The European Commission has approved all requests made by 18 Member States for support with the preparation of their territorial just transition plans, which each Member State will have to draw up to get access to funding from the Just Transition Mechanism. To recall, the Just Transition Mechanism is part of the European Green Deal Investment Plan and will mobilise at least €100 billion of investments to provide additional targeted support to the regions most impacted by the transition towards a climate-neutral economy and with less capacity to deal with the challenge. The approval follows a dedicated call, launched by the Commission at the end of February 2020 under the Structural Reform Support Programme.
Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “Our work on delivering the European Green Deal continues. Climate change remains a reality. Fighting it is as pressing as before. The Commission is strongly backing Member States to ensure a just transition in all European regions. This support under the Structural Reform Support Programme is an important step – it will help to establish transition plans and allow Member States to benefit from the Just Transition Mechanism, making sure the transition towards a green economy happens in a fair way, leaving no one behind.”
Under the Structural Reform Support Programme, the Commission will provide tailor-made expertise to, for example, help national and regional authorities:
- assess the social, economic and environmental impacts of the transition and outline the transition process up to 2030;
- build a dialogue among stakeholders, such as citizens, business and civil society, to reach a common vision on how to go about the transition;
- and identify actions to achieve a successful just transition.
Over the next months, until end of 2020, the Commission will provide targeted support to help Member States with the preparation of territorial just transition plans. Member States will hold the pen in drafting and finalising the territorial just transition plans,in close consultation with relevant national, regional and local stakeholders, ensuring ownership of the transition. The plans will then be submitted to the Commission for approval.
On 11 December 2019, the Commission presented the European Green Deal, with the ambition of becoming the first climate-neutral bloc in the world by 2050.
On 14 January 2020, the Commission announced the European Green Deal Investment Plan to help finance the transition. But not all Member States start from the same point in their transition – some will be more impacted than others. The Just Transition Mechanism (JTM) is a key tool to ensure that the transition towards a climate-neutral economy happens in a fair way, leaving no one behind. The Mechanism provides targeted support to help mobilise at least €100 billion over the period 2021-2027 in the most affected regions, to alleviate the socio-economic impact of the transition. Special attention will be paid to regions strongly impacted by the transition but with less capacity to deal with its challenges.
To access funding, Member States have to draw up, in dialogue with the Commission, territorial just transition plans. In these plans, Member States will identify territories that would be most impacted by the transition towards a climate-neutral economy, set out the development challenges of these territories, and outline their pathways for transition until 2030, in close consultation with relevant national, regional and local stakeholders. The Commission’s approval of these plans will unlock the support of Member States through the 3 pillars of the Just Transition Mechanism: 1) the Just Transition Fund, which will provide grants that will mobilise €30-50 billion for social and economic transformation in just transition regions; 2) a dedicated scheme under InvestEU, which will crowd-in up to €45 billion in private investment, and 3) a public sector loan facility, which will mobilise €25-30 billion euros in public sector investment.
The Commission is providing swift support to Member States through the Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP) to help prepare their territorial just transition plans and thus implement the European Green Deal. To do so, at the end of February, the Commission launched a dedicated call under the SRSP to help prepare the territorial just transition plans. 18 Member States (BE, BG, CY, CZ, EL, ES, FI, HR, HU, IE, IT, LT, LV, PL, PT, RO, SE and SK) requested such support and the Commission approved all 18 requests. Over the past two years, the Commission already provided hands-on support to regions through the SRSP to help prepare long-term economic strategies for their transition out of coal, such as in Slovakia’s Horna Nitra region, Greece’s Western Macedonia or Romania’s Jiu Valley.
Towards a stronger and more resilient Schengen area
The first ever Schengen Forum, convened today by the Commission, allowed for constructive exchanges towards building a stronger and more resilient Schengen area. The videoconference gathered Members of the European Parliament and Home Affairs Ministers with the aim of fostering cooperation and political dialogue and rebuilding trust.
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “Today’s discussions showed a strong collective commitment to preserve and strengthen Schengen. For the last 35 years, we have built an entire Schengen architecture to better protect the area without controls at internal borders. And we must continue to build on and improve that architecture going forward.”
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has shown how much we need Schengen. Moving freely within the EU is a daily necessity for millions of Europeans for work or school for instance. It’s also crucial for companies transporting goods around Europe. Schengen can be our lifeline when it comes to Europe’s economic recovery post-coronavirus. That is why our discussions today on building a more resilient Schengen are so important.”
The discussions focused on:
Improving the mechanism to evaluate the implementation of the Schengen rules: Options for operational improvements as well as legislative changes to the mechanism were discussed for better monitoring, quicker and more efficient identification of possible deficiencies and effective follow up.
Finding a way forward on the revision of the Schengen Borders Code: Participants discussed possible ways forward to improve the current Schengen rules, with the shared objective of overcoming existing internal border controls and ensuring that any possible reintroduction of controls at internal borders in the future is proportionate, used as a measure of last resort and for a limited period of time.
Better managing the EU’s external borders: Participants stressed the need for quickly putting in place the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Traveller Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). These systems complement existing databases such as the Schengen Information System or the Visa Information System, which need to be used in full. The ongoing work towards ensuring that information systems for migration, border management and security become interoperable by 2023 was highlighted as crucial to give border guards the information they need to know who is crossing the EU’s borders. The deployment of the European Border and Coast Guard standing corps starting from January 2021 will also provide increased support to Member States’ border guards whenever and wherever needed.
Enhancing police cooperation and information exchange: Common and coordinated European action, for instance through increased police cooperation, better information exchange and better use of new technologies, is crucial to guarantee security within the Schengen area. Police checks can also constitute an effective alternative to the reintroduction of border controls. Measures such as joint patrols, joint investigation teams, cross-border hot pursuits or joint threat analysis were discussed as being alternatives to effectively address threats to security.
Strengthening the governance of the Schengen area: Regular meetings of the Schengen Forum, based on reports provided by the Commission, will help ensure the political involvement of all relevant players.
Today’s discussions are the first step in an inclusive political debate towards building a stronger Schengen area based on mutual trust. They will feed into the Schengen Strategy that the Commission intends to present in mid-2021.
Following today’s first videoconference, the Schengen Forum will continue to meet regularly both at political or technical levels. The next meeting of the Forum at political level will take place in spring 2021, ahead of the presentation of the Strategy for a stronger Schengen area. Targeted consultations at technical level will also take place with representatives from the European Parliament and national authorities over the next months.
35 years ago, 5 Member States agreed to remove border controls between themselves. Today, the Schengen area encompasses 26 European States with over 400 million citizens and it is a key policy of the European Union. It underpins the seamless functioning of the EU internal market in goods and services and has allowed Europeans to organise their private and professional lives around unfettered travel around Europe.
Schengen rules require an update to adapt them to evolving challenges. The pandemic, security concerns, and migration management issues have led Member States to reintroduce internal border checks. To address these challenges and build a more resilient Schengen area, the Commission announced in September this year the creation of a Schengen Forum to foster operational cooperation and stronger confidence in the rules.
MEPs condemn Turkey’s activities in Varosha, Cyprus, and call for sanctions
Turkey’s decision to “open” the sealed-off suburb of Varosha undermines prospects of a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, warn MEPs.
In a resolution adopted by 631 votes in favour, 3 against and 59 abstentions, MEPs condemn Turkey’s illegal activities in the Varosha suburb of the city of Famagusta and warn that its partial “opening” weakens prospects of a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, exacerbating divisions and entrenching the permanent partition of the island.
MEPs call on Turkey to transfer Varosha to its lawful inhabitants under the temporary administration of the UN (in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984)) and to refrain from any actions that alter the demographic balance on the island through a policy of illegal settlement.
Tough sanctions against Turkey
A sustainable solution to reunify the island of Cyprus and its people can only be found through dialogue, diplomacy, and negotiations, MEPs stress. They call on the European Council to maintain its unified position on Turkey’s illegal actions and impose tough sanctions in response.
MEPS regret that the Turkish authorities have endorsed the two-state solution for Cyprus and reiterate their support for a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement on the basis of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with a single international legal status. They also call on the EU to play a more active role in bringing the negotiations under UN auspices to a successful conclusion.
Tense EU-Turkey relations
As Turkey distances itself more and more from European values and standards, EU-Turkey relations are at a historic low, warns Parliament. Its illegal and unilateral military actions in the Eastern Mediterranean infringe on the sovereignty of EU member states Greece and Cyprus. MEPs also point out Turkey’s direct support of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as well as its actions in Libya and Syria.
The Turkish army fenced off Varosha immediately after the invasion of Cyprus in 1974. The Greek Cypriots who fled from Varosha were not allowed to return and with public entry prohibited, Varosha has effectively become a ghost town.
Commission and EBRD promote innovative use of data in public procurement involving EU funds
The European Commission, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Open Contracting Partnership are joining forces to improve the quality and transparency of public tenders co-funded by EU funds in Greece and Poland. Thanks to their support, two pilot projects will provide expertise and hands-on support to public authorities in both countries, with a focus on digital innovation.
By promoting the smart use of innovation and open data, the two pilots will help public administrations to better plan, implement and monitor the procurement of works, goods and services. This will improve the use of public resources and increase opportunities for businesses, especially for small and medium companies (SMEs). Moreover, thanks to a cooperation with local civil society organisations, this initiative will also favour transparency of public spending and stimulate citizens’ participation in the monitoring of investments with a direct impact on the community, such as investments in sustainability, local development and social inclusion.
The two pilot projects
- In Greece, the project will aim at consolidating and integrating all databases into a single smart public contract register. This will enable online access for bidders and citizens, improve quality of data and facilitate the use of data-driven analytical tools for monitoring the procurement process.
- In Poland, the initiative will support Polish national and local authorities to introduce open data in public procurement and promote automated collection, standardisation, and consolidation of procurement data on all tenders.
The two pilots will run until the end of 2021 and their results will be disseminated in order to ensure a successful roll out in other Member States.
Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “In the programming period 2021-2027, Cohesion policy will continue to support Member States and regions in their economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic, as well as boosting competitiveness through new investments in research and innovation, digital transition and the implementation of the European Green Deal agenda. Through the use of new technologies, national and local public authorities managing EU funds will be able to spend public money more effectively ensuring the best possible results for citizens and businesses”.
Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, added: “Transparency in public procurement is essential to ensure efficiency of public investments, in line with the EU strategic policy goals aiming at a greener, digital and more resilient Europe. Public authorities can rely on the EU’s public procurement framework, tools like the electronic procurement systems and open data for an efficient use of public funds.”
The EBRD Vice-President, Pierre Heilbronn commented: “The EBRD is committed to support legal and institutional reforms aimed at ensuring that procurement laws and practices are modern, in line with international standards and can swiftly respond to emerging challenges. Together with Open Contracting Partnership, we are sharing the experience of successful civil society procurement monitoring based on open data. Our joint efforts aim to create a framework for enlisting civil society organisations to support public procurement reforms and use open data to monitor procurement.”
In the context of the next long-term EU budget, more than €370 billion from Cohesion policy funds will be invested to support the digital and green transitions of the Member States. Every year, public authorities in the EU spend around 14% of GDP on public procurement, amounting to more than €1.9 trillion. Almost half of Cohesion policy funding is channelled through public procurement. The Commission has promoted a series of initiatives aimed at helping Member States to improve the way administrations and beneficiaries use public procurement for EU investments. These include the Integrity Pacts to ensure more efficient and transparent tenders and safeguarding EU taxpayers’ money. The Commission also took action to facilitate citizen engagement for better governance and effective Cohesion policy investments.
Iran-Israel: Can the low-intensity conflict turn into open war?
On Friday, November 27, on the motorway from the town of Absard to Tehran, the armoured car carrying the Head...
Cut fossil fuels production to ward off ‘catastrophic’ warming
Countries must decrease production of fossil fuels by 6 per cent per year, between 2020 and 2030, if the world...
Mali: COVID-19 and conflict lead to rise in child trafficking
Child trafficking is rising in Mali, along with forced labour and forced recruitment by armed groups, due to conflict, insecurity...
Revealed: The cost of the pandemic on world’s poorest countries
More than 32 million of the world’s poorest people face being pulled back into extreme poverty because of COVID-19, leading...
New COVID-19 infections fall globally for first time since September
Last week saw the first global decline in newly reported cases of COVID-19 since September, the head of the UN World Health...
Climate Action: It’s time to make peace with nature
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has described the fight against the climate crisis as the top priority for the 21st...
Africa: A Rising Star in the New Economic Order
The African continent has been on top of the agenda of the policymakers in all periods. From the historical aspect,...
Americas3 days ago
“Living On Mountains”: Antecedents of a Dignified and Secure World Order
Middle East3 days ago
Assassination of top Iranian Nuclear Scientist: A big Tragedy
Economy3 days ago
Portugal’s crisis management: “Economic patriotism” should not be tied to ideological beliefs
Middle East3 days ago
The Muslim world’s changing dynamics: Pakistan struggles to retain its footing
Americas3 days ago
A Dangerous Interregnum
Africa2 days ago
Scientific and trade cooperation between China and Africa
Defense2 days ago
The Need to Reorient New Delhi in the Indo-Pacific
Economy2 days ago
Future Economy: Micro-Manufacturing & Micro-Exports