State aid: Commission approves sixth prolongation of Irish credit union restructuring scheme
The European Commission has found the prolongation until 30 April 2018 of an Irish scheme aimed at restructuring credit unions, to be in line with EU state aid rules, and in particular the 2013 Banking Communication. The objective of the scheme is to underpin the stability and long-term viability of credit unions and the credit union sector in Ireland at large. Restructuring involves merging weaker and stronger credit unions, providing, if necessary, a capital injection to make up any shortfall in the capital reserve requirements of the merged credit union. Stabilisation involves assisting fundamentally viable credit unions that have temporarily slipped below the regulatory reserve requirements. The Commission found that the measure ensures that the beneficiaries become viable in the long-term through restructuring or merging with sound credit unions, and that they contribute to the cost of restructuring. Moreover, the impact on competition is limited because credit unions are small and do business only with members. The Commission initially authorised the scheme in October 2014. It was subsequently prolonged five times, the last time in May 2017. Until now, the Irish authorities have managed to restructure credit unions without granting any aid under this scheme. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the reference SA.49194.
Italy receives €1.2 billion from the EU Solidarity Fund – advance payments to Greece following recent earthquakes
In the coming days, Italy will receive the €1.2 billion from the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF) which the Commission had proposed in June, following the severe earthquakes that struck the country in 2016 and 2017. This unprecedented amount under the EUSF can be used to support reconstruction operations, help regenerate economic activity and cover the costs of emergency services, temporary accommodations, clean-up operations and protection measures for cultural heritage sites. It was accompanied by additional EU support measures. Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu said: “With this disbursement we are delivering on our promise to stand side by side with Italy throughout the reconstruction process. At the request of President Juncker, we are currently also reflecting on how to step up our efforts to help all our Member States deal with increasingly frequent natural disasters. We strive to provide efficient response with emergency support and contribution to long-term reconstruction efforts.” Also this week, Greece is set to receive a first payment worth €135 912 from the EUSF, after earthquakes hit the islands of Chios and Lesbos in June 2017. This advance was calculated on the basis of the preliminary assessment of the direct damage in the application received from the Greek authorities on 1 September, which found that the financial contribution from the EUSF was likely to amount to €1.35 million. In accordance with EUSF rules, the advance payment amounts to 10% of this sum. Once it has completed the assessment of the application, the Commission will propose a definitive amount of aid, to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council.
The EU steps up humanitarian support to Afghanistan
The European Commission has today released an additional €5 million in life-saving humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan as the number of displaced people and civilian casualties continues to grow. Total EU humanitarian aid for Afghanistan now amounts to €30.5 million in 2017. “Our new EU funding will reach an estimated 75,000 people and help them meet their most urgent needs, including shelter, food, protection and health care. It will boost our ongoing aid operations in the country, both in government and non-government-held areas. The European Commission will continue to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need. Security challenges for humanitarian workers to deliver aid remain a challenge, full humanitarian access is needed,” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides. The Commission continues to provide humanitarian assistance to conflict and disaster-affected communities, including support to refugees returning from Pakistan and from Iran. Today’s allocation brings the total EU aid funding for the country in the last decade to €756 million. A factsheet on the EU’s humanitarian support in Afghanistan is available here.
For 2018, funds available for Erasmus+ are expected to increase by more than €200 million euro, a rise of 8% compared to 2017.
The European Commission today published its 2018 Call for Proposals for Erasmus+, the European Union’s programme for mobility and cooperation in education, training, youth and sport. With its annual budget expected to increase by €200 million, Erasmus+ will provide an unprecedented number of opportunities for individuals and organisations in Europe and beyond. More information here
State aid: Commission approves Hungary’s €131 million investment aid to MOL petrochemical plant
The European Commission has found Hungary’s €131 million investment aid to MOL Petrolkémia Zrt plant, for its existing plant in Tiszaújváros, to be in line with EU State aid rules. Tiszaújváros is located in the Northern Hungary region, an area eligible for regional aid under the EU Treaty. The project is expected to create new direct jobs in Tiszaújváros. Thus, the Hungarian support will contribute to the development of the Northern Hungary region, whilst preserving competition in the Single Market. In particular, the investment aid granted by Hungary will support MOL’s plans to invest in total €874 million to introduce in in Tiszaújváros the production of polyols and propylene glycols (chemicals used in the production of for example certain foams, in food processing, personal care products and pharmaceuticals etc.). The Commission assessed the aid measure under the Guidelines on Regional State Aid for 2014-2020, which enable Member States to support economic development and employment in the EU’s less developed regions and to foster regional cohesion in the Single Market. The full press release is available online in EN.
Antitrust: Commission closes car air-conditioning refrigerant investigation
The European Commission has decided to close its antitrust investigation concerning the cooperation between Honeywell and DuPont (now Chemours, a spin-off unit of DuPont) on the production of a new refrigerant for use in car air-conditioning systems (R-1234yf). On 21 October 2014, the Commission adopted a Statement of Objections against both companies voicing its preliminary concerns that the cooperation between Honeywell and DuPont for the production of R-1234yf may have limited the product’s availability and technical development. Today’s closure decision has been taken after careful assessment of all the evidence in this case, together with the various submissions of the parties and other interested third parties. Furthermore, on 12 April, 18 April and 6 July 2017 respectively, the three complainants in this case, Arkema, Mexichem and the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), withdrew their complaints. The Commission will continue to monitor closely the chemicals market, including for the R-1234yf refrigerant.
State aid: Commission approves public support to promote combined transport in Italy
The European Commission has found the prolongation of an Italian scheme to encourage the shift of freight from road to rail to be in line with EU state aid rules. The measure will promote an environmentally friendlier transport mode, and thus further EU environmental and transport objectives, whilst maintaining competition in the Single Market. The aid takes the form of a subsidy to railway companies performing freight services. The subsidy will offset rail infrastructure charges that road transport operations are not subject to. The original scheme was approved in December 2016 and allowed public support to be granted until 31 December 2017. Today’s decision endorses the prolongation of the scheme for an additional period of 2 years, from 1 January 2018 until 31 December 2019, without increasing the original budget of €200 million. The Commission concluded that the scheme is compatible with EU state aid rules under the Railway Guidelines. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.48759.
State aid: Commission approves €650 million Austrian public funding to promote shift of freight from road to combined transport
The European Commission has found the prolongation of two Austrian schemes to be in line with EU State aid rules: (i) the first promotes a shift of freight transport from road to other types of transport, such as rail and inland waterways; (ii) the second, supports better connections between railways and transfer terminals. Both measures will support environmentally friendlier transport modes, and thus further EU environmental and transport objectives, while maintaining competition in the Single Market. According to the evaluation of the two initial schemes, the measures have effectively contributed to transferring freight transport from road to rail during the past five years. The two prolonged schemes will cover the period 2018 to 2022 and have a total budget of €650 million. The Commission concluded that the schemes are compatible with EU State aid rules, in particular the Commission Guidelines on State aid for railway undertakings. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case numbers SA.48390 and SA.48485.
Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum and Business Forum in preparation of the November Summit
Two events for Civil Society and Business in the Eastern Partnership will take place today until the end of the week in Tallinn, Estonia in preparation of the 5th Eastern Partnership Summit (Brussels, 24 November). The Eastern Partnership Civil Society Conference, starting already today, will serve as a platform for representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, as well as the EU Member States to discuss better governance, dialogue between governments and civil society, the use of technology to promote government transparency, and inclusive approaches to economic development. Ahead of the Forum, the High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, said: “Civil society representatives are voices against corruption and for transparency and are an essential force in our daily work on so many issues, from fighting violence against women, to improving the media environment.” Tomorrow, On the same day the 4th Eastern Partnership Business Forum will gather more than 500 business leaders, government officials and policy makers from the European Union and Eastern Partner countries to debate on the ‘Digital Economy: Innovative Platform for Transparent Borderless Business’. Ahead of the visit, Johannes Hahn Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations: “Through the EU4Business initiative the EU is providing increasing support for small businesses to grow, export, innovate and adapt to a digital economy.” Press material summarising the outcomes of the fora will be available here. Videos and photos of the visit of Commissioner Hahn attending the fora will be available on EbS.
Commissioners Avramopoulos and Jourová represent the Commission at the Western Balkans Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria
On Thursday and Friday, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos and Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender EqualityVěra Jourová will attend the annual Western Balkans Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Forum in Sofia. On Thursday Commissioner Jourová will discuss justice reform and judicial cooperation with Justice Ministers from the Western Balkans. The meeting of Justice Ministers will be concluded by a press conference at 17:45 CET (available on EbS) On Friday, Commissioner Avramopoulos will join Home Affairs Ministers to discuss current challenges related to migration, border management and security. A press conference will take place after the meeting at around 12:00 CET (available on EbS).
Migration and Security: Commissioner Avramopoulos in Sofia, Bulgaria
Ahead of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos will be in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he will meet the President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev as well as Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Vice-President Iliana Iotova and Minister of Interior Valentin Radev. Discussions will focus on migration and security. A meeting is also scheduled with Members of the Bulgarian National Assembly. A joint press briefing with Minister of Interior Radev will take place at 09:00 CET (available on EBS). The Commissioner will also participate in a Citizens’ Dialogue to discuss migration and security in the EU. The event can be followed live here from 15:00 CET.
Commissioner Navracsics to close European Youth Conference in Tallinn
Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, will be in Tallinn tomorrow to address the participants of the European Youth Conference and discuss the role of young people in shaping the future of Europe as well as youth initiatives such as the European Solidarity Corps. The event, organised by the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU, has the motto “Youth in Europe: What’s Next?”. The participants – young people, senior civil servants and representatives of EU Member States as well as relevant stakeholders – will discuss the future of EU cooperation in the youth field after 2018, including the future Structured Dialogue. The latter enables an exchange between young people and decision-makers in order to implement the priorities of EU youth policy cooperation and to make young people’s voices heard. The European Youth Conference is a headline event of each EU presidency. The Commission intends to present its proposals for the future EU Youth Strategy before summer 2018.
Commissioner King in the U.S. to discuss counter-terrorism and cybersecurity
Security Union Commissioner Julian King is in the U.S. form today until Friday, 27 October. This afternoon Commissioner King will be in New York where he will meet Vladimir Voronokov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office, and John Miller, Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Police Department. On Thursday, the Commissioner will travel to Washington D.C. where he will discuss issues relating to terrorism and cybersecurity with Gina Haspel, Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Tom Bossert, White House Homeland Security Advisor. Later in the afternoon, Commissioner King will speak at the German Marshall Fund event on “Europe’s Security Union: Unifying the fight against terrorism and cyber aggression”. The event will take place at 16:30 local time and will be streamed live on Facebook. On Friday, Commissioner King will visit the Terrorist Screening Centre (TSC) where he will meet Russ Travers, Deputy Director of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). In the afternoon, following their meeting at the G7 Interior Ministers’ he will meetElaine Duke, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).