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Commission launches public consultation on the EU's latest Macro-Regional Strategy for the Alpine Region

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French_alpsThe European Commission has today (16 July) launched a public consultation on the latest of a series of EU Macro-Regional Strategies, set to take shape in 2015. The EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP) covers some 70 million people in seven countries – five of them member states (Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia) and two non-EU countries (Liechtenstein and Switzerland), all-in-all covering some 48 regions.

The call for submissions aims to tap into the opinions of relevant stakeholders and to gather their ideas in order to ensure that the Strategy is realistic in its starting point, appropriate in its objectives and responsive to the real needs of inhabitants of the region.

Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn said: "This is the first stepping stone to a strategy that should be specifically tailored to the needs of the Alpine macro‑region. The Alpine countries have a long and successful tradition of working together to deal with the precise challenges of this part of Europe and the people who live there. Rather than re-inventing the wheel or duplicating existing cooperation structures, this strategy should complement what it is already being done. It is the fourth strategy of its kind in Europe and we have learnt from experience the importance of political commitment and focusing on just a few strategic areas to guarantee the success of the macro-regional approach."  He added: "The countries involved here, including Switzerland and Lichtenstein, all have strong and efficient administrations, and they indeed have the capacity to step up their co‑operation with each other. We hope that this new Strategy will address the economic, social and territorial imbalances that persist in the Alpine Region."

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The fledgling Alpine Strategy aims to bring a new impetus for co-operation and investment to the benefit of all involved: countries, regions, civil society stakeholders and, above all, European citizens. The Strategy will focus only on issues of strategic importance for the macro-region, both challenges and opportunities, which cannot be adequately tackled by existing structures. It will seek to stimulate innovative and sustainable development that will boost growth and create jobs, while preserving the natural and cultural assets of the area.

The Strategy will build upon three key areas for action:

1. To improve the competitiveness, prosperity and cohesion of the Alpine Region;

2. to ensure accessibility and connectivity for all the inhabitants of the Alpine Region, and;

3. to make the Alpine Region environmentally sustainable and attractive.

The Consultation is online and open for submissions until 15 October 2014.

In December of this year, the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, together with the European Commission will organise a stakeholder conference in Milan to discuss the findings of the consultation process. This will feed into a formal proposal from the European Commission by June 2015, for an Action Plan (of the Strategy) that reflects the needs and the capacities of the region.

Background

Under the leadership of Commissioner Johannes Hahn, a new approach for regions working together has been successfully developed. Macro-regional strategies assist countries in tackling common issues together such as pollution, crime, missing transport links and lack of competitiveness.

The European Council of 19-20 December 2013 formally invited the European Commission, in co-operation with member states, to bring forward an EU Strategy for the Alpine Region by June 2015, building on the positive experiences of the Danube and Baltic Sea regions. The European Council also referred to the positive evaluation of the concept of macro-regional strategies endorsed by the EU Council on 22 October 2013.

These strategies are supported, inter alia, through member states' regional funding allocation under Cohesion Policy. The reform of the Policy for 2014-2020 promotes this macro-regional approach and makes it easier to combine different European funds across borders and within projects.  A Report on the governance of macro-regional strategies from May 2014 sets out recommendations that should result in better management of the strategies to deliver more results, more efficiently, and to take full advantage of synergies existing among different European co-operation instruments.

More information

Public Consultation – Have your say
EU Macro-Regional Strategies
Joint Resolution and Intervention Paper signed at the Grenoble Conference on 18 October 2013

Economy

Global Europe: €79.5 billion to support development

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The EU is set to invest €79.5 billion on development and international cooperation in neighbouring countries and further afield by 2027, Society.

As part of its 2021-2027 budget, the European Union is overhauling how it invests outside the bloc. Following a landmark deal with EU countries in December 2020, MEPs will vote during June's plenary session in Strasbourg on establishing the €79.5bn Global Europe fund, which merges several existing EU instruments, including the European Development Fund. This streamlining will allow the EU to more effectively uphold and promote its values and interests worldwide and respond more swiftly to emerging global challenges.

The instrument will finance the EU's foreign policy priorities in the coming seven years and support sustainable development in EU neighbourhood countries, as well as in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Pacific and the Caribbean. Global Europe will support projects that contribute to addressing issues such as poverty eradication and migration and promote EU values such as human rights and democracy.

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The programme will also support global multilateral efforts and ensure the EU is able to live up to its commitments in the world, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate accord. Thirty percent of the programme’s overall funding will contribute to achieving climate objectives.

At least €19.3bn is earmarked for EU neighbourhood countries with €29.2bn set to be invested in sub-Saharan Africa. Global Europe funding will also be set aside for rapid response action including crisis management and conflict prevention. The EU will boost its support to sustainable investment worldwide under the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus, which will leverage private capital to complement direct development assistance.

In negotiations with the Council, Parliament ensured MEPs’ increased involvement in strategic decisions regarding the programme. Once approved, the regulation on Global Europe will retroactively apply from 1 January 2021.

Global Europe is one of 15 EU flagship programmes supported by the Parliament in the negotiations on the EU's budget for 2021-2027 and the EU recovery instrument, which collectively will allow the Union to provide more than €1.8 trillion in funding over the coming years.

Global Europe 

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Belarus

#FreeRomanProtasevich: EU calls for release of Belarus journalist

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Join the call for the release of Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega, who are being held by Belarus authorities. Find out how you can help. Belarus journalist Protasevich and his girlfriend Sapega were on a flight from Athens to Vilnius on 23 May when the Belarusian government forced the plane to redirect to Minsk where they were detained. Society

The move was immediately met with widespread condemnation from all around the world and led to calls for sanctions against the country.

Parliament President David Sassoli said: “The events in Belarus, with the hijacking of a civil plane to arrest opponents of the regime, require a leap forward in our response in both strength and speed.”

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Parliament and other EU institutions are calling for the immediate release of Protasevich and urge everyone to speak up about this blatant breach of fundamental rights.

What you could do to help get Roman Protasevich released

The abuse of human rights can only thrive in silence. Help create a noise by speaking up for Protasevic and Sapega who are currently being silenced and detained.

What you could do online:

  • Use the hashtag #FreeRomanProtasevich and #FreeSofiaSapega on Twitter and other platforms
  • Help us to spread the message by sharing this article and our posts on social media, such as our tweet

You could come up with your own ways to protest. For example, President Sassoli suggested using airports to highlight the cause: “I think it would be a very positive gesture if a photo of Roman Protasevich were to be displayed in the main airports of European Union member states, as a mark of solidarity and to show that we will not fail him.”

What the EU is doing in response to the actions by Belarus

EU leaders met a day after the forced redirection of the Ryanair flight to decide on a common response. President Sassoli opened the summit with a call for action: “Our response must be strong, immediate and unified. The European Union must act without hesitation and punish those responsible. Tonight you have a great responsibility to show that the Union is not a paper tiger.”

EU leaders agreed to ban Belarusian planes from flying in EU airspaces or using EU airports. They also called for the release of Protasevich and Sapega as well as an investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization. They also agreed targeted economic sanctions and to add to the list of people subject to sanctions.

What the European Parliament has called for regarding Belarus

Parliament’s foreign affairs committee discussed the events in Belarus on 26 May with opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. She told MEPs: "I call on the European Parliament to ensure that the reaction of the international community is not limited to the Ryanair flight incident. The response must address the situation in Belarus in its entirety."

Parliament has regularly called for fair elections in Belarus as well as for respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Last year alone, MEPs called for:

In 2020, MEPs awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the democratic opposition in Belarus.

Read more about the EU’s links with other countries

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EU

Companies should be held accountable for their actions, say MEPs

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MEPs want a new EU law to ensure companies are held accountable when their actions harm people and the planet. On 8 March MEPs debated a report by the legal affairs committee on corporate accountability. The report calls on the European Commission to come up with a law obliging EU companies to address aspects of their value chains that could affect human rights (including social, trade union and labour rights), the environment (for example contribution to climate change) and good governance.

Doing the right thing does not give businesses a competitive advantage at the moment. The lack of a joint EU-wide approach on this matter could lead to a disadvantage for those companies that are proactive regarding social and environmental matters, the report said. The rules would apply to all large undertakings in the EU, as well as to publicly listed small and medium-sized enterprises and those that for example share "risky" supply chains with larger companies.

However, MEPs say the binding rules should also go beyond the EU’s borders, meaning that all companies that want to access the EU's internal market, including those established outside the EU, would have to prove that they comply with due diligence obligations related to human rights and the environment.

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In addition, the MEPs want the rights of stakeholders or victims in non-EU countries, who are particularly vulnerable, to be better protected. They likewise want a ban on importing products linked to severe human rights violations such as forced or child labour.

“The European Parliament has the chance this week to become a leader in responsible business conduct,” said report author Lara Wolters (S&D, the Netherlands) during the debate.

“For businesses, we’re creating a level playing field and legal clarity. For consumers, we’re ensuring fair products. For workers, we’re enhancing protection. For victims, we’re improving access to justice. And for the environment, we’re taking a step that is very long overdue.”

In February 2020, the Commission published a study which found that only one in three companies in the EU is currently taking some form of due diligence measures while 70% of European businesses support EU-wide due diligence rules.

Read more on how the EU trade policy helps to promote human rights and environmental standards.

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