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Commission welcomes provisional agreement to improve quality of #DrinkingWater and access to it

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Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “Citizens have called on the Commission loud and clear to propose an initiative to ensure  guaranteed access to safe drinking water for Europeans. The Commission followed up on that call, made through a European Citizens' Initiative, with an ambitious proposal. Today, the co-legislators have also heard that call and agreed to modernise EU rules, improving the quality of drinking water on the basis of the most recent standards, increasing access to water for all and enhancing transparency in this essential sector. Together we can and must protect the health and safety of our citizens."

Currently, drinking water is controlled “end-of-pipe”. The newly agreed rules implement the so-called risk-based-approach, allowing for further prevention and mitigation measures to protect drinking water sources. Another important change in the legislation will give the public easy, user-friendly – including online – access to information about the quality and supply of drinking water in their living area, improving confidence in tap water.

The agreed text builds upon and goes even beyond the recommendations of the World Health Organisation. These new EU rules will become a global standard and reflect state of the art technological innovation. They will minimise harmful impacts of pollution on both human health and on our natural resources, fully in line with the European Green Deal. They will tackle emerging pollutants such as micro-plastics, endocrine disruptors as well as new types of chemicals (PFAs). The agreement includes detailed hygienic requirements for materials in contact with drinking water and gives the European Chemicals Agency a key role to ensure that only safe substances can be used in pipes and taps in contact with water. This harmonisation will facilitate the smooth functioning of the internal market for products in contact with drinking water while improving public health.

Next steps

The provisional agreement reached on 18 December 2019 is now subject to formal approval by the European Parliament and the Council.

Following approval, the Directive will be published in the EU's Official Journal and enter into force 20 days later.

Background

Most people living in the EU already enjoy very good access to high quality drinking water thanks in part to over 30 years of EU legislation on drinking water quality. The Commission proposed in 2018 a revision of the Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC) in response to the Right2Water European Citizens' Initiative. The proposal follows the REFIT Evaluation of the Drinking Water Directive and was accompanied by an Impact Assessment and by World Health Organisation recommendations.

More information

Proposal for revised Directive

 

 

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Taiwan is crucial to the global fight against cybercrime

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Since emerging in late 2019, COVID-19 has evolved into a global pandemic. According to World Health Organization statistics, as of September 30, 2020, there were more than 33.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 1 million related deaths worldwide. Having experienced and fought the SARS epidemic in 2003, Taiwan made advance preparations in the face of COVID-19, conducting early onboard screening of inbound travelers, taking stock of antipandemic supply inventories, and forming a national mask production team, writes Criminal Investigation Bureau Ministry of the Interior Republic of China (Taiwan) Commissioner  Huang Ming-chao. 

The government’s swift response and the Taiwanese people’s cooperation helped effectively contain the spread of the disease. The international community has been putting its resources into fighting COVID-19 in the physical world, yet the cyberworld has also been under attack, and faces major challenges.

The Cyber Attack Trends: 2020 MidYear Report published in August 2020 by Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., a well-known IT security company, pointed out that COVID-19 related phishing and malware attacks increased dramatically from below 5,000 per week in February to over 200,000 in late April. At the same time as COVID-19 has seriously affected people’s lives and safety, cybercrime is undermining national security, business operations, and the security of personal information and property, causing significant damage and losses. Taiwan’s success in containing COVID-19 has won worldwide acclaim.

Faced with cyberthreats and related challenges, Taiwan has actively promoted policies built around the concept that information security is national security. It has bolstered efforts to train IT security specialists and develop the IT security industry and innovative technologies. Taiwan’s national teams are ever present when it comes to disease or cybercrime prevention.

Cybercrime knows no borders; Taiwan seeks cross-border cooperation Nations around the globe are fighting the widely condemned dissemination of child pornography, infringements on intellectual property rights, and the theft of trade secrets. Business email fraud and ransomware have also generated heavy financial losses among enterprises, while cryptocurrencies have become an avenue for criminal transactions and money laundering. Since anyone with online access can connect to any internetenabled device in the world, crime syndicates are exploiting the anonymity and freedom this provides to conceal their identities and engage in illegal activities.

The Taiwanese police force has a special unit for investigating technology crimes comprising professional cybercrime investigators. It has also established a digital forensics laboratory meeting ISO 17025 requirements. Cybercrime knows no borders, so Taiwan hopes to work with the rest of the world in jointly fighting the problem. With state-sponsored hacking rampant, intelligence sharing is essential to Taiwan. In August 2020, the US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Defense released the Malware Analysis Report, identifying a state-sponsored hacking organization that has recently been using a 2008 malware variant known as TAIDOOR to launch attacks.

Numerous Taiwanese government agencies and businesses have previously been subject to such attacks. In a 2012 report on this malware, Trend Micro Inc. observed that all of the victims were from Taiwan, and that the majority were government organizations. Every month, Taiwan’s public sector experiences an extremely high number of cyberattacks from beyond Taiwan’s borders—between 20 and 40 million instances. Being the priority target of state-sponsored attacks, Taiwan has been able to track their sources and methods and the malware used. By sharing intelligence, Taiwan could help other countries avert potential threats and facilitate the establishment of a joint security mechanism to counter state cyberthreat actors. Additionally, given that hackers often use command-and-control servers to set breakpoints and thus evade investigation, international cooperation is essential for piecing together a comprehensive picture of chains of attack. In the fight against cybercrime, Taiwan can help.

In July 2016, an unprecedented hacking infringement occurred in Taiwan when NT$83.27 million was illegally withdrawn from First Commercial Bank ATMs. Within a week, the police had recovered NT$77.48 million of the stolen funds and arrested three members of a hacking syndicate— Andrejs Peregudovs, a Latvian; Mihail Colibaba, a Romanian; and Niklae Penkov, a Moldovan—that had until then remained untouched by the law. The incident drew international attention. In September that same year, a similar ATM heist occurred in Romania. A suspect Babii was believed to be involved in both cases, leading investigators to conclude that the thefts had been committed by the same syndicate. At the invitation of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) visited its office three times to exchange intelligence and evidence. Subsequently, the two entities established Operation TAIEX.

Under this plan, the CIB provided key evidence retrieved from suspects’ mobile phones to Europol, which sieved through the evidence and identified the suspected mastermind, known as Dennys, who was then based in Spain. This led to his arrest by Europol and the Spanish police, putting an end to the hacking syndicate.

To crack down on hacking syndicates, Europol invited Taiwan’s CIB to jointly form Operation TAIEX. The fight against cybercrime requires international cooperation, and Taiwan must work together with other countries. Taiwan can help these other countries, and is willing to share its experiences so as to make cyberspace safer and realize a truly borderless internet. I ask that you support Taiwan’s participation in the annual INTERPOL General Assembly as an Observer, as well as INTERPOL meetings, mechanisms, and training activities. By voicing your backing for Taiwan in international forums, you can play a critical role in advancing Taiwan’s objective of taking part in international organizations in a pragmatic and meaningful manner. In the fight against cybercrime, Taiwan can help!

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Commission approves Danish fund to enable €1.34 billion of capital support to large companies affected by coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved Danish plans to set up a fund with a target size of up to DKK 10 billion (approximately €1.34bn) to recapitalize large enterprises affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. Under the scheme, the support will take the form of recapitalizations, by means of acquisition of newly issued preferred shares in eligible private companies. The Commission found that the scheme notified by Denmark is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework.

The scheme targets large companies that have faced substantial reductions in revenues in 2020 and that are considered of substantial importance to the Danish economy. The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the aid measure under EU State aid rules.

Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The DKK 10bn Danish fund will provide further support to large enterprises affected by the coronavirus outbreak by facilitating their access to finance. The scheme ensures that the state is sufficiently remunerated for the risk taxpayers assume and that there are incentives for the state to exit as soon as possible. The support also comes with strings attached, including a ban on dividends, bonus payments as well as further measures to limit distortions of competition. We continue to work in close cooperation with member states to find workable solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, in line with EU rules.”

The full press release is available online.

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Commission approves German ‘umbrella' scheme to support uncovered fixed costs of companies affected by coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a German ‘umbrella' scheme to support the uncovered fixed costs of companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. Under the scheme, Germany plans to provide extraordinary economic assistance to all businesses, self-employed individuals, associations and institutions whose operations are temporarily closed as a result of the lockdown measures imposed by the government to limit the spread of the virus.

The measure is a Germany-wide ‘umbrella' scheme with an estimated budget of €30 billion.  Under the umbrella scheme, support can take the form of i) direct grants; ii) state guarantees for loans (granted through credit institutions and other financial institutions as financial intermediaries); or iii) subsidized public loans. In particular, the umbrella scheme will also enable Germany to grant part of its ‘Novemberhilfe', i.e. support for companies affected by the lockdown measures implemented in November 2020.

The Commission found that the German umbrella scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. The Commission concluded that the measures under the umbrella scheme are necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework.

On this basis, the Commission approved the aid measure under EU State aid rules. Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Many shops, restaurants and other businesses have faced a significant decline in turnover because of the recent lockdown measures necessary to limit the spread of the coronavirus. This “umbrella” scheme will enable Germany to support companies face their fixed costs that are not covered by their revenues during these difficult times. We continue to work closely with all member states to ensure that national support measures can be put in place in a timely, coordinated and effective way, in line with EU rules.” The full press release is available online

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