The European Commission and the High Representative are today (2 December) putting forward a proposal for a new, forward-looking transatlantic agenda. While the past years have been tested by geopolitical power shifts, bilateral tensions and unilateral tendencies, the victory of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, combined with a more assertive and capable European Union and a new geopolitical and economic reality, present a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design a new transatlantic agenda for global co-operation based on our common values, interests and global influence.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) said: “We are taking the initiative to design a new transatlantic agenda fit for today's global landscape. The transatlantic alliance is based on shared values and history, but also interests: building a stronger, more peaceful and more prosperous world. When the transatlantic partnership is strong, the EU and the US are both stronger. It is time to reconnect with a new agenda for transatlantic and global cooperation for the world of today.”
EU High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell said: “With our concrete proposals for cooperation under the future Biden administration, we are sending strong messages to our US friends and allies. Let's look forward, not back. Let's rejuvenate our relationship. Let's build a partnership that delivers prosperity, stability, peace and security for citizens across our continents and around the world. There's no time to wait – let's get to work.”
A principled partnership
The EU's proposal for a new, forward-looking transatlantic agenda for global co-operation reflects where global leadership is required and is centred on overarching principles: stronger multilateral action and institutions, pursuit of common interests, leveraging collective strength, and finding solutions that respect common values. The new agenda spans four areas, highlighting first steps for joint action that would act as an initial transatlantic roadmap, to address key challenges and seize opportunities.
Working together for a healthier world: COVID-19 and beyond
The EU wants the US to join its global leadership role in promoting global cooperation in response to the coronavirus, protecting lives and livelihoods, and reopening our economies and societies. The EU wants to work with the US to ensure funding for the development and equitable global distribution of vaccines, tests and treatments, develop joint preparedness and response capacities, facilitate trade in essential medical goods, and reinforce and reform the World Health Organization.
Working together to protect our planet and prosperity
The coronavirus pandemic continues to pose significant challenges, climate change and biodiversity loss remain the defining challenges of our time. They require systemic change across our economies and global co-operation across the Atlantic and the world. The EU is proposing to establish a comprehensive transatlantic green agenda, to coordinate positions and jointly lead efforts for ambitious global agreements, starting with a joint commitment to netzero emissions by 2050.
A joint trade and climate initiative, measures to avoid carbon leakage, a green technology alliance, a global regulatory framework for sustainable finance, joint leadership in the fight against deforestation, and stepping up ocean protection all form part of the EU's proposals. Working together on technology, trade and standards Sharing values of human dignity, individual rights and democratic principles, accounting for about a third of the world's trade and standards, and facing common challenges makes the EU and US natural partners on trade, technology and digital governance.
The EU wants to work closely with the US to solve bilateral trade irritants through negotiated solutions, to lead reform of the World Trade Organization, and to establish a new EU-US Trade and Technology Council. In addition, the EU is proposing to create a specific dialogue with the US on the responsibility of online platforms and Big Tech, work together on fair taxation and market distortions, and develop a common approach to protecting critical technologies. Artificial Intelligence, data flows, and cooperation on regulation and standards also form part of the EU's proposals.
Working together towards a safer, more prosperous and more democratic world
The EU and the US share a fundamental interest in strengthening democracy, upholding international law, supporting sustainable development and promoting human rights around the world. A strong EU-US partnership will be crucial to support democratic values, as well as global and regional stability, prosperity, and conflict resolution. The European Union is proposing to re-establish a closer transatlantic partnership in different geopolitical arenas, working together to enhance co-ordination, utilise all available tools, and leverage collective influence. As initial steps, the EU will play a full part in the Summit for Democracy proposed by President-elect Biden, and will seek joint commitments with the US to fight the rise of authoritarianism, human rights abuses and corruption.
The EU is also looking to co-ordinate joint EUUS responses to promote regional and global stability, strengthen transatlantic and international security, including through a new EU-US Security and Defence Dialogue, and strengthen the multilateral system. Next steps The European Council is invited to endorse this outline and proposed first steps as a road map for a new transatlantic agenda for global cooperation, ahead of its launch at an EU-US Summit in the first half of 2021.
EU approves €2.9 billion in state aid for battery project attracting €9 billion
The Commission has approved, state aid of up to €2.9 billion in funding for an ‘Important Project of Common European Interest’ (IPCEI) to support research and innovation in the battery value chain. The twelve EU countries involved will provide public funding expected to unlock an additional €9 billion in private investments.
The project, called “European Battery Innovation” was jointly prepared and notified by Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.
€2,9bn public money crowding in €9bn for massive innovation in battery value chain - make it more sustainable. Risks can be too big for one MS/one company to take alone. Good that European governments come together to support! Benefits for the many when new knowledge is shared.
— Margrethe Vestager (@vestager) January 26, 2021
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “For those massive innovation challenges for the European economy, the risks can be too big for just one member state or one company to take alone. Today's project is an example of how competition policy works hand in hand with innovation and competitiveness. With significant support also comes responsibility: the public has to benefit from its investment, which is why companies receiving aid have to generate positive spillover effects across the EU.”
When Vestager was asked if companies from outside the EU, such as Tesla, could benefit from this funding she said that this was possible and showed that the EU was committed to open strategic autonomy and welcomes non-EU firms when they have the right projects.
The Vice-President for Foresight, Maroš Šefčovič, said: “The Commission has given its green light to a second important project of the common European interest in the field of batteries. Technology is vital for our transition to climate neutrality. The figures show what an enormous undertaking this is. It involves twelve member states from North, South, East and West, injecting up to €2.9 billion euros in state aid in support of 46 projects designed by 42 companies, which in turn will generate three times as much private investment. "
"You miss 💯% of the shots you don't take." @WayneGretzky, turning 60 today, famously said.
The success of EU #battery sector🔋 serves as a tangible testimony to that. It's defying the negative trends in our economies & we're on track towards attaining open strategic autonomy. pic.twitter.com/QBQVnTBVIa
— Maroš Šefčovič🇪🇺 (@MarosSefcovic) January 26, 2021
The project will cover the entire battery value chain: extraction of raw materials, design and manufacturing of battery cells, recycling and disposal. It is expected to contribute to the development of a whole set of new technological breakthroughs, including different cell chemistries and novel production processes, and other innovations in the battery value chain, in addition to what will be achieved thanks to the first battery IPCEI.
EU urges AstraZeneca to speed up vaccine deliveries amid 'supply shock'
In a sign of the EU’s frustration - after Pfizer also announced supply delays earlier in January - a senior EU official told Reuters the bloc would in the coming days require pharmaceutical companies to register COVID-19 vaccine exports.
AstraZeneca, which developed its shot with Oxford University, told the EU on Friday it could not meet agreed supply targets up to the end of March, with an EU official involved in the talks telling Reuters that meant a 60% cut to 31 million doses.
“We expect the company to find solutions and to exploit all possible flexibilities to deliver swiftly,” an EU Commission spokesman said, adding the head of the EU executive Ursula von der Leyen had a call earlier on Monday with AstraZeneca’s chief Pascal Soriot to remind him of the firm’s commitments.
A spokesman for AstraZeneca said Soriot told von der Leyen the company was doing everything it could to bring its vaccine to millions of Europeans as soon as possible.
News emerged on Monday that the company faces wider supply problems.
Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters AstraZeneca had advised the country it had experienced “a significant supply shock”, which would cut supplies in March below what was agreed. He did not provide figures.
Thailand’s Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said AstraZeneca would be supplying 150,000 doses instead of the 200,000 planned, and far less than the 1 million shots the country had initially requested.
AstraZeneca declined to comment on global supply issues.
The senior EU official said the bloc had a contractual right to check the company’s books to assess production and deliveries, a move that could imply the EU fears doses being diverted from Europe to other buyers outside the bloc.
AstraZeneca has received an upfront payment of 336 million euros ($409 million) from the EU, another official told Reuters when the 27-nation bloc sealed a supply deal with the company in August for at least 300 million doses - the first signed by the EU to secure COVID-19 shots..
Under advance purchase deals sealed during the pandemic, the EU makes down-payments to companies to secure doses, with the money expected to be mostly used to expand production capacity.
“Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain,” AstraZeneca said on Friday.
The site is a viral vectors factory in Belgium run by the drugmaker’s partner Novasep.
Viral vectors are produced in genetically modified living cells that have to be nurtured in bioreactors. The complex procedure requires fine-tuning of various inputs and variables to arrive at consistently high yields.
“The flimsy justification that there are difficulties in the EU supply chain but not elsewhere does not hold water, as it is of course no problem to get the vaccine from the UK to the continent,” said EU lawmaker Peter Liese, who is from the same party as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The EU called a meeting with AstraZeneca after Friday’s (22 January) announcement to seek further clarification. The meeting started at 1230 CET on Monday.
The EU official involved in the talks with AstraZeneca said expectations were not high for the meeting, in which the company will be asked to better explain the delays.
Earlier in January, Pfizer, which is currently the largest supplier of COVID-19 vaccines to the EU, announced delays of nearly a month to its shipments, but hours later revised this to say the delays would last only a week.
EU contracts with vaccine makers are confidential, but the EU official involved in the talks did not rule out penalties for AstraZeneca, given the large revision to its commitments. However, the source did not elaborate on what could trigger the penalties. “We are not there yet,” the official added.
“AstraZeneca has been contractually obligated to produce since as early as October and they are apparently delivering to other parts of the world, including the UK without delay,” Liese said.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is expected to be approved for use in the EU on Jan. 29, with first deliveries expected from 15 February.
($1 = €0.8214)
Chemicals: EU protects wildlife from negative effects of lead in the environment
On 25 January, the Commission took firm steps to ensure that wildlife is protected from the negative effects of lead in the environment, by restricting its use in gunshot in or around wetlands. Adopted under the framework of the EU's chemicals regulation, the measure will help to protect the environment by significantly reducing lead pollution while preventing the avoidable death by lead poisoning of around 1 million waterbirds every year. Lead is a highly toxic substance, which released to the environment contaminates both the soil and water.
Every year, 4,000 to 5,000 tonnes of lead are released into wetlands from lead gunshot. There are affordable alternatives, for example steel gunshots, which currently cost about the same as lead gunshots. The measure adopted today will harmonise and enhance the effectiveness of national legislation limiting the use of lead gunshot in wetlands already in place in 24 member states.
It will start applying in two years' time. The restriction supports the goals of the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability and the Green Deal. It also supports the objectives of the Birds Directive, and is a first concrete deliverable under the new EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy. More info here.
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