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State Aid: Commission Investigates Funding of Major Spanish Film Studio Complex
Following complaints from two major players in the European film sector, the European Commission has initiated formal investigation proceedings into the funding of the Ciudad de la Luz film studio complex near Alicante, Spain. Films shot at this complex include “Asterix and the Olympic Games”. The investigation puts into question whether public funding provided by Valencia’s regional government, amounting to over EUR 200 million, constitutes unlawful State aid. The Spanish authorities claim that any private investor would have invested on the same terms and that, for this reason, the investment does not constitute State aid. The Commission doubts, however, that a private investor would have provided 100 per cent funding for such a new, large scale entrant in a competitive market. Interested parties are invited to submit their comments.
State Aid: Grant for Lithuanian Gas-Fired Power Plant Does Not Constitute State Aid
The European Commission has concluded that the planned grant of EUR 170 million to support the construction of a gas-fired power plant in Lithuania does not constitute State aid for two reasons. One, Lithuania will not acquire control over the resources allocated to the project. Two, the grant will be provided by the governing body of the Ignalina International Decommissioning Support Fund (IIDSF), which is managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction. The IIDSF was set up in order to pool contributions from international donors to provide support to Lithuania for the decommissioning of the Ignalina nuclear power plant and to set up the new power generation capacities necessary to compensate for the closure. The new plant will supply electricity to the grid and heat to the nearby region.
Mergers: Commission Clears Thomson/Reuters Deal Under Conditions
Following an in-depth second phase investigation, the European Commission has cleared the acquisition of the UK-based Reuters group by the Canadian company Thomson. Both groups are leading financial information providers and are also active in a number of other markets. The Commission’s investigation showed that the combination of the two companies would raise horizontal competition concerns in a number of financial information markets, such as earnings estimates, as well as vertical concerns in relation to the integration of financial content. To alleviate these concerns, the parties committed to divest copies of the databases that contain information on finances, relevant assets, personnel and customer bases.
Internal Market: Commission Proposes Initiative to Facilitate Free Movement of Goods
The European Commission has announced a new initiative to further facilitate the free movement of goods within the European Union. The initiative includes: (i) a review of existing legislation to eliminate deficiencies, inconsistencies and unnecessary barriers; and (ii) rules to improve market access in other EU Member States. The Commission proposes a legal framework for accreditation and coordination at EU level to ensure that national bodies responsible for the certification of products placed on the EU market operate according to the same standards. The Commission also proposes rules to enhance the control and coordination of national surveillance authorities. In addition, according to the Commission, the misuse of the “CE” marking could be prevented by registering the “CE” marking as a Community collective trademark. Finally, national authorities should not be able to refuse market access to a product imported from another Member State, unless they prove that the product does not satisfy EU requirements.
Internal Market: Commission Proposes to Extend Term of Copyright Protection for Performers
The European Commissioner for the Internal Market has proposed to extend the term of copyright protection for sound recordings from 50 to 95 years. Commissioner McCreevy explained the benefits of this proposal for European performing artists, who are able to earn a living as long as recordings of their performances are protected by copyright. Under the current regime, thousands of European performers (including both session musicians and featured artists) who recorded in the 1950s and 1960s would lose all of their airplay royalties over the next ten years—at a time when these royalties are often their sole income. The proposal should ensure performers continue to receive income during their lifetime and is expected to be adopted by the Commission later this year.
Customs: Commission Proposes Stricter Rules against Excise Fraud
The European Commission has adopted a proposal targeting excise fraud within the European Union. The proposal amends the Directive covering alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and mineral oils. It would provide a legal framework for use of the Excise Movement Control System (EMCS), a computerised system to monitor the movement of excise goods where no tax has been paid. The EMCS should be operational from April 2009 and will help identify excise fraud more effectively by expediting information exchange between excise authorities. In addition to tackling excise fraud, the proposal would also liberalise existing rules on alcoholic beverages bought in one EU Member State and transported to another and would simplify rules on the commercial movement of excise goods.
Trade: Parliament Endorses Commission Plan to Eliminate Trade Barriers
The European Parliament has issued a report endorsing the European Commission’s 2007 “reinforced Market Access Strategy”, a component of the Global Europe trade policy. The objective of the reinforced Market Access Strategy is to reduce or eliminate trade barriers with key European trading partners. The Commission states that, since 2007, the reinforced Market Access Strategy has facilitated better cooperation, information exchanges and intelligence gathering with trading partners. This has led to the reduction or elimination of trade barriers in key markets, including Brazil, India, Japan and Russia. The Parliament’s report encourages the Commission to continue working to reduce or eliminate trade barriers in European export markets.
European Union: Commission Reports on Union Citizenship
The European Commission has adopted its fifth report on citizenship of the European Union. The majority of EU citizens claim familiarity with the term “citizen of the European Union” and know that they are simultaneously Union citizens and Member State nationals. Less well-known are their rights as citizens. These include: the right to move and reside within the European Union; the right to vote and stand as a candidate in European Parliament and municipal elections in their country of residence; the right to protection in third countries by any EU Member State diplomatic and consular authority; the right to petition the European Parliament; and the right to apply to the Ombudsman. The report investigates to what extent each of these aspects of citizenship has been applied during the period May 2004 to June 2007. It also evaluates advances in areas closely related to citizenship including equal treatment in terms of nationality and the protection of fundamental rights.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 25 February – Friday 29 February 2008
Competitiveness Council (25 February 2008)
Justice and Home Affairs Council (28 February 2008)
Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council (28 February 2008)
COURT OF JUSTICE
C-132/05 Commission v Germany
C-398/05 AGST Draht- und Biegetechnik
C-263/06 Carboni e derivati
Environment and consumers
C-2/07 Abraham and Others
Freedom of establishment
C-293/06 Deutsche Shell
C-207/06 Schwaninger Martin
Citizenship of the Union
Freedom of movement for persons
C-311/06 Consiglio Nazionale degli Ingegneri
Principles of Community law
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-325/04 Citigroup v OHMI - Link Interchange Network (WORLDLINK)