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Von der Leyen discusses a new Transatlantic agenda at 2021 Munich Security Conference

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Speaking at 2021 Special edition of the Munich Security Conference on 19 February, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen focused on climate change and digital transformation as two major topics that could be driving the EU-US new global agenda.

She touched upon the EU actions to fight climate change, including the goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, and invited others to ‘match our ambition'. “A shared transatlantic commitment to a net-zero emissions pathway by 2050 would make climate neutrality a new global benchmark. And it would be a timely message in the run-up to COP26”, von der Leyen said. She commended the US return to the Paris Agreement and the initiative to host a Climate Leader's Summit on Earth day.

She equally invited the United States to join EU initiatives on regulating the digital market and to together ‘create a digital economy rulebook that is valid worldwide'. “We want to make sure that what is illegal offline is also illegal online. And we want clear requirements that internet firms take responsibility for the content they distribute, promote and remove”, von der Leyen explained.

Von der Leyen stressed it was up to the US and the EU to strengthen their co-operation again, as partners and indispensable allies. “If we lead the way, this is not only about joining forces. This is a signal to the world,” she concluded.

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Renew Europe demands ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure the swift application of the Rule of Law regulation

James Drew

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In the face of intensifying Rule of Law backsliding and corruption linked to EU funding in some member states, Renew Europe led a determined and successful campaign for an effective and comprehensive Rule of Law conditionality mechanism, now a ground-breaking and indispensable part of the EU budget 2021-2027, and the Next Generation EU Recovery instrument.

This mechanism must be fully applied since the 1st January 2021 by the European Commission. Renew Europe is committed to using all legal and political levers to ensure its swift application and therefore requests a debate with resolution on this issue during the March 1 plenary session of the Parliament, with the participation of the Commission. In response to reports of imminent legal challenges to this regulation by some EU member states, we are committed to do all the necessary steps in order to guarantee that the European Parliament defend the regulation. And we expect the Commission to do the same.

Dacian Cioloş, president of Renew Europe, said: "Renew Europe is and will continue to be at the forefront of defending the Rule of Law mechanism against any attempts to frustrate it by the opponents of liberal democracy. The application of the Rule of Law Regulation must be guaranteed from the date agreed by the co-legislators; we are determined that all necessary political and legal measures are taken by the Parliament to ensure this."

"We will request a debate with resolution of the European Parliament. The European Commission must come to explain its actions. As the guardian of the Treaties, we expect the Commission to take all steps to ensure that the Regulation is fully applicable."

Commenting on reports that the Regulation may be challenged in the CJEU, President Cioloş said:"If, as reported, the regulation is challenged in the next few days, Renew Europe will call for an accelerated procedure and will make sure the Parliament uses all the tools available and does whatever it takes to defend the Rule of Law in Europe and we expect the European Commission to do the same."

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European Commission

President von der Leyen speaks in support of the Global Citizen campaign ‘A Recovery Plan for the World'

EU Reporter Correspondent

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On 23 February, President Ursula von der Leyen participated in the launch event of the Global Citizen campaign ‘A Recovery Plan for the World'. During her speech, the President highlighted the work that has been done over the last year together with international partners, while at the same time stressing that there is still a long road ahead: “Together, we achieved a lot. We created the ACT-Accelerator, and COVAX – the global facility to deliver affordable and equitable vaccines to the world. But let us be frank, much more is needed. More funding is needed. That is why as Team Europe we increased our contribution to COVAX last week bringing it to around €2.2 billion. And vaccine doses are needed now.”

The president also expressed support for President Macron's proposal “to donate vaccine doses that are necessary to vaccinate healthcare workers in Africa. Vaccines must reach all corners of the planet, as soon as possible.” And finally, President von der Leyen underlined the importance of the Global Health Summit that she will co-host in May with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi: “It will be a moment to reflect on the lessons learned, but also to agree on a common preparedness blueprint, so that the world is never again caught off-guard. All must weigh in: governments and international organisations, scientists, businesses and civil society, philanthropic foundations and private citizens. Everyone needs to contribute.”

The full speech of President von der Leyen is available here and the video can be watched again here.

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Aviation Strategy for Europe

Commission approves €26 million Irish aid scheme to compensate airport operators in context of coronavirus outbreak

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, a €26 million Irish aid scheme to compensate airport operators for the losses caused by the coronavirus outbreak and the travel restrictions imposed by Ireland to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The aid consists of three measures: (i) a damage compensation measure; (ii) an aid measure to support the airport operators up to a maximum of €1.8 million per beneficiary; and (iii) an aid measure to support the uncovered fixed costs of these companies.

The aid will take the form of direct grants. In case of support for the uncovered fixed costs, aid can also be granted in the form of guarantees and loans. The damage compensation measure will be open to operators of Irish airports that handled more than 1 million passengers in 2019. Under this measure, these operators can be compensated for the net losses suffered during the period between 1 April and 30 June 2020 as a result of the restrictive measures implemented by the Irish authorities in order to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The Commission assessed the first measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and found that it will provide compensation for damage that is directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage. With regard to the other two measures, the Commission found that they are in line with the conditions set out in the state aid Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will be granted no later than 31 December 2021 and (ii) will not exceed €1.8 million per beneficiary under the second measure and will not exceed €10 million per beneficiary under the third measure.

The Commission concluded that both measures are necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the three measures under EU State aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.59709 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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