19 Dec 2014
EUROPEAN COMMISSION DAILY NEWS – 19 DECEMBERBrussels Daily
Regional Policy: most Operational Programmes now adopted
148 programmes out of the 311 that the Commissioner and the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban policy (DG REGIO) have received are now adopted; 130 of them are Investment for Growth and Jobs programmes and 18 are European Territorial Cooperation programmes. More programmes should be adopted today and next week. These programmes concern investments under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund, for a total amount today of 132.4 billion euro. All of REGIO – led programmes for France, Luxembourg, Ireland, Croatia, Slovenia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Slovakia, Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Denmark and Lithuania are now adopted. Germany and Poland have now most of their programmes adopted. Commenting on these adoptions, Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu said: “Stepping up our efforts this week, we have now managed to adopt a total of 148 adoptions. This represents tremendous progress we can all be proud of. I want to stress how good and fruitful the cooperation was between the Commission and the national authorities during the discussions on these programmes; it is a very good omen for our collaboration for the coming years. I intend to keep this pace in early 2015, so we could start implementing these programmes on the ground as soon as possible. I also want to highlight that, although we put a lot of effort into carrying on the adoption processes as fast as we could, we did not put aside the qualitative aspect of these programmes. Each and every one of them pave the way for a prosper future in Europe’s regions.”
Statement by Commissioner Vestager welcoming Luxembourg’s decision to provide all information requested on tax rulings and patent boxes
Margrethe Vestager,Commissioner in charge of competition policy, issued a statement yesterday evening welcoming Luxembourg’s announcement that they will fully comply with the Commission’s requests for information on its tax rulings practice and patent box scheme. They will now provide the Commission with all the requested information outstanding. She said: “I welcome that by today’s announcement Luxembourg acknowledges the Commission’s powers to investigate their general tax rulings practice under State aid rules.” She added: “We need to take action – and are taking action – to ensure companies pay their fair share of tax. I am committed to taking a structured and informed approach to address distortions of competition in the EU through unfair and selective tax advantages.” Read full statement here.
Moscovici hails new VAT rules for e-services
Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, today hailed the new VAT rules for cross-border e-services that will enter into force on January 1, 2015. The new rules, which were voted unanimously by Member States in 2008, aim to create fairer competition between any companies selling e-services, whether big or small. “So far, a lot of VAT revenues on on-line cross-border purchases have gone to low-tax member states where large e-firms are based. As of January, new rules will correct this distortion and ensure fair distribution of tax revenues in Europe, as well as creating a level playing field between businesses. Many of Member States will therefore see their VAT revenues rise,” said Moscovici. To help businesses easily adapt to the new rules, a mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) has been created. It is a single contact point that enables small businesses selling digital services to private consumers in another member state to declare and pay all their VAT revenue in their home country, instead of having to deal with 28 tax regimes. Please find an updated MEMO here.
EU boosts financial support to address migration flows in the Horn of Africa
The European Commission adopted a financing decision to address mixed migration flows (i.e both irregular migrants and refugees) in Eastern Africa. This 5 million EUR initiative aims at supporting countries in the Horn of Africa region to improve their management of migration and forced displacement, while ensuring that the rights of the migrants and refugees are protected. The project will, for instance, provide training to the authorities on law enforcement, create a number of reception centres throughout the region for the migrants and provide access to basic services to the refugees in their host communities. Migration is a top political priority of the European Union and this initiative will in particular support the concrete implementation of the new EU-East Africa migration dialogue, the Khartoum Process, formally launched at a Ministerial meeting in Rome on 28 November 2014.
Commission to recover €102 million of CAP expenditure from the Member States
A total of €102 million of EU agricultural policy funds, unduly spent by Member States, is being claimed back by the European Commission from Greece, Ireland and Slovenia under the so-called clearance of accounts procedure. This money returns to the EU budget because of non-compliance with EU rules or inadequate control procedures on agricultural expenditure. Member States are responsible for paying out and checking expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the Commission is required to ensure that Member States have made correct use of the funds. Read full press release here.
European Commission welcomes South Korean announcement on bilateral equivalency agreement on organic trade
The European Commission welcomes the announcement by South Korea today that, from 1 February 2015, processed organic products certified in the European Union may be sold as organic in South Korea. This is part of a bilateral arrangement on organic equivalency, for which the European Commission will finalise the EU recognition rules for South Korean products in the coming weeks. Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan stated today: “The organics sector continues to be one of the most dynamic production sectors in EU agriculture. This agreement will also provide new market opportunities in this key export market, fully delivering on the Commission’s jobs and growth agenda. Significantly, it also eliminates the need for double certification and thereby simplifies and reduces red tape for EU companies.’
EU allocates €7,5 million to help monitor pests that endanger plant health
The European Union earmarked today €7,5 million to co-finance programmes aiming to survey pests of plants throughout 2015. The funds will be distributed to Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden – the Member States that requested such Union support. This initiative will help monitor the absence or presence of regulated quarantine pests in the Union, focusing on pests of citrus and of deciduous trees, on the important potato pests like the ring rot or brown rot bacteria. Other pests targeted by these surveys are the ones subject to temporary measures of the Union (e.g. pinewood nematode on coniferous trees, citrus long horn beetle on deciduous trees, red palm weevil on palm trees). The surveys will provide knowledge about the concrete emerging risks as regards new pests threatening EU plant health and data on the risks linked to specific types of imports. They will also monitor the follow-up regarding interceptions of pests after import. Earlier this year (13 November), €5,7 million had been attributed to emergency measures against pests of plants. Those funds targeted important pests like the three isolated outbreaks of pinewood nematode in Spain or cases of Anoplophora glabripennis (the Asian long horn beetle) in Austria, France, Germany, Italy and The Netherlands. Union support was also attributed to control the recent outbreak of Xylella fastidiosa (olive leaf scorch) on olive plants and other plants in Italy. For further details you can visit: http://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/plant_health_biosafety/index_en.htm
Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of joint control over Czech national carrier České aerolinie by Travel Service and Český Aeroholding
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of joint control over České aerolinie (“CSA”), the Czech national air carrier, by Travel Service and Český Aeroholding (“CAH”), all of the Czech Republic. Travel Service provides scheduled air transport of passengers under the brand name “SmartWings”, charter flights and air transport of cargo. Český Aeroholding is a state-owned holding company which owns shares in selected companies engaged in the air transport sector and related ground services. České aerolinie is the Czech national carrier with core business in scheduled air transport of passengers and air transport of cargo. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns in particular because passengers would continue to have a number of alternative suppliers for their flights to and from Prague airport. The transaction was notified to the Commission on 14 November 2014. The full press release is available here.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Banca Carige’s insurance business by investment funds of Apollo Management
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Carige Vita Nuova S.p.A. and Carige R.D. Assicurazioni e Riassicurazioni S.p.A. and their affiliates, of Italy (together “Carige”) by investment funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Management L.P. of the United States (“Apollo”). Carige provides insurance products and services in Italy. Apollo invests in companies in manifold sectors throughout the world. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, in particular because there are no overlaps between the companies’ activities and a number of strong players will remain active in the market after the merger. 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.7462.
Mergers: Commission clears SoBazaar joint venture by Schibsted and Telenor
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed creation of the joint venture SoBazaar ANS by Schibsted ASA and Telenor ASA, all of Norway. The joint venture will operate an online social fashion ecommerce platform. The business is currently operated by Telenor under the brand SOBAZAAR. Schibsted is active in the media sector, including both print and online media. Telenor is active in various services in the fields of telecommunications, television, broadcasting and internet. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns, in particular because the joint venture’s activities within the European Economic Area (EEA) will be negligible and the parties’ activities do not overlap. 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.7470.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Naspers’ online classifieds businesses in Bangladesh and Chile by SnT
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of the online classified businesses of Naspers in Bangladesh and Chile by SnT Classifieds ANS of Norway. SnT is a joint venture between Schibsted ASA, an international media group, and Telenor ASA, a telecommunications operator, both of Norway. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given that the target business will only operate in Bangladesh and Chile and thus outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Moreover, there are no overlaps between the companies’ activities. 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.7448.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Naspers’ online classifieds businesses in Asia by Schibsted, Telenor and Singapore Press Holdings
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over the online classifieds businesses of Naspers in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam by Schibsted ASA of Norway, Telenor ASA of Norway and Singapore Press Holdings Ltd of Singapore. Schibsted and Singapore Press Holdings are international media groups, while Telenor is a telecommunications operator. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given that the target business will only operate in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam and thus outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Moreover, the companies’ activities do not overlap. 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.7447.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Brazilian online classified business by Schibsted, Telenor and Naspers
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over Bomnegocio Ativades Ltda of Brazil by SnT Classifieds ANS of Norway and Naspers Limited of South Africa. Bomnegocio, currently solely controlled by SnT, provides online classified services in Brazil. SnT is a joint venture between Schibsted ASA, an international media group, and Telenor ASA, a telecommunications operator, both of Norway. Naspers is a broad-based global multimedia group. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given that Bomnegocio will only operate in Brazil and thus outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Moreover, the companies’ activities do not overlap. 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.7446.
Commissioner Moedas welcomes cooperation with the Gulbenkian Foundation to boost research into infectious diseases in Africa
Commissioner Moedas today signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Lisbon-based Gulbenkian Foundation to boost research into poverty-related infectious diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa. Welcoming the start of this new cooperation in the framework of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP2), Commissioner Moedas commented: “The Memorandum of Understanding with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation based in Lisbon that I signed today shall pave the way to more strategic cooperation in health research with Africa. To that end, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and EDCTP intend to jointly support the development of operational, ethical and regulatory clinical trial capacities in sub-Saharan Africa, and particularly in Portuguese-speaking African countries. Last year, we made a similar joint pledge with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other poverty-related diseases to boost the impact of the €3.8 billion for research into these diseases contributed by the Foundation and the European Commission between 2007-2013.” The full statement is available online.
High Representative / Vice-President Federica Mogherini visits Iraq
High Representative / Vice-President Federica Mogherini will travel to Baghdad on 22 December where she will be meeting the President of the Republic Fuad Masoum, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and Foreign Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari. She will also meet with the Speaker of the Council of Representative’s (CoR) Ibrahim Al Jabouri. The HRVP will send a message of solidarity and confirm the EU readiness to deepen the relationship with Iraq. HRVP Mogherini will also travel to Erbil on 23 December where she will discuss the major challenges facing the Kurdistan region and its people with President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq Massoud Barzani and Prime-Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani, both with regard to the fight against ISIL / Da’esh and in confronting the humanitarian disaster that ISIL has created. The EU has provided EUR 20 million in humanitarian aid and is already implementing development projects in Iraq. It stands ready to provide further political, humanitarian and development support to Iraq in its fight against violent extremism. Before leaving, HRVP will visit a Christian refugees’ centre where she will meet with families and children hosted by this centre.