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Limits on exposure to carcinogens and mutagens at work: Fourth proposal [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Nicole Scholz (1st edition),

© Idea.s / Adobe Stock

The European Commission has proposed to amend Directive 2004/37/EC, by expanding its scope and by including and/or revising occupational exposure limit values for a number of cancer- or mutation-causing chemical agents. The initiative is proceeding in steps and has now become a continuous process. Following on from three previous legislative amendments, which covered a total of 26 priority chemical agents, the present (fourth) proposal addresses an additional three.

The proposal was announced as one of the first measures of the Commission’s commitment to fight cancer under the forthcoming Europe’s Beating Cancer plan.

Broad discussions with scientists and social partners fed into all four proposals. The Commission’s feedback period on the proposal will run until 20 November 2020. While broadly welcoming the proposal, professional organisations, trade unions and patient groups would like carcinogenic and mutagenic hazardous medicines as well as substances toxic for reproduction to be brought within the scope of the current proposal.

The legislative process is in its early stages. In Parliament, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs is in charge of the file. The working party on social questions is dealing with it in the Council.

Versions

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/10/29/limits-on-exposure-to-carcinogens-and-mutagens-at-work-fourth-proposal/

EU foreign, security and defence policies [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

The European Union faces multifaceted foreign security and defence policy challenges. First and foremost, it awaits the outcome of the US Presidential election, which is set to determine in significant part global economic and political developments to in the short to mid term. The Union also faces a tough choice about how to treat China: more as a rival or as a partner, and in which areas? An increasingly assertive Russia represents yet another challenge. The EU’s stance on climate, migration, Africa, terrorism and developments in its near neighbourhood policy add to this complex scene.

This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on EU foreign, security and defence policies.

Europe’s pivot to Africa: Shaping the future of the strategic partnership
European Policy Centre, October 2020

An election of stark choices for Americans, but also for Europe
European Policy Centre, October 2020

Europe as a global standard-setter: The strategic importance of European standardisation
European Policy Centre, October 2020

What should Europe expect from American trade policy after the election?
Bruegel, October 2020

China’s carbon neutrality goal spells competition for the EU in the market for low-carbon technology
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2020

EU trade and investment policy since the Treaty of Lisbon
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2020`

Geopolitical ambitions in the Black Sea and Caspian region
Bertelsmann Stiftung, October 2020

L’éviction de l’Europe du Moyen-Orient
Institut français des relations internationales, October 2020

Battalions to brigades: The future of European defence
Egmont, October 2020

Talking to the Houthis: How Europeans can promote peace in Yemen
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

A balance of values and interests: Germany, realpolitik, and Russia policy
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

Trump or Biden: Three ways to make Europe matter in the Middle East
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

The Caucasus burns while Europe struggles
Carnegie Europe, October 2020

Lessons from Belarus: How the EU can support clean elections in Moldova and Georgia
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

How the EU became marginalised in Nagorno-Karabakh
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

Security realities
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

Europe must grow up and stop moaning about Trump
Carnegie Europe, October 2020

How China could push Europe and India closer together
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

Three dangers Trump’s Covid poses for the world
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

Resilient Ukraine is solution to aggressive Russia
Chatham House, October 2020

Europe, the U.S.s and China: A love-hate triangle?
Centre for European Reform, September 2020

Non-summit shows EU-China ties at new low
Bruegel, September 2020

Diversification and the world trading system
Bruegel, September 2020

European foreign policy is drowning in the Mediterranean
Carnegie Europe, September 2020

The future of the Transatlantic Alliance: Not without the European Union
Egmont, September 2020

Use connectivity to strengthen multilateral cooperation in the EU’s neighbourhood
Egmont, September 2020

An alliance of democracies: With the US or for the US?
Egmont, September 2020

The Corona transformation: How the pandemic slows globalization and accelerates digitalization
Bertelsmann Stiftung, September 2020

An appropriate European Union response to tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean
Bruegel, August 2020

Unboxing the future: Finding the futures hidden in plain sight
EU Institute for Security Studies, August 2020

Disorder from chaos: Why Europeans fail to promote stability in the Sahel
European Council on Foreign Relations, August 2020

Differentiated cooperation in European foreign policy: The challenge of coherence
Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, August 2020

What future for a ‘geopolitical’ Europe?
Centre for European Reform, July 2020

The challenges of the post-pandemic agenda
Bruegel, July 2020

A challenging agenda for the new Trade Commissioner
European Policy Centre, July 2020

Rethinking the EU’s approach towards its southern neighbours
Centre for European Reform, July 2020

Trump sounds the retreat: Can European defence advance?
Centre for European Reform, July 2020

The future of the E3: Post-Brexit cooperation between the UK, France and Germany
Chatham House, July 2020

The big engine that might: How France and Germany can build a geopolitical Europe
European Council on Foreign Relations, July 2020

Religion and forced displacement in the Eastern Orthodox World
Foreign Policy Centre, Aston University, July 2020

Uncharted territory? Towards a common threat analysis and a strategic compass for EU security and defence
EU Institute for Security Studies, July 2020

The EU’s strategic compass for security and defence: Just another paper?
Jacques Delors Centre, July 2020

Ensuring cyber resilience in NATO’s command, control and communication systems
Chatham House, July 2020

Europe in a multipolar world
LSE Ideas, June 2020

An initiative to end the standstill: Desirable security policy objectives of a united EU
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, June 2020

The weaponisation of the US financial system: how can Europe respond?
Jacques Delors Centre, June 2020

European defence in the post-Covid world
Instituto Affari Internatzionali, June 2020

EU ‘sanctions’ and Russian manoeuvring: Why Brussels needs to stay its course while shifting gears
Instituto Affari Internatzionali, June 2020

Protracted conflicts in the EU’s neighbourhood: Does resilience apply?
Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, June 2020

Rethinking EU crisis management: From battlegroups to a European legion?
Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, June 2020

The EU’s external action on counter-terrorism development, structures and actions
Finnish Institute for International Affairs, June 2020

Has CovidD-19 dented the EU’s credibility in the Balkans?
Bruegel, June 2020

Sharpening EU sanctions policy: Challenges and responses in a geopolitical era
Finnish Institute for International Affairs, May 2020

European defence and PESCO: Don’t waste the chance
Instituto Affari Internationali, May 2020

EU foreign policy needs ’embedded’ differentiation
European Policy Centre, May 2020

Challenges and constraints facing a ‘Geopolitical Commission’ in the achievement of European sovereignty
Robert Schuman Foundation, May 2020

Who’s first wins: International crisis response to Covid-19
EU Institute for Security Studies, May 2020

The impact of sanctions imposed by the European Union against Iran on their bilateral trade: General versus targeted sanctions
Wiener Institut für Internationale Wirtschaftsvergleiche, May 2020


Read this briefing on ‘EU foreign, security and defence policies‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/10/28/eu-foreign-security-and-defence-policies-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

Towards strategic autonomy in European security and defence: The EU role in promoting peace in today’s world [EPRS online policy roundtable]

Written by Tania Lațici,

Strategic autonomy – what does it mean? what for? from whom? and how? – were some of the questions that were discussed during the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) online policy roundtable on strategic autonomy in security and defence and the EU’s role in promoting peace. This timely discussion took place in the backdrop of ongoing high-level strategic reflections, namely the Strategic Compass process in the European Union (EU), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO2030 process.

As the European Parliament is currently debating the implementation and future of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), as well as more precise initiatives such as the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), EPRS gathered a virtual panel covering the institutional, academic and think tank spectrum. Etienne Bassot, Director of Members’ Research Service in the EPRS, set the scene for the debate, and Tania Lațici moderated what was a highly dynamic and interactive debate.

Kicking off the discussion was Sven Mikser (S&D, EE), who is currently drafting the Parliament’s annual report on the implementation of the CSDP. Affirming that EU strategic autonomy is very high on the Parliamentary agenda, he noted that strategic defence capability gaps need to be filled for the EU to be able to meet its political and military levels of ambition. Sven Mikser also emphasised that the EU’s ambition is much broader than the military, also encompassing conflict prevention, multilateralism, disarmament and non-proliferation. He concluded by advising against giving in to the temptation of cutting defence budgets due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as that would impair capacity to properly address current threats.

Hannah Neumann (Greens, DE), the European Parliament’s rapporteur on arms exports, noted that there are more versions of what strategic autonomy means than there are Member States. She emphasised the need to clarify the purpose of strategic autonomy for the EU and highlighted the opportunity to make better use of the provisions in the Lisbon Treaty, for example, by making use of constructive abstention provisions or enacting majority voting when it comes to human rights violations. Hannah Neumann expressed hope that the Strategic Compass process would result in a better convergence of views among EU Member States as regards threats and addressing them.

While pointing out the importance of the current discussions of strategic autonomy at EU level, Dr Sven Biscop of the Egmont Institute argued that Member States should accept the reality that they can only be autonomous collectively. Referring to EU instruments such as PESCO, he noted that the EU is only currently using 10 % of the framework’s potential and argued in favour of integrating forces at the EU level. Reacting to the recent discussions on potentially making use of qualified majority voting (QMV) in foreign policy, Sven Biscop argued that there is no reason as to why the EU cannot vote with QMV on everything, except for obliging a Member State to commit troops to operations.

Representing the European External Action Service, Jean‑Pierre Van Aubel described the state of play of ongoing EU defence initiatives, with an emphasis on PESCO and its ongoing strategic review. On the latter, he noted that PESCO is much more than a capability development process and that discussions on how to better incentivise Member States to deliver on their commitments are ongoing. Regarding the Strategic Compass, he emphasised that its purpose is to translate the EU Global Strategy into concrete deliverables and political ambition to build a common European strategic culture.

Dr Jana Puglierin, the Director of the Berlin Office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, observed that the progress and enthusiasm seen in the defence realm after 2016 seems to have hit a plateau, in part also as a result of the coronavirus crisis. She noted that foreign and defence policy does not seem to figure highly on the EU agenda and feared that uncoordinated defence budgets would result as a consequence of the Covid‑19 crisis. As regards transatlantic relations, Jana Puglierin emphasised the need for the EU to reflect on how to engage the United States in achieving its ambition for EU sovereignty.

Focusing on the changing nature of peace and security due to new threats and challenges –illustrated in particular by the coronavirus crisis – Dr Elena Lazarou, Acting Head of the EPRS External Policies Unit noted that the Lisbon Treaty was not written bearing these challenges in mind. She explained the reason for the EU’s current strategic reflection processes and emphasised that the EU will have to reflect on how it can use its entire toolkit of peace and security to address these threats and promote peace and security in a holistic manner. She also noted the importance of foresight in these processes and of the EU’s engagements with strategic partners such as the United Nations, NATO and the African Union.

Finally, the event gathered some 114 virtual participants at its peak and the audience engaged with the panellists by posing questions related to the current crisis in the eastern Mediterranean, the future of the EU’s strategic partnerships, and the prospects for QMV in foreign policy.

Towards strategic autonomy in European security and defence

Towards strategic autonomy in European security and defence: The EU role in promoting peace in today’s world

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/10/27/towards-strategic-autonomy-in-european-security-and-defence-the-eu-role-in-promoting-peace-in-todays-world-eprs-online-policy-roundtable/

Plenary round-up – October II 2020

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson,

EP Plenary session - Joint debate - Common agricultural policy (CAP)

© European Union 2020 – Source : EP / Emilie GOMEZ

During the second October 2020 plenary session – the first at which Members were able to speak remotely, and not only vote, from the Member States – the European Commission presented its 2021 work programme, which Members largely welcomed. Members also discussed the conclusions of the 15‑16 October 2020 European Council meeting, EU measures to mitigate the social and economic impact of Covid‑19, police brutality within the EU, the sale of EU passports and visas to criminals, the State of the Energy Union and aligning the Energy Charter Treaty with the European Green Deal. Parliament announced that its 2020 Sakharov Prize will be awarded on 16 December to the Belarusian opposition, in particular the Coordinating Council, for ‘an initiative launched by courageous women’.

Joint debate on the common agricultural policy

Members conducted an important joint debate on the Commission’s package of three legislative proposals to overhaul the common agricultural policy (CAP) for 2021‑2027. While Parliament supports the modernisation of the CAP, it warns against moves to introduce budget cuts, particularly in view of the challenges of restructuring this vital sector to help farmers protect the environment, and distribute funds more fairly. The proposals seek to establish a new delivery model by combining interventions under the two pillars of the CAP in strategic plans drawn up by Member States; improving financial management, with Member States allocated greater responsibility for conformity and control of agricultural support spending; and introducing amendments to five regulations, including on the common market organisation (CMO) in agricultural products (including controversial issues concerning, for instance, authorised wine grape varieties and the labelling of plant and dairy-based meat substitutes). Parliament adopted its position for negotiations with the Council following votes on a series of amendments to all three Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) Committee reports. However, some Members and stakeholders felt that the final compromise does not go far enough towards protecting the European Green Deal’s ambitions and climate goals.

Joint debate on digital services

Following important debates on the need to regulate digital services and artificial intelligence to ensure that they maximise benefits to people in the EU while also minimising the risks, Members adopted three own-initiative resolutions, of which two are legislative. Parliament has long called for revision of the outdated EU online services framework, particularly in the light of large discrepancies in application of the rules between EU countries. In advance of the expected Commission proposal on a Digital Services Act package, Parliament adopted its initial position on the revision, set out in three committee reports. Members approved an Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee legislative-initiative report calling on the Commission to amend its proposals to ensure that the rules apply to all goods and services providers, wherever they are located, and better protect EU consumers against fraud, targeted advertising, and automated decisions. Members also approved the parallel Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee legislative-initiative report recommending standards to which platforms should be held and the application of different approaches to ‘legal ‘and ‘illegal’ online content. The report seeks to balance protection of both users’ rights and their right to freedom of speech. Finally, Members approved, by a large majority, a Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee own-initiative report echoing the same concerns and calling for improved cooperation between service providers and national supervisory authorities, as well as the creation of an independent EU body with the power to place sanctions on online operators.

Joint debate on artificial intelligence

During the same debate, Members also considered the implications – both positive and negative – of harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, for the lives of people in the EU. In advance of the Commission proposal expected in 2021, Parliament voted with large majorities on three reports from the Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee, on ethics, civil liability, and intellectual property in artificial intelligence, setting out Parliament’s positions. The first legislative-initiative report deals with the requirements for a framework of ethical principles for the development, deployment and use of AI, robotics and related technologies, which will be vital to ensuring innovation also protects people’s rights. The second legislative-initiative report sets out recommendations for a legal framework for civil liability that identifies a hierarchy of risks, and measures to compensate for harm caused by the technology. A third own-initiative report highlights the need to foster the free flow, access, use and sharing of data, while also protecting intellectual property rights and trade secrets.

Discharge decisions

Members voted by a large majority to refuse to discharge the 2018 EU general budget for the European Council and Council, and for the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), following Budgetary Control (CONT) Committee re-examination of the files. Parliament has refused to grant discharge to the European Council and Council since 2009, due to a lack of cooperation on accountability and transparency. Parliament’s decision also reflects a lack of accountability, budgetary control and good governance of human resources at the EESC in relation to serious misconduct by one of its senior members.

European Globalisation Adjustment Fund

Parliament approved, by an overwhelming majority, the decision to mobilise €2 054 400 from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to support workers who have lost their jobs as a result of financial difficulties at two shipyards in Galicia (Spain).

Implementation and governance of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO)

In view of the strategic review of PESCO taking place this year, Members adopted, by a large majority, a Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) report on the implementation and governance of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the EU’s Treaty-based military and defence cooperation mechanism. Under PESCO’s binding commitments, participating Member States aim at achieving a competitive European defence industry through collaborative projects. While Parliament has long supported the creation of PESCO, it is critical of certain shortcomings, including project coherence and strategic justification. Parliament also calls for increased scrutiny powers, including for national parliaments.

Relations with Belarus

Parliament endorsed AFET committee recommendations on relations with Belarus, calling for an end to the violence and fresh elections. While endorsing the overall EU stance towards Belarus following the disputed August 2020 elections, Parliament calls for solidarity, support for the population and sanctions against the regime. Parliament declines to recognise Lukashenka as the legitimate president of Belarus, recognises the Coordination Council, and calls for a peaceful resolution to the standoff.

Global deforestation

Members voted by an overwhelming majority in favour of imposing mandatory EU rules to fight global deforestation. Parliament calls on the European Commission to take regulatory action, following the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee legislative-initiative report proposing to prevent products associated with deforestation or forest degradation from entering the EU market. The ENVI committee proposes a new EU framework to protect forests worldwide, guaranteeing that commodities imported into the EU are legal and sustainable.

Opening of trilogue negotiations

Members confirmed two mandates for negotiations: from the Transport and Tourism (TRAN) Committee on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on a European Year of Rail (2021); and jointly from the Budgets (BUDG) and Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committees on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the public-sector loan facility under the Just Transition Mechanism.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – October II 2020‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/10/26/plenary-round-up-october-ii-2020/

Coronavirus: The second wave [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

© wladimir1804 / Adobe Stock

A resurgence in the number of coronavirus infections since the summer has evidently turned into a second wave of the pandemic, which has now hit many European Union countries. The pandemic is putting renewed pressure on European health systems, and authorities are introducing stringent but targeted preventive measures in a bid to cushion the negative economic impacts while preserving people’s health and ensuring hospitals are not once again overwhelmed. An increasing number of EU countries are clamping down on travel and imposing strict social distancing measures, such as night-time curfews in major cities and limits on social contacts, although most schools and businesses remain open throughout Europe.

The International Monetary Fund said in its October World Economic Outlook (WEO) that global growth in 2020 is projected at -4.4 per cent owing to the pandemic, a less severe contraction than forecast in the June 2020 WEO. The revision reflects better than anticipated second quarter GDP outturns – mostly in advanced economies, where activity bounced back sooner than expected following the scaling back of national lockdowns in May and June – as well as indications of a stronger recovery in the third quarter.

This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on pandemic related issues. Earlier think tank studies on the issue can be found in the ‘What Think Tanks are Thinking‘ of 25 September.

The global compact for migration and public health in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, September 2020

The European Parliament’s involvement in the EU response to the Corona pandemic
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, October 2020

Europe and the Covid-19 crisis
Centre for European Policy Studies, September 2020

Who will really benefit from the Next Generation EU funds?
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2020

Measuring price stability in Covid times
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2020

In the name of Covid-19
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2020

A proposal for a public infrastructure leasing entity for Europe
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2020

Covid-19 has democratic lessons to teach. Has Angela Merkel helped Germany to learn them?
German Marshall Fund, October 2020

Trump infected with corona: What are the consequences for the United States?
German Marshall Fund, October 2020

The pandemic was supposed to be great for strongmen. What happened?
European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2020

Europe’s double bind
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

Schengen will survive the pandemic: The single market may not
Centre for European Reform, October 2020

Taking pandemic preparedness seriously: Lessons from Covid-19
Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

What is the world doing to create a Covid-19 vaccine?
Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

EU law in the time of Covid-19
European Policy Centre, September 2020

Covid-19 et immigration: Le grand laisser-faire européen
Confrontations Europe, September 2020

The Covid crisis, an opportunity for a ‘new multilateralism’?
Confrontations Europe, October 2020

A sectarianised pandemic: Covid-19 in Lebanon
Istituto Affari Internazionali, October 2020

Covid lies go viral thanks to unchecked social media
Chatham House, October 2020

Ensuring a greener recovery from the pandemic
Chatham House, October 2020

Preparing for Covid-20
European Council for International Political Economy, October 2020

As election day nears, Covid-19 spreads further into red America
Brookings Institution, October 2020

Lessons learned from Taiwan and South Korea’s tech-enabled COVID-19 communications
Brookings Institution, October 2020

Corporate bond market dysfunction during Covid-19 and lessons from the Fed’s response
Brookings Institution, October 2020

What Covid-19 may—or may not—change about swing state politics
Brookings Institution, October 2020

New poll: More Europeans prioritise the environment than prioritise the Covid-19 economic recovery
Friends of Europe, October 2020

Pandemic is a wake-up call for mental healthcare reform in Europe
Friends of Europe, October 2020

Covid-19 and Africa’s recession: How bad can it get?
Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, October 2020

Changes in adult alcohol use and consequences during the Covid-19 pandemic in the US
Rand Corporation, September 2020

Managing the challenge of workforce presentism in the Covid-19 crisis
Rand Corporation, September 2020

How Russia targets U.S. Elections, black workers and Covid-19, TikTok: RAND weekly recap
Rand Corporation, October 2020

Understanding the Romanian diaspora: Diaspora mobilisation during Covid-19
Foreign Policy Centre, October 2020

Contre la pandémie et pour le climat: La science et l’innovation
Institut Jacques Delors, September 2020

Trade in pandemic time
Institut Jacques Delors, September 2020

The Corona transformation: How the pandemic slows globalization and accelerates digitalization
Bertelsmann Stiftung, September 2020

Why has Covid-19 hit different European Union economies so differently?
Bruegel, September 2020

Common eurobonds should become Europe’s safe asset: But they don’t need to be green
Bruegel, September 2020

Will European Union countries be able to absorb and spend well the bloc’s recovery funding?
Bruegel, September 2020

Government-guaranteed bank lending six months on
Bruegel, September 2020


Read this briefing on ‘Coronavirus: The second wave‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/10/23/coronavirus-the-second-wave-what-think-tanks-are-thinking-2/

What measures has the European Union taken on seasonal clock changes?

clock changing from summer to winter time. 3d rendering

© Adobe Stock

The European Union (EU) first unified summer-time arrangements in 1980, to ensure a harmonised approach to time switching within the single market. Until then, national summer-time practices and schedules were different, with obvious consequences for time differences between neighbouring countries. A 2000 EU Directive on summer-time arrangements now governs seasonal clock changes. It defines the summer-time period as ‘the period of the year during which clocks are put forward by 60 minutes compared with the rest of the year’ and stipulates that it begins ‘on the last Sunday in March’ and ends ‘on the last Sunday in October’. The directive states that coordinated summer-time arrangements are ‘important for the functioning of the internal market’.

Against the background of a number of petitions, citizens’ initiatives and parliamentary questions, the European Parliament called on the European Commission, in a February 2018 resolution, to conduct a thorough assessment of the summer-time arrangements provided in the 2000 Directive and, if necessary, to come up with a proposal for its revision.

European Commission proposal to end seasonal clock changes

On that basis, the Commission conducted a public consultation on the summer-time arrangements. In September 2018, the Commission put forward a new legislative proposal, where it suggests ending the practice of seasonal clock changes.

This proposal for a directive is put forward for adoption under the ordinary legislative procedure, in which the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, which represents the EU Member States, take decisions on an equal footing. Once both institutions have adopted their respective positions on the proposal, they can enter into negotiation on the proposed legislation. Once these negotiations have been concluded, both the Parliament and the Council need to endorse the agreed deal for it to become law.

European Parliament position in favour of ending seasonal clock changes

In its position on the proposal adopted in March 2019, the European Parliament endorsed the Commission suggestion to discontinue seasonal changes of time, leaving EU countries free to decide whether they want to introduce summer-time or winter-time on a permanent basis. To ensure that the application of summer-time by some EU countries and winter-time by others does not disrupt the functioning of the internal market, however, Parliament called on EU countries and the Commission to coordinate decision-making.

The adopted text sets out Parliament’s position in the negotiations on the proposal with the Council.

Blockage in the Council of the European Union

EU countries discussed the Commission’s proposal at an informal meeting of transport ministers in October 2018, in which a majority of ministers expressed their support for ending seasonal clock changes. However, at the following meeting, in December 2018, ministers indicated that EU countries needed more time for further consultations. In December 2019, the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU updated ministers on the status of the European Commission’s proposal. The Council has still to agree its position and EU countries are carrying out consultations to finalise their positions.

Further information

Keep sending your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP)! We reply in the EU language that you use to write to us.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/10/22/what-measures-has-the-european-union-taken-on-seasonal-clock-changes/

Amending the European Fund for Sustainable Development [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Eric Pichon (1st edition),

© octofocus / Adobe Stock

The EU is in the process of adapting its budgetary instruments to respond to the consequences of the coronavirus crisis, in particular in raising the established ceilings for some financial instruments. The proposed adjustments include, among other things, measures aimed at helping the most fragile third countries recover from the consequences of the pandemic. In particular, on 28 May 2020, the European Commission put forward a proposal concerning the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) in order to expand its coverage and raise the funds dedicated to leverage private investment for sustainable development and the guarantees to de-risk such investment. On 21 July 2020, the European Council rejected the draft amending budget that would have provided increased EFSD funding for the current year.

Versions

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/10/20/amending-the-european-fund-for-sustainable-development-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Minimum wage in the EU

Written by Marie Lecerf,

© Andrey Popov / Adobe Stock

In 2020, most European Union (EU) Member States have a statutory minimum wage (21 of 27), while six others have wage levels determined though collective bargaining. Expressed in euros, monthly minimum wages vary widely across the EU ranging from €312 in Bulgaria to €2 142 in Luxembourg (July 2020). The disparities are significantly smaller when price level differences are eliminated. Expressed in purchasing power standard, the minimum wage ranges from PPS 547 in Latvia to PPS 1 634 in Luxembourg.

The question of setting a minimum wage is one of the most analysed and debated topics in economics. Over recent years and in the context of the economic and social crisis engendered by the Covid‑19 outbreak, the creation of a European minimum wage is increasingly considered as a useful instrument to ensure fair wages and social inclusion.

In November 2017, the EU institutions jointly proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights, setting out the European Union’s commitment to fair wages for workers. Since then, the European Commission has shown its willingness to address this issue. In particular, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated in her political guidelines that she will propose a legal instrument to ensure that every worker in the Union has a fair minimum wage. Such minimum wages should be set according to national traditions, through collective agreements or legal provisions.

On 14 January 2020, the Commission launched the first phase of consultation with social partners on fair minimum wages for workers in the EU, to gather social partners’ views on the possible direction of EU action. Based on the replies received, the Commission concluded that there is a need for EU action. The second phase of consultation was launched on 3 June 2020; with a deadline of 4 September 2020 for social partners to provide their opinion. A Commission proposal is expected by the end of 2020.

The European Trade Union Confederation welcomed the European Commission’s initiative and called for the Commission to propose a directive. Conversely, employers’ organisations believe wage-setting should be left to social partners at national level. In their view, if the Commission wished to act, only an EU Council recommendation would be acceptable.

The European Parliament has often debated the issue of low income and minimum income over the last decade, advocating a more inclusive economy.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Minimum wage in the EU‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/10/20/minimum-wage-in-the-eu/

Outcome of the European Council meeting of 15-16 October 2020

Written by Ralf Drachenberg,

© Adobe Stock

Without reaching any new decisions, the European Council meeting of 15-16 October 2020 addressed a series of important issues, including the coronavirus pandemic, EU-United Kingdom relations and climate change. It also discussed numerous external relations issues, notably relations with Africa, the EU’s southern neighbourhood, Belarus and Turkey. In the context of rising Covid‑19 infections across all Member States, the European Council expressed its very serious concern about the developing pandemic situation and agreed to intensify overall coordination at EU level and between Member States. Regarding the negotiations on future EU-UK relations, EU leaders expressed their concern about the lack of progress and called on the UK to make the necessary moves. They stressed that the Withdrawal Agreement and its Protocols needed to be implemented in a full and timely manner. As regards the fight against climate change, whilst agreeing to increase the EU’s ambition for the coming decade and to update its climate and energy policy framework, the discussion did not lead to any concrete results and was mainly a preparatory stage before their meeting in December. Finally, following European Parliament President David Sassoli’s address reiterating Parliament’s demands on the 2021‑2027 long-term budget, EU leaders raised the issue, but categorically refused to re-open discussion on the package agreed in July.

1. European Council meeting: General aspects and new commitments

In accordance with Article 235(2) TFEU, the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, addressed the European Council at the start of its proceedings. Although negotiations on the multiannual financial framework (MFF) were not on the agenda for the European Council, he insisted on the urgency of achieving an outcome. Recalling Parliament’s key demands, President Sassoli stressed that Parliament was not obstructing the negotiations, but that ‘it is up to the EU leaders to unlock the negotiations on the new EU budget’, thus concluding that ‘the negotiating mandate issued to the German Presidency needs to be updated’. After the meeting, Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel reported on the exchange of views with President Sassoli, stressing the European Council’s willingness to negotiate, indicating the existence of some leeway and underlining the need for an agreement on the MFF within the coming weeks, yet categorically refusing to reopen the package agreed in July 2020. As President-in-Office of the Council, Angela Merkel provided an overview of the progress made in implementing previous European Council conclusions.

Table 1 – New European Council commitments and requests with a specific time schedule

Due to the fact that the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, was self-isolating after being in contact with a coronavirus-infected person, Poland was represented by the Prime Minister of Czechia, Andrej Babiš. For similar reasons, both the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland, had to leave the meeting early. The latter was thereafter represented by the Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven. The increasing number of EU leaders who are unable to attend, or have to leave, European Council meetings, highlights the worsening Covid‑19 situation and raises the question as to whether upcoming physical meetings will take place as planned. President Charles Michel reported on a discussion between EU leaders on this issue and indicated that decisions on the format of EU leaders’ meetings would need to be taken on a case-by-case basis. The informal summit on China in Berlin, planned for November 2020, has already been cancelled.

2. European Council agenda points

Coronavirus pandemic

President Charles Michel reported on a ‘long and intense debate on Covid‑19’ between EU Heads of State or Government. As flagged by the EPRS outlook, EU leaders assessed the current epidemiological situation and welcomed the progress achieved so far on overall coordination at EU level, including the recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement. This recommendation, adopted by the General Affairs Council on 13 October 2020, includes common criteria to collect data across the Member States so that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) can provide a common map of Europe highlighting the degree of infection with green (low infection rate), orange (medium infection rate) or red (high infection rate) zones. Moreover EU Heads of State or Government called on the Council, the European Commission and the Member States to continue overall coordination regarding quarantine regulations, cross-border contact tracing, testing strategies, joint assessment of testing methods and temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU.

The European Council also welcomed the work at EU level on the development and distribution of vaccines. It reiterated the need for a robust authorisation and monitoring process, the building of vaccination capacity in the EU, and fair and affordable access to vaccines. EU Heads of State or Government also encouraged further cooperation at global level. Chancellor Merkel indicated that EU leaders will regularly exchange information on the situation by video-conference.

EU-UK relations

Asked to put aside all mobile devices for this session, EU leaders took stock of the negotiations with the UK, noting insufficient progress on matters of importance for the EU. The Heads of State or Government called on the UK to take the necessary steps, in full respect of European Council guidelines, statements and declarations, in particular regarding the level playing field, governance and fisheries. Regarding the UK’s Internal Market Bill, the European Council underlined the need for the Withdrawal Agreement and its Protocols to be implemented in a full and timely manner.

President Michel emphasised EU leaders’ support for the work of EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier. The latter recalled the EU’s determination to reach a fair deal with the UK, but not at any cost. He underlined that principles had been clear from the outset: if access to the single market were to be granted, a level playing field is an essential prerequisite. He stressed that there was ‘good will’ on agreeing ‘fair play rules’ that would open the door for UK goods to the EU’s market, tariff and quota free. Regarding fisheries, Michel Barnier noted that all 27 EU Member States were united, underlining that eight countries were heavily dependent on fishing quotas in UK waters. He stressed the need for a sustainable, lasting agreement, with stable and reciprocal access to fisheries and a fair distribution of quotas. Michel Barnier acknowledged the UK’s desire for regulatory divergence. However, the EU requires guarantees that this divergence would not only be reasonable, regulated, and transparent, but also embedded in a dispute-settlement system that would ensure enforcement. Should infringement occur in the area of competition policy, the EU would thus be able to take unilateral measures to avail itself of its rights. The two negotiation teams are expected to discuss the outstanding issues during the week of 19 October 2020. The European Council has called upon Member States, Union institutions and all stakeholders to accelerate work at all levels – and for all outcomes – and invited the Commission to give timely consideration to unilateral and time-limited contingency measures that are in the EU’s interest.

Main message of Parliament’s President: David Sassoli conveyed Parliament’s support for an agreement with ‘free and fair competition at its core, a long-term, balanced solution on fisheries, and a robust mechanism to ensure that the rules are observed’. Parliament urges the UK to honour its commitments with respect to the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and, as such, to remove the controversial provisions from the UK Internal Market Bill.

Climate change

As announced by President Michel, the European Council held an ‘orientation debate’ on the fight against climate change. Concrete decisions were postponed to December 2020, as a political consensus on the EU’s level of ambition for 2030 is still in the making. President Michel indicated that there was ‘more and more support’ for an increased level of ambition for 2030. Prior to the summit, 11 Member States had expressed clear support for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 % by 2030, in line with the target date set in the Commission’s communication on ‘Stepping up Europe’s 2030 climate ambition’. President von der Leyen stressed that the minimum 55 % reduction target is an ambitious and achievable goal. The European Council underlined that an increase in the level of ambition for 2030 was needed to meet ‘the objective of a climate-neutral EU by 2050’, an objective to which all except one Member State – Poland – committed in December 2019. Nevertheless, at this meeting, EU leaders seem to have changed course: Achieving climate-neutrality by 2050 would now be a ‘collective EU commitment’, rather than a commitment undertaken by each Member State. This new approach would allow for all Member States to participate and their national situations to be taken into account, as it would provide them with flexibility; however, it would also lower individual levels of ambition as expressed in the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which Member States have to submit by the end of the year to the UNFCCC. Over the medium to long term, this could hamper the EU’s climate diplomacy efforts and the bloc’s ability to act as a leader on climate change.

Main messages of the EP President: President Sassoli underlined that the proposed European Climate Law represents a cornerstone of the Green Deal, by making the objective of 2050 climate neutrality legally binding and by setting a higher target for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions of 60 % by 2030. He expressed Parliament’s attachment to this more ambitious GHG reduction target and stressed that the EU ‘must act decisively now’ to protect the environment and create new jobs. He also reminded EU leaders of the commitment to implement the Paris Agreement and stressed that the EU ‘must act more resolutely at global level’ on fighting climate change.

External relations

Relations with Africa

President Michel spoke of a ‘strategic debate’ on relations with Africa aimed at preparing the ‘strategic meeting’ with the African Union (AU) on 9 December 2020. The European Council stressed its attachment to a strengthened partnership with the AU, based on ‘mutual interests and shared responsibility’. It recalled that ‘Africa is a natural partner’ for the EU and that it is important to further deepen cooperation ‘in all fields’. It added that, in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, it was crucial to strengthen health systems in Africa, whilst developing and distributing vaccines. EU leaders expressed their commitment ‘to furthering international debt relief efforts for African countries’ and tasked the Council with preparing a ‘common approach’ by end-November 2020.

EU leaders identified five sectors as key for cooperation with Africa: 1) digital and knowledge economy; 2) renewable energy; 3) transport; 4) health; and 5) agri-food systems. In addition, they recalled the EU’s commitment to human rights, non-discrimination, good governance and the rule of law. They stressed EU support for peace and security efforts undertaken by African counterparts and for economic integration at both regional and continental level. Engaging with African partners on migration, both legal and illegal, was one of the points most discussed by the EU leaders, underlining that the guiding principles for cooperation on migration should be ‘solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility’.

Main messages of the EP President: President Sassoli stressed that Africa and Europe were ‘united by a shared future’ and should step up their cooperation on climate change, digital economy and health, and welcomed the EU humanitarian air bridge set in place following the coronavirus outbreak. He stressed that, once in force, the new post-Cotonou agreement would foster parliamentary cooperation and respond to the aspirations of citizens.

Southern neighbourhood

EU leaders marked the 25th anniversary of the Barcelona process and announced their intention to hold a ‘strategic discussion’ on the southern neighbourhood in December 2020. The last such discussion was scheduled in October 2015. Leaders then focused primarily on the crises in Syria and Libya, leaving consideration of the neighbourhood policy proper to the Council.

Belarus

Belarus has featured constantly on the agenda of the European Council since 19 August 2020, when EU leaders first discussed the situation in the country. EU leaders expressed solidarity with Lithuania and Poland, which are facing retaliatory measures from Belarus; condemned violence; and endorsed the Foreign Affairs Council’s conclusions of 12 October 2020.

Turkey

A last-minute addition to the European Council agenda, conclusions on Turkey were not initially envisaged, but were adopted at the request of Greece. EU leaders reaffirmed the position expressed earlier in the month, and deplored Turkey’s renewal of exploratory activity in the eastern Mediterranean. They stressed the importance of the status of the Varosha area, reaffirmed the EU’s solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, and confirmed that it remained ‘seized of the matter’.

Main messages of the EP President: President Sassoli called on Member States to speak with one voice and to support German-led mediation efforts in support of the de-escalation of tensions. He called on Turkey to refrain from further provocation and to comply with international law.

Flight MH17

On several occasions (August 2014, October 2015, June 2018, June 2019) the European Council has called on Russia to support efforts to establish the truth as regards the downing of flight MH17 and to continue negotiations with Australia and the Netherlands. It stressed that ‘after more than six years since this tragic event the 298 victims and their next of kin deserve justice’. The other Russia-related item – sanctions following the attempt to poison Alexei Navalny – was not discussed, as sanctions had already been adopted by the Council prior to the European Council meeting.


Read this briefing on ‘Outcome of the European Council meeting of 15-16 October 2020‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/10/19/outcome-of-the-european-council-meeting-of-15-16-october-2020/

Understanding US Presidential elections

Written by Matthew Parry and Carmen-Cristina Cîrlig  –  Graphics: Giulio Sabbati,

Closeup shot of one presidential election button in focus in between many other buttons in a box. Selective focus with shallow depth of field.

© Carsten Reisinger / Adobe Stock

In August 2020, the two major political parties in the United States (US), the Democrats and the Republicans, formally nominated their respective candidates for the 59th US presidential election, which takes place on Tuesday, 3 November 2020. An initially crowded field of contenders in the Democratic primaries developed into a two-horse race between former US Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, with Biden declared the Democratic nominee on 18 August. He will now contest the presidential election against the Republican candidate, who faced no significant primary challenge, the incumbent US President, Donald Trump.

The US President is simultaneously head of state, head of government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Presidential elections are therefore a hugely important part of American political life. Although millions of Americans vote in presidential elections every four years, the President is not, in fact, directly elected by the people. Citizens elect the members of the Electoral College, who then cast their votes for the President and Vice-President.

While key elements of the presidential election are spelled out in the US Constitution, other aspects have been shaped by state laws, national party rules and state party rules. This explains why presidential campaigns have evolved over time, from the days when presidential candidates were nominated in the House of Representatives by the ‘king caucus’, to an almost exclusively party-dominated ‘convention’ system, and finally to the modern system of nominations based very largely on primary elections, introduced progressively to increase the participation of party supporters in the selection process. A number of additional developments have also played an important role in shaping today’s presidential elections, notably political party efforts to limit ‘front-loading’ of primaries; the organisation of the Electoral College system and the changes to the campaign financing system.

A previous version of this Briefing, written by Carmen-Cristina Cîrlig and Micaela Del Monte, was published in 2016.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Understanding US Presidential elections‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Who can vote in primaries and caucuses?

Who can vote in primaries
and caucuses?

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/10/19/understanding-us-presidential-elections-2/