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European Commission Spokesman's Briefing for 00-03-09

Midday Express: News from the EU Commission Spokesman's Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: EUROPA, the European Commission Server at <http://europa.eu.int>

MIDDAY EXPRESS

News from the Spokesman's midday briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi du Porte-Parole 09/03/2000b


CONTENTS / CONTENU

  • [01] Fischler outlines future development of CAP.
  • [02] L'AGRICULTURE DANS L'UNION EUROPEENNE : INFORMATIONS STATISTIQUES ET ECONOMIQUES 1999.
  • [03] President Prodi and Commissioner Solbes welcome Greece's application to become twelfth member of the euro-zone
  • [04] Commission adopts Progress Report on the eEurope Initiative, a top priority for the Lisbon European Council (23-24 March 2000)
  • [05] Euro-zone and EU15 GDP grew by 0.9% in the fourth quarter of 1999 and 2.2% for the year as a whole
  • [06] Excise duties: Commission decides to send reasoned opinion to Germany on mineral oil exemption
  • [07] TVA : la Commission décide de saisir la Cour contre la Grèce
  • [08] Public procurement: infringement procedures against Luxembourg, United Kingdom, France and Spain
  • [09] Television services: Commission again warns Belgium over taxes on satellite dishes
  • [10] La Commission lance l'initiative eLearning pour accélérer l'adaptation à l'ère numérique de l'éducation et de la formation en Europe
  • [11] Speech delivered by Christopher Pattern on the occasion of the entering into force of the Special Status of Brcko
  • [12] Visit Commissioner Patten to Montenegro
  • [13] Commission clears the acquisition by Unilever France of Amora-Maille subject to conditions
  • [14] Commission authorises the acquisition of Takko Modemarkt by the venture capital group Schroders

  • [01] Fischler outlines future development of CAP.

    Addressing the Outlook 2000 Conference in London today, Franz FISCHLER, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, warned of misinterpreting the multifunctional role of European agriculture in the WTO context : « Understanding multifunctionality as a synonym for protectionism and unfair competition may suit the negotiating tactics of some of our WTO partners. This is a clear misinterpretation of European agricultural policy and its efforts to deliver what both farming and society expect from it. When I read the recent speeches of the US Secretary of Agriculture, I am struck by the extent to which thinking either side of the Atlantic is converging. », he said. Referring to the upcoming enlargement negotiations FISCHLER pointed out that new member states must have the same right to develop their long-term production potential as existing members. « I would be the last to accept a two-speed Common Agricultural Policy. », he stressed. Talking about direct payments, FISCHLER underlined that an immediate introduction of the system would provoce macroeconomic distorsions, social tensions and a reluctance to change, hindering the development of sound agricultural structures. « It would be better to help the rural economies of the countries concerned through well targeted development policies and transitional support for the worst off. This is a discussion that we are yet to have. », FISCHLER said.

    [02] L'AGRICULTURE DANS L'UNION EUROPEENNE : INFORMATIONS STATISTIQUES ET ECONOMIQUES 1999.

    La Commission publie chaque année un rapport sur la situation de l'agriculture dans l'Union européenne. Une partie importante de ce dernier est consacrée à l'information statistique sur l'agriculture européenne. Elle est établie aussi bien sur la base des informations disponibles à l'Eurostat qu'à partir de celles collectées par la Direction Générale de l'Agriculture. Pour qu'elle puisse mieux remplir son rôle, il serait souhaitable que l'information statistique soit le plus à jour possible et qu'elle soit mise à la disposition des utilisateurs aussitôt qu'elle est disponible. La Direction Générale de l'Agriculture a donc décidé de consacrer à l'information statistique et économique sur l'agriculture européenne une publication spécifique, à paraître en trois langues (le français, l'anglais et l'allemand) au début de chaque année. Une mise à jour de certains tableaux est envisagée avant la fin du mois de juillet. L'information statistique fournie dans cette publication couvre une gamme très ample de sujets : la situation économique du secteur agricole, les structures, les échanges, les marchés, les aspects financiers et le développement rural. Elle est précédée par un chapitre introductif donnant un aperçu de l'année agricole 1999. La publication est disponible sur Internet à l'adresse suivante : http://europa.eu.int/comm/dg06/agrista/table_fr/index.htm

    [03] President Prodi and Commissioner Solbes welcome Greece's application to become twelfth member of the euro-zone

    EU Commission President Romano Prodi and Pedro Solbes, Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs welcome today's application of the Greek government to join the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union. An enlarged EMU area will be positive both for the euro-zone area and for the countries joining. This application comes close after the positive Council decision in November 1999 on the abrogation of Greece's excessive deficit and the Council's opinion on the Greek convergence programme in January 2000. The Commission will examine the progress made by Greece in fulfilling the convergence criteria set out in the Treaty in good time and make a recommendation to the Council.-

    [04] Commission adopts Progress Report on the eEurope Initiative, a top priority for the Lisbon European Council (23-24 March 2000)

    Europe has the potential and is determined to catch up and become a leader in the new economy. The priorities of the Commission's eEurope as set out in the Commission's contribution to the Lisbon European Council "An agenda of economic and social renewal for Europe": education, filling the skills gap, accelerating e-commerce and lowering the cost of access to the Internet are crucial in this respect. eEurope is a political initiative of the European Commission to allow Europe to benefit fully from the Information Society, in terms of growth, employment and better quality of life. Accelerating the transition of Europe into the Digital Age will be a key issue on the agenda of the Special European Council in Lisbon. The Progress Report adopted by the Commission today aims to contribute to the discussions in Lisbon, highlighting the need for EU Heads of States and Governments to fix clear objectives and agree on firm commitment towards their achievement.

    [05] Euro-zone and EU15 GDP grew by 0.9% in the fourth quarter of 1999 and 2.2% for the year as a whole

    Euro-zone and EU15 GDP both grew by 0.9% during the fourth quarter of 1999 compared to the previous quarter, according to first estimates out today from Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities in Luxembourg. These figures follow a rise of 1.0% for both the euro-zone and the EU15 in the third quarter of 1999. In 1999, GDP in the euro-zone and the EU15 grew by 2.2%, compared to +2.8% in the euro-zone and +2.7% in the EU15 in the previous year. This compares favourably to the Commission's autumn forecast where growth for both the euro-zone and EU 15 had been forecasted at 2.1%. In the United States, economic growth accelerated in the fourth quarter of 1999, with GDP increasing by 1.7%, compared to 1.4% in the previous quarter. For 1999 as a whole annual GDP growth reached 4.1%; the Commission's autumn forecast included a 3.8% growth rate for the year.

    [06] Excise duties: Commission decides to send reasoned opinion to Germany on mineral oil exemption

    The European Commission has decided to send Germany a reasoned opinion (second stage of the formal infringement procedure under Article 226 of the EC Treaty) concerning an exemption from excise duty for certain mineral oil used for heating. The Commission considers the exemption to be incompatible with the relevant EU Directive which, in principle, requires excise duty to be levied on all mineral oils used for heating purposes (or motor fuel). In the absence of a satisfactory amendment to the German tax rules within 2 months of receipt of the reasoned opinion, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice.

    [07] TVA : la Commission décide de saisir la Cour contre la Grèce

    La Commission européenne a décidé de saisir la Cour de Justice à l'encontre de la République hellénique pour manquement à ses obligations découlant de la sixième directive TVA en ce qui concerne la régularisation (c'est-à-dire, le remboursement de la TVA ou d'une partie de celle-ci en fonction de la durée d'utilisation du bien) en cas de destruction des biens.

    [08] Public procurement: infringement procedures against Luxembourg, United Kingdom, France and Spain

    The European Commission has decided to continue seven separate infringement procedures against France, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Spain for failure to implement or incorrect application of EU rules on open and competitive public procurement procedures. The infringements concern failure to implement Directives on public procurement in the water, energy, transport and communications sectors (France and UK) and on procurement of services, supplies and public works (France and Luxembourg), construction work on an experimental penitentiary centre in Segovia (Spain), standard contract documents used in Spain which violate the works procurement Directive and procedures followed to select a firm to construct a sewage treatment plant at Maxéville near Nancy in France. In the case of the reasoned opinions, the second stage of the infringement procedure laid down in Article 226 of the Treaty, if the Member State concerned does not respond satisfactorily within two months of receipt, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice.

    [09] Television services: Commission again warns Belgium over taxes on satellite dishes

    The Commission has sent a letter to Belgium urging the Government to respect Community law by ensuring the immediate and definitive repeal throughout the country of all taxes levied on satellite dishes and the refund of any taxes already paid. The Commission believes that the tax levied by some local authorities ("communes") on satellite dishes constitutes an obstacle to the cross-border reception and distribution of television signals and therefore violates the principle of the free movement of services as laid down in the Treaty (Article 49). Following the reasoned opinion (the second stage of formal infringement proceedings) sent by the Commission to Belgium in May 1999 on the subject (see IP/99/281), Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels-Capital declared they would comply with the Treaty and a number of places (including all Communes of Brussels) have now repealed the tax. But the Commission has received several complaints that it is still imposed in a large number of communes, especially in Wallonia and particularly in certain large cities, such as Mons, Charleroi, Liege and Namur. Moreover, all requests for reimbursement of taxes already paid have so far been systematically rejected by competent authorities, according to the complaints.

    [10] La Commission lance l'initiative eLearning pour accélérer l'adaptation à l'ère numérique de l'éducation et de la formation en Europe

    A la veille du Conseil européen extraordinaire qui se tiendra à Lisbonne les 23 et 24 mars sur le thème de « l'Europe de l'innovation et de la connaissance » et de la conférence ministérielle de lancement des programmes Socrates, Leonardo Da Vinci et Jeunesse organisée les 17 et 18 mars à Lisbonne par la Présidence portugaise en étroite collaboration avec la Commission, Mme Viviane Reding, membre de la Commission responsable de l'Education et de la Culture, a annoncé aujourd'hui le lancement de eLearning, qui va concrétiser et compléter l'initiative eEurope dans les domaines de l'éducation et de la formation.

    [11] Speech delivered by Christopher Pattern on the occasion of the entering into force of the Special Status of Brcko

    The ceremony was attended by Commissioner Patten, State Secretary Albright, the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the High representative Mr Petric.

    [12] Visit Commissioner Patten to Montenegro

    Commissioner Patten will visit tomorrow (10 March) Montenegro. This is the first time a European Commissioner pays a visit to Montenegro. In Podgorica, Mr Patten will meet with President Djukanovic and Prime Minister Voyanovic. Discussions will focus on EU assistance to Montenegro, reforms in Montenegro and the regional situation.

    [13] Commission clears the acquisition by Unilever France of Amora-Maille subject to conditions

    The European Commission has cleared the acquisition by Unilever France of the company Amora-Maille, subject to conditions in order to solve competition concerns. Both companies are active in the sector of sauces and condiments as well as edible oils. After investigation, the Commission concluded that the operation would have raised serious doubts on the markets for mayonnaise, other cold sauces and salad sauces in France, and on the market for mustard in Belgium, the United Kingdom and Sweden. Unilever has subsequently made commitments to divest plants and some of its brands.

    [14] Commission authorises the acquisition of Takko Modemarkt by the venture capital group Schroders

    The Commission has approved the operation by which Schroders acquires the Takko Modemarkt retail chain. Takko has about 450 shops throughout Germany and sells mainly clothing. The operation is of a complementary nature and does therefore not give rise to competition problems. Schroders plc is the parent company of a group of companies that manage and control several venture capital funds. Through this operation, a number of these venture capital funds will acquire Takko from the German Tengelmann Group. Takko is active in

    MIDDAY EXPRESS


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


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