(Adobe Acrobat Reader required, available for free download here)
Environment: Summit Talks on EU-Japan Cooperation Address Climate Change
On 23 April 2008 the 17th annual EU-Japan summit was held in Tokyo. The summit leaders reaffirmed their willingness for Japan and the European Union to continue addressing climate change, achieving the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, and maintaining international peace and security. Both sides considered energy efficiency improvement to be the most cost effective way of addressing climate change in the short term and committed to enhance international cooperation in this field. Japan and the European Union also emphasised the need for strengthening energy security and increased use of sustainable energy options such as renewable energy sources, enhanced oil recovery, clean coal and carbon capture and storage.
Consumer Protection: Commission Announces Results of EU-Wide Product Safety Inspections
The European Commission has announced the results of two cross-border market surveillance actions aimed at enhancing the safety of portable household lamps and extension leads sold to consumers. The actions were carried out over the last two years by Member States’ market surveillance authorities under the Low Voltage Directive Administrative Cooperation Group, with the support of the Product Safety Enforcement Forum of Europe (PROSAFE). The market surveillance authorities found a number of non-compliant products and infringements such as faulty declarations of conformity and missing technical documentation. The group has recommended that Member States organise such actions on a regular basis, improve information exchange and reduce the differences in the classification of the level of non-conformity. EU companies should expect more of these actions in the future.
Internal Market: Compulsory Marking of Firearms in European Union
EU Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs have adopted the European Commission’s proposed Directive on the compulsory marking of firearms. This measure is designed to ensure improvements to the traceability of all firearms in the European Union as well as tightening up rules on their acquisition and possession. The main elements include an obligation to mark firearms at the time of manufacture as well as when firearms are transferred from military to civil use. Member States will be required to set up computerised data filing systems and to maintain firearms data for a minimum of 20 years. The Directive also strengthens control over the use of firearms by people under 18 years of age in addition to banning the sale of firearms to these individuals.
Internal Market: Commission Facilitates Interoperability for Europe's Trains
The European Commission has adopted an amendment to the European Train Control System (ETCS), the European standard for train signalling and speed control, which guarantees a common standard, enabling trains to cross national borders and ensuring safety. The ETCS aims to establish an integrated railway transport system in Europe and improve the competitiveness of European railways. ETCS equipment is installed on over 2,000 km of track and by 2012 over 11,000 km of ETCS track will be in operation. Freight transport volume is expected to increase by 55 per cent along certain corridors and travel time is expected to be reduced by 20 per cent.
Justice and Home Affairs: Directive on Mediation in Civil and Commercial Matters Adopted
The European Union has adopted a Directive on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters. This Directive promotes the amicable settlement of disputes by encouraging the use of mediation, providing that, at any stage of litigation proceedings, a judge can invite the parties to have recourse to mediation. However, should mediation not succeed, the parties are not prevented from going to court. The Directive facilitates access to cross-border dispute resolution and ensures a sound relationship between mediation and judicial proceedings. By strengthening the legal guarantees of mediation, an agreement concluded following mediation will have a status similar to a court judgment, meaning that the mediation agreement is enforceable. Member States must implement these new mediation rules into their national laws within three years.
Mergers: Commission Opens Second Phase Investigation into Yeast Deal
The European Commission has initiated a second phase in-depth investigation into the acquisition of certain parts of the Dutch group GBI by the UK based company ABF. The main activity of both parties is the production of yeast, an essential ingredient in bakery products. The Commission took jurisdiction over this acquisition following a request for the referral of the case by the competition authorities of France, Spain and Portugal, where the transaction was initially notified. In its initial assessment, the Commission found that the acquisition would create competition concerns in these three countries, due to the reduction in the number of competitors from three to two.
State Aid: Commission Opens Investigation into Hungarian Steel Producer, Dunaferr
The European Commission has launched an in-depth investigation under EU Treaty State aid rules into investment aid granted by Hungary to Dunaferr, which is the largest Hungarian steel producer and part of the Donbass/Duferco group. In January 2007, the Hungarian authorities submitted information to the Commission indicating that Dunaferr had been granted investment aid totalling EUR 37.4 million. EU State aid rules prohibit investment aid for steel products due to structural overcapacity in this sector. The Hungarians argue that the aid only concerns products that are not covered by the prohibition. The Commission's investigation will focus in particular on the classification of certain products.
State Aid: Commission Prohibits Hungarian Export-Credit Guarantee Scheme
The European Commission has decided that a proposed scheme for providing short-term export credit guarantees to Hungarian small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is incompatible with EU State aid rules because the risks to be covered were too broad. According to the Commission, EU Member States may provide export-credit insurance only to cover the risks of non-payment by the foreign buyer for goods or services exported on credit terms, in cases where no private insurance is available or the premium rates exceed a certain amount. However, as the Hungarian scheme would also cover the domestic risks of the exporting SMEs, this would distort trade within the European Union by giving Hungarian exporters an unfair competitive advantage over companies in other Member States.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 28 April – Friday 2 May 2008
General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) (28 – 29 April 2008)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Environment and consumers
C-142/07 Ecologistas en Acción-CODA
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-131/06 Rykiel création and diffusion de modèles v OHMI - Cuadrado (SONIA SONIA RYKIEL)