Trade: EU Investigation into Illegal Trade Practices in Taiwan
The European Commission is expected to launch an investigation into patent protection for CD-Rs in Taiwan. The Commission investigation will be initiated under the EU’s rarely used Trade Barriers Regulation. The investigation follows a complaint filed by Philips, after the Taiwanese authorities granted a compulsory licence to a small CD-R producer, Giga Storage, to produce and sell CD-Rs using patents held by Philips. Philips claims the compulsory order legalises the use of patents that Giga Storage was already infringing, and alleges that products manufactured under the compulsory licence are being exported in breach of the TRIPs Agreement (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights).
Internal Market: Commission Simplifies Milk Regime
The European Commission has proposed to amend key legislation governing milk and dairy products in an effort to simplify the regime, improve the industry’s competitive position and respond to consumer preferences. First, Council Regulation (EC) No. 1244/1999 would be amended to (i) introduce a single rate of aid for milk delivered to schools; (ii) introduce a single quality definition for butter; and (iii) eliminate the compulsory use of import licenses and other obsolete systems. Second, Council Directive 2000/114/EC would be amended to bring EU standards for protein content levels in dehydrated and condensed milk products into line with more flexible international standards. Finally, in view of consumer preferences, the proposal would amend Council Regulation (EC) No. 2597/97 to allow a wider variety of categories of drinking milk (based on fat content) to be produced and sold in the EU.
Competition: Record Fines on Lift and Escalator Cartel Members
The European Commission has imposed fines amounting to EUR 990 million on four companies that were found guilty of participating in cartel activities in the market for the installation and maintenance of lifts and escalators. According to the Commission Decision, Otis, Kone, Schindler and ThyssenKrupp rigged bids for procurement contracts, fixed prices and allocated projects to each other. A minor fine of EUR 1.8 million was also imposed on Mitsubishi. The national scope of the infringement was found not to be European-wide, but national (Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). Following dawn raids by the Commission in 2004, companies involved applied for immunity or reductions of fines. This is the largest total fine ever imposed by the Commission in a cartel case.
Telecommunications: Next Generation Wireless Devices Cleared for Take-up
The European Commission has adopted a Decision which sets out the mandatory conditions for using ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. This is a wireless technology which provides short-range, very high speed wireless communications between electronic devices such as laptops, DVD/TVs, digital cameras and MP3 players. With UWB, many electronic devices currently linked by cable will have a wireless alternative, allowing the devices to “speak” to one another when in range. The technical conditions provided by the Decision must be applied by all 27 Member States within the next six months.
Telecommunications: Commission Set to Soften Regulation of Radio Spectrum
The European Commission has presented a strategy for more flexible use of the radio spectrum for electronic communication services. The radio spectrum consists of all waves operating at frequencies between 3 kHz and 300 GHz. It is divided into “bands” used, for example, by terrestrial television (between 400 and 800 MHz) and mobile phones (900, 1800 and 2000 MHz). To avoid interference, public authorities regulate the characteristics of radio emitters and licensed spectrum users. The digital revolution, however, brought about the 3G standard wireless access technologies and digital broadcasting, making traditional radio spectrum regulation inefficient. The Commission will now coordinate the work of EU Member State authorities to remove access and usage restrictions for this band and will include the issue in its review of the current EU telecom rules.
Environment: EU Calls for New Global Agreement to Succeed Kyoto
Contact Philip Bentley
The European Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, supported by the EU Council, has called for the international community to begin urgent negotiations on a comprehensive climate change treaty that could succeed Kyoto in 2012. The EU has called on developed countries to reduce their emissions to below 30 per cent of 1990 carbon levels as part of a new international agreement. In a meeting in Brussels, the EU environment ministers agreed that the EU should reduce its emissions by 20 per cent of pre-1990 levels by 2020 even if such an agreement on carbon emissions could not be found. The EU commitment to combat climate change follows last week’s decision to place maximum carbon emission requirements upon new motor vehicles by 2012.
Energy: Consultation on Carbon Storage Risks
The European Commission launched public consultations on potential risks from the new carbon capture and storage technology (CCST) developed to counter global warming. The technology separates carbon dioxide from gases produced by power plants, compresses the CO2 and transports it for storage in geological formations such as oil and gas fields. CCST could remove 80 to 90 per cent of power plants’ CO2 emissions and reduce costs of stabilising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere by 30 per cent. The consultations aim to examine environmental risks associated with the capture, transportation and storage of CO2 emissions. Interested parties are invited to comment by 16 April 2007.
Employment: New EU Strategy with Regard to Illness and Accidents at Work
The European Commission has adopted a new five-year strategy for health and safety at work to reduce occupational accidents and diseases in the EU by 25 per cent. Occupational illness and accidents at work are a heavy burden on both workers and employers in Europe. Every year there are four million accidents at work which represent enormous costs for the European economy. The new 2007-2012 strategy sets out a series of actions to improve and simplify existing legislation and enhance its implementation through non-binding instruments such as awareness-raising campaigns and research. The Commission suggests that Member States offer employers economic incentives for the introduction of health and safety management schemes. Such incentives could include reduction in social contributions or insurance premiums.
Mergers: More Spanish Energy
The European Commission has cleared the acquisition of Scottish Power, a UK energy company, by Iberdrola, a Spanish energy company, under the EU Merger Regulation. The Commission’s examination of the transaction found that the horizontal overlaps between the activities of Iberdrola and Scottish Power are limited to the trading at European level of so-called "financial" electricity and CO2 emissions rights. Thus the companies’ combined position in both markets is very limited and therefore raises no contentious issues. In line with earlier decisions the Commission disregarded the implications of possible State aid on the assessment of the financial strength of the notifying party.
Monday 26 February – Friday 2 March 2007
ECOFIN (27 February 2007)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Common foreign and security policy
C-354/04 P Gestoras Pro Amnistía and Others v Council
C-355/04 P Segi and Others v Council
Environment and consumers
C-176/05 KVZ retec
C-139/06 Commission v United Kingdom
C-327/06 Commission v Italy
C-391/05 Jan de Nul
Joined Cases C-222/05, C-223/05, C-224/05, C-225/05 van der Weerd and Others
C-76/06 P Britannia Alloys & Chemicals v Commission
C-443/05 P Common Market Fertilizers v Commission
C-64/06 Telefónica O2 Czech Republic
C-363/05 JP Morgan Fleming Claverhouse Investment Trust and The Association of Investment Trust Companies
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
No judgments scheduled for next week