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#Italy demands EU opens more ports to #Migrants ships

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Italy has demanded that the EU find other ports to disembark migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, suggesting it would withhold support for the EU naval mission against people-smuggling unless other countries take in survivors,
writes Robin Emmott.

Italy became the main route into Europe for hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers arriving by sea since the other main route from Turkey to Greece was largely shut in 2016. While numbers have dropped over the past year, a new populist Italian government has made shutting down the route a pillar of policy.

It forced the port issue on to a meeting of EU defence ministers, who need Italian support for their naval mission, known as Sofia, which expires in four months and now brings all migrants it rescues to Italy.

“It’s no longer possible that Italy be the only port of disembarkation and that it take in all the migrants rescued at sea,” Italian Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta said in Vienna after the meeting with her 27 counterparts.

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The Italian demand follows diplomatic rows in which rescue ships were not allowed to dock in Italy unless other states agreed to take in the migrants on board.

“Some (EU governments) said we should change the Sophia mission when its mandate ends.... We think it’s too long to wait and should be done immediately,” said Trenta, who said she had been in talks with France and Spain.

Speaking in Venice on Thursday, Italy’s anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini also hinted at an end to the EU mission, saying that if EU partners do not agree to offer ports “then we’ll go it alone”.

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No country offered ports at the Vienna defence ministers’ meeting as an alternative to Italy for Sophia, although EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she expected talks to continue.

“Today was not a matter of pledging ports,” said Mogherini, who chaired the meeting, saying there was a political will to find a solution and that other options existed, such as sending a larger number of those who arrive in Italy to other EU states.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said he would insist on the migration issue at a meeting with his counterparts, also in Vienna on Thursday, saying governments had to live up to European values on human rights and unity.

“We write solidarity everywhere in Europe, we talk about it, well, (this is a) wonderful occasion to show it,” he told reporters.

Austria, which is also led by a coalition that includes the anti-immigrant far right, proposed using EU member states’ militaries to back up the bloc’s border guards in barring undocumented migrants.

Defence Minister Mario Kunasek outlined a plan based on Austria’s past use of soldiers at its borders. He stressed that soldiers at frontiers would be under police control.

In June, Austria held a drill overseen by the far-right interior minister which enacted the arrival of hundreds of migrants and involved Black Hawk helicopters and soldiers.

Germany and other countries expressed doubts about the Austrian plan.

“There are very few ways that the military, even theoretically, can be used in border areas,” Estonia’s Defence Minister Juri Luik told Reuters. “If you don’t have a military conflict, everything can be handled by police.”

The head of Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms said on Thursday it was becoming hard to operate a rescue mission in the Western Mediterranean since Italy and Malta closed their ports.

“Where can we buy fuel? In what port can we do repairs?” he said. “It hard for our boats to operate in these conditions.”

The aid group said on Thursday it would move some resources from the Mediterranean to the Strait of Gibraltar to help the Spanish coast guard with sea rescues as Spain becomes the new main entry point for asylum seekers fleeing Africa.

European Commission

NextGenerationEU: European Commission disburses €231 million in pre-financing to Slovenia

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The European Commission has disbursed €231 million to Slovenia in pre-financing, equivalent to 13% of the country's grant allocation under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The pre-financing payment will help to kick-start the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Slovenia's recovery and resilience plan. The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the implementation of the investments and reforms outlined in Slovenia's recovery and resilience plan.

The country is set to receive €2.5 billion in total, consisting of €1.8bn in grants and €705m in loans, over the lifetime of its plan. Today's disbursement follows the recent successful implementation of the first borrowing operations under NextGenerationEU. By the end of the year, the Commission intends to raise up to a total of €80 billion in long-term funding, to be complemented by short-term EU-Bills, to fund the first planned disbursements to member states under NextGenerationEU.

The RRF is at the heart of NextGenerationEU which will provide €800bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across member states. The Slovenian plan is part of the unprecedented EU response to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, fostering the green and digital transitions and strengthening resilience and cohesion in our societies. A press release is available online.

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Cyprus

NextGenerationEU: European Commission disburses €157 million in pre-financing to Cyprus

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The European Commission has disbursed €157 million to Cyprus in pre-financing, equivalent to 13% of the country's financial allocation under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The pre-financing payment will help to kick-start the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Cyprus' recovery and resilience plan. The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the implementation of the investments and reforms outlined in Cyprus' recovery and resilience plan.

The country is set to receive €1.2 billion in total over the lifetime of its plan, with €1 billion provided in grants and €200m in loans. Today's disbursement follows the recent successful implementation of the first borrowing operations under NextGenerationEU. By the end of the year, the Commission intends to raise up to a total of €80bn in long-term funding, to be complemented by short-term EU-Bills, to fund the first planned disbursements to member states under NextGenerationEU. Part of NextGenerationEU, the RRF will provide €723.8bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across member states.

The Cypriot plan is part of the unprecedented EU response to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, fostering the green and digital transitions and strengthening resilience and cohesion in our societies. A press release is available online.

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Belgium

EU Cohesion policy: Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy receive €373 million to support health and social services, SMEs and social inclusion

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The Commission has granted €373 million to five European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) operational programmes (OPs) in Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy to help the countries with coronavirus emergency response and repair in the framework of REACT-EU. In Belgium, the modification of the Wallonia OP will make available an additional €64.8m for the acquisition of medical equipment for health services and innovation.

The funds will support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in developing e-commerce, cybersecurity, websites and online stores, as well as the regional green economy through energy efficiency, protection of the environment, development of smart cities and low-carbon public infrastructures. In Germany, in the Federal State of Hessen, €55.4m will support health-related research infrastructure, diagnostic capacity and innovation in universities and other research institutions as well as research, development and innovation investments in the fields of climate and sustainable development. This amendment will also provide support to SMEs and funds for start-ups through an investment fund.

In Sachsen-Anhalt, €75.7m will facilitate cooperation of SMEs and institutions in research, development and innovation, and provide investments and working capital for micro-enterprises affected by the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, the funds will allow investments in the energy efficiency of enterprises, support digital innovation in SMEs and acquiring digital equipment for schools and cultural institutions. In Italy, the national OP ‘Social Inclusion' will receive €90m to promote the social integration of people experiencing severe material deprivation, homelessness or extreme marginalisation, through ‘Housing First' services that combine the provision of immediate housing with enabling social and employment services.

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In Spain, €87m will be added to the ESF OP for Castilla y León to support the self-employed and workers who had their contracts suspended or reduced due to the crisis. The money will also help hard-hit companies avoid layoffs, especially in the tourism sector. Finally, the funds are needed to allow essential social services to continue in a safe way and to ensure educational continuity throughout the pandemic by hiring additional staff.

REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and provides €50.6bn additional funding (in current prices) to Cohesion policy programmes over the course of 2021 and 2022. Measures focus on supporting labour market resilience, jobs, SMEs and low-income families, as well as setting future-proof foundations for the green and digital transitions and a sustainable socio-economic recovery.

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