17 Dec 2014
EUROPEAN COMMISSION DAILY NEWS – 17 DECEMBERBrussels Daily
Statement by President Juncker ahead of the European Council on 18-19 December: Boosting Investment to create Jobs and Growth
Speaking at the European Parliament ahead of the European Council tomorrow, President Juncker said: “Two elements stand out when we look ahead to the European Council meeting: First, Europe needs a new approach to investment, and we will have to concentrate on improving the investment climate in Europe. And second, we will have to help our eastern neighbour, Ukraine, stabilise the situation in the East, master the challenges of the winter and pursue the path of reform. We will have to focus our efforts to successfully implement these objectives.” Read the statement .
State aid: Commission extends information enquiry on tax rulings practice to all Member States
The European Commission has enlarged the enquiry into the tax ruling practice under EU state aid rules to cover all Member States. The Commission will ask Member States to provide information about their tax ruling practice, in particular to confirm whether they provide tax rulings, and, if they do, to request a list of all companies that have received a tax ruling from 2010 to 2013. The Commission already requested similar information on tax rulings from several Member States in June 2013. Commissioner in charge of competition policy, Margrethe Vestager said, “We need a full picture of the tax rulings practices in the EU to identify if and where competition in the Single Market is being distorted through selective tax advantages. We will use the information received in today’s enquiry as well as the knowledge gained from our ongoing investigations to combat tax avoidance and fight for fair tax competition. Read press release.
Autumn 2014 Standard Eurobarometer: Confidence in the European Union is increasing
Today, the latest Standard Eurobarometer survey results are published (read the first results report here). The Autumn 2014 Standard Eurobarometer is the first EU-wide opinion poll conducted since the Juncker Commission took office on 1 November 2014. The new results show an improvement in key political indicators: more citizens have a positive image of the European Union and trust the EU. There is also considerable public support for the key policy areas outlined in the Commission’s Political Guidelines. Read more on the results in the press release.
IPA: €2 billion package to support reforms in the Western Balkans and Turkey in 2014
The European Commission has today finalised its 2014 package of pre-accession assistance programmes to support reforms in countries wishing to join the EU. The funding, totalling EUR 2 billion, comes under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA), and will be available to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo and Turkey. The package also includes multi-annual programmes to support specific sectors over the next three years in Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. “These funds will support concrete democratic and economic reforms: from modernisation of the judiciary and public administration, to investments in infrastructure and connectivity between the enlargement countries and with the EU Member States. This will further strengthen the region’s stability, its economy and its investment potential”, said Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. See press release.
New appointment of Director at Eurostat; change of mandate for Special Adviser
The European Commission has today appointed the Director for Methodology, corporate statistical and IT services and Chief Information Officer at Eurostat. Also, the European Commission has taken the decision to change the mandate of Special Adviser Mr Horst Reichenbach to Special Adviser – EU member of the Board of Directors in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD). Following an external selection procedure, the Commission has decided to appoint Mr Emanuele Baldacci for the post of Director for Methodology, corporate statistical and IT services and Chief Information Officer at Eurostat. Mr Emanuele Baldacci has been Head of the Department for Integration, Quality and Research at the Italian Statistical Institute (ISTAT) the since 2011. The date of effect of this decision will be determined later. Mr Horst Reichenbach will take up the role of Special Adviser – EU Director in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London. Mr Reichenbach will exercise this mandate as a non-remunerated Special Adviser to the Commission for a period of two years. Mr Reichenbach is currently Special Adviser, Head of the Task Force for Greece. The date of effect of this decision will be determined later.
Antitrust: Commission invites comments on proposed changes to antitrust procedures to align with Directive on damages actions
The European Commission today opens a public consultation on proposed changes to its antitrust procedures in order to align them with the Directive regarding damages actions by victims of antitrust violations. In particular, the provisions concerning the use of information in the Commission’s investigative file need to be adapted to those regarding the use of information obtained from competition authorities in damages actions under the new Directive. To ensure an effective protection of these documents in antitrust investigations, the Commission proposes to modify relevant provisions of its Procedural Regulation 773/2004 and four related texts (the notice on access to the Commission’s file, the notice on immunity from fines, the notice on the conduct of settlement procedures in cartel cases and the notice on cooperation with national courts). The proposed modifications are available in full here. Comments can be submitted until 25 March 2015. The Commission intends to adopt the new texts, reflecting comments received in this consultation, before the end of 2015.
State aid: Commission approves Catalunya Banc’s revised restructuring plan following its sale to BBVA
The European Commission has concluded that the sale of the Spanish bank Catalunya Banc to BBVA and the proposed amendments to its original restructuring plan were in line with EU state aid rules. The sale and the amendments ensure the bank’s long-term viability as part of BBVA. At the same time competition distortions in the Single Market are mitigated and no additional state aid to Catalunya Banc or the buyer is granted. Read the press release.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Chiquita by Cutrale and Safra
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Chiquita Brands International of the US by the two Brazilian groups Cutrale and Safra. Chiquita supplies fresh produce, in particular bananas. Cutrale is active worldwide in the distribution of orange juice and orange by-products. Safra consists of a group of companies which are active in financial services. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, because of the minimal overlaps between the activities of Chiquita and Cutrale while Safra is not active in the same fields as Chiquita or Cutrale. 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.7453.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of certain Lufthansa IT services by IBM
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of parts of Lufthansa Systems Aktiengesellschaft of Germany, a subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa Aktiengesellschaft, by IBM Central Holding GmbH of Germany, a subsidiary of International Business Machines Corporation (“IBM”) of the US. The Lufthansa business to be acquired by IBM Central Holding provides certain IT services mainly to the Lufthansa group. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given the very limited overlaps between the parties’ activities and the presence of several strong alternative players that would remain active after the merger. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website in the public case register under the case number M.7458
Mergers: Commission clears creation of joint venture by Scholz Metallrecycling and Thyssen Alfa Rohstoffhandel
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the creation of Noris Metallrecycling GmbH of Germany, a joint venture between Scholz Recycling GmbH and Thyssen Alfa Rohstoffhandel München GmbH, both of Germany. Noris Metallrecycling will be active in the collection, processing and trading of non-ferrous and iron-nickel alloy scrap. Scholz Recycling is active in ferrous and non-ferrous scrap. Thyssen Alfa Rohstoffhandel has activities in recycling and trading of secondary raw materials. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, because of the negligible activity of the joint venture in the EEA and the moderate combined market shares on the relevant markets. 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.7460.
Eurostat: Annual inflation down to 0.3% in the euro area
Euro area annual inflation was 0.3% in November 2014, down from 0.4% in October. A year earlier the rate was 0.9%. European Union annual inflation was 0.4% in November 2014, down from 0.5% in October. A year earlier the rate was 1.0%. These figures come from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In November 2014, negative annual rates were observed in Bulgaria (-1.9%), Greece (-1.2%), Spain (-0.5%) and Poland (-0.3%). The highest annual rates were recorded in Romania and Austria (both 1.5%) and Finland (1.1%). Compared with October 2014, annual inflation fell in sixteen Member States, remained stable in five and rose in six. The largest upward impacts to euro area annual inflation came from restaurants & cafés (+0.09 percentage points), rents (+0.08 pp) and tobacco (+0.06 pp), while fuels for transport (-0.22 pp), telecommunications and heating oil (-0.09 pp each) had the biggest downward impacts. See Eurostat press release.
Eurostat: Annual growth in labour costs down to 1.3% in euro area
Hourly labour costs rose by 1.3% in the euro area (EA18) and by 1.4% in the EU28 in the third quarter of 2014, compared with the same quarter of the previous year. In the second quarter of 2014, hourly labour costs increased by 1.4% in both zones. These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The two main components of labour costs are wages & salaries and non-wage costs. In the euro area, wages & salaries per hour worked grew by 1.4%, and the non-wage component by 1.2%, in the third quarter of 2014 compared with the same quarter of the previous year. In the second quarter of 2014, the annual changes were +1.4% and +1.3% respectively. In the EU28, hourly wages & salaries rose by 1.4% and the non-wage component by 1.5% for the third quarter of 2014, compared with +1.4% for both components for the second quarter of 2014. See Eurostat press release.
Commissioner Moscovici in Washington, DC on 18/19 December
Commissioner Pierre Moscovici will be visiting Washington, DC on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 December. During his visit, the Commissioner will meet with Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF; Janet Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; Jack Lew, Secretary of the Treasury; and Caroline Atkinson, Deputy National Security Adviser. He will also give a speech at the Peterson Institute for International Economics: ‘Working for Investment and Growth in the New European Union’.