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EU paves the way for a stronger, more ambitious partnership with Africa

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The European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy today proposed the basis for a new strategy with Africa. The communication sets out proposals to intensify cooperation through partnerships in five key areas: green transition; digital transformation; sustainable growth and jobs; peace and governance; and migration and mobility. Based on this document, Europe will engage discussions with African partners towards a new joint strategy to be endorsed at the European Union – African Union Summit in October 2020.

European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Today’s Strategy with Africa is the roadmap to move forward and bring our partnership to the next level. Africa is the European Union’s natural partner and neighbour. Together we can build a more prosperous, more peaceful and more sustainable future for all.”

High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission for a stronger Europe in the World, Josep Borrell, said: “A part of Europe’s future is at stake in Africa. To face our common challenges, we need a strong Africa, and Africa needs a strong Europe. There is everything to gain from reinforcing our already very strong partnership in areas such as peace and stability, poverty and inequalities, terrorism and extremism. Both our continents need each other to strengthen themselves, to strengthen each other, and to achieve a common ambition: a better world based on a rules-based international order.”

The European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, commented: “With the proposed five partnerships, built around our shared interests and values, Africa and Europe will together lead on the green and digital transformation, as well as promote sustainable investment and jobs. My key priority now is to ensure that the Strategy with Africa is owned by the youth and women, as it responds to their aspirations.”

The renewed cooperation on the partnerships around the five areas proposed today will build on an ongoing dialogue with African partners, which will be taken forward ahead of the next EU-AU Summit in Brussels in October 2020 in view of defining joint strategic priorities for the years to come.

The proposals set out build on a growing momentum in EU-Africa relations. With the 6th Summit between the African Union and the EU and the conclusion of the negotiations of the new partnership agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of States, 2020 will be a pivotal year in living up to our ambition of an even stronger partnership with Africa, our natural partner.

The partnership should be based on clear understanding of our respective and mutual interests and responsibilities.

The Communication proposes that the EU partners with Africa on the following actions:

Maximise the benefits of the green transition and minimise threats to the environment in full compliance with the Paris Agreement

Boost the continent’s digital transformation

Substantially increase environmentally, socially and financially sustainable investments that are resilient to the impacts of climate change; promote investment opportunities by scaling up the use of innovative financing mechanismsand boost regional and continental economic integration, particularly through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement

Attract investors by supporting African states in adopting policies and regulatory reforms that improve the business environment and investment climate, including a level-playing field for business

Rapidly enhance learning, knowledge and skills, research and innovation capacities, particularly for women and youth, protecting and improving social rights, and eradicating child labour

Adapt and deepen EU support to African peace efforts through a more structured and strategic form of cooperation, with a particular focus on regions where vulnerabilities are the highest

Integrating good governance, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and gender equality in action and cooperation

Secure resilience by linking humanitarian, development, peace and security interventions at all stages of the cycle of conflicts and crises

Ensure balanced, coherent and comprehensive partnerships on migration and mobility

Strengthen the international rules-based order and the multilateral system, with the United Nations at its core

Background

On 27 February 2020, the European Commission and African Union Commission met for the 10th ‘Commission to Commission’ meeting in Addis Ababa,where thefuture cooperation in the fields set out above was discussed. In May, the AU-EU Ministerial Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of both continents will be another important opportunity to consult African partners.

The proposals also build on the commitments taken at the 5th African Union-European Union Summit in Abidjan. Progress achieved since then includes the launch in 2018 of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, calling for strengthened economic and trade relations, through sustainable investment and job creation. The conclusion of the AU-EU Memorandum of Understanding in 2018 on Peace, Security and Governance was also an important landmark, deepening cooperation in these areas

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Coronavirus response: EU support for regions to work together in innovative pilot projects

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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).

Next steps

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.

Background

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. 

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Commission proposes to purchase up to 300 million additional doses of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine

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image: BioNTech

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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Brexit deal: How new EU-UK relations will affect you

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EU-UK relations are changing following Brexit and the deal reached at the end of 2020. Find out what this means for you.

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. There was a transition period during which the UK remained part of the Single market and Customs Union to allow for negotiations on the future relations. Following intense negotiations, an agreement on future EU-UK relations was concluded end of December 2020. Although it will be provisionally applied, it will still need to be approved by the Parliament before it can formally enter into force. MEPs are currently scrutinising the text in the specialised parliamentary committees before voting on it during a plenary session.

A number of issues were already covered by the withdrawal agreement, which the EU and the UK agreed at the end of 2019. This agreement on the separation issues deals with the protection of the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens living in other parts of the EU, the UK’s financial commitments undertaken as a member state, as well as border issues, especially on the Isle of Ireland.

Living and working in the UK or the EU

EU citizens in the UK or UK citizens in an EU member state who were already living there before January 2021 are allowed to continue living and working where they are now provided they registered and were granted settlement permits by the national authorities of the member states or the UK.

For those UK citizens not already living in the EU, their right to live and work in any EU country apart from the Republic of Ireland (as the UK has a separate agreement with them) is not automatically granted and can be subject to restrictions. Also, they no longer have their qualifications automatically recognised in EU countries, which was previously the case.

For UK citizens wanting to visit or stay in the EU for more than 90 days for any reason need to meet the requirements for entry and stay for people from outside the EU. This also applies to UK citizens with a second home in the EU.

People from the EU wanting to move to the UK for a long-term stay or work – meaning more than six months – will need to meet the migration conditions set out by the UK government, including applying for a visa.

Travelling

UK citizens can visit the EU for up to 90 days within any 180-day period without needing a visa.

However, UK citizens can no longer make use of the EU’s fast track passport controls and customs lanes. They also need to have a return ticket and be able to prove they have enough funds for their stay. They also need to have at least six months left on their passport.

EU citizens can visit the UK for up to six months without needing a visa. EU citizens will need to present a valid passport to visit the UK.

Healthcare

EU citizens temporarily staying in the UK still benefit from emergency healthcare based on the European Health Insurance Card. For stays longer than six months, they need to pay a healthcare surcharge.

Pensioners continue to benefit from healthcare where they live. The country paying for their pension will reimburse the country of residence.

Erasmus

The UK has decided to stop participating in the popular Erasmus+ exchange programme and to create its own exchange programme. Therefore EU students will not be able to participate in exchange programme in the UK anymore. However, people from Northern Ireland can continue to take part.

Trade in goods and services

With the agreement, goods exchanged between the UK and EU countries are not subject to tariffs or quotas. However, there are new procedures for moving goods to and from the UK as border controls on the respect of the internal market rules (sanitary, security, social, environmental standard for example) or applicable UK regulation are in place. This means more red tape and additional costs. For example, all imports into the EU are subject to customs formalities while they must also meet all EU standards so they are subject to regulatory checks and controls. This does not apply to goods being moved between Northern Ireland and the EU.

Regarding services, UK companies no longer have the automatic right to offer services across the EU. If they want to continue operating in the EU, they will need to establish themselves here.

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