EU institution news

State aid: Commission approves prolongation of Danish resolution scheme for small banks | EU Commission Press

The European Commission has authorised, under EU State aid rules, the prolongation of a Danish resolution scheme for small banks with total assets below €3 billion. It is open to banks that would be found to be in distress by the competent national authorities. The objective of the scheme is to facilitate the work of the Danish resolution authorities to wind up a small bank should a concrete case and need arise for it. The Commission found the scheme to be in line with EU State aid rules, in particular the 2013 Banking Communication and EU banking rules. The Commission initially approved the scheme in September 2010. It has been prolonged and amended several times, most recently in August 2018. Today’s authorisation is granted until 30 September 2020. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.54807 once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

Slovenia: Cohesion Policy upgrades rail section at Maribor | EU Commission

The EU invests €101 million from the Cohesion Fund to upgrade the rail section between the Slovenian cities of Maribor and Šentilj, near the border with Austria in the direction of Graz. EU-funded works aim to reduce travel times, increase speed as well as railway safety and ensure greater freight-carrying capacity on the line. The project will increase the number of trains running between Maribor and Šentilj from 67 to 84 per day, taking into account projected increases in traffic volumes by 2039 on this part of the Baltic-Adriatic corridor, on the core Trans-European Transport Network. Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: “Thanks to this cohesion investment, locals and tourists will enjoy faster, safer travel between Maribor and Šentilj and to the border. I hope it will convince people to leave their cars at home and adopt this greener transport option. In addition, this EU-funded project will allow for intensified freight transport, which will have positive effects on jobs, trade and growth in the country.” Works also include the refurbishment of the Maribor Tezno, Maribor, Pesnica and Šentilj stations, improvements at the Šentilj tunnel and the construction of the Pekel tunnel. The new railway line should be operational by February 2023.

Ebola: EU announces new funds to strengthen preparedness in Burundi | EU Commission Press

The Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to spread in the east of the country with a high risk of a spill-over into the neighbouring countries. The European Union is stepping up its assistance to Burundi with €465,000 to further strengthen Ebola preparedness measures by authorities and aid organisations in the country. Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, who is also the EU’s Ebola Coordinator, said: ”To effectively fight the Ebola virus we do not only have to address the affected cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo but also increase our efforts to prevent the disease from spreading to neighbouring countries like Burundi. The European Union is therefore supporting ongoing Ebola preparedness measures in the country, including infection prevention and control. Everything possible must be done to avoid a further spread of the deadly virus.” The new EU funding will be allocated through the World Health Organisation and will strengthen the coordination, surveillance and response capacities to Ebola in high-risk districts in Burundi, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. This new funding complements the existing financial support to the ongoing EU efforts in Ebola surveillance and awareness-raising via NGOs and UN. A press release is available here.

One year anniversary of Greece successfully concluding stability support programme | EU Commission Press

Today marks one year since Greece successfully concluded its European Stability Mechanism (ESM) stability support programme. The 3-year stability support programme took a coordinated approach to tackling long-standing and deep-rooted structural issues that contributed to Greece experiencing an economic crisis and losing access to financial markets. In total, Greece’s European partners provided €61.9 billion in loans in return for the Greek authorities implementing a comprehensive reform package. When taken together, these reforms have laid the foundations for an economic recovery, putting in place the fundamental conditions needed for sustained growth, job creation and sound public finances. Indicators confirm that, while work remains to be done, the efforts undertaken are delivering tangible benefits. For instance, the unemployment rate fell to 17.6% in April 2019. Although this is still an unacceptably high rate, it is the first time this indicator has fallen below 18% since July 2011 and is down from a peak of 27.9% in July 2013. It remains crucial that the Greek authorities continue to focus on fully addressing the social and economic consequences of the crisis years. Greece can count on the European Commission’s support in this effort. The country is now fully integrated into the European Semester and the continued delivery of agreed reforms is being monitored under the Enhanced Surveillance framework. Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “One year ago Greece completed its ESM stability support programme to restore financial stability and promote growth and job creation. Greece’s economy has benefited from reforms and the boost in confidence. The growth is steady, unemployment is going down and public finances have improved. It is important to build on these achievements by continuing on the path of responsible fiscal policies and structural reforms, including those aimed at strengthening the Greek financial sector.” Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “Greece has come a long way since completing its stability support programme a year ago. Economic data is showing positive signs, indicating efforts will continue to bear fruit for a society that has seen a lot of hardship. However, challenges remain and willingness to engage, actively, in the process of reform completion – and to work closely with European partners – will be essential to supporting stability, growth, job creation, and a better social welfare system in the months and years to come. It is important that all public and private actors work together to secure and sustain a better future for the Greek people. The European Commission will remain by Greece’s side and support its central role as a member of the European Union and euro area.” More details on the stability support programme are available here. A factsheet on Greece’s key economic indicators is available here.

State aid: Commission approves €60 million public support for broadband network project in the Carinthia region in Austria | EU Commission Press

The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, €60 million of public support for the deployment and maintenance of infrastructure necessary for the roll-out of ultrafast broadband internet in remote rural areas of the Carinthia region in Austria. The beneficiary of the aid is a newly established company owned by the state of Carinthia. Third party service providers will be granted access to the broadband network on equal and non-discriminatory terms. The public support will enable internet speeds of at least 100 megabits per second (Mbps) for both download and upload in underserved rural areas in Carinthia. These networks can be upgraded to provide download speeds of one Gigabit (1000 Mbps). The Commission assessed the measure under its 2013 Broadband Guidelines and concluded that the measure is in line with EU State aid rules. Indeed, the positive effects of the measure on competition in the Austrian broadband market outweigh any potential negative effects brought about by the State aid. The support measure complies with the Digital Agenda for Europe and the 2025 objectives for high speed internet connections set out in the Commission’s Communication on a Gigabit Society. More information will be available, once possible confidentiality issues have been resolved, on the Commission’s competition website, in the State Aid Register under the case number SA.52224.

Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union on Hong Kong | EU Council Press

The European Union recalls its close relations with Hong Kong under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and its strong stake in its continued stability and prosperity.

For the last two months, large numbers of citizens have been exercising their fundamental right of assembly. However, there has recently been a rising number of unacceptable violent incidents, with risks of further violence and instability.

It is crucial that restraint be exercised, violence rejected, and urgent steps taken to de-escalate the situation.

Engagement in a process of broad-based and inclusive dialogue, involving all key stakeholders, is essential.

Fundamental freedoms, including the right of peaceful assembly, and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, are enshrined in the Basic Law and in international agreements and must continue to be upheld.

Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini and Commissioner Stylianides on the World Humanitarian Day 2019 | EU Commission Press

On this year’s World Humanitarian Day, the European Union pays tribute to the commitment of those who risk their lives to deliver humanitarian aid worldwide, as the risk humanitarian workers face continues to increase. The unequivocal respect of international law, the safety and security of humanitarian workers and their unfettered access to those in need are a major concern for the EU. 2019 is also a key year for International Humanitarian Law, as we mark the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions. High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, made the following statement: “Violations of International Humanitarian Law continue to be one of the most critical challenges for the protection of civilians, as well as the protection of humanitarian and medical workers. Violence against humanitarian workers affects civilians and prevents millions of people from receiving life-saving assistance. Saving lives should not cost lives. Around 400 humanitarian workers have been victims of major attacks in 2018, making it the second worst year in history. Over one third of them were killed and the other third was kidnapped. World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity to honour these dedicated humanitarians, and to advocate for their safety and security. Humanity, independence, neutrality and impartiality are the principles on which humanitarian aid is grounded. These should protect relief workers, enabling them to operate freely. The EU and its Members States are the world leader in humanitarian assistance. Promoting principled humanitarian aid and respect for International Humanitarian Law remains at the core of our international engagement.” 

World Wildlife Conference: EU pushes for better protection of the world’s most threatened species | EU Commission Press

The EU will join other parties at the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) to the UN Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), starting in Geneva, Switzerland, this weekend to take additional measures to protect the world’s most threatened species against over-exploitation through international trade. CITES is a global treaty that seeks to make international trade in wildlife sustainable and to counter illegal trade. The EU will push for more effective implementation of existing rules, including through a proposed Resolution on measures for ensuring the legality of trade under the Convention. In line with its priorities under the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, at CoP18 the EU will promote better enforcement of the Convention’s provisions by all Parties, in particular by those countries that repeatedly fail to implement their obligations and which may need additional support to avoid trade sanctions as a matter of last resort. This is an absolute must to address illegal poaching and trafficking affecting elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, pangolins and rosewood. The adoption of a new ‘Strategic Vision’ for CITES for the years 2021 to 2030 will provide an opportunity to consolidate and clarify the role of CITES in the broader context of international environmental governance. This also includes the post-2020 biodiversity framework that is being developed in parallel under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

European Commission steps up support to counter-terrorism, the prevention of violent extremism and peacebuilding in Sri Lanka | EU Commission Press

The European Commission, through its Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace, has allocated €8.5 million to support Sri Lankan efforts to prevent violent extremism, build community resilience, and promote peace and tolerance. It will also contribute to the ongoing peacebuilding process through internally displaced persons and refugees being able to return to their land. This allocation after High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini‘s meeting earlier this month with the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, where she underlined the EU’s readiness to support Sri Lanka in the face of the challenges of terrorism and violent extremism. The Easter Sunday terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka killed 258 people and injured many more. Preventing and responding to terrorist attacks like this is an additional challenge for Sri Lanka along with numerous other challenges in transitioning to durable peace after many years of conflict, such as refugees, internally displaced persons, and land identified as potentially contaminated with mines and explosive remnants. The €8.5 million Commission support will follow a three-pronged approach: It will support Sri Lankan policy makers, competent authorities and the security and judicial branches in their mission to prevent and respond to terrorist threats and attacks in a human rights compliant manner; it will focus on the prevention of violent extremism and will support relevant local stakeholders to develop and disseminate positive awareness raising campaigns, notably via partnerships with global social media actors; and it will contribute to the last stages of mine clearance in the three northern districts of Sri Lanka, and focus on peacebuilding to reinforce national cohesion and reconciliation.

rescEU assets mobilised to helpGreece fight devastating forest fires | EU Commission Press

Following yesterday’s request for assistance from Greece, rescEU assets have been mobilised to tackle forest fires ravaging several areas of Greece. As an immediate response, the European Union has already helped to mobilise 3 forest fighting planes from rescEU reserve from Italy and Spainto be dispatched swiftly to the affected regions. Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, said: “The EU stands in full solidarity with Greece at this difficult time. The planes are already in action, fighting the fires. This immediate response proves the added value of rescEU which makes our response more robust, quick and efficient. Moreover, this is a real example of the common European values on which rescEU is based: solidarity and protection of lives of our European citizens. I am thankful to Italy and Spain for their offers of assistance. We stand ready to provide further assistance.” Today, the Commissioner is in Athens where he met with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and visited the Crisis Centre of the Greek Civil Protection to be briefed along with the Minister for the Protection of Citizens Michalis Chrysochoidis and oversee the operation of the rescEU assets. The European satellite mapping system Copernicus is helping to provide damage assessment maps of the affected areas.