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#UfM steps up regional action to address water scarcity

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  • Freshwater availability is likely to decrease by 15% in the coming decades, causing important constraints for agriculture and human use in an area already suffering from water scarcity.
  • The Mediterranean population classified as ‘water-poor’ is expected to increase to over 250 million, within 20 years.
  • The UfM Water Agenda aims to ensure that each and every Euro-Mediterranean country receives the necessary technical, administrative, and financial recommendations to help achieve water security for its population and their economic activities.

Photos and two infographies A and B

Barcelona, 17 March 2020On World Water Day, held under the thematic 'Water and Climate Change', the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) emphasizes the need for regional dialogue to address common challenges related to water scarcity. 

The region’s population classified as ‘water-poor’ is expected to increase to over 250 million within 20 years, according to the  first-ever scientific report on the impact of climate and environmental change in the Mediterranean. Irrigation represents between 50% and 90% of the total Mediterranean water demand and the demand is projected to increase up to 18% by the end of the century due to climate change alone. Satisfying the increasing demand for good quality drinking water and water for irrigation is a complex challenge, often involving disagreement between users of groundwater and landowners, or between countries.

Twenty-five years after the launch of the Barcelona Process, a Euro-Mediterranean regional approach is more than ever relevant to tackle climate change and water scarcity issues. At the core of its mission, and within the framework of the ministerial mandate entrusted to it, the UfM emphasises the need for a regional dialogue through its Water Agenda to ensure that each and every Euro-Mediterranean country receives the necessary technical, administrative, and financial recommendations to help achieve water security for its population and their economic activities, taking into account its impact on agriculture, employment, hygiene and climate change.

The UfM has conducted a mapping of the region’s water financial needs and has developed a regional Water Agenda setting out a series of technical and financial recommendations to leverage investments and propose new operational and innovative partnerships, notably through sustainable financing. Technical workshops have taken place in Lebanon, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Greece, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and others are to be held this year, namely in Tunisia and Jordan.

UfM Deputy Secretary General for Water, Environment and Blue Economy, Isidro González said: “Addressing the pressing challenge of water scarcity, which is nowadays exacerbated by the consequences of climate change, is fundamental to contribute to stability in our region. All the activities implemented under the UfM Water Agenda aim to ensure access to safe drinking water as a fundamental human right and with a particular focus of leaving no one behind.”

This regional initiative is implemented to help achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal, 'Ensure access to water and sanitation for all', in the Euro-Mediterranean area. The UfM Water Agenda aims to facilitate general access to sanitation services, including in rural areas, by sharing best and adapted practices from prior experiences in UfM countries. This includes the improvement of treated wastewater reuse as a nonconventional resource that can contribute to mitigating local water shortage.

Highlights of UfM support to regional projects and initiatives on water

  • The Water and Environment Support (WES), a EU-funded project part of the UfM Water Agenda, will focus on strengthening the efficient use of water in urban and rural areas, the appropriate treatment of waste water to allow for its use/re-use, as well as the cost-recovery and affordability of water services. WES will implement its activities from June onwards in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Libya, Palestine and Tunisia.
  • The Integrated Programme for protection of the Lake Bizerte against pollution, endorsed by the UfM Member States, seeks to contribute majorly to the depollution of the Lake of Bizerte, in northern Tunisia, and reduce indirect pollution impacting the Mediterranean Sea, thereby improving the environmental and socio-economic conditions for more than 400,000 inhabitants.
  • The Desalination Facility for the Gaza strip project will supply drinking water to 2 million Palestinian inhabitants, ensuring a sustainable solution for the chronic and longstanding water shortage and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where over 95% of the water is not drinkable due to the over-pumping of a polluting coastal aquifer.

Brexit

UK will remain global leader for asset management after Brexit: Sunak

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British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak (pictured) said on Tuesday (24 November) that he was determined that the United Kingdom would remain a global leader for asset management after Brexit, writes William Schomberg.

“We’re beginning a new relationship with the EU. And as we do so, we are determined that the UK will remain a global leader for asset management,” Sunak said in comments to a conference organized by The Investment Association, an industry group.

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coronavirus

Commission approves €4.4 million Romanian aid scheme to compensate regional airport operators for damage suffered due to coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a RON 21.3 million (approximately €4.4m) Romanian aid scheme to compensate Romanian regional airport operators for the damage suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak. In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, on 16 March 2020, Romania imposed the gradual suspension of most of the commercial flights to and from Romania. Due to those flight bans as well as flight restrictions in other countries, the airlines operating at Romanian regional airports gradually reduced their scheduled flights, culminating in the total cessation of their operations on 25 March 2020. Until 17 June 2020, no scheduled international commercial flights took place at such airports, leaving passenger traffic close to zero.

Air traffic started resuming only as of July 2020. Under the scheme, which will be open to operators of Romanian airports with an annual passenger traffic between 200,000 and 3 million, the Romanian authorities will be able to compensate those airports for the net losses suffered during the period between 16 March and 30 June 2020. as a result of the restrictive measures on international and domestic air passenger services implemented by Romania and other countries.

The support will take the form of direct grants. 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 companies for the damage directly caused by exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak. The Commission found that the Romanian scheme will provide compensation for damage that is directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage.

On this basis, the Commission 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.58676 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission approves €145 million Hungarian recapitalization scheme to support companies affected by coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved an approximately €145 million (HUF 50 billion) scheme to provide liquidity and capital support to companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The support will take the form of (i) debt instruments in the form of subordinated loans; (ii) equity instruments in the form of recapitalizations; and (iii) convertible loans (hybrid instruments).

The scheme will be managed by two state funds managed by Hiventures Zrt and, in order to ensure their return on the investments, the Funds will become shareholders in all beneficiaries. This means that the recapitalization will be a mandatory component of aid, whereas it will be possible to combine it with debt and/or hybrid instruments. This will also provide each beneficiary with a balanced support, which can include both equity and debt, thus avoiding distorting the company's financial position.

The Commission found that the scheme notified by Hungary is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. This includes the obligation for beneficiaries that are large enterprises  to publish information on the use of the aid received, including on how this aid supports the company's activities in line with EU and national obligations linked to the green and digital transformation.

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 measure under EU state aid rules. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58420 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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