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Daily News 

17 / 03 / 2017


EU scales-up its response to famine and drought affected countries in Horn of Africa with an additional €165 million

Today HRVP Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Neven Mimica are on an official visit to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During this mission, the Commission has announced additional EU support of €165 millionto respond to the crises in South Sudan, Somalia and its neighbouring countries, during an official visit to the African Union in Addis Ababa. From this package of support, €100 million will be allocated to respond to the severe crisis causes by the violent conflict in South Sudan to provide lifesaving assistance to vulnerable people in South Sudan and neighbouring countries. The second part of the package, in the amount of €65 million, is planned to respond to the serious droughts in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Commissioner Mimica said: "The sooner we act, the more lives we can save. This package of €165 million will support the urgent needs of South Sudanese people in the country and the region but also the millions of people at risk of famine in the Horn of Africa. With this additional support, the EU shows the way to other members of the international community to also respond urgently." Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said: ''The European Union is responding immediately to the needs arising from the severe famine in South Sudan and the dire droughts in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. With this new assistance, we will do our upmost to contain the effects of these extremely challenging circumstances in the Horn of Africa.'' Read the full press release here. A press point with statements by HR/VP Mogherini is due to take place at 12:00 CET with AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and will be made available on EbS. A press release on the joint visit and on the announcement of new support for the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) will be made available in the afternoon. (For more information: Nabila Massrali - Tel.: +32 229 69218; Carlos Martín Ruiz de Gordejuela – Tel.: + 32 229-65322, Daniel Puglisi - Tel.: +32 229 69140; Christina Wunder – Tel.: +32 229 92256)


The European Commission and Member States' consumer authorities ask social media companies to comply with EU consumer rules

On Thursday 16 March, EU consumer authorities and the European Commission met with Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to hear and discuss their proposed solutions to two areas of concern: a growing number of consumers have complained about having been targeted by fraud or scams when using social media websites, as well as having been subject to certain terms of services that do not respect EU consumer law. On this occasion, Commissioner Jourová said: "Social media has become part of our daily lives and a majority of Europeans use it regularly. Given the growing importance of online social networks it is time to make sure that our strong EU rules, that are there to protect consumers from unfair practices, are complied with in this sector. It is not acceptable that EU consumers can only call on a court in California to resolve a dispute. Nor can we accept that users are deprived of their right to withdraw from an on-line purchase. Social media companies also need to take more responsibility in addressing scams and fraud happening on their platforms. I want to thank the EU consumer authorities who have worked tirelessly with the Commission on this important issue over the past months. From today, social media companies have one month to come up with solutions to comply with EU rules." In November 2016, EU consumer authorities, under the leadership of the French consumer authority and with the support of the European Commission, sent a letter to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ last November asking them to address these problematic practices. The companies will finalise detailed measures on how to comply with the EU regulatory framework within one month. The Commission and the consumer authorities will review the final proposals. If they are not satisfactory, consumer authorities could ultimately resort to enforcement action. More information is available in the press release and the consumer authorities' common position. (For more information: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Mélanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)


EU imports of organic products from Norway and Iceland to resume

Organic products from Norway and Iceland, including Norwegian organic salmon, can again be imported to the European Union and duly marketed as abiding by the EU's organic rules following the incorporation of the relevant regulations into the agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA). Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan welcomed today's decision: "I am happy to see that our EEA partners realised the importance of common standards, and the benefits they bring to producers and consumers on both sides. The rules guarantee a level playing field between EU and EEA organic producers, for their mutual benefit. The Commission will never accept any watering down of our high standards for products being produced, imported and marketed as organic. It is our role to ensure consumer confidence and guarantee the credibility of the EU organic logo."The long-awaited decision taken today by the EEA Joint Committee puts an end to an 8-year delay during which organic producers from Norway and Iceland were complying with outdated rules no longer applied within the EU. As a result of the adoption of this decision, imports of organic salmon produced and certified in accordance with the EU Regulations from the EEA countries will be able to resume as of 18 March 2017. A press release on the decision and its background is available online in all languages. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Clémence Robin – Tel: +32 229 52509)


Commissioner Malmström welcomes Parliament's approval to stop trade in minerals financing armed conflicts

The European Parliament has adopted by an overwhelming majority the proposal to stop trade in conflict minerals. Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: "I'm very glad we now have an ambitious, workable solution to eliminate conflict minerals from supply chains. Trade needs to take account of our values, and the Parliament's decision today is a great example of how this can be achieved. The new rules will ensure that minerals used by European industries are sourced responsibly, in a way that does not harm populations in mining regions and does not fuel war. The new regulation will reduce the hardship and human rights abuses that have for too long accompanied this trade." The Regulation brokered by the Commission and voted yesterday by the European Parliament will impose due diligence rules on companies importing tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. Such metals and minerals are used in the production of everyday products such as mobile phones, car and jewelry. The rules will cover up to 95% of imports as of 1 January 2021. In the meantime, the Commission and Member States will work to make sure that the necessary structures are in place to ensure EU-wide implementation. To become effective, the Regulation still has to be formally adopted by the Council. More information is available in a press release online. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: + 32 229 56185; Axel Fougner - Tel.: +32 229 57276)


EU-Turkey Statement one year on

The Commission is today publishing a factsheet ahead of the one-year anniversary of the EU-Turkey Statement on 18 March. The Statement has helped to reduce migratory flows from Turkey to Greece and the loss of life at sea, showing clearly that the business model of smugglers exploiting migrants and refugees can be broken. Despite challenging circumstances, the first year of the EU-Turkey Statement has confirmed a steady delivery of tangible results. While continuous efforts need to be made by all sides and all EU Member States, the EU-Turkey Statement has become an important element of the EU's comprehensive approach on migration. The factsheet is available here. (For more information:  Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 58602)


Antitrust: Commission re-adopts decision and fines air cargo carriers €776 million for price-fixing cartel

The European Commission has re-adopted a cartel decision against 11 air cargo carriers and imposed a fine totalling € 776 465 000 for operating a price–fixing cartel. In November 2010, the Commission adopted a decision against 12 air cargo carriers imposing fines totalling almost €800 million. The companies fined in 2010 were Air Canada, Air France-KLM, British Airways, Cargolux, Cathay Pacific Airways, Japan Airlines, LAN Chile, Martinair, Qantas, SAS and Singapore Airlines. A twelfth cartel member, Lufthansa, and its subsidiary, Swiss International Air Lines, received full immunity from fines. All carriers except Qantas appealed to the EU's General Court against the Commission's 2010 decision. In December 2015, the General Court annulled the Commission's decision against the 11 cartel participants that appealed, concluding that there had been a procedural error. However, it did not rule on the existence of the cartel. The Commission maintains that these air cargo carriers participated in a price-fixing cartel and is adopting a new decision and re-establishing the fines. This new decision addresses the procedural error identified by the General Court while remaining identical in terms of the anticompetitive behaviours targeted by the Commission. The fines were set on the basis of the Commission's 2006 Guidelines on fines (see also MEMO). Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Millions of businesses depend on air cargo services, which carry more than 20% of all EU imports and nearly 30% of EU exports. Working together in a cartel rather than competing to offer better services to customers does not fly with the Commission. Today's decision ensures that companies that were part of the air cargo cartel are sanctioned for their behaviour.” A full press release is available online in EN, FR, DE, ES, DA, NL and SV. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni +32 229 90526)


State aid: Commission confirms no aid in concession deals for Greek regional airports

The European Commission has concluded that concessions for 14 regional airports in Greece were awarded to the German-Cypriot Fraport AG-Slentel Ltd consortium on market terms and therefore did not involve any state aid. The concession agreements are part of Greece's commitments in the context of the stability support programme. In exchange, Fraport AG-Slentel Ltd will pay concession fees to the Greek State. The Commission found that the terms of the concession agreements are in line with market conditions, in particular because they result from a competitive, transparent and non-discriminatory tender. It also found that Greece selected the best offer submitted in this tender, i.e. the concessions were awarded to the company whose offer would generate the highest revenues for the Greek State. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the Greek State awarded the concessions under terms that a private operator would also have accepted. Today's Commission decision clears one condition that needed to be satisfied before the concessions can become effective. It is now for the Greek authorities to take the final steps to complete the transfer and delivery of the airports under concession. A full press release is available online in EN, EL, FR and DE. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)


State aid: Commission clears Belgian support to long-term operation of three nuclear power reactors Tihange 1, Doel 1 and Doel 2

The European Commission has found Belgian plans to compensate Engie-Electrabel and EDF Belgium for potential financial risks linked to long-term operation of three nuclear reactors(Tihange 1, Doel 1 and Doel 2) to be in line with EU state aid rules. Under the EU Treaties, Member States are free to determine their energy mix and have the choice to invest in nuclear technology. The Commission's role is to ensure that, when public funds are used to support companies, this is done in line with EU state aid rules, which aim to preserve competition in the Single Market. According to Belgium, nuclear energy requires long-term commitment and the measures were necessary to secure the investment of the companies. It has demonstrated that the measures avoid undue distortions of the Belgian energy market. There will be an obligation on Engie-Electrabel, i.e. the major player on Belgian electricity markets, to sell on regulated electricity markets each year a volume equivalent to Engie-Electrabel's share of the annual production of Tihange 1, Doel 1 and Doel 2. It will ensure liquidity on Belgian electricity markets and help increase competition between electricity suppliers. On this basis, the Commission has approved the measures under EU state aid rules. A full press release is available online in EN, FR, NL and DE. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)


Mergers: Commission clears creation of joint-venture between Mabanol Bitumen and H&R Refining

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control of Mabanol Bitumen GmbH & Co. KG and H&R Refining GmbH, both of Germany, in a newly created joint venture. Mabanol Bitumen and H&R Refining are both suppliers of bitumen. Mabanol Bitumen is solely controlled by Marquard & Bahls AG, while H&R Refining belongs to the Hansen and Rosenthal group. Both companies will transfer their bitumen sales and distribution business to the new joint venture. The Commission concluded that the transaction would raise no competition concerns because of its limited impact on the market. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8329. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni +32 229 90526)


Concentrations: La Commission autorise l'acquisition de Consolis par Bain Capital

La Commission européenne a approuvé, en vertu du règlement européen sur les concentrations, l'acquisition du contrôle exclusif de Consolis (France) par Bain Capital (Royaume-Uni). Consolis est actif dans la conception et la fabrication d'éléments préfabriqués en béton. Bain Capital est une société d'investissement, disposant de participations dans des entreprises actives dans de nombreux secteurs. La Commission a conclu que l'acquisition envisagée ne soulèverait pas de problème de concurrence, car le chevauchement entre les activités des sociétés est limité. La transaction a été examinée dans le cadre de la procédure simplifiée du contrôle des concentrations. De plus amples informations seront disponibles sur le site internet concurrence de la Commission, dans le registre public des affaires sous le numéro d'affaire M.8367. (Pour plus d'informations: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni - Tel.: +32 229 90526)


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over SwissSign by SBB and current owner Swiss Post

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over SwissSign AG by Schweizerische Bundesbahnen SBB ("SBB") along with the current owner Schweizerische Post AG ("Swiss Post"), all of Switzerland. SwissSign provides trusted identities for servers and devices. SBB is the incumbent railway company in Switzerland and Swiss Post is the public postal operator of Switzerland. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns because SwissSign has negligible actual and foreseen activities within 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.8365. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni +32 229 90526)


Mergers: Commission clears Macquarie's and National Grid's acquisition of four gas distribution networks in the UK

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of joint control over four gas distribution networks in the UK by Macquarie and National Grid (both UK based). These four regulated gas distribution networks are currently solely controlled by National Grid and are located in different areas of the UK. Macquarie is a global provider of banking, financial, advisory, investment and funds management services. Macquarie controls companies which have the following activities in the gas sector in the UK: (i) Energetics, an independent gas transporter which provides gas connections; and (ii) Corona Energy, a company supplying gas and electricity primarily to commercial, industrial and public sector clients in the UK. National Grid's principal operations are the ownership and operation of regulated electricity and gas infrastructure in the UK. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns with respect to either the market for gas connections where the parties' activities overlap or any of the markets vertically linked with the four networks' gas distribution activities. More information will be available on the competition website, in the Commission's public case register under the case number M.8358. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni +32 229 90526)


Eurostat: Déficit de 0,6 milliard d'euros du commerce international de biens de la zone euro

D'après les premières estimations pour le mois de janvier 2017, les exportations de biens de la zone euro (ZE19) vers le reste du monde se sont établies à 163,9 milliards d'euros, en hausse de 13% par rapport à janvier 2016 (144,9 mrds). Les importations depuis le reste du monde ont quant à elles été de 164,5 mrds d'euros, en hausse de 17% par rapport à janvier 2016 (140,1 mrds). En conséquence, la zone euro a enregistré en janvier 2017 un déficit de 0,6 mrd d'euros de son commerce international de biens avec le reste du monde, contre un excédent de 4,8 mrds en janvier 2016. Le commerce intra-zone euro a progressé à 145,7 mrds d'euros en janvier 2017, en hausse de 10% par rapport à janvier 2016. Un communiqué de presse est disponible ici. (Pour plus d'informations: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: + 32 229 56185; Axel Fougner - Tel.: +32 229 57276)


Eurostat: La production dans le secteur de la construction en baisse de 2,3% dans la zone euro

En janvier 2017 par rapport à décembre 2016, la production dans le secteur de la construction, corrigée des variations saisonnières, a diminué de 2,3% dans la zone euro (ZE19) et de 1,5% dans l'UE28, selon les premières estimations d'Eurostat, l'office statistique de l'Union européenne. En décembre 2016, la production dans le secteur de la construction avait reculé de 0,6% dans la zone euro, tandis qu'elle avait progressé de 0,2% dans l'UE28. Un communiqué de presse est disponible ici. (Pour plus d'informations: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Mirna Talko – Tel.: +32 229 87278)





Joint Statement by Julian King, Commissioner for the Security Union and Marco Minniti, Italian Minister of Interior

Commissioner Julian King is in Rome today, where he is meeting with the Italian Minister of Interior Marco Minniti, Head of the Italian Police Prefetto Franco Gabrielli, Director General for the Department for information security Prefetto Alessandro Pansa and Ivano Gabrielli, Director of the National Anti-crime Computer Centre for Critical Infrastructure to discuss cooperation on security and law enforcement. Following their meeting, Commissioner King and Minsiter Minniti issued a joint statement: "Minister Minniti and Commissioner King agreed on the quick implementation of recent legislative initiatives aimed at strengthening the security of European citizens. Minister Minniti and Commissioner King have agreed on the need to improve the functioning and interoperability of existing IT systems, strengthening European cooperation to reinforce resilience of critical sectors and infrastructures against the cyber threat, the importance of preventing radicalisation across  a multidisciplinary approach, the fight against online radicalisation, including reinforced cooperation with the private sector  and the sharing of  best practices and strategies developed at European level." The full statement is available here. (For more information: Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Katarzyna Kolanko – Tel.: +32 299 63444)





High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini travels to Washington, D.C.

From Monday 20 to Wednesday 22 March, the High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, will be in Washington, D.C., where she will have a number of meetings with the U.S. administration and members of both the U.S. Senate and Congress. The High Representative will meet Vice-President Mike Pence, which will be the second meeting between the two, following Vice-President Pence's visit to the EU institutions on 20 February 2016 and H.R. McMaster, National Security Advisor. Among others, the High Representative will also meet the Co-Chairs of the EU Caucus, Joe Wilson and Gregory Meeks, and other members, for a discussion on EU-US priorities. On Monday, the High Representative will deliver the opening keynote speech at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference and will address the International Republican Institute on the way ahead in transatlantic relations. On Wednesday the High Representative will participate in the meeting of the Ministers of the Global Coalition hosted by U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. For more information on EU-US relations, visit the website of the EU Delegation to the United States. (For more information: Maja Kocijancic - Tel.: +32 229 86570; Adam Kaznowski – Tel.: +32 229 89359)


Vice-President Ansip and Commissioner Jourová travelling to Hanover for CeBIT 2017

On Monday, Vice-President Andrus Ansip and Commissioner Vĕra Jourová will take part in the digital business fair CeBIT that is held every year in Hanover, Germany. This year, Japan is the partner country of the international fair, presenting the opportunity for a number of high-level meetings. Vice-President Ansip will take part in a tour with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe through the CeBIT exhibition halls. The Vice-President, together with the Commissioner, will participate in the EU-Japan bilateral meeting where the focus will be on data economy. Closely connected to the Commission's initiatives on data economy and privacy online, presented in January, the discussions will cover the cooperation on the free flow of data as well as international data protection and the "adequacy decision" with Japan. Over lunchtime, Vice-President Ansip will meet with several industry leaders, where priorities such as e-commerce, platforms' liability, free flow of data and cybersecurity will be discussed. Both Commission representatives plan to visit several stands at the venue, including the Commission's own exhibition showcasing Digital Single Market policy development and state of the art ICT innovations. Commissioner Jourová will meet different start-ups and tech companies to discuss how they are getting ready for the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation. She will also exchange views on consumer protection with companies active in the area of the Internet of Things. The Commission also organises on the opening day the conference "Driving the Digital Economy and Society in Europe". Read more about the event here. (For more information: Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253; Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: + 32 229 67083; Johannes Bahrke – Tel.: +32 229 5861)


Commissioner Avramopoulos in Rome for Ministerial Conference on Central Mediterranean Migration Route

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos will be in Rome, Italy on 19-20 March to participate in the Conference on the Central Mediterranean Migration Route, with Ministers of Interior from the European Union and Northern Africa including Austria, France, Germany, Malta, Slovenia, Switzerland, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia. Hosted by Italian Minister of Interior Marco Minniti, the event will be an opportunity to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation on migration along the Central Mediterranean route. (For more information:  Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 58602)


Commissioner Jourová on official visit to Bratislava

Today, Commissioner Jourová visits Bratislava to discuss Roma integration and a fair consumer protection. She will meet Peter Plavčan, Minister of Education, Science, Research and Sport, to discuss how to improve the integration of Roma children in Slovak schools. With Ms Gabriela Matečná, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, she will exchange views on the dual quality of food issue. Their meeting will be followed by a joint press point. Commissioner Jourová will hold a Citizens' dialogue on the Future of Europe with students at the Bratislava University of Economics (livestream). Finally, Commissioner Jourová will speak at a conference on Ethics & Politics organised by Ms Iveta Radičová, former Prime minister of the Slovak Republic. (For more information: Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253; Melanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)


La Commissaire Thyssen à bord du #FederalTruck pour visiter des écoles belges dans le cadre d'Erasmus+

Lundi 20 mars, la Commissaire européenne pour l'Emploi, les Affaires sociales, les Compétences et la Mobilité des Travailleurs, Marianne Thyssen, ira à bord du #FederalTruck à Wavre, Belgique. Le #FederalTruck est un bus de la Chancellerie du Premier Ministre Belge, Charles Michel, qui va à la rencontre d'écoles en Belgique. A l'occasion des 30 ans du programme européen de mobilité Erasmus+ et des 60 ans du Traité de Rome, une nouvelle campagne a débuté dont l'objectif est d'amener l'Europe en «camion» là où sont les jeunes afin d'informer élèves et professeurs sur toutes les possibilités qui existent pour ouvrir leur école à l'Europe et se former et étudier, participer à des échanges de groupes de jeunes ou à des projets de volontariat à l'étranger. Avant l'événement, la Commissaire a dit: «Depuis 30 ans, Erasmus crée des opportunités pour les jeunes. Jusqu'en 2020, Erasmus+ pourra soutenir encore plus de personnes avec des profils encore plus variés. Avec la nouvelle initiative ErasmusPro, nous donnons à encore plus de jeunes européens en formation professionnelle la chance d'aller à l'étranger au moins 6 mois. J'encourage tous les étudiants, les enseignants, les formateurs et animateurs de faire usage de l'offre Erasmus.» Un point presse aura lieu à 8h30 lundi, avec la Commissaire Thyssen et Mme Romy Pirlot, Directrice de l'école IPES Wavre. La visite et le point presse seront diffusés sur EbS. (Pour plus d'informations: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Sara Soumillion – Tel.: + 32 229 67094)



The Commissioners' weekly activities


Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)