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Agreement on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU

Written by Carmen-Cristina Cîrlig,

© designer491 / Shutterstock.com

On 29 January 2020, the European Parliament is set to vote on the recommendation to give consent to the treaty on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU), endorsed in its current version by EU leaders and the UK Prime Minister in October 2019. Parliament’s consent, following the completion of the UK’s domestic procedures for ratifying the agreement, will allow its entry into force on 1 February 2020. The UK will then cease its 47-year membership of the EU, although EU law will remain applicable to the UK during an 11‑month transition period ending on 31 December 2020. If however Parliament were to deny consent, the UK would leave the EU without a deal on 1 February 2020, absent another extension of the Article 50 period.

The EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement

After 40 months of negotiations, three extensions to the Article 50 TEU negotiating period and two draft agreements endorsed by the EU-27 leaders and the UK Prime Minister, the approval of the treaty setting out the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is now close to completion. Initiated in June 2017, the negotiations focused in a first phase on three key issues: protecting UK and EU citizens’ rights, agreeing a financial settlement, and ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland. In the second phase of talks, from December 2017 on, the framework for the future EU-UK relationship and transitional arrangements were discussed. On 14 November 2018, negotiators agreed a draft withdrawal treaty and a political declaration setting out the framework for the future EU-UK relationship, both promptly endorsed by then UK Prime Minister Theresa May and EU-27 leaders. However, the UK House of Commons voted repeatedly to reject the withdrawal deal; and after taking office in July 2019, the new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out to renegotiate the ‘backstop’ solution for Northern Ireland. On 17 October 2019, the European Council endorsed a revised withdrawal agreement, in which the main changes related to Northern Ireland, and revised political declaration. Subsequently, the EU-27 granted a further Article 50 extension to the UK until 31 January 2020 to allow the ratification process to be completed.

The withdrawal agreement is an extensive legal document comprising: common and final provisions, citizens’ rights, the financial settlement, rules on the transition period, other separation issues (rules on concluding ongoing processes at the end of the transition period, e.g. ongoing judicial procedures) and governance of the agreement. It also includes three Protocols (on Ireland/Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, and the UK Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus) and annexes. The Political Declaration is a non-binding text, providing the basis for future EU-UK economic and security cooperation. The few changes in October 2019 reflect the UK government’s ‘different level of ambition’ with respect to the future EU-UK relationship.

The transition (or implementation) period is to last until 31 December 2020, during which time the UK, although a third country, is treated as a Member State (with the exceptions set out in the withdrawal treaty), but without any EU decision-making or representation rights. This period is extendable once (before 1 July 2020) for up to one or two years. The transition period was meant to allow time for negotiations on the future partnership, however experts consider that 11 months is insufficient to reach a comprehensive agreement in all relevant areas (the trade relationship, security cooperation, immigration, data-sharing, fisheries, etc.), all the more so if the UK wishes to diverge significantly from EU standards after the transition.

As regards the border issue, the revised agreement reverts from the previous UK-wide backstop option to a Northern Ireland-only solution, whereby once the transition period ends, Northern Ireland will apply EU customs and tariffs legislation, as well as the relevant EU single market rules needed to avoid any regulatory or customs border on the island of Ireland. A consent mechanism for Northern Irish authorities is also included. However many of the detailed rules necessary for the operation of this Protocol have still to be established by the parties.

In terms of governance, a Joint Committee made up of EU and UK representatives will be responsible for the implementation and application of the agreement. The treaty also includes a mechanism for dispute settlement, based on arbitration (with the role of the Court of Justice of the EU preserved if the dispute relates to a question of interpretation of EU law), and compliance provisions.

Ratification procedure

In the United Kingdom

The general election in the UK in December 2019 delivered a clear majority to the Conservative party of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, thus facilitating the adoption of the necessary legislation for ratifying and implementing the Withdrawal Agreement. On 19 December 2019, the government introduced the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 2019-2020, which fulfils two roles: 1) it gives effect domestically to the withdrawal treaty (the UK being a dualist state); and 2) it fulfils provisions of the previous EU Withdrawal Act 2018 which requires an Act of Parliament before the UK can ratify the treaty.

The bill repeals previous domestic requirements related to the ratification of the withdrawal agreement; implements the transition period; delegates a range of powers to the government for the implementation of the citizens’ rights provisions, the Protocol on Northern Ireland and the separation issues; and, importantly, it confers direct effect to the relevant provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, after the transition, and foresees that incompatible or inconsistent domestic legislation must be disapplied. In terms of changes from the October version, the bill does not include powers for the UK parliament relating to the future relationship negotiations and agreements, and blocks the possibility of the government asking for an extension to the transition period. The bill completed its passage through the UK Parliament on 22 January, with the House of Lords choosing not to insist on its earlier amendments, and received Royal Assent on 23 January 2020.

In the European Union

In December 2018, the European Commission adopted two proposals on the signing and conclusion of the withdrawal agreement. On 11 January 2019, the Council (Article 50) adopted a decision on signing the agreement and approved a draft decision to conclude the agreement. Both the decision to sign and to conclude the agreement were subsequently amended in light of the Article 50 extensions and the revised deal in October 2019. The draft Council decision to conclude the agreement was sent to Parliament for consent in October 2019. According to Rule 88 of its Rules of Procedure, Parliament gives its consent to a withdrawal agreement by a majority of votes cast (i.e. simple majority of Members present). Members elected in the UK have the right to vote. If Parliament gives consent, the Council can adopt the decision to conclude the agreement with a ‘super qualified majority’, following the treaty’s signature by both parties. Ratification by Member States is not required. For the agreement to enter into force, the parties must provide written notification that their internal ratification procedures are completed.

European Parliament position

Throughout the negotiations, Parliament has made its views heard through various resolutions and through its Brexit Steering Group has cooperated closely with the other EU institutions, in particular the Commission’s Task Force in charge of the EU-UK talks. On 15 January 2020, the EP adopted a new resolution on implementing and monitoring provisions on citizens’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement.

The recommendation on consent was drawn up by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO), rapporteur Guy Verhofstadt (Renew Europe, Belgium). Ten other Committees adopted opinions in the form of letters from their respective chairs to the AFCO Chair. On 23 January 2020, AFCO voted to recommend giving consent to the agreement by 23 votes, with 3 against, and no abstentions. In plenary, on 29 January 2020, there will be a single vote, to approve or deny consent, no amendments being possible.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/27/agreement-on-the-united-kingdoms-withdrawal-from-the-eu/

Brexit: The final countdown [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

© Delphotostock / Fotolia

It is now clear that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on 31 January 2020. It will do so on the basis of the revised Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the EU-27 and the UK by Boris Johnson after he became Prime Minister last year. Both sides will then start negotiations on future relations, including on trade, which will run during the transitional period, currently due to end on 31 December 2020. The UK government has said it will set out its hopes for the future partnership after Brexit has happened.

This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from international think tanks on numerous challenges facing the UK, EU and their future ties after their divorce.

Brexit: Getting it done
European Policy Centre, January 2020

Flexibility does not come for free
Centre for European Reform, January 2020

Devolution restored in Northern Ireland as the British and Irish Governments prepare for the next phase of Brexit
Open Europe, January 2020

Scotland’s European choices as UK exits the EU
Scottish Institute for European Relations, January 2020

The Irish 2020 election and Brexit
The UK in a Changing Europe, January 2020

The UK seeks its own ‘phase one’ deal on Brexit
Peterson Institute for International Economics, January 2020

Britain voted for independence, but it has achieved isolation
European Council on Foreign Relations, January 2020

Brexit’s finish line is only the ‘end of the beginning’ for Britain and the European Union
Council on Foreign Relations, January 2020

Getting Brexit done: What happens now?
Institute for Government, January 2020

Attention turns to the structure of next phase Brexit talks
Open Europe, January 2020

A bumpy level playing field awaits the next round of Brexit talks
Institute for Government, January 2020

The North-East of England after Brexit
The UK in a Changing Europe, January 2020

Post-Brexit trade deals: What do the public think?
The UK in a Changing Europe, January 2020

Brexit endgame: Brexit nears, Northern Ireland assembly reconvenes, and Megxit distracts
Brookings Institution, January 2020

The Border into Brexit: Perspectives from local communities in the central border region of Ireland/Northern Ireland
The UK in a Changing Europe, December 2019

A post-Brexit Europe in a new decade
Carnegie Europe, December 2019

Britain must balance a transatlantic heart with a European head
Chatham House, December 2019

A Brexit trade deal by December 2020 won’t be much of a deal at all
The UK in a Changing Europe, December 2019

What Boris Johnson’s big win means for Brexit and Scotland
Chatham House, December 2019

Getting the UK ready for the next phase of Brexit negotiations
Institute for Government, December 2019

Will Boris Johnson go full speed ahead or wobbly on Brexit?
Council on Foreign Relations, December 2019

The end of twentieth-century Labour
Carnegie Europe, December 2019

How much will the UK contribute to the next seven-year EU budget?
Bruegel, December 2019

A very different Brexit year lies ahead
Open Europe, December 2019

A second independence referendum: When and how could Scotland vote again?
Institute for Government, December 2019

Post-election: Where next for a divided, diminished UK?
Scottish Institute for European Relations, November 2019

Independence, Scotland and EU accession: Challenges ahead
Scottish Institute for European Relations, November 2019

How economically damaging will Brexit be?
Centre for European Reform, November 2019

Brexit: Research and analyses
House of Commons Library, 2020

Latest thinking and research about Brexit from LSE
LSE Brexit blog, 2020

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/24/brexit-the-final-countdown-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

The European Union and Holocaust remembrance

Written by Magdalena Pasikowska-Schnass and Philippe Perchoc,

© cge2010 / Fotolia

The term Holocaust refers to the mass murder of 6 million European Jews, Roma and other persecuted groups, whom the Nazi regime and its collaborators sought to annihilate.

The expropriation, state-sponsored discrimination and persecution of the Jews by the Nazi regime began in 1933, followed by pogroms and their mass incarceration in concentration camps. Ultimately, this policy was extended to all Nazi-controlled European territories and countries during World War II, culminating in mass summary executions (‘Holocaust by Bullets’) and extermination in death camps. The perpetrators were prosecuted at the Nuremberg trials in 1945-1946; however, the tribunal preferred to indict them on charges of crimes against humanity rather than genocide.

It was not until 2005, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz that a United Nations resolution designated 27 January the day for international commemoration of the Holocaust, to be known as ‘International Holocaust Remembrance Day’.

In the European Union, numerous programmes seek to preserve the memory of these tragic events in the history of the continent. Since 1995, the European Parliament has adopted resolutions drawing attention to the obligation to remember not only through commemorations but also through education. In November 2018, the EU became a permanent international partner of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Read the complete briefing on ‘The European Union and Holocaust remembrance‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/24/the-european-union-and-holocaust-remembrance/

Support for fishermen affected by the eastern Baltic cod closure [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Frederik Scholaert (1st edition),

© Hans Christiansson / Shutterstock

Eastern Baltic cod has long supported the livelihoods of many Baltic fishermen, but stocks of this valuable fish have been declining sharply in recent years. Every year since 2014, total allowable catches have been reduced accordingly. Recent scientific advice, published in May 2019, reinforced concerns regarding eastern Baltic cod, showing an even steeper decline and estimating the stock to be below safe biological limits for the past two years. Scientists point to high natural mortality resulting from various environmental pressures, including a lack of salinity, little oxygen, pollution, high water temperatures and parasite infestation. On 22 July 2019, as an emergency measure, the Commission imposed an immediate closure of the fishery for six months, with the exception of a limited amount arising from the unavoidable by-catch. Subsequently, fishing opportunities for 2020 were cut by 92 %. As recovery of the stock is not expected before 2024, on 31 October 2019 the Commission issued a proposal amending the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Regulation in order to allow support for permanent cessation and introducing parallel changes to the Baltic multiannual plan by setting capacity limits for the fishing segments concerned and by including additional control and data collection measures.




Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/20/support-for-fishermen-affected-by-the-eastern-baltic-cod-closure-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Using technology to ‘co-create’ EU policies

Written by Gianluca Sgueo,

© Ico Maker / Shutterstock.com

What will European Union (EU) decision-making look like in the next decade and beyond? Is technological progress promoting more transparent, inclusive and participatory decision-making at EU level?

Technology has dramatically changed both the number and quality of connections between citizens and public administrations. With technological progress, citizens have gained improved access to public authorities through new digital communication channels. Innovative, tech-based, approaches to policy-making have become the subject of a growing debate between academics and politicians. Theoretical approaches such as ‘CrowdLaw’, ‘Policy-Making 3.0’, ‘liquid’, ‘do-it-yourself’ or ‘technical’ democracy and ‘democratic innovations’ share the positive outlook towards technology; and technology is seen as the medium through which policies can be ‘co-created’ by decision-makers and stakeholders. Co-creation is mutually beneficial. Decision-makers gain legitimacy by incorporating the skills, knowledge and expertise of citizens, who in turn have the opportunity to shape new policies according to their needs and expectations.

EU institutions are at the forefront of experimentation with technologically innovative approaches to make decision-making more transparent and accessible to stakeholders. Efforts in modernising EU participatory channels through technology have evolved over time: from redressing criticism on democratic deficits, through fostering digital interactions with stakeholders, up to current attempts at designing policy-making in a friendly and participative manner.

While technological innovation holds the promise of making EU policy-making even more participatory, it is not without challenges. To begin with, technology is resource consuming. There are legal challenges associated with both over- and under-regulation of the use of technology in policy-making. Furthermore, technological innovation raises ethical concerns. It may increase inequality, for instance, or infringe personal privacy.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Using technology to ‘co-create’ EU policies‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/20/using-technology-to-co-create-eu-policies/

Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, January I 2020

Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochaka,

© European Union 2020 – Source : EP/Christian CREUTZ

January highlights included statements on ongoing hearings on the rule of law under Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union (EU) regarding Hungary and Poland; bushfires in Australia and climate change consequences; cross-border organised crime and its impact on free movement; a common charger for mobile radio equipment; the gender pay gap; and the ‘Housing First’ approach to address homelessness. Parliament also debated statements on the situation in Iran and Iraq, in Libya, and in Venezuela following the illegal election of the new National Assembly Presidency and Bureau. Members voted on annual reports on implementation of the common foreign and security, and foreign and defence policies. Members debated citizens’ rights provisions in the UK Withdrawal Agreement. They also voted on a resolution on the European Green Deal, following their debate in December’s special session – on the day on which the Commission had itself adopted and presented its plans. In addition, His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan addressed a formal sitting of Parliament.

Presentation of the programme of activities of the Croatian Presidency

Members debated Council and European Commission statements presenting the programme of the new (and first) Croatian Council Presidency. The priorities for the six-month tenure include developing European economic and social cohesion and convergence; making stronger connections between European citizens, focusing on infrastructure for smooth mobility of people and goods; boosting internal security to protect citizens and tackling migration issues; and strengthening multilateralism and Europe’s influence in the world.

Conference on the Future of Europe

Members adopted, by a large majority, Parliament’s position on arrangements for the Conference on the Future of Europe, which closely follows the text agreed by Parliament’s Conference of Political Group Presidents. Parliament has high expectations for the conference, and is eager to contribute to a design that affords maximum opportunities for citizen contribution, while avoiding the pitfalls inherent in any selection. A Parliament working group is reflecting on ensuring that the conference structure, aims and scope are realistic and result in meaningful outcomes.

COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (Kunming 2020)

Parliament debated a Commission statement on the COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and adopted a resolution in view of the 15th meeting of the parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China in October 2020. The EU post-2020 biodiversity framework (to 2030) needs to be in place in time for this meeting. However, Parliament is asking how the Commission proposes to strengthen implementation of biodiversity-protection measures, given the failure to achieve 2020 targets.

2018 Annual report on human rights and democracy in the world

Members debated and adopted Parliament’s position on the 2018 Annual report on the human rights and democracy in the world and the European Union’s policy on the matter. The report takes stock of all EU action in human rights and democracy, and Parliament takes the opportunity to review EU action and make recommendations for the future, in an annual resolution adopted in response to the report.

Negotiations ahead of Council’s first reading

The President announced five Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee decisions to enter into interinstitutional negotiations, in accordance with Rule 72. Parliament’s positions adopted earlier at first reading will provide the mandates for these negotiations.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, January I 2020‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/17/plenary-round-up-strasbourg-january-i-2020/

Future of European Security and Defence Policy [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

© luzitanija / Fotolia

The EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) aims to ensure an appropriate role for the Union in peace-keeping operations, conflict prevention and in the strengthening of international security. It is an integral part of the EU’s comprehensive approach towards crisis management, drawing on civilian and military assets. Now its importance is rising because of the increasingly uncertain strategic environment. For years, the EU has been considered as an economic powerhouse but militarily weak, and it is currently debating whether and how to enhance its defence capabilities, notably because of the growing complexity of transatlantic security relations. The new European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, is determined to expand the EU’s international role, calling her Commission ‘geopolitical’.

This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from international think tanks on the state of the future of the EU’s foreign, security and defence policy.

What EU geopolitical power will cost
Centre for European Policy Studies, December 2019

The EU as a maritime security provider
European Union Institute for Security Studies, December 2019

Differentiated integration within PESCO: Clusters and convergence in EU defence
Centre for European Policy Studies, December 2019

On European power
Istituto Affari Internazionali, December 2019

From global strategy to strategic compass: Where is the EU heading?
Egmont, December 2019

Strategic investment: Making geopolitical sense of the EU’s defence industrial policy
European Union Institute for Security Studies, December 2019

How can the EU learn the language of power?
Chatham House, December 2019

Europe’s coherence gap in external crisis and conflict management
Centre for European Policy Studies, December 2019

Putting the core at the centre: The crisis response operation core (CROC) and the future of PESCO
Egmont, December 2019

Europe´s coherence gap in external crisis and conflict management: The EU’s integrated approach between political rhetoric and institutional practice
Bertelsmann Stiftung, November 2019

Towards a European Security Council?
Centre for European Reform, November 2019

EU-NATO cooperation in an era of great power competition
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, November 2019

Towards a more capable European Union civilian CSDP
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, November 2019
Towards a more gender-balanced European Union CSDP
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, November 2019

EU-U.S. consensus and NATO-EU cooperation
Egmont, November 2019

Gaming the new security nexus
Clingendael, November 2019

Transatlantic relations: Past, present and future
College of Europe, November 2019

EU defense cooperation: Progress amid transatlantic concerns
Carnegie Europe, November 2019

Trump, NATO leaders converge in London: What to watch
German Marshall Fund, November 2019

Can the European Commission develop Europe’s defence industry?
Centre for European Reform, November 2019

New perspectives on shared security: NATO’s next 70 years
Carnegie Europe, November 2019

The militarization of US foreign policy: Engagement with Europe increasingly about defense
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, November 2019

What does it mean to be a European defence company today?
Institut français des relations internationales, November 2019

Rethinking European security
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, October 2019

Mutual reinforcement: CSDP and NATO in the face of rising challenges
Institut français des relations internationales, October 2019

Der vernetzte Krieg. Warum moderne Streitkräfte von elektronischer Kampfführung abhängen
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, October 2019

The first year of the compact: How the review process can make civilian CSDP more capable
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, October 2019

NATO’s futures through Russian and Chinese beholders’ eyes
The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, October 2019

EU watch list 2019: Third update
International Crisis Group, October 2019

Articulating the logic of nuclear-sharing
Institute for European Studies, October 2019

The European intervention initiative: Developing a shared strategic culture for European defence
Clingendael, September 2019

Democratization first: The community method in CFSP as a precondition for a European defence policy
Institut français des relations internationales, September 2019

New beginnings: Bolstering EU Foreign and Security Policy in times of contestation
Notre Europe, September 2019

European security 2030
LSE Ideas, Dahrendorf Forum, Mercator Stiftung, September 2019

Up in arms: Warring over Europe´s arms export regime
Centre for European Reform, September 2019

Give the people what they want: Popular demand for a strong European foreign policy
European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2019

European security in crisis: What to expect if the US withdraws from NATO
International Institute for Strategic Studies, Körber Stiftung, September 2019

The EU and NATO
European Union Institute for Security Studies, August 2019

An attack against them all? Drivers of decisions to contribute to NATO collective defense
Rand Corporation, August 2019

From plaything to player: How Europe can stand up for itself in the next five years
European Council on Foreign Relations, July 2019

Military mobility and the EU-NATO conundrum
Clingendael, July 2019

Strategic autonomy for European choices: The key to Europe’s shaping power
European Policy Centre, July 2019

The end of the INF-Treaty: Context and consequences
Egmont, July 2019

Strategic sovereignty: How Europe can regain the capacity to act
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2019

Towards an EU security community? Public opinion and the EU’s role as a security actor
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, June 2019

The EU’s security Union: A bill of health
Centre for European Reform, June 2019
Moving PeSCo forward: What are the next steps?
Institut de relations internationales et stratégiques, May 2019

The future of EU civilian crisis management: Finding a niche
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, May 2019

Together forever? Alliances in times of foreign policy uncertainty
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, May 2919

NATO at seventy: Filling NATO’s critical defence-capability gaps
Atlantic Council, April 2019

NATO at 70: From triumph to tumult?
German Marshal Fund, April 2019

Open door: NATO and Euro-Atlantic security after the cold war
Center for trans-Atlantic Relations, April 2019

Europe in the midst of China-US strategic competition: What are the European Union’s options?
Bruegel, April 2019

Russian ground forces posture towards the West
Chatham House, April 2019

NATO anniversary: Will there be another 70 years?
Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade, March 2019

The European Defense Fund: Key issues and controversies
Carnegie Europe, March 2019

A more strategic approach towards CSDP partnerships
Jacques Delors Institute, March 2019

EU it yourself: A blueprint for a European Security Council
Wilfried Martens Centre, March 2019

Digital infantry battlefield solution. Research and innovation
Latvian Institute for International Affairs, March 2019

Allein oder im Verbund? Allianzen in Zeiten außenpolitischer Unsicherheit
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, March 2019

The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, March 2019

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

Security radar 2019: Wake-up call for Europe!
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, February 2019

Are PESCO projects fit for purpose?
International Institute for Strategic Studies, European Leadership Network, February 2019

Strategische Autonomie Europas
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, February 2019

The Aachen mutual defence clause: A closer look at the Franco-German treaty
Egmont, February 2019

What’s in the CARDs?
Egmont, February 2019

Hybrid conflicts: The new normal?
The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, January 2019

Fighting for Europe: European strategic autonomy and the use of force
Egmont, January 2019

A European Security Council: Added value for EU foreign and security policy?
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, January 2019

Opportunities for European collaboration in armoured vehicles
Rand Europe, January 2019

‘Fort Trump’ or bust? Poland and the future of European defence
Friends of Europe, January 2019

Read this briefing on ‘Future of European Security and Defence Policy‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/17/future-of-european-security-and-defence-policy-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

Escalating US-Iran conflict: The EU’s priorities

Written by Beatrix Immenkamp,

© andriano.cz / Shutterstock.com

On 3 January 2020, a United States (US) strike outside Baghdad killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the al-Qods force within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IGRC), and arguably the second most important man in Iran after Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The assassination was a reaction to an escalation in the growing conflict between the USA and Iran. Iran retaliated on 8 January 2020, by attacking two US bases in Iraq with missiles; luckily – or intentionally – without casualties. Although both the USA and Iran have refrained from any further action, few expect this to mark the end of tensions between the USA and Iran in the region. The EU reaction to the assassination has been to try to de-escalate the situation to prevent all-out war, to focus on stabilising Iraq, and to limit damage to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

What led to the assassination of Qasem Soleimani?

US-Iran relations have been strained since 1979, when the Islamic Revolution removed the US-backed government of the Shah. Since then, US administrations have largely treated Iranian policies in the Middle East as a threat to US interests. As part of international efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear programme, former US President Barack Obama signed a nuclear agreement with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2015. However, current President Donald Trump, a strident opponent of the JCPOA, withdrew the USA from the agreement in May 2018, and re-imposed sanctions that had been lifted as part of the nuclear deal. Tensions between the USA and Iran have been rising ever since. Tehran responded to each new round of US sanctions with increasingly bold attacks, on ships in the Gulf of Hormuz and oil installations in Saudi Arabia. Over several months, the theatre of conflict moved to Iraq, leading to growing clashes between US forces and Iranian-backed paramilitary Popular Mobilisation Units (PMF) in Iraq, and culminating in attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad, and the death and wounding of American and Iraqi personnel. The USA initially claimed that Soleimani, who the USA holds personally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US service members in Iraq, posed an imminent threat to US interests in the region. According to later statements, his assassination was part of a ‘broader strategy of deterrence’, or, simply, Soleimani’s ‘horrible past‘.

The dangers for Iraq

On 5 January 2020, in protest against the killing of Soleimani and a close associate, Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Iraqi parliament voted to seek the removal of foreign military troops from the country. The parliament also called for the cancellation of an agreement under which US forces are stationed in Iraq to help fight the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIL/Da’esh). In the meantime, the international coalition against ISIL/Da’esh has suspended operations. Any weakening of the international coalition against ISIL/Da’esh could lead to the resurgence of ISIL/Da’esh in Iraq, where the terrorist organisation is still present, with potentially grave humanitarian consequences. Moreover, there is growing concern about increasing instability in Iraq, which has experienced decades of violence and armed conflict, and which has seen large-scale anti-government protests in recent months.

The EU is particularly concerned that any further military escalation could undo many years of international effort to stabilise the country and divert attention from necessary political reforms, the tackling of urgent social challenges, and the fight against corruption. Since 2014, the EU has made €1.2 billion available to support Iraq, in the form of humanitarian aid, support for internally displaced persons, and stabilisation of liberated areas. The EU has also supported civilian security sector reform, including through the common security and defence policy (CSDP) EU Advisory Mission Iraq, since October 2017, and has worked with the Iraqi authorities to improve Iraq’s counter-terrorism efforts. In response to the specific challenges Iraq faces following the territorial defeat of ISIL/Da’esh, the EU adopted an EU strategy for Iraq on 22 January 2018.

Developments in Iran

Soleimani’s death led to an outpouring of grief in Iran, with millions reported to have taken to the streets. However, the mood turned rapidly, when it was revealed that, shortly after the Iranian missile attack on US military bases in Iraq on 8 January 2020, the Iranian military accidentally shot down a Ukrainian civilian aeroplane leaving Tehran airport, killing all 176 people on board. Iranians took to the streets in large numbers to protest against the country’s rulers, who took three days to admit responsibility for the crash.

EU reactions to the assassination

The Trump Administration’s approach to Iran has strained EU-US relations in recent years. The EU ‘deeply regretted‘ the US decision to withdraw from the JCPOA and reintroduce sanctions on Iran. While the EU and the E3 (France, Germany and the United Kingdom (UK)) have worked with the other signatories (China, Iran and Russia) to save the JCPOA, the USA has repeatedly called on Europeans to abandon the nuclear agreement and has threatened to undermine the EU’s main initiative to maintain trade with Iran – the INSTEX special purpose vehicle. At the same time, the EU shares US concerns over Iran’s missile programme, especially after the 8 January 2020 attack on US air bases in Iraq, and Iran’s activities in the region, especially in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Senior US officials complained that European allies have not shown sufficient support for the US, following the Trump ordered assassination of Soleimani. However, neither the EU nor the E3 have condemned the killing of General Soleimani. Instead, EU leaders have called for urgent de-escalation on both sides, for stabilising Iraq and maintaining the coalition against ISIL/Da’esh, and for preserving the JCPOA.

In a joint statement issued on 6 January 2020, France, Germany and the UK condemned Iran for escalating the situation in Iraq prior to Soleimani’s assassination. The statement also highlighted the negative role Iran had played in the region, ‘including through the IRGC and the Al-Qods force under the command of General Soleimani’. The E3 ‘specifically called on Iran to refrain from further violent action or proliferation’.

At an extraordinary meeting on 10 January 2020, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg joined EU Foreign Affairs Ministers to discuss the implications of the latest developments in Iraq, including on the international coalition engaged in the fight against ISIL/Da’esh. The Council called for urgent de-escalation and maximum restraint, condemned the attacks on coalition forces and restated that the fight against ISIL/Da’esh remained an EU priority. The EU ministers reiterated their support for Iraq’s stability and reconstruction, and for the JCPOA.

Activating the dispute resolution mechanism

In a separate development on 14 January 2020, following Iran’s 5 January 2020 announcement that the country was taking a fifth step away from compliance, the E3 group announced they were triggering the dispute resolution mechanism under JCPOA, paragraph 36, and once again expressed their commitment to the JCPOA, stating that the overarching objective remained to preserve the JCPOA. EU High Representative Josep Borrell reinforced this message during a statement delivered to the European Parliament on 14 January 2020. The dispute resolution process will begin with a meeting of all parties to the JCPOA within 15 days.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Escalating US-Iran conflict: The EU’s priorities‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/17/escalating-us-iran-conflict-the-eus-priorities/

Citizens’ enquiries to the European Parliament in 2019

© Kostagr / Shutterstock

Throughout 2019, people from across the EU and the world addressed the European Parliament to request information, express opinions or suggest ideas on a wide range of topics. The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP) provides them with clear answers on the issues they raise.

People posed more than 68 000 questions, comments and suggestions to the European Parliament or its President in 2019.

It was a special year for the European Parliament, as the European elections took place in May 2019, and the new European Parliament elected the President of the European Commission in July 2019. Following hearings and a vote in Parliament, the new European Commission took office in December 2019. People showed an interest in these events and a wide range of topics.

Main topics of the year

The European Parliament received many comments on a resolution it adopted in March 2019 on the fundamental rights of people of African descent in Europe. Citizens criticised the European Parliament, considering the resolution as containing discriminatory elements. The video of the debate in plenary that led to the resolution, of 26 March 2019 is available online.

Following the European elections of May 2019, the question of status of Members of the European Parliament elected in Catalonia, Spain and the subsequent court cases, elicited a number of reactions from citizens.

A third important topic raised was the issue of a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) proposing an ‘anti-extremism Directive’. In response to those correspondents who believed that this initiative was actually a European Commission proposal, the Citizens Enquires Unit (Ask EP) pointed out that the ‘draft act’ available on the European Commission website was not an official proposal for a directive. In general, ECIs are a way to help shape the EU, by allowing citizens the opportunity to call on the European Commission to propose new laws. Once an initiative has reached one million signatures, the Commission decides on what action to take.

Among other key topics were a request for action to observe a Europe-wide moratorium on the use of animals in scientific research.

Parliament also received a large number of criticisms of the idea of an ‘EU army‘. While there is certainly no EU army, the EU has recently taken steps to boost defence cooperation.

Improved transparency rules for Members of the European Parliament also raised a number of comments from citizens, following changes to the EP Rules of Procedure agreed in January 2019. The key actors in the legislative process – Members steering legislation through parliament, known as rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs and committee chairs – will be required to publish all scheduled meetings with interest representatives named on the Transparency Register online.

The European Parliament received many letters regarding pollution from maritime transport, calling for a tax on fossil fuels and reinforced maritime transport regulations.

Frequent themes

As in previous years, the functioning and activities of the European Parliament continued to raise interest. Many people wanted to know about Members of the European Parliament’s activities, and how to contact them, as well as how to exercise their right of petition, how to visit the institution, and how to apply for a job or a traineeship in the EU institutions. Citizens continued to write to the European Parliament to comment on and ask questions about the Brexit process.

Naturally, Parliament also received a broad range of questions and comments on the European elections and comments on the newly elected European Commission.

Citizens also wrote to the European Parliament to comment and ask questions on migration and refugee policies, and to comment and request action on the political situation in some EU countries.

The European Commission’s plans to end seasonal clock changes in the European Union (EU) generated a significant share of mail from citizens in 2019. Members voted to end the practice of adjusting clocks by an hour in spring and autumn from 2021. However, the Council is still to finalise its position on the matter and a final decision has not yet been taken.

The Ask EP service received a large amount of correspondence on the new Copyright Directive. In February 2019, after more than two years of protracted negotiations, the co-legislators agreed on a new set of copyright rules.

Citizens also turned to the European Parliament for answers on the political situation outside the EU, for instance in Venezuela, and on Turkish intervention in Syria and Algeria.

Another fundamental area of direct concern frequently shared by people writing to our service relates to employment and social affairs, in particular pension schemes, employment policy and working conditions. Citizens also contacted the European Parliament for comments and queries on climate change and deforestation.

In 2020, continue to put 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/2020/01/16/citizens-enquiries-to-the-european-parliament-in-2019/

The European Parliament after Brexit

Written by Kristina Grosek and Giulio Sabbati,

Once the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU becomes legally effective, 73 EP seats will become vacant. Twenty-seven of these seats will be re-distributed among 14 Member States. The remaining 46 seats would be available for potential EU enlargements and/or for the possible future creation of a transnational constituency.


Allocation of seats in the European Parliament

European Council Decision (EU) 2018/937 of 28 June 2018 establishes the composition of the European Parliament (EP) for the 2019-2024 parliamentary term, taking into account the United Kingdom’s expected withdrawal from the EU. However, as the UK was still a Member State at the time of the European elections in May 2019, and thus participated, the June 2018 decision provided that Article 3 of the previous (2013) European Council decision applied (so the EP’s composition remained unchanged from the 2014-2019 term).
After the UK leaves the EU, rendering 73 seats vacant, 27 of these will be re-distributed among 14 Member States, thereby re-balancing the current imperfect application of the principle of degressive proportionality. The remaining 46 seats would remain available for possible future enlargements and/or the possible future creation of a transnational constituency. Although the overall number of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will be reduced from 751 to 705, no Member State will lose seats in this redistribution.
After Brexit, the 27 seats will be re-distributed among the following 14 Member States: France (+5), Spain (+5), Italy (+3), the Netherlands (+3), Ireland (+2), Sweden (+1), Austria (+1), Denmark (+1), Finland (+1), Slovakia (+1), Croatia (+1), Estonia (+1), Poland (+1) and Romania (+1).

Election of the additional Members after Brexit

In 10 Member States, the Members who will take the additional seats once the UK’s withdrawal becomes legally effective have either already been formally elected or are already known, while not yet formally designated. This is the case in France, Italy, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Slovakia, Croatia, Estonia, Poland and Romania. In Spain, the Netherlands, Austria and Denmark, only the lists from which the additional Members will come have been officially announced. In order to ensure the election of additional MEPs in May 2019, and avoid organising additional elections following Brexit, some Member States needed to amend national electoral law, to enact new legislation, or to issue an administrative decree. Consequently, no Member State receiving additional seats will need to hold a new election after Brexit.

Re-distribution of seats among the EP’s political groups after Brexit

MEPs sit in political groups, organised by political orientation and not by nationality. In the current parliamentary term, there are seven political groups. Some MEPs do not belong to any political group (non-attached Members).
As of 13 January there are 27 non-attached UK MEPs, while the rest belong to one of five political groups (S&D, Renew Europe, Greens/EFA, ECR, GUE/NGL). After Brexit, some changes to the EP’s political landscape can be expected.


Immediately following the 2019 EU elections, it was clear from which national political parties the 27 new MEPs would come. In the majority of cases, EP political groups already include Members from those national parties in the current parliamentary term.1 Based on the current state of play, and the election results, we can thus associate the 27 new MEPs with EP political groups. However, although both their national political party affiliation and the link between national party and EP political group are well known, there is no guarantee that elected Members will choose to affiliate to a particular political group. Members may also change political affiliation. The projections in this paper thus remain provisional, pending the arrival of the additional Members.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘The European Parliament after Brexit‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/15/the-european-parliament-after-brexit/