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by Keith Zahra

 

HEALTH

The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Commission and Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB) have launched €64 million EU Malaria Fund, which aims to support feasible and affordable innovative solutions to prevent and treat malaria.

The major contributor to the Fund is the InnovFin EU programme funded by EU Horizon 2020 and jointly managed by the European Commission and the EIB. Part of the project is supported by the European Fund of Strategic Investments, the financial pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe. In this initiative, the EIB and the European Commission partner to mobilise €500 billion in the European economy.

“Malaria is the world’s current most deadly infectious diseases. To fight it is more urgent than ever,” said Ambroise Fayolle, EIB Vice-President in charge of health. “Progress has largely stalled in recent years, resistance to traditional drugs is on the rise, and new treatments are often costly. It is high time that we joined forces with public and private actors in and outside the EU to tackle the problem. If it can increase the number of ways to help prevent or cure malaria, our fund could be a life-saver for hundreds of thousands of people every year.”

An additional €6 million is being provided by various national and private investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

TECHNOLOGY

The European Union is turning to technology to help it bounce back from the coronavirus crisis and compete better in key areas with the United States and China.

As part of a 750 billion euro recovery plan announced earlier in May, the European Commission insisted on its desired objective to achieve technology sovereignty in crucial areas after it emerges from the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic and its consequences on our lives and economies have highlighted the importance of digitisation across all areas of EU economy and society,” the bloc’s executive body said as it announced the plan to help EU countries.

The EU is looking at a number of areas where to promote 5G and even 6G networks, with key beneficiaries indicated as being health, education, transport, logistics and media. Other areas which are expected to receive the lion’s share of funds in this field include artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, secured communication, data and cloud infrastructure, supercomputers, quantum and blockchain.

The Commission also reiterated plans to pass a data law to further protect consumers, whether individuals or businesses, online. “It will offer greater security for consumers online, prevent the abuse of market power by platforms and ensure a fair marketplace with equal opportunities for smaller businesses,” the Commission insisted in its plans.

 

BUSINESS

Retail activity throughout the EU suffered an inevitable blow during the past months with Member States taking a wide variety of restrictive measures. Among other limitations, non-essential retail shops have closed, affecting the retail trade volumes. In March 2020, EU’s volume of retail trade fell by 10% compared with February 2020 and by 8% compared with March 2019. The fall of the EU retail trade continued in April 2020 when the retail volume fell by 11% compared with March 2020 and by 18% compared with April 2019.

In the EU, sales of food, beverages and tobacco registered an increase of 5% in March, which is significantly higher than a usual increase (around 0.2%). After the significant increase of March, the retail trade volume of food, beverages and tobacco fell by 6% in April.

Retail trade of non-food products excluding automotive fuel dropped by 20% in March 2020 and by 15% in April 2020, both compared with the previous month. The strongest declines were recorded for textiles, clothing, and leather products (-54% in March and -21% in April). The sales volume of pharmaceutical products, cosmetics and similar increased by 1% in March yet fell by 9% in April.

Unusually large reductions were recorded also in the purchase of electric products and furniture (-24% in March and -7% in April) as well as computers, books and similar products (-27% in March and -4% in April).

 

ENVIRONMENT

As part of the EU’s efforts to boost the shift towards eco-friendly investment, the European Parliament is expected to vote on rules to define what qualifies as green or sustainable activities. This would establish a common classification system across the EU, provide business and investors with clarity, and encourage an increase in private sector funding for the transition towards climate neutrality.

Sustainable development requires the preservation of natural resources and respect for human and social rights. Climate action is an important aspect, as the need to limit and mitigate the effects of climate change becomes more and more urgent.

The EU is committed to gradually decreasing its greenhouse gas emissions. The European Green Deal, the EU’s flagship initiative on climate action, sets a goal of zero net emissions by 2050.

To achieve the goal, the EU must invest in new technologies. The European Commission estimates that Europe needs about €260 billion in extra investment every year over the next decade.

Public investment will not suffice, and private investors will have to step into finance climate-friendly projects. This requires clear criteria on what exactly is sustainable and eco-friendly; otherwise, some funding might be directed to “greenwashing” projects that claim to be green, but in reality, are not.

Some EU countries have already started developing classification systems. Both companies seeking funding and investors interested in supporting sustainable projects would benefit from common EU standards.

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