With 8 weeks to go until the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union on 31 October 2019, the Commission has today – in its 6th Brexit preparedness Communication – reiterated its call on all stakeholders in the EU27 to prepare for a ‘no-deal’ scenario. In light of the continued uncertainty in the United Kingdom regarding the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement – as agreed with the UK government in November 2018 – and the overall domestic political situation, a ‘no-deal’ scenario on 1 November 2019, remains a possible, although undesirable, outcome.
It is in this spirit that the European Commission has today published a detailed checklist to help those businesses that trade with the UK to make final preparations. In order to minimise disruption to trade, all parties involved in supply chains with the UK – regardless of where they are based – should be aware of their responsibilities and the necessary formalities in cross-border trade. This builds on previous Communications and 100 stakeholder notices, which cover a broad range of sectors.
In addition to this, the Commission has proposed to the European Parliament and the Council to make targeted technical adjustments to the duration of the EU’s ‘no-deal’ contingency measures in the area of transport. The Commission has also proposed to mirror, for the year 2020, the existing 2019 contingency arrangements for the fisheries sector and for the UK’s potential participation in the EU budget for 2020. These measures are necessary given the decision to extend the Article 50 period to 31 October 2019.
Finally, the Commission has proposed that the European Solidarity Fund and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund are available to support businesses, workers and Member States most affected by a ‘no-deal’ scenario. These proposals need to be agreed by the European Parliament and the Council.
The Commission recalls that it is the responsibility of all stakeholders to prepare for all scenarios. Given that a ‘no-deal’ scenario remains a possible outcome, the Commission strongly encourages all stakeholders to use the extra time provided by the extension of the Article 50 period to ensure that they have taken all necessary measures to prepare for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Technical adjustment of specific contingency measures to take account of the UK’s withdrawal date of 31 October 2019
On 11 April 2019, the European Council (Article 50) extended the Article 50 period to 31 October 2019. This was done at the request of, and in agreement with, the United Kingdom.
In light of this extension, the Commission has screened all the EU’s preparedness and contingency measures to ensure that they are still fit for purpose. The Commission has concluded that these measures continue to meet their objectives and therefore there was no need to amend any of them on substance. However, the Commission has today proposed to make some technical adjustments to specific contingency measures in order to take account of the new Article 50 timeline.
These adjustments are in three main areas:
- A Regulation ensuring basic road freight and road passenger connectivity (Regulation (EU) 2019/501): The Commission has today proposed to extend this Regulation until 31 July 2020, reflecting the logic and the duration of the original Regulation.
- Basic air connectivity (Regulation (EU) 2019/502): the Commission has today proposed to extend this Regulation until 24 October 2020, reflecting the logic and duration of the original Regulation.
2. Fishing activities
- Regulation on fishing authorisations: the Commission has today proposed to extend the approach in the adopted contingency Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2019/498) with a similar measure for 2020, providing a framework for EU and UK fishermen to maintain access to each other’s waters for 2020.
3. The EU Budget
- The Commission has today proposed to extend the approach of the contingency Budget Regulation for 2019 (Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2019/1197) with a similar measure for 2020. This means that the UK and UK beneficiaries would remain eligible to participate in programmes under the EU budget and to receive financing until the end of 2020 if the UK accepts and fulfils the conditions already set out in the 2019 contingency regulation, pays its budget contributions for 2020 and allows the required audits and controls to take place.
Providing EU financial support to those most affected by a ‘no-deal’ Brexit
The Commission announced in its fourth Brexit Preparedness Communication of 10 April 2019 that technical and financial assistance from the EU can be made available in certain areas to support those most affect by a ‘no-deal’ scenario.
In addition to existing programmes and instruments, the Commission has today:
- Proposed to extend the scope of the European Solidarity Fund to cover the serious financial burden that may be inflicted on Member States by a ‘no-deal’ scenario, subject to certain conditions.
- Proposed to ensure that the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund is available to support workers and self-employed persons who are made redundant as a result of a ‘no-deal’ scenario, subject to certain conditions.
In the agriculture sector, the full spectrum of existing instruments for market support and direct financial support to farmers will be made available to mitigate the worst impact on agri-food markets. For more immediate support, for example for smaller companies with large exposure to the United Kingdom, the EU’s State aid rules offer flexible solutions for national support measures.
The Commission and Ireland continue working together, in the context of the unique situation on the island of Ireland and their twin objectives of protecting the integrity of the internal market while avoiding a hard border, to identify arrangements both for contingency solutions for the immediate aftermath of a withdrawal without an agreement and for a more stable solution for the period thereafter. The backstop provided for by the Withdrawal Agreement is the only solution identified that safeguards the Good Friday Agreement, ensures compliance with international law obligations and preserves the integrity of the internal market.
Preparing for a ‘no-deal’ scenario
In a ‘no-deal’ scenario, the UK will become a third country without any transitional arrangements. All EU primary and secondary law will cease to apply to the UK from that moment onwards. There will be no transition period, as provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement. This will obviously cause significant disruption for citizens and businesses and would have a serious negative economic impact, which would be proportionally much greater in the United Kingdom than in the EU27 Member States.
Since December 2017, the European Commission has been preparing for a ‘no-deal’ scenario. To date, the Commission has tabled 19 legislative proposals, all of which have now been adopted by the European Parliament and Council. The Commission has also adopted 63 non-legislative acts and published 100 preparedness notices. The Commission does not plan any new measures ahead of the new withdrawal date.
As outlined by President Juncker in the European Parliament on 3 April 2019, should a ‘no-deal’ scenario occur, the UK would be expected to address three main separation issues as a precondition before the EU would consider embarking on discussions about the future relationship. These are: (1) protecting and upholding the rights of citizens who have used their right to free movement before Brexit, (2) honouring the financial obligations the UK has made as a Member State and (3) preserving the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement and peace on the island of Ireland, as well as the integrity of the internal market.
Every single business that trades with the UK, both in goods and services, will be affected by a ‘no-deal’ scenario. The Commission has today published a “Brexit preparedness checklist”, which all relevant businesses should examine carefully. Businesses should now be ready to fulfil all the required formalities.
Today’s Communication provides an overview of preparedness work in those areas where continued and particular vigilance is needed. They include citizens’ rights, border formalities and trade, medicinal products, medical devices and chemical substances, financial services and fisheries.
For more information: what should I do in a ‘no-deal’ scenario?
For the period immediately after a withdrawal without an agreement, the Commission has set up a call centre for Member State administrations, giving them rapid access to the expertise of the Commission services by establishing a direct channel of communication, also for the purposes of facilitating the necessary coordination between national authorities. To know more about how to prepare for a ‘no-deal’ scenario, EU citizens can contact Europe Direct for any questions. Call Freephone 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 from anywhere in the EU, in any official EU language.
Commission sets out key actions for a united front to beat COVID-19
Two days ahead of the meeting of European leaders on a coordinated response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Commission set out a number of actions needed to step up the fight against the pandemic. In a Communication adopted today, it calls on Member States to accelerate the roll-out of vaccination across the EU: by March 2021, at least 80% of people over the age of 80, and 80% of health and social care professionals in every Member State should be vaccinated. And by summer 2021, Member States should have vaccinated a minimum of 70% of the adult population.
The Commission also calls on Member States to continue to apply physical distancing, limit social contacts, fight disinformation, coordinate travel restrictions, ramp up testing, and increase contact tracing and genome sequencing to face up to the risk from new variants of the virus. As recent weeks have seen an upward trend in case numbers, more needs to be done to support healthcare systems and to address “COVID-fatigue” in the coming months, from accelerating vaccination across the board, helping our partners in the Western Balkans, the Southern and Eastern neighbourhood and in Africa.
Today’s Communication sets out key actions for Member States, the Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) which will help reduce risks and keep the virus under control:
Speeding up the roll-out of vaccination across the EU
By March 2021, at least 80% of people over the age of 80, and 80% of health and social care professionals in every Member State, should be vaccinated.
By summer 2021, Member States should have vaccinated 70% of the entire adult population.
The Commission, Member States and the EMA will work with companies to use the EU’s potential for increased vaccine manufacturing capacity to the fullest.
The Commission is working with Member States on vaccination certificates, in full compliance with EU data protection law, which can support the continuity of care. A common approach is to be agreed by the end of January 2021 to allow Member States’ certificates to be rapidly useable in health systems across the EU and beyond.
Testing and genome sequencing
Member States should update their testing strategies to account for new variants and expand the use of rapid antigen tests.
Member States should urgently increase genome sequencing to at least 5% and preferably 10% of positive test results. At present, many Member States are testing under 1% of samples, which is not enough to identify the progression of the variants or detect any new ones.
Preserving the Single Market and free movement while stepping up mitigation measures
Measures should be applied to further reduce the risk of transmission linked to the means of travel, such as hygiene and distancing measures in vehicles and terminuses.
All non-essential travel should be strongly discouraged until the epidemiological situation has considerably improved.
Proportionate travel restrictions, including testing of travellers, should be maintained for those travelling from areas with a higher incidence of variants of concern.
Ensuring European leadership and international solidarity
To ensure early access to vaccines, the Commission is to set up a Team Europe mechanism to structure the provision of vaccines shared by Member States with partner countries. This should allow for sharing with partner countries access to some of the 2.3 billion doses secured through the EU’s Vaccines Strategy, paying special attention to the Western Balkans, our Eastern and Southern neighbourhood and Africa.
The European Commission and Member States should continue supporting COVAX, including through early access to vaccines. Team Europe has already mobilised €853 million in support of COVAX, making the EU one of COVAX’s biggest donors.
Members of the College said:
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Vaccination is essential to get out of this crisis. We have already secured enough vaccines for the entire population of the European Union. Now we need to accelerate the delivery and speed up vaccination. Our aim is to have 70% of our adult population vaccinated by summer. That could be a turning point in our fight against this virus. However, we will only end this pandemic when everyone in the world has access to vaccines. We will step up our efforts to help secure vaccines for our neighbours and partners worldwide.”
Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, responsible for Promoting our European Way of Life, said: “The emergence of new variants of the virus and substantial rises in cases leave us no room for complacency. Now more than ever must come a renewed determination for Europe to act together with unity, coordination and vigilance. Our proposals today aim to protect more lives and livelihoods later and relieve the burden on already stretched health care systems and workers. This is how the EU will come out of the crisis. The end of the pandemic is in sight though not yet in reach.”
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “Working together with unity, solidary and determination, we can soon start to see the beginning of the end of the pandemic. Now in particular, we need swift and coordinated action against the new variants of the virus. Vaccinations will still take time until they reach all Europeans and until then we must take immediate, coordinated and proactive steps together. Vaccinations must accelerate across the EU and testing and sequencing must be increased – this is show we can ensure that we leave this crisis behind us as soon as possible.”
Coronavirus response: EU support for regions to work together in innovative pilot projects
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).
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.
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.
Commission proposes to purchase up to 300 million additional doses of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine
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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