European solidarity on Energy: Synchronisation of the Baltic States’ electricity network with the European system strengthens security of supply
Today at a special ceremony in Brussels, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, together with the President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė, the Prime Minister of Estonia Jüri Ratas, the Prime Minister of Latvia Māris Kučinskis and the Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki will sign the Political Roadmap on the synchronisation of the Baltic States’ electricity networks with the continental European network. This follows the meeting on 22 March 2018, where President Juncker and the same Leaders gave the synchronisation project a renewed impetus. President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Since the beginning of our mandate my Commission has been committed to have full integration of the Baltic States grids with the rest of Europe. It is our duty and a question of necessity for the Baltic States and for the Union. In this Roadmap we set the target date of 2025 for the full synchronisation. When people are in sync, things work out well. Today we are witnessing a project where we decided to work together and in sync towards a common goal. With patience, hard work and a spirit of compromise we managed to find European solutions that are built on solidarity and strengthen our Union.” The synchronisation of the Baltic States with the European electricity system is a cornerstone and one of the most emblematic projects of the Energy Union and a concrete expression of solidarity in energy security. The synchronisation process is crucial to complete the integration of the Baltic States with the European energy system. It will constitute a major contribution to the unity and energy security of the European Union. The signing ceremony will take place at 14:30 CET, IP/18/4284 and MEMO/18/4285 will be available.
DiscoverEU: 15,000 young people can prepare to set off on their travels around the EU this summer
Under the first round of the DiscoverEU initiative launched by the European Commission, more than 100,000 young people from all Member States applied during a two-week period which closed on 26 June at 12:00. The final list of winners was confirmed yesterday (27 June) in accordance with the award criteria announced. Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: “I am delighted that 15,000 young people will very shortly be receiving the happy news of their successful bids for a DiscoverEU travel pass. I am confident that their experiences this summer will make a positive change in their lives. The interest in this initiative from young people across Europe has been enormous, and I hope many more of them will make use of this travel opportunity later this year and beyond.” The 15,000 recipients will now be contacted so they can book their trips. They will be travelling, either alone or in groups of a maximum of five people, for up to 30 days, visiting between one and four European destinations outside their home country. All trips will start between 9 July and 30 September 2018. As a general rule, the young people will be travelling by rail, with alternative modes of transport used in exceptional cases. As 2018 is the European Year of Cultural Heritage, those travelling will have the chance to participate in the events being organised in the framework of the Year during the summer period. A second application round with up to 10,000 tickets will take place in autumn 2018. A press release is published online.
Capital Markets Union: Public hearing on how to improve consumers’ access to investment products
Tomorrow, the Commission will host a public hearing on how to improve the functioning of EU’s capital markets for the benefit of consumers and individual investors. Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, will open the event. Fostering retail investments is one of the key objectives of the Capital Markets Union Action Plan launched by the Commission in 2015, which included several actions to address the challenges of individuals investing in products such as securities, mutual funds, investment-based insurance products and private pensions. Today’s public hearing will give participants from consumer organisations, the industry, representatives of the Member States and supervisory authorities, the opportunity to share their views on how to enhance the functioning of those markets. The public hearing is also an occasion to discuss the findings of the recent study “Distribution systems of retail investment products across the European Union“ published by the Commission last April, which identified a series obstacles that EU consumers face when buying investment products. The event will be web streamed here. A report following the conclusion of the event will be published online here.
Mergers: Commission clears Zodiac and Fluidra pool equipment joint venture, subject to conditions
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed creation of a joint venture between the swimming pool equipment businesses of Zodiac and Fluidra. The approval is conditional on the divestment of most of Fluidra’s robotic pool cleaner business. Zodiac and Fluidra are both active throughout Europe in swimming pool equipment products, mainly for residential use. The Commission’s investigation focused on the companies’ overlapping activities in swimming pool cleaning, water treatment and heating equipment: i) For robotic pool cleaners, the Commission found that the proposed transaction, as initially notified, would have significantly reduced competition. The Commission also found that it is particularly difficult to enter the robotic pool cleaners market. The Commission, therefore, had preliminary concerns that the transaction may have resulted in higher prices and reduced choice for European consumers; ii) For swimming pool water treatment, heating equipment, and other products where Zodiac has a more limited presence, such as pool pumps and filters, the Commission found no competition concerns. To address the Commission’s competition concerns, the two companies offered to divest Fluidra’s Israeli based subsidiary Aquatron Robotic Technology Ltd., which manufactures and supplies robotic pool cleaners worldwide. This will ensure the viability of the business. Following an extensive market test, the Commission found that the commitments address the identified competition concerns and concluded that the proposed transaction, as modified by the commitments, would raise no competition concerns. A full press release is available here
Mergers: Commission clears the acquisition of A. Schulman by LyondellBasell Industries N.V.
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of sole control over A. Schulman (“Schulman”) of the US by LyondellBasell Industries N.V. (“LyondellBasell”) of the Netherlands. Schulman is an international supplier of high-performance plastic compounds, composites and resins. LyondellBasell is a global plastics, chemicals and refining company operating throughout the petrochemical production chain. Both companies are active in the supply of polypropylene compounds globally, including Europe. Following its market investigation, the Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns given the limited position of Schulman and the alternative suppliers that will remain on this market. The Commission also concluded that the vertical relationships between the companies’ activities do not lead to competition concerns because of the remaining alternative suppliers active on the relevant markets. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8877.
Statement by Commissioners Bulc and Arias Cañete on the rules of the first-ever global scheme on aviation emissions
The European Commission welcomes that the International Civil Aviation Organization Council (ICAO) yesterday endorsed the key rules of a Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation that will tackle CO2 emissions in the international aviation sector. Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc and Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said, “This agreement sets the rules needed for airlines to monitor and report their emissions from 2019. (…). Thanks to these commitments airlines will be contributing to tackle climate change in the first-ever global scheme to reduce aviation emissions. We have passed the point of no return. Sustainability is finally becoming the way we fly! It is an important step forward showing the shared commitment to implement the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation agreed in 2016 and address aviation emissions. Without any action CO2 emissions by aviation are set to grow by up to 300% by 2050. Action by the aviation sector to reduce its carbon footprint is also a first step to reach the objectives of the Paris Agreement and keep global warming well below 2°C.The European Union and its Member States played a central role in securing this deal. This is another concrete illustration of European unity and of the global leadership of Europe in the fight against climate change.” The full statement is available here.
Commissioner Arias Cañete to discuss progress in regional energy cooperation in Central and South East Europe
On 29 June, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete will take part in the fifth Central and South-Eastern European Energy Connectivity (CESEC) Ministerial meeting, taking place in Sofia, Bulgaria. CESEC aims to strengthen energy solidarity and enable a safer and sustainable energy supply for citizens and businesses across the region in the field of gas, electricity, renewables and energy efficiency. On the agenda, several ceremonies will mark the start of investment and works on important infrastructure links for the region: the Greece-Bulgaria gas Interconnector (IGB), the Romanian section of the Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary-Austria (BRUA) transmission system project, and the Cernavoda-Stalpu power line in Romania. Ministers will also discuss future regional cooperation in the areas of electricity, renewables and energy efficiency and how to best steer the clean energy transition in the region. Ahead of the Ministerial, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: “Today we celebrate significant steps reached in some key CESEC priority projects, both in gas and electricity; this is tangible evidence of the concrete benefits for security of supply and diversification brought about by cooperation in the region. Steering the clean energy transition in the region will also be an increasing focus of CESEC. With recent landmark agreements on some of the key elements of the Clean Energy for all Europeans package, now is the time to seize the opportunities from the ongoing energy transition for Central and South East Europe by tapping its huge renewables and energy efficiency potential.”