Daily Archives: March 23, 2015

Daily News 23 / 03 / 2015

Commissioner Vĕra Jourová presents the 2014 results of the European Rapid Alert System for Dangerous Products

Commenting on today’s presentation of the 2014 results of the European Rapid Alert System for Dangerous Products, Commissioner Jourová said: “Every product in Europe needs to be safe for our citizens. Products that can cause harm have to be removed from the market as quickly as possible. This is the reason why we have created the Rapid Alert System, which has proven to be a very practical example of EU cooperation to the benefit of our citizens”. The 2014 figures show that nearly 2500 dangerous products, ranging from toys to motor vehicles, were either stopped before they entered the EU or removed from the market. The website of the Rapid Alert System attracted nearly 2 million visits in 2014, and new search tools allow consumers and businesses to better inform themselves about the detection of dangerous products and product recalls. You’ll find more information in the press release and the Q&A. The press conference with Commissioner Jourová can be watched live on EBS. (for more information: Christian Wigand – Tel: +32 229 62253; Melanie Voin – Tel: +32 229 58659)

 

OTHER NEWS

 

The Commission and the European Investment Bank facilitate access to credit for farmers

The European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have today presented a model financial instrument aimed at easing access to finance for agricultural producers, including young farmers. This is the first new product developed in the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding on co-operation in agriculture and rural development within the EU, signed in July 2014. Speaking at the event, Commissioner Hogan said: “Financial instruments can help us to get even more value out of rural development policy, the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy. By getting credit flowing more freely, they can turn one euro of public money into two euros, three euros or even more of secured loans to help our farmers, particularly young farmers, and other rural entrepreneurs create growth and jobs. The joint work by the Commission and the EIB, set out in detail today, marks a huge step forward towards making that happen.” Commissioner Hogan invited Member States to set up financial instruments in their rural development programmes in order to benefit from the opportunities provided. A press release is available online. A technical briefing on the topic will take place today at 15h00 CET. (for more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel: +32 229 56 185; Clémence Robin – Tel: +32 229 52 509)

Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Bulgarian Energy Holding and subsidiaries for suspected abuse of dominance on Bulgarian natural gas markets

The European Commission has sent a statement of objections to Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH), informing it of the Commission’s preliminary view that BEH may have breached EU antitrust rules by hindering competitors access to key gas infrastructures in Bulgaria. The statement of objections is also addressed to BEH’s gas supply subsidiary Bulgargaz and its gas infrastructure subsidiary Bulgartransgaz. The sending of a statement of objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: “EU antitrust rules are an important tool to contribute to the Energy Union. We need to break down barriers so that EU citizens and businesses can enjoy more competitive energy prices and security of supply. To compete on the Bulgarian gas supply markets, companies need access to BEH’s gas infrastructure. The Commission must make sure that fair access is granted.” A full press release is available here. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)

Mergers: Commission clears joint venture between ArcelorMittal and CLN for steel service centres in Italy

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the creation of a joint venture between ArcelorMittal’s subsidiary AMDS Italia and CLN, both of Italy. ArcelorMittal and CLN plan to combine their steel service centres activities in Italy. Steel service centres are one of the channels for the distribution of steel products as they purchase finished steel products from mills which are then cut to meet customer requirements. Furthermore, ArcelorMittal is the world’s largest steel producer whereas CLN produces automotive components. The Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would not significantly reduce competition, notably because of the joint venture’s limited market share and the already existing supply links between ArcelorMittal and CLN. 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.7461. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)

Mergers: Commission clears joint venture between Styrolution and Braskem in industrial resins sector

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the creation of a joint venture by Styrolution Group GmbH (“Styrolution”) of Germany and Braskem S.A. (“Braskem”) of Brazil. Styrolution is a worldwide producer of thermoplastic resins for use across a range of industries. Braskem operates several industrial sites in the chemical and petrochemical sector in Brazil, the US and Germany. The joint venture will produce certain thermoplastic resins in Brazil and sell them in Brazil and other South American countries. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns in particular because the joint venture will have no activity 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.7302. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)

State aid: Commission orders Greece to recover incompatible aid from Piraeus Container Terminal

The European Commission has concluded that certain fiscal benefits granted by Greece in favour of port operator Piraeus Container Terminal S.A. (PCT) and its parent company Cosco Pacific Limited (Cosco) provided the beneficiaries with an undue advantage over their competitors in breach of EU state aid rules. These benefits include tax exemptions and preferential accounting treatment. The companies now need to pay back the advantage received to the Greek state. To avoid further distortions of competition, the Greek authorities are also expected to cease granting these advantages to PCT from now on. The non-confidential version of the decision will be published in the Official Journal of the EU and made available under the case number SA.28876 in the State Aid Register on the competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)

State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into Spanish high-speed railway test centre (CEATF)

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether the public financing of a test centre for high-speed trains and related equipment (the Centro de Ensayos de Alta Tecnología Ferroviaria, CEATF) near Malaga in Spain is compatible with EU state aid rules. Under Spain’s current plans, the project costs of €358.6 million would be fully financed by the EU Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Spain. At this stage, the Commission has doubts that the project pursues a genuine objective of common interest. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested parties an opportunity to submit comments and does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. A full press release is available here. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.37185 once potential confidentiality issues have been cleared. (for more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel. +32 229 80100; Carolina Luna Gordo – Tel.: +32 229 68386)

STATEMENTS

Speech by Commissioner Moedas on “British science thrives in the EU and we thrive because of you

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, gives a lecture on “Science Without Borders” at the Royal Society of London today. He will present his views on science and innovation being the true drivers of growth and prosperity. Commenting on the fact that the EU is falling short of the 3% of GDP research and development target, in particular when it comes to private investment, he will add: “We have to try something new. In this new mandate, the European Commission wants to make more high-risk, high-value investments in research and innovation, not less”. He will also explain that, contrarily to some concerns expressed, fundamental science can attract private investment and loans. Commissioner Moedas will further comment on the contribution of EU membership to the global standing of British universities and to their value to the British economy: “The majority of the UK’s top 20 research partners are other EU countries. You ranked first for number of applicants to our previous EU research funding programme. In the last two years of that programme, you received more funding than any other country, including Germany. That’s almost € 7 bn of EU funds flowing to the UK in the form of over 17,000 grants. Earned by your willingness, and ability, to compete for funding based on merit. So, my ambitions for your place in Europe are immense.” (for more information: Lucia Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182)

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Investment Plan for Europe: Vice-President Katainen takes roadshow to Cyprus

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, visits Nicosia today as part of his roadshow to promote the Investment Plan for Europe. Vice-President Katainen will meet President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades and Minister of Finance Harris Georgiades as well as the President of the House of Representatives Yiannakis Omirou and Members of the Cypriot Parliament. He will hold a citizens’ dialogue with students at the University of Cyprus on the future of Europe. He will also visit The Cyprus Institute, a research and post-graduate education institution with a focus on science and technology, whose vision is to help transform Cyprus into a knowledge-based economy with the support of EU funds. Vice-President Katainen said: “I am very pleased to be visiting Cyprus to discuss the Investment Plan for Europe with government, students and local businesses. The Investment Plan is a great opportunity to help Cyprus on its road to recovery, and to provide jobs for people in Cyprus, and across Europe.” (for more information: Annika Breidthardt – Tel.: +32 229 56153; Siobhan Bright – Tel.: +32 229 57361)

High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini to visit Cuba on 23-24 March

High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini will visit Havana on 23 and 24 March. This is the first visit of a European Union High Representative to Cuba and comes at a crucial time for the negotiations between the EU and Cuba. “Cuba is facing a very interesting period and the European Union is keen to see how we can take the relationship forward with strong momentum. The EU has been closely following the developments in Cuba and its relations with key international players, which create new dynamics in the region and in Cuba itself, and provide new opportunities for all” said HRVP Mogherini upon announcement of her visit. During her visit the HRVP Mogherini will have institutional meetings, including with her counterpart, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, and other Cuban government interlocutors. The HRVP will also meet the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Ortega, and representatives of civil society. A press release is available online. (for more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 229 69921; Sharon Zarb – Tel.: +32 229 92256)

Commissioner Hahn to visit Tirana on 23/24 March and Kosovo on 25 March

During his visit to Albania, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn will participate in the fifth round of the High Level Dialogue between the EU and Albania. The High Level Dialogue on the five Key Priorities, which Commissioner Hahn will co-chair with Prime Minister Edi Rama, aims to intensify Albania’s work on the key reforms necessary for the next stage of country’s EU integration process. During his stay in Tirana, Commissioner Hahn will meet with President Nishani, Speaker Meta, Prime Minister Rama, opposition leader Basha as well as civil society and business representatives. He will also visit cultural sites in Tirana, an EU-funded project, and will have a discussion on connectivity with the Government. During the visit to Kosovo on 25 March, Commissioner Hahn will participate in the ceremony of inauguration of the Palace of Justice together with Prime Minister Mustafa and Minister for European Integration Çollaku and he will also participate in the “Western Balkans’ ministerial conference dedicated to regional projects, with special emphasis on infrastructure investment. (for more information: Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 66430)

Commissioner Mimica to attend Women in Parliaments Summit in Ethiopia

The annual Women in Parliaments event will take place between 23-25 March in Addis Ababa, bringing together more than 400 women Parliamentarians and public figures from around the world to look at the issue of ‘new leadership for global challenges’, especially how leaders – both male and female – can work together to address the issue of women’s empowerment in politics. Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica will give the opening speech at the event, which is organised by the Women in Parliaments Foundation, co-funded by the European Commission and co-hosted by the African Union. This year’s event, the largest ever, is particularly timely ahead of the UN Summit on the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the new Sustainable Development Goals in September, where the international community, including the EU, will be looking for strong commitments on gender equality and empowerment of women. Today, only one out of five Members of Parliaments in the world are women. (for more information: Catherine Ray – Tel.: +32 229 69921; Sharon Zarb – Tel.: +32 229 92256)

Political Parties’ Predictable Responses to #rhodesmustfall

Political parties have rushed to weigh in on the question of what to do with UCT’s statue of colonialist Cecil John Rhodes. The reaction has been annoyingly predictable. The EFF supported radical action against colonial oppressors the ANC said the EFF was being opportunistic, but made sure everyone knew that it too supported the students and the DA said we should slow down, remember Madiba and value everyone’s humanity because colonialists are people too. (Kidding. We added that last bit.)

The EFF appear to have been the first political party to weigh in on the issue, with a statement released on Tuesday, saying that it was fully behind the protests.

“Despite the many fake accolades Rhodes has been given, he remains a Murderer who championed the colonisation of Africa and racial segregation in a system which forced indigenous Africans to hard, low-paying jobs in order to buttress the emerging capitalist system,” it said in a statement.

The party called on all South Africans living “under shadows of colonial oppression” to destroy “symbols of white supremacy and as statues erected to celebrate racists and racism [sic]”.

The EFF raised the matter in Parliament on Tuesday but its motion was swiftly shot down by the ruling party.

Later, the ANC defended its objection to the motion, saying the processes the EFF had tried to use had not followed procedure.

The ruling party slammed the EFF’s ad hoc call for in Parliament for support of the movement “convoluted” and “politically opportunist”, but went on to voice its solidarity with the protestors.

In a statement released on Thursday, ANC chief whip Moloto Mothapo expressed support for the campaign and efforts to transform the institution, saying: “We align ourselves, as the Majority Party in Parliament, with the bold call by the students for the immediate removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes. Rhodes’s name is synonymous with the darkest era of our country’s history, in which Black people were subjected to a murderous, unjust, inhumane, criminal and oppressive system on the basis of the colour of their skin.”

Mothapo added that the party would table a proper parliamentary motion on this matter “at an appropriate time”.

The DA, meanwhile, took a different tack, invoking the spirit of Nelson Mandela and calling for “an inclusive vision”. The party suggested that the university rededicate the statue and create new monuments to “actively make the greatest university in Africa a home for all”.

“Mandela did not support the tearing down of monuments. They must remain to remind us of when history takes a wrong turn, as we, as fallible human beings, will make wrong turns too.

“Why not build a statue of another figure that engages Rhodes in perpetual conversation? This would symbolise the dialogue and reflection that must happen in each generation, not in the absence of the past, but precisely because of it,” it said in a newsletter published on Thursday.

We don’t know about you but all we heard was “Blah, blah, students are important, blah blah, remember us when you vote.”

Do you think the views of these political parties will have any standing when it comes to decisions about what to do with the statue? Tell us in the comments section.

Source : The Daily Vox

Local company hopeful of dti investment mission

Pretoria – Gauteng businesswoman Jill Carol Sesoko is confident that being part of the Department of Trade and Industry’s Trade and Investment Mission to Ethiopia and South Sudan will yield good returns for her company.

Sesoko’s Krugersdorp based company, GreenThermo Energy, forms part of the South African businesspeople who will participate in the mission that kicks off on Monday.

The aim of the mission is to find export markets for South African products and services.

The mission is also intended to increase trade and investment between South Africa and the two countries. It will also present an ideal platform for South African companies that would like to export value-added products and those looking for investment opportunities and joint venture partnerships in the two East African countries.

GreenThermo Energy, which also manufactures biodiesel, is South Africa’s only supplier of fuel performance catalyst (FCP).

FPC is a fuel combustion technology that enhances the combustion power of fuel, thereby increasing the burning rate of fuel, resulting in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption of up to 10%, among others.

According to Sesoko, GreenThermo Energy boosts environmental saving efforts of petroleum wholesalers, bulk consumers, logistics and fleet management companies in realising sustainable improvements in fuel efficiency and emissions reduction through innovative fuel combustion based green fuel products and services.

The company has for the last four years partnered with the Australian fuel manufacturer to deliver a localised, dedicated fuel efficiency service tailor-made to meet Africa’s fuel energy efficiency needs.

It is well positioned to support companies to take full advantage of lessening the effects of harmful gas emissions from diesel fuel (CO, CO², HC), while benefiting considerably on the demonstrable gains of fuel-cost savings attributable to fuel combustion technology.

“I am so excited about the trip to Ethiopia and South Sudan. I am hoping that we will be able to get exposure and make inroads into the market there. We would like to interact with big players in the mining and agriculture industries that side because this is where a lot of diesel is used.

“We will also explore possible opportunities in the trucking businesses. We have no doubt that our product will generate interest there but we are hoping to do more than that by signing contracts and sealing deals to supply the catalyst and add value to the current initiatives to promote cleaner and greener fuel strategies,” said Sesoko, a mother of two who hails from Ga-Rankuwa, Tshwane.

Sesoko is confident that opportunities for her company will also open in other countries, as many of them are in the process of adopting the mandatory use of biodiesel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment.

The mission will conclude on Friday.

National Youth Policy to be finalised soon

Pretoria – The Presidency says the National Consultative Conference on the draft National Youth Policy will convene on 29 and 30 March to confirm the revised policy and to gather the last set of inputs from South African youth.

Young people from around the country and nationally organised youth structures are expected to gather at the two-day conference, which also aims to afford space for extensive debate on each priority of the NYP.

This following a consultation process launched in January by the Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Buti Manamela, who invited young people to own and engage robustly with the policy formulation process.

“We are enthusiastic about the feedback we have thus far received from young people about a policy that is at the heart of their development,” said Deputy Minister Buti Manamela.

During the extensive and vigorous consultation process, young people were provided opportunities through meetings, panel discussions, social media platforms and various other means to make submissions into the national youth policy.

“More than 100 written submissions have been received and considered,” said the Presidency.

The Presidency said young people took the opportunity and came out in numbers from all over the country and expressed their needs, interests and aspirations.

Deputy Minister Manamela engaged with the youth from NGOs, political parties, faith based organisations, young people at train stations, churches, shebeens, institutions of learning and everywhere where young could be found.

In the course of the consultation process, Deputy Minister Manamela continued to assert his commitment in ensuring that the final policy reflected the views of young people, even if it means the final document is completely different to what is in the draft policy.

The outcomes of the conference will be infused into the policy which will then be taken to Cabinet before the policy is signed by the Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe

By Ignoring Petitions, Government Encourages Violent Protest

The Eastern Cape government has failed to even acknowledge a petition from a group of housing project beneficiaries. What options does this leave aggrieved citizens, asks Mimosa Delgaro?

The right to petition government is a fundamental right of all citizens in South Africa. A petition is a way of bringing a grievance or an issue of public concern to the attention of those in power. The Bill of Rights asserts that South Africans can hold a demonstration, a picket and present a petition.

Likewise, the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000 protects and upholds the right of people to access information, and seeks to enhance the transparency and effectiveness of government. Public bodies are obliged to give information needed by people to exercise their rights.

It would appear that petitioning, as a means available to citizens to realise their rights is deemed less valuable in South Africa compared to protest action. The Parliamentary Monitoring Group minutes of Parliament’s Petitions Committee highlight that in a period of a year, the committee could only resolve one matter out of 6o raised with it through petitions by the public. Various reasons are attributed to this including the unavailability of committee members to attend this particular committee’s meetings and its failure to demand speedy response from various departments of issues it refers to them.

This scenario plays itself out throughout the various levels of government. The Eastern Cape Province is worse in this matter. First, the legislature has no accessible website for petitions, policies and processes. In the absence of a tool as simple as a website, it is not clear who and which committee in the legislature citizens are to direct their petitions to. Most government departments do not have accessible websites nor do they publicly present a process through which citizens should and could raise grievances with them. This is happening in a place and time where access to information is another constitutionally protected right.

Phase 3 housing development project beneficiaries of Scenery Park in East London submitted a petition to the provincial human settlements department for the attention of the MEC and the department head. The petition in essence calls for access to information and requests that the MEC sends a department official to engage these beneficiaries on a housing delivery issue that is of concern between them and the Department. Their key grievance is lack of information, feedback and clarity around the housing delivery process and they ask that the department shares information with them in a public meeting to be organised in their community.

You would think this sounds like a simple request. Thirty days later, there was neither a response from the office of the MEC of the Department of Human Settlements nor the office of the Head of Department, nor was there acknowledgement of receipt of the petition.

It is scenarios such as these that reinforce the view that government has become more unresponsive to citizen needs and continues to close down spaces or frustrate citizens in their attempts to engage the state peacefully. What then is left for citizens?

The trend has been that violent service delivery protest attracts the attention of not only government, but the media, business and others whose interests are threatened by the protest action. In fact, the trend has been that the more violent and destructive a protest, the more senior political leaders get deployed to broker the situation.

What then remains for the phase 3 Scenery Park beneficiaries and other such citizens attempting to engage government in peaceful, constitutional protected means? In comparison to the kind of attention violent protest get, petitions remain, something which can easily go by unnoticed.

The author is a member of the community from where the petition was lodged. No inference should be made on whether the views expressed in this article reflect the editorial position of GroundUp.

The text of this article and its photograph(s) are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Source : GroundUp