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EU consumers will soon be able to defend their rights collectively

Consumers to be better protected against domestic and cross-border “mass harm”
Safeguards against abusive lawsuits by using “loser pays principle”
Designated consumer organisations to launch actions on behalf of consumers

Parliament today endorsed a new law that will allow groups of consumers to join forces and launch collective action in the EU.
The new rules introduce a harmonised model for representative action in all member states that guarantees consumers are well protected against mass harm, while ensuring appropriate safeguards to avoid abusive lawsuits.
All member states must put in place at least one effective procedural mechanism that allows qualified entities (e.g. consumer organisations or public bodies) to bring lawsuits to court for the purpose of injunction (ceasing or prohibiting) or redress (compensation). This legislation aims to improve the functioning of the internal market by stopping illegal practices and facilitating access to justice for consumers.
More rights for consumers and safeguards for traders
The European class action model will allow only qualified entities, such as consumer organisations, to represent groups of consumers and bring lawsuits to court, instead of law firms.
In order to bring cross-border actions to court, qualified entities will have to comply with the same criteria across the EU. They will have to prove that they have a certain degree of stability and be able to demonstrate their public activity, and that they are a non-profit organisation. For domestic actions, entities will have to fulfil the criteria set out in national laws.
The rules also introduce strong safeguards against abusive lawsuits by using the “loser pays principle”, which ensures that the defeated party pays the costs of the proceedings of the successful party.
To further prevent representative actions from being misused, punitive damages should be avoided. Qualified entities should also establish procedures to avoid conflict of interest and external influence, namely if they are funded by a third party.
Collective actions can be brought against traders if they have allegedly violated EU law in a broad range of areas such as data protection, travel and tourism, financial services, energy and telecommunication.
Finally, the directive also covers infringements that have stopped before the representative action is brought or concluded, since the practice might still need to be banned to prevent it from recurring.
Quote
The rapporteur Geoffroy Didier (EPP, FR) said: “With this new directive, we found a balance between more consumer protection and giving businesses the legal certainty that they need. At a time when Europe is being severely tested, the EU has demonstrated that it can deliver and adapt to new realities, better protect its citizens and offer them new concrete rights in response to globalisation and its excesses”.
Next steps
The directive will enter into force 20 days following its publication in the Official Journal of the EU. Member states will then have 24 months to transpose the directive into their national laws, and an additional six months to apply it. The new rules will apply to representative actions brought on or after its date of application.
Background
The Representative Action Directive, presented in April 2018 by the European Commission, was agreed by EP negotiators and EU ministers in June 2020. The bill, which is part of the New Deal for Consumers, comes as a response to a recent series of scandals related to breaches of consumers’ rights by multinational companies. In some member states, consumers can already launch collective action in courts, but now this option will be available in all EU countries.
Contact:

Yasmina Yakimova, Press Officer | yasmina.yakimova[at]europarl.europa.eu

Compliments of the European Parliament.
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Working group on euro risk-free rates launches two public consultations on fallbacks to EURIBOR

Various fallback rates proposed, based upon the euro short-term rate (€STR)
Potential events described that could trigger fallbacks
Stakeholders asked to provide their views by 15 January 2021

The working group on euro risk-free rates has today released two public consultations on the topic of fallback rates to EURIBOR. Fallback rates are rates that can be relied upon in case of an unavailability of the main rate. In one consultation, stakeholders are invited to provide their views on fallback rates based on the euro short-term rate (€STR) and spread adjustment methodologies in order to produce the most suitable EURIBOR fallback measures per asset class. In the other consultation, stakeholders are invited to give their views on potential events that could trigger such fallback measures.
As regards €STR-based fallback rates, the working group considered two types of rates:
1) Forward-looking rates which are based on the derivatives markets referencing the €STR and which reflect market expectations of the evolution of the €STR. These rates are known at the start of the interest rate period.
2) Backward-looking rates which are based on simple mathematical calculations of the value of past realised daily fixings of the €STR over a given period of time. These rates are known and available at the end of the interest rate period.
Based on its analysis and international standards and practices the working group acknowledges that for more sophisticated and globally operating market participants the most appropriate EURIBOR fallback measure would be based on backward-looking rates. However, the working group also acknowledges that there may be some use cases for certain products or for less sophisticated and locally operating market participants where it is necessary to know the interest rate in advance, and therefore the forward-looking rates could be applied. As these rates do not exist at this stage and should such rates not be available in due time, the working group proposes a waterfall structure according to product types, thereby allowing users to know what rates can be used, depending on circumstances and/or preferences.
As regards potential trigger events, the working group has identified a generic set of potential EURIBOR fallback trigger events that market participants could consider including in fallback provisions in their contracts and financial instruments referencing EURIBOR.
For both consultations, stakeholders are invited to provide their views by 15 January 2021. The working group members would like to encourage responses from as many user groups as possible, among others from banks, non-bank financial corporates, non-financial corporates, industry organisations, consumer associations. A summary of the feedback received will be published. A final recommendation by the working group on euro risk-free rates on both topics, taking into account the views expressed by stakeholders in this public consultation, is expected to be published in the course of the first quarter of 2021.
Contact:

William Lelieveldt, Principal Press Officer at the ECB | william.lelieveldt[at]ecb.europa.eu

Compliments of the European Central Bank.
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G20 summit, 21-22 November 2020

Main results
At a virtual summit hosted by Saudi Arabia, the G20 leaders expressed their strong commitment to coordinated global action, solidarity, and multilateral cooperation. They committed to working together to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, restore growth and jobs, and build a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient future.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, represented the EU at the two-day event.
At the end of the summit, the G20 leaders adopted a declaration:

G20 Riyadh Declaration

President Michel and President von der Leyen issued a joint press release following the summit.

G20 Summit: G20 leaders united to address major global pandemic and economic challenges (press release)

COVID-19
The EU leaders stressed the need for strong multilateral cooperation in the fight against the pandemic. They called on the G20 to provide, before the end of the year, $4.5 billion for mass procurement and delivery of COVID-19 tools. This amount is urgently needed for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and its COVAX facility.
The G20 leaders committed to sparing no effort to make sure that all people have affordable and equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.
They also committed to advancing global pandemic preparedness, prevention, detection and response. In this context, President Michel proposed an initiative to ensure a better global response to future pandemics.

An international treaty on pandemics could help us respond more quickly and in a more coordinated manner when pandemics occur. It should be negotiated with all UN organisations and agencies, in particular the WHO. The WHO must remain the cornerstone of global coordination against health emergencies.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council

Debt relief
The G20 leaders were determined to support the most vulnerable and fragile countries, notably in Africa, in their fight against the pandemic.
To this end, they committed to allowing countries eligible under the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) to suspend official bilateral debt service payments until June 2021.
The EU leaders stressed that additional steps might be needed, and the summit endorsed the “Common Framework for Debt Treatments beyond the DSSI”, which is also endorsed by the Paris Club.

The G20 debt moratorium is a good step in the right direction, and it might have to be extended beyond mid-2021.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council

Climate change and the green transition
The EU leaders urged all G20 members to work towards the full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.
They stressed that the EU is leading the way to climate neutrality by 2050 and welcomed the fact that many G20 partners had taken the same commitments.
They also promoted a recovery based on green, inclusive, sustainable, resilient and digital growth in line with the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals.
Global trade and taxation of the digital economy
The G20 leaders reaffirmed their support to the WTO reform process in the lead-up to the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference. They recognised the contribution that the Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the WTO has made.
The leaders also agreed to strive to find a consensus-based solution for a globally fair, sustainable, and modern international tax system by mid-2021, built on the ongoing work of the OECD.
On the digital economy, the G20 leaders expressed their support for fostering an open, fair and non-discriminatory environment and for protecting and empowering consumers while addressing the challenges related to privacy, data protection, intellectual property rights and security.

Let us use this window of opportunity to shape together the 21st century global economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, safe and more resilient. We owe it to the future generations.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council

G20 leaders’ summit (official website)
Remarks by President Charles Michel before the G20 summit 2020
The EU at the G20 summit (European Commission factsheet)

Background
The summit follows an earlier, extraordinary G20 leaders’ video conference that was held on 26 March to coordinate action to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
At their meeting on 26 March, leaders expressed their determination to spare no effort, both individually and collectively, to:

protect lives
safeguard people’s jobs and incomes
restore confidence, preserve financial stability, revive growth and recover stronger
minimise disruptions to trade and global supply chains
provide help to all countries in need of assistance
coordinate on public health and financial measures

G20 leaders’ statement on COVID-19, 26 March 2020

During the meeting, President Michel and President von der Leyen underlined the European Union’s commitment to international cooperation in tackling this pandemic, and stressed that the EU will continue to assist vulnerable countries and communities around the world, especially in Africa.

Statement by President Michel and President von der Leyen after the extraordinary G20 video conference on COVID-19

About the Saudi Arabian G20 presidency
Under the overall theme of “Realising Opportunities of the 21st Century for All”, the Saudi Arabian G20 presidency focuses on three areas:

empowering people: creating conditions in which all people, especially women and youth, can live, work, and thrive
safeguarding the planet: fostering collective efforts to protect our commons
shaping new frontiers: adopting long-term and bold strategies to utilise and share benefits of innovation

About the G20
The G20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. Spain is a permanent guest.
The last physical G20 summit took place in Osaka, Japan, in 2019.

G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, 28-29 June 2019

Compliments of the European Council.
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EU Leaders Talk to President-elect Joe Biden

On Monday, November 23, 2020, EU Leaders spoke to President-elect Joe Biden over the phone.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his victory.
President von der Leyen said that his election as the next President of the United States would be a new beginning for the EU-US global partnership, and commented that a strong European Union and a strong United States working together can shape the global agenda based on cooperation, multilateralism, solidarity, and shared values.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, invited President-elect Joe Biden to a special meeting in Brussels in 2021 of the EU-27 heads of state or government.
President Michel stressed the need to rebuild a strong EU-U.S. alliance and to join forces on COVID-19, climate, security, and multilateralism.
You can find the readout of President Michel’s call with President-elect Joe Biden here.
Compliments of the Delegation of the European Union to the United States.
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OECD publishes report on tax administrations’ policies and practices to enhance gender balance

November 17, 2020 |
The OECD Forum on Tax Administration (FTA) has today published a report on Advancing Gender Balance in the Workforce: A Collective Responsibility. This report, developed by the FTA’s Gender Balance Network, sets out a range of policies and practices undertaken by tax administrations and their national governments to advance gender balance in the workforce. 
This report highlights innovative approaches, legislative options, flexible workplace initiatives and leadership practices adopted by FTA members in order to assist administrations in their domestic considerations of where and how to improve gender balance and inclusion.
“Achieving gender equality requires strategic, top-down and visible leadership if we are to be successful in creating gender balance within our Administrations,” said Naomi Ferguson, Commissioner of Inland Revenue New Zealand. “The initiatives this report brings together underscore the importance of addressing historical and systemic inequalities primarily faced by women.  We also recognise that inequality can impact men and our aim is to learn from each other to create a workforce culture and environment that respects and embraces diversity and inclusion”.
“Economies are more resilient, productive and inclusive when gender inequalities are removed and we actively support women’s equal participation”, commented Grace Perez-Navarro, the Deputy Director of the OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration. “The FTA’s Gender Balance Network has a valuable role to play in helping to drive gender equality within tax administrations, including through the sharing of knowledge on domestic initiatives and practices.”
For more information on the OECD Gender Balance Network, including a recent interview between Commissioner Naomi Ferguson and Grace Perez-Navarro, visit: www.oecd.org/tax/forum-on-tax-administration/about/gender-balance-network
Contact:

Grace Perez-Navarro, Deputy Director of the OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration | Grace.Perez-Navarro@oecd.org

Achim Pross, Head of the International Co-operation and Tax Administration Division | Achim.Pross@oecd.org

Compliments of the OECD.
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Boosting Offshore Renewable Energy for a Climate Neutral Europe

To help meet the EU’s goal of climate neutrality by 2050, the European Commission today presents the EU Strategy on Offshore Renewable Energy. The Strategy proposes to increase Europe’s offshore wind capacity from its current level of 12 GW to at least 60 GW by 2030 and to 300 GW by 2050. The Commission aims to complement this with 40 GW of ocean energy and other emerging technologies such as floating wind and solar by 2050.
This ambitious growth will be based on the vast potential across all of Europe’s sea basins and on the global leadership position of EU companies in the sector. It will create new opportunities for industry, generate green jobs across the continent, and strengthen the EU’s global leadership in offshore energy technologies. It will also ensure the protection of our environment, biodiversity and fisheries.
Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans said: “Today’s strategy shows the urgency and opportunity of ramping up our investment in offshore renewables. With our vast sea basins and industrial leadership, the European Union has all that it needs to rise up to the challenge. Already, offshore renewable energy is a true European success story. We aim to turn it into an even greater opportunity for clean energy, high quality jobs, sustainable growth, and international competitiveness.”
Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, said: “Europe is a world leader in offshore renewable energy and can become a powerhouse for its global development. We must step up our game by harnessing all the potential of offshore wind and by advancing other technologies such as wave, tidal and floating solar. This Strategy sets a clear direction and establishes a stable framework, which are crucial for public authorities, investors and developers in this sector. We need to boost the EU’s domestic production to achieve our climate targets, feed the growing electricity demand and support the economy in its post-Covid recovery.” 
Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said: “Today’s strategy outlines how we can develop offshore renewable energy in combination with other human activities, such as fisheries, aquaculture or shipping, and in harmony with nature. The proposals will also allow us to protect biodiversity and to address possible socio-economic consequences for sectors relying on good health of marine ecosystems, thus promoting a sound coexistence within the maritime space.”
To promote the scale-up of offshore energy capacity, the Commission will encourage cross-border cooperation between Member States on long term planning and deployment. This will require integrating offshore renewable energy development objectives in the National Maritime Spatial Plans which coastal states are due to submit to the Commission by March 2021. The Commission will also propose a framework under the revised TEN-E Regulation for long-term offshore grid planning, involving regulators and the Member States in each sea basin.
The Commission estimates that investment of nearly €800 billion will be needed between now and 2050 to meet its proposed objectives. To help generate and unleash this investment, the Commission will:

Provide a clear and supportive legal framework. To this end, the Commission today also clarified the electricity market rules in an accompanying Staff Working Document and will assess whether more specific and targeted rules are needed. The Commission will ensure that the revisions of the State aid guidelines on energy and environmental protection and of the Renewable Energy Directive will facilitate cost-effective deployment of renewable offshore energy. 

Help mobilise all relevant funds to support the sector’s development. The Commission encourages Member States to use the Recovery and Resilience Facility and work together with the European Investment Bank and other financial institutions to support investments in offshore energy through InvestEU. Horizon Europe funds will be mobilised to support research and development, particularly in less mature technologies.

Ensure a strengthened supply chain. The Strategy underlines the need to improve manufacturing capacity and port infrastructure and to increase the appropriately skilled workforce to sustain higher installation rates. The Commission plans to establish a dedicated platform on offshore renewables within the Clean Energy Industrial Forum to bring together all actors and address supply chain development.

Offshore renewable energy is a rapidly growing global market, notably in Asia and the United States, and provides opportunities for EU industry around the world. Through its Green Deal diplomacy, trade policy and the EU’s energy dialogues with partner countries, the Commission will support global uptake of these technologies.
To analyse and monitor the environmental, social and economic impacts of offshore renewable energy on the marine environment and the economic activities that depend on it, the Commission will regularly consult a community of experts from public authorities, stakeholders and scientists. Today, the Commission has also adopted a new guidance document on wind energy development and EU nature legislation.
Background
Offshore wind produces clean electricity that competes with, and sometimes is cheaper than, existing fossil fuel-based technology. European industries are fast developing a range of other technologies to harness the power of our seas for producing green electricity. From floating offshore wind, to ocean energy technologies such as wave and tidal, floating photovoltaic installations and the use of algae to produce biofuels, European companies and laboratories are currently at the forefront.
The Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy sets the highest deployment ambition for offshore wind turbines (both fixed-bottom and floating), where commercial activity is well advanced. In these sectors, Europe has already gained unrivalled technological, scientific and industrial experience and strong capacity already exists across the supply chain, from manufacturing to installation.
While the Strategy underlines the opportunities across all of the EU’s sea basins – the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic – and for certain coastal and island communities, the benefits of these technologies are not limited to coastal regions. The Strategy highlights a broad range of inland areas where manufacturing and research is already supporting offshore energy development.
Compliments of the European Commission.
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European Commission needs to scale up antitrust and merger control to fit a more globalised world

The European Commission, the enforcer of EU competition rules, has generally made good use of its powers in antitrust proceedings and merger control, and addressed competition concerns with its decisions. But according to a new report by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) published today, it has not yet fully addressed the complex new enforcement challenges in digital markets, the ever-increasing amount of data to be analysed or the limitations of existing enforcement tools. The auditors also found that the Commission has limited capacity to monitor markets, proactively detect antitrust infringements and check the accuracy of merger information.
EU competition rules are aimed at preventing companies from indulging in anticompetitive practices such as secret cartels, or abusing a dominant position. The Commission can impose fines on companies that infringe these rules. In the last 10 years, competition enforcement has had to come to terms with significant changes in market dynamics due to the emergence of digital markets, big data and price-fixing algorithms. The auditors examined whether the Commission had properly enforced the rules in merger control and antitrust proceedings. They assessed how effectively the Commission had been able to detect and investigate infringements, and how well it had cooperated with national competition authorities (NCAs).
“In the last decade, the Commission has been using its powers in merger control and antitrust proceedings effectively,” said Alex Brenninkmeijer, the ECA Member responsible for the report. “But it now needs to scale up market oversight to be fit for a more global and digital world. It needs to get better at proactively detecting infringements and select its investigations more judiciously. Together with stronger cooperation from NCAs, this will result in better competition enforcement in the EU internal market, protecting businesses and consumers.”
The auditors found that the level of resources at the Commission’s disposal for monitoring markets for potential problems and for own detection of antitrust cases, which it does in addition to reacting to external complaints – was relatively limited. Sector enquiries are resource-intensive: for example, the Commission’s 2015 inquiry into e-commerce required a 15-person full-time team working for two years. The auditors observed that the number of own-initiative cases had fallen since 2015. A similar reduction also affected the leniency programme for companies that volunteer insider information on anticompetitive practices in return for immunity or reduced fines. The Commission also has to decide which cases to prioritise in its investigations. It did so based on criteria which were not clearly weighted to ensure the selection of cases with the highest risk. In the field of merger control, the Commission faces further challenges: the amount of data to be verified is always increasing, as is the number of mergers to be analysed. The Commission has already simplified its procedures for some less risky mergers to some degree, but it needs to carry on that simplification work. The auditors also found that some significant transactions fell outside the Commission’s scrutiny because companies did not have to notify them to the Commission according to the turnover thresholds set out in EU legislation.
The Commission took all merger decisions within the legal deadlines, but its antitrust proceedings remain lengthy (up to eight years). This can reduce the effectiveness of its enforcement decisions. This is particularly true in rapidly evolving digital markets, where the Commission has to cope with complex investigations. Meanwhile, the legal tools at its disposal may no longer be fully adequate to deal with these new types of competition problems. The auditors also noted that the Commission had imposed recordbreaking fines on companies, but had never evaluated their deterrent effect.
The Commission generally cooperated well with NCAs, but it did not know very much about the NCAs’ own enforcement priorities. At the same time, the Commission and NCAs did not closely coordinate their market monitoring, and cases were only rarely reallocated from the NCAs to the Commission. An early warning mechanism is intended to optimise case allocation and to prevent many NCAs from needing to examine similar instances of behaviour by the same company, but the NCAs did not use it extensively. Finally, the Commission did not evaluate the effectiveness of its decisions on a regular basis, although this would have helped its future decision-making and resource allocation. The auditors make recommendations aimed at improving the Commission’s capacity to proactively detect infringements, render its competition enforcement more effective, help it coordinate better with NCAs through the European Competition Network, and report better on its own performance.
Background Information
The Commission can prohibit anticompetitive agreements between companies and abuses of dominant position (“antitrust proceedings”), and review significant concentrations of companies to determine their impact on competition in the EU’s internal market (“merger control”). Both the Commission and the NCAs can directly enforce EU competition rules in antitrust cases affecting trade between Member States.
Every year, the Commission examines over 300 merger notifications and around 200 antitrust cases. From 2010 to 2019, it imposed fines amounting to €28.5 billion for infringements. Due to limited resources, it has conducted only four own-initiative sector inquiries since 2005, which helped to detect infringements.
The auditors examined a risk-based sample of 50 antitrust cases and proposed mergers launched between 2010 and 2017, as well as a sample of notifications of antitrust investigations made by NCAs. They visited the NCAs of Bulgaria, France, the Netherlands and Poland.
ECA special report No 24/2020, “The Commission’s EU merger control and antitrust proceedings: a need to scale up market oversight”, is available in 23 EU languages at eca.europa.eu. The ECA recently published reports on state aid control and trade defence instruments.
Contact:

Damijan Fišer, Press Officer, ECA | damijan.fiser[at]eca.europa.eu

Compliments of the European Court of Auditors. 
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REACT-EU: additional support of €47.5 billion agreed to address impact of COVID-19

Eligible expenses as of 1 February 2020, with projects selected for support up to the end of 2023
Civil society, regional and local authorities involved
EP introduces stronger focus on those hit hardest by the crisis

EU institutions reached a provisional agreement on deploying additional EU resources and measures to mitigate the immediate effects of the COVID-19 crisis.
On 18 November, European Parliament and Council concluded negotiations on providing assistance to foster crisis repair in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its social consequences, and preparing a green, digital and resilient recovery of the EU economy (REACT-EU).
REACT-EU will provide €47,5 billion over the next two years. The resources will be made available through the EU Structural Funds, with €37.5 billion allocated for 2021 and €10 billion for 2022. Operations covered by the agreement should be eligible as of 1 February 2020. Moreover, EU countries will be allowed to use these additional resources until the end of 2023, beyond the original Commission proposal of 2022.
Resources will be allocated in accordance with the partnership principle, involving local and regional authorities, as well as relevant bodies representing civil society and social partners.
Other issues agreed:

0,35% of resources will be allocated to technical assistance, focused especially on member states badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and those that may experience difficulties in preparing their programmes;
Investment will be focused on the sectors most affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic;
a pre-financing rate of 11% of the additional resources allocated to programmes for the year 2021;
Member states will be able to allocate part of the additional resources to the European Social Fund, the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), the Youth Employment Initiative as well as cross-border programmes (Interreg);
an amount corresponding to aid intensity of EUR 30 per inhabitant will be allocated to the outermost regions;
the breakdown of resources will be set out at a later stage by the Commission by means of implementing acts;
the Commission will endeavour to approve any dedicated operational programme or any amendment to an existing programme within 15 working days;
EU support should be made more visible – activities linked to the use of the additional resources must contain a reference to being “funded as part of the Union’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Quotes
Co-rapporteur Andrey Novakov (EPP, BG) said: “2020 is the EU year of disruption but also the year of repair. REACT-EU is a textbook example of cohesion policy being part of the recovery. Businesses and healthcare took a hard hit and this funding will be a breath of fresh air. We hope that the Council will overcome its internal divisions to allow recovery funding to flow across the EU.”
Co-rapporteur Constanze Krehl (S&D, DE) said: “I am glad that member states agreed with our view – REACT-EU must focus on the social consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, and the regions and people who have been hit hardest by the crisis. This includes cross-border projects, and support for the most deprived people and youth. All spending must respect the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the Paris Climate Agreement – this should be self-explanatory, but it is good to remind member states of these obligations.”
Next steps
Parliament and Council are now expected to endorse the content of the agreement. The regulation will enter into force one day after its publication in the Official Journal.
Background
REACT-EU is a proposal made by the Commission to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the form of an amendment to the Common Provisions Regulation governing the current cohesion policy programming period. It follows two earlier proposals relating to cohesion policy, the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and the Coronavirus Response Initiative Plus (CRII+), which both modified the rules for regional spending in order to facilitate recovery. The REACT-EU additional resources will come from the European Union Recovery Instrument.
Compliments of the European Parliament. 
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European Semester Autumn Package: Supporting a sustainable and inclusive recovery amid high uncertainty

The European Commission today presented its autumn economic policy package, including the Opinions on euro area Draft Budgetary Plans (DBPs) for 2021 and policy recommendations for the euro area. This is the second step in the 2021 European Semester cycle, which started in September with the publication of the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy (ASGS) with the concept of competitive sustainability at its heart. The ASGS also provided strategic guidance for Member States in drafting their Recovery and Resilience Plans and set out the relationship between the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) and the Semester. Today’s package draws upon the Autumn 2020 Economic Forecast – prepared in a context of high uncertainty – which projected that the economic shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic would leave output in the euro area and the EU below its pre-pandemic level in 2022.
Opinions on the Draft Budgetary Plans of euro area Member States
The Opinions on the 2021 DBPs take into account the ongoing health crisis, the high level of uncertainty and the severe economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak. Given the activation of the general escape clause of the Stability and Growth Pact, the fiscal recommendations issued by the Council in July 2020 were of a qualitative nature. Today’s Opinions therefore look especially at whether the planned supportive budgetary measures for 2021 are temporary and if not, whether offsetting measures are planned.
The Commission has assessed that all DBPs are overall in line with the Council’s recommendations of 20 July 2020. Most of the measures support economic activity against the background of considerable uncertainty. Some measures set out in the Draft Budgetary Plans of France, Italy, Lithuania and Slovakia do not appear to be temporary or matched by offsetting measures. Lithuania has submitted its Draft Budgetary Plan based on a no-policy-change scenario and is invited to submit an updated Draft Budgetary Plan.
For Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, given the level of their government debt and high sustainability challenges in the medium-term before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to ensure that, when taking supporting budgetary measures, fiscal sustainability in the medium-term is preserved.
Steps under the Stability and Growth Pact in relation to Romania
Romania has been under the excessive deficit procedure (EDP) since April 2020 due to the breach of the Treaty deficit threshold in 2019. In light of the continued high uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Commission considers that no decision on further steps in Romania’s excessive deficit procedure should be taken at this juncture. It will reassess Romania’s budgetary situation in spring 2021.
Euro area recommendation, Alert Mechanism Report, and proposal for a Joint Employment Report
The recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area presents tailored advice to euro area Member States on those topics that affect the functioning of the euro area as a whole. This year it also provides policy guidance on the priorities that euro area Member States should pursue in their Recovery and Resilience Plans. The recommendation calls on euro area Member States to make sure that their fiscal policies remain supportive in 2021. It also calls on Member States to reorient fiscal policies towards achieving prudent medium-term positions once epidemiological and economic conditions allow. It encourages Member States to strengthen national institutional frameworks and to implement priority reforms and investments that can make the euro area and its members more sustainable and resilient. Such reforms and investment measures should create the right conditions for the economic recovery consistent with the green and digital transitions. It also calls for the completion of the Economic and Monetary Union and to strengthen the international role of the euro.
The Alert Mechanism Report (AMR), a screening device to detect potential macroeconomic imbalances, finds that while macroeconomic imbalances were narrowing until the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, risks of imbalances appear to be on the rise in Member States that were already experiencing imbalances prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. It recommends that in-depth reviews to identify and assess the severity of possible macroeconomic imbalances should be prepared for the same 12 Member States that had already been identified as having imbalances or excessive imbalances in February 2020. These are Croatia, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden.
The proposal for a Joint Employment Report analyses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the employment and social situation in Europe. The COVID-19 crisis has broken a six-year long positive trend on the labour market. The total number of people in employment and the employment rate have dropped significantly, though the increase in the unemployment rate has been moderate so far thanks to the swift adoption of short-time work schemes and similar measures. Member States that already experienced serious socio-economic challenges before the pandemic are now even more exposed to vulnerabilities. The economic shock to the labour market is being experienced differently across sectors and categories of workers. The employment fall has affected workers in non-standard forms of employment to a greater extent. Youth unemployment has increased more markedly than unemployment for other age groups. The share of young people not in employment, education or training has risen sharply. Non-EU born workers have also been severely affected. The Commission will continue to closely monitor all labour market and social developments, regularly updating the Employment Performance Monitor and Social Protection Performance Monitor. In the exceptional 2021 European Semester the Joint Employment Report will additionally help Member States identify priority areas for reforms and investment to be included in their recovery and resilience plans, against the background of the Employment Guidelines.
The Commission is committed to pursuing a sustainable growth strategy which will help the EU and its Member States achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The staff-working document on delivering on the SDGs explains how the Commission is taking forward its commitment to sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs in its policymaking.
Enhanced surveillance report and post-programme surveillance reports
The eighth enhanced surveillance report for Greece finds that, in spite of the adverse circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greek authorities have taken the necessary actions to achieve the agreed commitments, delivering on a number of fundamental reforms. The report could serve as a basis for the Eurogroup to decide on the release of the next set of policy-contingent debt measures.
The post-programme surveillance reports for Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain find that the repayment capacities of each remain sound.
Members of the College said:
Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for An Economy that Works for People said: “With Europe now engulfed in a second wave of the pandemic, we need to build on our efforts to support one another in weathering this storm. This Autumn Package aims to steer EU economies into calmer waters and provide policy guidance for our collective recovery. For Europe to bounce back as a competitive force on the world stage, we need targeted and temporary fiscal support measures, as well as well-chosen reforms and investments that will drive a fair, inclusive and sustainable recovery. We now need a quick political agreement on the Recovery and Resilience Facility so that it can provide a financial anchor through this storm. I encourage all Member States to set out ambitious policy agendas in their recovery and resilience plans, to the benefit of all.”
Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy, said: “Against the backdrop of an interrupted rebound and very high uncertainty, governments must continue to address the crisis and support the recovery. Most measures included in euro area countries’ 2021 budgets rightly support economic activity. But a strong and balanced recovery depends on a swift entry into force of Next Generation EU: to rebuild confidence, relaunch investment, and push ahead with transformative reforms to preserve our planet, build fairer societies and make a success of digitalisation. So I call on EU governments to show a strong sense of responsibility to their own citizens and to all Europeans at this crucial moment. Let’s get this recovery plan over the line.”
Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “The COVID-19 crisis has broken a 6-year long positive trend on the labour market, which has affected all Europeans, particularly the young, and those on temporary or atypical contracts. The EU will continue to mobilise all resources at its disposal and support Member States in their efforts to mitigate the socioeconomic consequences of the crisis, to protect workers, preserve jobs and ease job transitions towards the green and digital economy. We must focus our efforts on skills and training to adapt to the post-COVID-19 labour market. It is crucial that in a crisis, we reach out to the most vulnerable in society, and place extra emphasis on fighting poverty, exclusion and inequalities.”
Next steps
The Commission invites the Eurogroup and Council to discuss the package and endorse the guidance offered today. It looks forward to engaging in a constructive dialogue with the European Parliament on the contents of this package and each subsequent step in the European Semester cycle.
Compliments of the European Commission.
The post European Semester Autumn Package: Supporting a sustainable and inclusive recovery amid high uncertainty first appeared on European American Chamber of Commerce New York [EACCNY] | Your Partner for Transatlantic Business Resources.

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Coronavirus: EU Commission approves contract with CureVac to ensure access to a potential vaccine

Today, the European Commission approved a fifth contract with the European pharmaceutical company CureVac, which provides for the initial purchase of 225 million doses on behalf of all EU Member States, plus an option to request up to a further 180 million doses, to be supplied once a vaccine has proven to be safe and effective against COVID-19.
Today’s contract with CureVac enlarges the already broad portfolio of vaccines to be produced in Europe, including the contracts signed with AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV and BioNtech-Pfizer, and the successful exploratory talks with Moderna. This diversified vaccines portfolio will ensure Europe is well prepared for vaccination, once the vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective. Member States can also decide to donate the vaccine to lower and middle-income countries or to re-direct it to other European countries.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said:  “A few days after our contract with BioNTech and Pfizer, I am delighted to announce a new agreement with a promising European company. The Commission has secured to date at least 1.2 billion doses and fulfils its commitment to ensuring equitable access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines not only for EU citizens but also for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Most of these vaccine candidates are in an advanced phase of clinical trials, hopefully authorisation will confirm these positive results, after which they will be quickly deployed and help us in overcoming the pandemic.”
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “With growing numbers of COVID patients across the EU, a safe and effective vaccine is more crucial than ever in putting behind us the pandemic. With this fifth vaccine advance purchase agreement, we are further expanding the possibilities that EU citizens and our economies can soon safely return to normality. It is yet another milestone in our EU Vaccines Strategy, and evidence of the benefits of working together in a genuine European Health Union.”
CureVac, a European company based in Germany, signed a €75 million loan agreement with the European Investment Bank on 6 July for the development and large-scale production of vaccines, including CureVac’s vaccine candidate against COVID-19. CureVac is pioneering the development of a completely new class of vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA), transported into cells by lipid nanoparticles. The vaccine platform has been developed over the last decade. The basic principle is the use of this molecule as a data carrier for information, with the help of which the body itself can produce its own active substances to combat various diseases.
The Commission has taken a decision to support this vaccine based on a sound scientific assessment, the technology used, the company’s experience in vaccine development and its production capacity to supply the whole of the EU.
Background
The European Commission presented on 17 June a European strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing and deployment of effective and safe vaccines against COVID-19. In return for the right to buy a specified number of vaccine doses in a given timeframe, the Commission finances part of the upfront costs faced by vaccines producers in the form of Advance Purchase Agreements. Funding provided is considered as a down-payment on the vaccines that will actually be purchased by Member States.
Since the high cost and high failure rate make investing in a COVID-19 vaccine a high-risk decision for vaccine developers, these agreements will therefore allow investments to be made that otherwise might not happen.
Once vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective and have been granted market authorisation by the European Medicines Agency, they need to be quickly distributed and deployed across Europe. On 15 October, the Commission set out the key steps that Member States need to take to be fully prepared, which includes the development of national vaccination strategies. The Commission is putting in place a common reporting framework and a platform to monitor the effectiveness of national vaccine strategies.
The European Commission is also committed to ensuring that everyone who needs a vaccine gets it, anywhere in the world and not only at home. No one will be safe until everyone is safe. This is why it has raised almost €16 billion since 4 May 2020 under the Coronavirus Global Response, the global action for universal access to tests, treatments and vaccines against coronavirus and for the global recovery and has confirmed its interest to participate in the COVAX Facility for equitable access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines everywhere. As part of a Team Europe effort, the Commission announced is contributing with €400 million in guarantees to support COVAX and its objectives in the context of the Coronavirus Global Response. On 12 November, the European Union announced the contribution of an additional €100 million in grant funding to support the COVAX Facility.
Compliments of the European Commission.
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