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Commission publishes study on directors' duties and sustainable corporate governance    

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The Commission has published the findings of its study on directors' duties and sustainable corporate governance. The study shows that listed companies within the EU still tend to focus on short-term benefits of shareholders rather than on the long-term interests of companies. In its Communication on the European Green Deal as well as the recent Repair and prepare recovery plan, the Commission had highlighted that sustainability should be further embedded into the corporate governance framework.

Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said: “I am committed to achieving a more sustainable corporate governance. By sustainable, we mean encouraging businesses to frame decisions in terms of environmental, social and human impact for the long-term, rather than focuses on short-term gains. This study, focusing on directors ‘duties, helps us see the root causes of ‘short-termism' and identify possible EU-level solutions. We see support for mandatory rules, encompassing both director duties and a corporate due diligence duty. Therefore the Commission is launching work for an initiative on sustainable corporate governance. The aim is to enable companies to overcome short-term pressures, act in the best long-term interest of the company while being accountable for the sustainability of their companies' business conduct.  This will be beneficial for the sustainability of the businesses as well as for reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate.”

The data assessed by the study indicates a clear upward trend in corporate payouts to shareholders compared to revenues, while the ratio of investment to revenues has been declining. Its main findings suggest that there is growing pressure from investors as well as a lack of a strategic perspective over sustainability risks, impacts, and opportunities. The study also finds that current board remuneration structures and board expertise pose challenges for sustainability.

Furthermore, there is a lack of stakeholder input in the company's decision-making and limited enforcement of the directors' duties when it comes to acting in the long-term interests of the company. A public consultation on sustainable corporate governance will be launched in autumn 2020. The Inception Impact Assessment for the initiative laying out the Commission's initial ideas on the reasons for and the aims of the initiative is open for feedback. Today's study has been conducted under Action 10 of the Commission's 2018 Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth, together with the Study on Due Diligence requirements through the supply chain. Full details can be read on the study.

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Belgium

Clashes break out in Brussels in protests over coronavirus restrictions

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Police and protesters clashed in the streets of Brussels on Sunday (21 November) in demonstrations over government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions, with police firing water cannon and tear gas at demonstrators throwing rocks and smoke bombs, witnesses said, write Christian Levaux, Johnny Cotton and Sabine Siebold, Reuters.

About 35,000 people took part in demonstrations, police said, which began peacefully before violence broke out.

Protesters wearing black hoods threw stones at police as they advanced with water cannon at the main junction in front of the European Union Commission headquarters, Reuters journalists said.

Facing up to the police lines, the protesters held hands and chanted "freedom". One protester was carrying a placard reading "when tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty".

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Police forces stand guard as people protest against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) measures near the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Protesters also threw smoke bombs and fireworks, the newspaper Le Soir reported. The situation calmed down later, police said.

Belgium tightened its coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday (17 November), mandating wider use of masks and enforcing work from home, as cases rose in the country's fourth COVID-19 wave. Read more.

There have been 1,581,500 infections and 26,568 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country of 11.7 million people since the pandemic began. Infections are increasing again, with 13,826 new cases reported on average each day.

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Violence has also broken out in anti-restriction protests in Belgium's neighbour the Netherlands in recent days. On Friday, police in Rotterdam opened fire on a crowd.

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European Commission

NextGenerationEU: Commission receives payment request from Spain for €10 billion under the Recovery and Resilience Facility

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The Commission has received the first payment request from Spain under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) for a disbursement of €10 billion in financial support (net of pre-financing). Spain's overall recovery and resilience plan will be financed by €69.5 billion in grants. Payments under the RRF are performance-based and contingent on Spain implementing the investments and reforms outlined in its recovery and resilience plan. This first payment request relates to 52 milestones covering several reforms in the areas of sustainable mobility, energy efficiency, decarbonisation, connectivity, public administration, skills, education and social, labour and fiscal policy.

The Commission now has two months to assess the request. It will then send its preliminary assessment of Spain's fulfilment of the milestones and targets required for this payment to the Council's Economic and Financial Committee. More information on the process of the payment requests under the RRF is available in this Q&A. More information on the Spanish recovery and resilience plan is available here.

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Belgium

'When the Smurfs meet Monkey King'

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'When the Smurfs meet Monkey King' is a children's art exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Belgium.

The successful art exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Belgium in La Louvière, the birthplace of Surrealism in Belgium that ended on 24 October gave the opportunity to nearly 300 local primary and middle school students in just one week to depict their vision of friendship between China and Belgium.

On 17 October, during the opening ceremony, Françoise Ghiot, Laurent Wimlot, aldermen of La Louvière, and their guests from China and Belgium attended the event. Counsellor Yang Qing, wife of the Chinese Ambassador to Belgium, also recorded a video for the inauguration of the event.

Counsellor Yang Qing said in her speech that she admired the exhibition held in La Louvière. Using pure and innocent artistic perspective, extraordinary creativity and imagination, the children have well defined the cultural elements of both countries. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Belgium with children’s eyes, sincere feelings, those future ambassadors of friendship have expressed their visions of a better collaborative future between the two nations.

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Ghiot said in her speech that she was very happy on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Belgium to see children’s paintings from China. The art exhibition opened a skylight of artistic exchange for local children.

This children's art exhibition was jointly curated by the city of La Louvière, the Nardone Gallery, and Yellow Vitamines. Through the LPGA (Little Painter Global International Art Exhibition), covering 40 cities and 500 aesthetic education training institutions in China, 5000 children’s work were collected and 200 were finally selected to focus on Belgium. With the innocent help of children's brushes, imagination and understanding, art and culture provided an ideal medium to understanding differences and strengthening the bond between China and Belgium.

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