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Environment: Mobility Week envisages cleaner air through alternative urban transport

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DoTheRightMix_logo-RGB_-_smallMore than 2,000 European towns and cities are expected to participate in the 12th edition of European Mobility Week, which begins today (16 September). This year the week runs until 22 September under the slogan ‘Clean air – It’s your move!’. The campaign raises awareness about the impact of transport on local air quality, and encourages citizens to improve their health and wellbeing by changing their day-to-day mobility behaviour.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: ”This year we focus on the impact of our daily choices on air and our health. Cities have a great role to play when it comes to improving options for transport. By raising awareness and offering greener alternatives, cities can become more attractive places for people to live. When it comes to clean air, it’s your move!”

Transport and Mobility Commissioner  Siim Kallas said: "This year's European Mobility Week and the accompanying Do the Right Mix campaign remind us that we all have a part to play in fighting urban air pollution. Changing habits, for example by commuting by bicycle rather than taking the car, or opting for public transport, can enhance our quality of life."

The 2013 edition takes place at a time when EU policy makers are reviewing air policy with a view to launching a revised strategy later on in the year. Poor air quality continues to have a major impact on the health of European citizens, leading to respiratory and cardiac complications, premature deaths and shorter life expectancy. Air pollution also affects the environment, resulting in acidification, biodiversity loss, ozone depletion and climate change.

Urban traffic is a growing source of air pollution – especially when it comes to particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide. Local authorities often have the responsibility to develop urban transport strategies that meet mobility demand, protect the environment, improve air quality and make the city a better place to live.

With the slogan “Clean air – It’s your move!” – European Mobility Week is underlining that we all have a part to play, and that even small changes, such as providing more options for people to take public transport, share journeys, commute by bicycle rather than taking the car, or simply walk, can enhance the quality of life in European town and cities.

Background

European Mobility Week is an annual campaign on sustainable urban mobility, organised with the support of the European Commission. The campaign, which runs from 16-22 September every year, aims to encourage European local authorities to introduce and promote sustainable transport measures, and to invite citizens to try out alternatives to the private car.

The European Mobility Week journey started in 1998 with the French ‘In Town Without My Car!’ day. This initiative still runs in September each year to encourage towns and cities to close streets to motorised vehicles for a day. This allows citizens to see a different side to their towns and cities, encouraging the use of sustainable modes of transport and raising awareness of the environmental impacts of citizens’ modal choice. The success of this French initiative led to the launch of European Mobility Week in 2002.

Since then, the impact of European Mobility Week has grown across Europe and around the world. In 2012, 2158 cities representing 147.6 million citizens registered for the campaign. A total of 7717 permanent measures have been implemented, mainly focusing on infrastructure for cycling and walking, traffic calming, improving transport accessibility and raising awareness about sustainable travel behaviour.

European local authorities have been invited to sign up to the European Mobility Week Charter and publish their programmes.  Towns and cities planning a full week of events from 16-22 September, introducing permanent measures and setting up a car-free day can also apply for the European Mobility Week Award and join the ranks of previous award winners Zagreb (Croatia), Bologna (Italy), Gävle (Sweden) and Budapest (Hungary).

For more information, click here.

Environment

29 European islands announce plans for their clean energy transition 

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22 European islands have published their Clean Energy Transition Agendas and seven others committed to do so in the near future during the Clean Energy for EU Islands Online Forum. With these announcements, European islands are making an important step forward in their clean energy transition, with concrete plans tailored to their individual needs and assets.

The Clean Energy for EU Islands Initiative, which was launched in 2017 by the Commission and 14 EU member states, aims to provide a long term framework to help islands generate sustainable, low-cost energy.

Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, said: “These transition agendas are a testament to the hard work and fruitful collaborations among islanders, both within their communities and across borders. It has been truly inspiring to see what is possible when local people have the power and support to write their own futures. We look forward to continuing the cooperation with the EU island communities to make the European Green Deal a reality, both through this initiative and through other EU actions to support a locally-driven energy transition.”

More information is available here.

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Brexit

EU tells UK to say how long it will align with EU financial rules

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Britain must spell out how far it wants to diverge from European Union rules if it wants access to the bloc’s financial market from January, a top European Commission official said on Tuesday (27 October), writes

Britain has left the EU and access under transition arrangements ends on 31 December. Future access for the City of London hinges on UK financial rules staying aligned or “equivalent” to regulation in the bloc.

John Berrigan, head of the European Commission’s financial services unit, said Brussels has asked London for more clarification on Britain’s intentions to work out what is an “acceptable level” of divergence.

“We are almost ready,” Berrigan told the European Parliament.

“There will be divergence... but we have to get some mutual understanding of how much divergence is likely to happen, and is that going to be sufficient to allow us to maintain an equivalence arrangement.”

Brussels has granted temporary access for UK clearing houses, but chunks of stock and derivatives trading would move from London to the bloc without equivalence.

Separately, Britain and the EU are discussing a trade deal which would contain only limited references to financial services to avoid tying the bloc’s hands, Berrigan said.

“We see our regulatory co-operation in the financial services field outside the agreement,” he said.

It would consist of a “forum” similar to what the bloc has with the United States to assess potential divergence in rules ahead of time, he said.

“What we don’t want is an equivalence regime that is constantly under threat,” he said.

“We will need at the outset the direction of travel the UK want to go... so we don’t have to keep talking in emergencies about whether equivalence can be maintained or not.”

Britain has said that while it won’t weaken its high regulatory standards, it won’t be a “rule taker” or copy every EU regulation word-for-word to obtain market access.

Berrigan said market participants are generally ready for the “unavoidably fragmenting event” that full Brexit will be in January.

No trade deal would make future cooperation in financial services far more challenging, he added.

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coronavirus

Coronavirus resurgence: Commission steps up action to reinforce preparedness and response measures across the EU

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The European Commission is launching an additional set of actions to help limit the spread of the coronavirus, save lives and strengthen the internal market's resilience. Concretely, the measures aim to better understand the virus' spread and the effectiveness of the response, ramp up well-targeted testing, bolster contact tracing, improve preparations for vaccination campaigns, and maintain access to essential supplies such as vaccination equipment, while keeping all goods moving in the single market and facilitating safe travel.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The COVID-19 situation is very serious. We must step up our EU response. Today we are launching additional measures in our fight against the virus; from increasing access to fast testing, and preparing vaccination campaigns to facilitating safe travel when necessary. I call on Member States to work closely together. Courageous steps taken now will help save lives and protect livelihoods. No member state will emerge safely from this pandemic until everyone does.”

Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “The rise in COVID-19 infection rates across Europe is very alarming. Decisive immediate action is needed for Europe to protect lives and livelihoods, to alleviate the pressure on health-care systems, and to control the spread of the virus. Next month, we will present the first step towards a European Health Union. In the meantime, member states must improve co-operation and data sharing. Our EU surveillance system is only as strong as its weakest link. It is only by showing true European solidarity and working together that we can overcome this crisis. Together we are stronger.”

The Commission's Communication on additional COVID-19 response measures sets out next steps in key areas to reinforce the EU's response to the resurgence in COVID-19 cases:

  1. Improving the flow of information to allow informed decision-making

Ensuring accurate, comprehensive, comparable and timely information on epidemiological data, as well as on testing, contact tracing and public health surveillance, is essential to track how the coronavirus spreads at regional and national level. To improve the sharing of data at EU level, the Commission calls on Member States to provide all relevant data to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Commission.

  1. Establishing more effective and rapid testing

Testing is a decisive tool to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. To promote a common approach and effective testing, the Commission is today adopting a Recommendation on COVID-19 testing strategies, including the use of rapid antigen tests. It sets out key elements to be considered for national, regional or local testing strategies, such as their scope, priority groups, and key points linked to testing capacities and resources, and indications as to when rapid antigen testing may be appropriate.

It also calls on member states to submit national strategies on testing by mid-November. To directly purchase rapid antigen tests and deliver them to Member States, the Commission is mobilizing €100 million under the Emergency Support Instrument. In parallel, the Commission is launching a joint procurement to ensure a second stream of access. Where member states are applying prior testing requirements to incoming travellers and where no testing capacities are available for asymptomatic travellers in the country of origin, travellers should be offered the possibility to undergo a test after arrival. If negative COVID-19 tests are to be required or recommended for any activity, mutual recognition of tests is essential, in particular in the context of travel.

  1. Making full use of contact tracing and warning apps across borders

Contact tracing and warning apps help to break transmission chains. So far, member states have developed 19 national contact tracing and warning apps, downloaded more than 52 million times. The Commission recently launched a solution for linking national apps across the EU through a ‘European Federation Gateway Service'. Three national apps (Germany, Ireland, and Italy) were first linked on 19 October when the system came online. Many more will follow in the coming weeks. In total, 17 national apps are currently based on decentralized systems and can become interoperable through the service in the coming rounds; others are in the pipeline. All member states should set up effective and compatible apps and reinforce their communication efforts to promote their uptake.

  1. Effective vaccination

The development and uptake of safe and effective vaccines is a priority effort to quickly end the crisis. Under the EU Strategy on COVID-19 vaccines, the Commission is negotiating agreements with vaccine producers to make vaccines available to Europeans and the world as soon as soon as they are proven safe and effective. Once available, vaccines need to be quickly distributed and deployed to maximum effect. 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 will put in place a common reporting framework and a platform to monitor the effectiveness of national vaccine strategies. To share the best practices, the conclusions of the first review on national vaccination plans will be presented in November 2020.

  1. Effective communication to citizens

Clear communication is essential for the public health response to be successful since this largely depends on the public adherence to health recommendations. All member states should relaunch communication campaigns to counter false, misleading and dangerous information that continues to circulate, and to address the risk of “pandemic fatigue”. Vaccination is a specific area where public authorities need to step up their actions to tackle misinformation and secure public trust, as there will be no compromise on safety or effectiveness under Europe's robust vaccine authorization system. Vaccines do not save lives – vaccination does.

  1. Securing essential supplies

Since the beginning of the outbreak, the EU has supported manufacturers to ensure the availability of essential medicines and medical equipment. The Commission has launched a new joint procurement for medical equipment for vaccination. In order to give member states better and cheaper access to the tools needed to prevent, detect and treat COVID-19, the Commission is today also extending the temporary suspension of customs duties and VAT on the import of medical equipment from non-EU countries. The Commission is also proposing that hospitals and medical practitioners should not have to pay VAT on vaccines and testing kits used in the fight against the coronavirus.

  1. Facilitating safe travel

Free movement within the EU and the border-free Schengen area are prized achievements of European integration - the Commission is working to ensure that travel within Europe is safe both for travellers and for their fellow citizens:

  • The Commission calls on member states to fully implement the Recommendation adopted by the Council for a common and coordinated approach to restrictions to free movement. Citizens and businesses want clarity and predictability. Any remaining COVID-19 related internal border control measures should be lifted.
  • The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the ECDC are working on a testing protocol for travellers, to be used by public health authorities, airlines and airports to help the safe arrival of passengers. The Commission will also work with member states and agencies on a common approach to quarantine practices, with inputs from ECDC to be presented in November.
  • Passenger Locator Forms help member states undertake risk assessments of arrivals and enable contact tracing. A pilot next month will allow Member States to prepare for the launch and use of a common EU digital Passenger Locator Form, while fully respecting data protection.
  • Re-open EU provides timely and accurate information on health measures and travel restrictions in all member states and some partner countries. The Commission calls on member states to provide accurate and up-to-date information to turn Re-open EU into the one-stop-shop for information about health measures and travel possibilities across the EU. A mobile Re-open EU app is being developed and will launch in the coming weeks.

When it comes to restrictions on non-essential travel from non-EU countries into the EU, the Commission is presenting guidance on categories of persons considered to be essential and therefore exempted from restrictions. This will help member states to consistently implement the Council Recommendation on the temporary travel restriction to the EU. The Commission also once more encourages Member States to facilitate the reunion of those in durable relationships and provides examples of evidence that can be used for this purpose.

  1. Green Lanes extension

Since March, the application of Green Lanes – most notably for road freight to cross borders in less than 15 minutes – has helped to maintain the supply of goods and the economic fabric of the EU. The Commission proposes to extend the Green Lane approach to ensure that multi-modal transport works effectively in areas including rail and waterborne freight and air cargo, and provides additional guidance to facilitate application in practice, on issues such as electronic documentation, and availability of rest and refuelling points. Member states should ensure the seamless free movement of goods across the Single Market.

Background

Recent weeks have seen an alarming increase in the rate of COVID-19 infections across Europe, and sparked new measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus and mitigate its impact. With health systems again under pressure, more needs to be done to control and overcome the situation, protecting lives and livelihoods, and promote European solidarity. Although preparedness and co-operation between member states has improved since the start of the pandemic, coordination remains essential and must be enhanced.

More information

COVID-19 Communication on additional measures

Commission's coronavirus response website

Factsheet: Coronavirus Resurgence: New preparedness and response measures across the EU

Factsheet: EU Coronavirus response

Re-open EU

Contact tracing and warning apps

Emergency Support Instrument

Green Lanes

 

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