On Friday 27 September 2019, the European Commission will launch its Europa Connectivity Forum – an innovative multi-stakeholder international conference aimed at fostering dialogue and strengthening ties between governments, financial institutions, and private sector actors in Europe and beyond. Building on the already close cooperation between the EU and its Asia-Pacific partners, this first edition of the Forum will be held under the theme EU-Asia Connectivity: Building Bridges for a Sustainable Future.

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who will deliver a keynote speech in the opening plenary session, said: “What we do politically must respond to the expectations and worries of our citizens. Increased connectivity is part of this response, because it benefits our people and our economies. Because it creates stability and prosperity for all.” He added: “Our European approach to connectivity is at the heart of our partnership with Asia, and we have a clear message: the European Union wants to engage more and to reinforce the connections between Europe and Asia in a mutually-beneficial way.”

The EU and Japan: taking the lead on sustainable connectivity

At the invitation of President Juncker, Shinzō Abe,Prime Minister of Japan, will be the Forum’s special guest and will deliver a keynote speech at the opening plenary. President Juncker and Prime Minister Abe will conclude a Partnership on Sustainable Connectivity and Quality Infrastructure between the European Union and Japan, underlining further the strategic importance of the EU-Japan partnership that both parties have been committed to strengthen over the last years.

This new Partnership is the first of its kind, highlighting connectivity as a key priority in the European Union’s work as a global actor. It confirms Europe’s ambition to work together with like-minded partners in promoting connectivity that is sustainable across the board – fiscally, economically, socially and environmentally.

Generating global debate on the European approach to connectivity

The Europa Connectivity Forum is politically underpinned by the Joint Communication ‘Connecting Europe and Asia – Building Blocks for an EU Strategy‘, launched by the European Commission and the High Representative in September 2018. In the Strategy, the EU sets out its approach to connectivity, which has been at the very heart of successful European integration.

The Forum, which will be live streamed, will highlight the major opportunities of stronger connectivity, as well as explore the many challenges. These range from multilateral governance aspects and the vast financing needs – making it essential to partner up with the private sector and mobilise private investments – to the importance of developing mutually agreed, interoperable standards and norms to underpin 21st century transport, energy, digital and human connectivity.

In order to generate widespread debate, panellists from Europe and beyond will discuss the geopolitics, the economics, the standards and norms, and the finance of connectivity. To kick-start the debate, Parag Khanna, author of Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization and The Future is Asian: Commerce, Conflict, and Culture in the 21st Century, will deliver remarks on connectivity as a global trend.

High-level political leaders and dignitaries, including the President Emeritus of the European Council, the Prime Ministers of Finland and Croatia, and Ministers from, inter alia, the Republic of North Macedonia, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and the Republic of Korea will take part in the Forum. In addition, the Presidents of European and international financial institutions, including Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank, Suma Chakrabarti, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and Takehiko Nakao, President of the Asian Development Bank, as well as leading business and finance executives from Europe and Asia, will also participate. More information on confirmed speakers can be found here.

For More Information

Europa Connectivity Forum: EU-Asia Connectivity – Building Bridges for a Sustainable Future website

Joint Communication: Connecting Europe and Asia – building blocks for an EU Strategy

EU providing emergency response following earthquakes and flash floods in Albania | EU Commission Press

In the aftermath of two devastating earthquakes that hit Albania and ensuing flash floods the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated by the Albanian authorities. In an immediate response, the European Union has already helped mobilise first aid supplies and relief items, such as tents, power generators and water pumps to the affected areas. Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said: “The European Union stands in solidarity with Albania at this difficult time and substantial EU support is already on its way. European experts, life-saving assets and material will soon be making a difference in the crucial early days of the response. I warmly thank Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia and Norway for their offers of assistance through our Civil Protection Mechanism. Our thoughts are with all those in the affected areas and the first responders working on the ground. We stand ready to provide further assistance.” The European Union’s 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Centre is in constant contact with the Albanian authorities to closely monitor the situation and channel further EU assistance on request. It will also deploy an EU Civil Protection Team of several experts to facilitate the coordination of the in-coming assistance. Photos of the Emergency Centre are available, a factsheet on the EU’s Emergency Centre.

Education and training in the EU: supporting teachers is critical to build the European Education Area | EU Commission Press

Coinciding with the second European Education Summit, the European Commission published today the 2019 Education and Training Monitor analysing how education and training is evolving in the EU and its Member States. The 2019 Monitor shows further progress towards important EU education and training targets, but also highlights the need to better support teachers and make the teaching profession more attractive. Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: “To build a resilient, cohesive and fair Europe, we need to invest in education. Above all, this means investing in teachers – giving them the tools and recognition they deserve. The success of any education reform depends on teachers – that is why better responding to their needs is key to building a true European Education Area by 2025. I am proud of what we have achieved with Member States over the past years, but more work lies ahead. The Education and Training Monitor has a vital role to play in driving further reform of our education systems, helping us ensure that everyone can make the most of their talents.” The Commission supports Member States to improve their education systems through policy cooperation, benchmarking and funding programmes such as Erasmus+. The Monitor, the EU’s annual flagship publication on education, is an integral part of this work. By presenting a wealth of policies and fostering dialogue, it helps Member States benchmark and improve their education systems. A press release and 28 country-specific factsheets in all EU languages and a general factsheet are available online.

Commission experts support the development of 13 Bulgarian research and innovation centres | EU Commission Press

Commission experts from the Joint Research Centre will provide support and guidance to 13 Bulgarian research and innovation centres to help them bring their innovative ideas to the market, facilitate the transfer and dissemination of knowledge and strengthen both their ties with businesses and their participation in European and international cooperation projects.

Theexperts will also help the 13 centres improve their legal, managerial and operational frameworks, deal with state aid issues and identify financing opportunities including through EU funds.

Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy, Enlargement Negotiations and Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn said: “The development of these 13 EU-funded centres and the support provided by the Commission will improve the performance of Bulgaria’s innovation system. This will help local researchers turn their work into projects with high value added, for the economy and for the people, and offers them the potential to promote their innovative approach at a global scale.”

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, said: “Bringing together local authorities, academia, business and civil society is key to identify the best ways for EU funds to boost local economies and foster development. This evidence-based, inclusive approach to policy-making has an excellent track record in enabling Europe’s regions to focus on their strengths and priorities.”

The 13 centres include four “centres of excellence” i.e. fundamental research institutions and nine “centres of competence”, focused on applied research activities with potential for industrial uptake. It concerns sectors such as mechatronics, digital technologies, creative and gaming industries and biotechnology and other areas in line with the priorities of Bulgaria’s smart specialisation strategy, its industrial and innovation strategy based on local competitive strengths.

This support project will be carried out until June 2020, with an additional budget of €250,000 from the European Regional Development Fund, in addition to the €170 million, earmarked for research and innovation under from the 2014-2020 Bulgarian ‘Science and Education for Smart Growth’ EU funds programme. The results of the initiative will contribute to the design of the new Cohesion Policy programmes for 2021-2027 period and to Bulgaria’s efforts to modernise its research and innovation ecosystem. 


The Commission, through the Joint Research Centre, has previously helped improve the operational capacity of the Sofia Tech Park, a science and technology park in Bulgaria, also co-financed by the EU budget.

The Commission is assisting Member States and regions in designing and implementing their smart specialisation strategies and through the smart specialisation platform. In addition, in 2017 the Commission launched an initiative supporting 12 Member States and regions in industrial transition. Commission experts sat down with national and regional authorities to help them diagnose what was holding back job creation and growth and embrace the innovation needed to hold their own in a globalised economy.

The project EU4TECH “Capacity building in Technology transfer for the Western Balkans” funded through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance is helping 15 local universities develop capacity for innovation and technology transfer.

For More information

State aid: Commission approves €6.2 million aid for Erfurt-Weimar Airport in Germany | EU Commission Press

The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, additional operating aid of around €6.2 million to Erfurt-Weimar airport. The small regional airport is 100% publicly owned and located in the Land of Thuringia. In June 2018, the Commission approved, under EU State aid rules, initial operating aid of €10.7 million to the airport. Germany notified to the Commission its plans to extend the operating aid to the airport and to grant additional €6.2 million up to 2024 to the airport operator. This follows the prolongation of the rules on operating aid for small airports under the Aviation Guidelines until 2024 and the recent insolvency of airline Germania, which caused a significant drop in passengers at the Erfurt-Weimar airport. The operating aid aims to keep the airport running in the medium-term, until it is expected to cover its costs as of 2024. The Commission found that the measure is in line with EU State aid rules, in particular the Aviation Guidelines, as it will contribute to improving connections of citizens and facilitating regional development in the region of Thuringia, without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. More information will be available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.54496 once confidentiality issues have been resolved.

Kövesi to become EU Chief Prosecutor | EU Parliament Press

  • Laura Codruţa Kövesi was Parliament’s top candidate to become the first EU Chief Prosecutor 
  • The new office will investigate crimes against the EU budget such as fraud, corruption or cross-border VAT fraud 

Parliament and Council negotiators agreed on appointing Laura Codruţa Kövesi, MEPs’ preferred choice to be the first head of the new EU Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council on the new European Chief Prosecutor to lead the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) have been ongoing since last spring. Parliament’s negotiating team has backed Ms Kövesi throughout the negotiations, despite opposition from Council until now.

After the agreement with the Council negotiators on Tuesday evening, Civil Liberties Committee Chair Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) said: “Ms Kövesi is the perfect choice to become EU Chief Prosecutor. She has excellent professional competences. Moreover, Romania does not currently hold any key posts in the EU. She will be one of the strong women leading in the EU from now on.”

“We are very pleased that Ms Laura Kövesi will be leading the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office. She corresponds best to the European Parliament’s vision of a strong and credible EPPO. Ms Kövesi is extremely competent, with an impressive record of achievements in fighting corruption with remarkable resilience and great courage,” added Budget Control Committee Chair Monika Hohlmeier (EPP, DE)

Civil Liberties Committee Vice-Chair Maite Pagazaurtundúa (Renew, ES) said: “With the selection of Ms Kövesi as European Chief Prosecutor, citizens will feel more safe and protected now that the European Public Prosecutor’s office can start its work. The new office will have a key role in cracking down on offences affecting the EU’s financial interests – only criminals will be restless after this agreement.”

Next steps

The agreement on the appointment of Ms Kövesi as European Chief Prosecutor now needs to be formally approved by the Parliament and the Council.


The EPPO, which is expected to be operational at the end of 2020, will be an independent office in charge of investigating, prosecuting and bringing to justice crimes against the EU budget, such as fraud, corruption or cross-border VAT fraud above 10 million euros. The list of crimes could be extended in the future to include, for example, terrorism.

So far, 22 member states have joined the EPPO. The five countries that currently do not participate – Sweden, Hungary, Poland, Ireland and Denmark – could join at any time.

The EPPO central office will be based in Luxembourg, along with the Chief Prosecutor and a College of Prosecutors from all participating countries. They will head the day-to-day criminal investigations carried out by the delegated prosecutors in all participating member states.