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Commission approves €200 million of public support to promote rail transport interoperability in Germany

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, €200 million of public support to upgrade traffic management equipment for rail vehicles in the area of Stuttgart in Germany. The scheme consists of two measures. The first measure will support the furnishing of railway vehicles with the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) onboard equipment. The second measure will support the furnishing of those same vehicles with automatic train operation (ATO). ATO is an operational safety enhancement device used to help automate the operation of trains.

The scheme allows to equip the vehicles with both ERTMS and ATO. ERTMS is a safety system that ensures the compliance by trains with speed restrictions and signalling‑ status. This system is expected to enable the creation of a seamless European railway system, and increase the safety and competitiveness of the European rail sector. The two measures supporting the rail freight sector will ensure increased public support to further encourage the shift of freight traffic from road to rail.

The public support will take the form of direct grants to the owners or operators of railway vehicles, to be used for upgrading the existing equipment. The measure will run until 2025. The Commission found that the German measure is beneficial for the environment and for mobility as it supports rail transport, which is less polluting than road transport, while also decreasing road congestion. Furthermore, the measure is proportionate and necessary as it promotes interoperability of railway systems in the EU and supports the shift of freight transport from road to rail whilst not leading to undue competition distortions.

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Finally, the aid will have an “incentive effect” as the owners or operators of railway vehicles would not perform the necessary upgrade of their rolling stock in the absence of the public support. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the measures are in line with EU state aid rules, in particular the 2008 Commission Guidelines on State aid for railway undertakings. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under case number SA.58908 once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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European Central Bank (ECB)

ECB's Lagarde keeps door open to higher inflation

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Inflation in the eurozone could exceed the European Central Bank's already raised projections but there are few signs of this already happening, ECB President Christine Lagarde (pictured) said on Monday (27 September), writes Balazs Koranyi, Reuters.

"While inflation could prove weaker than foreseen if economic activity were to be affected by a renewed tightening of restrictions, there are some factors that could lead to stronger price pressures than are currently expected," she told lawmakers at the European Parliament.

"But we are seeing limited signs of this risk so far, which means that our baseline scenario continues to foresee inflation remaining below our target over the medium term," she added.

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Agriculture

Agriculture: Launch of an annual EU organic day

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On 24 September the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission celebrated the launch of an annual ‘EU organic day'. The three institutions signed a joint declaration establishing from now on each 23 September as EU organic day. This follows up on the Action Plan for the development of organic production, adopted by the Commission on 25 March 2021, which announced the creation of such a day to raise awareness of organic production.

At the signing and launch ceremony, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said: “Today we celebrate organic production, a sustainable type of agriculture where food production is done in harmony with nature, biodiversity and animal welfare. 23 September is also autumnal equinox, when day and night are equally long, a symbol of balance between agriculture and environment that ideally suits organic production. I am glad that together with the European Parliament, the Council, and key actors of this sector we get to launch this annual EU organic day, a great opportunity to raise awareness of organic production and promote the key role it plays in the transition to sustainable food systems.”

The overall aim of the Action Plan for the development of organic production is to boost substantially the production and consumption of organic products in order to contribute to the achievement of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies' targets such as reducing the use of fertilisers, pesticides and anti-microbials. The organic sector needs the right tools to grow, as laid out in the Action Plan. Structured around three axes - boosting consumption, increasing production, and further improving the sustainability of the sector -, 23 actions are put forward to ensure a balanced growth of the sector.

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To boost consumption the Action Plan includes actions such as informing and communicating about organic production, promoting the consumption of organic products, and stimulating a greater use of organics in public canteens through public procurement. Furthermore, to increase organic production, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will remain a key tool for supporting the conversion to organic farming. It will be complemented by, for instance, information events and networking for sharing best practices and certification for groups of farmers rather than for individuals. Finally, to improve the sustainability of organic farming, the Commission will dedicate at least 30% of the budget for research and innovation in the field of agriculture, forestry and rural areas to topics specific to or relevant for the organic sector.

Background

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Organic production comes with a number of important benefits: organic fields have around 30% more biodiversity, organically farmed animals enjoy a higher degree of animal welfare and take less antibiotics, organic farmers have higher incomes and are more resilient, and consumers know exactly what they are getting thanks to the EU organic logo.

More information

The action plan for the development of the organic sector

Farm to fork Strategy

Biodiversity Strategy

Organic farming at a glance

Common Agricultural Policy

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Agriculture

Common Agricultural Policy: How does the EU support farmers?

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From supporting farmers to protecting the environment, the EU's farm policy covers a range of different goals. Learn how EU agriculture is funded, its history and its future, Society.

What is the Common Agricultural Policy?

The EU supports farming through its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Set up in 1962, it has undergone a number of reforms to make agriculture fairer for farmers and more sustainable.

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There are about 10 million farms in the EU and the farming and food sectors together provide nearly 40 million jobs in the EU.

How is the Common Agricultural Policy funded?

The Common Agricultural Policy is funded through the EU budget. Under the EU's budget for 2021-2027, €386.6 billion has been set aside for farming. It is divided into two parts:

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  • €291.1bn for the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund, which provides income support for farmers.
  • €95.5bn for the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, which includes funding for rural areas, climate action and the management of natural resources.

How does EU agriculture look today? 

Farmers and the agriculture sector were affected by COVID-19 and the EU introduced specific measures to support the industry and incomes. Current rules on how CAP funds should be spent run until 2023 due to delays in budget negotiations. This required a transitional agreement to protect farmers’ incomes and ensure food security.

Will the reform mean a more environmentally-friendly Common Agricultural Policy?

EU agriculture accounts for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. The reform should lead to a more environmentally friendly, fairer and transparent EU farm policy, MEPs said, after a deal was reached with the Council. Parliament wants to link CAP to the Paris agreement on climate change, while increasing support to young farmers and small and medium-sized farms. Parliament will vote on the final deal in 2021 and it will come into effect in 2023.

Agriculture policy is linked to the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy from the European Commission, which aims to protect the environment and ensure healthy food for everyone, whilst ensuring farmers’ livelihoods.

More on agriculture

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