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Japan-EU Leaders’ meeting

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H.E. Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, H.E. Mr. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and H.E. Dr. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, held a Leaders Meeting via VTC on 26 May 2020.

The leaders expressed their deepest sympathy with the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. They recognised that global solidarity,cooperation and effective multilateralism are required more than ever to defeat the virus as well as to ensure economic recovery. They reaffirmed their strong commitment to continue tackling global challenges together in the international arena based upon the close and strong Japan-EU relations.

The leaders confirmed that both Japan and the EU are sparing no effort to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, protect lives, and mitigate the social and economic consequences, in keeping with their principles and values of democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and non-discrimination. They are promoting global coordination in various international fora such as the G7, G20, and the United Nations system, and assisting vulnerable countries and communities in need.

In order to prevent future pandemics, the leaders emphasised the importance of strengthening our preparedness and response capacities, of sharing information in a free, transparent and prompt manner, and of improving international response including through relevant international organisations, such as the WHO, drawing on lessons learned from the current global responses. The leaders reaffirmed the role of the WHO in coordinating the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. They welcomed the recently adopted resolution at the 73rd World Health Assembly which requests the Director General of the WHO to initiate, at the earliest appropriate moment, a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation to review experience gained and lessons learnt from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19.

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to global collaboration and sustained funding for developing and deploying effective antiviral medicines, diagnostics, treatments and vaccines in orderto make them available to all at an affordable price. They called for the future COVID-19 vaccine to become a global common good. In this context, they welcomed the successful pledging initiative of “the Global Coronavirus Response” that started on May 4, with the aim of raising at least €7.5 billion. Prime Minister Abe expressed his gratitude for the EU’s initiative, and the EU leaders expressed their appreciation for Japan’s contribution. The leaders confirmed their determination to continue efforts toward closing the financial gap, including the collaborative efforts for the success of the upcoming pledging conference of Gavi in June. The leaders announced that Japan and the EU will accelerate cooperation on research on health, welcoming in this regard the signature of the Letter of Intent on strengthening cooperation in science, technology and innovation, which includes collaboration between Japan’s Moonshot Research and Development Program and the EU’s Horizon Europe Programme. 

The leaders stressed their determination to ensure a robust economic recovery and rebuild more sustainable, inclusive and resilient economies, in keeping with the Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. Decarbonization / green transition, digital transformation, and the virtuous cycle of environment and growth, will be a part of the recovery strategy. The leaders welcomed the G20 Action Plan at the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting to support the global economy during and after the pandemic. They would continue to adjust their economic responses, using all relevant policy tools, including digital tools to prevent the spread of infections while ensuring privacy and security, and standing ready to provide further support in a coordinated way. They also underlined the importance of keeping the trading system open. Japan and the EU will cooperate to facilitate the flow of medical supplies, agricultural products, raw materials and other goods and services across borders, while ensuring that any necessary emergency measures designed to tackle COVID-19 are targeted, proportionate, transparent, temporary, and consistent with WTO rules so that they do not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global supply chains.They called for refraining from unnecessary travel and export restrictions. Looking forward, they stressed the need to make global supply chains more resilient, and will work together to reform and strengthen the WTO, through rule-making on e-commerce and fostering a level playing field, to promote international discussions under the Osaka Track, to further elaborate  “Data Free Flow with Trust” (DFFT) with a view to facilitating safe and secure cross-border data flows through enhancing data security and privacy, to harness the benefits of the digital economy further underscored by the current economic crisis. They confirmed that transport services should be progressively restored on the premise that public health safety is ensured as they are key enablers of the global economy.

With a view to assisting developing countries, including in Africa and other vulnerable regions, the leaders mutually welcomed the commitment made by the EU, including its Member States, securing over €20 billion in order to help partner countries face the COVID-19 impact and Japan’s commitment to step up its assistance to partner countries, not only by providing short-term assistances but also by supporting them over the mid-to-long term to strengthen their healthcare systems as well as by addressing the enormous economic impact of the current crisis. They also welcomed the financial assistance deployed by the IMF, World Bank and other international institutions, and the agreement reached by the G20 and the Paris Club on a coordinated approach to a time bound suspension of debt service payments for the poorest countries, calling for full implementation of this initiative.

The leaders also discussed the geopolitical situation in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. They reiterated their commitment to upholding the rules-based international order and looked forward to strengthening practical cooperation in areas such as cybersecurity, countering hybrid threats and counter-terrorism. They confirmed that access to transparent, timely, reliable and fact-based information is crucial for an effective global response to the pandemic. It constitutes the foundation of good governance and reinforces the resilience of our societies and democracies. The leaders confirmed their resolve to counter disinformation, in accordance with shared principles such as freedom of expression and the rule of law. The leaders shared concern that the spread of the virus may escalate some regional conflicts and make it more difficult to protect civilian population. They supported the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire amid the COVID-19 pandemic and insisted on respect for humanitarian principles.

They shared the view to intensify coordination to contribute to resolving regional issues based on international law, including eastern Ukraine, Afghanistan, North Korea, East and South China Seas, Libya, Syria and Sahel.

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Japan-EU strategic partnership. It will play an important role in recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and in tackling other common challenges that have not diminished. Encouraged by the initial positive results, the leaders expressed their determination to continue implementing the Japan-EU Strategic Partnership Agreement and Economic Partnership Agreement. They looked forward to holding a Summit Meeting in the near future when conditions allow in order to take cooperation between Japan and the EU further in the areas such as connectivity, global environmental issues and challenges, climate change, digital transformation, research and innovation, health, energy, free, fair and rules-based trade, and security and defence, transport and urban policy. The leaders confirmed that preparatory work in these fields should advance.

EU Politics

Youth Employment Support: a bridge to jobs for the next generation

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European Commission is taking action to give young people all possible opportunities to develop their full potential to shape the future of the EU, and thrive in the green and digital transitions. The coronavirus pandemic has emphasised the often difficult start many young people face in the labour market. We need to act fast. Now is the time to direct our attention towards the next generation.

The Commission is using this opportunity to ingrain the green and digital transitions in the DNA of the EU’s youth and employment policies. With NextGenerationEU and the future EU budget, the Commission already proposed significant EU financing opportunities for youth employment. It is now for the Member States to prioritise these investments. At least €22 billion should be spent on youth employment support.

Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, Valdis Dombrovskis, said: “It is more important than ever that we help the next generation of Europeans to thrive and get on the jobs ladder, especially at this time of crisis. We are proposing clear and specific ways forward for our young people to get the professional chances that they deserve. Today’s proposals also set out what EU funding is available to support Member States in boosting youth employment. By investing in the youth of today, we will help to create a competitive, resilient and inclusive labour market for tomorrow.”

Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “Now is the time to carry out much-needed reforms of the support measures we offer to young people. We owe it to the millions of graduates and those taking their early steps on the labour market to mobilise all the support we can. Our youth deserve the very best opportunities possible to develop their full potential.”

Youth Employment Support: a bridge to jobs for the next generation

The Youth Employment Support package is built around four strands that together provide a bridge to jobs for the next generation:

  • The EU created the Youth Guarantee in 2013 and has since built bridges to the labour market for some 24 million young people. The Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation on a Bridge to Jobs reinforces theYouth Guarantee and steps up the outreach to vulnerable young people across the EU, now covering people aged 15 – 29. The Recommendation keeps the pledge that if you sign up to the Youth Guarantee, you will receive an offer of employment, education, apprenticeship or training within four months. Bridge to Jobs will be more inclusive to avoid any forms of discrimination, with a wider outreach to more vulnerable groups, such as youth of racial and ethnic minorities, young people with disabilities, or young people living in some rural, remote or disadvantaged urban areas. It will link in with the needs of companies, providing the skills required – in particular those for the green and digital transitions – and short preparatory courses; and it will provide tailored counselling, guidance and mentoring.
  •  The Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation on vocational education and training aims to make systems more modern, attractive, flexible and fit for the digital and green economy. More agile, learner-centred vocational education and training will prepare young people for their first jobs and gives more adults opportunities to enhance or change their careers. It will help vocational education and training providers to become centres of vocational excellence, while supporting diversity and inclusiveness.
  •  A renewed impetus for apprenticeships will benefit both employers and young people, adding a skilled labour force to a wide range of sectors. The European Alliance for Apprenticeships has made available more than 900,000 opportunities. The renewed Alliance will promote national coalitions, support SMEs and reinforce the involvement of social partners: trade unions and employers’ organisations. The goal is to sustain the apprenticeship offers now, as apprentices we train now will be highly skilled workers in a few years’ time.
  •  Additional measures to support youth employment include employment and start-up incentives in the short term, and capacity building, young entrepreneur networks and inter-company training centres in the medium term.

The Commission urges Member States to step up youth employment support by making use of the significant funding available under NextGenerationEU and the future EU budget. For example, the EU can help fund:

  • Start-up grants and loans for young entrepreneurs, mentoring schemes and business incubators
  • Bonuses for SMEs hiring apprentices
  • Training sessions to acquire new skills needed on the labour market
  • Capacity-building of public employment services
  • Career management training in formal education
  • Investments in digital learning infrastructure and technology

Background

During the aftermath of the global 2008 financial crisis, youth unemployment went up from 16.0% in 2008 to a peak of 24.4% in 2013. The figures went down since, with record lows of 14.9%, just before the pandemic hit. Nevertheless, youth unemployment has always remained more than twice as high as general unemployment. The latest figures show that youth unemployment stood at 15.4% across the EU in April 2020. Many fear that a spike is just in front of us.

Significant EU funding is available for Member States to implement reforms spearheaded by the initiatives presented today. The European Social Fund Plus will be a key EU financial resource to support the implementation of the youth employment support measures. As part of the Recovery Plan for Europe, the Recovery and Resilience Facility and REACT-EU will provide additional financial support for youth employment.

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EU Politics

Most EU Member States not on track to reduce air pollution by 2030

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The assessment of Member States’ first programmes of measures to control air emissions finds that the implementation of the new European clean air rules needs improvement. Member States need to step up efforts across all sectors to make sure their citizens can breathe clean air, preventing respiratory diseases and premature death caused by breathing polluted air.

EU Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Oceans Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “This report sends a clear message. All across Europe, too many citizens are still at risk from the air they breathe. We need more effective measures to cut pollution in numerous Member States and to tackle air emissions across sectors, including agriculture, transport and energy. There has never been a better time to make these changes: investing in cleaner air means investing in citizens’ health, in our climate, and it’s the kick-start our economy needs. That’s the thinking behind the European Green Deal, and it’s the logic the environment needs.”

According to the first Commission report to assess the implementation of the National Emission reduction Commitments Directive (NEC Directive) published today, most Member States are at risk of not complying with their 2020 or 2030 emission reduction commitments. While some Member States show good practices that should be inspiring for others, the Report demonstrates the need for additional measures in order to reduce air pollution. The Commission will continue to monitor and support national efforts in this regard, through financial and non-financial tools.  Efforts are especially needed in agriculture to reduce ammonia emissions, which is the most common and severe implementation challenge across the EU.

Effective implementation of clean air legislation forms an essential contribution to ‘a zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment’ announced by the Commission in the European Green Deal and related initiatives.  Synergies with climate and energy policies need to be enhanced and further assessed, also in line with the European Green Deal approach.

Alongside this implementation report, the Commission has also released today its consultants’ analysis of each Member State National Air Pollution Control Programme and emission projections, as well as an EU-wide horizontal report bringing together this information.

Background

The National Emission reduction Commitments Directive, which entered into force on 31 December 2016, is the main legislative instrument to achieve the 2030 objectives of the Clean Air Programme. When fully implemented, the Directive would reduce by almost 50% the negative health impacts of air pollution by 2030, and bring substantial benefits for the environment and climate.

The Directive sets national emission reduction commitments for the periods 2020-29 and more ambitious ones for 2030-onwards for five important air pollutants: nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ammonia (NH3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Compliance with the 2020 emissions reduction commitments will be checked in 2022, when the emission inventories for 2020 become available.

Next steps

The NEC implementation report will be complemented later this year by the Second Clean Air Outlook which will present up-to-date modelling results on the extent to which the EU and its Member States are on track to meet their clean air objectives for 2030 and later.

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Green Deal: Commission launch the European Just Transition Platform

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On Monday 29 June, the Just Transition Platform (JTP) will be launched to help Member States to draw up their territorial Just Transition Plans and access funding from the over €150 billion Just Transition Mechanism. This online Platform will provide technical and advisory support for public and private stakeholders in coal and other carbon-intensive regions, with easy access to information on funding opportunities and sources of technical assistance.

The Platform will ensure that the €40 billion (in 2018 constant prices) proposed under the Just Transition Fund is channelled to the right projects and that no region is left behind. It will also support access to the dedicated scheme under InvestEU and the public sector loan facility, which together with the Just Transition Fund form the three pillars of the Just Transition Mechanism. The platform will provide:

  • Technical and advisory support to Member States and regions, including on the operationalisation of the territorial Just Transition Plans and the building of pipelines of projects for the Just Transition Mechanism;
  • A web-based single access point, including the possibility to contact the Commission with technical and administrative questions related to just transition;
  • Sharing of information, experience and knowledge for fossil fuel and carbon-intensive regions, with dedicated project and expert databases;
  • A forum for dialogue on just transition involving local and national stakeholders, social partners, public authorities and EU institutions.

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, and Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, will launch the Just Transition Platform during an online event starting on Monday 29 June at 09:30.

This will kick-start a week of online events dedicated to coal, lignite, peat and oil shale regions as well as carbon-intensive regions, organised under the Coal Regions Virtual Week and a Carbon-Intensive Regions Seminar. These events will inform stakeholders of the latest EU policy developments and provide an opportunity for good practices sharing.

Next steps

The Platform will host a projects and experts database towards the end of 2020.

Members of the College said:

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said: “Our Green Deal ambition is to demonstrate a new model for inclusive transformation based on a just transition. As we rebuild our economies and societies, we owe it to our children and grandchildren to grasp the opportunity to build a more sustainable future. With the Just Transition Platform we can start making this a reality

Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “The Just Transition Platform is a firm step towards a climate-neutral Europe. I encourage authorities from all Member States to make full use of it when developing and implementing territorial just transition plans that promote economic renewal, new skills and new job opportunities. I am determined that no one is left behind and that all regions and all Europeans are able to tap the benefits of a greener, fairer more digital future.”

Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said: “The Just Transition Platform will provide tailor-made support to regions that will be most affected by the green transition. It will bring together expertise from all relevant Commission services to make sure that fossil fuel and carbon intensive regions have all the information, tools and assistance they need to transform their economies in a fair way.

Background

The Just Transition Mechanism (JTM) is part of the European Green Deal effort to create a climate-neutral economy in Europe by 2050. The Mechanism will seek to overcome the economic and social costs of the climate transition in the most vulnerable coal and carbon-intensive regions. The Mechanism consists of three pillars of financing: the Just Transition Fund, proposed on 14 January 2020 and strengthened by the 27 May Recovery Package; a dedicated just transition scheme under InvestEU; and a public sector loan facility. The three pillars are expected to mobilise more than €150 billion of investments in the EU regions most vulnerable to the climate transition over the period 2021-2027.

Announced with the European Green Deal Investment Plan, the Just Transition Platform builds on and expands the work of the Initiative for Coal Regions in Transition, and is part of the Just Transition Mechanism. It will have three work streams: coordinated technical assistance from the European Commission and the EIB group, a web-based single access point and helpdesk, and events promoting stakeholder involvement and the exchange of best practices.

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