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by Keith Zahra

INFRASTRUCTURE: Commission launches €5bn for energy-efficient transport infrastructure projects

The European Commission has launched a call for proposals launched under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) for Transport programme which makes available over €5 billion for European transport infrastructure projects. The funding will support projects across all EU Member States along the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) – the network of rail, inland waterways, ports, and roads that connects Europe. The projects will help the EU meet its European Green Deal objective of cutting transport emissions by 90% by 2050. Projects reinforcing the Solidarity Lanes will also be eligible. Projects funded under this call will contribute to the creation of an interconnected multimodal transport system for both passengers and freight. The objective is an affordable, reliable and effective rail network, improved inland waterways navigation and infrastructure in maritime ports, a balanced interconnection between different modes of transport, and increased automation and interoperability for greater efficiency and safety along the entire transport network. 

FINANCIAL SERVICES: ESAs warn of deterioration of asset quality in the financial sector

The three European financial services Supervisory Authorities (EBA, EIOPA and ESMA – ESAs) said that the deteriorating economic outlook, high inflation and rising energy prices have increased vulnerabilities across the financial sectors. In their Autumn 2022 joint risk report, the ESAs noted that financial institutions and supervisors should continue to be prepared for a deterioration in asset quality in the financial sector and monitor developments including in assets that benefitted from temporary measures related to the pandemic and those that are particularly vulnerable to a deteriorating economic environment, to inflation as well as to high energy and commodity prices. The impact of further increases in policy rates and of potential sudden increases in risk premia on financial institutions and market participants at large should be closely monitored. The report also refers to increased operational challenges associated with heightened cyber risks and the implementation of sanctions against Russia. The financial system has to date been resilient despite the increasing political and economic uncertainty. 

EDUCATION & LABOUR: EU pushes for a larger number of children in early education care

The European Commission has launched its European Care Strategy aimed at ensuring quality, affordable and accessible care services across the European Union and improving the situation for both care receivers and the people caring for them, professionally or informally. The Strategy is accompanied by two Recommendations for Member States on the revision of the Barcelona targets on early childhood education and care, and access to affordable high-quality long-term care. The Commission is proposing that Member States revise the targets on early childhood education and care to enhance women’s labour market participation, also called ‘the Barcelona Targets’, set in 2002. The current targets call on Member States to provide childcare to 33% of children under 3 and 90% of children from age 3 until mandatory school age. The Commission is proposing new ambitious yet realistic targets so that by 2030 at least 50% of children below the age of 3 are in early childhood education and care while 96% of children between the age of 3 and the starting age for compulsory primary education are in early childhood education and care, as already agreed in the European Education Area framework.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Council suspends VISA facilitation agreement with Russia

The Council has adopted a decision that fully suspends the visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Russia. Consequently, the general rules of the visa code will apply to Russian citizens. This will result in an increase in the visa application fee from €35 to €80, the need to present additional documentary evidence, increased visa processing times and more restrictive rules for the issuance of multiple-entry visas. The EU-Russia visa facilitation agreement entered into force on 1 June 2007. Its purpose was to facilitate the issuance of short-stay visas (no more than 90 days per 180 days) based on reciprocity. The full suspension affects all categories of travellers coming to the EU for a short stay. The Commission is expected to present additional guidelines to ensure this suspension does not negatively impact certain people travelling to the EU for essential purposes, such as journalists, dissidents and civil society representatives.

Sources: Eurostat, EU Spring Economic Forecast

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