Tag Archives: coronavirus

Sassoli: «time to deliver» recovery

Parliament President David Sassoli urged EU leaders to take action on Europe’s recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
Sassoli addressed heads of state and government at the start of a video conference of the European Council on 19 June to discuss the recovery plan and the EU’s next long-term budget.

“Time is a luxury we cannot afford,” he said. “We need to act urgently and courageously, as EU citizens, businesses and economies need an immediate response. Our citizens expect bold action. Now it is time for us to deliver.”

Sassoli called the Commission proposal “ambitious” but added: “In our view it only scratches the surface of what needs to be done.”
The President also spoke out against issuing loans as part of the recovery plans. “Parliament is keen to stress that any common debt issued must be repaid fairly, without burdening future generations,” he said.

“Let us not forget that providing support solely in the form of loans would have an asymmetric impact on the indebtedness of the individual member states and would be more costly for the Union as a whole. We have an opportunity now to refashion Europe and make it more equal, greener and more forward-looking. To this end, we should seize our chance to introduce a basket of new own resources.”
Sassoli called the introduction of new own resources for the EU “an essential prerequisite” for any overall agreement on the EU’s long-term budget.

Stressing the importance of an ambitious recovery plan and budget, he said: “Now is not thetime to water down our ambitions. We need to show our citizens the value of Europe and our ability to come up with solutions that matter in their lives.”

The President also addressed the ongoing EU-UK talks on future relations. The previous day Parliament had adopted a report setting out its views. “We will push for an ambitious, overarching and comprehensive agreement in line with the joint commitments undertaken in the political declaration. We believe that this is the best possible outcome for both sides and, despite the limited time available, with goodwill and determination, it is still possible. We have every faith in our negotiator, Michel Barnier.”

EU encourages lifting Schengen controls

European Commission issued a statement on travel restrictions in which it “strongly encourages the remaining member states to finalise the process of lifting the internal border controls and restrictions to free movement within the EU by 15 June 2020.”

The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, insisted on the recommendation that internal borders must “reopen as soon as possible.” But she added that the main thing is for everyone to open internal borders completely before opening the EU’s external ones to third-country travelers.

While Germany, France and Belgium have said that they will lift travel restrictions on June 15, Spain is still preventing full mobility between its own regions. This situation is due to end by June 22, when the state of alarm declared to fight the Covid-19 epidemic expires.

The EU Commission said it is aware that coordination issues will not be easy. “We understand that reopening on Monday for countries that have not yet decided to do so could be complicated, and that some might take an extra week or two,” Johansson added.

EU €55M aid to Syria refugees

As part of the EU’s global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis has mobilised an additional €55 million for refugees from Syria and vulnerable persons in Jordan and Lebanon to fight the pandemic. It will provide critical and targeted support in key areas such as health, water, sanitation and hygiene. The newly adopted package brings the total assistance mobilised through the EU Trust Fund to over €2.2 billion since 2015, doubling the target originally set.

“Jordan and Lebanon are showing huge resilience and solidarity in hosting Syrian refugees. It is our duty to continue supporting them, especially in the current coronavirus pandemic situation. The EU will host the fourth Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region on 30 June in direct support of the UN efforts for a comprehensive political solution to the Syrian conflict and to mobilise necessary financial support for Syria and neighbouring countries. The Conference will also continue to provide a unique platform for dialogue with civil society organisations from the region,” High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security  Josep Borrell, said.

“Our continued commitment to support Syrian refugees and partner countries like Jordan and Lebanon hosting them remains unwavering. We are responding today to the urgent needs in fighting the COVID-19 crisis with a substantial and targeted assistance package. Despite the European Union’s continued strong solidarity with partner countries, the needs of the Syrian refugees continue to be important and cannot be neglected. In this regard, the 2020 Brussels IV Conference will provide an opportunity for the international community to mobilise the necessary financial assistance” Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, commented.

Malta Airport may open June 15

Malta airport could reopen on 15 June but decision still depends on agreement granted by the health authorities the Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli indicated.

Farrugia Portelli said the Prime Minister will be announcing an official date for reopening the airport in the coming days.

The target date has been set earlier, and all stakeholders agreed that a confirmation is needed as soon as possible, she continued.

“We have always said the airport should be closed until 15 June but we will continue assessing this with the health authorities,” she said on TVM’s Xtra on May 28 night programme, pointing to the government intention of mid-June reopening.

Farrugia Portelli underlined that there will be a summer vacation possible for the guests of the archipelago country.

“It will be a safer summer than ever before,” she said, adding that safety protocols will be introduced once the airport reopens.

Tourism operators have been waiting for the reopening of the airport and lifting of travel restrictions to encourage tourism, contributing to about 15% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). All travel came to standstill when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Malta in March.

Malta medical experts have established 616 cases, 501 patients received treatment and recovered, but still 108 cases remain active. Seven from COVID-19 infections resulted in related deaths.

Vatican Museums reopen from June 1

The Vatican Museums reopening coincides with Italy’s gradual easing of the nearly 3-month lockdown, which allows many businesses and activities to restart.

The reopening of the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo and a new open-bus tour have also been announced.

Health and art:

Due to the current health emergency situation, the Vatican Museums are ensuring a very careful balance between safety and health needs and the dynamics of a museum visit, without compromising the essence of such a visit.
Hence, in keeping with the norms of hygiene and physical distance, visitors to the Museums will be subject to a body temperature check and will be allowed in only with a facemask.
A medical and health team from Italy’s Misericordie volunteer group and the Vatican’s Health and Hygiene Department will ensure every need during the opening hours.
Other important requirements for the reopening of the museums will be revised from time to time as the current emergency situation evolves.

Online booking:

In order to restrict the number of entries, the Vatican Museums have limited ticket sales to only online booking from the official website http://www.museivaticani.va.

For this emergency period, the online booking fee of €4 will not apply.

There are also variations to the opening hours:
– Monday to Thursday: the Pontifical Collections will remain open from 10.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m., with the last entry at 6.00 p.m. (exit from the museum sectors starts at 7.30 p.m.)
– Friday and Saturday: from 10.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m., with the last entry at 8.00 p.m. (exit from the museum sectors at 9.30 p.m.).

Museums visits on Friday and Saturday are accompanied by the possibility to take part in an aperitif in the Pine Cone Courtyard to enjoy the sunset.
The usual free entry to the museums on the last Sunday of the month has been suspended.

EU provides €3bn assistance to partners

The Council today adopted a decision to provide up to 3 billion euros of macro-financial assistance to ten enlargement and neighbourhood partners to help them cope with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Financial assistance will be provided in the form of loans on highly favourable terms and allocated as follows:

Albania: €180 million
Bosnia-Herzegovina: €250 million
Georgia: €150 million
Jordan: €200 million
Kosovo*: €100 million
Moldova: €100 million
Montenegro: €60 million
Republic of North Macedonia: €160 million
Tunisia: €600 million
Ukraine: €1200 million.

EU assistance will help these jurisdictions cover their immediate financing needs which have increased as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Together with the support from the International Monetary Fund, the funds will help enhance macroeconomic stability and create space to allow resources to be allocated towards protecting citizens and to mitigating the negative socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID19: EU tourism re-launch

Commission presented a package of guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen, after months of lockdown, while respecting necessary health precautions.

The Commission’s guidance aims to offer people the chance to get some well-needed rest, relaxation and fresh air. As soon as the health situation allows, people should be able to catch up with friends and family, in their own EU country or across borders, with all the safety and precautionary measures needed in place.

The package also aims to help the EU tourism sector recover from the pandemic, by supporting businesses and ensuring that Europe continues to be the number one destination for visitors.

The Commission’s Tourism and Transport package includes:

An overall strategy towards recovery in 2020 and beyond;
A common approach to restoring free movement and lifting restrictions at EU internal borders in a gradual and coordinated way;
A framework to support the gradual re-establishment of transport whilst ensuring the safety of passengers and personnel;
A recommendation which aims to make travel vouchers an attractive alternative to cash reimbursement for consumers;
Criteria for restoring tourism activities safely and gradually and for developing health protocols for hospitality establishments such as hotels.

COVID19: EU approves UK £9bn SME aid

European Commission has approved a GBP 9 billion (approximately € 10.3 billion) UK aid scheme to support self-employed individuals and members of partnerships affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State aid Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission on 19 March 2020, as amended on 3 April and 8 May 2020.

The UK notified to the Commission under the Temporary Framework a scheme to support lower-end income self-employed individuals, including members of partnerships, which have been severely affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme will allow them to continue their activities during and after the crisis.

The scheme will take the form of direct grants and will be applied to all sectors and to the whole territory of the UK.

The Commission found that the UK scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the income subsidy will be granted over a period of not more than twelve months and will be subject to the condition that the activity of the beneficiaries is ongoing and will be maintained; (ii) aid intensity will not exceed 80% of the monthly gross income (including social security contributions); and (ii) aid will not lead to overcompensation.

The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework.

On this basis, the Commission approved the measures under EU State aid rules.

According to the UK Withdrawal Agreement, during the transition period, EU law continues to apply to, and in, the UK as if it were a Member State. This includes all EU rules relating to State aid.

The Commission has adopted a Temporary Framework to enable Member States to use the full flexibility foreseen under State aid rules to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The Temporary Framework, as amended on 3 April and 8 May 2020, provides for the following types of aid, which can be granted by Member States:

(i) Direct grants, equity injections, selective tax advantages and advance payments of up to €100,000 to a company active in the primary agricultural sector, €120,000 to a company active in the fishery and aquaculture sector and €800,000 to a company active in all other sectors to address its urgent liquidity needs. Member States can also give, up to the nominal value of €800,000 per company zero-interest loans or guarantees on loans covering 100% of the risk, except in the primary agriculture sector and in the fishery and aquaculture sector, where the limits of €100,000 and €120,000 per company respectively, apply.

EU maintains operational presence

EU Defence Ministers discussed the security and defence implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, focusing in particular on the crucial role played by armed forces in supporting civilian actors and providing cross-border support among member states. In this context the Task Force that was established at the last video conference of Defence Ministers on 6 April has worked closely with member states to ensure the exchange of information and best practices.

EU Ministers of defence on May 12 held a video conference, chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell.

Ministers concurred that the EU should continue to do its utmost to maintain the operational presence on the ground of its Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations, while preserving the safety of the personnel deployed.

They also underlined the need to strengthen preparedness and resilience for the future by conducting exercises, strengthening work on cybersecurity and countering hybrid threats including enhancing efforts to counter disinformation.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and UN Under-Secretary General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix provided an update on ongoing work in their organisations. They discussed with ministers defence cooperation in tackling the Covid-19 crisis.

COVID19: EU allocates Kyrgyzstan €36M aid

Аs part of the EU’s global response to the coronavirus outbreak in Kyrgyz Republic, a support package of €36 million will assist the gouverment of the Central Asian country in addressing immediate needs in the health sector and in its short- and longer-term socio-economic recovery. The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell discussed the importance of intensified regional cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus, and welcomed the commitment of Central Asian leaders in this respect.

On 7 May, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, held a phone call with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic, Chingiz Aidarbekov. They discussed the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and the EU’s support to Kyrgyzstan in that context, as well as the EU-Kyrgyzstan bilateral agenda and broader regional issues.

The high diplomat conveyed the EU’s strong solidarity with Kyrgyzstan in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The High Representative stressed that the EU continued to be a reliable and committed partner for countries around the world, including Kyrgyzstan and the other countries in the region.

High Representative Borrell and Foreign Minister Aidarbekov welcomed progress in EU-Kyrgyzstan relations, which is centred around a broad reform agenda, sustainable development, and shared principles and values, including human rights, as illustrated by the initialling last year of an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.

Josep Borrell welcomed the willingness of Kyrgyzstan to sign the agreement by the end of the year and stressed the importance of developing bilateral relations across all areas, as well as regional cooperation under the EU’s Central Asia Strategy.

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