Member States to benefit from €98.2 million in investments to improve citizens’ quality of life
The European Commission has approved an investment package of €98.2 million to support Europe’s transition to a low-carbon, circular economy under the new LIFE funding programme for the Environment and Climate Action.Today’s investment package will contribute towards improving the quality of life for European citizens in five areas: Nature, Water, Air, Waste and Climate Action. The investment covers 10 projects in Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Spain and Sweden. The EU funding will mobilise investments leading to an additional €2 billion, as Member States can make use of other EU funding sources, including agricultural, structural and research funds, as well as national funds and private sector investment. Read the press release and annex with details on the 10 projects.
Trade Defence: Commission imposes definitive anti-dumping duties on Chinese corrosion resistant steel
The Commission today imposed definitive anti-dumping duties on corrosion resistant steel from China. The investigation confirmed that Chinese producers were dumping the product on the EU market, a finding that already led to imposition of provisional duties in August 2017. The measures that will be in place for the next 5 years range from 17.2% to 27.9%. Corrosion resistant steel is mainly used in the construction industry, for mechanical engineering, in the production of welded pipes and tubes and in the manufacturing of domestic appliances. The value of EU market for corrosion resistant steel is estimated for €4.6 billion, 20% of which has been supplied by Chinese producers. Today’s measures will counter the downward pressure on sales prices that has been causing financial problems for EU producers, based mostly in Belgium, France, Poland and the Netherlands. The steel sector is a vital industry for the European Union’s economy and occupies a central position in global value chains, providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of European citizens. The global surplus in steelmaking capacity has driven down steel prices to unsustainable levels in recent years and had a damaging impact on the steel sector, as well as related industries and jobs. The EU is using therefore the full potential of its trade defence toolbox to ensure a level-playing-field for its producers and their ability to maintain jobs in the sector. 53 measures are now in place on steel and iron products, including 27 on products coming from China. In March 2016 the Commission issued a Communication presenting a series of measures to support competitiveness of the EU steel industry. Enhanced use of trade defence tools was one of the pillars of the strategy. In addition to that, the Commission engaged in the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity that agreed last November on an ambitious package of concrete policy solutions to tackle the pressing issue of global overcapacity in the steel sector. The regulation is available in the EU Official Journal.
160 innovation grants to bring frontier research closer to the market
Today, 52 winners of an innovation grant competition have been announced. The so-called ‘proof of concept’ grants, each worth up to €150,000, are dedicated to researchers that explore the innovation potential of their scientific discoveries. This will help researchers to bring the results of their frontier research closer to the market. Today’s winners join 108 others that have already been awarded grants in 2017. In total 160 researchers will now investigate business opportunities, establish intellectual property rights or conduct technical validation to proof their scientific concept. They will for example develop new antibiotics that target drug-resistant bacteria, produce graphene sheets to protect works of art or make thermal-regulating paints that could reduce energy consumption of buildings (see further project examples). The overall budget of the competition was €24 million. In October last year, the Commission has geared its research and innovation funding towards boosting breakthrough, market-creating innovation. Europe is already a world leader in science and technology. To make Europe also a major innovation driver, the Commission has launched a Pilot for a European Innovation Council (EIC) to support top-class innovators, entrepreneurs, small companies and researchers with bright ideas. The EIC will mobilise €2.7 billion to support high-risk, high-gain innovation. The ‘proof of concept’ grants, announced today, are awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) and are part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (see ERC news item). The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the first European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe.
State aid: Commission approves PLN 5 billion Polish support for closing coal mines
The European Commission has found amendments to Poland’s plans to provide public support of PLN 5 billion (approximately €1.25 billion) to alleviate the social and environmental impact of closing uncompetitive coal mines by 2018 to be in line with EU State aid rules. The Commission concluded that potential competition distortions are limitedas a result of the support. The Commission had already approved Polish support for the closure of uncompetitive coal mines in November 2016. In line with EU State aid rules, and in particular Council Decision 2010/787/EU on State aid to facilitate the closure of uncompetitive coal mines, the Commission found that the aid will ease the closure process by providing financial support to workers who have lost, or will lose, their jobs due to the closure of the mines. In particular, the state support will fund severance payments, compensatory pensions and social security benefits for these workers until 2023. Furthermore, it will be used to secure mine shafts and decommissioning of mine infrastructure, repair damage to the environment caused by mining and re-cultivate land after the mine closures. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the State Aid Register under the case number SA.46891.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of OCTE by Avis Budget Group and Koç Holding
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of OCTE of Greece by Otokoç ABG Holland BV of the Netherlands, which will be jointly controlled by Avis Budget Group Inc. (‘ABG’) of the US and Koç Holding A.S. (‘Koç’) of Turkey. OCTE trades as Avis Hellas and, since 2010, has been appointed as Avis’ franchisee in Greece for the Avis and Budget brands. ABG is a global provider of rental cars and also operates a car sharing network through its Zipcar brand. Koç is an investment holding company which is active in a range of sectors, including energy, consumer durables, cars and finance. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, given the absence of horizontal overlaps or vertical links between the companies’ activities in Greece. Although ABG, Koç and OCTE all provide short-term and long-term car rental services, their activities take place in distinct national markets. Moreover, there are no existing supplier or customer relationships between them. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8756.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Elenia Group by Macquarie Group and Allianz Group
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Lakeside Network Investments S.à.r.l. (“Elenia Group”) of Finland by Macquarie Super Core Infrastructure Fund SCSP (“MSCIF”) of the UK and Allianz Infrastructure Luxembourg I S.à.r.l. (“AIL”) of Luxembourg. Elenia Group owns and operates electricity distribution networks and district heating businesses in Finland. MSCIF is a fund owned by the Macquarie Group, a global provider of banking, financial, advisory, investment and fund management services. AIL belongs to the Allianz Group, a global provider of insurance and asset management products as well as services to private and corporate customers. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of the limited combined market position of the companies following the proposed 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.8776.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over Lucid Energy by Goldman Sachs and Riverstone
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of joint control over Lucid Energy Group II LLC by The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. and Riverstone Investment Group LLC, all of the US. Lucid Energy provides natural gas gathering, compression and natural gas processing in Texas and New Mexico. Goldman Sachs is a global investment banking, securities and investment management firm that provides a wide range of banking, securities and investment services worldwide. Riverstone is a private equity firm focused on investments in the energy and power sectors. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns as Lucid Energy is not active in the European Economic Area. 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.8800.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over PSA Panama International Terminal S.A. by PSA International Pte. Ltd. and Terminal Investment Limited Sàrl
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control over PSA Panama International Terminal S.A. of Panama by PSA International Pte. Ltd of Singapore, and Terminal Investment Limited Sàrl of Switzerland. PSA Panama International Terminal S.A. is a company operating a container terminal in the Port of Rodman, Panama. PSA International Pte. Ltd. provides stevedoring services at ports, with a particular focus on terminal services for containerised liner ships. Terminal Investment Limited Sàrl is jointly controlled by MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company Holding S.A. of Switzerland, Global Infrastructure Management and Global Infrastructure Partners, both of the US. Its business is in investment, development and management of container terminals. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of the limited impact it would have on the market. 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.8695.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Hügli by Bell
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of sole control over Hügli Holding AG by Bell Food Group AG, both of Switzerland. Hügli manufactrures soups, sauces, ready-to-eat dishes, desserts and meat substitute products for sale to retailers, wholesalers and the food service sector. Bell is active in the production, processing and sale of meat as well as other related products, seafood and convenience products through various distribution channels. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of the limited overlap between the companies’ activities. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8751.
Commissioner Stylianides visits Portugal to present rescEU, the EU’s plan to strengthen emergency response
Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides is travelling to Lisbon to meet with Prime Minister of Portugal António Costa and Minister of Internal Administration, Mr Eduardo Cabrita. During the visit Commissioner Stylianides will present and discuss the state of play regarding the Commission’s proposal to strengthen EU disaster management: rescEU. The meetings will serve to enhance the constructive cooperation already established between the Commission and the Portuguese authorities. rescEU aims at creating a more robust EU civil protection mechanism, enabling the EU to better respond to disaster situations and to help citizens when Member States’ capacities have been exhausted, as was the case in Portugal last year. The Commissioner will also deliver a speech at a seminar on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism co-organised by the European Ideas Network. Commissioner Stylianides visited Portugal last year, and commended the Portuguese civil protection forces for their work and support for several EU Civil Protection missions.