Internal Market: Commission Crackdown on International Roaming Fees
The European Commission has outlined a proposed regulation to reduce international roaming charges as part of its ongoing effort to combat such charges. The proposed regulation would address the Commission’s concerns at the wholesale and retail level by ensuring (i) that operators do not charge operators in other EU countries tariffs that are substantially above cost; and (ii) that operator savings at the wholesale level are actually passed on to the consumer. In addition, the proposed regulation would reduce or eliminate international roaming charges for calls made and received while travelling abroad within the EU. The Commission has already completed a first public consultation on the proposed regulation, and plans a second public consultation between 3 April and 28 April 2006. At the earliest, the Commission could adopt the proposed regulation in June 2006.
State Aid: Proposed Aid for Eggs and Poultry Sector Affected by Avian Flu Crisis
Contact Philip Bentley
The European Commission has proposed that financial support measures in the eggs and poultry sector should be extended to take into account the drop in consumption caused by the avian flu crisis. Current regulations only allow the EU to co-finance compensation where there is a case of avian flu on a farm or where farmers are prevented from moving poultry due to restrictions imposed. The proposed aid will take into account market problems caused by the loss of consumer confidence. The Commission intends to co-finance 50 per cent of the cost of market support measures, which will be designed by individual Member States to suit their particular situation. The European Parliament and Council could adopt the proposal by the end of April.
Energy: Legal Action against Member States over Energy Market Liberalisation
The European Commission is expected to take legal action shortly against over half of the European Union’s 25 Member States for failing sufficiently to open their energy markets by July 2004, as required by EU directives on liberalisation of the electricity and gas markets. Problems arising out of failure properly to implement these energy directives range from insufficient separation between network operators and producers, to prices being regulated for industrial consumers. The Commission has already sent a “reasoned opinion” to at least ten Member States, which is a necessary prerequisite to commencing legal action.
State Aid: Commission Requests Abolition of Certain Tax Regimes in Malta
The European Commission has formally requested Malta to abolish tax regimes for Maltese Companies with Foreign Income and International Trading Companies by the end of 2010 at the latest. Under these regimes, Maltese companies active outside Malta benefit from extraordinary refunds of corporate taxes if they distribute their profits to shareholders resident outside Malta. The European Commission wants to put a definitive end to these offshore tax regimes because, according to the Commission, they distort competition and trade in the Single Market. Malta has one month in which to accept the proposed measures or will face a formal State aid investigation.
Competition: Commission Fines Tomra Group for Abuse of Dominance
The European Commission has imposed a fine of EUR 24 million on the Norwegian group Tomra, for having abused its dominant position in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Tomra supplies machines to retail outlets for the collection of used drink containers in return for the repayment of a deposit. The Commission found that between 1998 and 2002, Tomra had imposed an exclusionary strategy upon its customers in the form of (i) exclusive supply agreements; (ii) individualised quantity commitments; and (iii) loyalty rebates, the thresholds of which typically corresponded to the customer’s total requirement. The Commission also found that the abuse was intentional and committed with an awareness of the harm it would cause to competitors.
Internal Market: International Agreement on Trade of Multi-Chip Integrated Circuits
The European Union, the United States, Korea and Taiwan have concluded an agreement that eliminates custom duties and charges on multi-chip packages (MCPs). MCPs are an evolutionary new semiconductor used wherever miniaturisation is desirable. They constitute a key component in goods such as mobile phones, MP3-players, electronic devices in cars and personal organisers. Semiconductor products typically benefit from free trade under the terms of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Information Technology Agreement of 1996. However, this agreement does not apply to MCPs as they are the result of a recent technological development, and will therefore still attract various levels of duties world wide. The MCPs Agreement will initially enter into force between the contracting parties on 1 April 2006. Japan already applies zero duties on MCPs and is expected to join the Agreement later this year. The MCPs Agreement is open to the accession of additional countries involved in semiconductor production.
Mergers: Commission Clears Acquisition of DFI by Cargill
After a second phase investigation, the European Commission has cleared the acquisition by US-based group Cargill of the food ingredients business of Degussa AG (“DFI”). The Commission had initially found that competition in the market for different types of lecithin might be restricted post-merger, due to the parties’ strong presence in the market. Lecithin is extracted from soybeans and is mainly used as an emulsifier by the food industry. The in-depth investigation by the Commission has nevertheless shown that despite the fact that barriers to entry in this market are high, new companies have managed to enter the market due to easy access to raw materials. Since these new entrants are also the suppliers of Cargill/DFI, the Commission found that the combined entity would have no incentive to increase prices, post-merger.
The European Commission will seek to obtain a mandate from the Council in order to negotiate a new agreement with the United States on the EU-US ENERGY STAR programme for office equipment, such as computers, monitors, copiers, printers and fax machines. The ENERGY STAR programme promotes the purchase of energy-efficient products through a variety of means, including the provision of a label for office equipment complying with the programme’s energy efficiency criteria. It also provides assistance on how to save energy and money by the proper use of equipment. ENERGY STAR was introduced in 2001 and is part of the Commission’s strategy to improve the efficiency of energy use and to implement a sustainable energy policy in the European Union.
Monday 3 April – Friday 7 April 2006
No Council meetings scheduled for next week.
COURT OF JUSTICE
C-274/04 ED & F Man Sugar
C-551/03 P General Motors Nederland and Opel Nederland v Commission
C-124/05 Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging
C-428/04 Commission v Austria
C-245/04 EMAG Handel Eder
C-456/04 Agip Petroli
C-351/04 Ikea Wholesale
Joined Cases C-123/04, C-124/04 Industrias Nucleares do Brasil and Siemens
C-300/04 Eman and Sevinger
Freedom of establishment
C-446/04 Test Claimants in the FII Group Litigation
Joined Cases C-282/04, C-283/04 Commission v Netherlands
Freedom to provide services
C-433/04 Commission v Belgium
Free movement of capital
C-513/04 Kerckhaert and Morres
Free movement of goods
C-348/04 Boehringer Ingelheim and Others
C-53/05 Commission v Portugal
C-61/05 Commission v Portugal
Law governing the institutions
C-131/03 P Reynolds Tobacco and Others v Commission
C-145/04 Spain v United Kingdom
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-279/02 Degussa v Commission
T-344/03 Saiwa v OHMI - Barilla Alimentare (SELEZIONE ORO Barilla)
T-202/04 Madaus v OHMI - Optima Healthcare (ECHINAID)
T-388/04 Kachakil Amar v OHMI (Ligne longitudinale terminée en triangle)
T-351/02 Deutsche Bahn v Commission
T-17/03 Schmitz-Gotha Fahrzeugwerke v Commission