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Commission and European Investment Fund provide financial boost to small agricultural businesses in Lithuania



Through the EU programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), the European Investment Fund together with the private equity fund Helenos is investing €3 million to strengthen the lending capacities of the Lithuanian Central Credit Union (LCCU). The LCCU has a strong social mission, serving clients that usually have limited access to traditional finance, such as small and micro-sized agricultural companies in rural areas.

It also explicitly supports start-ups, for instance through dedicated business advice, and has a wide regional outreach with its 45 credit unions covering the entire country. Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit said: “The past months have shown us how important it is to invest in our local economies and support small businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, I welcome this agreement under the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation which will enable the Lithuanian Central Credit Union to provide financing to even more microenterprises in Lithuania's agricultural sector, as well as offering them crucial advisory services.”

The press release is available here.


As clock ticks, EU and UK tell each other to budge on Brexit



A frustrated European Union and piqued Britain both exhorted the other on Tuesday (20 October) to compromise to avoid a fast-approaching disruptive finale to the five-year Brexit drama that would add to economic pain from the coronavirus crisis, write Elizabeth Piper, Michael Holden and Costas Pitas in London.
Failure to clinch a trade deal when Britain leaves a standstill transition period on 31 December would sow chaos through supply chains and undermine Europe’s economy as it already sees jobs and businesses pulverized by the COVID-19 disease.

After an EU demand for concessions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke off talks and said it was time to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

The EU has since offered to intensify talks and open discussions on legal texts of a draft deal, but Britain maintains there is no basis to resume discussions without a fundamental change in approach.

“My message: we should be making the most out of the little time left,” Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said after a telephone call with British counterpart David Frost.

“Our door remains open.”

The European Commission said it was ready to negotiate though both sides would have to compromise.

UK says Brexit talks situation remains unchanged

Johnson’s spokesman said the EU had to show it was taking a fundamentally different approach.

EU diplomats cast Britain’s moves as bluster and a frantic bid to secure concessions before a last-minute deal, though an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel said chances of a deal were narrowing.

“At the moment, I see the chances worse than 50-50,” Detlef Seif, Brexit rapporteur for Merkel’s conservatives in the lower house of parliament, told Reuters. “The ball is still in Britain’s court at the moment.”

There is concern in some European capitals that Johnson may judge that the domestic political benefits and potentially the long-term economic freedom of a noisy no-deal exit outweigh the benefits of a shallow trade deal.

“If they want to get back to the negotiating table, they can,” said one EU diplomat. “If they want to jump – we won’t be able to stop them.”

“All this posturing is only aimed at strengthening Johnson’s hand. If they don’t want to talk, that’s their choice. There is no point at this stage to give them anything more,” said another EU diplomat.

Britain formally left the EU at the end of January, but the two sides have been haggling over a deal that would govern $900 billion in trade from car parts to medicines.

Johnson and his Brexit supremo Michael Gove will tell businesses on a video call on Tuesday to step up preparations for the end of the transition period.

Failure to strike a deal with the EU would be “extremely damaging” and cut profits by up to a quarter at carmaker Bentley, its boss told Reuters, as the government urges firms to plan for potential disruption.

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EU Threat Landscape Report: Cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated, targeted and widespread



On 20 October, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) published its yearly report summarizing the main cyber threats encountered between 2019 and 2020. The report reveals that the attacks are continuously expanding by becoming more sophisticated, targeted, widespread and often undetected, while for the majority of them the motivation is financial. There is also an increase of phishing, spam and targeted attacks in the social media platforms. During the coronavirus pandemic, the cybersecurity of health services was challenged, while the adoption of teleworking regimes, distance learning, interpersonal communication, and teleconferencing also changed the cyberspace.

The EU is taking strong action to strengthen cybersecurity capacities: It will update legislation in the area of cybersecurity, with a new Cybersecurity Strategy coming up by the end of 2020, and is investing in cybersecurity research and capacity building, as well as in raising awareness about new cyber threats and trends, such as through the annual Cybersecurity Month campaign. The ENISA Threat Landscape Report is available here and a press release is available here.

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EIT Awards 2020: Announcement of nominees



On 20 October, the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) unveiled the list of 28 outstanding entrepreneurs from across Europe nominated for the EIT Awards 2020. The nominees will compete in four categories: the EIT Venture Award celebrating outstanding start-ups and scale-ups; the EIT Change Award recognising top graduates from EIT entrepreneurial education programmes; the EIT Innovators Award for individuals and teams that have developed high impact innovative products; and the EIT Woman Award, putting the spotlight on inspiring female entrepreneurs and leaders.

In addition, the public has the opportunity to vote for their favorite innovation in the EIT Public Award. Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, responsible for the EIT, said: “Through the EIT, the EU invests in its brightest innovators as they help to create a greener, healthier, and more sustainable society for Europe's citizens. The nominees for this year's Awards are based in 13 countries and are a testament to the EIT's ability to identify and drive the most promising innovation projects. I congratulate them all on reaching this stage and I look forward to the EIT Awards 2020 ceremony in December.''

Each award in the four main categories comes with a monetary prize of €50,000 (first place), €20,000 (second place), and €10,000 (third place). Nominees will pitch their innovations publicly online on 8 December, and the winners in the five categories will be announced in a live award ceremony on 9 December. The full list of nominees and their innovations can be found here. Online voting for the EIT Public Award will commence on 16 November here. More information is available in the EIT press release.

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