ECJ: Effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties for false accounting
Italy’s prime minister and others are the subject of criminal proceedings for alleged false accounting. An intricate question of European Union (EU) law arose out of the fact that Articles 2621 and 2622 of the Italian Criminal Code had been amended so as to be significantly more favourable to persons in the position of the accused. This question was referred to the European Court of Justice. The ECJ said that EU law recognised the principle of human rights according to which the more lenient penalty should be applied retrospectively. That led to the question whether application of the more lenient penalty would be consistent with the requirement of the First EU Company Law Directive to provide an effective and dissuasive penalty. The ECJ considered that if the new penalties were to remain unapplied by reason of their incompatibility with the First EU Company Law Directive, this would be contrary to the principle that an EU directive cannot have the effect of determining or increasing the criminal liability of individuals. Consequently the ECJ ruled that the Italian authorities could not rely on the First EU Company Law Directive in order to apply the more stringent penalties prescribed by the former texts of Articles 2621 and 2622 of the Italian Criminal Code.
Mergers: Commission clears Kodak/Creo deal in the imaging technology sector
The European Commission has cleared the acquisition by US group Eastman Kodak of the Canadian company Creo, which is active in the lithographic pre-press sector, including digital and analogue imaging. The deal was announced in January and amounts to USD 980 million. Following an examination of the European Economic Area (EEA) market for the sale of digital printing plates, the Commission concluded that the horizontal overlaps between the activities of the two companies were limited and that the combined firm will continue to face strong competition. The Commission also found that there would be no risk of market foreclosure as a result of the merged entity’s ability to offer a more fully integrated pre-press solution.
Mergers: Second Phase clearance of Bertelsmann/Springer JV
The Commission issued its first second-phase decision under the new Regulation 139/2004. After an in-depth investigation, the Commission cleared the proposed creation of the rotogravure printing joint venture (JV) between Bertelsmann and Axel Springer. Bertelsmann is a German media company with activities in broadcasting, music, publishing and printing, while Axel Springer is a German media, publishing and printing company. The JV combines the rotogravure printing facilities of the parties in Germany and the UK. The Commission found that despite the high market shares of the parties, the operation will not have any anti-competitive effects. The reason is that competitors could easily increase capacity following an attempt by the parties to raise prices. Earlier in the proceedings, the Commission had rejected the German Competition Authority’s request for referral of the case, considering that the transaction would have European-wide effects.
Internal market: EU Financial services policy for the next five years
The European Commission has published a Green Paper on Financial Services Policy (2005 – 2010). It focuses on three main issues, the first of which is the consolidation of existing and ongoing legislation, with few new initiatives. The proposals include a possible directive on post-trade financial services, comprising clearing and settlement, the new Insurance Solvency framework and a possible legislative proposal on payments. The new initiatives will target asset management and retail financial services. The second issue is that the Commission will concentrate on ensuring the effective implementation of European rules into national law and on more rigorous enforcement by supervisory authorities. Thirdly, the Commission will carefully monitor the application of these rules in practice and their impact on the European financial sector. After public consultation, the definitive financial services policy programme can be expected in November 2005.
State aid: Funding for broadband infrastructure endorsed
The European Commission has given the go-ahead to a project worth EUR 85 million for the public co-funding of open broadband infrastructure in Limousin, France. The project satisfies the conditions laid down by the European Court of Justice in the Altmark case on the definition of compensation for discharging public service obligations and has therefore been found not to constitute state aid. Implementation will be carried out by a concession holder, to be selected through a public procurement procedure, who will provide wholesale services to telecoms operators. This will enable the population of Limousin, an area consisting mainly of rural and remote areas, to secure greater access to competitive broadband services, the provision of which cannot currently be satisfied by existing market operators.(NC)
Competition: Improved access to tickets for the 2006 World Cup
Following discussions with the European Commission, the International Football Federation (FIFA) has agreed to modify its arrangements for ticket payments for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, as of 2 May 2005. Under the new arrangements, FIFA and the German Football Association (DFB) will open bank accounts in the 16 non-Eurozone countries within the European Economic Area (EEA) in order to accept payments local currencies. In this way the Commission hopes to overcome the problem of high costs of cross-border bank transfers into Euros and consequently ensure fair access to these tickets for people from non-Eurozone countries in the EEA, who do not have a MasterCard or a German bank account.
Merger: Nordic steel joint venture approved
The European Commission has cleared a proposed joint venture for the production of steel products between the Finnish companies Rautaruukki and Wärtsilä, and SKF of Sweden. The joint venture will be active in the production of carbon and low alloyed semi-finished and finished long steel products. The Commission concluded that the limited horizontal overlaps and vertical relationships do not give rise to any anticompetitive concerns. The Commission, therefore, concluded that the transaction would not have any significant impact on the market of the steel products concerned in the EEA.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 9 May – Friday 13 May 2005
Competitiveness Council (Internal Market, Industry and Research) (10 May 2005)
Exchange of views on Commission Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) (2007-2013)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Approximation of laws
C-444/03 meta Fackler
Freedom of movement for persons
C-278/03 Commission v Italy
Judgments Convention/Enforcement of judgments
C-112/03 Société financière and industrielle du Peloux
C-400/99 Italy v Commission
C-415/03 Commission v Greece
C-452/03 RAL (Channel Islands) and Others
Joined Cases C-465/02, C-466/02 Germany v Commission
C-111/03 Commission v Sweden
Community own resources
C-247/04 Transport Maatschappij Traffic
Environment and consumers
C-416/02 Commission v Spain
Free movement of capital
C-41/04 Levob Verzekeringen and OV Bank
C-372/03 Commission v Germany
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
Joined Cases T-160/02, T-161/02, T-162/02 Naipes Heraclio Fournier v OHMI - France Cartes (Epée d'un jeu de cartes)
T-390/03 CM Capital Markets v OHMI - Caja de Ahorros de Murcia (CM)
T-31/03 Grupo Sada v OHMI - Sadia (GRUPO SADA)
Joined Cases T-111/01, T-133/01 Saxonia Edelmetalle v Commission