| Brexit: European Commission publishes Communication on preparing for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU
The European Commission has today adopted a Communication outlining the ongoing work on the preparation for all outcomes of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. On 30 March 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the EU and become a third country. This will have repercussions for citizens, businesses and administrations in both the United Kingdom and the EU. These repercussions range from new controls at the EU’s outer border with the UK, to the validity of UK-issued licences, certificates and authorisations and to different rules for data transfers. Today’s text calls on Member States and private parties to step up preparations and follows a request by the European Council (Article 50) last month to intensify preparedness at all levels and for all outcomes. Preparing for the UK’s withdrawal is not only the responsibility of the EU institutions. It is a joint effort at EU, national and regional levels, and also includes in particular economic operators and other private parties – everyone must now step up preparations for all scenarios and take responsibility for their specific situation. A full press release is available online.
Antitrust: Commission fines Google €4.34 billion for illegal practices regarding Android mobile devices to strengthen dominance of Google’s search engine
The European Commission has fined Google €4.34 billion for breaching EU antitrust rules. Since 2011, Google has imposed illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators to cement its dominant position in general internet search. In particular, Google: (i) has required manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search app and browser app (Chrome), as a condition for licensing Google’s app store (the Play Store); (ii) made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-installed the Google Search app on their devices; and (iii) has prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling even a single smart mobile device running on alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google (so called “Android forks”). Google must now bring the conduct effectively to an end within 90 days or face penalty payments of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Today, mobile internet makes up more than half of global internet traffic. It has changed the lives of millions of Europeans. Our case is about three types of restrictions that Google has imposed on Android device manufacturers and network operators to ensure that traffic on Android devices goes to the Google search engine. In this way, Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine. These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.” For more information, see full press release, which is available in all languages.
President Juncker visits Spain, 19-20 July
Today and tomorrow, President Juncker is in Madrid, Spain. This afternoon, he will have an audience with His Majesty King Felipe VI, in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, Josep Borrell. This evening, President Juncker will give the 4th Carlos de Amberes Commemorative Lecture, entitled “New Perspectives for the Future of the EU” at the Carlos de Amberes Foundation, where he will be introduced by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Tomorrow, Friday 20 July, President Juncker will be awarded the Prize Marquess of Villalobar by the Chamber of Commerce of Belgium and Luxembourg. He will be introduced by Pío García-Escudero, President of the Senate, who will pronounce the Laudation. Follow President Juncker‘s visit live on EbS+
Juncker Plan renews support for windfarms in Greece
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a €24 million financing agreement with the Greek Terna Energy Group to help fund the development, construction and operation of two windfarms on Mount Vermio in northern Greece. The EIB’s loan is backed under the EU budget guarantee of the Juncker Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). This is the second such agreement with Terna following one last July to finance windfarms in the Viotia region, and it comes the day after the Commission and the EIB announced that the Juncker Plan has exceeded its original €315 billion investment target, reaching €335 billion in investment across the EU. Greece is currently ranked top in terms of EFSI-triggered investment relative to GDP, with €10.6 billion in investment mobilised as of July 2018. Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “After Greece exits its stability support programme on 20 August, the country will stand on its own two feet – but the European Commission will continue to stand by its side, including financially. Today’s announcement is a concrete example of how the Juncker Plan is helping to modernise Greece’s energy infrastructure, supporting growth and job creation along the way.” Full press releases can be found here.
Antitrust: Commission sends Supplementary Statement of Objections on predatory pricing to Qualcomm [Updated on 19/07/2018 at 12:50]
The European Commission has sent a Supplementary Statement of Objections to Qualcomm Inc. This is a procedural step in the Commission’s ongoing investigation under EU antitrust rules looking into whether Qualcomm engaged in ‘predatory pricing’. The Commission sent a Statement of Objections to Qualcomm in December 2015 detailing its concerns. In particular, the Commission’s preliminary view is that between 2009 and 2011 Qualcomm sold certain UMTS baseband chipsets at prices below cost, with the intention of eliminating Icera, its main competitor in the leading edge segment of the market at that time. UMTS chipsets are key components of mobile devices. They enable both voice and data transmission in third generation (3G) cellular communication. The Supplementary Statement of Objections sent today focuses on certain elements of the “price-cost” test applied by the Commission to assess the extent to which UMTS baseband chipsets were sold by Qualcomm at prices below cost. The sending of a Supplementary Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number AT.39711.
Capital Markets Union: Commission provides guidance on protection of cross-border EU investments
The Commission has today issued guidance to help EU investors to invoke their rights before national administrations and courts and to help Member States to protect the public interest in compliance with EU law. Today’s Communication aims to strengthen the business environment for EU investors. This is a crucial element in supporting more investment in the EU single market. EU law does not solve all problems investors may face in their activities. However, the Communication clarifies that EU law protects EU investors’ rights, and investors can enforce these rights before national administrations and courts. EU investors can no longer rely on intra-EU bilateral investment treaties (‘intra-EU BITs’). As the Commission has consistently stated, these treaties are illegal as they overlap with the EU single market rules and discriminate between EU investors. In a recent judgment (on the Achmea case), the Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed that investor-State arbitration in intra-EU BITs is illegal. Following this judgment, the Commission has intensified its dialogue with all Member States, calling on them to take action to terminate the intra-EU BITs. A full press release and MEMO can be found online.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over Noustique by Puig International and BSH
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control over Noustique Perfumes, S.L. of Spain, by Puig International, S.A. of Switzerland and BSH Hausgeräte GmbH (“BSH”) of Germany. Noustique is active in the development and promotion of a new product in the perfume sector. Puig International is active in the manufacture and distribution of fragrances and cosmetics. BSH manufactures and distributes home appliances via its global and local brands. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the lack of horizontal overlaps and vertical relationships between the companies’ activities. 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.8891.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of sole control over ZKW by LG Electronics
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of ZKW Holding GmbH and Mommert Gewerbeimmobilien Verwaltungs GmbH, both of Austria (together “ZKW”), by LG Electronics, Inc. of South Korea. ZKW is a manufacturer of automotive lighting that develops and produces lighting systems for the full range of automotive vehicles. ZKW mainly produces front lighting systems for original equipment manufacturers in the European Union. LG Electronics is aproducer and supplier of electronics, mobile communications devices and home appliances on a global level. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the negligible overlap between the companies’ activities 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.8938.