Commission awards 170 M€ funding for vital EU transport infrastructure projects

The European Commission announced on 21 February the projects which have been awarded funding under the Trans-European transport network (TEN-T) calls for proposals published in 2010.  A total amount of 170 million euro has been awarded to 51 projects that will help Member States to build missing transport links, remove bottlenecks and increase the safety and security of transport, with a special focus on making transport more sustainable, multimodal as well as promoting public–private partnerships PPPs).

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Ombudsman welcomes EC improvements in late payment problems but will keep track on them

In a recent report, the European Ombudsman has commended the European Commission for the progress it has made in recent years in reducing its late payment problems. These are some of the results following an investigation and a public consultation that the Ombudsman conducted on this issue, which show that although there has been significant improvements, problems still persist.

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EU doubles the rate of recovery of illegal State aid since 2007

The Member States recovered in 2010 a total of 530 million euro in State aid granted to businesses before they were notified to the Commission and later found to be incompatible with EU State aid rules. Although figures show progress on recovering these funds, this improvement mostly relates to new cases and not to the resolution of old ones. In 10 years, the total amount of aid recovered is estimated to 10.9 billion euro.

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EU condemns repression and urges Libya to cease violence

In an extraordinary meeting of EU Foreign Affairs ministers held in Brussels on 20 February, the European Union expressed its extreme concern about the event unfolding in Libya. Although not referring to Libya's threat regarding its support to EU's migratory policy, the EU has condemned the repression the violent reaction against peaceful protesters and deplored the death of civilians.

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Commission will not consider amending Regulation on local border traffic at external borders

According to the results of the Second report on the implementation and functioning of the local border (LBT) traffic regime, the European Commission has concluded that the regime is working well in practice. Despite the little amount of available data, the Commission concluded that the LBT regime is helping to makes life significantly easier for people living near the external land borders and there is little evidence that the regime is being abused. Consequently, the Commission is not considering amending the LBT Regulation

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European Parliament approval to EU-South Korea free trade agreement

During the European Parliament Plenary session held in Strasbourg between 14 and 17 February 2011, MEPs gave its consent to the most ambitious trade agreement the EU has ever negotiated. Thanks to the Parliament, the final text of the agreement includes a safeguard clause to protect European industry and the EU has received guarantees from Seoul that the new Korean legislation on car CO2 emission limits would not be detrimental to European car makers.

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EC consults on how eSignatures and eIdentification can enhance EU Digital Single Market

The European Commission is decided to tackle the low levels of consumer and business confidence in online transactions. For that purpose, it has launched an open consultation questioning about how electronic signatures, identification (eID) and authentication can help to overcome these reluctances by enhancing the way to verify people's identities and signatures. Interested parties can send their points of view to the Commission until 15 April 2011.

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EU to suspend import duties on certain cereals until June 2011 to reduce market pressures

The European Commission has proposed to suspend import duties on certain cereals imported into the EU until the end of June 2011 in order to ease the pressure on the EU market, especially for animal feed. Backed by Member States on 17 February within the Management Committee, this decision aims to help maintain a good balance on the EU market. The suspension relates to existing tariff rate quotas for low and medium quality soft wheat and for feed barley, and reduces their respective preferential tariffs to zero for the volumes under the quota.

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Commission investigates certain code-sharing agreements between EU operating airlines

On 11 February, the European Commission opened two own initiative investigations to verify whether code-share agreements between four companies operating in the European Union complies with EU competition rules. The investigations relate, in particular, to the agreements between Deutsche Lufthansa  and Turkish Airlines in one case, and, in the second case, between TAP Portugal and Brussels Airlines.

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Commission bans from EU market 6 substances for carcinogenic or toxic effects in living organisms

The European Commission has announced that six substances of very high concern will be banned from EU market due to their carcinogenic, toxic for reproduction effect or their persistence in the environment and accumulate in living organisms. Operators wishing to sell or use these substances will need to demonstrate that the required safety measures have been taken to adequately control the risks, or that the benefits for the economy and society outweigh the risks. Where feasible alternative substances or techniques exist, a timetable for substitution will also have to be submitted.

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EP stresses that food security protection requires global response in and outside Europe

Members of the European Parliament meeting in Plenary Session on 17 February, have approved a resolution which calls for urgent measures to combat food price manipulation and ensure that food production is maintained in the EU. The text reflects Parliament's position in relation to the effects that climate change and commodity speculation are having in threatening food security inside and outside the EU.

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Commission acts to ensure universal access to pre-school education

Nearly one in eight European households includes a child under the age of six. One in five of these children, who represent 19 million children, are at risk of poverty. For that reason, the European Commission has launched for the first time an action plan aimed at giving every child a better start in life and to lay the foundations for successful lifelong learning, social integration, personal development and employability later in life.

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