Brussels Daily
20 Oct 2014


Brussels Daily

President Barroso on “Ten years at the helm of the European Commission: Some reflections on Europe”

This morning, President Barroso spoke at Chatham House, London, where he said: “In the years to come the UK could be facing a choice – to stay or leave the European Union. […] what I do have difficulties with is the assumption – largely unchallenged by politicians here – that there is a permanent tension between the UK interest and the European interest. My experience is to the contrary. […] could the UK get by without a little help from your friends? My answer is probably not.” He said: “The big question that the UK needs to ask itself is this: are you sure you are better off outside than in? Only the British people can weigh up the pros and cons and decide that. From our side, the door has always been, and will always stay open.”

Other news

Trilateral gas talks with Vice President Oettinger, Russian Energy Minister Novak and Ukrainian Energy Minister Prodan on Tuesday 21 October in Brussels

The next trilateral gas meeting between Commission Vice-President Oettinger, Russian Energy Minister Novak and Ukrainian Energy Minister Prodan will take place on Tuesday 21 October 2014 in Brussels. The meeting will be followed by a press point as of 14:00 CET (tbc, depends on duration of the meeting). For security reasons, media representatives without permanent accreditation to the EU Institutions have to register. For further media arrangements please refer to MEMO/14/598 .

Fisheries: Regional plans adopted in view of upcoming obligation to land all catches

From 1 January 2015, the practice of returning unwanted fish back into the sea will be gradually banned by the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which stipulates that fishermen will instead have to land everything that they catch. The five regional discard plans adopted today contain some practical rules, as well as a limited number of exemptions, to help fishermen implement the new rules. The plans, which cover all pelagic fisheries in EU waters and fisheries in the Baltic, were put together based on recommendations by EU countries in the Baltic, North Sea, North Western Waters, South Western Waters, and the Mediterranean, as well as on input from local industry and stakeholders through Advisory Councils. More information here

Report on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias

The Commission has published a staff working document which reviews progress since the adoption of its “European initiative on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias” launched in 2009. The report outlines the various work strands on the initiative’s four strategic objectives: early diagnosis, improving epidemiological knowledge and coordination of research, sharing best practices and respecting the rights of people with dementia. It concludes that the initiative has prompted a significant number of activities in dementia at EU-level and in Member States, and has helped counter the stigmatisation of dementia. Since 2009, over half of all EU countries have adopted and started to implement national plans on dementia. Key to implementing the initiative was the ALCOVE Joint Action 2011-2013 which addressed all four objectives. To build on its success, the Commission has launched a second Joint Action on dementia under the work plan 2014 of its Health Programme .

To read the report

EU seeks progress on content of 2015 agreement at Bonn climate talks

United Nations talks to prepare a new international climate change agreement by 2015 resume today in Bonn, Germany. The week-long meeting is expected to prepare the ground for the main climate conference in Lima, Peru, in December (COP20). The European Union will be working to ensure that the so-called Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) makes significant progress on the overall form and content of the new agreement, which will apply from 2020, as well as on climate action before 2020. The meeting will focus on advancing work for elements for a draft negotiating text and information requirements regarding the way in which countries will communicate their intended greenhouse gas reduction targets. Progress at the Bonn meeting will pave the way for key decisions to be taken in Lima in December. These decisions will in turn enable a robust preparatory process in the coming year, ahead of the  Paris conference in 2015, where the agreement is due to be concluded.

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Noordgastransport by GDF SUEZ, PensionDanmark and Macif

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over Noordgastransport B.V. (“NGT”) of the Netherlands by GDF SUEZ S.A. of France, PensionDanmark Holding A/S. of Denmark, and InfraVia European Fund II owned by OFI InfraVia S.A.S. and controlled by the Macif Group all of France. NGT is currently jointly controlled by GDF SUEZ and PensionDanmark. Macif is a French insurance group active in several areas among which damage insurance, health insurance, savings and life insurance, banking, and credit, asset management. GDF SUEZ is a French energy group with global presence throughout the entire energy value chain in electricity and natural gas. PensionDanmark is a Danish non-profit, labour-market-related, life-insurance limited company. NGT owns and operates a subsea transportation system for natural gas on the Dutch continental shelf and a gas treatment station in Uithuizen, the Netherlands. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns absent any horizontal overlap and vertical relationship of the parties’ activities. 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.7390 .

Telecoms: Commission asks German regulator to lower mobile call tariffs for the fifth time

The European Commission has requested the German telecoms regulator (Bundesnetzagentur – BNetzA) to amend or withdraw its proposal on mobile termination rates (MTRs) for the fifth time. BNetzA proposed to introduce MTRs for operator sipgate Wireless, which are up to 80% higher than in most other EU Member States; costs which ultimately mobile phone users would pay.

Employment: Progress Microfinance loans worth €182 million given to over 20,000 entrepreneurs for start-ups and expansion

More than 20,000 entrepreneurs have already benefited from loans and guarantees worth a total of €182 million under the European Progress Microfinance Facility , according to the latest European Commission report about the implementation of this financial instrument. In particular, the report finds that Progress Microfinance has significantly contributed to job creation, by enabling credit for unemployed or inactive people struggling to borrow money from financial institutions. The new microfinance financial instrument set to begin in the second half of 2014 under the Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) will build on this experience. European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor said: “By helping people to become entrepreneurs, the European Progress Microfinance Facility is an effective instrument to support people from disadvantaged groups in their efforts to get back to work and integrate into society. Raising the money needed to start new businesses can be difficult for the unemployed, young people and minorities, but small loans such as the ones Progress Microfinance is providing can make a big difference for would-be entrepreneurs who might otherwise never be able to put their creativity at work.”

Commission assesses progress by Turkey in visa dialogue

Today the Commission presented its first report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements set in its visa liberalisation roadmap. This report assesses the situation of the legislation, administrative capacities and practices of Turkey in the areas addressed by the benchmarks of the roadmap, and makes a set of recommendations for the Government of Turkey to fulfil these benchmarks. “This first report shows that Turkey is doing effective efforts to meet the criteria identified in its visa liberalisation roadmap and I welcome in particular the progress achieved in the fields of migration and international protection, as well as in document security. Work is still needed in areas like, among others, border management, and police and judicial cooperation. I am convinced that Turkey will keep a steady pace towards the fulfilment of the benchmarks by bringing forward several essential legislative and administrative reforms”, said Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström. The European Commission launched a visa liberalisation dialogue with Turkey on 16 December 2013, in parallel with the signature of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement ( IP/13/1259). On that occasion a visa roadmap was handed over to Turkish authorities. It sets out a comprehensive list of areas, divided in 5 chapters (called “blocks”) on which Turkey was requested to develop legislation and administrative capacities and practices, as well as adequate cooperation with the EU. Read the full report .

EU and China settle telecoms case

The Commission has decided today that it no longer considers it necessary to pursue the investigation on telecoms subsidies. The parties found an amicable settlement on the trade defence investigation into Chinese telecoms on 18th October, at the EU China Joint Committee chaired by Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng. The College of Commissioners has confirmed this decision today, making it official. The main points of the settlement include tasking an independent body with monitoring the Chinese and EU telecoms networks market, guaranteeing access for European companies to the relevant Chinese standard setting body without discrimination, and equal treatment of companies bidding for publically funded research and developments projects. The EU and China will also advance the work of the International Working Group on Export Credits.


Matera to be 2019 European Capital of Culture in Italy

The selection panel of independent experts responsible for assessing the Italian cities competing to be European Capital of Culture in 2019 has recommended that Matera should be awarded the title. The other five cities short-listed after the initial pre-selection round in November 2013 were Cagliari, Lecce, Perugia, Ravenna and Siena. The formal designation of Matera by the EU’s Council of Ministers is expected to take place next year.


What Commissioners said

Statement by Commissioner László Andor on Bangladesh Sustainability Compact follow up meeting

Since the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in 2013, the EU has been active to improve labour rights, working conditions and factory safety in the ready-made garment and knitwear industry in the country. Today, in a stocktaking meeting organized in Brussels, we are reviewing the progress made under the Sustainability Compact, an agreement signed by the EU, Bangladesh, the US and the ILO in July 2013. There has been much progress since then: labour law has been amended to strengthen freedom of association, collective bargaining and occupational health and safety; new trade unions have been created; more labour, fire and building safety inspections have been carried out. These are encouraging steps, but we need to advance further. Measures need to be taken urgently to ensure effective enforcement of the Bangladesh Labour Act. Issues requiring particular attention include: better guarantees for freedom of association, protection of workers and trade unions from intimidation or discrimination, and ensuring that all workers have the same rights, including those working in Export Processing Zones. Additional inspectors need to be recruited and inspections must continue. And we need to ensure that victims of the collapse receive all the support necessary for their rehabilitation. We need to continue to monitor the implementation and results of the Compact. The Commission remains fully committed to pursuing its intense cooperation with Compact partners to achieve further tangible improvements.

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