EU institution news

COVID-19 vaccines: Launch of the interactive map on vaccine production capacities in the EU | EU Commission Press

Today, the Commission published an interactive map showcasing COVID-19 vaccine production capacities in the EU, along the entire supply chain. The mapping tool is based on data gained through the work of the Task Force for Industrial Scale-up of COVID-19 vaccine production, on data collected during the matchmaking event organised by the Commission in March, as well as publicly available information and information shared by Member States. This data will be complemented and updated as further information becomes available. Commissioner Breton, responsible for the Internal Market and head of the Task Force, said: “With more than one billion vaccine doses produced, our industry has helped the EU become the world’s most vaccinated continent and the world’s leading exporter of COVID-19 vaccines. This interactive map, featuring hundreds of EU-based manufacturers, suppliers and distributors, shows the breadth of the industrial ecosystem, as well as the potential for new industrial partnerships to further boost our health emergency preparedness.” The Task Force categorised the companies based on their main area of activity, thus companies may have more capacities than those reflected in the map. The Task Force for Industrial Scale-up of COVID-19 vaccine production was set up by the Commission in February 2021 to ramp up production capacity for COVID-19 vaccines in the EU, acting as a one-stop-shop for manufacturers seeking support, and to identify and address bottlenecks in terms of production capacity and supply chain. The interactive map is available here.

Varosha: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union | EU Council Press

The European Union strongly condemns Turkey’s unilateral steps and the unacceptable announcements made by the Turkish President and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community on 20 July 2021 on the further reopening of the fenced-off town of Varosha.

The EU welcomes the Statement made by the President of the UN Security Council on behalf of the Council on 23 July 2021, and in particular the Security Council’s condemnation and expression of deep regret about the unilateral actions in Varosha that run contrary to the Security Council’s previous resolutions and statements. The EU equally calls for the immediate reversal of these actions and the reversal of all steps taken on Varosha since October 2020.

The EU continues to be guided by the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions with respect to Varosha, in particular Resolution 550 (1984) and Resolution 789 (1992), which consider attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible, and which call for the transfer of that area to the administration of the United Nations. No actions should be carried out in relation to Varosha that are not in accordance with those Resolutions. Full respect for and implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions also require an immediate end to restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) in the Varosha area. The EU continues to hold the Government of Turkey responsible for the situation in Varosha.

The EU once again underlines the need to avoid unilateral actions in breach of international law and renewed provocations, which could raise tensions on the island and compromise the ongoing efforts to seek common ground between the parties towards a lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue in line with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

The EU remains fully committed to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and in line with the principles on which the EU is founded. It reiterates that it is crucial that Turkey commits and contributes constructively to the resumption of negotiations for a comprehensive settlement, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.  The EU will continue to support fully the United Nations Secretary-General’s efforts.

Ministers will consider actions at their next meeting, in case of non-reversal of Turkey’s actions contrary to UN Security Council Resolutions 550/84 and 789/92, following the Statement of the Members of the European Council from 25 March 2021, which reaffirmed the determination of the EU, in case of renewed provocations and unilateral actions in breach of international law, to use the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests and those of its Member States, as well as to uphold regional stability.

State aid: Commission approves amendment to Dutch scheme, including €1.8 billion budget increase, to further support companies in the context of the coronavirus outbreak | EU Commission Press

The European Commission has found the modifications to an existing Dutch scheme to support companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak to be in line with the State aid Temporary Framework. The Commission approved the original scheme in June 2020 (SA.57712), and its subsequent modifications in November 2020 (SA.59535), in February 2021 (SA.60166), in March 2021 (SA.62241) and in June 2021 (SA.63257). Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants to cover fixed costs incurred by the beneficiaries. The Netherlands notified some further modifications to the existing scheme, including: (i) an overall budget increase by €1.8 billion; (ii) an extension of the eligible period, to cover the months from July to September 2021; (iii) a modification of the maximum aid amount for large enterprises; and (iv) a prolongation of additional aid for companies active in the agricultural sector. The Commission found that the Dutch scheme, as amended, continue to be in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €225,000 per company active in the primary production of agriculture products, €270,000 per company active in the fishery and aquaculture sector, and €1.8 million per company active in other sectors; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021. The Commission concluded that the Dutch scheme, as modified, remains 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 measures 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.63984 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. 

State aid: Commission approves €800 million Italian scheme to compensate airports and ground-handling operators for the damage suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak | EU Commission Press

The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a €800 million Italian scheme to compensate airports and ground-handling operators for the damage suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak and the travel restrictions that Italy and other countries had to implement to limit the spread of the virus.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager in charge of competition policy, said: “Airports are among the companies that have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus outbreak. This €800 million scheme will enable Italy to compensate them for the damage suffered as a direct result of the travel restrictions that Italy and other countries had to implement to limit the spread of the virus. We continue working in close cooperation with Member States to find workable solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, in line with EU rules.”

The Italian scheme

Italy notified to the Commission an aid measure to compensate airports and ground-handling operators for the damage suffered during the period between 1 March and 14 July 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak and the travel restrictions in place.

Under the scheme, the aid will take the form of direct grants. The measure will be open to all airports and ground-handling operators with a valid operating certificate delivered by the Italian civil aviation authority.

A claw-back mechanism will ensure that any public support received by the beneficiaries in excess to the actual damage suffered will have to be paid back to the Italian State.  

The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which enables the Commission to approve State aid measures granted by Member States to compensate specific companies or specific sectors for the damages directly caused by exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak.

The Commission considers that the coronavirus outbreak qualifies as an exceptional occurrence, as it is an extraordinary, unforeseeable event having a significant economic impact. As a result, exceptional interventions by the Member States to compensate for the damages linked to the outbreak are justified. 

The Commission found that the Italian measure will compensate damages that are directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak, and that it is proportionate, as the compensation will not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage, in line with Article 107(2)(b) TFEU.

On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU State aid rules.

Background

Financial support from EU or national funds granted to health services or other public services to tackle the coronavirus situation falls outside the scope of State aid control. The same applies to any public financial support given directly to citizens. Similarly, public support measures that are available to all companies such as for example wage subsidies and suspension of payments of corporate and value added taxes or social contributions do not fall under State aid control and do not require the Commission’s approval under EU State aid rules. In all these cases, Member States can act immediately.

When State aid rules are applicable, Member States can design ample aid measures to support specific companies or sectors suffering from the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak in line with the existing EU State aid framework.

On 13 March 2020, the Commission adopted a Communication on a Coordinated economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak setting out these possibilities.

In this respect, for example:

  • Member States can compensate specific companies or specific sectors (in the form of schemes) for the damage suffered due and directly caused by exceptional occurrences, such as those caused by the coronavirus outbreak. This is foreseen by Article 107(2)(b)TFEU.
  • State aid rules based on Article 107(3)(c) TFEU enable Member States to help companies cope with liquidity shortages and needing urgent rescue aid.
  • This can be complemented by a variety of additional measures, such as under the de minimis Regulation and the General Block Exemption Regulation, which can also be put in place by Member States immediately, without involvement of the Commission.

In case of particularly severe economic situations, such as the one currently faced by all Member States due the coronavirus outbreak, EU State aid rules allow Member States to grant support to remedy a serious disturbance to their economy. This is foreseen by Article 107(3)(b) TFEU of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

On 19 March 2020, the Commission adopted a State aid Temporary Framework based on Article 107(3)(b) TFEU to enable Member States to use the full flexibility foreseen under State aid rules to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The Temporary Framework, as amended on 3 April8 May29 June13 October 2020 and 28 January 2021, provides for the following types of aid, which can be granted by Member States: (i) Direct grants, equity injections, selective tax advantages and advance payments; (ii) State guarantees for loans taken by companies; (iii) Subsidised public loans to companies, including subordinated loans; (iv) Safeguards for banks that channel State aid to the real economy; (v) Public short-term export credit insurance;(vi) Support for coronavirus related research and development (R&D); (vii) Support for the construction and upscaling of testing facilities; (viii) Support for the production of products relevant to tackle the coronavirus outbreak; (ix) Targeted support in the form of deferral of tax payments and/or suspensions of social security contributions; (x) Targeted support in the form of wage subsidies for employees; (xi) Targeted support in the form of equity and/or hybrid capital instruments; (xii) Support for uncovered fixed costs for companies facing a decline in turnover in the context of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Temporary Framework will be in place until the end of December 2021. With a view to ensuring legal certainty, the Commission will assess before this date if it needs to be extended.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.63074 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the Competition Weekly e-News.

More information on the Temporary Framework and other action the Commission has taken to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here.

State aid: Commission approves €525.3 million German aid in favour of airline Condor in context of coronavirus outbreak | EU Commission Press

The European Commission has found an aid package by Germany in favour of the airline Condor to be in line with EU State aid rules. The approval of the aid package, based on three separate Commission’s decisions, relates to two measures to compensate Condor for damages suffered as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, worth in total €204.1 million, and €321.2 million of restructuring support to enable Condor’s return to viability.  

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The aviation sector has been hit particularly hard by the various travel restrictions necessary to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The measures we approved today will enable Germany to compensate Condor for damages directly suffered as a result of such restrictions. At the same time, the restructuring plan for Condor, which we have also approved today, will ensure the airline’s path towards long-term viability.”

The German aid measures

Condor is a German charter airline, which provides air transport services to individual clients and tour operators from its hubs in Germany, with a focus on the leisure travel market. It serves 126 destinations all over the world. The restrictions put in place in Germany, as well as in other EU Member States and third countries, in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus have heavily affected Condor’s operations, in particular regarding international and intercontinental flights. As a result, Condor has been incurring significant losses since 17 March 2020.

Following the annulment by the General Court of a Commission decision of 26 April 2020, which had approved damage compensation in favour of Condor for the period 17 March to 31 December 2020 (in the form of two loans, with a nominal amount of €550 million and an aid amount of total €267.1 million, based on ex ante estimates of damages), the Commission has today adopted a new decision based on an ex post analysis of the actual damages incurred (”Condor I”) and taking into account the judgment by the General Court.

Between 17 March to 31 December 2020, Condor suffered an actual damage because of the coronavirus outbreak and the related travel restrictions below the initial estimated amount. In line with the claw-back commitment by Germany included in the Commission’s April 2020 decision, Condor will repay the advantage received in excess of the actual amount of damages calculated ex post, plus interest. In a first decision (Condor I), the Commission is therefore approving today €144.1 million of loans as damage compensation for the period between 17 March and 31 December 2020.

In a second decision, the Commission has furthermore approved additional damage compensation in an amount of €60 million for the period from 1 January to 31 May 2021 (“Condor II). This aid measure takes the form of a write off on part of the existing loans, which were initially approved under the annulled decision of April 2020 (the initial damage compensation measure covering the period from 17 March 2020 to 31 December 2020, described above).

Third, Germany also notified the Commission of its plans to grant restructuring aid to Condor. The aid would be granted by writing off additional €90 million of the existing loans and by restructuring the remaining amount of loans, as well as to write-off €20.2 million of interest. This interest relates to the temporary access to excess funds that Condor had on the basis of the amount of damages calculated ex ante. These measures support the restructuring plan of Condor, which started in October 2019 and is envisaged to end in September 2023, for a total of €321.2 million.

The Commission’s assessment

The Commission assessed the damage compensation measures under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which enables the Commission to approve State aid measures granted by Member States to compensate specific companies or sectors for damage directly caused by exceptional occurrences.

The Commission considers that the coronavirus outbreak qualifies as such an exceptional occurrence, as it is an extraordinary, unforeseeable event having significant economic impact. As a result, exceptional interventions by the Member State to compensate for the damages linked to the outbreak are justified.

  • In the first compensation period, from 17 March to 30 June 2020, the notified measure will compensate Condor for the overall loss of income caused by the travel restrictions imposed in Germany, EU and non-EU countries to limit the spread of the virus.
  • In the second compensation period from 1 July 2020 to 31 May 2021, the notified measure will compensate Condor for the losses caused by remaining or new travel restrictions affecting specific routes.

Therefore, the Commission found that the measures will compensate damages suffered by Condor that are directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak and the related travel restrictions.

The Commission also found that the measures are proportionate. In particular, the route-by-route quantitative analysis submitted by Germany for the compensation relating to the period from 1 July 2020 to 31 May 2021 appropriately identifies the damage attributable to the travel restrictions still applicable to specific routes, and therefore the compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage on those routes. The risk of the State aid exceeding the damage is therefore excluded.

For what concerns the restructuring aid notified by Germany, the Commission assessed the measures under its Guidelines on State aid for the rescue and restructuring of companies in difficulty   

The Commission found that, in line with the Guidelines, Condor is implementing a comprehensive package of restructuring measures that will ensure its return to long-term viability. Moreover, Condor and its new private investor Attestor are making a significant own contribution to the cost of restructuring, as they will fund over 70% of that cost. In particular, creditors have agreed to write-off over €630 million of claims. Moreover, Attestor has committed to inject €200 million of equity and provide further €250 million for Condor’s fleet renewal. The latter will also contribute to the Commission’s objectives specified in the Green Deal as it will replace Condor’s ageing fleet with new, efficient aircraft, which will lead to reductions of fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Finally, Condor has committed to a capacity cap of its fleet during the restructuring period (until September 2023) in order to limit the distortions of competition possibly created by the restructuring aid.

The Commission has therefore approved the restructuring plan presented by Germany and has concluded that the restructuring aid is in line with EU rules as it will bring Condor back on the path of long-term viability without unduly affecting completion and trade in the German leisure air travel market.

Background

Financial support from EU or national funds granted to health services or other public services to tackle the coronavirus situation falls outside the scope of State aid control. The same applies to any public financial support given directly to citizens. Similarly, public support measures that are available to all companies such as for example wage subsidies and suspension of payments of corporate and value added taxes or social contributions do not fall under State aid control and do not require the Commission’s approval under EU State aid rules. In all these cases, Member States can act immediately. When State aid rules are applicable, Member States can design ample aid measures to support specific companies or sectors suffering from the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak in line with the existing EU State aid framework.

On 13 March 2020, the Commission adopted a Communication on a coordinated economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak setting out these possibilities.

In this respect, for example:

  • Member States can compensate specific companies or specific sectors (in the form of schemes) for the damage suffered due and directly caused by exceptional occurrences, such as those caused by the coronavirus outbreak. This is foreseen by Article 107(2)(b)TFEU.
  • State aid rules based on Article 107(3)(c) TFEU enable Member States to help companies cope with liquidity shortages and needing urgent rescue aid.
  • This can be complemented by a variety of additional measures, such as under the de minimis Regulation and the General Block Exemption Regulation, which can also be put in place by Member States immediately, without involvement of the Commission.

In case of particularly severe economic situations, such as the one currently faced by all Member States due the coronavirus outbreak, EU State aid rules allow Member States to grant support to remedy a serious disturbance to their economy. This is foreseen by Article 107(3)(b) TFEU of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

On 19 March 2020, the Commission adopted a State aid Temporary Framework based on Article 107(3)(b) TFEU to enable Member States to use the full flexibility foreseen under State aid rules to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The Temporary Framework, as amended on 3 April, 8 May, 29 June, 13 October 2020 and 28 January 2021, provides for the following types of aid, which can be granted by Member States: (i) Direct grants, equity injections, selective tax advantages and advance payments; (ii) State guarantees for loans taken by companies; (iii) Subsidised public loans to companies, including subordinated loans; (iv) Safeguards for banks that channel State aid to the real economy; (v) Public short-term export credit insurance;(vi) Support for coronavirus related research and development (R&D); (vii) Support for the construction and upscaling of testing facilities; (viii) Support for the production of products relevant to tackle the coronavirus outbreak; (ix) Targeted support in the form of deferral of tax payments and/or suspensions of social security contributions; (x) Targeted support in the form of wage subsidies for employees; (xi) Targeted support in the form of equity and/or hybrid capital instruments; (xii) Support for uncovered fixed costs for companies facing a decline in turnover in the context of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Temporary Framework will be in place until the end of December 2021. With a view to ensuring legal certainty, the Commission will assess before this date if it needs to be extended. The Commission’s Guidelines on rescue and restructuring aid allow Member States to support the restructuring of companies in difficulties, provided, in particular, that the public support measures contribute to addressing the company’s problems and enable it to become viable without continued State support, while limiting the distortions of competition triggered by the aid.

In October 2019, the Commission approved €380 million rescue aid to Condor, as the company got into financial difficulties due to the liquidation of its parent company.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case numbers SA.63203, SA. 63617 and SA. 56867 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the Competition Weekly e-News. More information on the Temporary Framework and other action the Commission has taken to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here.

Recovery fund: ministers welcome assessment of four more national plans | EU Council Press

Economy and finance ministers today welcomed the assessment of national recovery and resilience plans for Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia. The Council will adopt its implementing decisions on the approval of these plans by written procedure shortly after the informal ministers’ meeting held today.

Following the formal adoption of the decisions, this second batch of member states will be able to use the facility’s funds to foster their economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. All four member states requested pre-financing from their allocated funds, which will be disbursed after the signing of bilateral grant and loan agreements.

Good news for four more member states – Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia. Following the approval of first 12 decisions on national plans earlier this month, we swiftly continued our work so that these member states could start receiving support for implementing their planned reforms and investments as soon as possible. We have to make the best possible use of these funds to recover from the crisis and pave the way to a resilient, greener and more digital Europe.

Andrej Šircelj, Slovenia’s Minister for Finance

The Recovery and Resilience Facility is the EU’s programme of large-scale financial support in response to the challenges the pandemic has posed to the European economy. The facility’s €672.5 billion will be used to support the reforms and investments outlined in the member states’ recovery and resilience plans.

Reforms and investments

The Council decisions are preceded by the Commission’s assessment of the national recovery and resilience plans. The plans have to comply with the 2019 and 2020 country-specific recommendations and reflect the EU’s general objective of creating a greener, more digital and more competitive economy.

The reforms and investments that Croatia plans to implement to reach these goals include improving water and waste management, a shift to sustainable mobility and financing digital infrastructures in remote rural areas. Cyprus intends, among other things, to reform its electricity market and facilitate the deployment of renewable energy, as well as to enhance connectivity and e-government solutions.

An increase in locally produced renewables, the green public procurement measures and further developing the rollout of very high capacity networks are some of the measures that Lithuania has included in its recovery and resilience plan. Slovenia plans to use a part of the allocated EU support to invest in sustainable transport, unlock the potential of renewable energy sources and further digitalise its public sector.

Next steps

Future disbursements from the facility will take place once the member states reach milestones and targets set for each investment and reform.

Copyright: Commission calls on Member States to comply with EU rules on copyright in the Digital Single Market | EU Commission Press

The Commission has requested Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia and Slovakia to communicate information about how the rules included in the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (Directive 2019/790/EU) are being enacted into their national law. The European Commission has also requested Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia to communicate information about how Directive 2019/789/EU on online television and radio programmes is enacted into their national law. As the Member States above have not communicated national transposition measures or have done it only partially, the Commission decided today to open infringement procedures by sending letters of formal notice. The two Directives aim to modernise EU copyright rules and to enable consumers and creators to make the most of the digital world. They reinforce the position of creative industries, allow for more digital uses in core areas of society, and facilitate the distribution of radio and television programmes across the EU. The deadline for transposing these Directives into national legislation was 7 June 2021. These Member States now have two months to respond to the letters and take the necessary measures. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may decide to issue reasoned opinions.

The Commission lays out practical solutions for medicines supply in Northern Ireland in the framework of the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland, and for sanitary and phytosanitary measures | EU Commission Press

Today, the Commission published a series of ‘non-papers’ in the fields of medicines and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, in the framework of the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland. A non-paper specifically on medicines lays out the Commission’s proposed solution to ensure a continued, long-term supply of medicines in Northern Ireland, from or through Great Britain. This non-paper was shared with the UK prior to the package of measures announced by the Commission on 30 June 2021, to address some of the most pressing issues related to the implementation of the Protocol in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland. Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said: “These solutions have an unambiguous common denominator – they were brought about with the core purpose of benefitting the people in Northern Ireland. Ultimately, our work is about ensuring that the hard-earned gains of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement – peace and stability in Northern Ireland – are protected, while avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and maintaining the integrity of the EU Single Market.” The solution on medicines involves the EU changing its own rules, within the framework of the Protocol, so that regulatory compliance functions for medicines supplied to the Northern Ireland market only, may be permanently located in Great Britain, subject to specific conditions ensuring that the medicines concerned are not further distributed in the EU Internal Market. The medicines concerned here are primarily generic and over-the-counter products. The solution demonstrates the Commission’s commitment to the people in Northern Ireland and to the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, with a legislative proposal expected in the early autumn in order to be able to finish the legislative process on time. The other non-papers published today relate to a solution identified by the Commission to ease the movement of assistance dogs accompanying persons travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, and a proposal by the Commission to simplify the movements of livestock from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, and to clarify the rules on EU-origin animal products that are moved to Great Britain for storage before being shipped to Northern Ireland. All these papers, outlining the flexibilities offered by the Commission, have been shared with the UK and EU Member States, and are available online

Fight against ransomware: New website to get help faster marks five years of ‘No More Ransom’ initiative that helped over six million victims recover their data | EU Commission Press

Today, Europol, the EU law enforcement agency, marks five years of its ‘No More Ransom’ project with a revamped website that allows easy access to decryption tools and other help in over 30 languages. The initiative supplies ransomware victims with decryption tools to recover their encrypted files, helps them report cases to law enforcement authorities and contributes to raising awareness about ransomware. Since its launch five years ago, the project has already helped more than six million victims worldwide and prevented criminals from making almost a billion euro in profits. The Commission is a partner of the project, together with tech companies, law enforcement, and public and private sector entities. Ransomware is a type of malware that locks users’ computers and encrypts their data. The criminals behind the malware demand a ransom from the user in order to regain control over the affected device or files. Ransomware represents a growing threat, affecting all sectors including energy infrastructure or health care. Protecting European citizens and businesses against cyber threats, including against ransomware, is a priority for the Commission. You will find more information in the press release published by Europol.

Joint Research Centre report: loneliness has doubled across the EU since the pandemic | EU Commission Press

One in four EU citizens reported feeling lonely during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from the Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), presented today. The report contains the latest scientific evidence on loneliness and social isolation in the EU, and analyses the survey by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, showing that feelings of loneliness doubled across all age groups in the early months of the pandemic. There was a four-fold increase in loneliness among 18-35 year olds, compared to 2016. Media coverage across the EU on the phenomenon of loneliness also doubled during the pandemic, with awareness of the issue varying widely across Member States. The JRC report explores initiatives to tackle loneliness in 10 EU Member States. Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, Dubravka Šuica, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has brought problems like loneliness and social isolation to the fore. These feelings already existed, but there was less public awareness of them. With this new report, we can start to better understand and tackle these problems. Together with other initiatives, like the Green Paper on Ageing, we have an opportunity to reflect on how to build together a more resilient, cohesive society and an EU that is closer to its citizens.” Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, added: “Loneliness is a challenge that is increasingly affecting our young people. But to address any challenge effectively we first need to understand it. Our scientists at the Joint Research Centre are providing valuable insights into loneliness and how people have been impacted by the pandemic. This new report gives us a baseline for broader analysis, so that loneliness and social isolation can be fully understood and addressed in Europe.” The report is the first step of broader collaborative work between the European Parliament and the Commission. The project will include new EU-wide data collection on loneliness, to be carried out in 2022, and the establishment of a web platform to monitor loneliness over time and across Europe. Read more here and the full report here.