European Commission and four online marketplaces sign a product safety pledge to remove dangerous products
Today, four major online marketplaces, Alibaba (for AliExpress), Amazon, eBay and Rakuten – France have signed a commitment for faster removal of dangerous products sold on their online marketplaces. Thanks to a dialogue facilitated by the European Commission, four major online companies have committed to responding to notifications on dangerous products from Member State authorities within 2 working days and take action on notices from customers within 5 working days. Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: “More and more people in the EU are shopping online.E-commerce has opened up new possibilities for consumers, offering them more choice at lower prices. Consumers should be just as safe when they buy online, as when they buy in a shop. I welcome the Product Safety Pledge which will further improve consumer safety. I call also on other online marketplaces to join this initiative, so that the internet becomes a safer place for EU consumers.” Online sales represented 20% of the total sales in 2016 in the EU (Eurostat). More and more of the dangerous products notified in the Rapid Alert System are sold online. This shows the need for all online marketplaces to continue and further step up their efforts when it comes to removing dangerous products. The pledge and the full press release are available online. In parallel, today and tomorrow, product safety authorities of the United States, China, and the European Union are meeting in Washington for the sixth trilateral EU-China-U.S. summit to continue joint efforts on product safety. This summit is focussing on safety challenges presented by e-commerce, including emerging issues such as connected products. A joint statement will be available after the summit here.
Further €70 million under Juncker Plan for renewable energy projects in France and Germany
The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Franco-German regional bank SaarLB have signed a €70 million guarantee agreement. This deal will enable SaarLB to grant additional loans of almost €140 million for new renewable energy projects in France and Germany. This is the second part of an €150 guarantee agreement first signed in 2016, made possible by the Juncker Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič said: “The clean energy transition will only succeed in Europe if we think beyond national borders and work together. SaarLB is doing precisely that by financing renewable energy in Germany and France. I am pleased that the EU is able to contribute through the EIB and the European Fund for Strategic Investments. This is something we are also set to encourage under the next EU budget 2021-2027. By pooling various instruments, we aim at leveraging further investment, notably from the private sector, and at boosting the strategic uptake of renewable energy technologies.” Full press release is available here.
Digital Assembly 2018: Commission launches Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans
Today at the Digital Assembly 2018 in Sofia, Bulgaria, the European Commission and six Western Balkan partners will launch together Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans. The programme aims to support the transition of the region into a digital economy and bring benefits of the digital transformation to its citizens, such as faster economic growth, more jobs, and better services. Specifically, the Digital Agenda commits the participating states to invest more in broadband connectivity; increase cybersecurity, trust and digitisation of industry; strengthen the digital economy and society; and boost research and innovation. On this occasion, at 13:40 (CEST), Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel will also deliver a keynote speech, at the launching event with Ministers from the six Western Balkans partners (webstreamedhere). The Digital Agenda builds on the informal EU-Western Balkans summit from 17 May 2018 in Sofia, where leaders of the European Union and the Western Balkan partners committed to boosting the digital connectivity in the region. More information on the Digital Agenda can be found in the press release and in a factsheet.
Harnessing new data sources to support an effective migration policy
Today, the European Commission launches the Big Data for Migration Alliance (BD4M), a global initiative to unlock the potential of big data sources and provide valuable insights related to migration. Social media platforms and other new, innovative sources can enhance traditional sources of data with more up to date, dynamic information on migration trends and statistics, helping policymakers keep a grip on the issues as they develop. The Joint Research Centre, the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, will present research at today’s launch event which explores how data from the Facebook advertising platform can be interpreted to gain an accurate picture of migration trends. The Big Data for Migration Alliance will ensure that data is handled in a way that respects the highest standards with regard to confidentiality, security and ethics. The project will only work with anonymised data, assessing numbers and trends similarly to how regular statistics are used. A network of ‘data stewards’ will be integral to the alliance, set up across private and public institutions to foster the efficient and responsible use of data. The alliance will be jointly convened by the European Commission’s Knowledge Centre on Migration and Demography and the Global Migration Data Analysis Centre of the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration. Relevant partners from the scientific, policy and business communities will be identified for specific activities as work progresses.
State aid: Commission approves €3 million restructuring aid by Slovenia to Semenarna Ljubljana
The European Commission has approved the granting of restructuring aid to Semenarna Ljubljana d.o.o., through a €3 million long-term loan by the Slovenian authorities. The company, based in Ljubljana and active in the research, production and sale of products for gardeners and farmers, employs 235 people. The loan, together with a contribution from Semenarna mainly from the sale of redundant premises, as well as from financial restructuring agreed with its main creditors, will allow Semenarna to conduct an in-depth organisational restructuring. Compensatory measures, including the closure of an agricultural stores business, will reduce the potential distortions of competition brought about by the restructuring aid. The Commission therefore concluded that the restructuring plan is in line with the 2014 Rescue and Restructuring Guidelines. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public State Aid Register under the case number SA.49214.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Farmexim and Help Net by Phoenix
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Farmexim SA and Help Net Farma SA, both of Romania, by Phoenix PIB Austria Beteiligungs GmbH of Austria. Farmexim is active in the wholesale of pharmaceutical products in Romania. Help Net operates a chain of pharmacies in Romania. Phoenix is a pharmaceutical wholesaler, pharmacy retailer and provider of pharma related services. It is active in Lithuania and Germany, with only a very small volume of sales in Romania. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the companies’ moderate combined market shares. 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.8922.)
Mergers: Commission clears the acquisition of VeriFone Systems by Francisco Partners Management
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of sole control over VeriFone Systems, Inc. (“VeriFone”) by Francisco Partners Management LP (“Francisco Partners”), both of the US. VeriFone is primarily active in the design, manufacture and supply of point of sale (POS) payment devices and related services. Francisco Partners is a private equity firm, exclusively focused on investments in software and technology-enabled businesses. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns given the minor horizontal overlaps and the lack of 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.8928.
Vice-President Šefčovič in Washington for a set of bilateral talks and the 27th World Gas Conference
From 25-27 June, Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič will be in Washington, holding a series of bilateral talks, including with US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Senators Ben Cardin, Ron Johnson and Chris Murphy. He is also attending the 27th World Gas Conference, the largest global gas event, where he will speak about the “Future of Europe’s Energy Market”. In the margins of the WGC, there will be bilateral meetings with the Azeri Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov and the Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak. Moreover, Vice-President Šefčovič is delivering a keynote speech at the “21st century Energy Systems in Central and Eastern Europe” conference organised by the Atlantic Council. Other engagements include for instance, his participation at a number of events dedicated to climate action and the clean energy transition, such as “Climate Diplomacy Day” or “Energy, environment and technology – challenges and opportunities for the transatlantic community”.
Commissioner Avramopoulos in Iran
Today, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos is in Tehran, Iran. He is meeting First Vice-President of the Republic Es’haq Jahangiri, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif and Minister of Interior Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli. Discussions will provide an opportunity to advance cooperation between the EU and Iran, and to launch the EU-Iran dialogues on migration as well as drug related challenges.