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Environmental protection: an opportunity for a better future

Written by Didier Bourguignon.

Green Week, an annual event on European environment policy, takes place from 29 May to 2 June 2017. This year’s edition will focus on ‘Green jobs for a greener future’.

The potential of green jobs

Forest

nakedking / Fotolia

According to a recent Eurobarometer survey for the European Parliament, the ‘fight against unemployment’ and ‘environmental protection’ rank in the top three areas where Europeans would like more action from the European Union (EU), with respectively 78 % and 75 % of Europeans wanting the EU to do more. Green jobs is a key policy combining the two concerns.

Creating green jobs could boost the labour market at the same time as increasing sustainability. Green jobs generally contribute to preserving or restoring environmental quality in a range of sectors (for instance by protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, increasing resource efficiency, decarbonising the economy, and avoiding waste and pollution).

The renewable energy sector, supported by various policies at EU and national level, employs over a million people in the EU. The European Commission’s environmental implementation review indicates that full compliance with existing EU legislation on waste, water and nature protection could create 574 000 new jobs. A circular economy could create between 580 000 and 2 million additional jobs in the EU, according to Commission estimates. In addition, the Commission notes, in relation to biodiversity protection, that one in six jobs depends on nature.

For a better future

EU environmental policy is broad and affects our daily life.

The EU aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 % below 1990 levels by 2030. To make this a reality, a reform of the EU emissions trading system for the period 2020-2030 is currently underway and emission reduction targets in other sectors (in particular transport, buildings and agriculture) are being reviewed.

The EU also intends to move towards a circular economy where products and materials are valued highly and where waste is reduced to a minimum. To achieve this, the European Parliament and the Council are discussing new targets related to waste management (in particular increasing recycling and reducing landfilling) and new rules on fertilisers. The European Parliament has also called for action on food waste.

The EU pursues ambitious goals on biodiversity (halting biodiversity loss of and restoring ecosystems by 2020) and on freshwater bodies (achieving good status for all surface water and groundwater by 2015). However, meeting these targets is a challenge.

Other topics related to environmental protection, like rules on the authorisation of pesticides, have also attracted a lot of attention recently.

Let’s get greener together

On 8 June 2017, European institutions (including the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council and others) will hold an event on the theme ‘Let’s get greener together’ in the context of the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). The webstreamed event (morningafternoon) will be an opportunity to showcase recent measures, in particular the greening of EU buildings and action by EU staff to protect urban biodiversity.

GreeWeek2017

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/26/environmental-protection-an-opportunity-for-a-better-future/

Blockchain stimulates a lively debate at the European Parliament

Written by Philip Boucher,

blockchain post-event blog postOn 11 May 2017, the STOA workshop ‘Spotlight on blockchain: a new generation of digital services’ provided a unique opportunity for the public to join policy-makers, technology experts and businesses to discover the wide-ranging opportunities and challenges presented by blockchain technology. In the course of the workshop, co-organised with the European Commission’s DG CONNECT, we heard panellists debate whether the technology was the best thing since sliced bread, the end of civilisation as we know it or, perhaps, both.

Opening the event, Eva Kaili, MEP and STOA Chair, reminded participants that it was not only payments that could be decentralised by blockchain technology, but also contracts, personal identification, music and even energy. She further highlighted the potential role of blockchain in re-establishing trust between citizens and political or financial institutions.

How blockchain works, and what it can do

The first keynote speech was given by Vinay Gupta, who explained how the technology worked, and how big an impact it could have on our lives. Following this, two panel discussions delved deeper into specific applications of blockchain. The first panel, introduced and moderated by Jakob von Weizsäcker, MEP and the European Parliament’s rapporteur on virtual currencies, focused on Blockchain for Financial Services. This included discussions on how start-ups, banks and insurance companies are testing and proposing blockchain-based solutions and the associated challenges and opportunities. The second panel, introduced and moderated by Eva Kaili looked beyond financial applications to consider A New Generation of Blockchain-Based Services, with panellists describing their experience and ideas for how blockchains could be used to manage intellectual property rights, energy, voting and supply chains, or even to transform the democratic system.

Speaking to EuroparlTV during the event, Eva Kaili highlighted that blockchain could make a huge difference to our everyday lives because transactions and contracts can be executed without intermediaries.

‘This could actually be a revolution because it creates a whole new way of thinking about trust.’ Eva Kaili, MEP and STOA Chair

Surprising conclusion on need for policy action

There was plenty of time for broad and lively discussions, with panellists and participants engaging in debates ranging from the practical challenges faced by blockchain start-ups in opening bank accounts, to the ideological considerations of how blockchain technologies could herald new forms of democracy in the decades to come.

The room was packed for the event, with the live streaming followed by hundreds, and the hashtag #EUBlockchain trending on Twitter for much of the day. All participants, both in the room and following online, were invited to have their say on various aspects of blockchain development via a Mentimeter poll. Of more than 650 participants, 70 % responded that blockchain required EU-level action either ‘critically’ or ‘very urgently’. This opinion contrasts with frequently repeated calls for minimum regulatory intervention to avoid stifling innovation. Asked to specify which areas of EU regulation are currently inadequate to respond to the challenges presented by blockchain, the participants responded that taxation, banking and currencies were by far the most pressing concerns.

Blockchain to stay in the limelight

There is little doubt that there will be more debates and initiatives on blockchain technology at the European Parliament in the coming months and years. Those that missed this event are invited to catch up via the archived webstream, and to read recent EPRS publications on the topic including How blockchain technology could change our lives’; What if blockchain changes social values’ and ‘Distributed ledger technology and financial markets’.


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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/23/blockchain-stimulates-a-lively-debate-at-the-european-parliament/

EU public private partnerships in research

Written by Vincent Reillon,

European Technology and Innovation Platforms

© EtiAmmos / Fotolia

Around 70 EU public-private partnerships (PPPs) in research help define common priorities and visions for EU, national and regional research and innovation activities. Six different types of PPPs now exist. They were first set up in the context of the development of European Research Area policy in 2003 with two main objectives. Their first goal is to address the fragmentation of research efforts between the private and public sector and across borders. Secondly, they seek to increase public and private investment in research activities to reach the target of 3 % of EU gross domestic product. The first PPPs – the European Technology Platforms and the Joint Technology Initiatives – were developed to achieve these objectives.

The initial focus of the PPPs on research activities was broadened in 2005, with the introduction of a more comprehensive view of innovation. The European Institute of Innovation and Technology and its Knowledge and Innovation Communities were set up to embody this new vision by promoting the integration of research, innovation and education activities. European Industrial Initiatives were created in 2007 in the field of energy, to support the implementation of the EU strategy in that area. The 2008 financial crisis subsequently demanded swift action to support investments in research and led to the establishment of the rapidly implemented contractual PPPs. By 2010, the focus on technology challenges had been replaced by the need to tackle societal challenges. The European Innovation Partnerships provided a new tool to better address these challenges by integrating all the actors of the innovation process.

However, the multiplication of PPPs created a new form of fragmentation with different types of PPPs focusing on similar fields. The 3 % target was missed (currently at 2.03 %). The share of private investment in research has stagnated at around 55 % since 2004, whereas the share of the budget of the EU framework programme for research (FP) dedicated to the PPPs has more than doubled (9.1 % for FP7 versus 21.5 % for Horizon 2020). All these aspects will have to be considered when setting the budget for the PPPs in FP9.

The six types of EU PPPs in research

European Technology Platforms (ETP) were the first type of public-private partnership established in the research field at European level. These industry-led stakeholders’ fora define and implement a strategic research agenda (SRA) aiming at aligning research priorities in a technological area. Without dedicated funding, ETPs remain coordination and advisory structures, helping to define the topics of research programmes at European, national and regional level.

Joint technology initiatives (JTIs) were set up as European institutional public-private partnerships to carry out the strategic research agenda of some established European technology platforms. Five JTIs were established under the 7th framework programme for research. Evaluation of these JTIs led to development of their legal framework to simplify their rules and procedures. Six JTIs are currently operational, receiving a €6.7 billion contribution from Horizon 2020.

Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) are long-term pan-European autonomous networks of higher education institutions, research centres, private companies and other stakeholders, set up to provide innovative solutions to societal challenges: climate, energy, health, information technologies, raw materials, food and manufacturing. They are developed and funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) since 2010.

Following the adoption of the European strategic energy plan (SET plan) in 2007, the European Commission proposed establishing European industrial initiatives (EII) as public-private partnerships to implement research agendas for the development and deployment of low carbon energy technologies. In 2015, the energy policy review under the energy union led to the EIIs merging with existing European technology platforms (ETP) to create nine European technology and innovation platforms (ETIP). They operate similarly to other ETPs, but are bound to SET plan implementation.

The first three contractual public-private partnerships in research were established as a tool to address the 2008 financial crisis. Their main feature is prior consultation of industry in defining the topics of the calls in the framework programme for research. This allows better alignment of the topics with industry needs, especially regarding demonstration projects, increasing the participation of private actors in the programme. The scheme, easier to establish than institutional public-private partnerships such as the joint technology initiatives, was extended under Horizon 2020 with a budget of €7.15 billion ring-fenced for 10 of these partnerships (almost 10 % of the programme’s budget).

The European innovation partnerships (EIP) were launched in the context of the innovation union flagship initiative in October 2010. They were set up with the aim to promote the implementation of a new innovation ecosystem in Europe. The EIPs were meant to act across policies, sectors and borders to tackle societal challenges and enhance Europe’s competitiveness. A 2014 evaluation concluded that this objective would not be reached given the framework used for their implementation. With no evolution in their governance, the EIPs remain active as coordination instruments for research and innovation activities at EU level in their respective fields.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/23/eu-public-private-partnerships-in-research/

The second Forum on Financing for Development

Written by Eric Pichon,

The New European Consensus on Development

© Franz Pfluegl / fotolia

From 22 to 25 May, the United Nations headquarters in New York will host the second Forum on Financing for Development (FfD forum). This event will gather a variety of stakeholders: governments, local authorities, civil society organisations and international institutions. FfD forums are part of the follow-up process agreed in 2015 during the ‘Addis-Ababa Conference’: the upcoming forum will check progress in the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) commitments. These commitments concern all means of raising money for development. Developed countries re-committed to spend 0.7 % of their GNI on official development aid (ODA) – a target very few of them actually fulfil – while developing countries pledged to improve tax collection – an area where improvements have also not been dramatic. New commitments and recommendations are expected to take the shape of an intergovernmental agreement.

For long, development finance has been put under strain and the trend will only increase in the future. The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the international community in 2015 are expected to cost “between billions and trillions”, and at the same time natural and man-made crises require huge financial means that are mobilized at the expense of long-term development projects.

The EU and its member states (MS) provide over half of all the global ODA, mainly through MS national budgets and the EU institutions’ budget. Or rather, the ‘budgets’ since the EU money for aid is split between the European Development Fund (EDF, a fund managed by the EU Commission, but with its own financial rules) and the EU budget – itself including several ‘development instruments’. The EU is also in the lead to help developing countries build capacity to better mobilize their domestic resources, or spend aid more effectively.

In parallel, the EU also experiments with innovative financing through public-private partnerships and several trust funds combining money from the EU budget, the EDF and voluntary contributions from some Member States. Critics consider however that new financial instruments, which blend grants with loans, risk aggravating developing countries’ debt burden, and are a way for donors to escape their commitments on ODA spending. Some aid recipients are wary that these new forms of aid are driven by donor interests, such as tackling irregular migration.

Moreover, better financing for development involves more effectiveness on the spending and use of aid. This includes limiting overhead costs by better planning, implementation and appraisal of development projects, as well as a better use of multilateral channels – which also have to improve their working methods. There will be a lot to discuss in New York!

If you are interested in this multifaceted topic, take a look at these EPRS publications:

Le système multilatéral de développement Indispensable mais complexe, May 2017

Understanding ‘development effectiveness ‘An overview of concepts, actors and tools, April 2017

Understanding capacity – building/ capacity development A core concept of development policy, April 2017

European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD), February 2017

Implementing Agenda 2030: Fresh impetus for reforming the UN Development  System, February 2017

EU Trust Funds for external action First uses of a new tool, November 2015

European Development Fund: Joint development cooperation and the EU budget: out or in?, November 2014

L’engagement du secteur privé dans la coopération au développement : Les formes de coopération public – privé, June 2014

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/20/the-second-forum-on-financing-for-development/

The digital economy in the EU [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

Businessman pushing button web with dollar sign virtual.

© maxsim / Fotolia

The digital revolution is reshaping the European Union’s economy, from financial services and telecoms to creative industries and the way workers are employed. While posing certain threats, such as cyber-attacks, new technologies offer vast opportunities, provided that people acquire the right skill-sets to underpin their use.

Seeking to tap the full potential of digitalisation, the European Commission is pushing ahead with its Digital Single Market Strategy. On 10 May, it presented a mid-term review of this strategy, calling for swift approval of proposals already presented and outlining further actions on online platforms, the data economy and cybersecurity.

This note offers links to recent studies and reports from major international think tanks and research institutes on problems and opportunities relating to digitalisation. More studies in innovation in the EU can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are Thinking’, published in July 2016.

Digital technologies can be a 21st-century game-changer for women
Friends of Europe, May 2017

Building an effective European cyber shield
European Political Strategy Centre, May 2017

Europe’s digital power: From geo-economics to cybersecurity
European Council on Foreign Relations, April 2017

From start-up to scale-up: Examining public policies for the financing of high-growth ventures
Bruegel, April 2017

Digital infrastructure: Overcoming the digital divide in emerging economies
Centre for European Policy Studies, April 2017

Digital health ecosystems: A radical shift to drive health innovation across Europe
Friends of Europe, April 2017

Social networks and populism in the EU: A comparative study
Jacques Delors Institute Berlin, April 2017

Reforming e-Communications services: A critical assessment
Centre for European Policy Studies, March 2017

Franco-German axis to drive digital growth and integration
Institut Jacques Delors, March 2017

Reskilling for the fourth industrial revolution: Formulating a European strategy
Jacques Delors Institut, March 2017

Vers la providence 4.0? L’entrée dans le numérique de l’Etat-providence, dans les domaines du travail, de la santé et de l’innovation comparatif européen
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, March 2017

The creative economy in Europe: Why human beings remain the economy’s key asset
Lisbon Council, March 2017

High expectations for 5G confront practical realities
Bruegel, March 2017

Adapting diplomacy to the digital age: Managing the organisational culture of Ministries of Foreign Affairs
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, March 2017

Europe’s telecoms reform fails to fly
Centre for European Policy Studies, March 2017

Big data and first-degree price discrimination
Bruegel, February 2017

Digitales Lernen: Möglichkeiten und Grenzen einer Digitalisierung im Bildungsbereich
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, February 2017

Policy towards competition in high-speed broadband in Europe
Centre on Regulation in Europe, February 2017

The future of retail financial services: What policy mix for a balanced digital transformation?
Centre for European Policy Studies, February 2017

Making the best of the European single market
Bruegel, February 2017

Enter the data economy
European Political Strategy Centre, January 2017

European leadership in 5G
Centre for European Policy Studies, January 2017

Governing cyberspace: A roadmap for transatlantic leadership
Carnegie Europe, January 2017

Cyberspace and the world order
Carnegie Europe, January 2017

Demand for digital skills in the US labour market: The IT skills pyramid
Centre for European Policy Studies, January 2017

Open Data: Wertschöpfung im digitalen Zeitalter
Bertelsmann Stiftung, January 2017

New Space: L’impact de la révolution numérique sur les acteurs et les politiques spatiales en Europe
Institut français des relations internationales, January 2017

China 4.0: Reaktionen in Partei und Gesellschaft auf die digitale Transformation
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, January 2017

Crowd work in Europe
Fondation Européenne d’Etudes Progressistes, December 2016

Technology disruptions as enablers of organizational and social innovation in the digitalized environment
Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, December 2016

Digital citizens: Countering extremism online
Demos, December 2016

Unleashing internal data flows in the EU: An economic assessment of data localisation measures in the EU member states
European Centre for International Political Economy, December 2016

Digital revolution and illegal trade: Is Europe on the leading edge?
Fondation Robert Schuman, November 2016

EUnited against crime: Improving criminal justice in European Union cyberspace
Institute Affari Internazionali, November 2016

Into the clouds: European SMEs and the digital age
Atlantic Council, October 2016

The EU’s response to the OBOR should be the digital silk road
Friends of Europe, October 2016

The way forward: UK digital policies and Brexit
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2016

Does state aid for broadband deployment in rural areas close the digital and economic divide?
Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung, October 2016

New network neutrality rules in Europe: Comparisons to those in the U.S.
Bruegel, September 2016

Telecoms Investment in focus: 3 Steps to Create a broadband infrastructure for a digital Europe
Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, September 2016

Search engines, big data and network effects
Bruegel, September 2016

Combating consumer discrimination in the Digital Single Market: Preventing geo-blocking and other forms of geo-discrimination
Centre for European Policy Studies, September 2016

The digital economy and the single market
Fondation Européenne d’Etudes Progressistes, July 2016

The economic impacts of telecommunications networks and broadband internet: A survey
Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung, July 2016

Connected continent for a future-proof Europe ensuring affordable, fast and reliable internet access for a thriving digital ecosystem
European Political Strategy Centre, July 2016

The digital silk road will be the road of 5G
Friends of Europe, July 2016

Financial services in the digital age: How strengthened digital identity will open markets, drive innovation and deliver growth
Lisbon Council, June 2016


Read this briefing on ‘The digital economy in the EU‘ in PDF.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/19/the-digital-economy-in-the-eu-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

The role of citizens in the future of science

Written by Philip Boucher.

The links between science and policy have been strengthened in recent years. We often hear about the role of scientific evidence in policy-making, but policy also has a substantial influence on the way that science develops. Scientific research is not only about advancing knowledge, but also responding to the most important opportunities and challenges facing European citizens. How do we know what these opportunities and challenges are, and how can we prepare a programme of scientific research that will deliver a meaningful response?

A workshop co-organised by STOA, the Swiss Centre for Technology Assessment (TA-SWISS, STOA’s Swiss counterpart), the Mission of Switzerland to the EU, and SwissCore on this subject presented a valuable opportunity to discuss how citizen engagement can help us to respond to key opportunities and challenges in the 9th EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP9), which will succeed the current Horizon 2020 programme.

Setting the scene

The role of citizens in the future of science

The role of citizens in the future of science

Opening the workshop Paul Rübig, (EPP, Austria), First STOA Vice-Chair, referred to the importance of independent expert assessment of scientific and technological options, both for the European Parliament and for the public. The moderator of the workshop, Lars Klüver, Director of the Danish Board of Technology Foundation, then introduced the topic, emphasising four different levels of citizen involvement in science:

  1. Engagement in science policy by shaping broad social frameworks;
  2. Engagement in agenda-setting for science, for example by highlighting priorities;
  3. Steering science by influencing how scientific activity is conducted;
  4. Direct citizen participation in science, e.g. by collecting data.

A key research project which focuses upon the role of citizen engagement in the future of science is currently in its final stages and formed the backdrop for the workshop. The project, CIMULACT (Citizens and Multi-Actor Consultation on Horizon 2020), involved the consultation of more than a thousand citizens in 30 countries, with the aim of involving them in setting the direction of European research, in particular through the next EU framework programme for research and innovation. Sergio Bellucci, Director of TA-SWISS, explained that the report would be finalised over the coming year and should help develop scenarios for research in the future.

European Science – What is the role and responsibility of citizens?

The first panel, on citizens’ role in and responsibility for European science, was opened by Gudela Grote from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, who focused upon the role of citizens as recipients and sources of scientific data, as well as critical monitors of scientific activity and promoters of specific research agendas. Asked what our responsibilities as citizens are, Grote suggested that we should be open to scientific enquiry, and ready to learn from what science has to offer. At the same time, Grote highlighted the importance of consent to participate in research, either as direct subjects or as producers of data. Finally, Grote suggested we could improve citizen participation by translating and discussing ideas, by being transparent about the interests behind scientific projects, and by truthfully reporting both successes and failures.

Over the last decades, science has developed a huge infrastructure and set of norms and became highly specialised. Daniel Wyler from the University of Zürich noted that this has distanced science from citizens, at a time when it needs citizen engagement for most for its data experiments. More citizen involvement, he argued, would benefit everyone.

Mathea Fammels, from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), explained how the EIT was set up in 2008 to respond to some of the issues explored at the workshop. Fammels also discussed how we can address innovation differently, with a more people-centred approach, and how we can overcome a tendency to a ‘silo mentality’. Fammels concluded in explaining how, by putting connectivity and education at the heart of the EIT’s approach, they support many cutting-edge innovators and entrepreneurs to create start-ups, as well as helping existing companies to create jobs and improve society.

Finally, Pearl Dykstra – from Erasmus University Rotterdam and member of the High Level Group of scientific advisors to the Cabinet of European Commissioners – explained how a national research agenda for the Netherlands was produced through a call for citizens to submit questions via a popular TV show, featuring prominent ministers and researchers. This dynamic and engaging approach invigorated scientists and citizens alike.

Towards FP9 – How can we address citizens’ concerns for the future through science?

The second panel was opened by Kurt Vandenberghe, from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. Vandenberghe explained how citizens’ involvement in science is not new for the Commission, but a continuation of a 15 year journey. Work remains to be done, however. Vandenberghe highlighted the need to develop appropriate measurements of excellence, and called for a more open approach to innovation, promoting user-centred innovation.

Eva Kaili (S&D, Greece), Chair of STOA, then took the floor to explain how the various STOA activities respond to the need for good-quality links between science, policy and society, for example through STOA’s MEP-scientist pairing scheme. Kaili highlighted in particular the issue of fake news, outlining possible responses including a European science media hub led by the European Parliament. Kaili argued that, while we should ensure that good-quality data and evidence are available to citizens, it is imperative that the latter are free to access any content and to make decisions for themselves. This freedom of information, she argued, is more important than combatting information that is considered incorrect.

Tracey Brown from Sense about Science – which promotes the use of sound scientific evidence by decision-makers of all kinds – concluded the second panel, sharing a video about the importance of evidence in policy and public life. Truth and evidence, she argued, do not hold enough weight in public affairs. She suggested that we equip citizens for reasoning and encourage alignments between experts and the public to push important issues forward effectively.

If you missed the workshop, you can watch a recording.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/19/the-role-of-citizens-in-the-future-of-science/

New Strategic Landscape

Written by Elena Lazarou.

Marietje Schaake (ALDE, The Netherlands)

Marietje Schaake (ALDE, The Netherlands)

On 11 May 2017, EPRS organised a public event on the EU’s external dimension, and more specifically on what the EU’s strategic priorities should be in a changing strategic landscape. The event is the second in a series of roundtables aiming to assist preparatory work in the European Parliament on its forthcoming resolution on the proposals (scheduled for July 2017), ahead of the European Commission’s 2018 work programme (scheduled for October 2017).

The first event in this series, held on 27 April 2017, focused on economic and social policy. The events come at a time of deep reflection about the future of the EU. The European Commission launched its white paper on the future of Europe earlier this year and is also in the process of publishing five reflection papers on major EU issues, including the social dimension, harnessing globalisation, economic and monetary union, defence and finance.

Addressing the audience in her opening remarks, Marietje Schaake (ALDE, The Netherlands), raised the topic’s central question: what does it mean for the EU to be a global actor? Multiple recent events have tested the EU’s resolve in this area, including Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the election of Donald J. Trump as president and his unpredictability as a policymaker, and the referendum consolidating presidential power in Turkey. Schaake emphasised that the EU needs to meet external policy challenges with strong political leadership, informed by core values.

EPRS roundtable discussion - ' EU in the new strategic landscape: Setting European priorities '

EPRS roundtable discussion – ‘ EU in the new strategic landscape: Setting European priorities ‘

The speakers agreed that the internal and external strategic landscape for the EU has changed, and not only recently. Alfredo Conte, head of the Strategic Planning Division at the EEAS, pointed out that the EU has altered one of its fundamental assumptions over the past 13 years; the bloc no longer expects that external players are also following a path to democracy, openness and multilateralism. Questioning of the value of multilateral institutions from major partners such as the USA has caused anxiety. However, Elena Lazarou, a policy analyst with the External Policies Unit of the EPRS, pointed out that the USA is not the first country to raise the question of reform of intergovernmental institutions, and that reform may be in order more than ever before. Additionally, recent challenges have proven particularly problematic for internal EU dynamics. Rosa Balfour, Senior Fellow of the Europe Programme at the German Marshall Fund, argued that the east and south remain divided over their priorities. Eastern states are more concerned about Russian aggression and NATO, while the southern states seek support in dealing with the migrant crisis. The Brexit process will also have a significant impact on EU financial resources and yet, as Balfour stated, only 6 % of the budget goes to external policy. These are all questions that need to be addressed.

Elena LAZAROU & Etienne BASSOT

Elena LAZAROU & Etienne BASSOT

Turkey and the Middle East, significant areas in EU external policy, including in the Commission’s work programme, present opportunities for the EU to redefine aspects of its external policy. Steven Blockmans, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies, noted that it is time for a ‘reset’ in EU-Turkey relations, one that should begin with the formal ending of Turkey’s accession negotiations. Blockmans remarked that candidate countries need to learn that this process is not automatic; leaders in the Western Balkans, for example, create unrest domestically because they know that doing so will garner European attention and thus advance their own accession processes. In regards to Syria, Blockmans stated that the EU needs to ensure that the political transformation occurs in the best possible manner, including implementing transitional justice and supporting peace talks.

The unpredictability of US foreign policy under President Trump is of concern to both Member State and EU leaders. Nevertheless, the transatlantic relationship has remained steady thus far. Giovanni Grevi, a senior fellow at the European Policy Centre, argued that US foreign policy under Trump has actually remained consistent, although much uncertainty still exists as to whether future policy will proceed in a pragmatic or nationalist direction. While the US is a core partner, Grevi argued that it is entirely possible for US-EU relations to move in a more asymmetric and transactional direction. The EU must be prepared for this shift, continuing to engage with the USA, whilst also reaching out to other important partners, such as China.

The speakers agreed that continued EU engagement (including taking a more forward role in foreign policy) is vital to meeting both internal and external challenges. Grevi, Balfour and Conte all stated that the EU needs to engage more effectively with non-state actors, especially civil society groups. To improve internal cohesion, Balfour recommended a ‘grand compromise’ between the east and south. The EU should also seek to strengthen its resources as a foreign policy actor. Balfour recommended an increase in human resources, including dedicating more resources under the Multiannual Financial Framework, to supporting diplomacy and conflict prevention efforts. With the prospect of a reduced US budget affecting American involvement at the UN, Grevi emphasised that the EU should form informal coalitions within the UN to fill the potential leadership gap.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/18/new-strategic-landscape/

Plastics in a circular economy: Opportunities and challenges

Written by Didier Bourguignon,

large group of empty plastic bottles

© fottoo / Fotolia

Plastics pervade modern life; plastics production has been growing exponentially since the 1960s and is expected to double by 2036. Although there are over 1 000 types of plastic, 90 % of plastics are derived from virgin fossil fuels.

In Europe, post-consumer plastic waste is either incinerated with energy recovery (39 %), landfilled (31 %) or recycled (30%). It is estimated that half of the plastic waste recycled is treated in the EU, while the other half is exported for recycling.

The production and consumption of plastics today offer a series of benefits (in particular low production costs, durability and versatility) but also pose a number of problems (in particular loss of material value as a result of single use and low recycling rates, as well as ill-effects on nature, climate and human health). Marine litter and microplastics are a source of particular concern.

Several pieces of EU legislation apply to plastics and plastic waste, although implementation is incomplete. In 2015, the Commission identified plastics as one of the priority areas of the circular economy action plan, proposed new reuse and recycling targets for plastic packaging waste and pledged to adopt a strategy on plastics in the circular economy by the end of 2017.

A circular economy implies reducing waste to a minimum. Moving the plastics value chain in this direction would mean improving recycling, promoting reuse, and redesigning products, while taking into account the whole life-cycle of products. Although this could deliver opportunities (in particular enhanced security of supply, economic benefits and reduced pressure on the environment) there are also challenges (in particular weak economic incentives, technical issues and finance).

The European Parliament recognises the need to introduce specific measures on plastic waste in EU legislation and to value plastics as a resource.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Plastics in a circular economy: Opportunities and challenges‘.


Plastics demand by sector (2015)

Plastics demand by sector (2015)

Examples of how the most common polymer types are used

Examples of how the most common polymer types are used

Plastics demand by polymer (2015)

Plastics demand by polymer (2015)

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/18/plastics-in-a-circular-economy-opportunities-and-challenges/

Opportunities and challenges of 5G in the EU

Written by Mihalis Kritikos.

‘The European Union will manage to gain a competitive advantage if it takes a leading role in the definition and standardisation of 5G technologies’ is how Eva Kaili, (S&D, Greece), Chair of Parliament’s Scientific and Technology Options Assessment (STOA), opened the workshop on ‘Opportunities and challenges of 5G in the EU’, which STOA organised on 25 April 2017 in Brussels.

5G has been described as the most critical building block of our ‘digital society’, as it promises a new wave of technology services – from driverless cars to smart home appliances – and mobile broadband download rates up to 60 times faster than those available from current 4G providers. 5G will pave the way for an industrial transformation, connecting millions of devices simultaneously and supporting completely new types of application, linking devices and objects.

The technical, socio-economic and regulatory challenges associated with the deployment of 5G technologies has recently been debated at EU level. Both the recently piloted EU action plan on 5G and the latest interinstitutional agreement on coordination of the use of the 700 MHz band for mobile services in Europe illustrate the high political and legal importance of this new wave of technologies for the European economy and society.

How do we know what type of opportunities and technical and socio-economic challenges will arise, and how can we prepare a harmonised and standardised spectrum policy that will deliver a meaningful response to them? Is 5G going to become a disrupter and a game changer? Are there security threats that need to be taken care of, and what might 5G actually mean for users, industries, operators and other stakeholders? These were some of the questions addressed at the workshop.

Setting the scene

Opening the workshop, the Chair, Eva Kaili referred to the importance of the ongoing standardisation and policy-making initiatives, as well as to the need to provide space for debate on the risks and benefits of the deployment of this dynamic technological trajectory. The workshop was moderated by Rebecca Penty of Bloomberg News. Bernard Barani, of DG CONNECT at the European Commission, analysed the Commission’s action plan to boost EU efforts for the deployment of 5G infrastructures and services across the Digital Single Market by 2020, including the roadmap for public and private investment in 5G infrastructure in the EU.

Applications of 5G and the 5G trials roadmap strategy

Following this introductory keynote, the first panel discussed the applications of 5G and the 5G pan-European trials roadmap strategy. Yves Bellégo, from the Orange Group, focused on the strategy and described its main objectives and building blocks. Bellégo stated that from 2018 onwards, trials will aim to demonstrate wider interoperability and support for vertical use-cases. At the same time, Bellégo highlighted that experimentation and trial objectives will be driven by the user requirements and will need to be measured during the trial, so that an assessment can be made.

Dimitra Simeonidou, Professor at the University of Bristol, presented her experience on the challenges and opportunities for 5G deployment in urban environments. Simeonidou discussed infrastructure deployment and integration issues and the support for verticals, including transport, health, creative media and entertainment.

Explaining the work of BMW in the field of the 5G Automotive Association, Joachim Göthel, of the BMW Group, detailed the requirements and advantages of 5G with respect to DSRC/wifi technology and the efforts required for a transition from 4G to 5G.

Finally, Panagiotis Demestichas, Professor at the University of Pireaus, introduced the drivers for the definition, development and standardisation of 5G systems. Demestichas presented the status of key technology developments, such as the new radio interface below 6 GHz, the joint management of a spectrum ecosystem that also encompasses bands of the millimetre wave range, and the realisation of essential upgrades in 5G intelligence. Demestichas also drew attention to the technical challenges that need to be addressed, including the advent and exploitation of ‘software networks’, the optimal deployment of 5G functionality in a fog/edge/cloud context, and the necessary hardware developments and the stronger engagement of artificial intelligence in the management of 5G systems.

Regulatory and policy challenges: deployment and the future 5G standards and spectrum

The second panel was opened by Giovanni Romano, from TIM. Romano’s focus was on the 3GPP roadmap to 5G and on the work plan for the completion of the first release of 5G technical specifications. Romano then referred to a 3GPP study on the feasibility of 5G solutions and the various phases of the relevant technical specifications. Following this, Laszlo Toth, from Global System Mobile Association GSMA, took the floor, explaining the need for industry to roll out the networks and services that will bring 5G alive. Toth stated that the draft communications code is a step in the right direction, and its positive contribution to harmonising spectrum policy and prioritising connectivity should be defended fiercely during the co-legislative process. Toth referred to the need to free up more harmonised spectrum to meet the 5G challenge and to get auction processes and license conditions consistently right, so that investors can channel maximum resources to rolling out networks.

Vice President and Head of the Ericsson European Affairs Office in Brussels, Peter Olson, stressed that 5G is the foundation for realising the full potential of the networked society, which will enable industry and society to innovate, move into new markets and build new revenue streams with radically new business models and use cases, including Internet of Things (IoT) applications. He further explained that the new capabilities of 5G span several dimensions, including tremendous flexibility, lower energy requirements, greater capacity, bandwidth, security, reliability and data rates, as well as lower latency and device costs. Olson focused on the need for spectrum allocation, proactive and supportive regulation, getting the right conditions for the investments needed and mobilising all sectors of society, and for the development of the right skill sets as requirements for Europe to benefit fully from 5G.

Philip Marnick, Group Director of Spectrum at Ofcom, emphasised that 5G services have the potential to revolutionise communications for citizens and consumers, and spectrum is a key enabler. As spectrum regulators, it is vital that they ensure their approach to making spectrum available for 5G is flexible enough to respond to changing market demands, whilst at the same time balancing the needs of other sectors and spectrum users. The three ‘pioneer’ bands identified by the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) for 5G in Europe (700 MHz, 3.4-3.8 GHz and 26 GHz), provide Europe with the best opportunity to benefit from early 5G roll-out, and the greatest potential to achieve global harmonisation.

Following this, Paul Rübig, (EPP, Austria), First STOA Vice-Chair took the floor, explaining how STOA’s various activities respond to the need for clear communication between stakeholders in the field of telecommunications, as well as for interoperability and clear rules. Rübig highlighted in particular the issue of standardisation of 5G technologies, outlining initiatives that are underway to respond with ambitious plans to develop international norms. Rübig argued that, in order to appreciate and utilise the benefits of 5G, it is imperative to achieve a harmonised approach to the management of the spectrum, so as to address and reduce the regulatory cost.

If you missed the workshop, watch a recording.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/17/opportunities-and-challenges-of-5g-in-the-eu/

Training of professional drivers [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Ariane Debyser (1st edition),

Woman truck driver looking out the window with thumb up gesture

© milkovasa / Fotolia

The revision of existing provisions regarding the training of professional drivers was announced in the 2017 Commission Work Programme (in annex II covering REFIT initiatives).

The initiative fits within the general framework regarding professional drivers of trucks and buses, and is closely related to road safety. It is also in line with the Commission’s 2011 Transport white paper and the 2010 communication ‘Towards a European road safety area: policy orientations on road safety 2011-2020’, which notably sought to improve road safety through the education, training and post‑licence training of road users.

On 1 February 2017, the Commission adopted a legislative proposal to amend Directive 2003/59/EC and Directive 2006/126/EC, with the objective of tackling the main shortcomings identified in the implementation of the existing legislation.

Interactive PDF

Stage: National parliaments

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/17/training-of-professional-drivers-eu-legislation-in-progress/