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European Commission London Office weekly news round-up
Main news from Brussels this week
Ministers and MEPs agree on funding for high-performance infrastructure to better connect Europeans
On 8 March the European Commission welcomed the provisional agreement reached by the European Parliament and the Council on the Commission's Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) proposal, as part of the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027. The new programme will enable the European Union to lead the way to climate neutrality and support infrastructure for safe, clean, secure and connected mobility. It will also prioritise environmentally friendly modes of transport such as rail and the development of charging points for vehicles using alternative fuels. By making energy systems better interconnected, smarter and safer, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) will help complete the Energy Union and support the clean energy transition.
EU makes it easier for insurers to invest in the real economy
On 8 March, the European Commission adopted new rules to help insurers to invest in equity and private debt and to provide long-term capital financing. The insurance industry is well-equipped to provide long-term finance by investing in equity and private debt, including of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), but the actual share of their investments in the real economy remains limited. As a result of the changes, insurers will have to hold less capital for such investments and will therefore find it more attractive to invest in the economy. This will further help mobilise private sector investment. The newly adopted rules, which take the form of a delegated regulation, amend the EU prudential rules for the insurance sector, known as Solvency II, and follow up from the mid-term review of the CMU action plan. The amendments will now be subject to a 3 month scrutiny period by the European Parliament and the Council.
European Commission accepts commitments by Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros and Sky on cross-border pay-TV services
On 7 March, the European Commission made commitments offered by Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros and Sky legally binding under EU antitrust rules. These commitments address the Commission's concerns regarding certain clauses in these studios' film licensing contracts for pay-TV with Sky UK which prevented EU consumers outside the UK and Ireland subscribing to Sky UK's pay TV services to access films via satellite or online. They also required NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros to ensure that broadcasters other than Sky UK are prevented from making their pay-TV services available in the UK and Ireland. Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros have now committed not to apply these clauses in existing film licensing contracts for pay-TV with any broadcaster in the European Economic Area (EEA). They have also committed to refrain from (re)introducing such clauses in film licensing contracts for pay-TV with any broadcaster in the EEA. Similarly, Sky will neither apply existing clauses nor (re)introduce new ones in its film licensing contracts for pay-TV with Disney, Fox, NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros.
European Commission fines car safety equipment suppliers €368 million in cartel settlement
On 5 March, the European Commission fined Autoliv and TRW a total of €368,277,000 for breaching EU antitrust rules. Takata was not fined as it revealed the cartels to the Commission. The companies took part in two cartels for the supply of car seatbelts, airbags and steering wheels to European car producers. All three suppliers acknowledged their involvement in the cartels and agreed to settle the case.
EU and Qatar reach aviation agreement
On 4 March, the European Commission and the State of Qatar initialled an aviation agreement, the first of its kind between the EU and a partner from the Gulf region. The agreement will upgrade the rules and standards for flights between Qatar and the EU and will set a new global benchmark by committing to strong, fair competition mechanisms, including provisions not normally covered by bilateral air transport agreements, such as social or environmental matters.
All this week's key European Commission announcements can be found here
EU and the UK
European Commission acts to ensure professionals can fully benefit from the single market
On 7 March, European Commission took further steps in infringement procedures against 26 member states to ensure the full implementation of EU rules on the recognition of professional qualifications. Professionals in the EU single market can move across borders and practice their occupation or provide services in another member states. The EU has put rules in place to make it easier for professionals, such as doctors or architects, to have their professional qualifications recognised in another member state. The Commission sent reasoned opinions to 24 member states - Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and complementary letters of formal notice to two member states - Estonia and Latvia, regarding the non-compliance of their national legislation and legal practice with EU rules on the recognition of professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC as amended by Directive 2013/55/EU). All member states concerned have now two months to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission. Without a satisfactory response, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion to Estonia and Latvia, and to refer the other 24 member states to the Court of Justice of the EU.
European Commission calls on eight member states to comply with EU law on hydroelectric power concessions
The European Commission decided on 7 March to send letters of formal notice to seven member states - Austria, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and United Kingdom, and a second complementary letter of formal notice to Italy to ensure that public contracts in the hydroelectric power sector are awarded and renewed in conformity with EU law. The Commission considers that the legal frameworks and practices in the countries addressed by these infringement procedures do not fully comply with the Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC), EU rules on public procurement (Directive 2014/23/EU on the award of concession contracts) or the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services (Articles 49 and 56 of TFEU). The eight member states concerned now have two months to respond to the arguments raised by the Commission.
European Commission clears acquisition of Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine by Kongsberg
On 4 March, the European Commission approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Rolls-Royce plc's commercial marine products, systems and aftermarket services business (“Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine”) of the UK by Kongsberg Gruppen ASA (“Kongsberg”) of Norway. Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine is the commercial marine business within the Rolls-Royce group that supplies components, systems and digital elements primarily for civil marine vessels. It does not include Rolls-Royce's power systems business. Kongsberg is the holding company of the Kongsberg group which supplies technological systems and solutions for use in the marine, defence, aerospace and oil and gas industries. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns given the minor horizontal and vertical relationships between the companies' activities.
Latest news on the Article 50 negotiations can be found here
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EU in the media this week
'Dear Europe, Brexit is a lesson for all of us: it’s time for renewal' by Emmanuel Macron in the Guardian
EU fact of the week
Record recycling rates and use of recycled materials in the EU
The recycling rates and use of recycled materials in the European Union are steadily growing. Overall the EU recycled around 55% of all waste excluding major mineral waste in 2016 (compared with 53% in 2010). The rate for recovering construction and demolition waste reached 89% (2016), the recycling rate of packaging waste exceeded 67% (2016, compared with 64% in 2010) while the rate of plastic packaging was over 42% (2016, compared with 24% in 2005). The recycling rate for municipal waste stood at 46% (2017, compared with 35% in 2007) and for the waste of electrical and electronic equipment such as computers, televisions, fridges and mobile phones, which include valuable materials which can be recovered (e-waste) in the EU reached 41% (2016, compared with 28% in 2010).
Tweet of the week
Europe ranks among the safest and most equal places for #women in the world. The number of women in employment is at a historical high. #Europe is making progress but we must speed up change! #InternationalWomensDay https://europa.eu/!gV66kW
Jean-Claude Juncker @JunckerEU March 8th, 2019
Quote of the week
“The results of our common European approach on migration speak for themselves: irregular arrivals are now lower than before the crisis, the European Border and Coast Guard has brought joint EU border protection to a new level and together with our partners we work on ensuring legal pathways while stepping up returns. Looking ahead, it is essential to pursue our common approach but also to complete the ongoing reform of the EU's asylum system.” Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos presenting the progress made under the European Agenda on Migration over the past 4 years.