19 Feb 2018


Brussels, Brussels Daily


Publication of latest agri-food trade figures: EU agri-food exports are holding strong

The value of EU agri-food exports reached €137.9 billion in 2017, corresponding to a sustained increase by 5.1% in value terms compared to 2016. Published today by the European Commission, the latest monthly trade report details the export values for different sectors and origin. Major gains in annual values have been achieved in agri-food exports to the USA (+6%), Russia (+16%) and several Asian markets: Japan (+11%), China (+5%), Hong Kong (+10%) and South Korea (+13%). The sectors of wine, pet food and spirits and liqueurs performed very well in terms of exports over the last 12 months. On the other hand, wheat and other cereals and pig meat exports decreased. EU agri-food imports also increased but at a slower pace than exports meaning that the trade balance for agri-food products remains positive with an export surplus at €20.5 billion. The full report is online.


Preparation of the Eurogroup and ECOFIN meetings, 19-20 February 2018

Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Moscovici will represent the European Commission at today’s Eurogroup and tomorrow’s ECOFIN meeting. Today, the ministers will take stock of progress made with the implementation of the remaining prior actions of the third review of the stability support programme for Greece. The Eurogroup will be debriefed on the post-programme surveillance mission to Ireland. The ministers will hold two discussions on the deepening of EMU: on the future of the ESM and the way forward on the Banking Union. The latter debate will take place in the inclusive format. Commissioner Moscovici will participate in the press conference following the meeting. On Tuesday, the Council will exchange views onthe EU’s approach towards sustainable finance, following the recent recommendations by the High-Level Expert Group established by the Commission. Later in March, the Commission is due to present its Action Plan for a financial system that supports sustainable investments. Ministers will also discuss issues related to the EU budget, namely the budgetary discharge for 2016 and guidelines for negotiations on the budget for 2019. The Council is expected to issue a recommendation on the nomination of a new vice-president of the European Central Bank.Vice-President Dombrovskis will participate in the press conference following the ECOFIN.

Future of EU finances – Commissioner Oettinger meets with Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan

Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger, in charge of Budget and Human Resources, will meet with Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan on Tuesday, 20 February 2018 in Brussels, to discuss the future of EU finances and the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework (#EUbudget). Building on the Reflection paper on the future of EU finances that Commissioner Oettinger presented together with Commissioner Creţu,  as well as the Communication “A new, modern Multiannual Financial Framework for a EU that delivers efficiently on its priorities post-2020”,  the debate has also been taken up by the European Parliament, where two own initiative reports are being prepared. Heads of State or Government are also scheduled to discuss the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework at their informal meeting on 23 February. The Commission launched a series of public consultations on the priorities of the EU and stakeholders’ views will be taken into account when preparing the next MFF, to be presented inearly May 2018 at the latest. As part of this ongoing debate, Commissioner Oettinger has invited the Finance Minister of Italy, Pier Carlo Padoan, to share his perspective on the future of EU finances with key stakeholders from the European Parliament and high-ranking Commission officials and representatives from a number of Brussels think tanks.  See also a speech “A Budget Matching our Ambitions” given by Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger at the conference “Shaping our Future” on 8 January 2018.


Key railway connection between Romania and Hungary modernised with Cohesion Policy funds

€1.3 billion from the Cohesion Fund is invested in the modernisation of the rail corridor from the town of Curtici, on the border between Romania and Hungary, and Constanța, by the Black sea. Works will focus on significantly increasing speed and safety on the section between Curtici and the town of Simeria, upgrading 13 train stations on the line, improving signalling and passenger information systems and building adjacent infrastructure such as bridges and tunnels. Commissioner for Regional policy Corina Crețu said: “Each euro from the EU budget invested in this railway enhances territorial cohesion and economic competitiveness in Romania, further connects the country with Hungary and the rest of Europe and ensures clean, fast and safe mobility. That’s a project with 65% EU co-financing and 100% EU value added.” The railway connection, part of the Orient-East Med and Rhine-Danube corridors of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), crosses Romania from West to East. Several sections on the railway have been or are currently being financed with other EU funds, such as the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and European Investment Bank (EIB) funding.


State aid: Commission approves State financing for Czech Post’s universal service obligation  

The European Commission has found State support to Czech Post for the provision of the postal universal service obligation in the Czech Republic between 2013 and 2017 to be in line with EU State aid rules. In particular, Czech Post delivers universal postal services throughout the country at affordable prices and at certain minimum quality requirements. Czech Post will be compensated through direct grants from the State budget of a maximum of CZK 2.6 billion (approximately €97.63 million) for the entire period. The Commission assessed the measure under EU State aid rules on public service compensation, which allow companies to be compensated for the extra cost of providing a public service under certain conditions. The rules enables Member States to grant state aid for the provision of public services whilst at the same time making sure that companies entrusted with such services are not overcompensated, which minimises distortions of competition and guarantees an efficient use of public resources. The Commission concluded that the compensation to Czech Post is in line with EU State aid rules. The compensation granted to Czech Post is based on a sound methodology, which ensures that it will not exceed the cost of the public service mission. More information will be available, once potential confidentiality issues have been resolved, in the public case register on the Commission’s competition website under the case number SA.45281.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of newly created joint venture between HASCO and Magna

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of joint control over the newly created joint venture HASCO Magna Electric Drive System Co., Ltd (“E-Drive”) by Huayu Automotive Systems Company Ltd. (“HASCO”), both of China, and Magna International Inc. (“Magna”) of Canada.  E-Drive Ltd aims to assemble e-motors, gearboxes, inverters and other related parts into an e-drive powertrain system and sell it to original equipment manufacturers. HASCO, controlled by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation Group of China, is active in the production and sale of automotive components for a variety of car manufacturers. Magna is active globally in the manufacture and supply of automotive components, including e-drive power train systems. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because of the negligible actual and foreseen activities of E-Drive in 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.8753.



Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference: delivering on the circular economy and discussing plans for the future

Tomorrow and Wednesday, the Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee will host in Brussels the third Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference. Organised back-to-back with the EU Industry Day, this stakeholder conference, an initiative of the Juncker Commission, will bring together businesses, local authorities, and citizens to discuss recent initiatives and new areas of action in the transition to a more circular, resource-efficient and low-carbon economy. They will also examine the recently adopted EU Strategy for Plastics and consider possible actions in this area, such as the on-going work on single use plastics and local initiatives, synergies, partnerships and business cases for more sustainable use of plastics. Participants will also share the first achievements of the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform that was established last year. Commission First Vice-President Timmermans will open the conference and highlight the successes and remaining challenges of the transition towards a circular economy; Vice-President Katainen will focus on opportunities linked to the international angle of the circular economy; Commissioner Bieńkowska will discuss the industrial dimension and Commissioner Vella will encourage businesses and public authorities to become “more circular” through ambitious plans and actions. The Commission has already delivered most of the actions presented in its 2015 Action Plan for the Circular Economyand is counting on the support of citizens, stakeholders, the European Parliament and the Council to make a faster move from traditional linear economic models to more innovative and efficient circular systems of production and consumption. The conference can be followed live here and the programme is available here.


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