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The Platform Economy [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

Social media in election campaigning

@ Sepia 100 / Fotolia

The digital revolution is reshaping the world, changing people’s habits in communication, work, leisure and politics. A major part of this revolution is the expansion of the economy based on digital platforms that match demand and supply for labour without an intermediation of traditional corporations. Platforms also allow people to socialise regardless of geographic distance, find entertainment and travel opportunities easily, and do many other things. Some well-known platforms are Google, Twitter, Linkedin, Apple, Amazon, Uber and AirBnB.

While offering vast opportunities to the economy, platforms are also posing tough challenges, for example, in fostering often-precarious, project-based forms of employment at the expense of stable contracts with social security protection, or putting pressure on traditional news media.

This note brings together commentaries and studies by international think tanks and research institutes on the role of digital platforms, notably in labour markets, and related issues.

International development and the digital age
Friends of Europe, January 2018

Supporting press publishers in a digital era
European Policy Centre, January 2018

Digital transformation, responsive collaborations, democratic responsibility: Three challenges faced by public media platforms
Terra Nova, December 2017

Taxi and private hire vehicle regulation: A briefing
Institute of Economic Affairs, December 2017

The Internet and jobs: A giant opportunity for Europe
Centre for European Policy Studies, November 2017

Work in the European gig economy
Foundation for European Progressive Studies, November 2017

What is happening with platform workers’ rights? Lessons from Belgium
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2017

New coalitions for Europe’s digital future: Building capacity, improving performance
European Centre for International Political Economy, October 2017

The effect of geographical distance on online transactions
Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, October 2017

How ecommerce creates jobs and reduces income inequality
Progressive Policy Institute, September 2017

Back in the game: Reclaiming Europe’s digital leadership
European Political Strategy Centre, September 2017

A law on robotics and artificial intelligence in the EU?
European Trade Union Institute, September 2017

The Platform Economy and industrial relations: Applying the old framework to the new reality
Centre for European Policy Studies, August 2017

Digitalisierung im deutschen Arbeitsmarkt: Eine Debattenübersicht
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, August 2017

Impact of digitalisation and the on-demand economy on labour markets and the consequences for employment and industrial relations
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2017

Government responses to the Platform Economy: Where do we stand?
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2017

Policy choices for the digital age: Taking a whole economy, whole society approach
Friends of Europe, June 2017

The impact of the collaborative economy on the labour market
Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2017

Stepping up the game: The role of innovation in the sharing economy
Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln, May 2017

Economie collaborative: Comment l’Europe aborde le sujet?
Confrontations Europe, May 2017

The digital market for local services: A one-night stand for workers? An example from the on-demand economy
Centre for European Policy Studies, April 2017

Do we understand the impact of artificial intelligence on employment?
Bruegel, April 2017

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

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

We must tackle long-term job insecurity, not just the excesses of the ‘gig economy’
Friends of Europe, March 2017

Tourisme en France: Cliquez ici pour rafraîchir
Institut Montaigne, March 2017

EU strategy: Reskilling for the fourth industrial revolution
Notre Europe, March 2017

An economic review of the collaborative economy
Bruegel, February 2017

Digital labour markets in the Platform Economy: Mapping the political challenges of crowd work and gig work
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, January 2017

Policy and politics in the era of the industrial Internet: How the digital transformation will change the political arena
Bruegel, December 2016

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

The online platform economy: Has growth peaked?
JPMorgan Chase & Co Institute, November 2016

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/16/the-platform-economy-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

What is the European Youth Event?

Citizens write to the European Parliament to discover more about the European Youth Event (EYE) and to find out the practical details.

Large group of diverse people

Rawpixel.com / Fotolia

The EYE is a two-day event organised by the European Parliament on its premises in cooperation with the European Youth Forum and other organisations. It gives young people the opportunity to take part in political debates, workshops and other activities and interact with leading EU figures, with a view to coming up with innovative solutions to major future issues.

Participants in this year’s event, EYE2018, the motto for which is ‘The plan is to fan this spark into a flame’, will go to Strasbourg on 1 and 2 June 2018 to meet and talk with European decision-makers and inspiring personalities. Some 8 000 participants aged 16-30 years old from all over Europe are estimated to be taking part in EYE2018.

The five themes of this year’s event will be:

  • Young and old: Keeping up with the digital revolution
  • Rich and poor: A fair share for everyone?
  • Apart and together: Fighting for a stronger Europe
  • In safety and in danger: Surviving turbulent times
  • Local and global: Protecting our planet.

EYE2018 will invite mostly young, inspiring thinkers, political decision-makers and key figures from the fields of business, research, culture and civil society as speakers at the various events. Additionally, EYE2018 will include concerts and artistic performances. YO!Fest, organised by the European Youth Forum, will take place outside the Parliament’s buildings.

EYE report

The most developed and popular ideas will be selected to kick-off the discussion in a number of activities at EYE2018, or will be included in the EYE report. This report, which will be published in July 2018, will collect the best ideas coming from the event. Following publication, it will be distributed to all Members of the European Parliament in autumn 2018. The European Parliament is looking for a team of young reporters to cover the EYE2018 and highlight the most relevant and hotly debated ideas.

Practical arrangements

The languages used at the event will be English, French and German. The EYE2018 is free, but participants will have to cover their own transport and accommodation costs and pay for their own meals.

The closing date has passed for group registrations (15 January 2018), however, anyone who cannot attend the event in person will be able to follow some of the activities via webstreaming and participate directly by asking questions and putting forward ideas on social networks. The EYE aims to involve young people from a variety of backgrounds.

During both days, participants will be able to attend three to four activities, booked in advance, and attend more activities (without reservation) at the Yo!Fest.

Further details about the programme and the event in general are available on the European Youth Event website, the EYE2018 FAQs and on the EYE Facebook page.

Two previous editions

The first edition of the EYE took place on 9-11 May 2014 and attracted more than 5 500 young people. The EYE2014 report was made available to MEPs (after the European elections) and served as a source of inspiration, as well as a guide to the hopes and concerns of Europe’s youth. Additionally, participants had the chance to present the most tangible ideas suggested by young people during the EYE to seven parliamentary committees and receive feedback in person from Members of the European Parliament.

The EYE2016 event took place on 20 and 21 May 2016. More than 7 500 young people aged between 16 and 30 from all over Europe took part. More information is available in the EYE2016 final report drawn up by the European Youth Press, which includes comments by the European Youth Forum. Additionally, participants presented and debated their ideas within ten parliamentary committees in the months after the event.

Do you have any questions on this issue or another EP-related concern? Please use our web form. You write, we answer.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/15/what-is-the-european-youth-event/

Kremlin trolls in the US presidential election

Written by Martin Russell,

Discussions about Kremlin interference in the 2016 US presidential election initially focused on Russian hackers and leaked e-mails. However, US Congress enquiries have highlighted the important role played by Russian social media activity in influencing public opinion.

The Kremlin’s troll factory

a troll typing on the keyboard of a laptop computer

© Victor Moussa / Fotolia

Kremlin media, such as Sputnik and RT, weighed in on the election debate, showing a clear pro-Trump/anti-Clinton bias. However, most Russian activity was covert, through social media accounts purporting to come from US citizens, news portals and organisations, but in fact operated by Russian trolls. According to statements by social media companies to US Congress inquiries into the subject, there were 50 258 Russian-linked, automated Twitter accounts, which had generated 2.1 million tweets; Facebook found 470 accounts (22 of these matched directly with Twitter accounts), which produced a total of 80 000 posts. On YouTube, Google suspects 18 channels, which between them uploaded 43 hours of political videos.

Social media companies have traced many of these accounts to a shadowy organisation from St Petersburg, set up in 2013 as the Internet Research Agency (IRA), dubbed by the press as the Kremlin’s ‘Troll Factory’. Officially closed in 2016, it remains active and in late 2017 moved to bigger offices. In 2015, the agency was reported to have a staff of 800-900. Of these, as many as 90 were assigned to cover the US presidential election. Although agency head and Kremlin caterer Yevgeny Prigozhin is known as Putin’s ‘personal chef‘, the organisation has no official links to the Kremlin, which continues to deny any electoral meddling.

Stirring up controversy through provocative posts and street protests

Tweets from Russia-linked Twitter accounts included re-tweets of posts by Donald Trump (470 000 times), as well as re-tweets of posts from Wikileaks and related accounts about leaked e-mails from the Clinton campaign (197 000). Nevertheless, most tweets were not directly linked to the election campaign, but promoted right-wing views on race relations, Muslim extremism, migration and gun control likely to appeal to Trump supporters. Among the most successful troll accounts on Twitter were those of Trump supporter Jenna Abrams (over 70 000 followers) and of Islamophobe SouthLone Star (17 000 followers), self-described as a ‘proud Texan and American patriot’. Kremlin trolls also set up numerous discussion groups on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, such as Heart of Texas, Being Patriotic and Army of Jesus.

However, some trolls also took the opposite side of the debate, in groups such as Blacktivist and BlackMattersUS, LGBT United, and United Muslims of America. The aim, in the words of US Senator Richard Burr, appears to have been ‘to foment conflict… and tear apart our society’. Presumably, in doing so they calculated that a more heated debate would favour Donald Trump as the more outspoken candidate.

Kremlin trolls brought conflict not only to social media but also to the streets, by orchestrating various protests. In May 2016, an anti-Muslim rally in Houston organised by Heart of Texas clashed with a counter-protest led by United Muslims of America. Two months later, a Blue Lives Matter rally honoured officers killed by a black protestor, on the same day as a gathering commemorated a black man shot dead by police. Being Patriotic attempted to organise pro-Trump rallies in 17 cities on 20 August 2017; how many of these actually went ahead is not clear. More successful was a November 2016 BlackMattersUS anti-Trump rally, staged a few days after Donald Trump’s election victory in New York and attended by thousands. These events were mostly organised from Russia without any local presence; for some of its rallies, BlackMattersUS posed as a black rights movement in order to enlist the support of American activists.

Amplifying the message

On Twitter, internet analysts have described a three-step propagation technique in which messages are launched by fake ‘shepherd’ accounts purporting to come from influential organisations and individuals. One example was @TEN_GOP, claiming to represent the Republican Party in Tennessee. In the second step of the process, ‘sheepdog’ troll accounts re-tweet messages, adding content of their own; finally, these in turn are disseminated by thousands of automated ‘bot’ accounts. As tweets spread across the internet, they attract interest from genuine users, acquiring a momentum of their own and eventually going viral.

The use of social media advertising

On Facebook, Kremlin trolls paid a total US$100 000 for 3 000 of their posts to appear in users’ news feeds as ‘sponsored content’. One advertisement featured a picture which users were invited to like in order to help Jesus defeat Satan (and with him, Hillary Clinton) in an arm-wrestling match. Other examples include advertising memes (one showing Texas rangers waiting to intercept illegal immigrants, captioned ‘Always guided by God’) and over 1 000 YouTube videos. Facebook advertising of this kind is highly effective, as it can be targeted at a particular audience based on user data. Facebook admits that one quarter of Russian ads were geographically tailored. Corporate insiders claim that swing states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, both won by Donald Trump by just a few thousand votes, were among the targeted locations.

What is the impact of Russian social media activity?

After initial scepticism, social media companies have woken up to the scale of the problem. Data released by them show that the most successful troll groups, such as Blacktivist (388 000 followers) on Facebook and Heart of Texas (254 000) on Twitter, reached substantial audiences. @TEN_GOP had 115 000 followers and attracted comments from such high-profile individuals as former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn.

On Facebook, trolls reached 126 million users between January 2015 and August 2017: 11.4 million people as a result of seeing advertisements, 29 million people from their news feeds, and the remaining 88 million from shared posts. On Twitter, election-related tweets from Russia reached users’ newsfeeds 455 million times. 1.4 million Twitter users interacted with such tweets, for example by re-tweeting, quoting or liking them.

Although these are very large numbers, their implications should not be exaggerated. On Facebook, Russia-produced messages represented only 0.004 % of users’ news feeds; most users are likely to have simply overlooked them. On Twitter, Russian accounts only represented 1 % of election-related tweets.

Countering troll activity

Social media companies’ response

US senators have criticised social media companies for not taking the problem seriously enough. For example, Facebook accepted payments in roubles from purportedly American groups registered at Russian addresses or with Russian phone numbers, even though the company’s own rules require advertisers to be authentic. Twitter only closed down the popular @TEN_GOP account 11 months after it was exposed as fake.

However, social media companies are finally acting, in cooperation with the FBI’s Foreign Influence task force set up in 2017. As well as closing down suspect accounts, Facebook has committed to recruiting 1 000 extra staff for its advertising review department, and it has changed the ‘trending topics’ algorithm, making it harder for fake news to find its way into news feeds. The company does not block disputed content, as it is unwilling to act as an ‘arbiter of the truth’; however, since December 2017 stories which have been challenged as fakes are displayed next to alternative versions of the facts in the ‘Related Articles’ section. Facebook has also cut the amount of news stories that users see in their feeds. For its part, Twitter has promised to make election-related advertising recognisable to users, and to publish data on advertisers and targeted groups.

US administration/Congress response

President Donald Trump remains defiantly dismissive of the role played by Kremlin trolls. However, the US Congress is taking the problem more seriously; there are no fewer than three separate ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in the US 2016 presidential election, by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, and the Senate Judiciary Committee. In late 2017, each of the three enquiries held hearings focusing on social media aspects, at which Google, Facebook and Twitter representatives were questioned.

The US Congress is debating a bipartisan Honest Ads Act, which would apply the same transparency standards to political advertising on social media advertising as already exist on broadcast and print media. However, its success is not guaranteed, not least due to possible resistance to restrictions on electoral campaigns.

Even if social media companies found no evidence of Kremlin meddling in the 2016 US elections, there is no reason for complacency; Russian trolls are accused of being behind a successful January 2018 Twitter drive for the release of a memo that sets out to discredit the ongoing investigation into collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, while CIA Director Mike Pompeo is warning of Russian interference in the 2018 elections.

Download this At a glance note on ‘Kremlin trolls in the US presidential election’ in PDF.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/12/kremlin-trolls-in-the-us-presidential-election/

Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, February I 2018

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson,

Plenary session - Week 06 2018 in Strasbourg - Debate with the Prime Minister of Croatia on the Future of Europe

Debate on the future of Europe with the Croatian Prime Minister. © European Union 2017 – Source : EP

Highlights of the session included the second in a series of debates with EU leaders on the future of Europe, with Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković; and the debate and vote on the composition of the European Parliament after Brexit. The European Commission also made statements on fair taxation packages and the manipulation of scientific research by multinationals in the wake of revelations on emission tests on monkeys and humans by the German car industry. Parliament decided to set up a special committee on the Union’s authorisation procedure for pesticides (PEST). Parliament adopted agreed first-reading positions on, inter alia, a regulation on ending unjustified geo-blocking and two regulations on EU external action funds – among the priorities for 2018 in the Joint Declaration agreed by the Council, Commission and Parliament.

Statements on the Western Balkans, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and UNWRA

Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, made statements on a number of issues. The first of these, and a high priority on the current Bulgarian Council Presidency’s agenda, concerned possible EU enlargement to the Western Balkans. A statement on the situation in Zimbabwe followed, where the forced resignation of Robert Mugabe has yet to lead to a new era of fair and free elections. Mogherini also made statements on the situation in Venezuela, and on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Joint debate on Turkey

VP/HR Mogherini also took part in a joint debate on Turkey, which followed her statements on the current human rights situation, and on the latest developments in Afrin in Syria, where the Turkish military operation has led to many casualties, including civilians.

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

The Executive Director of the 2017 Nobel Prize winner, the International Campaign against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Beatrice Fihn, addressed the plenary, and urged the European Union to spearhead the abolition of these weapons throughout the world. Fihn encouraged all Member States to sign up to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, as it represents a political means for ensuring a world free from nuclear weapons. Fihn also called for Members to exert pressure in their respective countries to gain support for the treaty. The treaty was adopted on 7 July 2017 by 122 out of 192 countries, but no nuclear power has signed. It will enter into force 90 days after ratification by 50 countries.

Summertime arrangement

A debate followed a Commission statement on current summertime arrangements, with Members regularly hearing of citizens’ concerns over the time change and research finding a lack of benefits and some negative effects from changing the clocks twice a year. Members voted in a resolution to call on the Commission to propose an amendment to Directive 2000/84/EC to change the current arrangements.

End of unjustified geo-blocking

Purchasing items online is sometimes complicated by a technique known as geo-blocking, as well as other forms of discrimination based on customers’ nationality or residence. These practices, where some online outlets refuse to supply products or services, or charge higher prices, because the client lives in or is from another country, threaten EU e-commerce and cross-border goods and services markets. Parliament approved a compromise negotiated with the Council to end this unjustified discrimination. As some services are excluded from the legislation, the new law will be reviewed after two years, at Parliament’s request, providing an opportunity to extend it to cover digital copyrighted content and audiovisual services.

Cost-effective emissions reductions and low-carbon investments

A large majority of the European Parliament approved the interinstitutional agreement reached on reform aimed at strengthening the Emissions Trading System (ETS), while safeguarding EU industrial competitiveness. This brings the EU closer to formal adoption of a European directive that will reform the EU ETS for the period 2021-2030, making it more effective and allowing the EU to implement its commitments under the Paris climate agreement. The EU hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 % from 1990 levels by 2030. A reformed ETS is key to achieving this ambition, and the proposals on the table would reduce greenhouse gas emission allowances by 2.2 % per year from 2021. Support for modernisation and innovation, essential to accelerating the transition towards clean energy in the EU, is also included in the plans for reform.

EU external funds – joint debate

The President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), Werner Hoyer, took part in a joint debate on EU external action funds and the EU guarantee to the EIB to cover the risks of funding projects in countries outside the EU, concerning a reform aimed at combatting the root causes of illegal migration to Europe. Parliament’s Committee on Budgets is keen to promote good financial management of the Guarantee Fund for external actions, and has highlighted the need for transparency, and a strong focus on development and the consequences of climate change. Members approved the first-reading agreements reached with the Council.

Composition of the European Parliament

Parliament voted on the Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) Committee proposal on the composition of the European Parliament to adjust the current distribution of seats after Brexit. Members adopted amendments rejecting all reference to transnational lists, which could have opened the possibility of creating a European constituency with Members elected from transnational lists. A large majority supported the AFCO proposal for the 2019-2024 legislature which would see a reduction in the size of the Parliament with no loss of seats for any country, and supporting the reallocation of 27 seats – ensuring degressive proportionality is respected – of the 73 that will become vacant once the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU. The proposed distribution now has to be agreed by the European Council, and then Parliament must give its consent for its final adoption.

An oral question requested clarity on the timescale for Council’s adoption of Parliament’s long-proposed reforms that would strengthen the European dimension of the elections and bring greater electoral equality for the citizens of the Union. The President in Office of the Council stressed Member States’ agreement with the general aim of the proposal, but underlined their view that ‘harmonisation should only be pursued in case of strict necessity and after a rigorous examination of the added value it will bring’.

European Central Bank Annual Report for 2016

The Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee report on the ECB’s 2016 annual report notes that inflation in the euro area remains stubbornly below target, despite the ECB’s accommodative monetary policy, and that economic growth and unemployment rates are also uneven. Discussed in the presence of Mario Draghi, President of the Bank, the adopted report calls for action on the plans for the capital markets union and the banking union. However, the report also underlines the importance that the ECB’s next report take account of the risk of possible redistribution of assets to stronger economic actors, to the detriment of individuals and their personal savings, pensions and insurance.

Opening of trilogue negotiations

The decision of the Environment, Public Health & Food Safety (ENVI) committee to enter into trilogue negotiations on the monitoring and reporting of CO2 emissions from, and fuel consumption of, new heavy-duty vehicles, as well as the Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs (LIBE) committee on a centralised system for the identification of Member States holding conviction information on third country nationals and stateless persons (TCN) to supplement and support the European criminal records information system (ECRIS-TCN) were approved, following a vote in plenary. Economic & Monetary Affairs (ECON) and ENVI committee announcements on negotiating mandates on four further proposals were confirmed unopposed.

This ‘at a glance’ note is intended to review some of the highlights of the plenary part-session, and notably to follow up on key dossiers identified by EPRS. It does not aim to be exhaustive. For more detailed information on specific files, please see other EPRS products, notably our ‘EU legislation in progress’ briefings, and the plenary minutes.


Read this at a glance note on ‘Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, February I 2018‘ in PDF on the Think tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/09/plenary-round-up-strasbourg-february-i-2018/

Regulating imports of cultural goods [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Krisztina Binder (1st edition),

Römische Münzen

© Manuel Gross / Fotolia

Antiquities and valuable works of art from impoverished or war-torn countries and regions are often illegally acquired, sold and imported into the European Union (EU). In addition to damaging or destroying the archaeological sites and the artefacts themselves, illicit trade in looted cultural goods has also been identified as a source of income for terrorists and organised crime groups.

Currently, with the exception of two specific measures for Iraq and Syria, there is no EU legislation covering the import of cultural goods from third countries entering the EU. The national legislation in this area introduced by some Member States are divergent. Therefore, an EU-level approach would ensure that imports of cultural goods are subject to uniform controls along all the EU external borders.

The legislative proposal, as a follow-up to other EU initiatives aimed at strengthening the fight against terrorism financing, intends to prevent the import and storage in the EU of cultural goods that have been removed from a third country illegally, and thereby to combat trafficking in cultural goods, deprive terrorists of a source of income, and protect cultural heritage.

Versions

Stage: EESC

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/08/regulating-imports-of-cultural-goods-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Strengthening market surveillance of harmonised industrial products [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Nikolina Šajn (1st edition),

shopping

© vege / Fotolia

Harmonised products represent 69 % of the overall value of industrial products in the internal market. However, a significant part of these products does not comply with harmonised EU rules. This has negative effects on the health and safety of consumers and on fair competition between businesses.

To remedy the situation, the Commission proposed, on 19 December 2017, strengthening market surveillance rules for non-food products harmonised by EU legislation. The proposal for a compliance and enforcement regulation would increase EU-level coordination of market surveillance, clarify the procedures for the mutual assistance mechanism, and require non-EU manufacturers to designate a natural or legal person responsible for compliance information in charge of cooperating with the EU market surveillance authorities. In the European Parliament, a rapporteur has been appointed, and the proposal will be discussed in committee.

Versions

Stage: Commission proposal

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/07/strengthening-market-surveillance-of-harmonised-industrial-products-eu-legislation-in-progress/

EPRS Event: Economic and Budgetary Outlook for the European Union 2018

Written by Marcin Szczepanski

On 30 January 2018, following the publication of our study on the Economic and Budgetary Outlook for the European Union 2018, the EPRS organised a policy roundtable in the Library of the European Parliament. This second edition of the annual study presents an overview of the main economic indicators in the EU and euro area and their two-year trends. Furthermore, the publication explains the annual EU budget, its main headings for 2018, and sets out the discussion around the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), starting in 2021. A special ‘economic focus’ in 2018 provides a bird’s eye view of industry and an overview of industrial policy in Europe.

BASSOT, EtienneFollowing introductions by Etienne Bassot, Director of the EPRS Members’ Research Service and Fabia Jones, acting Head of the Budgetary Policies Unit, the roundtable discussion was opened by Jochen Andritzky, the Secretary General of the German Council of Economic Experts. He presented main findings of the 54th edition of Council’s report on economic policy in the EU, underlining that the current economic upturn is broad-based and covers most Member States. Taking a more historical perspective, he also added that since the beginning of the present century some countries have gained in competitiveness, while others have lost. As an effect of the crisis, public debt has risen and has not really diminished. However, in this environment of low interest rates, the costs of debt refinancing for governments have decreased, fiscal policy has been expansionary, and large savings have been generated. This creates good conditions for the necessary euro area reforms, which should focus on lifting growth, improved resilience and better shock absorption. Focusing on this last dimension, Andritzky mentioned that monetary shock absorption in the EU is not less than in the USA, but is different, as there is no common fiscal capacity. He also suggested increasing surveillance in the framework of the European Stability Mechanism and introducing rules for orderly restructuring of the sovereign debt as possible steps to strengthen the crisis mechanism. According to Andritzky, pragmatic rather than revolutionary steps are the preferred way to proceed. These include simplified fiscal rules; creation of a Euro Finance Minister; reform of the EU budget; an increased European Fund for Strategic Investment; development of sovereign bond-backed securities; closing the gaps in the Single Resolution Mechanism; harmonising insolvency rules; introducing a European Deposit Insurance Scheme; and continuing the work on both the banking and the capital markets Unions.

MURESAN, Siegfried; Member of the European Parliament, Siegfried Mureşan (EPP, Romania), a Vice-Chair of the Committee on Budgets, continued the discussion, highlighting that the current Multiannual Financial Framework was agreed in 2013 and many unanticipated challenges, such as migration crisis and terrorism threats, have since created a situation in which more needs to be done with limited resources. A new MFF needs increased flexibility and to balance previous priorities such as cohesion and agriculture, which form the biggest part of EU budget, with new objectives such as fostering innovation, the digital economy, and mitigating the refugee crisis. He underlined that efficient absorption of the funds will remain of fundamental importance and that Brexit, which had no implications for the 2018 budget, will create uncertainty and unpredictability from next year. The EP has set its political priorities for 2018: creating growth and jobs, and the safety and security of EU citizens. Parliament therefore prioritises investment in infrastructure, the digital economy, SMEs, and measures to tackle youth unemployment, as well as boosting the role of agencies with competences in justice and home affairs such as Europol and Frontex. Siegfried Mureşan also discussed efforts to encourage defence research at the EU level, since this creates economies of scale and allows the Member States to share benefits. Furthermore, he argued that the EU’s neighbourhood policy is crucial for Europe’s security. Continuing with the 2018 budget, Mureşan mentioned that the Commission proposed a satisfactory draft budget, increasing spending on crucial initiatives such as the Connecting Europe Facility, Erasmus and Horizon 2020. However, despite adopting similar political priorities to those of the EP, the Council proposed significant cuts to the budget. In the negotiations, the EP was able to increase resources in the identified priority areas, in some cases setting appropriations at a level higher than the initial Commission proposal.

D'ALFONSO, AlessandroThe floor was then taken by Alessandro D’Alfonso, a policy analyst with the Budgetary Policies Unit, who is currently an EU Fellow at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence. He put the EU budget in perspective, noting that it is rather limited, constituting less than 2 % of total public spending by governments in Europe and less than 1 % of Gross National Income (GNI), but that it has features that can amplify its impact. The current MFF was agreed in the aftermath of the financial and economic crisis, when staying within the limit of 1 % of GNI was seen as a major objective by many stakeholders. The situation appears different today, however, with new challenges demanding budgetary responses, and Brexit looming, which is reported to threaten a €12-15 billion gap in the budget every year for the next MFF. Commissioner Günther Oettinger proposes to bridge this gap through both cuts and by adding fresh resources. The reform of the MFF is likely to be carried out according to the principle of focusing on areas with highest EU added value, with allocation of resources based on criteria such as Treaty objectives and obligations, public goods with an EU dimension, economies of scale (e.g. in development policy) and subsidiarity. D’Alfonso highlighted that further simplification of the EU budget can contribute to increasing efficiency, effectiveness and focus on results, while ensuring a smoother transition between programming periods. Measures in this direction could include a simpler set of rules and stronger protection of the EU budget through the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office. It had been necessary, due to the crisis, to create a number of instruments outside the EU budget, which may now require streamlining. Reform of the MFF will also seek to strengthen the flexibility provisions, while providing predictability for investments. On the income side, reform options for the own resources system will be considered. Regarding the timeline, the European Council will meet in February, two European Parliament resolutions are expected in March, and the Commission proposals in May will open the way ahead for the negotiations.


See also ‘Economic and Budgetary Outlook for the European Union 2018‘.


The final speaker was Grzegorz Drozd from DG GROW of the European Commission who highlighted the importance of EU industry, underlining that it provides employment for 32 million Europeans, and 68 % of EU exports. Industry has also created 1.5 million jobs since 2013, confirming that it is on a steady path of recovery from the crisis. New phenomena shaping today’s industry include the process of converging technologies known as industry 4.0, servitisation, and new demands from consumers. Looking at global performance, EU industry is in sixth place in terms of innovation, just behind the United States, but is lagging behind the Asian economies in areas such as absorption of digital technologies. Drozd mentioned that industrial policy in the EU is not based on a single piece of legislation, but rather it is mainstreamed through various policy fields. However, following multiple calls from stakeholders, including from the EP, the Commission adopted its industrial policy strategy in September 2017. Drozd explained the six pillars of the strategy: single market and people, digital technologies, low carbon and circular economy, investments, supporting industrial innovation on the ground, and the international dimension. In order to improve governance, the Commission proposed creating a High-Level Industrial Roundtable, which will provide feedback on current policy actions and reflect on future targets. To conclude, Drozd underlined that close cooperation between and the involvement of all the stakeholders is crucial to the success of the new strategy.

The roundtable discussion was followed by a short Q&A session.


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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/06/economic-and-budgetary-outlook-for-the-european-union-2018-2/

European high-performance computing joint undertaking [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Vincent Reillon (1st edition),

supercomputer clusters in the room data center

© vladimircaribb / Fotolia

Following a declaration made by seven EU Member States in March 2017, the European Commission adopted a proposal to establish a joint undertaking for high-performance computing (HPC) under Article 187 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) on 11 January 2018. The proposed regulation would establish the joint undertaking for the period to 31 December 2026 and provide it with €486 million in EU funds from the Horizon 2020 and Connecting Europe Facility programmes. Participating states are expected to provide an equivalent contribution to the joint undertaking, and the private sector is expected to commit €422 million in additional funds.

The joint undertaking would be charged with the joint procurement of two pre-exascale supercomputers for the Union. It would also implement an HPC research and innovation programme to support the European HPC ecosystem in developing technologies to reach exascale performance by 2022-2023.

Versions

timeline 1 of 7 steps - initial discusssions in committee

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/06/european-high-performance-computing-joint-undertaking-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Guarantee Fund for External Action and EIB external lending mandate [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Alina Dobreva with Matthew Parry (1st edition),

World Coins

© johnsroad7 / Fotolia

In response to a sharp increase in the number of people trying to migrate to Europe illegally, and as part of the mid-term review of the European Investment Bank’s external lending mandate (ELM), the Commission has proposed an external investment plan to tackle the root causes of migration from countries neighbouring the European Union, consisting of a European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) and quantitative and qualitative changes to the ELM. These changes entail two legislative proposals. A compromise package has been agreed in trilogue between Council and Parliament, with the vote in plenary scheduled for the February I plenary.

 

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Stage: vote in plenary

 

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/05/guarantee-fund-for-external-action-and-eib-external-lending-mandate-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Cancer patients [What is Europe doing for me?]

Young woman in bed suffering from cancer. Thoughtful woman battling with tumor looking out of window. Young patient with blue headscarf recovery in hospital on bed.

© Rido / Fotolia

Cancer is a group of diseases characterised by uncontrolled growth and the spread of abnormal cells. There are many possible causes for cancer. Over 30 % of cancer deaths are preventable, mainly through avoiding risk factors and adopting a healthy lifestyle. Today, with early detection – including screening programmes – and adequate treatment, many cancers are curable. In the European Union, cancer accounted for 26 % of all deaths in 2014. For both men and women, lung cancer remains the main type of fatal cancer, followed by colorectal (bowel) cancer.

The EU’s action on cancer takes on various forms. A tool for prevention, the European Code Against Cancer provides a set of 12 recommendations that can help people reduce their cancer risk, including stopping smoking and switching to a healthy diet. To assist EU countries with cancer screening, the European Commission initiative on breast cancer seeks to improve breast cancer care based on specific guidelines, and work has begun on screening tests for colorectal cancer. The EU also funds cancer research. Among the many projects are: BRIDGES and B-CAST, which help improve the genetic testing approaches used to determine if a woman has a high breast cancer risk; ULTRAPLACAD for developing a device that can detect early signs of cancer through a blood analysis; MoTriColor to find novel therapies for advanced-stage bowel cancer; and TRANSCAN‑2, a network of 28 partners from 19 countries involved in ‘translational’ cancer research – that is, how to apply the findings from basic research to clinical practice, for the benefit of patients.

Read more

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/04/cancer-patients-what-is-europe-doing-for-me/