La Treizième Étoile: 15/12/13 - 22/12/13 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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Gibraltar MEP secures EU Commission letter criticising Spain over border checks

Saturday, 21 December 2013
On 15 November the European Commission announced the conclusions of its investigation into the excessive checks at the border between Spain and Gibraltar and sent two letters with a series of recommendations for next steps: one letter to the United Kingdom and one letter to Spain.

Gibraltar, in cooperation with the UK Government, published the letter they received almost immediately (read here, PDF).

Spain however refused to do so. Repeated requests for the letter to be made public to both the Government of Spain and the European Commission were declined.

However on 27 November the Liberal Democrat MEP for Gibraltar Sir Graham Watson made an official 'access for documents' request under Regulation 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.

The European Commission were duly forced to make the letter public, and Sir Graham has published it in full on his website (click here to read, PDF).

"The letter states that the intensity of the border checks were unjustifiable. Perhaps that is why Madrid and the European Commission did not want us to see the letter," Sir Graham said in a statement. "Thanks to EU freedom of information law we now know word-for-word what the Commission has asked Spain to do about the border - let us use it to hold Madrid to account."

If you, like me, do not read Spanish, the Gibraltar Chronicle has produced a useful summary and analysis of the letter.


Conservative MEP welcomes European Commission state-aid investigation into Hinkley Point C

Thursday, 19 December 2013
Somerset Conservative MEP Julie Girling has welcomed the news that the European Commission is to open an in-depth investigation to examine whether UK plans to subsidise the construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset are in line with EU state aid rules which aim to preserve competition in the Single Market.

Hinkley Point C will be the first new nuclear power plant in the UK in 20 years following an agreement between the government and energy company EDF, but the plans have attracted a lot of criticism and protest groups.

In a statement today, the European Commission said: “The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether UK plans to subsidise the construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset are in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the Commission has doubts that the project suffers from a genuine market failure. The opening of an in-depth inquiry gives interested third parties an opportunity to comment on the measure. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

Member States are free to determine their energy mix but when public money is spent to support companies, the Commission has the duty to verify that this is done in line with the EU state aid rules which aim to preserve competition in the Single Market. The Commission will assess whether the construction of a nuclear power station could not be achieved by market forces alone, without state intervention.

European Commission Vice-President Joaquín Almunia, who is in charge of competition policy, said: "The UK has notified a mechanism which is explicitly aimed at attracting investment in nuclear energy. It is a complex measure of an unprecedented nature and scale. The Commission therefore needs to investigate thoroughly its impact on the UK and the EU internal energy markets, and is requesting all interested parties to submit their observations."

In response, Mrs Girling said: "I welcome the Commission's investigation into Hinkley, they have a duty to ensure that the public are getting a good deal and aren't being sold a dead duck.

The investigation from the Commission does nothing to take away from the simple fact this is a much needed £16 billion worth of investment which will create 25,000 jobs, bring in billions in corporation tax and could see £100 million injected into the local economy every year during peak construction.

Whilst you will hear lots of anti EU rhetoric from the sidelines, I believe this is an issue where Europe can add value by ensuring that British taxpayers are getting the best deal possible. Hinkley will provide a clean source of home-grown energy; powering nearly 6 million homes and help the country keep the lights on."

The UK has notified its plans to establish a feed-in tariff ensuring that the operator of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, the French state-owned company EDF, will receive a stable revenue for a period of 35 years despite the volatility of the wholesale electricity price. When the market price at which the electricity is sold is lower than the strike price, the Government will pay the difference between the strike price and the market price. Conversely, when the market price is higher than the strike price, the operator will be obliged to pay the difference to the Government (under the so-called "contract for difference"). In either case, the nuclear plant operator will ultimately receive a fixed level of revenue and will therefore not be exposed to market risks for the duration of the scheme. The operator will also benefit from a State guarantee covering any debt which the operator will seek to obtain on financial markets to fund the construction of the plant.


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