Category Archives: European Projects

EU new Agenda for Mediterranean

Brussels 09.02.2021 To relaunch and strengthen the strategic partnership between the European Union and its Southern Neighbourhood partners, the European Commission and the High Representative today adopted a joint communication proposing an ambitious and innovative new Agenda for the Mediterranean.

The new Agenda is based on the conviction that by working together and in a spirit of partnership, common challenges can be turned into opportunities, in the mutual interest of the EU and its Southern neighbours. It includes a dedicated Economic and Investment Plan to spur the long-term socio-economic recovery in the Southern Neighbourhood. Under the new EU’s Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), up to €7 billion for the period 2021-2027 would be allocated to its implementation, which could mobilise up to €30 billion in private and public investment in the region in the next decade.

“This Communication sends a crucial message about the importance we attach to our Southern Neighbourhood. A strengthened Mediterranean partnership remains a strategic imperative for the European Union. 25 years after the Barcelona Declaration and 10 years after the Arab Spring, challenges in the Mediterranean – many of which resulting from global trends – remain daunting. To address these challenges, we need to renew our mutual efforts and act closely together as partners, in the interest of all of us”, High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell said. “This is what this new Agenda is all about. We are determined to work together with our Southern Partners on a new Agenda that will focus on people, especially women and youth, and help them meet their hopes for the future, enjoy their rights and build a peaceful, secure, more democratic, greener, prosperous and inclusive Southern Neighbourhood” the diplomat added.

“With the Renewed Partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood we are presenting a new beginning in our relations with our Southern partners. Based on common interests and common challenges; developed together with our neighbours” Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement OlivĂ©r Várhelyi underlined. “It shows that Europe wants to contribute directly to a long-term vision of prosperity and stability of the region, especially in the social and economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. In close dialogue with our partners, we have identified a number of priority sectors, from creating growth and jobs, investing in human capital or good governance. We consider migration to be a common challenge, where we are ready to work together to fight irregular migration and smugglers together with our partners as it is a risk for all of us. We will work together to bring real change on the ground for the benefit of both our neighbours and Europe!” he continued.

The new agenda draws on the full EU toolbox and proposes to join forces in fighting climate change and speeding up the twin green and digital transition and harness their potential, to renew our commitment to shared values, to jointly address forced displacement and migration, and to strengthen the unity and resolve of the EU, its Member States and Southern neighbourhood partners in promoting peace and security in the Mediterranean region. It focuses on five policy areas:

Human development, good governance and the rule of law: Renew the shared commitment to democracy, the rule of law, human rights and accountable governance;
Resilience, prosperity and digital transition: Support resilient, inclusive, sustainable and connected economies that create opportunities for all, especially women and youth;
Peace and security: Provide support to countries to address security challenges and find solutions to ongoing conflicts,
Migration and mobility: Jointly address the challenges of forced displacement and irregular migration and facilitate safe and legal pathways for migration and mobility,
Green transition: climate resilience, energy, and environment: Taking advantage of the potential of a low-carbon future, protect the region’s natural resources and generate green growth.
A dedicated Economic Investment Plan for the Southern Neighbours aims at ensuring that the quality of life for people in the region improves and the economic recovery, including following the COVID-19 pandemic, leaves no one behind. The plan includes preliminary flagship initiatives to strengthen resilience, build prosperity and increase trade and investment to support competitiveness and inclusive growth. Respect for human rights and the rule of law are an integral part of our partnership and essential to ensure citizens’ trust in the institutions.
In 1995, the Barcelona Declaration launched the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership with the objective to create an area of peace, shared prosperity, and human and cultural exchanges. The last European Neighbourhood Policy review took place in 2015.

EU invests in Western Balkans

Brussels 06.10.2020 Today, the European Commission adopted a comprehensive Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, which aims to spur the long-term economic recovery of the region, support a green and digital transition, foster regional integration and convergence with the European Union.

“The citizens of the Western Balkans are part of Europe and we have a shared interest in helping these six partners move forward on their EU path. With the Economic and Investment Plan, we are backing our Enlargement Package assessment with action, providing deep and strong support for economic recovery and reform – for a modern, greener and more prosperous Western Balkans delivering better to their citizens on the road to the EU” EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, said.

“Today we are presenting our Economic and Investment plan for the Western Balkans to boost the economic development and recovery of the region. We will mobilise up to €9 billion of funding for investment flagships in the areas of transport, energy, green and digital transition, to create sustainable growth and jobs. The Plan also offers a path for a successful regional economic integration to help accelerate convergence with the EU and close the development gap between our regions, ultimately speeding up the process of EU integration. This plan should help to transform the Western Balkans into one of the most attractive region for investments in the world. Implementation of course will need to go hand in hand with reforms” presenting the new Plan, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, commented.

The Economic and Investment Plan sets out a substantial investment package mobilising up to €9 billion of funding for the region. It will support sustainable connectivity, human capital, competitiveness and inclusive growth, and the twin green and digital transition.

In parallel to the Economic Investment plan to support the region, the Commission has presented guidelines for implementing the Green Agenda in the Western Balkans, expected to be adopted at the Western Balkans Summit in Sofia in November 2020. It foresees actions around five pillars. These are (i) climate action, including decarbonisation, energy and mobility, (ii) circular economy, addressing in particular waste, recycling, sustainable production and efficient use of resources, (iii), biodiversity, aiming to protect and restore the natural wealth of the region, (iv), fighting air, water and soil pollution and (iv) sustainable food systems and rural areas. Digitalisation will be a key enabler for the above five pillars in line with the concept of the dual green and digital transition.

The Plan identifies ten investment flagships to support major road and railway connections in the region, renewable energy and the transition from coal, renovation of public and private buildings to increase the energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, waste and waste water management infrastructure, as well as the roll out of broadband infrastructure. Other flagships include increased investments in the private sector to boost competitiveness and innovation, in particular of small and medium sized companies and a Youth Guarantee.

In addition to the EU’s significant grant funding to the region, the EU can provide guarantees to help reduce the cost of financing for both public and private investments and to reduce the risk for investors. Support through the new Western Balkans Guarantee facility, under the EU External Action Guarantee and the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus, is expected to mobilise potentially investments of up to €20 billion in the next decade.

The investment package will be a key driver for facilitating increased public and private investments in the region by European and international financial institutions.

Better connecting the economies of the Western Balkans within the region and with the EU requires a strong commitment from the Western Balkans to implement fundamental reforms, deepen regional economic integration and develop a common regional market on the basis of the EU acquis in order to make the region a more attractive investment area.

The Commission has been supporting the efforts of the Governments of the region to develop a new vision for the creation of a regional economic area expected to be endorsed at the Sofia Summit in November 2020. The EU will strive to bring the region closer to the EU Single market. Good governance is the foundation for sustainable economic growth. Boosting investment and economic growth will therefore only be possible if the Western Balkans firmly commit to and implement fundamental reforms in line with European values.

As reflected in the enhanced enlargement methodology, partners which progress in reform priorities should benefit from increased funding and investments.

Sentinel 6 – cooperation masterpiece

Anna van Densky from Ottobrunn The European space agency (ESA) and industry officials assembled at the IAGB engineering company venue in Ottobrunn, near Munich, Germany, on November 15 to start the countdown of the satellite Sentinel-6 launch.

The consturciton of twin Sentinel6 satellites ensures the observation of world oceans, reflecting the highest level of the European science, and technology, but not only. Producing Sentinel-6 in framework of Copernicus programme is a fruit of engagement of 57 companies in 17 countries, acting in Europe and abord. However it is the cooperation between ESA and the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), that is the most significant element of success Josef Aschbacher, the Director of ESA underlined. NASA will take charge of launching both Sentinel6 satellites in the next decade.

In countdown to Sentinel-6 launch which is scheduled in one year time on November 2020, the ESA opened a floor debating the future implications of the European space programmes, contributing the EU economies, safety and security, and especially addressing the climate change challenge.

One might think that a year countdown is an exaggeration, but considering the Sentinel-6 spectrum of implications in different endeavours, 12 month long period of introduction of the capabilities and benefits of the new satellites is definitely right period of time to engage investors and beneficiaries.

The tremendous positive effect of Sentinel-6 on communities, and societies, can be released at full through communication, and explanations to the ensemble of multiple potential users of their benefits, and advantages.

Space is a innovative endeavour, responding to civilian and strategic interests, enhancing progress worthy of long-term investments, especially at present when the European space sector is increasingly challenged by the emergence of new players like China, India, Japan and South Korea. This international competition in services requires support of European autonomy in venturing space, in view of its paramount impact on economies of the EU member-states.

The Copernicus services address six major areas: land, marine, atmosphere, climate change, emergency management, and security. Offering a support a wide range of applications, including environment protection, management of urban areas, regional and local planning, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, health, transport, climate change, sustainable development, civil protection, and tourism, – the Copernicus programme creates a modern framework for European societies, directly benefitting from science and innovation.

From mid-November France Airbus started series of tests of Sentinel6, A satellite at the Space Test Centre of IABG in Ottobrunn to confirm its readiness for exploitation in space for five years. During the test period, lasting until spring 2020, the Airbus experts will examine its ability to survive the severe conditions of launch and the space environment.

Defence: MEPs to upgrade EDA

Rafale
 

 Increasing defence cooperation in the EU now depends more upon the political will to make it happen than upon legal considerations, say MEPs in a resolution approved by Parliament on Thursday. They stress that member states can and should use the treaty tools in place to build a truly common defence policy.

MEPs want the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) to be treated as sui generis EU institutions, like the EU External Action Service, and funded through a specific section in the Union budget.

“This is an ambitious and strategic report that comes at an opportune time, as the Security and Defence Union will be one of the top priorities in the Rome Declaration next week,” –  Co-rapporteur Esteban González Pons (EPP, ES), on behalf of the Constitutional Affairs Committee.

“There is also a general agreement that achieving a common defence is now more necessary than ever. In an unpredictable international climate, we need a common defence policy which reinforces unity, strategic autonomy and integration in order to promote peace and security inside the Union and in the world”, – he added.

The resolution, approved by 360 votes to 212, with 48 abstentions, underlines that developing an EU common defence policy depends, above all, on the political will of member states, given that the Lisbon Treaty already provides a sufficient framework for building a truly common defence policy.

“Member states permanently ignore the fact that the funding of the administrative and operating expenditures for EDA and PESCO from the Union budget is the only option under the Treaties. The decision of 6 March to start the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) was, however, a milestone on the way towards the European Defence Union. By establishing this new military capability, the member states have finally acted upon one of parliament’s longstanding demands, which we repeated in our report, ” – concluded the co-rapporteur Michael Gahler (EPP, DE), for the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Is EU Regulation Ready for Fintech?

money-exchange

Serge Turbin, OPINION

Fintech is a booming sector at the intersection of financial services and technology. Increasingly, fintech startups and technology companies are entering the marketplace traditionally reserved for large financial institutions and intermediaries, such as banks and insurance companies. From TransferWise to Funding Circle, fintech firms are disrupting the status quo, by offering new products and services powered by digital technology. Fintech solutions are also widely impacting productivity, efficiency and innovation in other sectors and parts of society.

There is a huge potential for technological innovation, but it is exactly the financial sector that remains most heavily regulated by definition. Quite often, the policy solutions developed for the industrial reality of the 20th century come clashing with the present-day developments of the digital age. Fintech faces a complex regulatory environment that was designed for older business models and is slow to adopt change and embrace such developments and technologies as blockchain, algorithms and artificial intelligence, data analytics and the like.

Many countries launched policy initiatives to address the challenges and leverage the opportunities offered by fintech. The United Kingdom, an incontestable fintech leader in Europe, has developed a consistent approach to support the development of fintech. The Financial Conduct Authority engages constructively with innovative businesses, and seeks to remove unnecessary barriers to innovation. The Innovation Hub helps innovative businesses gain access to fast, frank feedback on the regulatory implications of their concepts, plans, and choices, so that new and established businesses are able to introduce innovative financial products and services to the market. Advice Unit provides regulatory feedback to firms developing automated models to deliver lower cost advice to consumers. And the regulatory sandbox is a programme allowing fintech firms test their innovative products, services, business models and delivery mechanisms in a controlled environment. With a view on the Brexit prospects, the French regulator, Autorité des Marchés Financiers, is pursuing its commitment to making the Paris financial market more appealing by launching AGILITY, a programme devoted to guiding financial firms through the French authorisation process. It will provide a range of services, notably helping financial firms authorised in the UK set up in France.

The European Commission realises the need to develop a pan-European regulatory response and a common approach to fintech. On 14 November 2016, it launched a Task Force on Financial Technology that aims to assess and make the most of innovation in this area, while also developing strategies to address the potential challenges that fintech poses. This internal task force brings together the expertise of Commission staff across several areas, such as: financial and digital services, digital innovation and security, competition and consumer protection. Fintech gained prominence in the mid-term review of the Capital Markets Union – the Juncker Commission’s flagship initiative of reducing fragmentation in financial markets, diversifying financing sources, strengthening cross-border capital flows and improving access to finance for businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises. The findings of the Task Force on Financial Technology will be presented at a high-level conference “#FinTechEU: Is EU Regulation Fit for New Financial Technologies?” on 23 March 2017. European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, overseeing the dossier, has signalled that the executive is cautious about overregulating the nascent sector. Rather than preparing a wide-ranging policy package on fintech, the European Commission will adopt a watchful policy response, sharing best national practices and introducing minor amendments in the existing laws.

Illustration: Marinus van Reymerswaele, The Money-changer and his Wife, 1540,

 

Schools for Syrian children

syrian-children

The European Commission signed contracts worth a total of €270 million for construction and equipping of school buildings for Syrian refugee children and their host communities in Turkey. Under these contracts, some 100 schools are to be built and equipped, benefitting over 70,000 Syrian refugee children primarily in Turkey’s Southern and South-Eastern provinces. The EU funding will also help the Turkish Ministry of National Education (MoNE) to manage educational infrastructure.

The EU continues to deliver on its firm commitment to support Syrian refugees living in Turkey. With the contracts signed today worth €270 million, we will further improve the educational infrastructure on the ground, enabling over 70,000 Syrian refugee children to have access to schooling across the country. We look forward to signing additional contracts in the areas of health, socio-economic support and municipal infrastructure in the near future, to give refugee kids and their families a better perspective in the country“, – Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. (Source: European Commission)