News

EU long-term budget: EP still fighting for a good agreement | EU Parliament Press

During the fourth trilateral talks with Council and Commission, Parliament’s negotiators underline that a lot remains to be done before an acceptable agreement can be reached.

“During this fourth meeting, on Friday, substantial progress has been achieved on the legally binding commitment to introduce new Own Resources”, said the members of the Parliament’s negotiating team on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and Own Resources (OR).

“On other issues such as the top-ups to EU flagship programmes, the German Council presidency did not table any viable or more detailed proposals that could have brought the negotiations further, following up on progress made last time. We underlined once more that Parliament has shown significant willingness to come closer to Council’s position, for example scaling down its request for top-ups to EU programmes from 40+ programmes to 15 flagship programmes, in line with Parliament’s resolution of 23 July”, the MEPs added.

“It is still possible, and very much in the interest of EU citizens, to make every effort to come to an agreement as soon as possible, but the conditions are not there yet. Parliament stands ready to take all the steps necessary to come to a satisfactory agreement”, the negotiators concluded.

Don’t undermine Europe’s commitments, protect the next generations

Parliament insists on real increases to EU flagship programmes, which Council has cut severely. With plans currently on the table, as of 2024, the EU budget as a whole will be below 2020 levels, jeopardising the EU’s commitments and priorities, notably the Green Deal and the Digital Agenda.

In addition, there must be a binding roadmap for the three institutions on new sources of EU income (Own Resources) in order to pay back the recovery cost, for example through the contributions from transnational polluters and multinational corporations that practice tax optimisation, so it won’t become a burden for the next generation.

Parliament has cleared the way for swift launch of recovery plan

This week, Parliament has cleared the way for COVID-19 recovery plan with a plenary vote on the consultative opinion on the Own Resources Decision, which will enable the EU to borrow €750 billion for the “Next Generation EU” recovery plan. This vote now allows the Council to proceed with an immediate approval of this decision and start the ratification procedure in the member states.

The EP’s negotiating team for the next long-term EU budget and Own Resources reform

Johan Van Overtveldt (ECR, BE), Chair of the Committee on Budgets

Jan Olbrycht (EPP, PL), MFF co-rapporteur

Margarida Marques (S&D, PT), MFF co-rapporteur

José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT), Own Resources co-rapporteur

Valérie Hayer (RENEW, FR), Own Resources co-rapporteur

Rasmus Andresen (Greens/EFA, DE)

Follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/i/lists/1205126942384676866?s=20

Background

As the current long-term EU budget is running out on 31 December 2020, the EU needs a new budgetary planning horizon for the next seven years. The EU Commission has thus presented plans for the next multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027 in May 2018. The European Parliament has adopted its position in November 2018, and re-confirmed it in October 2019. The European Council has reached a political compromise on 21 July 2020, to which Parliament reacted immediately. Trilateral negotiations between Parliament, Council and Commission have started on 27 August.

Ongoing negotiations are structured around the following topics:

  1. Reinforcing flagship programmes to preserve EU’s capacity to invest besides and beyond the recovery.
  2. A legally binding commitment to introduce new own resources to repay the common debt from the recovery instrument without burdening citizens and in line with the European Union’s political ambitions.
  3. Increased legitimacy and accountability to citizens in the budgetary decision-making process – a stronger role for the EP in how the recovery money is raised and spent.
  4. Horizontal issues (climate, biodiversity, gender) and other provisions.

Parliament has also conditioned its agreement to the setting-up of a strong mechanism to ensure respect for the Rule of Law, which is to be negotiated separately according to the codecision/ordinary legislative procedure, where Parliament and Council are on an equal footing.

MEPs to discuss the situation in Belarus with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on Monday | EU Parliament Press

Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs will discuss the dramatic developments in Belarus with opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya on Monday, 21 September.

Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee will host Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and other members of the Belarusian democratic opposition, Volha Kavalkova and Pavel Latushka, for a debate on the latest political developments and the popular uprising in Belarus. Ms Tsikhanouskaya, who will be present in person, is expected to address the committee at 13.45 CET, followed by an exchange of views with MEPs.

She will also hold a bilateral meeting with European Parliament President David Sassoli on Monday at 12.00 CET.

The same day, Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs will vote on new recommendations on how the EU should reassess its relations with Belarus, in particular with regard to the latest developments. The vote result will be announced on Tuesday, 22 September.

You can follow the committee meeting live here. (21.09.2020)

Mass protests since the latest “presidential elections”

Belarus has been in the midst of a political crisis following accusations of vote rigging in the presidential elections held on 9 August, which incumbent authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed he won with a vast majority, triggering massive popular protests and general strikes.

Since then, the Belarusian authorities have been cracking down hard on demonstrators calling for Mr Lukashenko’s resignation, with many reports and documented cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees and protesters being brought forward.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on the situation in Belarus on 17 September, in which MEPs called for new elections to be held, new sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko and his regime, while pointing out that Ms Tsikhanouskaya, who was the main democratic contender in the elections, is considered by many Belarusians as the actual winner of the vote and the country’s real president-elect. Read more here.

Monday’s meeting will be organised together with the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the delegation for relations with Belarus.

Coronavirus: the Commission signs second contract to ensure access to a potential vaccine | EU Commission Press

Today, a second contract with a pharmaceutical company entered into force following the contract’s formal signature between Sanofi-GSK and the Commission. The contract will allow all EU Member States to purchase up to 300 million doses of the Sanofi-GSK vaccine. Moreover, Member States may donate reserved doses to lower- and middle-income countries. Sanofi and GSK will also endeavour to provide a significant portion of their vaccine supply through a collaboration with the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility – the vaccine pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator for lower and middle income countries – in a timely manner.

The Commission has already signed a contract with AstraZeneca and continues discussing similar agreements with other vaccine manufacturers (Johnson & Johnson, CureVac, Moderna and BioNTech) with which it has concluded exploratory talks.

President von der Leyen said: “With today’s contract with Sanofi-GSK, the European Commission shows once again its commitment to ensuring equitable access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines not only for its citizens but also for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Agreements with other companies will be concluded soon and build a diversified portfolio of promising vaccines, based on various types of technologies, increasing our chances to find an effective remedy against the virus.”

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “With several countries in Europe experiencing new outbreaks after the summer period, a safe and effective vaccine is more instrumental than ever to overcome this pandemic and its devastating effects on our economies and societies. This second agreement is yet another milestone in our EU Vaccine Strategy. Today we are expanding our possibilities to ensure that EU citizens and citizens around the world can gradually resume daily life and feel safe again.”

Today’s contract is financed by the Emergency Support Instrument, which dedicates funds to the creation of a portfolio of potential vaccines with different profiles and produced by different companies.

Sanofi and GSK are developing a recombinant vaccine for COVID-19, using innovative technology from both companies. Sanofi will contribute its S-protein COVID-19 antigen, which is based on recombinant DNA technology. GSK will contribute its adjuvant technology, of particular importance in a pandemic situation since it may reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, allowing more vaccine doses to be produced and therefore helping to protect more people. The combination of a protein-based antigen together with an adjuvant is well-established and used in a number of vaccines available today to enhance the immune response. It can also improve the likelihood of delivering an effective vaccine that can be manufactured at scale.  

The companies started a Phase 1/ 2 study in September, followed by a Phase 3 study by the end of 2020. If successful, and subject to regulatory considerations, the companies aim to have the vaccine available by the second half of 2021.  

Together with the Member States and the European Medicines Agency, the Commission will use existing flexibilities to accelerate the authorisation and availability of successful vaccines against COVID-19. The regulatory processes will be flexible but remain robust. Any vaccine put on the market will have to meet the necessary safety requirements and undergo the scientific assessment by the European Medicines Agency as part of the EU market authorisation procedure.

Background

The European Commission presented on 17 June a European strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing and deployment of effective and safe vaccines against COVID-19. In return for the right to buy a specified number of vaccine doses in a given timeframe, the Commission finances part of the upfront costs faced by vaccines producers in the form of Advance Purchase Agreements. Funding provided is considered as a down-payment on the vaccines that will actually be purchased by Member States.

Since the high cost and high failure rate make investing in a COVID-19 vaccine a high-risk decision for vaccine developers, these agreement will therefore allow investments to be made that otherwise would simply probably not happen.

The European Commission is also committed to ensuring that everyone who needs a vaccine gets it, anywhere in the world and not only at home. No one will be safe until everyone is safe. This is why it has raised almost €16 billion since 4 May 2020 under the Coronavirus Global Response, the global action for universal access to tests, treatments and vaccines against coronavirus and for the global recovery and has confirmed its interest to participate in the COVAX Facility for equitable access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines everywhere. As part of a Team Europe effort, the Commission announced on 31 August a contribution of €400 million in guarantees to support COVAX and its objectives in the context of the Coronavirus Global Response.

More Information

EU Vaccines Strategy

EU Coronavirus Response

The Commission publishes recommendations for a common EU testing approach for COVID-19 | EU Commission Press

Today, the Commission has published a set of recommendations for a common COVID-19 testing approach in Europe, as a follow-up initiative of the 15 July Communication on Short-Term EU Health Preparedness for COVID-19 Outbreaks. The recommendations set out concrete actions to support countries in the planning and organisation of their testing efforts during the different stages of the pandemic. The recommendations have been endorsed by the Health Security Committee, in view of streamlining national approaches and ensuring more coherent COVID-19 testing across the EU. Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides said: “Testing and contact tracing are essential aspects of an effective response to COVID-19 and for ensuring that the spread of the virus is kept to a minimum. In view of the upcoming influenza season, during which the number of people showing COVID-19 compatible symptoms is expected to increase, it is more important than ever that all Member States have effective and robust testing strategies in place. These recommendations will help Member States to improve early detection of infected persons and ensure a better overview of infection rates and transmission.” The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has also published a report on COVID-19 testing strategies and objectives today, available here.

Coronavirus: EU allocates €150 million for the transport of essential medical items | EU Commission Press

The EU is providing financial support to 18 Member States and the UK to transport essential medical items to Europe with funding totalling €150 million, through the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI). ESI has allowed the EU to finance cargo shipments between April and September 2020, including life-saving personal protective equipment, medicines and medical equipment.

For example, it supported the transport of a shared shipment of more than 1,000 tonnes of essential personal protective equipment to Czechia and Slovakia. Under this instrument, the EU also financed the transport of more than 1,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment bought by the Italian Extraordinary Commissioner for the coronavirus emergency, and more than 400 tonnes of goggles, disposable gowns, masks and protective clothing to Lithuania by plane and train.

“We continue to support our EU Member States to be better prepared to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. We have financed the transportation of essential medical supplies across the EU. The items were delivered where they were needed the most and have boosted national efforts to save lives and better equip hospitals and healthcare workers” said Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič.

The Emergency Support Instrument to transport equipment, medical personnel and patients.

This €150 million funding allocation is part of the €220 million made available in April 2020 to support:

  • The transport of medical items to where they are most needed, by financing the cargo transport of assistance and relief items to EU Member States;
  • The transfer of patients between EU Member States or from Member States to neighbouring countries, where health services risk being overwhelmed; and
  • The transport of medical personnel and mobile medical teams between EU Member States and into the EU from other countries.

The ESI is part of A wider EU assistance which includes other instruments such as the Civil Protection Mechanism, including rescEU, the Joint Procurement Procedures and the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, as well as Member States’ national efforts.

Background

The support is part of the wider ESI activated on 16 April 2020 and designed to strengthen EU Member States’ efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic.

The Emergency Support Instrument budget is €2.7 billion. It has been designed to respond to needs in a strategic, coordinated manner at European level. As a financing arm of the ‘Joint European Roadmap towards lifting coronavirus containment measures’, it helps mitigate the immediate consequences of the pandemic and anticipate needs related to the exit and recovery.

The ESI builds on the principle of solidarity and pools efforts and resources to quickly address shared strategic needs. It is an important European instrument to support the existing national and European response measures with the aim of tackling the ongoing exceptional public health crisis.

For More Information

Emergency Support Instrument Factsheet

Coronavirus response: Emergency Response

Coronavirus Global Response: the Commission’s contribution to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) | EU Commission Press

Today, the European Commission confirmed its participation in the COVAX Facility for equitable access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines, following its expression of interest on 31 August and its announcement of a contribution of €400 million.

In a joint effort between the European Commission and the 27 EU Member States, Team Europe will contribute with an initial €230 million in cash through a loan from the European Investment Bank, backed by the same amount in guarantees provided by the EU budget. A contribution of €230 million is equivalent to reserves or options to buy 88 million doses and the EU would transfer these to eligible Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) countries. This contribution is complemented with €170 million in financial guarantees from the EU budget.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “It is not enough to find a vaccine. We must make sure that citizens around the world have access to it. Our strong commitment to the COVAX Facility is an another sign to all citizens who need the vaccine that we stand with them, wherever they are. No one is safe until everyone is safe”.

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “Being part of the COVAX Facility means ensuring its success and providing access to vaccines for low and middle income countries. It means ensuring access not only for those who can afford it – but to all citizens globally. And it means showing solidarity and global leadership. It is only together that we will be able to overcome COVID-19”.

Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International partnerships, said: With this contribution to COVAX, the EU is demonstrating that we are serious about leaving no one behind. The future vaccines for COVID-19 should not be a luxury for the rich but a global public good. We need to guarantee that those that most need it have access to it irrespective of where they live”.

The COVAX Facility, co-led by Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO, aims to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The Commission, Member States and European financial institutions, notably EIB, jointly committed to mobilise resources for the Coronavirus Global Response. The Commission participates with €400 million in cash and guarantees to support COVAX and its underlying objectives as part of a Team Europe effort. The detailed terms and conditions for the EU’s participation and contribution are currently being worked out between all parties concerned. Team Europe is ready to offer expertise and resources to the COVAX Facility to accelerate and scale-up the development and manufacturing of vaccines for citizens across the world, in poor and rich countries.

The EU’s participation in COVAX will be complementary with the ongoing EU negotiations with vaccine companies launched under the EU Vaccines Strategy. The EU’s efforts to develop and produce an effective vaccine will benefit all in the global community. The EU investment in scaling up manufacturing capacity will be to the service of all countries in need. Through its Advanced Purchase Agreements, it requires manufacturers to make their production capacity available to supply all countries and calls for the free flow of vaccines and materials with no export restrictions. For instance, the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-GSK with whom the Commission concluded an Advanced Purchase Agreements today will endeavour to provide a significant portion of their vaccine supply through the COVAX facility.

Background

COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

The COVAX Facility aims to purchase 2bn doses by the end of 2021. It will help to develop a diversified portfolio of vaccines, negotiated with different suppliers, and covering different scientific technologies, delivery times and prices. The COVAX Facility is a risk-sharing mechanism: it reduces the risk for manufacturers who invest without being sure about future demand, and it reduces the risk that countries would fail to secure access to a viable vaccine.

The European Commission is committed to ensuring that everyone who needs a vaccine gets it, anywhere in the world and not only at home. No one will be safe until everyone is safe. This is why it has raised almost €16 billion since 4 May 2020 under the Coronavirus Global Response, the global action for universal access to tests, treatments and vaccines against coronavirus and for the global recovery. Team Europe‘s contribution was: EU Member States (€3.1 billion), European Commission (over €1.4 billion) and EIB (almost €2 billion pledged in May and 4.9 billion pledged in June).

More Information

EU Coronavirus Response

EU Vaccines Strategy

Coronavirus: Commission supports international clinical research network to treat COVID-19 | EU Commission Press

The Commission announced today that it will support with €15.7 million an ambitious new research initiative, EU-RESPONSE, which will establish a clinical research network to treat COVID-19 and other emerging infectious diseases. The funding is part of the Commission’s €1.4 billion pledge, from which €1 billion come from Horizon 2020, for coronavirus research and innovation directed towards the development of vaccines, new treatments and diagnostic tools to prevent the spread of the virus. Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “EU-RESPONSE is a major step towards pan-European clinical trials that not only give us the scale we need to rapidly assess potential treatments, but can also adapt rapidly as new facts and ideas emerge. This EU clinical trials network will serve Europe now to address COVID-19 and help us prepare for future threats by offering speed, scale and solidarity.” The EU-RESPONSE consortium, led by the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), brings together 21 partners with world-class research capabilities from 13 EU countries, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. The project adds to the portfolio of EU-funded research and innovation actions and complements the public health policy and activities that the Commission is coordinating with the Member States. More information is available here.

Border management: Commission approves extra funding to Greece and Bulgaria | EU Commission Press

Today, the Commission has made available an additional €23.8 million to Greece, under the Internal Security Fund, to support border management. This top up will support the deployment of border guards to improve border surveillance, address the need to enhance the reception and identification service in the Aegean islands, and support the deployment of additional staff. The Commission also approved today €12.8 million in extra funding to Bulgaria, including support for additional border guards participating in operations at its southern external borders. Under the Internal Security Fund, the EU helps Member States in managing the Union’s external borders, directing the resources needed to support Member States confronted with challenges.

EU Member States agree on a threshold value to keep Europe’s beaches clean | EU Commission Press

Today, ahead of the World CleanUp Day on 19 September, the Commission is setting a threshold value for marine litter on coastlines, to help clean up Europe’s beaches and keep them clean. EU Member States’ experts have agreed that a beach will need to have less than 20 litter items for every 100 metres of coastline to stay under the threshold. It provides the first fixed, tangible objective for all of Europe’s beaches and represents a significant commitment to keep them clean. Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, said: “This agreement is a sign that we have stepped up our fight against litter on our beaches and coastline, with benefits for our environment, for our blue economy and for all of us. It strengthens our commitment to move towards a zero pollution ambition in synergy with our biodiversity objectives. Now we have a clearer benchmark in achieving clean and healthy seas and I call on Member State authorities to use this agreed value and take the necessary measures to achieve litter-free beaches. The reduction of single use plastics together with better waste management and boosting recycling will help us achieve this goal.” Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, responsible for the Joint Research Centre (JRC), said: “This new beach litter threshold value is another fantastic example of science at the heart of making the right choices for a greener, more sustainable Europe. Our own experts at the Joint Research Centre, together with Member States, have analysed data from all over Europe, working across the Commission to help set a target that will keep our beaches clean.” The beach litter threshold value has been developed under the Commission’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which requires Member States to develop and implement strategies to protect the marine environment. To raise awareness about the challenge of marine litter and encourage citizens worldwide to take action, the European Commission and the European External Action Service are organising the third edition of the #EUBeachCleanup campaign. The threshold demonstrates the EU’s commitment to fulfil the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14.1 to reduce marine pollution significantly by 2025. The JRC’s press release and technical report on the threshold value are available online.

Agriculture: the Commission approves new geographical indication from Hungary | EU Commission Press

The Commission has approved today the addition of ‘Szilvásváradi pisztráng‘ from Hungary in the register of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). ‘Szilvásváradi pisztráng’ is a fish belonging to the trout family. The flavour of Szilvásváradi pisztráng’ differs from that of other similar fish varieties, and it also has a distinctive texture. Its pink flesh has a subtle flavour. All stages of the production process take place in the Szalajka valley, in the Bükk mountains, in northern Hungary. The quality of the mountain springs and the local expertise in farming and rearing ensure that ‘Szilvásváradi pisztráng’ preserves its unique characteristics. The new denomination will be added to the list of 1,480 products already protected. More information: webpages on quality products and database eAmbrosia.