Daily News 06 / 05 / 2015

A Digital Single Market for Europe: Commission sets out 16 initiatives to make it happen

The Internet and digital technologies are transforming our world – in every walk of life and in every line of business. Europe needs to embrace these digital opportunities to create new sources of jobs and growth on our continent. This is why the European Commission has made the creation of a Digital Single Market one of its top priorities and unveils today its detailed plans to make it happen. The Digital Single Market Strategy includes a set of targeted actions to be delivered by the end of next year. It is built on three pillars: (1) better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe; (2) creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish; (3) maximising the growth potential of the digital economy. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Today, we lay the groundwork for Europe’s digital future. I want to see pan-continental telecoms networks, digital services that cross borders and a wave of innovative European start-ups. I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market – wherever they are in Europe.” Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Günther H. Oettinger present the Strategy today at 12:00 CET in the Commission’s press room, with live broadcast on EBS. A press release, a video as well as different factsheets are available online (Questions and Answers; Why we need a Digital Single Market; Country Sheets). (for more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382; Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 6708; Marie Frenay – Tel.: +32 229 64532)


Antitrust: Commission launches e-commerce sector inquiry

The European Commission has today launched an antitrust competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector in the European Union. The inquiry, as announced by Commissioner Vestager in March, will allow the Commission to identify possible competition concerns affecting European e-commerce markets. It complements actions launched within the framework of the Digital Single Market Strategy adopted today. The sector inquiry will focus particularly on potential barriers erected by companies to cross-border online trade in goods and services where e-commerce is most widespread such as electronics, clothing and shoes, as well as digital content. Knowledge gained through the sector inquiry will contribute to better enforcement of competition law in the e-commerce sector. Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said, “European citizens face too many barriers to accessing goods and services online across borders. Some of these barriers are put in place by companies themselves. With this sector inquiry my aim is to determine how widespread these barriers are and what effects they have on competition and consumers. If they are anti-competitive we will not hesitate to take enforcement action under EU antitrust rules.” The press release is available online in EN, FR, DE and all other languages. The factsheet is available in EN, DE and FR. (for more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)


Turkey joins the EU Civil Protection Mechanism

Turkey has joined the European framework for cooperation in disaster management and emergency response. Today Christos Stylianides, the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, signed the agreement on Turkey’s participation in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism together with Dr. Fuat Oktay, President of the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority of Turkey. “Turkey will be a valuable partner in our common goal to prepare better for disasters and to respond jointly and effectively when a crisis strikes”, said Commissioner Stylianides. “In a world increasingly prone to disasters, we need to act together, each contributing its expertise, capabilities and experience. This is what the Civil Protection Mechanism is about,” he added.Turkey will have access to cooperation opportunities, including joint civil protection trainings and exercises, disaster prevention and preparedness projects, direct communication among European civil protection authorities during emergencies, coordinated European relief operations, EU transport co-funding, sharing of best practices and more. Turkey will contribute with its own initiatives and expertise. (for more information: Alexandre Polack +32 (0)2 29 90677, Irina Novakova +32 (0)2 29 57517)


EU signs bilateral visa waiver agreement with the United Arab Emirates

Today the UAE Ambassador to the EU, H.E. Sulaiman Hamid Almazroui, the Permanent Representative of Latvia to the EU, H.E. Ilze Juhansone, as well as a DG Home Affairs representative from the European Commission will sign a reciprocal bilateral short-stay visa waiver agreement in Brussels. The agreement will be provisionally applied until its final ratification. From the signature onwards, citizens of the United Arab Emirates will be able to travel without a visa to the EU for stays of up to 90 days (within any 180-day period). The remaining visa requirements for some EU citizens travelling to the UAE have also been lifted. The visa waiver does not apply to the United Kingdom and Ireland which are not part of the Schengen area.Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “I am very pleased that visa free travel to the EU has become a reality for citizens of the United Arab Emirates who travel to the Schengen zone for short stays as well as for all EU citizens travelling to the UAE. This will strengthen contacts and mutual understanding between our peoples and give a boost to the European tourism industry and the economy as a whole.” (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Milica Petrovic – Tel.: +32 229 63020)


State aid: Commission approves prolongation of Irish credit union restructuring scheme

The European Commission has found the prolongation until 31 October 2015 of an Irish scheme aimed at restructuring credit unions to be in line with EU state aid rules on the restructuring of banks during the crisis (see also MEMO). The objective of the scheme is to underpin the stability and long-term viability of credit unions and the credit union at large. Restructuring involves merging weaker and stronger credit unions, providing, if necessary, a capital injection to make up any shortfall in the capital reserve requirements of the merged credit union. Stabilisation involves assisting fundamentally viable credit unions that have temporarily slipped below the regulatory reserve requirements. The scheme will have a budget of € 250 million to support mergers and a budget of € 30 million to stabilise specific credit unions that will be funded via a sector levy. The scheme is valid until 31 October 2015. The Commission found in particular that the measure ensures that the beneficiaries become viable in the long-term through restructuring or merging with sound credit unions and that they contribute to the cost of restructuring. Moreover, the impact on competition is mitigated by the fact that a credit union may only do business with customers fulfilling its membership criteria, for example members drawn from a common location or profession. The Commission had first authorised the scheme in 2014. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the reference SA.41371. (for more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)


Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of TI Fluid Systems by Bain Capital

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of TI Fluid Systems Limited of the United Kingdom by Bain Capital Investors, LLC of the United States. TI Fluid Systems is a globally active manufacturer of automotive fluid storage, carrying and delivery systems, tank systems, pump and module systems and HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) fluid systems for light vehicles. Bain Capital is the ultimate general partner of numerous private equity funds. These funds invest in companies in various industries, including consumer retail, healthcare, energy and telecommunications. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns, given that there are no overlaps between the activities of TI Fluid Systems and Bain Capital’s portfolio 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.7520. (for more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)


Produits agricoles de qualité : la Commission approuve deux nouvelles demandes

La Commission européenne a approuvé la demande d’enregistrement de deux nouveaux produits dans la liste des indications géographiques protégées (IGP). Il s’agit pour la Belgique du “Vlaamse Laurier“, un laurier en arbre ou arbuste prêt à la vente cultivé dans les provinces belges de Flandre-Occidentale et de Flandre-Orientale; et pour l’Italie du “Finocchiona“, un saucisson à l’arôme de fenouil produit en Toscane. Ces deux noms vont rejoindre ceux de plus de 1200 produits déjà protégés, dont la liste est disponible dans la base de données DOOR. Pour plus d’informations, voir aussi les pages sur la politique de qualité. (pour plus d’information: Daniel Rosario – Tél: +32 229 56185; Clémence Robin – Tel: +32 229 52 509)

Volume of retail trade down by 0.8% in euro area

In March 2015 compared with February 2015, the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade fell by 0.8% in the euro area (EA19) and by 0.6% in the EU28, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In February retail trade rose by 0.1% in both zones. In March 2015 compared with March 2014 the retail sales index increased by 1.6% in the euro area and by 2.5% in the EU28. A press release is available online. (for more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182)



Vice-President Dombrovskis on European Semester visit to Malta

Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, will visit Malta on 7 and 8 May to discuss European Semester of economic policy coordination and reforms underway in the country. Amongst others, he will meet the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister and the Minister for Social Dialogue. He will attend a joint meeting of the Committees for Foreign and European Affairs and Economic and Financial Affairs in the House of Representatives, meet social partners and NGOs. The Vice-President is visiting Member States as part of the Commission’s outreach on the European Semester. It takes place on the basis of the Commission’s assessment of Member States’ economic and social developments, or Country Reports, published in February, and in view of the country-specific policy recommendations to be published by the Commission in May. During these visits, the Vice-President engages national authorities and social partners in a constructive discussion on the issues raised in the reports. After Malta, the Vice-President’s next country visit will be to Croatia on 29 May. (for more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Annikky Lamp – Tel.: +32 229 56151)

Commissioner Johannes Hahn visits Serbia on 7 May

The visit will be the second one Commissioner Hahn pays to Serbia in his capacity of Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. The aim of Commissioner Hahn’s visit is to support Serbia’s accession process and discuss the possibility of opening of the first chapters. In Belgrade, he will meet President Tomislav Nikolić and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić. He will discuss negotiations and focus on rule of law chapters 23 and 24 with Minister for EU Integration Jadranka Joksimović, Minister of Justice Nikola Selaković and Minister of the Interior Nebojša Stefanović. He will also have meetings with the Ombudsman Saša Janković and civil society representatives on the same topics. During his visit Commissioner Hahn will also give a keynote speech at the Foreign Investors Council conference and will discuss the economic and structural reforms and the connectivity agenda with Ministers of Finance Duṧan Vujović and of Economy Zeljko Sertić at the meeting of the National Investment Committee. He will also meet opposition leaders Bojan Pajtić and Boris Tadić. Commissioner Hahn will also testify to EU solidarity by visiting Obrenovac, where people are recovering from last year’s floods with EU financial assistance. (for more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 66430)