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The EU mobilises additional €22 million in aid to Palestinians

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The European Union announced today over €22 million of additional humanitarian assistance in support of the most vulnerable people in Gaza and the West Bank.

It will focus on emergency preparedness and response, health, food security and protection activities for the most vulnerable, and be implemented through the United Nations and international partners.

This assistance comes from the overall 2019 budget in support to the Palestinians. Significant funds have already been disbursed this year, including a contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Last year the overall EU aid to Palestine and Palestinian refugees amounted to more than €370 million.

The announcement was made to coincide with the annual spring meeting of the international donor coordination group in support of the Palestinian economy, the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), hosted by the European Union in Brussels today. Since 1993, the AHLC has served as a key policy-level coordination mechanism for financial assistance to the Palestinian people, with a purpose of preserving the vision of a negotiated two-state solution.  

High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, said: “We gathered here today in Brussels for the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee – thanks also to the tireless work of Norway – not only to renew our continued support to the Palestinians, but also to uphold the perspective of a two-state solution. Our economic assistance to the Palestinians cannot be separated from this political objective. We want to preserve the space for new negotiations because we want peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike.” 

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, said: “The EU is committed to help Palestinians in need. As needs are increasing, our new humanitarian funds will help provide critical health and food security to those suffering from the very difficult situation in Gaza. We will also address protection challenges of the most vulnerable families in the West Bank.”

In addition, senior officials today also took stock of progress achieved in the past twelve months as regards the implementation of the biggest ever investment project in Gaza: the Gaza Central Desalination Plant Programme. The available water in Gaza is among the lowest in the world and 97% is unfit for human consumption. This project meets the most urgent water needs, providing water for the two million Palestinians living in Gaza, contributing to the environmental sustainability and economic development of Gaza.

Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, said: “More than ever, securing the future and legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority, bringing Gaza and the West Bank back together and creating the basis for a future Palestinian state require our political attention and financial support. We are contributing annually more than €300 million to the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians and Palestine refugees. This is why I am happy to see the progress on the Gaza Central Desalination Plant. It proves that common ground between the Palestinian Authority and Israel can create conditions in which the international community can support long-term solutions that meet shared security concerns, development and humanitarian needs.”

EU development and cooperation aid

Development and cooperation aid to the Palestinian people is framed by the “European Joint Strategy in Support of Palestine 2017-2020” agreed by the EU institutions, 22 EU Member States, as well as Norway and Switzerland and covers a wide range of areas, including capacity building, democratic governance and socio-economic development. In 2018, the EU support financed by the ENI instrument amounted to more than €328 million in total. In 2018, the EU’s key areas of support were: 

€155 million Direct Financial Support to Recurrent Expenditures of the Palestinian Authority (PEGASE), such as payments of salaries of West Bank civil servants, social allowances and health expenditure linked to East Jerusalem Hospitals.

€102 million in support of Palestinian refugees via UNRWA. Together with other EU financing lines this translated into an unprecedented contribution to UNRWA of €153 million in 2018, making the EU the biggest donor to this UN agency.

€71.35 million for project support to sustainable economic development and enhanced governance, improved access to self-sufficient water and energy services, and East Jersualem.

EU humanitarian support

The European Commission provided €46 million in humanitarian funding in 2018.

€5.9 million was allocated to families in the West Bank living in Area C and East Jerusalem for emergency response to demolitions and evictions, critical assistance for essential services, and improved access to quality and safe education for vulnerable girls and boys affected by the crisis. €40.1 million have been allocated to humanitarian programmes in the Gaza Strip designed to address the worsening living conditions of populations affected by the closure of the Gaza strip. The programmes support the delivery of emergency healthcare, water and sanitation services, disaster preparedness, and protection activities.

Food securityis provided mainly through cash support to households with an especially fragile economic situation, and by boosting agricultural production of small and medium producers.

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Coronavirus response: EU support for regions to work together in innovative pilot projects

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The Commission has announced the winners of a new EU-funded initiative for interregional partnerships in four areas: coronavirus-related innovative solutions, circular economy in health, sustainable and digital tourism, and hydrogen technologies in carbon–intensive regions. The aim of this new pilot action, which builds on the successful experience of a similar action on “interregional innovation projects” launched at the end of 2017, is to mobilise regional and national innovation actors to address the impact of coronavirus. This initiative also helps the recovery using the new Commission programmes through scaling up projects in new priority areas, such as health, tourism or hydrogen.

Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “Interregional partnerships are proof that when we cooperate beyond borders, we are stronger as we come up with smart and useful solutions for all. This new pilot initiative supporting interregional innovative partnerships is especially important in the current coronavirus context, showing how much cohesion policy is committed to contribute to Europe’s prompt response and recovery.” 

Following a Commission’s call for expression of interest launched in July 2020, four interregional partnerships were selected, with one or several coordinating regions in the lead:

  • País Vasco (ES), together with three regions, will focus on the support to an emerging industry sector for prediction and prevention of the coronavirus pandemic;
  • In the field of Circular Economy in Health, the RegioTex partnership on textile innovation involves 16 regions led by North Portugal (PT);
  • In the field of Sustainable and Digital Tourism, the partnership coordinated by the Time Machine Organisation, an international cooperation network in technology, science and cultural heritage, involves five regions and Cyprus, led by Thüringen (DE); 
  • In order to enable the development of innovative solutions based on Hydrogen technologies in carbon–intensive regions with a broad geographical coverage, two partnerships will merge: the European Hydrogen Valleys partnership gathering 12 regions led by Aragon (ES), Auvergne Rhône Alpes (FR), Normandie (FR) and Northern Netherlands (NL), and the partnership led by Košice Region (SK) with four other regions.

These partnerships will benefit from the Commission experts’ support, providing, among others, advice on how to best combine EU funds to finance projects. In addition to this hands-on support from the Commission, each partnership can benefit from external advisory service of up to €100,000 for scale-up and commercialisation activities. The money comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Next steps

The work with the partnerships will start in this month and will run for one year.This pilot further stimulates interregional cooperation, with the possibility for the partnerships to apply for support under the new programmes and the “Interregional Innovation Investment” instrument from 2021 onwards.

Background

In recent years, the Commission has called on national and regional authorities to develop smart specialisation strategies aiming at more effective innovation policies and enhanced interregional cooperation in value chains across borders. To date, more than 180 regional smart specialisation strategies have been adopted. Their implementation is supported by €40 billion of EU Cohesion policy funds.

As part of a set of actions presented in 2017 by the Commission to take smart specialisation a step further, a pilot action on “Interregional innovation projects” sought to test new ways to encourage regions and cities to develop new value chains and scale up their good ideas in the EU single market. This pilot action, which involved nine partnerships in high-tech priority sectors, was completed in 2019 and showed significant potential to accelerate the investment readiness of interregional investment projects.

The lessons learned will be integrated in the new “Interregional Innovation Investment” instrument proposed in the framework of the post 2020 Cohesion Policy package.

The new pilot action has similar goals. Moreover, in the context of the crisis, it aims at finding solutions to the coronavirus challenges and accelerating the recovery through the commercialisation and scale-up of innovation investment. 

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Commission proposes to purchase up to 300 million additional doses of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine

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image: BioNTech

The European Commission today proposed to the EU Member States to purchase an additional 200 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by BioNTech and Pfizer, with the option to acquire another 100 million doses.  

This would enable the EU to purchase up to 600 million doses of this vaccine, which is already being used across the EU.

The additional doses will be delivered starting in the second quarter of 2021. 

The EU has acquired a broad portfolio of vaccines with different technologies. It has secured up to 2.3 billion doses from the most promising vaccine candidates for Europe and its neighbourhood.  

In addition to the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, a second vaccine, produced by Moderna, was authorised on 6 January 2021. Other vaccines are expected to be approved soon.  

This vaccine portfolio would enable the EU not only to cover the needs of its whole population, but also to supply vaccines to neighbouring countries.

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Brexit deal: How new EU-UK relations will affect you

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EU-UK relations are changing following Brexit and the deal reached at the end of 2020. Find out what this means for you.

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. There was a transition period during which the UK remained part of the Single market and Customs Union to allow for negotiations on the future relations. Following intense negotiations, an agreement on future EU-UK relations was concluded end of December 2020. Although it will be provisionally applied, it will still need to be approved by the Parliament before it can formally enter into force. MEPs are currently scrutinising the text in the specialised parliamentary committees before voting on it during a plenary session.

A number of issues were already covered by the withdrawal agreement, which the EU and the UK agreed at the end of 2019. This agreement on the separation issues deals with the protection of the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in other parts of the EU, the UK’s financial commitments undertaken as a member state, as well as border issues, especially on the Isle of Ireland.

Living and working in the UK or the EU

EU citizens in the UK or UK citizens in an EU member state who were already living there before January 2021 are allowed to continue living and working where they are now provided they registered and were granted settlement permits by the national authorities of the member states or the UK.

For those UK citizens not already living in the EU, their right to live and work in any EU country apart from the Republic of Ireland (as the UK has a separate agreement with them) is not automatically granted and can be subject to restrictions. Also, they no longer have their qualifications automatically recognised in EU countries, which was previously the case.

For UK citizens wanting to visit or stay in the EU for more than 90 days for any reason need to meet the requirements for entry and stay for people from outside the EU. This also applies to UK citizens with a second home in the EU.

People from the EU wanting to move to the UK for a long-term stay or work – meaning more than six months – will need to meet the migration conditions set out by the UK government, including applying for a visa.

Travelling

UK citizens can visit the EU for up to 90 days within any 180-day period without needing a visa.

However, UK citizens can no longer make use of the EU’s fast track passport controls and customs lanes. They also need to have a return ticket and be able to prove they have enough funds for their stay. They also need to have at least six months left on their passport.

EU citizens can visit the UK for up to six months without needing a visa. EU citizens will need to present a valid passport to visit the UK.

Healthcare

EU citizens temporarily staying in the UK still benefit from emergency healthcare based on the European Health Insurance Card. For stays longer than six months, they need to pay a healthcare surcharge.

Pensioners continue to benefit from healthcare where they live. The country paying for their pension will reimburse the country of residence.

Erasmus

The UK has decided to stop participating in the popular Erasmus+ exchange programme and to create its own exchange programme. Therefore EU students will not be able to participate in exchange programme in the UK anymore. However, people from Northern Ireland can continue to take part.

Trade in goods and services

With the agreement, goods exchanged between the UK and EU countries are not subject to tariffs or quotas. However, there are new procedures for moving goods to and from the UK as border controls on the respect of the internal market rules (sanitary, security, social, environmental standard for example) or applicable UK regulation are in place. This means more red tape and additional costs. For example, all imports into the EU are subject to customs formalities while they must also meet all EU standards so they are subject to regulatory checks and controls. This does not apply to goods being moved between Northern Ireland and the EU.

Regarding services, UK companies no longer have the automatic right to offer services across the EU. If they want to continue operating in the EU, they will need to establish themselves here.

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