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Leuven is European Capital of Innovation 2020

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The city of Leuven in Belgium is the European Capital of Innovation 2020, the Commission announced today at the European Research and Innovation Days. The title was awarded to Leuven in recognition of its excellent innovation concepts as well as its processes and governance models that enable ideas come to life.

The prize comes with a €1 million cash prize funded by Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation programme. The other five runner-up cities – Cluj-Napoca (Romania), Espoo (Finland), Helsingborg (Sweden), Valencia (Spain) and Vienna (Austria) – will receive €100,000 each to promote and scale up their innovation practices. Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “Leuven is a mission-driven city that excels in innovative governance models. It offers its people an opportunity to get involved in critical decision-making processes.

"But it's an honour to recognise the initiatives of all six winners. Their vibrant innovation ecosystems are an inspiration to all European cities.”

Leuven is the sixth city to win the European Capital of Innovation award, and the third non-capital city after Barcelona and Nantes. Leuven aims to become one of Europe's Labs of the Future through a mission-oriented model in which different groups of stakeholders come together to develop and implement innovative solutions to complex challenges, from climate change and the shift to a circular economy to ensuring high-quality education and care. This year's edition of the European Capital of Innovation Awards was launched in March 2020.

Also known as iCapital Awards, the competition was open to cities with a minimum of 100,000 inhabitants from the EU member states and countries associated with Horizon 2020. The competition first took place in 2014. Past winners include Barcelona (2014), Amsterdam (2016), Paris (2017), Athens (2018) and Nantes (2019). More information is available here.

Belgium

Coronavirus likely to affect Belgium Poppy Remembrance appeal

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It is feared that the health pandemic could affect this year's Remembrance Sunday commemorations in Belgium. The coronavirus crisis is likely to have a financial impact on the local Poppy Appeal, given that it is feared the public may well be cautious about the risks of touching collection tins and the poppies themselves. 

Even so, the Legion's Brussels branch plans to go ahead with holding a social distanced/masked ceremony at Heverlee Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Leuven on 8 November (11am).

This will be in the presence of British Ambassador Martin Shearman, UK Ambassador to NATO Dame Sarah Macintosh, as well as top brass from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, and Belgium.

Belgian rules currently allow for the event to proceed.

The Brussels branch, which celebrates its centenary in 2022, will be represented by Zoe White MBE (pictured), a former major in the British Army and the first female chair in its history.

White joined the international staff at NATO HQ in Brussels as an executive officer in 2017. She said she moved to NATO "to develop my political knowledge of defence and security matters and, most importantly, to continue to serve in an organization whose ethos and values I truly believe in."

She entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2000, after a short stint in her home unit, the Royal Gibraltar Regiment. She was commissioned into the Royal Signals and served in the Army for 17 years.

White has considerable operational experience. She deployed to Kosovo on Op Agricola, Iraq on Op Telic (three times), Afghanistan on Op Herrick (three times) and Northern Ireland on Op Banner (for two years).

She specialized in providing lifesaving measures to counter radio controlled explosive devices and was awarded the MBE for her work in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

During her last nine-month operational tour of Afghanistan she was embedded with the US Marine Corps and among other tasks, was responsible for mentoring and training the communications directors across the local uniformed services (Army, Police, Border Patrol) in Helmand - a role, she says, that taught her much about the value of authentic dialogue (and left her with a love of cardamom tea and dates).

Looking back at her military career, she says: "I was privileged to command soldiers who were technical experts and absolute forces of nature. It was a joy to serve with them."

A self-confessed "defence geek", Zoe studied Battlespace Technology at Cranfield University where she expanded her knowledge of heavy armour and "exquisite" weaponry.  She is currently studying for an MBA in her spare time.

Zoe, whose husband David is also a retired Royal Signals officer ,was elected Chair of the Brussels branch of the Royal British Legion in September 2020, succeeding Commodore Darren Bone RN. She is the first female chair of the branch since its launch in 1922.

The Prince of Wales and future King Edward VIII met founding members of the branch in June 1922.

White adds, “I am delighted to take custody of the Branch chair role. It is both a way to meaningfully continue my service to veterans and those still serving, and to continue the tradition of Remembrance in a country where so many made the ultimate sacrifice for the lives we live today.”

Branch website & contact details. 

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Belgium

Commission approves €15.8 million Belgian scheme to support hotels and aparthotels in Brussels in context of coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission approved a €15.8 million Belgian scheme to support hotels and aparthotels in the Brussels-Capital Region in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The public support will take the form of direct grants of €20,000 minimum or €200,000 maximum per hotel or aparthotel. The grants aim to provide support to affected hotels and aparthotels for lost income and ongoing operating costs, such as costs for insurance, maintenance and security.

The purpose of the measure is to mitigate the sudden liquidity shortages that these companies are facing because of the restrictive measures imposed by the government to limit the spread of the virus and to ensure continuity of their economic activity. The Commission found that the Belgian measure is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the support (i) will not exceed €800,000 per company; and (ii) will be granted no later than 31 December 2020.

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.58763 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission approves €2.2 million Belgian aid measures to support Flemish airports in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved €2.2 million Belgian aid measures to support the operators of Flemish airports (Antwerp airport, Ostend airport and Kortrijk airport) in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measures were approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The measures consist in: (i) an aid scheme, under which all Flemish airport operators will receive support in the form of a direct grant; and (ii) support to the operators of Antwerp and Ostend airports in the form of payment deferrals of certain costs and fees (namely annual compensation for the use of statutory staff of the Flemish Region and concession fee for the use of the airport infrastructure due for the year 2020).

The purpose of the aid measures is to help Flemish airport operators mitigating the liquidity shortages that they have been facing due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Commission found the measures to be in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the measures can only be granted until the end of this year; (ii) the direct grants do not exceed €800,000 per company, as provided by the Temporary Framework; and (iii) the payment deferrals will be granted by 31 December 2020, and will be due by no later than 31 December 2021 and involve minimum remuneration, in line with the Temporary Framework.

The Commission therefore concluded that the 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 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.58299 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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