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.
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).
Over 500,000 people have been inoculated against COVID-19 in Moscow
The number of people who wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Moscow has reached half a million, and over 500,000 of them have already received their first jab. Every day between 12,000 and 20,000 residents of the city sign up for vaccination.
Vaccines are being administered in 100 vaccination points in city polyclinics and 20 popular public places, where mobile teams have been deployed. The list of categories of citizens entitled to vaccination is constantly expanding and the city’s vaccination campaign is picking up pace.
The list of categories of citizens prioritized for vaccination also includes Muscovites over the age of 60 years old (who form the largest risk group and are most vulnerable to COVID-19). More than 9,000 residents of 33 retirement homes have already been vaccinated. In addition, vaccination is recommended for people with chronic diseases who need to stay at home, as well as college and university students over 18 years of age.
A convenient online vaccination appointments system has been set up specially for Muscovites in the mos.ru portal. It can be accessed by going to ‘Doctor’s Appointment’ in the list of services and selecting ‘Vaccination Against COVID-19’.
In addition, vaccine appointments can be made via the My Moscow mobile app, the Moscow Gosuslugi government services website and the emais.info medical services portal, as well as by calling a vaccination center. The vaccine is administered in two doses, with appointments for the second injection being made automatically.
Many large employers are requesting on-site vaccination of their staff, and this network will be gradually expanded. Naturally, the throughput capacity of such organizations and, most importantly, the employers’ wishes are being taken into account.
Detailed information on the vaccination program has also been posted in the portal’s special project.
The Sputnik V vaccine consists of two components requiring two injections, and provides a reliable immune response. Volunteers will first be injected with the first component of the vaccine, with a second vaccination following 21 days later. Only the first appointment needs to be booked, as the doctor will arrange the patient’s second visit on the day of their first vaccination. To ensure that people do not forget about their re-vaccination, they will receive an SMS message the day before it, reminding them of the date, time and clinic they need to attend.
The vaccination process takes at least an hour, including a 10-minute examination by a doctor before the vaccination and 15 minutes spent preparing the vaccine, which is stored in frozen state (with five doses in one vial) and thawed for five patients at once when they have been examined. Post-vaccination observation and examination take a further 30 minutes. Each patient receives a certificate recording the two injections and confirming that they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The vaccine was produced using a biotechnological process based on the most modern technological platform created by Russian scientists. It is safe because it does not contain the coronavirus. It is based on special structures (carrier vectors) created in the laboratory that contain only a part of the virus gene. Upon encountering the vaccine, the human immune system produces protective antibodies.
Belarus human rights situation deteriorating further
A “systematic crackdown” against dissent in Belarus is continuing, months since the country’s disputed presidential election last year, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has told the Human Rights Council.
In comments to the Geneva forum on Thursday, the High Commissioner for Human Rights insisted that curbs on demonstrators had got worse since last August’s poll returned President Alexander Lukashenko to office.
Those protests had led to “mass arbitrary arrests and detentions” of largely peaceful demonstrators, along with “hundreds of allegations of torture and ill-treatment”, Ms. Bachelet said, before noting that “not one of the hundreds of complaints for acts of torture and ill-treatment” had been investigated.
The High Commissioner highlighted concerns about Government proposals which would reportedly “enable harsher punishments” for those taking part in peaceful demonstrations from now on.
To date, nearly 250 people have received prison sentences on allegedly politically-motivated charges context of the 2020 presidential election, Ms. Bachelet said.
‘Unprecedented’ human rights crisis
The OHCHR report “covers serious violations” of rights between 1 May and 20 December last year. “The events that unfolded before and immediately after the election have led to a human rights crisis of unprecedented dimension in the country”, added Ms. Bachelet.
All of the violations detailed “committed with impunity, created an atmosphere of fear”, she said, noting the further deterioration since December.
She said journalists were being increasingly targeted, “and human rights defenders both institutionally and individually. Just last week, large-scale searches of human rights defenders, journalists, and organizations such as the Belarusian Association of Journalists and Viasna (A Minsk-based human rights centre) were conducted, reportedly in connection with criminal investigations for ‘mass disorder’”.
Release innocent protesters
She told the Council it was “essential for the future of the country that respect for human rights, and the broadest possible civic space, be established. All those who have been detained for peacefully exercising their rights should be released.”
The rights chief called for “thorough, effective, credible and transparent investigations” into all the allegations of serious violations, with perpetrators being brought to justice, as well as an “immediate end” to the Government policy of harassment and intimidation of civil society and media workers.
“I further recommend comprehensive reform of the national legal framework”, she concluded. “Our report includes specific recommendations, which address key systemic issues, including with respect to fair trials, due process and the independence of the judiciary.”
Natalia Vodianova joins UNFPA to tackle stigma and advance women’s health
The UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA, on Wednesday appointed supermodel, philanthropist, and impact investor Natalia Vodianova as its newest Goodwill Ambassador, in an effort to empower women and girls, including fighting stigma surrounding menstruation.
“For too long, society’s approach to menstruation and women’s health has been defined by taboo and stigma”, said Ms. Vodianova, stressing that the situation “has undermined the most basic needs and rights of women.”
In her new role with UNFPA, officially known as the UN Population Fund, Ms. Vodianova will seek to help culturally redefine menstruation, as a normal bodily function.
On any given day, more than 800 million women and girls aged 15 to 49 are actively menstruating. In many countries, taboos surrounding the cycle leaves girls vulnerable and can even be life-threatening, says UNFPA, as they are excluded from public life, denied opportunities, sanitation and basic health needs.
The agency said in a press release, that the issue has been starved of the attention it deserves, but in recent years that has started to change, and “achieving this, is central to UNFPA’s mandate”.
“It’s a tragic irony that something as universal as menstruation can make girls feel so isolated…We all have a role to play in breaking the taboos around menstruation”, said UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem, underscoring the significance of spotlighting the damage caused.
She added that the agency “is pleased to partner with such a powerful and committed advocate. Societies prosper when girls are confident, empowered and making their own decisions!”
Building on past momentum
Over the past three years, Ms. Vodianova has teamed up with UNFPA to launch a series of “Let’s Talk” events worldwide, which have mobilised policy makers, civil society and the private sector to help tackle shame, exclusion and discrimination, faced routinely by millions of women and girls.
Leaders from various sectors such as fashion, politics, sport, technology and media have also gathered in Turkey, Kenya, Switzerland, Belarus and India to advance women’s health.
Raised in poverty by a single mother in Russia, along with caring for a half-sister who has cerebral palsy and autism, Ms.Vodianova is a passionate advocate for human rights, including reproductive rights and the rights of people living with disabilities, UNFPA noted.
The agency said it was looking forward to working with her in her role as a bridge builder across the fashion and technology industries, where she’s an influential international voice, to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
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