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Radical Reform of EU Institutions & Procedures

The EC Commission has prepared a paper on radical reform for the Inter-Governmental Conference in February. This is needed if the enlargement proposals are to work. It proposes a maximum of 20 Commissioners nominated in rotation by Member States. It also recommends that the existing 700 limit be maintained for membership of the European Parliament and the use of Qualified Majority Voting as the norm for Council meetings.

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European Aid for Tourism

The European Commission has warned the National Assembly of Wales that the principality could suffer a shortfall in overall funding (which includes funding for tourism projects). Although the Berlin Summit in March 1999 allocated €1.85 bn to the South Wales Valleys and West Wales over a 6 year period, this requires the Government to match funds £ per £. Furthermore, because of currency fluctuations the value of the grant has fallen to €1.15bn.

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E-Commerce Hearing

The EU Commission held a meeting in Brussels on 4-5 November to address the legal issues involved in e- commerce. Representatives of businesses, consumers' groups and regulatory bodies attended to address issues such as conflicts of jurisdiction, application of Contract Law and consumer protection.

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Review of the Implementation of the Package Travel Directive

Consumer Affairs Commissioner David Byrne submitted a report to the Consumer Affairs Council on the implementation of the Package Travel Directive. Member States are invited to comment by April 2000.

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European Commission blocks Airtours Takeover of First Choice

The EU Commission rejected the proposed takeover because it would leave the three largest tour operators in the UK with 80% share of the package holiday market (Airtours, Thomson and Thomas Cook). These companies are also vertically integrated and the Commission believed that the proposed merger would restrict competition in the UK package holiday market.

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Growth in Tourism

Tourism continued to boom in 1998. Receipts from tourism in the EU grew by 6.5% to 155.6 bn (£101.9 bn / $163.04 bn) in 1998. France and Spain remain the most popular destinations in the EU but Greece had the biggest increse in travel (37.2%) and expenditure (33.4%).

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Abolition of Duty Free

EU Commissioner Mario Monti welcomed the abolition of duty-free sales as excellent news for EU taxpayers. This ends the massive subsidies of Euro 2 bn (£1.3 bn / $2.08 bn) which were paid to air and sea travel in the EU. [IP/99/432)

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New Commissioners

The new Commission President, Romano Prodi, announced his nominations for the new Commission in July. These include: Loyola de Palacio (Spain) - Transport and Energy; David Byrne (Ireland) - Health and Consumer Protection; Mario Monti (Italy) - Competition; and Antonio Vitorino (Portugal) - Justice and Home Affairs.

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Amendments have been made to a proposed EU Directive on E-Commerce which aims to establish a coherent legal framework for e-commerce within the single market. The amendments clarify some of the definitions used and clarifies the link between this Directive and existing Directives on Data Protection. It also clarifies when an e-commerce transaction is legally concluded.

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European Airlines Improve Financial Performance

A Commission report (The European airline industry: from single market to worldwide challenges) issued on 21 May states that European airlines have improved their financial performance in response to market liberalisation. It also states that fares have been brought down by 10-24% as a result of competition. The Commission says that further streamlining of the regularory regime is necessary however, with bilateral agreements between Member States and non-EU countries hampering further restructuring.

(Originally posted by Jason Campbell)