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Technology – Competition: Commission Adapts Nature of Monitoring of 2004 Microsoft Decision
The European Commission has issued a decision easing the monitoring of Microsoft’s compliance with the Commission’s 2004 Decision that Microsoft abused its dominant position.
In 2004 the Commission imposed a fine on the US software giant for infringing Article 82 of the EC Treaty by refusing to provide interoperability information, among other things. The Commission’s Decision also required an independent full-time monitoring trustee to verify whether Microsoft was complying with the obligation to provide complete and accurate interoperability information.
Microsoft subsequently lodged an application with the Court of First Instance (CFI) for the annulment of the Decision. Microsoft was largely unsuccessful in its application, however the CFI did annul the obligation to bear the costs concerning the appointment and remuneration of the monitoring trustee.
Given the changes subsequently implemented by Microsoft and the increased possibilities for third parties to sue directly before national courts as a result of modified private enforcement provisions in Microsoft’s licence agreements, the Commission no longer requires this full-time monitoring. Instead, in the future, the Commission intends to rely on the ad hoc assistance of technical consultants.
Energy – Trade: EU Imposes Tariffs on US Biodiesel
The European Union has imposed temporary duties on US biodiesel imports following a series of complaints from European biodiesel producers that they were being put at a disadvantage by US subsidies of US$1 per gallon. This move to impose tariffs comes amid growing concerns that protectionism by governments during the current economic downturn could spiral out of control.
EU companies have accused US producers of being involved in a “splash and dash” scheme, whereby they import cheaper biodiesel from countries such as Brazil and add less than 5 per cent of US biodiesel. These US producers then qualify for a subsidy from the US Government before exporting the biodiesel to Europe. As a result, US exports to Europe have grown from just 60,000 tonnes in 2006 to more than 1.5 million tonnes in 2008. At least 15 European producers have declared bankruptcy in that period.
US companies exporting biodiesel into the European Union will be expected to pay additional tariffs ranging from EUR 29 to EUR 41 per 100 kg for an initial period of six months. The final determination on the levels of the duties will be confirmed next week by the European Commission. The level of tariffs will be tailored to individual companies to reflect the types and amounts of the fuel they produce and the amount of subsidies and other support they receive from US authorities.
State Aid: Commission Issues Guidance on State Aid Enforcement by National Courts
The European Commission has issued a set of guidelines to assist Member States' courts in applying EU State aid rules. These new guidelines have the purpose of (i) providing guidance, based on the EU Courts’ jurisprudence, on issues such as the protection of individual rights, the recovery of illegal aid, interim relief and damages actions; and (ii) providing national courts with support mechanisms such as a means of asking the Commission for information and/or its opinion on the application of the State aid rules.
This new notice, replacing the Commission’s 1995 notice on cooperation with national courts, aims to facilitate actions challenging illegal aid before national courts.
Finance: Proposal to Exempt Small Companies from Financial Reporting Obligations
Under current EU legislation, every company, regardless of its size, has to prepare annual accounts that comply with a number of minimum criteria. The European Commission now proposes exempting certain companies from this reporting obligation. The Commission’s proposal is in line with the European Union’s Better Regulation Strategy, which aims to reduce the administrative burden on companies by 25 per cent. It is estimated that this measure would save small European companies EUR 63 million, but this amount has been disputed by opponents.
The companies that are to be exempt from preparing full financial reports are so-called "micro-entities”. These are companies that do not exceed the limits of two of the three following criteria: (i) a maximum average number of employees of ten during the financial year, (ii) a balance sheet total of EUR 500,000, and/or (iii) a net turnover of EUR 1 million. It would be the responsibility of each EU Member State to decide whether it actually exempts its micro-entities from preparing and/or publishing a full financial report.
The proposal has been heavily debated and strongly endorsed by Germany and the United Kingdom. Belgium, France and Italy oppose the measure, considering it to be purely cosmetic, as in any case even micro-entities need to prepare annual accounts for tax purposes, banks and statistics authorities.
Since the proposal has already been endorsed by a number of Members of the European Parliament, it is expected to pass through Parliament swiftly.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 9 March – Friday 13 March 2009
Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) (9 March 2009)
Eurogroup (9 March 2009)
Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) (10 March 2009)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Environment and consumers
C-342/08 Commission v Belgium
C-402/08 Commission v Slovenia
Freedom of establishment
C-458/07 Commission v Portugal
C-320/07 P Antartica v Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market
Law governing the institutions
C-298/08 Commission v Greece
Approximation of laws
C-558/07 S.P.C.M. and Others
Area of Freedom, Security and Justice
Citizenship of the Union
Joined Cases C-22/08, C-23/08 Vatsouras
C-529/07 Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli
Law governing the institutions
C-109/08 Commission v Greece
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-249/06 Interpipe Niko Tube and Interpipe NTRP v Council
Law governing the institutions
T-121/05 Borax Europe v Commission
T-166/05 Borax Europe v Commission
T-68/05 Aker Warnow Werft and Kvaerner v Commission