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Europeans show record support for the euro

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More than three in four citizens think that the single currency is good for the European Union, according to the latest Eurobarometer results. This is the highest support since surveys began in 2002. 

According to the results of the latest Eurobarometer survey on the euro area, 76% of respondents think the single currency is good for the EU. This is the highest support since the introduction of euro coins and banknotes in 2002 and a 2-percentage point increase since last year’s already record levels. Similarly, a majority of 65% of citizens across the euro area think that the euro is beneficial for their own country: this is also the highest number ever measured. The common currency is supported by a majority of citizens in all 19 euro area Member States.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said: “Almost 28 years after I added my name to the Maastricht Treaty, I remain convinced that this was the most important signature I ever made. The euro – now 20 years young – has  become a symbol of unity, sovereignty and stability. We have worked hard over the past five years to turn the page of Europe’s crisis, ensure that the benefits of jobs, growth and investment are reaching all Europeans and make Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union stronger than ever. The euro and I being the only survivors of the Maastricht Treaty, I am glad to see this record-high support for our single currency on my last days in office as President of the European Commission. The euro has been the fight of a lifetime and it is one of Europe’s best assets for the future. Let’s make sure that it continues to deliver prosperity and protection to our citizens.”

Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: ”The euro today is stronger than ever, bringing numerous benefits for people, businesses and countries from replacing 19 different currencies with one. It is not a coincidence that most Europeans support the euro. This record-high support gives us a clear mandate to work on further strengthening of our Economic and Monetary Union and reinforcing the international role of the euro.

Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: “Long gone are the days when the integrity of the single currency was in question. The euro is one of the biggest European success stories, and ithas brought tangible benefits to European citizens, businesses and governments alike. We have strengthened our Economic and Monetary Union since the crisis and since the start of this Commission, but the work is not yet finished. The future of the euro is still to be written. We must make sure that this support continues to rise and that the benefits of the euro are shared more equally among all of our citizens.”  

The euro makes it easy

Still a young currency, the euro has just turned 20 this year. Nevertheless, Europeans clearly see the very practical benefits it has brought to their everyday lives. Four fifths of respondents agree that the euro has made it easier to do business across borders, compare prices and shop in other countries, including online. An absolute majority in the euro area also think that the euro has made traveling easier and less costly.

The euro is more than just the coins and notes in our pockets: it is a symbol of Europe’s unity and global strength. Today, it is already the currency of 340 million Europeans in 19 Member States. It has brought tangible benefits to all: stable prices, lower transaction costs, protected savings, more transparent and competitive markets, increased trade, easier travel and higher living standards. Some 60 countries around the world link their currencies to the euro in one way or another.

Strong support for reforms, coordinated economic policies, but also for abolishing one- and two-cent coins

Asked about their views on the coordination of economic policy, including budgetary policies, 69% of Europeans see the need for more coordination in the euro area, whilst only 7% would like to see less cooperation.There is also continued strong support at 80% for economic reforms to improve the performance of national economies. This is also reflected in national results, with clear majorities in all euro area countries.

A majority of 65% of respondents said they were in favour of doing away with inconvenient one- and two-euro cent coins through the mandatory rounding of the final price of purchases in shops and supermarkets to the nearest five cents. An absolute majority supports this idea in 16 out of the 19 euro area countries.

Background

Citizens replied to a set of questions focusing on issues ranging from perception and practical aspects of the euro to their assessment of the economic situation, policy and reforms in their country and in the euro area. In addition, the survey asked citizens about their views and expectations regarding household income and inflation.

Some 17,500 respondents across the 19 euro area countries were interviewed by phone between 14 and 19 October 2019.

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EU Politics

Conditions worsen for stranded migrants along Belarus-EU border

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At least eight people have died along the border between Belarus and the European Union, where multiple groups of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants have been stranded for weeks in increasingly dire conditions. 

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCRappealed for urgent action on Friday, to save lives and prevent further suffering at the border with Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The latest casualty was reported within the past few days. 

UNHCR warned that the situation will further and rapidly deteriorate as winter approaches, putting more lives in danger. 

For the Agency’s Regional Director for Europe, Pascale Moreau, “when fundamental human rights are not protected, lives are at stake.” 

“It is unacceptable that people have died, and the lives of others are precariously hanging in the balance. They are held hostage by a political stalemate which needs to be solved now,” he said. 

According to media reports, the EU regards the increase in asylum seekers at the border, a direct result of Belarus, in effect, weaponizing migrants, in retaliation for sanctions placed on the Government over the suppression of the protest movement following last year’s disputed re-election of President Lukashenko.  

International group 

Among those stranded are 32 Afghan women, men and children. They have been left in limbo between Poland and Belarus since mid-August, unable to access asylum and any form of assistance. They do not have proper shelter and no secure source of food or water. 

A group of 16 Afghans tried to cross into Poland this week, but they were apprehended and not allowed to apply for asylum. They were also denied access to legal assistance. Within a few hours, they were pushed back across the border to Belarus. 

So far, UNHCR has not been granted access to meet with the group from the Polish side, despite repeated requests, and only met them a few times from the Belarusian side to deliver life-saving aid. 

International law 

The Agency has been advocating for the group to be granted asylum, since the Afghans have expressed their wish to settle either in Belarus or in Poland. 

The request has been ignored by both sides. For UNHCR, that is “a clear violation of international refugee law and international human rights law.” 

“We urge Belarus and Poland, as signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, to abide by their international legal obligations and provide access to asylum for those seeking it at their borders.  

“Pushbacks, that deny access to territory and asylum, violate human rights in breach of international law”, said Mr. Moreau. 

UNHCR urges the authorities to determine and address humanitarian and international protection needs, and find viable solutions. The agency also stands ready to support refugees, together with other relevant stakeholders. 

“People must be able to exercise their rights where they are, be it in Belarus or in Poland or other EU States where they may be located. This must include the possibility to seek asylum, access to legal aid, information and appropriate accommodation”, Mr. Moreau concluded. 

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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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