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29th ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly: Specific problems of Pacific under spotlight



28th ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary assembly in Strasbourg Family photoThe specific problems of the Pacific region, such as climate change, fisheries, maritime security and regional integration, as well as the generation of fiscal revenues in ACP countries, were discussed by the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly at its 29th session, which closed on Wednesday (17 June) in Suva (Fiji).

Cautious green light for EU blending mechanism to finance trade and investment

The Assembly called for the financing of investment and trade, including infrastructure, in ACP countries through the EU blending mechanism. It said, in a report by its economic development, finance and trade committee, that this would boost the funding available for development by making projects with a high-risk profile or low profit margin, such as the Kenya Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, viable due to lower interest rates. However, MEPs and ACP MPs stress that to be effective, the blending mechanism must have transparent procedures to ensure that the additionally principle is applied and that the government of the recipient country is fully involved at every step of the decision-making process.

Protect cultural diversity and avoid cultural relativism in human rights

The Assembly stated its concern, in a report drawn up by the political affairs committee, that many cultures are disappearing because of their oral tradition, in combination with globalisation. It calls for cultural traditions to be respected and promoted, not least because they forge an identity and protect communities from radicalisation. However, the Assembly stresses that cultural differences must not be misused to justify violating shared human rights principles such as non-discrimination.

Quality education: Accessible to all

In a report by the social affairs and environment committee, the Assembly points to the importance of education for the improvement of individuals’ lives and the development of ACP countries. It calls for higher-quality and more accessible education, with particular emphasis on removing gender gaps. The report also highlights the need to strengthen the link between education and the labour market by making sure that students are taught the skills and competences needed and by increasing access to vocational and technical training.

Vanuatu and climate change

ACP and EU Members passed a resolution expressing their solidarity with the people of Vanuatu and other states in the region affected by Cyclone Pam in March. They call on the international community to step up its support and coordinate the mobilization of resources for the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure such as sanitation, housing, schooling and communication systems. They say ACP and EU countries must ensure that the post-2015 development agenda takes account of the needs of ACP small island developing states by addressing the impact of climate change and building in resilience to natural disasters. The resolution also highlights the plight of environmental migrants and calls on the international community to identify and address legal gaps in the protection of these migrants.

Call for elections in Central African Republic

The ACP-EU JPA passed an urgent resolution on the political, humanitarian and security situation in the Central African Republic. It called for free, fair and transparent elections before the end of 2015 and asked the international community to provide electoral assistance (USD 21 million is needed). It says there can be no impunity for the perpetrators of gross human rights violations. The Assembly strongly supports the efforts of religious leaders seeking to resolve sectarian tensions.

Statements by co-chairs

Co-presidents Louis Michel (ALDE, BE) and Fitz A. Jackson (Jamaica) issued two statements: one on the situation in Burundi and the other on the recent suicide attacks in Chad and on Boko Haram.

Next ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly

The 30th Parliamentary Assembly is scheduled for the end of December 2015.

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



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



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



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.

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

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