The Commission is launching two projects to provide expertise to Romanian regions and cities, in cooperation with the Romanian government and the World Bank.
Under the first project, Commission and World Bank experts will help Romanian county capitals develop stronger links with their periphery and use EU funding for projects that benefit the whole urban area, not only the main economic centre. For example, experts will study how to expand urban transport networks or how to cooperate better in the field of public services to make them more accessible.
Under the second project, a group of experts will help the eight Romanian regions to improve their innovation capacity and enhance cooperation between research centres and businesses to develop innovative products for the market. This project is launched under the “Catching up Regions” initiative, which helps low-income and low-growth regions catch up with the rest of the EU.
Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations and Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn said: “Romania will benefit from significant resources to invest in sustainable urban development in the next-long term EU budget 2021-2027. The work of Commission and World Bank experts together with the Romanian authorities will help pave the way for the success of these investments. In parallel, we are providing tailored support to Romanian regions so they can capitalise on their assets, cooperate with each other and become more innovative.”
Better cooperation between Romanian county capitals and their periphery
The project will focus on helping cities develop joint projects in the following sectors: public transport, environment and circular economy, digitalisation, entrepreneurship and education. The aim is to provide better services to citizens, make more efficient use of public funding and make sure positive spillovers reach surrounding, smaller towns as well.
Concretely, Commission and World Bank experts will help Romanian cities identify sectors with great potential for inter-municipal cooperation, help them design joint project, make the best use of EU funding and set the right administrative conditions for a lasting cooperation between partners.
The project is financed with €500,000 from the European Regional Development Fund. By the end of this year, the experts will issue a report with specific recommendations that should help Romania with the planning of several billion euros earmarked for urban investments and regional innovation in the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027.
More innovative regions
Romanian regions will receive tailored Commission and World Bank expertise in order to better commercialise research projects, build capacity for technology transfer, create jobs in research and innovation (R&I) and promote innovation in local small and medium businesses. The experts will help the regions to:
- support selected, high-potential research teams in the North East and North West regions and help them bring their innovative ideas to the market;
- facilitate the transfer and dissemination of knowledge and new technology between research organisations and businesses;
- promote public-private cooperation, helping public research organisations from the North East and North West regions to increase and improve R&I services provided to companies;
- help entrepreneurs from all Romanian regions test and improve the commercial viability of their prototypes, in view of creating a robust pipeline of projects ready to receive European and national funding in the future.
The project will be carried out until end 2020, with a budget of €2 million from the European Regional Development Fund. €110 million of funding is still available under the 2014-2020 Regional Operational Programme to support research activities linked to smart specialisation and technology transfer.
The Catching up Regions initiative has been launched by the Commission to study what holds back growth and investment in low-income and low-growth regions in the EU and how EU funds can be best used to address these challenges.
In 2016, a pilot phase was launched in the Romanian North East and North West regions with the help of the Joint Research Centre with the aim to develop, update and refine their smart specialisation strategies, i.e. regional industrial and innovation strategies based on local competitive strengths, resulting in a set or projects that are currently being financed.
These projects will contribute to the design of the new Cohesion Policy programmes. For 2021-2027, the Commission proposed a total allocation of more than €30.8 billion in Cohesion Policy funding for Romania, €6.1 billion more than in the current period.
European Green Deal Tops von der Leyden’s ‘To Do’ List
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, detailed her ambitious programme to place Europe at the global forefront of the combat against climate change and the promotion of digital innovation, data protection, and what she called “the geopolitics of mutual interest” during her tenure at the helm of the executive branch of the European Union.
Von der Leyen takes office as the multilateral institutions that have helped govern the world over the past 50 years “are being challenged every day”. She said: “It’s not just a question of one country or one party or one president. It is a global phenomenon based on sentiments.” Average people play by the rules but worry about the future of their jobs, businesses and families. “No matter how hard they try, they feel that the world is moving fast.”
One response is increased nationalism and divisiveness. Another is to strive towards greater inclusion. “We need to upgrade our international forums,” she said. “We need leadership.”
Climate change is probably “the best example” of the need for new initiatives, she said. She proposes a European Green Deal, with projected investments of €1 trillion from public and private sources combined and with the backing of the European Investment Bank. The central goal is to make Europe carbon neutral by 2050. “This will create innovation and will create value,” she said. “And it will create jobs.”
Europe cannot reduce its own CO2 emissions just to turn around and “import” them from abroad. To protect local businesses and workers from foreign firms operating under looser environmental regulations, she proposes what she called a “carbon border adjustment mechanism”.
Ultimately, the goal would be for Europe’s trading partners to implement similar carbon-reduction programmes. She pointed to initiates already under way in California and China.
To promote innovation and help scientists find new solutions to the world’s problems, she proposes the expansion of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), where researchers can upload and access vast amounts of data. “It is being developed in Europe for European solutions,” she said. Eventually the EC plans “to open this to the broader public sector and to businesses”.
She added that Europe will continue its efforts in the realm of data privacy and take a similar approach to the use of artificial intelligence.
In terms of geopolitics, von der Leyen stressed the need to “invest in more long-term stability”. She added: “Hard power is an important tool, without question, but never the only one. It always comes with diplomacy and conflict prevention.”
She called this the “geopolitics of mutual interest. That’s what Europe stands for.”
Von der Leyen’s address was followed by another by David Maria Sassoli, President of the European Parliament. His body must approve her green deal and other projects before they can be implemented. He reserved the right of legislators to review and “change” the proposals if they see fit. His primary concern is to link the green deal with social issues. “The environmental challenges we face will only be solved if we address poverty and inequality,” he said.
EU humanitarian budget for 2020 to help people in over 80 countries
Today the Commission has adopted its initial annual humanitarian budget for 2020 worth €900 million. The EU is the leading global humanitarian aid donor and helps people in over 80 countries. From protracted conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, to severe food crises, humanitarian crises are intensifying and putting aid delivery to those most in need at risk.
“EU humanitarian aid allows us to save millions of lives worldwide, putting EU global solidarity into action. Yet humanitarian crises are increasing in complexity and severity. Even though conflict remains the main cause of hunger and displacement, its impact has become seriously worsened by climate change. Europe has a responsibility to show solidarity and support for those in need. Our assistance depends on full humanitarian access so aid organisations can do their lifesaving job,” said Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management.
€400 million will go for programmes in Africa, where EU aid will support people affected by long-term conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, those suffering food and nutrition crisis in Sahel, and those displaced by violence in South Sudan, Central African Republic, and Lake Chad basin. In the Middle East, €345 million of EU funding, will address the crisis in Syria and its refugees in neighbouring countries, as well as the extremely critical situation in Yemen.
In Asia and Latin America, EU aid worth €111 million will continue to assist the most vulnerable populations affected by the crisis in Venezuela and refugees in neighbouring countries. The European Union will also continue to provide help in Asian countries such as Afghanistan, which has witnessed war for nearly four decades, and Myanmar and Bangladesh, which both host Rohingya populations.
Since climate change is increasing communities’ vulnerability to humanitarian crises, the funding will help vulnerable populations in disaster prone countries to better prepare for various natural disasters, such as floods, forest fires and cyclones.
EU humanitarian aid is impartial and independent. Aid is provided on a needs-basis and delivered in accordance with humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. The EU’s humanitarian assistance supports millions of people in need globally. EU assistance is delivered only through humanitarian partner organisations, including UN agencies, non-governmental organisations and the Red Cross family, who have signed partnership agreements with the European Commission. The Commission closely tracks the use of EU funds via its global network of humanitarian experts and has firm rules in place to ensure funding is well spent.
Drought in southern Africa: EU releases over €22 million in humanitarian aid
The European Commission is mobilising a humanitarian aid package of €22.8 million to help address emergency food needs and support vulnerable people in Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The funding comes as large parts of southern Africa are currently in the grip of their harshest drought in decades.
“Many poor households in drought-affected areas in southern African countries are struggling to have enough food due to crop failure, reduced access to water and, in some places, unaffordable food prices in markets. EU humanitarian aid will help deliver food to those most in need and tackle the hunger crisis in fragile rural communities,” said Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management.
In Zimbabwe, €16.8 million from this aid package will boost food and nutrition assistance, as well as improving access to basic health care, clean water and providing protection to vulnerable people. The remaining amount will be channelled to providing food assistance and nutrition support in Eswatini, Madagascar, Lesotho and Zambia.
The Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region, as a whole, is prone to natural disasters and oscillates between droughts and floods that are destroying harvests and further weakening fragile communities. Since January 2019, the EU has allocated a total of €67.95 million for humanitarian assistance across the region. The bulk of this funding went for emergency relief assistance in the wake of natural disasters (cyclones Idai and Kenneth), food assistance, and helping at-risk communities equip themselves better to face climate-related disasters.
As many as 12 million people in the region are at risk of hunger because of extended periods of below-average rainfall, interspersed with floods, on top of the economic challenges that some countries in the region are grappling with. In Zimbabwe alone, a 7.7 million people, half of the country’s population, are at the risk of facing severe hunger, placing Zimbabwe among the states facing one of the worst food crises in the world.
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