Archive pour février 2011

Commission launches consultation on “Europe 2020 Project Bonds” to fund infrastructure

Lundi 28 février 2011

In the framework of the priorities of Europe 2020 strategy, the initiative “Europe 2020 Project Bond Initiative” has been launched to facilitate the financing of projects with prospects for long-term profitability. European Commission launches today a public consultation in order to attract investors on the capital markets.

In the launch of this initiative, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn said: “Financial instruments should play a larger role in the funding of public-interest projects. Today public budgets are in need of consolidation. But at the same time, we need to promote sustainable growth in Europe. EU budget resources must be used more effectively so that such projects attract capital market financing. This is why we are joining forces with the European Investment Bank in this Project Bond Initiative.”

European Investment Bank President Philippe Maystadt said: “Infrastructure finance in Europe has suffered since the financial crisis and banks face new constraints on long term lending. Project bonds could be a way to attract capital from other investors, such as pension funds and insurance companies, and be a useful addition to traditional financing options.”

In the transport area, the assessment of the investment plans of the Member States reveals that around € 21.5 billion per year is needed in the post-2013 period to remove significant bottlenecks, construct missing cross-border links, and interconnect transport modes.

The stakeholders’ consultation paper has been prepared under the guidance of President Barroso and in close collaboration with Vice-President Siim Kallas (responsible for Transport), as well as Vice-President Neelie Kroes (Digital Agenda) and Commissioners Günther Oettinger (Energy) and Janusz Lewandowski (Budget).

Huge infrastructure investment needs in the this decade

Over the next decade, record investment volumes in Europe’s transport, energy, information and communication networks will be needed in order to underpin the Europe 2020 flagship actions. Developing smart, upgraded and fully interconnected infrastructures will foster the completion of the internal market. Preliminary estimates point to investment needs of €1.5 to 2 trillion for Trans-European Transport Networks, the energy sector and information and communication technologies. These needs, combined with the fact that government budgets face severe constraints, make it crucial to foster the participation of the private sector in the financing of infrastructure projects.

Europe 2020 Project Bond Initiative

The Project Bond Initiative should provide EU support to private “project promoters” issuing bonds to finance in particular infrastructure projects. This should help them attracting capital market financing from institutional investors. The key role of the Commission and the EIB will be to absorb part of the risk of a project. Technically, the instrument will improve the rating of the senior debt issued by the the project entities. This will ensure that such debt can be placed as bonds with institutional investors. As the EU participation will be capped, there will be no unlimited or contingent liabilities for the EU budget.

The Initiative could be available to projects that are assessed to be economically and technically feasible, cost-effective and that have a prospect of financial viability.

Options for the increased use of financial instruments for EU policy goals, as well as for their streamlining within the next multiannual financial framework for the period after 2014, were presented in the EU Budget Review. 2

What is next?

The consultation is open for comments from today. The deadline for contributions is 2 May 2011. On 11 April, the Commission, together with the EIB, will organise a conference on the Project Bond Initiative which will feed into the consultation process. Following the completion of an impact assessment, the Commission will bring forward a proposal for the implementation of the Europe 2020 project Bond Initiative.

Beyond fighting poverty – Commission pushes for modernised EU relationship with Overseas Countries and Territories

Lundi 28 février 2011

In the perspective of the revision of the EU - Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) relationship, Mr. Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development, will attend the OCT-EU annual forum on the first of March 2011. He wants to promote a redefinition of relations between the EU and the overseas countries and territories, the Commission intends to go beyond the fight against poverty in developing a partnership involving mutual rights and obligations.

Prior to his departure, Commissioner Piebalgs declared that a focus on poverty reduction was no longer sufficient for the EU-OCT relationship. The new partnership should push for the economic and social development of the OCTs, ensuring an inclusive growth and a sustainable development. The OCTs have its important place in the European family and he assured he was determined determined to put the relations to a new, improved footing.

The main aim of the Forum is to elaborate on how the EU-OCT relationship can be moved to a new level ahead of legislative proposals expected for 2012. Commissioner Piebalgs will receive a joint paper from the OCTs, as well as Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, that lists proposals and ideas on how to further advance the relationship. Enhancing competitiveness, strengthening resilience and promoting cooperation should be at the core of the new approach. Increasing cooperation of OCTs with their regional and European partners will be an important element of this.

An overhaul will need to reflect the specific situation of OCTs. Many of them are vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change: cyclones, erosion, floods, the rising sea level; but also to public health threats such as infectious diseases. Often, additional challenges arise from a narrow economic base and low population density, not to mention the sometimes extremely remote location.

Background

*The European Union and the Overseas Countries and Territories

The EU is closely associated to 24 OCTs – territories which have special relationships with four EU Member States: Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the UK. Many of them are in remote locations in the Atlantic, Pacific or Indian Oceans. OCTs are not part of the EU territory but their citizens are in principle European citizens. OCTs benefit from the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with a total of €286 million over the period 2008-2013. Greenland, which is not eligible for funding under the EDF, receives € 25 million per year from the EU budget as part of its Partnership Agreement with the EU.

*Redefining the relationship

The current Overseas Association Decision of 2001 will expire in 2013. In preparation for this, the European Commission launched a Green Paper in 2008, followed by a Communication to consult on the future development of EU-OCT relationships. The communication defines three central objectives: Enhancing competitiveness, strengthening resilience and promoting cooperation. A legislative proposal for a new Overseas Association Decision will be presented by the Commission before July 2012.

Energy investments also need EU support

Lundi 28 février 2011

For Tamás Fellegi, the Hungarian Minister for National Development, the development of energy infrastructure in the EU must not be entrusted exclusively to the market and the integration of community resources is also required. This statement came before the meeting of energy ministers to be held this Monday, February the 28th.

On its 28 February meeting, the Council will adopt conclusions concerning the development of the energy infrastructure. The majority of the Western-European countries take the view, that the market is responsible for both implementing, and financing these developments. Is it still possible to support it by European funding? What is the position of the Hungarian Presidency?

It is true, that one of the more sensitive issues of energy infrastructure development is financing. Until the approval of the next multi-annual financial framework, energy ministers and European Institutions will consider alternative financing. Some member states, especially from Western Europe, believe that funding for infrastructure investments, needs to be financed by the industrial sector and the market. However, several countries, mainly new member states, believe that these investments also require European funding.

Since these infrastructural developments serve the interests of the entire EU and each member state, special attention should be paid to the set tariffs in an appropriate, transparent and non-discriminatory manner; as well as to the appropriate cost allocation for cross-border investments. The aim is to enhance competition and competitiveness, while considering the impacts on consumers. The European Council emphasised, on 4 February: only those projects may receive limited public funding which are reasonable from a supply security or solidarity point of view but are unable to attract enough market-based finance.

On 4 February, the European Council backed the plan on the elimination of network bottlenecks and isolated “energy islands” in the EU by 2015. Is a market-driven implementation of this idea possible?

Serious efforts have to be made in order to modernise and extend the European energy infrastructure, as well as connecting networks. At this point, the issue of project financing comes to the surface again. We have to promote regulations, which are attractive to investors.

Agenda items will include the Southern Gas Corridor, which will deliver gas from the Caspian Sea or perhaps from the Middle-East, to Southeast and Central-Europe. What progress is expected in this field? What is the opinion of the Presidency on the possibility of connecting Nabucco with the Turkish-Italian-Greek ITGI pipes?

Both as a member state and the current holder of the Council Presidency, Hungary is paying great attention to the development of the Southern Gas Corridor projects, since they significantly contribute to the EU’s energy security, especially to its Eastern region. Several major steps have been taken, since the Commission carried out successful talks with Azerbaijan, which plays a central role in the Nabucco project. However, the implementation of the investment is still not entirely certain, it requires further political and economic negotiations. Similarly, discussions are necessary, concerning the connection of competitive diversification network plans.

At the Council’s meetings, the European Commission is scheduled to present a communication on the status of the objectives set for 2020, for renewable energy. What is the current situation, especially in the new member states?

It is obvious from the National Action Plans that member states take their obligations concerning renewable energy seriously. The approach is gaining ground, however, that objectives should not be considered as obligations, but rather as a tool for future-oriented economic development. The natural and economic assets of the new member states vary, but everywhere, there is at least some room for the exploitation of renewable energy sources. And the new member states have realised this potential.

And the Oscar goes to… Major success for EU-backed film ‘The King’s Speech’

Lundi 28 février 2011

The EU-backed movie was crowned with four Oscars at the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony: Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Picture, Best Director (Tom Hooper), best original screenplay (David Seidler). The film, had received €562 000 in distribution support from the EU MEDIA fund for cinema. Another MEDIA-backed film, ‘In a Better World’, won the best foreign language film Oscar.

Commissioner Vassiliou, who is responsible for education and culture, said it was a great night for the European film industry and the MEDIA programme. Europe loves cinema and the world loves our films! He sent his congratulations to Tom Hooper and Susanne Bier, who showed that you don’t need a massive budget to make world-beating films. He added that this shows that the European film industry can compete with the best.

Tom Hooper made ‘The King’s Speech’ on a shoe-string budget by Hollywood standards, for less than €11 million. The funding the film received from MEDIA aims to encourage distribution outside the country where it was made – in this case, outside the UK.

‘In a Better World’, the third Danish film to win the best foreign language category after ‘Babette’s Feast’ (1987) and ‘Pelle the Conqueror’ (1988), received €540 000 from MEDIA for distribution support. Two other EU-backed films were also nominated for Oscars – ‘Dogtooth’ (Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece, best foreign film category) was awarded €21 000, and ‘The Illusionist’ (director: Sylvain Chomet, UK/France, best animation category) received €126,000.

The amount of funding distributors receive from MEDIA is based on various criteria including previous ticket sales of non-national films. The funding is re-invested in future distribution costs and in helping to off-set risks. Films can also receive pre-production development funding from MEDIA.

Europe 2020: For Mercedes Bresso, the Member States have not learnt from the failure of the Lisbon strategy

Vendredi 25 février 2011

The chair of the Committee of Regions (CoR) regrets that Member States have not sufficiently learned from the failure of the Lisbon Strategy, at the moment of the completion of national reform programs planned under the Europe 2020 Strategy.

The CoR president’s message is clear: for her, local and regional authorities were not involved in the preliminary stages or in any systematic way in preparing these national programmes. She adds that the first analysis of growth published by the European Commission has already highlighted the gap between the ambitions of the new strategy and the Member States’ initial conceptions put forward during the launch of the national reform programmes. Things have not changed since then, with ideas failing to live up to the strategy’s vision. Mercedes Bresso spoke these words at a territorial dialogue conference on Tuesday 22 February in Brussels.

In Europe local and regional authorities inject some EUR 2 trillion a year into regional economies. However, this growth lever is not coordinated with action by central government. The CoR president is critical of this situation: she reckons that the EU has established macroeconomic policy coordination to reduce public sector deficits and promote investment in growth sectors. However, partnerships between the relevant stakeholders, with joint objectives and mutual commitments, are an essential prerequisite if these policies are to succeed.

Mercedes Bresso suggests putting cooperation between Member State governments and their cities and regions on an official basis in order to achieve the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. She says she wants the Europe 2020 strategy to succeed, and points out that we are jointly responsible for making this happen. However, for her, we need to be given the resources to do this: national governments, regions, cities and other public authorities must commit themselves contractually to pursuing shared objectives. This is where the Territorial Pacts come in.

This idea already has the support of the European Parliament, whose representative Lambert Van Nistelrooij (EPP/NL) has even suggested making the strategy more than just voluntary. It was also welcomed by European Commission president José Manuel Barroso in his speech to the CoR December 2010 plenary session, as well as by Commissioner László Andor. The Committee of the Regions is also pleased to note that several of the proposals set out in the Commission’s communication on the EU budget review reflect a partnership-based approach.

The representatives of 100 000 European regions and cities now expect the Member States to follow suit and take the necessary steps at their own level. The Committee of the Regions will submit a proposal on this to the Spring Summit. With this in mind, Mercedes Bresso will meet the permanent representatives of the 27 Member States to the European Union on 8 March, followed by European Council president Herman Van Rompuy on 17 March.

The Commission is launching three online consultations in the field of environment

Vendredi 25 février 2011

The three consultations launched by the Commission are open until mid-April 2011. The first one concerns the strategy for more efficient use of natural resources in the European economy. The second consultation is on the Rio de Janeiro Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in 2012. This consultation will help to determine the position to be adopted by the EU. Finally, related consultation has also been launched to gather opinions on the European bio-based economy, which also includes aspects of resource efficiency. Please give your opinion!

The first consultation, on resource efficiency, will feed into a Roadmap for a resource-efficient Europe expected in the summer of 2011. The consultation asks for opinions in three areas – general views on resource use, scarcities, current obstacles and major areas of concern; policy areas that could be included in the roadmap; and options for encouraging individual shifts of behaviour. The views of public authorities, the private sector, environmental stakeholders and interested citizens are being sought on 22 questions. On 26 January this year, the Commission adopted a Communication on a Resource-Efficient Europe – one of the flagship initiatives of Europe 2020, the EU’s strategy for jobs and growth – setting the scene for a number of Commission initiatives to be adopted in 2011 and 2012. The Roadmap is one such initiative. The consultation, in English, French and German, closes on 17 April 2011.

The second consultation will help elaborate the EU position for the United Nations conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012. The conference, also known as Rio+20 as it coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, is intended to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development. It will assess progress to date, identify gaps in the implementation of commitments and address emerging challenges, with a focus on two major themes: “a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication” and “the institutional framework for sustainable development”. The consultation, which consists of 13 open questions, in English, runs until mid-April.

Responses to the consultation will feed into a Communication on the EU position to be published in the spring of 2011, and in subsequent discussions with the other EU Institutions. It is open to all stakeholders in the EU and in third countries. Contributions may be sent in the form of answers to some or all of the questions asked in the paper. Once the replies have been assessed, a report on the consultation will be published on the DG Environment website.

Finally, a consultation has been launched by DG Research and Innovation which relates to resource efficiency and other aspects of Europe 2020 and focuses on the state and future potential of Europe’s biobased economy. In addition to looking at resource efficiency issues, the consultation asks questions about the potential of the bio-based economy to foster innovation and address societal challenges. The results will support the preparation of the “European Strategy and Action Plan towards a sustainable bio-based economy by 2020″.

8.6 million euro to help Slovenia and Croatia hit by floods

Vendredi 25 février 2011

The Solidarity Fund of the European Union aims to help regions to deal with the damage caused by natural disaster. Following the floods of September 2010 the European Commission has decided, on 24th February, to award to Slovenia and Croatia an aid amounting respectively to 7.46 million and 1.17 million euros. This aid, financed by the Solidarity Fund of the EU, will finance the emergency measures taken by national, regional and local authorities, such as rescue operations, cleaning of affected areas and rehabilitation of infrastructure of primary importance.

European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, responsible for the EU Solidarity Fund, said that with this decision the Commission wants to express its solidarity with the people of Slovenia and Croatia, after the terrible floods which have hit their countries. Unfortunately, it has seen an increase in the number of applications for aid over the last few years, but the European Commission stands ready to assist all Member States which have to deal with natural catastrophes.

From 17-22 September 2010, Slovenia and Croatia experienced unusually heavy rainfall, which caused rivers to burst their banks, forced people to leave their homes and damaged public infrastructure, private homes, agriculture and businesses.

Slovenia

In November 2010, the Slovenian authorities applied for assistance from the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF). The Commission then checked whether the damage caused by the disaster justified European intervention. The direct damage caused by the flooding was estimated at €251.3 million, exceeding the damage threshold for “major disasters” set for Slovenia at €217.669 million (i.e. 0.6% of Slovenian GNI).

The disaster affected 137 of Slovenia’s 210 municipalities and caused widespread damage. In total, 8241 buildings were flooded, including the premises of 127 businesses. 91 bridges were damaged, as well as 2550 km of roads. 296 residents were evacuated. Furthermore, Slovenia suffered damage to cultural heritage in several areas, including the flooding of the entire historic centres of Kostanjevica na Krki and Krško, and damage to the Salt Pans near Piran. The EU grant totalling €7.4 million will be used to re-finance emergency measures, notably the cost in the field of water and waste water management.

Croatia

As accession countries can also benefit from assistance from the Solidarity Fund, Croatia submitted its application to the Commission in November 2010. Infrastructure, the farming sector and private property, especially in Western Croatia, bore the brunt of the severe flooding. Significant damage was caused to energy, water and waste water infrastructure, transport, education and health infrastructure. This resulted in e.g. electricity blackouts and blockages of road traffic which made it difficult to take immediate action.

The Croatian authorities estimated the total direct damage at €47 million, which is less than the threshold of intervention fixed for this country (€275.8 million). However, according to legislation, a country affected by the same major disaster as a neighbouring country (in this case Slovenia) may exceptionally benefit from the Solidarity Fund. This condition was taken into account and the application was accepted on that basis. The €1.17 million allocated to Croatia will be used mainly to reimburse the cost of operations for cleaning-up of disaster stricken zones.

In order to release these two grants, the Commission will ask the budget authority (the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union) to adopt an amending budget to be incorporated into the Community budget.

Note for editors

The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was set up following the floods which struck central Europe in the summer of 2002. It grants emergency aid to Member States and EU accession countries affected by major natural disasters. Its annual budget is €1 billion. The fund cannot be used for damage to private property.

Croatia received almost €4 million in aid from the EUSF following flooding in May and June 2010. Slovenia benefitted from €8.25 million in similar circumstances in 2008.

The Commission is preparing a Communication on the future of the EUSF in order to adjust its functioning, improve eligibility criteria and delivery mechanisms. This will provide a basis for discussion with Member States and the European Parliament.

Linking business registers across Europe will stimulate cross-border trade and save up to 70 million euro a year

Vendredi 25 février 2011

On the 24th of February, the Commission voted in favor of the interconnection of business registers within the EU. For now, these registers are organized nationally or regionally. The new measure will allow cross-border access to essential information on the companies and ensure the updating of these data. These changes are of great importance for companies wishing to gain access to the European market. However, the Commission proposal must be submitted to Member States and the European Parliament.

Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said that, nowadays, more and more companies were offering their services to consumers across the EU. As a result of the growth of e-commerce, goods and services are crossing borders at an unprecedented rate. Consumers, particularly in the online market, need to be able to access reliable and up-to-date information in order to verify the legitimacy of these businesses. Today’s proposal aims to improve this legal certainty both for consumers and for businesses.

Company information is valuable for consumers, existing or potential business partners, as well as for public administrations. Cross-border access to business information allows a business to find out about another business elsewhere in the EU. It is also needed in the cases of cross-border mergers and/or seat transfer procedures.

Such cross-border access to business information requires that national business registers cooperate in various ways. Although some cooperation already exists, accessing company information from another Member State is often difficult.

It takes time, and translations are often unavailable. Businesses are faced with diverse national registration systems which is costly. Business information in the register of a company’s foreign branches is often not up to date. Furthermore, it is limited to certain types of information and it does not cover all Member States.

Today’s proposal will require all Member States to link up their business registers electronically. This will help business registers provide reliable and up-to-date information on the status of the company and its foreign branches in Europe. This will also improve efficient cooperation between business registers in cross-border transactions and mergers by ensuring better electronic links between them. The third aspect concerns improving cross-border access to official business information for interested parties such as consumers, existing or potential business partners, the public and the tax and justice administration throughout the EU. It is estimated that facilitating cross-border electronic access to business information could generate annual savings of more than 69 million euro.

Cross-border access to business information is also useful for consumers. The Commission’s 2009 report on e-commerce showed that, in 2008, 33% of individuals in the EU ordered online, but cross-border shopping reached only 7%.Consumers underlined that one of the reasons for not buying in another country was the difficulty of establishing whether a seller (usually a company) was trustworthy or not, mainly due to insufficient information and language problems. Today’s proposal should increase confidence and transparency in the European single market, ensuring a safer business environment for consumers.

Background information

All 27 Member States hold business registers. They are organised at national (e.g. Sweden, Ireland and Denmark), regional (e.g. Austria) or local level (e.g. Germany). Throughout Europe, business registers offer a range of services, which may vary from one country to another. The core services provided by all registers, however, are to examine and store company information, such as information on a company’s legal form, its seat and its legal representatives, and to make this information available to the public.

Facilitating access to official information on companies for third parties was one of the objectives of the First Company law Directive (68/151/EEC) in 1968. Its 2003 amendment ensured that all Member States had electronic business registers in place by 2007. Furthermore, other requirements in EU law, such as the cross-border mergers Directive (2005/56/EC) and the Directive on branch disclosure (89/666/EEC) have made the day-to-day co-operation of business registers a necessity. Nevertheless, the co-operation between business registers remains voluntary. As such, it fails to either guarantee certainty in cross-border legal procedures or to increase transparency in the Single Market.

This proposal for a Directive on the interconnection of central, commercial and companies registers amends the above-mentioned Directives 89/666/EEC and 2005/56/EC as well as Directive 2009/101/EC on the coordination of safeguards for the protection of the interests of members and third parties.

Regional GDP per inhabitant in 2008 GDP per inhabitant ranged from 28% of the EU27 average in Severozapaden in Bulgaria to 343% in Inner London

Vendredi 25 février 2011

STAT/11/28 24 February 2011 In 2008, GDP per inhabitant1, expressed in terms of purchasing power standards2, in the EU27’s 271 NUTS-23 regions ranged from 28% of the EU27 average in the region of Severozapaden in Bulgaria, to 343% of the average in Inner …

Lire l’article complet

Ombudsman launches public consultation on ethical principles for EU officials

Vendredi 25 février 2011

EO/11/3 24 February 2011 The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has invited citizens, interest groups, and other organisations to submit comments on a draft statement of principles that should guide the conduct of EU civil servants….

Lire l’article complet