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European Union must adapt to paradigm shift in the #MiddleEast

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Historical news, extraordinary development. Without doubt one of the main news this summer in the world: the decision of the United Arab Emirates, one of the most important Gulf state, to normalize its relations with the State of Israel, writes Yossi Lempkowicz, Senior Media Advisor Europe Israel Press Association (EIPA).
A decision that prefigures a complete change of attitude of the Arab countries towards Israel which is no longer seen as the enemy of the Arab world but on the contrary as an ally and partner in peace, security and economic development of the whole region.
Abu Dhabi became the third capital after Cairo and Amman to cross the Rubicon. Other countries are expected to follow. We are now talking about Oman, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco ... and why not Saudi Arabia. A normalization which illustrates the rise of a new generation of Arab leaders who have a different vision of the region.
This UAE-Israel agreement, obtained under the auspices of the Trump administration, deals an undoubtedly fatal blow to the dogma - widely held in Europe and elsewhere in the world - that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a condition for a recognition of Israel by Arab countries. A concept which has allowed the Palestinian leadership to maintain over the years a negative attitude towards any attempt at negotiation with Israel. It should be a game changer.
One stone, two blows. In addition to the normalization of relations between the two countries and eventually the installation of reciprocal embassies and the launch of direct flights, the agreement also provides for an essential element for the Emirates: the specific acceptance by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the suspension of his  plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). A project that was nevertheless part of Netanyahu's electoral promises. "The priority is to expand the circle of peace," he told Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia.
According to a Channel 12 poll, nearly 80% of Israelis prefer a normalization agreement with Arab countries to an extension of Israeli sovereignty.
‘’Delaying the annexation (of territories), or preferably cancelling it, will save Israel unnecessary political, security and economic costs and allow it to focus on the real national security challenges ahead: the economy, Covid -19, Iran, Hezbollah and Gaza,'' said Amos Yadlin, who heads the prestigious Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv.
There are two camps in the Middle East today. Those who oppose radical Islam, want to promote peace, stability and economic development in the region - including Israel and the UAE, other Gulf countries, but also Egypt, Jordan - and those who, like Iran and Turkey (along with Qatar), seek hegemonic and warlike domination of the region through their proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas and other Muslim Brotherhood. As in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Gaza or Libya.
The agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel clearly marks a change in perception of the Jewish state in the Arab world. Israel is no longer seen by these countries as a threat but as a stabilizing force in a volatile and chaotic region. Israel is also a military, technological and economic power with which to cooperate.
“The clause (of the agreement) inviting every peace-loving Muslim to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem signals to the Islamic world that the only road to Jerusalem is through peace with Israel,” writes Amos Yadlin.
“The Palestinians made the mistake of repeatedly condemning the ties forged over the years by their Arab brethren with Israel, preferring to hug false friends in Tehran and Ankara. In reality, it is the Palestinians who abandoned their Arab brothers in favor of foreign usurpers. Powerful Arab countries have had enough and choose to promote their national security interests without taking into account the moods of the Palestinians,’’ writes Dmitri Shfutinsky of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
Will the Europeans abandon their outdated conception of the Middle East peace process - more particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - and understand the fact that this normalization agreement constitutes the prelude to a deep regional geopolitical evolution? A new paradigm.
Did EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell get it when he welcomed the normalization deal, while acknowledging the ‘’constructive role’’ played by the United States in this regard? Such normalization will benefit both countries and will constitute a "fundamental step for the stabilization of the entire region," he stressed. He also called Israel's commitment to suspend plans to extend sovereignty to part of the West Bank as "a positive step." A project that the Europeans had been trying for several months to convince Israel to abandon ... One less thorn in the complex relations between the EU and Israel.
After a phone conversation with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, his German counterpart Heiko Maas, whose country currently holds the presidency of the European Union, said the normalization deal could provide a ‘'new momentum’’ towards peace in the region….
A message relayed by the head of French diplomacy Jean-Yves Le Drian who speaks of a "new state of mind" illustrated by these announcements which should allow the resumption of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Now that the annexation project in the West Bank - the main stumbling block for the EU - has been frozen thanks to the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, it is high time for the leaders of the European Union to take a decision. initiative to strengthen those in the Middle East who break taboos and seek to expand the circle of peace.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

Belgium

Commission approves €45 million Belgian scheme to support companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €45 million Belgian scheme to support companies active in the Brussels-Capital region affected by the coronavirus outbreak and the restrictive measures that the Belgian government had to implement to limit the spread of the virus. The public support was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. Under the scheme, which goes under the name 'la prime Relance', the aid will take the form of direct grants. Eligible beneficiaries are companies of all sizes active in the following sectors: nightclubs, restaurants and cafés (‘ReCa') and some of their suppliers, events, culture, tourism, sport and passenger transport. In order to be eligible, companies must have been registered in the Central Bank for Enterprises (‘la Banque-Carrefour des Enterprises' ) by 31 December 2020. The Commission found that the Belgian scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the support (i) will not exceed €1.8 million per company; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021.

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. 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.64775 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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European Commission

Macro-financial assistance: EU disburses €125 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina and €50 million to the Republic of Moldova

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The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, has carried out another round of disbursements under the €3 billion macro-financial assistance package for ten enlargement and neighbourhood partners. The programme is a concrete demonstration of the EU's solidarity with its partners to help respond to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission has disbursed €125 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina and €50 million to the Republic of Moldova. This support is provided through loans at very favourable rates. With these disbursements, the EU has successfully completed five out of the 10 MFA programmes in the €3 billion COVID-19 MFA package, and disbursed the first tranches to all partners. The Commission continues to work closely with the rest of its MFA partners on the timely implementation of the agreed policy programmes. 

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European Commission

NextGenerationEU: European Commission endorses Finland's €2.1 billion recovery and resilience plan

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The European Commission has adopted a positive assessment of Finland's recovery and resilience plan. This is an important step towards the EU disbursing €2.1 billion in grants to Finland under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The financing provided by the RRF will support the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Finland's recovery and resilience plan. It will play a significant role in enabling Finland to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RRF is the key instrument at the heart of NextGenerationEU which will provide up to €800bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across the EU. The Finnish plan forms part of an unprecedented coordinated EU response to the COVID-19 crisis, to address common European challenges by embracing the green and digital transitions, to strengthen economic and social resilience and the cohesion of the Single Market.

The Commission assessed Finland's plan based on the criteria set out in the RRF Regulation. The Commission's analysis considered, in particular, whether the investments and reforms contained in Finland's plan support the green and digital transitions; contribute to effectively addressing challenges identified in the European Semester; and strengthen its growth potential, job creation and economic and social resilience.

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Securing Finland's green and digital transitions  

The Commission's assessment finds that Finland's plan devotes 50% of the plan's total allocation on measures that support climate objectives. Finland has announced an ambitious target for achieving carbon neutrality by 2035. The reforms and investments included in the plan will make an important contribution to Finland achieving this objective. The plan addresses each of the highest emitting sectors in turn, namely energy, housing, industry and transport. It includes reforms to phase out the use of coal in energy production, changes to taxation to favour cleaner technologies, and a reform of the Waste Act with increased targets for recycling and reuse. On the investment side, the plan will finance clean energy technologies and related infrastructure, industry decarbonisation, the replacement of oil boilers with low- or zero-carbon heating systems and private and public charging points for electric cars.

The Commission's assessment finds that Finland's plan devotes 27% of its total allocation on measures that support the digital transition. The plan includes measures to improve high-speed internet connectivity, particularly in rural areas, support the digitalisation of businesses and the public sector, enhance digital skills of the workforce and support the development of key technologies such as artificial intelligence, 6G and microelectronics.

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Reinforcing Finland's economic and social resilience

The Commission considers that Finland's plan includes an extensive set of mutually reinforcing reforms and investments that contribute to effectively addressing the economic and social challenges outlined in the country-specific recommendations addressed to Finland in recent years.

It contains a broad set of reform measures to raise the employment rate and strengthen the functioning of the labour market, ranging from the transformation of Public Employment Services to improving and facilitating access to social and healthcare services. The plan includes specific measures to provide integration support for young people and people with partial work-capacity. The plan also includes measures to strengthen the effective supervision and enforcement of Finland's anti-money laundering framework.

The plan represents a comprehensive and balanced response to the economic and social situation of Finland, thereby contributing appropriately to all six pillars referred to in the RRF Regulation.

Supporting flagship investment and reform projects

Finland's plan proposes projects in all seven European flagship areas. These are specific investment projects, which address issues that are common to all Member States in areas that create jobs and growth and are needed for the green and digital transition. For instance, Finland has proposed to provide €161 million to investments in new energy technologies and €60m toward the decarbonisation of industrial processes to support the green transition. To support the digital transition, the plan will invest €50m in the rollout of rapid broadband services and €93m to support the development of digital skills as part of continuous learning and labour market reforms.

The Commission's assessment finds that none of the measures included in the plan significantly harms the environment, in line with the requirements laid out in the RRF Regulation.

The Commission considers that the controls systems put in place by Finland are adequate to protect the financial interests of the Union. The plan provides sufficient details on how national authorities will prevent, detect and correct instances of conflict of interest, corruption and fraud relating to the use of funds.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “I am delighted to present the European Commission's endorsement of Finland's €2.1bn recovery and resilience plan. I am proud that NextGenerationEU will make a significant contribution to support Finland's goal to become carbon neutral by 2035. The plan will also help bolster Finland's reputation for excellence in innovation with support for the development of new technologies in areas such as artificial intelligence, 6G and microelectronics. We will stand with Finland throughout the plan's implementation to ensure that the reforms and investments it contains are fully delivered.”

An Economy that Works for People Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “The Commission has today given its green light for Finland's recovery and resilience plan, which will set the country on a greener and more digital path as it recovers from the crisis. This plan will help Finland to meet its ambitious carbon-neutrality target by 2035, with reforms and investments that will reduce carbon emissions from energy production, housing, industry and transport. We welcome its focus on high-speed connectivity, particularly for sparsely populated areas to help maintain their economic activity, and on digitalising smaller businesses and the public sector. With reforms to boost employment and strengthen the labour market, Finland's plan will promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth once it is put into effect.”

Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said: “Finland's €2.1bn recovery and resilience plan is strongly focused on the green transition. No less than 50% of its total allocation is set to support climate objectives, helping to speed the country towards its ambitious target of carbon neutrality by 2035. The plan also contains an array of measures to boost Finland's already strong digital competitiveness. I particularly welcome the Finnish plan's strong social elements, with measures to raise the employment rate, tackle youth unemployment and facilitate access to social and healthcare services.”

Next steps

The Commission has today adopted a proposal for a decision to provide €2.1bn in grants to Finland under the RRF. The Council will now have, as a rule, four weeks to adopt the Commission's proposal.

The Council's approval of the plan would allow for the disbursement of €271m to Finland in pre-financing. This represents 13% of the total allocated amount for Finland.

The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones and targets outlined in the recovery and resilience plan, reflecting progress on the implementation of the investments and reforms. 

More information

Questions and Answers: European Commission endorses Finland's €2.1bn recovery and resilience plan

Factsheet on Finland's recovery and resilience plan

Proposal for a Council Implementing Decision on the approval of the assessment of the recovery and resilience plan for Finland

Annex to the Proposal for a Council Implementing Decision on the approval of the assessment of the recovery and resilience plan for Finland

Staff-working document accompanying the proposal for a Council Implementing Decision

Recovery and Resilience Facility

Recovery and Resilience Facility: Questions and Answers

Recovery and Resilience Facility Regulation

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