|Commission promotes greater participation of businesses in regional innovation strategies
The Commission has given the green-light for the continuation of a support action aiming to improve regional innovation systems in low-growth and low-income regions in Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Croatia. Coordinated by the Commission’s department for Regional and Urban policy and the Joint Research Centre, the initiative helps regions tackle bottlenecks to innovation, such as lack of interaction between local business spheres and academia, and achieve industrial transition. It will particularly focus on promoting a greater involvement of business partners and entrepreneurs in the design and implementation of regional innovation strategies, known as smart specialisation strategies. Commissioner for Regional policy Corina Creţu said: “This support action for those regions that need to catch up the most is part of our broader effort to help companies access Cohesion Policy funds so they can innovate, grow and prepare for the future.” Developed jointly with the European Parliament and implemented over 2014-2016, the action is renewed for two more years, to help regions prepare for efficient investments in research and innovation in the next long term EU budget 2021-2027. It is complementary to other initiatives, such as ‘Stairway to Excellence’, which helps regions identify EU resources to finance innovative projects and pair up with other regions with similar assets to create innovation clusters. The support action has a budget €3 million for 2018-2019 made available by the European Parliament.
Eurostat: First quarter of 2018 compared with first quarter of 2017 – House prices up by 4.5% in the euro area – Up by 4.7% in the EU
House prices, as measured by the House Price Index, rose by 4.5% in the euro area and by 4.7% in the EU in the first quarter of 2018 compared with the same quarter of the previous year. These figures come from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Full text available here
Eurostat: First population estimates – EU population up to nearly 513 million on 1 January 2018 – Increase driven by migration
On 1 January 2018, the population of the European Union (EU)was estimated at 512.6 million, compared with 511.5 million on 1 January 2017. During the year 2017, more deaths than births were recorded in the EU
(5.3 million deaths and 5.1 million births), meaning that the natural change of the EU population was negative. The population change (positive, with 1.1 million more inhabitants) was therefore due to net migration. Full text available here
The EU invests in the modernisation of Budapest’s third metro line
€473.4 million from the Cohesion Fund is invested in the reconstruction of the entire line 3, the ‘blue line’, in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. This will provide better services to the more than half million users who use it daily. “Thanks to Cohesion policy funding, the inhabitants of Budapest and the tourists visiting this beautiful city will enjoy a modern and faster metro. That’s a concrete example of an EU that cares for the wellbeing of its citizens,” said Commissioner for Regional policy Corina Creţu, “I’m especially glad that the EU funding will contribute to making the entire line accessible to people with disabilities.” The tracks and rail fasteners are all going to be replaced, for faster and safer travel conditions. All 20 stations and the whole lighting system are going to be refurbished, for a more pleasant journey across the city. Running almost parallel with the Danube on the city’s Pest side, the metro line 3 spans 17 kilometres between the north and the south of Budapest. The works, which are ongoing and expected to be over by 2021, will improve the capacity of the line, allowing 13,000 additional passengers daily to trade their car rides for the metro.
Western Balkans Summit in London: building stronger links within the region and with the EU
At the London Summit on the Western Balkans, the EU is continuing to strengthen cooperation with the region, with a clear commitment and concrete measures, focussing on the three key areas of cooperation: economy, security and reconciliation. Heads of Government, Foreign Ministers and Ministers of Interior from the Western Balkans together with their counterparts from several EU Member States and high-level EU representatives are meeting yesterday and today in London to continue strengthening regional cooperation between the six partners of the Western Balkans, as well as between the region and the EU, to further advance the European integration process of the Western Balkans. Representing the EU at the summit, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “In these years we have been all working together to draw the region closer and closer to the European Union, politically, economically and security-wise. And we have seen remarkable results, solutions to the most difficult bilateral issues. The Western Balkans are steadily moving forward. And today we reconfirm that we are together with the region on that path, sharing the commitment towards our common future.” Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, and Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King are also attending the summit. The full press release is online as well as a dedicated factsheet on the Western Balkans Guarantees. Videos and photos of the visit are available on EbS.
Eurostat: Premier trimestre 2018 comparé au premier trimestre 2017 – Le prix des logements en hausse de 4,5% dans la zone euro – En hausse de 4,7% dans l’UE
Le prix des logements, tel que mesuré par l’indice des prix des logements, a augmenté de 4,5% dans la zone euro et de 4,7% dans l’UE au premier trimestre 2018 par rapport au même trimestre de l’année précédente. Un communiqué de presse Eurostat est à votre disposition en ligne.
Eurostat: Premières estimations de la population – La population de l’UE en hausse à près de 513 millions d’habitants au 1er janvier 2018 – Augmentation liée à l’apport migratoire
Au 1er janvier 2018, la population de l’Union européenne (UE) était estimée à 512,6 millions de résidents, contre 511,5 millions au 1er janvier 2017. Au cours de l’année 2017, plus de décès que de naissances ont été enregistrés dans l’UE (5,3 millions de décès et 5,1 millions de naissances), ce qui signifie que la variation naturelle de la population de l’UE a été négative. La variation démographique (positive, avec 1,1 million d’habitants supplémentaires) est donc due à l’apport du solde migratoire. Un communiqué de presse Eurostat est à votre disposition en ligne.
Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of UPC Austria by T-Mobile Austria
The European Commission has approved unconditionally under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of UPC Austria by T-Mobile Austria. UPC Austria (“UPC”) and T-Mobile Austria (“TMA”) both provide telecommunications services in Austria. UPC’s main activities are related to fixed telecommunications, while TMA is mainly active in mobile telecommunications. The Commission examined the impact of the proposed transaction in the limited number of markets where the activities of TMA and UPC overlap in Austria. In particular, both companies are activein the provision of internet access services for residential customers, since in Austria internet access at home is often provided through a router connected to a mobile network. The Commission found that the impact of the transaction on this market is likely to be limited, considering in particular that UPC’s fixed internet access products differ considerably from TMA’s mobile broadband products and as a result are not closely competing, and that the merged entity would continue to face significant competition from other players. In addition, the Commission examined a number of vertical and conglomerate relationships arising as a result of the transaction and concluded that the merged entity would not be able to use its market power to shut out or marginalise its fixed or mobile competitors by bundling fixed and mobile products. Therefore, following its phase I investigation, the Commission concluded that the transaction would raise no competition concerns in any of the affected telecoms markets and cleared the case unconditionally. The full press release is available online here
State aid: Spain needs to recover around €167 million of incompatible aid from postal operator Correos
The European Commission has found that Correos, the publicly-owned Spanish postal operator, was overcompensated for the delivery of its universal postal service obligation between 2004 and 2010, and also benefited from incompatible tax exemptions. Spain has entrusted Correos with the universal postal service obligation, which consists of the delivery of basic postal services throughout the country at affordable prices and at certain minimum requirements, for example the number of deliveries per week. On 11 February 2017, the European Commission opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether a number of State support measures granted to Correos as compensation for carrying out this public service obligation were in line with EU State aid rules. The Commission examined the support measures under EU State aid rules on public service compensation, adopted in 2011, which provide that Member States can grant State aid to companies to compensate them for the extra cost of providing a public service, subject to certain criteria, including the fact that companies entrusted with such services are not overcompensated. Avoidance of overcompensation minimises distortions of competition and guarantees an efficient use of public resources. The Commission’s assessment showed that: (i) Correos was overcompensated by approximately €166 million for providing universal postal service in Spain during the period 2004-2010 and that (ii) specific tax exemptions granted since 2004 to Correos gave it an undue advantage amounting to approximately to €0.9 million in total. The Commission therefore concluded that the aid granted through these two measures was incompatible with the internal market and ordered Spain to recover the undue amounts from Correos, amounting to €167 million. During its in-depth investigation, the Commission also assessed two other support measures and found either that they did not constitute State aid within the meaning of EU rules or that they constituted existing aid which does not need to be recovered. The full press release is available online here
European Union to co-host the Somalia Partnership Forum in Brussels
On 16-17 July, the European Union together with the Federal Government of Somalia and Sweden will host the Somalia Partnership Forum in Brussels. The event aims to mobilise the international community to step up support for Somalia’s efforts to build a more secure and prosperous future following years of conflict. High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini will co-chair the conference with Mr Hassan Ali Khayre, Prime Minister of Federal Government Somalia and Ms Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden. Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides will also attend. The opening remarks of the ministerial level session on 17 July will be broadcast live on EbS at +/-15:00. A press conference with HR/VP Mogherini and the co-chairs is due to follow at 18:00. Journalists wishing to attend should register here before 13 July, 12:00 Brussels time. The EU is a leading supporter of Somalia in a wide range of areas, in particular on security with 3 Common Security and Defence Policy missions in the country. For the period 2015-2020, the EU and its Member States will provide €3.5 billion to the country in development and humanitarian aid as well as peacekeeping operations. A MEMO is available here.
Commissioner Stylianides visits Split, Croatia
Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides is visiting Split, Croatia to speak at the Conference “Union Civil Protection Mechanism-Protection in Service of Its Citizens” hosted by MEP Zeljana Zovko. Commissioner Stylianides will also discuss the European Commission’s rescEU proposal with Croatian Minister of the Interior, Davor Božinović, Minister of Defence, Damir Krstičević and the Director-General for Civil Protection, Dragan Lozancic. In addition, he will visit a new operational centre to fight forest fires, which is located on Divulje airbase. The Commission’s proposal to strengthen Europe’s ability to deal with disasters in the framework of the European Civil Protection Mechanism foresees two complementary strands of action, (1) targeting a stronger collective response at European level via rescEU, and (2) stepping up disaster prevention and preparedness capacities. At times of simultaneous disasters in Europe rescEU works as a last resort guarantee and ensures that every state in need receives assistance.