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European Commission Spokesman's Briefing for 98-07-01

Midday Express: News from the EU Commission Spokesman's Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: EUROPA, the European Commission Server at <http://europa.eu.int>

MIDDAY EXPRESS

News from the Spokesman's midday briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi du Porte-Paroleb

01/07/98


CONTENTS / CONTENU

[I] Résultats de la Commission de ce jour - Outcome of today's Commission meeting

  • [01] Fraud : Commission proposes a broad framework to counter abuse of non- cash payments
  • [02] La Commission adopte une proposition de réforme du secteur viti- vinicole
  • [03] Europe ends the era of ozone depleting substances : Commission adopts proposal for a new EU regulation
  • [04] Commission recommends to watch soft PVC child-care articles and toys intended to be put into the mouth and act if necessary
  • [05] Free movement of people : Commission outlines follow-up measures to High Level Panel report
  • [06] Relations entre l'euro et les francs CFA et comorien
  • [07] State aid : downward pressure to be maintained by the Commission
  • [08] Commission approves aid in favour of UTE in Thüringen
  • [09] Capital injection into Stahlwerke Bremen does not constitute state aid
  • [10] Commission declares rescue aid Actual Maschinenbau AG (Austria) illegal
  • [11] Commission prohibits restructuring aid to Keller SpA and Keller Meccanica SpA (Italy)
  • [12] La Commission décide que l'aide d'Etat espagnole pour l'achat de véhicules commerciaux (Renove) est incompatible avec le Traité et doit être remboursée
  • [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

  • [13] Commission approves Deutsche Post's participation in DHL
  • [14] Commission approves London airports cargo handling joint venture
  • [15] EU requests WTO Panel on US export subsidies

  • [I] Résultats de la Commission de ce jour - Outcome of today's Commission meeting

    [01] Fraud : Commission proposes a broad framework to counter abuse of non- cash payments

    The European Commission has launched a major initiative against fraud and counterfeiting concerning payment cards, electronic money, cheques, home banking and other non-cash means of payment. The new framework strategy, as outlined in a Communication, has two components. Firstly, it proposes a Joint Action that would ensure that fraud against all forms of non-cash means of payment is recognised as a punishable criminal offence in all Member States of the European Union. Secondly, the Communication also outlines a broad strategy to secure safe non-cash transactions for consumers, companies and others in Europe. The key message is that problems concerning fraud and counterfeiting of non-cash means of payment must be tackled broadly by a comprehensive and consistent set of actions.

    [02] La Commission adopte une proposition de réforme du secteur viti- vinicole

    La Commission européenne a adopté une proposition visant à introduire une réforme substantielle dans l'organisation commune du marché viti-vinicole, complétant le train de propositions relatives à la réforme de la politique agricole commune dans le cadre d'Agenda 2000. Tout comme un certain nombre de nouvelles mesures, la proposition représente une simplification radicale de la législation existante, dans la mesure où elle remplace un total de 23 règlements du Conseil des Ministres par un seul règlement du Conseil. Cette réforme vise à maintenir le nouvel équilibre entre offre et demande sur le marché de l'Union européenne tout en permettant aux producteurs de devenir plus compétitifs pour exploiter les marchés en expansion. Si l'interdiction de planter des vignes est maintenue pendant une nouvelle période transitoire, elle sera gérée avec souplesse pour permettre le développement de la production des vins pour lesquels la demande augmente. Les mesures d'arrachage seront également maintenues mais seront plus spécifiquement ciblées par les Etats membres sur les régions qui connaissent des excédents structurels graves et persistants. L'intervention, débouché artificiel, sera éliminée tandis qu'un mécanisme de distillation "de crise" sera instauré pour traiter les cas exceptionnels de perturbation du marché. Une mesure spécifique de distillation sera instaurée pour garantir la continuité de l'approvisionnement du marché des alcools de bouche. D'une manière générale, le budget disponible pour le secteur vinicole atteindra 1.234 millions d'Ecus.

    [03] Europe ends the era of ozone depleting substances : Commission adopts proposal for a new EU regulation

    The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a new regulation on ozone depleting substances, some ten years after the international community agreed the first controls on such substances under the Montreal Protocol. The new regulation will lead to significant environmental benefits through reduced future emissions of ozone depleting substances. The most important elements are a ban on the use and production of the pesticide methyl bromide by 2001 and the ban of HCFCs in all uses within the next few years, including the ultimate phase out of its production. This will result in the complete elimination of the use and production of ozone depleting substances in the European Union, thereby reinforcing European leadership in this vital area of environmental protection.

    [04] Commission recommends to watch soft PVC child-care articles and toys intended to be put into the mouth and act if necessary

    The recommendation, adopted today by the European Commission, covers child- care articles and toys made of soft PVC containing phtalates, for children under three years of age, which are intended to be put into the mouth, such as teething rings. Phthalates are used to soften plastic, but they are considered to be liable to provoke negative health effects at high level of exposure : this may happen when they are washed out by saliva while children suck or chew the toys. The Member States are invited to check the level of migration of phthalates. If the migration of phthalates exceed the limits proposed by the Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (SCTEE), the Commission recommends to the Member States to act in order to ensure the safety and health of children. The Commission will put forward a proposal for permanent legislation ensuring a high level of safety and health under harmonised conditions.

    [05] Free movement of people : Commission outlines follow-up measures to High Level Panel report

    A series of initiatives to facilitate the free movement of people within the European Union (EU) and to strengthen citizens' rights have been announced in a Communication adopted by the European Commission on the follow-up to the recommendations of the High Level Panel on free movement of people chaired by Mrs Simone Veil. These initiatives include putting the Citizens First information and advice facilities on a permanent footing in the form of the Dialogue with Citizens, a proposal to simplify EU rules on free movement of workers and a forthcoming proposal to ensure all categories of citizens (workers, students, retired people, family members) enjoy the same set of extended basic rights to entry and residence under a single set of EU rules. The Communication also refers to a series of other initiatives the Commission has already taken to address the over 80 recommendations of the High Level Panel report presented to the Commission on 18 March 1997.

    [06] Relations entre l'euro et les francs CFA et comorien

    La Commission européenne a recommandé l'adoption d'une décision du Conseil des Ministres confirmant les modalités des relations futures entre l'euro et les francs CFA et comorien. Cette décision donnerait l'assurance que les accords actuels, en vertu desquels le Trésor français garantit la convertibilité en franc français, à parité fixe, de ces monnaies, ne seraient pas affectés, concrètement, par le passage à l'euro. La parité fixe entre l'euro, d'une part, et le franc CFA et le franc comorien, d'autre part, découlera du taux de conversion officiel entre l'euro et le franc français arrêté le 1er janvier 1999. L'engagement budgétaire actuel du Trésor français de défendre la parité fixe n'entraîne aucune obligation pour la Banque de France. Son maintien ne devrait donc pas gêner le bon fonctionnement de l'Union économique et monétaire. Néanmoins, les autorités françaises devront tenir informés la Commission et le comité économique et financier (qui succède au comité monétaire) de la mise en œuvre de ces arrangements. En particulier, elles informeront préalablement le comité économique et financier de toute modification de la parité entre l'euro et le franc CFA ou le franc comorien. Les changements concernant la nature ou la portée de ces accords nécessiteront l'approbation du Conseil, qui statuera sur recommandation de la Commission, après consultation de la Banque centrale européenne.

    [07] State aid : downward pressure to be maintained by the Commission

    The European Commission has adopted its Sixth Survey on State Aid in the European Union that updates previous data with figures for 1994 to 1996. The survey covers aid to the manufacturing sector as well as to agriculture, fisheries, coal, transport and financial services and for the first time includes data on Austria, Finland and Sweden. The survey reveals that during the period under review, national State aid in the EU to the manufacturing sector alone amounted to some ECU 38.5 billion a year whereas overall aid amounted to over ECU 83 billion.

    [08] Commission approves aid in favour of UTE in Thüringen

    The European Commission has decided not to raise objections against state aid granted by the Bundesanstalt für vereinigungsbedingte Sonderaufgaben (BvS) and the Land of Thüringen to Umformtechnik Erfurt GmbH (UTE) after its privatisation. The aid consists of DM 111 million (ECU 56 million) from the BvS, and the take-over by Thüringen of a silent partner's holding of DM 10 million (ECU 5 million). The BvS awarded the aid ad hoc to UTE to consolidate the restructuring of the company after its privatisation (Vertragsmanagement). The Commission concludes that the restructuring plan presented will lead the beneficiary back to long-term viability. Moreover the awarded aid does not distort competition and is proportionate to the restructuring effort. The Commission therefore decided to approve the aid in light of UTE's location in Thüringen, which is an area eligible for regional state aid.

    [09] Capital injection into Stahlwerke Bremen does not constitute state aid

    The European Commission has decided that the injection of DM 60 million fresh capital by German public holding Hanseatische Industriebeteiligungen GmbH (HIBEG) into its partly-owned subsidiary Stahlwerke Bremen GmbH does not constitute state aid given that HIBEG's investment qualifies as private investors' behaviour.

    [10] Commission declares rescue aid Actual Maschinenbau AG (Austria) illegal

    The European Commission has adopted a final negative decision on the extension of a governmental rescue loan of ATS 15 million (ECU 1.1 million) to Actual Maschinenbau AG (Actual), a machine tools company located in Ansfelden, a non-assisted area. The Commission found that the loan extension provides Actual with funds which it would not have attracted in the normal course of business. Actual therefore enjoyed an unjustified financial advantage over competitors thus adversely affecting trading conditions in a way contrary to the common interest. Austria shall therefore ensure that the rescue loan including interest is fully recovered.

    [11] Commission prohibits restructuring aid to Keller SpA and Keller Meccanica SpA (Italy)

    The European Commission decided to adopt a final negative decision on a LIT 33,839 million soft loan granted to Keller SpA and a LIT 6,500 million soft loan granted to Keller Meccanica SpA. The aid element for the soft loan granted to Keller SpA amounts to LIT 4,288 million (ECU 2.2 million) and to LIT 903 million (ECU 465,000) for the soft loan granted to Keller Meccanica SpA. The Commission considers that both soft loans were granted outside the scope of approved regional aid schemes, neither did the loans qualify as restructuring aid for lack of a plan to restore the companies' longterm viability. The Commission requested the Italian authorities to recover the aid. At the same time the Commission closed the file in respect of State guarantees for these loans which the Italian government had withdrawn in the meantime.

    [12] La Commission décide que l'aide d'Etat espagnole pour l'achat de véhicules commerciaux (Renove) est incompatible avec le Traité et doit être remboursée

    La Commission européenne a décidé qu'un régime espagnol de subvention sur les taux d'intérêts accordés aux prêts pour l'achat de camions, véhicules industriels, autobus et autocars fausse la concurrence dans le marché unique pour les transports routiers. Ce régime de subvention est donc incompatible avec les règles d'aides d'Etat du Traité. Après notification formelle de cette décision, les autorités espagnoles ont deux mois pour indiquer à la Commission comment elles ont l'intention de recouvrer l'argent payé durant l'opération du Plan Renove Industrial. Ce Plan qui avait pour but la rénovation du parc automobile et qui couvrait la période août 1995 à décembre 1996 n'avait pas été notifié à la Commission à l'époque. Jusqu'à présent, quelque 8 milliards de pesetas (48,4 millions d'Ecus) ont été versés. En mai 1996, la Commission a ouvert une enquête sur le Plan. Cette enquête devait déterminer si le Plan était compatible avec les règles d'aides d'Etat dans le Traité, étant donné qu'il ne s'inscrivait pas dans le cadre d'un plan de restructuration visant à réduire la surcapacité existante dans le secteur. Les autorités espagnoles ont demandé que la décision soit retardée afin qu'elles puissent fournir des explications complémentaires et plaider certaines exemptions. De fait, les véhicules de moins de 3,5 tonnes et tous les services publics, tels que les bus, ambulances ou camions-poubelles, sont exemptés de la décision d'aujourd'hui.

    [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

    [13] Commission approves Deutsche Post's participation in DHL

    The European Commission has approved the proposed acquisition of a minority stake in DHL International Ltd (DHL) by Deutsche Post AG (Deutsche Post). Deutsche Post will jointly control DHL together with Deutsche Lufthansa AG (Lufthansa) and Japanese Airlines Company Ltd (JAL). After Deutsche Post undertook not to cross-subsidise DHL from its reserved activities sector, to keep and publish separate accounts for its reserved and non-reserved activities and not to discriminate against competitors, the Commission found that there are no or only marginal overlaps between the activities of DHL and Deutsche Post, and therefore decided not to oppose the operation.

    [14] Commission approves London airports cargo handling joint venture

    The European Commission has approved the creation of a joint venture, The London Cargo Centre Ltd (LCC) to provide cargo-handling services at London Airport System's airports (i.e. Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted). LCC will be jointly controlled by Lufthansa Airport and Ground Services GmbH (LAGS) and Menzies Transport Services Ltd (MTS) and will take over Lufthansa's existing cargo handling sheds at Heathrow airport. The parents' combined market share does not raise concerns.

    [15] EU requests WTO Panel on US export subsidies

    The European Commission today announced its formal request for a World Trade Organisation (WTO) Panel investigation into US export subsidies. Tax exemptions worth an annual USD 2 billion are currently extended to American companies exporting through Foreign Sales Corporations (FSCs). The Commission's decision follows several rounds of failed consultations with the US.

    MIDDAY EXPRESS


    From EUROPA, the European Commission Server at http://europa.eu.int/
    © ECSC - EC - EAEC, Brussels-Luxembourg, 1995, 1996


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