for Trade. During this visit she will be meeting US Trade Representative Michael Froman to take stock of the TTIP negotiations as part of a fresh start on TTIP. The meeting will be followed by a joint press point by the Commissioner and Ambassador Froman at 15h45 ET.

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