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Euro Summits: Role and expectations ahead of the meeting of 15 December 2017

Written by Silvia Polidori,

Euro symbols painted in the flag colors of each of the countries that have adopted the Euro currency, all rounded up

© Mihai Dud / shutterstock

Since 2008, Euro Summits have brought together the Heads of State or Government of those countries whose currency is the euro, providing policy guidance to assure the smooth functioning of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the euro area. Donald Tusk, who chairs the Euro Summit as well as being President of the European Council, has convened a Euro Summit for 15 December 2017. This will be the first such meeting since those dedicated to the Greek crises in 2015.

Composition

The Euro Summit is an informal gathering of the Heads of State or Government of the (currently 19) EU countries that have introduced the euro as their currency, together with the President of the Euro Summit, appointed by euro-area leaders for two and a half years, as well as the President of the European Commission. The President of the European Central Bank is also invited to attend its meetings; the President of the Eurogroup may be invited to attend and the President of the European Parliament may be invited to speak. Non-euro-area countries that have ratified the TSCG are also invited take part in Euro Summit meetings for specific discussions (see below).

Function

The purpose of a Euro Summit is to provide strategic guidance on euro-area economic policy. Its members discuss questions relating to the specific responsibilities on the single currency shared by the euro-area countries, as well as other issues concerning the governance of the euro area, and strategic orientations for the implementation of economic policies to boost convergence. Euro Summits thus seek to encourage euro-area countries to take greater account of the specific responsibilities of euro-area membership in their national policy-making. However, in practice, Euro Summits have, since their creation, mainly served as a crisis management tool to break deadlocks, such as on the 2015 Greek crisis, where no solution could be found at the level of the Eurogroup.

Origin and formalisation of Euro Summit meetings

The first Euro Summit meeting took place on 12 October 2008, following a proposal by the then French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to organise regular meetings of euro-area Member State leaders to discuss specific issues. A further seven meetings took place to define a coordinated response to the financial and sovereign debt crisis and ensure the stability of the euro area. At the European Council meeting of 1-2 March 2012, 25 EU leaders signed the intergovernmental Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the EMU (TSG), which entered into force on 1 January 2013. Its Title V, on the governance of the euro area, defines rules applicable only to the euro-area countries, and formalises Euro Summits. Also known as the ‘Fiscal Compact Treaty’, after its Title III on fiscal rules, the TSCG was aimed at strengthening fiscal discipline to restore market confidence through enhanced economic policy coordination and convergence, stricter fiscal rules and better governance of the euro area. Of the EU Member States, Croatia, the Czech Republic and the UK are not currently signatories to the TSCG.

Organisation of Euro Summit meetings

According to the TSCG and the rules for the organisation of the proceedings of Euro Summits, adopted at the meeting of 14 March 2013, Euro Summit meetings should take place when necessary, but at least twice a year. Since 2015, however, no Euro Summit meeting has taken place. Ordinary meetings should, whenever possible, take place after European Council meetings in Brussels, and are not public. The President of the Euro Summit ensures the preparation and continuity of meetings, and is also responsible for drafting any statement by the Euro Summit, in close cooperation with the President of the European Commission and the President of the Eurogroup. The President of the Euro Summit reports to the European Parliament after each meeting and informs all non-euro-area Member States that have ratified the TSCG about the preparation and outcome.

Addressing the sovereign debt crisis

From the outset, Euro Summit meetings have been primarily convened to find a common approach to emergency economic situations, triggering ad hoc solutions to the specific problems at stake, but without leading to reforms to the architecture of the euro area. Following their formalisation by the TSCG in 2012, seven meetings have taken placeall aimed at defining coordinated action to address the sovereign debt crisis and at stabilising the euro area. On 22 June 2015, an extraordinary Euro Summit on Greece was convened to address one of the most severe crises within the euro area, which was putting the integrity of EMU at risk. As months of negotiations in the Eurogroup had not enabled an agreement, the issue was brought to the level of the Euro Summit to attempt to break the deadlock. Two more meetings were needed to bring a final breakthrough, reached on 12 July 2015.

Euro Summits: Role and expectations ahead of the meeting of 15 December 2017

Since then, Eurogroup members have agreed on new loans with Greece in exchange for reforms, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) has disbursed them, the Eurogroup has agreed on a package of potential debt-relief measures following the first programme review, and both the ESM and the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) have approved short-term debt relief measures for Greece.

Euro Summit meeting of 15 December 2017

In his letter to the EU Heads of State or Government of 21 September 2017, Donald Tusk, the President of the Euro Summit as well as of the European Council, convened a Euro Summit in December in an inclusive format. This format is set by the TSCG, which provides that leaders of those non-euro-area countries which have ratified that Treaty take part in the Euro Summit, for discussions relating to competitiveness, modification of the global architecture of the euro area, and the fundamental rules that will apply to it in the future. Considering the importance of the issues to be discussed, the Heads of State or Government of the Czech Republic and Croatia, which are not party to the TSCG, have also been invited as observers. Both Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, President of the Eurogroup, have also been invited to attend.

Towards gradual completion of EMU

Donald Tusk has called for decisions to be taken on the further development of the euro and gradual completion of the EMU. As a priority, completing the Banking Union through bank risk reduction and risk-sharing, notably including the establishment of a European deposit insurance scheme is intended to structurally reinforce the euro area. On 6 December 2017, the European Commission set out a Roadmap for deepening the EMU, including specific steps for the next 18 months. It has also proposed a package of four main initiatives: i) a proposal to establish a European Monetary Fund (EMF) as a development of the ESM, to strengthen the EU’s capacity to rescue countries in financial difficulty; ii) a proposal to integrate the substance of the TSCG into the Union legal framework; iii) a communication on new budgetary instruments for a stable euro area within the Union framework; iv) a communication on the possible functions of a European Minister of Economy and Finance, who could serve as Vice-President of the Commission and chair the Eurogroup. The discussions are designed to prepare specific decisions that President Tusk has called for by June 2018, with possible further decisions envisaged by the Leaders’ Agenda for March 2019.


Read this At a glance on ‘Euro Summits: Role and expectations ahead of the meeting of 15 December 2017‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/12/13/euro-summits-role-and-expectations-ahead-of-the-meeting-of-15-december-2017/

How the EU budget is spent: Development Cooperation Instrument

Written by Matthew Parry,

Teamwork design over white background, vector illustration

© djvstock / Fotolia

The Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) is the main financial instrument in the EU budget for funding aid to developing countries. The DCI’s primary objective is to alleviate poverty, but it also contributes to other international priorities of the EU such as the UN’s post-2015 Development Agenda; sustainable economic, social and environmental development; and the promotion of democracy, the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights. The DCI’s financial envelope within the EU’s 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is €19 661.64 million in commitments (about 1.81 % of the 2014-2020 MFF).

The DCI is not the EU’s largest development funding instrument – that is the European Development Fund, with a 2014-2020 budget of €30.5 billion – but the DCI is the biggest in the EU budget (the EDF is managed by the Commission but is intergovernmental in nature, standing outside the EU budget). Moreover, the EDF is aimed mainly at the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) and the overseas countries and territories (OCTs) of the EU, while the DCI funds assistance to other developing countries.

The DCI’s 2014-2020 financial envelope is subdivided between three different types of programme: geographical programmes, which have been allocated €11.8 billion over the MFF’s seven years (60 % of the total envelope); thematic programmes, for which €7 billion (36 %) has been budgeted; and a pan-African programme, which has a budget of €845 million (4 %).

DCI budget for 2014-20 by programme typeGeographical programmes are aimed at supporting bilateral and regional cooperation in areas such as human rights, democracy, good governance, inclusive and sustainable growth for human development, migration and asylum, conflict prevention, and disaster risk reduction. They support cooperation with 47 countries in the following regions: Latin America (with an indicative geographical programme allocation of €2 500 million for 2014-2020); South Asia (€3 813 million); North and South-East Asia (€2 870 million); Central Asia (€1 072 million); the Middle East (€545 million); and ‘other countries’ (€251 million). At least 15 % of the geographical programme funds must be spent on human rights, democracy and good governance; while at least 45 % must go to ‘inclusive and sustainable growth for human development’.

Thematic programmes complement the geographical programmes. Within this pillar of the DCI, there are two categories: Global Public Goods and Challenges (GPGC), for which the indicative 2014-2020 allocation is €5 101 million; and Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities (CSO-LA), for which the indicative allocation is €1 907 million. Between January 2017 and January 2021, GPGC is financing a project aimed at strengthening the ability of non-state actors in Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to carry out forest law enforcement, improve governance and trade, and reduce deforestation and degradation (DCI contribution: €3 million).

The Pan-African programme supports the strategic partnership between Africa and the EU. This programme complements other financing instruments that are used in Africa, such as the EDF and the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI). For 2016, the Commission identified two objectives under the programme: first, increase the availability of high-level professional manpower in Africa, by supporting the intra-African mobility of students and staff and improving the quality of higher education; second, support the transformation of the African livestock sector with a view to environmentally sustainable, climate-resilient socio-economic development, and equitable growth. The 2017 action document includes an initiative to improve broadband access in Africa, co-financed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) (DCI contribution: €7.5 million).

The DCI is one of six EU budgetary instruments for financing external action that are governed by Regulation (EU) No 236/2014 laying down common rules and procedures for the implementation of the Union’s instruments for financing external action. The other five are: the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR); the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI); the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP); the Partnership Instrument (PI); and the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II).

The EU foreign policy instruments- financial envelopes for the 2014-2020 MFFA June 2017 mid-MFF evaluation of the DCI requested by the Commission noted that the DCI was achieving genuine results, and argued that the DCI allows the EU to add value through its unique expertise in regional economic and political integration. However, the evaluation also recommended that the Commission work to align the instrument more closely with recipient countries’ priorities and to reduce fragmentation of thematic programmes, and warned against compartmentalisation between the DCI and the other EFIs that undermined complementarity.

A December 2015 review by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) of the risks involved in the EU taking a results-oriented approach to development and cooperation acknowledged that the Commission had correctly identified most of the nine key risk areas cited in the review: consistency of terminology; clarity of results chain; complexity arising from cross-cutting issues; harmonisation of instruments between development partners; reporting and evaluation; data consolidation; data quality; and focus on budgetary out-turn; and changes in the context of EU actions. However, the review recommended that the Commission improve guidelines for deciding terminology, objectives and indicators; clearly link actions and results; improve reporting; ensure data availability and quality; and routinely assess the risks of implementation before committing financial resources.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Development Cooperation Instrument‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

 

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/12/13/how-the-eu-budget-is-spent-development-cooperation-instrument/

Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders on 14-15 December 2017

Written by Ralf Drachenberg and Silvia Polidori,

Jean-Claude Juncker

copyright European Union

On 14 and 15 December 2017, EU leaders will convene in four different settings with varying compositions and levels of formality: a regular summit of the European Council, a Leaders’ meeting on migration, a European Council (Article 50) meeting, and an enlarged Euro Summit. The agenda of the formal European Council concentrates on defence, social policy, and education and culture, whilst the informal Leaders’ meeting will focus exclusively on migration, and notably on the reform of the Common European Asylum System. At the European Council (Article 50) meeting, EU leaders will consider the Commission’s recommendation that ‘sufficient progress’ has been made in the negotiations with the United Kingdom, and decide whether to move to the next phase. The enlarged Euro Summit will discuss further developments in the euro area, the banking union and the gradual completion of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

1. Implementation: Follow-up on previous European Council commitments

According to commitments made in its previous conclusions, the European Council should return to migration and external security and defence issues (Table 1) at its December meeting. Both feature prominently on the annotated draft agenda.

Table 1: Commitments relating to the agenda of the European Council meeting of 14-15 December 2017

2. European Council meeting

a. Defence

As called for in previous conclusions, the European Council will welcome the launch of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), a Treaty-based mechanism to deepen defence cooperation amongst EU Member States (see box), decided upon at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 11 December 2017. EU leaders will assess progress made on commitments undertaken at their December 2016 meeting and subsequent meetings held on defence in March, June and October 2017.

PESCO – Permanent Structured Cooperation

PESCO is an enhanced cooperation mechanism in the field of Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon (Articles 42(6) and 46 TEU, and Protocol No 10).

Scope: PESCO is designed to allow increased defence cooperation between those Member States which possess the necessary military capabilities and have made binding commitments to one another in the areas identified in Protocol 10, notably defence investment, capability development and operational readiness. PESCO would thus act as an umbrella for flexible cooperation among smaller sets of PESCO members.

Set-up process: Following the presentation of a list of common commitments in September 2017, 23 Member States wishing to establish PESCO made a notification to the Council and the High Representative (HR/VP) on 13 November 2017. The decision to establish PESCO was adopted by the Council, by qualified majority voting (QMV), at its meeting of 11 December, following the submission by each of the participants of a national Implementation Plan (NIP) outlining their ability to meet the binding commitments. The decision sets out a list of more binding commitments, including ‘regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms’.

Participants: All EU countries except Denmark, Ireland, Malta, Portugal and the UK signed the notification of 13 November. Ireland and Portugal have subsequently notified their decision to join.

Decision-making: Decisions are taken by the participating Member States – meeting in a Foreign Affairs/Defence Ministers Council format – by unanimity for overall policy direction, the selection of projects and the assessment mechanism, and by QMV on new membership of, or suspension from, PESCO.

Projects: Participating Member States also adopted a declaration identifying an initial list of 17 projects to be undertaken under PESCO, which the Council is expected to formally adopt in early 2018. One interesting example is the project on ‘Military Mobility’, which aims at simplifying and standardising cross-border military transport procedures, on which the Netherlands leads. Each project will be managed by the Member States contributing to it; others can decide to join.

Governance: PESCO will include an overarching layer maintaining the coherence and ambition of PESCO, and a second layer on the governance of projects. The HR/VP will manage the annual assessment called for by the European Council, and a strategic review at the end of each PESCO development phase (2018-2021; 2021-2025). On capability development aspects and operational aspects, the European Defence Agency and the European External Action Service respectively will act as the secretariat of PESCO.

The December 2016 European Council assessed progress along three lines of action: 1) an implementation plan on security and defence (IPSD); 2) a common set of guidelines for EU-NATO cooperation, including 42 proposals based on the Warsaw Joint Declaration; and 3) a proposal by the European Commission to establish a European Defence Action Plan (EDAP). EU leaders also set a clear timetable for a number of specific actions to be taken throughout 2017 – of those, some have been completed, such as, for instance the establishment of a European Defence Fund (EDF) – and the first trial run of a Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD). Throughout 2017, more specific deadlines were agreed upon as progress was made, such as the agreement on the launch of PESCO by December 2017. Concerning EU-NATO cooperation, a first progress report on the implementation of the 42 proposals was released in June 2017. NATO foreign ministers met on 5-6 December 2017 to explore means of expanding cooperation between NATO and the EU, among other issues.

b. Social policy, education and culture

Social policy

EU leaders are expected to adopt conclusions on social policy, following up on the Gothenburg Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth. The Social Summit, held on 17 November 2017, gathered together Heads of State or Government, social partners and other key players to work towards a social Europe and to promote fair jobs and growth. On that occasion, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission jointly proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights. Aimed at strengthening the social acquis, it contains a set of 20 key principles and rights to support fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems. The next steps will involve, inter alia, implementation of the Pillar’s principles and rights, progressing on pending social files at EU level as well as examining new Commission initiatives as set out in its 2018 Work Programme.

Education and culture

Heads of State or Government will also discuss education and culture, following up on a discussion EU leaders held in the margins of the Social Summit. Prior to the November meeting, the European Council President, Donald Tusk, presented a Leaders’ ‘decision note, which suggested a number of possible initiatives in the field of education and culture. Whilst support was expressed on certain possible initiatives, notably stepping up of the Erasmus Plus programme for European students and apprentices, and even young professionals, other suggestions such as the alignment of secondary school curricula were seen less favourably. The results of this discussion will feed into the conclusions of the December 2017 European Council.

c. Other items

Mid-term review of the strategic guidelines in the area of freedom, security and justice

Heads of State or Government will also discuss the mid-term review of the strategic guidelines in the area of freedom, security and justice, which were adopted by the European Council in June 2014. The discussion by EU leaders would be the last step in the review process, after an exchange of views in the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 12 October 2017 and an informal seminar on 8 November, which included Member States, Schengen Associated Countries, EU institutions, bodies and agencies, and academia and civil society organisations. EU leaders are expected to stress the substantial change of context since June 2014, with the internal security situation and migration pressures notably presenting significant challenges. They will most likely conclude that, despite significant progress, proper implementation, cooperation and consistency are still required to increase the effectiveness of the policies agreed.

3. Leaders’ meeting on Migration on 14 December

The Members of the European Council will also discuss migration, but in an informal setting and with no written conclusions. The result of these informal discussions will provide the basis for the formal conclusions on migration at a subsequent meeting of the European Council, most likely June 2019. This approach reflects the recent change in the working methods of the European Council, including a more ’political approach’ to its discussions, enabling more direct engagement on politically sensitive issues, more ‘rigorous follow-up’ of European Council meetings and decisions, and an increase in the frequency of meetings.

EU leaders are expected to hold a thematic debate on the way forward on the external and internal dimension of migration policy. The right balance between responsibility and solidarity is likely to constitute a core element of the discussion, notably in connection with the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). However, the recent proposal by the Estonian Presidency, suggesting that the relocation aspect of the asylum system could be made voluntary rather than automatic, as requested by the European Parliament, will probably not be raised. This issue of relocation has long been a major obstacle in agreeing on the new CEAS, with the Visegrad countries (i.e. Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) in particular calling for a voluntary system, while others stress the need for mandatory relocation quotas. On 7 December 2017, the European Commission decided to refer the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU for non-compliance with their legal obligations on relocation. On the same day, it published its contribution to the EU Leaders’ discussion on migration, where it recommends that leaders ensure swift progress on the reform of the EU’s Common European Asylum System, the further strengthening of partnerships with third countries, the continued to opening of legal pathways to Europe and the securing of adequate funding for the future. The Commission also encourages EU leaders to agree on the right balance between responsibility and solidarity at their meeting in Sofia in May 2018, which should then lead to political agreement on the overall reform of the CEAS at the June 2018 European Council meeting.

4. Euro Summit

On 21 September 2017, Donald Tusk convened a Euro Summit, in an inclusive format of 27 Member States, for 15 December, including, in addition to the 19 countries which have adopted the euro, those which do not belong to the euro area but have ratified the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the EMU (TSCG). This format is provided for in the TSCG, for discussions relating to competitiveness, modification of the global architecture of the euro area, and the fundamental rules that will apply to it in the future. The Heads of State or Government of the Czech Republic and Croatia, which are not party to the TSCG, have also been invited as observers, considering the importance of the issues to be discussed.

Both Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, President of the Eurogroup, have been invited to attend this Euro Summit. The former will outline the challenges ahead for the European economy, while Dijsselbloem, who will hand over the presidency of the Eurogroup to Mário Centeno on 13 January 2018, will present the work of the Eurogroup.

The Euro Summit will discuss the further development of the euro and gradual completion of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), including the completion of the Banking Union through bank risk reduction and risksharing. It will consider the development of the ESM into a European Monetary Fund, and proposals on governance and budgetary resources specific to the euro area. Ahead of the Euro Summit meeting, on 6 December 2017, the European Commission put forward a package of initiatives on the future of EMU. These include a roadmap for deepening EMU, setting out concrete steps to be taken over the next 18 months, and a series of initiatives aimed, inter alia, at 1) establishing a European Monetary Fund, 2) integrating the substance of the TSCG into the EU legal framework, 3) setting up new budgetary instruments for a stable euro area, and 4) defining possible functions of a European Minister of Economy and Finance, who could serve as both Commission Vice-President and Chair of the Eurogroup. Discussions at the Euro Summit are to prepare concrete decisions to be adopted by June 2018 (with more decisions envisaged for March 2019).

5. European Council (Article 50) meeting on 15 December

At the European Council (Article 50) meeting on 15 December 2017, EU Heads of State or Government are expected to conclude, following the recommendation of the European Commission, that ‘sufficient progress’ has been achieved in the negotiations with the United Kingdom, and issue guidelines on the opening of the second phase of negotiations concerning, in the first instance, transitional arrangements. Leaders of the EU-27 will be briefed by the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, on recent developments and the outcome of the sixth round of Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom. The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, will report from their respective meetings during the previous week with the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, and outline the main elements of the agreement reached in negotiations. The latter covers all three key areas in the negotiations: citizens’ rights, finances and the border issue in Ireland. Concerning EU citizen’s rights, the agreement guarantees that ‘the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens in the EU-27 will remain the same after the UK has left the EU’. Regarding finances, Theresa May, reiterated her previous statement, outlined in her speech on 22 September in Florence, that the UK is a country that ‘honours its obligations’. The agreement confirms that ‘commitments taken by the EU-28 will be honoured by the EU-28, including the UK’ and specifies the methodology for the financial settlement. Concerning Northern Ireland, the text includes numerous commitments to avoid a hard border, protect the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and also preserve the integrity of the UK. It envisages that the relationship between Northern Ireland and Ireland should be governed by the future overall EU-UK relationship.

The draft guidelines circulated by Donald Tusk propose that the next steps should be negotiating a transition period and seeking clarification of the British vision of its future relationship with the EU. The draft proposes that, during the transition period, the UK would respect the whole body of EU law, including new law, budgetary commitments, judicial oversight and all related obligations. However, during the transition period following the UK’s withdrawal, the UK would no longer participate in EU decision-making among the remaining 27 Member States. The policy areas currently under consideration for the future close partnership between the UK and the EU are trade, the fight against terrorism and international crime, and security, defence and foreign policy. The European Council will adopt guidelines on the framework for future relations in 2018. The European Parliament is expected to adopt a resolution following a plenary debate on 13 December 2017.


Read this Briefing on ‘Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders on 14-15 December 2017‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/12/13/outlook-for-the-meetings-of-eu-leaders-on-14-15-december-2017/

Tax transparency for intermediaries [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Cécile Remeur (1st edition),

© Argus / Fotolia

The situations highlighted by the ‘Panama papers’ leak in April 2016 show how certain intermediaries and other providers of tax advice appear to have facilitated companies and individuals in avoiding taxation, often through complex cross-border schemes involving routing assets to, or through, offshore entities. Among the tools to fight tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning are established mechanisms for disclosure of tax information and publication of tax-relevant information by companies.

In June 2017, the Commission adopted a proposal aimed at ensuring early information on such situations, by setting an obligation to report cross-border arrangements designed by tax intermediaries or taxpayers and by including the information collected in the automatic exchange of information between tax authorities within the European Union. The proposal responds to calls made by both the European Parliament and the Council.

Versions

 

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/12/12/tax-transparency-for-intermediaries-eu-legislation-in-progress/

US recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel

Written by Beatrix Immenkamp,

Modern Jerusalem panorama photo, contemporary architecture of the Middle East cities

© MaxterDesign / Fotolia

On 6 December 2017, US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, mirroring the official Israeli position on the status of the city. In doing so, the US has become the first country to officially endorse the Israeli position on a hotly disputed issue that lies at the very heart of the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), potentially weakening the role of the US in that process as an impartial mediator and tilting the odds further in Israel’s favour. The move has been widely condemned as a violation of international law and a political provocation. However, it leaves open the possibility to address the status of the city as part of a comprehensive peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

President Trump’s announcement

On 6 December 2017, President Trump announced in a speech at the White House that the United States will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and gave instructions to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In doing so, the President is acting on a policy embodied in US federal law since 1995, and fulfilling an election campaign promise to relocate the US Embassy, strengthening his appeal to core supporters. The Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed by a large majority in Congress and the Senate in 1995, declares it to be US policy that Jerusalem be ‘recognized as the capital of the State of Israel’, and that ‘the U.S. Embassy in Israel be established in Jerusalem’. The bill authorises the President to suspend the application of the law for a renewable six-month period, ‘to protect the national security interests of the United States’. For the past two decades, US Presidents have routinely issued waivers to delay the opening of a US Embassy in Jerusalem. In doing so, they repeatedly thwarted the attempt launched by Congress in 1995 to forestall the outcome of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the first direct agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. On 6 December, even though he signed another waiver to prevent a cut in State Department funding stipulated by the Act, President Trump de facto broke with this tradition, overturning 70 years of US foreign policy on the Middle East.

The importance of Jerusalem to the MEPP

jerusalem mapThere have been many attempts to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians since the Middle East war of June 1967, in which Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Golan Heights and parts of Sinai. UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed on 22 November 1967, embodies the principle that has guided most of the peace negotiations ─ the exchange of land for peace. Clause 1 of Resolution 242 called for Israel to withdraw from the ‘territories’ conquered in 1967. Efforts to resolve the dispute between Palestinians and Israelis still centre on the principle of a ‘two-state solution’ to the conflict, with an independent Palestinian state created alongside the state of Israel. One of the most intractable issues in peace talks has been Jerusalem. The 1980 Basic Law on Jerusalem declared Jerusalem to be the ‘complete and united’ capital of Israel. Israel officially rejects any division of the city, the seat of the Israeli government, and has built extensive settlements in East Jerusalem; however, in successive peace negotiations, various plans for the division of Jerusalem have been discussed. Palestinians, for their part, seek to establish the capital of their future Palestinian state in East Jerusalem. The international consensus has so far been that Jerusalem would have to be the capital of both states, in a manner to be agreed between the two sides to the conflict during ‘final status’ negotiations. In his speech, President Trump explicitly said that he was not stipulating how much of Jerusalem should be considered Israel’s capital, and did not rule out a future division of the city, or a two-state solution. This leaves open the possibility of establishing the capital of a future Palestinian state in the eastern part of the city. He also acknowledged in his speech that the status quo of the Holy Places must be preserved. In April 2017, Russia was the first country to officially recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state.

The importance of Jerusalem to Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Jerusalem is a holy place central to three world religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, adding a religious dimension to the question of who controls the city and its most important religious sites. For Jews, Jerusalem is the site of the two Temples that were the centre of worship and national identity in ancient Israel. The second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Jews still come to pray at the Western Wall, a remnant of the retaining wall of the mount on which the Temple once stood. For Christians, the city is central to the story of Jesus, his death, crucifixion and resurrection. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a significant focus for Christians around the world. For Muslims, Jerusalem is their third holiest city, after Mecca and Medina. The temple mount, site of the former Jewish temple, is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, al-Haram al-sharif. The site is dominated by two structures to mark a sacred location referred to in the Quran. In accordance with the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty, Jordan is custodian of the Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem.

International reactions and implications

With the exception of opinions in Israel, which welcomed the decision, political and religious leaders from around the world have condemned President Trump’s announcement as a dangerous move that will ‘destroy the peace process, strengthen extremists and weaken the US’s standing in the world’. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the recognition as undermining any attempt to achieve a two-state solution, violating international law, encouraging the occupation and construction of Israeli settlements, and ending the US role as a diplomatic sponsor and mediator of peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Other senior Palestinians declared the two-state solution ‘over‘, saying it was time to move to a ‘one state’ approach, ‘with equal rights for everyone living in historic Palestine’. Violence has erupted in cities across the West Bank, and the Islamist movement Hamas has threatened a new intifada. US allies including Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have spoken out strongly against the announcement. The Arab League has called it a ‘dangerous violation of international law’, and has called on the US to ‘abandon the announcement’. Russia has called the change in policy alarming, as it risks further complicating Palestinian-Israeli relations and destabilising the region. Republicans in the US Congress have overwhelmingly supported President Trump’s announcement, while Democrats were split. The chiefs of the State and Defence Departments and the CIA opposed it. In recent decades, the US has been a key facilitator of efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The US has been a member of the ‘Middle East Quartet’ ─ with the EU, the UN and Russia ─ which in 2002 launched a ‘road map for peace’ aimed at resolving the conflict. The new US position on Jerusalem arguably weakens the role of the US in the Quartet or in any future peace negotiations. The announcement is likely to strain the ‘Riyadh-led tacit Sunni alliance with Israel’ that the Trump administration has been trying to build up to confront Iran, and play into the hands of Tehran, which has warned Arab governments against building closer ties with Israel, and urged their Muslim populations to oppose what it sees as the betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

European Union and European Parliament positions on Jerusalem

The EU’s objective for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ‘a two-state solution with an independent, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with the State of Israel’, with Jerusalem as the capital of both the state of Israel and the state of Palestine. On 7 December 2017, the High Representative confirmed that the EU and its 28 Member States will continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem, until the final status of the Holy City is resolved through direct negotiations between the parties. She announced that the EU will renew efforts to work with regional and international partners, including the Middle East Quartet and Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to re-launch direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative. The European Parliament, in its resolution of 18 May 2017 on achieving the two-state solution in the Middle East, reiterated its strong support for the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. This follows Parliament’s resolution of 17 December 2014 on recognition of Palestine statehood.


Read this At a glance on ‘US recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/12/12/us-recognition-of-jerusalem-as-capital-of-israel/

Revision of the Eurovignette Directive [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Ariane Debyser (1st edition),

Lastwagen auf der Autobahn. Transport auf der Straße für Güter.

© Gina Sanders / Fotolia

The Commission adopted a legislative proposal for a directive amending Directive 1999/62/EC on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures (known as the Eurovignette Directive) in May 2017. The initiative is linked to two wider strategies, the energy union strategy, which inter alia envisaged a road transport package, including more efficient infrastructure pricing, and the Commission’s strategy for low-emission mobility.

The proposal was presented within the context of the Commission’s ‘Europe on the move’ package that seeks to modernise mobility and transport and includes several legislative proposals. The objective of the Eurovignette proposal, which substantially amends the existing legislation by extending the scope of vehicles covered, is to make progress in the application of the ‘polluter pays’ and ‘user pays’ principles.

Interactive PDF

Stage: EESC

 

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/12/12/revision-of-the-eurovignette-directive-eu-legislation-in-progress/

One Planet Summit in Paris to accelerate climate action

Written by Gregor Erbach,

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

© Roman Sigaev / Fotolia

Two years after the Paris Agreement on climate change was concluded, world and business leaders gather in Paris today for the One Planet Summit, an initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron together with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Partners include the European Commission, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the OECD and the Global Covenant of Mayors as well as regions, cities and companies. A main focus of the event will be on innovation in public and private finance to support and accelerate efforts to fight climate change.

The agenda includes panel discussions on the scaling-up of finance for climate action, greening finance for sustainable business, accelerating local and regional climate action, and strengthening policies for ecological and inclusive transition. The event aims at encouraging public and private actors to develop new and tangible actions and ideas (ClimActs) to innovate, to roll out solutions, and to support communities vulnerable to climate change.

The summit was preceded by a climate finance day to take stock of climate action in the financial industry and showcase recent climate initiatives and innovations in this sector.

Today’s summit follows the COP23 climate change conference in Bonn (6-17 November) and a high-level conference on financing low-carbon energy in the European Parliament (7 November). All these events send a clear signal that nations, regions, cities, companies, and civil society remain committed to climate action, despite the intention of the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

 

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/12/12/one-planet-summit-in-paris-to-accelerate-climate-action/

Free flow of non-personal data in the European Union [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Mar Negreiro (1st edition),

Image Gallery of Photos Zooming Out

© HaywireMedia / Fotolia

One of the 16 key elements of the Commission’s digital single market strategy, presented in 2015, was a legislative proposal to facilitate the free flow of non-personal data. Although this proposal was not made during 2016, whilst the Commission gathered more supporting evidence, the mid-term review of the digital single market in 2017 identified the data economy as one of the top three priority areas for action in the second half of the strategy’s implementation. The European data economy could grow 18-fold, with favourable policy and legislative conditions in place, representing 4 % of EU GDP by 2020.

On 13 September 2017, the Commission tabled a proposal for a regulation aimed at removing obstacles to the free movement of non-personal data across borders. It focuses on removing the geographical restrictions on data storage in the internal market, a move long demanded by stakeholders. In addition, the Commission proposes self-regulation to facilitate switching cloud-service-providers for professional users. Other, less widely agreed aspects, such as access rights and liability are left for future proposals. Within the European Parliament, the file has been assigned to the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee.

Versions

Stage: National parliaments

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/12/12/free-flow-of-non-personal-data-in-the-european-union-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Priority dossiers under the Bulgarian EU Council Presidency

Written by Lucienne Attard (The Directorate-General for the Presidency),

Priority dossiers under the Bulgarian EU Council Presidency

© EU2018BG.BG

Bulgaria will hold the EU Council Presidency from January to June 2018. Its Presidency is part of the Trio Presidency composed of Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria. This will be the first time Bulgaria has held the rotating presidency since it joined the EU in 2007.

Bulgaria is a parliamentary representative democratic republic, with a prime minister as head of government and a multi-party system. Legislative power is vested in the government as well as the national assembly. The Bulgarian unicameral parliament, the National Assembly or ‘Narodno Sabranie’, consists of 240 deputies, who are elected for 4-year terms by popular vote.

The current Prime Minister, Mr Boyko Borisov, has held office since 4 May 2017, while the President is H.E. Mr Rumen Radev, who has held office since 22 January 2017.

Political priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency

This note looks at the Bulgarian Presidency priorities, with those dossiers which figure in the Joint Declaration agreed to by the three institutions as priorities for 2017 marked with an asterisk (*). It is to be noted that a new Joint Declaration is being prepared and will be negotiated by the three Presidents in early December 2017. It is likely that the new Joint Declaration will cover January 2018-May 2019, to coincide with the legislative cycle of the European Parliament.

Taking into account the need for active dialogue with EU citizens, Bulgaria will strive to achieve progress in the field of security, employment, sustainable growth and ensuring a stronger EU presence on the world stage. In particular, it tasks itself with focusing on youth questions and security issues as horizontal priorities.

The Bulgarian government has announced three broad messages for its programme: Consensus, Competitiveness and Cohesion.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Priority dossiers under the Bulgarian EU Council Presidency‘ in PDF.


The Directorate-General for the Presidency (DG Presidency) plays a key role throughout each parliamentary procedure, from its launch until its conclusion through the adoption of an EP resolution or legislative act, in particular in ensuring the smooth running of the plenary sessions. The staff of the DG play a key coordination role across the different services of the Parliament, and support Members in a wide range of activities. The Interinstitutional Relations Unit within DG Presidency, amongst other tasks, prepares a broad range documents concerned with strategic programming, such as on activities of the Commission and the Council.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/12/11/priority-dossiers-under-the-bulgarian-eu-council-presidency/

Mapping the Cost of Non-Europe, 2014-19 – Fourth edition

Written by Wolfgang Hiller,

Mapping the Cost of Non-Europe, 2014-19 - Fourth edition

© European Union, EPRS

This paper embodies work-in-progress on a long-term project being undertaken by the European Parliament’s European Added Value Unit, in conjunction with the office of the Secretary-General, to try to identify and analyse the ‘cost of non-Europe’ in certain policy fields. It is intended as a contribution to discussions about the European Union’s policy priorities during the current five-year institutional cycle, running from 2014 to 2019. The study was first published in March 2014, has been updated twice to incorporate new material (in July 2014 and April 20015), and is now being updated once again to take account of further research undertaken over the past two years.

The concept of the cost of non-Europe dates back to the 1980s, when the Albert-Ball and Cecchini Reports of 1983 and 1988 – which respectively identified and then sought to quantify the significant potential economic benefits of the completion of a single market in Europe – first brought the idea into mainstream political use. The central notion is that the absence of common action at European level may mean that, in a specific sector, there is an efficiency loss to the overall economy and/or that a collective public good that might otherwise exist is not being realised. The concept is closely related to that of ‘European added value’, in that the latter attempts to identify the economic benefit of undertaking – and the former, the collective economic cost of not undertaking – policy action at European level in a particular field.

The potential economic benefits of action may be measured in terms of additional gross domestic product (GDP) generated or savings in public or other expenditure, through more efficient allocation of resources in the economy as a whole. An example of additional GDP generated would be the potential multiplier effect over time of widening and deepening the digital single market on a continental scale, or indeed of further completing the existing single market in goods and services. An example of greater efficiency in public expenditure would be more systematic coordination in the field of defence policy, including joint defence procurement, where there are considerable duplications or disfunctionalities at present. An example of potential future costs avoided would be the benefit of effective action ensuring the resilience of the Banking Union to forestall any future banking or sovereign debt crises (although the benefit here would be of a one-off, rather than recurring, character), or increased cooperation in fighting tax evasion and avoidance.

The analysis in this paper builds in large part on a series of more detailed pieces of work undertaken for individual European parliamentary committees by the European Added Value Unit (within the European Parliamentary Research Service, EPRS) over the last five years, in the form of European Added Value Assessments – on legislative initiatives proposed by the European Parliament – and Cost of Non-Europe Reports in specific policy sectors. The choice of research areas is thus closely related to specific work of or requests by parliamentary committees. It also draws on other research, undertaken independently by outside think tanks and academic bodies, which relates to other major requests made by the Parliament in its various legislative and own-initiative reports in recent years.

The ‘cost of non-Europe map’ featured on the cover of this paper and on page 11 constitutes an attempt to provide a graphic representation of potential efficiency gains and benefits in various policy areas. The chart on pages 92-93 gives more detailed insight into the benefits that could result from the various requests made by the European Parliament to date, or other policies in the pipeline as a result of parliamentary requests, if they were put fully into effect. Obviously, neither the map nor the detailed analysis behind it purport to make exact predictions – as all predictions depend on assumptions that must be subject to continual refinement – but they can and do illustrate the potential order of magnitude of possible efficiency gains from common action in these fields that could be realised over time.

The potential gains mentioned in this paper represent the total increase in annual EU GDP after the full phasing-in of proposed reforms over several years. In other words, they represent a permanent shift in EU GDP to a higher level. Our conclusion is that if the policies analysed in this paper were to be pursued effectively, the economic benefit would build up annually to a point where, on present calculations, almost €1.75 trillion – or about 12 % of EU-28 GDP (2016) – might eventually be added to the size of the European economy.

Mapping the Cost of Non-Europe, 2014-19 seeks to provide a reliable estimate of the magnitude of potentially measurable gains to the EU economy from the various policy initiatives listed. It is based on work from a variety of sources, which are referenced in footnotes, often with hyperlinks. When an underlying study offers a range of potential gains, the low-range value is usually selected – unless otherwise specified. The paper thus errs on the side of caution in estimating potential gains – there is substantial upside potential to this estimate over the medium to long term, from dynamic effects that cannot easily be quantified.

Different macro-economic models have been used in the underlying studies cited. Most estimates are continuous, in that they relate to on-going benefits that recur. However, it should be noted that certain scenarios are non-continuous – specifically, the estimates for the potential benefits of a fully fledged Banking Union, of improved fiscal coordination, and of a common deposit guarantee scheme, are calculations of one-off losses that could be avoided in a future crisis scenario, in a particular year, by putting appropriate arrangements in place now.

It is worth noting that the analysis in this paper dovetails with wider research being undertaken in the academic and think-tank community, both in respect of particular EU policies and the wider benefits of EU membership itself. For example, a study produced in 2014 by Campos, Coricelli and Moretti, which attracted a good deal of public attention, sought to quantify the economic benefits of EU membership for the 19 Member States that acceded to the Union in the successive enlargements from 1973 to 2004. Although the size and nature of the economic gain might vary by Member State, and derive predominantly from different factors in each case – whether intra-EU trade liberalisation (for the 10 Member States joining in 2004), the single market (for the United Kingdom), the single currency (for Ireland) or labour productivity (for Finland, Sweden and Austria) – the overall conclusion was that national incomes are now on average 12 % higher in those countries than they would otherwise be, as a result of membership and its associated economic integration. Their study also found that such gains are generally permanent and increase over time.


Read this study on ‘Mapping the Cost of Non-Europe, 2014-19 – Fourth edition‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Cost of Non-Europe Map

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/12/11/mapping-the-cost-of-non-europe-2014-19-fourth-edition/