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European Commission Spokesman's Briefing for 02-11-27

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>


CONTENTS / CONTENU

  • [01] Commission calls for stronger budgetary policy coordination
  • [02] La Commission appelle à une amélioration des statistiques relatives à la zone euro et à l'adoption d'un code de bonnes pratiques
  • [03] Commission imposes heavy fines on four companies involved in plasterboard cartel
  • [04] La Commission prend une décision à l'encontre d'Aventis et de Merck dans l'entente sur la méthylglucamine
  • [05] New State aid rules for slaughterhouse waste, TSE tests and fallen stock
  • [06] Commission orders recovery of State aid granted to Refractarios Especiales
  • [07] Commission approves, subject to tough conditions, rescue aid for British Energy
  • [08] Commission proposes reform of Gibraltar tax regime
  • [09] Sale of parts of Erste Donau-Dampfschiffahrt-Gesellschaft m.b.H (DDSG) to the City of Vienna : Commission states that no state aid is involved
  • [10] Transport sector : Commission approves UK scheme to facilitate environmental protection
  • [11] People with reduced mobility : Commission approves aid for the acquisition of adapted road transport vehicles in the Madrid area
  • [12] Thierry Stoll est nommé directeur général adjoint de la DG Marché intérieur
  • [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

  • [13] Alternative to a moratorium on cod fisheries : Franz Fischler presents strengthened recovery plan for cod
  • [14] Romano Prodi et Anna Diamantopoulou se félicitent de l'accord des partenaires sociaux sur leur programme de travail pluriannuel
  • [15] Commission clears a German venture in the insurance brokering business
  • [16] Commission clears semiconductors JV between Hitachi and Mitsubishi
  • [17] Commission clears joint control of Nycomed by Crédit Suisse and Blackstone
  • [18] Anna Diamantopoulou se félicite de l'engagement de la Turquie à participer dès 2003 à quatre programmes communautaires dans le domaine de l'emploi et des affaires sociales
  • [19] Commission and Hong Kong SAR sign re-admission agreement
  • [20] Statement by European Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Poul Nielson on Chechnya
  • [21] Import of fresh pig meat from the Slovak Republic authorised
  • [22] Humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka
  • [23] First EU Civil Protection Forum : Protecting Europe's citizens from terrorism and natural and technological disasters
  • [24] Avant-première du film "The man without a past" d'Aki Kaurimäki (02/12)
  • [25] Anna Diamantopoulou met Hanan Ashrawi, head and founder of 'Miftah' (Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy) on the role of civil society and women in the Middle East peace process
  • [26] "We owe farm reform to farmers, society and developing countries", says Franz Fischler
  • [27] Autre matériel diffusé Midday Express 27/11/2002 TXT: FR ENPDF:DOC:Midday Express 27/11/2002[I] Résultats de la Commission de ce jour - Outcome of today's Commission meeting

  • [01] Commission calls for stronger budgetary policy coordination

    The European Commission has adopted proposals to reinforce the coordination of budgetary policies. The core budget requirements remain unchanged. Member States must avoid excessive deficit positions and keep the general government debt level below 60% of GDP or diminishing at a satisfactory pace towards this reference value. Equally, the Member States should achieve budget positions that are 'close to balance or in surplus' as set out in the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). But at the same time, the Commission proposes to put more emphasis on the interrelation between budgetary policy and the need for structural reforms in the Union. The Lisbon strategy objectives have to be explicitly promoted by the member states' budgetary policies, as they are fundamental in raising Europe's growth potential. Public finances have to be in good shape both in terms of quantitative but also in terms of qualitative targets. And they have to be based on a sustainable footing in order to face the challenges of ageing. These proposals aim at strengthening the economic rationale underpinning budgetary policy decisions. At the same time they seek to ensure a more rigorous adherence to the budgetary commitments, which Member States set for themselves. The proposals do not create any new procedure since they are to be implemented on the basis of the stability and convergence programmes and using the instruments foreseen by the Treaty and the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) provisions : assessment, regular surveillance, early warning, excessive deficit procedure, recommendations. In relation to this initiative the Commission has also adopted today two Communications calling for the upgrading of EU and euro area economic and budgetary statistics (IP/02/1743).

    [02] La Commission appelle à une amélioration des statistiques relatives à la zone euro et à l'adoption d'un code de bonnes pratiques

    La Commission européenne a adopté deux communications visant à améliorer la qualité des statistiques relatives à la zone euro. La première traite plus spécifiquement des statistiques budgétaires, qui sont indispensables à la bonne mise en œuvre du cadre de surveillance budgétaire de l'UEM et du pacte de stabilité et de croissance (PSC). Elle propose à cet effet un code de bonnes pratiques, dont l'application renforcerait la qualité, la fiabilité, la transparence et l'actualité de ces statistiques, et qui précise les responsabilités de tous les acteurs intervenant dans ce processus, que ce soit au niveau des États membres ou de la Commission et d'Eurostat. La Commission invite le conseil ECOFIN à entériner ce code avant le 1er mars 2003, date des prochaines notifications au titre de la procédure concernant les déficits excessifs (PDE). La deuxième communication concerne l'ensemble des statistiques macroéconomiques relatives à la zone euro, qui sont essentielles à la conduite de la politique monétaire et à une bonne coordination des politiques économiques. La Commission y invite le Conseil européen à œuvrer pour assurer la fiabilité des statistiques officielles en la matière, en garantissant notamment l'indépendance scientifique du système statistique européen, et à encourager l'élaboration des principaux indicateurs économiques européens (PIEE) selon le principe de "l'Europe d'abord", qui consiste à donner la priorité à la production d'indicateurs au niveau européen. Ces deux communications de la Commission coïncident avec l'appel de cette institution à un renforcement de la coordination des politiques budgétaires (voir IP/02/1742).

    [03] Commission imposes heavy fines on four companies involved in plasterboard cartel

    The European Commission has imposed fines totalling €478 million on four companies which operated a long-running cartel on the market for plasterboard, a product which is widely used in the building industry and by DIY practitioners. The plasterboard market, which had a turnover of more than €1.2 billion in 1997 (the last full year of the infringement) is the largest in terms of value to have been covered by a Commission cartel decision over the last ten years or so. The cartel affected 80% of consumers in the European Union, namely in France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Benelux countries. Two of the companies involved, Lafarge and BPB, were committing their second infringement of EU law on restrictive agreements, having already been fined once in 1994. "The building industry is the pulse of the economy. The substantial amount of the fine reflects the size of the market, the impact of the illicit agreement on the consumer and the repeated infringement of the competition rules by two of the companies. The Commission is focusing its drive to stamp out cartels on the key sectors of the European economy, where its action can directly improve the well-being of consumers, as is the case here", stated Mario Monti, Competition Commissioner.

    [04] La Commission prend une décision à l'encontre d'Aventis et de Merck dans l'entente sur la méthylglucamine

    La Commission européenne a adopté une décision constatant qu'Aventis Pharma SA et Rhône-Poulenc Biochemie SA, qui appartiennent au groupe Aventis, ainsi que Merck KgaA ont enfreint les règles de concurrence de l'Union européenne en s'entendant sur les prix et les parts de marché dans le secteur de la méthylglucamine entre 1990 et 1999. La méthylglucamine est un produit chimique intermédiaire pour la synthèse de produits de contraste utilisés en radiologie. Les trois entreprises contrôlent ensemble la totalité de la production à l'échelle mondiale. Dans sa décision, la Commission a considéré Aventis Pharma et Rhône-Poulenc Biochemie comme une seule entreprise et leur a infligé une amende de 2.85 millions d'€. Merck KgaA a, en revanche, bénéficié de l'immunité totale car elle a fourni des informations cruciales à un moment où la Commission n'avait pas connaissance de l'entente. Pour fixer le montant de l'amende, la Commission a aussi tenu compte de la dimension réduite du marché de la méthylglucamine, le plus petit marché de produit au sujet duquel elle ait jamais pris de décision en matière d'ententes.

    [05] New State aid rules for slaughterhouse waste, TSE tests and fallen stock

    The European Commission has adopted new guidelines for State aid relating to the cost of disposing of slaughterhouse waste and fallen stock, as well as for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) tests. The new rules clarify and modify the State aid policy in these sectors. This is necessary because Member States have been following different policies that create a serious risk of distortion of competition. The new rules enter into force on 1 January 2003.

    [06] Commission orders recovery of State aid granted to Refractarios Especiales

    The European Commission has decided that the failure, by the Spanish wage guarantee fund, to recover €545,000 in debt owed by Refractarios Especiales S.A. constitutes State aid to this company. This amount must now be recovered, including interest, from the company. On the other hand, debt rescheduling agreements entered into between the company and the tax authorities and the social security authorities in 2002 were deemed not to contain State aid. At this stage, the Commission has not yet assessed further investment aid to the company but has asked the Spanish authorities for all information necessary in case they intend to grant such aid.

    [07] Commission approves, subject to tough conditions, rescue aid for British Energy

    The European Commission has approved the rescue aid granted by the United Kingdom Government to British Energy plc with a view to enabling it to keep the electricity group afloat in the short-term until a longer-term solution to its difficulties is found. The nuclear electricity generator group is facing difficulties following the fall in electricity prices in the UK. The aid was warranted on the grounds that there is a risk of disruption in the supply of electricity in the United Kingdom and to ensure nuclear safety. The aid will be strictly limited to the amount necessary to keep the company afloat. It is in any event capped to a maximum amount of £899 million. In addition to this sum, a sum of £276 million for identified contingencies may be used specifically for their dedicated purposes.

    [08] Commission proposes reform of Gibraltar tax regime

    The European Commission has adopted a recommendation to the United Kingdom for the abolition or reform of the Exempt Company regime in Gibraltar. Under the regime, an Exempt Company pays no income tax on its profits. Instead, it is subject to a low, fixed annual tax. The Commission has decided that this tax exemption constitutes State aid favouring Exempt Companies and should therefore be phased out by the end of 2005 at the latest.

    [09] Sale of parts of Erste Donau-Dampfschiffahrt-Gesellschaft m.b.H (DDSG) to the City of Vienna : Commission states that no state aid is involved

    The European Commission has approved the sale of substantial parts of Erste Donau-Dampfschiffahrt-Gesellschaft m.b.H, wholly owned by the Republic of Austria, to the City of Vienna. The Commission confirmed that no state aid is involved into the transaction.

    [10] Transport sector : Commission approves UK scheme to facilitate environmental protection

    The European Commission has authorised the "UK Logistics Transaction Programme" which is intended to facilitate environmental protection and the reduction of CO² emissions in particular, through the promotion of best practices in the transport sector.

    [11] People with reduced mobility : Commission approves aid for the acquisition of adapted road transport vehicles in the Madrid area

    The European Commission has today a programme from the Community of Madrid which seeks to bring into service taxis and interurban commercial bus services adapted to persons with reduced mobility. The Community of Madrid intends to help taxis and occasional or regular interurban bus service undertakings to acquire new vehicles equipped with devices designed for people with reduced mobility and/or wheelchair users. The scheme will be in force from 2002 to 2004. The 2002 allocated budget is just over €360,000. Similar amounts are planned for subsequent years. The Commission considers the aid compatible with competition rules.

    [12] Thierry Stoll est nommé directeur général adjoint de la DG Marché intérieur

    La Commission européenne a décidé de nommer M. Thierry Stoll, fonctionnaire de la Commission de nationalité luxembourgeoise, au poste de directeur général adjoint de la Direction générale Marché intérieur. Celui-ci sera chargé de la politique de la DG en matière de plaintes et d'infractions, des relations avec le Parlement européen ainsi que de deux directions couvrant les marchés publics, la libre circulation des marchandises, les services postaux et les professions réglementées.

    [II] Other news - Autres nouvelles

    [13] Alternative to a moratorium on cod fisheries : Franz Fischler presents strengthened recovery plan for cod

    The European Commission has presented concrete ideas to the EU Fisheries ministers to tackle the cod crisis. "We find ourselves in an extraordinary situation where there are so few cod left in certain areas that scientists feel unable to predict the effects of potential recovery measures on the stocks concerned. Stocks that not so long ago produced 200,000 tonnes of food from EU waters are now so depleted that we are in the dark as to what is going to happen to them. We have a moral duty not to let these stocks disappear the way cod and the jobs for Canadian fishermen - disappeared off the east coast of Canada. We also have a social duty to protect our coastal areas most dependent on fisheries. This is why, on the basis of scientific advice, the Commission is considering a strengthened recovery plan for cod, much stricter than the one it proposed a year ago, as an alternative to a moratorium. This plan would require very significant reductions in fishing effort and total allowable catches and strengthened technical measures and control. This, we believe, would combine protection for the stocks with the possibility for the fleets to continue fishing, even if at much reduced levels. Extraordinary situations call for courageous decisions. The Commission is considering a constructive alternative to a moratorium. It is now up to the Council to do its bit", Franz Fischler, Commissioner responsible for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries told Fisheries ministers today in Brussels .

    [14] Romano Prodi et Anna Diamantopoulou se félicitent de l'accord des partenaires sociaux sur leur programme de travail pluriannuel

    Un sommet du dialogue social aura lieu demain 28 novembre, à Bruxelles, sous la présidence de Romano Prodi. Environ 110 partenaires sociaux participeront à ce sommet dont pour la première fois des représentants des pays candidats. Il sera l'occasion pour les partenaires sociaux de faire le bilan de leur dialogue social autonome au plan européen à la veille de l'élargissement et dans le cadre des travaux en cours de la Convention sur le futur de l'Europe. L'objectif de ce Sommet est la présentation par les partenaires sociaux de leur programme de travail conjoint 2003-2005 premier programme du genre qu'ils ont annoncé dans leur Déclaration conjointe de Laeken en décembre 2001.

    [15] Commission clears a German venture in the insurance brokering business

    The European Commission has granted clearance under the Merger Regulation to the creation of a joint venture in the insurance brokering business called Industrieschutz Insurance Broker GmbH between German companies Siemens Financial Services GmbH (Siemens Group) and Aon Jauch & Hübner GmbH (Aon Corp.). (The operation, notified on 22 October 2002, was examined under the simplified merger review procedure)

    [16] Commission clears semiconductors JV between Hitachi and Mitsubishi

    The European Commission has granted clearance under the Merger Regulation to a semiconductors joint venture between Japanese companies Hitachi Ltd and Mitsubishi Electric Corporation. (The operation, notified on 23 October 2002, was examined under the simplified merger review procedure)

    [17] Commission clears joint control of Nycomed by Crédit Suisse and Blackstone

    The European Commission has granted clearance under the Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control of the Danish pharmaceuticals firm Nycomed Holdings A/S by financial services companies Crédit Suisse Group and Blackstone Group Holding. (The operation, notified on 30 October 2002, was examined under the simplified merger review procedure)

    [18] Anna Diamantopoulou se félicite de l'engagement de la Turquie à participer dès 2003 à quatre programmes communautaires dans le domaine de l'emploi et des affaires sociales

    A l'occasion de la réunion de la "Plateforme de la société civile turque" qui se tiendra aujourd'hui 27 novembre à Bruxelles, Anna Diamantopoulou, commissaire européenne chargée de l'Emploi et des Affaires sociales, se félicite de l'engagement de la Turquie à participer dès 2003 aux programmes communautaires en matière d'égalité entre les femmes et les hommes, de lutte contre la discrimination et d'exclusion sociale.

    [19] Commission and Hong Kong SAR sign re-admission agreement

    (! embargo 7 pm !) An agreement between the European Community and the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation has been signed on 27 November 2002 in Brussels. This agreement is the first-ever readmission agreement signed between the European Community and a third country or territory. It will enable Hong Kong and the EC to ensure, on a reciprocal basis, the rapid and effective identification and return of persons illegally entering or remaining in their respective territories.

    [20] Statement by European Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Poul Nielson on Chechnya

    "I am very concerned by the recent announcement of the Ingush Federal Migration Service of their intention to close the Aki Yurt camp on the 1st December. This camp currently hosts more than 1,700 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Chechnya who have fled the war and refuse to return there as long as their lives are at risk. That it is not known where these people will go if the camp closes is disturbing."

    [21] Import of fresh pig meat from the Slovak Republic authorised

    The European Commission has adopted a decision authorising the importation into the EU of pig meat from the Slovak Republic from districts which are not under restriction due to Classical Swine Fever infection in wild boar. Imports of fresh pig meat for human consumption from the Slovak Republic were previously not authorised on animal health grounds, in particular due to classical swine fever (CSF). The Slovakian authorities requested authorisation to export pig meat to the EU and supported their request with information on the health status of swine in the Slovak Republic and the control of CSF. Vaccination against CSF stopped in December 2000 and the last outbreak of CSF in domestic swine was reported in July 2001. In July 2002 the Commission's Food and Veterinary Office visited Slovakia to assess the animal health situation. The mission report indicated that the health status of domestic swine in Slovakia as regards CSF is satisfactory although there are some areas where the infection exists in wild boar. The Slovakian veterinary authorities have given guarantees that meat exported will only be derived from pigs which have not been fed catering waste.

    [22] Humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka

    The European Commission has pledged €17.5 million from its 2003 budget to the Sri Lankan peace process and immediate humanitarian assistance programmes. This sum is in addition to €17.3 million already committed or programmed under the 2002 budget. At the Sri Lanka Peace Process Support Meeting held in Oslo on 25 November 2002, the Commission indicated that it is also finalising with the Government the use of €20 million in Counterpart Funds to support the Unified Assistance Scheme set up to help resettle internally displaced persons. A larger pledging conference for Sri Lanka is planned for Tokyo in late Spring 2003. The Commission is preparing a supplementary pledge for that occasion.

    [23] First EU Civil Protection Forum : Protecting Europe's citizens from terrorism and natural and technological disasters

    On 28 November European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström will launch the Commission's first Civil Protection Forum, in Brussels (28-29 November 2002). The aim of the Forum is to promote an in-depth exchange of information, best practices and experience on issues linked to natural and technological risks as well as terrorist attacks. This initiative is part of the Commission's contribution to strengthen EU cooperation on Civil Protection. Highlights of the programme include plenary sessions and workshops on the perception of risk by European citizens, safety at sea for people and the environment, nuclear, chemical and biological risks (prevention, preparedness, response) and terrorist risks in public places. During the event, Ms Wallström will also sign Memoranda of Understanding with several candidate countries on their full participation within the Community Coordination Mechanism for Civil Protection. The Commissioner will also launch a prize for the best school project for advancing safety issues.

    [24] Avant-première du film "The man without a past" d'Aki Kaurimäki (02/12)

    Mme Viviane Reding, commissaire européenne à la Culture et à l'Audiovisuel, et M. Eikka Kosonen, représentant permanent de la Finlande auprès de l'Union européenne, organisent le lundi 2 décembre la projection en avant- première du film "L'homme sans passé" du réalisateur finlandais Aki Kaurismäki, qui a obtenu le Grand Prix et le Prix d'interprétation féminine au Festival de Cannes 2002. Ce film est soutenu par le programme MEDIA de l'Union européenne.

    [25] Anna Diamantopoulou met Hanan Ashrawi, head and founder of 'Miftah' (Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy) on the role of civil society and women in the Middle East peace process

    Anna Diamantopoulou, European Commissioner for gender equality, met this morning Dr Hanan Ashrawi, a leading Palestinian civil society activist and Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, to try to push the role of women in the Middle East peace process. Ms Diamantopoulou reported on her recent exploratory visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories where she saw the living conditions of ordinary people at first hand. She also met representatives of 40 civil society organisations. Ms Diamantopoulou's message is that the EU should do more to support the role of women in peacemaking, in particular by encouraging women's full participation in projects under the EU's Partnership for Peace initiative. Ms Diamantopoulou also questioned Dr Ashrawi about employment and equal rights for women in the Palestinian Territories.

    [26] "We owe farm reform to farmers, society and developing countries", says Franz Fischler

    Speaking at the Second International Conference on Globalisation in Leuven, Belgium today on the agricultural policy in the global economy, European Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler pressed for further farm reform and strongly defended the CAP against unfounded criticism. "We owe CAP reform to our farmers in order to secure their future. We owe it to our society in order to meet its demands for quality. We owe it to our citizens who seek sustainability. We owe it to the WTO in order to make trade less distorting, and we owe it in particular to the developing countries. I do not deny that the CAP still contains more protectionist elements than it should, although its support has become far less trade distorting over the years. There is a need for further reform of the CAP in order to make it more acceptable to our society and further reduce trade distortions. Recently, the Chief Economist of the World Bank said that the mid term review was dead. To paraphrase Mark Twain : The news of its death is premature. I can tell you : the reform process is not over yet. There is still a lot of work to do. We also need to deal with dairy and sugar, the two sectors where the absence of reform clearly constrains our negotiating margins in the Doha Round and stains the image of the CAP."

    [27] Autre matériel diffusé

    Discours de M. Prodi : "L'Europe et la Méditerranée: venons en aux faits" à l'UCL - Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve (26/11)

    Discours de M. Lamy : "L'Europe: le développement pour objectif, le commerce pour instrument" à la Conférence internationale sur la mondialisation (26/11, Louvain-la-Neuve)


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


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