President Juncker met President Schulz ahead of the European Council

At a joint press conference ahead of the European Council, President Juncker and President Schulz reaffirmed the importance of better protecting the EU's external borders as a prerequisite for preserving the integrity of the Schengen area of free movement. President Juncker noted that he expects the European Council to agree with the main thrust of the Commission's proposal for a European Border and Coast Guard presented just two days ago: "We have now made a proposal and I am confident that we will reach an agreement in principle, we need to protect our external borders." President Juncker also emphasised the high quality of cooperation and partnership between the Commission and the European Parliament. President Juncker's statement can be found here. (For more information: Margaritis Schinas – Tel.: +32 229 60524; Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382; Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456)

EU shortlists 9 women innovators for Prize recognising market-breaking ideas

Today, the Commission is announcing the names of 9 outstanding women entrepreneurs who are entering the final stage of the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2016. The contestants are being recognised for recently setting up companies in a range of sectors from life sciences to ICT, based on the market success of their breakthrough ideas. Each of the contenders, which come from Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Portugal and Sweden, had previously also benefitted from EU research and innovation funding. Expressing his delight at the nominations, Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "While there can only be three Prize winners, the remarkable achievements of all the women who entered the contest deserve great recognition. They worked very hard, took risks and may sometimes have faced setbacks, but they got back up again and persevered to fulfil their visions. This is the kind of spirit we need more of in Europe. These outstanding women are an inspiration to other researchers and entrepreneurs, female and male alike." This year, the Women Innovators prize is being awarded for the third time to raise public awareness of the need for more innovation and more women entrepreneurs. The finalists were selected by a high-level jury of independent experts from business, venture capital, entrepreneurship and academia. The three winners, who will be announced in March 2016, will receive cash prizes of Euros 100,000, Euros 50,000 and Euros 30,000. More information is available here. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Mirna Talko- Tel.: +32 229 87278)

EU provides Euros 5 million in humanitarian aid for the Burundian crisis

The European Commission has today released Euros 5 million in new humanitarian assistance to help the increasing number of Burundians affected by the ongoing instability in the country. The additional support brings total Commission humanitarian aid to help the Burundian people to Euros 14 million in 2015. More than 220 000 people, over half of whom are children, are estimated to have left the country since April this year to neighbouring countries such as Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda. "The humanitarian situation affecting Burundians is worsening. The refugee numbers are rising, with almost a quarter of a million people having now fled their homes. This is extremely worrying – both for Burundi, and for the neighbouring countries whose hosting capabilities have been stretched to the limit. Hosting governments' efforts in welcoming those who fled the violence are commendable. This additional EU funding will help address the refugees' most pressing needs, notably in Tanzania. It will also contribute to humanitarian protection activities inside Burundi." said EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides. Press release can be found here.(For more information: Alexandre Polack – Tel.: +32 229 90677; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.: +32 229 69140)

Shift2Rail launches first calls for projects worth Euros 170 million

Shift2Rail, the Joint Undertaking backed by the Commission and the rail industry, has today published its first calls for proposals, endowed with Euros 170 million to support innovation in railways. The Commission will contribute Euros 90 million, with the other Euros 80 million being brought by the members of Shift2Rail. In order to be funded, projects will have to demonstrate their ability to increase the quality, reliability and punctuality of rail services while cutting its costs and facilitating cross-border travel. EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said, "Investing in innovation is critical to create jobs and get Europe to grow, two main priorities of the Commission. With today's calls for proposals, we want to pool the expertise from stakeholders towards these goals. Keeping European rail at the forefront of innovation will open new markets globally for our companies. It will also make rail more attractive for passengers and businesses. This is essential to reach our ambitious transport decarbonisation objectives." More details can be found here. (For more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Alexis Perier - Tel.: +32 229 69143)

EU and World Trade Organisation partners finalise high tech trade deal

Yesterday, the EU and another 23 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) completed a trade deal that eliminates custom duties on more than 200 high-tech products. On this occasion, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: ”I warmly welcome the conclusion of this agreement. This is great news for consumers, who should see the prices of their favourite electronic products fall. It should also give a boost to Europe's high-tech manufacturing sector. We expect the deal to give our entrepreneurs easier access to state-of-the-art technology and help them reach out to the overseas markets. The conclusion of the revised Information Technology Agreement (ITA) shows that we can achieve global solutions that benefit all sides. This should add momentum to the multilateral World Trade Organisation process happening now in Nairobi." The deal, initiated by the EU, extends the 1996 ITA to cover Euros 1.3 trillion in global trade. This makes it the biggest tariff-cutting deal in the World Trade Organisation in almost two decades. A full press release is available here. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56 185; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184)

Commissioner Andriukaitis welcomes agreement reached in trilogue on protective measures against plant pests

On Wednesday 16 December, an agreement was reached in trilogue, a meeting attended by representatives of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, on the Commission's proposal on protective measures against plant pests."The measures have focused on a more proactive approach towards plants and plant products imported from third countries, as well as towards the early detection and eradication of pests found in the EU territory", stressed the EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis. "Prevention is better than cure; was the guiding principle when the Commission started preparing this proposal. This is today all the more valid due to serious plant threats, like Xylella, that we are currently facing in the European Union. The new rules will ensure a robust, transparent and sustainable regulatory framework for plant healthfocussing on the early detection and eradication of any pests found in EU territory.I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the European Parliament, especially the Rapporteur Ms McIntyre, and the Luxembourg Presidency for their efforts in bringing this file to a successful conclusion". (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: + 32 229 56172; Aikaterini Apostola - Tel.: +32 229 87624)

State aid: Commission approves prolongation of Irish credit union resolution scheme

The European Commission has found the prolongation of an Irish scheme for the orderly winding-up of credit unions to be in line with EU state aid rules, and in particular with the 2013 Banking Communication. The objective of the scheme is to safeguard financial stability when a credit union becomes unable to meet regulatory requirements. It allows Ireland to provide aid for transferring the assets and liabilities (with the possible exception of the premises) of a failing credit union to an acquirer through a competitive process. This will help to achieve the maximum value for the assets and liabilities, ensuring that the aid is limited to the minimum necessary for ensuring an orderly winding-up and that no buyer gains an undue economic advantage through the acquisition of under-priced assets and liabilities. The scheme is valid until 30 June 2016. The Commission initially approved the scheme in December 2011. It was prolonged several times, the last time in July 2015. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the reference SA.43745. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

Mergers: Commission clears joint venture of Michelin and Fives

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the creation of a joint venture by the Michelin group and the Fives group, both of France. Michelin manufactures and distributes tyres through retail stores and online networks. Fives is an industrial engineering group which designs and supplies machines, process equipment and production lines. The joint venture will develop and produce additive manufacturing machines (more commonly known as 3D printers) as well as related services. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns as it would increase the number of competitors by creating a new player in additive manufacturing in the European Economic Area (EEA). The operation was examined under the simplified merger procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website in the public case register under the case number M.7797. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of joint control of Hernandez Edelstahl GmbH by Outokumpu and Hernandez Beteiligungs GmbH

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control of Hernandez Edelstahl GmbH of Germany by the Outokumpu Group of Finland and Hernandez Beteiligungs GmbH of Germany. Outokumpu is active in the production, sale and distribution of a wide range of stainless steel products. Hernandez Beteiligungs GmbH is a holding and share management company. Hernandez Edelstahl GmbH distributes cold and hot rolled flat stainless steel products and stocks quarto plates. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the modest market shares and low increments resulting from the proposed transaction in markets where the parties' activities overlap and the presence of a number of players on all markets concerned. The operation was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7839. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of GETRAG by Magna

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of GETRAG Getriebe- und Zahnradfabrik Hermann Hagenmeyer GmbH & Cie KG ('GETRAG') of Germany by Magna International Inc. of Canada. GETRAG manufactures and supplies transmission systems to original equipment manufacturers ('OEMs') of passenger cars, light commercial vehicles and motorcycles. Magna is active globally in the manufacture and supply of a wide range of automotive components to OEMs of vehicles. The Commission found that the companies' activities overlap in the market for the manufacture and OEM supply of complete drive train assemblies for full-electric and hybrid-electric light vehicles ('eDrive systems') as well as for the manufacture and OEM supply of its various sub-systems. The Commission's investigation found that the overlaps were limited and that a number of strong players would remain in the market after the merger. Furthermore, OEM customers have the possibility to retain in-house manufacturing capabilities for at least one sub-system of eDrive systems, in order to maintain their bargaining power vis-à-vis suppliers. The Commission therefore concluded that the transaction would raise no competition concerns. 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.7748. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel. +32 229 56182; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)

Eurostat: Annual growth in labour costs down to 1.1% in euro area

Hourly labour costs rose by 1.1% in the euro area (EA19) and by 1.8% in the EU28 in the third quarter of 2015, compared with the same quarter of the previous year. In the second quarter of 2015, hourly labour costs increased by 1.6% in the euro area and by 1.9% in the EU28. These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The two main components of labour costs are wages & salaries and non-wage costs. In the euro area, wages & salaries per hour worked grew by 1.4% and the non-wage component by 0.1%, in the third quarter of 2015 compared with the same quarter of the previous year. In the second quarter of 2015, the annual changes were +2.0% for wages & salaries and +0.3% for non-wage costs. In the EU28, hourly wages & salaries rose by 2.0% and the non-wage component by 1.1% for the third quarter of 2015. In the second quarter of 2015, annual changes were +2.2% and +1.1% respectively. A Eurostat press release can be found here. (For more information: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Justyna Milanowska – Tel.: +32 229 94246)

Eurostat: Euro area job vacancy rate at 1.6%

The job vacancy rate in the euro area (EA19) was 1.6% in the third quarter of 2015, down from 1.7% in the previous quarter, but stable compared with the third quarter of 2014, according to figures published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The job vacancy rate in the EU28 was 1.7% in the third quarter of 2015, stable compared with the previous quarter but up from 1.6% in the third quarter of 2014.A Eurostat press release can be found here. (For more information: Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Justyna Milanowska – Tel.: +32 229 94246)

Eurostat: Production in construction up by 0.5% in euro area

In October 2015 compared with September 2015, seasonally adjusted production in the construction sector increased by 0.5% in the euro area (EA19) and by 0.1% in the EU28, according to first estimates from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. In September 2015, production in construction fell by 0.7% in the euro area and by 0.2% in the EU28. In October 2015 compared with October 2014, production in construction grew by 1.1% in the euro area and by 1.2% in the EU28. A Eurostat press release can be found here. (For more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Heli Pietila – Tel.: +32 22964950)

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Commissioner Avramopoulos participates in Citizens' Dialogue on Migration in Berlin

Today, Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos together with the German Federal Minister of Interior Thomas de Maizière has met with around 300 German citizens in Berlin to discuss Europe's response to the refugee crisis. Commissioner Avramopoulos has also met with the President of Germany Joachim Gauck. Together with the International Cooperation and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica, Commissioner Avramopoulos will also meet with the Head of the Federal German Chancellery and Minister for Special Tasks Peter Altmaier and addresses the European Affairs Committee of the German Bundesrat during a common meeting with Members of the French Senate. Commissioner Avramopoulos will also address the Home Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag. During this one-day trip, the European management of the refugee crisis is the main theme of discussion. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Markus Lammert – Tel.: +32 229 80423)

High Representative/ Vice-President Federica Mogherini to travel to New York for a meeting on Syria

The High Representative / Vice-President for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini will travel to New York to participate in a meeting of the International Syria Support Group on Friday 18 December. Upon the invitation of the U.S. Secretary Kerry, the ISSG is to discuss next steps in efforts to foster a nation-wide ceasefire and parallel political transition negotiations to end the Syrian civil war line with the 2012 Geneva Communique, while intensifying the fight against Da'esh. HRVP Mogherini represents the EU as such in these talks. The EU is committed to continue its active engagement in the International Syria Support Group and support to the Global Coalition against ISIL/Da’esh. (For more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 229 69921; Nabila Massrali – Tel.: +32 229 69218)

SOURCE: European Commission

Releated

Algeria: 2 Ex-Ministers Face Groundbreaking Corruption Trial

ALGIERS, ALGERIA – Two former Algerian prime ministers went on trial Wednesday on corruption charges, in the most high-profile act of transparency and accountability since a pro-democracy movement pushed out the long-serving president.The exceptional t…