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EU lifts trade embargo with Iraq

Midday Express:

Outcome of today's Commission meeting

EU lifts trade embargo with Irak

The EU published on 8 July a Regulation lifting the existing trade embargo with Irak, thus implementing the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483. This Regulation lifts existing trade restrictions for all products except cultural goods and arms. It will apply with retroactive effect to 23 May 2003, date following the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution. For a complete text of the Regulation :

Commission decides on further steps to develop its "Wider Europe" policy

Following the European Council in Thessaloniki, which endorsed the approach proposed by the European Commission for strengthening relations with the new neighbours of the enlarged EU, the Commission today took important decisions on the implementation of its policy for "Wider Europe". Commissioner Günter Verheugen, assisted by a "Wider Europe Task Force", will be in charge of further developing the political concept of a new neighbourhood policy and of drawing up action plans with the countries and regions concerned (Eastern European and Southern Mediterranean countries). Commissioner Chris Patten retains the overall responsibility for external relations, including bilateral relations with those countries.

Commission launches a 'new partnership' with South East Asia

The European Commission has adopted a Communication on a new partnership with South East Asia, setting out a comprehensive strategy for future EU relations with the region. The Commission holds out the offer of bilateral agreements with countries in the region to deepen co operation on a modern agenda including human rights, good governance, justice and home affairs issues and fight against terrorism. The Commission is also proposing a regional trade action plan, the Trans-Regional EU-ASEAN Trade Initiative (TREATI), which seeks closer cooperation between both regions on a wide range of trade, investments and regulatory issues. TREATI will thus enable the establishment of a closer economic relationship between two important trading regions, and thereby permit serious consideration to be given to a potential Free Trade Agreement following the successful outcome of the current WTO round of trade talks. The Communication suggests how the existing institutional framework could be made more productive, by defining more clearly which issues should be tackled by the Asia Europe meeting, ASEAN and the Asia Regional Forum.

Commission proposes to simplify the rules on Member States' aid to the fisheries sector

The European Commission has adopted a draft regulation proposing to exempt most categories of state aid in the fisheries sector from prior notification to the Commission. The aim of the proposal is to make the existing rules simpler and to adapt them to the new legal framework under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy adopted in December 2002. This "block exemption" further reduces administrative procedures necessary before granting aid to the sector, and thus is in line with the facilitation already approved in December 2002 for the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG), according to which Member States no longer have to notify the Commission of national aid which co-finances measures benefiting from FIFG support. At the same time, the block exemption strengthens the ex-post reporting obligations of Member States and creates transparency for cases in which they increase national aid above certain thresholds. This simplification therefore will not result in a weakening of the discipline on state aid in the fisheries sector. The Commission intends to consult Member States and the public on its draft proposal for a block exemption before it adopts it in its final form. Consultations will also be opened on the revision of the guidelines for examination of state aid to fisheries and aquaculture applicable to aid which is not covered by the proposed block exemption.

Commission approves investment aid for the manufacture of optical photomasks in Dresden

The European Commission has decided to approve investment aid of €98 million for the setting up of a research and development facility for optical photomasks. The investment project is located in Dresden, Saxony, an assisted area in which up to 28% of eligible investment costs may be financed through state aid. The planned investment aid is below the permitted aid ceiling, with an intensity of 25.2% of the eligible investment costs.

Commission widens formal inquiry proceedings in MobilCom case

The European Commission has decided to widen the formal inquiry proceedings in the MobilCom case. The case concerns loans totalling €138.3 million paid to MobilCom AG, which are covered by guarantees issued by the German federal government and by the Land of Schleswig-Holstein. These guarantees are now to be extended to the end of 2007. The Commission's decision to widen the inquiry will be announced in the Official Journal of the European Union. This will give all parties, and in particular MobilCom AG's competitors, the opportunity to submit their observations on the extension of the guarantees.

Personnel : Commission appoints new Directors General for External Relations and Enlargement

The European Commission has decided to appoint Eneko Landaburu as the new Director General for External Relations and Fabrizio Barbaso as acting Director General for Enlargement. The Commission also named Hervé Jouanjean as Deputy Director General for External Relations, responsible for relations with Latin America and Asia (excluding Japan and Korea).

Open platforms in digital television and 3G : Commission assesses state of play and charts way forward

The European Commission adopted today, at the initiative of Commissioner Erkki Liikanen responsible for Information Society and Enterprise, a Communication on interoperability of Information Society services. With the more general aim of detecting the barriers to a wide access to new technologies, this Communication addresses the issue of promoting open technological platforms for third-generation mobile communications (3G) and digital television, as requested by the Barcelona Summit and the Seville Council. These technologies could play a key role in future in providing widespread access to the Internet and to interactive services. The Communication identifies follow-up measures for Member States. It also foresees in the long term a "multi-platform environment" emerging which will deliver advanced information society services in a complementary way.

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