Public Consultation on Capital Markets

In these ‘interesting’ times the normal work of the Commission goes on. The Commission has launched a consultation on the reform of the Capital Markets Union. A consultation allowed stakeholders to comment on specific issues raised by the Commission. The Commission has similar consultations in many sectors and are a real opportunity for those subject to regulation to give their input into Commission thinking. The consultation, which is available online, closes on 17 March.

Car Rental in the EU

The Commission, along with Member State consumer organisations, has been working with the five-main car rental companies in the EU, Avis, Europcar, Enterprise, Hertz and Sixt, to ensure that renters get what they ordered when they arrive to pick up their cars.

The big five have agreed to ensure that i) the total booking price includes all unavoidable charges, ii) the key services like whether mileage is included or on fuel policy are set out in clear and plain language, iii) information on additional insurance to made available earlier and in a clearer fashion, iv) renting companies will have to provide greater clarity to consumers before deducting monies for damage and and the like.

Let’s hope it improves things. But it is evidence of the Commission’s approach to try and find practical solutions through agreement rather than through legislation.

Financing the EU

Never miss a good crisis to be promote change. Maybe Brexit is the opportunity to give the EU budget a thorough going over. The Commission had asked a high-level group of experts led by ex Italian Prime Minister (and ex Commissioner) Mario Monti to look into the matter. The report pleads for an overhaul of both the expenditure and the revenue sides. The EU is already the beneficiary of EU customs payments. The group now suggests that a border tax to adjust for the carbon footprint of imported goods could be a new source of revenue. Buried within the report is the idea that benefits of membership should be better reflected in the budget. This means in practice that those Members that pay more should not be able to get rebates but be shown to benefit in other ways. This might seem obvious but it is designed to ensure that citizens understand that on the EU’s fundamental objectives of ensuring social and economic cohesion within the EU and that those who benefit the most should also pay the most.

State Aids

Is a politician who says publicly that the country will support a national company no matter what granting a state aid? This happened in July 2002 in relation to France Telecom. The government stated that it would support the company not matter what. In effect the government was saying that the company was too important to fail. Subsequently France Telecom, which was in serious financial difficulty, launched a plan to strengthen its capital base in which the state made a shareholder loan offer. The Commission cleared the plan as being compatible with State Aid rules. Bouygues, a competition of France Telecom, challenged the Commissions decision staying that it had not taken into consideration the benefits that France Telecom had in seeking support because of the Ministers statements. The General Court of the EU agreed. However, the EU supreme court, the Court of Justice, on 20 December rejected this approach.

The EU exports by value more food than it imports

The EU exports by value around Euro 130 billion while it imports around Euro 115 billion. The biggest export markets are the US, China, Switzerland, Japan and Russia. The EU continues to import significant amounts of commodities and animal feed but exports value added products such as wines and spirits and cheese. This is what makes the EU insistence on the protection of the EU’s Geographical Indications central to the EU’s trade policy. Many of the exported wines, spirits and cheeses are in protected as GIs and the industries organised around the idea of quality products.