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.
'Time to open up to citizens': Conference on the Future of Europe launched
The Conference on the Future of Europe was officially launched on 9 May with a ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The Conference aims to allow Europeans to share their ideas of Europe and formulate proposals for future EU policies.
The inaugural event was the focal point of Europe Day celebrations and followed the launch of the multilingual digital platform of the Conference in April that will collect all contributions and facilitate debate.
French President Emmanuel Macron, European Parliament President David Sassoli, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke at the ceremony in the presence of Erasmus+ students and members of the Conference's executive board.
More than 500 citizens attended remotely appearing on large screens in the chamber. Ministers, MEPs, members of national parliaments and other guests also joined the event remotely.
All Europeans invited to contribute
Speakers at the ceremony said that the start of the Conference presented an opportunity for people to get involved and shape the EU’s future.
“We are at a time when citizens want to take responsibility, they want to have a say in the policies that affect their daily life, their future, the future of the planet,” said European Parliament president David Sassoli. “It is time to open up to involve citizens more in public life, and that is the purpose of this Conference.”
“Our Union needs a breath of new democratic life and that’s the aim of the Conference on the Future of Europe that we are launching together today,” said French president Emmanuel Macron, opening the ceremony. “I hope that this Conference will see the return of great projects, great ambitions, great dreams.”
Speaking on behalf of the Council presidency, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said: “This official launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe is a message of confidence in the future that we want to convey to all citizens of Europe.” He addressed all Europeans following the event saying: “This conference is open. It's open, so that all of you can participate.”
“We must listen to all voices - whether critical or complimentary - and ensure that we properly follow up on whatever is agreed. But I do believe that this Conference is a real opportunity to bring Europeans together and to rally around a common ambition for our future, just as previous generations did,” said Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
The co-chairs of the executive board of the Conference, Guy Verhofstadt (Parliament), Ana Paula Zacarias (Council) and Dubravka Šuica (Commission) answered recorded questions.
There were live performances by French violinist Renaud Capuçon and the Karski Quartet - a string quartet of Polish and French musicians based in Brussels.
Do you have proposals for what the EU should do? Share them on the Conference’s digital platform and get involved.
Launch of the Conference
A new ambitious EU Disability Strategy for 2021-2030
Following Parliament’s recommendations, the European Commission adopted an ambitious post-2020 disability strategy. Discover its priorities. Society
The European Parliament called for an inclusive society in which the rights of people living with disabilities are protected and where there is no discrimination.
In June 2020, Parliament set out its priorities for a new post-2020 EU Disability Strategy, building upon the European Disability Strategy for 2010-2020.
In March 2021, the Commission adopted the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030 encompassing Parliament’s main recommendations:
- The mainstreaming of the rights of all people living with disabilities into all policies and areas.
- Recovery and mitigation measures to avoid people with disabilities getting disproportionally affected by health crises such as COVID-19.
- Equal access for people with disabilities to health care, employment, public transport, housing.
- The implementation and further development of the EU disability card pilot project, which allows for the mutual recognition of disabilities in some EU countries.
- People with disabilities, their families and organisations were part of the dialogue and will be part of the process of implementation.
People living with disabilities in Europe: facts and figures
- There are an estimated 87 million people with disabilities in the EU.
- The employment rate of people with disabilities (aged 20-64) stands at 50.8%, compared to 75% for people without disabilities.
- 28.4% of people with disabilities in the EU are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared to 17.8% of the general population.
EU disability measures so far
The European Disability Strategy was put in place to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- An international legally binding human rights treaty setting minimum standards to protect the rights of people with disabilities
- The EU and all member states have ratified it
- Both EU and member states are obliged to implement the obligations, according to their competences
Among the concrete initiatives launched thanks to the European Disability Strategy is the European Accessibility Act, which ensures that more products and services like smartphones, tablets, ATMs or e-books are accessible to people with disabilities.
The directive on web accessibility means people with disabilities have easier access to online data and services online because websites and apps operated by public sector institutions, such as hospitals, courts or universities, are required to be accessible.
The Erasmus+ student exchange programme promotes the mobility of participants with disabilities.
EU rules also ensure improved access to transport and better passenger rights for people living with disabilities.
Find out more
- Procedural steps
- Press release: stepping up EU action for an inclusive Europe (19 June 2020)
- Resolution on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with special regard to the Concluding Observations of the UN CRPD Committee (7 July 2016)
- Briefing: the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020
- Briefing: employment and disability in the EU (May 2020)
- European Parliament’s CRPD Network
- Parliament's employment committee
- Briefing on the European Disability Policy: from defining disability to adopting a strategy
- Social Europe: what Parliament is doing on social policy
- COVID-19: how the EU fights youth unemployment
- European Solidarity Corps: opportunities for young people
- Youth employment: the EU measures to make it work
- Reducing unemployment: EU policies explained
- European Social Fund: fighting poverty and unemployment
- How the EU improves workers’ rights and working conditions
- Improving public health: EU measures explained
- Final vote on European Solidarity Corps
- Social security coordination: new rules for more flexibility and clarity
- Posted workers: the facts on the reform (infographic)
- Posting of workers: final vote on equal pay and working conditions
- Gig economy: EU law to improve workers’ rights (infographic)
- Better working conditions for all: balancing flexibility and security
- European Globalisation Adjustment Fund: helping redundant workers
- The Parliament’s fight for gender equality in the EU
- Globalization's impact on employment and the EU
- COVID-19's economic impact: €100 billion to keep people in jobs
- Better working conditions for truck drivers across the EU
- Parents’ work-life balance: new leave rules for family care
- Parliament calls for measures to combat sexual harassment in Europe
- Female genital mutilation: where, why and consequences
- Understanding the gender pay gap: definition and causes
- Getting back to work after a long sickness or injury (video)
- Drinking water in the EU: better quality and access
- Accessibility: making products and services in the EU easier to use
- Disaster management: boosting the EU's emergency response
- Health threats: boosting EU readiness and crisis management
- A new ambitious EU Disability Strategy for 2021-2030
EU Cohesion policy: €133.4 million for Bulgaria and Sweden to tackle the social and economic impact of the coronavirus crisis
The Commission has approved the modification of three operational programmes (OPs) under REACT-EU to provide €75.9 million to Bulgaria and €57.5m to Sweden to help tackle the effects of the pandemic. Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, said: “The coronavirus has put our social fabric to the test and has hit the most vulnerable people the hardest. The EU is showing solidarity by supporting the provision of aid in these difficult times and promoting social inclusion.” Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira (pictured) said: “The decisions approved today are the result of good policy measures. They will provide much needed investment resources for the post-coronavirus crisis move to a green and digital recovery.” The Bulgarian programme for the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) will receive an extra €19.9m in 2021 to provide daily warm meals to 50,000 people from vulnerable groups living in poverty. This is the first amendment of a FEAD OP under REACT-EU. In addition, the Bulgarian programme ‘Science and Education for Smart Growth', co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), will be topped up with €56m to support distance learning. At least 10% of students and teachers will receive laptops or tablets and 30% of teachers will receive training in online teaching. In Sweden, the Commission has approved the modification of an OP that will increase the funding available for investments by nearly €57.5m. The amendment of the national OP co-financed by the ERDF will support the sustainable green and digital transition of the Swedish SMEs that were most negatively impacted by the crisis, such as from the tourism and hospitality sectors. REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and provides €50.5 billion additional funding over the course of 2021 and 2022 to programmes under the ERDF, the ESF and the FEAD.
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