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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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EU Politics

Focus on the recovery from the pandemic at the 19th EU Regions Week

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The annual European Week of Regions and Cities has shown how the EU and national and regional governments can support European citizens and their local communities with public policies aimed at investing in a fairer, greener and more digital future for recovery. Under the theme ‘Together for Recovery’, more than 300 sessions, including debates with high-profile officials, regional and local representatives, an inspiring Citizens’ Dialogue, various workshops as well as an Award for outstanding young journalists, celebrated the EU values of cohesion and solidarity.

Taking place in a hybrid format, with sessions both physical and virtual, the 19th EU Regions Week had one main mission: highlighting the role of EU investments in the recovery from the pandemic and in facing common challenges. The event kicked off with a press conference with Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, who underlined that “Cohesion Policy was one of the first responders in the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by the core value of EU solidarity”.

The second annual local and regional barometer was presented by Apostolos Tzitzikostas, followed by a debate with members of the European Committee of the Regions. The report confirmed that the pandemic related measures put at risk regional and local finances, resulting in a 180 billion budget cut for local and regional authorities across Europe. At the same time, 1 in 3 local and regional politicians want regions and cities to become more influential in EU policy-making on health issues.

Unless we measure the state of our regions and cities, we cannot understand the state of our Union” said Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions. “Only by taking the pulse of our communities, we can decide how effective the EU has been on the ground, and what the EU needs to do to help its people”.

Further taking stock of the EU cohesion policy response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as informing the general public, various workshops touched upon life before and after the pandemic, including explanations regarding the role of regions and cities for a Green Transition, the Cohesion Policy 2021-2027 and NextGenerationEU, as well as the CRII, CRII+, React-EU support packages for regional and local healthcare services and equipment.

Young journalists were also invited to take part in the EU Regions Week 2021, getting the opportunity to debate with Elisa Ferreira at the Citizens’ Dialogue. In the Youth4Regions programme for aspiring journalists, Irene Barahona Fernandez from Spain and Jack Ryan from Ireland won the 2021 Megalizzi-Niedzielski prize for aspiring journalists.

About the event

The European Week of Regions and Cities (#EURegionsWeek) is the largest EU-wide event on regional development. It is co-organised by the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions.

In total, more than 12 000 participants and 900 speakers joined the 4-day event either physically or online, showing engagement in all corners of EU society – from our vibrant youth to our high-profile officials, local and regional representatives, academic experts and professional specialists, displaying a common readiness to tackle what the future holds, together.

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EU Politics

EU and Qatar sign landmark aviation agreement

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The European Union and the State of Qatar today signed a comprehensive air transport agreement, upgrading rules and standards for flights between Qatar and the EU. The agreement sets a new global benchmark by committing both sides to fair competition, and by including social and environmental protection. The signing means new opportunities for consumers, airlines and airports in Qatar and the EU.

Qatar is an increasingly important aviation partner for the EU. It was the 15th largest extra-EU market in 2019 with 6.3 million passengers travelling between the EU and Qatar. Ensuring open and fair competition for air services between both is therefore crucial, also for routes between the EU and Asia.

Adina Vălean, Commissioner for mobility and transport, said: “This agreement, the first one between the EU and the Gulf region, is a global benchmark for forward-looking aviation agreements. It is testimony to our shared commitment to economically, socially and environmentally sustainable aviation, based on a modern framework covering fair competition and closer cooperation on social and environmental matters. This agreement will bring new opportunities, more choice and higher standards for passengers, industry and aviation workers.”

Today’s agreement creates a level playing field that is expected to result in new air transport opportunities and economic benefits for both sides:

  • All EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights from any airport in the EU to Qatar and vice versa for Qatari airlines.
  • EU airports in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands will be subject to a gradual build-up of capacity until 2024. For more details on this, see the Q&A.
  • Strong provisions on open and fair competition will guarantee a level playing field.
  • The parties recognised the importance of social matters, agreed to cooperate on these and to improve their respective social and labour laws and policies as per their international commitments.

The agreement will facilitate people-to-people contacts and expand commercial opportunities and trade. Going beyond traffic rights, the EU-Qatar agreement will provide a single set of rules, high standards and a platform for future cooperation on a wide range of aviation issues.

Background

Qatar is a close aviation partner for the European Union; more than 6 million passengers travelled between the EU and Qatar per year under the existing 26 bilateral air transport agreements with EU Member States prior to the pandemic. While direct flights between most EU Member States and Qatar have already been liberalised by those bilateral agreements, none of them include provisions on fair competition, or social and environmental issues, which the Commission considers essential for a modern aviation agreement.

In 2016, the European Commission obtained authorisation from the Council to negotiate an EU-level aviation agreement with Qatar, which started on 4 March 2019. While the agreement still needs to be ratified by the parties before formally entering into force, it will start being applied from today’s signature.

Similar EU comprehensive air transport agreements have been signed with other partner countries, namely the United States, Canada, the Western Balkans, Morocco, Georgia, Jordan, Moldova, Israel and Ukraine. Further air transport agreements with Armenia and Tunisia are expected to be signed in the coming weeks.

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Sakharov Prize 2021: the finalists

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The 2021 finalists for the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are Afghan women, Jeanine Áñez and Alexei Navalny

The 2021 finalists for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are Afghan women, Jeanine Áñez and Alexei Navalny.

Meet this year’s finalists of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, who were chosen at a joint meeting of the foreign affairs and development committees on 14 October:

  • Afghan women, represented by 11 human rights activists
  • Jeanine Áñez, Bolivian politician
  • Alexei Navalny, Russian activist and political prisoner


Afghan women

Under the previous Taliban regime, women experienced forced marriage, high maternity mortality, low literacy, forced virginity tests and couldn’t travel without a man. Following the Taliban’s return to power, women are again excluded from government and education and their rights and freedoms are threatened. The women, who are nominated for their brave fight for equality and human rights, are:

  • Shaharzad Akbar – chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)
  • Mary Akrami – head of the Afghan Women’s Network
  • Zarifa Ghafari – mayor of Maidan Shar since 2018
  • Palwasha Hassan – activist and the director of Afghan Women Educational Centre (AWEC)
  • Freshta Karim – founder of a mobile library and an advocate for education and learning
  • Sahraa Karimi – first female president of the Afghan state film company
  • Metra Mehran – women empowerment and education advocate and co-founder of the Feminine Perspectives Movement
  • Horia Mosadiq – human and women’s rights activist
  • Sima Samar – human rights advocate, former Minister of Women’s Affairs and former chair of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission
  • Habiba Sarabi – member of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
  • Anisa Shaheed – political reporter


Jeanine Áñez

Jeanine Áñez is a Bolivian politician who became the interim president of her country in November 2019, after alleged electoral fraud by incumbent Evo Morales. In November 2020, after free and fair elections there was a peaceful transfer of power. However, on 13 March 2021 she was arrested on charges of “terrorism, sedition and conspiracy”. Accused of plotting a coup d’état against Morales, she has been imprisoned ever since.

Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny is a Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and major political opponent of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Known through his LiveJournal blog, YouTube and Twitter accounts, where he has millions of followers Navalny came to international prominence by organising demonstrations, running for office and advocating reforms against corruption in Russia, Putin and his government. In August 2020, while on a trip to Siberia, he was poisoned. He spent months recovering in Berlin, but returned to Moscow in January 2021 where he was arrested. In February he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Now incarcerated in a high-security penal colony, he went on a 23-day hunger strike in April to protest the lack of medical care. In June 2021, a Russian court banned Navalny’s regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation.

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