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Brussels Weekly

COLLEGE MEETING: European Commission work program for 2020

The European Commission today adopted its work program for 2020 which sets out the actions it will take this year to translate the political guidelines of President von der Leyen into concrete benefits for society, businesses and European citizens. The driving force behind this first work program is the desire to successfully exploit the possibilities that the dual ecological and digital transition will offer. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “The Commission is committed to tackling the generational challenges facing us such as climate change, going digital and migration. It is determined to implement the Green Pact for Europe and to improve the chances of EU citizens and businesses during the digital transformation. This work program will help build a more ambitious Union. “Maros Šefčovič, Vice-President responsible for interinstitutional relations and foresight, expressed himself in these terms:” Giving life to our ambitions is a team effort between all the institutions, the Member States and the main partners . This is why the Commission’s work program also reflects the main priorities of the European Parliament and the European Council. In addition, for the first time, it provides an overview of the long-term trends that shape our economies and societies. Strategic foresight will guide our work when we develop future-proof policies that will energetically meet the needs of all Europeans and strengthen the geopolitical position of our Union. A press release and fact sheets on the work program are available online. You can watch the press conference on EbS. (For more information: Susanne Conze – Tel .: +32 229 80236)


European Commission and International Monetary Fund strengthen cooperation to support sustainable development

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, yesterday signed a new framework agreement for financial partnership, aimed at strengthening cooperation between the EU and the IMF to meet major challenges, including that of climate change, and to help countries implement the Sustainable Development Goals. Since 2016, the European Union has been the IMF’s first partner for capacity development. Welcoming the signing of the new agreement, President von der Leyen said: “The European Union and the IMF are strong partners. We share a common desire to provide solutions to global problems, particularly in Africa. The new agreement signed today will allow us to better focus on climate change and digital challenges. I am particularly grateful to Kristalina Georgieva for the driving role she played. Together, we will further strengthen our cooperation and partnership. The new agreement will promote, simplify and accelerate the conclusion of contractual arrangements for the many joint activities carried out to support good economic governance, sound management of public finances, appropriate mobilization of national revenues, institution building and, more broadly , the implementation of the 2030 sustainable development program. The full press release is available online. (For more information: Ana Pisonero-Hernandez – Tel .: +32 229 54320; Gesine Knolle – Tel .: +32 229 51594)


Read the European Commission – Daily News in full here


COLLEGE MEETING: Brexit: European Commission intensifies preparedness work and outlines contingency action plan in the event of a no deal scenario with the UK

The European Commission has today published detailed information on its ongoing preparedness and contingency work in the event of a no deal scenario in the Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom. First, the Commission has published a Communication, which outlines a limited number of contingency actions in priority areas that could be implemented if no agreement is reached with the United Kingdom. This follows a first preparedness Communication published on 19 July 2018. Secondly, the College of Commissioners has adopted two legislative proposals to amend existing EU law in the area of visas and energy efficiency to take account of the UK’s withdrawal. These targeted legislative adaptations are necessary, irrespective of the outcome of the withdrawal negotiations.  Thirdly, a notice has been published providing extensive information on the changes that will occur – in the event of no deal – for persons travelling between the EU and the UK, and vice versa, after 29 March 2019, or for businesses providing services in relation to such travel. It includes information on such things as border checks and customs controls, driving licences and pet passports, amongst others. While the European Commission is working hard for a deal, and continues to put citizens first in the negotiations, the UK’s withdrawal will undoubtedly cause disruption – for example in business supply chains – whether or not there is a deal. Contingency measures cannot remedy the full effects of this disruption. In the event of a no deal scenario, these disruptions will be even more significant and the speed of preparations would have to increase significantly. Contingency measures in narrowly defined areas may, exceptionally, be needed in order to protect the interests and the integrity of the EU. For more information, see here


Read the European Commission – Daily News in full here


EU-China Summit: deepening the strategic global partnership

Today in Beijing, the European Union and China held their 20th Summit. President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Council Donald Tusk represented the European Union at the Summit, with Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, and Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc also participating. “I have always been a strong believer in the potential of the EU-China partnership. And in today’s world that partnership is more important than ever before. Our cooperation simply makes sense”, said President Juncker. “Europe is China’s largest trading partner and China is our second largest. The trade in goods between us is worth over €1.5 billion every single day. But we also know that we can do so much more. This is why it is so important that today we have made progress on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment through a first exchange of offers on market access, and towards an agreement on Geographical Indications. That shows that we want to create more opportunities for people in China and in Europe.” In the margins of the Summit,President Juncker also participated in the EU-China Business Roundtable. “The EU is promoting multilateralism, stepping up to global challenges and defending our interests in the world. We will continue to defend a rules-based, open and fair trade. L’Europe est ouverte, mais pas offerte. Let’s go forward together, promoting peace, growth and security.” The full speech is available here (in French).The EU and China have agreed a Joint Summit Statement, illustrating the breadth and depth of the relationship and the positive impact that such a partnership can have, in particular when it comes to addressing global and regional challenges such as climate change, common security threats, the promotion of multilateralism, and the promotion of open and fair trade. In addition to the Joint Statement, a number of other concrete deliverables were agreed at the Summit, including: a Leaders’ Statement on Climate Change and Clean Energy; an exchange of offers on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment; a Partnership Agreement on Oceans; a Memorandum of Understanding on Circular Economy Cooperation; a Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Cooperation on Emissions Trading; agreement to conclude before the end of October, if possible, the negotiations on an Agreement on Geographical Indications; an Action Plan Concerning China-EU Customs Cooperation on Intellectual Property Rights (2018-2020); a Memorandum of Understanding between the European Investment Fund and the Silk Road Forum confirming the first co-investment carried out under the recently established China-EU Co-Investment Fund; and a Strategic Administrative Cooperation Arrangement and an Action Plan (2018-2020) between the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the General Administration of China Customs. The outcomes of the 20th EU-China Summit can be found online in a full press release. A factsheet on EU-China relations is available online.

TRADE: Commission unveils new tool to show EU towns and cities exporting to Japan

Interested in what opportunities the EU’s trade deal with Japan might bring to your country or your home town? Today, the European Commission published EU-Japan trade in your town, an interactive map showing towns and cities around Europe that export to Japan. For example, Cork in Ireland ships pharmaceuticals, dairy products and chemicals to Japan, while the town of Páty in Hungary sends pork, self-checkout terminals and manicure products. The tool includes infographics for each EU country, detailing the number of exporting companies, the number of jobs supported by exports to Japan, a list of products exported from each member state, and other import/export statistics. Today’s publication follows a similar tool, CETA in your town, which showcases a sample of EU companies exporting to Canada. On Tuesday 17 July, EU leaders and Prime Minister Abe will sign the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement at the EU-Japan summit. The deal will now be considered and voted upon by the European Parliament and the Japanese Diet. If these two parliaments ratify it before the end of this year, the agreement could be in place by early 2019.


State aid: Commission adopts Best Practices Code to streamline and speed up State aid control

The European Commission has adopted a new Best Practices Code for State aid control. Over recent years, the Commission has implemented a major reform package, State Aid Modernisation, which allows Member States to quickly implement State aid that fosters investment, economic growth and job creation, leaving the Commission to focus its State aid control on cases most likely to distort competition in the Single Market.  These efforts to focus and modernise EU State aid rules and improve the Commission’s working methods are continuing – in the context of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, the Commission has proposed to simplify co-investment involving both EU funding and Member State investment, through a revision of the EU State aid Enabling Regulation. To make the most of these modernised State aid rules, the Best Practices Code for State aid control gives guidance on how the Commission, Member States and other stakeholders work together in State aid procedures. This covers, for example, how to ensure that complex State aid cases are handled most effectively and how complaints about State aid are followed up. The Best Practices Code, which has been discussed extensively with Member States and stakeholders, explains how State aid procedures are carried out, and sets out the steps the Commission is taking to increase the speed, transparency and predictability of these procedures. The text of the Best Practices Code for State aid control is available on the Commission’s website. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The new Best Practices Code for State aid control will benefit Member States, businesses and stakeholders by increasing the efficiency and speed of State aid control, in particular by ensuring earlier and better cooperation between Member States and the Commission.”  Read the full press release




EU consumer rules: The European Commission and EU consumer authorities push Airbnb to comply

The European Commission and EU consumer authorities and are calling on Airbnb to align their terms and conditions with EU consumer rules and be transparent on their presentation of prices.Commissioner Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: “More and more consumers book their holiday accommodation online and this sector has brought many new opportunities to holidaymakers. But popularity cannot be an excuse for not complying with EU consumer rules. Consumers must easily understand what for and how much they are expected to pay for the services and have fair rules e.g. on cancellation of the accommodation by the owner. I expect Airbnb to follow up swiftly with the right solutions.” Airbnb’s current pricing presentation and a number of its terms do not comply with the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, the Unfair Contract Terms Directive, and the Regulation on the jurisdiction in civil and commercial matters. Therefore the European consumer authorities and the Commission have demanded from Airbnb a number of changes. The company has until the end of August to present their proposals. Once Airbnb proposes solutions to rectify this, the Commission and the EU consumer authorities will review the proposed changes. If they are not considered satisfactory, Airbnb could face an enforcement action. A press release and the authorities’ common position are available online. Commissioner Jourová will give a press statement today at 12:00, which can be followed live on EbS.



Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into Siemens proposed acquisition of Alstom

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess the proposed acquisition of Alstom by Siemens, under the EU Merger Regulation. Siemens and Alstom are global leaders in rail transportation. Both companies have a wide product portfolio and compete in tenders for the manufacture and supply of high speed, mainline and urban rolling stock (trains) as well as mainline and urban signalling solutions. Signalling solutions include signalling systems that provide safety controls on mainline and urban rail network. The proposed transaction would combine the two largest suppliers of rolling stock and signalling solutions in the European Economic Area (EEA) not only in terms of size of the combined operations, but also in terms of geographic footprint of their activities. At this stage, the Commission is concerned that the proposed transaction would reduce competition in the markets where the merged entity would be active and, in particular, that the proposed transaction could lead to higher prices, less choice and less innovation due to reduced competitive pressure in rolling stock and signalling tenders. This would be to the detriment of train operators, infrastructure managers and ultimately European passengers who use trains and metros on a daily basis. The Commission will now carry out an in-depth investigation into the effects of the transaction to determine whether its initial competition concerns are confirmed. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Trains and the signalling equipment that guide them are essential for transport in Europe. The Commission will investigate whether the proposed acquisition of Alstom by Siemens would deprive European rail operators of a choice of suppliers and innovative products, and lead to higher prices, which could ultimately harm the millions of Europeans who use rail transportation every day for work or leisure.” Read the full press release


Juncker Plan: €68 million for industrial innovation at Arctic white goods factory in Romania

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a €68 million loan supported by the Juncker Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) to white goods producer Arctic, in Romania. The loan will finance the construction of a large-scale washing machine production plant featuring advanced manufacturing technologies, including Internet of Things applications, and the latest automation processes. The new production plant will make Romania a white goods production hub for Europe, stimulating new investments. Commissioner for Regional policy Corina Creţu said: “This project embodies Romanian excellence in terms of innovation and advanced technology. The Investment Plan for Europe is giving Arctic the financial boost it needs to expand beyond local markets and create quality, sustainable jobs in Romania. This is a concrete example of successful industrial modernisation, supported by the EU. I congratulate the EIB and Arctic on this great deal.” Full press release is found here. For all the latest EFSI results see the Investment Plan website 


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Hogg Robinson Group by GBT

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Hogg Robinson Group Plc (‘HRG’) of the UK by GBT III B.V. (‘GBT’) of the Netherlands, a full-function joint venture controlled by American Express Company of the US and Qatar Holding LLC of Qatar. Both GBT and HRG are globally active in the provision of business travel agency services. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, because, although GBT and HRG are both large agencies offering a broad range of services to international corporate customers, a number of strong players would continue to constrain the combined entity post-transaction, preventing it from raising its prices or worsening the quality of its services. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8862.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of DESFA by Snam

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of DESFA of Greece by Snam of Italy. DESFA operates the high-pressure pipeline grid and a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Greece. Snam is the main gas transmission system operator in Italy. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, because the companies are not active in the same geographic area. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8953.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Mehiläinen Holding by CVC Capital Partners

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Mehiläinen Holding AB of Sweden by CVC Capital Partners SICAV-FIS S.A. (“CVC”) of Luxembourg. Mehiläinen Holding is the holding company of Mehiläinen Oy, which provides healthcare and social care services in Finland. CVC manages investment funds and platforms. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, because there are no horizontal and limited vertical overlaps between the activities of the companies. 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.8975.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Partner in Pet Foods by Cinven

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Partner in Pet Foods Hungaria Kft of Hungary by funds belonging to the Cinven group of the UK. Partner in Pet Foods manufactures and supplies private label and branded industrial pet food in Europe. Cinven is a private equity firm. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, because Cinven does not control any company that is active in the same markets, or has any vertical or conglomerate link with markets in which Partner in Pet Foods is active. 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.8936.




Competitiveness Council: Croatia signs declaration on artificial intelligence, all EU Member States now working on coordinated plan

Today, in the margins of the informal Council meeting of Competitiveness ministers in Vienna, Croatia will become the last Member State to sign the Declaration of Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence (AI), thus strengthening the European approach presented by the Commission in April 2018. One objective of the Declaration is to create synergies across relevant funding schemes within Europe. The Commission and Member States are now working on a coordinated plan in line with the call by European leaders on 28 June 2018 (European Council conclusions). Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska participate in today’s sessions, focusing on the role of AI in transforming European industry, the importance of digital skills and making the right investments. Commissioner Moedas will participate in tomorrow’s discussion on the proposal to invest €100 billion over 2021-2027 in research and innovation through the funding programme Horizon Europe. This discussion also builds on the European Council meeting from 28 June, where EU leaders agreed on further developing high-quality research and its transformation into new products, services and business models. The informal Competitiveness Council follows just weeks after the Commission proposed under the next long-term EU budget to invest €9.2 billion in the first ever digital programme Digital Europe, including €2.5 billion to help companies across Europe to adopt AI. Press conference can be followed on EbS.


Commissioner Hahn visits Skopje and Tirana

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations will visit Skopje and Tirana tomorrow 17 July. The visit follows the June Council Conclusions setting out the path towards opening of accession negotiations in June 2019 with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and with Albania. In this context, Commissioner Hahn will officially launch the preparatory work. In Skopje, the Commissioner will meet with key interlocutors including Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Speaker Talat Xhaferi, representatives of political parties and will address the National Council for European Integration, which also includes civil society, business and other stakeholders. In Tirana Commissioner Hahn will meet with President Ilir Meta, Prime Minister Edi Rama and representatives of the government of Albania. Photos and video of the mission will be available on EbS.


Commissioner King in Cyprus to discuss security and the fight against terrorism

Tomorrow Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King will be in Nicosia, Cyprus where he will meet the Minister of Justice and Public Order Mr Ionas Nicolaou to discuss security related issues, in particular the fight against terrorism and organised crime as well as cyber security. Commissioner King will also participate in a joint meeting with the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign and European Affairs Mr Yiorgos Lillikas and the Deputy Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Legal Affairs Mr Demetris Dimitriou. Later, he will discuss organised crime and information exchange with the Cypriot Chief of Police Mr Zacharias Chrysostomou. Commissioner King will also visit the Cybercrime Centre. A joint press point by Commissioner King and Minister Nicolaou will take place at around 12.30 (CET).


This Trade Statitcal Guide contain selected tables and graphs that utline the current state of and recent developments in the European Union’s foreign trade, i.e. its trade with the rest of the world.  Read in full here



COLLEGE MEETING: Commission discusses priority files ahead of the European Council

Today the College of Commissioners met in Brussels where a number of important issues were discussed in the context of the upcoming European Council. President Juncker debriefed the College about his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in Meseberg yesterday, where he said: “I am very satisfied with the French-German paper, which builds on the Commission’s proposals. Overall, this is an important contribution to European progress in many areas.” (Watch the doorstep with President Juncker in Meseberg on EbS). As a follow-up to the Meseberg meeting, the European Commission has convened an informal working meeting on migration and asylum issues, which will take place this Sunday, 24 June in Brussels. On the College agenda was also the Stability Support Programme for Greece on which discussions were held ahead of the Eurogroup meeting on 21 June, and the conclusion of the Programme in August this year, as well as on the state of play of the proposals on the Economic and Monetary Union ahead of the European Council next week. In this context, today the Commission published a paper on deepening the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) which forms the basis of the Commission’s contribution to the European Council discussions on the EMU. Tomorrow at 10:30 CET, Commissioner Avramopoulos will present the Commission’s contribution to the European Council with regards to migration, and on Monday 25 June, Commissioner Oettinger will cover the Commission’s contribution to the debate on the EU’s next long-term budget. The Commission’s Chief Negotiator for Article 50 negotiations with the UK, Michel Barnier, also attended the College meeting today to provide an overview of the latest developments in the negotiations ahead of the European Council and following the publication of a joint statement by the European Commission and the United Kingdom, outlining the progress that has been achieved on the terms of the draft Withdrawal Agreement since the negotiation round that took place on 16-19 March 2018. First Vice-President Timmermans debriefed the College on the latest state of play of the rule of law dialogue with Poland, following his visit to Warsaw this week where he had met with the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Monday. While a number of measures have been taken by the Polish authorities in the past months, they are not sufficient to eliminate the clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law, leaving key concerns of the Commission unaddressed. While the dialogue will continue, the next step is the hearing in the General Affairs Council on 26 June where the European Commission will reiterate its position as laid down in the reasoned proposal of December 2017. Watch the read-out of the College meeting by Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Moscovici live on EbS. Today the College is also receiving the Prime Minister of France, Edouard Philippe. Following a bilateral meeting between President Juncker and Prime Minister Philippe, a working lunch will take place. A press point by President Juncker and Prime Minister Philippe will take place at 14:30 CET which can be followed live on EbS+.


TRADE: EU adopts rebalancing measures in reaction to US steel and aluminium tariffs

The European Commission adopted today the regulation putting in place the EU’s rebalancing measures in response to the US tariffs on steel and aluminium. The measures will immediately target a list of products worth €2.8 billion and will come into effect on Friday 22 June. Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “We did not want to be in this position. However, the unilateral and unjustified decision of the US to impose steel and aluminium tariffs on the EU means that we are left with no other choice. The rules of international trade, which we have developed over the years hand in hand with our American partners, cannot be violated without a reaction from our side. Our response is measured, proportionate and fully in line with WTO rules. Needless to say, if the US removes its tariffs, our measures will also be removed.” By putting these duties in place the EU is exercising its rights under the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). US imports that will now face an extra duty in the EU include steel and aluminium products, agricultural goods and a combination of various other products. The list of products is the same as in the previous Implementing Regulation of 16 May and as notified to the WTO on 18 May. EU Member States have expressed their unanimous support for this approach. Today’s decision is part of the three-pronged EU’s response that also includes the launch on 1 June of legal proceedings against the US in the WTO and safeguard action to protect the European market from disruptions caused by the diversion of steel from the US market. For more information, see the press release. The implementing regulation triggering the balancing measures will be available in the EU Official Journal tomorrow.


Eurostat: Price levels varied by almost one to three across the EU Member States

In 2017, price levels for consumer goods and services differed widely in the European Union (EU). Denmark (142% of the EU average) had the highest price level, followed by Luxembourg (127%), Ireland and Sweden (both 125%), Finland (122%) and the United Kingdom (117%). At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest price level was found in Bulgaria (48%), while Romania (52%) and Poland (56%) were just above 50% of the average. In other words, price levels for consumer goods and services in the EU varied by almost one to three between the cheapest and the most expensive Member State. A Eurostat press release is available here.

The  Energy Union gets simplified, robust and transparent governance: Commission welcomes ambitious agreementThis morning, an ambitious political agreement on the governance of the Energy Union was reached today between negotiators from the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. With today’s deal the Member States of the European Union will be equipped to govern the Energy Union – this common project aimed at ensuring that all Europeans have access to secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy. This new governance system will enable the European Union to realise its goals of becoming world leader on renewables, putting energy efficiency first, provide a fair deal for consumers and set the course for the EU’s strategy long-term greenhouse gas reduction. By building trust and consensus between the Member States on energy and climate matters the governance will set the best way to achieve the energy transition and the modernisation of the EU economy and industry. The governance of the Energy Union will be instrumental to enable the political process required to deliver what 73% of EU citizens want: a common energy policy for all EU Member States. Today’s deal means that four out of the eight legislative proposals in the 2016 Clean Energy for All Europeans package have been agreed by the co-legislators, after yesterday’s agreement on an a new energy efficiency target for 2030 of 32.5% (see STATEMEMT/18/3997) and the agreements on 14 June and 14 May on the revised Renewable Energy Directive and the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive respectively. These four pieces of legislation complement the revision of the Emissions Trading System, the Effort Sharing Regulation and the Land Use Change and Forestry Regulation that were also adopted earlier this year. Thus, progress and momentum towards completing the Energy Union and combatting climate change are well under way. The Juncker Commission, working under its political priority “a resilient Energy Union and a forward-looking climate change policy“, is delivering. Read the full IP/18/4229.


COLLEGE MEETING: State aid: Commission finds Luxembourg gave illegal tax benefits to Engie; has to recover around €120 million

The European Commission has found that Luxembourg allowed two Engie group companies to avoid paying taxes on almost all their profits for about a decade, without any valid justification. This is illegal under EU State aid rules because it gives Engie an undue advantage. Luxembourg must now recover about €120 million in unpaid tax. In 2008 and 2010, respectively, Engie implemented two complex intra-group financing structures for two Engie group companies in Luxembourg, Engie LNG Supply and Engie Treasury Management. These involved triangular transactions between Engie LNG Supply and Engie Treasury Management, respectively, and two other Engie group companies in Luxembourg. The Commission concluded that Luxembourg’s tax treatment of these financing structures did not reflect economic reality. Tax rulings issued by Luxembourg endorsed an inconsistent treatment of the same transaction both as debt and as equity. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the tax rulings granted a selective economic advantage to Engie by allowing the group to pay less tax than other companies subject to the same national tax rules. In fact, the rulings enabled Engie to avoid paying any tax on 99% of the profits generated by Engie LNG Supply and Engie Treasury Management in Luxembourg. Today’s decision follows an in-depth investigation launched in September 2016. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Luxembourg gave illegal tax benefits to Engie. Its tax rulings have endorsed two complex financing structures put in place by Engie that treat the same transaction in an inconsistent way, both as debt and as equity. This artificially reduced the company’s tax burden. As a result, Engie paid an effective corporate tax rate of 0.3% on certain profits in Luxembourg for about a decade. This selective tax treatment is illegal.” The full press release is available online here.


COLLEGE MEETING: Commission appoints new Director-General of the European Anti-Fraud Office and a Director to its employment department

Following a selection procedure involving the European Parliament and the Council, the European Commission has decided today to appoint, with effect of 1 August 2018, Mr Ville Itälä as new Director-General of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). Mr Itälä, a Finnish national, is a lawyer by training and has been a Member of the European Court of Auditors since 2013 and before that a Member of the European Parliament (from 2004 to 2012) and Minister of Interior in Finland (from 2000 to 2003). He also has experience as an acting police commissioner and prosecutor in Finland. The Commission has also decided to appoint, with effect of 1 July 2018, Ms Manuela Geleng to the position of Director for Skills in its Employment, Social affairs and Inclusion department (DG EMPL). Ms Geleng, an Italian national, joined the Commission in 1995 and has been a Head of Unit since 2009. She is currently acting Director for Social Affairs and Head of Unit for the Social Investment Strategy in DG EMPL but also Head of DG EMPL’s Task Force on migrants and refugees. Previously, she held various positions in the Commission’s trade department (DG TRADE) and worked for the United National Development Programme.


Capital Markets Union: Commission welcomes progress on key initiatives

The Commission welcomes the progress made by Member States yesterday on two important files, which will contribute to drive forward the Capital Markets Union (CMU). The Council of the European Union reached an agreement on the cross-border distribution of investment funds package and the pan-European personal pension product (PEPP). This provides the Council Presidency with the mandate to start trilogues negotiations with the European Parliament. The investment funds package contributes to further reducing barriers to the cross-border distribution of funds by improving the transparency of marketing rules and regulatory fees, and by harmonising national practises. The proposal on personal pensions will give European consumers more choice when saving for retirement. PEPP savers should benefit from EU-wide portability, transparency of costs and the possibility to switch providers. Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “I welcome the progress made on these key consumer and investor proposals – they mark an important milestone in building the Capital Markets Union. We need to knock down barriers to cross-border investment to strengthen the Single Market. This will ultimately benefit consumers by boosting choice and competition. On PEPP, it is important to preserve the pan-European nature of our proposal. I trust the negotiations will uphold the key features of these Commission proposals.”


Poland: EU funds invest in upgrades of public transport and water treatment in Łódź and Poznań

€94 million from the Cohesion Fund is invested to modernise the public transport system in Łódź, Poland’s third largest city. New kilometres of tram lines are constructed, existing tram depots are renovated, and 30 new trams are purchased. The investments will make the network safer, the air cleaner and will improve traffic flows, for the direct benefit of the city’s 700,000 inhabitants. Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Crețu, said: “From transport to water networks, but also health, innovation and energy infrastructure, Cohesion Policy investments contribute to improving people’s everyday life in Poland and it will keep on doing just that in the next long term EU budget.” Further €55 million from the Cohesion Fund is invested to upgrade the drinking water and waste water system in Poznań, in the West of Poland. Two wastewater treatment plants and several kilometres of sewerage networks are renovated, as well as 126 kilometres of sewerage newly built to connect more than 14,000 inhabitants to the networks. In addition, a drinking water station is modernised to ensure the quality and safety of fresh water supply for a third of Poznan’s more than half a million inhabitants.

 20 years of Copernicus, the EU’s leading provider of Earth observation data across the globe

Commissioners Elżbieta Bieńkowska (Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs) and Tibor Navracsics (responsible for the Commission’s Joint Research Centre) are in Baveno, Italy, today and tomorrow to mark the 20th anniversary of Copernicus. In 1998, a manifesto was signed in Baveno proposing to create a European environment monitoring programme. Today Copernicus is a symbol of Europe’s space power. The seven satellites currently in orbit give access to tens of terabytes of free data every day which is used to help save lives at sea, improve our response to natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, forest fires or floods, and allow farmers to better manage their crops. Space is an enabler of the data and app economy. That is why Commissioner Bieńkowska will announce the launch of the Copernicus Data and Information Access Services (DIAS) – industry-led platforms to increase data access by innovative start-ups and other users who will be able to discover, process and download data more easily and less costly. Commissioners Bieńkowska and Navracsics will then visit the Ispra site of theJRC, which supports the Copernicus programme and provides products and services to policy makers based on data generated by satellites. Copernicus covers six thematic areas: land monitoringmarine monitoringatmosphere monitoringclimate changeemergency management response and security. Under the €16 billion EU Space Programme beyond 2020, the Commission proposes to expand these existing services to meet emerging needs, such as CO2 monitoring and polar missions to help fight climate change. More information is available in a news item and two factsheets on the history and the benefits of Copernicus. The speeches by the Commissioners during the official celebratory event tonight will be transmitted tomorrow on EbS+ at 9h30.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Cisco’s Service Provider Video Software and Solutions business by Permira

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of the Service Provider Video Software and Solutions (“SPVSS”) business of Cisco Systems, Inc of the US by Permira Holdings Limited (“Permira”) of the UK. Cisco’s SPVSS business supplies digital technology and services, including video processing and recording solutions and cloud-based platform services, to digital pay-TV service providers and content providers. Permira is a private equity firm providing investment management services and controlling a number of portfolio companies in a variety of sectors. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because there are no overlaps 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.8945.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over the joint venture JVCO by HSBC Holdings plc and Global Payments Inc

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control over JVCO, a joint venture of Mexico, by HSBC Holdings plc. of the UK and Global Payments Inc. of the US. JVCO provides merchant acquiring services in Mexico. HSBC provides banking, insurance, asset management and global liquidity services. Global Payment provides services related to card payment processing. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns because JVCO 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.8901.


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over South Staffordshire by Arjun Infrastructure Partners and Mitsubishi

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of South Staffordshire plc (“SSF”) by Arjun Infrastructure Partners Limited (“AIP”), both of the UK, and Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan. SSF, which is currently jointly controlled by Mitsubishi and KKR, is an integrated services group active in the areas of water supply and related services. AIP is an independent infrastructure investment advisory company. Mitsubishi is a global integrated trading company, which develops and operates businesses across a variety of industries. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, because neither of the parent companies is active in the same or related markets as SSF. 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.8920.



Joint Statement on World Refugee Day 2018

On the occasion of World Refugee Day, Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, and Vera Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, made the following statement:“Every minute, every day, nearly 31 people are forcibly displaced. Today, more than 68.5 million people have been forced to leave their homes due to conflicts and violence, persecution, natural disasters or the very real consequences of climate change – 25.4 million of them are refugees. More than 67 years after the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees, its international principles remain more valid than ever. These principles are enshrined in the EU’s asylum acquis, and the EU remains committed to continue standing up for those who are in need of help. As a global player, we are working to tackle and solve the main crises through diplomatic means. As the leading global aid donor in the world, we provide humanitarian assistance and support to refugees, asylum seekers, displaced people, inside and outside Europe. We have shown unprecedented support […], and we continue to provide protection to those in need: in 2017 alone, EU Member States granted protection to more than 538 000 people. […] In this endeavour we work hand in hand with our partners around the world, certain that only a global response can match the challenge ahead. To this end we are building an ever closer relation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, responding to the plight of refugees worldwide and developing innovative solutions. […] These very same principles of solidarity, shared responsibility, multilateralism and engagement will be guiding us towards the adoption of the UN Global Compact on Refugees later this year. […] We must continue our work together with our Member States to establish more legal and safe pathways and close the dangerous and irregular migration routes. […] Member States have committed to resettle more than 50,000 of the most vulnerable persons and provide them with a new home in the EU. We must also reach, without delay, an agreement on the reform our Common European Asylum System based on the principles of responsibility and solidarity. […] In times of increasing divisive rhetoric against vulnerable people fleeing war and persecution, the EU is and will continue to protect those in need, and we will continue to endeavour to bring stability where there is conflict.” Read the full statement here.



Vice-President Šefčovič attends largest trade fairs for solar and battery technology in Europe

On 21 June, Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič will attend “Intersolar Europe” in Munich, the world’s leading exhibition for the solar industry, as well as “Electrical Energy Storage Europe”, Europe’s largest exhibition for batteries and energy storage systems. He will deliver an opening speech at the High Level Industrial Forum, outlining the EU’s vision as well as joint actions that foster the clean energy transition and innovation. Vice-President Šefčovič will highlight the recent agreement on a binding renewable energy target of 32% by 2030 (see STATEMENT/18/4155), in particular, as a clear signal to industry, investors and the global climate action community. This will greatly contribute to the Commission’s political priority as expressed by President Juncker in 2014 for the European Union to become the world number one in renewables. He will also reiterate the Commission’s commitment to create an innovative, sustainable battery ecosystem in Europe, materialised in first tangible results under the industry-led European Battery Alliance (see Third Mobility Package IP/18/3708 and Factsheet). More information about the programs is available here and here.


Commissioners Hahn and Gabriel in Belarus to participate in the Eastern Partnership Informal Dialogue

Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel will be in Minsk, Belarus, on 21-22 June to participate in the 10th Eastern Partnership Informal Partnership Dialogue. They will discuss cooperation within the “20 Deliverables for 2020” following the Eastern Partnership Summit in November last year as well as how to step up cooperation in the area of digital economy with the Minsters of Foreign Affairs and Ministers in charge of the digital agenda from the six Eastern Partners – ArmeniaAzerbaijanBelarusGeorgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. On 21 June, the Commissioners will meet with Minister of Communications and Informatisation of the Republic of Belarus, Sergey Popkov, to discuss ways to cooperate in the digital area and, in particular, in the area of cybersecurity resilience, and thereafter will participate in a plenary session on promoting broadband connectivity and tackling roaming tariffs in the region. On Friday, Commissioner Hahn together with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Vladimir Makei, will take part in a plenary session on the state-of-play of the Eastern Partnership and the External Investment Plan. During his visit he will also have bilateral meetings with President of the Republic of Belarus, Aleksander Lukashenko, Mr Makei, Mr Popkov and will meet with civil society representatives from the economy and digital economy sectors. Photos and videos of the visit will be available on EbS.


Commissioners Thyssen, Jourová and Andriukaitis participate in Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Council

Tomorrow 21 and Friday 22 June, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourová and Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis will participate in the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Council (EPSCO). On Thursday, Ministers will discuss the Commission’s proposals on the revision of the rules on the coordination of social security systems, the Directive on transparent and predictable working conditions and on the Directive for a better balance between private life and professional career, the Commission’s so-called Work-Life Balance proposal. Employment and social policy Ministers will also hold a policy debate on the 2018 European Semester, including the country-specific recommendations, and they will discuss progress reports on the Commission’s proposal for a European Labour Authority and the Equal Treatment Directive. Finally, Ministers are expected to adopt conclusions on the future of work, the free movement of workers and early childhood development policies as a tool to reduce poverty and promote social inclusion. A press conference with Commissioners Thyssen and Jourová will take place at the end of the first EPSCO-day, around 17:00. The press conference will be live streamed here. On Friday 22 June, the Ministers intend to hold a policy debate on the Commission proposal for a Regulation on Health Technology Assessment. The Bulgarian Presidency of the EU has included a debate on the future of EU cooperation on health in the wider context of the future of Europe and the new Multiannual Financial Framework to explore how Member States could better drive the agenda in the area of health. Finally, it is expected that the Ministers will adopt conclusions on “Healthy nutrition for children: The healthy future of Europe“. Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, will address all meetings as well as a couple of other agenda points under “Any Other Business” (AOBs), including the presentation of the Commission Communication and proposal for a Council Recommendation on strengthened cooperation against vaccine preventable diseases. The EPSCO is expected to conclude its two day meeting with a press conference on Friday 22 June, around 14:00, where Commissioner Andriukaitis will represent the Commission.


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