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Explainer: Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa

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Why does the EU need a new Strategy?

Africa is Europe’s closest neighbour. The ties that bind Africa and the European Union (EU) are broad and deep as a result of history, proximity and shared interests. It is time to take this relationship to the next level.

2020 will be a pivotal year for Africa-EU relations to realise the ambition of forging an even stronger partnership.

The new Partnership Agreement between the EU and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States is expected to be concluded and the next EU-African Union Summit will take place in Brussels in October 2020 in view of defining a joint partnership agenda.

Both Africa and Europe face a growing number of shared challenges, including the effects of climate change and the digital transformation.

So Europe needs to partner with Africa to tackle together the common challenges of the 21st century. This is why this communication proposes new avenues for cooperation between the two continents to strengthen the EU’s strategic alliance with Africa

What is new in this proposal for a new Strategy?

The joint communication by the Commission and the High Representative is a contribution towards a new strategy with Africa. It sets out ideas to intensify cooperation in all aspects of the EU-Africa partnership. It proposes a comprehensive framework for future partnership to enable both sides to achieve their common goals and to tackle global challenges.

As a response to new, changing realities, the proposal for a strategy introduces a specific focus on the green transition and the digital transformation as key target areas for future cooperation.

More importantly, throughout the joint communication, the EU emphasises the need to fully take into account youth and women as well as their potential as agents of change. Responding to their aspirations will determine the future of the continent.

The proposal for a new strategy is a starting point to take the partnership to a new level based on a clear understanding of our respective and mutual interests and responsibilities. It aims at reflecting the comprehensiveness and maturity of our relationship in which the interests and values of both sides are brought together to promote joint cooperation on areas of common interest.

These include developing a green growth model, improving the business environment and investment climate, boosting education, research, innovation, the creation of decent jobs through sustainable investments, maximising the benefits of regional economic integration and trade, combatting climate change, ensuring access to sustainable energy, protecting biodiversity and natural resources, as well as promoting peace and security, ensuring well-governed migration and mobility and working together to strengthen the multilateral rules based order that promotes universal values, human rights, democracy and gender equality. Enhanced cooperation on global and multilateral affairs must be at the heart of our common action.

The EU and its Member States must adapt the way it engages with Africa ensuring its positioning is in line with our mutual interests and give more prominence to values, key principles and good regulatory practices in the light of the increased interest from many players in Africa’s potential.

What are the main challenges and areas of cooperation going forward?

The strategy identifies five key areas for deepened future cooperation between Europe and Africa.

These are: (1) green transition and energy access, (2) digital transformation, (3) sustainable growth and jobs, (4) peace and governance, (5) migration and mobility

Under each of these headings, the proposal for a new strategy sets out ways to deliver on common goals.

In addition, forging a strong political and enhanced cooperation on global and multilateral affairs will be at the heart of our common action.

Has the EU engaged with stakeholders to produce this strategy?

Today, the Commission and the High Representative presented the first elements of the strategy. There has been preliminary outreach before. Beside internal engagement with EU member states and members of the European Parliament, as well as with civil society, both formally and informally, the EU has reached out to African partners, including during the 10th Commission-to-Commission meeting on 27 February 2020 in Addis Ababa.

The proposals also build on the agenda jointly agreed at the 2017 African Union-EU Summit in Abidjan and on recent exchanges that took place at political level.

Today’s joint Communication set out proposals to feed in the ongoing dialogue with EU member states, African partners, as well as private sector, civil society and think thanks, which will be taken forward ahead of the next EU-African Union Summit in Brussels in October 2020.

The African Union-EU Ministerial meeting on 4-5 May in Kigali will be another opportunity to discuss the communication in depth at a more formal level with the African side.

The EU-African Union Summit in October 2020 should be the culminating moment when we hope to agree on a common way forward with our African partners to tackle joint priorities, which is our objective.

Will the new strategy replace the Joint Africa-EU Strategy set out in 2007?

The Joint Africa-EU Strategy in 2007 was an important step in the relationship between the EU and Africa. However, in 2007, the world was a different place and the reality of our partnership with Africa was in a different global context. In 2020, 13 years later, new opportunities and challenges occur – such as climate change, the digital transformation, inequalities, demographic pressures and global governance. Africa is a booming continent, with over recent years some of the quickest growing countries worldwide, and is attracting the attention of several other players. We live in a competitive global environment where global public goods are under threat. We have to adapt to these new realities and renew our partnership with Africa.

Today the EU proposes the potential priorities for this new partnership. The EU will continue to engage with our African partners in view of defining together our joint strategic priorities for the years to come.

How does this strategy fit with the European Commission’s broader objectives, such as the EU’s Green Deal and a focus on digital?

The European Commission wants to lead the transition to a healthy planet and a new digital world. On both of these issues, the EU’s engagement with Africa reflects those ambitions.

To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the EU and Africa alike need to opt for a low carbon, resource efficient and climate resilient future in line with the Paris Agreement.

The European Commission is committed to making Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent; in its external action, it proposes to partner with Africa to maximise the benefits of the green transition and minimise threats to the environment. This will include every aspect from the circular economy and sustainable value-chains and food systems through to promoting renewable energy, reducing emissions, protecting biodiversity and ecosystems, and advancing green and sustainable models of urbanisation.

African countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change as it risks jeopardizing the ongoing progress on sustainable development.

Similarly, the European Commission has vowed to create a Europe fit for the digital age; in its external action, it proposes to partner with Africa to promote and harness digital transformation in Africa and ensure access to safe and affordable digital services.

A 10% increase in digital coverage could boost by over 1% Africa’s GDP, according to estimations. With the right investment, infrastructure and regulatory framework, digitalisation has the power to transform African economies and societies. Moreover, the interdependence of the two continents means that the EU’s engagement with Africa is driven by its values and by its interests alike.

What economic ties exist between Europe and Africa?

The EU is Africa’s largest trade and investment partner, and the main supporter of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) with €72.5 million mobilised by the end of 2020.

In 2018, total trade in goods between the 27 EU member states and Africa was worth €235 billion – 32% of Africa’s total. This compares to €125 billion for China (17%) and €46 billion for the US (6%).

In 2017, the 27 EU Member States had foreign direct investment stock in Africa worth €222 billion – more than five times either the US (€42 billion) or China (€38 billion).

How much development and humanitarian aid does the EU provide in Africa?

The EU and its Member States are the leading provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa. In 2018, the EU and its 27 Member States provided €19.6 billion – 46% of the total which Africa received.

Furthermore, the EU, together with its Member States, is Africa’s leading donor of humanitarian aid. Since 2014, the European Commission itself has allocated more than €3.5 billion for humanitarian relief in Africa.  

The EU is currently negotiating its future long-term budget. Under the European Commission’s proposals, the new EU external funding instrument for the period 2021-2027 would have a global scope, but over 60% of the funds available would benefit Africa.

What is the EU doing to boost investment and job creation in Africa?

Africa is a continent of growing opportunities, with a young, innovative workforce and high levels of economic growth. The EU is Africa’s largest trade and investment partner.

We want to partner with Africa to:

– Boost trade and sustainable investments in Africa

– Promote policy reforms which improve the business environment and investment climate

– Increase access to quality education, skills, research, innovation, health and social rights

– Advance regional and continental economic integration

This can be achieved building on the work under the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs announced in 2018 with the objective of creating 10 million jobs in five years, boosting investment and promote sustainable development. Through the EU External Investment Plan, a key part of the Alliance, the EU has already allocated €4.6 billion in funds for blending and guarantees since 2018. These funds should leverage €47 billion of public and private investment. Moreover, since 2018, the EU has also provided almost €1.4 billion to Africa to strengthen the business environment and investment climate.

The EU is proposing to turn the Alliance into the central pillar of economic relations between the two continents.

Will EU will prioritise trade, investment and economic growth over human rights? How will the strategy promoterespect for human rights?

Respect for human rights remains at the heart of the EU’s development cooperation, and therefore play a fundamental role in the proposal for a new strategy.

Respect for the universal human rights –political, civil, economic, social or cultural- will remain a key trait of our partnership.

Through the partnership for peace and governance, the EU will seek to join forces with African partners to promote full respect for human rights, acting at all levels. For example, the EU will continue to support human rights defenders and initiatives to reinforce civil society organizations. A more strategic and structured approach to human rights political dialogues with African countries will also be adopted, in complementarity with regular consultations with African regional organisations and the well-established consolidated AU-EU Human Rights Dialogue.

Development, meaning economic growth, can only be sustainable if it is built on a foundation of respect for human rights.

What does the EU do to promote peace and stability in Africa?

Peace and security are not only a basic need for all, they are also a pre-condition for economic and social development.

Peace, security, good governance and economic prosperity in Africa are also vital for the EU’s own security and prosperity.

The EU is already active in this field in Africa. It is currently providing advice and training to more than 30 000 African military, police and judiciary personnel through 10 Common Security and Defence Policy missions. In addition, the EU has provided €3.5 billion through the African Peace Facility since it was established in 2004, including €2.4 billion since 2014, to contribute to peace and military operations led by the African Union.

Additionally, more than one million people in sub-Saharan Africa have benefited from EU-supported post-conflict peace building and conflict prevention programmes since 2014.

Under the proposals set out in the strategy, the EU will adapt and deepen its support to African peace efforts through a more structured and strategic cooperation, with a particular focus on regions with the highest tensions and vulnerabilities. The EU proposes to support African capacity in defence and security, including through the European Peace Facility and its CSDP missions, and focus on an integrated approach to conflict and crisis, acting at all stages of the conflict cycle. This entails prevention, resolution and stabilisation efforts by well targeted humanitarian, development, peace and security actions.

Resilience should in particular be at the heart of African and EU efforts to address protracted conflict and fragility, given that resilience, peace, security and governance are intimately linked. The EU proposes in the strategy to support the efforts of our African partners to address the full spectrum of challenges and increase their overall resilience.

How will the EU partner with Africa on migration and mobility?

Demographic trends, the aspiration for economic opportunity, the ongoing conflicts and crisis and the impact of climate change will mean that the levels of migration and forced displacement will continue to pose both challenges and opportunities for both Europe and Africa.

Migration will remain one of the priorities of our partnership. Well-managed migration and mobility can have a positive impact on countries of origin, transit and destination alike and benefits both our societies.

Since 2015, the EU and African countries have developed a joint approach to managing the external aspects of migration and mobility,in the context of the dialogue and cooperation under the Valletta, Rabat and Khartoum processes, which has proven that together we can save and protect lives, assist those in need, and break the cruel business model of smugglers and traffickers.

The EU will partner with Africa on a balanced, coherent, and comprehensive approach to migration and mobility, guided by the principles of solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility and based on the respect for human rights and international law. Both issues of legal migration opportunities and improved cooperation on return and readmission will be part of the discussions on the way forward.

The EU promotes continent to continent dialogue on mobility and migration and will continue to enhance the trilateral cooperation between the African Union, the United Nations and the EU.

How will negotiations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific be reflected?

The EU and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States are expected to conclude a new Partnership Agreement to replace the Cotonou Agreement, which will expire at the end of 2020. The future ACP-EU agreement covers a common foundation agreement, along with three specific partnerships tailored to each region, including one for EU relations with Sub-Saharan African countries that are party to the ACP Group of States. This will create a new legal framework for relations between the EU and the ACP countries.

The EU also has separate Association Agreements with four Northern African countries.

The overall relations between the EU and the AU are defined by the joint Summits, which take place every three years, and by the regular ministerial meetings, giving political steering to the continent-to-continent relationship.

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Refugees in Greece: MEPs demand solidarity, warn about impact of health crisis

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The EU and its member states must help Greece manage its borders, according to Civil Liberties MEPs, who warn about the risk of COVID-19 spreading in refugee camps.

MEPs stressed that the current pandemic is yet more evidence that no country can deal with certain challenges alone. They praised the commitment to relocate 1,600 unaccompanied minors from the Greek islands to other EU countries, but requested clarification about when precisely this will happen and about which member states will participate. Some requested that relocation should also apply to other vulnerable asylum-seekers and to families.

Critical situation in refugee camps

Many MEPs are worried about a possible outbreak of COVID-19 in the overcrowded hotspots on the Greek islands, given the already dire conditions in which people are living. Some suggested transferring people to the Greek mainland or using empty hotel rooms to ensure social distancing, while others opposed any additional relocation, to avoid creating problems of public order.

The discussion also touched upon the crisis that followed Turkey’s announcement one month ago that it would let people cross into EU territory. MEPs underlined that solidarity with frontline countries is key and that migration should not be used for political purposes. Several speakers also questioned the Greek authorities’ decision not to accept any asylum requests for a month and reiterated that, as signatories to the Geneva Convention, all member states must respect the right to seek international protection.

In a debate that you can watch again online, the Civil Liberties Committee assessed on Thursday the situation at Greece’s external borders with Greek Ministers for Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarachi, and for Citizen Protection, Michalis Chrisochoidis. Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, and the Croatian State Secretary for European and International Affairs, Terezija Gras, presented their views to MEPs, as did Frontex Executive Director, Fabrice Leggeri, and the Director of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), Michael O’Flaherty.

MEPs call for solidarity and measures to prevent Covid19 crisis in refugee camps

The situation of refugees in Greece calls for a concerted EU response to avoid a Covid-19 outbreak, according to MEPs on the civil liberties committee.

As Europe grapples with the challenges of the coronavirus crisis, concern is also growing over the living conditions of asylum-seekers in camps on the Greek islands.

The situation at the Greek-Turkish border escalated at the beginning of March when Turkey opened its borders to asylum seekers and refugees by breaking the 2016 migration pact with the EU.

In a virtual meeting, the civil liberties committee discussed the current border situation and the need to avoid this humanitarian crisis turning into a public health issue with the Greek government. Representatives from the European Commission, Frontex and the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency joined MEPs in stressing the importance of solidarity and the unity of the European Union to help mitigate the growing crisis.

Measures in place

Together with member states and EU agencies, the Commission has set up an emergency contingency plan, regularly monitors the situation and has adopted new measures.

Two rapid border interventions were launched, additional border guards have been deployed and Greece activated the Civil Protection Mechanism, resulting in more than 90,000 items of assistance to the camps being giving to Greece by EU countries.

All migrants arriving in the hotspots undergo a mandatory health check. Newly arrived and rescued people are kept in separate areas until their medical screening has been completed.

The Commission has allocated a budget of €350 million in continued support for Greece, where most of the refugees and migrants arrive, €50 million of which will be for medical care.

After receiving a health check, 1,600 unaccompanied minors currently staying in the hotspots on the islands will be relocated to other EU countries:, namelyGermany, France, Portugal, Finland, Lithuania, Croatia, Ireland and Luxembourg. Some will be travelling to Luxembourg next week.

With the support of the International Organization for Migration and Frontex, a voluntary scheme has been set up to encourage people to go back to their home countries.

More support needed

Notis Mitarachi, the Greek Minister for Migration and Asylum, said that many special measures had been taken to prevent a Covid-19 outbreak in the camps on the islands, but that more support was needed.

MEPs called for more support, accommodation facilities and medical equipment, extending relocations to families, extending existing asylum deadlines and considering doing interviews virtually.

The Commission has proposed an additional budget of €350 million for the construction of new camps on the mainland in Greece and new apartments, which will require approval from Parliament.

Margaritis Schinas, Commission Vice-President for Promoting the European way of life, said it was imortant to stick to our values and respect fundamental human rights and EU law. He added that the EU should also continue its work on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, set to be presented in the coming months.

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Explainer: SURE, a new temporary instrument to help protect jobs and people in work

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What is SURE and why is the Commission proposing it?

The new instrument for temporary Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE) is designed to help protect jobs and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It will provide financial assistance, in the form of loans granted on favourable terms from the EU to Member States, of up to €100 billion in total. These loans will assist Member States to address sudden increases in public expenditure to preserve employment. Specifically, these loans will help Member States to cover the costs directly related to the creation or extension of national short-time work schemes, and other similar measures they have put in place for the self-employed as a response to the current coronavirus pandemic.

What are short-time work schemes?

Short-time work schemes are programmes that under certain circumstances allow firms experiencing economic difficulties to temporarily reduce the hours worked by their employees, which are provided with public income support for the hours not worked. Similar schemes apply for income replacement for the self-employed.

SURE would provide additional EU support to finance Member States’ short-time work schemes, and other similar measures, helping to protect jobs.

All Member States already have some form of national short-time work schemes in place.

Why is the Commission focusing on supporting short-time work schemes?

The SURE instrument is just one element of the Commission’s comprehensive strategy to protect citizens and mitigate the pandemic’s severely negative socio-economic consequences.

Many businesses experiencing difficulties are being forced to temporarily suspend or substantially reduce their activities and the working hours of their employees. By avoiding wasteful redundancies, short-time work schemes can prevent a temporary shock from having more severe and long-lasting negative consequences on the economy and the labour market in Member States. This helps to sustain families’ incomes and preserve the productive capacity and human capital of enterprises and the economy as a whole.

How much funding will be available for the EU as a whole and for individual Member States?

Up to €100 billion in total financial assistance will be available to all Member States.

There are no pre-allocated envelopes for Member States.

How will the Commission secure and provide funding for the SURE instrument?

Financial assistance under the SURE instrument will take the form of a loan from the EU to the Member States that request support.

To finance the loans to Member States, the Commission will borrow on financial markets. The Commission would then provide the loans to Member States on favourable conditions. Member States would, therefore, benefit from the EU’s strong credit rating and low borrowing costs.

The loans will be underpinned by a system of voluntary guarantees from Member States committed to the EU. The instrument will start to function once all Member States have committed to those guarantees.

How will the conditions of each loan be decided?

These loans should be used by Member States to finance short-time work schemes for employees or similar measures for the self-employed.

Following a request by a Member State for financial assistance, the Commission would consult the Member State concerned to verify the extent of the increase in public expenditure that is directly related to the creation or extension of short-time work schemes and similar measures for self-employed. This consultation will help the Commission to properly evaluate the terms of the loan, including the amount, the maximum average maturity, pricing, and the technical modalities for implementation.

On the basis of the consultation, the Commission would present a proposal for a decision to the Council to provide financial assistance.

Once approved, the financial assistance will take the form of a loan from the European Union to the Member State requesting support.

How will the guarantee system work?

Loans provided to Member State under the SURE instrument would be underpinned by a system of voluntary guarantees from Member States. This will allow the Commission to expand the volume of loans that can be provided to Member States.

This guarantee system is necessary to achieve the necessary capacity while at the same time ensuring a prudent financing of the SURE instrument.

To this end, a minimum amount of committed guarantees (i.e. 25% of the maximum amount of loans of €100 billion) is needed.

How does this instrument relate to the previously announced European Unemployment Reinsurance Scheme?

In the Communication setting out its coordinated economic response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Commission committed to accelerating the preparation of its legislative proposal for a European Unemployment Reinsurance Scheme.

The SURE instrument is the emergency operationalisation of the European Unemployment Reinsurance Scheme and is designed specifically to respond immediately to the challenges presented by coronavirus pandemic.

It in no way precludes the establishment of a future permanent unemployment reinsurance scheme.

What are the next steps?

The Commission’s proposal for a SURE instrument will need to be swiftly approved by the Council.

The new instrument will be of a temporary nature. Its duration and scope are limited to tackling the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

African Development Bank launches record breaking $3 billion “Fight COVID-19” Social Bond

The African Development Bank (AAA) has raised an exceptional $3 billion in a three-year bond to help alleviate the economic and social impact the Covid-19 pandemic will have on livelihoods and Africa’s economies.  

The Fight Covid-19 Social bond, with a three-year maturity, garnered interest from central banks and official institutions, bank treasuries, and asset managers including Socially Responsible Investors, with bids exceeding $4.6 billion. This is the largest dollar denominated Social Bond ever launched in international capital markets to date, and the largest US Dollar benchmark ever issued by the Bank. It will pay an interest rate of 0.75%.

The African Development Bank Group is moving to provide flexible responses aimed at lessening the severe economic and social impact of this pandemic on its regional member countries and Africa’s private sector.

“These are critical times for Africa as it addresses the challenges resulting from the Coronavirus. The African Development Bank is taking bold measures to support African countries. This $3 billion Covid-19 bond issuance is the first part of our comprehensive response that will soon be announced. This is indeed the largest dollar social bond transaction to date in capital markets. We are here for Africa, and we will provide significant rapid support for countries,” said Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group.

The order book for this record-breaking bond highlights the scale of investor support, which the African Development Bank enjoys, said the arrangers.

“As the Covid-19 outbreak is dangerously threatening Africa, the African Development Bank lives up to its huge responsibilities and deploys funds to assist and prepare the African population, through the financing of access to health and to all other essential goods, services and infrastructure,” said Tanguy Claquin, Head of Sustainable Banking, Crédit Agricole CIB.

Coronavirus cases were slow to arrive in Africa, but the virus is spreading quickly and has infected nearly 3,000 people across 45 countries, placing strain on already fragile health systems. 

It is estimated that the continent will require many billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the disease as many countries scrambled contingency measures, including commercial lockdowns in desperate efforts to contain it. Globally, factories have been closed and workers sent home, disrupting supply chains, trade, travel, and driving many economies toward recession. 

Commenting on the landmark transaction, George Sager, Executive Director, SSA Syndicate, Goldman Sachs said: “In a time of unprecedented market volatility, the African Development Bank has been able to brave the capital markets in order to secure invaluable funding to help the efforts of the African continent’s fight against Covid-19. Not only that, but in the process, delivering their largest ever USD benchmark. A truly remarkable outcome both in terms of its purpose but also in terms of a USD financing”.

The Bank established its Social Bond framework in 2017 and raised the equivalent of  $2 billion through issuances denominated in Euro and Norwegian krone. In 2018 the Bank was designated by financial markets, ‘Second most impressive social or sustainability bond issuer” at the Global Capital SRI Awards.

“We are thankful for the exceptional level of interest the Fight Covid-19 Social Bond has raised across the world, as the African Development Bank moves towards lessening the social and economic impact of the pandemic on a continent already severely constrained. Our Social bond program enables us to highlight our strong development mandate to the investor community, allowing them to play a part in improving the lives of the people of Africa. This was an exceptional outcome for an exceptional cause,” said Hassatou Diop N’Sele, Treasurer, African Development Bank.

Fight Covid-19 was allocated to central banks and official institutions (53%), bank treasuries (27%) and asset managers (20%). Final bond distribution statistics were as follows: Europe (37%), Americas (36%), Asia (17%) Africa (8%,) and Middle-East (1%).

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Explainer: EU Emergency Support Instrument for the healthcare sector

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What does the Commission propose to support the healthcare sector?

The Commission wants to directly support the healthcare systems of EU Member States in their fights against the coronavirus pandemic through measures that can best be taken at EU level. For this purpose and based on the solidarity principle, the Commission will complement in a fast, flexible and direct way the ongoing efforts at national level.

More concretely and as a first stage, the Commission has drawn up an initial needs assessment and will be working with Member States to further detail and prioritise their necessities.

To finance this action, the Commission is mobilising €3 billion from the EU budget, of which €2.7 billion will be channelled through the Emergency Support Instrument and €300 million though the rescEU medical equipment capacity. Additional contributions will be possible from Member States and also individuals, foundations and even crowd funding.

In this way, the Commission will be able to:

-directly purchase or procure emergency support on behalf of Member States and distributing medical supplies such as masks and respirators;

-financially support and co-ordinate pressing needs such as the transportation of medical equipment and of patients in cross-border regions;

-support the construction of mobile field hospitals.

To make use of efficiency gains and generate economies of scale, wherever possible, the Commission will directly procure on behalf of Member States and focus the help where the needs are.

In the medium- to long-term and thanks to these tools, the EU will be able to support testing capacities of its Member States and to support any relevant medical research. In this way, the Commission will be providing an EU response throughout the health crisis, until its exit.

To implement the initiative, the Commission will work with Member States national health authorities, international organisations and with the non-governmental sector.

What action can be undertaken via the Emergency Support Instrument?

The Emergency Support Instrument will allow the EU to provide a coordinated EU response throughout the different stages of the crisis.

The concrete action will depend on the needs of the EU countries. For example, the Commission will work to:

-support the imports, transport and distribution of protective gear, focusing on worst hit regions;

-assist the transportation of patients in need to cross-border hospitals which can offer free capacity;

-boost the swift development of medication and testing methods.

Other actions will also be possible, according to the evolving needs of Member States, hospitals, doctors and patients.

How will this action be financed?

To secure the necessary financing, the Commission is relying entirely on the EU budget for 2014-2020 and mobilising all available resources within the spending limits for 2020.

This is why today the Commission has also put forward a Draft Amending Budget – a proposal to reorganise part of the EU spending for the year in line with the latest priorities – to secure:

€300 million for the rescEU-medical equipment capacity.This will help to procure and distribute further medical supplies across the EU. The funding comes on top of the €80 million already allocated last month.

€2.7 billion directly to the European Union’s Emergency Support Instrument – whose general purpose is to complement the other EU instruments, where they cannot act alone, by directly respond to crisis situations across the EU – and to amend it so that it can be used in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Commission will activate the remaining flexibility of the current long-term budget – reserves which go beyond the annual ceilings – to finance this operation.

The needs are obviously bigger than the budget you have. How are you going to bridge the gap?

Given the medium- to long-term perspective of the proposed action, the Commission will explore further avenues to attract financing. These include donations by individuals, foundations and even crowd funding. The Commission is looking into putting in place all necessary modalities to allow speedy collection of contributions and donations. The budget could be further reinforced through these means as well as fresh budget appropriation in 2021 once a budget for 2021 is in place (based on an agreement on the MFF 2021-2027).

How will this money be distributed among Member States?

The objective of the initiative will be to provide targeted support to the Member States and regions most concerned.

Given the rapid evolution of the health crisis across the Union, there cannot be a pre-determined allocation per Member State. The team running the initiative will monitor the ongoing developments and respond based on the relative severity of the crisis in the different Member States as well as already existing measures and instruments.

To map EU countries’ most pressing necessities and be able to direct money where the needs are, the Commission has already started working with Member States’ national health authorities. This preliminary assessment will serve to identify the first steps to make and the decisions to take. Additional consultations with Member States and specific requests from their part will also be taken into account.

Who will be implementing the initiative?

The Commission will have a central role in implementing the initiative. For this purpose, the Commission is setting up a Task Force from across its departments, which will work, on a full time basis, to turn the ideas into action. The team in charge will include experts in crisis management, health policy, transport, EU public procurement and financial management.

Of course, the Commission will work closely with Member States’ national authorities as well as international organisations and the non-governmental sector.

Which will be the next steps?

Today, the Commission has put forward a comprehensive legislative proposal to finance and implement its action to directly support Member States’ healthcare sectors. The Commission is inviting the European Parliament and the Council to endorse this initiative as soon as possible.

In the meantime, the Commission will be working to identify and prepare the first actions that need to be undertaken so that implementation can start as soon as the legislative proposals have been adopted.

What other actions have been supported by the EU budget?

The EU has already taken a series of action to address the coronavirus pandemic across the EU, in the Western Balkans and in the Eastern Partnership countries.

Measures taken so far notably include unlocking €37 billion of investments from the EU cohesion funds to enable Member States buy medical supplies, pay doctors and help small and medium-sized enterprises keep paying their staff; creating the first-ever RescEU medical capacity and financing the repatriation of EU nationals stranded around the world. So far, the Union Civil Protection Mechanism has facilitated the repatriation of 10,017 EU citizens to Europe on 47 flights.

However, the scale and scope of the challenge requires an even more robust co-ordinated response, targeted directly at the health care systems, which builds on the solidarity and enhances cooperation between EU Member States.

Today’s initiative will be complementary to and consistent with the action taken so far. It will seek to add to what national healthcare authorities are already doing by creating synergies and making best use of economies of scale.

How the rescEU medical capacity works?

The medical capacity will be hosted by one or several Member States. The hosting State will be responsible for procuring the equipment. The Commission will finance 100% of the medical capacity. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre will manage the distribution of the equipment to ensure it goes where it is needed most.

The initial EU budget of the capacity is €80 million, of which €70 million is subject to the approval of the budgetary authorities.

Who can use strategic capacity of critical medical assets under rescEU?

rescEU capacities are primarily available to complement national capacities of all countries that are part of the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM): all EU Member States, the UK during the transition period and six Participating States (Iceland, Norway, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey).

If national capacities and including those pre-committed to the European Civil Protection Pool under the Mechanism are not sufficient to ensure an effective response to an emergency, rescEU capacities can be activated as a last resort and strategic reserve at European level.

Other countries can in principle also request support to the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. If no assistance is offered on spontaneous basis or through the European Civil Protection Mechanism, rescEU capacities such as the newly created stockpile can be deployed in third countries but only for an emergency with a major impact on Member States or EU citizens.

However, in view of current high demand for medical capacities under the Union Civil Protection Mechanism from countries participating in the Mechanism, it is at this stage unlikely that the rescEU capacity can be used for response operations in countries not participating in the Mechanism.

How are you going to report on how the project is being implemented and on how the money has been spent?

In full transparency, the Commission is going to set up a dedicated section on its website where it will report on the progress made and on the steps ahead

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