State Aid: Commission Adopts Guidelines on Development of Regional Airports
Following consultation with stakeholders, the European Commission has adopted new rules concerning the development of regional airports. The new rules set out the conditions under which an airline can be granted start-up aid in order to operate a new route from a regional airport. Regional airports are mainly those with an annual passenger volume of less than 5 million. The guidelines come 19 months after the Commission decision in the famous Ryanair case, where the Commission found that certain aid granted by the Airport of Charleroi and the Belgian Walloon Region to Ryanair, the Irish low-cost air carrier, was illegal. The Commission’s objective is to encourage the development of regional airports, thus reducing congestion at major hubs. The guidelines provide that if an airport decides to grant an aid which is not justified on purely commercial grounds such aid cannot cover more than 30-50 per cent of the additional costs incurred in starting up the new service.
Competition: Opening of professional services to competition
In its 2005 Communication on competition in professional services the European Commission urges stakeholders to remove restrictions to competition in the regulation of professional services, in particular for six professions - lawyers, notaries, engineers, architects, pharmacists and accountants (including tax advisers). These sectors are characterised by a high level of regulation in the form of either State regulation or self-regulation by professional bodies. The Commission considers the main problems to be (i) fixed prices, (ii) recommended prices, (iii) advertising regulations, (iv) entry requirements and reserved rights, and (v) regulations governing business structure and multidisciplinary practices. Member States and professional bodies are requested to review the existing rules, while national competition authorities are invited to be more proactive in enforcing competition rules in the field of professional services. The Commission does not exclude the introduction of infringement procedures if the application of EU competition rules is not effective.
Trade: EU-China Deal Unblocks Stranded Textile Products
The European Union and China have reached an agreement to release around 80 million textile items that had been blocked in warehouses at the EU borders as a result of the European textiles quotas, which were negotiated earlier this year (see Brussels Brief of 17 June 2005). The products had been ordered and paid for by European importers before the introduction of the quotas, but they were caught by these quotas because the import limits were immediately reached. The European Union will now allow all the blocked products to be put on the European market. The Chinese have accepted that 50 per cent of the goods will count as part of the 2006 quota. The deal was negotiated by the European Commission and has been accepted by the EU Member States. The bras, trousers, pullovers and all other products are expected to be released before 14 September 2005.
Air Transport: EU Opens Aviation Negotiations with Australia, Chile and India
In line with its aim of modernising international air traffic regulations, the European Commission has proposed aviation negotiations with Australia, Chile and India. These proposals seek to enhance regulatory cooperation, to increase market access and to open new economic opportunities for EU industry. In its relations with third countries the Commission hopes to emulate the benefits of existing high regulatory standards and of open market access within the European Union.
In Australia and Chile, the regulatory framework for aviation and market liberalisation is particularly advanced, resulting in an approach to aviation policy similar to that of the EU. India is among the fastest growing markets in international aviation.
These proposals mark the opening step towards developing the external aspect of the EU’s internal aviation market. The potential resulting global agreements would form part of the EU’s wider strategy on aviation policy, alongside possible agreements with China, and the ambition to create a common airspace with neighbouring countries on the EU’s Mediterranean and Eastern borders.
Consumer Protection: Commission Authorises Marketing of GM-Oilseed Rape GT73
Philip Bentley QC
In January 2003 Monsanto applied to the Netherlands authorities for authorisation to market genetically modified oilseed rape GT73 for use in animal feed and for industrial purposes. GT73 oilseed rape is tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate. The Dutch authorities and the European Food Safety Authority came to the conclusion that GT73 oilseed rape was as safe as conventional oilseed rape. The European Commission therefore drew up a proposal authorising the product, but the EU Regulatory Committee failed to give an opinion within the prescribed deadline. The Commission’s proposal was therefore put to the EU Council, which failed to reach a qualified majority either in favour or against authorisation. Thus, under the so-called “comitology” procedure, the Commission adopted the authorisation itself on 31 August 2005. In addition the Commission adopted a Recommendation on the handling of accidental spillages of the product.
Telecoms: Agreement with India on Galileo Programme
The EU has reached an agreement with India by which the latter will participate in Europe's satellite radio navigation programme GALILEO. India is the fourth country joining the GALILEO programme, after the signature of agreements with China, Israel and Ukraine. Discussions are also underway with Argentina, Brazil, Morocco, Mexico, Norway, Chile, South Korea, Malaysia, Canada and Australia. GALILEO was launched on the initiative of the European Commission and developed jointly with the European Space Agency (ESA). To date, this technology is only utilised by the United States’ GPS system and Russia's GLONASS system, both of which are financed and controlled by the military authorities.
State aid: Commission Opens Inquiry into Tax Reductions in Sicily
The European Commission has decided to launch an in-depth investigation into two fiscal schemes in force in Sicily in relation to (i) the Italian tax on regional production activities (IRAP) and (ii) corporate income tax. The first scheme offers a five year partial or total exemption from IRAP to certain existing firms and to certain firms incorporated since 2004. The second scheme applies to certain international finance and insurance activities. It provides a 50 per cent reduction of IRAP and an exemption from corporate income tax. The Commission, in its preliminary assessment, considers that these measures are operating aid. Interested parties have one month in which to submit their comments.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 12 September – Friday 16 September 2005
No Council meetings scheduled for next week.
COURT OF JUSTICE
Approximation of laws
Joined Cases C-281/03, C-282/03 Cindu Chemicals and Others
Common Customs Tariff
C-495/03 Intermodal Transports
C-140/04 United Antwerp Maritime Agencies and Seaport Terminals
Freedom of movement for persons
C-464/02 Commission v Denmark
Free movement of capital
C-329/03 Trapeza tis Ellados
C-37/03 P BioID v Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market
Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters
C-176/03 Commission v Council
C-199/03 Ireland v Commission
C-372/03 Commission v Germany
C-547/03 P AIT v Commission
Freedom to provide services
C-244/04 Commission v Germany
Law governing the institutions
C-220/03 BCE v Germany
C-122/04 Commission v Parliament and Council
C-301/03 Italy v Commission
Joined Cases C-394/04, C-395/04 Ygeia
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-325/01 DaimlerChrysler v Commission
T-53/02 Ricosmos v Commission
T-140/02 Sportwetten v OHMI - Intertops Sportwetten (INTERTOPS)
T-320/03 Citicorp v OHMI (LIVE RICHLY)