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Security Union report: Keeping up the momentum on implementation of key initiatives

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Fulfilling a commitment to regularly report on progress in the area of security, the Commission is today presenting a report, the first since the new EU Security Union Strategy 2020-2025 was presented in July.

The report highlights actions taken at EU level under the 4 main priorities: a future-proof security environment, tackling evolving threats, protecting Europeans from terrorism and organised crime, and a strong European security ecosystem. The report includes a wide range of reporting on security policy, such as skills and awareness raising issues or education, following the whole-of-society concept of the new strategy. Its core theme is implementation of agreed decisions, which requires continued political and operational efforts by EU institutions and national authorities.

Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas said: “We have a strong set of security rules in place at EU level, built up over two decades, but they will do no one any good unless they are effectively and consistently implemented in practice. This is why this Commission committed to placing a relentless emphasis on implementation. Today we are calling on Member States to step up their work to ensure there are no gaps or delays in how we apply key security instruments such as EU rules on combating terrorism, firearms and on fighting money laundering and terrorist financing. Ensuring the security of EU citizens is a common responsibility where we all have to do our part.”

Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said: “Internal security is at the core of the Security Union Strategy. Today, and in the coming weeks I will address the needs which have been identified. These include improving the EU response to terrorist content online, making IT systems work together and identifying, reporting and removing online child sex abuse materials”.

Key progress and actions needed

The report covers the period from October 2019 to December 2020 and details the significant progress made on priority legislative and other initiatives under the 4 strategic priorities and identifies areas where improvement is needed.

A future-proof security environment: This year, the Commission took strategic and technical measures to ensure the cybersecurity of 5G networks as well as to tackle cross-border health threats. However, there is still a need to further strengthen the protection and resilience of both physical and digital critical infrastructure from a wide range of threats, whether natural or man-made disasters or terrorist attacks. The Commission will shortly present proposals to this effect. Steps are also under way to address specific security needs because of the misuse of emerging technologies such as drones. The report also notes the first ever cyber sanctions imposed following cyber-attacks.

Tackling evolving threats: The Commission has taken action to tackle evolving threats to combat child sexual abuse, hybrid attacks and disinformation to ensure Member States have the right tools to fight and prosecute crime, in full respect of fundamental rights. The Commission calls on Member States to fully implement both the Directive on attacks against information systems and the Directive on combating child sexual abuse. In July, the Commission adopted the EU strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse and subsequently proposed interim legislation to allow the continuation of voluntary detection efforts by online communications services beyond 21 December 2020 (when these providers will fall within the scope of the ePrivacy Directive). The Commission is working on a long-term solution, to be presented in 2021.

Protecting Europeans from terrorism and organised crime: the Commission is adopting today a new EU Counter-Terrorism Agenda to strengthen the EU’s framework to anticipate threats and risks, combat radicalisation and violent extremism, and protect people and infrastructures, notably public spaces. A proposal to revise the mandate for Europol, the EU’s police cooperation agency, is also adopted today, to strengthen Europol’s work on fighting organised crime and terrorism.

A strong European security ecosystem relies on strong cooperation and information exchange and well controlled external borders. To achieve this, the key focus should be on implementation of agreed reforms, notably to achieve the interoperability of databases for migration management, border control and security.

The report also highlights the urgent need to conclude negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council on the proposed Terrorist Content Online Regulation and the work of the EU Internet Forum as an essential platform that brings together Member States and industry to prevent the spread of terrorist content online and counter radicalising messages.

Background

On 24 July 2020, the Commission adopted the EU Security Union Strategy 2020-2025 presenting a number of initiatives with the objective of creating a multidisciplinary, coordinated and integrated approach to security while fully respecting fundamental rights.

This strategy sets out strategic and inter-dependent priorities on security to be taken forward at EU level in 2020-2025. It builds upon progress achieved previously under the European Agenda on Security 2015-2020 and provides new elements, to ensure that EU security policy reflects new challenges.

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EU Politics

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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EU Politics

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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EU Politics

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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