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Economy

Sustainable transport: EU funds clean buses, electric charging infrastructure and more in France, Germany, Italy and Spain

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Following the EU's investment of €2.2 billion in 140 key transport projects to jump-start the green recovery, as announced in July, the EU is contributing additional €54 million to five projects that aim at delivering safer and greener transport services. Among the selection are projects deploying cleaner busses with charging infrastructure in Paris and Barcelona. The projects also involve constructing 255 new electric charging stations on Italian roads, and installing ERTMS, the European Rail Traffic Management System on 238 rail vehicles in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

The projects will be supported through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), the EU's financial mechanism supporting transport infrastructure, and further contribute to decarbonizing transport as set out in the European Green Deal. These projects were selected through the CEF Blending Facility, which allows the leveraging of additional private financing for the projects, in addition to the EU's support. In total, CEF has now supported 932 projects, with €23.1bn in total. You can find more details on today's five new selected projects here.

Brexit

EU says there is a deal to be done, but reminds the UK that 'Brexit means Brexit'

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Following last week’s European Council, European Council President Charles Michel, Vice President Maroš Šefčovič and EU Chief negotiator for relations with the UK Michel Barnier presented the conclusions to MEPs.

The British government, through its Chief Negotiator Lord Frost, appeared to take the hump at the replacement of the word ‘intensify’ with the word ‘continue’ in the conclusions of last week’s European Council meeting. There was much sabre-rattling from the British side and much continuity from the EU side. 

Today (21 October), the conclusions were reiterated, but this time a Downing Street spokesperson replied: "We note with interest the EU's negotiator has commented in a significant way on the issues behind the current difficulties in our talks. We're studying carefully what was said. David Frost will discuss the situation when he speaks to Michel Barnier later today."

Charles Michel borrowed from Theresa May, saying that “Brexit means Brexit” and that this means making choices. He said that EU leaders want a deal, but not just any deal: “No other economy is as closely aligned to ours as the British economy. We need to ensure that the European Union and the United Kingdom's companies face fair competition on the EU market, this is why we have put so much emphasis on ensuring a level playing field on governance and conflict resolution. Together with fisheries these are the main outstanding issues where we are still far apart.”

Michel Barnier pointed to the progress that has been paid on many fronts including transportation where the UK has agreed to specific level playing field provisions in road transportation. He also mentioned progress on Europol and Eurojust co-operation, data protection, energy, social security coordination, trade in goods and on European programmes such as Horizon (R&D) and Erasmus. However, he said that much progress was needed on fisheries and governance.

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Brexit

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

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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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Cyber-espionage

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

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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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