Social Summit on jobs and growth for a stronger social Europe

Written by Nora Milotay,

Social Summit 2017The Gothenburg Social Summit (17 November 2017) is an important milestone in the ongoing discussions on the future of Europe. This is particularly the case as the last EU Social Summit took place two decades ago, during the Luxembourg Presidency. The 2017 Summit signals the increased attention paid to social and employment issues within EU policies, in response to ongoing, and even strengthening, divergence on unemployment, institutional capacity, or social progress, between and within Member States.

The Summit gathers EU Heads of State or Government, social partners such as employers, actors, civil society organisations, and other key stakeholders, for an open discussion on how to promote fair jobs and growth throughout the EU Member States. The main topics include labour market access, working conditions, and transitions to a more automated digital economy. The interactive format of the Summit should allow everyone to participate in discussions aiming at finding tailor-made solutions for the issues that arise in varying contexts across the Member States.

Read also our: topical digest on Social Summit – Gothenburg 2017

The discussion forms part of the broader reflection process on the future of the EU, and particularly of its social dimension. As envisaged in the 2015 Five Presidents’ Report on completing the economic and monetary union, a white paper process on the future of the EU was launched at the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, and will conclude by the next European Parliamentary elections in June 2019. The white paper explains the major challenges facing Europe, and describes five possible ways forward and their implications. The report was accompanied by five consecutive reflection papers on specific topics central to future EU policy: the social dimension; globalisation; economic and monetary union (EMU); defence; and finances. Each of these papers explain possible scenarios for future EU action in these fields. Some of the outcomes of the debate to date, involving leaders of the EU27 Member States (other than the United Kingdom), EU institutions, social partners, stakeholders and citizens, were put forward in President Juncker’s State of the Union speech in September 2017, which envisages a more united, stronger, and more democratic EU for the future.

Finally, the Interinstitutional Proclamation on the European Pillar of Social Rights, endorsed by the Council and the Parliament in October 2017, should be signed officially at the Social Summit by Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani, and Jüri Ratas, Prime Minister of Estonia, current holder of the Council Presidency. The Social Pillar contains 20 principles and rights that support the renewal of the current EU labour markets and welfare systems. It addresses three main topics: equal opportunities and access to the labour market; fair working conditions; and social protection and inclusion. Although, according to the Proclamation, the European Pillar of Social Rights was conceived for the euro area, it nevertheless addresses all Member States, and should serve as a reference framework for the future development of EU labour markets and welfare states. The Pillar builds on the existing EU social acquis, but extends them to new categories of workers, such as the self-employed.

Implementation of EU policies for fairer labour markets and welfare systems that respond to the current socio-economic situations in the different Member States remains a major challenge. According to the joint Proclamation, responsibility for implementation should mainly remain with the Member States, with the involvement of social partners. To monitor the process, the European Commission work programme 2018 plans to integrate the social scoreboard accompanying the Social Pillar, into the European semester process (the framework for coordinating economic policies at European level).

The European Parliament has come forward with several proposals on how to strengthen the social dimension of EU policies. The resolution on the Pillar itself took a life-cycle approach, and touched upon legislation, governance, and finances, including additional financial instruments for the euro area. Other resolutions focusing on the social and employment aspects of EU economic governance emphasised the importance of giving the same weight to social and employment indicators as to economic measurements in the analysis. Finally, other resolutions suggested the introduction of a ‘convergence code’, i.e. targets in relation to taxation, labour mobility, and pensions, compliance with which would allow Member States to access EU funds and fiscal incentives.

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Empowering national competition authorities (NCAs) [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Cemal Karakas (1st edition),

Illustration of business people pulling a rope against their boss. isolated, white background.

© Jr Casas / Fotolia

Since 2003, national competition authorities (NCAs) together with the European Commission have boosted the enforcement of EU competition and antitrust rules significantly. However, each year losses of €181-320 billion accrue because of undiscovered cartels, which increase prices by between 17 % and 30 % on average.

In line with its single market strategy, in March 2017 the Commission adopted a proposal for a new directive with a view to ensuring that all NCAs have effective investigation and decision-making tools and that deterrent fines can be imposed. Furthermore, NCAs will have well-designed leniency programmes and enough resources to enforce EU competition rules independently.

Interactive PDF

Stage: Committee vote

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Area of Freedom, Security and Justice: The untapped potential

Written by Wouter van Ballegooij and Gaby Umbach,

EPRS ' Area of Freedom, Security and Justice: The unstapped potential 'A well-attended EP-European University Institute Policy Roundtable took place on 7 November 2017 to consider the ‘Area of freedom, security and justice: untapped potential’. The event was organised to reflect on the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs (LIBE) request to the EPRS European Added Value Unit to produce a Cost of Non-Europe Report on the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ). This report will map the current gaps and barriers and estimate their impacts on the establishment of this area. The report will measure both economic impacts and those on individuals in terms of protecting their fundamental rights and freedoms. Finally, it will provide options for action at EU level to address the identified gaps and barriers together with an estimation of their potential costs and benefits.

Following welcome and introductory remarks from Anthony Teasdale, Director-General for Parliamentary Research Services, Wouter Van Ballegooij reviewed the untapped potential of the AFSJ in light of challenges to:

The intermediate results of the research conducted by EPRS show that the gaps and barriers in EU cooperation and action in the various areas covered by the AFSJ are interlinked. Free movement within the Schengen area was undermined by the EU’s inability to respond properly to the refugee crisis. Effectively fighting corruption is illusory in a state in which the rule of law is not respected. Similarly, lack of action against discrimination and racism, and maltreatment in prison, undermine efforts in the fight against crime and terrorism. VanBallegooij stressed that more EU action and cooperation to complete the AFSJ is essential to allow individuals to fully enjoy their fundamental rights and improve their material and immaterial well-being, thereby enhancing their trust in the EU based on its ability to deliver concrete benefits in their daily lives. Further cooperation and action will also make EU societies more secure, free, and prosperous through the pooling of resources and boosting of economic growth.

Professor Sergio Carrera, Gaby Umbach , Wouter van Ballegooij, Wolfgang HillerA roundtable discussion between EUI experts followed, moderated by Gaby Umbach. Joining via video-conference from Florence, Professor Deirdre Curtin pointed to the challenges of differentiation for the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice and of accommodating the various ways in which EU Member States and third countries participate in Justice and Home Affairs cooperation. Underlining the relevance of data protection safeguards and data sharing standards for those whose data are being stored and exchanged through EU databases, Curtin highlighted the need for greater reflection on supranational and horizontal control and the role of agencies in this regard. Curtin particularly criticised the ‘function creep’ in the area of data collection and exchange. Professor Sergio Carrera, mentioning some of the deficiencies of the Common European Asylum System and recent policy developments, such as the EU-Turkey statement aimed at halting the influx of migrants, stressed the need for Member States to respect international and EU fundamental rights standards. Moreover, Carrera pointed to the additional costs of non-Europe resulting from non-compliance with and non-implementation of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice acquis. During the Q&A session, Emilio De Capitani, former head of the LIBE secretariat, called for the European Parliament to take the lead in setting the agenda for future development of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, to co-shape the areas’ strategic orientation and to better interconnect policies. Further questions from the audience showed the need to engage with citizens on the future development of an area that directly and profoundly touches their freedoms and collective security.

In his concluding remarks, Wolfgang Hiller, Director of Impact Assessment and European Added Value at EPRS pointed to some of the challenges in assessing the impacts in an area covering such heterogeneous and sensitive policies, for which an economic assessment is often very difficult or less relevant. In general, Justice and Home Affairs policies are among the worst performers in terms of better regulation. Evidence based policies should however also be developed here, including through this Cost of Non-Europe report.

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COP 23: Climate change talks [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

COP 23 in Bonn, Germany word cloud

© Ricochet64 / Fotolia

Representatives of nearly 200 countries started 11 days of talks on 6 November in Bonn, Germany, on how to further implement the 2015 Paris Agreement on tackling climate change. The United Nations’ climate meeting, COP 23, is part of global efforts to cut emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Those efforts suffered a blow earlier in 2017, when US President Donald Trump announced plans for the United States to pull out of the Paris Agreement.

This note brings together commentaries, analyses and studies by major international think tanks and research institutes on the Bonn talks and wider issues relating to climate change. Earlier publications on the Paris Agreement can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are Thinking’ published in February 2016.

The Fiji UN Climate Summit 2017, COP23: What is at stake in Bonn?
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, November 2017

Designing the global stocktake: A Global governance innovation
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, November 2017

Elaborating the Paris Agreement: Implementation and compliance
Center for Climate for Energy Solutions, November 2017

Multiple benefits from climate change mitigation: Assessing the evidence
Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, November 2017

Bonn and Berlin: COP23 and coalition negotiations face climate challenges
Atlantic Council, November 2017

Pressure grows on coal at COP23
E3G, November 2017

Climate diplomats, pivot to ambition: Don’t get caught in Trump headlights
E3G, November 2017

Can the least developed countries count on the Green Climate Fund?
Stockholm Environment Institute, November 2017

Exploring connections between the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
Stockholm Environment Institute, November 2017

Global trends in climate change legislation and litigation: 2017 snapshot
Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and Environment, November 2017

Enhancing NDCs by 2020: Achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement
World Resources Institute, November 2017

Turning points: Trends in countries’ reaching peak greenhouse gas emissions over time
World Resources Institute, November 2017

No, tax breaks for U.S. oil and gas companies probably don’t materially affect climate change
Council on Foreign Relations, October 2017

EU climate policies: Friend, foe or bystander to forest restoration and carbon sinks?
Ecologic Institute, October 2017

The roles of energy markets and environmental regulation in reducing coal-fired plant profits and electricity sector emissions
Resources for the Future, October 2017

Trump and the Paris Agreement: Better out than in
Bruegel, September 2017

Reinforcing the EU energy industry transformation: Stronger policies needed
Bruegel, September 2017

After Paris: A climate agenda that serves U.S. interests
Center for a New American Security, September 2017

Climate mainstreaming in the EU budget: Preparing for the next MFF
Institute for European Environmental Policy, September 2017

Using citizen-based observations to plan for climate change: A look at the United States and Europe
Atlantic Council, September 2017

How to understand and interpret global climate model results
Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, Future Climate for Africa, September 2017

A theory of gains from trade in multilaterally linked ETSs
Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, September 2017

Maintaining EU-UK cooperation on energy & climate change post-Brexit
E3G, September 2017

California seizes climate leadership after Trump abandons Paris Accord
Council on Foreign Relations, August 2017

Globally, people point to ISIS and climate change as leading security threats: Concern about cyberattacks, world economy also widespread
Pew Research Center, August 2017

Does the EU renewable energy sector still need a guarantees of origin market?
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2017

The future is now: European Union finances for climate and energy
E3G, July 2017

Engaged in the democratic, social and ecological future of Europe: How to set a future PES coherent programme to address pollution and climate change?
Foundation for European Progressive Studies, July 2017

EU ETS: Fasten your seat belts
Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, July 2017

Trump’s Paris exit: A blow to climate politics, but a boon to regional climate policy?
Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2017

En route to a just global energy transformation? The formative power of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, June 2017

Régulation financière et urgence climatique: Pour des normes prudentielles et comptables plus vertes
Terra nova, June 2017

The significance of the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change
Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, June 2017

Making the energy transition a European success: Tackling the democratic, innovation, financing and social challenges of the energy union
Notre Europe, June 2017

The climate crisis
Brookings Institution, June 2017

Can EU leadership on climate change unite the fragmented Union?
EUROPEUM, June 2017

Allianz Climate and Energy Monitor 2017: Assessing the needs and attractiveness of low-carbon investments in G20 countries
New Climate Institute for Climate Policy, June 2017

Water, climate and conflict: Security risks on the increase?
Clingendael, May 2017

A guide to greenhouse gas benchmarking for climate policy instruments
New Climate Institute for Climate Policy and Global Sustainability, May 2017

Adieu Paris: What’s next for climate policy if Trump ditches the Paris Agreement?
Bruegel, May 2017

The carbon buyers’ club: International emissions trading beyond Paris
Bruegel, April 2017

Brexit scenarios: The implications for energy and climate change
E3G, April 2017

Brexit and the EU Energy Union: Keeping Europe’s energy and climate transition on track
E3G, April 2017

Energía y clima en 2017: Volatilidad contenida, implementación climática e incertidumbre política
Real Instituto Elcano, April 2017

Die Energiewende als europäisches Projekt: Chancen, Reibungspunkte, Handlungsoptionen
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, April 2017

Auf dem Weg zu einer gerechten globalen Energietransformation? Die Gestaltungsmacht der SDGs und des Paris Agreement
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, March 2017

Clean energy for all Europeans: Time to deliver!
Notre Europe, March 2017

Balancing reserves within a decarbonized European electricity system in 2050: From market developments to model
Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, March 2017

The grand challenge: Pathways towards climate neutral freight corridors
Stiftung Mercator, March 2017

A new climate trilateralism? Opportunities for cooperation between the EU, China and African countries on addressing climate change?
Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik, March 2017

Energy and climate strategies, interests and priorities of the EU and Turkey
Istituto Affari Internazionali, March 2017

Explaining goal achievement in international negotiations: The EU and the Paris Agreement on climate change
Institute for European Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, February 2017

The EU Emissions Trading System after 2020: Can the Parliament’s Environment Committee achieve its ambitions?
Centre for European Policy Studies, February 2017

The EU and climate security
E3G, European Institute for Security Studies, January 2017

The new EU energy package: Towards more decarbonization and more complexity
Egmont, January 2017

Robust review and ratcheting up targets: EU climate policies after 2020
Ecologic Institute, January 2017

La politique commerciale au service de la politique climatique
Centre d’études prospectives et d’informations internationales, January 2017

Green growth and energy security
Clingendael, January 2017

The clean energy transition and industrial strategy: Developing a coherent approach
E3G, January 2017

Competition and regulation as a means of reducing CO2 emissions: Experience from U.S. fossil fuel power plants
Energiewirtschaftliches Institut an der Universität zu Köln, January 2017

Read this briefing on ‘COP 23: Climate change talks‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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What if we could 3D-print our own body parts? [Science and Technology Podcast]

Written by Philip Boucher,

3D Bioprinter. Human Organs replicated.


The 3D-printing sector has proven its commercial viability in recent years, reaching the high street and, indeed, many homes. The technology is already used in some medical domains, such as dentistry and prosthetics, and many scientists are now exploring methods of printing biological materials – even if reports about lifesaving 3D-printed hearts are certainly premature.

3D-printing is a well-known technique for producing objects by adding layers of material, usually plastic, according to a 3D design. The printers vary enormously in size, specification, complexity and price, but are accessible to most households and businesses. The technology can also be used to produce objects with an excellent external fit for individual bodies, which can be useful for making supports and other products worn by patients. Recent advances in the technology hint at the possibility of producing biological materials for direct integration within people’s bodies.

The full spectrum of 3D-printing methods and materials can be used to produce body-relevant objects. Building upon products derived from advanced 3D images, they open the possibility of fabricating highly-customised moulds and tools for patients and medical professionals alike. It is also possible to use 3D-printers to produce biological materials. The most advanced experimental methods involve producing skeleton structures that encourage cell growth. Such skeletons can then either be transplanted for integration in the patient’s body, or used to develop biological systems outside the body. While there has been some clinical success with both methods, many technical and regulatory barriers remain. Other bio-3D-printers take biological and chemical materials as their input to produce food and pharmaceutical products.

Here, we draw upon the ongoing STOA scientific foresight study Additive Bio-Manufacturing: 3D-Printing for Medical Recovery and Human Enhancement to outline the possibilities and challenges that this emerging 3D-bioprinting technology presents.

Potential impacts and developments

3D-printed materials allow medical doctors to take advantage of detailed scans by using them to fabricate models of patients’ bodies for practicing procedures or teaching purposes. They can build accurate frames on which to construct titanium parts for reconstructive surgery, as well as surgical guides, knives and other tools to support specific medical interventions. Orthoses (devices to support limbs) and prostheses (devices to replace limbs) could also benefit from 3D-printing technology, which is coupled with advanced imaging techniques to deliver products that are highly tailored to the individual patient and may offer better results than ‘off the shelf’ solutions. The same advantages apply to a wide range of moulds, supports and other items that are worn by the patient. Hearing-aid manufacturers were early adopters of 3D-printing technology. In the space of 500 days, the entire American hearing aid industry converted to 3D-printing.

Listen to podcast ‘What if we could 3D-print our own body parts? [Scientific and Foresight Podcast]

3D-printing technology could also be deployed for individually tailored drug delivery, with tablets designed and printed using porous materials that disintegrate according to a well-defined schedule, releasing the active ingredients embedded within them according to an optimal pattern. In the future, pharmacists may be able to combine all the drugs in a patient’s prescription into a single tablet, adapted to their specific situation.

Appliances for 3D-printing food are already commercially available and have been used in nursing homes to offer more appetising fare to residents that have difficulties chewing and swallowing. While such printers face stiff barriers in market acceptance, customers may one day be able to print their own food that is tailored to their taste and texture preferences, as well as their nutrient (and perhaps even pharmaceutical) requirements.

The 3D-printing of tissues and organs is more complicated. While some reports are exaggerated, there has been some clinical success with 3D-printed scaffolds being transplanted directly in the patient to encourage bone, cartilage and skin growth, as well as more limited success in producing blood vessels, nerves, skin and bones outside the body. Known as ‘organ printing’, this is the least advanced of all 3D-bioprinting applications, yet minor advances can still yield substantial benefits in producing materials for training, testing, education and experimentation purposes. Further success in producing viable organs from a patient’s own cells is not expected any time soon, but could one day resolve the challenge of timely identification of compatible organs for transplant.

As with many innovations in the biotech sector, 3D-bioprinting may raise questions about standards and accessibility. Standards and approval procedures for medical devices are often more demanding than those for other products. Higher innovation costs can make life difficult for smaller biotech businesses and inflate the costs of new medical products and services.

3D-printing is often considered a driving force in the decentralisation of manufacturing. Low costs coupled with speed, proximity and customisation make it an attractive option for many SMEs and individual households. In the context of 3D-printed surgical guides, prostheses and supports, for example, we might imagine local production at hospitals and doctors’ surgeries rather than at distant laboratories. Such decentralisation could allow patients to benefit from more personalised treatment with fewer visits to the hospital and reduced waiting times. It may also see the emergence of a new generation of on-site 3D-printing medical professionals. On the other hand, the high levels of expertise required and tight controls over medical products may mean that 3D-printing capacity develops within the existing laboratory infrastructure, ensuring the survival of the centralised production model.

3D-printing has also been associated with the ‘democratisation’ of production, whereby substantial gains in accessibility are achieved through massive reductions in the financial and technical barriers to production. While some expertise and capital investment are required, they remain within reach of most enthusiastic amateurs. The same is true of 3D-bioprinting, and we are starting to see ‘3D-biohackers‘, that is, DIY biologists using 3D-printers to experiment outside the usual scientific, medical and commercial institutions.

Finally, it is worth noting that some of these same innovations in 3D-printing may also be used for non-therapeutic purposes. For example, cosmetic surgeons can produce implants for ‘body enhancement’ procedures, and show potential clients detailed 3D-printed models of their post-operative bodies. There might also be opportunities for novel body art procedures. Since food and drugs both present large global markets, 3D-printing could be deployed in non-medical contexts such as recreational drugs and gastronomy. The full range of biologically relevant 3D-printing procedures may also be deployed for artistic purposes, such as Diemut Strebe’s living piece, a ‘recreation’ of Vincent van Gogh’s ear.

Anticipatory policy-making

In regulating medical products and services, legislators are called upon to balance the need for high standards and responsible processes against the greater financial and technical barriers that these present to innovators in the sector. Higher costs can create challenges in ensuring equitable access to cutting-edge medical treatments. DIY 3D-bioprinting activities that occur outside professional laboratories are difficult to monitor and regulate, but could pose safety and security threats, and may even infringe principles of medical ethics.

Read this At a glance on ‘What if we could 3D-print our own body parts?‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Professional qualifications in inland navigation [Plenary Podcast]

Written by Marketa Pape,

Binnenschiffe in einer Schleuse

© thomaslerchphoto / Fotolia

As part of its efforts to reduce transport emissions, the EU wants to make better use of inland navigation. This requires addressing the limited labour mobility and shortage of qualified workers in the sector. The proposed directive seeks to establish one competence-based system of qualifications for workers on all EU inland waterways. Ultimately, the new rules aim to make jobs in inland navigation more attractive. Parliament is due to vote on the proposal in plenary in November.


While inland navigation is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly mode of transport, it is not being used to its full capacity. The EU regards it as a means to shift some traffic from roads and, therefore, invests in waterway improvements, innovation and river information services. In parallel, it seeks to address the human side, which includes more than 40 000 boatmasters, helmsmen and boatmen. The workforce in the sector is ageing, new entrants to the profession are few and labour mobility is low. This is in part due to earlier legislation, which created a system of two different inland navigation certificates, one for the Rhine and the other for the rest of Europe. While the ‘Rhine patent’ was valid on all EU inland waterways, the national EU boatmasters’ certificates were not automatically recognised for Rhine navigation.

European Commission proposal

In February 2016, the Commission proposed conditions and procedures for the certification of the qualifications of all deck crew, not just boatmasters, and recognition of these qualifications in other Member States. The certificates would be based on proven competence. In addition, boatmasters must hold a specific authorisation for sailing in situations with a particular safety hazard and, to get one, prove additional competences. Based on harmonised criteria, Member States would identify waterways with a maritime character or specific risks for navigation, define the additional competence required and the means to prove that this requirement is met. For national waterways not connected to the network of another Member State, certificates would not be compulsory.

European Parliament position

The Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) adopted its report on 10 November 2016, largely supporting the proposal. It introduced changes concerning the assessment of competence for navigating on stretches with specific risks, recognition of certificates delivered by third countries, examination of competences and easing entrance conditions for seafarers and fishermen. It asked for additional competences for boatmasters regarding traffic regulations, carriage of dangerous goods and a command of basic English. Negotiations between the Council and Parliament concluded in June 2017. All Member States will recognise competence-based professional qualifications certified in line with this directive (as well as certificates issued by third countries, if based on identical requirements and if that country recognises EU certificates). On national inland waterways not linked to a navigable waterway of another Member State, EU certificates need not be compulsory (but will allow access to navigation there). Many specific issues have been clarified, such as the validity of the current certificates, validation of the time served on board and training programmes and examinations (including on simulators). The text is due to be subject of a first-reading vote during November.

First-reading report: 2016/0050(COD); Committee responsible: TRAN; Rapporteur: Gesine Meissner (ALDE, Germany). For further information, see our ‘EU Legislation in Progress’ briefing.

Read this Plenary At a Glance note on ‘Professional qualifications in inland navigation‘ in PDF.

Listen to podcast ‘Professional qualifications in inland navigation

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New priorities for EU–Africa cooperation [Plenary Podcast]

Written by Ionel Zamfir,

Green globe isolated on white with europe in the spotlight environment concept 3D illustration

© beebright / Fotolia

As the EU and Africa prepare to redefine their priorities for cooperation under the framework of the Africa-EU Joint Strategy adopted ten years ago, the European Parliament will debate, during the first November plenary session, a resolution outlining its position on the issue, ahead of the EU-Africa summit scheduled for the end of November. This summit will focus on the need to invest in youth. The issue has become prominent against the background of demographic growth in Africa and increasing irregular migration from the continent to Europe.


EU cooperation with Africa is embedded in several frameworks. The Partnership Agreement with the ACP countries (the Cotonou Agreement) defines the principles of EU cooperation and development aid to Sub-Saharan Africa, while the southern strand of the EU Neighbourhood policy sets the framework for cooperation with the North African countries. After the establishment of the African Union in 2002, the need for a unitary framework for cooperation at continental level was recognised and, in 2007, the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) was adopted. Its purpose is to set up a partnership on an equal footing between Africa and the EU, based on common interests and shared values. The JAES has its own financial instrument, launched in 2014, the Pan-African Programme, endowed with a budget of €845 million for the 2014-2020 period, under the Development Cooperation Instrument. However the JAES is not limited to actions covered by this instrument, as it could potentially cover all areas of cooperation between the EU and Africa with continental or regional relevance, from peace and security to trade and cooperation in international fora on global issues. The JAES priorities are revised periodically at the summit of EU and African Heads of State or Government, which takes place every three years. The next summit will take place at the end of November in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire). In May 2017, the Commission and the European External Action Service published proposals for future cooperation in a joint communication, entitled ‘A New Impetus for Africa-EU cooperation’.

The current situation of cooperation

The roadmap adopted at the fourth EU-Africa summit (Brussels, April 2014) outlined five priority areas for cooperation: peace and security; democracy, good governance and human rights; human development; sustainable and inclusive development and growth; and continental integration, global and emerging issues. Notable successes have so far been achieved in a number of areas. EU support to the African Union in the area of peace and security stands out as vital to the success of the African Union Peace and Security Architecture, and to the Africa-led peace operation in Somalia (AMISOM), which have largely benefitted from EU funding. The EU has also supported building the capacity of African bodies in the area of human rights. Irregular migration has moved to be the focus of cooperation since the Valletta summit in November 2015, when it was also decided to create an EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa to tackle its root causes. In the area of trade, negotiations on economic partnership agreements (EPAs) – asymmetric free trade agreements with a strong development component – have been finalised with regional groupings in Southern, West and East Africa, but some states in the latter two regions are still reluctant to endorse the final text of the agreement. In order to spur development and tackle the root causes of migration, the EU has been encouraging investment in Africa using blending of public grants with private funds. In this respect, the recently established European Fund for Sustainable Development includes two platforms, of which one will be dedicated to Africa, as well as a new risk guarantee for investors. The fund is expected to attract massive investment to Africa.

Own-initiative report: 2017/2083(INI); Committee responsible: DEVE; Rapporteur: Maurice Ponga (EPP, France)

The new priorities proposed by the European Union

The 2017 joint communication ‘A New Impetus for Africa-EU cooperation’ outlines the main possible lines of future action. It recognises the challenges and opportunities related to the demographic dynamism of the African continent and its ongoing transformation. These priorities are defined taking into account the African Union’s Agenda 2063 – a programmatic vision of where the continent should head – and the EU Global Strategy. The transformative agenda for Africa envisioned by the EU is centred around two strands: building more resilient states and societies, and creating more and better jobs for youth.

More concretely, the EU intends to strengthen its support to African capacities in the area of peace and security, including conflict prevention and management. It also wishes to continue its work with African partners towards ‘accountable, democratic, effective and transparent institutions‘ at all levels, as they are a precondition for resilient societies. The management of migration and mobility is another important component of future cooperation, being expected to take place in a spirit of mutual trust, based on responsibility-sharing and with full respect for human rights. The EU proposes to enhance intra-African legal mobility and migration as well as to increase students’ and researchers’ mobility. At the same time, irregular migration should be addressed by fighting trafficking and smuggling. In the area of economic development, the European External Investment Plan is described as the EU’s ‘most powerful vehicle’ for encouraging job creation in Africa, targeting the root causes of migration. Other actions needed in this area include: the creation of a conducive business climate, building the core enabling infrastructures, including electrification in Africa, support to SMEs, and support to Africa’s regional and continental integration efforts. The EU also wants to support the transformation of Africa’s agriculture, given its importance in terms of jobs. The EU admits the need to improve the level of education and vocational training in Africa and pledges support to this.

Stakeholders’ position

Ahead of the Africa-EU summit, civil society representatives met at the Third Africa-EU Civil Society Forum in Tunis in July 2017 and adopted a joint declaration. The declaration noted the shrinking space for civil society and expressed regrets about the insufficient involvement of civil society in the implementation of the strategy. The declaration recommends protecting the space for civil society and creating an enabling environment, and recognising civil society’s role in building resilient societies. Other recommendations refer to ensuring the inclusion of women and youth in peace-building efforts, dissociating development aid from migration management, while fighting any form of human trafficking, prioritising policies and investments in public services such as health, education and social protection for all, promoting internationally recognised labour standards, and promoting sustainable economic models (including ruralisation).

Young people have also defined their expectations. The 4th Africa-Europe Youth summit, which took place in October 2017 in Abidjan, adopted a declaration on priorities that should feed into the high-level summit. It calls for the enhancement of participation of young people, including vulnerable ones, in society; for the creation of the right conditions for economic empowerment of youth (a conducive business environment allowing young people to set up enterprises, enhanced access to enterprise finance for young people, enhancing the capacity of young entrepreneurs to run an enterprise), and for the involvement of young people in conflict prevention.

The International Crisis Group has published an analysis of the Africa-EU relationship, recommending to both sides to deal more openly with their disagreements, to deliberate with their strategic interests in mind and to strive to reach agreement about how to tackle migration towards Europe.

European Parliament position

The Parliament is also defining its recommendations for the Africa-EU summit. On 10 October 2017, its Committee on Development (DEVE) adopted an own-initiative report, entitled ‘EU-Africa strategy: a boost for development’ (Rapporteur: Maurice Ponga, EPP, France). It recommends that future cooperation focuses on the following areas: economic development (through trade and EPAs, regional integration, economic diversification, sustainable industrialisation); good governance, including human rights; human development (through better education, health, access to water and sanitation, and gender equality); migration and mobility; and environment, including climate change. It considers resilience to be the key concept for tackling African challenges, and proposes to reinforce resilience in the political, economic, social, environmental and security realms. It highlights the importance of responsible investment and trade, respecting international health, safety, labour and environmental standards. It also recommends a holistic approach to migration, taking into account the demographic situation and the root causes, calls for the promotion of legal migration, and underlines that development aid should not be linked to cooperation on migration.

Read this Plenary At a Glance note on ‘New priorities for EU–Africa cooperation‘ in PDF.

Listen to podcast ‘New priorities for EU–Africa cooperation

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STOA Annual Lecture 2017: Media in the age of artificial intelligence

Written by Philip Boucher and Mihalis Kritikos,

artificial intelligence newspaper


This year, STOA’s Annual Lecture will focus upon how media and other information is managed and distributed in the age of artificial intelligence (AI). This includes how AI can be used to disseminate quality information as well as misinformation, as well as how algorithms can be used to counteract fake news.

What are algorithms? At their most simple, they are sets of rules and instructions, usually expressed in computer code, followed in order to solve a problem. For example, applying rules to historical data about people to decide which information to send to them. Algorithms have been around for a long time – longer than AI, and even longer than computers. However, as they become both ubiquitous and effective, they also become increasingly important in our lives, supporting decisions in areas ranging from credit and healthcare to human welfare and employment.

Twitter hashtag: #MediaInAi

On the one hand, algorithmic decision-making could be considered more objective than the human equivalent. However, advanced AI algorithms are very complicated, and discrimination can emerge from biases that may be embedded in their code, or in the data used to train them, or acquired through learning. For example, groups of AI agents that control prices on websites might learn to fix them without having been instructed to do so. There is also a question of transparency. Since AI algorithms process so much data and draw on such a wide range of complex techniques, it may be difficult or even impossible for humans to understand the reasons behind a particular decision. This opacity is reinforced by the economic cost of providing transparency, as well as conflicts with other requirements, such as the protection of personal data. Algorithms affect most people in their daily lives, but they have little hope of understanding how they work, or how they could work against them.

The Annual Lecture 2017, chaired by STOA Chair Eva Kaili (S&D, Greece), will investigate the challenges associated with the design and application of AI algorithms in the media domain, presenting an opportunity to learn more about these questions and to participate in a debate with key experts in the subject. The event will open with speeches by the STOA Panel Chair and Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science & Innovation. A keynote lecture follows by Nello Cristianini, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of Bristol, who will explain how AI and algorithms can manage information flows, and a panel discussion to explore the phenomenon of information in the age of AI from the perspective of academics, internet giants, publishers, and media houses.

The panel, moderated by David Wheeldon (Sky), will include presentations from Michail Bletsas (MIT Media Lab), Michiel Kolman (Elsevier and International Publishers Association), Andeas Vlachos (University of Sheffield), Jon Steinberg (Google) and Richard Allan (Facebook). The panel will also include a case study on algorithms in action presented by Yannis Kliafas (Athens Technology Center) and Wilfried Runde (Deutsche Welle). The public debate will provide the panellists with an opportunity to discuss the issues raised during the Lecture, and for members of the public to ask questions.

Finally, the Lecture will also be an opportunity to mark STOA’s 30th anniversary by launching a new European Parliament initiative: The European Science-Media Hub.

Interested? Register for the lecture and join the debate.

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How the EU budget is spent: Copernicus – The EU’s Earth observation and monitoring programme

Written by Sidonia Mazur,

Copernicus – The EU's Earth observation and monitoring programme

© mozZz / Fotolia

Copernicus is the European Union’s earth observation and monitoring programme. It has a space component and a ground-based component, and provides users with data services. A user-driven programme under civilian control, it builds on existing national and European capacities, and continues the work of the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme. Copernicus is based on a partnership between the EU, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the EU Member States. The EU has earmarked almost €4.3 billion for Copernicus in its Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-2020.

The Copernicus space component incorporates space infrastructure comprising a space element (the satellites) and a ground segment (the infrastructure managing the satellites).
The Copernicus satellites include two mission groups: six families of satellites dedicated to Copernicus, known as the ‘Sentinels’, and approximately 30 contributing missions from national, European and international organisations.

The Copernicus in-situ component consists of environmental measurements collected from ground-based, sea-borne and air-borne monitoring systems, as well as geospatial reference or ancillary data. The in-situ infrastructure is independent from the space infrastructure.
Institutions and agencies at national level own and operate many in-situ data sources; for example, the national air quality monitoring data collected by national meteorological services, which EU Member States are required to report to the European Environment Agency.

Copernicus provides the following services:

  • an atmosphere monitoring service, which provides information on European air quality, and on the chemical composition of the atmosphere on a global scale;
  • a marine environment monitoring service, which provides information on the state and dynamics of the physical ocean and marine ecosystems across the globe, and on European regional marine areas;
  • a land monitoring service, which provides information on land use and land cover, the cryosphere, climate change and bio-geophysical variables;
  • a climate change service, which adds to the EU’s climate change knowledge base, aiming at supporting adaptation and mitigation policies;
  • an emergency management service, which provides information for emergency response to different types of disaster, including meteorological hazards, geophysical hazards, deliberate and accidental man-made disasters and other humanitarian disasters, as well as for prevention, preparedness, response and recovery activities;
  • a security service, which provides information to help meet the civil security challenges facing the EU, including better crisis prevention, preparedness and response capacities.

The European Commission has evaluated three pre-Copernicus initiatives: the GMES initial operations (GMES GIO) programme for 2011-2013; the 2008-2010 GMES preparatory actions (PAs); and the FP7-funded elements of the GMES space component (GSC) for 2007-2013. The evaluation concluded that the three initiatives provided high levels of ‘European added value’. No single EU country could have created a similar system on its own, as national programmes were much more limited in scope and only fulfilled a limited number of the functions of GMES, and at lower levels of functionality. GMES offered higher levels of assured continuity of service, compared to anything available at national level. The encouraging results of the pre-Copernicus initiatives led to the creation of Copernicus, and the lessons learned included the need to pay more attention to the development of core services and their uptake by users.
While the Commission is in the process of carrying out an ongoing interim evaluation of the Copernicus programme (2016-2017), the results are not yet available.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Copernicus – The EU’s Earth observation and monitoring programme‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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New technologies and regional policy: Insights for the next cohesion policy framework

Written by Silvia Polidori,

  • The impact of new technologies on European local and regional growth is significant. For this reason, the European Union (EU) should provide policy strategies for the long term.
  • It is essential to draw attention to the European dimension by giving more visibility to regional projects supported by the EU through its cohesion, research, and other policies.
  • Procedures should be simplified, allowing local authorities and other final beneficiaries to manage the funds granted by the EU easily.
  • Cohesion policy should include aspects of competitiveness among EU regions (regional benchmarks), allowing exemplary actors to pave the way for others lagging behind.
  • A fast-track approach could be introduced, including conditional cross-policy support for advanced Research and Development (R&D) and testing facilities, programmes for higher education and professional training, and easier access to venture capital and other risk capital.
  • Finally, synergies between various EU policies and programmes should be encouraged, to provide a homogeneous framework helping to leverage the results of local projects for a substantial global impact.

STOA Workshop ' New technologies and Regional Policy'These are some of the policy options for the legislator that emerged during the workshop organised by the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel of the European Parliament (EP) on 16 October 2017 in Brussels. The event aimed to discuss the impact and development of new technologies at European local level, and, in this context, to provide input to the debate on the next EU cohesion policy after 2020.

As Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, (EPP, Spain), EP Vice-President responsible for STOA, explained during the opening of the event, STOA considered it important to set the stage for a broad panel of speakers to discuss the topic, benefiting from their different perspectives. On the one hand, the European Commission is currently drafting legislative proposals in the fields of cohesion policy, research, digital market and industry, while working on the multi-annual financial framework after 2020. On the other, the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP) is well placed to provide information on the impact of science parks on innovation at local level. Besides the input from these actors, and the contributions from the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee, it was crucial to involve ‘main clients’ of cohesion policy in the debate. By listening to the EU regions and Member States, the legislators heard their needs in terms of technology development and better legislative means for achieving effective implementation.

Several policies currently impact the technological development of EU regions. These will evolve further post-2020, as the speakers explained. In particular, regional policy will continue further along the path set out by smart specialisation, with the aim of building capabilities and capacities. There will be an effort to increase synergies with the research framework programme, representing, along with the European Structural and Investment Funds, the other major source of EU funding for research and innovation. All current instruments, such as the ‘seal of excellence’, should be improved in the future through aligning rules between different EU funds, including the application of state aid rules.

New technologies and regional policy: Insights for the next cohesion policy frameworkWith the support of both regional and research policies, the Digital Innovation Hubs contribute to the digital transformation of industry in all European regions. The aim is to ensure that every business in Europe, whatever its sector of activity, wherever located and whatever its size, can take full advantage of digital innovation and competences. The digital city challenge, as a special case of industry policy, is developing in this direction.

Overall, the same synergy is needed for industry policy as a whole. The responsibility for making such a strategy fully operational is a shared one, relying on the efforts, cooperation and ownership of the EU institutions, Member States, regions and, most importantly, on the active role of the industry itself, as in the case of the European cluster collaboration platform.

Science parks and areas of innovation play an important role in regional development. They contribute to the economic development programmes of cities and regions, and are an essential part of innovation ecosystems. They have proven to create new knowledge-based and innovation-led businesses, and to increase inward investment of such businesses, as well as to accelerate the growth of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). The challenge is to exploit them further for the benefit of EU growth.

KREHL, Constanze (S&D, DE)

Each region in Europe has its own peculiarities and strengths, as stressed by the Smart Specialisation Strategy. This approach is crucial, as it makes it possible to raise and exploit the individual potential of regions with a global growth effect, as stressed by Constanze Krehl (S&D, Germany), member of the EP Committee on Regional Development (REGI). All existing European policies support local development in their specific area, but further effort is needed. One of the solutions could be the fast-track approach, as advocated by Lambert van Nistelrooij (EPP, The Netherlands), member of the EP Committee on Regional Development (REGI), who, together with Constanze Krehl, proposed and chaired the event. This approach would ensure speed of intervention, territorial dimension and stronger synergy with other policies.

STOA Panel member Georgi Pirinski (S&D, Bulgaria) highlighted a horizontal aspect to take into account in future cohesion policy in his closing remarks. Future regional policy should pay particular attention to regions lagging behind, so that investments in research and innovation are more uniform, aiming to set up a coherent European framework.

An in-depth report will draw upon the views expressed in the workshop, and will be published on the STOA website by the end of 2017. The report will also be circulated to the relevant actors responsible for the future cohesion policy at European and national levels.

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