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EU budget 2018 approved: support for youth, growth, security

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For next year’s budget, MEPs have secured more support for unemployed young people and additional funding for SMEs, research programmes and Erasmus.

Commitment appropriations for 2018 total €160.1 billion, and payment appropriations €144.7 billion (see below).On the heels of the Council’s formal approval of the conciliation agreement with Parliament on the 2018 budget, Parliament approved the budget by 295 votes to 154, with 197 abstentions. It was then signed into law by President Antonio Tajani.
Youth, growth and jobs

Parliament reversed the Council’s €750 million cuts in the area of “growth and jobs”, and secured an increase for the Youth Employment Initiative of €116.7 million in commitment appropriations, raising the total to €350 million, to help young people desperately seeking a job. Furthermore, MEPs succeeded in securing new resources, on top of the Commission’s budget proposal, for programmes they consider key to boosting growth and jobs, namely Horizon 2020 (research programmes, an increase of €110 million) Erasmus+, (an additional €24 million) and COSME (support for SMEs, up by €15 million).

Refugee and migration crisis, cutting funds for Turkey

Parliament managed to boost the Commission’s draft budget for agencies with security-related tasks: Europol (gets an additional €3.7 million and 10 new posts) and Eurojust (receives €1.8 million more and 5 more posts).

To continue tackling the migration crisis, the European Asylum Support Office receives an increase of €5 million. Similarly, Parliament increased the budget heading by €80 million (on top of the draft budget) for the EU’s external actions on migration challenges, which include actions in the Eastern and Southern Neighbourhoods as well as the Western Balkans.

Concerning Turkey, MEPs decided to cut pre-accession funds by €105 million (with a further €70 million in commitments put in reserve), in response to the deteriorating situation in relation to democracy, rule of law and human rights.

Agriculture and climate protection

Parliament’s negotiating team obtained €34 million in additional support for young farmers to reduce youth unemployment in rural areas. Also, funds to support agricultural practices which benefit the climate and environment were increased by €95 million.

Quotes

Members of the parliamentary negotiating team made the following statements after the votes: 

“Parliament can be satisfied with the EU Budget for 2018. We found an agreement because our priorities were to boost the programmes which will prepare the EU for the future and protect Europeans – Research through Horizon 2020, mobility of the young through Erasmus+ and ErasmusPro, infrastructure programmes like the Connecting Europe Facility and support for SMEs through COSME. We also managed to boost funding for security-related programmes, asylum policy and Neighbourhood Policy”, said the Chair of the Budgets committee, Jean Arthuis (ALDE, FR).

 “This budget delivers on what EU citizens expect from Europe: jobs and growth on the one hand and security on the other. By investing in research, infrastructure, education and SMEs, we will become more competitive and future-oriented. As for security, we have succeeded in strengthening Europol and Eurojust, so that they ensure better cooperation and coordination in fighting terrorism and organised crime across the EU. Finally, we have made it clear that EU support to countries outside the EU does not come without strings attached: Turkey is drifting away from EU values and we have decided to reduce assistance by 105 million Euros less than the Commission proposal”, said lead rapporteur (Commission section) Siegfried Mureșan (EPP, RO).

What are commitment and payment appropriations?

Given the need to manage actions spanning several years (e.g. financing a research project lasting 2-3 years), the EU budget distinguishes between commitment appropriations (the cost of all legal obligations contracted during the current financial year, possibly bearing consequences in the following years) and payment appropriations (money actually paid out during the current year, possibly to implement commitments entered into in previous years).

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EU Politics

Coronavirus: Commission reaches first agreement on a potential vaccine

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Today, the European Commission has reached a first agreement with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to purchase a potential vaccine against COVID-19 as well as to donate to lower and middle income countries or re-direct to other European countries. This is following the positive steps regarding the conclusion of exploratory talks with Sanofi-GSK announced on 31 July and with Johnson & Johnson on 13 August. Once the vaccine has proven to be safe and effective against COVID-19, the Commission now has agreed the basis for a contractual framework for the purchase of 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with an option to purchase 100 million more, on behalf of EU Member States. The Commission continues discussing similar agreements with other vaccine manufacturers.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “The European Commission’s intense negotiations continue to achieve results. Today’s agreement is the first cornerstone in implementing the European Commission’s Vaccines Strategy. This strategy will enable us to provide future vaccines to Europeans, as well as our partners elsewhere in the world.

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “Today, after weeks of negotiations, we have the first EU advance purchase agreement for a vaccine candidate. I would like to thank AstraZeneca for its constructive engagement on this important agreement for our citizens. We will continue to work tirelessly to bring more candidates into a broad EU vaccines portfolio. A safe and effective vaccine remains the surest exit strategy to protect our citizens and the rest of the world from the coronavirus.”

The agreement approved today will be financed with the Emergency Support Instrument, which has funds dedicated to the creation of a portfolio of potential vaccines with different profiles and produced by different companies.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate is already in large-scale Phase II/III Clinical Trials after promising results in Phase I/II concerning safety and immunogenicity.

The decision to support the vaccine proposed by AstraZeneca is based on a sound scientific approach and the technology used (a non-replicative recombinant chimpanzee adenovirus-based vaccine ChAdOx1), speed at delivery at scale, cost, risk sharing, liability and the production capacity able to supply the whole of the EU, among others.

The regulatory processes will be flexible but remain robust. Together with the Member States and the European Medicines Agency, the Commission will use existing flexibilities in the EU’s regulatory framework to accelerate the authorisation and availability of successful vaccines against COVID-19. This includes an accelerated procedure for authorisation and flexibility in relation to labelling and packaging.

Background

The European Commission presented on 17 June a European strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing and deployment of effective and safe vaccines against COVID-19. In return for the right to buy a specified number of vaccine doses in a given timeframe, the Commission would finance part of the upfront costs faced by vaccines producers in the form of Advance Purchase Agreements. Funding provided would be considered as a down-payment on the vaccines that will actually be purchased by Member States.

Since the high cost and high failure rate make investing in a COVID-19 vaccine a high-risk decision for vaccine developers, these agreement will therefore allow investments to be made that otherwise would simply probably not happen.

The European Commission is also committed to ensuring that everyone who needs a vaccine gets it, anywhere in the world and not only at home. No one will be safe until everyone is safe. This is why it has raised almost €16 billion since 4 May 2020 under the Coronavirus Global Response, the global action for universal access to tests, treatments and vaccines against coronavirus and for the global recovery.

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Human Rights

Millions ‘on the edge’ in DR Congo, now in even greater danger of tipping over

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WFP food distribution to Internally Displaced People in Kikuku, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. WFP/Ben Anguandia

Millions of lives could be lost to hunger in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), amid escalating conflict and worsening COVID-19 transmission, the UN emergency food relief agency has warned, urging the international community to step up support for the African nation.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), latest national data shows that about four in ten people in the DRC are food insecure, with some 15.6 million suffering “crisis” or “emergency” levels of hunger.

“So many Congolese are on the edge, and in even greater danger now of being tipped over the edge”, said Claude Jibidar, the head of WFP operations in the country.

“The world just can’t let that happen, worried though it understandably is about the huge toll COVID-19 is taking on lives and livelihoods elsewhere.”

Crisis in every direction

Outbreaks of diseases, violence, and fears of a poor harvest, are worsening an already alarming situation.

Malnutrition is particularly pervasive in the east of the country, where decades of brutal conflict has forced millions from their homes – many of them numerous times. In the first half of 2020, almost a million people were uprooted from their homes due to new violence.

Displaced persons across the DRC – numbering more than five million – live in makeshift camps and urban areas with poor sanitation and healthcare, making them especially susceptible to COVID-19.

Adding to this are killer diseases, malaria and cholera, exacerbating the hunger challenge. A new large-scale outbreak of measles in the central Kasai region has significantly increased the risk of fatalities among malnourished children.

The dire health situation is compounded by successive outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). By the time the DRC’s tenth and biggest Ebola epidemic ended in June, having claimed almost 2,300 lives in the east over two years, the eleventh had erupted in the northwest, and continues to spread.

Resources urgently needed

Against this bleak picture, UN agencies, including the WFP have been working to provide life-saving assistance across the nation.

On its part, WFP need another $172 million to be able to fully implement its emergency operation in the country over the next six months. With enough resources, it aims to reach 8.6 million people this year– including almost a million of those hit hardest by the pandemic – up from a record 6.9 million reached in 2019.

However, without the necessary funding, food rations and cash assistance will have to be cut, then the number of people being helped, warned the UN agency.

“Interventions to treat and prevent acute malnutrition – which afflicts 3.4 million Congolese children – are at immediate risk”, it said.

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Coronavirus and schools: Access to handwashing facilities key for safe reopening

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Girls at a school in Cambodia wash their hands using water from a school WASH facility. © UNICEF/Bona Khoy

Nearly 820 million children worldwide do not have basic handwashing facilities at school, putting them at increased risk of COVID-19 and other transmittable diseases, according to a report published on Thursday by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

“Access to water, sanitation and hygiene services is essential for effective infection prevention and control in all settings, including schools”, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General.

“It must be a major focus of government strategies for the safe reopening and operation of schools during the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.”

Historic disruption to education

COVID-19 has created the largest disruption to education ever recorded, affecting nearly 1.6 billion students in more than 190 countries, according to UN data.

The study found that last year, 43 per cent of schools globally lacked access to basic handwashing with soap and water: a key condition for schools to be able to operate safely in the midst of the pandemic.

Of the roughly 818 million children worldwide who lack basic handwashing facilities at school, more than one third are in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the 60 countries at highest risk of health and humanitarian crises due to the virus, three-quarters of children lacked the basic ability to wash their hands at school at the start of the outbreak, while half lacked basic water service.

Balancing act for governments

The report stressed that governments seeking to control coronavirus spread must balance the need for implementing public health measures against the social and economic impacts of lockdown measures.

The partners said evidence of the negative impacts of prolonged school closures on children has been well documented.

“Global school closures since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have presented an unprecedented challenge to children’s education and wellbeing”, said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “We must prioritize children’s learning. This means making sure that schools are safe to reopen – including with access to hand hygiene, clean drinking water and safe sanitation.”

Solutions for safe return

The report identifies resources for COVID-19 prevention and control in schools, including 10 immediate actions and safety checklists.

It builds on guidelines on the safe reopening of schools issued in April by UNICEF and partners, geared towards national and local authorities.

The guidelines include several protocols on hygiene measures, use of personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfection, as well as providing access to clean water, handwashing stations with soap, and safe toilets.

UNICEF and WHO underlined their commitment to achieving equitable access to adequate water, sanitation and hygience services worldwide, including through the Hand Hygiene for All initiative that supports vulnerable communities.

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