10 Dec 2014
EUROPEAN COMMISSION DAILY NEWS – 10 DECEMBERBrussels Daily
Ministers to meet with full agenda at Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council tomorrow
Marianne Thyssen and Věra Jourová, the EU’s Commissioners for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, and Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality respectively will represent the European Commission for the first time at the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council on 11 December. Commissioner Thyssen and Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, will present the Annual Growth Survey 2015 (IP/14/2235), which launches the cycle of economic governance, and the draft Joint Employment Report (MEMO/14/2234), launching the annual cycle of economic governance. Ministers will assess progress on youth unemployment and are expected to reach a general approach on the EURES Regulation (IP/14/26) to facilitate mobility on the European labour market. Ministers will push forward considerably on the proposed “Women on Boards” directive (IP/12/1205), which aims to set the target of 40% females among non-executive directors by 2020. The Commission hopes that Ministers will make progress on the Directive on equal treatment irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation (IP/08/1071), and find a possible way forward on the Maternity Leave Directive (IP/08/1450). EU Ministers are also set to reach a political agreement on the organisation of working time in inland waterway transport (IP/14/779) and on laws to improve workers’ rights for seafarers (IP/13/1094). The public debates and the press conference can be followed here
Juncker Commission takes oath of independence at the European Court of Justice
President Jean-Claude Juncker and the Members of the College of Commissioners are taking their formal oath of office today in Luxembourg, at the Court of Justice of the EU. With this “solemn undertaking”, the members of the Commission are pledging to respect the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, to carry out their responsibilities in complete independence and in the general interest of the Union. Commissioners will also promise not to seek or take instructions from any authorities, to refrain from engaging in actions incompatible with their duties and performance of their tasks, and to respect their obligations during and after their term of office. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said today: “The oath we take today is a serious one – it is an oath of independence and of respect of our Charter of Fundamental Rights. This is a strong political commitment from the whole College to ensure that the Charter is respected and complied with in all EU policies for which the Commission is responsible. This is no trifle matter – we are nothing if not for our values.” See press release. The ceremony will be live broadcast by EBS+ at 15h30 CET.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control of PQ Holdings Inc. by CCMP and Ineos
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over PQ Holdings Inc., a US based specialty inorganic chemicals company, by CCMP Capital Advisors, LLC, a US based global private equity firm and Ineos, a UK based global manufacturer of petrochemicals, specialty chemicals and oil products. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, in particular because it has no significant impact on the market structure. 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.7424.
ENERGY: Joint Statement by Vice-President Šefčovič and Ministers and Representatives of seven Member States
Representatives of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Romania and Slovenia as well as European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič met on Tuesday to discuss gas infrastructure priorities for Central- and South-Eastern Europe. The Member States and the Vice-President discussed the announcement by the Russian Federation and Gazprom to stop the South Stream project. Member States took note of the currently unofficial nature of this announcement and invited the Vice-President to clarify the situation with the Russian side. All Member States agreed that the EU must remain strongly committed to integrating Central and South-Eastern European gas markets and diversifying gas suppliers, sources and routes. This is also a key objective of the Energy Union, one of the priority projects of the new Commission. It was agreed, also in the view of the results of the recent stress tests, to set up a high-level working group consisting of the concerned Member States with the support of the European Commission to coordinate these efforts to facilitate the development and execution of cross-border projects as well as trans-European projects allowing for diversification of gas supplies to the region. The first deliverable of the high-level working group will be to develop an action plan for integrating Central and South-Eastern European gas markets and interconnections. Read full statement here
Statement by Commissioner Hill on Council’s agreement on implementing rules for the banks’ contributions to the Single Resolution Fund (SRF)
Commissioner Hill said yesterday: “Today’s agreement by the Council marks an important moment for the Banking Union. It means we will now have a properly funded resolution Fund to sit behind our new resolution framework. It’s now over to the European Parliament to finalise its assessment of the contributions package so that the legal framework for bank resolution can enter into application in January 2015.” Read full statement.
Statement following the visit by the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission Staff to Romania
Teams from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Commission (EC) visited Bucharest during December 2-9, 2014 for technical discussions on the 2015 budget. The teams reached broad understanding with the authorities on the 2015 budget in line with the targets of the program that is being supported by an IMF Stand-By Arrangement and EC Balance of Payments Assistance. The draft budget includes a deficit target of 1.8 percent of GDP in cash terms and 1.2 percent of GDP. This is consistent with reaching the medium-term budgetary objective (MTO) of 1.0 percent of GDP deficit in structural terms in 2015 while accommodating a faster absorption of EU funds. A joint mission for a full review of this program will return to Bucharest in January. Find the full statement here.
Joint statement on the formation of the new government in Kosovo
Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, and Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement negotiations, issued the following statement on 9 December: “We welcome the formation of a new government in Kosovo and look forward to working with the new authorities in Pristina. Today’s constitutive session of the Assembly and election of the government ends the political deadlock that prevented progress in Kosovo following the general elections of 8 June 2014.” The full statement is available online.
Remarks of Vice-President Katainen, Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Moscovici at the ECOFIN press conference
Following yesterday’s discussion on the EU Investment Plan in the ECOFIN Council, Vice-President Katainen welcomed the support of ministers and added that the Plan is not just a one-off stimulus measure, but a structural plan at European level. It follows a triangle of three parts: liquidity, structural reforms and developing a pipeline of viable, reliable and well-structured projects. He said, “Today was a very good day for the Investment Plan. We got very good support from the ECOFIN Council. It was very nice to hear the feedback from the ministers, who said that this whole comprehensive approach is exactly what is needed.” Full speech is available here. ECOFIN also discussed the Annual Growth Survey and the Alert Mechanism Report and gave its political backing to the anti-abuse clause of the Parent Subsidiary Directive and to the mandatory exchange of information between EU tax authorities. At the press conference, Vice-President Dombrovskis recalled the three priorities set out in the Annual Growth Survey: targeted investment, ambitious structural reforms and fiscal responsibility and reiterated the importance of the latter. He said: “The return to sustained growth in Europe requires not only profound structural changes, but also fiscal responsibility. Several Member States are at risk of non-compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact. These countries, including France, Italy and Belgium, need to take measures to address this situation. We will revisit the situation in early March, when we will have the new economic forecast projections and the results of the In-Depth Review of macroeconomic imbalances. All procedural options are open at this stage.” The full statement is available here. Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, welcomed two breakthrough agreements combating corporate tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning, on the anti-abuse clause of the Parent Subsidiary directive and on the mandatory exchange of information between EU tax authorities.