What if Libra disrupted the financial system? [Science and Technology podcast]

Written by Lieve Van Woensel and Mihalis Kritikos with Rosanna Fanni,

©Rylsoft / Shutterstock

As of 2020, Facebook’s cryptocurrency project Libra promises to connect everybody to the global, digital world of banking. The introduction of a privately governed currency could fundamentally challenge the current EU financial framework, conflict with EU law and tax requirements, and violate consumer rights.

Could we abandon the euro and do financial transactions – receiving, transferring and paying money – in Libra? Libra, once launched, would operate as a global digital currency, meaning that users could access, pay and manage their accounts online. Facebook announced its project in June 2019 with a white paper, and envisages launching the cryptocurrency in early 2020. Libra’s ecosystem consists of three parts:

  1. The cryptocurrency itself (hereafter called Libra);
  2. Individual banking with Libra via Calibra, a digital wallet;
  3. The Libra Association governing Libra.

The Libra Association would be responsible for ensuring price stability as well as for managing the assets and investments of the Libra Reserve. It currently comprises 29 members, such as payment operators (e.g. MasterCard, Visa, PayPal) and e-commerce businesses (e.g. booking.com, eBay, Spotify, Uber), as well as venture capital and non-profit organisations. Facebook expects this to rise to 100 members ahead of the launch. While two thirds of members are companies and commercial interest groups, notably no banks are part of the Libra Association. Indeed, its private governance structure has been compared to a de facto central bank. Facebook’s co-founder Chris Hughes confirmed this argument, stating that Libra will shift power from central banks to corporations. Put differently: its large-scale adoption could threaten the existence of national currencies.

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission is currently debating whether to allow trade in Libra on stock exchanges. If permitted, this would be subject to authorisation ahead of the launch. Jerome Powell, Chair of the Federal Reserve, expressed doubts about data privacy, money laundering, consumer protection and financial stability. President Donald Trump said Libra would have to comply with banking regulation and seek a new bank charter. Internationally, central banks and parts of the financial services industry are assessing potential impacts on the stability of financial markets. Due to EU-specific tax regulations, unforeseen issues for European consumers, and, particularly EU-based SMEs, may arise. The European Central Bank and Japanese, UK, French and German politicians have also announced closer investigation. Legal experts have even advocated calling a halt to the cryptocurrency project. Because of these challenges, it is unclear whether Libra will indeed launch as planned.

Potential impacts and developments

Libra’s stated mission is to create a fairer society by empowering unbanked people (adults without a bank account) in developing countries. However, e-commerce and online shopping for European consumers could also change significantly. In the digital ecosystem, users appear to prioritise convenient services over safeguarding individual privacy rights. Libra’s payment ecosystem is likely to gain popularity over time. Prominent Libra Association board members would be early adopters, allowing users to familiarise themselves with the Libra currency itself in a first phase. Low entry barriers and minimal costs appeal to convenience-oriented consumers, who would use Libra from time to time in a second step. The Calibra app would integrate payments with WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger, probably exploiting personal network effects. Should both e-commerce operators and consumers become accustomed to Libra, intervening in the ecosystem would become increasingly difficult. In short, the cryptocurrency could become the largest bank and investment broker worldwide – without a single physical branch.

Widespread Libra use could pave the way towards a cashless society. Nevertheless, when around half of all adult Europeans did not use internet banking in 2017, it is likely that digitally illiterate, poor and elderly citizens would be particularly disadvantaged. Moreover, a cash-free economy depends on a stable electricity supply, an extensive communication infrastructure and robust security networks. However, Libra’s technical infrastructure is dependent on multiple nodes, such as mobile networks, devices, information technology infrastructure and data flows, operated by numerous stakeholders. These systems are vulnerable to malicious actors and cyber-threats. Pseudonymous transfers could favour money-laundering systems and trade in illegal goods. This poses questions as to what would happen if an account was blocked without prior notification, and which independent instances would help users to enforce their rights. In addition to requiring robust cybersecurity and oversight systems, the necessary increase in data centres and extended technical infrastructure would result in higher energy consumption and environmental contamination with e-waste.

Each member of the Libra Association contributes at least US$10 million to the reserve, backing financial assets and values to avoid price volatility. The incentives for investors include the revenues generated through transaction fees as well as savings as soon as users start exchanging money. Once the Libra Association members’ initial investments are reimbursed, the revenues would be invested in low-risk assets that generate dividends over time. In a hypothetical scenario, Libra would make around US$7 billion profits annually after five years. However, Facebook states that ‘Users of Libra do not receive a return from the reserve‘.

The exchange of transaction and personal data with Libra Association members gives these businesses unprecedented insight about consumers. This would not only conflict with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but could also result in price-maximising algorithms or possible anti-competitive conduct, since board members could oversee the financial transaction data of smaller businesses. The pseudonymous – not anonymous – transaction process may enable data sharing between Facebook and third parties. This somewhat contradicts the ‘strong commitment to protecting customer privacy‘ stated in the white paper. Although it said it would not do so, Facebook has already sold user data, as seen with the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The Facebook-owned Calibra application would integrate payments and transfers into Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. This would not only facilitate transfers but also automatically merge information about purchases with social media profiles. These demographic, behavioural and psychographic data combinations are highly attractive for businesses to anticipate consumer behaviour and enhance targeted advertising. Given that Facebook makes most of its revenue through advertising, the Calibra wallet would gather profitable data for the company. Finally, the introduction of Libra would fuel a new ecosystem, characterised by an unprecedented close relationship between private banking and commerce.

Anticipatory policy-making

The introduction of Libra raises a range of regulatory, legal and policy challenges, already extensively debated worldwide in the context of the optimal use of cryptocurrencies. Libra is an asset-backed cryptocurrency powered by a permissioned blockchain, to which only a specific group of organisations have access. Should Libra customers be affected by a technical mistake, fraud, or face data privacy problems, the lack of legal recourse and/or of a redeemer of last resort, and uncertainty about the responsibility of jurisdictions raises issues of forum shopping. Consequently, low-regulation extraterritorial jurisdictions, that do not have adequate money-laundering controls in place for example, may develop a significant advantage as service providers by hosting Libra operations. Additionally, Libra’s decentralised nature and its private-sector-led character trigger questions about their compliance with standard customer due diligence and financial reporting requirements at supranational level.

To set the legal status of the Libra coin/token and its classification, an international agreement is needed on harmonising existing rules for crypto tokens. This should acknowledge the changing nature of the concepts of money and liquidity, as well as the technological potential of such cryptographic currencies to be encoded in smart contracts. At the same time, data privacy, consumer protection and the security of transaction processes, including strict verification and capital requirements, will also have to be ensured. Co-regulatory oversight of the Libra operation scheme by both state-operators and stakeholders would be needed to prevent money laundering, illicit transactions and consumer fraud. Furthermore, any regulatory initiative in this field needs to focus on strengthening investor protection in view of the increased tokenisation of assets, as well as on substantially improving transparency in the global financial system. The European Banking Authority opinion on ‘virtual currencies’ puts forward a series of regulatory approaches, and cautions against drawing similarities between existing payment and payment-related services and some virtual currency-based services. As the first case study of blockchain banking, Libra’s adoption and use – if Facebook’s plans go ahead – would need to be closely monitored from a legal and institutional perspective, as it could have a serious impact on the integrity of existing financial governance schemes, and undermine the orderly functioning of financial markets.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘What if Libra disrupted the financial system?‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/09/16/what-if-libra-disrupted-the-financial-system-science-and-technology-podcast/

European Parliament Plenary Session – September 2019

Written by Clare Ferguson,

© European Union – European Parliament

Parliament opens its doors for the first plenary session after the summer on Monday evening, with an agenda focused on climate issues and the EU budget. A Commission statement on the situation of EU forests scheduled for Monday evening will be followed on Tuesday morning with a statement on the Union’s common position ahead of the 23 September UN Climate Action Summit in New York. While the Commission has lately proposed to boost the share of EU spending that addresses climate change mitigation from 20 % to 25 %, the 2014-2019 Parliament sought a greater share, at 30 %. The new Parliament is likely to continue to prioritise more ambitious climate action targets, seeking to protect nature, improve air quality, promote the circular economy, and better control pesticide use. On Tuesday afternoon, Council and the Commission will also make statements on the devastating Amazon forest fires, which raise increasing concern among EU policy-makers and international environmental groups in respect of the potential environmental and climate change implications of the proposed free trade agreement with Mercosur.

Council representatives will be present in the chamber on Wednesday afternoon to present the Council position on the draft general EU budget for the 2020 financial year. Council and Parliament decide on the EU’s finances by means of an annual budgetary procedure, where Members can modify the annual budget draft through amendments to the Council’s position, before working out an agreement on the annual budget through negotiations consisting of trilogue meetings and conciliation.

However, as business regarding the 2019 budget is not yet completed, Parliament will firstly vote on a series of Committee on Budgets (BUDG) reports on draft amending budgets for the 2019 financial year on Wednesday lunchtime. The first of these, draft amending budget No 1/2019, concerns the surplus €1.8 billion left over from the 2018 financial year. The BUDG committee agrees to see this surplus, largely resulting from higher competition fines revenue and underspending during 2018, used to reduce Member State contributions to the 2019 EU budget. Members are then expected to vote on the BUDG report on the European Commission’s proposed draft amending budget No 2/2019, where a €100 million increase in funding is required to reinforce the Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ programmes (key to the current EU push to increase competitiveness). According to BUDG, the proposal takes the agreement reached between Parliament and Council during the budget negotiations into account. The committee warns however that the Commission already needs to find a way to provide increased funding for the Erasmus+ programme this year. Members will also vote on the BUDG report on the proposed draft amending budget No 3/2019. This proposal seeks to mobilise the EU Solidarity Fund (available to all Member States struck by a natural disaster), to help Austria, Italy and Romania in their recovery efforts following flooding and extreme weather events resulting in landslides and damage to crops and infrastructure. The BUDG committee confirmed the decision to seek emergency funding, and underlined the urgent need for financial assistance in regions hit by natural disasters in 2018.

Under the Treaties, Parliament is consulted on the appointment of the President of the European Central Bank. Furthermore, an interinstitutional agreement between the Parliament and ECB ensures it also has a say on the candidates for Chair and Vice-Chair of the Supervisory Board, dealing with supervision of banks. On Tuesday, Parliament will debate and vote on the favourable opinions delivered by the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee on the Council’s July recommendation to appoint Christine Lagarde to the post of ECB President and the Bank’s proposal to appoint Yves Mersch as Vice-Chair of the Supervisory Board.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) is to be present in the chamber to make a statement on recent developments in the political situation in Colombia. Although the EU has provided a range of support, including bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, humanitarian and development aid, and trade relations; implementation of the peace accord in Colombia has had mixed results to date, leading to frustration among the population. A statement will follow by the VP/HR on the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, following the Indian Parliament’s withdrawal of the constitutional guarantee of high levels of political autonomy in Jammu and Kashmir. The long-running dispute between India and Pakistan over this mountainous region has resulted in terrorism and violence, exacerbated by a loss of rights and freedoms for the local population, as well as religious tensions, and leading to high levels of Indian troop movements in the area. Earlier, on Monday evening, the VP/HR is to make a statement on the volatile political situation in Hong Kong. The traditional debates on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law will take place on Thursday morning. During this session, these will cover the situation in Turkey, the Rohingya in Myanmar and the situation of women’s rights defenders and imprisoned EU dual nationals in Iran.

The key debate on Wednesday morning will consider Council and Commission statements on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, where, despite the current chaotic UK position, the withdrawal agreement and political declaration remain the only negotiated solution to date. On a, not unrelated, issue, a statement from the Council and Commission is expected on Tuesday afternoon on the increasingly concerning phenomenon of foreign electoral interference and disinformation in national and European democratic processes, of which the Brexit referendum is seen as an example.

Finally, Council and Commission will also make statements on the importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe and on the state of implementation of anti-money-laundering legislation on Wednesday afternoon.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/09/13/european-parliament-plenary-session-september-2019/

Translation and interpretation at the European Parliament

Welcome Word Tag Cloud in many languages

© PaulPaladin / Fotolia

The European Parliament regularly receives enquiries from citizens on how translation and interpretation are organised in the European Parliament.

The European Union has 24 official languages: Bulgarian, Czech, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish.

Under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, citizens have the right to communicate with European Union institutions in any of these official languages. In addition, under the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, Members have the right to speak in Parliament in the official language of their choice, with these speeches simultaneously interpreted into the other official languages.

Using 24 languages creates 552 possible language combinations. To cope with these, the European Parliament uses a system of ‘relay’ languages: a speaker or a text is first interpreted or translated into one of the most widely used languages (English, French or German), and then into other languages. As a rule, each interpreter and translator works into his/her mother tongue.

Translating documents

The Directorate-General for Translation ensures that Parliament’s documents are available in all the official languages of the European Union, thus enabling Parliament to meet its commitment to its policy of multilingualism.

Under the European Parliament’s internal policies (known as the ‘Code of conduct on multilingualism’), priority for translation is given to documents to be voted on in plenary, documents for the President, documents for parliamentary committees, etc. As a result, it may be that some other types of documents are not translated in all official languages.

The European Parliament employs about 600 translators. To cope with the ever-increasing level of demand, the Directorate-General outsources the translation of some texts. The outsourcing of translation assignments is based on document type and workload. Documents of the highest priority, i.e. legislative documents and documents to be put to the vote in plenary are, as far as internal resources permit, translated in-house. Other types of documents, especially administrative texts, are frequently outsourced.

Interpreting debates

The Directorate-General for Logistics and Interpretation for Conferences is responsible for the linguistic, technical and logistical support for the organisation of parliamentary meetings and conferences. Besides plenary sittings, interpretation is also provided in committee and delegation meetings from and into the official languages used and requested by the Members.

Sign language interpretation is also provided in Parliament’s plenary debates, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by the EU in December 2010.

The European Parliament employs approximately 270 interpreters and has a reserve of about 1500 external accredited interpreters at its disposal.

Ensuring the quality of legislative acts

The legislation adopted by the European Union affects over 500 million people in 28 countries and 24 official languages: so that everyone can understand, it must be identical and as clear as possible in all official languages. Verifying the linguistic and legislative quality of the texts is the job of Parliament’s team of 75 lawyer-linguists, working together with lawyer-linguists of the Council. They ensure, throughout the legislative procedure, the highest possible quality of legislative texts in all EU languages.

Continue to put your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP)! We reply in the EU language that you use to write to us.

Further information

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/09/11/translation-and-interpretation-at-the-european-parliament/

EU challenges at a time of transition [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

Flags in front of the EU Commission building in Brussels

© VanderWolf Images / Fotolia

The European Union faces numerous challenges, both short and long-term, as it prepares to choose the new executive European Commission for the next five years, following elections to the European Parliament in May 2019. The most immediate task is for European Commission President-elect, Ursula von der Leyen, to put together a college of Commissioners and secure the approval of the European Parliament for it. The EU is also engaged in tough negotiations on the terms of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, currently due on 31 October.

On the economic front, the EU needs to deal with the fallout of a trade conflict between the United States and China, and to boost its competitiveness, as the two other global powerhouses swiftly pursue the digitalisation of their economies. In the face of political volatility in the U.S., Europe should also consider enhancing its defence capabilities. Last, but not least, the Union must deliver on its pledge to remain the world’s leader in efforts to fight climate change.

This note brings together recent commentaries, analyses and studies by major international think tanks and research institutes on challenges facing the EU. More papers analysing the outcome of the European Elections can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think-tank are Thinking’, published in July.

Institutions and politics

Setting course for the next five years: Three steps to start an effective EU Commission presidency
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, September 2019

Europeans face the risk of democratic regression: What can be done
Notre Europe, September 2019

An EU budget in support of the next commission’s agenda
Notre Europe, September 2019

The political reform agenda of Ursula von der Leyen
European Policy Centre, August 2019

A new budget for the EU
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, August 2019

Von der Leyen’s bumpy road to becoming Commission President
Centre for European Reform, August 2019

Laying the foundations for a successful Commission presidency
European Policy Centre, July 2019

The nomination of von der Leyen: Towards institutional balance in a reformed lead candidate process
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2019

Can citizen participation really revive European democracy?
Carnegie Europe, July 2019

Fixing the European social malaise: Understanding and addressing the grievances of European workers
Instituto Affari Internazionali, July 2019

La 9ème législature européenne, une nouvelle donne politique
Fondation Robert Schuman, July 2019

A more streamlined Commission structure
European Policy Centre, July 2019

Why did Italy fall out of love with Europe?
Instituto Affari Internazionali, July 2019

A strategic agenda for the new EU leadership
Bruegel, June 2019

2019: The year for a fresh start in Europe?
Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft Köln, June 2016

Can regular replace irregular migration across the Mediterranean?
Centre for European Policy Studies, Mercator, June 2019

From Enlargement to the unification of Europe
Open Society Foundations, June 2019

The European Parliament and climate change: Past, present and future
EUROPEUM, June 2019

How to govern a fragmented EU: What Europeans said at the ballot box
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2019

Juncker ou la plus-value européenne: Le bilan positif de la Commission européenne (2014-2019)
Fondation Robert Schuman, June 2019

A redefinition of “Spitzenkandidaten”: The next EU Commission needs a common political mandate
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, June 2019

The EU after the elections: A more plural Parliament and Council
Fundacion Real Instituto Elcano, June 2019

The European migration crisis: A pendulum between the internal and external dimensions
Instituto Affari Internazionali, June 2019

Brexit

How EU families in Britain are coping with Brexit uncertainty
UK in a Changing Europe, September 2019

How are MPs planning to stop a no-deal Brexit on 31 October?
Institute for Government, August 2019

Brexit and prorogation: Constitutional outrage or parliamentary sovereignty?
UK in a Changing Europe, August 2019

Boris Johnson’s Brexit backstop face-off risks everything for nothing
UK in a Changing Europe, August 2019

Negotiating after no deal
UK in a Changing Europe, August 2019

What Europe thinks about three central Brexit issues
UK in a Changing Europe, August 2019

No-deal Brexit means trouble for Brits living in the EU
Centre for European Reform, August 2019

A no-deal Brexit is not inevitable
Centre for European Reform, August 2019

EU security ambitions are hostage to the Brexit process
Chatham House, June 2019

Economy, trade and energy

Why Europe needs a change of mind-set to fend off the risks of recession
Bruegel, September 2019

A new approach to euro zone reform
Notre Europe, September 2019

The coming clash between climate and trade
Bruegel, August 2019

Making the Single Market work: Launching a 2022 masterplan for Europe
European Policy Centre, August 2019

The real cost of Trump’s trade wars
Centre for European Policy Studies, August 2019

Den Bad Guys die Stirn bieten
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, August 2019

EU trade policy amid the China-US clash: Caught in the cross-fire?
Peterson Institute for International Economics, August 2019

European champion-ships: Industrial champions and competition policy
Bruegel, July 2019

The European Union energy transition: Key priorities for the next five years
Bruegel, July 2019

Union de l’énergie : L’indispensable intégration
Confronatiations Europe, July 2019

Will Europe scare off Silicon Valley?
Chatham House, July 2019

Plugging Europe’s great tax leak
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2019

The capital markets union: Should the EU shut out the City of London?
Centre for European Reform, July 2019

The threats to the European Union’s economic sovereignty
Bruegel, July 2019

Machine politics: Europe and the AI revolution
European Council on Foreign Relations, July 2019

Paris-proofing the next Multiannual Financial Framework
European Policy Centre, June 2019

European economic democracy: A new path out of the crisis
Federation for European Progressive Studies, June 2019

5G and the US–China tech rivalry – a test for Europe’s future in the digital age: How can Europe shift from back foot to front foot?
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, June 2019

The opportunities of the Modernisation Fund for the energy transition in Central and Eastern Europe
Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2019

Between partnership and punitive tariffs: Prospects for a New U.S-E.U. Trade Agreement in the New Congress
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, June 2019

Security and foreign policy

Bolstering EU foreign and security policy in times of contestation
Notre Europe, September 2019

Hostile ally: The Trump challenge and Europe’s inadequate response
Brookings Institution, August 2019

Europe’s paralysis, America’s disruption
Carnegie Europe, August 2019

The budgetary future of migration and development policy in the European Union
Instituto Affari Internazionali, August 2019

An EU Security Council and a European Commissioner for Security and Defence: The final pieces of the Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy puzzle?
Egmont, July 2019

The rise of China and the future of the transatlantic relationship
Chatham House, July 2019

Strategic autonomy for European choices: The key to Europe’s shaping power
European Policy Centre, July 2019

Low risk, high reward: A Trans-Pacific Partnership for the EU
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2019

Independence play: Europe’s pursuit of strategic autonomy
European Council on Foreign Relations, July 2019

Can Ursula Von Der Leyen save the transatlantic relationship?
Carnegie Europe, July 2019

From plaything to player: How Europe can stand up for itself in the next five years
European Council on Foreign Relations, July 2019

Europe and the digital arms race: Is winter coming?
Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2019

The EU’s Security Union: A bill of health
Centre for European Reform, June 2019

Building Europeans’ capacity to defend themselves
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2019

Strategic sovereignty: How Europe can regain the capacity to act
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2019

The governance of the European Defence Fund: Sovereignty and integration issues
Groupe de Recherche et d’Information sur la Paix et la Sécurité, June 2019

The European China strategy: The pieces of the puzzle are slowly falling into place
Egmont, June 2019

Towards an EU security community? Public opinion and the EU’s role as a security actor
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, June 2019


Read this briefing on ‘EU challenges at a time of transition‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/09/06/eu-challenges-at-a-time-of-transition-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

Erasmus+: More than just mobility

Written by Denise Chircop,

Erasmus+ is the EU’s single integrated education programme for improving young people’s skills and employability, and currently covers the 2014-2020 period. It also promotes the modernisation of education and training in the EU Member States, by facilitating transnational contacts amongst different players and across different sectors. Erasmus+ brings together the previous EU programmes in education, training and youth, and also includes sports.

Objectives and focus

students looking at computer monitor at school

© Syda Productions / Fotolia

Overall, Erasmus+ is intended to contribute towards the EU’s strategic objectives for education and training, in line with the Europe 2020 priorities, with special focus on addressing skills deficits and skills mismatch. In April 2019, there were 3.2 million unemployed people under the age of 25 in the EU, a 36% decrease from the nearly 5 million in 2015. Still, four in 10 EU employers find it hard to recruit staff with the necessary skills. Therefore, Erasmus+ continues to focus on increasing attainment in higher education, lowering early school drop-out rates and improving attainment in key skills such as knowledge of a foreign language. It seeks to bridge formal (schools, universities), non-formal (evening classes, clubs) and informal (voluntary work) education, by supporting certification tools so that skills recognition is not limited to school certificates. This is useful, as young people who have studied or trained abroad claim to gain additional skills such as communication, adaptability, the ability to work with people from different backgrounds and problem-solving. Others who follow unconventional learning paths would also find certification useful.

Beneficiaries

Participating countries fall into two categories: programme countries and partner countries. In addition to EU Member States, the group of programme countries currently includes Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. These countries were required to meet certain conditions and set up a national agency to manage the programme. Other countries from around the world can become partner countries by force of bilateral agreements granting them limited access to the programme.

In programme countries, members of accredited institutions, their students and staff, can participate in mobility exercises. Accredited institutions include institutions offering higher education, vocational education, training or adult education programmes, schools and youth organisations. Students can study and train abroad for periods adding up to a maximum of 12 months per degree level (undergraduate, master’s, doctorate). Grants vary depending on costs in the destination country (range: €300-350 per month). A student loan facility enables master’s students to borrow up to €18 000 for their degree abroad. However, uptake has been lower than expected due to delays in the launch of the facility and low participation among financial institutions. Students with special needs or from lower-income households receive additional support, which can be supplemented by funds from the national or regional budgets.

The European Commission estimates that from 2014 to 2020, the programme will have created mobility opportunities for over 4 million people, including 2 million higher education students, 650 000 vocational education and training students, 800 000 lecturers, teachers and other staff, 500 000 young people participating in volunteering or youth exchange schemes and over 25 000 joint master’s degree students. Between 2014 and 2018, over 2 million students and staff spent a period abroad under the programme.

A 2014 study commissioned by the European Parliament indicates that programmes such as Erasmus+ are very effective in engaging European citizens in European integration. However, it points out that relatively few EU citizens become their beneficiaries and that disadvantaged people are more difficult to reach.

Key actions

Erasmus+ is built on three key actions, which take up almost all of its budget. The first, Mobility of individuals (63 % of the budget), promotes learning opportunities for individuals within the EU and beyond, with a target of 20 % student mobility by 2020. The second (28 % of the budget) promotes cooperation for innovation and the exchange of best practices. By 2020, around 25 000 strategic partnerships will have linked 125 000 educational institutions, youth organisations and enterprises. Partners are expected to implement innovative practices and learn from each other. An additional 3 500 institutions, organisations and enterprises will have joined efforts to set up more than 300 sector skills alliances or knowledge alliances. Sector skills alliances address skills gaps by adapting vocational education and training to sector-specific labour-market needs. Knowledge alliances foster innovative and entrepreneurial capacity in higher education. Furthermore, this action helps higher education institutions to develop their international dimension, including that of partner countries. Support is also going to IT platforms developed as spaces for virtual collaboration. The third key action (4.2 % of the budget) supports policy development. It brings together young people and policy-makers in focused discussions, finances studies and information gathering, and encourages peer-learning by means of actions such as the exchange of best practices. It also supports tools, such as Youthpass, that help mobility by facilitating the recognition of qualifications.

Budget

Erasmus+ 2014-2020 budget (€14.7 m); breakdown of the education and training budget by sector

Figure 1 – Erasmus+ 2014-2020 budget (€14.7 m); breakdown of the education and training budget by sector

Erasmus+ has a budget of €14.7 billion for the 2014-2020 period, which is a 40 % increase compared to the previous period but a decrease from the amount originally proposed by the Commission. An additional €1.68 billion is available for actions with third countries through the external action budget. The programme encompasses previous education programmes (notably Erasmus, Tempus, Comenius, Leonardo da Vinci, Grundtvig and Youth in Action), bringing an overall reduction in calls and actions and more efficient use of funds. The division of funds in the three key actions described above applies to the areas of ‘education and training ‘ and ‘youth’. Over two-thirds of the budget goes to education and training (see Figure 1). Within this category, higher education receives almost half of that amount.

Erasmus+ also contributes to sport, which receives 1.8 % of the global budget. Funds support collaborative partnerships that promote integrity in sport (such as anti-doping and the fight against match-fixing). Grants are also available for non-profit-making European sports events. Sport is additionally supported by studies and data collection to help policy-makers and stakeholders’ dialogue, particularly in the annual EU sports forum. Another 1.9 % of the budget finances activities under the Jean Monnet sub-programme. These activities aim to promote excellence in European integration studies in higher education worldwide, by supporting academic institutions, research and teaching activities. Another branch of the Jean Monnet sub-programme nurtures dialogue between academics and policy-makers to improve EU policy governance.

The Commission has programme guidelines and a work programme for 2019 on the basis of which it issues calls for proposals. In the meantime, the Parliament has adopted its position on the Commission’s proposal for the new 2021-2027 programming period. It favours the label ‘Erasmus+’ to signal continuity, a stronger emphasis on inclusion and an even bigger envelope than the one proposed by the Commission.

This is an update of an ‘at a glance’ note published in March 2015.


Read this ‘at a glance’ note on ‘Erasmus+: More than just mobility‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/09/05/erasmus-more-than-just-mobility-2/

The trade pillar of the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement [International Agreements in Progress]

Written by Gisela Grieger,

Trade agreement between Mercosur and the EU - On the maps of South America and Europe are the respective symbols. In front of it the illustration of a handshake as a symbol for a contract.

© John Kehly / Fotolia

On 28 June 2019, the European Union (EU) and the four founding members of Mercosur (the ‘Southern Common Market’) – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – reached an ‘agreement in principle’ on a free trade agreement (FTA) as part of a wider association agreement (AA). However, spurred by massive destruction of the Brazilian Amazon through large-scale forest fires, EU policy-makers and international environmental groups alike have since become increasingly vocal in expressing concerns about the deal’s potential environmental and climate change implications. EU farmers’ associations with defensive interests have fiercely criticised what they have referred to as a ‘cars for cows’ deal.

On the other hand, the deal has been warmly welcomed by EU industry associations and several sub-sectors of EU agriculture with offensive interests. If tariff and non-tariff barriers are eliminated or substantially lowered, the potential for growth in bi-regional trade in goods, services and investment is significant. In addition, the FTA would be a strong signal in favour of the rules-based multilateral trading system and against power politics in trade.

After the agreement’s legal review and translation, it will be presented to the Council for signature. It will then be submitted to the European Parliament for consent. Once the Council has adopted the decision concluding the agreement, it will be presented to EU Member State parliaments for ratification.


Read the complete briefing on ‘The trade pillar of the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/09/05/the-trade-pillar-of-the-eu-mercosur-association-agreement-international-agreements-in-progress/

The European Council’s role in the EU policy cycle

Written by Ralf Drachenberg with Simon Schroecker.

EU policy cycle

EU policy cycle

Since its establishment in 1975, the European Council, which is made up of the Heads of State or Government of EU Member States, has wielded considerable influence over the development of the European Union. According to the Treaties, the European Council’s primary role is to ‘define the general political directions and priorities’ (Article 15(1) of the Treaty on European Union). This role has rapidly evolved over the past decade, and today the European Council’s involvement in the EU policy cycle is much broader, covering tasks from agenda-setting to exercising scrutiny. In practice, its activities often exceed the role envisaged in the Treaties. This level of involvement has a significant impact both on the role of the other EU institutions within the policy cycle and the functioning of the ordinary legislative procedure.

EU policy cycle

The European Council uses the conclusions of its formal meetings to exercise its role in the different stages of the policy cycle.

In stage 1, it sets long-term objectives (agenda-setting); in stage 2, it calls for action by other EU institutions (policy formulation); in stage 3, it endorses actions of other EU institutions (affirming ownership); and in stage 4, it assesses policy implementation at European and national levels (scrutiny). As the stages influence each other, their dividing lines are often fluid.

Agenda-setting

The European Council has a strong Treaty-based role in setting the EU’s policy agenda. Article 15(1) TEU states that the European Council ‘shall provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development’ and define its ‘general political directions and priorities’. Two key examples in this regard are the adoption by the European Council of the EU strategic agenda for 2014-2019 in June 2014, and the corresponding 2019-2024 agenda in June 2019.

In addition to this overall role, the European Council also has agenda-setting responsibilities in a number of specific policy areas. With regard to the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), for instance, the European Council must ‘identify the EU’s strategic interests and define general guidelines’ (Article 26(1) TEU). Examples of how it has handled its strategic role in CFSP are its 2010 debate on strategic partnerships and its success in keeping the Member States united in their stance during the Ukraine crisis. Likewise, the European Council defines ‘strategic guidelines for legislative and operational planning within the area of freedom, security and justice’ (Article 68 TFEU). In line with this role, it set strategic guidelines for that area at its meeting of 26-27 June 2014. The next strategic guidelines for that area are expected as a follow-up to the 2019-2024 strategic agenda.

Legislative and policy formulation

Theoretically, no role is envisaged for the European Council in legislative decision-making as such. Article 15(1) TEU specifies that it ‘shall not exercise legislative functions’. Nevertheless, while not being involved in legislation per se, it has considerable say on legislative and policy formulation.

The European Council often uses its conclusions to invite the European Commission to draft policy strategies or legislative proposals, thereby influencing its right of (legislative) initiative. Examples include inviting the Commission ‘to prepare, as soon as possible, draft legislation enacting the proposals made by the High-level Expert Group on interoperability’ regarding information systems for migration and security, or inviting it ‘to put forward a European approach to artificial intelligence by early 2018’. Particularly in crisis situations, these invitations have a high degree of precision, as was the case when the European Council, through its specific task force, influenced the Commission’s ‘six-pack’ and ‘two-pack’ sets of legislative proposals. Later on in the legislative process, its conclusions are also used to influence the speed of adopting legislation that is being reviewed by, or negotiated, between the co-legislators (the European Parliament and the Council of the EU) e.g. inviting them ‘to agree, before the end of the current legislature, on as many of the pending proposals relevant for the Single Market as possible’; or asking EU legislators ‘urgently [to] adopt a strong and effective European Passenger Name Records directive with solid data protection safeguards’.

Another way for the European Council to determine the content of legislation in areas where the co-legislators have a strong Treaty-based role is through its implicit influence on the Council. While the European Council does not directly intervene in the routine business of the Council, the latter will often refer its most controversial items to the European Council. The Treaty provides for such referral in a number of cases. If a minister – for vital and stated reasons of national policy – vetoes the adoption of a decision to be taken by qualified majority within the CFSP, the Council can, acting by a qualified majority, ‘request that the matter be referred to the European Council for a decision by unanimity’ (Article 31(2) TEU). Other areas where the Treaty envisages this transfer of responsibility include certain cases of social security (Article 48 TFEU), judicial cooperation in criminal matters (Articles 82(3) and 83(3) TFEU), and police cooperation (Article 87(3) TFEU).

The European Parliament has repeatedly voiced its disapproval of the fact that ‘the Council, by not using qualified majority voting (QMV), has too often referred legislative matters to the European Council’. In 2018, the then-President of the Parliament, Antonio Tajani, asked the European Council ‘why the Council does not apply the qualified majority rule, but continues to insist on seeking a consensus instead’ with regard to the reform of the common European asylum system. In practice, such referrals can also be observed in areas not explicitly provided for by the Treaties, leading to accusations of ‘legislative trespassing’ on the part of the European Council. An example of such ‘trespassing’ are the negotiations on Banking Union legislation, held at the peak of the euro-area debt crisis, which the European Council justified by the urgency of the situation. Another example is the European Council’s direct interference in the June 2012 draft regulation on the European patent. As a result, when referred to the European Council, legislation falling under QMV is in fact decided upon by consensus in some cases.

Such ‘trespassing’ goes beyond the strictly legislative sphere, touching upon the competences of the two budgetary authorities, Council and Parliament. One of the most striking recent examples is the decision-making process for the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF). The European Council does not have a Treaty-based role in the procedure leading to the adoption of the MFF, yet in 2013 it approved detailed conclusions on the MFF defining its ceilings and the financial envelopes for all policy sectors for the seven-year MFF period. Parliament has deplored the fact that, despite its strong objections, ‘the European Council MFF agreement of 8 February 2013 contained a significant number of legislative elements that should have been decided upon under the ordinary legislative procedure’ (since the conclusions pre-defined the long-term programme features).

Affirming ownership

In the policy legitimisation stage, the European Council affirms its ownership of on-going processes in several ways. The Treaties assign the European Council a role in reviewing other institutions’ progress in certain policy areas, notably related to the economy and employment, where the Council and the Commission must report to the European Council (Article 121(2) TFEU, Article 148(1) and (5) TFEU). Beyond the areas provided for in the Treaties, the European Council also assumes ownership of specific initiatives. For instance, in its conclusions, it often welcomes or endorses other EU institutions’ policy activities (for example, welcoming ‘the agreement reached on the Facility for Refugees in Turkey’; welcoming ‘the establishment of ambitious and inclusive permanent structured cooperation (PESCO)’; or endorsing ‘the policy priority areas of the Annual Growth Survey’). Sometimes it even adopts other EU institutions’ policy initiatives (such as the European internal security agenda 2010-2014) in full. By endorsing or welcoming the policy activities of other European institutions, the European Council therefore legitimises the initiatives as well as their content.

Scrutiny of policy implementation

The European Council also plays a role in the scrutiny stage of the EU policy cycle by reviewing EU policy implementation. However, its role under the Treaty is rather limited, the only relevant provision in this respect being set out in Article 222(4) TFEU, which states that the European Council has the responsibility to ‘regularly assess the threats facing the Union …’.

Beyond this limited Treaty role, the European Council uses a number of procedures to scrutinise the implementation of its conclusions, which can be distinguished by period. With regard to short-term evaluation, the European Council has established the practice that the Head of State or Government of the Member State chairing the rotating presidency of the Council reports on the implementation of the conclusions of the most recent European Council meeting. Both short and medium-term evaluations can take the form of requests for implementation reports from other EU actors, which are often addressed to the Council presidency, the Commission or the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Comments in the European Council conclusions on whether EU agreements or EU legislation have been transposed and implemented at national level can be considered as a medium-term evaluation (for example, further action is required ‘to accelerate the implementation of the existing relocation and resettlement schemes’; calls upon Member States ‘to continue and step up their engagement under the Partnership Framework’). Finally, long-term evaluations can be seen in the assessments of its multiannual strategies (for instance, the 2014-2019 justice and home affairs strategy).

Regarding the scrutiny of its own work, the European Council sometimes commits to keeping certain unresolved issues under review, regularly revisits them, and even organises special meetings to address important ones. Examples include the Valletta Summit on migration, which brought together EU and African leaders to discuss challenges and cooperation on migration, and the EU‑League of Arab States Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, which focused on regional developments and possibilities to strengthen the partnership between the two regions.

Conclusion

Since the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty and the multiple crises experienced in the EU over the last decade, the European Council has consolidated its central position in the EU institutional system. The European Council is today involved at all stages of the policy cycle, with this involvement often going beyond what was envisaged in the Treaties. However, while the Treaties assign important responsibilities to the European Council at some stages of the policy cycle, first and foremost in setting the agenda, these responsibilities are more limited at others. Whilst policy formulation is the European Council’s most limited formal responsibility, its activities nevertheless exceed this remit and the correspondence between the European Council’s role under the Treaties and its de facto role is lowest at this stage of the policy cycle. Nevertheless, although the Treaties explicitly prohibit the European Council from performing legislative functions at the policy formulation stage, its role in legitimisation and scrutiny are more implicitly permissive. The European Council’s activities at all stages of the policy cycle therefore often impact on the work of the other EU institutions and consequently require careful scrutiny.

Download this briefing on ‘The European Council’s role in the EU policy cycle‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/09/03/the-european-councils-role-in-the-eu-policy-cycle/

State of the Union [European Parliament impact 2014-2019]

The power of the European Parliament

The only directly elected European Union (EU) institution; the European Parliament’s (EP) power and influence in pursuit of citizens’ interests have evolved significantly, transforming it into a full-fledged legislative body and forum of discussion and engagement at the heart of representative democracy, whose influence is felt in virtually all areas of EU activity.
What are then the European Parliament’s main powers?

What difference does the Parliament’s work make to how Europeans live their lives? This series highlights some practical examples of EP impact during the 2014-2019 legislative term.

EP POWERS Agenda settingEP POWERS Constitutional issuesErasmus+ is the European Union’s programme dedicated to education, training, youth and sport. It is one of the best-known EU initiatives, but many think Erasmus+ is only for university students who go to study for a few months in another European university. In fact, other learners and educators participate as well. It is also open to vocational education students, teachers, professors, entrepreneurs, apprentices and grassroots sports people, for example.

One of its special features is that Erasmus+ equips young people with soft skills that they do not necessarily develop in a classroom. These skills, such as adjusting to a different way of life and using a foreign language in day-to-day conversations, can make it easier for them to find a job, start their own business and take an active interest in society later on.

Erasmus+ also creates networks of education institutions, businesses and local authorities.

The European Parliament has monitored how Erasmus+ is put into action on the ground. In its October 2017 mid-term implementation resolution it recommended making the programme more accessible, especially to small organisations, by reducing bureaucratic obstacles’ and reintroducing school exchanges. It also called on the European Commission to recognise that mobility involving people with special needs and people from disadvantaged backgrounds needs additional facilitation.

A bigger budget is necessary given the benefits of this programme. When the Commission published its mid-term evaluation of the programme (2014-2020) in January 2018, it clearly reflected comments made by Parliament. Most notably, it identified simplification as an area that needed continued efforts. It also proposed stepping up mobility among school pupils, vocational education and training participants and young people. It also acknowledged that the programme needed to reach out to more vulnerable learners and smaller organisations with a view to making it more inclusive.

Crucially, the European Parliament secured an extra €240 million for the Erasmus+ budget in 2019, meaning that the programme can be made available to more people and make a bigger difference in helping young people to get an improved start in life.

In its May 2018 proposal for the new Erasmus programme (2021-2027), the European Commission incorporated the recommendations of the European Parliament to reach out more to people with fewer opportunities, including people with disabilities. It intends to become more inclusive, tripling the number of participants and making mobility for school pupils and vocational learners more mainstream. It will also simplify procedures further in order to be accessible to small organisations such as those active in grassroots sports. In its position adopted at first reading on 28 March 2019, the European Parliament proposes that the Commission draws up a strategy with guidelines, measures and indicators to ensure that inclusion is practised. The amendments adopted also seek to promote the excellence of the projects, to make sure that other EU programmes work with Erasmus and to introduce a way to help Parliament systematically monitor the implementation of the programme. While the European Commission had proposed a budget of just €30 billion in current prices for the whole period, the European Parliament proposes an increased envelope of €46.758 billion in current prices to ensure better inclusion. It allocates 83 % to education and training, 10.3 % to youth actions, and 2 % to sport.

Agenda-setting

a mapping of EP powers

Unlike many national parliaments, the European Parliament does not have a full right of initiative – with the exception of a handful of cases provided for in the EU Treaties, it cannot independently propose new laws but needs to rely on the Commission to do so. The EU Treaties do, however, allow the Parliament to ‘request’ the European Commission to submit proposals, but the Commission maintains broad discretion as to how to respond to such requests. Existing interinstitutional agreements nevertheless commit the Commission to reply within three months and to justify its decision where it does not submit a proposal in response to the request.

Despite the lack of formal right of initiative, the Parliament successfully uses other avenues to exercise influence in setting the agenda for the European Union. For example, before its vote on the election of the President of the Commission, the latter presents his or her political guidelines to the Parliament, followed by an active debate in plenary. Indeed, the four months following the constitution of the Parliament are a major opportunity for it to shape the polictical agenda of the Union for the following years.

The 2016 Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making further provides for a continuous process of interinstitutional consultation and cooperation between the Commission, the Parliament and the Council with regard to multiannual and annual programming of the EU. Upon the appointment of a new Commission, these institutions are to ‘exchange views on the principal policy objectives and priorities of the three institutions for the new term’, and to conduct dialogue both before and after the adoption of the Commission work programme (CWP).

Read the complete study on ‘The power of the European Parliament: Examples of EP impact during the 2014-19 legislative term‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/08/31/state-of-the-union-european-parliament-impact-2014-2019/

Privacy and personal data protection [European Parliament impact 2014-2019]

The power of the European Parliament

The only directly elected European Union (EU) institution; the European Parliament’s (EP) power and influence in pursuit of citizens’ interests have evolved significantly, transforming it into a full-fledged legislative body and forum of discussion and engagement at the heart of representative democracy, whose influence is felt in virtually all areas of EU activity.
What are then the European Parliament’s main powers?

What difference does the Parliament’s work make to how Europeans live their lives? This series highlights some practical examples of EP impact during the 2014-2019 legislative term.

EP POWERS Law makingPersonal data is processed – often automatically – for many purposes to the benefit of society and individuals; at the same time, its use (or the risk of its misuse) raises concerns for individual’s rights, including privacy and data protection, which are enshrined in both primary and secondary EU law.

The data protection field is a meaningful example to use to illustrate the various ways in which the European Parliament can exercise its different powers. Besides its legislative power, particularly relevant in the adoption of the data protection reform package, as well as the power to give consent to EU legal acts (for example, the EU-US Umbrella agreement and the Protocol to the CoE Convention 108), the Parliament has exercised its varied power of political control over the Commission on several occasions in the area of privacy and data protection. Moreover, it has used its powers of enquiry to question and launch investigations on specific issues related to the lawfulness of data processing and other subjects.

In light of the Snowden revelations about the US National Security Agency’s data collection programme and about the risk that US law and practice did not offer adequate protection to EU citizens’ data transferred to the US, the Parliament repeatedly called for the suspension of the EU-US Safe Harbour data transfer agreement. As part of the Parliament’s inquiry into mass surveillance of EU citizens, MEPs looked into alleged spying activities by the US and some EU countries, adopting ad hoc resolutions and providing recommendations on preventing further breaches and on redress mechanisms.

Having called for the annulment of the Safe Harbour agreement (later withdrawn, following the CJEU’s ruling), the Parliament continued to scrutinise the Commission’s activities leading to the new Privacy Shield data-transfers framework in 2016. Although recognising the improvements of the new arrangement, the Parliament has repeatedly voiced its concerns, especially in its resolutions on transatlantic data flow (2016) and on the adequacy of the ‘Shield’ (2018).

Although the Parliament is not formally involved in the related negotiations, it assesses (and may request to amend or withdraw) the Commission’s adequacy decisions on third countries’ level of data protection. Also to this end, ad hoc delegations of the Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE) have visited the US, Canada, Japan and recently South Korea.

The instrument of parliamentary questions for oral or written answers addressed to the European Commission has been used several time on specific issues of data protection and privacy.

As part of its scrutiny powers, the Parliament requested, for the first time in November 2018 and according to Article 218(11) TFEU, the opinion of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) on the EU-Canada PNR transfer agreement on its compatibility with privacy and data protection rights.

European advisory bodies on data protection (the European Data Protection Supervisor and European Data Protection Board) have to regularly report to Parliament on their activities.

Moreover, the Parliament has been active in questioning and investigating the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal (companies certified under the Privacy Shield and accused of misuse of data, including that of European citizens). During the April 2018 plenary session, MEPs called for a strong European position and insisted that Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, appear in the European Parliament to give clarifications. Several hearings were organised on the issue by the LIBE Committee, and a resolution was adopted by the Parliament to wind up the debate on the use of Facebook users’ data by Cambridge Analytica and the impact on data protection in October 2018. Unusually, this was explicitly addressed, not only to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States, but also to the US, the Council of Europe and the CEO of Facebook.

Finally, the Parliament has provided a forum for public debate on privacy and data protection matters, not just within its formal meeting rooms, but also by organising several conferences, which contributed to triggering the debate on critical issues such as new technologies vs rights protection, and to increasing awareness that the underlying values of data protection legislation are essential for democracy.

Scrutiny

a mapping of EP powers

Like most national parliaments, the European Parliament exercises scrutiny over the EU executive – the European Commission – but also other institutions. Parliamentary scrutiny involves several important powers. According to the EU Treaties, the Commission as a body is responsible to the European Parliament and it has to resign if a motion of censure, also known as a vote of no confidence, is adopted by Parliament. While the latter has never happened, the imminent likelihood of such a vote led to the collective resignation of the Santer Commission in 1999.

Further, while the Treaties speak of collective responsibility of the Commission and are silent on withdrawing confidence in individual Commissioners, the Parliament may – in case of conflict of interest – request the President of the Commission to do so (Parliament Rules of Procedure, Rule 118(10)). The 2010 Framework Agreement between the Parliament and Commission commits the Commission President to ‘seriously consider’ such a request by Parliament. These provisions have so far not been applied. Parliamentary scrutiny also involves the right to question the executive (the Commission) by means of parliamentary questions, and the corresponding duty of the Commission to provide an answer (Article 230 TFEU).

Further powers of scrutiny include inquiry committees set up to investigate ‘alleged contraventions or maladministration in the implementation of Union law’ (Article 226 TFEU), as well as special parliamentary committees.

Another long-fought for prerogative of Parliament is the scrutiny of ‘delegated’ and ‘implementing acts’, adopted by the Commission, including a right to veto delegated acts or revoke the delegation of power.

Such formal scrutiny powers are complemented by various tools used by the Parliament at the practical level when conducting its business, for example in the context of impact assessment of proposed legislation or evaluation of the implementation of existing laws.

Read the complete study on ‘The power of the European Parliament: Examples of EP impact during the 2014-19 legislative term‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/08/30/privacy-and-personal-data-protection-european-parliament-impact-2014-2019/

Parliamentary hearings of the Commissioners-designate and approval of the College of Commissioners (investiture) [European Parliament impact 2014-2019]

The power of the European Parliament

The only directly elected European Union (EU) institution; the European Parliament’s (EP) power and influence in pursuit of citizens’ interests have evolved significantly, transforming it into a full-fledged legislative body and forum of discussion and engagement at the heart of representative democracy, whose influence is felt in virtually all areas of EU activity.
What are then the European Parliament’s main powers?

What difference does the Parliament’s work make to how Europeans live their lives? This series highlights some practical examples of EP impact during the 2014-2019 legislative term.

EP POWERS Agenda settingThe European Parliament’s power to dismiss the Commission by means of a motion of censure goes back to its very inception (1951). However, it was not until the Maastricht Treaty (1992) that the Parliament acquired a role in the investiture procedure too, by gaining the power to approve (and, therefore, also to reject) the College of Commissioners before it took office. The Treaties now provide that, after the election of the Commission President, the Commission as a body is subject to a vote of consent by the Parliament (Article 17(7) TEU).

The Commissioners-designate are proposed by national governments and are allocated portfolios by the President-elect of the Commission. In 1995, to inform its decision before giving consent, the Parliament started holding parliamentary hearings of Commissioners-designate. Such hearings aim to evaluate the candidates’ ‘general competence, European commitment and personal independence’, as well as their ‘knowledge of their prospective portfolio and their communication skills’ (Annex VI of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure). While the Parliament has no power to reject individual Commissioners-designate, it may, in the run-up to the consent vote, exercise political pressure regarding individual candidates or the portfolios assigned to them. It has done so in the past, and Parliament’s objections (for example on grounds of lack of specialist knowledge or expressions of highly controversial views) have occasionally resulted in the withdrawal of certain candidates or changes in their portfolios. Such hearings have become one of the Parliament’s central tools to seek accountability and to play a greater role in setting the agenda at EU level.

Scrutiny

a mapping of EP powers

Like most national parliaments, the European Parliament exercises scrutiny over the EU executive – the European Commission – but also other institutions. Parliamentary scrutiny involves several important powers. According to the EU Treaties, the Commission as a body is responsible to the European Parliament and it has to resign if a motion of censure, also known as a vote of no confidence, is adopted by Parliament. While the latter has never happened, the imminent likelihood of such a vote led to the collective resignation of the Santer Commission in 1999.

Further, while the Treaties speak of collective responsibility of the Commission and are silent on withdrawing confidence in individual Commissioners, the Parliament may – in case of conflict of interest – request the President of the Commission to do so (Parliament Rules of Procedure, Rule 118(10)). The 2010 Framework Agreement between the Parliament and Commission commits the Commission President to ‘seriously consider’ such a request by Parliament. These provisions have so far not been applied. Parliamentary scrutiny also involves the right to question the executive (the Commission) by means of parliamentary questions, and the corresponding duty of the Commission to provide an answer (Article 230 TFEU).

Further powers of scrutiny include inquiry committees set up to investigate ‘alleged contraventions or maladministration in the implementation of Union law’ (Article 226 TFEU), as well as special parliamentary committees.

Another long-fought for prerogative of Parliament is the scrutiny of ‘delegated’ and ‘implementing acts’, adopted by the Commission, including a right to veto delegated acts or revoke the delegation of power.

Such formal scrutiny powers are complemented by various tools used by the Parliament at the practical level when conducting its business, for example in the context of impact assessment of proposed legislation or evaluation of the implementation of existing laws.

Read the complete study on ‘The power of the European Parliament: Examples of EP impact during the 2014-19 legislative term‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/08/29/parliamentary-hearings-of-the-commissioners-designate-and-approval-of-the-college-of-commissioners-investiture-european-parliament-impact-2014-2019/