Delegation of the European Union to Australia

Your @EUinAus Update - Q3, 2020.

28/09/2020 - 06:00
EU Delegation to Australia - Newsletter

Welcome to the quarterly update of news and activities from the European Union Delegation to Australia.


EU satellite selfie

Can you take a selfie from space? The EU community in Canberra is finding out. As part of the National Science Week celebrations in August, satellite company Maxar was tasked with capturing a sizeable selfie of Canberra and its people from 770 km above Earth while travelling at an astonishing 26,850 kilometres per hour. The @EUinAus team, together with colleagues from the European Embassies and High Commissions, presented a colourful display featuring the European Union flag circled by the flags of each of the 27 Member States. Read about it here. We can’t wait to see the final out of this world selfie. Watch this space …

State of the Union

"We will form high ambition coalitions ...  and develop partnerships with all like-minded partners -- from Asian democracies to Australia, Africa, the Americas and anyone else who wants to join,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in her first State of the Union address to the European Parliament on 16 September. The annual State of the Union is an opportunity for the president to set out their vision and action plan for Europe. Read the full transcript.


The European Green Deal was a highlight of the State of the Union with President von der Leyen proposing a 2030 Climate Target Plan to increase emission cuts by at least 55%, up from the previous 40% target. The proposal sets out concrete actions to achieve the target, including an emissions trading system.

EU-Australia partnership

In the lead-up to her State of the Union address, President von der Leyen reiterated the importance of the EU-Australia partnership with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

European Union Ambassador to Australia Michael Pulch emphasised the alliance during a high-level panel discussion looking at the implications of the State of the Union for Australia.

The webinar was co-hosted by the European Union Centre of Excellence at RMIT University and the European Studies Association Australia New Zealand on 17 September.

EU takes firm stance on press freedoms

"The role of journalists in providing information from around the world is more important than ever and must be safeguarded with no exception of any kind," EU Ambassador Michael Pulch told the Sydney Morning Herald on 11 September after two Australian journalists were forced to leave Beijing.

European Council President Charles Michel raised media concerns during the EU-China leaders’ meeting on 14 September. “We reiterated our concerns over China’s treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet and the treatment of human rights defenders and journalists.” President Michel co-chaired the virtual meeting alongside China’s President Xi Jinping. Access the meeting’s main results.  

Strengthening the EU-Asia partnership

The partnership between the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (10 member states) is no longer a luxury, but a necessity … in particular, the will to not align with China or the US in the growing strategic rivalry between them. We must and will strengthen our ties,” writes Josep Borrell Fontelles, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission (HR/VP) in his blog following the 12 September virtual meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers.

"A world governed by agreed rules is the very basis of our shared security, freedoms and prosperity ... even if we face strong headwinds, the EU will stay the course in support of finding common solutions," HR/VP Josep Borrell writes in an editorial on the importance of multilateralism and the United Nations. Read more in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Op/Ed.

The year 2020 marks a special anniversary for the United Nations: 75 years from the signing of the UN Charter in San Francisco. Read more


The European Commission joined leaders of 60+ countries in making the Leaders' Pledge for Nature. The declaration was made ahead of the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity on 30 September. The pledge commits to ten urgent actions to put nature on a path to recovery by 2030 and stresses that biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation require urgent and immediate global action.

EU & UNICEF send out education SOS

The European Union and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) have sent out an SOS on the devastating impact school closures are having on children’s education, health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The joint statement urges countries to prioritise schools in their re-opening plans. The call to action was visualised by 200 UNICEF backpacks laid out in an SOS in front of the European Commission HQ in Brussels on 24 September.

Covid-19: EU supports Pacific partners

While much of the Pacific remains free of Covid-19, European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said nowhere will truly be safe until a vaccine is developed, unveiling a $36 million package to further help the region deal with the pandemic. Listen to Commissioner Urpilainen’s interview on ABC’s Pacific Beat (from 27 minutes).  

Covid-19: Travel restrictions

The Council of the European Union has recommended travel restrictions be lifted for citizens/residents of a number of countries including Australia. However, Australians are not permitted to travel overseas without an Australian government exemption. The Council regularly reviews and updates the list of eligible countries. Further info can be accessed here: Travel and transportation during the coronavirus pandemic



Australia’s foreign investment reform

As a major investor and trade partner with Australia, the EU is keenly interested in the review of Australia's Foreign Investment Framework. The EU Delegation to Australia has made a submission to the consultation on the (draft) Foreign Investment Reform (Protecting Australia's National Security) Bill 2020.

Trade talks take place online

A team of EU trade negotiators met their Australian counterparts virtually for the 8th round of negotiations towards an EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Working to European and Australian time zones, the latest round took place virtually from 14-25 September. Negotiations covered all areas of the future agreement including technical barriers to trade, sustainable development, goods, services, rules of origin and intellectual property rights. Australian-based stakeholders were invited to a virtual stakeholder discussion on 30 September following the conclusion of the round. The next virtual round of negotiations is scheduled from 30 November to 11 December 2020.

  • Meanwhile, the 8th round of negotiations for a trade partnership between the European Union and United Kingdom also concluded in September. Read more

Public consultation: Geographical Indications

A public consultation on the EU’s proposal to include Geographical Indications in the free trade agreement has been launched by IP Australia (Australian government agency). The consultation closes on 30 November.

Trade negotiations: Sharing EU experience

The Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties was keen to learn more about the EU’s processes when negotiating free trade agreements. Addressing committee members, the EU Delegation’s Trade Counsellor Cornelis Keijzer outlined the EU’s approach, which prioritises stakeholder consultations and transparency. The EU publishes its negotiating mandates and agreement texts and undertakes sustainability impact assessments, he said. Read the Parliamentary Hansard.

EU-Vietnam trade agreement enters into force

The entry into force of the EU-Vietnam trade agreement on 1 August scraps duties on 99% of all goods traded between the two sides. Doing business in Vietnam has also become easier for European companies which can now pitch for government contracts with equal chances to local competitors.

New EU Trade Commissioner

Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission Executive Vice-President and former prime minister of Latvia is Commissioner-designate for Trade, subject to approval by the European Parliament. His nomination follows the resignation of Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan in late August for Covid-19 related travel breaches. Meanwhile, Mairead McGuinness, European Parliament First Vice-President has been nominated to the post of European Commissioner in charge of financial services, financial stability and the Capital Markets Union.



Aussie crypto startup awarded $1.6 million in EU funding

Meet Tristan and Nick whose Aussie startup Sempo is fuelling crypto-aid projects in partnership with Oxfam Ireland. The company received $1.6 million from the European Commission's Innovation Council Awards which fund blockchain solutions for social innovation. Read the Smart Company article.

Australia welcomes EU cyber sanctions

The Australian Government welcomed the EU’s efforts to prevent, discourage and deter cyberattacks through sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezing. The Council of the European Union imposed the first ever sanctions against individuals and entities behind cyberattacks on the EU and its Member States in July. Read the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade press release.


WEBINAR: Research opportunities in Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands & Hungary

Are you interested in doing a PhD or a Postdoc at a reputed university in Europe? Do you want to know what opportunities are there in the EU Member States? As part of a webinar series, in this edition, EURAXESS Australia & New Zealand brings to you opportunities focusing on Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Hungary. When? Thursday 15 October, from 6 pm (AEST). Register here.

Climate and peace forum 

The European Green Deal is a growth strategy for the environment, citizens’ health and the economy. We have an ambitious goal to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050 through a realistic agenda,” EU Ambassador Michael Pulch said during the Climate and Peace Forum on 6 August. In addition to the European Green Deal, panellists explored how trade policy can influence climate action.

Antarctic marine protection, climate action & the circular economy

EU Ambassador Michael Pulch and Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley met virtually in September, with discussions covering a range of environmental topics. 

EU action plan on critical raw materials

The European Commission has released its action plan to make the EU’s raw material supply more secure and sustainable by diversifying supply and improving efficiency. It has also launched the European Raw Materials Alliance. Welcoming the measures, Australia’s Ambassador to the EU Justin Brown tweeted that Australia looks to continue engagement with the EU in this “vitally important area.”


In 2020 the EU beach cleanup challenge went digital and global. People around the world took small actions and collectively made big strides to beat plastic pollution. With the help of the Smurf characters, four challenges were issued over four weeks in September: to clean your neighbourhood; shop for less packaging; take shorter showers and sort your waste. Take a look at these challenges in action via social media #EUBeachCleanup.



European day of languages

In the lead-up to European Languages Day on 26 September, Australians got creative with European culture and language from home through the #literallyEurope competition. Participants captured their favourite European sayings (idioms) in a photo and shared them via Instagram and Facebook using the #literallyEurope hashtag. Speaking to SBS Italian, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation Fabio Spadi said the competition was a great way to be inspired by European language. “Europe is well known for its rich cultural diversity. Did you know there are 24 official languages of the European Union and countless more spoken in Europe?” Take a look at the winning entries on Facebook and Instagram @EULanguagesAus. 

The competition was run by the European Union Institutes of Culture (EUNIC) in Australia, with the support of EU Delegation to Australia. The European Day of Languages is an initiative of the Council of Europe and the European Commission to celebrate and encourage the learning of European languages.

EU language awards

Anna Siew loves all things French! “I love French because it is a very fascinating and delicate language. I also really like French food and culture - especially the delicious French pastries.” The Year 11 student has been learning the language for the past three years at Willetton Senior High School (WA). Anna topped her class and has been awarded the EU Delegation to Australia award for excellence in European language studies and a $200 Dymocks book voucher. French Honorary Consul Frederic Flipo presented the award to Anna on behalf of the Delegation which partners with schools and universities around Australia to promote language studies. If you would like to participate contact:

Exploring EU-Australia affairs

The @euinaus team has been taking students with an interest in European affairs on a virtual tour of the EU Delegation to Australia and its work. The webinars are an opportunity to exchange views on EU-Australia diplomatic relations in a range of areas including science, education, innovation, climate action, culture and the EU-AUS free trade agreement.

A special thanks to our participants from:

  • Australian National University’s International Relations Society
  • Monash University’s International Affairs Society
  • University of Adelaide’s Politics and International Relations Association

If you would like to participate contact:

World and European day against the death penalty

In the lead-up to World Day Against the Death Penalty, Monash Law and the Capital Punishment Justice Project will launce Eleos Justice – a new initiative that aims to end the death penalty in Asia. The webinar takes place on Thursday 8 October from 5 pm (AEST).