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Competition: Commission Confirms Sending Statement of Objections in Air Freight Cartel Case
The European Commission has confirmed that it sent a Statement of Objections to a number of companies in relation to their alleged participation in a cartel for the provision of air freight services. The Statement of Objections is a procedural step in competition proceedings, whereby the Commission informs companies of its preliminary objections. Several companies, such as British Airways, Lufthansa, AirFrance-KLM, Japan Airlines and Cargolux have reported that they received the Statement of Objections. Lufthansa additionally revealed that it has been granted conditional immunity from fines.
Competition: Commission Fines Synthetic Rubber Producers EUR 34.2 Million for Price Fixing Cartel
The European Commission has imposed fines totalling EUR 34.2 million on the Bayer and Zeon groups. Both companies were found to be participating in a price fixing cartel in relation to nitrile butadiene rubber. Nitrile butadiene rubber is a type of synthetic rubber used mainly in car manufacturing for fuel and oil handling hoses, seals, o-rings and water handling applications. The Commission found that, between late 2000 and 2002, Bayer and Zeon raised or otherwise stabilised prices through a series of meetings and other contacts. The fines imposed on Bayer and Zeon were reduced by 30 per cent and 20 per cent respectively because these companies cooperated in the investigation under the Commission's 2002 Leniency Notice. However, Bayer’s fine was also increased by 50 per cent because it had already been fined for cartel activities by a previous Commission decision.
Environment: Commission Adopts Revised Climate Change Package
The European Commission has adopted a package of proposals that should implement the commitments of the March 2007 European Council to fight climate change and promote renewable energy. The package provides the mechanisms to reach the targets of a 20 per cent reduction in GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions in the European Union, a 20 per cent share of renewables in overall EU energy consumption and a 10 per cent biofuel component in vehicle fuel by 2020. The proposals include: (i) strengthening and expanding the scope of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS); (ii) effort-sharing to meet the European Union’s independent GHG reduction commitment in sectors not covered by the ETS, including buildings, services, agriculture and waste; and (iii) consolidating and strengthening the legislation relating to renewable energy for electricity and biofuels, including heating and cooling.
Environment: European Commission Launches Sustainable Energy Week
On 28 January 2008 the European Commission will launch the second EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW 2008). This is the world's largest open forum on sustainable energy, bringing together stakeholders on a local, regional, national and European level. The programme includes renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, clean transport and alternative fuels. During the week, 80 events in eight countries will be organised by more than 100 key industry and social players. EUSEW 2008 follows the adoption by the Commission of a revised climate change package (see previous article).
State Aid: Commission to Investigate State Aid to Czech Bus Operators
Contact Philip Bentley
The European Commission has opened an investigation into contracts concluded between the Czech authorities and bus operators. The Commission suspects that the bus operators are being overpaid for the services they provide and therefore the contracts could amount to illegal State aid. Under State aid rules, public service contracts should be granted following a competitive tender procedure, or reflect the costs of a well run operator, in order to ensure that there is no overpayment. The Commission will investigate whether these conditions have been satisfied and invites comments from interested parties.
State Aid: Commission Investigates Irish Maritime Tonnage Tax Regime
The European Commission has opened a formal investigation to determine whether changes to Ireland’s flat tax regime for maritime shipping infringe Community State aid rules. In 2002, the Commission approved an Irish tax regime that relieved shipping companies from paying company tax and instead imposed a flat rate tax based on the tonnage of the company’s fleet. To qualify for the flat rate tax, a shipping company’s fleet must have a ratio of at least one owned ship for every three ships with a “time-chartered” crew—a crew chartered for a period of time. In 2007, however, Ireland notified the Commission of its intention to amend the time-charter rules retroactive to 2006, allowing a shipping company to qualify for the flat rate tax with a wholly time-chartered fleet. In prior decisions involving maritime tonnage tax schemes, the Commission has always required a ratio of at least 1:3, or 1:4 in relation to owned and time-chartered ships. Interested parties may submit comments to the Commission.
Internal Market: Official Launch of Single Euro Payments Area
On 28 January 2008 the first Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), a payment instrument for credit transfers, will be officially launched. SEPA enables people to make cashless payments throughout the Euro area as quickly, safely and easily as national payments. All Euro credit transfers and direct debit payments thus qualify as domestic payments made with one set of payment instruments. After the introduction of the Euro, SEPA is the next key step in achieving an integrated European market for payment services that removes all technical, legal and commercial barriers between current national payment markets.
The first benchmark report on international roaming has been published by the European Regulators Group (ERG). This report, which covers the period from April 2007 to September 2007 and includes data from 150 mobile providers in all EU Member States, confirms that implementation of the roaming regulation has generally gone smoothly with a high level of compliance in all Member States. The ERG's report also highlights the fact that prices for SMS and data roaming services, which currently are not regulated, remain high, with a very diverse pattern across Member States. The Commission will report at the end of 2008 on whether the charges for these services also need to be regulated.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 28 January – Friday 1 February 2008
General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) (28 – 29 January 2008)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Approximation of laws
C-268/07 Commission v Luxembourg
Environment and consumers
C-264/07 Commission v Greece
C-147/07 Commission v France
C-380/05 Centro Europa 7
C-442/04 Spain v Council
Freedom to provide services
C-500/06 Corporación Dermoestética
C-533/06 O2 Holdings & O2 (UK)
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-128/06 Japan Tobacco v OHMI - Torrefacção Camelo (CAMELO)
Law governing the institutions
T-380/04 Terezakis v Commission