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European Commission

World Press Freedom Day: Commission stands for free and independent media

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On World Press Freedom Day (3 May), the Commission reaffirmed its commitment to defend media freedom and pluralism in the EU and beyond. Media should be able to work freely and independently – this lies at heart of EU values and democracies. Values and Transparency Vice President Věra Jourová said: “More than ever the pandemic has showed the key role of journalists to inform us, but also the need to protect them. I am concerned about increasing threats and attacks against journalists, targeting in particular women. We will present recommendations to member states on the safety of journalists by the end of the year, as part of our overall approach to support media and democracy” (full video message). Vice President Jourová will also contribute to the 'Women Breaking the News' event. Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton added: “We are once again reminded of the many challenges faced by the media, accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis. We are determined to strengthen and protect a resilient, free and independent media sector. It is my priority to ensure that journalists benefit from the highest level of protection when they carry out their indispensable work, whether online or offline”. High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell (pictured) issued a declaration on behalf of the EU. Last December the Commission presented for the first time a comprehensive European approach for the media building on the European Democracy Action Plan and the Media and Audiovisual Action Plan. As announced, the Commission will put forward a recommendation on safety of journalists later this year, feedback is still open here. Additionally, the Commission is also working on an initiative to fight abusive litigation against journalists and rights defenders. The Media and Audiovisual Action Plan serves as a roadmap to support the recovery and transformation of the media and audiovisual sector throughout the current crisis and beyond. Media pluralism is one of the key elements of the annual Rule of Law Report and, in this context, the Commission continues to monitoring the situation in all EU member states. For the first time, the Commission will have a dedicated funding of at least €75 million to support media pluralism, journalism and media literacy under the Creative Europe programme. Currently, the Commission is funding eighteen projects related to media freedom and pluralism, including safety of journalists and threats to media freedom, with close to €20m.

EU

Civil protection: Council adopts new rules to strengthen disaster response

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The Council today (11 May) adopted a regulation to strengthen the EU civil protection mechanism. The new rules will allow the EU and the member states to better prepare for natural and man made disasters and to respond faster when they strike, including in cases which affect a majority of member states simultaneously, such as a pandemic. The text also sets out the funding of the civil protection mechanism in the context of the multiannual financial framework 2021-2027.

The proposed rules will allow the European Commission to address gaps in the area of transport and logistics, and, in cases of urgency, directly procure certain additional rescEU capacities. These rescEU capacities, as well as those hosted by member states, will be fully financed from the EU budget.

Prevention and preparedness will also be improved under the proposed regulation. The Commission, in co-operation with member states, will define and develop EU disaster resilience goals in the area of civil protection

The text sets out a total of  €1.263 billion in funds for the 2021-2027 period. It also includes an amount of up to €2.56bn to implement the civil protection related measures to address the impact of the COVID-19 crisis foreseen in the EU recovery instrument. This is an increase of over three times as compared to the 2014-2020 budget. It reflects the strengthening of the EU's collective response to disasters, including the recent establishment of a reserve of capacities (rescEU), the reinforcement of the European civil protection pool and the improvements in disaster prevention and preparedness.

Background

The EU civil protection mechanism was first established in 2001 and it coordinates the response to natural and man-made disasters at the EU level. Its objective is to foster cooperation among national civil protection authorities, increase public awareness and preparedness for disasters and enable quick, effective, coordinated assistance to affected populations.

The EU civil protection mechanism includes a European civil protection pool. This is a voluntary pool of capacities pre-committed by member states for immediate deployment inside or outside the EU. The civil protection mechanism was last amended in 2019, when an additional reserve of resources, called rescEU, was created to provide assistance in situations where overall existing capacities are insufficient.

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Africa

Vice President Schinas and Commissioner Johansson participate in ministerial conference on migration management with African partners

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Today (11 May), Promoting our European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, will take part virtually in a ministerial conference on migration management gathering Interior ministries from EU Member States, the African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, the Chairs of the Rabat Process and the Khartoum Process and partner countries in Africa. Organised by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, the event will focus on two main areas in the EU's migration partnership with African partners: the management of irregular movements, including border management and return; and new opportunities for legal migration. Senior officials from the African Union, the European Commission and the European External Action Service, Justice and Home Affairs Agencies, the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will also participate.

Portugal's Home Affairs Minister Eduardo Cabrita and Commissioner Johansson will hold a press conference after the meeting at +/- 14h30 CET.

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Economy

European Year of Rail: Connecting Europe Express will travel across 26 countries in 36 days

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On Europe Day (9 May), the Commission announced the route and timetable of the Connecting Europe Express, as part of the European Year of Rail 2021. Beginning its journey on 2 September in Lisbon and stopping in more than 70 cities in 26 countries, the train will link the Portuguese, Slovenian and French Presidencies of the Council of the EU, arriving in Paris on 7 October. The special train will demonstrate the power of rail to connect people and businesses, and the importance of EU infrastructure policy in making this possible.

Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean said: “Crisscrossing the continent, from Lisbon to Bucharest and from Berlin to Paris, the Connecting Europe Express will follow routes that bind us together – whether countries, businesses or people. While a symbol for connectivity, this train also serves as a reminder that we still have a long way to go and much work to do before rail becomes the transport option of choice for Europeans. Welcome the Connecting Europe Express as it stops at a station near you and join the events taking place around the continent.”

The project is a unique endeavour, involving the European Commission and the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), European rail operators, infrastructure managers and numerous other partners at EU and local level. At each of the stops, events and other activities, adapted to local COVID-19 measures, will shine a light on the key role that rail plays for our society, but also on the challenges that rail must still overcome to attract more passengers and freight. You can have a look at the main stops or at the full map of the route here, and watch Commissioner Vălean's video message. Find more details here.

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