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In conversation with...Johanna Friedl-Naderer Johanna Friedl-Naderer

Innovative treatments and genetic testing can write a new chapter in the history of rare diseases. Together, we can make a difference and improve patients’ lives, explains Biogen’s President, Europe & Canada, Johanna Friedl-Naderer.

Innovative treatments and genetic testing can write a new chapter in the history of rare diseases. Together, we can make a difference and improve patients’ lives, explains Biogen’s President, Europe & Canada, Johanna Friedl-Naderer.

Photo credit: The Parliament Magazine


What exactly is Biogen’s commitment to rare diseases in Europe?

Biogen is first and foremost a pioneer in neuroscience. There is no other area of medical science that holds so much promise – and where there is so much unmet need. That’s why we are investing in developing and delivering innovative new treatments for neurological diseases. Our focus on rare diseases is rooted in our expertise in neuroscience and our mission to change lives. We are committed to making a positive difference for the rare disease community. I am very proud of what we have achieved as pioneers in Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a rare neurodegenerative disease and the number one genetic cause of death for infants in Europe. Even though there is still no cure, the lives of people with SMA have been transformed. Before treatments were available, an SMA diagnosis meant either an early death or a lifetime of progressive disability. Babies who were unlikely to reach their second birthdays are now living fuller lives. Older children have experienced continuous improvement, while adults have maintained motor function. This is a phenomenal achievement, but it doesn’t stop there. We are currently working on a range of treatments for rare diseases, such as Choroideremia, Trigeminal Neuralgia and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).


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A major challenge faced by rare disease patients is early diagnosis. Why is this especially important in SMA?

Around 80 percent of all rare diseases have identified genetic origins and 50 percent of people affected by rare diseases are children. SMA is one of them. In the case of SMA, evidence demonstrates that treating affected children before symptoms appear significantly increases their chances of survival and of achieving age-appropriate milestones, like independent sitting and walking. In other words, an early diagnosis can determine whether babies born with SMA have the chance to celebrate their second birthday. However, most countries in Europe are still not testing for SMA at birth. Systematically testing babies for SMA just after birth could make a tremendous difference.

"An early diagnosis can determine whether babies born with SMA have the chance to celebrate their second birthday. However, most countries in Europe are still not testing for SMA at birth"

What is the current situation in Europe regarding newborn screening?

There are significant disparities across Europe regarding diseases covered by newborn screening panels. Some countries cover more than 40 diseases and others less than five. These inequalities provide a strong argument for a common newborn-screening framework at European level. Regarding SMA, Patient Advocacy Groups are supportive of newborn screening and are playing a critical role in driving its adoption. Biogen works closely with the SMA community, supporting pilot studies in Italy, Germany, Belgium and other countries to assess the clinical value and cost effectiveness of newborn SMA screening. A recent German newborn screening study of more than 165,000 infants showed no increase in incident rates but did make it possible for infants to have early access to treatment. In other words, newborn screening helped ensure early treatment without identifying more patients than would eventually have been diagnosed. Newborn screening is vital for an early verified diagnosis and further consideration of treatment options, which can deliver better patient outcomes. We encourage policymakers across Europe to include screening for rare diseases for which treatments are available.

The limited amount of data on treatment outcomes is a major issue when it comes to tackling rare diseases. What is Biogen doing to track real world evidence (RWE) of patients with rare diseases?

Biogen has worked in collaboration with researchers, clinicians and other stakeholders to establish more than 12 SMA registries around the world. Where clinical trials provide the evidence of safety and efficacy needed for approval, RWE helps clinicians, researchers, regulators and payers to understand how treatments work in practice. We support the creation of European guidelines for the establishment and maintenance of disease registries. When registries are built through collaboration between industry, clinicians, researchers and regulators across Europe, we can create an invaluable resource. A consistent approach will lead to better understanding of the disease and ultimately improve patient care. EU institutions and Member States can play a vital role in this area. EU structural and investment funds, for instance, could help strengthen data-gathering capacities in hospitals across Europe, while EU programmes, such as the Innovative Medicines Initiative and the European Reference Network, could help standardise definition of outcomes, data collection, the interoperability of systems, as well as the uptake of digital technologies. As a pioneering company, we strongly believe in the benefits of technology, such as AI, to support the creation and use of RWE.

"30 million Europeans are living with a rare disease and 95 percent of those diseases still lack a treatment option. Joining forces to ensure a stable regulatory and incentive framework will enable us to continue on this successful path of bringing innovation to patients in dire need"

The European commission is currently assessing the impact of the orphan regulation, which provides special market exclusivity and regulatory data protection for rare disease treatments. What is Biogen’s view on the regulation?

Since the introduction of the orphan medicinal products regulation in 2000, 164 orphan products have been approved, where only eight existed before. The orphan regulation has successfully incentivised companies to invest in rare disease treatments, which was its primary purpose. 30 million Europeans are living with a rare disease and 95 percent of those diseases still lack a treatment option. Joining forces to ensure a stable and strong regulatory and incentive framework will enable us to continue on this successful path of bringing innovation to patients in dire need.

/articles/interviews/conversation-withjohanna-friedl-naderer Tue, 11 Feb 2020 12:14:49 +0100
Safer Internet Day: Constant vigilance Thierry Breton and Mariya Gabriel

The internet has impacted our lives in countless positive ways; however, we must be vigilant to ensure it remains safe. Let’s focus on children to build a better Internet of the future, write Mariya Gabriel and Thierry Breton.

The internet has impacted our lives in countless positive ways; however, we must be vigilant to ensure it remains safe. Let’s focus on children to build a better Internet of the future, write Mariya Gabriel and Thierry Breton.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock


On 11 February, the European Commission is celebrating Safer Internet Day and will join the movement across the globe to work “Together for a better internet”. The web has expanded a great deal in its 40 years of existence, becoming a daily companion that has changed how we communicate, study, travel, work and live.

The next generation has already made its mark on the digital space; every third internet user is a child; an estimated 800 million children now use social media today. By 2022, there will be another 1.2 billion users, with children being the fastest-growing online demographic.

However, the complexity of the web and the increased possibilities to interconnect present new challenges for our shared digital space and its users.


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One of these challenges is to ensure that the internet is safe for everyone to use; illegal hate speech, terrorist propaganda or material depicting child abuse have no place in our societies – be it offline, or online.

The Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online has allowed us to work with online platforms and respond quickly and effectively to address the proliferation of racist and xenophobic hate speech online.

Fake news is also an area of concern; according to a Eurobarometer survey, 83 percent of Europeans think that online fake news is a threat to democracy.

We have been working with social media and online platforms to prevent the spread of disinformation online and to make it clearer to users where a piece of news or an advertisement originates from.

"One of these challenges is to ensure that the internet is safe for everyone to use; illegal hate speech, terrorist propaganda or material depicting child abuse have no place in our societies"

Over the next few months, we will be working on a comprehensive strategy on the Rights of the Child, which will include the rights of minors online, and we will propose an updated Digital Education Action Plan. Building a safer internet has been at the heart of our approach towards reforming the audio-visual sector rules.

These reforms have included specific provisions to protect our more vulnerable groups from dangerous content online. Digital and media literacy must be at the core of any strategy seeking to benefit from the digital revolution.

Our strategy for a “Better Internet for Children” offers concrete proposals that help prepare and teach children and young people how to use the internet safely.

These proposals include financial support for programmes that raise awareness and foster digital literacy among minors, parents, and teachers, building on an existing wealth of resources on safe internet practices already available at http://betterinternetforkids.eu/.

The internet must be a place for everyone, which means that everyone should participate in this process.

The European Commission is committed to engaging with both civil society and the citizens and taking their input on board when considering how to make the web a safer place and make Europe fit for the digital age.

Safer Internet Day 2020 is organised by the EU-funded Safer Internet Centres’ network and the Safer Internet Day Committees worldwide, bringing together thousands of people and organisations. This year marks the 17th annual celebration of safer internet use.

"According to a Eurobarometer survey, 83 percent of Europeans think that online fake news is a threat to democracy"

In 2019, the day united millions of people in events and activities in around 150 countries, inspiring positive changes online and raising awareness of online safety issues.

This year, the European Commission will organise a discussion with the INHOPE network of hotlines combating child sexual abuse online, and experts from industry, academics, and law enforcement on how Artificial Intelligence can be used to identify and remove child sexual abuse material online.

We will also promote a youth-led initiative to challenge the ICT industry to become more transparent and child-friendly in their privacy statements.

The work to make the internet a safer place will continue after Safer Internet Day 2020, together with representatives from the ‘Alliance to better protect minors online’ initiative, which was launched during Safer Internet Day 2017.

The Alliance is composed of some 40 key players from leading media and ICT companies, device and toys manufacturers to civil society and UNICEF, working together to address emerging risks facing minors.

/articles/opinion/safer-internet-day-constant-vigilance Tue, 11 Feb 2020 11:17:55 +0100
A ‘sad day’ for racial diversity in the EU Rajnish Singh

With the UK’s departure from the EU, MEPs and the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) say the Brussels institutions have become ‘whiter’ and less representative of Europe’s diverse population. Rajnish Singh reports.

With the UK’s departure from the EU, MEPs and the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) say the Brussels institutions have become ‘whiter’ and less representative of Europe’s diverse population. Rajnish Singh reports.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock


When the UK’s 73 deputies left Parliament last week, the number of MEPs from ethnic and racial minorities dropped too. Karen Taylor, chair of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), told The Parliament Magazine that although Brexit day was a sad day for racial diversity in the EU, its institutions now have the opportunity to “step up their game and finally take the measures needed to ensure a fairer representation of racial and ethnic minorities in their structures.”

According to research carried out by the ENAR, ethnic and racial minorities were already underrepresented in all EU institutions, but they acknowledged that the 2019 European elections had brought about an improvement in their representation.

Their research also showed that Brexit rolled back most of the gains that had been made in the European elections, with the UK having elected the most MEPs from ethnic and racial minorities. In fact, the number of representatives from racial and ethnic minorities decreased from five to four percent.

The ENAR believes this affects other EU institutions too, although data on racial diversity within their workforces is not collected.


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This makes it difficult to know the extent of the problem, says the campaign group. However, from anecdotal evidence, many of the staff members from a racial or ethnic minority background are also from the UK.

“After Brexit, not only will there be seven less MEPs of colour, but there is also a risk that the EU’s commitment to equality and diversity principles such as data collection, positive action, and even the acknowledgement of racism as a major issue, will decline,” said Taylor.

The ENAR points out that although at least 50 million people of colour are estimated to be living in Europe, none of the institutions have people of colour in senior management positions, nor are there any specific measures to improve their representation.

Co-president of parliament’s Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI), MEP Evin Incir, like many other deputies, was upset over Brexit saying that “the UK’s decision to leave our common union is a historical mistake”.

The Swedish representative highlighted the important role UK deputies had played in combatting racism, saying, “ARDI’s British co-presidents took concrete steps to transform the Parliament from within, including dealing with the lack of diversity.”

"With Brexit and the departure of British MEPs and their assistants, it will be an even more unicoloured, whiter, parliament than it already is, and it is certainly not the Von der Leyen Commission, which is also unrepresentative of diversity, that will help us. It's saddening" Younous Omarjee (SE, GUE/NGL)

“But we will keep cooperating and we will continue transforming the institutions too. It is simple: We want to see our institutions reflecting diversity in Europe."

Co-President of ARDI, GUE/NGL deputy Younous Omarjee, agreed with Incir, saying, "With Brexit and the departure of British MEPs and their assistants, it will be an even more unicoloured, whiter, parliament than it already is, and it is certainly not the Von der Leyen Commission, which is also unrepresentative of diversity, that will help us. It's saddening."

One of the UK’s recently departed MEPs, Greens deputy Magid Magid, was even more scathing in his criticism of the EU, saying, “Although there are some incredible people and organisations fighting to give minorities a stronger voice in the institutions, this is as far as it goes.”

“The idea of a balanced representative EU leadership is a joke. The mix of nationalities we have here in truth amounts only to pseudo-diversity of white names and faces.”

Magid believes true diversity in the EU is restricted to positions that are behind the scenes such as cleaners, catering staff and technical support who were the truly multicultural, multi-faith heart of these institutions.

“When around 15 per cent of the population of the EU are people of colour, they deserve more than a handful of MEPs representing them. The EU must step up as-a-whole to remedy this,” said Magid.

He wants the EU to introduce measures such as raising the number of non-white people working in the institutions to 10 percent, or creating internships specifically aimed at people of colour - similar to measurers introduced by the UK government. “Only with radical action can these institutions achieve some semblance of representation of the wealth and beauty of these 27 nations,” he added.

Belgian deputy Hilde Vautmans agreed with Magid, saying, "It's problematic that ethnic and racial minorities are underrepresented in the EU's institutions. It's sad to see that, after Brexit, there will be seven less MEPs of colour.” However, she said she is committed to transforming the EU's institutions to better reflect the diversity of our continent.

"When around 15 per cent of the population of the EU are people of colour, they deserve more than a handful of MEPs representing them. The EU must step up as-a-whole to remedy this" Magid Magid (formerly UK, Greens/EFA)

Former S&D Co-President of ARDI, Julie Ward, said wants to see the EU “step up its game in-regards to promoting diversity within the institutions.”

Like Magid, she pointed out that the UK had a comparatively good record in supporting political candidates from ethnic minorities, resulting in the successful election of a significant number of UK deputies from diverse backgrounds, including those from a Muslim background.

Despite Brexit and the reduction of ethnic minority deputies, German Greens MEP, Romeo Franz, said that ARDI “will continue to strive for peace, tolerance and equality for all, including UK citizens.”

Franz also said he believes that diversity must also be promoted more at the level of the EU institutions too. That is why we agreed to strengthen our commitment to transform institutions.

Helping EU institutions to be more accessible, for people belonging to marginalised groups is “high on our priority list as well as combating racism and fighting for diversity in the Member States and beyond,” he added.

Meanwhile, EPP deputy Peter Pollak was more phlegmatic and believed the withdrawal of the UK was a warning to the Union. "Brexit has become a reality. But let´s be positive and let´s learn from it. We must intensify our efforts in engaging with European citizens and communicating better the values we stand for.”

However, for Pollak, it was also important that “UK citizens should not be excluded from this process."

/articles/opinion/%E2%80%98sad-day%E2%80%99-racial-diversity-eu Mon, 10 Feb 2020 17:14:44 +0100
How Brexit happened Edward McMillan-Scott

Edward McMillan-Scott - a Vice-President of the European Parliament from 2004-2014 - shares some insights into what really led to the UK’s divorce from the EU.

Edward McMillan-Scott - a Vice-President of the European Parliament from 2004-2014 - shares some insights into what really led to the UK’s divorce from the EU.

Edward McMillan-Scott | Photo credit: Edward McMillan-Scott


Commentators at post-Brexit Day conferences in Brussels, where I spent a couple of days last week, blamed David Cameron’s split from the EU’s mainstream political family for Brexit.

While all former living prime ministers agree with John Major that leaving the EU is a “colossal mistake” Cameron has insulated himself by raking in £1.6m from speeches since the 2016 referendum, only occasionally accepting responsibility for dividing the country.

For many of his crisis capitalist City friends, any economic convulsion means big money, while the poorest will suffer yet more austerity, as the post-election bounce gives way to Brexit reality.


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Since the first referendum in 1975 I was a member of what was a moderate centre-right, internationalist Conservative Party – despite the anti-EU attitudes of some leaders – until Cameron caved in under pressure from his far-right and split from the European People’s Party (EPP).

This happened after the 2009 European elections, and I left in protest. The divorce from the EPP ended links with an important network of influence, one of whose consequences was the modest package of concessions he won during his “re-negotiation”, which he then put to the country in the June 2016 referendum.

The split with the EPP was agitated for by Daniel Hannan, a Conservative MEP from 1999 and founder of the European Research Group of around 80 like-minded politicians, almost all following the “global Britain” line Hannan had preached since his election.

I tried to prevent his candidacy, telling former leader William Hague that Hannan was unsuitable. I was on the Conservative candidates committee and the key quality we sought in those days was “calibre” – difficult to define but we knew when it was absent.

"The divorce from the EPP ended links with an important network of influence, one of whose consequences was the modest package of concessions he won during his “re-negotiation”, which he then put to the country in the June 2016 referendum"

On his election, Hannan told me he intended to do no parliamentary work and would dedicate himself and his resources to getting the UK out of the EU.

Nigel Farage, elected the same year and from the same background and approach as Hannan, became the voice and Hannan the “brain of Brexit”.

Now they are fully answerable to the British public, as Northern Ireland and Scotland contemplate a post-UK future although it is reported that Johnson will add Hannan to the 800 members of the House of Lords, once again on the public purse.

Similarly Boris Johnson’s bluster and bombast - I knew him as a monstrously inaccurate Brussels-based journalist - in seeking a Canada-style deal with the EU and yet declaring “no achievement is beyond our reach”, the childish memo urging UK diplomats to avoid their EU counterparts at international meetings, developing freeports, closing frontiers and eulogising America’s chlorinated chicken are typical of the mindset of the new Conservative Party, the target of organised entryism from UKIP types.

The polls from the December 12 election show that it simply swallowed Farage’s Brexit Party: many see Johnson as mini-Trump.

Under the headline “Others won’t be stupid enough to leave”, the author of Article 50, veteran diplomat Lord John Kerr told the Sunday Times two days after the split, "We imagined a situation in which we withdrew a Member State’s voting rights because of a move towards autocracy, and in a huff its leader stormed out, leaving a chaotic legal situation."

"Many expect that is exactly what Downing Street seeks – ending with No Deal"

Many expect that is exactly what Downing Street seeks – ending with No Deal. Others I met in Brussels also now fear that Brexit could lead to similar moves elsewhere in the EU.

Although organisations like the European Movement UK will continue to campaign for citizens’ rights and to highlight the adverse consequences of Brexit (this week Ryanair announced it will no longer employ UK staff and Nissan threatened to pull out of Europe completely) any focus on Rejoin will come later. Never too soon for me.

/articles/opinion/how-brexit-happened Mon, 10 Feb 2020 14:06:27 +0100
Mariya Gabriel calls for more gender balance in IT industry Martin Banks

Speaking at a conference in Brussels on Thursday, the European Commissioner said, “This is a question of fairness.”

Speaking at a conference in Brussels on Thursday, the European Commissioner said, “This is a question of fairness.”

Photo credit: Adobe Stock


Addressing the DIGITALEUROPE conference on digitalisation, Gabriel declared, “This must change. We have to close the gender gap because this is a question of fairness.”

She pointed out that women make up 52 percent of the general population but, in the IT sector, only 15 percent are female.

The official, who is responsible for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, said the emergence of “role models” for young women would be one way of addressing the issue.


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“We need role models in the sector to inspire young girls to consider a job and a career in IT.”

She praised Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General of Brussels-based DIGITALEUROPE, as one such “wonderful role model" for girls.

DIGITALEUROPE represents the digital technology industry and digitally-transforming industries. Its members are in 35,000 companies in Europe.

The conference in Brussels on Thursday, “Masters of Digital”, attracted over 300 experts and EU officials and emphasised the importance of digital technologies, innovation and Artificial Intelligence in boosting Europe’s competitiveness and economic growth.

“We need role models in the sector to inspire young girls to consider a job and a career in IT” Mariya Gabriel

In a keynote address at the close of the conference, Gabriel said, “The focus of my portfolio has shifted in this past year but digital is and remains a crucial ingredient of it.”

“Innovation, research and education are about preparing for the future, a future which is, without doubt, digital.”

The Commissioner told the packed audience the digital sector had to “help come up with effective solutions” in addressing a range of issues such as climate change.

But she also noted that the IT and digital industry itself had to “innovate” and take action to reduce its own carbon footprint in places like data centres.

Europe, she said, wants to become a “green continent” and the Commission “supports innovation every step of the way.”

The next Horizon programme, starting in 2021, aims to “improve what did not work so well in Horizon 2020.”

She added, “We must do more and achieve higher impact and we will do this by targeting our resources.”

“Funding is crucial but the digital transition is also a societal change and that is why we will need well-equipped people and a workforce fit for the digital age” Mariya Gabriel

The official, an MEP from 2009-2017, said, “This is a chance to show our mission-oriented approach can be tangible for citizens but there is a lot of work to do and we must decide where we want to invest.”

“Industry and civil society each has a role to play and I also hope that the European Innovation Council can become the EU’s ‘unicorn factory’ supporting high risk innovation.”

The conference heard that it will cost some €9.2bn to digitalise all sectors in Europe and to invest in digital infrastructure and re-skilling.

DIGITALEUROPE has urged Member States to “prioritise” this and allocate a “significantly” higher budget for the Digital Europe programme.

It says Internet of Things, 5G and Cloud are "turning point technologies" that could deliver socio-economic benefits worth more than €110bn and create 2.3m jobs in Europe.

In her speech Gabriel said, “It is clear Europe needs to accelerate the pace on this and that is why a major increase is proposed for the next Horizon programme budget.”

But she added that this still hinges on the outcome of current negotiations for the EU’s next long-term budget, the MMF.

“We need to invest in innovation in Europe more than ever, and I am not just talking about money but about investment so the next six months will be crucial in making this a reality.”

“Funding is crucial but the digital transition is also a societal change and that is why we will need well-equipped people and a workforce fit for the digital age.”

The event was told that it is estimated that 52 percent of the current European workforce in the manufacturing sector needs retraining before 2022.

Gabriel added “There will be substantial changes in the way we work in next few years but we also need to make sure no one is left behind.”

“It makes me proud that for the first time research, innovation and education are now under the same Commission portfolio.”

“It is now important to build on this momentum and also the updated Digital Action Plan. Going forward we will need to upgrade the current level of digital skills. I do not have to tell you how alarming the figure on re-skilling are in Europe.”

She said that a new “skills agenda” would be published by the Commission in March.

“This is not just about basic digital skills but also about the need for people with more advanced digital skills.”

She added, “We can only deliver on all these things if we act together. But I am confident that the future is promising. We know the challenges we face but we should also see the opportunities.”

Her closing message, she said, was that “digital innovators” will be the “key agents of change" in the future.

/articles/news/mariya-gabriel-calls-more-gender-balance-it-industry Fri, 07 Feb 2020 17:32:42 +0100
Issue 509 | 10 February 2020 The Parliament Magazine

This issue features socialist MEP and rural defender Clara Aguilera as our cover star. She explains how instead of making cuts to the CAP budget, the EU must provide more support to farmers or risk seeing most of Europe’s agricultural areas dwindle in the coming decades.

This issue features socialist MEP and rural defender Clara Aguilera as our cover star. She explains how instead of making cuts to the CAP budget, the EU must provide more support to farmers or risk seeing most of Europe’s agricultural areas dwindle in the coming decades.

 

In our cohesion policy feature, Commissioner Elisa Ferreira looks at how cohesion policy can play a key role in the EU Green Deal. Slovenian MEP Franc Bogovič discusses Smart Villages, and Italian MEP Andrea Cozzolino, rapporteur for the ERDF and Cohesion Fund 2021-2027 report, tells us what Europe’s regions need from the EU’s new funding mechanisms.

Meanwhile, Commissioners Thierry Breton and Mariya Gabriel discuss Safer Internet Day, Miriam Dalli explains why the EU Green Deal should get everyone on board, and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warns of a ‘cliff edge’ as the UK transition period begins.

Also in this issue: MEP comment on the World Cancer Day and Rare Disease Day, FinTech policy, 5G and the EU’s new Space Programme.

We also recap the European Parliamentary Forum’s event on cervical cancer prevention and feature British MEPs’ parting words through the medium of Twitter.

Finally, answering our five questions this issue is Maltese S&D MEP Josianne Cutajar.

/articles/magazines/issue-509-10-february-2020 Fri, 07 Feb 2020 16:10:47 +0100
Movers and Shakers | 7 February 2020 Mia Bartoloni and Megan MacDougall

Keep track of developments in the European institutions and public affairs with our Movers and Shakers column.

Keep track of developments in the European institutions and public affairs with our Movers and Shakers column.

Today’s Movers & Shakers are about: Meet the 27 New MEPs, Fidesz party suspension to continue for another year, DG JUST sees a change in leadership, Ireland heads to the polls, the latest Commission, public affairs appointments and more!

 

European Parliament

Following the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 January, the 73 British MEPs have now vacated their seats in Parliament. In their place, 27 new MEPs from different Members States have joined bringing the total number of members to 705. The remaining 46 seats have been reserved for potential future EU enlargements or the creation of transnational lists. 

Of the new faces in Parliament, look out for first-time MEP Sandro GOZI (RE, FR). GOZI constitutes an interesting case as a MEP elected with a different nationality from that of the country that voted him in. The Italian will represent the French La Republique en Marche party of French president Emmanuel MACRON, despite being a member of the Italian Democratic Party. 

Another first-time MEP is former Minister for Education in the Catalan government Clara PONSATÍ OBIOLS (NI, ES). PONSATÍ OBIOLS has been living in self-imposed exile in Scotland since 2017. While she is set to take her seat in Parliament on 7 February, she faces many of the same legal challenges as fellow Catalan MEPs Toni COMÍN and Carles PUIGDEMONT. Both COMÍN and PUIGDEMONT finally took their seats in mid-January of this year after ongoing disputes with Spanish Courts over their involvement in the Catalan independence referendum and eligibility for a seat in the European Parliament. 

For comprehensive information on the 27 new MEPs, visit dodspeople.eu

 

Committees and Delegations

Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON)
Lefteris NIKOLAOU-ALAVANOS (NI, EL) who was previously a substitute,  leaves the committee.

Employment and Social Affairs Committee (EMPL)
Atidzhe ALIEVA-VELI (RE, BG) joins as a substitute.

Intergroups

Massimiliano SALINI (EPP, IT) and Ezven TOSENOVSKY (ECR, CZ) have been elected vice-presidents of the Sky and Space intergroup.

Political Groups

The European People's Party (EPP) decided to continue with the suspension of its Hungarian member party, Fidesz of prime minister Viktor ORBAN at the party’s annual political assembly on Monday. However, unless ORBAN decides to quit the EPP, Fidesz will remain in the group for at least another year as the EPP’s assembly did not find the proper majority to expel them.

Michal ŠIMEČKA (RE, SK) has been appointed the new vice-president of the Renew Europe Group, replacing outgoing UK MEP Martin HORWOOD


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European Commission

Directorates-General

Agriculture and Rural Affairs (AGRI)
Hugo ALMEIDA replaces Efthimios BOKIAS as Head of Unit F5 (Spain, Portugal) in an acting capacity.

Budget (BUDG)
Nicole SMITH becomes Head of Unit C1 (Treasury Management) in an acting capacity, filling a vacant position. SMITH remains Director of C as well.

Health and Food Safety (SANTE)
Jeroen LETTENS becomes Head of Unit A3 (Finance, budget and controls), filling a vacant position.

International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO)
Eric BEAUME replaces Ana GALLO ALVAREZ as Head of Unit G3 (Regional Sector Policy Analysis) in an acting capacity.
Nicolas STOETZEL replaces Sandra BARTELT as Head of Unit R3 (Legal Affairs) in an acting capacity.

Translation (DGT)
Mareks KOVALEVSKIS replaces Mareks GRAUDINS as Head of the Latvian language department in Directorate C.
Maria RZEWUSKA-WALIGORA replaces Christine HERWIG as Head of Terminology Coordination in Directorate D.

Communication (COMM)
A new unit has been added to Directorate C (Representation and Communication in Member States). The newly added C5 unit will deal with the ‘United Kingdom Withdrawal Transition’ and will be headed by Andy KLOM in an acting capacity.

Human Resources and Security (HR)
Anette MANDLER replaces Bernard MAGENHANN as Director of Account Management Centre (AMC) in an acting capacity. MANDLER remains Head of Unit AMC1.

Justice and Consumer Affairs (JUST)
Salla SAASTAMOINEN has taken over from Tiina ASTOLA has director-general in an acting capacity.

Regional and Urban Policy (REGIO)
Eveline Petrat-Charléty replaces Erik NOOTEBOOM as Head of Unit B4 (Legal Affairs) in an acting capacity.


Want to know more? Click here for more information on our Dods People EU service. 


EU Institutions and Agencies

Committee of the Regions
Kieran MCCARTHY (IE) has been elected president of the European Alliance Group in the European Committee of the Regions while Karl VANLOUWE (BE) has been elected first vice-president.

European Defence Agency (EDA)
Olli RUUTU has been named as the Acting Chief Executive, replacing Jorge DOMECQ who was serving in the role ad interim. RUUTU’s term will continue until a new head is appointed.

Public Affairs

PlasticsEurope
Virginia JANSSENS has been appointed Managing Director and will take up her role as of 16 March.


Got a new appointment you would like us to include in our next newsletter? Click here to let us know about it! 


National News

Austria
Ministers without portfolio Susanna RAAB, Karoline EDSTADLER and Christine ASCHBACHER have been re-assigned new portfolios. RAAB becomes Federal Minister for Women and Integration in the Federal Chancellery. EDSTADLER becomes Federal Minister for the EU and Constitution in the Federal Chancellery. ASCHBACHER becomes Federal Minister for Labour, Family and Youth.

Croatia
Previous assistant to the Minister of Health, Vili BEROS, has been confirmed as the new Minister for Health with 81 votes in favour, 42 against and 1 abstention.

Ireland
An opinion poll released this week has indicated the Taoiseach Leo VARADKAR’s party, Fine Gael (EPP), is predicted to come third in the general election on the 8 February. The poll places Sinn Féin (GUE/NGL) in the lead, with Fianna Fáil (EPP) following closely behind.

Luxembourg
Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for the Economy and Minister for Health Etienne SCHNEIDER has tendered his resignation. Minister for Sport and Minister for Labour, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy Dan KERSCH replaces SCHNEIDER as Deputy Prime Minister. A new addition to the cabinet, Franz FAYOT takes over the Economy portfolio, and the portfolio for Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Affairs, previously held by Paulette LENERT. Minister for Consumer Protection Paulette LENERT takes over the health portfolio.

For a full list of the cabinet following the re-shuffle, visit dodspeople.eu

Poland
It has been announced this week that the first round of the Presidential election will take place on the 10 May.

Romania
The opposition Social Democratic Party, alongside the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania submitted a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Ludovic ORBAN’s National Liberal Party (EPP) minority government. The PNL government had been in office for three months, following a no-confidence vote against the former PSD-led government.

The motion was debated in Parliament on Wednesday, 233 MPs were needed to pass the motion for ORBAN's cabinet to be dismissed, it received 261 to 139 votes in favour. President Klaus IOHANNIS nominated outgoing ORBAN to form a new cabinet.

Slovenia
President Borut PAHOR begins formal talks with parliamentary parties this week to discuss the formation of a new government, following the resignation of Prime Minister Marjan SAREC.


 

/articles/news/movers-and-shakers-7-february-2020 Fri, 07 Feb 2020 15:42:56 +0100
Viviane Reding: ‘We must not compromise on security or trust’ in 5G rollout Martin Banks

The former European Commission Vice-President emphasised that the aim in the rollout of 5G technology is to ensure that everyone abides by the same rules and standards.

The former European Commission Vice-President emphasised that the aim in the rollout of 5G technology is to ensure that everyone abides by the same rules and standards.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock


Reding’s comments coincide with Chinese telecom giant Huawei announcing on Tuesday it would set up manufacturing hubs in Europe, as it tries to fight off US pressure on Member States to stop it from operating.

“Huawei is more committed to Europe than ever before,” said Abraham Liu, Huawei’s Chief Representative to the EU institutions, during a Chinese New Year reception in Brussels.

"That's why we have decided we want to set up manufacturing bases in Europe - so that we can truly have 5G for Europe made in Europe."


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The announcement that Huawei plans to start building factories in Europe comes just days after the EU recommended that Member States could ban telecoms operators deemed a security risk from critical parts of 5G infrastructure.

Some, notably US President Trump, whose security concerns about Huawei are well known, have called for the company to be barred from the next generation communications network.

Germany has delayed its decision on a possible ban and a ban on Huawei would ultimately be up to Member States.

Speaking at the same event on Tuesday, Reding, also a former MEP, said that 5G technology and the 5G sector can be a “game changer.”

“The aim is not and should not be to ostracise companies but, rather, to ensure that everyone abides by the same rules and standards. With the roll out of 5G this is the way we must do things and Europe must take the lead on this” Viviane Reding

She told the audience, “That is why we need speedy implementation of such technology. Any slowdown would also result in a slowdown of the digital economy. We must not wait but move forward quickly.”

Adapting Bill Clinton’s famous phrase, “it’s the economy, stupid” Reding said, “It’s the application, stupid.”

She welcomed the EU’s “5G security toolbox”, published last week, saying this will “make security a guarantee for citizens and Member States.”

“This – security – is an absolute basic.”

Reding added, “We must not compromise on security or trust. This is key. It is all about rules and the EU, with its 5G toolbox, is right to emphasise this. The aim is not and should not be to ostracise companies but, rather, to ensure that everyone abides by the same rules and standards. With the roll out of 5G this is the way we must do things and Europe must take the lead on this.”

She added, “5G will have a big impact on European societies. This impact needs to be understood properly so that the right policy responses can be formulated in good time.”

Liu outlined the future challenges facing Europe’s digital agenda, saying, “Huawei is more committed to Europe than ever before. We are looking forward to our next 20 years here. That’s why we have decided we want to set up manufacturing bases in Europe – so that we can truly have 5G for Europe made in Europe.”

“We have decided we want to set up manufacturing bases in Europe - so that we can truly have 5G for Europe made in Europe” Abraham Liu, Huawei

He also said the company is “reassured” by the UK government’s confirmation last week that it can continue working, albeit in a limited way, on 5G rollout in the UK.

“This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future. It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.”

He said, “As a company all we ask is certainty and this UK decision and also the EU’s security toolbox makes the situation much clearer.”

But, after what he admitted had been a “challenging” past 12 months, he said, “At the same time we are also prepared for further disturbance in the future.”

Liu in his speech acknowledged that the tech world "is increasingly entangled with geopolitical issues, trade negotiations, and diplomatic dialogue between nations.”

"Politically-motivated suspicion does not address the challenges ahead," he added in a veiled admonishment to Washington.

He also urged Europe, the US and China to "invest more, in political discussion, to talk about collaboration and common rules.”

The United States sees the company as a potential threat to cybersecurity and fears it would facilitate cyber espionage by the Chinese government, to which it is said to have close links. The company has strongly denied such suggestions.

It employs over 13,000 staff and runs two regional centres and 23 research centres in 12 EU countries.

Huawei is one of the world's leading network technology suppliers, and one of the few - along with European telecom companies Nokia and Ericsson - capable of building 5G networks.

According to the EU’s latest Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, Huawei has maintained its place among the world’s top five R&D investors in the world, reflecting “significant” investment.

/articles/news/viviane-reding-%E2%80%98we-must-not-compromise-security-or-trust%E2%80%99-5g-rollout Wed, 05 Feb 2020 17:07:17 +0100
MEPs reject European Banking Authority director nominee Martin Banks

In a parliamentary vote, Gerry Cross was rejected by a comfortable margin with 335 against to 272 in favour and 48 abstentions.

In a parliamentary vote, Gerry Cross was rejected by a comfortable margin with 335 against to 272 in favour and 48 abstentions.

Photo credit: Press Association


The European Banking Authority (EBA) will now have to go back to the drawing board in its protracted search for an executive director.

The controversy over his appointment mirrors the ongoing row about Adam Farkas, the EBA’s former executive director who was allowed to join the Association for Financial Markets in Europe, which has been described as a “coalition of megabanks” such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas.

Farkas started his functions as chief executive of the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME) on 1 February. MEPs have adopted a resolution condemning his move, saying Parliament should not provide him with the badge necessary to enter the Parliament’s premises.


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It also calls on the EBA's Board of Supervisors to reconsider the decision on Farkas' move.

Cross, currently in a senior post at the Central Bank of Ireland, was described by campaigners as a former lobbyist for AFME, a “very similar bank lobby group.”

He was also rejected by the ECON committee earlier this year, albeit by a narrow margin, 27 to 24, after outlining his credentials for the job to committee members.

Kenneth Haar, a researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory, welcomed the outcome of the parliamentary vote and said, “There had been lots of talk about Member State lobbying to have him approved. I had - for instance - heard about Danish MEPs being lobbied by the Danish government and I know others did the same.”

“A former banking lobbyist as head of banking supervision would have done serious damage to the reputation of the EU authority. Such conflicts of interest undermine confidence in EU authorities” Sven Giegold MEP

“Apparently, the Danish government had been happy with his work on the Board of Supervisors. And I can think of one incident where he was seen as helpful from a Danish perspective - at least from the Financial Services Authority's view.”

“Last spring, perhaps the biggest financial scandal in Europe was about Danske Bank's role in money laundering through its Estonian subsidiary. A staggering amount of money was funnelled through that bank and the Danish FSA had done a poor job in supervising the bank. Several warnings were ignored.”

“At the EBA staff had prepared a report that concluded the Danish FSA and other FSAs had acted in breach of EU law. The report was voted down, including by Gerry Cross.”

Haar says he hopes the EBA will “now learn the lessons” from the doomed Cross appointment and the Farkas “affair,” saying, “Hopefully, they will see the writing on the wall. It has been there for months. They need to change their approach to banking lobbyists.”

He added, “The nomination of Gerry Cross shows lack of judgment at the EBA. They have just allowed the director to join the main lobby group for big banks, AFME, and they prepared to hire a person who has worked for the very same organisation.”

“It seems none in the EBA leadership bothers about the risky symbiosis between bank lobbyists and supervisors.”

He thinks the EBA will now suffer a hit to its reputation, saying, “I think we will see the EBA struggle with its reputation for a long time. They don't seem to pay attention to what the concerns over conflicts of interest are about - including what the EU rules are supposed to achieve.”

“Hopefully, they [the EBA] will see the writing on the wall. It has been there for months. They need to change their approach to banking lobbyists” Kenneth Haar, Corporate Europe Observatory

“On top of the Farkas case, they have a chair that came straight from Santander and who still has shares in that company. And they wanted to hire a new director who has gone through the revolving door himself. It doesn't bode well for the future of ethics at the EBA.”

German Greens MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group, commented, “The rejection of Cross is a strong signal against the powerful influence of the banking lobby in Brussels. A former banking lobbyist as head of banking supervision would have done serious damage to the reputation of the EU authority. Such conflicts of interest undermine confidence in EU authorities.”

“The nomination of Cross was unnecessary and incomprehensible, as candidates with less of a lobbying background were available. The Commission must submit a proposal for a European ethics authority as soon as possible and tighten the rules for changes between public authorities and lobby organisations.”

/articles/news/meps-reject-european-banking-authority-director-nominee Wed, 05 Feb 2020 15:51:01 +0100
EU unveils new ‘masterplan’ in fight against cancer Martin Banks

The European Commission has launched an EU-wide public consultation on its Beating Cancer Plan, which it says will help "shape the plan, identify key areas, and explore future action."

The European Commission has launched an EU-wide public consultation on its Beating Cancer Plan, which it says will help "shape the plan, identify key areas, and explore future action."

Photo credit: Fotolia


Speaking at the launch of the initiative on Tuesday – World Cancer Day – Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described how the childhood death of her sister prompted her to study medicine and become a doctor.

She said, “Everyone has a friend, a colleague or a relative who’s gone through this. Everyone has experienced the same sense of sadness and helplessness. But there is something we can do – individually and collectively. There is much more we can do than we are currently doing.”

“Today, on World Cancer Day, we begin a common path that will lead to Europe’s Beating Cancer Action Plan. We can make a difference with prevention and research, a new data strategy and equality in treatment across Europe.”


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The Commission has launched two consultations. The first, lasting three months, aims to gather the views of citizens and stakeholders, help identify priority areas and the scope for future action.

The second focuses on the Commission's “Roadmap for the Cancer Plan” which outlines the context, scope and aim of the initiative.

Called “Europe's Beating Cancer Plan: Let's strive for more", it proposes actions at “every key stage of the disease” including prevention measures, early detection and diagnosis, treatment and care and quality of life.

The initiative was launched in Parliament and the results are due to be released later this year.

“Everyone has a friend, a colleague or a relative who’s gone through this. Everyone has experienced the same sense of sadness and helplessness. But there is something we can do – individually and collectively” Ursula von der Leyen

Every year, 3.5 million people in the EU are diagnosed with cancer, and 1.3 million die from it. Over 40 percent of cancer cases are preventable.

The EU says that without reversing current trends, it could become the leading cause of death in the EU.

The “Beating Cancer” plan aims to reduce the cancer burden for patients, their families and health systems and will address cancer-related inequalities between and within Member States with actions to support, coordinate and complement their efforts.

EPP leader Manfred Weber has thrown his group’s weight behind the plan, declaring, “Yes, I think we can do it: we can beat cancer.”

He revealed a personal interest in the issue, saying, “I lost my brother to cancer. He was three years older than me so I always looked up to him.”

He added, “This Commission plan is ambitious but we must all get behind it and support it.”

Margaritis Schinas, Commission Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, said, “Cancer concerns us all, in one way or another. Promoting our European Way of Life is also about values, dignity and synergies; that is what any policy on cancer should build on.”

“This is something that somehow connects Europe. Because together we fight something that affects everyone. Nobody is excluded from this lottery” Janina Ochojska MEP

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, warned, however, that the success of the plan “will depend on the full engagement of citizens, cancer patients, stakeholders and actors at European, national and local levels.”

Polish EPP MEP Janina Ochojska, who is being treated for breast cancer, also backed the initiative, saying, “This is something that somehow connects Europe. Because together we fight something that affects everyone. Nobody is excluded from this lottery.”

Fighting cancer is one of the EU’s health priorities and, launched 20 years ago, World Cancer Day is a global initiative to raise awareness and increase action.

With up to 40 percent of cancer cases being attributed to preventable causes, the EU says there is an important scope for action and potential to reduce the number of cases.

The European Parliament also agrees that more needs to be done to address the issue, with its President David Sassoli saying, “The EU should do more, work harder, push Member States to adopt the necessary screening programmes that help diagnose cancer early.”

Writing in The Parliament Magazine, German deputy Peter Liese, EPP Group health spokesperson, said, “We need to break down the borders of cancer care between countries, professions, sectors and stakeholders. We need to boost the quality of cancer care in all countries and take better care of cancer survivors.”

In the same article, Dr Matti Aapro, President of the European CanCer Organisation (ECCO), writes, “The fight against cancer needs a strong new impetus and ambitious targets. As with the Green Deal, Europe needs to set big goals and inspire change.”

/articles/news/eu-unveils-new-%E2%80%98masterplan%E2%80%99-fight-against-cancer Wed, 05 Feb 2020 12:24:43 +0100