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President von der Leyen receives Empress Theophano Prize for the Erasmus programme

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On 7 October, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) accepted the Empress Theophano Prize, awarded to the Erasmus programme, during a ceremony held at the Rotunda Monument in Thessaloniki, Greece, which she attended via videoconference. The Prize rewards individuals or organisations who make an outstanding contribution to deepening European cooperation and improving the understanding of the diverse historic interdependencies in Europe.

Upon receiving the Prize, the president said she was honoured to receive the Prize “for the ten million Europeans who have taken part in the Erasmus programme since its inception” and dedicated it “to the students, the teachers, the dreamers who have made this European miracle come true”.

In her acceptance speech, President von der Leyen also drew parallels between the European recovery plan and Erasmus+: “Just as Erasmus was then, NextGenerationEU is now. It is a program of unprecedented scale and scope. And it can become the next great unifying project for our Union. We are investing together not only in a collective recovery, but also in our common future. Solidarity, trust and unity have to be built and rebuilt time and time again. I do not know whether NextGenerationEU can change Europe as profoundly as the Erasmus programme did. But I know that once again Europe has chosen to master and shape its future - together.”

Read the President's full speech online in English or French, and watch it back here. More than 4 million people will have had the opportunity to study, train, and gain experience abroad between 2014 and 2020 thanks to the Erasmus+ programme. Learn more about Erasmus here

coronavirus

Commission approves German scheme to compensate accommodation providers in the field of child and youth education for damages suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission approved, under EU state aid rules, a German scheme to compensate accommodation providers for child and youth education for the loss of revenue caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The public support will take the form of direct grants. The scheme will compensate up to 60% of the loss of revenues incurred by eligible beneficiaries in the period between the beginning of the lockdown (which started on different dates across the regional states) and 31 July 2020 when their accommodation facilities had to be closed due to the restrictive measures implemented in Germany.

When calculating the loss of revenue, any reductions in costs resulting from income generated during the lockdown and any possible financial aid granted or actually paid out by the state (and in particular granted under scheme SA.58464) or third parties to cope with the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak will be deducted. At the central government level, facilities eligible to apply will have at their disposal a budget of up to €75 million.

However, these funds are not earmarked exclusively for this scheme. In addition, regional authorities (at Länder or local level) may also make use of this scheme from the local budgets. In any event, the scheme ensures that the same eligible costs cannot be compensated twice by different administrative levels. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which enables the Commission to approve state aid measures granted by member states to compensate specific companies or specific sectors for the damages caused by exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak.

The Commission found that the German scheme will compensate damages that are directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the envisaged compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damages. The Commission therefore concluded that the scheme is in line with EU state aid rules.

More information on actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.59228 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website.

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Business

Research and scientific innovation essential for economic recovery in Europe

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The next EU budget 2021-2027 will pave the way for strong EU support for the research, innovation and science sectors – vitally important in the delivery of economic recovery in Europe, writes David Harmon.

The European Parliament is set to vote on November 23th next on the provisions of the revised EU budgetary framework for the period 2021-2027.

€94 billion as of now is being put aside to finance Horizon Europe, nextGenerationEU and Digital Europe. These are key EU initiatives that will ensure that the EU stays to the forefront in developing new digital technologies. This in now more important than ever. Digital transformation is moving centre stage in terms of how technology will develop key vertical industries and future smart grids in Europe.

And Europe has the know-how to fulfil its key policy targets under these important EU flagship programmes and to do so in an environmentally manner.

The bottom line is that we are now living in the 5G era. This means that new products such as high definition video and self-driving vehicles are going to become a reality in everyday life. 5G is driving this process of ICT innovation. But EU member states do need to work together to make 5G a success so as to economically develop Europe and to comprehensively address broader societal needs.

ICT standards must operate in a structured and in an inter-linked manner.  Governments must ensure that spectrum policies are managed in a manner that guarantees that self–driving cars can travel seamlessly across borders.

Policies at an EU level that promote excellence in science through the European Research Council and via the European Innovation Council are now ensuring that highly innovative ICT products are successfully entering the EU marketplace.

But the public and private sectors must continue to work closely together in the delivery of EU policy goals that fully incorporate and integrate the research, innovation and science sectors.

Already under Horizon Europe a number of public private partnerships are being put in place that will cover the development of both key digital technologies and smart networks and services. The process of innovation works at it’s best when the private, public, educational and research communities are collaborating and cooperating together in the pursuit of common policy objectives.

In fact, in even a broader context the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved via scientists and researchers across the world engaging in common projects.

Europe is playing to its strengths under the Horizon Europe programme.

Europe is home to some of the finest software developers in the world. Over a quarter of all global [email protected] is carried out in Europe.

Horizon Europe and its predecessor programme Horizon 2020 are recognised as leading global research initiatives. But industry has to step up to the plate if Horizon Europe is going to be a success.

Horizon Europe must and will support the process of innovation.

This is the key if traditional industries such as the energy, transport and health and manufacturing sectors are going to be fit for the digital age.

International collaboration and co-operation can and will support the implementation of the strategic autonomous policy goals of the EU.

We are living through a digital revolution. We all must work together to make this revolution a positive success for everyone and this includes bridging the digital divide.

David Harmon, Director for EU Government Affairs at Huawei Technologies

David Harmon is director of EU Government Affairs at Huawei Technologies

Now that Europe is on the verge of securing agreement to the terms of the new EU budget 20210—2027, interested parties can prepare for the first call for proposals under Horizon Europe. The publication of such calls will take place within the first quarter of 2021. Advances in the fields of AI, big data, cloud computing and high performance computing will all play critical roles in bringing new innovative ICT products and services into the marketplace. We have witnessed at first hand this year the very positive role that new technologies can play in supporting high-speed online platforms and in enhancing connections for businesses, friends and families alike.

Policy frameworks will of course have to be put in place to cater for the evolving technologies that are coming on stream. Civic society, industry, the education and researcher sectors must be fully engaged in developing this legislative roadmap.

We know the challenges that lie ahead for us. So let us all actively address these challenges in a spirit of determination, friendship and international co-operation.

David Harmon is director of EU Government Affairs at Huawei Technologies and he is a former member within the cabinet of the European Commissioner for research, innovation and science during the period 2010-2014.

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Adult learning

#Coronavirus - British universities should not reopen in September, says union

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British universities should scrap plans to reopen in September to prevent travelling students from fuelling the country’s coronavirus pandemic, a union said, calling for courses to be taught online. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has come under fire over its moves to restart education, especially after a row over exam results for school students and a failed attempt to bring all pupils back to their classes earlier this year, writes Elizabeth Piper.

Johnson has been calling on Britons to return to something more akin to normality after the coronavirus lockdown, calling on workers to return to offices to help the economy recover from a 20% contraction in the April-June period.

But the University and College Union (UCU) said it was too early to send students back to universities, warning they could be blamed if cases of COVID-19 increased. “Moving a million plus students around the country is a recipe for disaster and risks leaving ill-prepared universities as the care homes of a second wave,” UCU general secretary Jo Grady said in a statement. “It is time for the government to finally take some decisive and responsible action in this crisis and tell universities to abandon plans for face-to-face teaching,” she said, urging the government to move all teaching online for the first term.

Stephen Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury (finance ministry), said he did not agree with the argument. “I think universities like the rest of the economy need to come back and students need to be able to do so,” he told Times Radio. Several universities say they are ready to reopen next month after weeks of preparation and some students say they have already spent money on such things as housing in preparation for the new term.

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