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Sassoli: Tourism must be at the heart of Europe’s recovery

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Extracts of the speech of President Sassoli (pictured) to the Global Tourism Forum 2021.

“As you know, we live in a time of great challenges. The dramatic crisis caused by the pandemic was a watershed moment, a devastating and unexpected event. This has led to major changes not only on an economic and social level but also to our lifestyles and our routines. In this sense, tourism - which represents one of the major sources of income for the EU - was undoubtedly one of the most affected sectors. In fact, it is estimated that due to the pandemic, some areas of tourism faced losses between 70-80%, affecting 11 million jobs. 

“Europe is the number one tourism destination in the world and it is therefore vital to support this sector because, as well as strengthening our competitiveness, it can significantly relaunch our economic and social recovery. To do this we need to build new alliances, identify new tools to help facilitate mobility, all while making it more sustainable, resilient and with a lower environmental impact.

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“Tourism is an important tool to promote the cultural richness of our countries and regions, and to enhance further the idea of a global citizenship based on solidarity, which is the basis of an open and inclusive society.

“If we want to revive the entire tourism ecosystem and make it more effective and resilient after this pandemic, we must use the existing funding opportunities in the EU budget and Next Generation EU intelligently. However, above all we must work together on a European agenda for tourism in 2030/ 2050, in order to strengthen its competitiveness in the medium and long term.”

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European Parliament

Parlamentarium marks 10 years and more than 2.5 million visitors

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Parliament's Parlamentarium visitors’ centre has received more than 2.5 million visitors since first opening its doors 10 years ago, EU affairs.

The centre aims to explain what Parliament does, offering insights into the EU, the democratic process and showing how decisions made in the Parliament directly influence people’s lives.

Open seven days a week, it offers content in all 24 official EU languages and it’s free. So if you are in Brussels, drop in and find out what MEPs think about the topics of the day and try out the latest interactive media stations featuring key topics such as climate change, the digital transition and the Conference on the Future of Europe.

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Energy

MEPs debate EU solutions to rising energy prices

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Vulnerable households should get assistance to mitigate rising energy prices, MEPs said in a plenary debate, Economy.

MEPs stressed the urgent need to support EU citizens in the face of record high gas and electricity prices during a plenary debate on 6 October. EPP’s Siegfried Mureşan (Romania) said: "It is affecting citizens, it is affecting European enterprises, particularly small and medium sized enterprises, which were already hit by the pandemic and by the economic consequences of the pandemic. It is our duty to help citizens and enterprises overcome this crisis of increased energy prices.”

Kadri Simson, the European Energy Commissioner, stressed the need for action: "This price shock cannot be underestimated. It is hurting our citizens, in particular the most vulnerable households, weakening competitiveness and adding to inflationary pressure. If left unchecked, it risks compromising Europe's recovery as it takes hold. There is no question that we need to take policy measures - Europe has come through high energy prices many times in the past - and responded to them through diversification of supplies sources and market innovation."

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She highlighted the importance of making clear that current price hikes had little to do with the EU's climate policy, but much to do with Europe's dependence on imported fossil fuels.

For Philippe Lamberts (Greens/EFA, Belgium), the situation is a wakeup call for a faster transition towards renewable energy and for more solidarity: "Faced with this energy insecurity, first of all the member states have to respond by using additional tax revenues to guarantee and extend preferential social tariffs and help target the most vulnerable households. Producing in a sustainable and fair way is more expensive than dirty and unfair. If we wish everyone to be able to afford a decent life based on dignity, we have to turn around these inequalities. Without social justice, the energy transition won't happen, and without this, our societies will collapse."

Manon Aubry (The Left, France) said energy should be a common good and must be accessible to everybody. “You turned it into a product like any other with which you could speculate and make profits. Either to eat or to heat should not be a luxury but a fundamental right.”

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Energy market reform

Some MEPs proposed to redesign the European energy market. Stressing the fundamental and urgent need to provide minimum wellbeing for all European citizens, Iratxe García Pérez (S&D, Spain) said: “First the Commission must present a plan for states to act in a coordinated way when we have stress on the energy market, making sure we have a real European Union of energy. Second, we must slow down speculation on the CO2 market and third, we need to make sure that we have new standards in the functioning of the electric marketplace to ensure a cheaper energy mix.”

Renew Europe’s Christophe Grudler (France) said the EU should look into three areas to resolve the energy crisis: reinforcing energy storage facilities and considering common procurement of gas; promoting energy made in Europe (including hydrogen) by reducing dependence on fossil fuels from other countries; and a rapid reform of the European energy markets, including putting a stop to the tie between electricity and gas prices. “The European energy market needs to be reformed along the lines of the Green Deal,” he concluded.

Climate policies

The role of the EU’s ambitious climate policy in the rising energy prices divided opinion. Anže Logar, the Slovenian Minister for Foreign Affairs representing the Council presidency, said the EU’s climate policy and notably the Fit for 55 package is “neither the source of the current surge of energy prices nor a short-term solution. In the long-term the decarbonisation of the European economy can contribute to mitigating fluctuating energy prices and to fighting energy poverty,” he said. In the meantime, vulnerable households should be offered income assistance via the Social Climate Fund, Logar added.

Joëlle Mélin (ID, FR) said that the focus on renewable energy in the European Green Deal could increase Europe’s vulnerability to market shocks. “Member states should be able to make decisions on their energy mix on their own and shouldn’t have to be part of failure,” she said.

Beata Szydło (ECR, Poland) emphasised that the trend of rising energy prices continues and expressed doubts that the Fit for 55 package would bring the desired results. “I think we have to be extra careful about those solutions. You were talking about what caused this spike in energy prices. This is partly due to the pricing of emissions. Where were those decisions taken? In this house,” she said. “I think we have to re-think our energy policy.”

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Energy

Sassoli: Local initiatives will ensure concrete results for Europe 

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Speech by the President of the European Parliament at the opening of the Covenant of Mayors.

Ladies and gentlemen,

"The European Parliament, the home of European democracy, has hosted the Covenant of Mayors ceremony for climate and energy for over ten years, welcoming mayors and local leaders to Brussels. Last year the event could not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but today I am delighted to be able to meet. We see before our eyes the increasingly visible and dramatic signs of climate change, and the time has come for action. We are working on concrete legislative acts to implement the Green Deal. Therefore, this event could not be timelier.

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"Let me first congratulate you on the success of the Pact: over 10,000 cities have signed up, representing more than 325 million inhabitants from 53 countries. These are impressive figures. As you know, we share similar objectives: to accelerate decarbonisation, strengthen the ability to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, and allow citizens to access secure, sustainable and affordable energy.

"Energy poverty is a problem for all Europeans, in all Member States. As we approach winter, we are seeing a rise in energy prices, and citizens and businesses are understandably concerned. As with COVID-19, we need to join forces and provide a coordinated European response. Our exposure to volatility in global gas prices underscores the importance of our plan to build a strong domestic renewable energy sector. We need to act on energy efficiency, which can really provide a breakthrough. Cities manage large portfolios of buildings, from schools to libraries to housing units. The energy transition represents an opportunity to improve access to better quality housing.

"The European Parliament is determined to work towards achieving a climate-neutral society by 2050, and is fully committed to transforming the Union into a healthier, more sustainable, fair, just and prosperous society.

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"The ecological transition will involve all EU policies and affect all regions of the EU in various ways. Therefore, only a holistic and inclusive approach to implementing the Green Deal will enable us to realise our ambitions. It is for this reason that the European Parliament is in favour of enhanced cooperation with European cities and regions in its work. It is crucial that EU institutions, MEPs, national governments and local politicians join forces to ensure that the energy and climate transition leaves no one behind and improves the quality of life for all European citizens, creating new opportunities and strengthening social cohesion.

"Last year, the European Commission launched a climate pact. The pact provides an opportunity to bring together national governments, local communities, civil society, schools, businesses and individuals to share information, create spaces to express innovative ideas, both collectively and individually, and build capacity to facilitate grassroots initiatives on climate change and environmental protection.

"The European Parliament is a staunch promoter of the work of the Covenant of Mayors. Your work and local initiatives, providing concrete results, will ensure that the EU and its Member States respect their international commitments and the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Local and bottom-up initiatives are also key to encouraging behavioural change, ensuring a profound transformation of society.

"It will be necessary to mobilize substantial public and private investments, across all policies, to help the communities most affected by decarbonisation, while encouraging proactive projects and initiatives.

"European cities also have an important role to play in accelerating the shift to sustainable and smart mobility. The European Parliament has called for a broader urban mobility plan in order to reduce traffic and improve liveability in cities, for example by supporting zero-emission public transport, as well as cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. European cities, with their practical experience and expertise, should be involved in the discussion on the implementation of future mobility policies at EU level.

"In addition, the development of green spaces in urban areas, rich in biodiversity, will be important to help tackle air pollution, noise, heat waves, floods and public health problems in European cities.

"The EU must continue to act as a leader in climate action and is called upon to play, through its diplomacy, a leading role in convincing other global players, such as China and India, to raise their ambitions at COP26 in Glasgow - transforming commitments into concrete policy measures. Time is of the essence and global action is crucial for the success in the fight against climate change. In this context, your role will be essential, both through the twinning programme and Pact offices outside of Europe. Cities need to be on the frontline of world leadership in the fight against climate change.

"I would like to assure you that the European Parliament, in defining the European Green Deal, will ensure that European cities are involved and able to do their part, not only as important allies, but also as active partners.

"Thank you."

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