|COLLEGE MEETING: Commission acts to boost trust in scientific studies on food safety
Today the Commission is responding to the concerns expressed by citizens in a successful European Citizens’ Initiative, with a proposal to improve the transparency of scientific studies in the food safety area. The proposal, drawing also on the Commission’s Fitness Check of the General Food Law, which dates back from 2002 and thus needs an update, will: give citizens greater access to information submitted to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on approvals concerning the agri-food chain; provide the possibility for additional studies to be requested by the Commission and, will involve Member States’ scientists more closely in approval procedures. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Today we are addressing citizens’ concerns, to improve transparency about decision making, to offer better access to relevant information and to ensure that trustworthy, science-based risk assessment remains at the heart of decision making in this sensitive area of food safety.” Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “The EU’s science-based risk assessment for food safety is one of the most stringent in the world. We are now making it even stronger through clearer transparency rules and more effective risk communication throughout the process. With this reform citizens will have immediate access to scientific studies supporting applications for authorisation.” Press release and MEMO are available.
COLLEGE MEETING: A New Deal for Consumers: Commission strengthens EU consumer rights and enforcement
Today, the European Commission is proposing a New Deal for Consumers to ensure that all European consumers fully benefit from their rights under Union law. While the EU already has some of the strongest rules on consumer protection in the world, recent cases like the Dieselgate scandal, have shown that it is difficult to enforce them fully in practice. First Vice-President Timmermans said: “Today’s New Deal is about delivering a fairer Single Market that benefits consumers and businesses. We introduce a European collective redress right for when groups of consumers have suffered harm, like we have seen in the recent past, with proper safeguards so there can be no misuse. Consumers will know who they are buying from online, and when sellers have paid to appear in search results. The majority of traders who play fair will see burdens lifted. The handful of traders who deliberately abuse European consumers’ trust will be sanctioned with tougher fines.” Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality added: “In a globalised world where the big companies have a huge advantage over individual consumers we need to level the odds. Representative actions, in the European way, willbring more fairness to consumers, not more business for law firms. And with stronger sanctions linked to the annual turnover of a company, consumer authorities will finally get teeth to punish the cheaters. It cannot be cheap to cheat.” Concretely, the New Deal for Consumers will empower qualified entities to launch representative actions on behalf of consumers and introduce stronger sanctioning powers for Member States’ consumer authorities. It will also extend consumers’ protection when they are online and clarify that dual quality practices misleading consumers, are prohibited. More information will be made available in this press release and memo, in addition to a series of factsheets explaining the various elements of the proposal. Commissioner Jourová will give a press conference later today, which can be followed on EbS.
Support to peace and development in Colombia: EU signs projects worth €14.3 million
The European Union continues to support sustainable development and peace building in Colombia, with ten new projects worth €14.3 million. This assistance underlines the EU’s commitment to promote a better quality of life for Colombians, notably for young people, to peace building and to equal sustainable development for all. The new projects, signed yesterday in Bogota, will be implemented by Colombian civil society organisations and will help to strengthen their capacity to contribute to democratic governance, overcome poverty and support equal and sustainable development. For instance, two projects will help to better connect humanitarian aid and development support, while another programme seeks to improve public planning in municipalities, as many of these are located in historical conflict zones and are facing challenges to overcome social inequalities. The projects will reach a total of 355 organisations and around 1.7 million participants in Antioquia, Bolivar, Cauca, Caquetá, Chocó, Meta, Nariño, Tolima, Putumayo, Valle del Cauca and Bogotá.
Antitrust: Commission confirms unannounced inspections concerning distribution of sports media rights and other related rights
The European Commission can confirm that on 10 April 2018 its officials carried out unannounced inspections in several Member States at the premises of companies active in the distribution of media rights and related rights pertaining to various sports events and/or their broadcasting. The Commission has concerns that the companies involved may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices. Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step into suspected anticompetitive practices. The fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself. The Commission respects the rights of defence, in particular the right of companies to be heard in antitrust proceedings. A full statement is available online.
Concentrations: la Commission autorise l’acquisition de deux locaux commerciaux par AXA et la Caisse des dépôts et consignations
La Commission européenne a approuvé, en vertu du règlement européen sur les concentrations, l’acquisition du contrôle en commun de trois lots de copropriété qui consistent en deux coques à usage de commerce au sein d’un centre commercial situé dans la région Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, en France, par AXA et la Caisse des dépôts et consignations, toutes deux basées en France. AXA est un groupe d’assurances global actif dans le secteur de l’assurance vie, santé et d’autres formes d’assurance ainsi que dans la gestion d’investissements. La Caisse des dépôts et consignations est un établissement public réalisant des activités d’intérêt général telles que la gestion des fonds privés auxquels les pouvoirs publics souhaitent apporter une protection particulière et des activités ouvertes à la concurrence dans les secteurs de l’environnement, de l’immobilier, de l’investissement et du capital investissement ainsi que des services. La Commission a conclu que l’acquisition envisagée ne soulèverait pas de problème de concurrence compte tenu de son impact très limité sur la structure du marché. L’opération a été examinée dans le cadre de la procédure simplifiée du contrôle des concentrations. De plus amples informations sont disponibles sur le site internet concurrence de la Commission, dans le registre public des affaires sous le numéro d’affaire M.8853.
State aid: Commission approves €38 million public support for broadband network project in the region of Rivierenland, the Netherlands
The European Commission has endorsed, under EU State aid rules, €38 million of public support to a newly established public entity of the Rivierenland region in the Dutch province of Gelderland, for the roll-out of a wholesale-only broadband network providing to third party network operators and service providers access on equal and non-discriminatory terms. This network will only cover areas where there is no next generation access broadband infrastructure at present or in the foreseeable future (known as “NGA white areas”). The new entity will provide open access to the physical infrastructure, such as ducts, poles, dark fibre and street cabinets. It will not offer active electronic communication services such as Internet access. The Commission assessed the measure under its 2013 Broadband Guidelines and concluded that the measure is in line with EU State aid rules because the positive effects on competition in the Dutch broadband market outweigh any distortion of competition brought about by the State aid. More information will be available, once potential confidentiality issues have been resolved, on the Commission’s competition website, in the State Aid Register under the case number SA.46613.
Commissioner Thyssen on European Semester visit in the Netherlands
Tomorrow, 12 April, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, will travel to the Netherlands. Aim of the visit is to discuss the Commission’s country report on the Netherlands, published on 7 March in the context of the European Semester of economic and social policy coordination, as well as current social files. Commissioner Thyssen will first meet with members of the standing committee on EU Affairs and Social Affairs and Employment at the Dutch House of Representatives. She will then meet with State Secretary of Social Affairs, Ms Tamara van Ark, to discuss the European Labour Authority, posting of workers, and the coordination of social security systems. The meeting will be followed by a joint meeting with Minister of Social Affairs, Mr Wouter Koolmees and State Secretary for Finance, Mr Menno Snel, to discuss the country-specific recommendations. Commissioner Thyssen will conclude her visit by a meeting with the social partners from the Dutch Social and Economic Council (Sociaal-Economische Raad, SER).
Commissioner Navracsics in Slovenia to discuss culture and creativity
Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, will be in Ljubljana, Slovenia, tomorrow to participate in the Creative Forum and in the European Festival Associations’ Arts Festivals Summit 2018. At the Creative Forum, the Commissioner will take part in a political roundtable entitled “Creativity as a tool for regional cooperation”. He will highlight the importance of EU cooperation with countries from the Western Balkans and the Southern Mediterranean, notably regarding education exchanges, youth programmes and cultural cooperation fostering direct contacts between people. The theme of this year’s Arts Festival Summit is “The (Herit)age of the ARTS – audiences in the heart of the places”. Commissioner Tibor Navracsics will highlight the role that festivals play in urban and regional development and acknowledge their contribution to the European Year of Cultural Heritage celebrated throughout 2018. The European Commission will shortly present a revised European Agenda for Culture, which will be instrumental in improving awareness of Europe’s common identity and heritage.
Vice-President Jyrki Katainen in Ljubljana and Zagreb for European Semester visits
Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, is in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Zagreb, Croatia on 12-13 April. The aim of these European Semester visits is to engage with Slovenian and Croatian citizens and high-level political decision makers on the Future of Europe and the reform agendas essential for growth and jobs. In Ljubljana Vice-President Katainen will meet Mr Borut Pahor, President of Slovenia, and Mr Miro Cerar, Prime Minister of Slovenia. He will participate in a joint session of the Parliamentary Committees on EU Affairs and on Economic Affairs in the Slovenian National Assembly. The recording of the debate will be broadcast at Slovenian public TV, Channel 3 at 22.00. He will also attend a working lunch with Mr Mateja Vranicar Erman, Minister of Finance. Vice-President Katainen will participate in a Citizens’ Dialogue at the Faculty of Business and Management Sciences Novo mesto to discuss the Future of Europe, the European Semester, investment, the economy and cohesion funds. The discussion can be followed online from 16.30 onwards. Vice-President Katainen will then visit Zagreb, Croatia, on Friday 13 April. He will meet Ms Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, President of Croatia. He will also participate in a working lunch with Mr Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister, Mr Zdravko Marić, Minister of Finance and Ms Gabrijela Žalac, Minister of EU Funds and Regional Development. He will deliver a keynote speech at the conference on the Investment Plan for Europe: “Opportunities for Croatia”. Vice-President Katainen will also participate in a Citizens’ Dialogue on Jobs and Growth in Tomorrow’s Europe, which is livestreamed from 11.45 onwards. In addition, he will participate in a meeting at the Croatian Parliament, chaired by the Chair of the European Affairs Committee, with the participation of MPs representing several Committees.