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European Union Business News from EUbusiness.com

EU okays Italian compensation for power cuts in Sardinia and Sicily
The European Commission has authorised under EU State aid rules a scheme designed to remunerate companies for the provision of instant interruptibility services (the acceptance of power cuts to avoid black outs) in Italy's largest islands, Sardinia and Sicily.

Belgium-Umicore arrangement 'not state aid': Commission
The European Commission has closed its investigation into an arrangement between Belgium and Belgian-based multinational materials technology company UMICORE, which it says does not constitute state aid.

EU approves EUR 10m aid for Dutch energy-saving project
The European Commission has authorised The Netherlands to provide a grant of 10 million euros to Nuon Energy Sourcing NV for a CO2 capture demonstration project.

EU seeks high privacy standards in EU-US data protection agreement
The European Commission has adopted a draft mandate to negotiate a personal data protection agreement between the European Union and the United States when cooperating to fight terrorism or crime. The agreement would give citizens more rights to manage their data.

Commission failed to prove road threat to Iberian lynx: Court
The European Commission has failed to prove that the upgrading of a transport link in Spain's Andalusia region risks the extinction of the Iberian lynx, according to an EU Court judgement.

European SME Week 2010 kicks off
Vice President Antonio Tajani has launched the European SME Week 2010 in Brussels today. This pan-European campaign is designed to promote and support entrepreneurship. Over 3 million people are estimated to participate in the some 1261 events and activities that are being organised in 37 countries across Europe.

EU authorises temporary Finnish financial aid to farmers
The European Commission authorised a Finnish scheme with a budget of €22 million which aims at supporting farmers in Finland who encounter difficulties as a result of the current economic crisis. Aid under this scheme can be granted until 31 December 2010 and will take the form of a direct grant.

Lack of progress on single EU telecoms market hurts consumers
Consumers, businesses and the EU economy as a whole are denied the full economic benefits of a truly single and competitive EU-wide telecoms market because of inconsistent application of EU telecoms rules,according to the European Commission's annual report on the Single European Electronic Communications Market.

EU mulls improvements to European contract law
The European Commission, seeking to boost cross-border trade and to ensure strong rights for consumers, convened a new expert group to propose ways to improve contract law in the European Union.

EU reduces chemicals fees for smaller businesses
The European Commission is taking further measures to ease the implementation of the new EU Regulations on chemicals for small and medium-sized enterprises and reduce costs.

European Commission authorises acquisition of Vedici by the 3i investment group
The European Commission has cleared, under the EU Mergers Regulation, the proposed acquisition of the French Vedici group of healthcare facilities by the British investment group 3i.

EC approves joint venture between TOTAL and ERG
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed merger of Total Italia and Erg Petroli (EGP), both of Italy, into a new joint venture, active in the refined oil sector.

EU Attorneys General want to unify criteria to combat cross-border crime
EU attorneys general are considering the creation of a consultative forum which would enable them to unify criteria and advance towards a common European justice system to combat cross-border crime.

EU moves to strengthen maritime policy
EU Council of Ministers in June will create a financial instrument to develop a comprehensive maritime policy and will promote the inclusion of a maritime aspect in EU security and defence policies, said on Thursday the Spanish Secretary of State for the EU, Diego Lopez Garrido.

European Commission approves restructuring of Belgian insurance company Ethias
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules a €1.5 billion recapitalisation provided by Belgium in the context of the restructuring of Ethias, a Belgian insurer that ran into severe difficulties in 2008, in the wake of the financial crisis.

Euro-MPs call for closer ties between universities and industry
Links between business and the academic world need to be strengthened but higher education institutions must retain their autonomy and public support, says a resolution adopted on Thursday by the European Parliament.

'Digital Agenda for Europe' foresees higher investment in R&D
The European Commission unveiled its new 'Digital Agenda for Europe' on 19 May. Among other things, the agenda focuses on more investment in research and development (R&D) and the use of information and communication technology (ICT) to address challenges facing society like climate change and the ageing population.

New energy labels for EU household appliances
Labels on household appliances such as fridges, washing machines and ovens will have to include more information on energy consumption, following a vote by MEPs on Wednesday.

EU sets higher energy-saving standards for buildings built after 2020
On Tuesday, MEPs approved the EU's new energy efficiency legislation for buildings, which will help consumers cut their energy bills and the EU as a whole to hit its climate change target of using 20% less energy in ten years' time.

Parliament proposes standard maternity leave rights for self-employed women
EU Member States should grant standard social protection, including at least 14 weeks' maternity leave allowance, for self-employed women and for wives or life partners of self-employed workers, says the European Parliament in a binding proposal to update an EU directive.

EU charts path to sustainable fishing in 2011
The European Commission wants to haul EU fishing limits back to sustainable levels in 2011, in line with recommendations made by science experts.

Commission approves acquisition of NWR Energy by Dalkia Česká republika
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of NWR Energy by Dalkia Česká republika, two Czech companies active in the energy sector.

Spain tests new border control system for EU
Spain set up a pilot project on Thursday that will help travellers move faster through border crossing points within the European Union, through the use of an automated identification and document verification system, overseen by police officers.

Parliament seeks equal treatment for self-employed
Euro-MPs want to promote female entrepreneurship and are proposing new rules to bridge the gender gap for self-employed workers and their partners and to ensure everyone has social protection.

Levy on private copies may be imposed, says Advocate General
In an opinion given on 11 May 2010, Advocate General Trstenjak ruled that a levy on private copies may be imposed on digital equipment, devices and media only where it may be presumed that they are to be used for private copying.