Telecoms: Commission Vetoes German Decision on Call Termination Services
Under the Electronic Communication Framework Directive (2002/21/EC), the European Commission has rejected a planned decision notified by the German national telecom regulator, Regulierungsbehörde für Telekommunikation und Post (RTP). The decision was designed to regulate termination charges for Deutsche Telecom but not those of alternative network operators (ANOs) because in RTP’s view they did not have significant market power. Considering that each ANO has a monopoly in respect of call termination services on its own individual network, the Commission found that RTP had not provided sufficient evidence to rebut the presumption of significant market power. RTP must now withdraw its decision not to regulate ANOs’ call termination charges, although it retains a certain discretion as to the choice of appropriate measures for each ANO.
Internal Market: Italian “Tocai” Wine Illegal
The European Court of Justice has ruled that wine produced in the Hungarian region of Tokaj is the only wine that can use the names “Tokaj” or the Italian “Tocai” for the marketing of wine in the European Union (EU). Although the grape or vine varieties “Tocai frinlano” and “Tocai italico” are recognised in Italy, they are not protected in Italy or the rest of the EU as geographical indications of wine. Conversely, the 1993 EU-Hungary Agreement, signed before Hungary joined the EU last year, gave exclusive rights of geographical indication for use of the words “Tokaj” and “Tocai”. The Court also found that the rules under the World Trade Organisation’s Trade-Related Intellectual Property (TRIP) Agreement did not apply since the Italian word “Tocai” is not a geographical indication for wine.
Finally the Court decided that the EU rules did not amount to a ‘deprivation of possessions’ for the purposes of the European Convention on Human Rights. This was essentially because the prohibition on using “Tocai” for the Italian wines did not exclude any reasonable method of marketing of the Italian wines concerned.
Trade: Formal EU-China WTO Consultations on Two Textile Product Categories
Following the opening of the investigation of nine categories of Chinese textiles exports to the EU by the European Commission on 29 April 2005, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson announced on 17 May 2005 that he will propose to the Commission formal World Trade Organisation (WTO) consultations with China under the emergency procedures for two categories under investigation: T-shirts and flax yarn. The formal consultations are likely to be requested by the end of May and within 15 days of that, China will be expected to take measures to limit exports to 107.5 per cent of the average level of imports during the first twelve of the fourteen months preceding the initial investigation. If it fails to do so the Commission can then impose interim import restrictions at the same level. The investigations for all other categories have to be concluded by 28 June 2005. Any safeguard measures adopted could remain in force until the end of 2008.
Internal Market: Commission Consults on Minimum Standards for Shareholders’ Rights
The European Commission has launched a sixth public consultation within the framework of its May 2003 Action Plan to modernise company law and enhance corporate governance. This new consultation relates to the minimum standards that should apply to shareholders’ rights in order to remove certain practical and legal obstacles that currently hinder the exercising of these rights in a cross-border context. The main issues on which the Commission is seeking responses are 1) the transparency of stock lending agreements and the status of depositary receipt holders, 2) the dissemination of relevant information before general meetings, 3) the simplification of proof of shareholding prior to general meetings, 4) the right to ask questions and table resolutions, 5) the various methods of voting at a distance and 5) the availability to all shareholders of voting results. Responses will be taken into account in a forthcoming proposal for a possible future directive. The deadline for responses is 15 July 2005.
Internal Market: Results of Consultation on Public-Private Partnerships Rules
The European Commission has published a report with the results of its public consultation on public-private partnerships that was initiated a year ago. The object of the consultation was to assess whether EU rules in this area need to be improved. The Commission received almost 200 responses from public authorities, associations of private and/or public entities, public and private undertakings and individuals. Public-private partnerships are forms of cooperation between public authorities and businesses to meet needs in the general interest and are now widely used in large projects and public services. Many respondents to the consultation asked for clarification of the EU public procurement rules that apply to the selection of private partners for the creation of public-private partnerships.
State Aid: Greece Condemned by ECJ over Aid to Olympic Airways
In policing State aid granted by Member States, the European Commission sometimes has to struggle relentlessly to achieve its objective. Greek aid to Olympic Airlines provides an illustration of this. In 1998 the European Commission approved certain restructuring aid for Olympic Airways, but when Greece did not respect the conditions of authorisation, the Commission took a second decision requiring Greece to recover the aid. Greece did not comply and so the Commission brought proceedings before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for failure to comply with a Treaty obligation. The only defence available to a Member State in such cases is to show that it was absolutely impossible to comply with the Commission’s decision. The ECJ ruled that this defence was not established because Greece had made no serious attempts to recover the aid, and had even allowed recovery to be compromised through a transfer of assets from the ailing Olympic Airways to a new company called Olympic Airlines.
Trade: US-EC Transatlantic Cooperation
The Commission has adopted a Communication entitled “A stronger EU-US Partnership and a more Open Market for the 21st century” to promote transatlantic trade and investment and to stimulate economic growth. The Communication sets out policy proposals for a joint EU-US strategy to boost economic integration, and to strengthen the broader framework of EU–US relations. On the economic side, the Commission proposes a particular focus to improve regulatory cooperation, promotion of knowledge and innovation, and to improve border arrangements. On the political side, the Communication reviews options to raise the profile of the EU-US relationship to make it more effective. The Communication proposes that the 2005 EU-US Summit explore these ideas at its meeting in June and present a concrete project in 2006.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 23 May – Friday 27 May 2005
General Affairs and External Relations Council (23 May 2005)
Education, Youth and Culture Council (23-24 May 2005)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Approximation of laws
C-244/03 France v Parliament and Council
C-132/03 Codacons and Others
C-332/03 Commission v Portugal
Free movement of goods
C-20/03 Burmanjer and Others
C-212/03 Commission v France
Judgments Convention/Enforcement of judgments
C-77/04 GIE Réunion européenne and Others
C-287/04 Commission v Sweden
Social security for migrant workers
Staff Regulations of Officials
C-301/02 P Tralli v BCE
C-536/03 António Jorge
C-498/03 Kingscrest Associates and Montecello
C-43/04 Stadt Sundern
C-147/04 De Groot en Slot Allium and Bejo Zaden
C-515/03 Eichsfelder Schlachtbetrieb
Approximation of laws
C-405/03 Class International
C-468/03 Overland Footwear
Environment and consumers
C-121/03 Commission v Spain
Freedom of movement for persons
Joined Cases C-151/04, C-152/04 Nadin and Nadin-Lux
Law governing the institutions
C-94/03 Commission v Council
C-178/03 Commission v Parliament and Council
Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters
C-176/03 Commission v Council
C-71/04 Xunta de Galicia
C-435/03 British American Tobacco International and Newman Shipping & Agency Company
C-386/03 Commission v Germany
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-288/03 TeleTech Holdings v OHMI - Teletech International (TELETECH GLOBAL VENTURES)
T-67/04 Spa Monopole v OHMI - Spa-Finders Travel Arrangements (SPA-FINDERS)
T-352/02 Creative Technology v OHMI - Vila Ortiz (PC WORKS)