EU Commission wants to protect the single market in crises such as the coronavirus pandemic

Brussels (dpa) – The EU Commission wants to prepare for future emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic or the Ukraine war with a new crisis instrument for the single market. As reported by digital media company Table.Media on Wednesday, with reference to the corresponding draft law, the Commission therefore wants to oblige the EU member states to build up stocks of energy, fuel and agricultural products. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will present the plan in mid-September.

On Wednesday, Commission sources said that the aim of the instrument is to ensure the smooth functioning of the single market in times of crisis. The pandemic and the Ukraine war had shown that the first reflex response of EU states could be to close internal borders within the EU. These crises also highlighted the importance of resilient supply chains, they stated.

Part of the proposal is a rapid notification procedure for national restrictions on the free movement of goods, services and people. In addition, the EU Commission said the draft addresses better availability of crisis-relevant goods, targeted distribution of national strategic reserves and procurement of crisis-relevant goods by the Brussels-based body on behalf of member states. (August 3)

Brussels approves joint purchase of 250 million doses of Hipra’s vaccine

Brussels (Europa Press) – This week, the European Commission reported the signing of a joint purchase contract with pharmaceutical company Hipra Human Health to secure the supply of 250 million doses of its protein-based coronavirus vaccine, ‘Hipra’. A total of 14 member states will participate in this joint purchase. Brussels did not report the total value of the purchase. The agreement will allow for the supply of this protein-based vaccine as a booster dose for previously immunized persons over 16 years of age.

This vaccine is currently being evaluated by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). If it receives market authorization, the participating countries will be able to purchase the vaccine under the provisions of the current contract.

With COVID infections on the rise in Europe, “we must ensure maximum preparedness as we approach the autumn and winter months,”

Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez welcomed the signing of the contract as “very good news”. In his opinion, “it demonstrates the strength of innovation and the pharmaceutical industry in our country, and also the public-private collaboration that we have developed with the Catalan and Spanish industry, which has borne fruit.” (August 2)

BiH adopts LGBTI action plan of the European Union and the Council of Europe

Sarajevo (FENA) – The Council of Ministers in Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted the LGBTI action plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina 2021-2024, with the aim of improving the state of human rights and freedom of LGBTI persons in the country. It is the first Action Plan of its kind in the country and was developed with the support of the European Union and the Council of Europe.

The plan includes three strategic goals for the protection of LGBTI persons: to ensure the existence of effective protection mechanisms against discrimination and hate crimes, to ensure equal rights in all areas of public and private life and to counteract prejudice and stereotypes.

Bojana Urumova, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Sarajevo, expressed her satisfaction: “It is of vital importance to protect the human rights of all members of society, including LGBTI persons, to promote tolerance and counteract discrimination. We believe that the Action Plan will help to achieve this goal, and that it will contribute to the implementation of previous recommendations of the Council of Europe and the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights,” Urumova added.

The latest report of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the EU’s opinion on BiH’s request for membership highlighted the need to ensure a consistent strategic framework on human rights. Among other things, the action plan includes the adoption of a strategic framework for the protection of LGBTI persons, based on relevant European standards, especially those derived from Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. (August 2)

Photo: FENA/Almir Razić

Slovenian Ministry of Health wants to increase the allocation of EU funds for health investments

Ljubljana (STA) – The share of EU funds spent on healthcare investments in Slovenia is very low. The main source of financing investments in health care is budget funds with a 44% share, followed by European funds and the corresponding Slovenian own contribution with a 28 percent share.

The REACT-EU (Recovery Assistance for Cohesion and the Territories of Europe) mechanism provides 116.5 million euros, but Slovenia has currently used only 4 percent of the funds. The other major source of funding for health investments is the EU Cohesion Fund with a total volume of 71 million euros. So far, Slovenia has only used 20 percent of the fund.

Among the projects whose disbursement is already critical in terms of timing is the energy renovation of the largest Slovenian hospital, the University Clinical Centre Ljubljana.

“We don’t want to find fault for this. Our task is to use as much or all of the funds as possible by the indicative and planned timetables,”

said Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan.

He also mentioned the possibility of restructuring part of the funds as one of the solutions. (August 2)

EU disburses first tranche of billion-euro emergency loan to Ukraine

Brussels (BELGA) – On Monday, the European Commission disbursed the first tranche of a 1-billion-euro emergency loan to Ukraine. This major financial assistance aims to help the country with its most urgent financial needs and to keep the public administration running during the war with Russia and beyond.

Half a billion euros were disbursed on August 1, followed by a second tranche of another 500 million euros on August 2. Even before the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the EU approved an emergency loan of 1.2 billion euros. Due to the Russian threat of war, Ukraine was already facing a large outflow of capital at that time and had lost its access to the capital markets.

Now that the war has been raging there for more than five months, Ukraine’s revenues from taxes and exports have completely collapsed, while expenses went through the roof. That is why the EU came to Kiev’s rescue with a long-term loan of 1 billion euros on favorable terms. The interest costs are exceptionally borne by the EU’s budget.

To finance the aid fund, the European Commission is borrowing on the capital markets on behalf of the EU. The European Commission also disbursed 50 million euros in financial assistance to Moldova on August 1, of which 35 million euros are long-term loans and 15 million euros are grants. The economy of Ukraine’s small and poor neighbor is suffering from the war. In addition, relative to its own population, the country is hosting the highest number of Ukrainian refugees in all of Europe. (August 1)

This is a compilation of the European coverage of enr news agencies. It is published Wednesdays and Fridays. The content is an editorial selection based on news by the respective agency.