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MEP Mircea Hava supports decentralized management of the EU funds to better fight against climate change

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© European Union 2019 - Source : EP

MEP Mircea Hava (PNL, EPP) supports decentralized management of the EU funds and of environmental projects in an EP report on cohesion policy and regional environment strategies in the fight against climate change.

”Today, I had the opportunity to reinforce the importance of my amendments and those of my colleagues from the EPP in the report of Mr Tonino Picula, from Croatia, representing the S&D Group. The document highlights the role of cohesion policy and regional environmental strategies in the fight against climate change. (…) By more than 20 amendments that represent my contribution to this report, I have equated the success of this bet of humanity with the obligation that the management of environmental projects and funds to be radically decentralized, to be administered fairly by those who know what they are facing. I am referring to local and environmental authorities. It’s a way of working in which we don’t have to be guided by what is seen from the plane, but by the problems that everyone knows and experiences. Because this is where strategies are built and real investments are made”, said Mircea Hava.

MEP Mircea Hava called on the European Commission to monitor and publish reports using a common standard for all Member States about the progress of national governments and local and regional authorities in addressing climate change at all levels, as well as to assess the interlinkages between environmental policies and the economy.

Mircea Hava also argued that the structure of Cohesion Policy must be linked with other policies aimed at fighting against climate change in order to achieve the climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest.

”Disasters and climate phenomena in recent years have a common trigger: all of us! We are the ones who are responsible for this damage and the only ones who can fix it. We need to implement environmental projects, like a bandage, over every wound produced by pollution. In a reality with only one alternative, we are obliged to act locally and save ourselves globally. For Europe to succeed in becoming an example in climate protection, it needs rigor, methods, tools at all levels, in all Member States” concluded MEP Mircea Hava.

Teodora Ion este redactor-șef adjunct și specialistă în domeniul relațiilor internaționale. Aria sa de expertiză include procesul retragerii Marii Britanii din Uniunea Europeană, relațiile comerciale globale și competiția pentru supremație dintre marile puteri ale lumii. Teodora este corespondent în cadrul summit-urilor Consiliului European și al celorlalte reuniuni decizionale de la nivelul UE.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: Tourism recovery must be a major component of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan in all EU countries

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MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) reiterates the importance of recovering the tourism sector with the help of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

„I believe that the relaunch of tourism is key to overcoming the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is no less important to outline a common strategy for the whole of the European Union on tourism by establishing uniform criteria for travel safety and limiting restrictive measures as much as possible. Quarantine, considered to be the last resort for the spread of COVID 19″, said the EPP MEP.

The resolution on an EU strategy for sustainable tourism, adopted by 577 votes to 31, and 80 abstentions on Thursday, notes that the COVID-19 outbreak has paralyzed the EU’s tourism sector, with 6 out of 27 million jobs at risk. MEPs highlight that the tourism and travel sectors account for around 10% of the EU’s GDP. They, therefore, urge EU countries to include them in their recovery plans and to consider temporarily reducing VAT on these services.

„Safe and clean” tourism

Due to the pandemic, travelers want “safe, clean and more sustainable tourism”, Parliament says, calling on member states to fully implement common criteria for safe travel without delay. These should include an EU Health and Safety protocol for testing before departure, and establish that quarantine requirement should be applied only as a last resort.

A common vaccination certificate should facilitate travel and act as an alternative to PCR tests and quarantine requirements, MEPs say. A new certificate should follow privacy and data protection rules and could start being used once there is sufficient evidence that those who have been vaccinated do not transmit the virus.

The resolution also urges the Commission to introduce an EU hygiene certification seal, which could certify minimum COVID-19 virus prevention and control standards and could help restore consumer trust in the tourism and travel sectors.

Beyond the pandemic

MEPs welcome the ‘Re-open EU’ portal and urge EU countries to send clear information to the Commission when they apply or lift restrictions on free movement.

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Op-ed | Antonio Lopez-Isturiz White, Olgierd Geblewicz, Emil Boc: A European recovery with villages, cities and regions at its core

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Antonio López-Istúriz White, EPP Secretary General

Olgierd Geblewicz, President of EPP-CoR Group and President of Westpomerania Region

Emil Boc, Mayor of Cluj Napoca, President of the Romanian Association of Municipalities, member of EPP-CoR Group

Europe has its roots in each village, city and region across our continent. They are our beating hearts, bringing Europe close to each one of us. They translate Europe into our daily lives. Local and regional authorities are responsible for the implementation of 70% of EU legislation. They represent half of all public employment, a third of public spending and two thirds of public investment. As Europe has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, mayors, regional and local representatives were on the frontline and were the first expression of European solidarity. 

The pandemic is putting at risk health and social welfare systems, our single market and the way Europe moves from strategy to implementation of the green and digital transitions. In moments of crisis, we turn to the most trusted level of governance and closest one to the people: they can solve local problems with European solutions. 

Our health is also in the hands of local and regional authorities. In 17 out of 27 Member States, regional authorities have health care competences. EPP-led villages, cities and regions have been at the forefront responding to the pandemic, taking measures to mitigate the various impacts of the pandemic.  

Take the Regional Government of Piemonte in Italy which opened a hospital to assist patients who have overcome the critical phase of COVID-19 but need further care or the German state of Hessen which provided funding schemes for companies and the self-employed to save jobs. The Region of Murcia in Spain is another example. It launched teleEduca, a platform to help students with their studies. Municipalities of towns and villages have been involved in different social measures. The Slovak municipality of Prešov invested in an electric vehicle to deliver food and medicine to the elderly. The City of Espoo prepared a 25-point package of measures to support companies as well as sports and cultural sectors. These are just some of the measures taken by EPP-led local and regional authorities across Europe to address the challenges arising from the pandemic.  

Cluj reached out to its local ecosystem and with the help of digital tools offered support programs to the community such as “Digital Seniors” – for grandparents at risk of loneliness during the period of isolation. “One Cluj” was also a collective movement initiated by the creative community that everyone joined in order to streamline the efforts and resources of volunteering and donations in the first days of lockdown.

The EPP local and regional representatives are the bridge between each corner of Europe and Brussels. We worked together to find the appropriate and proportionate solutions and identify needs and resources to cope with the crisis and provide a fast and effective recovery.  

Looking to the Recovery Plan and the next Multi-annual Financial Framework, the policies must be implemented at the level closest to citizens for greater efficiency, efficacy and accountability. As one clear example, the EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions has been also calling for direct funding to complete pan-European projects on the ground through which concrete results, such as the shift to clean public transport, can be achieved. 

Now is not time for business as usual. Instead, let’s now bounce forward together.

Let us build on our respective strengths, use them to our advantage in tackling asymmetric challenges that know no border between the European, national, regional and local levels.

In this context, the EPP and the EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions (EPP-CoR Group) will organise a major online event on Tuesday, 23 March 2021 devoted to Recovery in the post-pandemic age at local and regional level. 

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Op-ed | Ambassador Ion I. Jinga, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations: ”S.O.S. The Global Commons”

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© Reprezentanța Permanentă a României la ONU

By Ion I. Jinga, Ambassador, Romania’s Permanent Representative to the UN

When I was a teenager keen to discover the world, I learnt the Morse alphabet for remote communication. In the Morse code, the emergency signal is an unbroken sequence of three dots / three dashes / three dots – the equivalent for the letters “SOS”. Being first used by vessels in distress, it is often associated with the phrase “Save Our Ship”. SOS indicates an imminent crisis and the immediate need for action.

Scientists suggest that there are some 70 quintillion planets (7 followed by 20 zeroes) in the universe, but most of them are unlikely to support life. The Blue Planet – with its mix of land, ocean, rivers, forests, atmosphere, biodiversity and climate, all vital to our survival – might rather be a statistical anomaly.

The term “Global Commons” is traditionally used to indicate the Earth’s shared natural resources beyond the national sovereignty of any state. It historically refers to the global ocean, the atmosphere, the outer space and Antarctica. More recently, climate change, biodiversity and the Artic region have also been included among the global commons. In the last couple of years, discussions arose if the Internet, as a global system of computers interconnected by telecommunications technologies, is a global commons. The answer is rather “no”, as this network is largely private owned (the debate on Internet governance is in progress). However, Cyberspace, on the other hand, is viewed as part of the Global Commons because its definition is related to freedom of expression.

Around the world, natural resources are overexploited, at a massive cost to the environment. This reality is sometimes labelled as “the tragedy of the Global Commons”. The global economy has increased fivefold since 1970, and the food crop production by 300%. At the same time, fertilizers entering coastal ecosystems have produced “dead zones” greater than the size of the United Kingdom. As the world population is approaching ten billion, food consumption is expected to increase by more than 50% by 2050. To produce this food, an area twice the size of India is expected to be converted from other uses into agricultural land. The world is losing 10 million ha of forest – the size of Iceland – every year. Deforestation affects the fresh water system, reduces forests capacity to store carbon and amplifies natural disasters. Water scarcity may soon become the new normal in some parts of the world, risking to affect 5.7 billion people by 2050. Diseases caused by air pollution cause some 6.5 million premature deaths every year.

Due to global warming, one million of the planet’s estimated 8 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction. We now have the highest quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in the last million years. In 2019, a study by the US National Academy of Sciences projected that, in a low emission scenario, the sea level will rise 69 cm by 2100, relative to its level in 2000. In a high emission scenario, the rise will be 111 cm. Because the sea level is rising, entire island nations are at risk of disappearing. We live in a “global village” where no country is immune to pollution, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss or spread of infectious diseases, and no single state has the means to remedy this situation alone.

The solution is to reverse the negative trends in climate, biodiversity and oceans, and move towards a sustainable global economy. This requires behavioral change and structural transformations. In June 2020, Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (author of “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”), pointed out that: “The pandemic represents a rare but narrow opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world to create a healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous future.” As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, this is possible when no other choice is left. In the case of the pandemic it is about wearing masks, cleaning hands, keeping social distance. Avoiding “the tragedy of the Global Commons” is about changing bad habits in relation to nature, reducing food and water losses, reaching zero emissions by 2050.

Structural transformations are also needed: decarbonize power; electrify transport and industry; improve energy efficiency; shift from road to rail and shipping transport; protect forests; restore degraded landscapes; stop the overexploitation of species; stop marine pollution and clean the oceans; ensure that new buildings are zero carbon; adopt circular economy models; use regenerative materials; restore freshwater systems; include the digital revolution in people’s daily life.

To reach these goals, the social contract between people, governments and big corporations has to become more inclusive and fit-for-purpose. Strengthening the rule-based global order and reinforcing compliance with International Law will contribute to addressing the lack of trust between countries. Confidence-building measures are necessary not only on security matters, but also in the management of Global Commons. In such a paradigm, multilateralism remains the most efficient approach, and the United Nations system has a key role to play. Building more inclusive and resilient societies is possible with multilateral solutions which focus on a green, digital and sustainable global recovery and take advantage of the twin revolutions of InfoTech and Biotech.

In June 2019, a partnership of more than 50 of the world’s most forward-looking organizations in philanthropy, science, media and business, called “The Global Commons Alliance”, was formed with the goal to create a network for science-based action to protect the people and planet, restore the Global Commons and promote systemic change. More than 1200 companies already committed to these targets. In September 2019, France and Germany launched “The Alliance for Multilateralism”, a forum for promoting joint solutions to global challenges by strengthening multilateral cooperation. Romania joined this initiative in 2020.

Speaking in February 2021 at the launching of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Report “Making Peace with Nature”, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres noted: “For too long, we have been waging a senseless and suicidal war on nature.  The result is three interlinked environmental crises:  climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution that threaten our viability as a species. Without nature’s help, we will not thrive or even survive. It’s time to re-evaluate and reset our relationship with nature. The path to a sustainable economy exists — driven by renewable energy, sustainable food systems and nature-based solutions.”

Epilogue. The value of the Global Commons was firstly considered in financial terms. For decades, the focus was more on exploiting and extracting profit, than on protection and preservation. Now we are realizing that the mankind is a big world on a small planet, using more resources than the Earth can sustain, and approaching the point of no return. We may eventually survive without money, but it would certainly not be possible without ecosystems capable of supporting human life. This is a distress signal, a “Save Our Ship” message indicating an imminent crisis and the immediate need for action. There may be 70 quintillion planets in the universe, but the Blue Planet is our home and the ship we travel through the intergalactic space. By protecting the Global Commons, we protect our future. Only by acting together we can make the Earth a sustainable planet.

As the President of Romania, Klaus Werner Iohannis, remarked from the rostrum of the UN General Assembly in September 2019: “Today we are, all of us, profoundly interconnected by multilateral governance. Solutions of these interlinked economic, social and environmental challenges can only be found through a renewed commitment to multilateralism and a rules-based international order with the UN at its core.”

Promoting national interests requires both patriotism and global cooperation. Professor Yuval Noah Harari (author of “Homo Deus: A Brief History Tomorrow”) argues that there is no contradiction between nationalism and globalism: “Nationalism is about loving your compatriots. And in the 21st century, in order to protect the safety and the future of your compatriots, you must cooperate with foreigners. So, in the 21st century, good nationalists must be also globalists. Globalism means a commitment to some global rules. Rules that don’t deny the uniqueness of each nation, but only regulate the relations between nations.”

Post Scriptum. On 1st April 2021, I will join a group of fellow ambassadors to the United Nations for an open conversation, in our personal capacities, on “The Global Commons in the 21st Century”.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article do not bind the official position of the author.

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