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MEPs to invite Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen to give evidence

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The European Parliament’s  Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) has  invited Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen to a hearing on 8 November.

Haugen was the source behind a series of articles recently published in the Washington Post revealing internal company research reports demonstrating that the Facebook group, including Instagram and WhatsApp, was aware of the harm it was causing to young people, to the vaccination effort and to democracy.

At a US Senate hearing Haugen said in an opening statement that she believed that Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, weaken our democracy and much more: “The company’s leadership knows ways to make Facebook and Instagram safer and won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their immense profits before people.”

IMCO Chair Anna Cavazzini (Greens/EFA, DE) said: “Whistleblowers like Frances Haugen show the urgent need to set democratic rules for the online world in the interest of users. Her revelations lay bare the inherent conflict between the platform’s business model and users’ interests. It shows that we need strong rules for content moderation and far-reaching transparency obligations in Europe. It also shows that corporate self-regulation has not worked. 

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“With the Digital Services Act, the European Union is on the right track to fight hate speech and disinformation online by addressing business models that use algorithms to sell more advertising, even if this has a detrimental effect on society. We need to regulate the whole system that favours disinformation and violence over factual content – and we need to enforce it effectively.

“All allegations in the ‘Facebook Files’ must be investigated.”

The Internal Market Committee is currently working on its response to the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, presented by the European Commission in December 2020.

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The draft reports on the DSA and DMA, drafted by Christel Schaldemose (S&D, DK) and Andreas Schwab (EPP, DE), respectively, were presented in committee on 21 June. A total of 2297 amendments have been tabled in the committee to the DSA and 1199 to the DMA. Draft compromise amendments will be considered on 27-28 October and the vote in committee is scheduled for 8 November. 

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China

Competition: EU and China meet during 22nd Competition Week to discuss competition policy priorities

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Officials and experts from the EU and China will meet online from 29 November to 2 December 2021 to discuss about their co-operation on competition law and enforcement. The discussions will focus on the green transition and how China's Fair Competition Review System and the EU's State Aid framework can contribute to it. Participants will also discuss mechanisms to control potentially anti-competitive acquisitions in the digital sector and the practical challenges of investigating digital markets. In addition, there will be updates on the proposed revisions to China's Anti-Monopoly Law and recent regulatory and competition policy developments in the EU.

The 22nd EU-China Competition Week follows the longstanding tradition of biannual competition dialogue between the EU and the anti-monopoly enforcement agencies in China. It is part of the Competition Co-operation project, a five-year EU funded programme offering technical co-operation to competition authorities in Asia. It also provides a platform for exchanges on competition policy between the European Commission Directorate-General for Competition (DG Competition) and the Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR). The objective is to exchange experiences and strengthen convergence in competition policy, to the benefit of citizens and businesses in both the EU and in Asia. More information about the European Commission's bilateral dialogue with China in the field of competition policy is available on the Commission's website.

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coronavirus

Commission hosts second matchmaking event to speed up the development and production of COVID-19 medicines

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Today (30 November), the Commission is hosting a pan-European matchmaking event to accelerate and upscale the development and production of COVID-19 medicines in Europe, as part of the actions under the EU Strategy on COVID-19 Therapeutics. Following a first matchmaking event on COVID-19 medicines in July 2021 and a previous matchmaking event on COVID-19 vaccines in March 2021, this event aims at strengthening the participation of EU companies in value chains for COVID-19 therapeutics and speeding up connections among the participants. It also broadens the focus: from therapeutics specifically used to treat COVID-19, to also including those used to treat the symptoms of COVID-19, as well the production of disposable materials, such as syringes, and ingredients needed for making such medicines.

The event gathers companies from the European Economic Area as well as other businesses and organisations included in the portfolio of 10 most promising treatments, presented by the Commission in the follow-up to the COVID-19 Therapeutics strategy. In order to facilitate matchmaking events, the Commission issued a comfort letter in March 2021 (based on the Antitrust Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission on 8 April 2020) providing guidance, relevant also for this event, on how the matchmaking and exchanges between participating companies, including direct competitors, can take place in compliance with EU competition rules. The matchmaking event is organised by the Commission's Task Force for industrial scale-up of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, in close co-operation with the European Cluster Collaboration Platform. The event is also hosted in partnership with the Council of European BioRegions (CEBR) and the European Cluster Alliance (ECA), which are supporting the Commission in running an EU survey to assess EU capacities for COVID-19 therapeutics production. More information about the event is available here.

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European Commission

President von der Leyen addresses the special session of the World Health Assembly of the WHO

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On 29 November, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) addressedthe World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO), which gathers between 29 November and 1 December for its second-ever special session. The President welcomed the Assembly's decision to start negotiations towards an international instrument to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Following the emergence of the Omicron variant, President von der Leyen commended the leadership of South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, underlining that South Africa's analytical work and transparency have allowed a swift global response to save lives. She praised South Africa as an example of international cooperation in times of cross-border health threats.

Building on the Global Health Summit of May and on the G20 Summit last month, President von der Leyen reaffirmed the EU's commitment to uphold equity, good governance, multilateral cooperation and solidarity as the only ways out of the current health crisis. The European Union and its Member States will continue working to help achieve the global vaccination target of 70% in 2022 and will support capacity building for sequencing, testing, treatments and vaccination. In this sense, the President confirmed that the EU aims at sharing at least 700 million vaccine doses by mid-2022 with low and middle-income countries. That is on top of the €3 billion in financing that the EU provided to help create the ACT-Accelerator for global vaccination through COVAX and the ongoing efforts to develop vaccine manufacturing in Africa and in South America. The full speech is available here and can be re-watched here.

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