Daily News 03 / 03 / 2015

European Environment Report: State and Outlook 2015
A new report published today by the European Environment Agency shows that a coordinated EU environment policy has delivered substantial benefits for citizens over the past 5 years. Europeans enjoy cleaner air and water, send less waste to landfill and recycle more; while environmental policies drive jobs and growth. But the report warns that Europe still faces a range of persistent and growing environmental challenges. The Commission is responding with a series of initiatives for 2015, including a new, broader package on the Circular Economy, a review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, an action plan on Ocean Governance and a modified Air Quality package. A press release is available online. A press conference with Commissioner Vella and the Director of the European Environment Agency, Hans Bruyninckx, will take place at 12:30 and can be followed on EbS. (for more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Iris Petsa – Tel.: +32 229 93321)
From emergency to recovery: EU mobilises efforts to end Ebola and alleviate its impact
The “Ebola: from emergency to recovery” conference is taking place in Brussels today under the organisation and patronage of the European Union. While international efforts have reduced the number of Ebola infections in recent months, it is critical to maintain the momentum to prevent a sharp increase in new cases. The conference today aims to sustain the international mobilisation and to plan the next steps in the fight both against the current outbreak and the Ebola virus in general. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said: “To end Ebola and ensure sustainable development in the affected region is the best way to honour the memory of the victims. I would also like to pay tribute to all those who have been involved in the outbreak response with expertise, dedication and courage. Together with our Member States, we have mobilised more than €1.2 billion for the fight against this disease. And we will continue to help until we win the battle against Ebola”. High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini added: ”Ebola is a challenge that we must continue to tackle collectively, quickly and for the long term, also to help make sure that no other epidemic will have such a devastating impact in the future. Today is the time to do so: we have the opportunity and the responsibility to be effective in our development aid, to promote good governance and invigorate regional cooperation. With its political, diplomatic, humanitarian and financial tools, the EU is part of the solution and a partner”. A press release with more details is available here. (for more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 229 69921; Irina Novakova – Tel.: +32 2 295 75 17; Sharon Zarb – Tel.: +32 229 92256)

Albania joins COSME, the EU’s financing programme for small and medium-sized enterprises
Today Elżbieta Bieńkowska, European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, and Arben Ahmetaj, Albanian Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Entrepreneurship, are signing an Agreement formalising the entry of Albania in the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Programme (COSME). Commissioner Bieńkowska said: “I welcome Albania to the group of countries that can benefit from the COSME funds”. More broadly on COSME and SME policy, the Commissioner added: “Access to finance remains an important hurdle for SMEs. I want to use the financing possibilities of our COSME programme efficiently, and in parallel hear ideas on how to further reduce red tape and promote entrepreneurship for SMEs.” COSME is the EU programme aimed at strengthening the competitiveness and sustainability of SMEs running from 2014 to 2020 with a budget of €2.3bn. Albania is the fifth country outside of the EU to join and contribute to the programme, after Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova and Turkey. (for more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182)
Transport Eurobarometer: EU citizens pleased with safety of maritime transport, but price and pollution are a major challenge
Today the European Commission published the results of a Eurobarometer survey on the quality and safety of maritime and river transport. The main findings reveal that 68% of Europeans citizens think that cruise ships and passenger ferries are safe. The feeling of safety increases when passengers are reassured about crew competence and the presence of life-saving appliances, as pointed out by 33% of respondents. However, Europeans think that ticket prices are the most serious problem affecting sea or river transport (18%) in the EU, followed by water pollution and the lack of links between destinations (both 15%), and lack of frequent services (14%). EU Commissioner for Transport Bulc said: “Europe needs a top-quality maritime sector that can compete internationally, as it’s a key pillar of the European economy. Strengthening maritime transport and its quality is indeed the basis for a strong and flexible European economy. The European Shipping Week will be an excellent opportunity for us to address the challenges we are facing, and promote competitiveness and sustainability, through better regulation at EU level.” The full survey is available here. More information on DG MOVE’s website. (for more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Joshua Salsby – Tel.: +32 229 72459)
Europe 2020: Public consultation results and integrated guidelines on employment
The Commission has adopted a Communication on the results of the public consultation on the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and integrated guidelines for economic and employment policies. According to the consultation results, Europe 2020 objectives and priorities remain meaningful in the light of current and future challenges and serve as a compass for policy action to promote jobs and growth at EU and national level. Better ownership and involvement on the ground would serve the strategy’s delivery. The Broad Economic Policy Guidelines and Employment Guidelines were first adopted together in 2010, underpinning the Europe 2020 strategy. The set of integrated guidelines adopted yesterday reflects the new approach to economic policy making as set out in the 2015 Annual Growth Survey: a coordinated boost to investment, renewed commitment to structural reform in important areas such as product and labour markets and exercising fiscal responsibility. A factsheet is available online. (for more information: Annika Breidthardt– Tel.: +32 229 51536; Annikky Lamp – Tel.: +32 229 56151; Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253;Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764)
EUROSTAT: Industrial producer prices down by 0.9% in euro area
In January 2015, compared with December 2014, industrial producer prices fell by 0.9% in the euro area (EA19) and by 1.2% in the EU28, according to estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In December 2014 prices decreased by 1.0% in the euro area and by 1.1% in the EU28. In January 2015, compared with January 2014, industrial producer prices fell by 3.4% in the euro area and by 4.1% in the EU28. A Eurostat press release is available online. (for more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182)
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of E.On Spain by Macquarie and Wren House
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the joint acquisition of E.On Spain by the investment funds Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 4 LP (“MEIF4”) and Wren House Infrastructure Management Ltd. (“Wren House”), both of the United Kingdom. MEIF4 belongs to the Macquarie Group, an Australian-based investment company with interests in a number of companies in various industry sectors, including energy utilities in Europe. Wren House belongs to the Kuwait Investment Authority, a Kuwait-based company investing in infrastructure on a global level. E.On Spain generates and sells electricity at wholesale level in Spain. It also sells electricity and gas at retail level in Spain. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns, because of the moderate combined market shares resulting from the transaction. 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.7490. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100).

Speech by Commissioner Carlos Moedas at the European Investment Bank Conference
Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation yesterday reaffirmed his commitment to fostering research and innovation in Europe. Speaking at the European Investment Bank conference in Berlin, he reminded that the EU funding programme Horizon 2020 has seen a 40% budget increase from the previous programme, making it “the biggest multinational research programme in the world today”. But he emphasised the need for additional public and private sector financing for “high risk high reward projects”. That can be achieved by making better use of the synergies between public funding from Horizon 2020, the European Fund for Strategic Investments, Regional Funds for Innovation, and the recently proposed Capital Markets Union. Commissioner Moedas said: “The new European Fund for Strategic Investments if used to fund research, science and innovation at every opportunity, could lead to breakthroughs, the consequences of which we can only imagine. So my call to action is this: Let us invest in knowledge and people. Let us continue to explore every frontier, so that we may profit from even one lightning bolt of inspiration that will encompass the whole world.”  The full speech is available online. (for more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182)

Commissioner Oettinger and communications industrypresent EU vision for 5G
By 2020 there will be more than 30 times as much mobile Internet traffic as there was in 2010. 5G technology is the solution to cope with this increased growth in the use of wireless Internet by humans, but also by machines and objects (from cars to fridges). 5G won’t just be faster, it will bring new functionalities and applications with high social and economic value. Commissioner Oettinger and the 5G Public-Private Partnership (including companies such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia and Orange) present today the EU vision for 5G, how it should be developed and the challenges ahead. This ambitious strategy will take 5G development into a new gear. It will give the EU a strong voice in 5G discussions at the global level that should lead to international agreements, including on standards. Digital technologies know no border and it makes no sense to have national silos in key areas such as the management of radio waves, the raw material of 5G. This is why it is essential to create a Digital Single Market in Europe (the full text on the EU vision for 5G will be available at 14:00 CET – see also the keynote speech that Commissioner Oettinger gave at the Mobile World Congress this morning). (for more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382; Marie Frenay – Tel.: +32 229 64532)
Towards a new European Neighbourhood Policy: the EU launches a consultation on the future of its relations
High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn are launching tomorrow a consultation on the future of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The ENP was last reviewed in 2011: Given the significant developments in the neighbourhood since then, it is now essential to undertake a fundamental review of the principles on which the policy is based as well as its scope and how instruments should be used. The aim is to consult as widely as possible both with partners in the neighbouring countries and with stakeholders across the EU until the end of June. After this public consultation, a Communication setting out proposals for the future direction of the ENP will follow in the autumn. HR/VP Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Hahn will give a press conference on Wednesday 4 March at 11:15 CET in the Commission’s press room. (for more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 66430)

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