Today, the European Commission together with the European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking and the Government of Slovenia will inaugurate the operation of the Vega Supercomputer at a high-level ceremony in Maribor, Slovenia. This marks the launch of a first EU supercomputer procured jointly with EU and Member State funds, with a joint investment of €17.2 million. Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager, said: “We are celebrating today the launch of the Vega supercomputer – the first of several. Supercomputing will open new doors for European SMEs to compete in tomorrow’s high tech economy. Even more importantly, by supporting artificial intelligence to identify the molecules for breakthrough drug treatments, by tracking infections for COVID and other diseases, European supercomputing can help save lives.” Executive Vice-President Vestager will participate in the launch ceremony today together with the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Janša. The new Vega supercomputer is capable of 6.9 Petaflops of computer power and will support the development of applications in many domains, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and high-performance data analytics. It will help European researchers and industry to make significant advances in bio-engineering, weather forecasting, the fight against climate change, personalised medicine, as well as in the discovery of new materials and drugs that will benefit EU citizens. The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking pools European and national resources to procure and deploy world-class supercomputers and technologies. In addition to Vega in Slovenia, EuroHPC supercomputers have been acquired and are being installed in the following centres: Sofia Tech Park in Bulgaria, IT4Innovations National Supercomputing Center in Czechia, CINECA in Italy, LuxProvide in Luxembourg, Minho Advanced Computing Center in Portugal, and CSC – IT Center for Science in Finland. Moreover, a Commission proposal for a new Regulation for the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking, presented in September 2020, aims to enable a further investment of €8 billion in the next generation of supercomputers, including emerging technologies such as quantum computers. More information will be available in this press release by the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking.
EU institution news
The committee on Employment and Social Affairs will discuss the draft report on the proposal for a directive on Adequate minimum wages in the EU on Thursday from 16.45 – 17.30.
The discussion can be followed live here.
Co-rapporteurs Dennis Radtke (EPP, DE) and Agnes Jongerius (S&D, NL) will give an online technical briefing to journalists and answer questions ahead of discussion. The briefing will be on the record and will take place on Thursday at 10.00 hours. Journalists who wish to attend the briefing can register via EMPLemail@example.com. All participants will receive a connection link ahead of the meeting.
On October 28 2020, the European Commission published a proposal for a directive on adequate minimum wages in the EU. The European Parliament’s committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) appointed Agnes Jongerius and Dennis Radtke as its rapporteurs. The draft report by the co-rapporteurs discussed on Thursday 22 April, will be open for amendments of other members of the EMPL committee. After adoption, the report will serve as the EP’s starting position in the negotiations with the Council on the directive.
The Council today decided to sanction 10 individuals and two military-controlled companies, Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited (MEC) in relation to the military coup staged in Myanmar/Burma on 1 February 2021, and the ensuing military and police repression against peaceful demonstrators. The decision was taken by written procedure.
The individuals targeted by sanctions are all responsible for undermining democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar/Burma, and for repressive decisions and serious human rights violations. The two sanctioned entities are large conglomerates that operate in many sectors of Myanmar’s economy and are owned and controlled by the Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw), and provide revenue for it. The adopted sanctions specifically target the economic interests of Myanmar’s military regime, which is responsible for the overthrow of Burma’s democratically elected government. Sanctions are crafted in such a way to avoid undue harm to the people of Myanmar.
Today’s decision is a sign of the EU’s unity and determination in condemning the brutal actions of the military junta, and aims at effecting change in the junta’s leadership. Today’s decision also sends a clear message to the military leadership: continuing on the current path will only bring further suffering and will never grant any legitimacy.
Restrictive measures, which now apply to a total of 35 individuals and two companies, include a travel ban and an asset freeze. In addition, EU citizens and companies are forbidden from making funds available to the listed individuals and entities.
Pre-existing EU restrictive measures also remain in place. These include an embargo on arms and equipment that can be used for internal repression, an export ban on dual-use goods for use by the military and border guard police, export restrictions on equipment for monitoring communications that could be used for internal repression, and a prohibition on military training for and military cooperation with the Tatmadaw.
EU restrictive measures add to the withholding of financial assistance directly going to the government and the freezing of all assistance to government bodies that may be seen as legitimising the junta.
The EU remains a steadfast supporter of Myanmar/Burma’s people and of the country’s democratic transition. As a tangible sign of this support, the European Commission has recently allocated a further EUR 9 million in emergency humanitarian aid to assist those in need. Since 1994, the EU has provided €287 million in humanitarian aid to Myanmar, with €20.5 million allocated in 2021 so far. The EU works with trusted and independent humanitarian partners to address the protection, food, nutrition and health needs of the most vulnerable people, particularly in Rakhine, Chin, Kachin and Shan states.
The relevant legal acts, including the names of the persons and entities concerned, have been published in the Official Journal.
The Commission decided yesterday to extend the temporary waiver of customs duties and Value Added Tax (VAT) on imports from non-EU countries of medical devices and protective equipment used in the fight against COVID-19. Yesterday’s decision prolongs the customs duties and VAT relief available under the already existing exemption, which had been due to expire at the end of this month, until 31 December 2021. The prolongation takes into consideration the challenges that Member States still face in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fact that imports of these goods remain significant. The measure will continue to support Member States financially in getting equipment such as masks or ventilators to the medical staff and patients that need them most. More information on the decision can be found here. The exemption forms part of the Commission’s response to COVID-19 in the area of taxation and customs. Yesterday’s decision follows a Commission proposal last week to exempt from VAT goods and services made available by the European Commission, EU bodies and agencies to Member States and citizens during times of crises such as public health emergencies. In December 2020, the Council also agreed on new measures, based on a Commission proposal, allowing for the temporary application of a zero VAT rate to COVID-19 vaccines and either reduced or zero VAT rates to COVID-19 testing kits sold within the EU, if Member States so choose.
On 19 April, the European Commission announced Mönchengladbach (Germany) as the winner of the European Mobility Week Award 2020 for larger municipalities, while Lilienthal (Germany) took home the title for smaller municipalities. The 9th Award for Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning (SUMP) was won by Greater Grenoble Area Mobility Authority (SMMAG) for Grenoble-Alpes SUMP (France), and the EU Urban Road Safety Award went to Bilbao (Spain). The awards all recognise remarkable initiatives carried out in 2020. The annual theme for the European Mobility Week and the SUMP Awards was ‘Zero-emission mobility for all’. Speaking about the finalists, Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, said: “These inspiring achievements really show how cities and towns across Europe can improve people’s wellbeing by shifting towards cleaner, greener and more sustainable travel options for all. I invite others to follow this path and to join forces in building a mobility system for future generations that is smart, resilient, and does its share to achieve our ambitious emission reduction goals. I look forward to celebrating with you the 20th Year of European Mobility Week under our call to action ‘Move Sustainably. Stay Healthy’.” The European Mobility Week campaign runs from 16-22 September each year. Last year, over 2,900 towns and cities from 53 countries took part. The 2021 campaign theme is ‘Safe and Healthy with Sustainable Mobility’. More information is available here.
The European Commission is organising a dedicated New European Bauhaus Conference on 22 and 23 April, some three months after the launch of the initiative’s ‘co-design phase’. The New European Bauhaus gives a cultural dimension to the European Green Deal and aims at accelerating the green transition of the built environment to achieve our climate targets. The Conference will be opened by Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen; European Parliament President, David Sassoli; and Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa, on behalf of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It will also hear from high-level speakers, like politician and philanthropist, Mike Bloomberg, grassroots activist and founder of shack dwellers international, Sheela Patel, climate scientist, John Schellnhuber, and other members of the high-level roundtable of experts for the initiative. The Conference will also see the launch of the first New European Bauhaus Prize. Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel and Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, leading this initiative in the Commission, will participate and share their vision for the New European Bauhaus, the goals and aims, and the next steps. Commissioner Gabriel said: “The New European Bauhaus is about hope, inspiration and new perspectives. This Conference will help us explore how to unleash and multiply the creative potential of our citizens to make a success of the initiative”. Commissioner Ferreira said: “The New European Bauhaus is an expression of a new mindset, combining sustainability, aesthetics and inclusion. Cohesion policy is a natural partner in this quest for green and inclusive regions, cities and villages. Let’s put our minds and hearts in building a better home for the future! Because home is where the heart is”. The Conference will be fully online and the programme is online here. Interested media are invited to register now. There will be an interactive press statement on EbS on Friday 23 April at 13:00 to launch the prize. Find out more about the initiative with these frequently asked questions.
The Conference’s central hub, unveiled today by the Co-Chairs of the Executive Board, will allow citizens to help shape the Union’s future.
The Executive Board of the Conference on the Future of Europe, comprising representatives from the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, is launching the multilingual digital platform for the Conference on the Future of Europe inviting all EU citizens to contribute to shaping their own future and that of Europe as a whole. The platform is available in 24 languages, allowing citizens from across the Union to share and exchange their ideas and views through online events.
The Joint Presidency of the Conference welcomed the launch of the platform.
European Parliament President, David Sassoli, said: “The platform represents a key tool to allow citizens to participate and have a say on the Future of Europe. We must be certain that their voices will be heard and that they have a role in the decision-making, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic. European democracy, of the representative and participatory kind, will continue to function no matter what, because our shared future demands it.”
Prime Minister of Portugal António Costa, on behalf of the Presidency of the Council, said: “The time has come for our citizens to actively share their greatest concerns and their ideas. This discussion couldn’t happen at a more relevant time. We have to prepare now, so that we come out of this crisis even stronger and when we overcome the pandemic we stand ready for the future. We hope to continue to build the Europe of the future together, a fairer, greener and more digital Europe that responds to our citizens’ expectations.”
European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Health, climate change, good and sustainable jobs in a more and more digital economy, the state of our democratic societies: We are inviting Europeans to speak up, to address their concerns and tell us what Europe they want to live in. With this citizens’ platform, we are giving everyone the opportunity to contribute to shaping the future of Europe and engage with other people from across Europe. This is a great opportunity to bring Europeans together virtually. Join the debate! Together, we can build the future we want for our Union.”
The Conference on the Future of Europe is an unprecedented, open and inclusive exercise in deliberative democracy. It seeks to give people from all walks of life, across Europe, a greater say on what they expect from the European Union, which should then help guide the EU’s future direction and policymaking. The Joint Presidency has committed to follow up on the outcome of the Conference.
The multilingual digital platform is fully interactive and multilingual: people can engage with one another and discuss their proposals with fellow citizens from all Member States, in the EU’s 24 official languages. People from all walks of life and in numbers as large as possible are encouraged to contribute via the platform in shaping their future, but also to promote it on social media channels, with the hashtag #TheFutureIsYours
The platform will ensure full transparency – a key principle of the Conference – as all submissions and event outcomes will be collected, analysed, monitored, and made publicly available. The key ideas and recommendations from the platform will be used as input for the European citizens’ panels and the Plenaries, where they will be debated to produce the Conference’s conclusions.
All Conference-related events that will be registered on the platform will be visualised on an interactive map, enabling citizens to browse and sign up online. Organisers can use the toolkit available on the platform to help organise and promote their initiatives. All participants and events must respect the Charter of the Conference on the Future of Europe, which lays down standards for a respectful pan-European debate.
The platform is organised around key topics: climate change and the environment; health; a stronger and fairer economy; social justice and jobs; EU in the world; values and rights, rule of law, security; digital transformation; European democracy; migration; and education, culture, youth and sport. These topics are complemented by an ‘open box’ for cross-cutting and other topics (‘other ideas’), as citizens remain free to raise any issue that matters to them, in a truly bottom-up approach.
The platform also provides information on the Conference’s structure and work. It is open to all EU citizens, as well as EU institutions and bodies, national Parliaments, national and local authorities and civil society. It will fully respect users’ privacy, and EU data protection rules.
The Council today adopted its first reading position on the proposed regulation establishing the EU space programme ( “the programme”) for the years 2021 to 2027. This follows up on a deal reached last December with the European Parliament that paves the way for the swift adoption of the draft regulation at second reading.
The EU relies on space activities as drivers of sustainable economic growth and security. Our new EU space programme will enable us to remain competitive in the New Space economy and to preserve the EU’s space sovereignty. It will boost our economic recovery from the pandemic and our transition towards a green and digital economic model.
Manuel Heitor, Portuguese Minister for Science and Technology and Higher Education
The regulation will ensure:
- high-quality, up-to-date and secure space-related data and services;
- greater socio-economic benefits from the use of such data and services, such as increased growth and job creation in the EU;
- enhanced security and autonomy of the EU;
- a stronger role for the EU as a leading actor in the space sector.
It will achieve this by:
- simplifying and streamlining the existing EU legal framework on space policy;
- providing the EU with an adequate space budget to continue and improve on existing space flagship programmes such as EGNOS, Galileo and Copernicus, as well as monitor space hazards under the ‘space situational awareness’ component (SSA) and cater for access to secure satellite communications for national authorities (GOVSATCOM);
- establishing the rules for governance of the EU space programme;
- standardising the security framework of the space programme.
In line with the political agreement reached last December between the co-legislators, the European Parliament is expected to approve the Council’s position at first reading in April 2021. The regulation will then be deemed to have been formally adopted. It will apply retroactively from 1 January 2021.
Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, and Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, will co-host on Tuesday, 20 April, an online event on Green Taxation. The European Union has set out ambitious targets to tackle climate change and foster a cleaner environment, with a view to becoming a climate-neutral continent by 2050. Environmental taxation can play a positive and active role in achieving these objectives, by encouraging a switch to cleaner energy, more sustainable industry and greener habits. Green taxation can also contribute to a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and long-term sustainable growth. Tomorrow’s event will feature debate and discussion around this important topic, with the participation of high-level representatives of the European Commission, European Parliament, Member States, the OECD, industry and civil society. The full agenda and event streaming can be found on the Commission’s website here.
The Commission has approved the modification of three European Social Fund (ESF) Operational Programmes (OPs) that will increase the funding available for investments from REACT-EU by nearly €344.8 million. The funds extend the crisis response and repair measures delivered through the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative. Denmark will use the ESF share of REACT-EU funds to boost entrepreneurship and the development of necessary skills for the green and digital transitions. Luxembourg will support around 20,000 people employed in sectors affected by the coronavirus crisis through a short-time work scheme. In the Netherlands, the funding from REACT-EU will support people from vulnerable groups – both on and off the labour market – to find job opportunities and develop the necessary basic and professional skills. As part of NextGenerationEU, REACT-EU provides a top-up of €47.5 billion (€50.5 billion in current prices) to Cohesion policy programmes in 2021 and 2022. Measures focus on job creation and job maintenance, including through short-time work schemes and support to the self-employed, youth employment measures, and skills development – in particular to support the green and digital transitions.