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European Commission Spokesman's Briefing for 00-09-21

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 Service Presse et Communicationb

21/09/2000


CONTENTS / CONTENU

[I] Résultats de la Commission du 20 septembre 2000 - Outcome of Commission meeting of 20 September

  • [01] Innovation gets more attention in Europe, but more efforts are needed if Europe is to become fully competitive, says Commission
  • [02] La Commission adopte une proposition relative à des normes minimales concernant la procédure d'octroi et de retrait du statut de réfugié dans les Etats membres
  • [03] Commission proposes "Everything but Arms" (EBA) initiative : duty-free, quota-free access for all products from all least developed countries into the EU
  • [04] La Commission restructure une partie de son organigramme
  • [05] Measures to compensate farmers for adverse climat events in Italy
  • [06] Aids in favour of tobacco producers in Italy
  • [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

  • [07] Commission opens an in-depth investigation into Metso's acquisition of Svedala
  • [08] Commission celebrates first fully Pan-European Car Free Day
  • [09] EU scientists advise on BSE-related culling and review recent BSE research
  • [10] CSFP : Commission acts swiftly to improve security of Georgian borders
  • [11] The EU leads on the eradication of anti-personnel landmines
  • [12] Commission grants further food aid to ease effects of drought crisis in Kenya
  • [13] Commission launches first ever meeting of top decision-makers in Europe's key research installations
  • [14] Press conference of Anna Diamantopoulou and Martine Aubry

  • [I] Résultats de la Commission du 20 septembre 2000 - Outcome of Commission meeting of 20 September

    (voir aussi see also ME of 20/9)

    [01] Innovation gets more attention in Europe, but more efforts are needed if Europe is to become fully competitive, says Commission

    The European Commission has adopted broad policy lines designed to enhance innovation in Europe. Innovation policy is an essential element of the agenda set at the Lisbon Summit in March. This Summit was the turning point in recognising the need to tackle the challenges of the New Economy by, for example, endorsing the Commission's eEurope action plan and launching a benchmarking exercise. "There are reassuring signs that with an appropriate policy mix, Europe's economic performance can be upgraded. But more needs to be done if Europe is to become fully competitive", said Mr Erkki Liikanen, Commissioner responsible for Enterprise and the Information Society, elaborating on the newly published Communication "Innovation in a knowledge-driven economy". The Innovation Scoreboard set out in the Communication is the first concrete implementation of the benchmarking exercise called for in Lisbon. Its aim is to identify best practices in the Member States in innovation policies. The Commission's Communication recommends that Member States step up efforts to get rid of obstacles and rigidities and change attitudes which prevent full advantage being taken of the knowledge society.

    [02] La Commission adopte une proposition relative à des normes minimales concernant la procédure d'octroi et de retrait du statut de réfugié dans les Etats membres

    La Commission européenne a adopté une proposition de directive du Conseil relative à des normes minimales concernant la procédure d'octroi et de retrait du statut de réfugié dans les Etats membres. L'objectif de cette mesure est d'instaurer à court terme un niveau minimum d'harmonisation des règles applicables en la matière dans l'Union européenne. Elle prévoit, à cet effet, des garanties ainsi que des mécanismes et des instruments visant à assurer une procédure équitable et efficace. Il s'agit d'une première mesure essentielle sur les procédures d'asile dans les Etats membres (basée sur l'article 63, paragraphe 1, point d), du traité CE).

    [03] Commission proposes "Everything but Arms" (EBA) initiative : duty-free, quota-free access for all products from all least developed countries into the EU

    The European Commission has adopted a groundbreaking plan to provide full access for the world's poorest countries into EU markets. The Commission's proposal to the Council would grant duty-free access to the world's 48 poorest countries. The proposal would cover all goods except the arms trade : "everything but arms". Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy welcomed the Commission's adoption of the proposal, saying : "There has been plenty of talk about how market access for poor countries is critical if we are to tackle their growing marginalisation in the globalising economy. Everyone seems ready to make the commitment at the political level. But talk is cheap. We now need to move beyond opt-out clauses. It's time to put access to our markets where our mouth is. That means opening up across the board, and for all the poorest countries. So we want to move to liberalise everything but the arms trade. I hope the Council and Parliament can adopt this proposal swiftly - and that other developed countries quickly follow suit."

    [04] La Commission restructure une partie de son organigramme

    La Commission européenne a adopté une décision modifiant la répartition actuelle des postes de Directeurs Généraux Adjoints. La Commission analysera régulièrement la situation globale des DGA en prenant notamment en compte ces critères, qui sont les suivants : nombre élevé de membres du personnel et de directions dans la DG en question ; large palette d'activités à gérer par la DG ; ressources financières substantielles à mettre en oeuvre ; présence de la DG sur plusieurs sites différents ; activités de négociation et représentation de la DG. Suite à cette analyse, la Commission a décidé de procéder immédiatement à la création de deux nouvelles fonctions de DGA à la DG Santé/Protection des consommateurs et au Service Commun RELEX. Quatre postes de DGA sont par ailleurs supprimés : Concurrence (aides d'Etat) ; Société de l'information ; Education/Culture (à partir de la date de départ en retraite de l'actuel DGA) et Personnel/Administration. La Commission a autorisé la publication des deux nouvelles fonctions ainsi que de cinq postes de DGA actuellement libres (Service juridique ; Budget ; Entreprise ; Emploi et Economie/Finance). D'autres propositions concernant les procédures de sélection et de nomination ainsi que l'évaluation permanente des hauts fonctionnaires seront présentées à la Commission cet automne. La Commission a par ailleurs engagé une large réflexion sur l'implantation des services de la Commission à Luxembourg, qui vise à permettre la présentation au Collège, d'ici à la fin de l'année, d'une stratégie d'ensemble assurant la pérennité, tant qualitative que quantitative, de ce site important.

    [05] Measures to compensate farmers for adverse climat events in Italy

    The European Commission has taken a final negative decision on the granting of state aids to compensate farmers for a series of adverse climatic events in Sardinia (Italy). The objective of the law was to enable the region of Sardinia to pay compensation to make good the damage caused by a series of adverse climat changes, such as drought, going back as far as 1988. They have only been notified to the Commission in 1998. The Commission already opened state aid procedure in May 1999.

    [06] Aids in favour of tobacco producers in Italy

    The European Commission has decided not to raise objections with respect to a compensatory aid granted by Italy to tobacco producers who suffered severe losses of production due to an outbreak of the Potato Virus Y which affected their crops in 1997. The aid, which forms part of a regional programme for the control and eradication of the disease, will be granted to farmers who suffered losses equal at least to 30% of their normal production. It will not exceed 100% of the losses actually sustained.

    [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

    [07] Commission opens an in-depth investigation into Metso's acquisition of Svedala

    The European Commission has decided to open an in-depth investigation into the proposed acquisition by Metso Corporation (Finland) of Svedala Industri AB (Sweden). In view of both Metso's and Svedala's current market positions in the production of certain rock crushing equipment, the Commission has identified risks that the acquisition may lead to the creation of a dominant position on these markets.

    [08] Commission celebrates first fully Pan-European Car Free Day

    On Friday 22 September, several members of the European Commission will join Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström in taking to their bicycles to celebrate the first genuinely pan-European Car Free Day. They will cycle to Brussels' Cinquantenaire Park to celebrate this event. Mrs Wallström will also take part in an "outside broadcast" internet chat. Some 800 cities around, and also outside, Europe, are participating in the event. Mrs Wallström explained : "Recent events have highlighted our over-reliance on road transport as well our unsustainable dependence on one source of non- renewable energy. Although European Car Free Day has been planned for some time now, the current discussions on fuel prices make Car Free Day 2000 particularly timely. She added : "This is a unique opportunity to involve citizens and local authorities in a debate on what kind of cities we want our children to grow up in. It provides us with an occasion to discuss the urban environment, air pollution in cities, and alternative forms of transport. I sincerely hope that more cities in Europe and around the world will join this initiative."

    [09] EU scientists advise on BSE-related culling and review recent BSE research

    The Scientific Steering Committee has today published an opinion on BSE- related culling, statements on recent publications on BSE related research as well as a positive opinion on the safety of bone-in-veal exports from the UK. After having evaluated recent studies about the possible endemic presence at very low levels of BSE in scrapie carrying sheep, and the possibility of BSE in other animals such as pigs, poultry and fish, the Committee does not see any cause for alarm, immediate action or a revision of its standing opinions. Its standing advice and recommendations on the risk of BSE type infections in sheep and other animals already take sufficient account of such possibilities insofar as they have been substantiated by currently available evidence or anticipated by the experts advising the Committee. The Committee will however continue to closely monitor any new evidence that may become available. The Committee considers that the conclusions of a recently published communication predicting significantly lower numbers of vCJD cases than previously assumed are premature.

    [10] CSFP : Commission acts swiftly to improve security of Georgian borders

    The EU has responded swiftly to a request from President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia for a contribution to ensure the protection of its borders, and to improve protection from terrorists threats, in particular against the OSCE Observer Mission on the Georgian border with the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation. The Council of Ministers in July decided that the EU should provide aid to the Government of Georgia in the form of equipment to be delivered to border posts by 30 September 2000. This week the European Commission delivered military grade equipment and aviation fuel, worth euro 1 million, in Tbilisi. This assistance will allow the equipment of 100 personnel at three Georgian border posts to carry out protection duties, patrolling and long-term flying of the Border Guards helicopters. It also increases the ability of the Border Guards to sustain a winter presence at the border. The provision of this aid, under the authority of External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten, demonstrates the importance the EU accords to the security of Georgia and the integrity of its borders by preventing the spill-over of the conflict in the Chechen Republic.

    [11] The EU leads on the eradication of anti-personnel landmines

    The EU is at the forefront of the fight against landmines, with more than 60 million mines lying hidden and a stockpile estimated at some 250 million. In 1999 the total EU contribution to external mine action amounted to euro 103 million, making the Union the largest contributor world-wide. EU funding supported projects in almost every continent and covering a range of activities from mine surveying, detection and clearance, mine destruction and demining research to assistance to victims and mine awareness programmes. In order to highlight and explain the Union's action in this area, External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten published a brochure, "The Response of the European Union to the Anti-Personnel Landmines Challenge", on the occasion of the Second Conference of the States participating into the Ottawa Convention which took place in Geneva from 11-15 September 2000.

    [12] Commission grants further food aid to ease effects of drought crisis in Kenya

    In response to the food shortage caused by the current drought in Kenya, the European Commission has decided to finance a further shipment of 25000 metric tonnes of cereals to the country. This supplementary aid is to be channelled through the World Food Programme (WFP). This contribution comes on top of 20000 metric tonnes delivered earlier this year, thus bringing the total for 2000 to 45000 metric tonnes, equivalent in monetary terms to euro 17.7 million. In addition, euro 3 million of funds have been set aside for small scale food security projects which are aimed at helping local populations grow their own food and improve their food self-sufficiency. It is recalled in July of this year that the Commission allocated the World Food Programme a global amount of euro 90 million with a view to covering current food needs in the world, in particular Africa. Besides the provision of food aid, the Commission, via its Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), recently allocated euro 2 million to Kenya in the form of emergency humanitarian aid. This aid financed nutritional, water, health and livestock projects managed by ECHO's partners in the field (Unicef, Action Contre la Faim and Vétérinaires Sans Frontières) in North East Kenya where the drought has hit hardest. A further allocation in the order of euro 2 million of ECHO funds directed at drought alleviation is currently being prepared. The European Union is the second largest food donor to Kenya. It is concerned by the consequences of the drought in the region as a whole. The member of the European Commission for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Mr Poul Nielson, will visit Kenya and the Horn of Africa in October.

    [13] Commission launches first ever meeting of top decision-makers in Europe's key research installations

    European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin concluded a two day conference on the future funding and operation of large research installations, organised jointly with the European Science Foundation (ESF) and supported by the French Presidency of the European Union. "Large research installations such as earthquake simulators, supercomputers and particle accelerators have so far been built and operated by individual Member States but they should be more accessible to researchers from other countries as well", states Mr Busquin adding : "moreover, we need to cooperate more closely together to make sure that we are making the best use of our resources for the benefit of top-quality science in Europe". This view was also endorsed by the research ministers of the so-called Presidency troika, Mr Schwartzenberg (FR), Mr Gago (PT) and Mr Oestros (SE) who were also in favour of flexible solutions to financing and operating installations where interested states could join together to build and operate key facilities. Commissioner Busquin pointed out that the conference is one concrete step in creating a European Research Area. The objective is to bring all stakeholders from public and private research organisations together to advise policy-makers on how to use available resources more efficiently.

    [14] Press conference of Anna Diamantopoulou and Martine Aubry

    European Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou and French Minister for Social Affairs Martine Aubry will give a joint press conference on the New Social Agenda in the European Parliament tomorrow 22 September. The press conference marks the end of a two day hearing on the new social agenda. It will be held at 13.00 in the ground floor press room and a snack will be available for journalists in the press bar outside the press room. Anna Diamantopoulou's speech to the hearing is available today.

    MIDDAY EXPRESS


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


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