European business briefs: Aviation merger, Fisheries measures, Tsunami logging threat, Irish drainage system

The European Commission has granted approval under the EU Merger Regulation to Airbus Group (France) and SITA (Netherlands) to form a joint venture, named OnAir, which will develop and provide the nascent onboard communication services for commercial aircraft (such as in-flight telephony, SMS, e-mail, Internet and GSM onboard). The Commission concluded that the joint venture will not significantly impede effective competition in those markets. OnAir will be jointly controlled by SITA and Airbus and will be a fully-fledged company, active in the provision on in-flight in-seat telephony, SMS messaging, e-mail and instant messaging, access to virtual private networks ("VPN") and the Internet and provision of GSM telephony solutions onboard long and short-haul commercial aircraft. The Commission verified that the transaction would not cause adverse effects either in the possible relevant markets for In-seat telephony, In-flight SMS, In-flight e-mail and instant messaging, where SITA (one of the parent companies) was already active pre-merger, or in the possible emerging markets for GSM onboard and In-flight VPN and Internet access. In particular, the Commission considered that other players are already or may be active in these markets besides OnAir and, especially as regards the emerging markets, there is no risk of foreclosure for third party service or equipment providers.

During his visit to the United Kingdom, Commissioner Joe Borg, responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, has been underlining the role of stakeholders in improving the effectiveness of fisheries measures through involvement in their formulation and correct application. He praised the active role played by UK stakeholders in the creation of the North Sea Regional Advisory (RAC), set up last November in Edinburgh. RACs bring together fishermen, scientists and other interested parties to prepare recommendations on measures for the area they cover. UK stakeholders are also actively involved in the setting up of other RACs such as that for the waters west of the UK and Ireland, for pelagic fisheries (mid-water) and for distant water fisheries. Commissioner Borg's visit began on Wednesday evening in London. Dr Borg met the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Mr Ephtimios Mitropoulos, to inform him of the setting up of a Task Force within the Commission to prepare a consultation paper on a possible Maritime Policy for the European Union. He also met with Mr Ben Bradshaw, Under Secretary of State at the Ministry for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Commissioner Borg went to the south-west of England on Thursday before travelling, first, to Wales and then to the north-east of Scotland. "Fishing is very important to many UK coastal areas. This is why I wanted to come and see for myself the various fisheries involved and to hear at first hand the concerns of the industry. I also wanted to encourage UK fishermen to engage in dialogue with the Commission. We all want the same thing and that is sustainable fisheries. We need to work together on finding how best to balance the biological needs of fish stocks with the economic needs of the fisheries sector", Commissioner Borg said.

The huge demand for timber to help rebuild parts of Indonesia devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami could put local forests at risk, conservation groups stated this week, calling for donor countries to send some of their aid in the form of logs. At least half a million homes were destroyed, and as Indonesia seeks to rebuild them, the demand for wood will be enormous, putting further strain on forests where illegal logging is already a major environmental problem. With up to 8 million cubic metres of timber needed over the next five years, environmentalists have voiced their concern that the additional pressure on Indonesian forests, where approximately 70% of the logging is currently illegal, could lead to severe flooding and landslide risks.

And finally, Dick Roche, TD, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, has said he hopes that An Bord Pleanala's decision to approve the Arklow Main Drainage Scheme had brought to an end "years of delay that have left the town without critical infrastructure needed to service residential and commercial development". Planning of the scheme began in the early 1990's but has been at a complete stop since 1999 pending the outcome of a number of legal challenges in the High Court together with third party appeals to An Bord Pleanala. The Minister pointed out that An Bord Pleanala's decision sets out very exacting operational standards for the wastewater treatment plant. He added that, following An Bord Pleanala's finding, he would be asking Wicklow County Council "to get the scheme moving again as a matter of urgency with a view to being ready to go tender by the end of the year".


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