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In today's Morning Brief:

Europe in lockdown

As COVID numbers keep rising in many countries around Europe, lockdowns were announced recently in a number of EU countries. Belgium is closing for a month, with the exception of kindergartens. Number of people that tested positive in the country increased by 37% in a week. All the numbers here. The situation Is following similar paths around its neighbours.
Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg: very similar measures to those in Portugal, except that they seem to like to wake earlier as the curfew finishes at 4h30am.
France: Introduced a new lockdown just last week, affecting sixteen regions (including Paris) and set to last for four weeks. Schools and hairdressers are open but new stricter measures are to be announced.
Moreover, border controls are still in place and are foreseen to continue in place in the foreseeable future. It is not possible to travel without a force majeure or if you are a national or resident in the country of destination.


Strategic autonomy: this is just the beginning and INESC’s positioning

We have been covering the EU’s strategic autonomy related discussions for a while. See previous MB for a report of a closed workshop the HUB participated with the JRC and Marya Gabriel’s cabinet. The discussion is only starting now and is foreseen to be the hot topic of the next presidency of the EU (Lithuania).
According to EURACTIV, Spain and the Netherlands in a joint call on Wednesday (24 March) urged the EU to ditch unanimity decisions and keep its economy open, as it tries to become more independent of global powers like the US and Asia in technology, vaccine production and energy. They published a non-paper covering areas ranging from multilateralism, foreign relations, the role of the euro and taxation, migration, energy and climate, digital transformation and the EU’s industrial policy.
The HUB is preparing INESC’s positioning on technology sovereignty and its implications for research and industrial policy. We can unveil that this will be done in collaboration with Science Business and with the participation of high-level stakeholders from the three sectors (policy-makers, research and technology organisations and industry). This should help us position at the level of the major research and industrial stakeholders being heard by the EC and national governments.


Portugal gets mandate to negotiate health technology assessment law

The Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union on Wednesday obtained a mandate from the member states to start negotiations with the European Parliament on a legislative proposal on Health Technology Assessment (HTA). In particular, the proposed legislation provides for creating a coordination group – bringing together national health authorities – that will work on joint clinical assessments and joint scientific consultations on health technologies. Portugal’s health minister Marta Temido, is chairing the EU Health Council for the current semester and INFARMED is leading the process in Portugal. It is unclear for us what this means for research and innovation and if the latter is being taken into account at all. Any feedback on this would be very welcome.


Is GDPR getting in the way of digital innovation? France targeting Apple and Germany targeting Facebook

For Axel Voss, a prominent German member of the European Parliament focused on data protection legislation and other digital files, that is indeed the case: “Many of the important technologies of the future — such as artificial intelligence, blockchain or single sign-on solutions — were already widely known in 2016, when the GDPR was finalized. And yet, provisions in the legislation — which many argue was supposed to be “technology neutral” — make it impossible to properly use or even develop them.”. Read the full article here. And related to this, also in POLITICO, you can read about a report from the French data regulator that says Apple’s advertising practices are in breach of the EU privacy laws and “for some onlookers, Apple’s wide-armed embrace of privacy hides an inner ecosystem that thrives on the exploitation of personal information in much the same way as Silicon Valley’s other powers.” On the other hand, Germany’s competition authority ordered Facebook to halt its data collection practices, due to concerns over alleged abuse of its dominant market position and violations of EU data protection law. This is now in the hands of the European Court of Justice.


Podcast: Changing environment: the green future of European regions

The European Regional Development and Cohesion funds, the classical tools of the EU’s cohesion policy, will disburse €242.9 billion euros during the 2021-2027 period, 30% of which will go to greening. In this episode it is discussed how the cohesion policy contributes to protecting the environment and tackling climate change, taking a closer look at what the next seven years have in store compared to the previous budgetary period of 2014-2020. To get the perspective of European cities in the midst of energy transition, EURACTIV spoke to the director of the Energy Cities association, Claire Roumet. Meanwhile, Kira Taylor, EURACTIV’s energy and environment reporter gives her insights into how the EU’s green goals fit into cohesion policy, and why the issue of gas funding is central to the climate action debate.


Work begins on the Conference on the Future of Europe

The work on the Conference on the Future of Europe has officially started. Just two weeks after the Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe was signed in Brussels by the European Parliament President, David Sassoli, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, on behalf of the Presidency of the Council, and by the Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the Executive Board of the Conference on the Future of Europe held its constitutive meeting on 24 March 2021 in Brussels.

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