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New mandate must bring equality for women

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PES Women President Zita Gurmai speaks at the meeting

Gender equality and parity within the institutions must be priorities for the next mandate, PES Women said today as it released a statement ‘Call for a feminist Europe’.

PES Women – which promotes gender equality and women’s representation both inside and outside the Party of European Socialists – was gathering for the first time since the European elections.

PES Women members unanimously adopted Call for a feminist Europe, reiterating and outlining the steps the EU institutions must take to achieve greater gender equality.

PES Women President Zita Gurmai, said:“We are entering the ninth mandate of the European Parliament, and yet we have still not achieved gender equality. Last month’s vote saw an increase in the number of women elected to the European Parliament, which is very welcome. But despite this, no institution comes close to ensuring equal representation in decision-making for women, or gender equality more generally. So after the PES feminist campaign, this is what we are reiterating today. It is time for a feminist Europe where every woman and girl can exercise her freedoms, choices and rights.”

2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action – an agenda for women’s empowerment adopted at the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, China, 1995). As this anniversary is approached, Call for a feminist Europe picks up many of the areas the Platform for Action identified.

The PES Women statement calls for:

Gender-balanced committees, committee chairs and heads of delegations in the European Parliament;

That national governments propose two candidates, a woman and a man, for Commissioner to ensure gender parity in the Commission’s college;

Gender equality as a stand-alone European Commission portfolio, and as a priority of the Commission President or Vice-President, and a feminist approach to overall Commission policy-making;

The European Commission to introduce gender budgeting, and more resources to strengthen women’s rights, including for the European Institute for Gender Equality;

All institutions to amplify their ambitions to create and adopt legislation that improves the lives of women and girls in Europe; and, reaffirm their aim to achieve full gender equality, including through training for staff and policy-makers on gender mainstreaming.

All institutions to introduce reporting mechanisms and mandatory training for staff and elected members on all types of harassment and sexism.

The statement also advocates for an ambitious and binding EU Gender Equality Strategy that ends all gender gaps – especially the gender pay gap, makes the work-life-balance Directive a reality, empowers women, combats gender-based violence, and ensures access to sexual and reproductive rights. This was a key proposal of PES Common Candidate Frans Timmermans, who PES Women continue to fully support for the President of the European Commission.

Together with Iratxe Garcia Perez, newly elected President of the Social Democratic Group, PES Women will continue its commitment to women’s rights, further enhancing the chances of successfully taking forward gender equality policies in the European Parliament.

Read Call for a feminist Europe here

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Parliament decides on new Commission President

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MEPs vote on the candidate for the president of the European Commission on Tuesday 16 July.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who was nominated for the post by the European Council, will outline her programme and discuss it with MEPs from 9.00 CET. MEPs will vote on her candidacy at 18.00 CET.

In order to become Commission President, von der Leyen must secure the support of an absolute majority of MEPs (as of today she must get at least 374 votes). The vote will be a secret paper ballot.

Although she has the backing of EU leaders and is a member of the political party that won most seats in the European elections, von der Leyen was not a lead candidate, a fact criticised by many MEPs.

Political groups have already subjected von der Leyen to tough questioning about her plans for the Commission.

If she fails to win a majority, the European Council would have to put forward another candidate.

Following May’s elections, one of the first tasks of the new, directly-elected European Parliament is the election of the next European Commission President.

Once this new president has been approved, work starts on setting up the new Commission. Parliament’s committees will hold hearings with each of the commissioners-designate to assess their suitability for the portfolio to which they are assigned, before MEPs vote on the Commission as a whole.

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European Institute of Innovation and Technology: Strategy for 2021-2027

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Today, the European Commission has proposed an update of the legal base of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) as well as its new Strategic Innovation Agenda for 2021-2027.

The EIT is an independent EU body created in 2008 that is strengthening Europe’s ability to innovate. The proposals adopted today will align the EIT with the EU’s next research and innovation programme Horizon Europe (2021-2027) delivering on the Commission’s commitment to further boost Europe’s innovation potential. With a proposed budget of €3 billion, which represents an increase of €600 million or 25% compared to the current Strategic Innovation Agenda (2014-2020), the EIT will fund activities of existing and new Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) and support the innovation capacity of 750 higher education institutions.

Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the EIT, said: “Since 2008, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology has been nurturing talent and creativity through a unique focus on education and entrepreneurship. The strategy we are now putting in place for 2021-2027 will help ensure that all of Europe’s regions benefit from the Institute’s potential and will further boost the innovation capacity of our higher education sector. And I am particularly proud to announce today the launch of a new Knowledge and Innovation Community to support innovation in the cultural and creative industries, planned for 2022.”

The EIT currently supports eight KICs which bring together companies, universities and research centres to form cross-border partnerships. The Strategic Innovation Agenda proposed for 2021-2027 is designed to achieve the following goals:

Increasing the regional impact of Knowledge and Innovation Communities: In the future, the EIT will strengthen its networks, involving more higher education institutions, businesses and research organisations by developing regional outreach strategies. The selection of cooperation partners and the preparation of KIC activities will be more inclusive. KICs will also develop links to Smart Specialisation Strategies, an EU initiative to spur economic growth and job creation by enabling each region to identify and develop its own competitive advantages.

Boosting the innovation capacity of higher education: The EIT will support 750 higher education institutions with funding, expertise and coaching, enabling them to develop economic activities within their area of interest. The Institute will design and launch activities particularly in countries with a lower innovation capacity. In doing so, the EIT will build on successful policy initiatives such as HEInnovate, a free self-assessment tool for all types of higher education institutions, or the Regional Innovation Impact Assessment Framework,which allows universities to assesshow they are fostering innovation in the regions they are based in.

Launch of new KICs: The EIT will launch two new KICs, selected in fields most relevant to Horizon Europe policy priorities. The first new KIC is set to focus on the cultural and creative industries and is planned to start in 2022. This sector has a high growth potential, many local grassroots initiatives and strong citizen appeal and is complementary to the existing eight KICs. The priority field of a second new KIC will be decided at a later stage; it is due to be launched in 2025.

The revised EIT Regulation ensures greater legal clarity and alignment with the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. The new legal base also introduces a lean and simplified funding model for the EIT designed to more effectively encourage additional private and public investment. Finally, it reinforces the EIT’s governing structure.

Next steps

Both therevised EIT Regulation and the Commission Decision on the Strategic Innovation Agenda for 2021-2027 will be presented to the European Parliament and the Council for discussion and adoption.

Background

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology was established in 2008 by Regulation (EC) No 294/2008 amended by Regulation (EC) No 1292/2013and is based in Budapest. Its purpose is to address major societal challenges by improving the innovation capacity and performance of the EU through the integration of the knowledge triangle of education, research and innovation.

The EIT is a central part of the Commission proposal establishing Horizon Europe, the next EU research and innovation programme (2021-2027) with a proposed budget of €100 billion. The EIT is one of the three components of its “Innovative Europe” pillar. The Horizon Europe proposal sets out the funding for the EIT under the next long-term budget as well as its rationale, added value, areas of intervention and broad lines of activity. However, the Horizon Europe proposal itself does not provide the legal basis for continuing the EIT operations as from 2021. The legal base of the EIT remains the EIT Regulation that sets out its mission, its key tasks and the framework for its functioning.

With its proposed budget of €3 billion for 2021-2027 the Institute will boost innovation by supporting more than 10 000 graduates from its KICs’ Master and PhDs, around 600 new start-ups and more than 7000 existing ones.

The proposals presented today build on the external evaluation of the EIT carried out in 2017 which confirmed that the rationale behind the establishment of the EIT is valid.

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Central Asia: European Union matches political commitment with further concrete support

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To underpin the European Union’s political commitment and kick-start the implementation of the new EU Central Asia Strategy, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, at the EU-Central Asia Ministerial meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, today presented a set of EU funded regional programmes. These programmes will support the environment, climate action, sustainable consumption and production, energy, gender equality, counter-terrorism, and education. 

Coming on top of over €1 billion of bilateral and regional assistance for the period 2014-2020, these programmes, worth €72 million, will benefit all countries of the region – Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

“The positive regional dynamics in Central Asia and a demand for closer cooperation with the European Union presents a significant opportunity for a closer, stronger partnership”, said High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini. “Our new Strategy for the region will enable us to cooperate more closely with the countries of Central Asia in tackling the challenges they face: from sustainable development to economic diversification, strengthening civil society and human rights to providing expertise and financial support for reform processes. We are ready to build on the enormous momentum gained over the last five years, as a consistent and reliable partner, to foster resilience, prosperity and regional cooperation.”

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica added: “The EU’s contribution worth €72 million boosts our strong partnership with Central Asia, for the benefit of our citizens. Together with national governments, civil society and the private sector we will work to create opportunities and shared prosperity, while protecting our planet for future generations.”

The new programmes announced today cover:

Sustainable energy: The EU will invest €20 million in a new hydropower plant in Tajikistan, with additional support from Germany. This hydropower plant will create new opportunities for Tajikistan to meet increasing demand, and to export excess electricity to neighbouring countries, including to northern Afghanistan.

Economic empowerment: The EU will invest €2 million in the economic empowerment of women in the region. This project will be implemented together with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It will provide Afghan women with the skills they need to participate in the economic development of Afghanistan, and contribute to closer peaceful ties with Central Asia. 

Education: The EU also launched a new €36 million programme in support of the education sector in Kyrgyzstan. This financing agreement will support Kyrgyzstan’s education development strategy, in order to better formulate, implement and monitor education policy. It will help to improve resource allocation, ensure equitable access across gender, ethnicity and linguistic background, and enhance the synergy between skills and labour market needs. 

Inclusive sustainable growth: The EU has extended the activities of the SWITCH Asia Programme, with an amount of €14 million. The programme will support sustainable consumption and production and promote inclusive sustainable growth. It aims to reduce poverty and contribute to economic prosperity in Central Asia.

In addition to those programmes announced today, several others are in preparation: 

Sustainable development: The EU is preparing a contribution in support of the initiative of the Government of Uzbekistan to establish the Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea Region, under the auspices of the United Nations. The initiative will reduce vulnerability of the people living around the lake and advance sustainable development in the Aral Sea region. 

Intra-regional trade: The EU will launch an upgraded phase of the Border Management in Central Asia programme. With this new phase, the EU aims to increase security and facilitate intra-regional trade in Central Asia and Afghanistan through integrated border management. 

Health: The EU will furthermore launch the next phase of the Central Asia Drugs Action Programme. The goal is to work on integrated, balanced and evidence-based drug policies.

Counter-terrorism: New technical assistance to support law enforcement capacities and regional cooperation in countering terrorism.

Background 

The High Representative and the European Commission set out a vision for a renewed partnership with Central Asia in May 2019. This Joint Communication was endorsed by EU Foreign Ministers at the June Foreign Affairs Council. The new strategy comes at a key moment of fast-developing Euro-Asian connectivity, reform and opening up in some of the countries of Central Asia, and new momentum for regional cooperation.

The Strategy focuses the EU’s engagement on strengthening resilience and enhancing prosperity, as well as investing in regional cooperation in Central Asia.

EU cooperation with Central Asia amounts to over €1 billion, including both bilateral and regional assistance, for the period 2014-2020.

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