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New EU guidance helps companies to combat forced labour in supply chains

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The Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) have published today a Guidance on due diligence to help EU companies to address the risk of forced labour in their operations and supply chains, in line with international standards. The Guidance will enhance companies’ capacity to eradicate forced labour from their value chains by providing concrete, practical advice on how to identify, prevent, mitigate and address its risk.

Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said: “There is no room in the world for forced labour. The Commission is committed to wiping this blight out as part of our broader work to defend human rights. This is why we put strengthening the resilience and sustainability of EU supply chains at the core of our recent trade strategy. Businesses are key to making this happen, because they can make all the difference by acting responsibly. With today’s Guidance, we are supporting EU companies in these efforts. We will ramp up our due diligence work with our upcoming legislation on Sustainable Corporate Governance.”

High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell said: “Forced labour is not only a serious violation of human rights but also a leading cause of poverty and an obstacle to economic development. The European Union is a global leader on responsible business conduct and business and human rights. The Guidance we publish today translates our commitment into concrete action. It will help EU companies to ensure their activities do not contribute to forced labour practices in any sector, region or country.”

The Guidance explains the practical aspects of due diligence and provides an overview of EU and international instruments on responsible business conduct that are relevant for combatting forced labour. The EU has already put in place mandatory standards in some sectors and actively promotes the effective implementation of international standards on responsible business conduct.

Promoting responsible and sustainable value chains is one of the pillars of the recent EU trade strategy. The Guidance delivers on the strategy by helping EU businesses already take the appropriate measures, bridging the time until legislation on Sustainable Corporate Governance is in place. This upcoming legislation should introduce a mandatory due diligence duty requiring EU companies to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for sustainability impacts in their operations and supply chains. Subject to the upcoming impact assessment, this will include effective action and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that forced labour does not find a place in the value chains of EU companies.

EU trade policy already contributes to the abolishment of forced labour through its various instruments. EU trade agreements are unique in including binding commitments to ratify and effectively implement all fundamental ILO Conventions, including those on forced labour. Those conventions include an obligation to suppress the use of forced or compulsory labour in all its forms. This commitment extends to the countries benefitting from the special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (GSP+) under the EU’s General Scheme of Preferences (GSP). All 71 beneficiary countries of the General Scheme of Preferences are obliged to not commit serious and systematic violations of the principles of the fundamental ILO Conventions.

The Guidance also delivers on a number of the priorities of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024 in the area of business and human rights. Those priorities include the eradication of forced labour and the promotion of internationally recognised due diligence standards.

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EU Politics

Presidents of Parliament to gather for Athens Summit

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Presidents of Parliament from the 47 Council of Europe member states, as well as many neighbouring and observer countries and other partner parliamentary assemblies, will meet on 21 and 22 October 2021 in Athens, on the occasion of a conference organised by the Hellenic Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

The Conference will be opened by the President of the Hellenic Parliament Constantine An. Tassoulas, PACE President Rik Daems, and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić.

Some 60 Presidents and Speakers, together with 300 other delegates, are expected at the biennial summit to discuss three major topical issues:

  • Democracies facing the Covid-19 public health crisis: sharing experiences
    Key-note speeches by the President of the Romanian Senate Anca Dana Dragu; the Speaker of the Russian Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko; and the President of Austria’s National Council Wolfgang Sobotka.
  • #EnvironmentRightNow’: national parliaments and the right to a healthy and sustainable environment
    Key-note speeches by the Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia Kakha Kuchava; the Speaker of the Parliament of Finland Anu Vehviläinen, and a member of the Council of Europe Advisory Council on Youth, Spyros Papadatos.
  • The common future of all European citizens
    Key-note speeches by the President of the Belgian Senate Stephanie D’Hose; the President of the Cypriot House of Representatives, Anita Demetriou; and the President of the Slovenian National Assembly, Igor Zorčič.

Secretaries General of the participating parliaments and assemblies are also due to meet on the margin of the conference.

The first conference was held in 1975. It takes place every two years, hosted alternately in Strasbourg or in the capital of a Council of Europe member state. At the invitation of the Hellenic Parliament, it is held this year in Athens, when the country celebrates the bicentennial of its independence.

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Lorenzo Natali Media prize 2021: Winners announced

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The European Commission announced the three winners of the 2021 ‘Lorenzo Natali’ Media prize: Pari Saikia, for her work on the plight of the Rohingya, Maria Altimira, for her work on the labour exploitation of migrants and Srishti Jaswal for bringing to light the hunger situation in India. For nearly three decades, the prize has recognised courageous journalism and focused on compelling, compassionate reporting that brings to light stories that matter on the global challenges impacting society.

Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, presented the prizes to the winners at today’s award ceremony: “This award of this year’s Lorenzo Natali Media prize, recognizes three exceptional journalists, whose work exemplifies the courage, integrity and dedication to global equity. As development journalists you help bring about change – whether it is tackling inequalities, protecting universal human rights, or responding to the existential threat of climate change.”

The 2021 prizewinners, selected by a grand jury from among more than 1,100 applications from across the world, are:

Grand prize

Pari Saikia of Vice Media India, for:

“Rohingya Brides Thought They Were Fleeing Violence. Then They Met Their Grooms”

Pari Saikia’s story on the exploitation of Rohingya refugee women exposes the drivers and the methods used in trafficking women in the region.

Europe prize

Maria Altimira writing in Diario Ara, for:

“Abusos en los campos de fresas”

In this piece, Maria Altimira shines a light on the labour and sexual abuse suffered by farm workers, and attempts to hold oversight agencies accountable for abuses happening on their watch.

Best Emerging Journalist prize

Srishti Jaswal, writing in Stories Asia, for:

“The Global Hunger Index Reveals India’s Ignored Hunger Crisis”

Srishti Jaswal’s investigation reveals India’s hidden hunger crisis and the under-reporting of deaths due to starvation.

The winners were chosen by a Grand Jury of experts in the fields of journalism and development:

  • Diana Moukalled (Daraj.com)
  • Sulemana Braimah (Media Foundation for West Africa)
  • Jana Ciglerová (Denik N)
  • Zuliana Lainez (International Federation of Journalists)
  • Steve Sapienza (Pulitzer Center).

All entries underwent an initial pre-selection phase conducted by four journalism schools: Vesalius College in Brussels, Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Lisbon, Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona and Université Saint Joseph in Beirut.

Background

Established in 1992, the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Media Prize is awarded in memory of Lorenzo Natali, a former Commissioner for Development and Cooperation. He was a staunch defender of freedom of expression, democracy, human rights and development.

The prize recognises high-quality, courageous reporting on compelling issues such as climate change, women´s rights, inequality, healthcare, democracy and human rights.

The prize’s three categories in 2021 were:

  • Grand prize: for reporting published by a media outlet based in one of the European Union’s partner countries.
  • Europe prize: for reporting published by a media outlet based in the European Union.
  • Best Emerging Journalist prize: for reporting by journalists under the age of 30, published in a media outlet based in the European Union or in one of its partner countries.

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70% of the EU adult population fully vaccinated

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Today, the EU has reached a crucial milestone with 70% of the adult population now fully vaccinated. In total, over 256 million adults in the EU have now received a full vaccine course. Seven weeks ago already, the Commission’s delivery target was met, ahead of time: to provide Member States, by the end of July, with enough vaccine doses to fully vaccinate 70% of the adult EU population.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said:  “The full vaccination of 70% of adults in the EU already in August is a great achievement. The EU’s strategy of moving forward together is paying off and putting Europe at the vanguard of the global fight against COVID-19.  But the pandemic is not over. We need more. I call on everyone who can to get vaccinated. And we need to help the rest of the world vaccinate, too. Europe will continue to support its partners in this effort, in particular the low and middle income countries.”

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said:  “I am very pleased that as of today we have reached our goal to vaccinate 70% of EU adults before the end of the summer. This is a collective achievement of the EU and its Member States that shows what is possible when we work together with solidarity and in coordination. Our efforts to further increase vaccinations across the EU will continue unabated. We will continue to support in particular those Member States that are continuing to face challenges. We need to close the immunity gap and the door for new variants and to do so, vaccinations must win the race over variants.”

Global cooperation and solidarity

The rapid, full vaccination of all targeted populations – in Europe and globally – is key to controlling the impact of the pandemic. The EU has been leading the multilateral response. The EU has exported about half of the vaccines produced in Europe to other countries in the world, as much as it has delivered for its citizens.  Team Europe has contributed close to €3 billion for the COVAX Facility to help secure at least 1.8 billion doses for 92 low and lower middle-income countries. Currently, over 200 million doses have been delivered by COVAX to 138 countries.

In addition, Team Europe aims to share at least 200 million more doses of vaccines secured under the EU’s advance purchase agreements to low and middle-income countries until the end of 2021, in particular through COVAX, as part of the EU sharing efforts

Preparing for new variants

Given the threat of new variants, it is important to continue ensuring the availability of sufficient vaccines, including adapted vaccines, also in the coming years. That is why the Commission signed a new contract with BioNTech-Pfizer on 20 May, which foresees the delivery of 1.8 billion doses of vaccines between the end of the year and 2023. For the same purpose, the Commission has also exercised the option of 150 million doses of the second Moderna contract. Member States have the possibility to resell or donate doses to countries in need outside the EU or through the COVAX Facility, contributing to a global and fair access to vaccines across the world. Other contracts may follow. This is the EU’s common insurance policy against any future waves of COVID-19.

Background

A safe and effective vaccine is our best chance to beat coronavirus and return to our normal lives. The European Commission has been working tirelessly to secure doses of potential vaccines that can be shared with all.

The European Commission has secured up to 4.6 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far and negotiations are underway for additional doses. The Commission is also working with industry to step up vaccine manufacturing capacity.

At the same time, the Commission has started work to tackle new variants, aiming to rapidly develop and produce effective vaccines against these variants on a large scale. The HERA Incubator helps in responding to this threat.

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