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Air Transport: EU-US Deal on Transfer of Air Passenger Data
Delegations from the European Union and the United States have reached agreement on the transfer of air passenger data. This ends a week of legal uncertainty following expiry of the preceding agreement on 30 September (see Brussels Brief of 6 October 2006). The new agreement, which is expected to be adopted by the EU Council on Monday, allows airlines to transfer Passenger Name Records to US authorities, a demand that forms part of US anti-terrorism measures. The new rules will make it easier for US governmental agencies to share the information they receive, while the EU will be more effectively able to limit the data that are actually transferred.
Telecommunications: Assessment of German Wholesale Leased Lines Market by the Commission
The European Commission has informed the German telecommunications regulator Bundesnetzagentur (“BNetzA”) that it has serious doubts as regards the compatibility with EU law of the notified draft regulatory measures for the German wholesale leased lines market. Wholesale leased lines are dedicated unmanaged connections between two points for the transmission of voice and data and are used by operators to provide retail leased line services. In order to complete its assessment, the Commission requires BNetzA to provide, among other information, a more detailed technical analysis of wholesale leased lines and their use in Germany. On the basis of the additional data received, the Commission will decide whether BNetzA will need to withdraw or whether it can adopt the proposed regulatory measure.
Environment: European Commission to Censure Eight Member States on Carbon Emissions
The European Commission has announced that it is to launch proceedings against eight EU Member States for failing to present plans on how they intend to cut carbon dioxide emissions from 2008 to 2012. Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain will all be put on formal notice this week. Member States had been set a deadline of the end of June 2006 to declare their national allocation plans (allocating to industry producers permitted levels of carbon dioxide emissions) according to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) for 2008 to 2012. The ETS is seen as one of the driving factors of EU environmental policy, following the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Participants are set a quota of permitted carbon dioxide emissions and face stiff financial penalties for every tonne of carbon dioxide that exceeds the threshold.
Internal Market: Amendments to REACH Proposed for Second Reading in EU Parliament
On 10 October 2006 the EU Parliament’s Environment Committee adopted its position on REACH which will be presented for voting in Plenary session. REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals and represents the most significant EU effort to consolidate and further develop the regulation of chemicals. Since its presentation in 2003, REACH has been highly disputed. The Environment Committee has put back on the table issues rejected by the Council in its Common Position of December 2005. These include the strengthening of the “due-diligence” principle for manufacturers and importers, the fostering of replacement of animal testing with alternative methods, the European quality mark, and the authorisation procedure. The latter aims at replacing dangerous substances with safer alternatives. The Environment Committee will propose that dangerous substances could only be authorised if the risk can be adequately controlled. EU industry strongly opposes this, because adequate control cannot always be demonstrated. The Plenary session may well vote against the Environment Committee’s proposals.
Taxation: Hungarian Vehicle Registration Duty Contrary to EU Law
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that a Hungarian registration duty imposed on vehicles in circulation in Hungary is contrary to EU law. This decision was reached because the effect of the duty is contrary to Article 90 EC, which prohibits internal taxation that discriminates against products from other Member States. The case came before the ECJ because two Hungarian national courts requested a preliminary ruling on the compatibility of the registration duty with EU law after two people purchased used cars in Germany, imported them into Hungary and then challenged the amount of duty imposed. The ECJ held that the effect of the registration duty was to impose a heavier burden on used vehicles brought into Hungary from other Member States than on similar used vehicles already registered in Hungary. The reason for this is that the duty is calculated without taking the actual depreciation of the imported vehicle into account.
ECJ: Austrian Law Limiting Tax Exemption on Slovenian Cigarettes Upheld
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has upheld Austrian legislation which provides that Austrian residents may import only 25 cigarettes from Slovenia exempt from excise tax. The ECJ found that the Austrian law is consistent with EU law under Council Directive 60/169/EEC and the 2003 Act of Accession. The Directive provides that EU residents import up to 200 cigarettes from third countries tax-free, but that Member States may reduce that number. The Act of Accession extends the authority to limit tax-free cigarette imports to imports from new Member States, on a transitional basis. The ECJ also found that the Austrian law did not discriminate against Slovenia because the restriction on tax-free Slovenian cigarette imports will remain in effect only until Slovenia raises its cigarette excise tax to minimum EU levels in late 2007.
Competition: Commitments by Music Publishers and Collecting Societies Legally Binding
Following an investigation by the European Commission into the interaction between collecting societies and five major music publishers (BMG, EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner) the Commission has made legally binding the commitments made by the signatories of the Cannes Extension Agreement, regarding Central Licensing Agreements. The Commission has adopted a Decision closing its investigation into the Cannes Extension Agreement, subject to the parties’ compliance with commitments relating to two aspects of the agreement. The first commitment ensures that collecting societies may continue to give rebates to record companies, paid out of the administration fees that they retain from the royalties collected on behalf of record companies. Rebates are currently the only element of price competition in this market. The second commitment consists of the removal of a non-competition clause, which would have prevented collecting societies from ever entering either the music publishing or the record production market.
Energy: Commission Presents New US Co-operation Agreement on Energy Efficiency of Office Equipment
The European Commission has proposed a new five-year Agreement with the US on the ENERGY STAR programme. This new agreement will continue the initial programme introduced in 2001. The programme aims to foster and reinforce energy efficiency of office equipment by encouraging producers and consumers to purchase products which bear the label showing that they comply with the programme’s energy efficiency criteria. The programme also provides extensive information to consumers and businesses on how to save energy and money by the proper use of equipment. The new agreement contains innovative and demanding energy criteria for copiers, printers and similar equipment, resulting in energy savings. The Commission will present an Energy Efficiency Action Plan with the objective of saving 20 per cent of current energy consumption by 2020.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 16 October – Friday 20 October 2006
General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) (16 – 17 October 2006)
COURT OF JUSTICE
No judgments or opinions scheduled for next week
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-499/04 Hammarplast v OHMI - Steninge Slott (STENINGE SLOTT)
Joined Cases T-350/04, T-351/04, T-352/04 Bitburger Brauerei v OHMI - Anheuser-Busch (BUD)