The EU has announced new funding of €54.5 million in humanitarian aid. This life-saving assistance will be devoted to the most vulnerable people affected by human-made or natural disasters, epidemics, and displacement in the Great Lakes region of Africa. The aid will address the needs of the most vulnerable in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo and Burundi, and will support Burundian refugees in the DRC, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said: “Many people in the Great Lakes region face conflict and violence, natural disasters, as well as recurrent outbreaks of epidemics such as cholera, measles and Ebola – a threat that recently re-emerged in the region. COVID-19 and its health and socioeconomic implications further exacerbate the humanitarian situation. The magnitude of the humanitarian crisis, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is very worrying. The EU's assistance will be used to provide food, health and protection assistance, enhance emergency and disaster preparedness, and increase access to education for those displaced.”
Out of the €54.5 million, over 80% of the funds will go to humanitarian response in the DRC - €44 million, including €4.5m for education in emergencies and €1.5m for disaster preparedness. €1.5m is assigned to disaster preparedness in the Republic of Congo. €9m is allocated to Burundi and the regional response to Burundian refugees, including €1m each for disaster preparedness and education in emergencies.
The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating an already dire situation in the Great Lakes region. Countries in the region are prone to epidemics, more so in areas confronted by population movements and conflict. The pandemic has also accelerated the socio-economic challenges of the region, which, to various degrees, has been dealing with decades of conflict, underdevelopment, extreme poverty and malnutrition. The 11th Ebola outbreak in the DRC was declared over in November 2020. Ebola re-emerged in the North Kivu province in the eastern part of the country in February 2021, but no further Ebola cases have been reported since 1 March 2021, while the response continues (infection prevention and control, contract tracing, vaccination, etc.)
Humanitarian action alone cannot solve the underlying and often structural causes of the humanitarian crises in the region. The EU is therefore applying and promoting a humanitarian-development approach, where donors work together to further increase the coherence between humanitarian and development aid and stabilisation actors.
Conference on the Future of Europe: Make your voice heard
The Executive Board approved on 9 May the Rules of Procedure that set out the composition of the Plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe, and how it will work.
The text approved on Europe Day 2021 will complete the rules determining how the Conference Platform, Panels and Plenary can transform citizens' priorities, hopes and concerns into actionable recommendations. It adds to the rules previously adopted concerning the working methods of the Executive Board and those related to citizens' participation.
On the same day, the European Parliament in Strasbourg hosted the inaugural event of the Conference on the Future of Europe. Watch it here.
Ensuring that citizens' input will be taken into account
The Conference Plenary will be composed of 108 representatives from the European Parliament, 54 from the Council (two per member state) and three from the European Commission, as well as 108 representatives from all national Parliaments on an equal footing, and citizens. 108 citizens will participate to discuss citizens' ideas stemming from the Citizens' Panels and the Multilingual Digital Platform: 80 representatives from the European Citizens' Panels, of which at least one-third will be younger than 25, and 27 from national Citizens' Panels or Conference events (one per member state), as well as the president of the European Youth Forum.
Some 18 representatives from both the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee, and another eight from both social partners and civil society will also take part, while the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be invited when the international role of the EU is discussed. Representatives of key stakeholders may also be invited. The Conference Plenary will be gender-balanced.
Their exchanges will be structured thematically around recommendations from the Citizens' Panels and input gathered from the Multilingual Digital Platform. The Platform is the single place where input from all Conference-related events will be collected, analysed and published. In due course, the Plenary will submit its proposals to the Executive Board, who will draw up a report in full collaboration and full transparency with the Plenary and which will be published on the Multilingual Digital Platform.
The final outcome of the Conference will be presented in a report to the Joint Presidency. The three institutions will examine swiftly how to follow up effectively to this report, each within their own sphere of competences and in accordance with the Treaties.
Parliament's Co-Chair of the Executive Board Guy Verhofstadt said: “We want to create real momentum from the bottom up. The Conference will be much more than a listening exercise, but a way to truly include citizens in mapping out our shared European future. The foundations have been laid: digital and deliberative democratic experiments that have never been tried on an EU-wide scale. We will guarantee that their concerns and proposals will then get a political answer. It's new and exciting, and it starts today.”
The Portuguese Secretary of State for EU Affairs and Co-Chairwoman from the Presidency of the Council of the EU, Ana Paula Zacarias, said: “Coming from Porto to Strasbourg, to celebrate Europe Day and the launching of the Conference on the Future of Europe, the words of President Mario Soares came to my mind when back in 1976 he defended: ‘to rethink Europe and its future is a permanent duty of all Europeans. A joint endeavour that needs to be taken forward with humbleness facing the historic relevance of our common goals."
Commission Vice President for Democracy and Demography and Co-Chairman Dubravka Šuica, said: “This Conference is an unprecedented exercise for the EU. We are creating a space where citizens can debate on a par with elected representatives to spell out the future of Europe. This has never been tried before, but we are confident that this will strengthen both our European Union and our representative democracy. And there is no better date to celebrate that than on 9 May.”
The Executive Board will soon set the date for the first Conference Plenary meeting. Preparations for the Citizens' Panels are underway, while the number of participants and events on the Conference's Multilingual Digital Platform continue to grow. The Conference is committed to give maximum space to young people and in this vein, preparations for the European Youth Event organised by the European Parliament in October also continue.
Therapeutics Strategy - First rolling review of a new COVID-19 medicine
The European Medicines Agency has tarted the rolling review of sotrovimab (VIR-7831), a monoclonal antibody developed for the treatment of COVID-19. The review follows hot on the heels of the EU COVID-19 Therapeutics Strategy and is a first step towards the Strategy's target of starting seven rolling reviews of COVID-19 therapeutics in 2021. The rolling review launched by EMA will assess sotrovimab's effectiveness in preventing hospitalisation and death; safety and quality. A rolling review is quicker than a regular evaluation as data is reviewed as it comes in. Should the European Medicines Agency recommend authorising the treatment at the end of its review, the European Commission will move swiftly to authorise it. The EU Therapeutics Strategy supports the development and availability of much needed COVID-19 therapeutics and covers the lifecycle of medicines: from research, development and manufacturing to procurement and deployment. It is part of the strong European Health Union, in which all EU countries prepare and respond together to health crises and ensure the availability of affordable and innovative medical supplies – including the therapeutics needed to treat COVID-19. More details on the EU Therapeutics Strategy are available in a press release and factsheet.
Health Union: High-level event on the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health impact has been overwhelming, with consequences felt across society. To highlight the relevance and complexity of addressing this challenge, and generally the importance attached to mental health, the European Commission is holding an online high-level event today (10 May), entitled 'Mental health and the pandemic: living, caring, acting!'. The event will be an opportunity to bring together speakers from different policy and practice areas, as well as to hear from those most affected, including young people, those with pre-existing mental health problems and their carers, and to share examples and promising practices with a view to ensuring that health systems are well equipped, now and in the future and to map the way forward.
Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “Mental health is a lifetime commitment for me. As we make strides to contain COVID-19 and build a strong European Heath Union, it is paramount that we take stock of the mental health consequences of the pandemic, that we jointly reflect on what we know and to explore what we need to understand and do better. It's abundantly clear that mental health matters, now more than ever, and we stand side-by-side with EU countries, healthcare professionals and all those affected to take action to address one of today's most pressing challenges and to give voice to those most affected by this unprecedented health crisis.”
The Commission supports national health priorities that protect mental health, prevent mental illness and improve access to treatment. The event takes place during the European Mental Health Awareness Week and will be livestreamed. More details, including the agenda and registration links, are available here.
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