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Newsletter7 July 2022Representation in Cyprus

Daily news 07 July 2022

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Commission calls on telecom operators to continue help refugees stay connected

Following the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, millions have fled to the EU – and it is essential that Ukrainians have access to affordable connectivity to stay in touch with their families and friends. This is why the Commission encourages EU and Ukrainian telecom operators to prolong their agreement which allowed refugees from Ukraine use their mobile phones with no, or only low, roaming charges during three months. The Joint Statement, facilitated by the European Commission and the European Parliament, was signed on 8 April, and the initial three months period would now expire. The meanwhile 38 signatories include European operators as well as all mobile operators from Ukraine. An assessment published by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) shows that the agreement between the operators was very successful. It providesgood reason to continue the arrangement and the Commission encourages operators to maintain the voluntary commitments. In addition to affordable roaming, 2.5 million SIM cards were so far distributed by EU telecom companies to Ukrainians who fled their country, and WiFi hot spots were established at the borders and shelters. The Joint Statement is available here.

Afghanistan: Humanitarian Air Bridge delivers medical aid in response to earthquake

Today, a new EU Humanitarian Air Bridge flight has arrived in Kabul and delivered 36 tonnes of life-saving cargo to address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and support victims of the 22 June earthquake. The cargo consists of medical equipment such as medication and relief items, equipment for safe drinking water and sanitation supplies. It enables EU humanitarian partners UNICEF, the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières to continue delivering vital aid and health care services to Afghans in need. Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management said: ”Today, the EU marks its twentieth humanitarian air bridge flight to Kabul to ensure a continuous inflow of vital medicines and medical items to Afghanistan. The country has been affected by simultaneous crises, from wide-spread hunger affecting half of the population to the powerful earthquake that shook the country just a few days ago. The European Union is therefore stepping up assistance at this critical time”. The June earthquake hit an already extremely fragile country, marked by decades of conflict, recurrent droughts, and a sharp economic decline due to recent political developments. The earthquake alone had a devastating impact causing more than 1,000 fatalities and injuring almost 3,700. The EU allocated €1 million in emergency funding to humanitarian aid organisations providing immediate relief operations to those affected, allocating in 2022 a total of €115 million in EU humanitarian aid to the country.

Environment and climate: Commission opens negotiations with seven non-EU countries to join LIFE programme

Today, the Commission is launching negotiations on the association to the LIFE programme for environment and climate with seven non-EU countries: Albania, Andorra, Faroe Islands, Israel, Moldova, North Macedonia and Turkey. Joining LIFE will help these countries spread innovative environment and climate techniques, approaches and best practices that contribute to a climate-neutral, circular and resilient economy, and which protect and restore nature. Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “Environment and climate challenges have no borders. We can only tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution by acting together. By increasing substantially the number of countries participating in the LIFE programme, we put in action concrete cooperation and exchange of solutions beyond the EU for a healthy planet.” Today's step illustrates EU's global ambition of leading by example for the good of the environment and climate, and in preparation ahead of key international meetings later this year – the milestone COP15 on biodiversity and COP27 on climate.Thanks toLIFE, public and private organisations of these countries will be able to receive financial support for projects to: develop and demonstrate eco-innovative techniques and approaches; promote best practices and behavioural changes; support the development, implementation and monitoring of environmental laws; and catalyse the large-scale deployment of successful solutions. Applicants of these third countries can already submit proposals under the 2022 LIFE calls for proposals. In order for a project to receive funding, the country concerned will have to ratify the association agreement. Iceland joined the LIFE programme in September 2021, and last week, Ukraine signed an agreement to access the programme. More information is in the news item.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions: €72 million to support researchers and innovators in universities and beyond

Today, the Commission has announced the results of the 2021 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) call for Staff Exchanges. The 71 projects selected will promote international, interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral collaboration with a view to training researchers and innovators and produce new products, services and processes. Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, said: “The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Staff Exchanges offer unique opportunities for researchers and innovators from all over the world to work together, and boost their creativity and entrepreneurship. MSCA will allow them once more to pursue frontier research and exchange ideas and knowledge for the benefit of our societies. I wish the 71 consortia we have selected today every success with their projects.” An overall budget of €72 million will enable researchers to go abroad and enlarge their networks, share knowledge and carry out cutting-edge research. The funded individuals will include doctoral candidates, post-doctoral fellows, as well as technicians, managerial and administrative staff involved in research and innovation activities. Through Staff Exchanges, organisations can form international partnerships with other leading organisations from across the world. This year's projects cover 655 organisations based in 84 countries, including 118 Small and Medium Enterprises, mostly from the private sector, and 157 companies. This was the first call of MSCA Staff Exchanges under the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme. Since 2014, the MSCA have funded 586 Staff Exchanges projects (previously known as RISE). More information is available here.

Commission seeks views and input on compulsory licensing of patents

Today, the Commission has launched a public consultation on compulsory licensing of patents, inviting interested parties to express their views on the topic. In particular, the Commission looks for suggestions on how to build a more efficient and coordinated compulsory licensing scheme in the EU, reduce current fragmentation and improve the Europe's resilience in managing crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The consultation also gathers views on improving harmonisation, coordination between EU Member States and coordination with the Commission. Furthermore, the consultation gathers views to assess the procedure for granting compulsory licences of patents relating to the manufacture of pharmaceutical products for export purposes to non-EU countries, as regulated by the Regulation 816/2006 on compulsory licensing of patents relating. Compulsory licensing of patents allows a government to authorise the use of a patented invention without the consent of the patent holder. As highlighted in the call for evidence published in April, compulsory licensing has a role to play in tackling crises as it can help provide access to key products and technologies. It is a last resort mechanism, which should apply in case of failure of voluntary agreements. Currently, apart from Regulation 816/2006, legislation on compulsory licensing of patents is fragmented: EU countries regulate their own compulsory licensing schemes, even though many value chains operate across the EU.  This can be a source of legal uncertainty for both right holders and users of intellectual property rights. The Commission is looking into presenting an initiative for an EU framework on compulsory licensing in the EU in 2023; as indicated in the 2020 Action Plan on Intellectual Property. The initiative would not aim to make the use of compulsory licensing more frequent but to ensure that the system functions more efficiently and that the EU is better equipped to address EU-wide crises. The consultation will be open until 29 September 2022 and is available on the Have Your Say portal.

Capital Markets Union: Commission publishes reports on improving quality of financial advice and directing SMEs to alternative funding providers

The Commission has today published two reports on the Capital Markets Union (CMU): one on improving the quality of financial advice and another on directing SMEs to alternative funding providers. These reports are part and parcel of the Commission's 2020 CMU Action Plan and are based on external consultations with stakeholders. The first assessment has examined an important issue for retail investment in the EU, notable possible improvements to the quality of financial advice. It specifically looked into the feasibility of setting up a pan-EU label for financial advisors. The assessment concludes that, despite some requirements introduced at EU level, the level of qualifications of financial advisors largely continues to differ across Member States. Nevertheless, the report does not recommend a pan-EU label as its successful uptake is not guaranteed, while administrative costs linked to its set-up and running are likely to be high. The report proposes that the future Retail Investment Strategy looks into alternative possibilities to strengthen EU rules for advisors. The second assessment examined how to direct small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to alternative funding providers. It considered a possible EU-wide SME referral scheme, where banks declining credit to an SME would be required to re-direct it to providers of alternative funding. The assessment concludes that a potential referral scheme, building on the European Single Access Point (ESAP) proposal currently under negotiation, would be the most promising avenue. The Commission will wait for the outcome of the ESAP negotiations before considering next steps. The aim of the CMU is to get money – investments and savings – flowing across the EU so that it can benefit consumers, investors and companies, regardless of where they are located. For more details on the two assessments, see Actions 5 and 8 of the CMU Action Plan here: Capital markets union 2020 action plan: A capital markets union for people and businesses | European Commission (europa.eu)

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Publication date
7 July 2022
Author
Representation in Cyprus