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Please note that due to the closure of the Commission and other European institutions over the Easter period, the next Brussels Brief will be sent on Friday 4 April.
Competition: Joint EU-US Research Project on Airline Alliances
Following the conclusion of the EU-US Air Transport Agreement in 2007, the European Commission and the US Department of Transportation have launched a joint research project on airline alliances. The project will explore many aspects of the air transport industry including the growth of airline alliances, their effect on competition in the market and possible changes in the role of alliances following the EU-US Air Transport Agreement. To conduct the research, the two parties will interview stakeholders such as airlines, consumer groups and travel agents and will also perform a quantitative analysis of traffic data.
VAT: Commission Proposes New Measures to Fight VAT Fraud
The European Commission has adopted proposals to amend the VAT Directive and the VAT Administrative Cooperation Regulation in order to fight so-called “carousel fraud.” Carousel fraud occurs when, in a sequence of transactions between Member States, a trader goes “missing” and does not account for VAT on the final sale to the consumer. The Commission’s proposals aim to reduce this type of fraud by requiring faster information gathering and reporting. Among other things, the proposals require that intra-Community transactions be reported to the Member State in which VAT is due within one to two months, instead of the current three to six months. The Commission also proposes that buyers who engage in transactions valued at more than EUR 200,000 per calendar year should submit VAT declarations on a monthly basis.
Telecommunications: Mobile TV Standard Added to EU List of Standards
The European Commission has added the Digital Video Broadcasting Handheld (DVB-H) standard to the EU list of standards. This list serves as a basis for harmonising the provision of telecommunication services throughout the European Union. The DVB-H, which would enable consumers to watch television on their mobile telephones or devices anywhere in the European Union, is currently being launched commercially in 16 EU Member States. The adoption of this standard is part of the European Union’s strategy on mobile broadcasting. The next steps include the adoption of guidelines on best practice for Mobile TV authorisation, and the promotion of rights management systems based on open standards, as with DVB-H.
Agriculture: Council Approves 2 Per Cent Increase in Milk Quotas
EU agriculture ministers have approved the European Commission's proposal for a 2 per cent increase in milk quotas beginning on 1 April 2008. This increase will be applied to all 27 Member States. The Council took into account the report published by the Commission in December 2007 which showed that demand for milk both within the European Union and in global markets had grown between 2003 and 2007 and was expected to continue growing between 2007 and 2014. The increase equates to a total of 2.84 million tonnes, though the actual impact on production is likely to be more limited as, currently, national quotas are not fully utilised in a number of Member States.
State Aid: Commission Approves Aid to Rolls-Royce Deutschland
The European Commission has authorised the granting of financial support by Germany to Rolls-Royce Deutschland. The aid will be given for the experimental development of a new jet engine. The Commission found the aid to be in line with its Framework for Research and Development and Innovation (R&D&I Framework). The Commission's assessment showed that the aid would address a genuine market failure, namely the private sector's reluctance to provide sufficient risk-sharing capital for such projects, due to imperfect and asymmetric information. The Commission also found the aid amount, which is a business secret, to be appropriate and limited to the minimum necessary. According to Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, this is one of the most important State aid cases in the aeronautics sector since the entry into force of the new R&D&I Framework.
Internal Market: Recommendation on New EU Retail Product for Real Estate Funds
The European Commission has published an industry report that analyses the EU market for open-ended real estate funds. These funds provide investors with access to professionally managed investments in commercial and other types of property. In many Member States, open-ended real estate funds are already well established, nationally regulated products, but it is practically impossible to offer these products to foreign investors on a cross border basis. The report analyses current national regulations and recommends the adoption of EU harmonising legislation to overcome market access barriers. To take account of the views of interested parties, there will be a public debate on the report in Brussels on 8 April 2008.
Fisheries: Plan To Prevent Overfishing of Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna
On 14 March 2008 the European Commission announced the launch of an EU control campaign aimed at preventing a repeat of last year’s overfishing of Mediterranean bluefin tuna by a number of Member States. The launch of this Joint Deployment Plan demonstrates the European Union’s determination to ensure that the 15-year recovery plan agreed in 2006 by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna is fully respected. The plan will bring together the resources of the seven EU Member States most heavily involved in fishing: Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain. It will cover all stages in the market chain, including controls at sea, onshore, and at fattening farms.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 24 March – Friday 28 March 2008
No Council meetings scheduled for next week.
COURT OF JUSTICE
Judicial vacation of the Court of Justice from 17 March to 30 March 2008 inclusive.
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
Judicial vacation of the Court of First Instance from 17 March to 30 March 2008 inclusive.