Tag Archives: Olivér Várhelyi

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.

Borrell condemns violence in Belarus

The Presidential elections took place in the Republic of Belarus on 9 August. The European Union had repeatedly expressed its expectations on the proper conduct of these elections.

“The election night was marred with disproportionate and unacceptable state violence against peaceful protesters. This reportedly resulted in the loss of life of one citizen and many others have been injured. We condemn the violence and call for the immediate release of all detained during last night. The Belarusian authorities must ensure that the fundamental right of peaceful assembly is respected” reads the Joint Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi on the Presidential elections in Belarus.

“Following their unprecedented mobilisation for free elections and democracy, the Belarusian people now expect their votes to be counted accurately. It is essential that the Central Electoral Commission publishes the results reflecting the choice of the Belarusian people.

“Only upholding human rights, democracy, and free and fair elections will guarantee stability and sovereignty in Belarus. We will continue to closely follow the developments in order to assess how to further shape the EU’s response and relations with Belarus in view of the developing situation”.

Protesters and riot police have clashed in Minsk and other cities, after a state TV exit poll said long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner in Sunday’s election.

Police used stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannon. A human rights group said one protester was killed and the are hundreds of arrested, however due to the internet disruptions there are significant difficultes to obtain full information about the police actions.

According to the state media Mr Lukashenko won 80% of the vote, based on the preliminary count.
But the main opposition leader has Svetlana Tikhanovskaya refused to recognise the results.
“We have already won, because we have overcome our fear, our apathy and our indifference,” Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said.

The preliminary results give her 9.9% of the vote, but her campaign said she had been polling 70-80% in some areas.
Ms Tikhanovskaya entered the election in place of her jailed husband and went on to lead large opposition rallies.

Mr Lukashenko, 65, has been in power since 1994.

Image above: BelsatTV

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.

New Commissioners-designate awaiting hearing

Commissioners-designate Olivér Várhelyi (Hungary), Adina-Ioana Vălean (Romania) and Thierry Breton (France) will receive the audition in Parliament on November 14 in Brussels. (Image above: illustration).

Each candidate commissioner is invited to a live-streamed, three-hour hearing in front of the committee or committees responsible for their proposed portfolio.

The procedure will take place before the European Parliament votes the new European Commission headed by Ursula von der Leyen into office, parliamentary committees assess the suitability of all commissioners-designate.

Parliament’s legal affairs committee identified conflicts of interests with two earlier candidates – László Trócsányi (Hungary) and Rovana Plumb (Romania) – while Sylvie Goulard (France) did not receive the support of the internal market and industry committees for the post of internal market commissioner. As a result, the three candidates had to be withdrawn and new candidates were proposed.