Latin Americans lodge far fewer applications for asylum in the EU+

Source: European Union 2

Asylum applications from six main origin countries in Latin America have fallen strongly since August 2020, possibly because of fewer flight connections to the EU+ and increased movements towards the United States.

Analysis released by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) on asylum trends in April 2021 shows that about 36 800 applications for international protection were lodged in the EU+ in April 2021.1  This was significantly fewer than in March (- 8 %) and the lowest level since last summer.

Apart from Syrians lodging fewer applications in April, the largest declines occurred for Venezuelans and Colombians. This reinforced a persistent downward trend of applications by Latin Americans. From 9 000 in August 2020, total applications by nationals of Venezuela, Colombia, Honduras, Peru, El Salvador and Nicaragua have steadily fallen to 2 100 in April, for unclear reasons. The decline also contrasts with developments at the southwest border of the United States.2 One factor may be that travel links to the EU+ have remained scarce. This may have prompted a redirection of migration towards the United States, possibly supported by expectations of changing U.S. policies.

Venezuela and Colombia no longer among the main origin countries

The top origin countries in April were Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Nigeria. For the first time since early 2018 (except April/May 2020), neither Venezuela nor Colombia was among the 10 main origin countries. In contrast, Malians (950) lodged the most applications since late 2017 and joined the 10 main origin countries for the first time in seven years. Moroccans (910) remained among the main applicant nationalities. The high levels of applications not only by Malians and Moroccans but also by Senegalese and Gambians might partially reflect irregular migration on the Western African route to the Canary Islands. Applications by Belarusians (220) were close to peak values in previous months.

More applications (1 500) were lodged by self-claimed unaccompanied minors in the EU+ in April 2021. They represented 4 % of the total applications in April, compared to 3 % so far this year. The increase primarily reflects more applications by unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan, who are by far the largest group.

Decisions issued by EU+ asylum authorities remain high

EU+ asylum authorities issued 50 000 first instance decisions in April, down from the peak in March but more than in previous months. As in March, about one in four first instance decisions concerned a repeated application, most of which had been lodged by Syrians. First instance decisions in April continued to far exceed applications.

The high level of decisions resulted in a slight fall of pending cases: some 364 100 cases were pending at first instance at the end of April, down by 6 % from the end of March. The recognition rate3 in the EU+ was 27 % in April 2021. Recognition rates were especially high for Eritreans (77 %) and Yemenis (74 %) but unusually low for Syrians (39 %) due to low recognition of their repeated applications.

For more information and an interactive data visualisation, please visit the Latest Asylum Trends page.


Any further information may be obtained from the European Asylum Support Office on the following email address: press@easo.europa.eu

[1]   EASO EPS data are preliminary and might differ from validated official statistics submitted to Eurostat at a later stage. Eurostat data are used in the annual EASO Asylum Report. The total EPS numbers exclude missing data for one EU+ country.
[2]   See the figures published by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Southwest Land Border Encounters, 9 June 2021.

[3]   This refers to the recognition rate for EU-regulated types of protection (refugee status and subsidiary protection) at first instance.

Press release – European Parliament Press Kit for the European Council of 24-25 June 2021

Source: European Parliament

Additional information, including contact details for the MEPs involved, can be found on the European Parliament’s website.

European Parliament President, David Sassoli, will represent the European Parliament at the summit and:

– address heads of state or government at 15.00 on Thursday, 24 June

– hold a press conference on Thursday, 24 June, at 15.30 in the European Council press room. More info here.

On 24 and 25 June, EU leaders will meet to discuss the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the epidemiological and vaccine situation in the EU, economic recovery, particularly the implementation of Next Generation EU, migration as well as relations with Turkey and Russia.

COVID-19

On 9 June, Parliament gave its final green light to the EU Digital COVID Certificate, which will facilitate free movement and contribute to restrictions being lifted gradually in a coordinated manner. The certificate will be issued free of charge by national authorities and be available in either digital or paper format containing a QR code. The document will certify that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has a recent negative test result or has recovered from the infection. The system will apply from 1 July 2021 and be in place for 12 months. The certificate will not be a precondition for free movement and will not be considered a travel document.

To accelerate the global vaccine rollout, MEPs demand that intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines be temporarily lifted, in a resolution adopted on 10 June. Parliament proposes negotiations start for a temporary waiver of the WTO TRIPS Agreement on patents to improve global access to affordable COVID-19-related medical products and to address global production constraints and supply shortages. MEPs also point to the threat that an indefinite TRIPS Agreement waiver would pose to research finance, in particular for researchers, investors, developers and clinical trials.

On 22 June, Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety agreed to change the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) mandate to boost its role and better equip the EU to manage future health crises. Among other things, MEPs want to improve the EMA’s capacity for crisis preparedness and management of medical devices and products, establish an EU database to monitor and report medicine shortages and call for information on clinical trials and marketing authorisation decisions to be publicised.

More information:

Parliament gives its final green light to the EU Digital COVID Certificate

Parliament calls for temporary COVID-19 vaccine patent waiver

MEPs to contact:

Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES), Chairman of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs; + 32 2 28 45336;

e-mail: juanfernando.lopezaguilar@europarl.europa.eu

Bernd Lange (S&D, DE), Chairman of the Committee on International Trade; tel: +32 2 28 45555, e-mail: bernd.lange@europarl.europa.eu

Pascal Canfin (Renew, FR), Chairman of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, + 32 2 28 45658, e-mail: pascal.canfin@europarl.europa.eu

Economic Recovery

In a resolution adopted on 10 June, Parliament insists that national recovery plans must fully meet the agreed requirements and targets for fair and green growth and digital transformation. MEPs stress that the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is a historic EU instrument that must not only mitigate the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but must also have a lasting impact on prosperity and help distribute growth fairly. They call on the Commission to only approve plans that fully meet the targets and goals agreed in the RRF regulation and to not bow to any political pressure.

More information

National recovery plans: historic opportunity for long-term sustainable growth

Parliament demands democratic scrutiny over national recovery efforts

MEP to contact

Irene Tinagli, (S&D, Italy), Chair of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, +32 2 28 45827 e-mail: irene.tinagli@europarl.europa.eu

Migration

National MPs and MEPs met on 14 June to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the external dimension of asylum and migration policies. EP President Sassoli insisted that global partnerships have to be transparent and subject to democratic and parliamentary scrutiny. He called for a European search and rescue mechanism at sea, humanitarian pathways and resettlement opportunities as well as work opportunities. This would mean creating “authentic cooperation between member states, based on permanent mechanism of solidarity and sharing of responsibilities”. Nobody can confront global challenges alone and should not be left alone, he added. In a report adopted on 20 May, Parliament called for more legal options for migrant workers coming to the EU. An EU framework for legal migration would encourage more orderly migration, attract much-needed workers, undermine smugglers and traffickers, and ease integration. MEPs highlight that legal migration has barely been part of the EU’s migration policy since 2015 and underline that the New Pact on Migration and Asylum does not include any specific proposals in this area.

MEPs also called for migrants to be better protected from human rights violations. In a report adopted on 19 May, Parliament criticises the European Commission and some EU countries for overusing informal agreements on the return and readmission of irregular migrants and provides recommendations on human rights protection in the framework of the EU’s external asylum and migration policy.

More information

High time to advance in discussions on asylum and migration in the EU

Parliament calls for more legal options for migrant workers coming to the EU

MEPs call for better protection of migrants from human rights violations

Asylum border procedures: fundamental rights must be respected, says Parliament

First meeting of the Frontex Scrutiny Group with Leggeri and Johansson

MEPs to contact

Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES), Chairman of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs + 32 2 28 45336;

e-mail: juanfernando.lopezaguilar@europarl.europa.eu

Sylvie Guillaume (S&D, FR), rapporteur on New Avenues for Legal Labour Migration , +32 2 28 45433, e-mail : sylvie.guillaume@europarl.europa.eu

Tineke Strik (The Greens/EFA, Netherlands) rapporteur on Human rights protection and the EU external migration policy; +32 2 28 45212, e-mail: tineke.strik@europarl.europa.eu

Relations with Russia

In a resolution adopted on 29 April, Parliament expressed its deep concern over the recent Russian military build-up on the Ukraine border and in illegally occupied Crimea as well as the revelations that Russian agents were behind explosions in Czechia.

In another resolution, Parliament demanded significantly tighter EU sanctions against Russia following the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny. MEPs call on EU member states to take an active stance on the arrest of Alexei Navalny and many of his followers at their next meetings and to “significantly strengthen the EU’s restrictive measures vis-à-vis Russia”. This includes sanctioning the “individuals and legal entities” involved in the decision to arrest and imprison Alexei Navalny, they say. Sanctions should also be imposed against Russian oligarchs linked to the regime, members of President Putin’s inner circle and Russian media propagandists, who possess assets in the EU and can currently travel there. Additional restrictive measures could also be taken under the new EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime.

More information

Russia: MEPs deplore military build-up, attack in Czechia and jailing of Navalny

Parliament demands significantly tighter EU sanctions against Russia

MEPs criticise visit of EU foreign policy chief to Moscow

EU-Russia relations: MEPs condemn the decision by the Russian authorities to expel three EU diplomats

MEPs to contact:

David McAllister (EPP, DE), Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs

+32 2 284 51 30, e-mail: david.mcallister@ep.europa.eu

Andrius Kubilius (EPP, LT), standing rapporteur on Russia

+32 2 284 57 35, e-mail: andrius.kubilius@ep.europa.eu

Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR, PL), Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee

+32 2 2845441, e-mail: ryszard.czarnecki@europarl.europa.eu

Relations with Turkey

EU-Turkey relations have deteriorated to such an extent that the EU needs to profoundly reassess them, MEPs say in a report adopted on 19 May. In recent years, the Government of Turkey has distanced itself increasingly from EU values and standards. As a result, relations have been brought to a historic low point, warn MEPs, who are particularly concerned about the state of the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights. They insist that if Turkey does not reverse this current negative trend, the Commission should recommend that the accession negotiations be formally suspended.

More information

EU-Turkey relations are at a historic low point, say MEPs

MEP to contact:

David McAllister (EPP, DE), Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs

+32 2 284 51 30, e-mail: david.mcallister@ep.europa.eu

Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D, ES), standing rapporteur on Turkey ; + 32 2 28 45862

e-mail: nacho.sanchezamor@europarl.europa.eu

Sergej Lagodinsky (Greens, Germany), Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), + 32 2 28 45912; e-mail: sergey.lagodinsky@europarl.europa.eu

ECB publishes consolidated banking data for end-December 2020

Source: European Central Bank

24 June 2021

Chart 1

Total assets of credit institutions headquartered in the EU

(EUR billions)

Data for total assets of credit institutions headquartered in the EU

Chart 2

Non-performing loans ratio of credit institutions headquartered in the EU (excluding the United Kingdom)

(EUR billions; percentages)

Notes: The non-performing loans ratio is defined as the ratio of non-performing loans to total loans.

Data for the non-performing loans ratio of credit institutions headquartered in the EU

Chart 3

Return on equity of credit institutions headquartered in the EU in December 2020

(percentages)

Notes: Return on equity is defined as the ratio of total profit (loss) for the year to total equity. The data show the return on equity calculated on the basis of figures for the fourth quarter of 2020. Countries are indicated by their ISO code.

Data for the return on equity of credit institutions headquartered in the EU

Chart 4

Common Equity Tier 1 ratio of credit institutions headquartered in the EU in December 2020

(percentages)

Notes: The Common Equity Tier 1 ratio is defined as the ratio of Common Equity Tier 1 capital to the total risk exposure amount. Countries are indicated by their ISO code.

Data for the Common Equity Tier 1 ratio of credit institutions headquartered in the EU

The European Central Bank (ECB) has published the consolidated banking data with reference to end-2020, a dataset of the EU banking system compiled on a group consolidated basis.

The annual data cover information required for the analysis of the EU banking sector, comprising a subset of the information that is available in the year-end dataset. The end-December 2020 data refer to 327 banking groups and 2,593 stand-alone credit institutions operating in the EU (including foreign subsidiaries and branches), covering nearly 100% of the EU banking sector balance sheet. This dataset includes an extensive range of indicators on profitability and efficiency, balance sheets, liquidity and funding, asset quality, asset encumbrance, capital adequacy and solvency. Aggregates and indicators are published for the full sample of the banking industry.

Large reporters apply International Financial Reporting Standards and the Implementing Technical Standards on supervisory reporting of the European Banking Authority, while some smaller reporters may apply national accounting standards. Accordingly, aggregates and indicators may also cover data based on national accounting standards, depending on the availability of the underlying items.

A few revisions to past data are disclosed together with the end-December 2020 data.

For media queries, please contact Philippe Rispal, tel.: +49 69 1344 5482.

Notes

  • The consolidated banking data are available in the ECB Statistical Data Warehouse.
  • More information about the methodology behind the data compilation is available on the ECB’s website.
  • Hyperlinks in the main body of the press release lead to data that may change with subsequent releases as a result of revisions.

New instrument for modern and reliable customs control equipment

Source: Council of the European Union 2

The Council and the European Parliament today signed the regulation establishing the instrument for financial support for customs control equipment. The new instrument aims to ensure that customs authorities at the EU’s external borders are properly equipped so that the customs union can function smoothly.

The customs control equipment instrument will support the purchase, maintenance and upgrade of the equipment needed for efficient and effective customs controls. It can be used to fund items such as x-ray scanners, radiation detectors, automated number plate recognition systems and mobile laboratories for analysis of goods samples.

The instrument is a part of the long-term EU budget for 2021-2027 and has a financial envelope of about €1 billion. The equipment purchased under this instrument will mainly be used for customs controls, although it may also be used occasionally for additional purposes, such as to support the national border management authorities in carrying out checks on persons.

Background

The customs union is essential for the proper functioning of the single market, as the goods that enter one member state can then move freely within the Union. The instrument will contribute to keeping citizens safe and secure without impeding legitimate trade with third countries.

Custom duties account for 13% of the total EU budget revenue. Modern and reliable control equipment at the external border will help the customs authorities to protect the financial and economic interests of the Union, ensure the safety and security of citizens, and protect the Union from unfair and illegal trade, such as counterfeiting of goods.

This regulation, together with the ‘Customs’ programme for cooperation in the field of customs, forms a solid basis for the continuous development of the customs union under the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework. The ‘Customs’ programme, adopted in March, supports cooperation between customs authorities across the Union and allows the joint development and operation of pan-European IT systems.

The regulation will apply retroactively from 1 January 2021.

The pop-up House of Switzerland: the new national marketing tool – coming to Stuttgart, Milan and New York

Source: Switzerland – Department of Foreign Affairs

Headline: The pop-up House of Switzerland: the new national marketing tool – coming to Stuttgart, Milan and New York

For the first time, Switzerland is launching a pop-up House of Switzerland and with it a new national marketing tool. This temporary networking and communication platform, organised by Presence Switzerland in cooperation with its partners Switzerland Tourism and Switzerland Global Enterprise, raises Switzerland’s visibility in export markets, fostering relations and new opportunities for collaboration. The first Swiss pop-up will be unveiled in Stuttgart on 1 July 2021. In terms of trade, Baden-Württemberg is one of Switzerland’s most important neighbouring regions.

EIB and EIF partner with NBG to unlock more than EUR 1 billion for Greek businesses impacted by COVID-19

Source: European Investment Bank

@NBG Greece” src=”/photos/download.do?documentId=dc201b60-9b37-4726-a628-af9dcbd234a9&binaryType=WM” loading=”lazy”/>
©NBG Greece
  • First transactions in Greece under the European Guarantee Fund to help businesses recover from the pandemic and grow
  • Joint EIB Group engagement to support SMEs, MidCaps and, for the first time, large corporates
  • First EIB direct guarantee operation in Greece and first EIF guarantee operation in Greece to cover factoring
  • Follows recent EIB and EIF support for EUR 4.5 billion Greek business financing by NBG

Small, medium and large businesses across Greece impacted by COVID-19 will benefit from EUR 1.125 billion of new financing from the National Bank of Greece supported by the first signatures of the European Guarantee Fund (EGF) products in the country.

The European Investment Bank and European Investment Fund will guarantee business financing provided by NBG to enable companies of all sizes access advantageous financing, better withstand business challenges posed by the pandemic and invest for the future.

The first operations supported by the European Guarantee Fund in Greece were formally agreed at the National Bank of Greece headquarters in Athens earlier today. Pavlos Mylonas, Chief Executive Officer of National Bank of Greece, Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank, Christian Kettel Thomsen, European Investment Bank Vice President responsible for Greece and Alain Godard, Chief Executive Officer of the European Investment Fund attended the signature ceremony.

“COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for business across Greece and demanded rapid response to help businesses adapt and protect jobs. NBG has responded to the needs of our clients during these challenging times and welcomes the significant new support from the EIB and EIF available by the first use of the European Guarantee Fund in our country. Today’s agreements will enable NBG to channel EUR 1.125 billion of financing to hundreds of companies across Greece.” said Pavlos Mylonas, Chief Executive Officer of National Bank of Greece.

“The European Investment Bank Group is committed to helping entrepreneurs and businesses across Europe and around the world to withstand the impact of COVID-19. Today’s first use of the European Guarantee Fund by our long-standing local partner NBG will unlock new financing that will help companies to overcome tough times and build a better future.” said Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank.

“The EIB’s latest cooperation with NBG comes at a crucial time for the Greek economy and together we will help Greek companies to contribute to national recovery. Deployment of the European Guarantee Fund marks the first time that the EIB has provided guarantees for business financing in the country and the first ever EIB support for financing for larger companies in Greece through a local banking partner.” said Christian Kettel Thomsen, European Investment Bank Vice President responsible for Greece.

“The European Investment Fund is scaling up engagement to support companies across Europe most impacted by the pandemic strengthening and providing equity, debt funds and guarantee products to reflect the precise business financing needs. The new EIF guarantee facility with NBG will complement the EIB guarantee and ensure that Greek companies of all sized can access targeted finance at this crucial time.” said Alain Godard, Chief Executive of the European Investment Fund.

Greek businesses benefiting from EUR 25 billion pan-European COVID response

The EUR 25 billion European Guarantee Fund was created by the European Investment Bank Group and EU Member States in the weeks after the onset of the pandemic to protect European companies that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, but are deemed viable in the long run.

By helping cover losses and free up capital for financial intermediaries, the EGF guarantees enable financial intermediaries to lend more money to companies under better conditions, helping businesses access rapid and advantageous financing and overcome the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transaction combining NBG, EIB and EIF support for Greek business resilience

The European Guarantee Fund will enable both the EIB and EIF to guarantee business loans provided to companies across Greece by NBG.

The EIB transaction involves a guarantee in favour of NBG covering losses potentially incurred on a EUR 200m portfolio of new loans to companies (MidCaps and large corporates) that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but are deemed viable in the long term. Taking into account the leverage commitment undertaken by NBG towards SMEs and the contributions of final beneficiaries from other sources, the transaction is expected to mobilise almost EUR 500 million worth of financing for the benefit of enterprises in Greece.

The EIF transaction consists of direct guarantee support for lending to both SMEs and Midcaps through a EUR 775 million loan portfolio, covering a wide range of business financing products including liquidity, factoring and investment loans.

Building on EUR 4.5 billion NBG and EIB Group recent support for private sector in Greece

Over the past 5 years, the EIB has committed more than EUR 1.65 billion to NBG for both on-lending to businesses across Greece and trade finance that has unlocked more than EUR 3bn of new business financing.

This represents the largest engagement with any Greek bank during this period and includes dedicated support for youth employment, female empowerment, climate action, as well as trade finance. In recent months, the EIB has signed EUR 200 million worth of loans in response to COVID-19 with NBG.

In recent years the EIF has unlocked a total of EUR 1.44 billion of new business financing through NBG under 8 targeted guarantee programmes.

The new NBG financing was launched during a three-day visit to Athens by the EIB President, Vice President and EIF Chief Executive.

Background information

About the National Bank of Greece

“National Bank of Greece S.A. is one of the four systemic banks in Greece and one of the largest financial institutions in Greece, providing a wide range of financial products and services.  It has a strong presence throughout the country with leading market shares in most of its main business areas, including retail and corporate lending.”

About the European Investment Bank

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy goals.

About the European Investment Fund

The European Investment Fund (EIF) is part of the European Investment Bank Group. Its central mission is to support Europe’s micro, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) by helping them to access finance. The EIF designs and develops venture and growth capital, guarantees and microfinance instruments which specifically target this market segment. In this role, the EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth, and employment.

António Guterres: “We must step up global vaccination efforts”  

Source: European Parliament 2

The newly re-elected UN Secretary-General reiterated the need for a global vaccination plan for COVID-19, in a speech at the European Parliament on Thursday.

In his second speech in Parliament as United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres said that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed utterly inadequate health systems, huge gaps in social protection and major inequalities within and between countries.

“While some countries are slowly starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the virus remains a threatening reality in many places around the world, and therefore to us all”, he pointed out, calling for global vaccination efforts to be stepped up, in particular when it comes to Africa.

He also reiterated the need for a global vaccination strategy and for vaccine producing countries to come together in an emergency task force, supported by the World Health Organisation, the Gavi Vaccine Alliance and international financial institutions, to mobilise pharmaceutical companies and key industrial actors.

Additionally, he addressed other issues related to development, social and economic imbalances and inequalities around the world, the climate crisis and how to counter it, lawlessness in cyber space, multilateralism, and more.

You can watch the full speech again here.

Europol helps Belgian and Swiss authorities unravel Vitae Ponzi scheme

Source: European Union

With the support of Europol, the Belgian Federal Judicial Police (Federale Gerechtelijke Politie, Police Judiciaire Fédérale) under the jurisdiction of the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office (Federaal Parket, Parquet Fédéral) has taken action against the alleged members of an organised crime group running a worldwide Ponzi scheme.  

This criminal syndicate was using the social media platform ‘Vitae.co’ and website ‘Vitaetoken.io’ to trick people into investing into a Ponzi scheme. It is believed that some 223 000 individuals from 177 countries have fallen victim to this investment scam. 

On 22 June, house searches were carried out in 17 different locations in Belgium, mainly in Antwerp, West Flanders and Limburg. A total of five individuals were detained for their alleged involvement in this fraud scheme. 

The members of this organised crime group are for the most part Belgian nationals who were making use of a company under Swiss jurisdiction. A number of house searches were carried out in parallel by the Swiss Federal Police (fedpol). 

A total of €1,1 million in cash was seized, alongside €1,5 million worth in cryptocurrencies and 17 luxury vehicles. 

Europol deployed four of its experts to Belgium and Switzerland to assist the national authorities with the actions in the field. 

The website and social media platform have now been rendered inaccessible. 

This operation was carried out in the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT). 
 

In 2010 the European Union set up a four-year Policy Cycle to ensure greater continuity in the fight against serious international and organised crime. In 2017 the Council of the EU decided to continue the EU Policy Cycle for the 2018 – 2021 period. It aims to tackle the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU. This is achieved by improving and strengthening cooperation between the relevant services of EU Member States, institutions and agencies, as well as non-EU countries and organisations, including the private sector where relevant. Criminal finances is one of the priorities for the Policy Cycle.

European Council conclusions on COVID-19 and migration, 24 June 2021

Source: Council of the European Union 2

I. COVID-19

1. The European Council welcomes the good progress on vaccination and the overall improvement in the epidemiological situation, while stressing the need to continue vaccination efforts and to be vigilant and coordinated with regard to developments, particularly the emergence and spread of variants.

2. The agreements reached on the EU Digital COVID Certificate and on the revision of the two Council Recommendations on travel within the EU and on non-essential travel into the EU will facilitate safe cross-border travel. Member States will apply them in a manner that ensures the full return to free movement as soon as the public health situation allows.

3. The European Council reaffirms the EU’s commitment to international solidarity in response to the pandemic. Ongoing work to help boost global production of vaccines and universal access to them, in particular through COVAX, should be swiftly taken forward. All producing countries and manufacturers should actively contribute to efforts to increase worldwide supply of COVID-19 vaccines, raw materials, treatments and therapeutics, and coordinate action in case of bottlenecks in supply and distribution.

4. The European Council welcomes the decision adopted by the 74th World Health Assembly to set up a special session of the World Health Assembly in November 2021 on a Framework Convention on Pandemic Preparedness and Response. The EU will continue working towards an international treaty on pandemics.

5. The European Council discussed the initial lessons that can be learned from the pandemic on the basis of the report by the Commission. It invites the incoming Presidency to take work forward in the Council to enhance our collective preparedness, response capability and resilience to future crises and to protect the functioning of the internal market.

[…]

III. MIGRATION

11. The European Council discussed the migration situation on the various routes. While the measures taken by the EU and Member States have brought down the overall irregular flows in recent years, developments on some routes give rise to serious concern and require continued vigilance and urgent action.

12. In order to prevent loss of life and to reduce pressure on European borders, mutually beneficial partnerships and cooperation with countries of origin and transit will be intensified, as an integral part of the European Union’s external action. The approach will be pragmatic, flexible and tailor-made, make coordinated use, as Team Europe, of all available EU and Member States’ instruments and incentives, and take place in close cooperation with the UNHCR and IOM. It should address all routes and be based on a whole-of-route approach, tackling root causes, supporting refugees and displaced persons in the region, building capacity for migration management, eradicating smuggling and trafficking, reinforcing border control, cooperating on search and rescue, addressing legal migration while respecting national competences, as well as ensuring return and readmission. To this end, the European Council:

– calls on the Commission and the High Representative, in close cooperation with Member States, to immediately reinforce concrete actions with, and tangible support for, priority countries of origin and transit;

– calls on the Commission and the High Representative, in close cooperation with Member States, to put forward action plans for priority countries of origin and transit in autumn 2021, indicating clear objectives, further support measures and concrete timelines;

– invites the Commission to make the best possible use of at least 10% of the NDICI financial envelope, as well as funding under other relevant instruments, for actions related to migration, and to report to the Council on its intentions in this respect by November.

13. The European Council condemns and rejects any attempt by third countries to instrumentalise migrants for political purposes.

Press release – EU countries should ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health

Source: European Parliament

MEPs urge member states to protect and further enhance women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in a report adopted on Thursday.

With 378 votes in favour, 255 against and 42 abstentions, plenary states that the right to health, in particular sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), is a fundamental pillar of women’s rights and gender equality that cannot in any way be watered down or withdrawn.

 

Parliament declares that violations of women’s SRHR are a form of violence against women and girls and hinder progress towards gender equality. It thus calls on EU countries to ensure women are offered high quality, comprehensive and accessible SRHR, and to remove all barriers impeding them from using these services.

 

Access to abortion, contraception and sexuality education

MEPs stress that some member states still have highly restrictive laws prohibiting abortion except in strictly defined circumstances, forcing women to seek clandestine abortions or carry their pregnancy to term against their will, which is a violation of their human rights. They urge all member states to ensure universal access to safe and legal abortion, and guarantee that abortion on request is legal in early pregnancy, and beyond if the pregnant person’s health is in danger.

 

MEPs regret that some member states allow medical practitioners, and even entire medical institutions, refuse the provision of health services because of a so-called conscience clause. This leads to the denial of abortion care on the grounds of religion or conscience and puts women’s lives in danger.

 

Furthermore, the House demands that EU countries ensure a range of high-quality contraceptive methods and supplies, family counselling and information on contraception are widely available.

 

MEPs regret that access to abortion continues to be limited during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the effects the pandemic has had on the supply and access to contraceptives.

 

Parliament encourages member states to ensure sexuality education is taught comprehensively to primary and secondary school children, as SRHR education can significantly contribute to reducing sexual violence and harassment.

 

Menstrual products are essential basic goods

Pointing out the negative effects of the so-called tampon tax on gender equality, MEPs call on member states to make use of the flexibility introduced in the VAT Directive and apply exemptions or 0% VAT rates to these essential basic goods. They also ask EU countries to tackle menstrual poverty by providing free period products to anyone in need.

Quote

 

Rapporteur Predrag Matić (S&D, HR) said: ‘‘This vote marks a new era in the European Union and the first real resistance to a regressive agenda that has trampled on women’s rights in Europe for years. A majority of MEPs have made their position clear to member states and called on them to ensure access to safe and legal abortion and a range of other sexual and reproductive health services.’’

 

A worldwide issue

In a separate resolution taking stock of the results of the Nairobi Summit on population and development, MEPs emphasise that women around the world should be guaranteed proper and affordable healthcare and respect for their sexual and reproductive rights. They add that accessible SRHR services, family planning, maternal, antenatal and neonatal healthcare and safe abortion services are important elements in saving women’s lives and reducing infant and child mortality. The text passed with 444 votes to 182 and 57 abstentions.