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Cleaner cities for all: Commission launches European Mobility Week 2020 to promote zero-emission mobility

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Today (16 September) marks the start of the 19th European Mobility Week, the European Commission's yearly campaign promoting clean and sustainable urban mobility. Running from 16–22 September, the event will see thousands of towns and cities from over 40 countries organizing activities that put zero-emission mobility for all in the spotlight.

It includes the well-known car-free day, when roads are closed for motorised traffic and open for people on foot, bike, e-scooter etc. Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean, said: “This year is a big challenge for our towns and cities. But the pandemic also showed us that people appreciate and expect our cities to become safer, cleaner and accessible to all. During this week and beyond, our partner cities from all around Europe will show how greener and more digital European towns and cities could look.”

Additionally, and in co-operation with the campaign, the European network of road traffic police forces (ROADPOL) is organising a new campaign for road safety – the ROADPOL Safety Days. The national police forces will record the number of road fatalities on 17 September, aiming to reach zero deaths on that day. This year's theme ‘zero-emission mobility for all' does not only reflect the European Green Deal's ambitious targets of a carbon-neutral continent by 2050, but also the often overlooked importance of accessibility to zero-emission transport. More information can be found here.

EU

MEPs to grill Frontex director on agency’s role in pushbacks of asylum-seekers

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The European Parliament will grill Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri on allegations of the involvement of the agency’s staff in illegal pushbacks of asylum-seekers by the Greek border guard will be the focus of a debate in the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee on Tuesday.

MEPs are set to demand answers from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency’s Executive Director regarding the incidents in which Greek coastguards are alleged to have stopped migrants trying to reach EU shores and sent them back to Turkish waters. They are likely to ask about the outcome of the internal inquiry carried out by the EU’s border agency and the board meeting called at the request of the European Commission.

Last October, ahead of media revelations, the Frontex consultative forum - which gathers, among others, representatives of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), UNHCR, the Council of Europe and IOM- voiced concerns in its annual report. The forum pointed to the absence of an effective monitoring system of potential fundamental rights violations in the Agency’s activities.

On 6 July, in another Civil Liberties Committee meeting, Fabrice Leggeri assured MEPs that Frontex staff had not been involved in any pushbacks and described an incident with the Danish crew onboard one of the agency’s vessels as “a misunderstanding”.

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Soros calls for EU to issue ‘perpetual bonds’ through enhanced cooperation

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In an opinion piece in Project Syndicate, George Soros outlined his idea of how the current impasse with Poland and Hungary over rule of law conditionality can be surmounted. 

Soros attributes Hungary’s veto of the EU budget and COVID-19 recovery fund to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s concerns that the EU’s new rule of law conditionality linked to the budget would “impose practical limits on his personal and political corruption [...] He [Orbán] is so worried that he has concluded a binding cooperation agreement with Poland, dragging that country down with him”.

Soros says the “enhanced cooperation” procedure introduced in the Lisbon Treaty to “provide a legal basis for further eurozone integration” could be used. 

Enhanced cooperation allows a group of at least nine nations to implement measures if all member states fail to reach agreement, other countries can join later if they want. The procedure is designed to overcome paralysis. Soros argues that a “sub-group of member states” could set a budget and agree on a way to fund it – such as through a “joint bond”.

Soros has previously argued that the EU should issue perpetual bonds, but now regards this as impossible, “because of a lack of faith among investors that the EU will survive.” He says these bonds would be “readily accepted by long-term investors such as life-insurance companies”. 

Soros also places some of the blame at the door of the so-called Frugal Five (Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden) who are “more interested in saving money than in contributing to the common good”. 

Italy, according to Soros, needs the benefits from perpetual bonds more than other countries, but “is not fortunate enough” to be able to issue them in its own name. It would be a “wonderful gesture of solidarity”, adding that Italy is also the EU’s third largest economy: “Where would the EU be without Italy?” 

Providing health care and resuscitating the economy, says Soros, will require much more than the €1.8 trillion ($2.2 trillion) earmarked in the new Next Generation EU budget and recovery fund.

George Soros is Chairman of Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Foundations. A pioneer of the hedge-fund industry, he is the author of The Alchemy of Finance, The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What it Means, and, most recently, In Defense of Open Society.

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EU/US agreement will reassert the co-operation of open societies

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Today (30 November) ambassadors will gather in Brussels to prepare for next week’s Foreign Affairs Council and European Council of heads of government. Top of the list will be the future of EU/US relations.

The discussions will focus on five building blocks: Fighting the COVID-19; enhancing economic recovery; combatting climate change; upholding multilateralism; and, promoting peace and security. 

A strategy paper places the emphasis on the cooperation of open democratic societies and market economies, as a way of addressing the strategic challenge presented by China's growing international assertiveness.

The European Council president Charles Michel will be consulting with leaders over the next week and will also coordinate with NATO to plan a summit in the first half of 2021.

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