The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, today disbursed €500 million to Ukraine, the first loan tranche from the new EU Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA II) programme for the country. This follows a disbursement of €100 million on 20 May from the previously agreed MFA programme (MFA I). The objective of both MFA programmes is to support Ukraine economically and financially in the current critical stage of its development. Olli Rehn, European Commission Vice President for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, said: "The European Union is providing essential support for Ukraine's efforts to address its major economic challenges. Today's disbursement is a further concrete sign of European solidarity towards the people of Ukraine. It is vital that Ukraine seizes this opportunity to take forward reforms to deliver budgetary stability, sustainable growth and job creation."Total EU MFA support for Ukraine comes to €1.61 billion, with €1.01 billion remaining after today's disbursement. The assistance is part of a wider package of support for Ukraine announced by the European Commission on 5 March and endorsed by EU leaders at the European Council of 6 March.
EU-Russia technical meeting: Effects of the EU-Ukraine AA/DCFTA on Russia's economy
Yesterday the third bilateral EU-Russia consultation on the potential effects of the provisions of the Association Agreement (AA) with Ukraine on Russia's economy took place in Brussels.
The discussions focused on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreement (DCFTA), included in the AA, between the EU and Ukraine and the trade agreements of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on the other. The planned signature of the EU-Ukraine AA/DCFTA remains fully on track and will be signed on the 27th of June.
The EU stated that the AA/DCFTA is compatible with Ukraine's participation in the CIS Free Trade Agreements, stressing that a suspension of the preferential trade relations between Ukraine and the Russian Federation would be unwarranted. Russia underlined the importance of the Ukrainian market for Russian exporters of agricultural and manufactured products, and suggested establishing a mechanism to ensure transparency on the upcoming changes in the Ukrainian technical regulations.
The EU and Russia also discussed a number of economic aspects, ranging from competition rules and state aid, to industrial cooperation, rules of origin and the prevention of fraud in trade exchanges. They also covered in detail the possible implications of the regulatory approximation foreseen in the EU-Ukraine AA/DCFTA.
Both sides agreed to pursue these talks further. President Barroso last week had also offered Russia to hold political level consultations, associating Ukraine, on the implementation of the AA/DCFTA to be led by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht in the coming weeks.
Hourly labour costs rose by 0.9% in the euro area (EA18) and by 1.2% in the EU28 in the first quarter of 2014, compared with the same quarter of the previous year. In the fourth quarter of 2013, hourly labour costs increased by 1.6% in the euro area and by 1.4% in the EU28. These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The two main components of labour costs are wages & salaries and non-wage costs. In the euro area, wages & salaries per hour worked grew by 1.5% while the non-wage component decreased by 0.8%, in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the same quarter of the previous year. In the fourth quarter of 2013 the annual increases were 2.0% and 0.4% respectively. In the EU28, hourly wages & salaries rose by 1.7% while the non-wage component decreased by 0.3% for the first quarter of 2014, compared with +1.7% and +0.4% respectively for the fourth quarter of 2013.
Today, Eurostat publishes for the first time a News Release with quarterly data on the job vacancy rate. This new euro-indicator provides information on the demand side of the labour market. It will be issued regularly at around ten weeks after the end of the reference quarter. A flash estimate of the job vacancy rate is available in Eurostat's database at around six weeks after the end of the reference quarter. The job vacancy rate in the euro area (EA18) was 1.7% in the first quarter of 2014, up from 1.6% recorded both in the previous quarter and in the first quarter of 2013, according to figures published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The job vacancy rate in the EU28 was 1.6% in the first quarter of 2014, up from 1.5% recorded in the previous quarter and in the first quarter of 2013.
The European Commission has launched the European Hospitality Skills Passport, a tool developed to facilitate contact between jobseekers and employers in the hospitality and tourism sector in Europe. The Skills Passport allows workers and employers to overcome language barriers and to compare hospitality workers' skills in order to facilitate recruitment in the sector. Hosted on the European Job Mobility Portal EURES, the skills passport is available in all EU official languages. The passport will be extended to other sectors in the future.
Commissioner László Andor said: "The European Hospitality Skills Passport is an important practical tool to promote mobility of European workers, especially young people, in a sector that has high growth potential. This initiative is also a good example of the outcome of social dialogue between employee and employer organisations at European level, and we look forward to seeing this cooperation expand into other sectors of the labour market."
A new Eurobarometer survey on the 'European Area of Skills and Qualifications' ( Special Eurobarometer 417) shows also that around a quarter (23%) of EU citizens feel that their education or training has not provided them with the skills to find a job in line with their qualifications. While over half of the respondents (56%) think their qualifications would be recognised in other Member States, 6% tried to work or study in another Member State but were unable to do so, either because their qualifications were not recognised by their prospective employer or education institution, or because the respondents lacked information about recognition of their qualifications abroad. The survey's findings are echoed by the results of a separate Commission online consultation aimed at education and training specialists.
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the European part of Honeywell's friction material business by another large US friction material manufacturer, Federal-Mogul Corporation. Both companies produce friction material, in particular brake pads for trucks and passenger cars. In these segments, both companies have a strong presence in the European Economic Area (EEA) for original equipment and original equipment spare parts (OEM/OES). The clearance is conditional upon the divestment of the OEM/OES business at a German and a French factory producing brake pads for commercial and light vehicles. The Commission had concerns that the transaction, as originally notified, would have significantly reduced competition in these markets in the EEA. The commitments offered by Federal-Mogul address these concerns.
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of joint control over Tecgas and COGA by Graña y Montero, Enagás and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of joint control over Tecgas and COGA by the Peruvian construction group Graña y Montero ("G&M), Enagás of Spain and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, of Canada (“CPPIB”). Tecgas and COGA operate and service natural gas and natural gas liquids pipelines in Peru. G&M is a Peruvian real estate and construction company. Enagás operates the natural gas transportation network in Spain. CPPIB manages and invests funds from the Canada Pension Plan. The Commission concluded that the proposed concentration would not raise competition concerns, given that there are no overlaps between the parties' activities and that Tecgas and COGA are not active in the European Economic Area (EEA). The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7260.
The European Commission has announced today the winners for 2014 of the Sustainable Urban Mobility campaign "Do the Right Mix". The 19 winners will receive each up to €7000 to support activities promoting greener and more sustainable ways of getting around town. Activities this year have encouraged the public to rethink their behaviour when it comes to transport choices by incorporating mobile apps and social media.
Businesses and research institutions will soon have more reliable access to commercial earth observation satellite data, according to a proposal presented by the European Commission in Brussels today. It aims to ensure better access to high resolution earth observation satellite data (HRSD) in particular, which, together with HRSD-based applications, are an essential tool for environment monitoring, urban planning, agriculture, natural resources management and disaster and emergency management, as well as for security and defence. Today regulations governing commercial activities using HRSD differ between EU Member States. This situation creates obstacles to market development as it hampers access to data vital by related businesses: including data resellers, data processors, value-adding service providers and software developers. Today´s proposal aims to improve business conditions for such companies in Europe and to partially harmonise rules defining HRSD and related transparency and standards in the EU.
EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström speaking at a high level conference on extremism: "More and more European citizens are joining the war in Syria and elsewhere. But unfortunately upon their return to Europe, a few of them will certainly have the capacity to commit terrorist attacks (…)We will not be able to counter violent extremism if we don't rebut the propaganda of those who support extreme, xenophobic and racist views (…) Two weeks ago, thanks to the efforts of the Greek EU Presidency, a renewed EU strategy to combat radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism was adopted. This is a strategy to confront all forms of extremism and to prevent a new generation of people becoming terrorists. The work undertaken by the European Commission and the RAN contributed to the revision of this strategy (…) We now have a strong political framework in place. This is good news. But that is not enough. As you all know, actions speak louder than words. So let's urgently agree on the most pressing actions we now have to take."
In a speech delivered in Athens today, Commissioner Andor said: "The Eurozone crisis has made Europe much more divided than before. Persistent financial fragmentation deepens economic asymmetries which, in turn, leads to polarisation in terms of the employment and social situation; and this potentially divides the EU politically too.
The key point is that we cannot reverse this dynamic with employment or social policy instruments, even if their efficiency can be improved in most cases – as we have tried to achieve with the policy packages I have mentioned.
Reversing the on-going socio-economic divergence in Europe is a question of finance and macroeconomic policy, and the solutions have to be found in the financial and monetary mechanism.
Therefore my conclusion is that lack of progress on Europe 2020 targets should prompt EU leaders not to water down or abandon the Strategy as such, but to step up the policy responses. The review of Europe 2020 should be connected with the reconstruction of the EMU."