Tag Archives: Competition-Antitrust

Antitrust: Commission opens formal investigation into Aspen Pharma's pricing practices for cancer medicines

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “When we get sick, we may depend on specific drugs to save or prolong our lives. Companies should be rewarded for producing these pharmaceuticals to ensure that they keep making them into the future. But when the price of a drug suddenly goes up by several hundred percent, this is something the Commission may look at. More specifically, in this case we will be assessing whether Aspen is breaking EU competition rules by charging excessive prices for a number of medicines.”

The investigation concerns Aspen’s pricing practices for niche medicines containing the active pharmaceutical ingredients chlorambucil, melphalan, mercaptopurine, tioguanine and busulfan. The medicines in question are used for treating cancer, such as hematologic tumours. They are sold with different formulations and under multiple brand names. Aspen acquired these medicines after their patent protection had expired.

The Commission will investigate information indicating that Aspen has imposed very significant and unjustified price increases of up to several hundred percent, so-called ‘price gouging’. The Commission has information that, for example, to impose such price increases, Aspen has threatened to withdraw the medicines in question in some Member States and has actually done so in certain cases.

Aspen’s behaviour may be in breach of the EU’s antitrust rules (Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 54 of the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement, which forbid the imposition of unfair prices or unfair trading conditions on customers.

The investigation covers all of the EEA except Italy, where the Italian competition authority already adopted an infringement decision against Aspen on 29 September 2016.

This is the Commission’s first investigation into concerns about excessive pricing practices in the pharmaceutical industry.

The Commission will now carry out its in-depth investigation as a matter of priority. The opening of formal proceedings does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

Background

Aspen is a global pharmaceutical company headquartered in South Africa. Aspen has several subsidiaries in the EEA.

In the EU, national authorities are free to adopt pricing rules for medicines and to decide on treatments they wish to reimburse under their social security systems. Each country has different pharmaceutical pricing and reimbursement policies, adapted to its own economic and health needs. The pricing of original medicines that are protected by patents is highly regulated. For off-patent medicines, Member States may directly influence prices of generic entrants, but also encourage competition to achieve lower prices. As a result, prices generally fall significantly when a medicine goes off-patent. However, in the present investigation the Commission has indications of significant price increases for off-patent medicines.

Article 102 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU prohibits the abuse of dominant market positions. The implementation of these provisions is defined in the EU’s Antitrust Regulation (Council Regulation No 1/2003), which is also applied by national competition authorities.

Article 11(6) of the Antitrust Regulation provides that the initiation of proceedings by the Commission relieves the competition authorities of the Member States of their competence to also apply EU competition rules to the practices concerned. Article 16(1) of the same Regulation provides that national courts must avoid giving decisions which would conflict with a decision contemplated by the Commission in proceedings it has initiated.

There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anti-competitive conduct. The duration of an antitrust investigation depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, the extent to which the undertaking concerned cooperates with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.

More information on the investigation will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number 40394.

Daily News 15 / 05 / 2017

EU announces 21 May as ‘European Natura 2000 day’

Today, Commissioner Karmenu Vella, Adina-Ioana Valean, Chairwoman of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, First Vice-President of the Committee of the Regions and Neil Kerr,  Deputy Permanent Representative of Malta signed a joint declaration proclaiming 21 May as the European Natura 2000 Day. Commissioner Karmenu Vella said: “With the European Natura 2000 Day we pay tribute to this unique network and its value for people and our economy. For me it is one of the European Union’s truly outstanding achievements: a network of over 27,000 protected sites, covering over 1 million square kilometres across the land and sea, made possible through the co-operation among all our Member States”. With the proclamation of the European Natura 2000 Day, the Commission has fulfilled its first pledge from the recent Action Plan for nature, people and the economy with the aim to improve communication and outreach, engaging citizens, stakeholders and communities. Already this year, hundreds of local events and networking activities across Europe will mark the day. Today also saw the launch of the next round of the European Natura 2000 Award. This is another Commission initiative dedicated to rewarding excellence in the management and promotion of the network and raising awareness about Natura 2000 and its benefits to European citizens. More information is available here. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Iris Petsa – Tel.: +32 229 93321)

Health Technology Assessment: 87% of citizens and stakeholders support EU cooperation beyond 2020

The Commission has received some 250 replies to its public consultation on strengthening EU cooperation on Health Technology Assessment (HTA), 25% of which were from citizens and 75% from stakeholders. Almost all respondents (98%) acknowledge the usefulness of HTA, 81% consider the current EU cooperation on HTA to be useful to some degree, and 87% consider that EU cooperation on HTA should continue beyond 2020. Of those who support sustainable EU cooperation on HTA, 80% think the scope should include pharmaceuticals and 72% consider that medical technologies should also be covered. Commenting on these results, Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said “I am pleased, but not surprised at the overwhelming support for sustainable cooperation on HTA at EU-level. Such cooperation will bring real added value to all countries, through the pooling of resources, exchange of expertise, and the avoidance of duplication. I am keen to finalise a proposal on what form this cooperation will take before the end of the year.” The results of the public consultation and views expressed by stakeholders in other forums will be summarised in the Synopsis Report which will form part of the Impact Assessment on strengthening EU cooperation on HTA beyond 2020. Read the full report. (For more information: Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 91269; Aikaterini Apostola – Tel. +32 229 87624)

EU strengthens humanitarian support for Myanmar/Burma, calls for greater aid access

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides has concluded his official visit to Myanmar/Burma, announcing new funding of €12 million for the country as part of an overall €27 million package for the South and East Asia and Pacific. As the first Commissioner to visit Northern Rakhine State, he called for greater access for aid organisations working in the area and visited several EU funded humanitarian projects. “The European Union is committed to supporting those in need in Myanmar/Burma. The recent violence in Northern Rakhine State has created pressing humanitarian needs. During my visit I saw that malnutrition rates have deteriorated after the recent crisis. Our humanitarian partners are helping government authorities develop a food security and nutrition strategy for this region, but we still need better humanitarian access in order to facilitate a quick and full response by aid agencies to assist all affected communities. It is particularly important to help Rohingya civilians who have suffered involuntary displacements as well as supporting their livelihoods.” said Commissioner Stylianides. Since 1994, the European Commission has provided €229 million in humanitarian aid to Myanmar/Burma. Read the full press release and see the photo and video coverage of the visit. (For more information: Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322, Daniel Puglisi – Tel.:+32 229 69140)

Aides d’État: la Commission autorise, sous conditions, l’octroi d’une aide en faveur d’une centrale au gaz en Bretagne (France)

La Commission européenne a autorisé, sous conditions, l’aide que la France envisage d’octroyer à la Compagnie électrique de Bretagne en vue de la construction d’une centrale électrique alimentée au gaz à Landivisiau, en Bretagne. L’enquête approfondie de la Commission a révélé que la mesure était compatible avec les règles de l’UE en matière d’aides d’État, et notamment avec les lignes directrices de 2014 concernant les aides d’État à la protection de l’environnement et à l’énergie. La Commission craignait toutefois que la mesure ne soit susceptible, dans certains cas, d’entraver la concurrence, ce qui risquait de se produire si la CEB était amenée à vendre son électricité à l’opérateur historique national, celui-ci détenant déjà une part significative du marché de la production d’électricité. Elle a donc subordonné son autorisation à la condition que la CEB ne vende pas l’électricité produite dans la centrale de Landivisiau sur la base de contrats à long terme à des entreprises détenant plus de 40 % du marché français de la capacité de production d’électricité. Au vu de ces éléments, la Commission est parvenue à la conclusion que la mesure était conforme aux règles de l’UE en matière d’aides d’État, étant à la fois nécessaire et proportionnée pour répondre aux préoccupations en termes de sécurité d’approvisionnement électrique en Bretagne. Mme Margrethe Vestager, commissaire chargée de la politique de concurrence, a déclaré à ce sujet: «La construction de la centrale électrique de Landivisiau, en Bretagne, contribuera à garantir l’absence de coupures de courant dans cette région, tout en préservant la concurrence sur le marché de l’électricité. La Commission a travaillé en étroite collaboration avec la France afin de s’assurer que l’aide octroyée en vue de la construction de cette centrale satisfait aux règles de l’UE en matière d’aides d’État.» Voir le communique de presse en EN, FR, DE. (Pour plus d’informations: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

 

State aid: Commission finds Portugal’s extension of hydro-power concessions to EDP does not involve state aid

The European Commission has concluded that the extension of hydro power concessions granted by Portugal to the national incumbent Electricidade de Portugal SA (EDP) does not involve state aid. The use of public water resources for electricity production in Portugal is subject to a concession agreement. The government picks a concessionaire following specific procedures determined by law. In 2007, Portugal extended several hydro power concessions beyond the termination date that had originally been granted (2020 in average). These extensions were granted to EDP against the payment of €704 million. This measure was never notified to the Commission for state aid approval and has the effect of maintaining 27 hydro power plants under the control of EDP, together accounting for 27% of Portugal’s generation capacity. In September 2013, following the receipt of complaints, the Commission opened a formal investigation into the measure. The main concerns related to the price paid by EDP for the extension of the concessions and to the market impact of the extension given EDP’s strong position on the Portuguese market. During the formal investigation, the Commission verified that the compensation paid by EDP for the extension of the hydro power concessions was in line with market conditions. On this basis, the Commission has now concluded that the compensation paid by EDP for the extension of the concessions does not involve state aid. A full press release is available online in EN, DE, FR and PT. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 22994889)

 

Antitrust: Commission opens formal investigation into Aspen Pharma’s pricing practices for cancer medicines

The European Commission has opened a formal investigation into concerns that Aspen Pharma has engaged in excessive pricing concerning five life-saving cancer medicines. The Commission will investigate whether Aspen has abused a dominant market position in breach of EU antitrust rules. The investigation concerns Aspen’s pricing practices for niche medicines containing the active pharmaceutical ingredients chlorambucil, melphalan, mercaptopurine, tioguanine and busulfan. The medicines in question are used for treating cancer, such as hematologic tumours. The Commission will investigate information indicating that Aspen has imposed very significant and unjustified price increases of up to several hundred percent, so-called ‘price gouging’. The Commission has information that, for example, to impose such price increases, Aspen has threatened to withdraw the medicines in question in some Member States and has actually done so in certain cases. This is the Commission’s first investigation into concerns about excessive pricing practices in the pharmaceutical industry. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “When we get sick, we may depend on specific drugs to save or prolong our lives. Companies should be rewarded for producing these pharmaceuticals to ensure that they keep making them into the future. But when the price of a drug suddenly goes up by several hundred percent, this is something the Commission may look at. More specifically, in this case we will be assessing whether Aspen is breaking EU competition rules by charging excessive prices for a number of medicines.” A full press release is available online in EN, DE and FR. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Brocade by Broadcom, subject to conditions

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of networking products supplier Brocade (US) by semiconductor manufacturer Broadcom (US/Singapore), subject to conditions on interoperability and protection of competitors’ confidential information. The Commission had competition concerns regarding the relationship between the parties created by the transaction as notified, as well as regarding the complementarity between Broadcom’s and Brocade’s products. The Commission’s investigation focused on two areas: (i) chips needed for Fibre Channel Storage Area Network and Internet Protocol networking products, and (ii) switches and cards for Fibre Channel Storage Area Networks, which are complementary products. To address these concerns, Broadcom committed to cooperate closely and in a timely manner with competing HBA cards suppliers to achieve the same level of interoperability as that of its own HBA cards and to protect third party confidential information. In view of the proposed remedies, the Commission concluded that the transaction, as modified by the commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns. The decision is conditional upon full compliance with the commitments. A full press release is available online in EN, DE, FR. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)

Mergers: Commission approves merger between chemical producers Reichhold and Polynt, subject to conditions

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the merger between chemical producers Reichhold (US) and Polynt (Italy). Both produce unsaturated polyester resins, used to make reinforced plastics. The decision is conditional on divestment of Reichhold’s Etain plant in France. Both Reichhold and Polynt are active in the manufacturing of chemicals. Both companies produce and sell unsaturated polyester resins. Following the market investigation, the Commission concluded that the transaction, as notified, raised competition concerns in the market for the production and sale of unsaturated polyester resins. This is notably in view of the relatively high combined market shares of the merged entity and its extensive network of plants, as compared to its main competitors. To address the competition concerns identified by the Commission, Reichhold and Polynt offered to divest Reichhold’s largest unsaturated polyester resin plant, in Etain, north-east France, together with the plant’s customer and product information. The Commission therefore concluded that the proposed merger, as modified by the commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns. The decision is conditional upon full compliance with the commitments. A full press release is available online in EN, DE, FR and IT. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of a shopping mall in Leipzig by Ares and Baupost

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of the Nova Eventis shopping mall in Leipzig, Germany by Ares Management, L.P. (Ares) and the Baupost Group, L.L.C (Baupost), both of the USA. The Nova Eventis shopping mall is held and operated by Prejan Enterprises Limited. Ares is a publicly traded global alternative asset manager investing, among others, in real estate and holding residential, retail, office and industrial properties in Europe. Baupost is an investment organisation that invests in a range of financial instruments, asset classes and geographic regions. Through the transaction, Ares and Baupost acquired joint control over Prejan Enterprises Limited. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns because of its limited impact on the market structure. 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.8388. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of S&T by Ennoconn

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of S&T of Austria by Ennoconn of Taiwan. Hon Hai Precision Co Ltd of Taiwan holds an equity interest in Ennoconn. S&T develops hardware- and software-based appliances and embedded systems. Both Ennoconn and Hon Hai are providers of electronic manufacturing services. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns because the companies’ activities are mostly complementary and S&T has a limited presence in the markets for embedded systems and smart grid solutions. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8415. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)

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

Antitrust: Commission welcomes Court of Justice ruling on South European bananas cartel appeal

The European Court of Justice (Case C-469/15 P) has dismissed the appeal brought by banana importer Pacific Fruit group against a General Court judgment of 2015 (case T-655/11). Today’s judgment fully confirmed the assessment of the General Court, and in particular endorsed the admissibility of evidence transmitted to the European Commission by the Italian finance police (Guardia di Finanza).

In October 2011 the Commission imposed a fine on Pacific Fruit group for participating with Chiquita in a price fixing cartel for fresh bananas in three EU Member States (Greece, Italy and Portugal).

As part of its cartel investigation, the Commission received copies of documents from the Italian finance police. The EU Court of Justice agreed with the General Court and the Commission that these documents could be used as evidence in proving the cartel. The Court confirmed the admissibility of documents transmitted by national authorities other than competition authorities, as long as this transmission has not been declared unlawful under national law. The Court also confirmed that the rules on cooperation between authorities in the European Competition Network would not prevent the Commission from using information transmitted by other national authorities than the competition authorities purely on the ground that that information was obtained for other purposes.

The EU Court of Justice also found that the General Court had carried out a detailed review of the fine imposed on Pacific Fruit Group and that the General Court was right to consider that the Commission was fully entitled to state that the infringement could be characterised as a restriction of competition by object, without assessing effects.

Background

The Commission found that two main banana importers, Chiquita and Pacific Fruit, participated in a cartel between July 2004 and April 2005 in violation of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. The cartel members coordinated their price strategy regarding future prices, price levels, price movements and/or price trends and exchanged information on future market conduct regarding prices. 

Statement by Commissioner Vestager on launching market test on Gazprom commitments concerning Central and Eastern European gas markets

*Check against deliery*

I am here to talk to you about the next step in our antitrust investigation into Gazprom’s business practices.

This case is about putting an end to Gazprom’s actions, which may have prevented the free flow of gas in Central and Eastern Europe at competitive prices.

It could benefit millions of Europeans that rely on gas to keep their homes warm. And businesses that use gas to heat their premises or for production.

Today, we are inviting stakeholders to comment on a set of commitments offered by Gazprom.

Gazprom has submitted these commitments in response to the concerns set out in the Commission’s Statement of Objections. The allegation was that Gazprom pursued an overall strategy to partition Central and Eastern European gas markets, in breach of EU rules.

EU rules apply to all companies that operate in the European market – no matter if they are European or not. Gazprom is welcome to sell its gas in Europe but it has to follow EU rules, including our competition rules.

Gazprom’s offer of commitments confirms this. We think they provide a forward looking solution to fix the issues we’ve found – and help to better integrate gas markets in the region.

So, how do the commitments address our three competition concerns?

The first competition concern is that Gazprom has partitioned the market along national borders. In contracts with customers in eight countries it imposed territorial restrictions to re-selling gas. These are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.

Gazprom has now offered to remove all provisions in its contracts with customers that prohibit them from re-selling gas across EU borders. In addition, it will remove all provisions that reduce the incentives of customers to re-sell gas, such as clauses that give Gazprom a share of the profit. Gazprom’s commitment extends also to future contracts.

So, as a customer, once you have bought and paid for the gas, it is for you to decide what happens to it, not Gazprom.

At the same time, your ability as a customer to ship gas across borders of course depends on the access to gas infrastructure. Some regions in Central and Eastern Europe lack access to such interconnections with their EU neighbours, in particular Bulgaria and the Baltic States.

Gazprom has offered to take positive steps to further integrate these gas markets, which address our competition concerns:

  1. Gazprom will deliver gas to Bulgaria or the Baltic States at a fixed transparent fee. Relevant customers that have bought gas originally to be delivered to Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, can re-sell their gas. They can have it delivered to Bulgaria or the Baltic States instead. This allows these customers to seek new business opportunities even before connecting gas infrastructure becomes available, to the benefit of Bulgaria and the Baltic States.
  1. Gazprom will adapt its gas contracts to remove obstacles to cross-border gas flows to Bulgaria. These changes would enable better gas interconnections between Bulgaria and its EU neighbours, in particular with Greece.

Combined, we think these measures are important improvements to ensure the free flow of gas in Central and Eastern Europe.

Our second competition concern is about prices. The re-sale restrictions I just mentioned have contributed to isolating each national market. As a result of this, Gazprom may have been able to charge excessive gas prices in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Gazprom’s commitments will link gas prices in these countries to competitive benchmarks. This means that customers will be able to ask for their gas price to be renegotiated, if it diverges from competitive price benchmarks, such as liquid hub prices. Gazprom will amend its contracts with customers to add this right.

This does not mean that all prices throughout Europe will be the same. But gas prices in these regions will be closer linked to prices that are formed in parts of the EU where other sources of gas are available, for instance at liquid hubs. This would ensure that gas prices in these regions will be competitive.

Finally, our third competition concern is that Gazprom should not take advantage of its dominant market position on the gas supply market to obtain rights relating to the access to or control of gas infrastructure. The Statement of Objections raised concerns in relation to the South Stream project in Bulgaria and the Yamal pipeline in Poland.

As regards South Stream, Gazprom has committed not to seek damages from its Bulgarian partners following the termination of the South Stream project. This means that Gazprom’s conditioning of gas supplies won’t have any effect in practice.

As regards the Yamal Pipeline, the Commission’s investigation has shown that the situation cannot be changed by this antitrust procedure. This is due to the impact of an intergovernmental agreement between Poland and Russia. 

For future international agreements, the Commission (led by my colleagues Miguel Arias Cañete and Maroš Šefčovič) has put forward a legislative proposal. We want to make intergovernmental agreements subject to prior scrutiny by the Commission and be able to flag potential concerns at that point in time. This proposal has just been adopted by the European Parliament and is now pending with the Council.

It also shows that effective competition in Central and Eastern European gas markets of course cannot be achieved by the enforcement of EU competition rules alone. It also depends on how much you invest into gas supply diversification. As well as, of course, on well-targeted European and national energy legislation and their proper implementation.

What antitrust enforcement can do is remove contractual barriers to the free flow of gas and avoid excessive prices.

We think that Gazprom’s commitments do that. They address all of the Commission’s outstanding competition concerns in the case and provide a clear framework for Gazprom’s future conduct.

As always, our goal in competition cases is to find the best way to protect consumers. Therefore, before deciding on whether to accept these commitments, we now want to hear the views of all interested parties. Customers will have seven weeks to submit their comments, from the time the commitments are officially published.

We will then carefully assess all comments received. If they show that the commitments are not suitable, then of course we will not accept them.

If, on the other hand, we do accept them, they will be legally binding. This means that if Gazprom does not do what it has promised, we can fine the company up to 10% of its worldwide turnover without having to prove that they were breaking EU competition rules.

That is not just a theoretical possibility. Four years ago, when Microsoft broke its commitments on choice of web browsers, they were fined more than half a billion euros.

To conclude, this is not the end of the story. But it is a promising moment. We now have proposals for commitments that could help people in Central and Eastern Europe to save money on heating bills and ensure the free flow of gas across borders. Once we’ve had feedback from everyone interested, we’ll decide on our next step.

Latest daily news

Antitrust: Commission takes further steps in investigations alleging Google’s comparison shopping and advertising-related practices breach EU rules

The European Commission has sent two Statements of Objections to Google. The Commission has reinforced, in a supplementary Statement of Objections, its preliminary conclusion that Google has abused its dominant position by systematically favouring its comparison shopping service in its search result pages. Separately, the Commission has also informed Google in a Statement of Objections of its preliminary view that the company has abused its dominant position by artificially restricting the possibility of third party websites to display search advertisements from Google’s competitors. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Google has come up with many innovative products that have made a difference to our lives. But that doesn’t give Google the right to deny other companies the chance to compete and innovate. Today, we have further strengthened our case that Google has unduly favoured its own comparison shopping service in its general search result pages. It means consumers may not see the most relevant results to their search queries. We have also raised concerns that Google has hindered competition by limiting the ability of its competitors to place search adverts on third party websites, which stifles consumer choice and innovation. Google now has the opportunity to respond to our concerns. I will consider their arguments carefully before deciding how to take both cases forward. But if our investigations conclude that Google has broken EU antitrust rules, the Commission has a duty to act to protect European consumers and fair competition on European markets.” Commissioner Vestager is presenting these decisions at 12 pm CET today, which you can follow live here. A full press release is available online in EN, FR and DE and all other EU languages. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

 

Capital Markets Union: New Rules To Support Investment In Venture Capital And Social Enterprises

The European Commission has today proposed amendments to the European Venture Capital Funds (EuVECA) and the European Social Entrepreneurship Funds (EuSEF) regulations, marking another step towards the creation of the Capital Markets Union. Today’s proposal aims to make it easier and more attractive for investors to invest in small and medium-sized innovative companies and social projects. In particular, the Commission is proposing to open up EuVECA and EuSEF funds to fund managers of all sizes, and to expand the range of companies that can benefit from venture capital funds. The Commission also aims to make the cross border marketing of EuVECA and EuSEF funds cheaper and easier by explicitly prohibiting fees levied by Member States and simplifying registration processes, in order to increase the number of managers, funds, and investments in venture capital and social enterprises. Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “Today we are removing another barrier to investment at EU level which is a key objective of the Investment Plan for Europe. The three main changes we are proposing to the EuVECA and EuSEF regulations today – broadening the scope of eligible managers; expanding the list of EuVECA eligible assets; and prohibiting fees imposed by competent authorities – will result in a greater number of SMEs getting access to the vital finance they need to grow their businesses.” Commissioner Jonathan Hill said: “This proposal is part of the package of measures in the CMU Action Plan to strengthen venture capital markets. This proposal will build up scale, diversity and choice for investors, venture capital and social enterprises. Other actions foreseen include the launch of a large-scale fund-of-funds, blending EU and private capital, to support investment in innovative companies across the whole EU.” Today’s proposal has been submitted to the European Parliament and the Council (Member States) for adoption under the co-decision procedure. Today at 12:30 CET, a press release and memo will be published, and a statement by Commissioner Hill can be watched on EbS. (For more information: Vanessa Mock – Tel.: +32 229 56194; Letizia Lupini – Tel.: +32 229 51958)  

 

European Commission announces €145 million in humanitarian aid for 7 countries in Africa’s Sahel region

During a visit in Niger today, Commissioner Stylianides will announce €145 million in EU humanitarian assistance for the Sahel region in 2016 to address the basic needs of the populations, tackle malnutrition and provide food to the most vulnerable people. “Saving lives continues to be the EU’s first priority in Niger and the Sahel region. Our new humanitarian funding will provide essential nutrition and health treatment to young children and their mothers, water, sanitation and hygiene as well as training and support to health centres. The EU is working hand in hand with humanitarian organisations to help the most vulnerable”, said Commissioner Christos Stylianides, who will visit EU funded aid projects in Niger. A significant amount, totalling €29 million will be allocated to the most vulnerable in Niger. The country is facing persistent acute food insecurity, child malnutrition and the displacement of people fleeing conflicts in neighbouring Mali and Nigeria. Overall, funding will be provided to those in need in 7 countries: Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Chad and Cameroon. Read the full press release here. (For more information: Alexandre Polack – Tel.: +32 229 90677; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)

President Juncker addresses Asia-Europe Business Forum

Today 14 July in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, President Juncker addressed the 15thAsia-Europe Business Forum. Bringing together business leaders from both regions, the Forum is part of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. In his speech, President Juncker set out his commitment to work for a global economy that is fair, transparent and governed by rules. He underlined the need for strong public-private partnerships to deliver this. “The business community will play a central role,” said the President. “You are the engines of change and innovation. You have the power to bring our two great regions closer together. But with your power comes responsibility. You have a duty to act as good citizens: respecting the rules of the game, investing in people and taking care of our planet.” On 15-16 July, still in Ulaanbaatar, President Juncker will attend the 11th ASEM Summit together with EU High Representative and Commission Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, and European Council President, Donald Tusk. Government leaders from both regions will discuss a range of global and regional issues including security, terrorism, climate change, migration, economic cooperation and sustainable development. (For more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382)

Investment Plan for Europe: new EFSI deals signed in Greece and Spain

Today two new deals have been signed under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe. In Athens, the European Investment Fund signed an agreement with the National Bank of Greece to provide EUR 100 million in loans to over 350 Greek SMEs. Chief Spokesperson of the Commission, Margaritis Schinas, was in Athens to attend the agreement signature on behalf of President Juncker and Vice-President Katainen. Meanwhile in Madrid, the European Investment Bank signed a contract with car manufacturer Gestamp Automoción in Spain to invest EUR 160 million in research, development and innovation. The EFSI-backed financing will allow the company, which has factories in Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland and the UK, to invest in RDI to make more environmentally-friendly cars with safer and lighter bodywork. Commenting on the Gestamp project, Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “The European Union is investing in research and innovation to support growth and jobs, and to tackle today’s challenges. The project signed today by the European Investment Bank and Gestamp Automoción under the Commission’s Investment Plan is a great example of the value of our investment. The funding will make cars safer and greener, and create hundreds of jobs in Spain and elsewhere.” (For more information see here or contact Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: +32 229 93265; Siobhán Millbright – Tel.: + 32 229 57361)

Commission publishes further TTIP documents in ongoing transparency commitment

The European Commission is today publishing a record number of EU proposals from the ongoing 14th round of talks for a trade agreement with the United States, taking place in Brussels this week. As part of its drive for a more transparent trade and investment policy, the Commission is making these proposals public only days after submitting them to our negotiating partners. The nine proposals published today are intended to simplify technical regulations without lowering standards, and to set global rules of trade. Specifically, the published texts represent the EU’s negotiating position on regulatory cooperation in the sectors of cosmetics, medical devices, cars, chemicals and textiles. Also published today is a new article on climate protection as a part of the chapter on sustainable development, as well as separate chapters on energy and raw materials,market access for financial services, and on institutional cooperation within TTIP. The proposal for regulatory cooperation in the engineering sector will follow. The published texts show that the Commission is delivering on the goal established at the beginning of the year – to have almost all proposals for chapters of TTIP on the table and consolidate as many texts as possible by the summer break. Yesterday, the Commission organised a series of stakeholder events at the fringes of the negotiations, where interested stakeholders were briefed on the status of the negotiations and exchanged views with the chief EU and US negotiators. Tomorrow at 15:00 in Brussels there will be a press conference with the two chief negotiators on the 14th round of TTIP negotiations, which will also be broadcast live on Europe by Satellite. Photos of the negotiation round are also available. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Axel Fougner – Tel.: +32 229 57276)

Annual Agri-food trade report 2015: EU first exporter worldwide

The European Commission today published the Agri-food trade in 2015 report, which shows EU exports for agricultural products reached €129 billion in 2015. This means an annual increase of 5.7%, securing the EU’s position as first world agri-food exporter with a net trade surplus of €16 billion. The entire output of the European Union’s agricultural sector was valued at €410 billion in 2015. Agriculture and the food and drink industry together employ millions of people, accounting for 7.5 % of employment and 3.7 % of total value added in the EU, according to the annual report. Although some Member States and sectors still suffered from the Russian ban and from low world market prices, the overall EU agricultural trade performance was positive in 2015. EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan commented on the report: “Our trade performance continues to be a real good news story for the EU agri-food sector. Our high production standards and commitment to quality food and drink products ensure continuing global demand. In the coming months, I hope to see further export growth for Europe’s farmers and agri-food businesses, and the Commission will support them every step of the way.” A press release on the annual report and the monthly agri-food trade report for May are now available online. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Clemence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509)

           

Commission adopts measures to protect against money laundering and terrorist financing from high risk third countries

Today, the European Commission has formally adopted a list of third countries having strategic deficiencies in their regimes on Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Countering Terrorist Financing (CFT). This completes the package of stronger transparency rules to tackle terrorism financing and money laundering brought forward last week. Banks will have to carry out additional checks (‘enhanced due diligence measures’) on financial flows from these 11 countries. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: “Today’s list is part of our broader drive to tackle terrorism financing and money laundering. We need to cut off terrorists and other criminals from their resources. To put Europe at the forefront of the global fight against money laundering, we have proposed a common European set of stricter checks in relation to financial flows from these countries.” The Commission proposed on 5 July 2016 to harmonise the list of checks applicable to high-risk countries to prevent loopholes in Europe, where terrorists could run operations through countries with lower levels of protection. The EU will continue to engage across all relevant policy areas with the concerned countries, including through development cooperation, the ultimate goal being their compliance and removal from the list. The list of the Commission will be reviewed at least three times a year, after each Financial Action Task Force meeting assessing the latest developments. The Delegated Regulation will now be transmitted to the European Parliament and Council who have a one-month period to express objections (extendable to two months). If no objection has been expressed, it will be published in the Official Journal. The list is available online and more information on the latest Anti-Money Laundering amendments is available here. (For more information: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Mélanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)

EUROSTAT: Sommet Asie-Europe – les partenaires ASEM ont représenté en 2015 plus d’un tiers du commerce de biens de l’UE, déficit de l’UE de 277 milliards d’euros

En 2015, les 21 pays non-AELE participant au Sommet Asie-Europe (ci-après dénommés partenaires ASEM) comptaient ensemble pour 37% des échanges internationaux de biens de l’Union européenne (UE), avec une part des partenaires ASEM s’établissant à 29% pour les exportations de l’UE et à 46% pour ses importations. Sur la décennie 2005-2015, l’UE a constamment accusé un déficit commercial, toujours nettement supérieur à 200 milliards d’euros, avec les partenaires ASEM. En 2015, il se situait à 277 milliards d’euros, en baisse par rapport au pic de 320 milliards d’euros enregistré en 2008. Un communiqué de presse EUROSTAT est disponible en ligne. (Pour plus d’informations: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Axel Fougner – Tel.: +32 229 57276)

 

Quarterly Report on the Euro Area published today

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs today publishes its Quarterly Report on the Euro Area (QREA), featuring in-depth technical analyses of economic issues affecting the euro area. In this edition, staff economists look at the role of cross-border risk sharing, both through financial and labour market incomes generated across borders and through cross-border fiscal transfers, in mitigating asymmetric shocks, and compare the situation in the euro area to that of the United States. Other sections examine the mechanisms through which financial systems affect the real economy and confidence spill overs in the euro area. QREA Vol.15 No.2 will be published today at 15.00. (For more information: Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: +32 229 93265; Audrey Augier – Tel.: +32 229 71607)

Raw materials: Commission highlights need for security of supply and investment*

Today the Commission is publishing the first Raw Materials Scoreboard prepared by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), under the responsibility of Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. The Scoreboard provides a comprehensive set of indicators on both primary and secondary raw materials. It highlights the need to address the EU’s growing skills shortage, innovation needs and its import-dependency, providing valuable information for policy decisions. Speaking at a meeting of the High-Level Steering Group of the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials this morning, Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: The supply and affordability of raw materials are of strategic importance for the future of the European economy and society. With the European Innovation Partnership, the raw materials community has taken important steps towards increased security of supply and a more circular economy. Today, we made the case for the need to support investment in the field of raw materials, in particular for start-ups and SMEs trying to optimise their resource use. The meeting was organised by the European Commission as part of its efforts to secure a sustainable supply of raw materials for Europe and to boost investment into the raw materials and recycling sectors. The group, which is composed of representatives of the industry, NGOs, researchers, ministers and the Commission, adopted a’Strategic Evaluation Report’ on future priorities in the area of raw materials. The group also presented a voluntary ‘Declaration of Support’ for the setting up of a European Investment Platform on Raw Materials and Recycling for start-ups, brought forward by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and its innovation community, EIT Raw Materials, under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). More information regarding the ‘Strategic Evaluation Report’ and the ‘Declaration of Support’ on the websites of DG Grow and JRC. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)

Innovation performance compared: How innovative is your country?

Today, the Commission released the 2016 results of the European Innovation Scoreboard, the Regional Innovation Scoreboard and the Innobarometer. The main findings of the three reports are that Sweden is once again the innovation leader, Latvia has become the fastest growing innovator, and EU innovation is catching up with Japan and the US.By boosting private investment and improving the framework conditions for innovation, the EU has the potential to lead in innovation at the global stage.Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said: “I want Europe to be a place where innovative SMEs and start-ups flourish and scale up within the Single Market. This requires a concerted effort. At EU level, we need to simplify VAT regulation, adapt insolvency rules, make information on regulatory requirements more easily accessible and work on a clear and SME-friendly intellectual property framework. We also need to keep adapting the Single Market to ensure that innovative services such as the collaborative economy find their place.” Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, added: “Leading countries and regions are supporting innovation across a wide range of policies from investment to education, from flexible labour conditions to ensuring public administrations that value entrepreneurship and innovation. The Commission is doing its part by promoting innovation across policy areas too. Not only that, we’re also improving access to private finance through the €315 billion Investment Plan for Europe and the Capital Markets Union, as well as creating a new European Innovation Council.“Corina Crețu, Commissioner for Regional Policy, said: “Smart specialisation strategies help Member States and regions capitalise on their competitive assets in Research & Innovation and find opportunities for cooperation between business and academia. As such, they are compasses for innovative, long-term investments supported by ESI Funds and, when possible, other EU sources of finance. This contributes greatly to Europe’s shift towards a knowledge-based economy.” For further details on the results and the Commission’s actions to support innovation, a press release, frequently asked questions, the European Innovation Scoreboard, the Regional Innovation Scoreboard and the Innobarometer are available online. (Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184, Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)

European Commission appoints new Head of Representation in Lisbon

The European Commission has appointed Ms Sofia Colares Alves as the new Head of its Representation in Portugal. She will take up office on 16 July, bringing over twenty years of European and International affairs experience to the post. Ms Alves is an experienced lawyer and works for the European Commission since 2003, specialising in competition policy. She was a member of the Cabinet of former Commission Vice-President Joaquín Almunia (from 2010 to 2013), a Head of Unit in DG Competition (from 2013 until 2015) and since May 2015 was seconded to the Portuguese Competition Authority (PCA) in Lisbon as Head of Cabinet advising the Board on all areas of competence of the PCA. Ms Sofia Colares Alves obtained a Law Degree from the University of Lisbon and a Master of European Legal Studies (LLM.) from the College of Europe in Bruges. A complete press release for Ms Sofia Colares Alves is available online, also in DE, FR and PT. (For more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382; Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: +32 229 93265)

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Vice-President Dombrovskis visits Japan

Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for the Euro and Social Dialogue, will visit Tokyo, Japan on 14 and 15 July. During this visit, he will participate in the 16th EU-Japan Symposium, delivering the opening address on the theme of contemporary social and employment issues. He will also hold bilateral meetings with Mr Haruhiko Kuroda, Governor of the Bank of Japan; Mr Taro Aso, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister; and Mr Nobuteru Ishihara, Minister of Economic Revitalisation. Finally, he will meet representatives from the European Business Council. (For more information: Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: +32 229 93265; Siobhan Millbright – Tel.: +32 229 57367)

 

Commissioner Thyssen attends the Informal Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

Labour Ministers will hold an informal meeting on 14 and 15 July 2016 in Bratislava, under the Council Presidency of Slovakia. The Commission will be represented by Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen. Ministers will focus their discussions around three main topics: ageing, digitalisation, and migration. They will discuss how these three key challenges impact Member States’ labour markets and social security systems and exchange experiences and policies to turn these challenges into opportunities for Europe. In this context, Commissioner Thyssen will highlight some of the emerging issues in its consultation on the European pillar of social rights, a key initiative to make social rights in Europe fit for purpose in the 21st century. The meeting will also include a field visit to a Slovak company, which has expanded its production and innovation in times of global competition and digitalisation. (For more information: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 6225)

 

Commissioner Hogan on official visit to Slovenia

Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, is today on official visit in Slovenia. Together with Mr Dejan Židan, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food for Slovenia, he visited this morning an educational farm in Poljane. In the afternoon, Commissioner Hogan and the Minister will meet with representatives of the consultative Council for Agriculture. This meeting will be followed by a joint press conference, after which they will visit a cheese dairy farm in Gorenja vas. From 2014-2020, the CAP will invest around €1.8 billion in Slovenia’s farming sector and rural areas. More information about the CAP in Slovenia can be found here. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Clemence Robin – Tel.: +32 229 52509)

 

Commissioner Andriukaitis visits Montenegro

EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis is visiting Montenegro today and tomorrow (14-15 July). Commissioner Andriukaitis will meet national authorities, including the Deputy-Prime minister and the ministers in charge of Health and Agriculture, with whom he’ll mainly discuss the recent (30 June) opening of the Chapter 12 (Food Safety, Veterinary and Phytosanitary Policy) of the negotiations of accession. The Commissioner will underline the importance of this Chapter since it deals with the safety of food products, a topic of the highest concern for EU citizens and consumers. He will detail to his interlocutors how they can learn from previous negotiations in this area. On the occasion of the visit he said: “It is of the utmost importance that Montenegro follows as closely as possible its strategy for transposition and implementation of the EU acquis for this Chapter. Montenegro has a major task ahead since this is a very demanding area, but I’ll make sure that all the expertise needed will be pooled to help this country. A step-by-step harmonisation with EU standards will allow Montenegrin products to access the EU markets“. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Aikaterini Apostola – Tel.: +32 229 87624)

 

 

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

* Updated on 14/07/2016 at 14:44, adding “and its innovation community, EIT Raw Materials”