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Competition: Commission Drops Roaming Cases
The European Commission has closed its competition proceedings against Vodafone UK, O2 UK, Vodafone Germany and T-Mobile Germany regarding the roaming tariffs applied to other European mobile network operators up to 2003. The Commission initiated formal infringement proceedings against these operators in July 2004 and February 2005. The Commission was concerned that their wholesale roaming tariffs charged to other European mobile network operators between 1997 and 2003 were excessive and constituted an abuse of a dominant position. The Commission decided to close the cases following the adoption of the European Roaming Regulation which, according to the Commission, addresses and resolves the same issues as the antitrust cases.
Sport: Commission Adopts White Paper on Sport
Contact Philip Bentley
The European Commission has adopted a White Paper on Sport which is its first major initiative in this field. The White Paper sets out the European Union’s plans relating to the economic and societal aspects of sport. The White Paper includes proposals on the fight against doping, the regulation of professional players’ agents and the encouragement of greater social dialogue. The Commission has also published a paper on the legal analysis of sport under EU law. While the specific characteristics of sport will be taken into account in the assessment of the economic aspects of sport under EU law (e.g. competition law), the Commission states that a general exemption will not be granted.
Mergers: SFR-Télé 2 Deal Cleared Subject to Conditions
The European Commission has cleared, in the second phase of the proceedings, the acquisition of Télé 2 fixed telephony and internet access businesses by the French mobile operator SFR, subject to conditions. According to the Commission’s original investigation, the transaction would give rise to competition concerns in the market for pay-TV. The concerns related to the vertical integration between Vivendi, one of the parent companies of SFR, and Télé 2, which has pay-TV distribution activities. However, following commitments offered by the merging parties relating mainly to access to pay-TV content, the Commission decided to clear the deal.
Competition: Italy Aims to Clarify Rules on Transfer of Motorway Concessions
The Italian Government has submitted a draft scheme (“Direttiva”) to the European Commission, clarifying the authorisation procedure for the transfer of motorway concessions. By doing this, Italy aims, among other things, to alleviate the Commission’s concerns relating to the pending proceeding under Article 21 of the Merger Regulation, opened when the cross border merger between the Spanish company Abertis and current Italian motorway concessionaire Autrostrade was cleared by the Commission and de facto blocked by the Italian Government (see Brussels Brief of 29 September 2006). Under the proposed Direttiva, the concessionaire must: i) assume all the existing obligations of the previous concessionaire (including outstanding investments from the previous financial plan); and ii) have the financial and technical capacity to fulfil those obligations. According to the draft, Italy must notify the Commission of any negative or conditional decision before it enters into force.
Competition: Italy Requested to Comply With EU Rules on Electronic Communications
The European Commission has sent a formal request to Italy to bring its broadcasting legislation in line with the EU Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications. The Commission considers that the Italian legislation regulating the switchover from analogue to digital terrestrial TV raises barriers to entry for newcomers on the market for digital TV broadcasting transmission services. The current situation in analogue TV, where only a few operators are able to compete on the market for broadcasting transmission services, risks being reproduced in digital terrestrial TV. The Commission may refer Italy to the European Court of Justice if it does not change its legislation within two months.
State Aid: Commission Requires Greece to Recover Illegal Tax Exemptions
The European Commission has decided that tax breaks granted to thousands of companies are incompatible with EU State aid law. Greek Law 3220/2004 allows companies in a number of sectors to deduct up to 35 per cent of their profits, on the condition that the exempted income is used to finance expenditure on the purchase, construction and expansion of plants, buildings and equipment. The sectors include the production of textile materials and basic metals, manufacturing, energy production, mining, intensive agriculture and fisheries and certain tourism activities. The Commission has required the immediate recovery of the incompatible aid, including interest, from the beneficiaries.
State Aid: Commission Approves Two Dutch Film Funds
The European Commission has approved two new funds in the Netherlands for promoting film-making. The funds will allocate EUR 27 million every year. Financial support must not exceed 50 per cent of a film’s budget and will be given only to films that are shot, at least in part, in the Netherlands. These two conditions are consistent with a Commission Communication on the future of the cinema and audiovisual industry in Europe. Under the Dutch scheme, eligible films must satisfy at least three of seven cultural criteria, referring to Dutch culture and language, art and history in general, and political and social issues relevant to Dutch citizens.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 23 July – Friday 27 July 2007
General Affairs and External Relations (GAERC) Council (23 – 24 July 2007)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Judicial vacation of the Court of Justice from 16 July 2007 to 2 September 2007 inclusive.
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
Judicial vacation of the Court of First Instance from 16 July 2007 to 2 September 2007 inclusive.