EUROPEAN COMMISSION DAILY NEWS – 15 OCTOBER

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EUROPEAN COMMISSION DAILY NEWS - 15 OCTOBER
15 Oct 2014

EUROPEAN COMMISSION DAILY NEWS – 15 OCTOBER

Brussels Daily

Eurostat releases: 10th ASEM Summit: ASEM partners accounted for 44% of EU28 imports and 30% of exports in 2013

From 2003 to 2013, the share in EU28 international trade in goods of the 20 non-EFTA partner countries (ASEM partners) taking part in the Asia-Europe Meeting rose significantly, with the share of the ASEM partners in EU28 exports increasing from 25% to 30%, and from 40% to 44% for imports. The EU28 registered a trade deficit with the ASEM partners during the whole period, growing from €162 billion in 2003 to a peak of €308 bn in 2008, before falling to €219 bn in 2013. EU28 trade in goods with the ASEM partners is largely dominated by manufactured goods, which accounted for 86% of exports and for 68% of imports in 2013. On the occasion of the 10th ASEM Summit, which will take place on 16 and 17 October 2014 in Milan, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, issues data on international trade in goods between the 28 Member States of the EU and the 20 non-EFTA partner countries taking part in this summit. This News Release is complemented with a Eurostat publication providing a statistical portrait of the ASEM. See also MEMO/14/582and IP/14/1120 .

Antitrust: Commission fines Slovak Telekom and its parent, Deutsche Telekom, for abusive conduct in Slovak broadband market

After an in-depth investigation the European Commission has imposed a fine of € 38 838 000 on Slovak Telekom a.s. and its parent company, Deutsche Telekom AG, for having pursued during more than five years an abusive strategy to shut out competitors from the Slovak market for broadband services, in breach of EU antitrust rules. In particular, the Commission concluded that Slovak Telekom refused to supply unbundled access to its local loops to competitors, and imposed a margin squeeze on alternative operators. Deutsche Telekom as parent company with decisive influence is also responsible for the conduct of its subsidiary; it is therefore jointly and severally liable for Slovak Telekom’s fine. Deutsche Telekom also received an additional fine of € 31 070 000 to ensure sufficient deterrence as well as to sanction its repeated abusive behaviour (recidivism) as it had already been fined in 2003 for a margin squeeze in broadband markets in Germany (see IP/03/717). See also MEMO/14/590.

Other news

President Barroso visits Milan, participates in 10th Asia Europe Meeting Summit (ASEM10)

Today, President Barroso is in Milan to take part in a series of high level events – in particular in the 10th Asia Europe Meeting Summit (ASEM10) .

In the afternoon, President Barroso will meet with youth representatives in the ‘Model ASEM’, a simulation involving 120 students. Students will hand over the declaration they will agree at the end of their simulation and also explain the outcome of their meeting. They will pass on some recommendations from the youth to the ASEM Leaders.

In the evening, President Barroso will have a working session with China’s Premier Li Keqiang. They will likely discuss migration and mobility issues, the Urbanisation Partnership and the Paris Climate Change Conference. Ukraine will be on their agenda as well.

Tomorrow, at 10 am, President Barroso will speak at the closing ceremony of the in the Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF), together with President Van Rompuy and the Prime Ministers of Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan and Italy.

Ebola / Public Health: EU high level meeting to take place tomorrow

EU Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, and Italian Health Minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, have called a high-level meeting in Brussels tomorrow to discuss Ebola. The focus will be on a presentation of possible options for enhanced and coordinated entry screening procedures at EU airports. Reports of the first case of Ebola contracted in the EU have underlined the need to have all possible means of prevention and preparedness in place in Europe.

A press point will take place immediately after the meeting: Time: 16 October at 13:30 (approx.)

Place: CCAB (Borschette Center), Rue Froissart 36, 1040 Brussels (outside Room, 6th floor)

State aid: Commission approves aid to manager of Altenburg-Nobitz Airport (Germany); orders recovery of incompatible aid from Ryanair

Following an in-depth investigation, the European Commission has found public measures granted by Germany to the manager of the Altenburg-Nobitz airport to be in line with EU state aid rules. The measures further the connectivity of the region without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market in line with the applicable aviation aid guidelines. The Commission also found that certain service and marketing agreements concluded between the airport manager and the airline Ryanair/AMS gave the latter an undue advantage estimated at around €300 000, which cannot be justified under EU state aid rules. Ryanair and its marketing subsidiary AMS now need to repay the incompatible aid to Germany.

State aid: Commission orders recovery of incompatible Slovak state aid from NCHZ and Fortischem

The European Commission has concluded that the Slovak chemical company Novácké chemické závody a.s. (NCHZ) benefitted from incompatible state aid during its bankruptcy procedure and that this aid has to be paid back. Moreover, the investigation showed that Fortischem, who acquired practically the entire NCHZ business, is the economic successor of NCHZ and thus also benefitted from the aid. Therefore, both NCHZ and Fortischem are liable to pay back the aid.

State aid: Commission approves public financing of Øresund fixed rail-road link infrastructure project

The European Commission has concluded that public financing granted by the Swedish and Danish states to the Øresund fixed rail-road link infrastructure project and hinterland connections on both sides of Øresund was in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found in particular that the measures furthered common transport priorities without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.

State aid: Commission approves Romanian green certificate reduction for energy-intensive users

The European Commission has found that the Romanian green certificate reduction scheme, reducing the contributions of certain energy-intensive users to the financing of renewable energy, is in line with EU state aid rules, and in particular with the Commission’s new Energy and Environmental Aid Guidelines (see IP/14/400 and MEMO/14/276). The Commission has concluded that the partial compensation for the cost of financing renewable energy support is necessary to ensure the competitiveness of energy-intensive industries without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.

State aid: Commission finds Slovak system of compulsory health insurance involves no state aid

Following an in-depth investigation, the European Commission has concluded that the Slovak system of compulsory health insurance does not contain elements of state aid. In particular, the Commission has found that the state-owned health insurers SZP/VZP are not undertakings because they do not carry out an economic activity within the meaning of EU rules. Their activity is therefore outside the scope of EU state aid control.

State aid: Commission orders Spain to recover additional aid granted through tax benefits for acquisitions of indirect shareholdings in foreign companies

After an in-depth investigation, the European Commission has concluded that a new interpretation of a Spanish tax scheme benefitting companies acquiring foreign shareholdings is incompatible with EU state aid rules. The scheme allows companies to deduct the “financial goodwill” arising from the acquisition of indirect shareholdings in non-resident Spanish holding companies from their corporate tax base. The Commission has found that the measure provided the beneficiaries with a selective economic advantage which cannot be justified under EU state aid rules, and which they must now repay to the Spanish state. Spain did not notify this new interpretation, which extended the scope of an existing scheme, to the Commission for prior state aid scrutiny, as required.

State aid: Commission approves creation of British Business Bank

The European Commission has concluded that UK plans for setting up the British Business Bank (BBB), an integrated entity for managing SME access to finance programmes in the UK, are in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the Commission considered that the BBB concept addresses market failures that hamper SME access to finance in an appropriate and proportionate way, and without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market.

State aid: Commission invites Ireland to update compensation arrangements for school bus scheme; closes in-depth investigation into Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus

Following an in-depth investigation the European Commission has concluded that arrangements to compensate state-owned Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus, the two principal bus companies in Ireland, for the operation of bus services across Ireland and for the transport of schoolchildren, were put in place before the liberalisation of the EU bus sector when EU state aid rules were not yet applicable to this industry sector (i.e. the measures constitute “existing aid”). Whilst the compensation arrangements for the bus services that were the subject of this investigation ceased to be operational in December 2009, the arrangements for the transportation of schoolchildren are still in place and the Commission will now initiate a dialogue with Ireland to update those arrangements and bring them into line with EU state aid rules. The Commission also found that small grants made for training were compatible with the Single Market.

The Economic Adjustment Programme for Portugal 2011-2014

Yesterday the Commission published a report providing a general overview of the Portuguese economy under its 2011-2014 EU/IMF adjustment programme. The report presents the progress of the Portuguese economy and the remaining challenges it faces. Overall the implementation of the economic adjustment programme contributed to improving substantially Portugal’s public finances, stabilising its financial sector, and creating the conditions for a sustainable recovery in growth and job creation.

Council of Employment and Social Policy Ministers, 16 October 2014, Luxembourg

The EU’s Council of Employment and Social Policy Ministers will meet on 16 October in Luxembourg. Key issues under discussion will be a ‘general approach’ on the proposal to establish a Platform against Undeclared Work and the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the evaluation of the European Semester. The Council will be chaired by Giuliano Poletti, Italian Minister for Employment and Social Policy. The European Commission will be represented by László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. Following the Council there is due to be an informal discussion of the proposed Maternity Leave Directive at the Ministers’ lunch, where the Commission will be represented by Martine Reicherts, European Commissioner for Justice, Citizenship and Fundamental Rights.

EU cooperation has improved the food supply chain, but still much needs to be done

The food supply chain plays a crucial role in the daily life and well-being of every one of us. Apart from ensuring that we all have food to consume on a daily basis, it also provides employment for 46 million people in more than 15 million enterprises engaged in agriculture, food industry, food trade and services. This afternoon’s final meeting of the EU’s High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain will reveal a lot of progress in improving the operation of the food supply chain; in particular the group has contributed to more equitable business-to business trading relationships. But work still needs to be continued on sustainability, social dialogue and the monitoring of food prices.

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Corialis group by Advent International

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Corialis group by Advent International Corporation. Corialis is a European supplier of aluminium extrusion services and aluminium coated building systems. Advent is a global private equity firm headquartered in the US that manages investments in a range of industries. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns as Advent is not active in any market in which Corialis is active. The operation 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.7392 .

Appointment of two new Directors

The Commission has decided to appoint Mr Franck SÉBERT as Audit Director in the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy.  Mr Sébert has spent most of his Commission career since 1994 dealing with the audit of European Structural and Investment Funds in various posts, in the previous Directorate-General for Financial Control, in the Directorate General for Employment and Social Affairs for European Social Fund audits and since August 2010 in the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy.  He is currently in charge of audit methodology and coordination, including with the audit authorities in the Member States, and is responsible for relations with the European Court of Auditors and with OLAF.  Before joining the Commission, Mr Sébert, who is French, worked in the French public sector and in the private sector in Greece. This decision will take effect on 16 October 2014. The Commission has also decided to transfer Mr Margus RAHUOJA to the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport and to appoint him as Director “Aviation and International Transport Affairs”.  Mr Rahuoja is currently Head of Cabinet for Vice-President Siim Kallas.  Mr Rahuoja is Estonian and studied both at Tallinn University and later at the School of International Relations, University of Amsterdam.  This decision will take effect on 1 November 2014.

What Commissioners said

President Barroso: “When we proposed the better regulation agenda, it met very strong opposition”

President Barroso made the following remarks on smart regulation yesterday at a press point with Dr Edmund Stoiber, in the context of the stock-taking conference “Smart Regulation in the EU – Building on a Strong Foundation”, organised by the Commission: “EU rules are not wrong or burdensome by definition as some tend to believe. On the contrary: when some people think that ideas like “one in – one out” would be a great achievement, we often do “one in – 28 out”. This is something we have to explain: very often, a single European regulation replaces 28 different regulations, namely in the single market. It’s extremely important and it should be appreciated. This in itself, provided a new European regulation adds real value, can facilitate lives for citizens and business. And what is it that adds real value? Well, first and foremost those measures which are geared to create growth and jobs in Europe, through a functioning single market and through a competitive, sustainable and inclusive economy.” […] “As I said many times before: Not everything that is good has to be done at European level. There are issues that can dealt also at national and regional – or even local – level. This is the principle of subsidiarity. We only need European Union action on issues that can be better tackled together than at national, regional or local level. “Being big on big things, and being smaller on small things”, as I said some time ago in the State of the Union address, has that has been now our motto.” […] “I believe we have focussed on the right priorities. We see a more integrated, a more open and stronger European Union than back in 2004 when I started off as Commission President.”

Please also refer to SPEECH/14/686 .

President-elect Juncker asked the Council to add Violeta Bulc to the list of Commissioners-designate

Yesterday, President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker sent an update to the list of Commissioners-designate to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in his capacity as President of the Council of the European Union, thereby signalling his agreement on the new Slovenian candidate. This followed the interview President-elect Juncker held with Violeta Bulc, Slovenian candidate for Commissioner, earlier yesterday.

Commissioner Šemeta at ECOFIN press conference: “Bank secrecy is dead”

Speaking after the ECOFIN meeting with Finance Ministers in Luxembourg on 14 October, EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta said: “I am delighted that Ministers reached the crucial agreement on the revision of the Administrative Cooperation Directive. It is the perfect finale for a mandate that has seen the fight against tax evasion pushed to a whole new level. This revised Directive promises full and lasting tax transparency in Europe. Bank secrecy is dead, and automatic exchange of information will be applied in its widest form. Member States will fully cooperate in throwing open the traditional hiding places of tax evaders. Moreover, this legislation will ensure that the EU is fully aligned with the new global standard of automatic exchange. With today’s agreement, the EU is – once again – setting the pace in international tax developments.” See also our Q&A on the automatic exchange of information: MEMO/14/591

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