Daily News 05 / 03 / 2015

Completing the Internal Energy Market: €100 million released to connect European energy networks
Today the Commission is opening the annual call for proposals under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) to help finance key trans-European energy infrastructure projects. €100 million will be made available for projects aimed at ending energy isolation, eliminating energy bottlenecks and to complete the European energy market. This European money will also act as a catalyst for securing additional financing by private and public investors. EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: “Reliable and well-connected energy networks are vital for achieving a resilient European Energy Union. We need major investments to make our energy grid fit for the future. This funding is an investment opportunity to build a competitive, sustainable and secure energy market, and ultimately bring the benefits into our homes and businesses.” With a total of €650 million for grants foreseen in 2015, this is the first of two calls planned for 2015. The deadline for applications is 29 April 2015. A decision on the selection of proposals to be funded is expected for mid-July. A fully interconnected market is a top priority of the Juncker Commission. This call for proposals responds to this priority and follows up on the Energy Union strategy and the interconnections communication adopted on 25 February. For more information: press release, fact sheet and the website of DG Energy. (for more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen – Tel.: +32 229 56186, Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)
President Juncker and the leaders of France, Spain and Portugal agreed on the way forward to better connect the Iberian Peninsula with the rest of the EU energy market
Yesterday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker met in Madrid with the President of France François Hollande, the Prime Minister of Spain Mariano Rajoy and the Prime Minister of Portugal Pedro Passos Coelho. The Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete and the President of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer also attended the meeting. A well-connected European energy market is crucial for creating an Energy Union and key driver to strengthen the security of energy supply across Europe. The leaders agreed to set up a High Level Group to step up the efforts to develop energy interconnections in South-West Europe and ensure that all the present and planned project are implemented in time. Building missing cross-border links is a priority for the Juncker Commission. A press release with details is available here. (for more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen – Tel.: +32 229 56186, Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.: +32 229 52589)


Ahead of International Women’s Day, EU Commission upholds commitment to gender equality
Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, all male members of the European Commission have given their support to the UN campaign #HeforShe aiming to make gender equality an issue for both men and women. This reflects the Commission’s strong support for women’s rights and women’s empowerment. The #HeforShe campaign by UN Women calls for the more active engagement of men in the fight against such discrimination, since they play a pivotal role in changing the social norms that affect women. According to new Eurobarometer statistics published today, a large majority of citizens (76%) believe that tackling inequality between women and men should be a priority for the EU. The Commission’s annual Report on equality between women and men, also published today, shows that despite some progress gender equality remains an unfinished business.On the occasion of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2015, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, also publishes a selection of data on men and women with regard to their situation on the labour market. The press release is available here. On Monday 9 March, Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, will launch the 3rd edition of the EU Prize for Women Innovators. (for more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 229 69921; Christian Wigand– Tel.: +32 229 62253; Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182)
Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Hanson Building by Lone Star
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of five Hanson Building entities, one based in the UK and four in the US, by the US-based private equity group Lone Star. The Hanson Building entities manufacture building materials such as bricks, concrete, block paving, urban drainage systems and insulated panels. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns since there are no overlaps between the activities of the Hanson Building entities and Lone Star or any of its portfolio companies. The operation 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.7524. (for more information Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386).


Commissioner Violeta Bulc speaking at the European Shipping Week Conference
Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport yesterday set out her strategic priorities for European shipping during her mandate. Speaking at the European Shipping Week Conference: “I am convinced that shipping must remain at the forefront of innovation to stay competitive (…) Maritime transport and short sea shipping can make our overall transport system more sustainable. They are the cleanest modes of transport for large quantities of cargo. Some journeys in Europe are actually much shorter by sea than by land! (…) For the European shipping sector to prosper on a global level we must ensure free access to markets and a level playing field for ship-owners and operators. That is why the EU promotes the inclusion of maritime transport in the EU trade negotiations (…) Global trade needs secure seas internationally. The Commission is already doing a lot to protect shipping from piracy and terrorist threats and will continue to do so (…) We are also reaching out to our partners worldwide to raise the security at ports from where passengers and cargo leave for the EU (…) The digitalisation of maritime transport and of transport and mobility in general, will be one of the priorities of my term (…) Whatever technological developments may come, people must remain at the centre of transport, either as passengers or at the helm (…) And of course we need excellent employment conditions for European seafarers. To promote such conditions without compromising the competitiveness of the European fleet, we must enforce working conditions better – for all ships calling at EU ports.” The full speech is available online. (for more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Joshua Salsby – Tel.: +32 229 72459)

Commissioner Creţu on her first visit to Spain
From 5 to 7 March, Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu is in Spain to exchange with Spanish stakeholders in charge of the implementation of EU funds. She will visit Madrid, Seville and the cities of Mérida and Cáceres in the Extremadura region. On 6 March, she will open the conference on Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation: Challenges and Monitoring Implementation, hosted by the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, a body of the Commission’s Joint Research Centre. Ahead of her visit, Corina Creţu said: “EU Structural Funds account for a substantial share of public investment in Spain; my intention is that they contribute to the evolution towards a smarter, more sustainable and inclusive economy and society. Smart Specialisation Strategies play a key part in identifying country-specific and regional strengths that will facilitate the transition towards a more knowledge-based and innovative development model.” Spain is the third beneficiary of Cohesion Policy at EU level, with an allocation of 28.6 billion euro for 2014-2020. More information on Cohesion Policy and Spain can be found here. (for more information: Jakub Adamowicz – Tel.: +32 229 50595; Sophie Dupin de Saint-Cyr – Tel.: +32 229 56169)
Commissioner Avramopoulos visits Serbia & Kosovo
Today Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos is in Belgrade to meet with Prime Minister Vučić and Minister of Interior Stefanović to discuss migratory flows from Kosovo. On Monday 9 March, he will be travelling to Pristina. (for more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Milica Petrovic – Tel.: +32 229 63020)