News from the Press and Communication Directorate General’s midday briefing
Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Direction Général Presse et Communication
11 / 03 / 05
Commission opens in-depth investigation into Blackstone’s takeover of Acetex
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation under the EU Merger Regulation into the planned acquisition by the US-based merchant-banking firm Blackstone of the Canadian chemicals company Acetex. One of the companies controlled by Blackstone (Celanese) is active on the same markets as Acetex. The Commission’s initial market investigation has found that the proposed acquisition may create significant competition problems given the parties’ horizontal overlaps in the markets of acetic acid, vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) and acetic anhydride. The decision to open a detailed inquiry does not prejudge the final result of the investigation. The Commission now has four months to take a final decision on whether the concentration would significantly impede effective competition within the European Economic Area (EEA).
Commission clears acquisition of Health Care and Care Partner by ISS and EQT
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of joint control of ISS Health Care AB (Health Care) of Denmark and Care Partner Sverige AB (Care Partner) of Sweden by the UK company EQT III Limited (EQT) and ISS Global A/S (ISS) of Denmark. Health Care and Care Partner are currently solely controlled by ISS. EQT is a private equity fund which belongs to the UK EQT Group and invests in medium-sized companies in Northern Europe. ISS is active mainly in the services sector, focusing on cleaning services, office support, property services and canteen services. It is also active to a lesser extent in health care. Health Care is a direct subsidiary of ISS Global and owner of 100% shares of M & M Medical Holding AB, FysiologLab i Stockholm AB, ISS Rehab AB and Strandhagen i Sävsjö AB. It also has a non-controlling interest in Axess Spesialistklinikk AS. The businesses comprising Health Care manage and operate local hospitals and clinics within hospitals. Health Care also operates rehabilitation institutions providing treatment for abuse and psychiatric care. These businesses operate only in Sweden, except for Axess Spesialistklinikk, which operates in Norway. Care Partner is active in the provision of services for the care of the elderly and disabled in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
Commission clears acquisition of North DN by Hutchison Whampoa
The European Commission has granted clearance under the EU Merger Regulation to the acquisition of sole control of Blackwater F Limited (North DN) of the UK by UK company Gas Network Limited, controlled by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Limited (CKI) of Hong Kong, the latter belonging to the Hutchison Whampoa group of Hong Kong. North DN is a newly-formed company containing the North England Gas Distribution Network, one of eight regional gas distribution networks in the UK to be spun off from the country’s national grid operator, National Grid Transco plc. Gas Network is a special purpose vehicle of a consortium including CKI, Hong Kong Electric Holdings, Li Ka Shing (Overseas) Foundation, United Utilities Contract Solutions Ltd., Challenger Life No.2 Ltd. and SAS Trustee Corp. CKI’s activities include the investment in and operation of infrastructure, energy and transportation businesses in Asia, Australia and Europe. The operation was examined under the simplified merger review procedure.
How long can I use my sunscreen after opening ?
There will be no more doubts regarding risks linked to the conservation of a beauty cream, sunscreen or a shampoo. From today, cosmetic products with a durability of more than 30 month will have to indicate the time period the product may be used after opening. The motivation behind this initiative is to better inform consumers, given some cosmetics can deteriorate after opening and be possibly harmful to the consumer. This information will be labelled on products by means of a symbol representing an open beauty cream jar followed by the period of use after opening. In addition, as from today the labelling of 26 substances used as perfume and aromatic composition in cosmetic products will be mandatory as these substances may be allergenic. Until now they have only been mentioned in the list of ingredients of cosmetic products under the title ‘parfum’ or ‘aroma’. This new labelling requirement will allow consumers to identify substances they are allergic to.
La Commission propose d’élaborer un plan d’action communautaire en faveur de la gestion durable des forêts
La Commission européenne a intensifié ses efforts en matière de gestion forestière comme le montre sa proposition d’aujourd’hui relative à l’élaboration d’un plan d’action communautaire en faveur de la gestion durable des forêts. La nécessité de ce plan d’action s’est fait sentir à la suite d’une étude des activités mises en oeuvre dans le cadre de la stratégie forestière de l’UE adoptée en décembre 1998. Il ressort de cette étude que les forêts sont une source de bienfaits multiples pour la société moderne, bienfaits de plus en plus largement reconnus. Des progrès ont été accomplis au cours des dernières années dans le domaine de la gestion durable des forêts de l’Union européenne, mais compte tenu de l’évolution du contexte, il sera indispensable d’adopter pour l’avenir une approche plus axée sur la prévention. La Commission est d’avis que l’élaboration d’un plan d’action communautaire en faveur d’une gestion forestière durable pourrait donner l’impulsion nécessaire pour déclencher, à partir de la “stratégie forestière”, un processus dynamique permettant de répondre aux nouvelles attentes de la société.
What is a researcher ? Commission defines roles and responsibilities
The European Commission has today adopted a European Charter for Researchers and a Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers. These two documents are key elements in the EU’s policy to make research an attractive career, which is a vital feature of its strategy to stimulate economic and employment growth. The Charter and Code of Conduct will give individual researchers the same rights and obligations wherever they may work throughout the EU. This should help counter the fact that research careers in Europe are fragmented at local, regional, national or sectoral level, and allow Europe to make the most of its scientific potential.
La Commission consulte les Européens sur la façon de réduire l’impact de l’activité aérienne sur le changement climatique
Le transport aérien connaît actuellement une croissance mondiale qui entraîne une augmentation indésirable des émissions de CO². Au sein de l’Union européenne, les émissions de CO² provenant de l’aviation ont augmenté de presque 70% entre 1990 et 2002. La Commission européenne cherche à connaître l’opinion des citoyens de l’UE sur les mesures qu’il serait possible de prendre au niveau communautaire pour mettre un frein à cette hausse. Ainsi, dès aujourd’hui, une consultation par internet sera ouverte pour huit semaines. Les résultats seront intégrés à une stratégie, prévue pour cet été, qui se concentrera sur la façon dont les instruments économiques pourraient être utilisés afin de réduire l’impact de l’aviation sur le changement climatique.
Commission welcomes launch of the Commission for Africa report
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso today welcomed the simultaneous publication in London and Addis Ababa of the report of the Africa Commission as an important contribution in what is a key 2022 for development. President Barroso said : “I want Africa to be a flagship issue for this Commission. Both the European Commission and the Commission for Africa recognise that more should be done both for and by Africa. The European Commission will come forward in April with its proposals on accelerating progress in reaching the Millennium Development Goals.”
Commission provides €3.5 million in humanitarian aid for the repatriation of Angolan refugees from Zambia
The European Commission has approved € 3.5 million in humanitarian aid to support transport and logistics for the repatriation of up to 35,000 Angolan refugees from Zambia. The aid will be channelled through the Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel, and implemented by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). This decision will directly address the crucial transport, logistical, food and health needs of up to 35,000 Angolan refugees returning from Zambia. Children, who make up 56% of the refugee camp population, will be major beneficiaries of interventions funded under these decisions. ECHO has provided more than €11 million to fund transport and logistics for refugees repatriating from Zambia and Namibia since 2003, in addition to substantial aid for returning refugees in Angola including primary health care, emergency food security, essential relief items, HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness activities and humanitarian demining and mine awareness activities.
Rapport général sur les activités de l’Union européenne en 2004 : un rapport plus simple et plus lisible
Une vision globale de l’année écoulée : le “Rapport général sur l’activité de l’Union européenne 2004”, publié cette semaine par la Commission européenne, s’inscrit dans un effort renouvelé de communication.
First estimates for the fourth quarter of 2004 – EU25 current account deficit €6.3 billion – €7.0 billion surplus on trade in services
The EU25 external current account recorded a deficit of €6.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2004, as compared with a surplus of €2.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2003 and a deficit of €8.9 billion in the third quarter of 2004. In the fourth quarter of 2004 the EU25 external balance of trade in services recorded a surplus of €7.0 billion as compared with a surplus of €6.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2003 and a surplus of €10.9 billion in the third quarter of 2004. These provisional data, issued by Eurostat, will be subject to revision.
Selling of wheat intervention stocks
In view of the bumper harvest of 284 million tons, important quantities of cereals were offered to the EU intervention system. Until now, 10.5 million tons of cereals were offered to public stocks since the start of the campaign, bringing the total level of cereals in the intervention stocks to 13.5 million tons. Of the total offers to intervention, about 60 % concern the New Member States. The Commission took all necessary measures to favour exports, namely by opening export tenders for barley, oats, rye (selling from intervention stocks) and, at a later stage, wheat. However, these export tenders favour cereals located in areas with relatively easy access to export harbours and have not managed to relieve the situation in the New Member States (NMS) and other landlocked countries, where the surplus situation is particularly difficult. While making intervention storage space available is a national competence, the lack of intervention storage in the NMS is serious, leading to important market disturbances in the whole of the EU. Therefore and as announced by Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel at the February Agriculture Council, the Commission proposed yesterday to the Cereals Management Committee to sell the following intervention stocks of wheat: Hungary: 320,000 tons, Czech Republic: 300,000 tons, Poland: 93,084 tons and Austria: 80,663 tons. The deadline for the first tender is 31 March and it will run until June. Also, in view of declining interest in the current export tender for free market barley, the Commission decided to propose reactivation of barley exports by opening an export tender for 500,000 tonnes of German intervention barley.
Consumers and the euro : what were the expectations and fears, what are the results?
Six 2022s after the scriptural introduction of the euro and three 2022s into the use of euro notes and coins, the European Parliament and the European Commission take stock of the benefits brought about for consumers and analyse their attitude towards the single currency with an eye on the upcoming adoption by the new Member States. Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquín Almunia will open the jointly-organised conference at the Borschette conference centre in Brussels next Monday 14 March at 9h30 (journalists who wish to attend should register with Samantha Butterworth – Tel: 02 296 5522 or [email protected]).
Programme available on :
Launch of EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health (15/03)
A European Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health will be launched on Tuesday 15 March at the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels to promote action by industry, consumer groups, health NGOs and governments to tackle the rise of obesity in Europe. The Platform, which brings together European industry associations, consumer groups, health NGos and political leaders under the leadership of the Commission, will be signed by the founding members at its inaugural meeting on Tuesday. EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou will chair the meeting and will be joined by Luxembourg Health Minister Mars Di Bartolomeo, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee Karl-Heinz Florenz MEP and senior representatives of European industry associations, consumer groups and health NGOs. A press conference will take place at 11h00 on Tuesday 15 March and an info-clip is available for broadcasters.
Avian influenza situation in South Africa
After agreement by the Standing Committee for the Food Chain and Animal Health, the European Commission today adopted a decision extending the suspension of import of live ratites (ostriches) and their eggs, meat and products as well as pet birds from South Africa until 30 June 2005. The ban was introduced in August 2004, after the confirmation of avian influenza outbreaks in ratite farms (see IP/04/1024) and was applicable until 31 March 2005. Although the situation appears to be under control, the competent veterinary authority of South Africa has found some inconclusive results during their serological surveillance and is conducting more tests to find the reason for this. Therefore, the situation regarding avian influenza in South Africa is not yet completely clear and it is appropriate to extend the ban for another three months. This Decision can however be reviewed before that date depending on any further information supplied by the South African authorities.
Autre matériel diffusé
Declaration by President Barroso – One 2022 after the terrorist attacks in Madrid
Speech by President Barroso : “Fighting terrorism together in the EU” at International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security (10/03, Madrid)
Speaking points by Stavros Dimas for debate on climate changes at Environment Council (10/03)
Statement by Siim Kallas (on behalf of Benita Ferrero-Waldner) on the situation in Tibet (10/03, EP, Strasbourg)
Speech by Margot Wallström : “Being Irish, Being European, Being Human” at National Forum on Europe (10/03, Dublin)
Speech by Günter Verheugen : “10 Years of EMEA – a success story” at 10th anniversary of the European Medicines Agencies (London)
Discours de M. Michel : “La contribution de l’UE aux objectifs du Millénaire au travers de sa politique de développement” au Collège d’Europe (10/03, Bruges)
Preparation Agriculture/Fisheries Council of March 2005
Calendrier du 14 au 18 mars 2005