Daily News 18 / 12 / 2018

Source: European Union

Africa-Europe Alliance: first projects kicked off just three months after launch
At the High-Level Forum Africa-Europetoday in Vienna, hosted jointly by the Austrian Presidency of the EU, notably by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, and Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda and the Chairman of the African Union for 2018, President Jean-Claude Juncker reiterated Europe’s ambition for a true and fair partnership among equals between Africa and Europe. President Juncker presented the first results of the Africa–Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, just three months after its launch. The Alliance aims to deepen the economic and trade relations between the two continents, in order to create sustainable jobs and growth. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Europe and Africa share a long history and a bright future. This is why I proposed a new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, to help attract both European and African investment and create 10 million jobs in Africa over the next five years. Translating words into action, we have already taken a series of measures to bring our ambitions to life.” The President is accompanied to the High-Level Forum by Vice-President Andrus Ansip, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel. Read the full press release here. The speech by President Juncker at the High-Level Forum Africa-Europe is available online. (For more information: Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: .: +32 229 65322; Christina Wunder – Tel.: +32 229 92256)

Réunion du Collège: Visite à la Commission du président de la République hellénique, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, mercredi 19 décembre 2018
Demain, mercredi 19 décembre 2018, le président Juncker recevra le président de la République hellénique, M. Prokopis Pavlopoulos, à 12h30 CET. Le Président aura ensuite un déjeuner de travail avec les Membres du Collège. Il s’agit de la première visite d’un chef d’État de la République hellénique à la Commission depuis l’adhésion de la Grèce en 1981. À l’issue de la conclusion fructueuse du programme de soutien à la stabilité, le président Juncker avait dit en août 2018: “Je me suis toujours battu pour que la Grèce reste au cœur de l’Europe. Tandis que le peuple grec entame un nouveau chapitre de sa riche histoire,  il trouvera toujours en moi un allié, un partenaire et un ami.” La visite se terminera avec un point presse conjoint par le président Juncker et le président Pavlopoulos à 14h30 CET. Suivez le point presse en direct sur EbS, des photos officielles seront également disponibles. (Pour plus d’informations: Margaritis Schinas – Tél.: +32 229 60524; Mina Andreeva – Tél.: +32 229 91382)
Le Plan Juncker investit dans une société de cœurs artificiels en France et dans un gazoduc en Roumanie
La Banque européenne d’investissement (BEI) vient de signer deux projets sous le Plan Juncker en France et Roumanie. En France, la BEI fournit un prêt de 30 millions d’euros garanti par le Fonds européen pour les investissements stratégiques (EFSI) – le cœur du Plan Juncker – à la société française Carmat. Ce prêt aidera la société à finaliser les études cliniques et à accélérer la mise sur le marché de ses cœurs artificiels qui, de renommée mondiale, soulèvent un immense espoir pour les patients. En Roumanie, un prêt de 50 millions d’euros soutenu par l’EFSI financera la construction d’un gazoduc qui reliera les sources de gaz de la Mer Noire au réseau de transmission national ainsi qu’au corridor BRUA liant la Bulgarie, la Roumanie, la Hongrie et l’Autriche. Le projet participera ainsi à une meilleure connectivité énergétique en Europe et apportera sa pierre à l’édifice de l’Union de l’Energie. Des communiqués de presse sont disponibles ici. En décembre 2018, le Plan Juncker a mobilisé plus de 371 milliards d’euros supplémentaires en Europe, y compris 60,5 milliards d’euros en France et 2,7 milliards d’euros en Roumanie, avec 856 000 petites et moyennes entreprises bénéficiant d’un meilleur accès au financement. (Pour plus d’informations: Annika Breidthardt – Tél.: +32 229 56153; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tél.: +32 229 56169)
EU steps up support for Ethiopia: emergency aid for refugees, internally displaced people and to tackle natural disasters
On an official visit to Ethiopia, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides announced yesterday €89 million in humanitarian support for 2018-2019 whilst visiting EU aid projects in the Somali region in Eastern Ethiopia where many people have fled their homes due to internal conflict. Speaking from the Qologi camp for internally displaced people near Jijiga, capital of the Somali region, Commissioner Stylianidessaid: “Ethiopia is an important partner for the European Union. As the country undergoes profound positive political change, the EU will step up support for the most vulnerable Ethiopians. I have seen myself how crucial our EU humanitarian support is in the daily lives of displaced people. It helps them feed their children, provide them with medicines and send them to school. This is EU aid that saves lives.” The EU funding will be used to address the needs of people displaced within Ethiopia, refugees from neighbouring countries as well as tackling natural disasters such as drought. Currently there are close to 3 million people displaced within the country and around 1 million refugees from neighbouring countries. During his mission, Commissioner Stylianides met with Ethiopian President Ms Sahle-Work Zewde and President of the Somali region, Mr Mustafa Mohammed Omar. He also held various meetings with other Ethiopian authorities, representatives of the African Union, and with partners delivering aid on the ground. The full press release as well as photos and videos of the mission are available online. (For more information: Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)

Banking Union: Agreement on measures to prevent the accumulation of non-performing loans
The Commission welcomes the political agreement reached by the European Parliament and the Council on prudential measures to further address non-performing loans (NPLs) in Europe. These measures are an important step to further reduce risks in the EU banking sector and strengthen its resilience, as highlighted in last week’s Euro Summit conclusions. Together with the latest encouraging data on risk reduction and the recent political agreement on the banking package, this contributes to a swift completion of the Banking Union. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “We have been working intensely over the past years to reduce risks and strengthen the resilience of the European banking sector. Today’s agreement will ensure that banks will have fewer NPLs on their balance sheets, which should increase their solidity and allow them to finance our businesses. I am counting on the European Parliament and the Council to swiftly agree on the outstanding proposals on the development of secondary markets for NPLs and facilitating debt recovery.” The agreed measures will ensure that banks set aside funds to cover the risks associated with loans issued in the future that may become non-performing. This will prevent the accumulation of non-performing exposures on banks’ balance sheets and will ultimately enable banks to perform their indispensable role in financing the economy and supporting growth. A press release is available online. (For more information: Johannes Bahrke – Tel.: +32 229 85615; Letizia Lupini – Tel.: +32 229 51958)

Digital Single Market: new rules on non-personal data enter into force
Today the Regulationon the free flow of non-personal data that was proposed by the European Commission in September 2017enters into force. The Regulation was adopted by the European Parliament in October 2018 and by the Council of the European Union in November 2018.  It will allow public and private sector bodies to store and process non-personal data anywhere in the EU in the most efficient and cost-effective way, as well as raise trust in cloud computing and make it easier for customers to switch or end their cloud contracts. Furthermore, from now on, it will no longer be possible for Member States to compel businesses to store data in a particular location. Wherever data is stored in the EU (whether in a cloud or locally), competent authorities in all Member States will retain any right they currently already have to request access for regulatory and supervisory control. Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansipand Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel said, “From today, there will be one major barrier less in the Digital Single Market: anynew data localisation restrictions are forbidden. All unjustified existing ones must be phased out within 2 years. The new Regulation on the free flow of non-personal data will help stimulating the European data economy, boosting growth and jobs as well the EU competitiveness in the global market. Better data flowwill open up new possibilities for European startups and SMEs to create new services.”The new Regulation also creates a self-regulatory process by which cloud stakeholders (service providers and users) develop codes of conduct that will enable users to switch between providers more easily. This new Regulation does not in any way affect the application of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as it does not cover personal data. The two Regulations will function together to enable the free flow of all data in the EU, creating a single European space for data. More information is available in theseQuestions and Answersand in a factsheet. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Christian Spahr -Tel.: +32 229 50055; Marietta Grammenou- Tel.: +32 229 83583)
Have your say: European expert group seeks feedback on draft ethics guidelines for trustworthy artificial intelligence 
Today, the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence, which was appointed by the Commission in June, released the first draft of its ethics guidelines for the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI). In this document, the independent group of 52 experts from academia, business and civil society, sets out how developers and users can make sure AI respects fundamental rights, applicable regulation and core principles and how the technology can be made technically robust and reliable. Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said: “AI can bring major benefits to our societies, from helping diagnose and cure cancers to reducing energy consumption. But for people to accept and use AI-based systems, they need to trust them, know that their privacy is respected, that decisions are not biased. The work of the expert group is very important in this regard and I encourage everyone to share their comments to help the group finalise the guidelines”. Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel added: “The use of artificial intelligence, like the use of all technology must always be aligned with our core values and uphold fundamental rights. The purpose of the ethics guidelines is to ensure this in practice. Since this challenge concerns all sectors of our society, it is important that everybody can comment and contribute to the work in progress. Please join the European AI Alliance and let us have your feedback!” The draft ethics guidelines are now open for comments until 18 January and discussions are taking place through the European AI Alliance. In March 2019, the expert group will present their final guidelines to the Commission which will analyse them and propose how to take this work forward. More information is available online. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184)

EU and UNESCO team up for a new project on heritage, education and youth
In connection with the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage, the European Union and UNESCO have developed a new project to strengthen links between young people, heritage and education. The project, which is expected to start in January 2019, will run for 15 months and has two main components. The first aims to bring intangible cultural heritage into the classroom. For instance, the project partners will develop a set of guidance materials to support teachers in integrating intangible cultural heritage in school curricula and extracurricular activities. UNESCO will also organise training workshops for a group of selected schools to integrate intangible cultural heritage in core subjects of educational curricula. Activities could include, for example, the use of traditional bells to explain the expansion of soundwaves in physics. The second component seeks to empower a new generation of heritage professionals through the Young Heritage Experts’ Forum in Zadar, Croatia. The event will feature hands-on activities enabling participants to develop skills related to preserving and promoting heritage, as well as workshops, group discussions and site visits. Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: “I am delighted that we are joining forces with UNESCO for this project. Enabling young people to engage with Europe’s rich and diverse cultural heritage is key in building a cohesive, resilient society for the future.”  The joint project contributes to two of the ten European initiatives developed by the European Commission for the European Year that seek to ensure its lasting impact: Heritage at School and Youth for Heritage. More information on the project can be found here. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184)
State aid: Commission approves plan by France, Germany, Italy and the UK to give €1.75 billion public support to joint research and innovation project in microelectronics
The European Commission has found that an integrated project jointly notified by France, Germany, Italy and the UK for research and innovation in microelectronics, a key enabling technology, is in line with EU State aid rules and contributes to a common European interest. On 30 November, France, Germany, Italy and the UK jointly notified to the Commission an Important Project of Common European Interest (“IPCEI”) to support research and innovation in microelectronics. The four Member States will provide in the coming years up to €1.75 billion in funding for this project that aims to unlock an additional €6 billion in private investment. The project should be completed by 2024 (with differing timelines for each sub-project).The integrated research and innovation project will involve 29 direct participants, headquartered both in and outside the EU, mostly industrial actors but also two research organisations, carrying out 40 closely interlinked sub-projects. The participants and their partners (such as research organisations or small and medium-sized enterprises) will focus their work on five different technology areas: (1) Energy efficient chips, (2) Power semiconductors; (3) Smart sensors; (4) Advanced optical equipment; and (5) Compound materials. All five technology fields are complementary and interlinked. The Commission assessed the proposed project under EU State aid rules and, more specifically, under its 2014 Communication on Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI Communication). In order to qualify for support under the IPCEI Communication, a project must: (i) contribute to strategic EU objectives, (ii) involve several Member States, (iii) involve private financing by the beneficiaries, (iv) generate positive spillover effects across the EU that limit potential distortions to competition, and (v) be highly ambitious in terms of research and innovation. The Commission has found that the project fulfils these conditions and is in line with EU State aid rules, since: (i) the investment in research and innovation in microelectronics at this scale carries a considerable element of risk, and therefore public support is appropriate and necessary to incentivise companies to carry it out this research, development and innovation activities; (ii) the results of the research project will be disseminated by participating companies benefiting from the public support; and (iii) a governance structure composed of representatives from the participating Member States, businesses and the Commission will supervise the project and monitor in particular the progress of the individual participants and their partners as well as the sharing of research innovation results beyond the project participants. This is the first integrated IPCEI in the field of research, development and innovation approved by the Commission since the adoption of the Communication in 2014. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Microelectronics can be found in almost all electronic devices we use every day – be it your phone, computer, washing machine, or your car. Innovation in microelectronics can help the whole of Europe leap ahead in innovation. That’s why it makes sense for European governments to come together to support such important projects of common European interest, if the market alone would not take the risk. And it is why we have put special State aid rules in place to smooth the way. They enable risky and groundbreaking research and innovation to see the light of day, whilst ensuring that its benefits are shared widely and do not distort the level playing field in Europe. So that innovation supported by taxpayer money truly serves European citizens.” Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, in charge of Digital Economy and Society said: “Every connected device, every modern machine, all our digital services depend on microelectronic components that become smaller and faster with time. If we don’t want to depend on others for such essential technology, for example for security or performance reasons, we have to be able to design and produce them ourselves. Today’s decision is a result of enhanced cooperation and shared European vision.” The full press release is available online in EN, FR, DE, IT. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Giulia Astuti – Tel.: +32 229 55344)

State aid: Commission approves €20 million Italian scheme supporting noise reduction in rail freight transport
The European Commission has approved under EU State aid rules a €20 million aid scheme to support noise reduction of rail freight traffic in Italy. The aid will be granted through a reimbursement of up to 50% of the cost of equipping rail freight wagons operating in Italy, which have been put into circulation before 1 January 2015 with less noisy composite brake blocks. This retrofitting will allow reducing noise emissions of older wagons to more restrictive noise levels which are mandatory for new wagons. The scheme is open to all railway companies and owners of wagons established in the European Economic Area who operate freight transport on the Italian railway network and the aid will be granted on non-discriminatory terms. The Commission found that the measure is necessary as, absent the support, railway companies and owners of existing freight wagons would not have sufficient incentives to carry out the retrofitting. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the measure is compatible with EU State aid rules, in particular Article 93 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union regarding transport coordination and the Commission Guidelines on State aid for railway companies. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website in the public case register under the case number SA.51229 once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Giulia Astuti – Tel.: +32 229 55344)
Mergers: Commission clears the acquisition of Chaucer by China Re
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of sole control over Chaucer by China Reinsurance Group Corporation (“China Re”) of China. Chaucer, which comprises the businesses of The Hanover Insurance International Holdings Limited of the UK, Chaucer Insurance Company Designated Activity Company of Ireland and Hanover Australia Holdco Pty Ltd of Australia, is active globally in the provision of reinsurance, non-life insurance, and specialty insurance. China Re is active globally in property and casualty reinsurance and insurance, life and health reinsurance, and asset management. The proposed transaction gives rise to horizontal overlaps between the companies’ activities, but the Commission concluded that it would raise no competition concerns given the companies’ limited combined market positions resulting from the proposed acquisition. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.9150. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control of Metal One Pipe & Tubular Products by Sumitomo and Metal One
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of joint control of Metal One Pipe & Tubular Products Inc. by Sumitomo and Metal One, all three based in Japan. Metal One Pipe & Tubular Products is active in the wholesale steel pipe and piping equipment distribution. Sumitomo is an integrated trading and investment company, which is active in various sectors. Metal One is an integrated steel trading company, which supplies various steel products. The Commission concluded that the acquisition would raise no competition concerns because Metal One Pipe & Tubular Products has negligible activities in the European Economic Area. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.9177. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of United Group by BC Partners
The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of United Group of the Netherlands by BC Partners of the UK. United Group provides telecommunications and media services in South East Europe. BC Partners is a private equity firm, which controls Intelsat, a global provider of satellite communications services. The transaction gives rise to a vertical relationship between the retail satellite pay-TV activities of United Group in South East Europe, and the Europe-wide wholesale satellite activities of Intelsat. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns because Intelsat does not have market power in the wholesale of satellite capacity and United Group is only one of the many customers active in the market. The operation 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.9152. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)


African Swine Fever: ministerial conference on preparedness and long-term management of wild boar
Tomorrow, 19 December, the ministerial conference on the “Eradication of African swine fever in the EU and the long-term management of wild boar populations” organised by the Commission will take place in Brussels. For the first time, at the initiative of Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, Agricultureand Environment Ministers are gathered in a joint event to reflect upon the control and eradication of African Swine Fever.The meeting will focus on the preparedness of Member States to deal with African Swine Fever and with long-term management of the wild boar population: the effects of the different wild board control optionswill be addressed and the latest scientific developments of the disease will be presented by EFSA. The overall objective of the meeting is to enhance better cooperation and coordination among veterinary services, farmers, forestry management bodies, and hunters. Ahead of the event, Commissioner Andriukaitis said: “Prevention, control and eradication of African Swine Fever must remain a high priority for the EU in order to minimise the potential risks for the farming sector, the environment and the European eco-system. The wild boar population plays an important role in the spreading of the disease especially in certain European regions where it has developed substantially. Biosecurity measures should be the core of the EU strategy, and our actions shall be proportionate and cannot lead to the extermination of the wild boar, a native EU species which shall remain an integral component of the ecosystem. This conference aims to stir a common strategic reflection on these issues and I look forward to discussing these issues with actors who are on the front line of the fight against African Swine Fever.”The event to be web-streamed tomorrow, 19 December, as from 9:30 CET here. More information on ASF here. (For more information: Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 91269; Aikaterini Apostola – Tel.: +32 229 87624)

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