Since 1 January 2021 the European Union has not stood still. It continues to offer new opportunities and benefits to its citizens and businesses that we in the UK are no longer entitled to.
The Lost Opportunities List documents those benefits that have become available to everyone in the EU member states since 1 January 2021 when the UK fully left the European Union - benefits that we would have had access to had we remained in the EU.
The list is not about all the benefits, such as freedom of movement, that we knowingly (?) gave up when we left the EU, it is about future benefits and opportunities that all citizens of the EU have access to, but we do not.
The objective of this Joint United States-European Union Taskforce is to deepen cooperation and identify and resolve issues around expanding vaccine and therapeutics production capacity, including by building new production facilities, maintaining open and secure supply chains, avoiding any unnecessary export restrictions, and encouraging voluntary sharing of know-how and technology on mutually-determined terms including through the ACT-A.
Today, the Taskforce met in Washington, D.C., to finalize the Mission Statement of this Taskforce, which will focus on the following three priority work strands:
a. Monitor global supply chains for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics through assessment of global demand and supply of these items and their production and ancillary supplies, and through identification of supply chain bottlenecks:
b. Address critical supply chain bottlenecks and other disruptive factors for global COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutics production:
c. Coordinate initiatives to boost global production of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and their production and ancillary supplies:
Today, the Commission launched the new Erasmus+ application, marking a new milestone in the digitalisation of the Erasmus+ programme. The new application, available in all EU languages, will provide a digital European Student Card to each student, valid all across the European Union. The future is digital, and this renewed app will make sure students are going even more paperless.
Vice-President for Promoting European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas said:
"I am glad that the interface of our flagship programme for young people, Erasmus+, is becoming more like them. More digital, more mobile, and more community-oriented. The new app and its embedded Student Card are emblematic of the European Education Area we stand for.”
Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel said:
"Paper officially belongs to the past. This new Erasmus+ app will be a one-stop shop for mobile Erasmus+ students. Having all the information at your fingertips means less stress, less time spent on administrative requirements, and more flexibility. The European Student Card, available through the app, is an important step towards a true European Education Area. One where each student feels included and can get access to the same services and same recognition of their educational background.”
Over 4,000 universities are currently involved in the Erasmus Without Paper Network, which enables them to securely exchange data and more easily identify learning agreements. This digital cooperation allows the rollout and wide recognition of the European Student Card.
Following the 2021 International Democracy Week, the European Union has announced five actions worth €119.5 million to boost the strong European support to democracy and human rights around the world in 2021.
Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said: “Democracy is essential for sustainable development and equal opportunities. This means strong democratic institutions, social inclusion and participatory societies. With these €119.5 million, we renew our commitment to global democracy. I am also proud that the EU will continue to support the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and to help empower local civil society organisations, democracy activists and human rights defenders, youth and women, around the world."
The EU is fully committed to protecting and empowering individuals, to building resilient, inclusive and democratic societies, and to promoting a global system for human rights and democracy. It will not stand idle in the face of eroding democracy and increasing levels of human rights violations, inequality, intolerance, prejudice and discrimination.
The measures announced today will ensure EU support to civil society organisations, democracy activists and human rights defenders in 116 countries, with particular attention paid to women and youth. They will also help foster political cooperation at the highest level for defending democracy globally.
The funds will contribute to implementing the EU Human Rights and Democracy Action Plan 2020-2024, and country plans under the EU Gender Action Plan III. They will also provide much-needed relief to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR).
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, the EU, EU Member States and European financial institutions, as Team Europe, have disbursed €34 billion in support to partner countries in addressing the pandemic and its consequences, delivering on its promises with concrete results. This disbursement already exceeds by far the initial €20 billion Team Europe support package pledged in spring 2020, which has now increased to €46 billion.
Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, said: ”In spring last year, the world faced an unprecedented crisis. The international community needed to respond together. Team Europe responded by pooling our expertise and resources, drawing on our respective strengths to deliver more targeted support with greater impact. We have also adapted EU programmes to better respond to developing countries' needs. Team Europe can be proud to have mobilised such a substantial package in just one year to support our partners around the world.”
Today, the European Commission launched the European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to health emergencies. HERA will anticipate threats and potential health crises, through intelligence gathering and building the necessary response capacities. When an emergency hits, HERA will ensure the development, production and distribution of medicines, vaccines and other medical countermeasures – such as gloves and masks – that were often lacking during the first phase of the coronavirus response. HERA is a key pillar of the European Health Union announced by President von der Leyen in her 2020 State of the Union address and will fill a gap in the EU's health emergency response and preparedness.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stated: “HERA is another building block of a stronger Health Union and a major step forward for our crisis preparedness. With HERA, we will make sure we have the medical equipment we need to protect our citizens from future health threats. HERA will be able to make swift decisions to safeguard supplies. This is what I promised back in 2020, and this is what we deliver.”
Today, the Commission adopts a Communication setting out the concept of the New European Bauhaus. This includes a number of policy actions and funding possibilities. The project aims at accelerating the transformation of various economic sectors such as construction and textiles in order to provide access to all citizens to goods that are circular and less carbon intensive.
The New European Bauhaus brings a cultural and creative dimension to the European Green Deal, aiming to demonstrate how sustainable innovation offers tangible, positive experiences in our daily life.
For the funding, there will be about €85 million dedicated to New European Bauhaus projects from EU programmes in 2021 – 2022. Many other EU programmes will integrate the New European Bauhaus as an element of context or priority without a predefined dedicated budget.
President Ursula von der Leyen said:
“The New European Bauhaus combines the big vision of the European Green Deal with tangible change on the ground. Change that improves our daily life and that people can touch and feel - in buildings, in public spaces, but also in fashion or furniture. The New European Bauhaus aims at creating a new lifestyle that matches sustainability with good design, that needs less carbon and that is inclusive and affordable for all.”
The Commission published a proposal for a Council Recommendation on blended learning to support high quality and inclusive primary and secondary education. ‘Blended learning' in formal education and training is the term used to describe when a school, educator or student takes more than one approach to the learning process. It can be a blend of school site and other physical environments (companies, training centres, distance learning, outdoor, cultural sites, etc.), or blending different learning tools that can be digital and non-digital. The Commission proposes shorter-term measures to address the most pressing gaps exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a way forward for blending learning environments and tools in primary and secondary education and training, that can help build more resilient education and training systems.
Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel said: "Striving for a vision of better quality and inclusive education and training is by no means limited to the COVID-19 context. There is an opportunity now to learn and move forward from the most recent experiences. Today's proposal maps a vision of the education we want to see in Europe. One that supports the overall goals of the European Education Area and Digital Education Action Plan to promote quality and inclusion, green and digital education across Europe. The recommendation aims to guide Member States in strengthening the preparedness and outreach of their education systems to the benefit of pupils and students, their families and the pedagogical staff.”
Today, the European Commission has approved its seventh Advanced Purchase Agreement (APA) with a pharmaceutical company to ensure access to a potential vaccine against COVID-19 in Q4 of 2021 and in 2022.
Under this contract, Member States will be able to purchase up to 100 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, with an option for 100 million additional doses over the course of 2021, 2022, and 2023, once reviewed and approved by EMA as safe and effective. Member States will also be able to donate vaccines to lower and middle-income countries or to re-direct them to other European countries.
Today's contract complements an already broad portfolio of vaccines to be produced in Europe, including the contracts with AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, BioNtech-Pfizer, CureVac, Moderna and the concluded exploratory talks with Valneva. It represents another key step towards ensuring that Europe is well prepared to face the COVID-19 pandemic.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “As new coronavirus variants are spreading in Europe and around the world, this new contract with a company that is already testing its vaccine successfully against these variants is an additional safeguard for the protection of our population. It further strengthens our broad vaccine portfolio, to the benefit of Europeans and our partners worldwide.”
Today, the European Commission adopted a package of proposals to make the EU's climate, energy, land use, transport and taxation policies fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. Achieving these emission reductions in the next decade is crucial to Europe becoming the world's first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and making the European Green Deal a reality. With today's proposals, the Commission is presenting the legislative tools to deliver on the targets agreed in the European Climate Law and fundamentally transform our economy and society for a fair, green and prosperous future.
A comprehensive and interconnected set of proposals
Today's proposals will enable the necessary acceleration of greenhouse gas emission reductions in the next decade. They combine: application of emissions trading to new sectors and a tightening of the existing EU Emissions Trading System; increased use of renewable energy; greater energy efficiency; a faster roll-out of low emission transport modes and the infrastructure and fuels to support them; an alignment of taxation policies with the European Green Deal objectives; measures to prevent carbon leakage; and tools to preserve and grow our natural carbon sinks.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “The fossil fuel economy has reached its limits. We want to leave the next generation a healthy planet as well as good jobs and growth that does not hurt our nature. The European Green Deal is our growth strategy that is moving towards a decarbonised economy. Europe was the first continent to declare to be climate neutral in 2050, and now we are the very first ones to put a concrete roadmap on the table. Europe walks the talk on climate policies through innovation, investment and social compensation.”
A total of €6.1 billion will be allocated to sustainable fisheries and safeguarding fishing communities between 2021 and 2027.
In July 2021, MEPs approved the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) and how it should be spent as part of the EU’s budget for 2021-27.€5.3 billion will be allocated to the management of fisheries, aquaculture and fishing fleets. The rest will fund scientific advice, controls and checks, market intelligence and maritime surveillance and security.
The EMFAF is aligned with the Common Fisheries Policy, which sets rules for sustainably managing European fishing fleets and conserving fish stocks. In March 2021, Parliament agreed its position on the reform of fisheries control system. MEPs want compulsory on-board CCTV security cameras on some larger vessels, new measures to address loss of fishing gear and better traceability throughout the whole food chain, including for processed and imported products.
Many fishing communities were hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and the EMFAF will provide compensation for fishermen whose activities cease permanently or temporarily. The EMFAF makes specific allocations to support young fishermen (under 40) who register a boat in the EU fishing fleet for the first time. Member states with outermost regions will have to prepare an action plan to make sure those fishing communities are fully supported as they are often the most vulnerable.
The fund will contribute to clean and healthy seas and oceans through support for the collection of lost fishing gear and marine litter. Plastic waste is increasingly polluting the oceans and according to one estimation, by 2050 the oceans could contain more plastic than fish by weight. Plastics is one of the seven areas considered as crucial by the European Commission to achieving a circular economy in the EU by 2050. The European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy aims to phase out the use of microplastics.
Today, the Commission, alongside industry stakeholders, officially launched the EU Code of Conduct on Responsible Food Business and Marketing Practices, another deliverable under the Commission's Farm to Fork Strategy.
This Code is an essential part of the EU's efforts to increase the availability and affordability of healthy and sustainable food options that help reduce our overall environmental footprint. It has been developed with EU associations and companies, with active involvement and input from other stakeholders, including international organizations, NGOs, trade unions and trade associations, and together with the European Commission services. Associations and companies in the food sector that sign the code commit to accelerate their contribution to a sustainable transition. With their pledges, they endorse the objectives set out in the Code and encourage similar companies to also participate.
Executive Vice-President Timmermans said: “We need to make our food system sustainable and we need to do it soon. We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt biodiversity loss related to food production, and shape a food system that makes it easier to choose a healthy and sustainable diet. Addressing these environmental, health, and social challenges in our food system require cooperation across the entire food chain and I am encouraged by ambitions of the stakeholders who have already signed up to the EU Code of Conduct.”
Today, the Commission is launching the Knowledge Centre on Cancer, the first Flagship action delivered under Europe's Beating Cancer Plan. The Knowledge Centre is a new online platform to gather evidence and coordinate actions against the number one cause of death among under-65s in Europe. It will map the latest evidence on cancer, provide healthcare guidelines and quality assurance schemes, as well as monitor and project trends in cancer incidence and mortality across the EU. It is also a space where everyone invested in the fight against cancer can share best practices, collaborate, and coordinate to make the most of our collective knowledge and evidence-based science.
Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides said: “The launch of the new Knowledge Centre on Cancer is the first Flagship action of Europe's Beating Cancer Plan. With greater knowledge, we can better understand, prevent and treat cancer. Research and innovation is the starting point for a new approach to cancer care in the EU. Pooling and sharing the latest findings from cancer research, innovation and technologies, including on new personalised and digital solutions, is crucial to empower health and research authorities to better address cancer, and the Knowledge Centre will be at the centre of these actions.”
The Commission welcomes the agreement that the European Parliament and the Council have just found to transform the European Asylum Support Office into a European Union Agency of Asylum. It is a key initiative under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. The new agency will help make asylum procedures in Member States of higher quality, more uniform and faster. Its new reserve of 500 experts will also provide more effective support to national asylum systems facing a high caseload, making the overall EU migration management system more efficient and sustainable.
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “When we presented our proposal for an EU Pact on Migration and Asylum last September, we were aiming at creating a coherent and well-functioning European asylum system. Today's agreement, is a first important building block in this process. Member States will now be able to rely on the full operational support of the EU Asylum Agency, both under normal circumstances and when they are in difficulty. The agency will make a tangible difference to asylum procedures, improving protection for individuals and addressing gaps to create greater convergence between Member States' asylum systems.”
Today, the Commission published EU guidelines to ensure the safe resumption of activities in the cultural and creative sectors across the EU. At a time when the epidemiological situation is improving and vaccination campaigns are speeding up, Member States are gradually reopening cultural venues and activities. Today's guidelines aim to provide a coordinated approach in line with the specific national, regional and local conditions. They are expected to guide the design and implementation of measures and protocols in EU countries to cover both the safe reopening as well as the sustainable recovery in the cultural and creative sectors.
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “Culture helped people cope with the impacts of lockdowns and social distancing. It is now our turn to accompany the sectors in their path to reopening. We need coordinated and tailor-made efforts across the EU to allow the culture world to safely and gradually resume its activities and be more prepared for future crises. The cultural and creative sectors are strong European assets and are important for Europe's sustainable recovery, increased resilience of European society, and more generally, our European way of life.”
European Union countries on Monday gave the green light to reforms of the bloc's huge farming subsidy programme, after a three-year battle over rules to make it greener and support smaller farms.
Negotiators representing the EU's 27 countries and European Parliament struck the deal on Friday to reform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which will spend 387 billion euros ($462 billion) on payments to farmers and rural development, roughly a third of the EU's 2021-2027 budget. read more
"This deal is essential to ensure that this CAP enables the transition towards sustainable agriculture," EU agriculture commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said on Monday, at a meeting where EU agriculture ministers approved the deal. The new rules apply from 2023.
Europe's farmers are already facing climate change impacts like drought, but agriculture is also the main pressure on Europe's natural habitats and produces 10% of EU greenhouse gas emissions.
The Commission has today disbursed €800 million in payments under NextGenerationEU, the temporary instrument to finance Europe's recovery and foster a greener, more digital and resilient economy after the pandemic.
The payments made today are going to 41 national and regional programmes in 16 Member States (France, Greece, Czechia, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Estonia Austria, Denmark, Finland, Bulgaria, Sweden, Portugal and Croatia) from the Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe initiative (REACT-EU), the initiative which helps Member States finance crisis response and recovery measures following the coronavirus pandemic. The funds under the REACT-EU constitute additional resources for existing Cohesion policy programmes.
Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: "I am glad that Cohesion policy remains at the forefront of crisis response and recovery. REACT-EU was the first NextGenerationEU Instrument to be finalised, its programmes were the first ones to be adopted and it is now the first channelling support to our economy, businesses and workers. REACT-EU brings much needed additional investment firepower to existing Cohesion policy programmes to further stimulate a robust, fair and cohesive recovery.”
New Value-Added Tax (VAT) rules for online shopping enter into force later this week* as part of efforts to ensure a more level playing field for all businesses, to simplify cross-border e-commerce and to introduce greater transparency for EU shoppers when it comes to pricing and consumer choice.
The EU's VAT system was last updated in 1993 and has not kept pace with the rise in cross-border e-commerce that has transformed the retail sector in recent years. The Coronavirus pandemic has also further accelerated the boom in online retail, and again underlined the need for reform to ensure that the VAT due on online sales gets paid to the country of the consumer. The new rules also respond to the need to simplify life for shoppers and traders alike.
The new rules come into force on 1 July and will affect online sellers and marketplaces/platforms both inside and outside the EU, postal operators and couriers, customs and tax administrations, as well as consumers.
The European Parliament has adopted, with the Council's consent and the Commission's positive opinion, improved rules governing the Ombudsman's duties.
The new regulation, adopted by the European Parliament with 623 votes in favour, 9 against, and 61 abstentions, establishes a renewed mandate for the office of the European Ombudsman.
The new rules align the performance of the Ombudsman's duties with the Treaty of Lisbon. The Ombudsman will be able to launch their own inquiries whenever they find grounds for one, and will be able to propose solutions to the issues an investigation raises, namely in cases of repeated, systemic or particularly serious instances of maladministration. The rules also clarify the conditions for access to documents and cooperation with member states' authorities and Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. A new “cooling off” period is required for eligibility to the Office, and provisions for the protection of victims of harassment and whistle-blowers are now foreseen.
Parliament's negotiator and rapporteur Paulo Rangel (EPP, PT) commented: “Today we have put in place improved rules for an important office of the EU. Simply put, the Ombudsman can now serve Europeans even better than before. But we have also made institutional history: Parliament exercised its right of initiative and managed to have all institutions on board.”
The European Commission has announced today the second round of direct equity investment through the European Innovation Council (EIC) Fund. Since its launch in 2020, the EIC Fund has now approved 111 investments in highly innovative start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) totalling more than €500 million to scale up breakthrough innovations in areas such as health, circular economy, and Internet of Things (IoT).
Today's announcement represents 69 new investments compared to the first announcement in January. This provides a strong foundation for the EIC fund under Horizon Europe, which is expected to invest more than €3.5 billion over the next 7 years.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said: “The EIC Fund has developed incredibly quickly and has established itself as a new force in EU technology investments. This unique form of financing – combining grants and equity – is proving itself highly attractive to Europe's most promising startups, and providing them with the means to develop and scale their businesses in Europe.”
The Commission is today laying out a vision to build a new Joint Cyber Unit to tackle the rising number of serious cyber incidents impacting public services, as well as the life of businesses and citizens across the European Union. Advanced and coordinated responses in the field of cybersecurity have become increasingly necessary, as cyberattacks grow in number, scale and consequences, impacting heavily our security. All relevant actors in the EU need to be prepared to respond collectively and exchange relevant information on a ‘need to share', rather than only ‘need to know', basis.
First announced by President Ursula von der Leyen in her political guidelines, the Joint Cyber Unit proposed today aims at bringing together resources and expertise available to the EU and its Member States to effectively prevent, deter and respond to mass cyber incidents and crises. Cybersecurity communities, including civilian, law enforcement, diplomatic and cyber defence communities, as well as private sector partners, too often operate separately. With the Joint Cyber Unit, they will have a virtual and physical platform of cooperation: relevant EU institutions, bodies and agencies together with the Member States will build progressively a European platform for solidarity and assistance to counter large-scale cyberattacks.
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said: “The Joint Cyber Unit is a very important step for Europe to protect its governments, citizens and businesses from global cyber threats. When it comes to cyberattacks, we are all vulnerable and that is why cooperation at all levels is crucial. There is no big or small. We need to defend ourselves but we also need to serve as a beacon for others in promoting a global, open, stable and secure cyberspace.”
Today, the Commission announced new calls to support researchers' training, skills and career development under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), the EU's flagship funding programme under Horizon Europe for doctoral education and postdoctoral training. The calls follow the adoption of the Horizon Europe 2021-2022 work programme. With a total budget of €6.6 billion over 2021-2027, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions support researchers from all over the world, at all stages of their careers and in all disciplines. They also benefit institutions by supporting excellent doctoral, postdoctoral programmes and collaborative research, and innovation projects, boosting their global attractiveness and visibility and fostering cooperation beyond academia, including with big companies and SMEs.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: "The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted once more the importance of Europe's reliance on highly skilled researchers able to detect and tackle upcoming challenges. It also showed the value of communicating scientific evidence to policy-makers and the public, and working across disciplines. In this context, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions are a crucial instrument. Since its launch 25 years ago, the programme has been encouraging more women and men into research careers, promoting Europe's attractiveness for top talents from around the world.”
The Commission today proposed a framework for a European Digital Identity which will be available to all EU citizens, residents, and businesses in the EU. Citizens will be able to prove their identity and share electronic documents from their European Digital Identity wallets with the click of a button on their phone. They will be able to access online services with their national digital identification, which will be recognised throughout Europe. Very large platforms will be required to accept the use of European Digital Identity wallets upon request of the user, for example to prove their age. Use of the European Digital Identity wallet will always be at the choice of the user.
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age said: “The European digital identity will enable us to do in any Member State as we do at home without any extra cost and fewer hurdles. Be that renting a flat or opening a bank account outside of our home country. And do this in a way that is secure and transparent. So that we will decide how much information we wish to share about ourselves, with whom and for what purpose. This is a unique opportunity to take us all further into experiencing what it means to live in Europe, and to be European.”
The Commission has today launched new actions to support the cultural and creative sectors in Europe and beyond, following the adoption of the work programme for the first year of the Creative Europe 2021-2027 programme. In 2021, Creative Europe will allocate an unprecedented budget of around €300 million to help professionals and artists from all cultural sectors to collaborate across disciplines and borders, in order to find more opportunities and to reach new audiences. Today's adoption lays the foundations for the first calls for proposals under the new programme. These calls will be open to all organisations active in the relevant cultural and creative sectors. The total programme budget of €2.4 billion over seven years has increased by 63% compared to the previous one. Creative Europe also aims to increase the competitiveness of cultural sectors, while supporting their efforts to become greener, more digital and more inclusive. Special attention is given to reinforcing the resilience and recovery of the cultural and creative sectors in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, said: “Over 8 million people across the EU work in a cultural activity. Culture knows no borders and no nationalities. Art represents a window to the world and contributes to building bridges among all of us. At a time when museums, cinemas, cultural heritage sites, theatres, all start to reopen, I want to reiterate the Commission's support for the cultural and creative sectors. With an increased budget, Creative Europe will strive to reinforce the recovery of the sectors while promoting the immense diversity and creativity that they offer us.”
The agreement between EIF and EIT Digital, an innovation community of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) supporting the EU's digital transformation, has a maximum volume of €2.5 million. This financing will allow EIT Digital to offer deferred payment schemes for students and learners participating in its courses, thus improving access to education. Future EIT Digital students and learners will be able to apply for the new scheme from June 2021 onwards, it is expected that around 500 people can benefit from the scheme.
The evolution of professions, rise of new technologies and digital transformation of industry and society require new educational profiles and skills sets. In response, EIF and EIT Digital jointly facilitate access to education and training that provide a combination of digital and entrepreneurial skills to students and professionals. The agreement is part of the EFSI Skills & Education Guarantee Pilot, a new initiative dedicated to stimulating access to finance in education, training and skills, backed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the main pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe.
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “The digital transition profoundly changes the way we live, study and work. We must equip people with the right skills to master this transition and make the most out of the opportunities the future brings. Thanks to the EU Skills & Education Guarantee Pilot and the EIF, even more students and entrepreneurs looking to expand their digital skills will benefit from the education and learning offers of the EIT Digital School.”
The Commission proposes today new rules and actions aiming to turn Europe into the global hub for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI). The combination of the first-ever legal framework on AI and a new Coordinated Plan with Member States will guarantee the safety and fundamental rights of people and businesses, while strengthening AI uptake, investment and innovation across the EU. New rules on Machinery will complement this approach by adapting safety rules to increase users' trust in the new, versatile generation of products.
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, said: “On Artificial Intelligence, trust is a must, not a nice to have. With these landmark rules, the EU is spearheading the development of new global norms to make sure AI can be trusted. By setting the standards, we can pave the way to ethical technology worldwide and ensure that the EU remains competitive along the way. Future-proof and innovation-friendly, our rules will intervene where strictly needed: when the safety and fundamental rights of EU citizens are at stake.”
The EU has launched a Knowledge Centre on Earth Observation, to maximise the use of knowledge generated from Earth Observation, in particular from the European Copernicus Programme, in EU policymaking. The ultimate goal of the Centre is to support the efficient implementation of the Commission's political priorities, in particular the European Green Deal and the Digital Agenda.
It will provide systematic monitoring of the policy needs and priorities for Copernicus products and services and transform best practices and state-of-the-art science into policy-tailored services.
The Knowledge Centre also aims to ensure that the evolution of the Copernicus programme and other Earth Observation and research investments of the Commission remain responsive to EU policy.
Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans said: “Earth Observation is a powerful tool to monitor the health of our planet. The climate and biodiversity crises have already started changing the face of the Earth. Close observation of environmental trends and new patterns will provide the data necessary to design evidence-based policies and deliver results that protect our planet, our health and our livelihoods.”
The Commission is presenting today a new Strategy on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings (2021-2025), focusing on preventing the crime, bringing traffickers to justice and protecting and empowering victims. Between 2017 and 2018, there were more than 14,000 registered victims within the European Union. Globally, traffickers make estimated profits of €29.4 billion in a single year. With demand for exploitation expected to continue, traffickers moving their acts online and the pandemic likely to create the conditions for increased exploitation, today's strategy sets out the measures that will allow the EU and its Member States to continue strengthening their response.
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: ”Fighting trafficking in human beings is part of our work towards building a Europe that protects. Traffickers prey on people's vulnerabilities. With today's Strategy, we are taking a three-pronged approach, using legislation, policy and operational support and funding in tandem to reduce demand, break criminal business, and empower victims of this abominable crime.”
Today, the Commission is presenting a new EU Strategy to tackle Organised Crime, focusing on boosting law enforcement and judicial cooperation, tackling organised crime structures and high priority crimes, removing criminal profits and ensuring a modern response to technological developments. Organised crime groups continue to develop and evolve, as shown by their rapid adaptation to the coronavirus pandemic, for example through the increase in counterfeit medical products and online crime. Organised crime groups active in Europe are involved in a variety of criminal activities, with drugs trafficking, organised property crime, fraud, migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings being prevalent. In 2019, criminal revenues in the main criminal markets amounted to 1% of the EU's GDP, i.e. €139 billion.
The Strategy sets out the tools and measures to be taken over the next 5 years to disrupt the business models and structures of criminal organisations across borders, both online and offline.
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “Criminal syndicates increasingly use new technologies and seize any opportunity to expand their illegal activities, online or offline. The recent emblematic cases like EncroChat have exposed how sophisticated these organised crime networks are. This shows how important our efforts to tackle organised crime across borders are. Today's Strategy will help hit these criminals where it hurts the most, by undermining their business model which thrives on a lack of coordination between states.”
Following the launch of the European Innovation Council (EIC) and the announcement of the first funding opportunities, today the Commission opened the first EIC Accelerator calls. The funding worth over €1 billion aims to help scale up start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses that have the potential to achieve high impact. While over half of the funding is open to breakthrough innovations in any field, €495 million are earmarked for innovations that support the European Green Deal as well as digital and health technologies.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “The EIC Accelerator is a unique funding instrument of the EU. It supports the development of breakthrough innovations through crowding-in private investors and offering support services to scale up. It will lead Europe at the forefront of innovation and new technologies, and help us tackle the health, environmental and societal challenges we are facing.”
The Commission is mobilising €123 million from Horizon Europe, the new EU research and innovation programme, for urgent research into coronavirus variants. This first emergency funding under Horizon Europe adds to a range of EU-funded research and innovation actions to fight the coronavirus and contributes to the Commission's overall action to prevent, mitigate and respond to the impact of coronavirus variants, in line with the new European bio-defence preparedness plan HERA Incubator.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “We continue to mobilise all means at our disposal to fight this pandemic and the challenges presented by coronavirus variants. We must use our combined strength to be prepared for the future, starting from the early detection of the variants to the organisation and coordination of clinical trials for new vaccines and treatments, while ensuring correct data collection and sharing at all stages.”
The European Commission launched today the European Innovation Council (EIC) with a budget of over €10 billion (in current prices) for 2021-2027 to develop and expand breakthrough innovations. Building on a successful pilot programme under Horizon 2020, the new EIC is not only a novelty of Horizon Europe, but it is also unique in the world: it combines research on emerging technologies with an accelerator programme and a dedicated equity fund, the European Innovation Council Fund, to scale up innovative start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). Around €3 billion of the EIC's budget will go towards the EIC Fund.
Furthermore, the first annual work programme of the EIC is published, opening funding opportunities worth over €1.5 billion in 2021. At the same time, two prizes for Women Innovators and the European Capital of Innovation are opened for applications.
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for ‘A Europe Fit for the Digital Age', said: “We now have a fund to support small and medium sized companies that do breakthrough innovation, access equity and scale up innovative start-ups. This is a way to convert research results into business and to develop visions for technological and innovation breakthroughs.”
Today the European Commission is proposing to create a Digital Green Certificate to facilitate safe free movement inside the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Digital Green Certificate will be a proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19. It will be available, free of charge, in digital or paper format. It will include a QR code to ensure security and authenticity of the certificate. The Commission will build a gateway to ensure all certificates can be verified across the EU, and support Member States in the technical implementation of certificates. Member States remain responsible to decide which public health restrictions can be waived for travellers but will have to apply such waivers in the same way to travellers holding a Digital Green Certificate.
Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová said: “The Digital Green Certificate offers an EU-wide solution to ensure that EU citizens benefit from a harmonised digital tool to support free movement in the EU. This is a good message in support of recovery. Our key objectives are to offer an easy to use, non-discriminatory and secure tool that fully respects data protection. And we continue working towards international convergence with other partners.”
The European Commission has disbursed today €9 billion to seven EU Member States in the fifth instalment of financial support to Member States under the SURE instrument. This is the second disbursement in 2021. As part of today's operations, Czechia has received €1 billion, Spain €2.87 billion, Croatia €510 million, Italy €3.87 billion, Lithuania €302 million, Malta €123 million and Slovakia €330 million. This is the first time that Czechia has received funding under the instrument. The other six EU countries have already benefitted from loans under SURE.
These loans will assist Member States in addressing sudden increases in public expenditure to preserve employment. Specifically, they will help Member States cover the costs directly related to the financing of national short-time work schemes, and other similar measures that they have put in place as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, including for the self-employed. Today's disbursements follow the issuance of the fifth social bond under the EU SURE instrument, which attracted a considerable interest by investors.
So far, 16 Member States have received a total of €62.5 billion under the SURE instrument in back-to-back loans. Throughout 2021, the Commission will seek to raise in addition over €25 billion through the issuance of EU SURE bonds.
Ireland is today joining the EU's Schengen Information System, the largest and most widely used information sharing system for internal security and external border management in Europe. The UK is excluded from using this system.
The entry into operation of the system in Ireland will support cooperation between law enforcement authorities on fighting cross-border crime and terrorism, helping to enhance internal security in Europe.
When conducting passport checks at the Irish border, law enforcement authorities will now receive real time information on people accused or convicted of crimes in other EU countries, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. National authorities will also have access to information on missing people in need of protection and stolen property, such as vehicles. To facilitate this cooperation, Ireland has set up a national SIRENE bureau, connected to other Member States' bureaux, operational 24/7, and in charge of coordinating additional information exchange in relation to alerts. At the end of 2020, the Schengen Information System contained approximately 93 million alerts. It was accessed 3.7 billion times in 2020 and contained 209 178 hits (when a search leads to an alert and the authorities confirm it).
The European Commission welcomes the agreement reached by the European Parliament and the Council on the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) proposal, worth €33.7 billion, as part of the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027.
The Connecting Europe Facility programme supports investment in Europe's transport, energy and digital infrastructure networks. It will support the twin green and digital transition, by contributing to the ambitious targets for the European Green Deal and the Digital Decade.
The European Commission has today presented a proposal on pay transparency to ensure that women and men in the EU get equal pay for equal work. A political priority of President von der Leyen, the proposal sets out pay transparency measures, such as pay information for job seekers, a right to know the pay levels for workers doing the same work, as well as gender pay gap reporting obligations for big companies. The proposal also strengthens the tools for workers to claim their rights and facilitates access to justice. Employers will not be allowed to ask job seekers for their pay history and they will have to provide pay related anonymised data upon employee request. Employees will also have the right to compensation for discrimination in pay.
New measures, which take into account the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on both, employers but also on women, who have been hit in particular hard, will increase awareness about pay conditions within the company and give more tools to employers and workers to address the pay discrimination at work. This will address a number of substantial factors contributing to the existing pay gap and is particularly relevant during COVID-19 pandemic, which is reinforcing gender inequalities and puts women into greater risk of poverty exposure.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Equal work deserves equal pay. And for equal pay, you need transparency. Women must know whether their employers treat them fairly. And when this is not the case, they must have the power to fight back and get what they deserve.”
Today, the European Commission presents an ambitious Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030 to ensure their full participation in society, on an equal basis with others in the EU and beyond, in line with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which establish equality and non-discrimination as cornerstones of EU policies.
Vice-President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourová said: “The protection of the rights of persons with disabilities has to be at the centre of our efforts, including in our response to the coronavirus. People with disabilities have been among those hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis. We must strive to ensure that people with disabilities quality of life improves and their rights are guaranteed!”
Today, the Commission approved 226 projects in all 27 Member States that will support their efforts in designing and implementing national reforms to enhance growth. These support actions are delivered in the framework of the Technical Support Instrument (TSI) and will have a total budget of €102.6 million for the year 2021 to promote economic, social and territorial cohesion in the European Union.
Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “Reforms are necessary to better the environment for businesses, reinforce the healthcare systems, strengthen social and educational systems and overall enhance the resilience of Member States and stakeholders when facing difficult challenges and global crises. The Technical Support Instrument is a powerful tool that can enable Member States to carry out the reforms they need for a sustainable growth.”
To help EU consumers cut their energy bills and carbon footprint, a brand new version of the widely-recognised EU energy label will be applicable in all shops and online retailers from Monday, 1 March 2021. The new labels will initially apply to four product categories – fridges and freezers, dishwashers, washing machines, and television sets (and other external monitors). New labels for light bulbs and lamps with fixed light sources will follow on 1 September, and other products will follow in the coming years.
With more and more products achieving ratings as A+, A++ or A+++ according to the current scale, the most important change is to return to a simpler A-G scale. This scale is stricter and designed so that very few products are initially able to achieve the “A” rating, leaving space for more efficient products to be included in the future. The most energy efficient products currently on the market will typically now be labelled as “B”, “C” or “D”. A number of new elements will be included on the labels, including a QR link to an EU-wide database, which will allow consumers to find more details about the product. A number of ecodesign rules will also come into force from 1 March – notably on reparability and the need for manufacturers to keep spare parts available for a number of years after products are no longer on the market.
Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said: “The original energy label has been very successful, saving an average household in Europe several hundred euros per year and motivating companies to invest into research and development. Until the end of February, over 90% of products were labelled either A+, A++ or A+++. The new system will be clearer for consumers and ensure that businesses continue to innovate and offer even more efficient products. This also helps us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”
To ensure that citizens can continue to enjoy roaming without additional charges when travelling in the EU, the Commission proposed today a new Roaming Regulation. At a time when non-essential travel is discouraged, this is an important action in preparing a brighter future. The new regulation will prolong the current rules that are due to expire in 2022, for another 10 years. It will also ensure better roaming services for travellers. For example, consumers will be entitled to have the same quality and speed of their mobile network connection abroad as at home, where equivalent networks are available. The new rules will also secure efficient access to emergency services, including improving awareness about alternative means for people with disabilities, as well as increase consumer awareness on possible fees from using value-added services while roaming.
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, said: “Wherever we are in Europe, we can check in with our loved ones, talk business and share stories while on the road without worrying about costly bills. The end of roaming charges is a prime example of how the EU keeps millions of citizens connected and improves their lives. The new rules will keep roaming at no extra charges and make it even better.”
The Commission proposed today to set up 10 new European Partnerships between the European Union, Member States and/or the industry. The goal is to speed up the transition towards a green, climate neutral and digital Europe, and to make European industry more resilient and competitive. The EU will provide nearly €10 billion of funding that the partners will match with at least an equivalent amount of investment. This combined contribution is expected to mobilise additional investments in support of the transitions, and create long-term positive impacts on employment, the environment and society.
The proposed Institutionalised European Partnerships aim to improve EU preparedness and response to infectious diseases, develop efficient low-carbon aircraft for clean aviation, support the use of renewable biological raw materials in energy production, ensure European leadership in digital technologies and infrastructures, and make rail transport more competitive.
Today, the European Commission launched the design phase of the New European Bauhaus initiative - an environmental, economic and cultural project, aiming to combine design, sustainability, accessibility, affordability and investment in order to help deliver the European Green Deal. The core values of the New European Bauhaus are thus sustainability, aesthetics and inclusiveness. The goal of the design phase is to use a co-creation process to shape the concept by exploring ideas, identifying the most urgent needs and challenges, and to connect interested parties. As one element of the design phase, this spring, the Commission will launch, the first edition of the New European Bauhaus prize.
This design phase will lead to the opening of calls for proposals in autumn this year to bring to life New European Bauhaus ideas in at least five places in EU Member States, through the use of EU funds at national and regional level.
European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said: "The New European Bauhaus is a project of hope to explore how we live better together after the pandemic. It is about matching sustainability with style, to bring the European Green Deal closer to people's minds and homes. We need all creative minds: designers, artists, scientists, architects and citizens, to make the New European Bauhaus a success.”
Today, the EU put forward a new strategy to strengthen the EU's contribution to rules-based multilateralism. The proposal suggests to make use of all tools at the EU's disposal, including its extensive political, diplomatic and financial support to promote global peace and security, defend human rights and international law, and to promote multilateral solutions to global challenges.
Josep Borrell, said: “Multilateralism matters because it works. But we cannot be ‘multilateralists' alone. At a time of growing scepticism, we must demonstrate the benefit and relevance of the multilateral system. We will build stronger, more diverse and inclusive partnerships to lead its modernisation and shape global responses to the challenges of the 21st century, some of which threaten the very existence of humanity.”
The European Commission today announced an investment of €121 million for new integrated projects under the LIFE programme for the Environment and Climate Action. This funding – increased by 20% compared to last year – will promote the green recovery and help Belgium, Germany, Ireland, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia to reach their green targets. These integrated projects are expected to channel significant additional funds, helping Member States to make use of other EU funding sources, including agricultural, structural, regional and research funds, as well as national funds and private sector investment.
The EU is working to turn its €750 billion recovery package into action.
The Council today adopted a regulation establishing the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which lies at the heart of the EU’s recovery plan. It will make €672.5 billion in grants and loans available for public investment and reforms in the 27 member states to help them address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, to foster the green and digital transitions and to build resilient and inclusive societies.
Member states will receive support from the facility on the basis of their national recovery and resilience plans, which are currently under preparation.
With the Recovery and Resilience Facility in place, it is time to focus all efforts on the preparation and submission of ambitious national recovery and resilience plans. The new facility offers the EU member states the unprecedented possibility of supporting recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and of undertaking green and digital transitions in an inclusive way. We need to make the best use of this opportunity.
João Leão, Portugalʼs Minister for Finance
The Commission has announced today the first round of direct equity investment through the new European Innovation Council (EIC) Fund. 42 highly innovative start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) will together receive equity financing of around €178 million to develop and scale up breakthrough innovations in health, circular economy, advanced manufacturing and other areas.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said: “Europe has many innovative, talented start-ups, but too often these companies remain small or relocate elsewhere. This new form of financing – combining grants and equity – is unique to the European Innovation Council. It will bridge the funding gap for highly innovative companies, unlock additional private investments and enable them scale up in Europe.”
The equity investments, ranging from €500.000 to €15 million per beneficiary, complement the grant financing, which has already been provided through the EIC Accelerator Pilot to enable companies to scale up faster. This is the first time the Commission has made direct equity or quasi-equity investments, namely equity investment blended with a grant, in start-up companies, with ownership stakes expected to range from 10% to 25%.
Today, on the eve of the World Cancer Day, the European Commission is presenting Europe's Beating Cancer Plan – a main priority in the area of health of the von der Leyen Commission and a key pillar of a strong European Health Union. With new technologies, research and innovation as the starting point, the Cancer Plan sets out a new EU approach to cancer prevention, treatment and care. It will tackle the entire disease pathway, from prevention to quality of life of cancer patients and survivors, focusing on actions where the EU can add the most value.
Europe's Beating Cancer Plan will be supported by actions spanning across policy areas from employment, education, social policy and equality, through marketing, agriculture, energy, the environment and climate, to transport, cohesion policy, and taxation.
The Cancer Plan is structured around four key action areas with 10 flagship initiatives and multiple supporting actions. It will be implemented using the whole range of Commission funding instruments, with a total of €4 billion being earmarked for actions addressing cancer, including from the EU4Health programme, Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe programme.
The European Commission has disbursed €14 billion to nine Member States in the fourth instalment of financial support to Member States under the SURE (Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency) instrument. This is the first disbursement in 2021. As part of today's operations, Belgium has received €2 billion, Cyprus €229 million, Hungary €304 million, Latvia €72 million, Poland €4.28 billion, Slovenia €913 million, Spain €1.03 billion, Greece €728 million and Italy €4.45 billion. All nine Member States had already received financial support under SURE in 2020, under one of the first three issuances and disbursement operations that took place in 2020.
These loans will assist Member States in addressing sudden increases in public expenditure to preserve employment. Specifically, they will help Member States cover the costs directly related to the financing of national short-time work schemes, and other similar measures that they have put in place as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, including for the self-employed. Today's disbursements follow the issuance of the fourth social bond under the EU SURE instrument, which attracted a considerable interest by investors. The notable oversubscription was translated into favourable pricing terms, which the Commission is directly passing on to the benefitting Member States.
Today, the European Commission is launching its new Green Consumption Pledge, the first initiative delivered under the New Consumer Agenda. The Green Consumption Pledge is part of the European Climate Pact which is an EU-wide initiative inviting people, communities and organisations to participate in climate action and build a greener Europe. With their signatures, companies promise to accelerate their contribution to a green transition. The pledges have been developed in a joint effort between the Commission and companies. Their aim is to accelerate the contribution of businesses to a sustainable economic recovery and to build consumer trust in the environmental performance of companies and products. Colruyt Group, Decathlon, LEGO Group, L'Oréal and Renewd are the first pioneering enterprises that are participating in this pilot project. The functioning of the Green Consumption Pledges will be assessed in a year from now, before next steps are taken.
Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “Empowering consumers to make green choices – that is what we set out to do last autumn, when we published the New Consumer Agenda. For informed choices, consumers need more transparency on the carbon footprint and sustainability of products. This is what today's initiative is about. I therefore warmly welcome the five companies to the Green Pledge and I applaud them on their commitment to go beyond what is required by law. I look forward to working with many more companies, so we can boost further sustainable consumption in the EU”.
The EU Parliament voted today to continue making additional resources available in 2021 and 2022 in order to provide food and basic assistance to the most deprived.
“This pandemic has had far-reaching consequences on people’s quality of life, especially on those who were vulnerable to begin with. More than 20% of all Europeans have seen their situation deteriorate. This fund will be the instrument to support them in finding their way out of poverty and back into society”, says rapporteur Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová on the agreement.