Revising the fisheries control system [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Irina Popescu,

© oslobis / Fotolia

On 30 May 2018, the European Commission issued a proposal to revise the fisheries control system by modernising and simplifying the monitoring of fisheries activities, improving the enforcement and updating a control system that was conceived before the 2013 CFP reform. The revision centres on the amendment of the Control Regulation 1224/2009. The proposal introduces requirements for more complete fisheries data, including an electronic tracking system for all fishing vessels, fully digitised reporting of catches with electronic logbooks and landing declarations applicable to all vessels, and catch-declaration rules for recreational fisheries. It improves traceability through digitalised identification and declaration along the supply chain for all fishery and aquaculture products, whether from EU fisheries or imported. The enforcement rules are thoroughly revised, with a common list of activities defined as serious infringements and corresponding sanctions, as well as a strengthened point system. The proposal also revises the mandate of the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), to fully align its objectives with the CFP and to upgrade its inspection powers, and Regulation 1005/2008 on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, to introduce a digital catch certification scheme for imported fishery products.


Stage: EESC

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Ocean governance and blue growth: Challenges, opportunities and policy responses

Written by Frederik Scholaert,

Very large passenger ship and a small sailboat pass offshore wind turbines near the Oresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden

© balipadma/ Fotolia

Oceans cover more than two thirds of the earth and are a vital element of life on our planet. Not only are they a primary source of food, they are also central to the carbon cycle; they regulate the climate and produce most of the oxygen in the air we breathe. They also play an important socio-economic role. The ‘blue economy’, covering traditional sectors such as fisheries, extraction of oil and gas, maritime transport and coastal tourism, as well as new, fast-growing industries such as offshore wind, ocean energy and blue biotechnology, shows great potential for further economic growth, employment creation and innovation.

At the same time, oceans face pressures, mainly associated with the over-exploitation of resources, pollution and the effects of climate change. In recent years, ocean pollution from plastics has received more attention from the public and has been high on policy-makers’ agendas.

At global level, the European Union is an active player in protecting oceans and shaping ocean governance. It has made progress by taking measures in a series of areas: maritime security, marine pollution, sustainable blue economy, climate change, marine protection, and sustainable fisheries; by working towards the United Nations 2030 Agenda sustainable development goal on oceans; and by taking part in negotiations on a new international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. In encouraging the blue economy, the EU also recognises the environmental responsibilities that go along with it. Healthy, clean oceans guarantee the long-term capacity to sustain such economic activities, while a natural decline threatens the ecosystem of the planet as a whole and ultimately, the well-being of our societies. The conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy, EU action under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the establishment of marine protected areas are key EU policies when it comes to protecting the marine environment. They are complemented by recent environmental legislation such as the Directive on single-use plastics to reduce marine litter.

Read this briefing on ‘Ocean governance and blue growth: Challenges, opportunities and policy responses‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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European Parliament and the path to German reunification

Written by Christian Salm,

© neftali / Shutterstock

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, set in motion by the events of 9 November 1989, which led to Germany’s full reunification within less than a year. The accession of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) to the Federal Republic of Germany (Federal Republic) completed the reunification process on 3 October 1990. Moreover, with the accession of the former GDR to the Federal Republic, the GDR integrated into the European Economic Community (EEC) of the time via a special procedure. As the GDR’s status as a subject of international law ended with its accession to the Federal Republic, a normal EEC Treaty accession procedure was not possible. The European Parliament followed the chain of profound political developments triggered by the fall of the Berlin Wall closely.

1989 – A historical turning point

In the contemporary history of Europe and its integration process, 1989 was a crucial turning point. The fall of the Berlin Wall in November of that year was one of several events that launched democratic change in central and eastern Europe. Events in 1989 included: the end of the Hungarian communist power monopoly (January); Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s victory in partially free elections in Poland (June); overthrow of the Bulgarian Head of State and Party Leader Todor Zhivkov (November); the execution of Romanian President Nicolae Ceauşescu, and the election of human rights activist Václav Havel as President of Czechoslovakia (December). Nevertheless, the fall of the Berlin Wall particularly characterised 1989 as a historical turning point, signalling the end of the 50-year east-west conflict and the beginning of today’s free movement throughout Europe. At the time, the EEC was about to implement the goals of the 1986 Single European Act, the first major revision of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, and intended to establish the single market by December 1992. Against this background, the European Parliament paid particular attention in its debates and analyses regarding the far-reaching political changes in central and eastern Europe and the impact of the process of German unification on the EEC.

European Parliament response to the fall of the Berlin Wall

The European Parliament reacted quickly to the November 1989 events in Berlin. As the Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs was meeting in the Reichstag from 8 to 10 November, some Members of the European Parliament actually experienced the opening of borders between East and West Berlin at first-hand. In a public statement of 10 November, the Committee welcomed the GDR authorities’ decision to ease border crossings at the inner-German border. Due to uncertainty regarding whether borders might remain open, the Committee’s public statement also expressed the hope that the GDR authorities would abolish remaining restrictions on passenger transport at the inner-German border within a very short time.

Some days later, on 22 November 1989, the European Parliament held a plenary debate on the events in central and eastern Europe. The attendance of two members of the European Council, French President François Mitterrand and Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl, underpinned the high political relevance of this debate, with the fall of the Berlin Wall a prominent topic. In his speech, Kohl stated that ‘Germany will be completely united only if progress is made towards the unification of our old continent. Policy on Germany and policy on Europe are completely inseparable’. Kohl’s speech therefore clearly indicated that his enlargement policy was based on an awareness that a united Germany would need support from Europe and the EEC. The speech also aimed at allaying European partners’ fears that a united Germany would aspire to European hegemony.

A European Parliament resolution following the debate also included the message that German reunification and European integration were two sides of the same coin. It stressed that ‘having regard to recent developments in the GDR, and notably the opening of the Berlin Wall … the closer integration of the EEC will create the basis for closer cooperation with the states of Central and Eastern Europe … and closer ties between the German states’. To study the broader possible consequences of German reunification, especially with a view to the European integration process, the European Parliament set up a Temporary Committee to consider the impact of the German unification process on the EEC.

Temporary Committee to consider the impact of the process of German reunification on the EEC

Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission at the time, inspired the creation of the Temporary Committee, pointing out to the European Parliament in January 1990 that, given the special situation in the GDR after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was conceivable that East Germany might rapidly integrate into the EEC. In response to this political assessment, Parliament decided to create a Temporary Committee tasked with analysing the impact of GDR integration into the EEC on the latter’s fields of activity, to make a constructive Community contribution to the German unification process, and to adapt the EEC itself to the new geopolitical landscape.

Set up in February 1990, the Temporary Committee consisted of 20 Members. Among them were three former foreign ministers: Claude Cheysson (France), Fernando Morán López (Spain), and Leo Tindemans (Belgium). Furthermore, former President of the European Parliament, Simone Veil (France), and former West German Ambassador to the United Nations, Rüdiger von Wechmar, sat on the committee. The inclusion of such major European political figures demonstrated the importance of the Temporary Committee within the European Parliament.

At its constituent meeting, the Temporary Committee drew up a plan of action enabling it to consider the institutional aspects of German reunification, the overall political context, and the impact on EEC sectoral policies. To cover these different areas, the Committee held discussions at its regular meetings with representatives of the governments of the GDR, the Federal Republic and even the United States and Soviet Union. Moreover, the Temporary Committee, with the help of the Parliament’s Directorate-General for Research, collected information and opinions on the situation in the GDR from across the political spectrum. These activities contributed to the work of the Committee’s rapporteur, Alan John Donnelly (United Kingdom), a Member of the Group of the European Socialists of the time. Parliament adopted Donnelly’s interim report in plenary in July 1990.

The report emphasised the need to bring about European integration in parallel with German reunification. It proposed to prevent derogations and transitional measures granted to the former GDR from weakening central EEC objectives, including the full achievement of the single market. Moreover, the report underlined the need to place the German reunification process within the wider context of relations with central and eastern Europe. The report argued that the GDR’s entry into the EEC could play an important bridge function with those countries. The report also looked at a number of other specific policy issues raised by German reunification, such as industrial and competition policy considerations, transport and telecommunications, energy and research, and economic and social cohesion. In addition, the report proposed to assign observer status in the European Parliament to representatives from the former GDR.

Representation of the former GDR in the European Parliament

The suggestion to give observer status to representatives of the GDR aimed at responding to the need to represent the 17 million inhabitants of East Germany in the EEC after the accession of the former GDR to the EEC. The Federal Republic refrained from both requesting additional Commissioners and greater voting power within the Council. However, it demanded representation for the East German Länder in the European Parliament. Complying with this demand raised two particularly problematic issues for the Parliament: First, any changes in the number of Members would have disturbed the balanced system of representation, according to the size of each country’s population but with an equal number of Members (81) for each of the EEC’s most populous countries (France, Italy, the United Kingdom and West Germany). Second, it would have been incompatible with democratic principles if, following German reunification, East German citizens were to be represented for a considerable period by Members they had not themselves elected. The solution found was to invite 18 non-voting Members from East Germany to the European Parliament as observers. Finally, in the 1994 election, the number of MEPs elected in Germany was increased by that amount. Current German Member, Constanze Krehl (S&D), was one of these East German observers from 1991 to 1994.

German reunification and European Union

The Temporary Committee adopted its final political report in November 1990. It again emphasised the need to pursue the process of German reunification in parallel with European integration. Moreover, the report stated that German reunification should be considered as a step towards European union. In fact, German reunification contributed to creating the momentum for the EEC leaders of the period to launch the December 1990 intergovernmental conference on European monetary union and political union, which concluded at the Maastricht Summit in December 1991, and the agreement to promulgate a new treaty on European Union.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘European Parliament and the path to German reunification‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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The powers of the European Parliament

Written by Laura Tilindyte,

EU flags waving in front of European Parliament building. Brussels, Belgium

© Grecaud Paul / Fotolia

Since its inception in 1951, the European Parliament has come a long way. Initially a consultative body composed of delegations of national parliaments, it became a directly elected institution, obtained budgetary and legislative powers, and now exercises influence over most aspects of EU affairs. Together with representatives of national governments, who sit in the Council, Parliament co-decides on European legislation, in what could be seen as a bicameral legislature at EU level. It can reject or amend the European Commission’s proposals before adopting them so that they become law. Together with the Council of the EU, it adopts the EU budget and controls its implementation.

Another core set of European Parliament prerogatives concerns the scrutiny of the EU executive – mainly the Commission. Such scrutiny can take many forms, including parliamentary questions, committees of inquiry and special committees, and scrutiny of delegated and implementing acts. Parliament has made use of these instruments to varying degrees. Parliament has the power to dismiss the Commission (motion of censure), and it plays a significant role in the latter’s appointment process.

Parliament has a say over the very foundations of the EU. Its consent is required before any new country joins the EU, and before a withdrawal treaty is concluded if a country decides to leave it. Most international agreements entered into by the EU with third countries also require Parliament’s consent. Parliament can initiate Treaty reform, and also the ‘Article 7(1) TEU’ procedure, aimed at determining whether there is a (risk of) serious breach of EU values by a Member State.

Read this briefing on ‘The powers of the European Parliament‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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STOA Panel gears up for the new parliamentary term

Written by Nera Kuljanic with Sophie Millar,

election of a Chair and two Vice-Chairs for the first half of the 9th parliamentary termDuring the latest plenary session in Strasbourg, on 24 October, MEPs appointed to the European Parliament’s Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) held their first meeting to elect a Chair and two Vice-Chairs for the first half of the 9th parliamentary term. Eva Kaili, Greek MEP and member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group in the European Parliament, will continue as Chair, carrying on from the last parliamentary term. She will work alongside Christian Ehler, a German MEP and member of the European People’s Party (EPP) Group, who was elected as First Vice-Chair of STOA, and Ivars Ijabs, Latvian MEP and member of the Renew Europe Group, who will serve as Second Vice-Chair. The meeting was chaired by Ewa Kopacz, Polish MEP, EPP member and European Parliament Vice-President responsible for STOA. The four MEPs, as members of the STOA Bureau, will work together with the other 21 STOA Panel members to support STOA’s mission: comprehensive monitoring and analysis of scientific and technological opportunities and challenges that are relevant for individual and societal progress and wellbeing.

In an ever-advancing and changing technological and scientific landscape, STOA is a vital platform for the European Parliament, constantly evolving to keep pace with developments. Through scientific foresight, technology assessment and horizon scanning, STOA provides timely assessments of techno-scientific trends to support Parliament’s committees, Members and their staff. These take the form of studies and other reports, but also events (workshops and Annual Lectures) and initiatives such as the MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme. The net result is promoting scientific advice and dialogue as the foundation of well-informed policy decisions. The European Science-Media Hub (ESMH), under the remit of STOA, is also establishing itself as a recognised hub for direct interaction and exchange among policy-makers, journalists and other science communicators, and researchers. The ESMH promotes evidence-based practices for high-quality and trustworthy science communication through networking and training.

Highlights of the work conducted in the last parliamentary term include strategic foresight studies on robotics, precision agriculture, 3D bio-printing and assistive technologies, as well as technology assessment studies on topics linked to the information society, such as the General Data Protection Regulation, artificial intelligence, algorithms, disinformation, blockchain, harmful internet use, social polarisation, and the future of teaching and working. Sustainable management of natural resources was also a priority for STOA, examining subjects such as waste management, farming without agri-chemicals and climate change. The Panel also took an interest in health and the life sciences, with topics ranging from the Ebola outbreak, to food safety, organic food and brain research. Finally, activities relating to science policy and global networking included studies on technologies and the arts, on overcoming innovation gaps in the EU-13 Member States and on the internationalisation of EU research, and events organised jointly with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the European Research Council (ERC), the European Space Agency (ESA), the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Science and Technology in Society (STS) forum and UNESCO, to name but a few.

Looking ahead to advances in science and technology and the political agenda for the next five years, the STOA Panel’s new Vice-Chair Christian Ehler predicted: “STOA will become an even more crucial instrument in the European Parliament. Now we might need STOA more than ever before”.

The STOA Panel meets regularly during the Parliament’s plenary sessions in Strasbourg. The meetings are announced on the STOA website, together with the webstreaming link and supporting documents. The new Panel will start its mandate with a discussion on the priorities and direction for STOA in the 9th parliamentary term at its meeting on 28 November 2019. The Panel Members are new, but the objective stays the same for STOA: to remain the European Parliament’s reference point for science-related advice, technology assessment and scientific foresight.


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European Cyber Security Month

Written by Gregor Erbach,

Cyber Security. Combination padlock in electronic cyberspace. 3D rendered image.

© vitanovski / Fotolia

It is hard these days to imagine (or remember) life without smartphones and computers, without online services helping us with almost every aspect of our daily lives, be that at work – for communication and general productivity – or in our free time – for travel bookings, shopping, banking or entertainment … The list goes on. Meanwhile, more and more everyday objects can now be connected to the internet. Lightbulbs, televisions, refrigerators, vehicles, medical devices and industrial control systems are just a few examples of devices that can be linked up to the ‘internet of things’.

Naturally, these developments offer countless opportunities for new services and business models in the digital single market. However, at the same time they also represent new ways for cybercriminals and others to steal data, money and identities, spread disinformation, and generally cause serious physical and economic damage. These threats are on the increase, in terms of both scale and impact, and can sometimes affect critical infrastructure and democratic processes, heightening the need for thorough risk analysis and effective protection.

This is the backdrop to European Cyber Security Month, which is run every October by ENISA (the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security) together with the European Commission and other partners. The campaign first took place on a small scale in 2012 and has been growing ever since. It now involves hundreds of activities and events throughout the EU and beyond, with a view to reminding citizens of the risks and threats, raising awareness of how to protect against them, and spreading best practice.

The general message for this October’s European Cyber Security Month was that cyber security is everybody’s responsibility. This message was supported by two main themes: the first was ‘cyber hygiene’, helping the public to get into the good habits necessary to stay safe on line; the second focused on staying safe in the context of new and emerging technology.

Meanwhile, in September 2017, the Commission adopted a cybersecurity package with new initiatives to further improve EU cyber-resilience and prepare for the challenges ahead. More specifically, the co-legislators adopted the Cybersecurity Act in April 2019. This new regulation has given ENISA greater powers and introduced a European cybersecurity certification framework to reassure buyers of digital products and services and improve market access for suppliers. To promote and coordinate European cybersecurity research, the Commission is proposing to set up a cybersecurity competence centre and network. The European Parliament adopted its position on the proposal earlier this year and is now in negotiations with the Council.

So, how is your cyber hygiene? The European Parliament’s IT department put together a special quiz for European Cyber Security Month: why not click on the link and give it a try!

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Impeachment of the United States President

Written by Elena Lazarou with Nicholas Lokker,

On 24 September 2019, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California), announced the launch of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, the fourth President in the history of the United States to face the prospect of such an inquiry. The US Constitution provides for an impeachment process, but interpretations of the relevant clauses vary, creating controversy.


© designer491 / Fotolia

On 24 September 2019, the Speaker of the United States (US) House of Representatives (the House), Nancy Pelosi, announced the launch of an impeachment inquiry into the President, Donald Trump. The direct motivation for this decision was a whistle-blower’s complaint alleging that Trump had pressured the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate Joe Biden, a potential Trump rival in the 2020 presidential election, during a phone call on 25 July. On 25 September, the House passed resolution H.RES. 576: ‘Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to the whistleblower complaint of August 12, 2019, made to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community’. The resolution demanded immediate transmission of the whistle-blower’s complaint to the Congressional intelligence committees. The bill was introduced by Representative Adam B. Schiff (Democrat, California), Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees the US intelligence agencies.

Impeachment in the US Constitution

An impeachment inquiry is one of the many steps of the process of impeachment and removal provided for in the US Constitution. Inquiry (also referred to as investigation) is a political process preceding the possible House vote on the articles of impeachment provided for in the Constitution.
Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution states that the ‘President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors’.

How does the impeachment process work? The roles of the House and the Senate

Article I, Sections 2 and 3 describe the impeachment process in the US Congress. As shown in Figure 1, while the House alone holds the power to instigate the process, the final vote to remove an official from office takes place in the Senate. Within the House, the impeachment process proceeds in three phases: (1) initiation of the impeachment process; (2) Judiciary Committee investigation, hearings, and mark-up of articles of impeachment (meetings to propose and vote on a draft bill ‘marking up’ the legislation before Committee members); (3) full House consideration of the articles of impeachment. Initiation can either take the form of a resolution calling for an impeachment (subsequently referred to the Committee on the Judiciary), or of a call for investigation of an official by a standing committee or a special committee for that purpose (subsequently referred to the Committee on Rules, which has jurisdiction over the authorisation of committee investigations). According to the Congressional Research Service, the 2019 process has proceeded on the basis of a third option, whereby, following the Speaker’s statement that the House is launching an ‘official impeachment Inquiry’, the House ‘might take the position that such an inquiry is already underway, and opt to allow its committees to continue their ongoing investigations or begin new inquiries using their existing investigative tools and authorities’. The Speaker’s statement directed six committees to proceed with the investigation, following which the Committee responsible may recommend a set of ‘Articles of Impeachment’ to the full House in the form of a simple resolution. If the articles are adopted, they are sent to the Senate for trial, presided over by the Chief Justice of the US (currently John G. Roberts, a 2005 Bush nominee). Although constitutional experts differ on whether the Senate is obliged to hold a trial, the current Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has confirmed he would do so.

While the Constitution is sufficiently clear about who may be impeached and the process for doing so, there has been significant debate around permissible reasons for impeachment. Specifically, one can interpret ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ in various ways. Academics have typically argued that this rules out impeachment ‘simply for incompetence or general unfitness for office […] It is a remedy for abuses of public office’. Yet, where one can choose to make this distinction for an individual case remains undefined. For instance, it is not clear whether an official must act with ill intention, or whether both private as well as public offences can be grounds for impeachment. One of the most contentious points is whether impeachment requires the literal breach of a US law. Certain experts have held that this is not necessary: ‘abuse of power, corruption and injury to the nation’ is enough. Yet, many take the opposite view, arguing that this interpretation is not ‘consistent with the text or spirit of the Constitution’.

Figure 1 – Impeachment in six steps

Impeachment and politics

Impeachment is in practice both a legal and a political process. Since the power of impeachment rests with
Congress, a politicised institution, it is natural that political calculations often affect the process. As former
US President Gerald Ford famously remarked, ‘An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history’. Following the mid-term election of 2018, the US Congress is divided, with a Democrat majority in the House of Representatives and a Republican majority in the Senate. While Democrats alone fulfil the percentage requirement in the House to move to trial (51 %), Republicans hold only 53 of the 100 Senate seats, where a two-thirds majority is required. Even if all Democrat and Independent Senators were to vote in favour of impeachment, at least 20 Senate Republicans would need to find the President guilty for the latter to be removed from office.

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Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, October II 2019

Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochaka,

Plenary session - Statement by the President of the Commission - Review of the Juncker Commission

© European Union 2019 – Source : EP

The October II plenary session highlights included statements and debates on the outcome of the European Council meeting of 17 and 18 October 2019, and a review of the Juncker Commission’s term. Parliament also debated statements made on behalf of the Vice-President of the European Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR/VP) on the Turkish military operation in north-east Syria and its consequences, and on the violent suppression of young people’s and students’ protests in Iraq. Debates took place, inter alia, on Commission and Council statements on the effects of the Thomas Cook bankruptcy, on the dangers of violent right-wing extremism, on criminalisation of sexual education in Poland and on storms in Europe, followed by debates on accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. Members declined to approve the 2017 accounts of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and European Council/Council, and adopted Parliament’s position on the general budget of the EU for 2020, which now goes to conciliation.

Conclusions of the European Council meeting of 17 and 18 October 2019

Members debated European Council and Commission statements on the outcome of the European Council meeting of 17-18 October 2019. After endorsing a revised United Kingdom withdrawal agreement, and approving a revised political declaration in the European Council (Article 50) format, EU Heads of State or Government tackled contentious issues including the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework, enlargement, climate change and Turkey. Together with Commission President-elect, Ursula von der Leyen, EU leaders also discussed future EU political priorities and the follow-up to the 2019-2024 strategic agenda.

Review of the Juncker Commission

Although the renewal of the European Commission has been postponed beyond the scheduled date of 1 November, current President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker presented a statement, debated with Members, encompassing a review of the Juncker Commission. Whilst facing some challenging situations during 2014-2019, including terrorist attacks and increased refugee movements, analysis of the Juncker Commission’s 10 priorities shows that two thirds of the Commission’s proposals during the period resulted in changes to the law. However, progress has been slower on growth, jobs, investment and trade.

General budget of the European Union for 2020

Parliament adopted its position on all sections of the general budget of the European Union for 2020. Parliament’s Committee on Budgets proposed to reject the reductions made by the Council and to increase expenditure on social and climate target priorities instead. The budget will now be the subject of conciliation negotiations with the Council. If the institutions reach a compromise, Parliament would vote on that during the November II plenary session. In the absence of an agreement, the European Commission is required to submit a new draft budget.

Discharge 2017: European Asylum Support Office and European Council/Council

Members refused to approve the 2017 accounts of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and European Council and Council. The Budgetary Control Committee (CONT) report on EASO’s budget criticises its internal control system, but notes that the new EASO management has committed to reforms. As to discharge for the Council and European Council, the CONT Committee report underlines that the institution has again failed to provide information requested, to separate the budget of the European Council from the Council’s budget, and to align with the interinstitutional transparency register.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, October II 2019‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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EPRS workshop: early career researchers discuss the role of research in policy-making

Written by Christiaan van Lierop, 

Master Class at the European Week of Regions and Cities


While regular contact with researchers, academics and the broader policy-making community is part of our core business at the EPRS, it is always a particular pleasure to meet with PhD students and young researchers who are experts in regional policy. That is why we were very happy to be involved once again in the organisation of a specialist workshop as part of the European Week of Regions and Cities’ Master Class for early career researchers, which took place in Brussels from 7 to 10 October 2019.

Bringing together 29 specially selected early career researchers from across the EU, this year’s workshop examined the role of research in policy-making at the European Parliament by focusing on three main themes: forging closer ties between researchers and policy-makers, enhancing the communication of cohesion policy and, lastly, future trends and topics for research in the field of cohesion policy. As in previous years, discussions took place around three tables, one for each theme, with participants invited to get actively involved in the debate at each table, providing everybody with the chance to have their say. With each participant an expert in the field of regional policy, the stage was set for a frank, open and lively discussion. This led to a number of key findings, set out below.

Forging closer ties between researchers and policy-makers

Participants stressed the need for more continuous links between researchers and policy-makers at local government level in particular. Noting that the relationship between researchers and policy-makers is a multilevel process, coordinating and developing synergies between researcher/policy-maker relations at municipal, regional, national and European levels, they argued that interaction between researchers and policy-makers at the local government level called for different, more participatory styles of research that could elicit support and interest from local authorities. When it came to finding experts, speakers stressed the importance of using certain keywords for searches and considered that researchers should be proactive by highlighting their profiles through researchgate or h-index if they wanted to have greater visibility. Another idea was to draw up e-mail lists of experts in different topic areas using university databases, with one participant suggesting that universities could be required to keep their databases updated with information about their staff expertise.

Enhancing the communication of cohesion policy

The workshop found that if EU cohesion policy is to be brought closer to citizens and the knowledge gap between politicians and the general public closed, it is important to deliver a message that could have an impact across borders, to tell a story and to establish communication channels for active exchange. One way of doing this could be to strengthen EU identity by stressing the significance of Europe as an integration project and by helping people understand that Europe forms an integral part of their everyday lives. There was clearly a need to make local projects more visible: one idea was to make it compulsory for local municipalities that receive EU funding to allocate a fixed amount of the money received to communications activities about the funded project. Other ideas included organising more Open Day events at the EU institutions for citizens as well as sessions that bring together different groups of people, such as low-income workers or socially excluded groups, who may know little about the EU, to explain what the EU is doing for them. This would take the form of special meetings at the workplace or at community centres.

Future trends and topics for research in the field of cohesion policy

On a general note, participants felt that it was vital to make topics appealing by creating awareness and involving stakeholders. Equally, regional capacity-building was also important as this could help policy-makers learn to cope with various challenges through feedback loops of multilevel governance that could facilitate the process of better learning for policy-makers. More specifically, a number of topics were highlighted as possible areas of future research. These included issues such as how to implement cohesion policy more effectively or that of assessing absorption capacity of funds through multiple criteria such as GDP, migration, climate change or youth unemployment. The individual challenges facing certain types of regions were also the subject of discussion: participants drew attention to the question of planning in cross-border regions and cross-border cooperation in general and looked at how to help lagging regions by focusing, in particular, on why it is difficult for them to implement smart specialisation strategies.

This workshop for early career researchers certainly provided some valuable thoughts and ideas can help feed into the work of both researchers and policy-makers and we look forward to the next edition of this event in 2020.

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A fresh look at the future of work in the EU

Written by Monika Kiss,

Businessman showing a virtual display of internet business network on his hand

© Nmedia / Fotolia

Economic and technical changes are redrawing the map of the world of work: new jobs are appearing while others are becoming obsolete, and atypical work patterns are replacing full-time work and open-ended contracts.

In addition, work is increasingly being carried out on online platforms connecting buyers and sellers, or by large project teams across borders and time zones.

Robotics and digitalisation raise new questions, as machines progressively replace the human workforce for routine tasks, and new types of professional and personal skills are required to respond to technological progress.

Active labour-market policies are gradually adapting to the changing reality in the world of work. This concerns social security systems, which increasingly face include new, and constantly changing requirements, as well as ethical and practical problems relating to robotics. The EU focuses on protecting workers’ rights while ensuring innovation, as the examples of the recently adopted Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions and the establishment of the new European Labour Authority illustrate. The need for the new digital skills that are essential to successfully master the challenges of the new working environment also continues to grow.

This is an update of an earlier Briefing on the Future of work in the EU, from April 2017, PE 599.426.

Read the complete briefing on ‘A fresh look at the future of work in the EU‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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