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The European Union is one of the major donors providing development and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. For the period covering 2011-13 around €200 million are allocated every year by the European Union for development programmes in Afghanistan.

The European Commission announced the winners of a multi-billion euro competition of Future and Emerging Technologies. The winning Graphene and Human Brain initiatives are set to receive one billion euros each, to deliver 10 years of world-beating science at the crossroads of science and technology. Each initiative involves researchers from at least 15 EU Member States and nearly 200 research institutes.

A European court has cleared the Icelandic government of failing to guarantee minimum levels of compensation for UK and Dutch savers in the collapsed Icesave bank. The ruling may halt the UK‘s attempt to get all of its money back from the Icelandic government. The Icelandic government said it took “considerable satisfaction“ from the ruling from the European Free Trade Agreement Court. (BBC.CO.UK)

A referendum in Bulgaria, held on 27 January, put the construction of a second nuclear power plant in the country back on the agenda. Only 21% of the eligible voters took part, which made the referendum non-binding, but it obliged the parliament to discuss again the power plant project at Belene on the Danube river. (EUROPOLITICS.INFO)

European Commission officials, in close cooperation with International Monetary Fund staff and observers from the European Central Bank, conducted a mission to Hungary from 16 and 28 January. The mission welcomed the fiscal consolidation achieved so far and the commitment of the government to continue its efforts to keep the deficit well below 3% of GDP. At the same time, it encouraged the government to pay close attention to the quality of the adjustment measures so as to ensure a sustainable correction that supports growth and confidence.

The European Commission has completed its eighth review of the EU-IMF financial assistance programme for Ireland and has published the technical report by the Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs which assesses programme implementation by the Irish authorities. The completion of the review enables a disbursement of EUR 0.8 billion from the European Financial Stability Facility / European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism, bringing total disbursements from the EU, IMF and bilateral partners to EUR 56.6 billion. This represents 84% of the total international assistance of EUR 67.5 billion available under the programme. Through EFSF/EFSM, the EU contributes some 60% of this funding.

The European Commission and Afghan Minister of Finance, Omar Zakhilwal, have signed two financing agreements worth €185 million to support new programmes in health and agriculture. The health programme will provide basic health care and essential hospital services for 14 million people (almost half of the population) in 21 provinces. 

The first survey published since UK premier Cameron pledged an “in-out“ EU referendum showed his Conservative party up two percent, to 31%, while the UK Independence Party was down by the same margin, to 14%. (EUOBSERVER.COM)

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has announced she is abdicating in favour of her son, Prince Willem-Alexander. In a pre-recorded address broadcast on TV, she said she would formally stand down on 30 April. (BBC.CO.UK)

“Please don‘t come to Britain – it rains and the jobs are scarce and low-paid.“ This is the message conveyed in a campaign intended at trashing the UK‘s own image and persuading immigrants from Bulgaria and Romania to stay at home. UK ministers are considering plans to launch a negative ad campaign in Bulgaria and Romania in order to deter potential immigrants. (EURACTIV.COM)

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