Towards a work programme for a new start for Europe
The Juncker Commission is committed to restoring citizens’ confidence by demonstrating that the EU can deliver for them on the big challenges facing European economies and societies. That starts with setting the right priorities for the 2015 Commission Work Programme. Today, the preparation of the Work Programme was initiated, with First Vice-President Frans Timmermans launching a process of discussion within the College and with the European Parliament and for the first time the Member States in the Council. Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: ‘People all around the EU are telling us they want change. They want Europe to focus more where it can help solve the big problems: jobs, growth and fairness in our societies. Citizens want Europe to improve their lives, not meddle with them. Businesses want Europe to enhance their competitiveness, not burden them with red tape. This Commission is committed to a fresh start, with better priority in what we do and a better way of doing it. Our first work programme will concentrate on a limited set of concrete initiatives which can make a positive difference for citizens. And for the first time we will work in dialogue with both the European Parliament and the Member States to build support for our programme, because proposals are only useful if they are adopted, accepted and implemented properly on the ground.’ The Commission Work Programme will translate the ten points of the Political Guidelines, the Juncker Commission’s political contract with the European Parliament, and the European Council’s Strategic Agenda for the Union in Times of Change, into concrete deliverables. A press release is available online.
EU budget: rule change to give more flexibility on exceptional adjustments to national contributions
The European Commission has today proposed an amendment to the rules on the adjustment of EU budget contributions from Member States. This comes after the current automatic system had this year led to a demand for exceptionally large additional payments from some countries. The proposed changes to the rules would provide for an extended deadline for payment until 1 September of the next year, interest free, under exceptional circumstances. The extension would kick in, if additional payment requests are over a certain threshold. For further information, see IP/14/1643 andMEMO/14/1644.
Ukraine: EU disburses €260 million in EU Macro-Financial Assistance and boosts humanitarian assistance and recovery aid to €32 million
Today, the European Commission, on behalf of the EU, paid a loan of €260 million to Ukraine as part of the EU Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) facility for the country. This disbursement adds to the €600 million disbursed since May under the two ongoing EU MFA programmes. This leaves €750 million remaining under the current programmes for Ukraine. The MFA programmes support Ukraine economically and financially in the current critical stage of its development. They are linked to specific conditionality that focusses on, amongst others, public finance management and anti-corruption, trade and taxation, the energy sector and financial sector reforms. At the same time, the Commission is increasing its humanitarian assistance and recovery aid to meet the immediate needs of vulnerable and conflict-affected populations in Ukraine. The EU is providing an additional € 3.3 million to help the most vulnerable population affected by the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine to meet their basic needs and prepare for the approaching winter. A further € 4.5 million is being provided to meet the recovery and integration needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities as well as to promote confidence-building. High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini said: “The European Union is ready to increase its support for the population affected by the conflict as part of its overall support for Ukraine.” Speaking about the MFA disbursement, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici said: “This payment is a further concrete sign of Europe’s solidarity with the Ukrainian people. We are helping the country address its urgent financing needs, while supporting an ambitious process of reforms to stabilise the economy and create the conditions for sustainable growth and employment in Ukraine.” Commissioner Christos Stylianides, responsible for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management said: “Thousands of vulnerable civilians are being pushed into humanitarian crisis by the fighting, especially with winter approaching. Our new funding will assist them in the months ahead”. Further information can be found on Rapid
Portugal: Final disbursement made from EU financial assistance programme
The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, today disbursed its final loan of €400 million to Portugal under the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM) and as part of the financial assistance programme for Portugal which concluded earlier this year. Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici said: “European solidarity has helped Portugal get back on its feet after the country’s deep economic crisis. The Commission continues to stand by the Portuguese people in these still difficult times and will support the country’s ongoing efforts to build a more solid basis for economic growth and job creation for its citizens.” The press release is available online.
Commissioner Crețu welcomes the first investment programmes in France worth 2.9 billion in regional investments for 2014-2020
On 10 November, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Crețu has approved the 2014‑2020 ‘Operational Programmes’ for investments from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF) in the French regions of Aquitaine, Auvergne, Franche-Comté and Languedoc-Roussillon. Commenting on the adoption, Commissioner Crețu said: “We have adopted an important investment package for French regions, which will contribute to tackling unemployment, while at the same time boosting regional competitiveness and growth. These programmes contribute to European goals and to regional innovation strategies by channelling vital funding into R&D and innovation – for instance investing in universities and research facilities. By dedicating more than 20% of funding to climate change, it is in line with the commitment to move towards a low-carbon economy. It will trigger investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency – especially in the energy performance of buildings. Overall this will help France and Europe reduce energy poverty, create jobs at a local level and reinforce energy security. EU investments in Aquitaine, Auvergne, Franche-Comté and Languedoc‑Roussillon will be used to support small and medium-sized enterprises, helping them to become more resource efficient and providing them with much needed liquidity. The regions’ young people will also benefit greatly from the planned investments in education, vocational training and entrepreneurship. These programmes will aim to match skills with labour market demand through improved training opportunities and the Youth Employment Initiative”.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Firth Rixson by Alcoa
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Firth Rixson by Alcoa. Firth Rixson, headquartered in the United Kingdom, supplies technological metallurgical components primarily to the aerospace industry as well as to a spectrum of other industries such as power generation, oil and gas, mining, and transportation. Alcoa, based in the United States, is a global group that supplies various types of metal components, mainly aluminium, titanium and nickel based, to several industries. It also produces alumina and fabricated aluminium. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns because the two companies’ product portfolios are complementary, the overlaps between their activities are limited and downstream competitors will be able to source critical raw material inputs from a number of alternative suppliers. More information is available on the Commission’s competitionwebsite in the public case register under the case number M.7342.
September 2014 – Industrial production up by 0.6% in both euro area and EU28
In September 2014 compared with August 2014, seasonally adjusted industrial production rose by 0.6% in both the euro area (EA18) and the EU28, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In August 2014 industrial production fell by 1.4% and 1.2% respectively. In September 2014 compared with September 2013, industrial production increased by 0.6% in both the euro area and the EU28. Press material is available online.
Statement by Commissioner Vestager on Google antitrust investigations
On 11 November, at a meeting of the ECON committee of the European Parliament, Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager said: “Our current investigations involving Google are among the most discussed in the media. The sheer amount of data controlled by Google gives rise to a series of societal challenges. Privacy is one of the most pressing concerns. Media pluralism is another. Not all of these challenges are primarily economic in nature and not all of them are competition related. So many of the Google related concerns voiced in the public debate cannot be addressed in our investigations into the company’s alleged anti-competitive practices. We will have to limit ourselves to what we identify as competition problems. I have been following these investigations very closely already since before I was tapped as Commissioner for Competition. They concern very important questions. Questions about access to markets that are of vital interest to many players, big and small alike, and that have a significant impact on consumers. To decide how to take our investigations forward, I need to know what those most directly affected by the practices in question have to say. I need to have a representative sample of views of those concerned. Also, we are talking about fast moving markets – I have to be sure that we have all the facts up to date to get it right. In short, the issues at stake in our investigations have a big potential impact on many players, they are multifaceted and complex. I will therefore need some time to decide on the next steps.” The statement is available online.
Commissioner Hahn on “EU-Turkey: Important milestones leading to new opportunities”
Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahnaddressed the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels on 11 November, when he said: ” There should be no doubt about the European perspective of Turkey. The objective does not change, despite the fact that there is a long way to go. We should use the next five years to prepare as much as possible. I will therefore focus on achieving concrete results that benefit both Turkey, as our partner and the European Union at large.” Commissioner Hahn presented the 2014 Progress Report, which calls Turkey a “key strategic partner” for the EU, and identifies areas of concern, such as independence and impartiality of the judiciary and the separation of powers. He said: “I sincerely hope that Turkey’s renewed commitment to pursue further reforms aimed at bringing the country closer to the European Union will continue. Be assured that the Commission stands ready to assist Turkey in these efforts and maintain our close partnership at the highest level.” The speech isavailable online.
Education: Data shows Member States must continue efforts to equip young people for today’s labour market
Modern and effective national education systems are a vital element of the Europe 2020 strategy to support economic growth and job creation. So how much progress have Member States made so far? The 3rd edition of the Education and Training Monitor will be presented on Thursday 13 November, and ahead of the publication, Tibor Navracsics, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, commented: “These latest findings show that many Member States still have a lot of work to do to achieve their Europe 2020 targets in the field of education. There has been progress, but it is uneven. Across the EU, too many people still leave school early, while too few complete third level education. Creating the conditions for long-term economic growth and getting young people into work are the top priorities of the new European Commission. I intend to ensure that, together with Member States, we do everything to meet this goal.” The comprehensive report shows that the EU average rate of early leavers from education and training fell to 12% in 2013 (down 0.7 percentage points from 2012), and the EU average rate of tertiary education completion climbed 1 percentage point to 36.9%. The respective goals set out in the Europe 2020 agenda of below 10% for early leavers and 40% of third level education are within reach – however, these averages mask stark discrepancies between and within Member States. Xavier Pratts Monné, Director General for Education and Culture, will present the third “Education and Training Monitor” on Thursday 13 November (10.30am, Berlaymont Room Walter Hallstein, web streaming available).
Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete attend Energy Conference in Brussels
A high-level conference on “EU Energy Policy and Competitiveness” will take place in Brussels on Monday 17 November 2014. Key note speakers are Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President for Energy Union, and Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy. The conference aims at contributing to one of the 10 priorities of the Juncker Commission, a resilient energy union with a forward-looking climate change policy. On the agenda: domestic energy resources and demand, competitiveness of energy prices, low-carbon economy and functioning of the internal energy market as well as diversification of suppliers and supply routes. The all-day event takes place at the European Commission’s Charlemagne Building. LIVE web streaming available. Please find the full PROGRAM online. Media representatives are kindly asked to register to Marie-Ann.BAETEN@ec.europa.eu by Thursday 13 November 16.00 CET.