President Juncker and Michel Barnier address the plenary of the European Parliament ahead of the vote on the Resolution on the negotiations with the United Kingdom

This morning at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, President Juncker underlined the importance of the Parliament's role in the upcoming negotiations with the UK, reiterating that it will need to scrutinise the final agreement at the end of the two-year negotiating process. "You are the checks and the balances during the negotiations themselves" President Juncker told MEPs. On the future of the European Union at 27, President Juncker said that the withdrawal of the UK is a sad moment but that it has provided a new impetus for the Union, as already witnessed by the signature of the Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap by the EU27, the Malta Summit in February this year and the signature of the Rome Declaration on 25 March. "Today we must make choices, choices about how we want to work, act, move forward together" President Juncker said, recalling that the debate on the future of Europe, "must take place throughout Europe: with our national parliaments, with our regions, with our civil society, and with the artists and the creators, without whose contribution we would not have become what we are". The full speech is available online. Thanking the Parliament for its preparatory work ahead of the negotiations with the UK, Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier underlined the conditions necessary for reaching an agreement in the upcoming negotiations. He stressed the importance of unity amongst the Member States of the EU as well as the necessity of removing uncertainty, particularly for European citizens, as soon as possible. Mr Barnier stated that "the sooner we agree on the principles of an orderly withdrawal, the sooner we can prepare our future relationship". Mr Barnier's full speech is available here. (For more information: Mina Andreeva – Tel.: +32 229 91382;  Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456; Daniel Ferrie – Tel.: +32 229 86500)

 Mergers: Commission prohibits HeidelbergCement and Schwenk's proposed takeover of Cemex Croatia

The European Commission has prohibited the proposed takeover of Cemex Croatia by HeidelbergCement and Schwenk under the EU Merger Regulation. The Commission had serious concerns that the takeover would have reduced competition in the Croatian markets for grey cement currently served by Cemex's cement plants in Split. This would have led to higher prices for cement customers. Through the deal HeidelbergCement and Schwenk, two German cement companies, would acquire Cemex's assets in Croatia via their joint venture company Duna Dráva Cement (DDC). The Commission investigated the overlaps in the Croatian cement markets between, on the one hand, Cemex Croatia and, on the other hand, HeidelbergCement and DDC. The takeover would have eliminated competition between companies that were competing head-to-head for the business of Croatian cement customers and could have led to a dominant position in the markets. The remedies proposed by the parties concerned the granting of access to a cement terminal in Metković in southern Croatia. The Commission had concerns that the proposed remedies would have offered only an uncertain possibility for a competitor to build up a new cement business in southern Croatia rather than divest an existing viable business. Therefore, the Commission concluded that the remedies offered would not have been able to prevent the likely price increases in grey cement in Croatia after the transaction. As a result, the Commission has prohibited the proposed transaction. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "We had clear evidence that this takeover would have led to price increases in Croatia, which could have adversely affected the construction sector. HeidelbergCement and Schwenk failed to offer appropriate remedies to address these concerns. Therefore, the Commission has decided to prohibit the takeover to protect competitive markets for Croatian customers and businesses. We will continue enforcing competition rules equally across the European Union, no matter where companies are based. "A full press release is available online in EN, FR, DE and HR. The recording of Commissioner Vestager's press conference is available online on EbS. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni - Tel.: +32 229 90526)

 Mergers: Commission clears ChemChina acquisition of Syngenta, subject to conditions

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Syngenta (based in Switzerland) by ChemChina. The approval is conditional on the divestiture of significant parts of ChemChina's European pesticide and plant growth regulator business. Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "It is important for European farmers and ultimately consumers that there will be effective competition in pesticide markets, also after ChemChina's acquisition of Syngenta. ChemChina has offered significant remedies, which fully address our competition concerns. This has allowed us to approve the transaction."Today's decision follows an in-depth review of the transaction. The Commission concluded that the divestment package will ensure that effective competition is preserved in pesticide and plant growth regulator markets after the takeover. This is because in all product markets with problematic overlaps ChemChina will divest either Adama's or Syngenta's product. The sale of Adama's products under development also ensures the viability and competitiveness of the divested business on a lasting basis. The buyer of the divested assets will be able to compete sustainably with the parties to the benefit of European farmers and consumers. As a result, the Commission has approved the transaction. A full press release is available online in EN, FR and DE. The recording of Commissioner Vestager's press conference is available online on EbS. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Yizhou Ren – Tel.: +32 229 94889)

Brussels Conference Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region – Day 2

Day two of the Brussels Conference Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region (#SyriaConf2017) began this morning with a ministerial meeting followed by the session “Supporting the future of Syria”, chaired by the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini on behalf of the European Union (arrival doorsteps here and here, opening statement here). Upon arrival, High Representative Mogherini highlighted that: "Syrians want peace and Syrians want to reconstruct their country in democracy and in freedom. And I think that today what we are doing is even more relevant, is even more important, is even more urgent. And the images we have seen yesterday from Syria remind us all that here we have a responsibility to unite for real with a serious engagement; the international community, the regional players, but also the Syrian parties to make peace."  UN Secretary General António Guterres, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of Germany, Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah of Kuwait, Foreign Minister Børge Brende of Norway, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani of Qatar and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, as well as Prime Minister Hani Al-Mulki of Jordan, Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri of Lebanon and Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari of Iraq also addressed the Conference in the opening session (here). A live press conference is foreseen for +/- 13h30 CET. This afternoon, Commissioner Hahn will open the “Supporting the region and the refugees-implementation of London commitments and the way ahead” session (14h30 CET, live here), co-chaired by Germany, Qatar and the United Kingdom. Commissioner Stylianides will co-chair the “Syria - humanitarian assistance and resilience” session with Norway and Kuwait and deliver the closing remarks, including the announcement of the overall funding committed in support of Syria and the region by participants of the Conference (at 18h CET, live here). Ahead of the ministerial today, HR/VP Mogherini held a number of bilateral meetings, among other with the UN, Qatar, Kuwait, Norway and Lebanon. Yesterday, HR/VP Mogherini and UN Special Envoy for Syria de Mistura met with civil society representatives and held a joint press point. Commissioner Stylianides and Commissioner Hahn represented the European Union at two thematic sessions; on the humanitarian situation inside Syria and on supporting the resilience of host countries and Syrian refugees. A number of other bilateral meetings are also taking place today in the margins of the Conference. More about yesterday's and this morning's sessions here and on EbS.  For more information on the Conference, visit the website. For more information on EU response to the Syria crisis, see here. (For more information: Nabila Massrali – Tel.: + 32 229-69218; Maja Kocijancic - Tel.: +32 229 86570; Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322 ; Lauranne Devillé – Tel.: +32 229-80833; Alceo Smerilli– Tel.: + 32 229 64887; Daniel Puglisi – Tel.:+32 229 69140)

Juncker Plan supports 400 microbusinesses in Luxembourg

The Juncker Plan has backed a EUR 5 million European Investment Fund (EIF) agreement under the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) to help finance microbusinesses in Luxembourg. The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the central pillar of the Juncker Plan, was an important factor in making this loan agreement possible. The EIF is providing a guarantee that will enable microlux to provide EUR 5 million in loans to around 400 microbusinesses in Luxembourg over the next three years. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said: "This Commission is focused on being big on big things and small on small things. microlux, on the other hand, plays the valuable role of being big on small loans. I am delighted and proud that our plan is channelling investment to people who would have otherwise been denied access to the finance they need to make their microbusinesses a real success." The Juncker Plan is already expected to trigger over EUR 250 million in investments in Luxembourg. A full press release is available here. For more information on the Juncker Plan in Luxembourg, see here. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Enda McNamara – Tel.: +32 229 64976)

 Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Samsung's Printer Business by HP

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of the printer business of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ("Samsung's Printer Business") of Republic of Korea by HP Inc. of the US. Both HP and Samsung's Printer Business manufacture and supply branded regular format printers. Samsung's Printer Business is also active in the market for the supply of unbranded regular format printers to other printer manufacturers. The Commission assessed the overlap of the parties' activities on the market for the supply of branded regular format printers and the potential segments based on functionality (single function printers and multi-function peripherals), speed and format (A3 and A4 paper) on the worldwide, European Economic Area and national level. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not have a significant impact on effective competition in the Single Market as there will be a number of companies that will continue to compete strongly with the merged entity, irrespective of the potential segmentation or geographic scope of the market. The Commission also investigated the relationship between the downstream market for the supply of branded regular format printers and the upstream market for the supply of unbranded regular format printers. The Commission concluded that the merged entity would not have the ability, or incentive, to shut out competing suppliers of these products as there are many alternative players at both levels. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8254. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)


Vice-President Dombrovskis in Berlin

Vice-President Dombrovskis is in Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday and Thursday to hold a number of meetings related to economic and social affairs in the context of the European Semester of economic policy coordination. He will meet Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Andrea Nahles and Reiner Hoffmann, President of the German Trade Union Confederation DGB. On Thursday, the Vice-President will deliver a keynote speech entitled "The single market for financial services: ambition and reality" at a conference hosted by the Association of German Banks. The speech will be livestreamedhere. The visit is part of the regular dialogue with Member States on topical economic and social issues. (For more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Juliana Dahl – Tel.: +32 229 59914)

 Commissioner King in Dublin

Today, Commissioner King is in Dublin where he will meet with Ms Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, and Mr Paul Kehoe T.D., Minister of State with special responsibility for Defence, to discuss the progress made towards a sustainable and effective Security Union. Commissioner King will also deliver a keynote speech on the steps taken to counter terrorism and the rapidly evolving cyber at the event on "Delivering a Security Union: Making European Citizens Safer" organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs. (For more information: Natasha Bertaud – Tel.: +32 229 67456 ; Tove Ernst – Tel.: +32 229 86764; Katarzyna Kolanko – Tel.: +32 229 63444)

 European cities shortlisted for the European Green Capital and European Green Leaf Awards for their environmental achievements

Ghent (Belgium), Lahti (Finland), Lisbon (Portugal), Oslo (Norway) and Tallinn (Estonia)have been shortlisted for the 2019 European Green Capital Award (for cities with population larger than 100 000) for their commitment to environmental, social and economic sustainability. Leuven (Belgium), Ludwigsburg (Germany) and Växjö (Sweden) have been nominated for theEuropean Green Leaf Award 2018 (for smaller cities with population between 20 000 and 100 000) for their environmental achievements. Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella congratulated the finalists: "The best part about this shortlist is that the nominees are literally from the four corners of Europe. North, South, East and Western cities are represented. This is a sure sign that the European Green Capital and Green Leaf Awards' idea has truly taken root. The diversity of experiences that these nominees bring, show that there are many and varied paths to becoming a modern green city." The two awards are an initiative of the EU policy on Urban Environment to foster environmental improvement,make the transition to a more circular economy towards green growth. A full press release is available here. (For more information: Enrico Brivio – Tel.: +32 229 56172; Iris Petsa – Tel.: + 32 229 93321)

 Les noms des gagnants de l'édition 2017 du Prix du patrimoine culturel de l'Union européenne / Concours Europa Nostra rendus public

La Commission européenne et Europa Nostra ont rendu public aujourd'hui les noms des gagnants de l'édition 2017 du Prix du patrimoine culturel de l'Union européenne / Concours Europa Nostra qui récompense des contributions exemplaires dans le domaine de la préservation du patrimoine. Les 29 lauréats, issus de 18 pays, ont été récompensés pour leurs réalisations dans quatre domaines: la conservation, la recherche, les services dédiés et l'éducation, la formation professionnelle et la sensibilisation. Tibor Navracsics, Commissaire pour l'éducation, la culture, la jeunesse et le sport, a déclaré à cette occasion: "Mes plus chaleureuses félicitations vont aux gagnants de cette année. Leurs contributions montrent une nouvelle fois à quel point de nombreux Européens sont engagés dans la défense et la protection de notre héritage culturel. Leurs projets soulignent l'importance du rôle de l'héritage culturel dans nos vies et nos sociétés. Aujourd'hui, tout particulièrement, alors que l'Europe fait face à de grands défis sociétaux, la culture est vitale pour améliorer la sensibilisation à nos valeurs communes et pour favoriser la tolérance, la compréhension mutuelle et l'inclusion sociale. L'Année européenne du patrimoine culturel en 2018 sera l'occasion idéale de se concentrer sur ce qui nous lie en tant qu'Européens - notre histoire, notre culture et notre patrimoine communs. La Commission européenne continuera d'apporter son soutien à ce prix et aux autre projets de défense du patrimoine à travers le programme Europe Créative." Les lauréats recevront les prix lors d'une cérémonie prévue le 15 mai prochain à Turku (Finlande) et à laquelle assisteront le Commissaire Tibor Navracsics et le Président d'Europa Nostra, Maestro Plácido Domingo. Plus d'informations ici. (Pour plus d'informations: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel. +32 229 67083; Joseph Waldstein – Tel. +32 229 56184)


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