22 Jul 2014
EUROPEAN COMMISSION DAILY NEWS – 22 JulyBrussels Daily
Foreign Affairs Council
The Foreign Affairs Council meets today presided by HRVP Ashton. It will address the situation in Ukraine, the Middle East Peace process and the latest events in Iraq. The Council will take stock of developments in the Ukrainian crisis, particularly following the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. The ministers will also follow up on the agreement at the European Council to expand the EU restrictive measures, as well as on further diplomatic steps as outlined by Heads of State and Government, and discuss next steps. The press conference following the Foreign Affairs Council will take place approximately at 15:30.
The Foreign Affairs Council meeting will be followed by the EU-Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting, starting at 16.00. Further to the EU members states’ foreign ministers, this meeting will be attended by the foreign ministers of the six partner countries, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
The European Commission today presents details of a new €100 million “Fast Track to Innovation” (FTI) pilot action and five innovation prizes under Horizon 2020 , the European Union’s €80 billion research and innovation programme. The FTI aims to support Europe’s economy by offering innovative businesses and organisations grants to give a final push to get great ideas to market. The prizes offer a reward for technological breakthroughs of high societal relevance. The initiatives underscore the drive to support innovation in Europe as part of the first, two-year Horizon 2020 work programme. Today’s announcement also confirms the €7 billion for Horizon 2020 calls during 2015 and sets out the timetable for applications (MEMO/14/492).
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe will soon have access to up to € 25 bn of additional finance, as a result of an agreement signed today between the European Commission and the European Investment Fund (EIF). The signing ceremony of the agreement will be hosted by the newly-appointed Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Ferdinando Nelli Feroci. Thanks to the € 1,3 bn allocated in the COSME budget for SME financing, it will be possible to mobilise up to € 25 bn via leverage effects from financial intermediaries over the next seven years. The agreement paves the way for providing equity and debt financing for SMEs under the EU Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) programme by the end of 2014. Following the signature of the agreement, the EIF will open call for expression of interest to which eligible financial institutions (banks, guarantee institutions, funds etc.) can apply. After a thorough due diligence process, the EIF will select financial intermediaries which can then make the new finance available to European SMEs across all sectors.
The European Commission has proposed to provide Spain with €700,000 from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) to help 400 workers made redundant in the carpentry and joinery sector in the Castilla y León region to find new jobs. Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor commented: “The Spanish society and economy have been hard hit by the financial crisis and the employment situation in the region of Castilla y León is a matter of great concern, but I am convinced that the proposed support from Europe’s Globalisation Adjustment Fund would help the workers who lost their jobs to find new opportunities in the same or other sectors”.
Road safety: Commission relaunches legislation to crack down on drivers committing traffic offences abroad
Following a recent judgment of European Court of Justice, the Commission has proposed modified legislation to allow EU Member States to crack down on drivers committing traffic offences abroad including the four “big killers” that cause 75% of road fatalities – speeding, running traffic lights, failure to use seatbelts and drink driving. In a ruling of 6 May 2014 (case C-43/12), the Court of Justice had annulled Directive 2011/82/EU “on cross-border exchange of information on road safety related traffic offences” because it relied on the wrong legal basis (police cooperation). The proposal approved by the Commission today corrects the legal basis (to transport), but there are no substantive modifications, so the scope of the new Directive remains the same as for the annulled Directive which continues to apply until 6 May 2015. By 1 July 2014, 20 Member States had transposed this Directive into national law. Vice-President of the European Commission Siim Kallas, responsible for transport said: “This is a technical but an important changes and it needs to happen as quick as possible. Every death on Europe’s roads is one too many. For too long, people seemed to think that when they go abroad the rules of the road no longer apply to them. They do apply and we intend to apply them. We need strong support from the European Parliament and Council to make the necessary technical changes as quickly as possible. We cannot afford to take a step back in road safety.” EU figures suggest that foreign drivers account for 5% of traffic but around 15% of speeding offences. Until recently, most were going unpunished, with countries unable to pursue drivers once they returned home. More information: MEMO/10/634 ; IP/11/843 ; Road Safety Newsletter .
Cultural heritage organisations should seize the opportunities of European Union funding programmes and policies to help address the challenges facing the sector, according to a new report by the European Commission. The report, entitled Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe, states that the sector is at a “crossroads” with reduced public budgets, falling participation in traditional cultural activities and diversifying potential audiences due to urbanization, globalisation and technological change. But it also highlights opportunities for Member States and stakeholders to work more closely across borders to ensure that cultural heritage contributes more to sustainable growth and jobs. Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: I am pleased that heritage stands to gain from stronger European support over the next seven years.”
At the end of the first quarter of 2014, the government debt to GDP ratio in the euro area (EA18) stood at 93.9%, compared with 92.7% at the end of the fourth quarter of 2013. This increase comes after two consecutive quarters of decrease. In the EU28, the ratio increased from 87.2% to 88.0%. Compared with the first quarter of 2013, the government debt to GDP ratio rose in both the euro area (from 92.5% to 93.9%) and the EU28 (from 86.2% to 88.0%).
Mergers: Commission clears joint venture between Allergopharma, Stallergenes and LETI
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the creation of a joint venture by Allergopharma GmbH & Co. KG of Germany, Stallergenes S.A. of France and Laboratorios LETI, S.L. Unipersonal of Spain. Allergopharma is active in the fields of allergen immunotherapy, allergy diagnostics and allergy prevention, Stallergenes is a global healthcare company specialised in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies and LETI is a biopharmaceutical company active in the fields of the treatment and diagnosis of allergies, pharmaceutical skincare, in-vitro diagnostics and vaccines. The joint venture will develop mobile environmental exposure chambers for carrying out studies on new preparations for the treatment of allergies. It will obtain all validations and permits that are necessary for its operation and will then market the mobile chambers. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, because the joint venture is expected to generate a low turnover in the European Economic Area (EEA). Moreover, the total value of the assets transferred to the joint venture in the EEA is also limited. 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.7293 .
Today the Commission publishes its annual report on the telecommunications market in the EU, which covers a range of regulatory issues such as broadband, spectrum management, access to infrastructure, market regulation and consumer issues. Main findings include: investment in infrastructure is starting to increase; data traffic is growing fast; and the delay in assignment of the 800 MHz spectrum band significantly slowed the roll-out of 4G across the EU. Vice President Neelie Kroes remarked: We are clearly still a long way from a real single market. We need to cut red tape and we need more consistent regulatory action at both national and EU levels to build up that single market.”
Report on agriculture in the EU: 2013 issue published with latest figures
There are around 12 million farms in the EU while agriculture represents 5.2% of employment in the EU, with big variations across Member States. These are among the statistics presented in the Agriculture in the European Union: statistical and economic information report published today by the European Commission, an annual publication covering agriculture-related topics in EU Member States and acceding and candidate countries. Reviewing 2013, the report highlights a slight decrease in agricultural income per labour unit (-1.3%) after three years of recovery, again with big variations across Member States, while total production value remained unchanged. Cereal production went up by 8% and the oilseed harvest increased by 9.2%, while protein crops recovered from last year’s low but remained below the preceding 5-year average. Must production for wine and grape juice was 12% lower than in 2012, the lowest level of wine production in several years, with strong declines in France (-21%), Spain (-10%) and Italy (-7%). Production of olive oil even declined by 38% compared to 2011/2012, with prices higher by 20%. 2013 saw a halt in the declining trend of the EU cattle herd, new record prices for producers and a contraction of beef exports by 30%. Pig and sheep meat production decreased slightly while poultry showed a small increase. High prices and tight supply characterised the milk and dairy products market in 2013. The low milk collection in the EU, on the one hand, and in New Zealand and Australia, on the other hand, fuelled a strong increase in domestic prices pushing them to new highs (around €40/100 kg milk in October 2013).
The EU welcomes today’s announcement by the WTO that it will set up a fund to help Developing Countries and Least Developed Countries implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement. The deal, approved last December by the WTO’s 159 members at the time, aims to streamline customs procedures around the world. The purpose of the new “Trade Facilitation Facility”, as the fund is called, is to make sure that every developing country has the technical assistance it needs to implement the Agreement. The Facility will also ensure the coherence and transparency of the existing customs-related technical assistance and make it more effective.
Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, arrived on Monday July 21 in Peru, where he announced EU’s development contribution to Peru for the period 2014-2017 (€66 million), as well as new funding to support the fight against illegal drugs (€32 million). Commissioner Piebalgs said: “Our relationship with Peru has gone from strength to strength. The country has made impressive progress, both economically and socially, and I hope that today’s announcement sends a clear signal that we stand as a committed partner to Peru, as it continues on its journey to growth.” Later this week the Commissioner will visit Ecuador, where he is also expected to announce EU’s future contributions, meet with high level authorities and visit ongoing EU-funded projects. A memo about the cooperation with Latin America is available here .
2013 Financial report: the EU budget’s support to our scientists, regions, businesses
The annual financial report published today by the European Commission shows that over 94% of the 2013 EU budget (EUR 144 billion) went to Member States and to projects beyond the EU through funding European researchers, students, small and medium enterprises, farmers, towns and regions and NGOs. In the period 2007–2013, the EU budget provided loan guarantees to more than 275,000 European businesses, funded thousands of research projects in the fields of medicine or high tech for instance as well as projects to improve transport infrastructure across Europe, supporting young Europeans study abroad and projects protecting Europe’s environment. The 2013 financial report is available now online in English. It will be available in French and German in September 2014. Hyperlink to the 2013 financial report