The Commission has announced that it is committing more than €38 million, through Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation programme, to support several innovative projects in the field of protection of critical infrastructure against cyber and physical threats and making cities smarter and safer.
Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “Over the past years we have offered our support to research and innovation actions in the area of cybersecurity that contribute to better protecting key infrastructure and the people living in European smart cities. I am pleased that today we are able to offer yet another significant amount of funding through Horizon 2020 towards security, privacy and threat mitigating solutions.”
Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton added: “Securing network and information systems and enhancing cyber resilience are key for shaping Europe's digital future. As we are faced with a diverse array of cybersecurity threats, the EU is taking concrete measures to protect critical infrastructures, cities and citizens. More investments at EU and national level in innovative cybersecurity technologies and solutions are of paramount importance to strengthen EU's resilience to cyberattacks.”
Three projects (SAFETY4RAILS, 7SHIELDand ENSURESEC) will work to improve prevention, detection, response and mitigation of cyber and physical threatsfor metro and railway networks, ground space infrastructure and satellites, as well as e-commerce and delivery services. Two additional projects (IMPETUS and S4ALLCITIES) aim at enhancing the resilience of cities' infrastructures and services and protecting citizens in case of security incidents in public spaces. The projects are expected to start between June and October 2020 and will run for two years. The support is part of the EU's commitment to build a strong cybersecurity culture and enhanced capabilities to resist and respond effectively to potential cyber threats and attacks.
More information on the EU's actions to strengthen cybersecurity capacities is available in these Q&A, while EU-funded cybersecurity projects can be found here, and new funding opportunities under Horizon 2020 here.
European strategy for data: What MEPs want
Find out how MEPs want to shape the EU's rules for non-personal data sharing to boost innovation and the economy while protecting privacy.
Data is at the heart of the EU's digital transformation that is influencing all aspects of society and the economy. It is necessary for the development of artificial intelligence, which is one of the EU's priorities, and presents significant opportunities for innovation, recovery after the Covid-19 crisis and growth, for example in health and green technologies.
Read more about big data opportunities and challenges.
Responding to the European Commission's European Strategy for Data, Parliament's industry, research and energy committee called for legislation focussed on people based on European values of privacy and transparency that will enable Europeans and EU-based companies to benefit from the potential of industrial and public data in a report adopted on 24 February 2021.
The benefits of an EU data economy
MEPs said that the crisis has shown the need for efficient data legislation that will support research and innovation. Large quantities of quality data, notably non-personal - industrial, public, and commercial - already exist in the EU and their full potential is yet to be explored. In the coming years, much more data will be generated. MEPs expect data legislation to help tap into this potential and make data available to European companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises, and researchers.
Enabling data flow between sectors and countries will help European businesses of all sizes to innovate and thrive in Europe and beyond and help establish the EU as a leader in the data economy.
The Commission projects that the data economy in the EU could grow from €301 billion in 2018 to €829 billion in 2025, with the number of data professionals rising from 5.7 to 10.9 million.
Europe's global competitors, such as the US and China, are innovating quickly and applying their ways of data access and use. To become a leader in the data economy, the EU should find a European way to unleash potential and set standards.
Rules to protect privacy, transparency and fundamental rights
MEPs said rules should be based on privacy, transparency and respect for fundamental rights. The frree sharing of data must be limited to non-personal data or irreversibly anonymised data. Individuals must be in full control of their data and be protected by EU data protection rules, notably the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The committee called on the Commission and EU countries to work with other countries on global standards to promote EU values and principles and ensure the Union’s market remains competitive.
European data spaces and big data infrastructure
Calling for the free flow of data to be the guiding principle, MEPs urged the Commission and EU countries to create sectoral data spaces that will enable the sharing of data while following common guidelines, legal requirements and protocols. In light of the pandemic, MEPs said that special attention should be given to the Common European Health Data Space.
As the success of the data strategy depends largely on information and communication technology infrastructure, MEPs called for accelerating technological developments in the EU, such as cybersecurity technology, optical fibres, 5G and 6G, and welcomed proposals to advance Europe's role in supercomputing and quantum computing. They warned that the digital divide between regions should be tackled to ensure equal possibilities, especially in light of the post-Covid recovery.
Environmental footprint of big data
While data has the potential to support green technologies and the EU's goal to become climate neutral by 2050, the digital sector is responsible for more than 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As it grows, it must focus on lowering its carbon footprint and reducing E-waste, MEPs said.
EU data sharing legislation
The Commission presented a European strategy for data in February 2020. The strategy and the White paper on artificial intelligence are the first pillars of the Commission's digital strategy.
Read more about artificial intelligence opportunities and what the Parliament wants.
The industry, research and energy committee expects the report will be taken into account in the new Data Act that the Commission will present in the second half of 2021.
Parliament is also working on a report on the Data Governance Act that the Commission presented in December 2020 as part of the strategy for data. It aims to increase data availability and strengthen trust in data sharing and in intermediaries.
Parliament is set to vote on the committee report during a plenary session in March.
A European strategy for data
Data Governance Act: European data governance
Commission approves €26 million Irish aid scheme to compensate airport operators in context of coronavirus outbreak
The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a €26 million Irish aid scheme to compensate airport operators for the losses caused by the coronavirus outbreak and the travel restrictions imposed by Ireland to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The aid consists of three measures: (i) a damage compensation measure; (ii) an aid measure to support the airport operators up to a maximum of €1.8 million per beneficiary; and (iii) an aid measure to support the uncovered fixed costs of these companies.
The aid will take the form of direct grants. In case of support for the uncovered fixed costs, aid can also be granted in the form of guarantees and loans. The damage compensation measure will be open to operators of Irish airports that handled more than 1 million passengers in 2019. Under this measure, these operators can be compensated for the net losses suffered during the period between 1 April and 30 June 2020 as a result of the restrictive measures implemented by the Irish authorities in order to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The Commission assessed the first measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and found that it 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. With regard to the other two measures, the Commission found that they are in line with the conditions set out in the state aid Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021 and (ii) will not exceed €1.8 million per beneficiary under the second measure and will not exceed €10 million per beneficiary under the third measure.
The Commission concluded that both measures 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 three measures under EU State aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other 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.59709 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.
Aviation: Slot relief enacted
Following a proposal by the Commission from December 2020, the Council has adopted the amendment to the Slot Regulation that relieves airlines of airport slot-use requirements for the summer 2021 scheduling season. The amendment allows airlines to return up to half of the airport slots that they have been allocated before the start of the season.
Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean said: “We welcome the final text of the amendment which allows to better adjust slot rules to consumer demand for air travel, fosters competition and sets the path for a gradual return to normal rules. I expect that this initiative will incentivise airlines to make efficient use of airport capacity, and that it will ultimately benefit EU consumers.”
The Commission has delegated powers for one year after the amendment enters into force, and so can extend the rules until the end of the summer 2022 season, if necessary. The Commission may also adapt the use rate within a range of 30-70%, depending on how air traffic volumes evolve. The legal acts will be published in the EU Official Journal in the coming days and enter into force the day after their publication. You will find more details here.
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