Brussels Daily
12 Dec 2014


Brussels Daily

First three Rural Development Programmes get green light

The European Commission has today approved the first three of 118 Rural Development Programmes (Denmark, Poland and Austria) aimed at improving the competitiveness of the EU farming sector, caring for the countryside and climate, and strengthening the economic and social fabric of rural communities in the period until 2020. These three programmes account for roughly 22% of the EUR 95.6 billion of total EU funding over the period 2014-2020 through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and will draw in additional national, regional and private finance. They will have a direct impact in materialising one of the main priorities of the Commission – the creation of Jobs and Growth. Commenting on today’s decision, Commissioner Phil Hogan, in charge of Agriculture and Rural Development, said: “One of the great strengths of our Rural Development concept is that we have 6 core priorities, but it is up to each Member State or region to design programmes which suit their situation. And we see good examples of this today where the Polish programme is aiming to create more than 22 000 jobs. In Denmark, we see particular emphasis given to fostering innovation. In Austria, there is particular priority given to environment and climate concerns.” See press release and fact sheets on Austria, Denmark and Poland.



Market support for perishable fruit & vegetable to continue in 2015

The European Commission is proposing additional emergency market measures for perishable fruit & vegetables in response to the market disturbances resulting from the Russian ban on imports of certain EU agricultural products. The additional measure will run until the end of June 2015. The proposal provides for new eligible volumes of certain fruit and vegetables in specific Member States that may be withdrawn from the market. More information is available online.

Initialling of EU Trade Agreement with Ecuador

This morning Commissioner Malmström and Foreign Trade Minister Rivadeneira of Ecuador met to mark the completion of all the procedural steps as regards the text of the protocol that will allow Ecuador to join its neighbours, Colombia and Peru, in enjoying a privileged trade relationship with the EU. Following the initialling of the EU Trade Agreement Commissioner Malmström and Minister Rivadeneira gave a joint press conference in the VIP Corner which was broadcasted on EbS here.

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of German jewellery and watch retailer Christ by UK investment company 3i

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Diamond Holding GmbH, the holding company of Christ Juweliere und Uhrmacher seit 1863 GmbH (‘Christ’) by 3i Group plc (‘3i Group’). Christ is a jewellery and watches retailer active mainly in Germany. 3i Group is a global investment firm headquartered in the United Kingdom that makes own investments and advises and manages investment funds. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns, as there are no significant overlaps between the activities of Christ and 3i Group. The operation 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.7445)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Johnson Control’s automotive interiors business by Yanfeng

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of the automotive interiors business of Johnson Controls of Germany by Yanfeng of China. Yanfeng produces automotive interior and exterior products, such as seating, electronics and safety systems. Johnson Control’s interiors business manufactures door panels, instrument panels and floor consoles for major car manufacturers. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, because there are only limited overlaps between the companies’ activities. The operation 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.7405.

European Commission warns four countries in fight against illegal fishing

As part of the continued fight against illegal fishing worldwide, the European Commission has today warned, with a ‘yellow card’, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines that they risk being identified as non-cooperating countries. The move is part of the EU’s drive for a sustainable use of the sea and its resources. Illegal fishing is not only a criminal activity but it jeopardises the livelihood of fishing communities and depletes fish stocks.The estimated global value of illegal fishing is approximately 10 billion euros each year, which corresponds to 11 to 26 million tonnes of fish caught illegally. “Today’s decision is about the four countries needing to step up their efforts in fighting illegal fishing. I am convinced that they will all commit to this cooperative approach since sustainable development in Small Island States relies on sustainable fishing. We will work with them to make that happen and we will continue to prioritise sustainability in waters at home and abroad”, said Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. More information available here.

European Commission adopts first equivalence decision for the purposes of credit risk weighting

Today, the Commission adopted its first ‘equivalence’ decision for the purposes of credit risk weighting under Regulation (EU) No 575/2013 (‘Capital Requirements Regulation’). It establishes a list of third countries whose supervisory and regulatory arrangements the EU considers equivalent. “With this Decision, we are clarifying the capital provisions that EU banks need to hold against over 90% of their non-EU lending. This means EU credit institutions won’t need to apply disproportionate capital requirements against these exposures. This decision makes it easier for European banks who operate globally and strengthens the single banking market”, said Commissioner Jonathan Hill. See press release and a fact sheet.

Commissioner Moscovici signed Memorandum of Understanding on Macro-Financial Assistance for Georgia

On 11 December 2014, Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, signed the Memorandum of Understanding for a €46 million Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) programme to Georgia. The assistance will be distributed evenly between grants and loans and will be disbursed in two equal tranches in 2015. “The EU is helping Georgia ease its financing constraints while supporting the government’s economic reform agenda. We support Georgia’s efforts to maintain macroeconomic stability while implementing growth-enhancing reforms and facilitating closer economic integration with the EU”, said Commissioner Moscovici. See press release.

EU acts together to stop Ebola

A new shipment of urgently needed medical and relief supplies is leaving to the Ebola-affected region in West Africa today on board of the Dutch ship “Karel Doorman”. Coordinated by the European Commission, this is a joint operation of the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. A number of Member States have also mobilised medical workers, equipment and hospital beds, mobile diagnostic laboratories and medical evacuation means. See press release.

Eurostat: Employment up by 0.2% in the euro area and by 0.3% in the EU28

The number of persons employed increased by 0.2% in the euro area (EA18) and by 0.3% in the EU28 in the third quarter of 2014 compared with the previous quarter, according to national accounts estimates published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In the second quarter of 2014, employment increased by 0.3% in both zones. These figures are seasonally adjusted. Compared with the same quarter of the previous year, employment increased by 0.6% in the euro area and by 0.9% in the EU28 in the third quarter of 2014 (after +0.4% and +0.8% respectively in the second quarter of 2014). Eurostat estimates that, in the third quarter of 2014, 226.9 million men and women were employed in the EU28, of which 148.2 million were in the euro area. These figures are seasonally adjusted. These quarterly data on employment provide a picture of labour input consistent with the output and income measure of national accounts. See Eurostat press release.

Eurostat: Industrial production up by 0.1% in both euro area and EU28

In October 2014 compared with September 2014, seasonally adjusted industrial production1 rose by 0.1% in both the euro area (EA18) and the EU28, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In September 2014 industrial production grew by 0.5% and 0.6% respectively. In October 2014 compared with October 2013, industrial production increased by 0.7% in the euro area and by 0.8% in the EU28. See Eurostat press release.

Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu welcomes the increased pace in the adoption of operational programmes.

Out of the 203 operational programmes that the Commissioner and the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban policy has received, 46 are today already adopted, for a total amount of 37 billion euro. These programmes concern mainly investments under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund, with sometimes amounts under the European Social Fund (ESF) added. They are designed by the European Commission and the national authorities so as to implement in an adequate and efficient way the strategic guidelines contained in the Partnership Agreements signed with each Member States. The Commissioner highlighted that the goal was to adopt as many operational programmes as possible before the end of 2014 and that the pace of adoption would pick up even more in the next weeks. Corina Creţu said: “I welcome the undeniable progress in the rhythm of adoption of Operational Programmes but I’m also glad that we kept our promise not to sacrifice quality over speed. The adoption of an operational programme is a lengthy, thorough process, in order to achieve the best results with the interests of the citizens at heart. The investment programmes adopted so far are sound, consistent and resolutely forward-looking. They aim at boosting economic competitiveness, at supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy and multiplying investments in research, development and innovation. We should all be proud of these programmes which are going to have a manifest and substantial impact on the lives of people and I would take the example of the spread of broadband across remote territories.” The remaining programmes should be adopted as early as possible in 2015 and not later than June.



Morocco: an indispensable strategic neighbour of Europe

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations visits Morocco on 11-12 December. During his visit he spoke about EU-Morocco relations at the Institute of Graduate Management Studies: “This is my first visit to a Mediterranean country since taking up office last month as Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. My decision to visit the Kingdom at the very beginning of my mandate reflects the importance that I attach to the EU’s partnership with Morocco. Morocco is an indispensable strategic neighbour of Europe. For centuries, we have been connected through trade, through culture, and through people-to-people contacts. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the very first trade negotiations between the EEC and Morocco. Our partnership has come a long way since then. More recently, the EU Morocco summit in 2010 was the first EU summit with an Arab state and another example of our solid relations. The EU is proud to be Morocco’s leading cooperation partner.” See full speech here.

Commissioner Moscovici visits Athens on 15 and 16 December Commissioner Pierre Moscovici will be travelling to Greece on Monday for his first official visit to a Member State as Commissioner for Financial and Economic Affairs, Taxation and Customs. During his two-day visit, the Commissioner will meet with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Yannis Stournaras, the Governor of the Bank of Greece, Finance Minister Ghikas Hardouvelis, as well as with other ministers. The Commissioner will also meet with social partners and business representatives, and with the press. He will also visit the construction works on the Metro extension to the port of Piraeus, a new, major European investment project.

AGRIFISH Council: Ministers to meet to decide on fishing catch limits for 2015

Karmenu Vella, the EU’s Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, will present the  Commission’s proposals for fixing fishing opportunities for 2015 for the Atlantic, North Sea and Black Sea to the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on the 15th and 16th December . EU Fisheries Ministers are set to reach political agreement so that the limits can enter into force on 1 January 2015. This annual proposal sets the limit for the amount of fish which can be caught by EU fishermen from the main commercial fish stocks next year and it is for the first time based on the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which aims to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels. Ministers will also discuss the state of play of discussions between the European Parliament and Council on the implementation of the landing obligation which comes into force gradually from 1st January 2015. On Agriculture issues, Ministers will have a discussion about the dairy sector in the context of the Russian embargo and the end of the quota regime next year, guided by a Presidency questionnaire. The Italian Presidency will also seek to draw conclusions on a range of dossiers on which progress has been made in the past 6 months, notably on organics, on young farmers, and the error rate in agricultural spending. Under Any Other Business, Commissioner Hogan will make a statement about CAP simplification, and a range of other dossiers will be discussed, including the situation for Rural Development Programmes. The EU Commissioner in charge of Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis will attend the Council on Monday 15 December. Commissioner Andriukaitis will discuss with the Italian Presidency and the Ministers the progress of various Commission Proposals, namely the ones on: animal health, protective measures against pests of plants, zootechnical legislation and the current legislative proposal on plant protective material. After the Council meeting, there will be a press conference in the Council’s press room chaired by the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, where Commissioners Andriukaitis and Hogan will participate.

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