Vivendi's Universal Music Group today formally requested European Union regulators' approval to buy EMI's recorded-music division. An initial deadline of March 23 was set for a ruling on the deal, according to the European Commission.
"Universal Music Group confirms that it has submitted its filing to the European Commission for the acquisition of EMI's recorded music business," a UMG statement reads. "We will work closely with the Commission and remain confident of securing clearance."
Top executives at Warner Music, which tried many times to purchase EMI over the years but was knocked out of the running late last fall, have said they will oppose the sale, with former chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. saying last month the company will fight it "tooth and nail." 
Impala, a collection of independent labels and other music companies, issued a statement today saying that it "welcomes" the start of the regulatory process in Europe and reiterating that it expects an "outright rejection"  of the sale.
In a related development, the New York Post  reported today that UMG CEO Lucian Grainge guaranteed current EMI owner Citigroup its reported $1.9 billion purchase price even if regulators quashed the deal; sources have been making similar statements to Billboard.biz  since the sale took place in November.