The European Commission today announced an investment of €101.2 million for the latest projects under the LIFE programme for the Environment and Climate Action. The funding will support 10 large-scale environment and climate projects in nine Member States, helping Europe’s transition to a sustainable economy and climate neutrality. Theseprojects are located in Cyprus, Estonia, France, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Slovakia, Czechia and Spain.
Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans said: “The European Green Deal is about improving the well-being and prosperity of our citizens, while protecting nature and the climate. LIFE projects have played an important role for many years and have a big impact on the ground. With today’s €100 million investment we will help to preserve precious natural habitats, keep the air clean, and cut pollution in many lakes and rivers in Europe.”
Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “LIFE integrated projects enable Member States’ authorities to make a real difference to the environment and people’s lives. The projects will help Member States to conserve nature, improve air and water quality, and make the economy greener. This will improve our resilience to the changing climate.”
Integrated projects improve citizens’ quality of life by helping Member States comply with EU legislation in six areas: nature, water, air, waste, climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. They support implementation of environmental and climate legislation in a coordinated manner and on a large territorial scale, leveraging funding from other EU sources, national and regional actors and private investors.
The LIFE investment is set to mobilise over €6.5 billion of complementary funds, as Member States can also make use of other EU funding sources, including agricultural, regional and structural funds, Horizon 2020, as well as national funds and private sector investment.
The large-scale projects will support the European Green Deal and the EU’s ambition of becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. They will help to restore and conserve ecosystems and species we all depend on, move towards a circular economy, improve air and water quality, boost sustainable finance and increase climate resilience in Europe.
Impact on the ground
Nature conservation: Integrated projects in Estonia, Ireland and Cyprus will help to conserve Europe’s nature and improve the management of the EU Natura 2000 network of protected areas. Many important habitats and species will benefit, from forests, farmlands, grasslands, coastal areas and peatlands to pollinators. These habitats also serve as valuable carbon sinks.
Waste management: A project in Greece will promote waste prevention and re-use, reducing the amount of municipal waste going to landfill. New waste indicators and standards will be developed to help build the circular economy.
Air quality: LIFE funding will assist Slovakia in complying with EU directives on air quality, reducing the population’s exposure to harmful air pollutants. Neighbouring Czechia, affected by similar air quality problems, will also benefit.
Water: Integrated projects working at river basin-scale will protect and improve water quality in Ireland and Latvia’s rivers and lakes, enabling the countries to meet their obligations under the EU Water Framework Directive.
Climate change adaptation: LIFE funding will also support increased resilience to climate change. Projects will integrate climate change adaptation into planning and other policy areas in Spain as well as building adaptation capacity in France using nature-based solutions.
Sustainable finance: Also in France, an integrated project will help bridge significant knowledge gaps in this area and bring green financial products into the mainstream.
The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. It has been running since 1992 and has co-financed more than 5,400 projects across the EU and in third countries. At any given moment some 1,100 projects are in progress. The budget for 2014-2020 is set at €3.4 billion in current prices. LIFE integrated projects were introduced in 2014 to help Member States comply with key EU environmental, nature and climate legislation. For the next long-term EU budget for 2021-2027, the Commission is proposing to increase funding by almost 60% for LIFE.
EU Citizenship: New survey shows EU citizens are more aware of their rights
A new Eurobarometer survey on EU Citizenship and Democracy released today by the European Commission shows that a vast majority of Europeans (91%) are familiar with the term “citizen of the European Union”. This is the highest level of awareness yet since 2007 and a steady increase from 87% recorded in 2015. Most Europeans are well informed about their electoral rights – at national and European levels. Today, the European Commission is also launching a public consultation on EU Citizenship Rights.
Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová said: “I am happy to see that more and more Europeans are aware of their EU citizenship rights: the right to reside in another Member State, to be treated equally regardless of their nationality or to vote and stand in EU elections. But citizens also need to know how to protect those rights when they are not respected. I want to empower European citizens, so that they can fully benefit from what Europe has to offer.
Commissioner for Justice and Consumers, Didier Reynders, said, “Fostering EU citizenship and participation in democratic life remains one of the Commission’s highest priorities. It is therefore very encouraging to see that an overwhelming majority of Europeans know what being a citizen of the European Union means concretely. The European Commission is equally committed to ensuring that citizens can continue enjoying all the rights that EU citizenship gives them. This holds particularly true in COVID-19 times, where we have to be extra vigilant to protect citizen’s rights.”
Main findings of EU Citizenship and Democracy survey
- High level of awareness of EU citizenship rights
According to the survey, more than six in ten Europeans (65%) are aware of the term “citizenship of the European Union” and know what it means, while almost one in three (26%) have heard about it. Citizens are particularly aware about the right to make a complaint to the European Union institutions (89%), the right to reside in any Member State of the EU (85%) and when in another Member State, the right to be treated in the same way as a national of that Member State (81%). Although a number of Europeans, who know what to do when their rights as an EU citizen are not respected, is steadily growing only 37% feel well informed. This represents an 11 percentage point increase from 26% recorded in 2015. Finally, 92% of respondents said that if they were in a country outside the EU with no consulate or embassy from their own country and needed help, they would seek support from an EU Delegation.
- Overall benefits of free movement in the EU
When asked about free movement, 84% of respondents said they think the free movement of EU citizens within the European Union brings overall benefits to the economy of their country. This shows a 13 percentage points rise since 2015, when 71% citizens recognised the benefits of the free movement. This Eurobarometer was carried out before the COVID-19 lockdown measures were introduced in majority of Member States.
- Good knowledge of EU electoral rights
The Eurobarometer also included questions on the electoral rights of the EU citizens. Just over seven in ten respondents (71%) know that a European citizen living in different EU country than the country of his/her origin has the right to vote or stand as a candidate in European Parliament elections. When asked about the 2019 European Parliament elections, a vast majority of respondents said that having more or better information about the elections in general and the impact of the EU on daily lives more specifically, would have made them more inclined to vote.
Public consultation on EU Citizenship
Today, the European Commission is also launching a public consultation on EU Citizenship Rights. The focus of this consultation is to gather information, experiences and views on EU citizenship rights, which will feed into the next EU Citizenship Report. In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, this consultation also includes questions related to the impact of emergency measures on EU citizenship rights. All citizens and organisations are welcome to contribute to this consultation until 1 October 2020.
The feedback from the Eurobarometer on EU citizenship and democracy, the public consultation launched today, and a broader stakeholder consultation (to be launched in the second half of 2020), will feed into the next EU Citizenship Report. This Report will set out concrete actions to further advance the EU citizenship rights, including democratic participation and in a cross-border context.
The 2020 EU Citizenship Report will complement the European Democracy Action Plan, both to be adopted by the end of 2020, to help improve the resilience of EU democracies.
In line with Article 25 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the Commission is legally obliged to publish an EU Citizenship Report on the application of the provisions on non-discrimination and citizenship and outlining new priorities in this area every three years. With regard to the Political Guidelines of the Commission 2019-2024, the upcoming Citizenship Report will provide an additional impetus to deliver on the priorities of the Commission including nurturing, strengthening and protecting democracy in the European Union.
New EU rules and guidance for a fairer online economy
The Commission publishes today a set of resources to help traders, online platforms and search engines get the most out of the new Platform to Business rules, which apply from this Sunday, 12 July. In addition, three progress reports prepared by the expert group for the Observatory on the Online Platform Economy are published for feedback. The reports will inform the broader work of the Commission on online platforms and in particular on the upcoming Digital Services Act package.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said: “The more than 10,000 online platforms in the EU are only one part of a broader digital services ecosystem that drives innovation. Despite their role as an essential resource during the on-going health crisis, major issues of fairness and safety have to be addressed. The new rules will ban certain unfair practices such as unexplained account suspension, unclear terms and conditions; ensure greater transparency about ranking, level the playing field among online platforms and search engine and provide new possibilities for resolving disputes and complaints.”
Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton said: “Trust is key when it comes to the online economy. Businesses are increasingly moving online – a trend that the coronavirus pandemic has reinforced. To ensure that we have a fair, transparent and predictable online environment, all operators need to adapt to the new rules we are implementing. They will strengthen trust in the online platform economy and make it strive for the benefit of all.”
The EU has adopted the first set of rules regulating the platform economy. As of this coming Sunday, businesses and traders selling online via marketplaces will know which criteria will determine their position in search results, hotels using booking platforms will have greater clarity and protection from unfair terms and conditions, app developers will have a chance to challenge decisions by app stores that wish to remove their content.
The Commission will also publish official guidelines on ranking in the coming weeks. These guidelines will help online platforms and search engines improve predictability and transparency to help businesses consider how best to increase and manage their online visibility.
Q&A on Platform to Business for small businesses and other online operators
The Commission has prepared a Q&A document that can serve as a checklist for online platforms and search engines, particularly smaller ones, when implementing the new requirements. It will help businesses get information on their new rights and the options available to resolve problems that may arise in their commercial relationships with online platforms. It also contains useful information for online intermediation services, search engines and representative organisations or associations. Furthermore, the Commission has produced a video to help online platforms and search engines assess whether the new rules apply to them.
Progress reports of the expert group for the observatory on the online platform economy
The Commission is closely following the developments in the online platform economy. The expert group for the Observatory for the Online Platform Economy has supported the Commission in this task by helping to monitor the market and the effective implementation of the new rules.
The three progress reports point to imbalances in market power in the relationship between online platforms and their business users in terms of both access to and the use of data, as well as to discrimination as a potential source of issues in the online platform economy. Stakeholders, including online platforms, the businesses relying on these online platforms, experts as well as enforcers are invited to provide feedback by 8 September.
The progress reports will feed into the Commission’s current work priorities in the digital area as announced in the Commission’s Communication on Shaping Europe’s Digital Future as well as in its data strategy and provide input for the Digital Services Act package. Two more reports will be produced on online advertising and platforms with significant market power that will, alongside the present reports, feed into a final contribution by the expert group of the Observatory later this year.
The Platform to Business Regulation entered into force in July 2019 and will apply from 12 July 2020. It sets the basic horizontal foundationfor a fair, transparent and predictable business environment for smaller businesses and traders relying on search engines and online platforms such as online marketplaces, app stores, certain price comparison tools or business pages on social media for their activities.
As part of the European Digital Strategy, the Commission has announced a Digital Services Act package that will further strengthen the Single Market for digital services and foster innovation and competitiveness of the European online environment. The Commission launched a wide-ranging public consultation in early June. It will close on 8 September.
The Commission has also set out general guidelines to online platforms and Member States for tackling illegal content online through a Communication in 2017 and a Recommendation in 2018. The Commission continues to lead targeted actions in coordinating the cooperation between online platforms, authorities and trusted organisations in areas such as combatting illegal hate speech online, or ensuring that products reaching European consumers in the single market are safe. In addition, sector-specific legislation has been adopted (in particular in the field of audiovisual and media services and copyright) or proposed (as regards terrorist content online).
Relocation of unaccompanied children from Greece to Portugal and Finland
On 7 and 8 July, 49 unaccompanied children were relocated from Greece to Portugal and Finland as part of a scheme organised by the Commission and the Greek Special Secretary for Unaccompanied Minors, in partnership with UN agencies and the European Asylum Support Office.
These two operations mark the beginning of the main phase of the scheme. With preparatory work coordinated by the Commission now completed and coronavirus-related travel restrictions easing, relocations will proceed progressively over the next months. The next transfers will take place later in the month, with 18 children finding new homes in Belgium, 50 in France, 106 (including siblings and parents) in Germany, 4 in Slovenia and 2 in Lithuania.
While the scheme started with an aim to relocate at least 1,600 children and young people, Member States have now pledged up to 2,000 places. The scheme is focused primarily on unaccompanied children, but will also include children with severe medical conditions and their core family members. At the same time, durable solutions for the protection and care of those unaccompanied children that will stay in Greece must also be found. The Commission stands ready to provide increased support for Greece and Member States in this respect.
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “In a tangible expression of support to Greece, Portugal and Finland will soon open their doors to 49 children as part of our programme to relocate unaccompanied minors. This is the embodiment of the European spirit of solidarity and I truly commend the Member States taking part. We cannot, however, rely on ad hoc solutions forever. No Member State should be left alone to shoulder a disproportionate responsibility. The aim of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum will be to ensure that solidarity is provided on a permanent basis.”
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: “We have worked tirelessly to make sure that relocations can take place despite complications caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus. Seeing that these 49 children will start a new life in Portugal and Finland shows our efforts are bearing fruit. Our services are working well with Greek authorities and international organisations on this scheme, turning pledges into action.”
Greek Alternate Minister of Migration Policy Giorgos Koumoutsakos said:“49 unaccompanied minors have departed yesterday and today to start a new life in another EU Member State, in Portugal and Finland. I want to thank Portugal and Finland for the support and for this tangible gesture of solidarity. I also want to express my gratitude to the European Commission for the continuous help and encouragement so as to make possible the relocation of 1,600 unaccompanied minors to other Member States.”
As of mid-June, there were over 4,800 unaccompanied children in Greece. As part of the Action Plan for immediate measures to support Greece, the Commission proposed to relocate up to 1,600 children as part of a scheme supported by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
To date, 11 Member States and Norway (Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Lithuania and Slovenia) are participating in the scheme. The first relocation operations took place in April, when 12 children were relocated from Greece to Luxembourg and 47 to Germany. On 17 June, 8 unaccompanied children were relocated to Ireland, following a bilateral agreement that predates the scheme. Finally, 6 unaccompanied children who could not be relocated to Germany in April as they were not fit for travel at the time were transferred to Germany on 26 June.
Relocations under the scheme will be carried out progressively in groups of various sizes to ensure adequate reception capacity in the receiving Member States. In addition to its coordinating role, the European Commission is financially supporting most preparatory and pre-departure steps in Greece, as well as the transfer costs, while Member States can also request funding for participating in the scheme (€6,000 per person transferred).
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