|Commission welcomes Council’s approval to modernised trade defence rules
Today, the Council gave a formal approval to the political agreement reached between the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament on 5 December 2017 to modernise the EU’s trade defense instruments.Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: “With today’s approval by the Council, we are very close to having the necessary tools to tackle unfair trading practices even more effectively. The EU stands for open and rules-based trade, but we must also ensure that others do not take advantage of our openness. I now look forward to the adoption of the new rules by the European Parliament to allow for their swift entry into force.” The changes to the EU’s anti-dumping and anti-subsidy regulations will make the EU’s trade defence instruments more adapted to the challenges of the global economy: they’ll become more effective, transparent and easier to use for companies. In some cases they will also enable the EU to impose higher duties on dumped products. The new rules will shorten the current investigation period and make the system more transparent. The companies will benefit from an early warning system that will help them adapt to the new situation in case duties are imposed. Smaller companies will also get assistance from a help desk, to make it easier for them to trigger and participate in trade defence proceedings. Also, in some cases, the EU will adapt its ‘lesser duty rule’ and may impose higher duties. This will apply to cases targeting imports of unfairly subsidised or dumped products from countries where raw materials and energy prices are distorted.
€640 million for Greek businesses as EIF and National Bank of Greece sign new EU guarantee agreements under the Juncker Plan
The European Investment Fund (EIF) and the National Bank of Greece (NBG) have signed three guarantee agreements worth €640 million to improve access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Greece. These agreements benefit from the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe, the Juncker Plan. Speaking at the signing event in Athens, European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, responsible for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said: “With today’s new financing agreements, the Juncker Plan continues to support Greek companies tangibly and help them grow. From very small businesses and start-ups to mid-sized enterprises, more than 5,000 companies will benefit from loans amounting to €640 million. This makes Greece the top beneficiary of the European Fund for Strategic Investments relative to GDP, and I hope to see many more projects that bring new jobs and sustainable growth in the months to come. The EU continues to support Greece’s economy, businesses and, in particular, young and innovative entrepreneurs”. Full press release is found here. Commissioner Avramopoulos’ speech is found here.
Air quality: EU action reduces pollution from shipping in European coastlines, cities and ports
Air pollution from sulphur oxides (SOx) emitted from ships has substantially dropped over the past years, a new compliance report shows. This positive trend is the result of joint efforts by Member States and the maritime industry to implement EU rules under the Sulphur Directive and opt for cleaner fuel. EU mechanisms to technically and financially support Member states to reduce emissions were an important factor in compliance. Since 2015, stricter limits in the designated ‘Sulphur Oxides Emissions Control Areas’ of the North and Baltic Seas have more than halved emissions, while the overall economic impact on the sector remained minimal. Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs said: “Environmental rules deliver and protect our citizens’ quality of life when all sides involved work together to correctly apply them. The shared commitment by Member States, industry, and the maritime community as a whole is paying off. People living around protected sea areas can breathe cleaner and healthier air. And we have preserved the level playing field for industry.” The report comes days after a landmark agreement at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping by at least 50% by 2050. Both illustrate the commitment of the Commission to the goals of the Paris Agreement and to a Europe that protects with cleaner air for all. Exhaust gases from ships are indeed a significant source of emission and impact on citizens’ health and the environment. More details on the compliance report can be found here. More information on the IMO agreement is available here.
Mergers: Commission approves the creation of a joint venture between Vapo and the OP Financial Group in the supply of power and heat solutions
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the creation of a joint venture between Vapo Oy and the OP Financial Group, both of Finland. The joint venture will offer power and heat solutions to industrial operators, energy companies and municipalities in Finland and Sweden. Vapo is a supplier and developer of bioenergy in Finland, Sweden and Estonia. The OP Financial Group is a financial service cooperative group supplying a diversified range of banking, investment and insurance services. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns because the joint venture has no, or negligible, actual or foreseen activities within the European Economic Area. 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.8815.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Eurogrid by Elia
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of sole control of Eurogrid International CVBA by Elia System Operator N.V./S.A., both of Belgium. Eurogrid invests in electric utility-related companies and provides support services to its customers. It also owns 100% of 50Hertz Transmission GmbH, one of the four transmission system operators in Germany. Elia, currently jointly controlling Eurogrid, owns, operates, maintains and develops Belgium’s high- and extra-high-voltage grid. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because it would not result in any overlaps. 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.8826.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Ojah BV by the Colruyt and Kerry Group
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over Proparent, 100% shareholder of Ojah BV of the Netherlands by Korys Investment of Belgium and the Kerry Group of Ireland. Ojah BV manufactures plant based protein products that serve as meat and fish replacement. Korys is an investment vehicle of the Colruyt Group, which is active in the retail distribution of daily consumer goods in Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Kerry is a manufacturer of food ingredients and flavours for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industry. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given that the joint venture would not have significant activities in the European Economic Area and the limited overlap between the companies’ activites. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8838.
Vice-PresidentAnsip in the US to meet with high-representatives of major American tech companies to discuss EU-US digital cooperation
Tomorrow, Tuesday, 17 April, Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, will travel to San Francisco for a two-day series of meetings with American tech companies to discuss Digital Single Market policies. On Tuesday, the Vice-President will meet individually with Mark Zuckerberg CEO at Facebook, Sundar Pichai, CEO at Google, Sean Edgett, General Counsel at Twitter and David Hyman, General Counsel at Netflix to talk about data protection and online privacy, illegal content, disinformation campaigns, digital copyright, and artificial intelligence. Later in the evening, Vice-President Ansip will speak to the Consul Generals of EU Member States, highlighting the significance of the strong digital partnership between the US and the EU. On Wednesday, the Vice-President will give a speech at the RSA conference on cybersecurity and privacy and meet with executives from Information Technology Industry Council to discuss enhancing cybersecurity rules and cooperation. The Vice-President will also attend the “Mind the Bridge” event, where he will talk about cooperation between the Silicon Valley and EU start-up and innovation projects.
Commissioner Thyssen discusses importance of investing in people throughout their lifespan with EU Employment & Social Affairs Ministers
Tomorrow and Wednesday, 17 – 18 April, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen will participate in the informal meeting of EU Employment and Social Affairs ministers (EPSCO) in Sofia, Bulgaria. Attended also by the EU social partners, this informal EPSCO meeting will concentrate on the importance of investing in people throughout their lifespan, with a particular focus on skills development. Ahead of the meeting, Commissioner Thyssen said: “The European Pillar of Social Rights reconfirmed the commitment to support people in a fast-changing world. This informal meeting is the occasion to take stock of the progress achieved on the Council Recommendations on Upskilling Pathways, integration of the long-term unemployed into the labour market and the Youth Guarantee. But we will also discuss with ministers what more needs to be done to support people in transitions throughout their lives. Investing in people is a key priority for this Commission and this will also be reflected in our forthcoming proposal for the next Multi-annual Financial Framework. The discussion at this informal EPSCO meeting will help us tailor our proposal to the needs of Member States and people.” Attendees of the informal EPSCO will also visit the seventh European Social Entrepreneurship Forum, which has a focus on the role of social enterprises in providing accessible and flexible job and learning opportunities. Finally, in the margins of the informal EPSCO, Commissioner Thyssen will meet with Norwegian Minister for Labour and Social Affairs, Ms Anniken Hauglie, and Portuguese Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security, Mr José Vieira da Si
Commissioner Moscovici visits Montreal, Canada on April 17 and 18
Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, is visiting Montreal, Canada on Tuesday 17 and Wednesday 18 April. He will participate in the debate on “An Intelligent Tax Approach for 21st Century Businesses” organized by the Montreal Council on International Relations. Then he will take part in the Jean Monnet Conference “After the crisis, a progressive project for Europe” organized by McGill University. During his visit, the Commissioner will meet with Ms. Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montréal.