EU institution news

Future of Europe: citizens’ panel proposals on climate change, environment and health | EU Parliament Press

Citizens proposed ways to improve health, fight climate change and protect the environment at a forum held in Warsaw on 7-9 January.

As part of the Conference on the Future of Europe, Warsaw hosted some 200 Europeans on 7-9 January 2022, who came for the third and final session of the European citizens’ panel dedicated to climate change, environment and health. Due to the current Covid-19 situation, some panel members joined remotely.

Panellists discussed their recommendations in five areas:

  • Better ways of living
  • Protecting our environment and our health
  • Redirecting our economy
  • Redirecting overproduction and overconsumption
  • Caring for all

Participants voted on 64 recommendations: 51 were approved, while 13 did not reach the required 70% support threshold.

Read the full list of approved recommendations of this panel


Citizens welcomed the opportunity to recommend policy action: “This is a win for all, in a practical and moral sense,” said Celestino, a panellist from Italy. “The citizen takes central stage here and experiences politics, the moment and the complications that come with this and tries to find solutions to improve things. People feel included. The citizen is part of the system.”

Nina, a panellist from Germany, said: “I think it’s very important to talk about these topics and we’ve come up with a lot of great suggestions and recommendations. So I really hope that EU politicians follow up on this by listening to our opinions, listening to the citizens’ voices and taking action that is in the interest of the EU citizens.”

Find out  what European citizens’ panels are and what their objective is

Better ways of living

Panellists recommend providing EU subsidies for organic farming and support for vertical farming, where crops are grown in layers on top of each other. The EU should also set minimum standards for food quality in school canteens and food production should become part of public education.

Another recommendation is an EU directive on urban development to make cities greener. Panellists also want more support for cyclists and investment in new bike lanes.

Protecting our environment and health

Panel participants called for a unified labelling system explaining the entire ecological footprint of products purchased within the EU as well as labels stating the use of hormonal substances in food products.

They also want higher taxes on unhealthy foods to discourage consumption and a European-wide scoring system for healthy food.

Panellists recommended a drastic reduction of the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers. To protect biodiversity, they want the extension of protected areas as well as rapid and massive reforestation. Panellists also want a gradual phasing out of intensive animal farming.

Redirecting our economy and consumption

Panellists recommend that the EU should encourage the longer use of products by lengthening their warranties and setting a maximum price on spare parts.

The EU should enforce stricter environmental manufacturing standards, which should also apply to imported goods and introduce measures to limit advertising for products that damage the environment.

Redirecting overproduction and overconsumption

Panellists want the EU to make CO2 filters mandatory, especially for coal plants. They want to tackle pollution by imposing fines on polluters and reducing the amount of imported goods that don’t meet the EU’s ecological footprint standards.

The EU should also support member states in improving the connectivity or rural areas, while incentivising affordable public transport and promote the purchase of electric vehicles and investment in developing other non-polluting technologies.

Caring for all

Panellists suggest a change in the EU treaties that would introduce a legal base for more EU action on health. Health treatments across the EU should be of equal quality and at a fair cost. Citizens suggest that a new European procurement agency could negotiate better prices for medicines for all member states.

Female sanitary products should stop being considered as luxury goods and taxed extra. To promote a better understanding of health, EU countries should include mental health and sexual education in their school curricula.

What’s next

Representatives of the panel will present and debate the recommendations at the next Conference Plenary on 21-22 January 2022 in Strasbourg. The plenary includes representatives of the EU institutions, national parliaments, civil society and citizens.

The final outcome of the Conference will be presented in a report to the presidents of the Parliament, the Council, and the European Commission, who have committed to following up on these recommendations.

The remaining European citizens’ panels will also adopt their recommendations in the near future.

Share your ideas for the future of Europe on the Conference platform

EU-Catalyst Partnership: Request for proposals of pioneering green technology projects is launched | EU Commission Press

Today, Breakthrough Energy Catalyst published a request for proposals for large-scale deep green technology projects based in Europe. The request will trigger investments in a portfolio of high-potential projects in the areas of clean hydrogen, sustainable aviation fuels, direct air capture, and long-duration energy storage. It marks the first milestone of the EU-Catalyst partnership that the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and Breakthrough Energy Catalyst launched in November 2021 at COP26 in Glasgow, and which was presented by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Bill Gates, the Founder of Breakthrough Energy and European Investment Bank President Werner Hoyer. The Partnership will mobilise $1 billion (around €820 million) between 2022-2026 to accelerate the deployment and commercialisation of innovative technologies that help deliver the European Green Deal ambitions and achieve Europe’s climate goals by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050. Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said:  “With the EU-Catalyst partnership we want to make a daring leap towards achieving our climate goals. We need technological revolution on a global scale, large investments, more financial risk taking and more game-changing innovations, as well as policies that support public-private partnerships across the globe.” EU funding for the EU-Catalyst Partnership comes from Horizon Europe and the Innovation Fund, managed under InvestEU. Each euro of public funds is expected to leverage three euros of private funds. More information is available here, as well as in this factsheet and Questions and Answers.

Financial literacy: Commission and OECD-INFE publish joint framework to improve individuals’ financial skills | EU Commission Press

The European Commission and the OECD International Network on Financial Education (OECD-INFE) have today published the joint EU/OECD-INFE financial competence framework for adults. This framework aims to improve individuals’ financial skills so that they can make sound decisions regarding their personal finances. It will support the development of public policies, financial literacy programmes and educational materials by Member States, educational institutions and industry. It will also support the exchange of good practices by policy makers and stakeholders in the EU.

Having a better understanding of finance empowers individuals in managing their personal finances and allows them to more safely and confidently participate in financial markets. Today’s financial competence framework follows on from measures announced in the 2020 Capital Markets Union Action Plan. It marks a key milestone in the Commission’s work on financial literacy and is an important follow-up to OECD/INFE work on financial literacy.

The joint financial competence framework for adults published today: outlines key skills to help individuals make sound financial decisions; and builds upon the competences defined in the G20/OECD INFE core competencies framework on financial literacy for adults, adjusting them to the EU context, and integrating digital and sustainable finance skills.

Mairead McGuinness, Commissioner for financial services, financial stability and the Capital Markets Union, said:  “Equipping people with the know-how to make informed decisions about their personal finances promotes financial well-being and a more assured participation in financial markets. This is all the more important given the increasing digitalisation of finance. Current levels of financial literacy in the EU are regrettably low, and disproportionately impact the most vulnerable in society. Today’s announcement, and the joint work of the Commission and the OECD-INFE, is a significant step forward in strengthening financial literacy in the EU by providing Member States and other stakeholders with the tools to develop financial literacy policies and programmes. This framework is a key part of our CMU Action Plan and brings us closer to completing a single market where consumers can safely navigate capital markets.”

Next steps

Commission and OECD efforts will now focus on the uptake of the joint EU/OECD-INFE financial competence framework for adults by national authorities and practitioners. Exchanges with Member States and with stakeholders will be organised and will be moderated by Commission services and the OECD as of early 2022.

In parallel, the Commission and the OECD, in cooperation with Member States, will start work on a joint EU/OECD-INFE financial competence framework for children and youth, which is expected to be finalised in 2023.

Background

Financial literacy, according to the 2020 OECD Recommendation on Financial Literacy, refers to a combination of financial awareness, knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours necessary to make sound financial decisions and ultimately achieve individual financial well-being. However, the level of financial literacy among individuals remains low, making it a priority for policymakers and other stakeholders in the EU.

This is why the Commission had included two measures in the 2020 Capital Markets Union Action Plan that aim to increase the financial literacy levels of individuals in the EU:

  • to conduct by Q2 2021 a feasibility assessment on the development of an EU financial competence framework

The feasibility assessment for the development of a financial competence framework in the EU was published in April 2021 and supported the creation of EU-wide financial competence frameworks in collaboration with the OECD-INFE.

  • subject to a positive impact assessment, table a legislative proposal requiring Member States to promote measures that support the financial education of consumers:

This action will be further refined in the context of the retail investment initiative to be adopted in Q4 2022.

Today’s joint EU/OECD-INFE financial competence framework for adults was developed by the Commission and the OECD-INFE through coordinated work. Member States and experts shared their views and comments on the development of the framework through a dedicated subgroup of the EU Government Expert Group on Retail Financial Services (GEGRFS). In addition, technical experts provided input on the usability of the framework through a technical discussion organised by the Commission services and the OECD.

This financial competence framework will aim to provide a common EU-level terminology and framework to inform the development of financial literacy policies and programmes, identifying gaps in the provision of training, and to create evaluation tools.

Commission launches the European Capitals of Inclusion and Diversity Award | EU Commission Press

This year, for the first time the European sets out to reward towns, cities and regions for their work in promoting inclusion and helping to fight discrimination with the European Capitals of Inclusion and Diversity Award. The award, which is part of the Commission’s Union of Equality framework and was launched in the Commission’s Anti-racism Action Plan, aims to recognize local authorities’ innovative activities enhancing the situation and experience of specific groups exposed to discrimination.,  aims to recognize local authorities’ innovative activities enhancing the situation and experience of specific groups exposed to discrimination. Applications can focus on specific educational or cultural projects, improvement of the overall infrastructure and other initiatives fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for all their citizens. In addition, this year a special award for promoting Roma inclusion will be given. Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality said: “Cities and local communities contribute to fostering a sense of belonging and the sharing of common values. Diversity is also a source of richness and innovation. With the Inclusion and Diversity Awards, outstanding work implemented by communities and cities will be recognised and highlighted as an inspiration for others.” The award is open to all local authorities, including towns, cities and regions of the EU Member States. Best practices covering all grounds of discrimination under article 19 of TFEU and their intersectionality are eligible to take part. Applicants are welcome to submit their applications via the website by 15 February 2022, 12:00 CET. The award ceremony is to take place on the 28th of April 2022.

European Media Freedom Act: Commission launches public consultation | EU Commission Press

Today, the Commission publishes an open public consultation on the upcoming European Media Freedom Act, a landmark initiative announced by President von der Leyen in her 2021 State of the Union address to safeguard the pluralism and independence of the media in the EU internal market. This follows a call for evidence published on 21 December 2021 outlining the main aims of the initiative, possible options and impacts.

Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, said: “Media are a pillar of democracy. But today this pillar is cracking, with attempts by governments and private groups to put pressure on the media. This is why the Commission will propose common rules and safeguards to protect the independence and the pluralism of the media. Journalists should be able to do their work, inform citizens and hold power to account without fear or favour. We are now consulting broadly to come with the best proposal.”

Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton added: “We must make sure that European media remains independent, innovative and sustainable, and operate without any unjustified interference in their activities, be it private or public. Today we launch our consultation on the upcoming Media Freedom Act: we want to hear your views and explore your solutions for a resilient media market, which delivers diverse and reliable information to citizens.”

The consultation intends to collect views on the most important issues affecting the functioning of the internal media market, including different types of interference in media, as well as economic trends. It covers three main areas pertaining to media markets, the first one focuses on transparency and independence (e.g. scrutiny of media market transactions, transparency of media ownership and audience measurement), the second on conditions for their healthy functioning (e.g. exposure of the public to a plurality of views, media innovation in the EU market) and the third one on fair allocation of state resources (e.g. independence of public service media, transparency and fair distribution of state advertising). Feedback is also expected on the underpinning governance options for the Act that could build on the European Regulators’ Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA). 

The proposal is set to be presented by the Commission in the third quarter of 2022. The open public consultation seeks to gather views, evidence and data from citizens, in particular journalists, media (both private and public service media), academics, civil society, public authorities, businesses and all interested parties to help the Commission to shape these new rules. Input can be provided until 21 March 2022 on the Have your say portal.

Background

The European Media Freedom Act is planned for adoption in the third quarter of 2022, as stated in the 2022 Commission Work Programme. It will build on the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which lays down rules for the independence of media regulators, promotes transparency of media ownership and recognises that editorial decisions should be free from interference. The initiative will focus on eliminating barriers to the establishment and operation of media services and will aim to establish a common framework for advancing the internal market in the media sector, in view of safeguarding media freedom and pluralism in that market. It will be coherent with the EU’s efforts in promoting democratic participation, fighting disinformation and supporting media freedom and pluralism as set out in the European Democracy Action Plan. In particular, it will complement the recently adopted Recommendation on the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists, the proposed Digital Services Act package and the upcoming initiative to protect journalists and rights defenders from abusive litigation (SLAPP). The European Media Freedom Act will also go hand in hand with actions related to viability, resilience and digital transformation of the media sector, carried out under the Media and Audiovisual Action Plan.

€47 million fund to protect intellectual property of EU SMEs in their COVID-19 recovery and green and digital transitions | EU Commission Press

Today, the Commission and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) launched the new EU SME Fund, which offers vouchers for EU-based SMEs to help them protect their intellectual property (IP) rights. This is the second EU SME Fund aiming at supporting SMEs in the COVID-19 recovery and green and digital transitions for the next three years (2022-2024).

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Small is beautiful, but if SMEs want to grow or take the lead in new technologies, they need to protect their inventions and creations, as big companies do. New ideas and expertise are the main added value we have in the EU. With this Fund, we want to support SMEs to face those peculiar times and remain strong and innovative through the decades to come.”

Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, said: “It goes without saying that SMEs have been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. But what does not change is that they remain the backbone of our economy, of our ecosystems. This Fund will support SMEs to valorise their innovations and creativity. And this is crucial for SMEs to recapitalise and drive the green and digital transitions.”

The EU SME Fund, with a budget of €47 million, will offer the following support:

  • Reimburse 90% of the fees charged by Member States for IP Scan services, which provide a broad assessment of the intellectual property needs of the applying SME, taking into account the innovative potential of its intangible assets;
  • Reimburse 75% of the fees charged by intellectual property offices (including national intellectual property offices, the European Union Intellectual Property Office and the Benelux Intellectual Property Office) for trademark and design registration;
  • Reimburse 50% of the fees charged by the World Intellectual Property Organisation for obtaining international trade mark and design protection;
  • Reimburse 50% of the fees charged by national patent offices for the registration of patents in 2022;
  • From 2023, further services could be covered e.g. partial reimbursement of the costs of the patent prior art search, of the patent filing application; private IP advice charged by IP attorneys (for patent registration, licensing agreements, IP valuation, alternative dispute resolution costs, etc.).

SMEs need a flexible intellectual property toolbox and quick financing to protect their innovations. Hence, for the first time the new EU SME Fund is now also covering patents. The Commission’s financial contribution, which amounts to €2 million, will be dedicated fully to the patent related services. For instance, an SME could apply for the reimbursement of the registration fee to patent its invention in a Member State.

EUIPO will manage the SME Fund through calls for proposals. The first call is launched today on the EUIPO website.

In order to ensure fair and equal treatment of potential beneficiaries as well as safeguarding an efficient management of the action, the application for grants will be open throughout the period 2022-2024. The applications will be examined and evaluated based on a ‘first in first out’ criterion. SMEs with no experience in the area of intellectual property are encouraged to apply first for an IP Scan service and only subsequently to the other services.

At the EU Industry Days (8-11 February 2022) a special session will be dedicated to the SME Fund allowing SMEs to ask questions of the experts managing the Fund and receiving a practical guide on how to apply for the different services. The special session is scheduled for 11 February 2022. It can be followed remotely by subscribing to the EU Industry Days.

Background

The EU needs to increase the resilience of its SMEs to enable them to cope with the current challenges created by the COVID-19 crisis and to help their transition to green and digital technologies. The EU capitalises on the value of the intangible assets its companies create, develop and share, by helping them manage these assets more effectively and by providing financial support and better access to finance.

The Commission published the Action Plan on Intellectual Property to support the EU’s recovery and resilience in November 2020. Among the priorities of the Action Plan, the Commission committed to promote an effective use and deployment of intellectual property tools, in particular by SMEs. Concretely, the Commission offered financial support for SMEs impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, helping them to manage their IP portfolios as well as helping them move towards green and digital technologies.

In 2021, the Commission together with EUIPO launched a first EU SME Fund offering services to reimburse the costs of IP Scan and national trade mark and design registration costs. A total of €6.8 million of the budget has been used by 12,989 SMEs from all 27 Member States. In total, 28,065 services were rendered in the first year of the initial SME Fund, which shows that the action proved very successful.

For More Information

SME Fund 2022

SME Fund 2022 – Call for proposal

Action Plan on Intellectual Property

Financing programmes for SMEs

EU Industry Days

The Week Ahead 10 – 16 January 2022 | EU Parliament Press

Committee and political groups’ meetings, Brussels

Political ads. The Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee will kick off the discussion on a legislative proposal on the transparency and targeting of political advertising. The draft law would require any political advert to be clearly labelled and include information on who paid for it and how much. The proposed rules will create a more secure environment for consumers, as they also include measures on the use of amplification techniques. (Monday).

Belarus/EU borders. The Civil Liberties Committee will hear about the recent proposal for temporary measures in case of a sudden influx of third country nationals from Commission Vice-President Schinas and Home Affairs Commissioner Johansson. These measures would give Poland, Latvia and Lithuania greater flexibility in dealing with the arrival, organised by the Lukashenka regime, of migrants and asylum-seekers at their borders (Thursday).

New EU sources of income. The Committee on Budgets will discuss with Commissioner Hahn the proposed three new “own resources” for the EU budget, based on a revised EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) and including a share of the future additional corporate tax income, expected once the OECD/G20 agreement is in place at EU level (Thursday).

Vaccines/developing countries. The Development and Foreign Affairs committees will debate access to COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries, including the EU’s commitment to share 700 million doses by mid-2022, with representatives of international organisations (Thursday).

Election of EP President and bureau. Political groups will prepare for the 17-20 January plenary session in Strasbourg, where MEPs will elect their President, 14 Vice-Presidents and five Quaestors. Parliament will also decide on the composition of its standing committees and subcommittees and debate the priorities of the incoming French Presidency of the Council of the EU, with President Emmanuel Macron.

Media webinar on Digital Services. The Parliament’s Media Service will organise a webinar for journalists with key MEPs on the proposed Digital Services Act, before a vote in plenary and the start of negotiations with EU governments (Thursday at 15:00)

Pre-session press briefing. The EP Press Service will hold a press briefing with the Parliament’s political group spokespersons at 11.00 on Friday (Anna Politkovskaya room, press centre, Brussels).

Political ads: Internal Market MEPs to start discussions on draft law on 10 January | EU Parliament Press

The Commission will present its proposal on political advertising to MEPs in the lead Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee on Monday.

A legislative proposal on the transparency and targeting of political advertising, tabled by the Commission on 25 November 2021, would require any political advert to be clearly labelled as such and include information such as who paid for it and how much. The proposed rules will create a more secure environment for consumers, as they also include measures concerning the use of amplification techniques.

Under these rules, it would be mandatory to include into the advertisements clear information on what basis a person is targeted. It would also become mandatory to publish which groups of individuals were targeted, on the basis of which criteria, and with what amplification tools or methods. This proposal complements the Digital Services Act (DSA) as it establishes specific rules for political advertising, building on the general horizontal rules set out in the DSA.

A Eurobarometer survey published in March 2021 showed that nearly four in ten Europeans were exposed to content that they could not easily determine as being a political advertisement.

The European Parliament – where the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee is in the lead, with rapporteur Sandro Gozi (Renew, FR) – will formulate its position on the proposal before entering negotiations with the Council to reach a final agreement. The aim is for the new rules to enter into force before the next European elections in 2024.

Presentation of the proposal on political advertising to Parliament’s lead committee

When: Monday, 10 January 2022, from around 14.30

Where: Brussels, European Parliament, ANTALL building, room 2Q2 (with remote participation of Members)

Live streaming on Parliament’s Multimedia Centre

EU Digital COVID Certificate to enter Parliament

As of 3 November, all people entering Parliament’s buildings are requested to present a valid EU Digital COVID Certificate, including journalists. The EU Digital COVID Certificate proves that a person is either fully vaccinated, has immunity after having recovered from COVID-19 or can show a recent negative PCR test result. Both digital and paper formats of the EU Digital COVID Certificate or of a recognised equivalent certificate will be accepted.

A proof of a negative result of a PCR test carried out within the last 72 hours in Belgium, Luxembourg or France will also be accepted. Please note that the existing precautionary measures, including the compulsory wearing of a medical face mask and temperature checks at entrances, remain in place.

Statement by President von der Leyen on vaccine sharing in 2021 and targets for 2022 | EU Commission Press

The European Union is the biggest donor of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines so far.

As Team Europe we have exceeded our vaccine-sharing target in 2021.

We promised to share 250 million doses with low and middle income countries by the end of 2021. And in fact we shared 380 million doses, mostly through COVAX.

More than 255 million of these doses were already delivered to recipient countries.

And we will do more.

The Team Europe has promised to share 700 million doses by mid-2022. We are on track to fulfil this promise.

In particular, we will step up our efforts to support Africa where vaccination rates are lower than in other parts of the world.

Because we will only control this global pandemic if we fight it in every corner of the world.

DiscoverEU: more than 60,000 travel passes for young Europeans to explore Europe | EU Commission Press

The Commission announced today the results of its latest round of applications for DiscoverEU that was launched in October 2021: 60,950 young people will receive a free travel pass to visit our continent. Successful applicants will travel alone or in a group of up to five people between March 2022 and February 2023 for up to 30 days. In line with the Green Deal, participants will travel mainly by rail, with some exceptions to allow those living on islands to take part. Vice-President for the European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “The boom of mobility for young people that represents these 60,000 travel passes offers great opportunities for young people to get pass these difficult times. 2022 starts off to a flying start. This will be the year of young Europeans”. Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, said: “What a good way to start the European Year of Youth with the announcement of the results for DiscoverEU! We want this year to be a celebration of all young people. We will multiply opportunities for them throughout the year, for example by increasing the number of tickets for DiscoverEU in the next round that will take place in spring 2022.” The October application round was open to young Europeans born between 1 July 2001 and 31 December 2003. Exceptionally, 19 and 20 year-olds could also apply after their rounds were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the evolution of the pandemic remains unknown, all travellers will be offered flexible bookings through a new mobile travel pass. A live Q&A will take place on the European Youth Instagram account on 17 January 2022, where the participants will ask questions related to their future trip. The Commission launched DiscoverEU in June 2018, following a proposal from the European Parliament. It has been formally integrated into the new Erasmus+ programme 2021-2027. Since June 2018, the programme funded 130,000 travel passes. The next application round will take place in spring 2022. More information as well as a factsheet with the results per country are available online.