Yesterday, the Commission signed a joint procurement framework contract with the pharmaceutical company Glaxo Smith Kline for the supply of sotrovimab (VIR-7831), an investigational monoclonal antibody therapy, developed in collaboration with VIR biotechnology. It is part of the first portfolio of five promising therapeutics announced by the Commission in June 2021, and is currently under rolling review by the European Medicines Agency. 16 EU Member States are participating in the procurement for the purchase of up to 220,000 treatments. Sotrovimab can be used for the treatment of coronavirus patients with mild symptoms who do not require supplemental oxygen, but who are at high risk for severe COVID-19. Ongoing studies suggest that early treatment can reduce the number of patients that progress to more severe forms and require hospitalisation or admission to the intensive care units. Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “We committed in our COVID-19 Therapeutics Strategy to have at least three new therapeutics authorised by October. We are now delivering a second framework contract that brings monoclonal antibodies treatments to patients. Alongside vaccines, safe and effective therapeutics will play a pivotal role in Europe’s return to a new normal.” Monoclonal antibodies are proteins conceived in the laboratory that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight the coronavirus. They attach to the spike protein and thus block the virus’ attachment to the human cells. The European Commission concluded nearly 200 contracts for different medical countermeasures worth over €12 billion. Under the current framework contract with Glaxo Smith Kline, Member States can purchase sotrovimab (VIR-7831) if and when needed, once it has received either emergency use authorisation in the Member State concerned or a (conditional) marketing authorisation at EU level from the European Medicines Agency. Further information can be found here.
With the latest signature by Ireland of the political declaration to boost European capabilities in quantum technologies, cybersecurity and industrial competitiveness, all Member States have now committed to work together, along with the European Commission and the European Space Agency, to build the EuroQCI, a secure quantum communication infrastructure that will span the whole EU. Such high-performing, secure communications networks will be essential to meeting Europe’s cybersecurity needs in the years to come. Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, said: “I am very happy to see all EU Member States come together to sign the EuroQCI declaration – European Quantum Communication infrastructure initiative – a very solid basis for Europe’s plans to become a major player in quantum communications. As such, I encourage them all to be ambitious in their activities, as strong national networks will be the foundation of the EuroQCI.” Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, added: “As we have recently seen, cybersecurity is more than ever a crucial component of our digital sovereignty. I am very pleased to see that all Member States are now part of the EuroQCI initiative, a key component of our forthcoming secure connectivity initiative, which will allow all Europeans to have access to protected, reliable communication services.” The EuroQCI will be part of a wider Commission action to launch a satellite-based secure connectivity system that will make high-speed broadband available everywhere in Europe. This plan will provide reliable, cost-effective connectivity services with enhanced digital security. As such, the EuroQCI will complement existing communication infrastructures with an additional layer of security based on the principles of quantum mechanics – for example, by providing services based on quantum key distribution, a highly secure form of encryption. You can find more information here.
Today, the European Union and the Cook Islands agreed to continue their successful fisheries partnership as part of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement, for a duration of three years. The agreement allows EU fishing vessels operating in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean to continue fishing in the Cook Islands fishing grounds. Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: “With the renewal of this Fisheries Protocol, European Union vessels will be able to continue fishing one of the healthiest tropical tuna stocks. We are particularly proud to contribute, through our sectoral support, to the development of the Cook Islands’ fisheries sector – a Small Island Developing State that has been often praised for its effective and responsible fisheries management policies. This is how the EU’s Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements work in practice.” In the framework of the new Protocol, the EU and ship owners will contribute with a total up to approximately €4 million (NZD 6.8 million) for the next three years, of which €1 million (NZD 1.7 million) to support the Cook Islands’ initiatives within the sectoral fisheries and maritime policy. Overall, next to improvements in the fishing sector, the revenue obtained from this Agreement has previously allowed the Cook Islands’ government to improve its social welfare system. More information is in the news item.
The European Commission on Tuesday, 27 July, appointed 12 external experts as members of the Investment Committee of the InvestEU Fund for a term of four years. The 12 members of the Investment Committee – four permanent and eight non-permanent members – were selected and appointed by the Commission at the recommendation of the InvestEU Steering Board. They represent a broad knowledge and expertise in the relevant fields and sectors covered by the InvestEU programme. The Investment Committee will be gender-balanced and include members from across the EU to ensure deep insights in geographic markets in the EU. The appointment of the independent Investment Committee is another milestone for the implementation of the InvestEU programme, which will provide the EU with crucial long-term funding, crowding in the necessary important private investments in support of a sustainable recovery and helping build a greener, more digital and more resilient European economy. The Investment Committee decides on the granting of the EU guarantee to investment and financing operations proposed by the implementing partners under the InvestEU programme. The fully independent Committee is taking its decisions based on the guarantee request form and scoreboard provided by the implementing partners to ensure compliance with the InvestEU Regulation and the Investment Guidelines. The Investment Committee will operate in four compositions, corresponding to the four policy windows of the InvestEU programme: sustainable infrastructure; research, innovation and digitalisation; small and medium-sized companies; and social investment and skills.
The European Commission has approved a €130 million Greek scheme to support micro and small enterprises affected by the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the Greek government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus. The scheme was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. The measure will be open to companies active in all sectors (except the financial and the primary agricultural production ones), which experienced business disruption in April 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants and will consist of a fixed amount of minimum €500 and maximum € 4,000, depending on the number of employees and the region of location. The Commission found that the Greek measure is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed € 270,000 per company active in the fishery and aquaculture sector and €1.8 million per company active in all other sectors; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU State aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.63212 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.
The European Commission has approved a €20 million Greek scheme to support newspapers, magazines, regional media service providers and radio stations affected by the coronavirus outbreak and by the restrictive measures that the Greek government had to implement to limit the spread of coronavirus. The scheme was approved under the State aid Temporary Framework. Under the scheme, the public support will take the form of direct grants. The aid amount will be calculated on the basis of the beneficiaries’ contribution to the Unified Journalists’ Supplementary Security Fund. The Commission found that the Greek scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €1.8 million per company, and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU State aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.63896 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website, once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.
The European Commission welcomes the positive exchange of views on the Council implementing decisions on the approval of national recovery and resilience plans for Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia held yesterday, 26 July, at the informal videoconference of EU Economy and Finance Ministers (ECOFIN). These plans set out the measures that will be supported by the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The RRF is at the heart of NextGenerationEU, which will provide €800 billion (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across the EU. The Council implementing decisions will be formally adopted by written procedure shortly. This formal adoption will pave the way for the payment of up to 13% of the total allocated amount for each of these Member States in pre-financing. The Commission aims to disburse the first pre-financing as quickly as possible, following the signing of the bilateral financing agreements and, where relevant, loan agreements. The Commission will then authorise further disbursements based on the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones and targets outlined in each of the Council Implementing Decisions, reflecting progress on the implementation of the investments and reforms covered in the plans.
For the first time since the creation of the Innovation Fund, the European Union is investing €118 million into 32 small innovative projects located in 14 EU Member States, Iceland and Norway. The grants will support projects aiming to bring low-carbon technologies to the market in energy intensive industries, hydrogen, energy storage and renewable energy. In addition to these grants, 15 projects located in 10 EU Member States and Norway will benefit from project development assistance worth up to €4.4 million, with the aim of advancing their maturity.
Executive Vice-President Timmermans said: “With today’s investment, the EU is giving concrete support to clean tech projects all over Europe to scale up technological solutions that can help reach climate neutrality by 2050. The increase of the Innovation Fund proposed in the Fit for 55 Package will enable the EU to support even more projects in the future, speed them up, and bring them to the market as quickly as possible.”
The 32 projects selected for funding were evaluated by independent experts for their ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional technologies and to innovate beyond the state-of-the-art while being sufficiently mature to enable their quick deployment. Other criteria included the projects’ potential for scalability and cost effectiveness. The selected projects cover a wide range of relevant sectors to decarbonise different parts of Europe’s industry and energy sectors. The success rate of eligible proposals to this call for proposals is 18%.
The 15 projects that can benefit from project development assistance were assessed to be sufficiently innovative and promising in terms of their ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but not yet mature enough to be considered for a grant. The support, to be provided as tailor-made technical assistance by the European Investment Bank, aims to advance their financial or technical maturity, with a view to potential re-submission under future Innovation Fund calls.
Successful projects under the call for small-scale projects are starting to prepare individual grant agreements. These should be finalised in the fourth quarter of 2021, allowing the Commission to adopt the corresponding grant award decision and start disbursing the grants. Projects have up to four years to reach financial closure.
Projects offered development assistance under the call for large-scale projects will be contacted by the European Investment Bank to conclude individual agreements and enable the start of the service in the fourth quarter of 2021.
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The Commission has launched an online public consultation to seek views on the upcoming review of the lists of pollutants occurring in surface and ground waters, as well as on corresponding regulatory standards. This initiative is particularly important for implementing the recently adopted Zero Pollution Action Plan as part of the European Green Deal, and wider efforts to secure the more efficient and safer use of water. Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “All Europeans should benefit from clean water. Ensuring good quality of surface and groundwater in Europe is paramount for human health and for the environment. Pollution caused by pesticides, manmade chemicals or from residues of pharmaceuticals must be avoided as much as possible. We want to hear your views on how this can best be achieved.” A recent evaluation (‘fitness check’) in December 2019, found EU water legislation to be broadly fit for purpose. However, improvement is needed on aspects such as investment, implementing rules, integrating water objectives into other policies, administrative simplification and digitalisation. This revision aims to address some of the shortcomings in relation to chemical pollution and the legal obligation to regularly review the lists of pollutants, as well as to help accelerate implementation. The public consultation is open for feedback until 1 November 2021. More information is in the news release.
The Commission opened infringement procedures against 12 Member States for failing to transpose EU rules banning unfair trading practices in the agri-food sector. The Directive on unfair trading practices in the agricultural and food supply chain, adopted on 17 April 2019, ensures protection of all European farmers, as well as of small and mid-range suppliers, against 16 unfair trading practices from larger buyers in the food supply chain. The Directive covers agricultural and food products traded in the supply chain, banning for the first time at EU level such unfair practices imposed unilaterally by one trading partner on another.
The deadline for transposing the Directive into national legislation was 1 May 2021. As of today, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Sweden have notified to the Commission that they adopted all necessary measures for transposing the Directive, thus declaring the transposition complete. France and Estonia have informed that their legislation transposes only partially the Directive.
The Commission sent letters of formal notice to Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain requesting them to adopt and notify the relevant measures. The Member States have now two months to reply.
This Directive on unfair trading practices in the agricultural and food supply chain contributes to strengthening the farmers’ position in the food supply chain. The 16 unfair trading practices to be banned include, among others: (i) late payments and last minute order cancellations for perishable food products; (ii) unilateral or retroactive changes to contracts; (iii) forcing the supplier to pay for wasted products; and (iv) refusing written contracts.
In line with the Directive, farmers and small and medium sized suppliers, as well as the organisations representing them, will have the possibility to file complaints against such practices from their buyers. Member States should put in place designated national authorities that will handle the complaints. Confidentiality is protected under these rules to avoid any possible retaliation from buyers.
The Commission has also taken steps to increase market transparency and promote producer cooperation. Together, these measures will ensure a more balanced, fair and efficient supply chain in the agri-food sector.
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