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Scientists meet MEPs: a relation based on trust

Written by Zsolt G. Pataki with Riccardo Molinari,

Scientists meet MEPsTo promote the role of science in ensuring a sound basis for public policies and political decisions, the European Parliament’s Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) organised ‘Science Week at the European Parliament’, between 5-7 February 2019, in cooperation with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), and the European Research Council (ERC). The week of scientific events encompassed the ‘Brussels Week’ of STOA’s MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme, the JRC’s ‘Science meets Parliaments’ event, a European Science-Media Hub (ESMH) workshop on ‘Tackling misinformation and disinformation in science’, and a STOA/ESMH-ERC Conference entitled ‘Investing in researchers, shaping Europe’s future’. The aim of these events was to strengthen the structured dialogue between scientists and policy-makers, to raise awareness about politically relevant, cutting-edge scientific issues and the importance of science for evidence-informed policy-making.

STOA and the JRC jointly launched the ‘Science meets Parliaments’ initiative in 2015 at the European Parliament (EP). This year’s event marked the official opening of the EU pilot project Science meets Parliaments/Science meets Regions. The event discussed how science could play a bigger role in 21st century policy-making and a number of other topics, ranging from how artificial intelligence may influence our lives to building resilient societies and engaging citizens in decision-making. An accompanying exhibition focused on migration, resilience, mobility, fairness and digital transformation.

Scientists meet MEPsA high-level session moderated by Vladimír Šucha, Director-General of the JRC, featured statements by representatives of major stakeholders, including Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport; Jerzy Buzek, Chair of the ITRE Committee; Mady DELVAUX, EP rapporteur on ‘Civil rules on robotics’, Ashley FOX, EP rapporteur on a ‘Comprehensive European industrial policy on artificial intelligence and robotics’, and Paul RÜBIG, STOA First Vice-chair.

During this ‘Science Week’, 13 paired scientists in the framework of the MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme had an opportunity to follow their MEP counterparts in their daily political activities, and gain an understanding of the EU science, technology and research policy framework, including, in particular, EP work in this area. The feedback from participating scientists and Members suggests that the Pairing Scheme was very well received, and that all participants would recommend the scheme to their colleagues. Members gained an insight into specific areas of scientific research and developed their understanding of how scientists might support policy-making. In fact, regular editions of the scheme increase its impact as more Members and scientists are offered the opportunity to participate in the pairing experience. Several participants stressed the value of the scheme and how it has helped them gain insights into increasingly important areas both in the European Union and globally.

Scientists meet MEPsIn parallel, the European Science-Media Hub (ESMH) workshop on ‘Tackling misinformation and disinformation in science’ provided for an exchange of good practices in tackling misinformation and disinformation in science, via the presentation of case studies, illustrating relevant initiatives touching upon different science disciplines.

The conference entitled ‘Investing in researchers – Shaping Europe’s future’ brought policy-makers and ERC-funded grantees together, with the aim of supporting evidence-informed policy-making and underlining how Europe’s future can be shaped by fundamental research on topics ranging from smart agriculture and food, via CRISPR, to migration and demography.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/03/25/scientists-meet-meps-a-relation-based-on-trust/

What if a simple DNA test could predict your future? [Science and Technology podcast]

Written by Lieve Van Woensel,

© SunnySideUp / Shutterstock.com

What if new-born babies were given a DNA report card that predicted their intelligence, their odds of getting a PhD, their chances of becoming a chain smoker or suffering depression, a heart attack or cancer? Thanks to ongoing genetic studies, a large amount of genetic data is available today involving millions of people. The wealth of information available to researchers allows them to create a polygenic risk score based on the DNA test of a person. This can be used to predict a person’s chances of getting a disease, his or her traits and behaviour, and many other things about their future. Are these predictions flawless? Who would benefit from them? What are their implications for a person’s life in general?

A single gene goes wrong. This results in diseases like sickle cell anaemia or BRCA breast cancer. With a few exceptions, genetic tests used by doctors today can already detect these rare, deadly variants in a single gene that lead to such uncommon forms of disease. However, most of the ‘big killers’, such as heart disease, are not caused by mutations in a single gene. These are rather a more complex case of hundreds or more changes in the genetic makeup that collectively influence the outcome. Tests for this type of changes are now possible, however, and produce what is referred to as a polygenic risk score.

Welcome to the world of polygenic risk scores: which promise to ‘unlock your future for less than €50’ upon submission of an uploaded DNA swab. Polygenic scores, as the name suggests, involve thousands of genes. A genome is a complete set of genetic instructions in an organism that contains all of the information needed to build that organism and for it to develop and function. These polygenic scores are derived from the combination of all the variants in a person’s inherited genome, and can spot risks of killer diseases, including those not manifested in either parent’s family history. Access to information from polygenic risk scores for different diseases provide insights that plot genetic architecture against a wide range of outcomes, behaviours and traits. This enables the prediction of risk factors, such as smoking or high cholesterol.

However, such genetic marker-based scores are not diagnoses, instead they offer a spectrum of probabilities from low to very high risk, and the scientific validity of these risk scores is up for debate. The accuracy of a polygenic risk score for an individual depends on how closely that person’s DNA resembles the DNA of the people whose genomic data was used to develop the score.

Possible impacts and developments

The availability of direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests online and the possibility of using a polygenic risk score to discover the genetic roots of common ailments, not only open new options for public health care, but also transform the way we access personal genetic data and make informed decisions. However, are consumers of these DTC genetic tests fully aware of the impact the outcomes can have on their lives? Moreover, these predictions could be widely misinterpreted or abused. An individual’s genetic profile is, above all, a private matter, leading to questions as to whether such personal data can be protected. Another issue is that individuals have the right not to (want to) know what the future holds, for instance about diseases they cannot prevent. To interpret outcomes from genetic tests, medical framing is strongly recommended. It is therefore questionable, why an individual would choose to receive possibly unsettling medical information without medical guidance. With guidance from a medical professional, genetic testing data could be used proactively to make personal health decisions, concerning interventions such as screening, chemoprevention (using medication to prevent cancer in healthy people), or risk-reducing surgery for people with a high risk score for colorectal cancer.

There has been a boom in companies – Helix, 23andMe, Ancestry, Myriad Genetics, UK Biobank and Broad Institute, for example –collecting consumers’ DNA data to create genetic profiles. The risk scores obtained could drive the market of wearable devices and trackers, such as heart monitors. Users who download their genetic profile created by such commercial operators can then upload their genetic information to public family history (genealogy) sites and connect with other people of the same lineage. Indeed, one such public genealogy site helped police to crack a cold case. While, with the growing number of people enrolled for DNA tests, the accuracy of predictions is improving, it is obvious that sharing DNA on commercial databases could endanger individual’s privacy, and place sensitive information in the hands of a few companies.

Furthermore, like other data-driven technologies, genetic testing data is mostly available for certain racial/ethnic groups, raising concerns about the reliability of the predictions for other populations. This also presents an opportunity to expand the database to include the non-dominant population. A recent study shows that with the amount of DNA information housed in digital stores, more than 60 % of Americans with European ancestry can be identified through their DNA using an open genetic genealogy directory, regardless of whether they have acquired their polygenic score or not. This raises privacy concerns. The rapid expansion of these digital genetic directories makes it possible to trace any individual through their unsecured DNA. Unless the practice of conducting genealogy searches is properly regulated, anybody could experience genetic surveillance. Are individuals protected against potential abuse of such DTC genetic tests, for instance by insurance companies? Insurance companies with access to the polygenic scores could use them to decide not to offer insurance cover or to charge them exorbitant rates to people at a higher risk of disease.

These DNA tests can also be used to predict measurable human traits, including human behaviour. This will lead to predictions about the chances of a person committing crime, or about an individual’s IQ. Until a recently, no gene variant had ever been directly linked to IQ. The recent development linking 206 genetic variants to IQ has, however, resulted in a rapid genetic exploration. Psychologist Robert Plomlin talks about the possibility that human genome data will predict IQ in his book, ‘Blueprint‘. What if parents and educators used such predictions to determine the academic potential of their children? The polygenic scores could be used to customise education to each child’s needs, as not all children respond in the same way to teaching practices. These scores, which could predict the pattern of strengths and weaknesses in each child, could aid educators in designing different teaching practices for different children. The possibility of this technology to predict educational attainment has spurred many companies to invest in research on the genetics of educational attainment. In vitro fertilisation (IVF) clinics already permit a pre-implantation screening to detect embryos with rare genetic diseases before selecting the cells to be implanted. What if these were combined with IQ predictions and used to genetically select super-smart babies?

This technology has also found a potential market in applications such as predicting the age at which Alzheimer’s could appear, or the time of an individual’s death. With the rise of new technologies such as DNA storage and genome editing, it is not far-fetched to predict that future forecasts based on polygenic scores are here to stay. Is genome prediction a breakthrough in medicine and disease prevention or a dystopia in the making?

Anticipatory policy-making

The growing popularity and the availability of direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing raises concerns, for instance, about how individuals are warned of the implications of such tests.

A study on legislation of DTC genetic testing in Europe gives a general overview of the national legislation addressing genetic testing in Europe. It argues that the applicability of relevant legislation is complicated by the fact that DTC genetic testing is provided outside the traditional healthcare system. This makes the classification of DTC genetic testing as a medical or recreational product unclear. These genetic tests are sold online, further raising concerns on jurisdiction and enforcement.

Read the complete ‘at a glance’ note on ‘What if a simple DNA test could predict your future?‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/03/25/what-if-a-simple-dna-test-could-predict-your-future-science-and-technology-podcast/

Drone users [What Europe does for you]

With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for drone users.

Twitter Hashtag #EUandME

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Flying Drone with Camera

© Ingo Bartussek / Fotolia

Have you ever bought or been offered a drone, and wondered what you are allowed to do with it? Maybe you have already taken photos with your drone or tried to lift things up into the air. Or maybe your neighbours thinks you are spying on them…

Various European countries have regulated the use of drones. However, the rules differ from country to country and are not easy to follow. The European Union has helped drone users to navigate this vast mass of information, by co-funding the creation of a website on drone rules.

Providing information does not eliminate all obstacles to the creation of a truly open market for drones however. Drones can pose a risk to safety, security and privacy regardless of the country in which they are being flown. They can also be flown across national borders. That is why the EU has been working on common rules on the civil use of drones. These rules will be adopted step by step, starting from general principles and moving towards more detailed rules. The rules will take into account the risk caused by various drone uses and will include requirements such as the obligation for people flying heavier drones to register, or restrictions on flying drones in certain zones defined by each country.

Not all rules are written in drone-specific laws. For instance, if your drone is equipped with a camera or a video recorder, and you capture personal data, EU data protection rules could apply. These rules say that you are not allowed to take photographs, videos or sound recordings of people without their permission.

Further information

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/03/24/drone-users-what-europe-does-for-you/

People living near airports [What Europe does for you]

With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for people living near airports.

Twitter Hashtag #EUandME

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passenger plane fly up over take-off runway from airport

© potowizard / Fotolia

Air traffic in the EU is rising, with 973 million passengers carried in 2016. Despite aircraft being 75% less noisy now than 30 years ago, they are still a major noise source. Studies suggest that living close to an airport may lead to health problems like heart disease and strokes, sleep disturbance, stress or hearing impairment.

If you live near an airport, you will be pleased to know that the EU is taking this problem seriously. According to its general rules on environmental noise, authorities must inform the public about the impacts of noise pollution and consult on planned measures. The EU has also adopted specific legislation establishing a clear procedure for the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at its airports, with more involvement of local communities. Its aim is to balance air transport needs with those of airport neighbours, by lowering noise levels through the use of modern aircraft, better land-use planning, quieter ground operations and restrictions on night-time flying. The EU has also helped to limit noise by introducing common rules on civil aviation, and rules for the environmental certification of aircraft, as well as by regulating the operation of certain aeroplanes.

Finally, the EU co-finances research projects on issues such as innovative methodologies and technologies for reducing aircraft noise (IMAGE), aviation noise impact management through novel approaches (ANIMA), environmental impacts at airport level (CLAIRPORT), aircraft noise reduction technologies (ARTEM) or lower aircraft noise with new engines (ENOVAL).

Further information

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/03/24/people-living-near-airports-what-europe-does-for-you/

EU citizens working in another EU country [What Europe does for you]

With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for EU citizens working in another EU country.

Twitter Hashtag #EUandME

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European jobs

© carlosgardel / Fotolia

Eight and a half million EU workers (3.6 % of the EU’s active population) either work or are looking for a job in another EU country, as permanent workers, cross-border workers or posted workers. The free movement of workers is one of the four fundamental freedoms enshrined in the EU treaties and a core element of EU citizenship, but is also key to completing the monetary union and the single market. Nevertheless, European workers move less than their US or Australian counterparts. Many are afraid of losing their social or pension rights or of being exploited. Others face language or cultural barriers or difficulties in getting their professional qualifications recognised.

The EU has taken several measures to make it easier for workers to move around. One of them, EURES (European network of Employment Services), is a network designed to facilitate free movement within the EU plus Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, and to match workers with employers. Better social security coordination between countries now makes it possible to enjoy pension and social security rights all over Europe. The common rules on the recognition of professional qualifications have been updated. A European platform set up to combat undeclared work and the (ongoing) enforcement of the rules on posted workers aim to protect the rights of workers and fight against social dumping. All these initiatives are designed to help workers move around more easily but also to promote the welfare and productivity of mobile workers when they are working in another EU country.

Further information

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/03/23/eu-citizens-working-in-another-eu-country-what-europe-does-for-you/

Vulnerable consumers [What Europe does for you]

With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for vulnerable consumers.

Twitter Hashtag #EUandME

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Poor old woman in her home, looking into the camera.

© De Visu / Fotolia

While EU laws protect you as a consumer against many misleading and aggressive commercial practices, they provide special protection for consumers who are particularly vulnerable due to their mental or physical infirmity. EU laws forbid sellers to profit from such disadvantages to get consumers to buy something they would not buy normally.

Some practices often used to prey on vulnerable consumers are now banned completely. EU laws ban sales techniques that impair the average consumer’s freedom of choice through harassment, coercion use of physical force, or by exploiting their unfortunate circumstances.

For instance, Europe has banned vendors from trying to make you believe you cannot leave a place without buying something. Equally, visiting your home, despite a request to leave or not to return, is also banned. Creating a false impression that you have won a prize, when there is no prize to be won, or that you have to advance money or buy something before claiming the prize, is also not allowed. Similarly, including an invoice seeking payment in marketing material that gives you the impression you have already ordered a product is also forbidden.

In addition, EU laws recognise vulnerable consumers as a special category in the context of energy poverty, referring to people that are not able to pay their energy bills, especially for heating and cooling. EU countries have to introduce measures to help such consumers, such as banning heating disconnection in winter or introducing social tariffs for electricity and gas.

Further information

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/03/23/vulnerable-consumers-what-europe-does-for-you/

State of the Union: Spring 2019 [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

European Union colorful brush strokes painted national country EU flag icon. Painted texture.

© rea_molko / Fotolia

The run-up to the European Parliament elections on 23-26 May has intensified debate about the state of the European Union, the challenges it faces and the reforms needed, both to strengthen its resilience and to enhance its international role. Many analysts focus on the rise of anti-establishment movements and a perceived divide between the east and west of the Union regarding adherence to EU values and the rule of law. Some others discuss whether the EU should have more competence in areas such as defence, international relations, migration and taxation.

This note offers links to reports and commentaries from some major international think-tanks and research institutes on the state of the Union, proposed reforms and other issues being discussed ahead of the European elections.

Studies and commentaries on Brexit can be found in a previous item in the series. Papers on economic challenges faced by the EU and the euro area are available in still another. Some further analyses on the European elections can be found in a ‘What think tanks are thinking’ published in January.

The state of Europe
Friends of Europe, March 2019

The EU Global Strategy 2020
Egmont, March 2019

The changing global order and its implications for the EU
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, March 2019

L’Union européenne, grande absente des journaux télévisés
Fondation Jean Jaurès, March 2019

Germany’s options for European policy reform: Instruments for progressive EU economic and social policy
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, March 2019

No end in sight for the EU’s democracy and rule of law crisis
German Marshall Fund, March 2019

Hungary’s systematic threat to the EU core values
Clingendael, March 2019

Is Europe doing enough to protect its democracy?
Carnegie Europe, March 2019

La triste dérive de la France et de l’Allemagne
Institute Montaigne, March 2019

What comes after the last chance Commission? Policy priorities for 2019-2024
Centre for European Policy Studies, February 2019

Élections européennes 2019: Les grands débats
Institut français des relations internationales, January 2019

The 2019 European election: How anti-Europeans plan to wreck Europe and what can be done to stop it
European Council on Foreign Relations, February 2019

Shaking up the 2019 European election: Macron, Salvini, Orbán, and the fate of the European party system
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, February 2019

The European Council’s strategic agenda
Clingendael, February 2019

Joining forces: The way towards the European Defence Union
European Political Strategy Centre, February 2019

The European Court of Justice: Do all roads lead to Luxembourg?
Centre for European Policy Studies, February 2019

Shaping power: A strategic imperative for Europe
European Policy Centre, February 2019

Sleeping with the enemy: The dangers for Europe of accommodating nationalists
European Council on Foreign Relations, February 2019

Consultations citoyennes: Transformer l’essai
Confrontations Europe, February 2019

Italy in the EU: Shared priorities, provocative politics
European Council on Foreign Relations, February 2019

Austria’s toughest EU presidency
European Council on Foreign Relations, February 2019

Europa: Brauchen wir das noch oder kann das weg? Wie schauen junge Deutsche vor der Europawahl 2019 auf Europa und die EU?
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, January 2019

The resurgence of bilateral diplomacy in Europe
Egmont, January 2019

Is the EU a Union of values?
Clingendael, January 2019

A European Security Council: Added value for EU Foreign and Security Policy?
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, January 2019

What political role for the EU’s fundamental rights agency?
Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, January 2019

The Treaty of Aachen: New impetus for Franco-German defense cooperation?
Institut français des relations internationales, January 2019

Vers une intégration des économies française et allemande? Les ambitions du traité franco-allemand d’Aix-la-Chapelle
Institut français des relations internationales, January 2019

Non-euro countries in the EU after Brexit
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, January 2019

Euros for oil: A first step, but towards what?
European Policy Centre, January 2019

The German-French Treaty: Sign of strength or of weakness?
LUISS School of European Political Economy, January 2019

Voting methods and issues at stake in the European elections of May 2019
Fondation Robert Schuman, Centre Kantar, December 2018

Taking stock on future of the EU according to Macron: Perspective from the V4
EUROPEUM, February 2019

An EU New Year’s resolution: Keep boosting the Single Market
European Policy Centre, December 2018

When populism meets nationalism: Reflections on parties in power
Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, December 2018

EU agencies after 25 years
Clingendael, December 2018

Reconnecting European political parties with European Union citizens
International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, December, 2018

Safeguarding democracy in the European Union: A study on a European responsibility
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, December 2018

Europe in disarray
Council on Foreign Relations, December 2018

Populism in Central Europe 2018
Austrian Society for European Politics, December 2018

The future of EU science diplomacy: Conceptual and strategic reflections
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, December 2018

Security and defence policy: An agenda for 2019-2024
Wilfried Martens Centre, November 2018

Direct democracy in the EU: The myth of a citizens’ union
Centre for European Policy Studies, November 2019

Getting Europe’s direct democracy right
Carnegie Europe, November 2018

The European citizens’ consultations: Evaluation report
European Policy Centre, November 2018

Millennial dialogue on Europe: Shaping the new EU agenda
Foundation for European Progressive Studies, November 2018

Was 2018 der Demokratie in der EU gebracht hat : Und worauf es jetzt ankommt
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, November 2018

Shadows over the European elections: Three scenarios for EU-sceptical parties after the 2019 elections
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, November 2018

Angela Merkel’s gradual retreat: What does it mean for Europe?
European Policy Centre, November 2018

Reconciling core state power integration with market regulation? The potential of the Macron-Rutte alliance
Center for European Neighborhood Studies, November 2018

EU scenarios for 2027
Real Instituto Elcano, October 2018

The power of the past: How nostalgia shapes European public opinion
Bertelsmann Stiftung, October 2018

Strengthening cohesion in the EU: How can structural reforms contribute?
European Policy Centre, October 2018

The four ‘classical federalisms’
Wilfried Martens Centre, October 2018

Attentes et ressentis, l’état des opinions publiques avant les élections européennes
Notre Europe, October 2018

The Nordic-Baltic region in the EU: A loose club of friends
Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies, October 2018

Spitzenkandidaten and shifting electorates: towards the 2019 EP elections
Institute for Development and International Relations, September 2018

State of the Union 2018: Our destiny in our hands
European Political Strategy Centre, September 2018

One size does not fit all: European integration by differentiation
Bruegel, September 2018

Read this briefing note on ‘State of the Union: Spring 2019‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/03/22/state-of-the-union-spring-2019-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

European Parliament Plenary Session, March II 2019

Written by Clare Ferguson,

Strasbourg - Plenary session November 2015

European Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

European citizens are running out of patience with companies and people who do not pay their fair share of the taxes that support services for everyone. The agenda for Parliament’s second plenary session of March opens with a debate on Monday evening on the report of Parliament’s TAX3 Special Committee on the progress made and the work still to do to tackle financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance. In response to successive scandals highlighting the extent of the issue, the committee proposes greater scrutiny over Member States’ tax systems, including the role of loopholes such as letterbox companies; stronger investigatory capabilities; and greater recourse at national level against money laundering activities.

With a view to reassuring EU citizens that taxpayers’ money is properly managed, all EU institutions are required to present their ‘accounts’ for scrutiny on an annual basis. Parliament then makes its ‘discharge’ decisions based on Budgetary Control (CONT) committee reports on the European Court of Auditors’ annual assessment and the Council’s recommendations. Most of Tuesday afternoon will therefore be taken up with a joint debate and vote on 53 reports recommending whether or not to agree to discharge the 2017 budget for the European Commission and all executive agencies, as well as EU joint undertakings (public-private partnerships) and decentralised agencies and the other EU institutions. This year, CONT proposes to grant discharge to the Commission and to all six executive agencies, as well as to all eight joint undertakings – subject to some improvements in financial management. The committee recommends granting discharge to all but one of the 32 agencies – the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) – in the light of irregularities uncovered by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

While the focus on economic, single market and climate change, external relations and disinformation had to make way for further discussion on Brexit at the European Council meeting of 21 and 22 March 2019, (Members are due to hear European Council and Commission statements on the conclusions on Wednesday morning), Parliament will debate a number of salient issues during this session.

One of these, possibly bringing two years of negotiation to a close, concerns a debate on a compromise agreement on copyright in the digital single market on Tuesday morning. This highly contentious file deals with the opportunities and drawbacks of creating, producing, distributing and exploiting content online, and the balance to be struck between remunerating creators and publishers, and protecting consumers. Between them, proposed Article 11 on the status of hyperlinks (press publishers’ rights) and Article 13 on the value gap (best known for the controversy over memes) have generated quite a few headlines. Although a text has been agreed, some EU Member States continue to oppose the compromise on the proposed new directive.

Members are also due to debate three sensitive files relating to overhauling the current legislation on road transport on Wednesday morning. Parliament had previously referred the three reports, on driving times, posting and cabotage, back to the Transport committee. However, the committee could only reach agreement on the cabotage file, which seeks to clarify the rules for international haulage operations, particularly on minimum turn-around times. Nevertheless, political groups will be able to table amendments to the proposals on social and market rules that seek to level the playing field between posted and local drivers and improve working conditions.

In a joint debate on Monday evening, Members debate compromise agreements on four proposals for new rules regarding the internal market for electricity. Squeezed between the necessity to respond to climate change and the need to guarantee affordable fuel supplies for citizens and businesses, the electricity market faces multiple challenges. The proposed changes to the rules would give consumers stronger rights when dealing with electricity suppliers, and provide extra protection for vulnerable consumers. Still on consumer rights, Parliament will also consider proposals to harmonise the EU rules on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers later on Monday evening. Although the proposed rules do not provide for the type of class action seen in the USA, they seek to make it easier for groups of consumers whose rights are violated to launch a collective action for redress, and to obtain compensation if successful. Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee is keen to ensure that the qualified representative entities that would be authorised to mount such actions (rather than lawyers) are required to disclose publicly how they are financed, organised and managed.

On Wednesday afternoon, Members return to the legislative proposals on reducing the impact of plastic products on the environment, particularly plastic marine litter. An agreement reached with Council extends bans on products beyond cutlery, plates, and straws to include oxo-degradable plastics and expanded polystyrene packaging. The proposals also set out annual collection rates for recycling plastic fishing gear, among other measures, which could ultimately become binding. Members are also likely to vote to formally adopt an agreement on a Commission proposal to transpose recommendations from the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean into EU law on Tuesday. The measures, supported in a Fisheries committee report, aim to encourage fish stock recovery and protect vulnerable habitats in the Adriatic, Alboran and Black Seas.

In another initiative to deter harmful effects on the environment on Wednesday afternoon, Members will debate an agreed text on CE-marked fertilising products. While inorganic fertilisers increase crop yields, they can also contain harmful chemicals, such as cadmium. The agreement proposes gradual reduction of the heavy metal content in fertilisers, with a longer transition, and to extend legislation to cover organic or recycled waste alternatives, ensuring a high level of protection of human, animal, and plant health, safety and the environment. Parliament will also vote on formal adoption of the next in a series of proposals to amend the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive to protect workers against exposure to a further number of cancer- or mutation-causing chemical agents on Wednesday. The five priority chemical agents include formaldehyde, cadmium and arsenic, among others, and the measures seek to provide clarity in the workplace for workers and employers alike.

As it becomes more common for investors to consider the environmental sustainability of their economic activity, Members will debate the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment on Thursday morning. A joint report from Parliament’s Economic Affairs and Environment committees agrees that gradual harmonisation of what ‘environmentally sustainable’ actually means will help investors throughout the EU to ensure that their investments take account of the environmental impact over the entire value chain and the life-cycle of technologies. However, the committees’ report also warns against creating unnecessary administrative burden.

Finally, central counterparties provide guarantees on financial performance. In the light of the financial crisis, Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs wishes to ensure that this important role is fully supported with effective recovery plans. On Wednesday Members are to vote on proposals that central counterparty recovery and resolution include comprehensive stress-testing to avoid that central counterparties themselves become a systemic risk.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/03/22/european-parliament-plenary-session-march-ii-2019/

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Agriculture [Policy Podcast]

Written by James McEldowney,

Bales on field and solar panels farm in background

© aerostato / Fotolia

The common agricultural policy (CAP) is one of the oldest common policies in the EU. Its significance is reflected in the proportion of the EU’s budget devoted to it, representing approximately 40 % of the total. Developed at a time when Europe was unable to meet most of its own food needs, it was necessary to encourage farmers to produce food by means of guaranteed prices. The policy has undergone regular reform and has evolved over the years. These reforms have sought to improve the competitiveness of the agricultural sector, promote rural development and address new challenges in areas such as the environment and climate change.

Evidence from a series of Eurobarometer surveys indicates how EU citizens have a high level of awareness of this policy area. There is a recognition that it is succeeding in meeting citizens’ expectations in terms of delivering healthy high-quality food as well as contributing to the protection of the environment.

When it comes to agriculture, Parliament’s eighth term has focused on taking forward not only implementation of the last CAP reform in 2013 but also a series of significant legislative achievements. The areas covered include, for example, animal health, plant health and the organic sector, as well as a range of policy-related simplification measures that entered into force on 1 January 2018. On the non-legislative front, Parliament has pursued its scrutiny role rigorously.

Looking to the future, there are still a number of substantial issues for the current Parliament to address. These include determining in co-decision with the Council the future policy direction of the CAP for the post-2020 period, negotiations over the next multiannual financial framework (MFF) including the overall budgetary allocation for the next CAP, and the associated legislative framework.

Read this complete briefing on ‘EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Agriculture‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/03/22/eu-policies-delivering-for-citizens-agriculture-policy-podcast/

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Security and defence [Policy Podcast]

Written by Elena Lazarou,

Soldiers shaking hands with flag on background - European Union

© niyazz / Fotolia

Security and defence policy in the European Union is predominantly a competence of the Member States. At the same time, a common security and defence policy, which could progressively lead to a European defence union, is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. Since 2016, there has been significant progress in that direction, with several initiatives in the area of security and defence having been proposed and initiated under the current mandate of the Commission and the European Parliament.

The idea that the European Union should deliver in the area of security and defence has become more and more popular with EU citizens. The crises in the EU’s eastern and southern neighbourhoods, such as the occupation of Crimea and conflicts in the Middle East, have created an environment of insecurity in which the EU is called upon to do more. Following the Council decision of 2013 and particularly since the launch of the EU global strategy in 2016, the EU had been working to respond to these needs predominantly by implementing in full the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty. In recent years, it has begun the implementation of ambitious initiatives in the area of security and defence, such as permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), the European defence action plan including a new defence fund to finance research and development of EU military capabilities, closer and more efficient cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a plan to facilitate military mobility within and across the EU, and a revision of the financing of its civilian and military missions and operations to make them more effective.

These new initiatives are illustrated in the relevant proposals in the new multiannual financial framework (2021-2027) and the accompanying off-budget instruments. Given EU leaders’ current support for further initiatives in EU security and defence policy, important debates are likely to take place in future on the possible progressive framing of a European defence union.

Read this complete briefing on ‘EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Security and defence‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/03/21/eu-policies-delivering-for-citizens-security-and-defence-policy-podcast/