Месечни архиви: юни 2020

Artificial intelligence: From ethics to policy

Written by Mihalis Kritikos,

© Shutterstock

The public service revolution expected from the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) simultaneously promises positive change and threatens negative societal impacts – we only need to mention ‘predictive policing’ to comprehend the potential for both service efficiencies and unintended consequences. AI ethics attempts to unpick these issues and provide a solid ethical framework. However, the snowballing adoption of AI ethics principles and guidelines by national governments, international organisations, research institutions and companies during the last three years triggers questions about the actual applicability and efficient implementation of these instruments. As a response to these concerns, scholars and practitioners are currently trying to find ways to translate these principles into practical requirements to enable the application of AI ethics principles and guidelines. Some of this work is about translating ethics principles into technical requirements, and/or design methodologies such as privacy-by-design, ethics-by-design, or ethically aligned design.

Several ethical tools and framework models have been created to visualise ethical concerns and develop a set of practices to anticipate and address the potential negative effects of AI on people. However many questions arise. Are these technical solutions sufficient to get from AI ethics to specific policy and legislation for governing AI? How can we apply the variety of ethical frameworks consistently in governing data, developing algorithms and actually using AI systems? Who bears this responsibility? And are there (or should there be) mechanisms for enforcement and monitoring in place? What is, in fact, a trustworthy and responsible AI, especially with regard to data governance? What is the role of ethical frameworks in ensuring trustworthy and responsible data governance and AI? Are there any lessons learnt from existing frameworks? How can AI systems best be governed? What are the promises and perils of ethical councils and frameworks for AI governance? What possible frameworks could guide AI governance, like those based on fairness, accountability and transparency?

To try to answer some of these issues, STOA launched a study to produce stakeholder-specific recommendations for the responsible implementation of AI systems and technologies, aligning them to already adopted ethical principles. The study, ‘Artificial Intelligence: From ethics to policy‘ was carried out by Dr Aimee van Wynsberghe of Delft University of Technology and co-director of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics at the request of the STOA Panel, following a proposal from Eva Kaili (S&D, Greece), STOA Chair. The study’s central focus is the question of how can we get from AI ethics to specific policy and legislation for governing AI? The study builds on the ethics guidelines principles developed by the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence by providing insight into how the principles can be translated into design requirements and concrete recommendations.

The study firstly provides a brief overview of AI as a technology and the unique features it brings to the discussion of ethics: what is AI and what is new about it that is deserving of ethical attention. Particular attention is paid to the role of ‘black boxes’ and algorithmic fairness. Following this, the study unpacks what ethics is, and how ethics ought to be understood as a resource in the AI debate beyond its current use to generate principles.

From an overview of the current literature, the author produces a remarkable range of insights regarding the transparency of AI algorithms, the balance of trade-offs between accuracy and fairness, the conceptualisation of AI as a socio-technical system and the use of Ethical Technology Assessments as a viable mechanism for uncovering ethical issues ab initio. By arguing in favour of viewing AI as an ongoing social experiment that requires appropriate ex ante ethical constraints, assessment of epistemological constraints and constant monitoring, the author proposes a precautionary approach that is adapted to the realities and risks of AI.

The study then proposes an extensive range of ethically informed and stakeholder-specific policy options for the responsible implementation of AI/ML products, aligning them to defined values and ethical principles that prioritise human wellbeing in a given context. The entire set of policy options, viewed as ethical constraints, constitute a meta-ethical technology assessment framework directed towards the public administration and governmental organisations who are looking to deploy AI/ML solutions, as well as the private companies who are creating AI/ML solutions for use in the public space.

Among the proposed options, the development of a data hygiene certification scheme, the demonstration of the clear goals of AI/ML application and the production of an ‘Accountability Report’ in response to the ethical technology assessment appear as the most applicable in the context of the current debate about regulating the ethical aspects of AI. Besides proposing a meta-ethical framework, the author also makes a preliminary identification of the possible concerns surrounding the proposed policy options and their applicability. Particular emphasis is placed on the role of the ethicists and the allocation of tasks when it comes to the completion of the ethical technology assessment, the affordability of this process, especially for small and medium enterprises, and the horizontal character of the proposed regulatory process. The study includes useful accounts of the debates regarding the interface between regulation, technology and ethics, as well a critical engagement with traditional narratives about the role of ethics in the technological innovation process. In the concluding section, the author makes some important remarks about the meaning of ethics in an AI-focused regulatory context, its policy implications as well as its normative value.

Given the lack of operational experience with regard to AI, and its inherent uncertainties and risks, the study’s proposed framework appears to ensure accountability and transparency when organisations apply ethical frameworks and principles. Its interdisciplinary character, the cross-cutting nature of its insights and the acknowledgement of the role society plays in shaping technology and its regulation could pave the way for AI development that is both efficient in operational terms and acceptable to society.

Read the full report and accompanying STOA Options Brief to find out more.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/06/30/artificial-intelligence-from-ethics-to-policy/

Performing arts: Emerging from confinement

Written by Magdalena Pasikowska-Schnass,

In the EU as elsewhere in the world, the performing arts were among the first sectors to be hit by measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and are now among the last to reopen. As the confinement measures are relaxed, the focus now is on supporting the performing arts and finding a way to re-engage with live audiences.

Confinement and the performing arts

A face mask put over the bridge of a cello representing performance restrictions during a pandemic

© Janis / Adobe Stock

The performing arts cover a variety of forms of artistic expression, presented in theatres, opera houses and music halls, at outdoor festivals, in open-air theatres and in the street − the presence of an audience being a key ingredient. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic put the performing arts on hold, even in countries, such as Sweden, that did not introduce strict lockdown measures, but followed the Commission recommendations on distancing and closure of cultural institutions.

Unesco reports that 128 countries around the world had closed their cultural institutions down by mid-April; 95 % of Cirque du Soleil’s workforce was laid off in March, for example. Many performing artists will lose their jobs, as the sector will be unable to operate normally for a longer time than the rest of the economy.

While opera houses, theatres, concert halls and individual performing artists or troupes have live-streamed performances via social media, participants in a Unesco-initiated ResiliArt debate pointed out that making cultural content available online for free sent the wrong message, even if it did promote access to culture and offer the public support during the confinement. The participants stressed that art and culture, and the performing arts in particular, needed to be experienced directly. Although digital access to cultural resources and content is important, in the long term it cannot replace the live artistic experience, which also needs to be paid for; artists need to make a living from their work too.

Unlocking the performing arts

EU Member States began easing confinement measures from mid-April onwards, but in most cases authorisation for live performances in both indoor and outdoor venues, such as summer festivals, is still some way off. The roadmap published by the European Commission in April confirmed that cultural events involving mass gatherings belong to the fourth and final stage of the easing of measures.

Unesco also pointed to complications in applying coronavirus-related sanitary measures in the theatre sector. One of the measures proposed by health authorities is to open theatres at 25 to 30 % capacity. This solution does not allow theatres to function normally, but it does create the conditions to start generating work protocols and to assess the development of contagion. However, opening at reduced capacity is not generally an economically viable option. The Royal Shakespeare Company, an example put forward by Unesco, needs to fill its theatres to 80 to 90% capacity in order to be financially viable. It has lost 75 % of its normal income because of the pandemic and has had to place around 90 % of its staff on furlough.

PEARLE, the Performing Arts Employers’ Associations League Europe, has presented strategies for reopening theatres and cultural activities in different European countries, guidance on risk assessment and prevention before resuming activities, and also guidelines on how theatres and venues can re-open for audiences. It has also reflected on the future of the sector, and ways to strike a balance between digital and live performances. In May, it called upon the EU institutions to define common guidelines to help theatres provide safe working conditions for people involved in productions and a safe environment for audiences to build their trust. Member States do not as yet have a coordinated approach to easing confinement measures in the live performance sector.

Examples from Member States

Some countries have compensated for theatre closures by organising shorter, improvised theatre plays in the open air. Spain, one of the first Member States to be hit by the pandemic and among those to have been hardest hit, is also among the first to reopen theatres, filling them to 30 % capacity. Seville has extended its cultural programme until the autumn, encouraging cultural events in the streets and public spaces to support artists and cultural life. Similarly, in Italy, where open-air festivals and opera performances attract many tourists, some such events will take place, but the Arena di Verona opera festival has been postponed until 2021, the 2020 edition being replaced by a summer festival scaled down in scope and capacity. Deutsche Oper Berlin adapted its outdoor carpark to present a shortened version of an opera played by just 22 musicians to a reduced number of spectators. Artists and theatre management can be very creative in finding ways to perform for the public, but not all Member States have weather conditions that allow outdoor events.

In most cases, the summer music festivals much loved by younger people have been forbidden until the end of August. In Czechia, less crowded alternatives are available, examples including a drive-in rock music festival, and the ArtParking project, which allows audiences to park and watch a live performance from their cars. Ticket and drink sales are contact-free, in line with public health measures.

EU funding, networks and co-funded projects supporting the sector

EU funds such as the Creative Europe programme support networks of cultural operators, enabling them to exchange good practices. Among them, the European Festivals Association provides information on events, such as festivals, that have been cancelled, postponed, moved to the web or maintained under specific conditions. Live DMA provides information on measures in particular countries. It has published ‘Sound Diplomacy’, a handbook on music cities’ resilience and ways to protect the music and arts sectors from any coronavirus-like crisis.

A May 2020 IETM (the International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts) publication ‘Live Arts in the Virtualising World‘ stressed that live arts need to be experienced directly for the magic of human interaction to operate. As this was an element that the virtual world could not provide, it called for live presentations of artistic works to recommence as soon as distancing measures were eased.

In a statement following the June 2020 International Theatre Conference, held online, the European Theatre Convention highlighted the financial loss to its member theatres. Stressing that confinement and coronavirus-related measures were threatening the sector’s very existence, it called on the EU to raise the level of the Creative Europe funding from its current level of 0.08 % of the EU budget to 1 %.

In May 2020, the European Commission set up the Creatives Unite platform, to provide all cultural and creative industry sectors with coronavirus-related information and enable them to share their experiences.

The Creative Europe programme support scheme for the cross-border distribution of performing arts works (theatre, dance, circus and street arts) has highlighted two priorities emerging from the pandemic: the carbon footprint of mobility in the sector, and digital culture/virtual mobility. Reflection on measures to mitigate the sector’s carbon footprint will examine the longer-term effects on artists’ mobility and the sustainability of live recording and streaming as a way to reach audiences. A call for projects launched in mid-June will channel €2.5 million to the sector by the end of the year. The winning projects will explore ways to combine digital technology and live performance while retaining the direct experience of a show.

New state aid rules are allowing Member States to support sectors and workers hit by confinement measures, including the culture sector. A €40 million Croatian support scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises in the cultural sector and the creative industry will help up to 1 000 enterprises. Denmark is providing €12 million in compensation for organisers’ losses arising from the cancellation of events, including cultural happenings, with 350 people or more. Sweden is also planning to support the cultural events sector with €38 million. Bulgaria will finance 60 % of the wage costs of cultural, amusement and recreational activities, to minimise lay-offs. Estonia too will provide companies and organisations active in the culture sectors affected with direct grants. In Lithuania, direct grants (with an estimated budget of €10 million) will support cultural and arts institutions and organisations hit by the pandemic for the creation of new, mostly digital, products and services.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Performing arts: Emerging from confinement‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/06/29/performing-arts-emerging-from-confinement/

New STOA study on artificial intelligence: How does it work, why does it matter and what can we do about it?

Written by Philip Boucher,

Wired brain illustration - next step to artificial intelligence

© Adobe Stock

Artificial intelligence (AI) is probably the defining technology of the last decade, and perhaps also the next.

The European Commission recently closed the consultation period on its white paper on AI and the European Parliament has voted in favour of launching a special committee on AI in the digital age. In this context, STOA has published a timely study on AI, which provides accessible information about the full range of current and speculative AI techniques and their associated impacts, and sets out several regulatory, technological and societal measures that could be mobilised in response.

How does artificial intelligence work?

The study sets out accessible introductions to some of the key techniques that come under the AI banner, organised into three waves.

The first wave of early AI techniques is known as ‘symbolic AI’ or expert systems. Here, human experts create precise rule-based procedures – known as ‘algorithms’ – that a computer can follow, step-by-step, to decide how to respond intelligently to a given situation. Symbolic AI is at its best in constrained environments that do not change much over time, where the rules are strict and the variables are unambiguous and quantifiable. While these methods can appear dated, they remain very relevant and are still successfully applied in several domains.

The second wave of AI comprises more recent ‘data-driven’ approaches, which have developed rapidly over the last two decades and are largely responsible for the current AI resurgence. These automate the learning process of algorithms, bypassing the human experts of first wave AI.

The third wave of AI refers to speculative possible future waves of AI. While first and second wave techniques are described as ‘weak’ or ‘narrow’ AI, in the sense that they can behave intelligently in specific tasks, ‘strong’ or ‘general’ AI refers to algorithms that can exhibit intelligence in a wide range of contexts and problem spaces. Such artificial general intelligence (AGI) is not possible with current technology and would require paradigm-shifting advances.

Why does artificial intelligence matter?

The study builds upon the understanding of how AI works to examine several opportunities and challenges presented by AI applications in various contexts.

Several challenges are associated with today’s AI. Broadly, they can be understood as a balancing act between avoiding underuse – whereby we miss out on potential opportunities, and avoiding overuse – whereby AI is applied for tasks for which it is not well suited or results in problematic outcomes. Specific challenges include bias, employment impacts, liability issues, military use and effects on human autonomy and decision-making.

There are also several longer-term opportunities and challenges that are contingent upon future developments that might never happen. For example, it has been suggested that AI could escape human control and take control of its own development, or develop artificial emotions or consciousness, presenting interesting – yet speculative – philosophical questions.

What can we do about artificial intelligence?

The study sets out several options that could be mobilised in response to the opportunities and challenges presented by AI.

Most AI policy debates concern how to shape the regulatory and economic context in which AI is developed and applied in order to respond to specific opportunities and challenges. These could include creating a supportive economic and policy context, promoting more competitive ecosystems, improving the distribution of benefits and risks, building resilience against a range of problematic outcomes, enhancing transparency and accountability, ensuring mechanisms for liability and developing governance capacity. There are also more abstract policy debates about the broad regulatory approach, such as whether policies and institutions should be specific to AI or tech-neutral.

It is also possible to shape the development and application of AI through technological measures. They could include activities related to technology values, the accessibility and quality of data and algorithms, how applications are chosen and implemented, the use and further development of ‘tech fixes’, and encouraging more constructive reflection and critique.

Finally, societal and ethics measures could be taken, targeting the relationship between AI and taking account of social values, structures and processes. These could include measures related to skills, education and employment; the application of ethics frameworks, workplace diversity, social inclusivity and equality, reflection and dialogue, the language used to discuss AI, and the selection of applications and development paths.

Five key messages

Language matters. In many ways, the term ‘AI’ has become an obstacle to meaningful reflection and productive debate about the diverse range of technologies to which it refers. It could help to address the way we talk about AI, including how we identify, understand and discuss specific technologies, as well as how we articulate visions of what we really want from it.

Algorithms are subjective. Since human societies have structural biases and inequalities, Machine learning tools inevitably learn these too. While the only definitive solution to the problem is to remove bias and inequality from society, AI can only offer limited support for that mission. However, it is important to ensure that AI counteracts, rather than reinforces inequalities.

AI is not an end in itself. The ultimate aim of supporting AI is not to maximise AI development per se, but to unlock some of the benefits that it promises to deliver. Instead of perfecting new technologies then searching for problems to which they could be a profitable solution, we could start by examining the problems we have and explore how AI could help us to find appropriate solutions.

AI might fall short of its promises. Many AI applications could offer profound social value. However, employment impacts and privacy intrusions are increasingly tangible for citizens, while the promised benefits to their health, wealth and environment remain intangible. The response could include targeting more ambitious outcomes while making more modest promises.

Europe needs to run its own AI race. AI is at a pivotal moment for both regulation and technology development and the choices we make now could shape European life for decades to come. In running its own race, European AI can ensure a meaningful role for citizens to articulate what they expect from AI development and what they are ready to offer in return, to foster a competitive market that includes European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and to put adequate safeguards in place to align AI with European values and EU law.

Your opinion counts for us. To let us know what you think, get in touch via stoa@europarl.europa.eu.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/06/26/new-stoa-study-on-artificial-intelligence-how-does-it-work-why-does-it-matter-and-what-can-we-do-about-it/

Coronavirus: An uncertain outlook [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

Outlook and Covid-19 virus, symbolized by viruses and a price chart falling down with word Outlook to picture relation between the virus and Outlook, 3d illustration

© GoodIdeas / Adobe Stock

While many countries, notably in Europe, are currently easing restrictive measures aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), the latter is now rapidly spreading in other parts of the world, notably in the Americas and Indian sub-continent. The number of people globally who have tested positive for the disease is now approaching 10 million, exacerbating an already precarious situation in certain conflict-afflicted areas, such as Yemen. In Europe, analysts continue to examine the various ways of financing and promoting economic recovery from the depressive effects of the pandemic.

This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports from international think tanks on coronavirus and related issues. Earlier publications on the topic can be found in the previous item in this series, published by EPRS on 12 June.

How to spend it right: A more democratic governance for the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility
Hertie School – Jacques Delors Centre, Bertelsmann Stiftung, June 2020

Identifying effective combinations of economic policy measures for the coronavirus recession in Europe
German Institute for Economic Research (DIW)

Covid-19 strengthens the case for EU defence
Chatham House, June 2020

The EU’s recovery fund proposals: Crisis relief with massive redistribution
Bruegel, June 2020

An ambitious recovery budget, tough negotiations ahead
Notre Europe, June 2020

European Solidarity Tracker: The solidarity that always was there
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2020

European defence in the post-Covid world
Istituto Affari Internazionali, June 2020

Europe’s new deal moment
Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2020

EU border security in a time of pandemic
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, June 2020

Geopolitical shifts and the post-Covid world: Europe and the multipolar system
Istituto Affari Internazionali, June 2020

Coronavirus and Europe’s new political fissures
Carnegie Europe, June 2020

Le cadre financier pluriannuel 2021/2027: Être le phare
Fondation Robert Schuman, June 2020

The EU must think twice before triggering a global trade war
Friends of Europe, June 2020

Crisis communication: Italy, the coronavirus, and European solidarity
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2020

Three-quarters of Next Generation EU payments will have to wait until 2023
Bruegel, June 2020

Why Europe should harden its soft power to lawfare
Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2020

Reopening America and the world
Brookings Institution, June 2020

Has Covid-19 dented the EU’s credibility in the Balkans?
Bruegel, June 2020

L’action publique: Face à la crise du Covid-19
Institut Montaigne, June 2020

Pandemic politics: A public health crisis and a hate crisis: Covid-19 and Islamophobia
Brookings Institution, June 2020

De la distanciation sociale à la distanciation intime
Fondation pour l’innovation politique, June 2020

Identifying effective combinations of economic policy measures for the coronavirus recession in Europe
Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, June 2020

The paradox of Russia’s disinformation activities in Italy
German Marshall Fund, June 2020

How the coronavirus sows civil conflict
Center on Foreign Relations, June 2020

The impact of Covid-19 on cybercrime and state-sponsored cyber activities
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, June 2020

Covid-19 pandemic threatens US elections: The pandemic adds significantly to the risk of a contested result and a constitutional crisis
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, June 2020

The dangers of tech-driven solutions to Covid-19
Brookings Institution, June 2020

Once a Covid-19 vaccine is ready, getting people to take it may be a bigger challenge
Rand Corporation, June 2020

Race gaps in Covid-19 deaths are even bigger than they appear
Brookings Institution, June 2020

Yemen and Covid-19: The pandemic exacts its devastating toll
Brookings Institution, June 2020

De l’ethique financiere en situation de crise
Institut de Recherche et de Communication sur l’Europe, June 2020

The state of U.S. strategic stockpiles
Center on Foreign Relations, June 2020

How Covid-19 is worsening America’s racial economic divide
Atlantic Council, June 2020

China’s conundrum: Pursuing sustainable development in a post-Coronavirus landscape
Chatham House, June 2020

La Covid-19 en Afrique de l’Ouest: Une gestion aux multiples facettes
Groupe de Recherche et d’Information sur la Paix et la Sécurité, June 2020

Covid-19 in Africa: Disruptions and post-pandemic scenarios
Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, June 2020

China and Africa: The ‘Other’ in the time of pandemic
Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, June 2020

Russian economic sovereignty in the Covid-19 age
Chatham House, June 2020

Political tensions and the failure to curb Covid-19 in Brazil
Polish Institute of International Affairs, June 2020

What does the World Health Organization do?
Center on Foreign Relations, June 2020

Beware of tort liability for Covid cases
Hoover Institution, June 2020

Italian economic recovery plan
Polish Institute of International Affairs, June 2020


Read this briefing on ‘Coronavirus: An uncertain outlook‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Read all EPRS publications on the coronavirus outbreak

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/06/26/coronavirus-an-uncertain-outlook-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

A more resilient, sustainable and fair Europe after coronavirus?

Written by Nora Milotay,

© EtiAmmos / Adobe Stock

The triple-crisis – the pandemic’s public health and economic consequences intertwined with the underlying environmental crisis – may lead to increasing divergence, instead of convergence and cohesion among Member States, regions, generations and different groups of society across the EU and globally. However, if handled with a longer-term perspective with the aim of achieving a more resilient, sustainable and fair EU – the crisis also offers the opportunity to turn the three into the guiding principles of the recovery. This applies as much for the content of the policies as for the process of their design and implementation, both in the short and longer terms.

Background

Fairness and sustainable development are guiding principles of the Treaties (TEU and TFEU) and of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In her political guidelines, the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, highlighted that ‘a sustainable Europe is one that opens up opportunities, innovates, creates jobs and offers a competitive edge to its industries’, and at the same time supports a ‘climate-neutral healthy planet’. This principle of sustainability is comprehensive and includes environmental, economic and social sustainability together. The principle of fairness – i.e. equality of opportunity – is also highlighted throughout the guidelines, and in particular in relation to a minimum wage, trade and taxation. Finally, resilience is one of the main features of the social market economy, and a central concern of the Commission in its broader aim to achieve ‘an economy that works for people’ with a strong industrial base, with flourishing small and medium-sized enterprises and a deeper economic and monetary union.

The Covid-19 outbreak and the way the crisis is managed affect all segments of society and the economy. The ongoing triple crisis, resulting from the deleterious effects of the coronavirus pandemic on public health and the economy, combined with an already aggravated environmental situation is liable to strain relations between governments and citizens, and lead to increasing divergence, instead of convergence and cohesion.

Main issues

The crisis triggered by the pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on labour markets. The unemployment rate in the euro area is forecast to rise from 7.5 % in 2019 to 9.5 % in 2020, before declining again to 8.5 % in 2021. In the EU, it is forecast to rise from 6.7 % in 2019 to 9 % in 2020 and then to fall to around 8 % in 2021. Countries with a higher share of employment in sectors that had to be shut down are likely to suffer a much higher impact. Different sectors and players have been hit differently, and the digital divide has also added to the complexity of the situation. In addition, many, particularly those in precarious work situations, tend to fall through the cracks of the immediate social assistance measures.

By seriously affecting people’s income, the crisis has further exacerbated existing inequalities, pushing more people into poverty and making the most vulnerable even more vulnerable. In the OECD countries, more than one in three people do not have enough financial assets to keep their family above the poverty line for at least three months, should their income suddenly stop. The risk is especially high in households headed by people that are younger than 34 and people without higher education, as well as for couples with children. Besides the closures of businesses, the closures of schools have put enormous pressure on families and have negatively affected the educational outcomes of many children in the longer term.

Member States differ significantly in terms of how severely they have been affected by the pandemic; this depends both on how it evolved in the individual countries but also on the structure of their economies and their capacity to respond with stabilising policies. Moreover, the severity will depend on whether there will be more wave(s) of the pandemic. Given the interdependence of EU economies, the dynamics of the recovery in each Member State will also affect the strength of the recovery of other Member States.

The pandemic has drawn attention to the role of human activity and associated environmental perturbation in the emergence of infectious diseases. Climate change, loss of natural capital and biodiversity, and pollution are highly interconnected and mutually reinforcing. Long-term exposure to air pollution may significantly increase the risk factor for many, particularly with pre-existing conditions, of dying from Covid-19. What is more, some 10-15 % of medical waste is hazardous, and a substantial additional amount is expected to accumulate due to the pandemic.

Opportunities for a resilient, sustainable and fair EU: What and how

The challenges arising from the pandemic need to be addressed on two interconnected levels: what can be done in the short to medium term, and how can that be done in a way that supports the ultimate goal of building a resilient, sustainable and fair EU. The crisis makes these three principles more timely. The huge disruption caused by the crisis also creates opportunities ‘to walk the talk’ and make these the guiding principles of the recovery. All the tools of the Union should be mobilised to achieve this.

As for what can be done in the short to medium term, the Commission’s 2019 reflection paper, ‘Towards a sustainable Europe by 2030’, paved the way to putting the concept of sustainability comprehensively across policy portfolios. A new growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy is central to the European Green Deal. The latter should be an important part of the recovery strategy. The communication on the European Green Deal also stresses that it will introduce sustainability considerations into the Better Regulation Agenda. The EU’s green recovery should be based on the EU taxonomy, which aims to encourage investors and consumers to identify economic activities that can unambiguously be considered environmentally green. A renewed strategy on the subject – with a consultation currently ongoing – on redirecting private capital flows towards green investments and embedding a culture of sustainable corporate governance, is due towards the end of 2020. In addition, many research projects have successfully experimented with achieving these goals over the years. A more robust research and innovation platform with a broad concept of innovation that combines social and technological innovation is key to finding evidence-based local and global responses to the challenges. This necessitates an inclusive digital transformation of the single market, where promoting digital skills is key. In this context, the revised digital education action plan and the development of regulations on artificial intelligence and online platforms are crucial.

As for how these above initiatives can be carried out in the short to medium term, the European Semester can be a useful tool for the recovery. For instance, the United Nations’ sustainable development goals – the most ambitious global agreement for achieving social progress to date – have been mainstreamed across portfolios and used as the main analytical tool in the European Semester process. The 2020 Annual sustainable growth strategy presents a rebooted growth model that focuses on the topic of sustainability, and is built around its four dimensions: environmental sustainability, productivity gains, fairness and macroeconomic stability. The EU’s economic governance mechanism is under review, accompanied by a broad consultation. This review offers an opportunity to build on the lessons learnt to date. The European Semester Spring Package has been reoriented to address the priorities related to the EU’s recovery from the pandemic. Its proposed country-specific recommendations focus on two main issues: in the short term, mitigating the pandemic’s severe negative socio-economic consequences, and in the short to medium term, achieving sustainable and inclusive growth that facilitates the green transition and the digital transformation. Investment, including in human capital and the ‘updated’ welfare state (according to the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights) are central to the recommendations.

Finally, the design of the new multiannual financial framework, coupled with the recovery fund, alongside the existing tools of financial support from the European Investment Bank, SURE – the temporary support instrument to mitigate unemployment risks in an emergency, and the European Stability Mechanism will also play a decisive role in achieving a resilient, sustainable and fair EU. This new financial proposal might be the first step in the direction of changing the dynamic of the existing decision-making processes, and paving the way towards a new design for the EU’s financial tools and possibly more besides.


Read this ‘At a glance’ on ‘A more resilient, sustainable and fair Europe after coronavirus?‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/06/26/a-more-resilient-sustainable-and-fair-europe-after-coronavirus/

75 years since the signature of the United Nations Charter

Written by Ionel Zamfir,

Charter of the United Nations

Charter of the United Nations

On 26 June 2020, the world marks 75 years since the United Nations Charter was signed by the 50 states attending the intergovernmental conference in San Francisco that opened in April 1945, as the war entered its final phase. The signing of the charter marked the successful achievement of a political process conducted since 1941 by the victors – the United States of America, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom and China and their allies – in a series of conferences and declarations. Later that year, when more than half of the charter’s signatories also ratified it, the United Nations (UN) came into existence in October 1945.

The UN Charter defines the principles on which the UN is based, its objectives, and sets out its functioning and structure. As the Preamble to the Charter states, the United Nations embodies the determination of its members to achieve lasting peace through international cooperation. It also affirms its Members’ faith in fundamental human rights, the dignity of the human person, the equality of rights of men and women and of ‘nations large and small’, and in international justice. The Charter establishes the six main UN bodies: the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the UN Secretariat (the administration), the International Court of Justice and the Trusteeship Council. It outlines provisions for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, appropriate measures against members who violate its principles, and sets in motion the process of decolonisation by proclaiming the obligation of states administering colonies ‘to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions’.

With hindsight, 75 years after the Charter’s signature, the achievements driven by the principles enshrined in the UN Charter are impressive. The UN has assisted former colonies to achieve their independence and establish their own governments; it has conducted numerous peace-keeping operations; has mediated in conflicts; and has provided vital humanitarian aid in crises. It has become an important development player, contributing to the eradication of poverty, to better education, and to the fight against disease in the developing countries. Its agencies have played a crucial role in the process of globalisation by setting international standards and norms that have smoothed international cooperation. The financial and trade institutions connected to the UN – the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) – have been central drivers of economic globalisation. While the road to realising these objectives has not always been straightforward, the United Nations has endured the various crises. In recent history, UN peace keepers were not able to prevent the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, nor the Srebrenica massacre in 1995; the UN has not played a successful mediator role in prolonged civil wars accompanied by humanitarian crises, such as in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. Moreover, the world is still far from eradicating poverty and famine, despite the solemnly proclaimed Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030.

More recently, the UN has faced stronger, even severe, headwinds. Vocal attacks by the United States of America – the country that has traditionally been at the heart of the multilateral system – and its actions designed to undermine the UN (such as withdrawing funding from peace-keeping or certain agencies), deprive the organisation of vital leadership. Less assertive but sometimes equally uncooperative, China enjoys rising influence in the organisation, causing concern that it may put the fundamental values on which the UN is based at risk, such as universal human rights. The risk of illiberal coalitions in an organisation based on the principle of one country-one vote, against the background of rising authoritarianism in the world, has already come to the fore in the workings of the Human Rights Council. More broadly, rising scepticism regarding globalisation at the national level is stirring mistrust in the multilateral order with the UN at its centre. In an undeniable fashion, the current coronavirus crisis has underlined the need for global coordination, cooperation and solidarity to respond to a major crisis of planetary scale, but also the degree to which the UN depends on the voluntary cooperation of its member states.

In these turbulent times for the United Nations, the EU has reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to multilateralism on numerous occasion. The EU shares a common history with the UN, both being born of efforts at the end of World War II to build sustainable peace through international cooperation. The fundamental values and principles on which the EU is based overlap to a significant degree to those enshrined in the UN Charter: such as the pursuit of peace and security, the recognition of universal human rights, as well as a commitment to international solidarity and cooperation among their members. The EU’s commitment to respect the principles of the UN Charter and work together with the UN is enshrined in its treaties.

In accordance with Chapter II of the UN Charter, the UN is an organisation of sovereign states and its membership is only open to such states. However, UN bodies accept a broad range of observers. The EU has obtained enhanced observer status in the UN General Assembly – the only international organisation to date to enjoy this status, which enables the EU to attend meetings, make statements and put forward proposals and amendments. The EU also has observer status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and in numerous UN agencies (while being a full member of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)), and has established broad partnerships with the various parts of the UN system. Moreover, the EU leverages its influence by coordinating the positions of its Member States in UN organs, including in the UN Security Council. The EU and its Member States are major contributors to the UN system, providing a third of its overall budget, while representing less than 15 % of UN membership. The EU alone is the biggest non-government donor to the United Nations. In 2018, it contributed approximately €3.12 billion, or 6.5 % of the total UN system budget. Most of this money represents development and humanitarian aid channelled through the UN.

The UN Charter may hold the key for EU’s long-term prospects in the UN. For the EU to become a regular member of the organisation, a modification of the Charter would be necessary. In a 2018 resolution, the European Parliament has suggested a reform of the UN Security Council that would open the door for the European Union to obtain a permanent seat. This remains, however, a distant prospect for the time being, as there is little international consensus on any possible reform of the UN Security Council.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/06/25/75-years-since-the-signature-of-the-united-nations-charter/

A pharmaceutical strategy for Europe: First steps

Written by Nicole Scholz,

© Mykola / Adobe Stock

On 1 June 2020, the European Commission published a roadmap for a pharmaceutical strategy for Europe. The strategy will have the overall goal of ensuring Europe’s supply of safe and affordable medicines and supporting the European pharmaceutical industry’s innovation efforts. Two consultations (on the roadmap and the strategy, respectively), are currently under way. Adoption of the strategy is envisaged for the fourth quarter of 2020.

Why a pharmaceutical strategy?

There has been recurrent debate on the two broad thematic strands the strategy targets, and the coronavirus pandemic has brought both into focus. The pharmaceutical sector is a major contributor to the EU economy (EU-28 pharmaceutical production sold reached €26.1 billion in 2018). At the same time, bottlenecks in the supply chain for medicines have increased and are deemed an emerging problem.

A European Commission priority

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tasked the Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides, with exploring ways to ensure Europe has supplies of affordable medicines to meet its needs and, in doing so, support the European pharmaceutical industry to ensure that it remains an innovator and world leader. In her answer to the European Parliament questionnaire in preparation of her hearing, Stella Kyriakides committed to supporting Member States in their efforts to ensure affordable, accessible and high quality medicines. She added ‘Our dependency on non-EU countries for manufacturing pharmaceutical active substances used in EU medicines is another issue that needs to be addressed’. At her hearing before Parliament, Kyriakides reiterated that ‘[t]here is a legal obligation on the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that patients have access to and supply of medicines. We need to work closely and try to have a holistic pharmaceutical strategy, so as to be able to deliver what we need for patients’. A pharmaceutical strategy is one of the new initiatives included in the Commission’s work programme for 2020, presented in January and adjusted in May.

European Commission roadmap

The strategy will cover all levels of the pharmaceutical value chain, from research and development, to authorisation and patients’ access to medicines. It will look at how to put scientific and technological advances into practice and how to fill market gaps. Lessons learned from the pandemic around preparedness and supply chains will also inform the strategy. The roadmap identifies several challenges:

  • the major impact a rapidly changing global context can have on access to medicines in the EU, such as the EU’s growing dependency on imports of medicines and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) produced outside the EU;
  • unequal access to medicines that are not always affordable for patients and national health systems across the EU, such as innovative therapies, including cancer medicines;
  • shortages of medicines, which often concern off-patent medicines (on which the patent has expired), such as antibiotics, cancer medicines and vaccines;
  • innovation efforts that are not always aligned with public health and health systems’ needs, resulting in therapies or medical technologies not being developed because of limitations to the science, or lack of interest from industry to invest;
  • challenges for the EU pharmaceuticals innovation ‘ecosystem’, meaning research done by smaller biotech companies is not always translated into commercially exploited innovation;
  • technological and scientific developments that may challenge the regulatory framework and lead to unintended barriers to innovation, such as gene and personalised therapies, smart health applications and artificial intelligence;
  • the need to improve the way environmental risks are addressed, such as those resulting from the production, use and disposal of medicines, and in particular, antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

How might the new strategy look?

Based on the above considerations, the Commission identifies four specific objectives for the strategy:

  1. Make sure patients across Europe have new medicines and therapies in their countries quickly and under all circumstances, and that there are fewer shortages of medicines;
  2. Help make medicines more affordable, and increase the ‘value for money’ of medical expenses;
  3. Take advantage of digitalisation, and make sure innovation and emerging science and technology cater to patients’ therapeutic needs, while reducing the environmental footprint;
  4. Reduce direct dependence on raw materials sourced from non-EU countries, influence other countries to harmonise international standards for the quality and safety of medicines, and help European pharmaceutical companies compete globally on an equal footing.

According to the Commission, the strategy is in line with the new industrial strategy for Europe and linked to other priorities, including the European Green Deal and Europe’s Beating Cancer plan. It will consider both legislative and non-legislative actions. The former could consist of follow-up to initiatives already in preparation, such as the evaluation of the legislation on medicines for children and rare diseases (the Paediatrics and Orphan Medicines Regulations, respectively), and a targeted evaluation with subsequent review of the basic pharmaceutical legislation (Directive 2001/83/EC and Regulation (EC) 726/2004). EU investment would include programmes such as Horizon Europe, InvestEU and Digital Europe.

Stakeholder views and expectations

Stakeholders welcome the Commission’s roadmap, broadly agreeing with its goals. The International Association of Health Mutuals (AIM) believes the strategy needs to guarantee that developments in evidence-generation, such as those coming from real-world data, or AI, deliver meaningful information to decision-makers. According to the Association of the European Self-Care Industry (AESGP), the strategy needs to acknowledge the specificities of different pharmaceutical products and their regulatory pathways. It should seize on the benefits of improved availability of non-prescription medicines. The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) considers much can and should be done already now within the existing framework, through recognition and efficient implementation of the lessons learned from Covid‑19. Regarding access to vaccines and treatments, EFPIA calls on the Commission to create a High-Level Forum on Better Access to Health Innovation, as proposed by the European Health Coalition. Acknowledging the EU’s focus on enhancing its strategic autonomy in specific areas, EFPIA notes that Europe’s pharmaceutical industry already has a strong in-built resilience, with 76 % of the APIs used in the manufacture of innovative medicines in Europe now being sourced in the EU. The European Confederation of Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurs (EUCOPE) sees a need for a strategy that enables research and attracts investments in Europe, alongside a solid regulatory framework that promotes science and development of new medicines. According to the generic, biosimilar and value-added medicines lobby Medicines for Europe, the strategy should build on existing pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity and invest in a globally competitive medicines manufacturing sector. It should improve medicines’ availability, recognising that industry and governments have a shared responsibility to improve access to medicines.


Read this ‘At a glance’ on ‘A pharmaceutical strategy for Europe: First steps‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/06/24/a-pharmaceutical-strategy-for-europe-first-steps/

Living in the EU: Work before the coronavirus crisis

Written by Giulio Sabbati,

© European Union & GlobalStat, 2020

The EU has been severely hit by the spread of the Covid-19 disease. Its impact extends well beyond public health, and the economic and social consequences of the pandemic are now a top priority for both the Member States and the EU institutions. Employment, developments in the labour market, and changed/worsened working conditions are the most prominent concerns therein. This infographic offers a closer look at the labour market situation in 2019, referring to the EU population aged 15-64 (285 million people, of which 195 million were employed, 14 million were unemployed and 76 million inactive). Finally, it looks at a recent survey conducted by Eurofound on living and working in the times of Covid-19 lockdown.


Read this ‘At a glance’ note on ‘Living in the EU: Work before the coronavirus crisis‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/06/24/living-in-the-eu-work-before-the-coronavirus-crisis/

Plenary round-up – Brussels, June 2020

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson,

EP Plenary session – Oral questions – Situation in the Schengen area following the Covid-19 outbreak

The June 2020 plenary session was the fourth conducted with Members participating remotely, although this time a majority were present in Brussels, and using the alternative voting procedure put in place in March by Parliament’s Bureau. The session focused on a number of urgent legislative proposals as well as votes on draft amending budgets and the guidelines for the 2021 EU budget. Parliament adopted recommendations on the negotiations for a new partnership with the United Kingdom, and discussed the European Council meeting held subsequently on 19 June. Members heard Council and European Commission statements on anti-racism protests, on the Conference on the Future of Europe, and on Covid-19 related issues: protecting strategic sectors; tackling disinformation; and protection of cross-border and seasonal workers. Members also discussed the situation in the Schengen area following the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond, and land-grabbing and deforestation in the Amazonas. Members debated statements from the Vice‑President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell, on the foreign policy consequences of the Covid-19 crisis, on China’s national security law for Hong Kong, and on the EU response to the possible Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Finally, Parliament adopted decisions creating a subcommittee on tax matters, a special committee on beating cancer, a special committee on foreign interference and a special committee on artificial intelligence.

New European Union-United Kingdom partnership

Members adopted, by a large majority, recommendations on the negotiations for a new partnership with the United Kingdom, based on a joint report from the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committees. The fourth round of EU-UK negotiations ended on 5 June 2020, with limited progress and critical divergence between the parties on level playing field commitments, fisheries, cooperation on criminal matters and the overarching institutional framework to govern future relations. During the second EU-UK Joint Committee meeting on 12 June, the UK confirmed it will not request an extension to the transition period ending on 31 December 2020. Parliament fully supports the EU negotiating position, prioritising the protection of the single market.

Guidelines for the 2021 budget

Members adopted amendments to a Budget Committee report on guidelines for the 2021 Budget – Section III, the first under the yet to be agreed new MFF. Parliament’s guidelines on Section III are intended to assist the Commission by indicating political priorities for the deployment of next year’s EU budget and, most urgently, the recovery from the coronavirus crisis, whilst Parliament also seeks to reinforce focus on the European Green Deal and digital transformation.

Amendments to the 2020 budget

Members adopted two further draft amending budgets for the current year. Draft amending budget No 3/2020 concerns the more than €3.2 billion surplus for 2019 (mostly higher than expected revenues, and underspent expenditure), which is carried over to 2020. While this surplus will reduce Member States’ gross national income contributions in 2020, Parliament is keen to see Member States devote the equivalent amount to support regions and businesses affected by the coronavirus crisis. To tackle the likely effects of the coronavirus crisis on the labour market, Members also approved a Commission proposal to mobilise €345 000 to provide technical assistance to strengthen the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund. The fund provides vital support for workers who lose their jobs due to structural changes in global markets. Members also approved draft amending budget No 4/2020, to make €279 million available in the 2020 budget to assist regions in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Austria affected by natural disasters caused by extreme weather events in 2019.

Conference on the Future of Europe

Planned to provide a comprehensive reflection on the direction and organisation of the EU, Members heard and debated Council and Commission statements on the Conference on the Future of Europe. The Covid‑19 epidemic has delayed discussion on the composition and structure of the Conference – and will inevitably have an effect on the proposed ‘Agora’ format. Members approved a resolution calling for the Conference to be launched as soon as possible during the second half of 2020.

Foreign policy consequences of the Covid-19 crisis and tackling coronavirus disinformation

Members debated a statement by the VPC/HR on the foreign policy consequences of the Covid‑19 crisis, where Parliament has already called for more strategic action in the face of deteriorating international relations. Parliament seeks strengthened resolve to support vulnerable regions in facing the threat to public health globally and in tackling disinformation regarding Covid‑19 and the virus’s impact on freedom of expression. Members adopted a proposal to set up a special committee on foreign interference in EU democratic processes.

VPC/HR statement on the People’s Republic of China national security law for Hong Kong

Parliament debated a statement from the VPC/HR on the national security law for Hong Kong and its consequences for EU defence of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The law, authorised by the Chinese National People’s Congress and bypassing the Hong Kong Parliament, is expected to enter into force prior to Hong Kong’s September 2020 legislative elections in a premature phasing-out of the ‘One country, two systems’ model that was planned to subsist for 50 years from the 1997 handover.

Tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond

Following Council and Commission statements on tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond, Members adopted, by a large majority, a resolution urging more action and greater financial support for the sector to help with recovery from the coronavirus crisis and to encourage investment in sustainable transport infrastructure and modernisation of the tourism industry.

Fisheries Partnership Agreements – Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé

Parliament approved three reports on fisheries agreements. These include the conclusion of the Protocol on the implementation of the 2019‑2024 Fisheries Partnership Agreement with the Republic of Cape Verde, the 2019‑2024 Protocol on the implementation of the EU-Guinea-Bissau Fisheries Partnership Agreement and the Protocol on the implementation of the EU-São Tomé and Príncipe Partnership Agreement. All three agreements concern access rights for the EU fleet to fish in the respective regions and promote sustainable fisheries and the blue economy in those waters.

Opening of trilogue negotiations

The proposal on temporary measures concerning the time limits for the collection, verification and examination stages under the European citizens’ initiative, in view of the Covid‑19 outbreak, treated under the urgent procedure, was referred back to the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) to pursue interinstitutional negotiations.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – Brussels, June 2020‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/06/23/plenary-round-up-brussels-june-2020/

Cross-border regional healthcare cooperation to combat the coronavirus pandemic

Written by Vasilis Margaras with Albin Boström,

The pandemic has led to a situation where the healthcare systems of European regions have been heavily over‑burdened, with more patients to treat than they have capacity for. Several healthcare projects between cross-border regions, funded by Interreg programmes, have contributed to the fight against the virus, in particular in regions of Germany, France, Italy and Spain, some of the worst affected EU Member States.

Contribution of Interreg to health care

© jpgon / Adobe Stock

As part of EU cohesion policy for 30 years, European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), better known as Interreg, has played a significant role in facilitating cooperation between European regions through project funding. It provides a framework for the implementation of joint actions and policy exchanges between national, regional and local actors from different Member States. More concretely, the Interreg programme aims to enhance regions’ capacity to find shared solutions to common challenges in a wide-range of fields, such as health, environment, transport, research and sustainable energy.

In the current programming period (2014-2020 – fifth period of Interreg), Interreg V has 79 cooperation programmes, mainly targeting cross-border cooperation (Interreg A), but also transnational (Interreg B) and inter-regional cooperation (Interreg C). One aim of the programme addresses cross-border cooperation in the field of health aiming, amongst other things, to facilitate the cross-border mobility of patients and health professionals, and to develop access to high quality healthcare through the use of common equipment, shared services and joint facilities in cross-border areas. The Interreg programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and has a budget of €10.1 billion invested in a range of cooperation programmes for the 2014-2020 programming period.

Interreg cross-border healthcare responses to combat coronavirus

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a situation where the healthcare systems of the Member States and their regions have been heavily burdened, with more patients to treat than they have capacity for. In particular, some border regions in northern Italy, south-western Germany and north-western France were significantly affected by the pandemic. The European Commission highlighted that many border regions already have both a history of, and the structures for, cooperation in health, which they should fully exploit in the spirit of European solidarity. On 3 April 2020, it recommended that Member States, regional and local authorities should use the full capacity of the flexibility offered to the Interreg programmes to address the pandemic. Several Interreg V projects have contributed to cross-border regions’ fight against the Covid-19 pandemic all over Europe, for example through mobility of intensive care patients and healthcare professionals, and the development of medical equipment.

Examples of Interreg-funded cross-border healthcare projects contributing to combatting Covid-19

  • The Cerdanya Hospital in Spain, located close to the French border, cooperates with French hospitals regarding intensive care capacity and personnel. They also have an agreement with the border police, which ensures that patients and health professionals can cross the border rapidly and without any obstacles.
  • The SHG-Kliniken Voelkingen hospital, located in the German part of the Greater Luxembourg Region, next to the French border but also close to Luxembourg and Belgium, has admitted French patients in need of hospitalisation. The hospital benefits from several Interreg cross-border cooperation projects, such as COSAN.
  • The Zimnicea City Hospital in Romania and the hospital in Svishtov, Bulgaria, have received support to modernise and to develop cross-border cooperation in the area through the Interreg project Your Health Matters!.
  • The MEDIWARN project has created biosensors, allowing medical and nursing staff to monitor, for instance, a patient’s heartbeat, respiratory rate and body temperature at a distance. A total amount of 12 biosensors are being used at the San Marco hospital in the Sicilian city of Catania, and ten more have been purchased by the Mater Dei hospital in Malta.
  • Within the framework of ongoing Interreg programmes various Covid-19 projects with non-EU neighbouring countries have also been developed such as the FILA project activities (Interreg IPA CBC Italia-Albania-Montenegro).

Many Interreg projects in the field of health can be found in the keep.eu database.

European Parliament’s position

As part of the cohesion policy legislative package for 2014-2020, Parliament adopted its position on specific provisions for support from the ERDF to the European territorial cooperation goal on 14 March 2012. Regarding cross-border cooperation, Parliament amended the European Commission’s proposal aiming to tackle common challenges identified jointly in the border regions, in particular in relation to information and communication technology (ICT) connectivity and transport infrastructure, declining industries. It also promoted the idea of exploiting the untapped growth potential in border areas, such as development of cross-border research and innovation facilities and clusters, cooperation among education providers, including universities, and between health centres.

Outlook

Regarding the proposed 2021-2027 Common Provision Rules, the European Parliament adopted a first-reading position in March 2019, stating that the resources for cross-border projects under Interreg (European Regional Development Fund) should amount to €11.3 billion in 2018 prices, or 3 % of the total cohesion resources (instead of the 2.5 % proposed by the Commission). Parliament also adopted a first-reading position on the proposal for a regulation on specific provisions for Interreg, supported by the ERDF and external financing instruments, on 26 March 2019. It called for some amendments regarding cross-border cooperation, in particular regarding people-to-people and small-scale projects, which are important for, among other things, eliminating border and cross-border obstacles. It also called for the ERDF, and where applicable, the external financing instruments of the EU to contribute to a more social Europe (policy objective 4 of the ERDF) by delivering on the principles of European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), which includes European citizens’ rights to timely access to affordable, preventive and curative healthcare of good quality.

During the pandemic, a number of EU initiatives and policies have been adopted in order to suit the needs of Member States and their regions. The regulations of already existing funds have been amended in order to help the Member States which faced numerous challenging situations in the field of health.

See also our EPRS briefing, ‘Exceptional coronavirus support measures of benefit to EU regions’, of May 2020.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Cross-border regional healthcare cooperation to combat the coronavirus pandemic‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/06/23/cross-border-regional-healthcare-cooperation-to-combat-the-coronavirus-pandemic/