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EU steps up efforts to help refugees fleeing violence in Central African Republic

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6046314148_4329f275a2_bThe European Commission is increasing by €6 million its life-saving assistance to help a hundred thousand Central African Republic refugees who have been forced to flee to Cameroon and Chad. The funding comes on top of the Commission's support of €4m to Central African refugees since the country's crisis escalated last December.

It will help the refugees to meet their basic needs including shelter, food, health, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene. It will be split 50-50 between Cameroon and Chad, the neighbouring countries which are facing the biggest influx of refugees.

"The terrible situation in Central African Republic is a regional crisis and with the number of refugees still increasing there is little prospect of them being able to return home. They are all dependent on our rapid humanitarian assistance to survive," said International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva during a visit to Cameroon where she is assessing the humanitarian situation and holding meetings with the government and NGOs.

"With the annual rainy season arriving, we are bound to face an even more critical humanitarian situation unless the international community steps up its support now. And it is absolutely essential that all Central Africans who have been forced to flee their homes are given a chance to return home safely – in particular the many Muslims who have had to flee the inter-religious violence of recent months."

The ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) has already forced an estimated 100,000 people since December into Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo, bringing the number of Central African refugees in neighbouring countries to almost 350,000. At least 70,000 refugees have arrived in Cameroon, more than 12,000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 8,000 in Chad and more than 8,000 in Republic of Congo.

The new funding brings the Commission's relief aid for the Central African crisis to €51 m since December 2013. The new funds come from the European Development Fund and are still subject to final approval by the member states.

Background

The Central African Republic ranks among the world's poorest countries and has been embroiled in a decade-long armed conflict. The surge of violence in December 2013 exacerbated this situation and today more than half of the 4.6-million-strong population is in need of immediate aid. More than 600 000 people have been internally displaced, 178,000 in the capital Bangui alone.

The EU is the largest provider of relief assistance to the country, with €76m in 2013 (including the EU and member states contributions). Humanitarian aid from the European Commission tripled last year to €39m. The Commission has organised humanitarian airlifts to get relief supplies and personnel directly into the country. A team of European humanitarian experts is present on the ground, monitoring the situation and working closely with partner organizations to ensure that aid reaches those who need it most.

More information

Central African Republic factsheet
The European Commission's humanitarian aid and civil protection
Commissioner Georgieva's website

coronavirus

 Commission approves €32 million Polish aid scheme to compensate airports for damage suffered due to coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a PLN 142 million (approximately €32m) Polish aid scheme to compensate airports for the damage suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak. In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, on 15 March 2020, Poland banned all international and domestic air passenger services at Polish airports. The flight restrictions were progressively lifted as of 1 June 2020, but certain travel warnings, travel bans and restrictive measures remained in place until the end of June 2020.

This resulted in high operating losses for the operators of Polish airports. Under the scheme, the Polish authorities will be able to compensate airports for the revenue losses suffered during the period between 15 March and 30 June 2020, as a result of the restrictive measures on international and domestic air passenger services implemented by Poland. The support will take the form of direct grants.

The scheme includes a claw-back mechanism, whereby any possible public support in excess of the actual damage received by the beneficiaries will have to be paid back to the Polish State. The risk of the state aid exceeding the damage is therefore excluded. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which enables the Commission to approve state aid measures granted by member states to compensate specific companies or specific sectors (in the form of schemes) for the damage directly caused by restrictive measures taken in exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak.

The Commission found that the  scheme notified by Poland 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. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the aid is in line with EU state aid rules. More information will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.58212 once confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Belgium

Commission approves €2.2 million Belgian aid measures to support Flemish airports in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved €2.2 million Belgian aid measures to support the operators of Flemish airports (Antwerp airport, Ostend airport and Kortrijk airport) in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The measures were approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The measures consist in: (i) an aid scheme, under which all Flemish airport operators will receive support in the form of a direct grant; and (ii) support to the operators of Antwerp and Ostend airports in the form of payment deferrals of certain costs and fees (namely annual compensation for the use of statutory staff of the Flemish Region and concession fee for the use of the airport infrastructure due for the year 2020).

The purpose of the aid measures is to help Flemish airport operators mitigating the liquidity shortages that they have been facing due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Commission found the measures to be in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the measures can only be granted until the end of this year; (ii) the direct grants do not exceed €800,000 per company, as provided by the Temporary Framework; and (iii) the payment deferrals will be granted by 31 December 2020, and will be due by no later than 31 December 2021 and involve minimum remuneration, in line with the Temporary Framework.

The Commission therefore concluded that the 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 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.58299 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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EU

Rule of law: First Annual Report on the Rule of Law situation across the European Union

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The European Commission has today published the first EU-wide report on the rule of law. It includes input from every member state and covers both positive and negative developments across the EU.

The report, including the 27 country chapters, shows that many member states have high rule of law standards, but important challenges to the rule of law exist in the EU. It also reflects relevant developments stemming from the emergency measures taken by member states due to coronavirus crisis.

It covers four main pillars with a strong bearing on the rule of law: national justice systems, anti-corruption frameworks, media pluralism and freedom, and other institutional issues related to the checks and balances essential to an effective system of democratic governance.

More information

Follow the press conference with Vice-President Jourová and Commissioner Reynders live on EbS.

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