|European Commission launches public consultation on rural development
The European Commission is launching a three-month public consultation today to gather the impressions of citizens and stakeholders on the rural development programs implemented between 2007 and 2013. The aim of this broad consultation is to obtain a vision of together on the strengths and weaknesses of rural development policy as part of the current thinking on the modernization and simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The contributions thus collected will be used for the preparation of legislative proposals following the publication last November of the Communication on the Future of Agriculture and Food. The EU’s rural development policy aims to help rural regions of the EU tackle the many economic, environmental and social challenges of the 21st century. Often referred to as the “second pillar” of the CAP Common Agricultural Policy, it complements the system of direct payments to farmers and measures to manage agricultural markets (the “first pillar”). A € 98 billion EU budget was dedicated to rural development in the 28 member states from 2007 to 2013, with a budget increase of € 2 billion for 2014-2020. Co-financed projects can range from support for small businesses in rural areas to investments in agro-tourism and training for young farmers. More information is available online.
Trade negotiations: Commission reports on latest progress in talks with Mercosur
The Commission published a report summarising the progress made during the latest negotiating round for the EU-Mercosur trade agreement. The round held between 29 November and 8 December in Brussels was followed by further technical and political level talks at the margins of the 11th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires. The report includes an update on all areas of the negotiations, including trade in goods, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary rules, services, intellectual property (including geographical indications), government procurement, as well as trade and sustainable development. As part of the final stretch of the talks, a ministerial meeting is now planned for 30 January in Brussels to take stock of progress and instruct negotiators on the way forward in the endgame negotiations in the weeks that follow. The EU is committed to reach an ambitious, balanced and comprehensive trade agreement with Mercosur. An EU-Mercosur trade agreement is an historic opportunity that will have a positive impact on growth and jobs creation. It will build bridges between our regions and it will send a signal to the rest of the world on the importance of open, mutually beneficial and rules-based trade. Crucially, it will also provide for joint action in the field of sustainable development. The EU Mercosur agreement – just like the one concluded recently with Japan – will include an explicit reference to the Paris climate agreement. The rules-based trade the partners are aiming for will also necessarily imply maintaining high EU standards, including food safety rules, for all products entering the European market. The most recent Commission proposals made in the course of the negotiations can also be accessed through the dedicated transparency page. See more information on EU-Mercosur talks online.
Commission applauds Council transparency in EU-Chile trade negotiations
The Commission welcomes today’s publication of the negotiating directives for the new modernised EU-Chile association agreement by the Council. Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “This is a very welcome decision by the Council and unprecedented so early in the negotiations. Transparency is essential to inform citizens about our trade policy and build trust in what we do. Publishing the negotiating mandates should be part of this exercise. Trade negotiations must be conducted in a transparent and inclusive way, as it ultimately helps to deliver better trade agreements. This should be the standard approach for all future deals.” Based on a proposal submitted by the Commission, the negotiating directives are discussed and adopted by Member States. They provide Commission negotiators with political guidance and a framework on what the future agreement should contain. This is the first time that the Council is publishing the full mandates so close to the beginning of negotiations. The Commission is committed to take this effort even further and is now publishing all its recommendations for negotiating directives for trade agreements. This new policy was announced by President Juncker during the State of the Union speech, in September 2017, and took immediate effect with the publication of the draft mandates for bilateral trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand, and for a multilateral agreement on investment dispute settlement. The EU and Chile held so far two negotiating rounds for the trade part of a new and modernised EU-Chile Association Agreement. As usual, a report on the results of the talks will be published on the Commission website, together the initial textual proposals tabled by the EU in this round. More information.
Commission launches consultation on future “Counterfeit and Piracy watch-List”
The Commission launched today a public consultation to establish its first world-wide “Counterfeit and Piracy Watch-List”. The aim is to identify the marketplaces outside the EU where counterfeiting, piracy or other forms of intellectual property abuse are common practice. The initiative is part of the Commission’s strategy announced in the 2017 Communication “A balanced Intellectual Property enforcement system responding to today’s societal challenges”. Based on stakeholders’ input, the future watch-list will help to raise awareness of consumers that might be buying products in those marketplaces, and encourage their operators and owners to crack down on intellectual property abuse. The Commission will also monitor the measures taken by local authorities to reduce the availability of goods and services infringing intellectual property rights in identified markets. Intellectual property infringement is a particular scourge on European industry and hampers investment and employment in industries reliant on creativity and innovation.According to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the OECD, trade in counterfeit and pirated products amount to around €338 billion worldwide. The European Union is particularly affected, with counterfeit and pirated products amounting up to around 5% of all imports or as much as €85 billion a year. Contributions to the public consultation should be sent before 31 March 2018. More information is available on a dedicated webpage
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over Mayfield Holdings by Amtrust Financial Services and Madison Dearborn Partners
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control over the joint venture Mayfield Holdings LLC. (“Mayfield”) by Amtrust Financial Services Inc. (“Amtrust”) and Madison Dearborn Partners LLC (“MDP”), all of the US. Mayfield is the holding company for the companies and assets comprising the joint venture, focussing on the distribution of insurance products. Amtrust is a US based insurance conglomerate. MDP is a US-based private equity investment firm, with investments in a range of industries, including among others insurance distribution in the UK. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns because Mayfield has no 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.8737.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over CaetanoBus by GSC and Mitsui
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of joint control over Fabricação de Carroçarias, S.A. (“Caetanobus”) by Grupo Salvador Caetano SGPS, S.A. (“GSC”), both of Portugal, and Mitsui & Co., Ltd. (“Mitsui”) of Japan. CaetanoBus is a manufacturer of buses and bus bodies in Portugal, currently solely controlled by GSC. GSC is active in various industries and services including the production and sale of buses (through Caetanobus), multi-brand trading in the automotive retail industry, and the sale of equipment and systems in the field of renewable energy and engineering services. Mitsui is a Japanese trading house engaged in a number of businesses, including iron and steel, coal and non-ferrous metals, machinery, electronics, chemicals, and energy-related commodities. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns as Mitsui and GSC are not active in the same markets as CaetanoBus 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.8734.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over Belron by CD&R and D’Ieteren
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of joint control over Belron Group S.A. of Luxembourg by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (“CD&R”) of the US and SA D’Ieteren NV of Belgium. Belron is a vehicle glass repair and replacement services group. In some countries, it also manages vehicle glass and other insurance claims for some insurers. CD&R is a private investment firm. D’Ieteren engages, through its subsidiaries, in automobile distribution, vehicle glass repair and replacement, and the manufacturing of fabricated products. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns as the companies do not compete in the same 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.8745.
Commissioner Stylianides to meet with Ministers of Finland, Denmark and Sweden on rescEU, the EU’s civil protection proposal
Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides meets today with the Finnish Interior Minister, Ms Paula Risikko. He will travel tomorrow to Denmark to meet with the Danish Minister of Defence, Mr Claus Hjort Frederiksen, in the morning before meeting the Swedish Minister of Justice and Home Affairs, Mr Morgan Johansson in the afternoon. During the meetings the Commissioner will present and discuss rescEU, the Commission’s plan to strengthen Europe’s ability to deal with natural disasters. A more robust civil protection mechanism will enable the EU to better support all Member States in responding to natural disasters. The Commission proposal was announced on 23 November 2017 and focuses on two strands of action: 1) Strengthening Europe’s collective response capacities through a reserve at EU level to be used only when national capacities are overwhelmed, and 2) Stepping up disaster prevention and preparedness. The proposal also aims to simplify administrative procedures in order to reduce the time needed to deploy life-saving assistance.