Brussels Daily
11 Dec 2014


Brussels Daily

Food: EU consumers to benefit from better labelling as of 13 December 2014

Today’s consumers, whether shopping on-line or in a supermarket, increasingly want clearer and more understandable food labelling to help them make informed choices on the food they eat. In addition, more and more people suffer from allergies. How is a teenager with a peanut allergy supposed to know what he can eat when dining out with friends? How can someone who wants to reduce their salt intake, know which snack is the best option? How can consumers be assured of the origin of the meat they just bought? New rules to address these sorts of issues and others will apply from 13 December 2014 across the EU. The EU Commissioner in charge of Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis said: “As of 13 December 2014, European citizens will see the results of years of work to improve food labelling rules. Key content information will now be more clearly marked on labels, helping people make informed choices on the food they buy. The new rules put the consumer first by providing clearer information, and in a way that is manageable for businesses.” The changes from the new labelling scheme and more information are available online in form of a Press Release and a Fact Sheet.

Antitrust: Commission fines five envelope producers over € 19.4 million in cartel settlement

The European Commission has fined Bong (of Sweden), GPV and Hamelin (both of France), Mayer-Kuvert (of Germany) and Tompla (of Spain) a total of €19 485 000 for coordinating prices and allocating customers of certain types of envelopes, in breach of EU antitrust rules. Given their cooperation in the investigation, Tompla, Hamelin and Mayer-Kuvert/GPV (the GPV assets/entities involved in the cartel were acquired by Mayer-Kuvert after the cartel had ended) benefited from fine reductions under the Commission’s 2006 Leniency Notice. Since all undertakings agreed to settle the case with the Commission, their fines were reduced by a further 10% each. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in charge of competition policy said: “For over four years, instead of competing with each other these companies agreed to artificially increase prices for envelopes across a number of Member States.” She added: “Everybody uses envelopes. When cartelists raise the prices of every day household objects they do so at the expense of millions of Europeans. The Commission’s fight against cartels penalises such behaviour and also acts as a deterrent, protecting consumers from harm. On this case we have closed the envelope, sealed it and returned it to the sender with a clear message: don’t cheat your customers, don’t cartelise.” See press release here and watch Commissioner Vestager’s intervention at the European Commission’s Midday Press Briefing live online.



Aviation: Commission updates the EU air safety list

Today the European Commission has updated the European list of airlines subject to an operating ban or operational restrictions within the European Union (EU air safety list). All airlines from Libya have now been added to the EU Air Safety List and are banned from operating in European airspace. No decisions were taken to remove countries whose carriers are on the EU Air Safety List. The new list can be found on the Commission’s website. Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport said: “Recent events in Libya have led to a situation whereby the Civil Aviation Authority is no longer able to fulfil its international obligations with regard to the safety of the Libyan aviation sector. My priority in aviation is passenger safety, which is non-negotiable, and we stand ready to help the Libyan aviation sector as soon as the situation on the ground will allow for this.” Full press release available here.

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of E-COM by Värde and Banco Popular

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over E-COM of Spain by Värde of the US and Banco Popular of Spain. E-COM is active in the issuing of payment cards and in retail banking activities. Värde is a global investment firm. Banco Popular is a listed firm specialised in retail and commercial banking, and also provides wholesale and investment banking activities and insurance services. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise 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.7415.

Eurostat: Consumption per capita varied between 49% and 136% of the EU28 average

Actual Individual Consumption (AIC) is a measure of material welfare of households. In 2013, AIC per capita expressed in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) varied from 49% to 136% of the EU28 average across the Member States. The highest level of Actual Individual Consumption per capita in the EU28 was recorded in Luxembourg, at more than 35% above the EU28 average. Germany and Austria were around 20% above the average and Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and France recorded levels between 10% and 15% above the average, while Italy was on the average. In Ireland, Cyprus and Spain levels were up to 10% below the EU28 average, while Portugal, Greece and Malta were between 10% and 20% below. Lithuania, Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia were between 20% and 30% below the average, while Estonia, Latvia, Hungary and Croatia were between 30% and 40% below. Romania was just under 40% below the average, while Bulgaria was around 50% below the average. Eurostat press release.


Commissioner Thyssen welcomes agreements by EU’s Council of Employment and Social Policy Ministers

Following today’s provisional agreement on revamped EURES job search network, Commissioner Thyssen said: “I welcome the agreement on the EURES regulation reached today by Employment and Social Policy Ministers during the EPSCO Council. It is important to improve the pan-EU job search network and facilitate national and cross border labour mobility. What we want to establish, is a true European placement and recruitment tool, supporting a better integrated and better functioning European labour market in order to achieve higher growth and more jobs. Our proposal aims to ensure that the EURES portal should become the natural first choice for any European citizen interested in, or considering working in another European country. The European Parliament will now examining the proposal and I look forward to hearing their position. I will firmly support the incoming Latvian Presidency and the European Parliament in finding an agreement in first reading as I believe this file deserves priority in light of the agenda on growth and jobs that we have set at the beginning of this new start for Europe.” Full press release available here. In relation to the Council’s agreement on proposals to better protect seafarers and inland waterway workers, Commissioner Thyssen said: “I welcome the agreements reached today by the EU’s Council of Employment and Social Policy Ministers on two important Commission’s proposals, aiming respectively at improving the protection of seafarers and of workers in inland waterway transports. Ministers have reached an informal agreement on the proposal to give seafarers the same rights as onshore workers, in particular with regards to the fundamental right of information and consultation. This will not only improve their living and working conditions, it will also level the playing field in Europe’s maritime sector. All shipping and fisheries companies in the EU Member States would have the same obligations. An informal agreement has also been reached on the proposal to establish common minimum rules on working time to protect the health and safety of crews and shipboard personnel in the commercial inland waterway transport sector. This proposal implements the agreement reached by representatives of employers and employees in this sector at EU level. This is the first proposal implementing an EU social partner agreement since 2010 and an excellent example of the Commission’s commitment to social dialogue. The proposal is an important contribution to the inland waterway sector which faces huge challenges ahead to secure a larger market share in a fully integrated transport chain. The Commission will continue to work with the Council and the European Parliament to achieve and adoption as soon as possible.” Full press release available here. 


Education and Youth Council: The social and economic benefits of education  

At the Education and Youth Council of 12 December, Education Ministers will discuss the socio-economic benefits of education and training and highlight the opportunities presented by the Commission’s new €315 bn Investment Plan at a time when many countries have cut their education and training budgets. Ministers are expected to adopt conclusions on entrepreneurship in education and training as well as on promoting young people’s access to rights and participation in civil society. The final discussion will look at how a cross-sectoral approach encompassing youth, education, inclusion and health policies could better help young people in the current socio-economic context. Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, in charge of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, will participate in the debate on the economic benefits of education.

Commissioner Hill visits Rome on 11 and 12 December

Commissioner Jonathan Hill will be travelling to Rome today for his first visit to Italy as Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union. During his visit, he will give the keynote address at a Conference: “Investing in Long-term Europe: re-launching fixed, network and social infrastructure”. Commissioner Hill will also meet Sandro Gozi, Under Secretary of State in charge of European Affairs; Pier Carlo Padoan, Minister of Economy and Finance; Ignazio Visco, Director-General and Federico Signorini, Deputy Director-General, of the Bank of Italy

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