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EU plans a new partnership with the Gulf for 2022

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EU High Representative Josep Borrell said that it was clear from his recent visit to Gulf states (Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) that they would like a greater presence from the European Union in the region. Today (18 December) foreign ministers agreed that the EU should establish a delegation in Qatar.

Borrell also announced that there would be an EU Gulf Cooperation Council in early 2022 year and a Joint Communication on a “Partnership with the Gulf” should be adopted in the first quarter of 2022. 

The gulf states often play a key role in foreign policy issues, most notably there relations with the Taliban. Borrell said at the press conference: “If we want to engage with Afghanistan, we better go to Qatar.”

“Qatar is the country with the highest revenue per head in the world”, Borrell said and the EU could accompany them in building confidence and contributing to the global agenda on a wide range of issues, including climate and digitization. 

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On the region's more troubling human rights record, Borrell said this was an area where we could disagree, but where the EU could build a dialogue, giving the example of Saudi Arabia where a human rights dialogue took place for the first time ever.

Background

The European External Action service report that the political and security situation in the Gulf has shown some signs of improvement over the last twelve months, but tensions remain. At the same time, countries in the region have been raising their political and security profiles in the EU neighbourhood, while the EU has been enhancing its diplomatic presence in the region and its institutional engagement with these countries. 

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The Gulf states are increasingly interested in close co-operation with the EU on global issues and regional security. Ministers are expected to discuss ways to further EU engagement with the region, with a particular focus on what the EU can do to help Gulf countries build confidence regionally, in particular as regards the process launched by the Baghdad Conference on Cooperation and Partnership (28 August 2021).

The EU is also keen to build a closer partnership between the EU and Gulf countries to further the EU's global agenda (green transition/climate change, diversification away from hydrocarbons to fighting desertification and water resource management, connectivity, digital economy, the fight against pandemics or support to multilateralism and effective response to growing humanitarian needs).

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Croatia

Commission approves 2022-2027 regional aid map for Croatia

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The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules Croatia's map for granting regional aid from 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2027 within the framework of the revised Regional aid Guidelines (‘RAG'). The revised RAG, adopted by the Commission on 19 April 2021 and entering into force on 1 January 2022, enable member states to support the least favoured European regions in catching up and to reduce disparities in terms of economic well-being, income and unemployment – cohesion objectives that are at the heart of the Union. They also provide increased possibilities for member states to support regions facing transition or structural challenges such as depopulation, to contribute fully to the green and digital transitions.

At the same time, the revised RAG maintain strong safeguards to prevent member states from using public money to trigger the relocation of jobs from one EU member state to another, which is essential for fair competition in the Single Market. Croatia's regional map defines the Croatian regions eligible for regional investment aid. The map also establishes the maximum aid intensities in the eligible regions. The aid intensity is the maximum amount of State aid that can be granted per beneficiary, expressed as a percentage of eligible investment costs. Under the revised RAG, regions covering the entire population of Croatia will be eligible for regional investment aid. A press release is available online.

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Maritime

Commission welcomes landmark agreement on the conservation of North Atlantic Shortfin Mako shark

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The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) reached yesterday afternoon a landmark agreement on a Recommendation on the conservation of North Atlantic stock of shortfin mako shark (pictured). Welcoming the agreement, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “Today's agreement is an important step forward on the road to recovery of this iconic species. Thanks also to the EU's leadership in the negotiations, we have managed to establish an effective rebuilding program for North Atlantic shortfin mako shark, including immediate action to reduce mortality and end overfishing.”

The agreement reached by all parties around the ICCAT table this year is crucial as it kick-starts a rebuilding programme for North Atlantic shortfin mako shark in 2022, after two years of unsuccessful negotiations. Once in force, the robust measure agreed will lead to ending the overfishing of this vulnerable stock and will chart a path for its recovery. One of the key aims of the Recommendation is to drive down mortality rates significantly. The Recommendation includes complementary measures, such as best handling practices and tasks the scientific body of ICCAT to explore a range of mitigation measures, from spatial and temporal closures to gear modification, to assist this ambitious rebuilding program. More information is in the news item.

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European Commission

Gender gap at education level is shrinking, but women are still under-represented in research and innovation

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The number of female students and graduates at bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels has grown steadily over the last years. However, women are still under-represented in research and innovation careers. These are some of the key findings of the European Commission's She Figures 2021 report, which since 2003 monitors the level of progress towards gender equality in research and innovation in the European Union and beyond.

Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel welcomed this year's report and said: “The latest She Figures report highlights that Europe's economy, labs and academia already depend on women. However, it also shows that we still need to do more to promote gender equality, in particular to inspire girls for a career in STEM. There is no doubt, Europe needs women's creativity and entrepreneurial potential to shape a more sustainable, green and digital future.”

The She Figures 2021 publication highlights that, on average, at bachelor's and master's levels, women outnumber men as students (54%) and graduates (59%), and there is almost gender balance at doctoral level (48%). However, disparities between study fields persist. For example, women still represent less than a quarter of doctoral graduates in the ICT field (22%), while they represent 60% or more in the fields of health & welfare and education (60% and 67% respectively). Furthermore, women represent only around one third of researchers (33%).

At the highest level of academia, women remain under-represented, holding about one-quarter of full professorship positions (26%). Women are also less likely to be employed as scientists and engineers (41%) and are under-represented among self-employed professionals in science and engineering and ICT occupations (25%). More information is available in this press release.

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