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Air Transport: EU and US Resume Open Skies Talks
The European Union and the United States have resumed negotiations on liberalisation of the transatlantic aviation market. This follows an announcement last December that the US Administration had abandoned plans to amend its legislation restricting foreign ownership of US airlines. The relaxation of the foreign ownership rules was an essential part of the 'Open Skies' text agreed between the EU and the US in November 2005. Delegations from the two parties met in Brussels on 10-11 January in order to resolve the situation. It is expected that the US will offer some sort of compensation for not amending its foreign ownership rules. This initial exchange of views will be followed by more substantial negotiations in Washington in February.
Internal Market: European Simplification Programme in the Field of Cosmetics
The European Commission has launched a public consultation for companies, consumers, academics, associations and other stakeholders aimed at simplifying the current regulatory framework for cosmetics and reducing administrative costs without endangering public health and safety. This new legislation should replace the existing Cosmetics Directive of 1976, which has been amended 48 times in the past 30 years. Detailed regulation of cosmetic substances has also proven to be very difficult to administer, and compliance is unnecessarily onerous for European cosmetic companies, who are world leaders in this industry. The consultation will end in March 2007 and must lead to a new framework by 2010 at the latest. The existing provisions on the banning and phasing-out of animal-tests for cosmetic products by 2009/2013 are not part of this consultation.
Environment: Belgian and Dutch National Allocation Plans Accepted Subject to Conditions
The European Commission has accepted the National Allocation Plans (NAPs) of Belgium and the Netherlands for the 2008-2012 trading period on condition that certain changes are made. These include a reduction in the total number of emission allowances (one allowance corresponds to one tonne of CO2) for Belgium from 63.3 to 58.5 and for the Netherlands from 90.4 to 85.8 million tonnes of CO2. Another condition is that they eliminate the possibility of changing the number of allowances in total or per installation in the NAP after its final adoption. The NAPs determine for each Member State the “cap” on the total amount of CO2 that installations covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme can emit, and set out how many CO2 emission allowances each plant will receive. In November 2006 the Commission accepted the NAPs of ten EU Member States subject to similar conditions. (See Brussels Brief of 1 December 2006).
The European Commission has issued a decision requiring the Polish telecom regulator, Urzad Regulacji Elektronicznej (UKE), to withdraw its draft measures for regulating retail broadband access services. The Commission found that UKE’s plans to regulate Telekomunikacja Polska SA (TP)’s retail broadband access services are based on an incorrect market definition and may eventually hinder TP’s ability to compete for the provision of such services. The Commission also noted that such regulation may discourage TP, as well as other operators, from investing in the development of a broadband infrastructure. The Commission concluded that there is no need to regulate the retail market as it is sufficient to regulate at wholesale level.
Internal Market: Single Payments Area is a Success
The European Commission has published a report evaluating the impact and effectiveness of Regulation (EC) No. 2560/2001 on EU Cross-Border Payments. The report shows that charges for cross-border euro payments have decreased significantly since the Regulation’s introduction, without directly leading to any substantial increase in charges for domestic payments. The Regulation was adopted with the aim of creating a “single payments area” in which citizens and businesses may take full advantage of the single currency. To this end, it ensures that euro payments made by consumers to an account in a different Member State incur the same costs as payments made within their own Member State. The Regulation also covers payment card transactions, withdrawals from cash machines and credit transfers.
Internal Market: EU Takes Action to Prevent Disruption of Russian Oil Deliveries
The European Commission and EU Presidency have taken joint action to address a recent disruption in crude oil deliveries that arose from a dispute between Russia and Belarus. Russia temporarily stopped supplying crude oil to Belarus through the Druzhba pipeline, which also serves EU customers further west. First, the Commission and Presidency sent a letter to Russia and Belarus, advising both countries of the need to be reliable in their crude oil deliveries and cautioning them to avoid taking unilateral action that would affect EU consumers. In parallel with this letter, the EU convened the Member State delegates of the Oil Supply Group to review the status of the dispute between Russia and Belarus, coordinate Member State responses, and evaluate the levels of strategic stocks. These latest events confirm the need for a coherent EU energy policy to facilitate common EU action and strengthen the security of EU supplies.
Internal Market: Importation of Exotic Birds Made More Difficult in the EU
A Regulation laying down strict conditions for the import of live captive birds, such as parrots and macaws, has been adopted by the EU. The new rules aim to protect the health and welfare of imported birds in the EU. Given the high risk of infection from wild birds, only birds bred in captivity and in approved breeding establishments will be allowed to enter the EU – and only from countries which have already been approved for the importation of live poultry into the EU. Controls in the exporting country will have to prove the absence of Newcastle disease and avian influenza (including the fact of no vaccination against avian influenza). All imported birds will have to be individually identifiable through a leg-ring or microchip. A minimum 30 day quarantine period in an officially approved centre will be required for all imported captive birds. The new rules will not apply to certain types of birds, including commercial poultry and pet birds accompanying their owners, as these are already covered by separate EU legislation. The Regulation will apply from 1 July 2007.
Internal Market: Experts Report on Integration of EU Mortgage Markets
The European Commission has published two expert reports on the issues of mortgage funding and consumer protection. First, the Mortgage Funding Expert Group’s report reviews all barriers to the emergence of an efficient and competitive pan-European mortgage funding market. This report proposes market-driven solutions to remove existing obstacles, and concludes that although European mortgage funding markets are already relatively competitive and efficient, targeted measures at national or EU level could further improve their operation. The second report entitled “Mortgage Industry and Consumer Dialogue” explores four key consumer protection issues, namely pre-contractual information, advice, early repayment and the annual percentage rate of charge. The Commission invites comments by 15 February 2007.
Monday 22 January – Friday 26 January 2007
General Affairs and External Relations Council (22 – 23 January 2007)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Approximation of laws
C-48/05 Adam Opel
Freedom of movement for persons
C-278/05 Robins and Others
Joined Cases C-403/04 P, C-405/04 P Sumitomo Metal Industries v Commission
C-407/04 P Dalmine v Commission
C-411/04 P Salzgitter Mannesmann (anciennement Mannesmannröhren-Werke) v Commission
C-431/05 Merck Genéricos Produtos Farmacêuticos
C-56/06 Euro Tex
C-366/05 Optimus – Telecomunicações
C-422/05 Commission v Belgium
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
No judgments scheduled for next week