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Op-ed | Post-COVID-19 recovery will be a test for women’s rights too

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The op-ed is signed by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Alexander De Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium, Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia, Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece, Micheál Martin, Prime Minister of Ireland, Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania, Pedro Sánchez, Prime Minister of Spain, Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden.

This year is a special International Women’s Day. Not only is it exactly 110 years since the first International Women’s Day, when more than a million women and men joined forces and raised their voices for equal rights.

We are also at an important turning point this year on this 8 March. Over the past year, many of our lives have been temporarily halted by the worst health crisis in generations. As they stood at the forefront in the fight against the pandemic in our hospitals and nursing homes, women were disproportionately affected by the pandemic; they paid a higher price, both economically and socially. Domestic and gender-based violence increased, women took on a larger share of household tasks and Eurostat’s monthly unemployment figures show that while the male unemployment rate increased from 6.2% to 7.1% in December 2020, the increase among women was more significant, from 6.7% to 7.9%.

In the coming years, we need to rebuild our societies and our economies for the better. If we want to grow and thrive in the post-COVID-19 world, we need a more inclusive approach that unlocks all talents, including those of women.

How can we manage to do this?

First of all, we need to move beyond the ideological debates of the past. Equality between women and men is enshrined in article 23 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This right is non-negotiable. It is one of the fundamental pillars on which we have built our European societies.

Secondly, more than ever, we have to advance the economic case for gender equality. Of course, gender equality is morally the right thing to do. But equal opportunities also matter to enable social and economic progress. When women prosper, societies prosper. Gender-equal societies are richer societies, in all senses of the word. Gender equal economies perform better, according to all research.

Whether we manage to build back better will depend on the choices we make when rolling out our post-COVID-19 recovery plans. They are a unique opportunity to rebuild more efficiently and more inclusively, ensuring women’s participation in the economy and addressing income inequalities. If we want to build long-term economic resilience after COVID-19, we must address gender-specific issues that have been preventing women from having equal rights and opportunities. This is why we need to incorporate successful gender approaches in European stimulus and recovery packages. Gender equality and, more in general, inclusiveness are important transformation drivers for the renewal of our economies after the pandemic. If we succeed in unlocking women’s full economic and entrepreneurial potential, our recovery efforts will lead stronger and more resilient economies and societies.

Thirdly, we need to step up our international efforts. Women and girls are often the first victims during crises. This was no different for the COVID-19 pandemic. The severe health crisis has exposed the vulnerable position of girls and women in many parts of the world, especially in fragile and conflict-affected states. It is important that the new US administration is back at the table to fight, together with us, for the rights of girls and women around the world. As global development leader, Europe has a special responsibility. We must make every possible effort to make sure its humanitarian and development response to the COVID-19 pandemic includes strengthening access to education and healthcare for girls and women, including promoting SRHR, and supporting girls and women in their journey to economic independence.

One op-ed on International Women’s Day will not suffice to get there. It will require a much more sustained effort, for many years to come. Let us seize this moment to build more inclusive and caring societies where equal rights are paramount, not only on paper but also in everyday life. It will not only empower women, but also men. Since equal rights will be a step forward for both, allowing men as well to break out of traditional roles and stereotypes.

It will not be easy. But it is possible.

ENGLISH

MEP Vasile Blaga: The crisis in Afghanistan, especially in its social dimension, must have a firm response from the EU

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© Vasile Blaga/Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) argues that the current crisis in Afghanistan must be a priority on the agenda of the European institutions, which have resumed their work after the summer break.

In a statement for CaleaEuropeană, MEP Vasile Blaga said that the crisis in Afghanistan, especially in its social dimension, “must have a clear and firm response from the European Union.”

“The European Parliament has put the crisis in Afghanistan on its agenda this session. I expect that all the debates on the situation in Afghanistan will lead to solutions to the serious humanitarian situation that is about to unfold in Afghanistan. The EU, but also the Member States, owe a debt of gratitude to Afghan citizens who suddenly see their security and that of their families threatened”, added the EPP MEP.

The European Union this week began discussing the implications of recent events in Afghanistan for security and migration within the 27-nation Union.

The Foreign Affairs Committee, Development Committee and Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Afghanistan will hear from Gunnar Wiegand, Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific at the European External Action Service, who will present an assessment of the latest developments in Afghanistan. European Commission representatives are also expected to address MEPs.

Afghanistan has been rocked by deadly violence and a brutal terror attack against Kabul airport over the past few days, in the midst of U.S. and international troops evacuating from the country by 31 August.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: EU response to future health crises and progress of national recovery and resilience plans, important issues on EP agenda

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MEP Vasile Blaga  (EPP) argues that the September plenary session of the European Parliament should debate as a priority the EU’s instruments in the face of health and humanitarian crises, as well as the progress of National Recovery and Resilience Plans.

According to the MEP, the European Parliament is putting on the agenda extremely important issues for the future of the Union.

„I believe that an EU response to the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic is vital. The future of the Union must find us prepared for potential health threats similar to the coronavirus pandemic. We can all see that a health emergency of the scale of the present one can only be managed by joint measures taken by all Member States. This unfortunate experience of the last two years has shown us the fragility of the EU in the face of external health threats. We need to learn from this so that the negative social and economic effects will not be repeated in the future”, said Vasile Blaga in a statement to CaleaEuropeană.

A second priority, says the EPP MEP, is linked to an accelerated recovery of the EU economies: “National recovery and resilience plans must be urgently adjusted and approved so that investment policies become engines of development in each Member State and, as a whole, kick-start the EU economy as a whole. The European Parliament must closely follow, also during this session, the progress of the national recovery plans and the way each Member State spends the money allocated by the NRRP to achieve the objectives listed in the Recovery and Resilience Facility”, added Vasile Blaga.

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After working on infrastructure projects for NASA and the British Air Force F-35 aircraft, Lagan Aviation & Infrastructure will modernize Campia Turzii Air Base, together with the consortium represented by Leviatan Design

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©️ Forțele Aeriene Române

The British company Lagan Aviation & Infrastructure, with extensive experience in the field of infrastructure and logistics projects of the British Royal Air Force and with collaborations at NASA level, will participate as a subcontractor in the infrastructure project in the operational area of the air base at Câmpia Turzii, according to the announcement on the public procurement platform SICAP.

The British company Lagan Aviation & Infrastructure, with extensive experience in the field of infrastructure and logistics projects of the British Royal Air Force and with collaborations at NASA level, will participate as a subcontractor in the infrastructure project in the operational area of the air base at Câmpia Turzii, according to the announcement on the public procurement platform SICAP.

The tender for the first phase of the project, worth 514 million lei, on “Realization of infrastructure – operational area in barracks 1833 Câmpia Turzii” was won by the joint venture Telekom Romania Communications SA – Ubitech Construcții SRL – Petrodesign SA and Leviatan Design SRL, as leader of this partnership.

“Our consortium has the necessary experience, both from a national perspective, through similar specific projects it has carried out, and from an international perspective, through the partners we collaborate with”, said Cătălin Podaru, director of Leviatan Design, the company that participated in the pre-feasibility study for the multi-roller infrastructure at Câmpia Turzii.

Among the key international partners involved in the Câmpia Turzii project is Lagan Aviation & Infrastructure, part of the Lagan Construction Group Ltd, established in 1962. The Brits build infrastructure to the highest safety standards for Romania’s most important strategic-military partners: Among the most recent major British-managed projects are aviation projects at Dublin Airport and RAF Marham, an important strategic base for the British Royal Air Force, for the operation of F35 multi-role aircraft. The contract to upgrade infrastructure and facilities at RAF Marham is worth £135 million.

Recently, the company has successfully delivered projects at Heathrow, London City Airport, RAF Akrotiri and RAF Gibraltar. In recent years, the company has also executed a £23 million runway resurfacing contract at RAF Northolt.

The group also has a specialist US airport team based in Virginia, Washington DC, currently working at Ronald Reagan National Airport and the Wallops Flight Facility for NASA.

This company’s expertise in infrastructure projects for F-16 aircraft is important for defence projects at Câmpia Turzii, as the Romanian base hosts F-16 aircraft of the Romanian and allied air forces, as well as American MQ-9 Reaper drones.

The Campia Turzii Air Base is one of the key strategic points in Romania’s defence and security infrastructure, being treated as such even by allies. In May this year, the US Air Force announced that the United States will invest $152 million in 15 infrastructure upgrades at Romania’s Câmpia Turzii Air Base.

The first works have already started in May-August 2021. The US Air Force plans to spend $130 million this year on “mission optimisation” at the Romanian air base. This amount is reflected in the Department of Defense budget for this year and represents the largest US military investment in Europe for 2021.

Other new modernisation projects are due to start at the end of 2021.

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