EU consular protection: 600,000 people repatriated thanks to EU cooperation during pandemic

Today, the Commission published a report looking into the EU rules on consular protection, which gives the right to a EU citizens staying or traveling abroad to seek consular assistance from any other EU Member State, in case his or her own country is not represented there. The report finds that while EU cooperation was successful during the COVID19-pandemic, the Afghanistan crisis and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, improvements are necessary to ensure that EU rules are better fit for crises. High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell, said: “Consular protection demonstrates to our citizens the benefits of our EU external action: during the COVID-19 pandemic or since Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine was unleashed, the EU and it’s Member States worked hand in hand to assist our citizens and bring them home. In providing consular assistance, the 130 EU Delegations play a crucial role alongside Member States’ embassies and consulates.” Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “Thanks to EU cooperation 600,000 people stuck abroad got back home in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. EU rules on consular protection gave a lifeline to our citizens in times of need and showed a true solidarity among EU Member States. This report takes stock of major recent events relevant and suggests a number of measures to further facilitate and strengthen the exercise of EU citizenship rights.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, about 600,000 EU citizens affected by travel restrictions where brought home thanks to the close cooperation of the EU and Member States. Similar consular assistance was provided to EU citizens and their families following the crisis in Afghanistan and during Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. In this context, the local support of EU Delegations was essential, in particular in countries where only a few or no Member States were represented. Overall, the report notes that there is a need to streamline the current rules to facilitate the provision of consular protection. This includes improving information exchange between Member States and communication coordination as well as clarifying the situation of vulnerable people, such as pregnant women, unaccompanied minors or people with disabilities. Finally, while the primary obligation for providing consular protection remains with the Member States, the report notes that empowering EU Delegations to interact more directly with EU citizens in some cases, at Member States’ request, could also be considered.

InvestEU: Support for women-founded Green Generation Fund for sustainable startups

The European Investment Fund (EIF), backed by an EU budget guarantee from the new InvestEU programme contributed €25 million to the €100 million raised by women-founded The Green Generation Fund. KfW Capital provided €10 million. The Green Generation Fund invests exclusively in sustainable startups that make significant progress in CO2 avoidance, the circular economy, climate and resource protection, health promotion and biodiversity. The aim is to strengthen the new food tech and green tech industries and to contribute to CO2 reduction in the agricultural and food sectors. Funding is provided, for example, for plant protein extraction and innovations in fermentation and cell cultivation. In addition, the reduction of shelf life substances in the food industry as well as more sustainable packaging, supply chains, carbon capture solutions and green tech software are being considered. The EIF’s investment is one of the first in Germany under the new InvestEU programme. Paolo Gentiloni said: “Securing the green transition will require sustained investment. That is where InvestEU can play a crucial role. I am delighted that the new InvestEU programme is backing this EIF investment to support startups specialising in green technologies. This financing agreement will enable them to access the finance they need to invest in innovation, expansion and job creation. I am looking forward to seeing many other innovators follow suit.” The InvestEU programme provides the EU with crucial long-term funding by leveraging substantial private and public funds in support of a sustainable recovery. It also helps mobilise private investments for EU policy priorities, such as the European Green Deal and the digital transition. The InvestEU Fund is implemented through financial partners who will invest in projects using the EU budget guarantee of €26.2 billion. The entire budgetary guarantee will back the investment projects of the implementing partners, increase their risk-bearing capacity and thus mobilise at least €372 billion in additional investment. A press release is available online.

EU investment screening and export control rules effectively safeguard EU security

Foreign investment screening and export controls play a critical role in safeguarding European security and public order. This is the result of two reports adopted yesterday by the European Commission: the report on the screening of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), and the report on the Export Controls Regulation.

In 2021, the Commission analysed more than 400 foreign direct investments into the Union to ensure that no such investment threatens EU countries’ security or public order. All but two EU Member States now have screening mechanisms in place or are in the process of establishing them. Meanwhile, under the EU Export Control regime, Member States reviewed during the same year about 40,000 requests for exports of goods with potential military use to non-EU countries worth EUR 38.4 billion, blocking those exports in just over 550 cases.

Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, said: “At a time of mounting security challenges, in particular Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine, it is crucial to have our strategic trade and investment controls instruments up and running. In cooperation with our international partners, the EU deployed export controls to sanction Russia for its devastating war in Ukraine. The EU remains open to foreign investments, but this openness is not unconditional. It must be balanced. We must continue enhancing our capability to ensure this balance.”

FDI Screening

This is the second annual report on FDI screening, and the first one to cover an entire calendar year, as the EU FDI Screening Regulation entered into full application in October 2020. Since the creation of the cooperation mechanism, the Commission has screened over 740 FDI transactions.

The second annual report shows that the use of the mechanism has expanded in 2021. Its key findings highlight that:

The vast majority of FDI poses no problem from a security/public order perspective and is approved swiftly (both at Member State level and under the Regulation).

The Commission completed the assessment of FDI transactions notified by Member States very quickly: 86% were assessed in just 15 calendar days

The EU mechanism does not hold back the EU’s openness to FDI. With less than 3% of transactions resulting in a Commission opinion, the focus remains on security and public order

The report is giving the EU a much better picture of investment patterns. It shows that the top five countries for the ultimate investor notified in 2021 were the US, the UK, China, the Cayman Islands and Canada. Russian FDI accounted for less than 1.5% of the cases and Belarus for 0.2%

FDI covers a wide range of sectors, but most cases notified concerned manufacturing (44%) – covering a diverse set of industries including defence, aerospace, energy, health and semiconductor equipment, and Information and Communications Technologies (32%).

Overall, the FDI regulation has worked quickly and efficiently, providing a range of useful information and preventing investments posing security risks, all while not restricting the flow of foreign investment.

Export Controls

This is the second report on export controls under the upgraded Export Controls Regulation that entered into force on 9 September 2021, covering the year 2020.

The report covers dual-use exports i.e., items that may be used for civilian and military purposes. It shows that total authorised exports of such items amounted to about €31 billion in 2020.

The new set of EU rules have strengthened export controls by introducing a novel ‘human security’ dimension, simplifying procedures and making the export control system more agile and transparent. Expert work is being developed under the Regulation on cyber-surveillance and emerging technologies, with a particular focus on enforcement and implementation of controls by Member States. The new rules also allow the EU to work more closely with partner countries to enhance global security and promote a level playing field.

Overall, the Export Controls Regulation has made the export control framework more efficient, flexible and forward-looking, while also facilitating international security cooperation.

Source: Cyprus News Agency