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Africa-Europe Alliance: First projects kicked off just three months after launch

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Only three months after the launch of the Africa–Europe Alliance, the European Commission is presenting first progress on boosting investment and creating jobs in Africa.

At the High-Level Forum Africa-Europe today in Vienna, hosted jointly by the Austrian Presidency of the EU, notably by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, and Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda and the Chairman of the African Union for 2018, President Jean-Claude Juncker reiterated Europe’s ambition for a true and fair partnership among equals between Africa and Europe. President Juncker presented the first results of the Africa–Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, just three months after its launch. The Alliance aims to deepen the economic and trade relations between the two continents, in order to create sustainable jobs and growth.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “Europe and Africa share a long history and a bright future. This is why I proposed a new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, to help attract both European and African investment and create 10 million jobs in Africa over the next five years. Translating words into action, we have already taken a series of measures to bring our ambitions to life.”

The President is accompanied to the High-Level Forum by Vice-President Andrus Ansip, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel.

The Africa-Europe Alliance, announced by President Juncker in his 2018 State of the Union Address, focuses on four key areas. Three months on, work is already well underway in each:

  1. Strategic Investment and Job Creation

The EU External Investment Plan aims to raise significant sustainable investments in Africa and European neighbourhood countries by 2020. From the €44 billion announced, programmes already in the pipeline will mobilise €37.1 billion of investments.

New projects were announced today:

An EU guarantee (NASIRA Risk-Sharing Facility), the first of its kind under the EU External Investment Plan, will use worth €75 million of EU funds to leverage up to €750 million of investments for entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa and the EU’s southern neighbourhood. Alone this is expected to create 800,000 jobs and benefit those who usually struggle to access affordable loans, such as small and medium sized enterprises, internally displaced people, refugees, returnees, women and young people.

A new Agri-Business Capital fund worth €45 million will support smallholder agriculture by increasing access to finance for individual smallholder farmers. It is expected to attract more than €200 million in investments and benefit as many as 700,000 households in rural areas.

To support the EU’s southern neighbourhood, a programme worth €61.1 million will supportsolar power plants in Morocco and €46.8 million will be invested in depolluting the Kitchener Drain in the Nile Delta region in Egypt.

  1. Investment in Education and Matching Skills and Jobs

Since 2015, the Erasmus+ programme supported 16,000 exchanges of African students and staff from African Universities to come to Europe on short-term exchanges. With new Erasmus+ calls ongoing, the EU is well on track to deliver on its announced 2020 target of reaching 35,000 exchanges.

  1. Business Environment and Investment Climate

In 2018 alone, the European Union has committed over €540 million to support business and investment climate reforms– significantly exceeding the Africa-Europe Alliance’s commitment to increase European Union support up to €300-350 million per year for 2018-2020.

Public-private dialogues to promote Sustainable Business for Africa (SB4A) have been established in the following African countries: Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda. Similar dialogues in 25 additional African countries are currently being prepared. This will help to boost decent job creation, in particular for young people and women. The dialogues were launched in Abidjan during the EU-Africa business forum in November 2017.

  1. Economic Integration and Trade

The European Union is committed to support the creation of a African Continental Free Trade Area, and has notably announced €50 million of support. A first step was taken today with a €3 million programme signed with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to develop national implementation strategies for the continental free trade area. The establishment of an African trade observatory is also planned, and will be a key pillar of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Working Together in Strategic Areas

A key component of the Africa-Europe Alliance is close collaboration between both sides. Four joint task forces have been set up:

The rural Africa task force today presented its recommendations on how best to develop Africa’s agriculture, food sector and rural economy.

The digital economy task force met for the first time on 18 December in Vienna, on the occasion of the High-Level Africa-Europe forum. Its aim is to develop by June 2019 proposals for concrete actions and projects that support the integration of digital markets in Africa, boosting public and private investment, improving the business environment and investment climate as well as the development of digital skills.

The energy task force was launched at the Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg in November 2018. It brings together key players in the sustainable energy sector from the public and private sectors of both Europe and Africa.

A task force for transport is currently being set up.

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EU Citizenship: New survey shows EU citizens are more aware of their rights

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A new Eurobarometer survey on EU Citizenship and Democracy released today by the European Commission shows that a vast majority of Europeans (91%) are familiar with the term “citizen of the European Union”. This is the highest level of awareness yet since 2007 and a steady increase from 87% recorded in 2015. Most Europeans are well informed about their electoral rights – at national and European levels. Today, the European Commission is also launching a public consultation on EU Citizenship Rights.

Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová said: “I am happy to see that more and more Europeans are aware of their EU citizenship rights: the right to reside in another Member State, to be treated equally regardless of their nationality or to vote and stand in EU elections. But citizens also need to know how to protect those rights when they are not respected. I want to empower European citizens, so that they can fully benefit from what Europe has to offer.

Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Didier Reynders, said, “Fostering EU citizenship and participation in democratic life remains one of the Commission’s highest priorities. It is therefore very encouraging to see that an overwhelming majority of Europeans know what being a citizen of the European Union means concretely. The European Commission is equally committed to ensuring that citizens can continue enjoying all the rights that EU citizenship gives them. This holds particularly true in COVID-19 times, where we have to be extra vigilant to protect citizen’s rights.”

Main findings of EU Citizenship and Democracy survey

  1. High level of awareness of EU citizenship rights

According to the survey, more than six in ten Europeans (65%) are aware of the term “citizenship of the European Union” and know what it means, while almost one in three (26%) have heard about it. Citizens are particularly aware about the right to make a complaint to the European Union institutions (89%), the right to reside in any Member State of the EU (85%) and when in another Member State, the right to be treated in the same way as a national of that Member State (81%). Although a number of Europeans, who know what to do when their rights as an EU citizen are not respected, is steadily growing only 37% feel well informed. This represents an 11 percentage point increase from 26% recorded in 2015. Finally, 92% of respondents said that if they were in a country outside the EU with no consulate or embassy from their own country and needed help, they would seek support from an EU Delegation.

  1. Overall benefits of free movement in the EU

When asked about free movement, 84% of respondents said they think the free movement of EU citizens within the European Union brings overall benefits to the economy of their country. This shows a 13 percentage points rise since 2015, when 71% citizens recognised the benefits of the free movement. This Eurobarometer was carried out before the COVID-19 lockdown measures were introduced in majority of Member States.

  1. Good knowledge of EU electoral rights

The Eurobarometer also included questions on the electoral rights of the EU citizens. Just over seven in ten respondents (71%) know that a European citizen living in different EU country than the country of his/her origin has the right to vote or stand as a candidate in European Parliament elections. When asked about the 2019 European Parliament elections, a vast majority of respondents said that having more or better information about the elections in general and the impact of the EU on daily lives more specifically, would have made them more inclined to vote.

Public consultation on EU Citizenship

Today, the European Commission is also launching a public consultation on EU Citizenship Rights. The focus of this consultation is to gather information, experiences and views on EU citizenship rights, which will feed into the next EU Citizenship Report. In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, this consultation also includes questions related to the impact of emergency measures on EU citizenship rights. All citizens and organisations are welcome to contribute to this consultation until 1 October 2020.

Next steps

The feedback from the Eurobarometer on EU citizenship and democracy, the public consultation launched today, and a broader stakeholder consultation (to be launched in the second half of 2020), will feed into the next EU Citizenship Report. This Report will set out concrete actions to further advance the EU citizenship rights, including democratic participation and in a cross-border context.

The 2020 EU Citizenship Report will complement the European Democracy Action Plan, both to be adopted by the end of 2020, to help improve the resilience of EU democracies.

Background

In line with Article 25 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the Commission is legally obliged to publish an EU Citizenship Report on the application of the provisions on non-discrimination and citizenship and outlining new priorities in this area every three years. With regard to the Political Guidelines of the Commission 2019-2024, the upcoming Citizenship Report will provide an additional impetus to deliver on the priorities of the Commission including nurturing, strengthening and protecting democracy in the European Union.

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New EU rules and guidance for a fairer online economy

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The Commission publishes today a set of resources to help traders, online platforms and search engines get the most out of the new Platform to Business rules, which apply from this Sunday, 12 July. In addition, three progress reports prepared by the expert group for the Observatory on the Online Platform Economy are published for feedback. The reports will inform the broader work of the Commission on online platforms and in particular on the upcoming Digital Services Act package.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said: “The more than 10,000 online platforms in the EU are only one part of a broader digital services ecosystem that drives innovation. Despite their role as an essential resource during the on-going health crisis, major issues of fairness and safety have to be addressed. The new rules will ban certain unfair practices such as unexplained account suspension, unclear terms and conditions; ensure greater transparency about ranking, level the playing field among online platforms and search engine and provide new possibilities for resolving disputes and complaints.

Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton said: “Trust is key when it comes to the online economy. Businesses are increasingly moving online – a trend that the coronavirus pandemic has reinforced. To ensure that we have a fair, transparent and predictable online environment, all operators need to adapt to the new rules we are implementing. They will strengthen trust in the online platform economy and make it strive for the benefit of all.”

The EU has adopted the first set of rules regulating the platform economy. As of this coming Sunday, businesses and traders selling online via marketplaces will know which criteria will determine their position in search results, hotels using booking platforms will have greater clarity and protection from unfair terms and conditions, app developers will have a chance to challenge decisions by app stores that wish to remove their content.

The Commission will also publish official guidelines on ranking in the coming weeks. These guidelines will help online platforms and search engines improve predictability and transparency to help businesses consider how best to increase and manage their online visibility.

Q&A on Platform to Business for small businesses and other online operators

The Commission has prepared a Q&A document that can serve as a checklist for online platforms and search engines, particularly smaller ones, when implementing the new requirements. It will help businesses get information on their new rights and the options available to resolve problems that may arise in their commercial relationships with online platforms. It also contains useful information for online intermediation services, search engines and representative organisations or associations. Furthermore, the Commission has produced a video to help online platforms and search engines assess whether the new rules apply to them.

Progress reports of the expert group for the observatory on the online platform economy

The Commission is closely following the developments in the online platform economy. The expert group for the Observatory for the Online Platform Economy has supported the Commission in this task by helping to monitor the market and the effective implementation of the new rules.

The three progress reports point to imbalances in market power in the relationship between online platforms and their business users in terms of both access to and the use of data, as well as to discrimination as a potential source of issues in the online platform economy. Stakeholders, including online platforms, the businesses relying on these online platforms, experts as well as enforcers are invited to provide feedback by 8 September.

Next steps

The progress reports will feed into the Commission’s current work priorities in the digital area as announced in the Commission’s Communication on Shaping Europe’s Digital Future as well as in its data strategy and provide input for the Digital Services Act package. Two more reports will be produced on online advertising and platforms with significant market power that will, alongside the present reports, feed into a final contribution by the expert group of the Observatory later this year.

Background

The Platform to Business Regulation entered into force in July 2019 and will apply from 12 July 2020. It sets the basic horizontal foundationfor a fair, transparent and predictable business environment for smaller businesses and traders relying on search engines and online platforms such as online marketplaces, app stores, certain price comparison tools or business pages on social media for their activities.

As part of the European Digital Strategy, the Commission has announced a Digital Services Act package that will further strengthen the Single Market for digital services and foster innovation and competitiveness of the European online environment. The Commission launched a wide-ranging public consultation in early June. It will close on 8 September.  

The Commission has also set out general guidelines to online platforms and Member States for tackling illegal content online through a Communication in 2017 and a Recommendation in 2018. The Commission continues to lead targeted actions in coordinating the cooperation between online platforms, authorities and trusted organisations in areas such as combatting illegal hate speech online, or ensuring that products reaching European consumers in the single market are safe. In addition, sector-specific legislation has been adopted (in particular in the field of audiovisual and media services and copyright) or proposed (as regards terrorist content online).

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Relocation of unaccompanied children from Greece to Portugal and Finland

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© IOM/Uygar Emrah Özesen

On 7 and 8 July, 49 unaccompanied children were relocated from Greece to Portugal and Finland as part of a scheme organised by the Commission and the Greek Special Secretary for Unaccompanied Minors, in partnership with UN agencies and the European Asylum Support Office.

These two operations mark the beginning of the main phase of the scheme. With preparatory work coordinated by the Commission now completed and coronavirus-related travel restrictions easing, relocations will proceed progressively over the next months. The next transfers will take place later in the month, with 18 children finding new homes in Belgium, 50 in France, 106 (including siblings and parents) in Germany, 4 in Slovenia and 2 in Lithuania.

While the scheme started with an aim to relocate at least 1,600 children and young people, Member States have now pledged up to 2,000 places. The scheme is focused primarily on unaccompanied children, but will also include children with severe medical conditions and their core family members. At the same time, durable solutions for the protection and care of those unaccompanied children that will stay in Greece must also be found. The Commission stands ready to provide increased support for Greece and Member States in this respect.

Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “In a tangible expression of support to Greece, Portugal and Finland will soon open their doors to 49 children as part of our programme to relocate unaccompanied minors. This is the embodiment of the European spirit of solidarity and I truly commend the Member States taking part. We cannot, however, rely on ad hoc solutions forever. No Member State should be left alone to shoulder a disproportionate responsibility. The aim of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum will be to ensure that solidarity is provided on a permanent basis.”

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: “We have worked tirelessly to make sure that relocations can take place despite complications caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus. Seeing that these 49 children will start a new life in Portugal and Finland shows our efforts are bearing fruit. Our services are working well with Greek authorities and international organisations on this scheme, turning pledges into action.”

Greek Alternate Minister of Migration Policy Giorgos Koumoutsakos said:“49 unaccompanied minors have departed yesterday and today to start a new life in another EU Member State, in Portugal and Finland. I want to thank Portugal and Finland for the support and for this tangible gesture of solidarity. I also want to express my gratitude to the European Commission for the continuous help and encouragement so as to make possible the relocation of 1,600 unaccompanied minors to other Member States.”

Background

As of mid-June, there were over 4,800 unaccompanied children in Greece. As part of the Action Plan for immediate measures to support Greece, the Commission proposed to relocate up to 1,600 children as part of a scheme supported by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

To date, 11 Member States and Norway (Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Lithuania and Slovenia) are participating in the scheme. The first relocation operations took place in April, when 12 children were relocated from Greece to Luxembourg and 47 to Germany. On 17 June, 8 unaccompanied children were relocated to Ireland, following a bilateral agreement that predates the scheme. Finally, 6 unaccompanied children who could not be relocated to Germany in April as they were not fit for travel at the time were transferred to Germany on 26 June.

Relocations under the scheme will be carried out progressively in groups of various sizes to ensure adequate reception capacity in the receiving Member States. In addition to its coordinating role, the European Commission is financially supporting most preparatory and pre-departure steps in Greece, as well as the transfer costs, while Member States can also request funding for participating in the scheme (€6,000 per person transferred).

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