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Demographic outlook for the European Union 2019

Written by David Eatock,

© European Union, 2017 – EPRS

Demography matters. The economy, labour market, healthcare, pensions, the environment, intergenerational fairness and election results – they are all driven by demography. The European Union (EU) has seen its population grow substantially – by around a quarter since 1960 – and it currently stands at over 500 million people. However, the world population has grown faster, more than doubling over the same timeframe and reaching nearly 7.4 billion today. And whilst the EU population is now growing only slowly and is even expected to decline in the longer term, the world population continues to grow strongly. Indeed, it is projected to pass 10 billion in 2055. And despite its growth being expected to slow, the world population is nonetheless forecast to be over 11 billion people in 2100. So, the EU represents an ever-shrinking proportion of the world population, at just 6.9 % today (down from 13.5 % in 1960), and is projected to fall further to just 4.1 % by the end of this century.

In common with many other developed (and developing) parts of the world, the EU population is also ageing, as life expectancy increases and fertility rates drop compared to the past. At the EU level, both men and women have seen their average life expectancy increase by over 10 years between the early 1960s and today, although women continue to live longer than men on average. Meanwhile, the numbers of children being born has fallen from an EU‑28 average of around 2.5 children per woman in 1960, to a little under 1.6 today. This is far below the 2.1 births per woman considered necessary in developed countries to maintain the population in the long term, in the absence of migration. Indeed, migration has become increasingly important for expanding or maintaining the EU population. In both 2015 and 2017, the natural population change (live births minus deaths) was slightly negative, and net inward migration was therefore key to the population growth seen in those years.

Combined, these trends result in a dramatically ageing EU-28, whose working population (aged 15 to 64) shrank for the first time in 2010 and is expected to decline every year to 2060. In contrast, the proportion of people aged 80 or over in the EU-28 population is expected to more than double by 2050, reaching 11.4 %. In 2006, there were four people of working age (15-64) for each person aged 65 or over; by 2050, this ratio is projected to be just two people. This outlook is essentially set in the shorter term, at least, meaning the focus is on smoothing the transition to an older population and adapting to its needs.

Whilst the starting point, speed and scale of ageing varies between the Member States depending on their different fertility rates, life expectancy and migration levels, all will see further ageing in the coming years. Free movement, as well as external migration, will also play a role, in both the population size and age profile of countries, and regions within them. The ‘in-focus’ section of this edition looks at pension systems and how they are being impacted by demographic change. It highlights that national reforms have largely successfully addressed issues around the sustainability of pension systems in the face of ageing populations. However, concerns remain about the adequacy of pensions for certain groups, including some women and older pensioners, and in particular the situation of future pensioners. For the latter, much will depend on the success of efforts to encourage and enable longer working lives, balancing longer life expectancy.


Read the complete ‘In-depth Analysis’ on ‘Demographic outlook for the European Union 2019‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/06/04/demographic-outlook-for-the-european-union-2019/

Peace and security in 2019

World Map: Normandy Index

© peshkov / Fotolia

The very first stated goal of the European Union is to promote peace. What began as a project seeking peaceful relations between its members, has become one of the principal global actors in favour of peace and security. On the eve of the commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings, the European Parliament is participating in the Normandy Global Peace Forum, held in Caen, Normandy on 4 and 5 June 2019. The European Parliamentary Research Service is contributing to the Forum with several studies on peace and security in the world, and the role of the European Union, including: an overview of EU action in favour of peace and security in 2019 and the outlook for the future; a study on the peace and reconciliation process in Colombia; and a new mapping of threats to peace and democracy worldwide, as an introduction to the ‘Normandy Index’.

Presented for the first time at the 2019 Normandy Global Peace Forum, the ‘Normandy Index’ was developed in cooperation with the Institute for Economics and Peace, and as a result of a formal agreement with the region of Normandy, and aims to provide a better analysis of the risks to peace worldwide. This paper sets out the initial findings of the 2019 exercise, complemented by 25 individual country case studies, derived from the Index. It explains how the index can be used to compare peace – defined on the basis of a given country’s performance against a range of predetermined threats – across countries and regions.

Rather than being limited to a simple measure of the lack of conflict on the territory concerned, which could merely give an illusion of stability, the index measures the risks to peace. These threats include climate change, economic crisis, energy dependence, state fragility, the homicide rate, press freedom, and the quality of the democratic process, as well as the incidence of terrorism, armed conflict and the presence of weapons of mass destruction. To illustrate the method, 25 specific case studies focus on countries that have seen both a rise and a fall in the threat to peace. The examples highlight the EU contribution in terms of development, democracy support, economic cooperation, and peacekeeping operations. Through the measurement of each threat, the index identifies those countries where peace is most fragile, and consequently vulnerable to threat. It is in these regions that EU foreign policy could prioritise diplomatic means of reinforcing resilience to prevent the outbreak of conflict. In contributing to current thinking regarding the situation in 136 countries, the ‘Normandy Index’ measurement of this wider range of threats enables Members of the European Parliament, experts and the wider public to obtain a more nuanced view of the state of peace in the world.

To analyse and explain the European Union contribution to the promotion of peace and security internationally, through its various external policies, a second edition of the EU Peace and Security Outlook provides an overview of the issues and current state of play. It looks first at the concept of peace and the changing nature of the geopolitical environment. It then focuses on the centrality of the promotion of peace and security in the EU’s external action and proceeds to an analysis of the practical pursuit of these principles in the main areas of EU policy: development, democracy support, and security and defence, as well as in the increasingly relevant area of disinformation and foreign influence. The study concludes with an outlook for the future.

A parallel study focuses specifically on EU peacebuilding efforts in Colombia. The study evaluates EU engagement during the 50-year conflict in Colombia, and focuses on peacebuilding since the historic 2016 final agreement between the government and the main armed group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP). This is a country where the EU has mobilised a large spectrum of civilian instruments: bilateral and multilateral diplomacy; humanitarian and development aid; and trade relations. After placing the conflict in its geopolitical context, this evaluation analyses the EU approach to and implementation of support to peace in Colombia, the European Parliament’s contribution, risks since the signature of the peace agreement, and ways to mitigate them.

 

Mapping threats to peace and democracy worldwide: Introduction to the Normandy Index

Mapping threats to peace and democracy worldwide: Introduction to the Normandy Index

Threats to peace and security in the current global environment

Threats to peace and security in the current global environment

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/06/03/peace-and-security-in-2019/

Peace and Security in 2019: Overview of EU action and outlook for the future

Written by Elena Lazarou,

© fotomaster / Fotolia

The promotion of global peace and security is a fundamental goal and central pillar of the external action of the European Union (EU), following the model of its own peace project. Both within and beyond the EU, there is a widespread expectation among citizens that the Union will deliver results in this crucial area. Yet the deteriorating security environment of the past decade has posed significant challenges. Following the release of its Global Strategy in 2016, and in line with the wording and spirit of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has been intensifying its work in pursuit of peace and security in a number of key policy areas. In this respect, 2018 was a year of implementation and of transforming vision into action.

According to some academics, the world has become more peaceful in recent centuries. Europe in particular has experienced the longest period of peace in its history, not least thanks to a regional network of international organisations, of which the EU is a major example. Today, peace is defined in a positive way, not only as ‘the absence of war’, but also in terms of quality of government, free flow of information and low levels of corruption. In this context, of the 39 most peaceful countries in the world, based on the 2017 Global Peace Index of the Institute for Economics and Peace, 22 are EU Member States. Nevertheless, the instability that currently characterises the geopolitical environment has translated into a sharp deterioration of peace in the EU’s neighbourhood and has challenged its internal security. In addition, multilateralism, a core element in the EU’s foreign policy and identity and a cornerstone of its approach to peace and security, is under increasing pressure from alternative value systems and ideologies.

The over-arching objectives of the EU guide it in all facets of its activity in this area, including common foreign and security policy (CFSP); democracy support; development cooperation; economic, financial and technical cooperation; humanitarian aid; trade; and neighbourhood policy. As envisaged by the Lisbon Treaty, the 2016 Global Strategy introduced several elements to refine and improve the EU’s efforts, including the promotion of resilience and capacity-building in the world. This approach is reflected in the EU’s external policies.

As far as development is concerned, a significant share of EU aid goes to fragile states and to issues related to securing peace. In 2017, the EU committed to a ‘new consensus on development’ that emphasises the role of development cooperation in preventing violent conflicts, mitigating their consequences and aiding recovery from them. The new consensus clearly focuses on fragile and conflict-affected countries, which are the main victims of humanitarian crises. On the ground, the EU has been able to strengthen the nexus between security, development and humanitarian aid through the implementation of comprehensive strategies, for example in the Horn of Africa and in the Sahel.

With progress made by means of permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), the European Defence Fund and other such initiatives, 2018 was marked by the continuation of efforts to build a more autonomous and efficient EU common security and defence policy (CSDP). Of all the policy fields in the area of peace and security, this is the one that has enjoyed the greatest support from EU citizens (75 %) for more EU spending. Through the CSDP, the EU also runs 16 missions and operations, making it one of the UN’s main partners in peacekeeping. These elements of ‘hard power’, together with the EU’s long-standing experience in the practice of soft power, form the backbone of its action for peace and security. New elements strengthening the EU’s security and defence capabilities, launched under the outgoing EU Commission and European Parliament legislature, including the initiatives in the area of European defence research and development, are boosting the EU’s capacity to work for peace and security.

Looking to the future, the global environment is expected to grow in complexity. New threats such as cyber-attacks, disinformation and foreign influence campaigns demand new types of multifaceted responses. As the mandate of the current European Commission and the current European Parliament draw to a close, the legislation adopted is evidence that the EU has made significant progress in furthering its aim to strengthen its presence and efficiency in the area of peace and security. The proposals for the post-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF), which focus on streamlining the EU’s various programmes and instruments, allow for sufficient flexibility to respond to unforeseen threats while also implementing innovative financial instruments. However, the final adoption of the 2021-2027 MFF will take place under the next European Parliament after the European elections of May 2019. Underlying the quest for flexibility, efficiency and innovation is the strategic goal of empowering the EU in its global role as a promoter of peace and security, while adapting to the new realities of the international order and the rapid technological, environmental and societal changes of our times.


Read the complete study on ‘Peace and Security in 2019: Overview of EU action and outlook for the future‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Threats to peace and security in the current global environment

Threats to peace and security in the current global environment

 

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/06/03/peace-and-security-in-2019-overview-of-eu-action-and-outlook-for-the-future/

Outcome of the informal dinner of Heads of State or Government on 28 May 2019

Written by Suzana Anghel with Simon Schroecker,

EU leaders met to consider the outcome of the European Parliament elections, and to start the appointment process to high-level EU positions ahead of the June 2019 European Council. They discussed the principles that would guide their action, and mandated the European Council President, Donald Tusk, to begin consultations with the Parliament. EU leaders reiterated their February 2018 position on the absence of automaticity between a role as lead candidate and the European Council nomination for President of the European Commission. They discussed the balance that needs to be found, but did not discuss any names. The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, stressed the parliamentary majority’s attachment to the Spitzenkandidaten process.

Background

At the Sibiu Summit, Donald Tusk had announced his intention to convene the EU leaders on 28 May. The objectives of the meeting would be threefold: to take stock of the election results, to discuss the principles and method for nominating high-level EU officials, and to ‘start the nomination process’.

European Parliament election results

EU leaders took stock of the results of the elections. They welcomed the high turnout (over 50 %), and stressed that it was the highest in European elections in a quarter of a century. They also noted that the bi-party system that has characterised the Parliament since the first direct elections in 1979 has given way to a more diverse hemicycle, in which there is need to form alliances of at least three political forces to ensure a majority. President Tusk spoke of a ‘more complex’ and ‘more representative’ parliament.

Principles guiding the European Council in the appointment of high-level officials

The Lisbon Treaty set two main principles – respect for ‘geographical and demographic diversity’ – as a basis for the appointments of the Presidents of the European Council, European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. President Tusk recalled those principles in Sibiu and added two more: gender balance and political representation. EU leaders confirmed their support for these principles as well as their position of 23 February 2018 rejecting any automaticity in applying the Spitzenkandidaten process. Some of them stressed that it is fundamental to have a clear view on what the EU wishes to achieve in the next five years in several policy areas, including climate, the economy and security, prior to considering who to appoint to different top positions. Others indicated that they would prefer to see a Commission President who is ‘young, dynamic and with a lot of power’.

Figure 1: Overview of high-level office-holders since the 2009 EP elections

Overview of high-level office-holders since the 2009 EP elections

‘Package’ approach for top nominations

Four top-level EU positions – the presidency of the European Council, the presidency of the European Commission and the position of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, as well as the presidency of the European Central Bank – are being considered, at this stage, as a ‘package’. President Tusk confirmed the ‘package’ approach but mentioned that the ‘ECB is not for party competition’. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, said that he would favour not including the appointment of the ECB President in the global ‘package’.

The nomination process

The nomination process comprises three phases, as shown in Figure 2. The first phase, a period of reflection on the principles that will guide EU leaders in the nomination process, led to the emergence of diverging views between the European Parliament and the European Council with respect to the Spitzenkandidaten process. The European Parliament stated in two resolutions, in 2018 and 2019, its support for the Spitzenkandidaten process, whilst the 27 Heads of State or Government have rejected any automaticity in applying it.

Figure 2: Timeline of the high-level appointments process

Timeline of the high-level appointments process

The 28 May 2019 special meeting of Heads of State or Government opened the second phase of the nomination process, a period of consultations. This second phase is intended to last until the June 2019 European Council meeting, when a ‘package’ agreement on top nominations is expected. Timely delivery on the ‘package’ agreement depends on the ability of both the European Council and the Parliament to overcome inter- and intra-institutional divergences of views on the Spitzenkandidaten process. If no consensus is reached in the consultation phase, it is likely that, as announced several times by President Tusk, the European Council will have to proceed to a vote by qualified majority. President Tusk said that he has ‘offered to meet the European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents as soon as they are ready’ to start the consultation process and that, in parallel, he will continue consultations with EU leaders.

The third phase of the nomination process opens in early July 2019 with the election of the European Parliament’s president. The ability to stay on course and to avoid several votes in Parliament for the election of the Commission President will depend on finding consensus during consultations.

European Parliament position

President Tajani underlined the Parliament’s support for the Spitzenkandidaten process. The Conference of Presidents considered the Parliament the ‘legitimate place for the mandate for change to be debated and defined’. Together with the European Council’s next Strategic Agenda, the Parliament’s ‘mandate for change’ could form ‘a solid base for renewed priorities’ for the next European Commission.

The way forward

In a situation of persistent deadlock on the package, EU leaders may be able to nominate the next European Council President in June 2019, or at the latest in September. However, until agreement is found on the candidate for European Commission President, it will also be difficult to nominate the next High Representative. The appointment of the next ECB President could also be possible in June.


Read this ‘At a glance’ on ‘Outcome of the informal dinner of Heads of State or Government on 28 May 2019‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/06/03/outcome-of-the-informal-dinner-of-heads-of-state-or-government-on-28-may-2019/

Understanding the European Parliament’s History: How the Parliament of the 1950s and 1960s shaped our institution today

Written by Mitja Brus with Elena Maggi,

EPRS - Understanding EP History: How the Parliament of the 1950s has shaped our institution today

On 8 May, the eve of the anniversary of the Schumann Declaration, the European Parliamentary Research Service animated the Library reading room with a fascinating conversation between Koen van Zon, presenting his doctoral research findings on the Parliament of the 1950s and 1960s for Radboud University Nijmegen, and Martin Westlake, currently Visiting Professor at the College of Europe and the London School of Economics.

After a warm welcome, EPRS Director General, Anthony Teasdale, introduced the lecture’s core question: whether there is a resilient European Parliament ‘DNA’ – that is, an ensemble of behavioural inclinations intrinsic to the nature of this institution since its first inception.

According to Van Zon, the European Coal and Steel Community’s (ECSC) Common Assembly, which later became the European Economic Community’s Common Assembly, already displayed three resilient behavioural attitudes that were instrumental to the development of Parliament’s history. Van Zon decodes this ‘DNA’ as based on three principles he calls:

  1. ‘Claim to speak on behalf of the people’;
  2. ‘Call yourself a parliament, and act like one’;
  3. ‘Don’t try to change the rules, change the costumes instead’.

Rather than undertaking an historical analysis of the Parliament’s life story, Van Zon took a more diachronic approach. Indeed, when retracing the main determinant events in the Parliament’s history, the author underlined how these three behavioural attitudes were already and simultaneously at work in the process of becoming a European Parliament. In particular the customary strategy (i.e. ‘don’t try to change the rules, change the costumes instead’), came to constitute the Parliament’s modus operandi in its ambition to obtain the attributes of any other liberal democratic parliament: direct elections, budgetary and legislative power.

Van Zon noted that, since its very inception in 1952, the Common Assembly was already ‘claiming to speak on behalf of the people’. When asked by Adenauer to draft a ‘constitution’ laying the foundations of a political community, there was no clear legal foundation for the Common Assembly to function as ‘constitutive assembly’. However, it was exactly by a customary strategy, in their interpretation of the treaty base, that the Members, most of whom were experienced constitutionalists, could act to realise a more ambitious mandate.

The first meeting, in 1958, of the newly formed Joint Assembly of the three European Communities, is another example of the Members’ ambition to ‘change the rules by changing the costumes’. Indeed, their first approved resolution was to rename the Common Assembly as the ‘European Parliamentary Assembly’, that is, in Van Zon’s words, ‘to call themselves a Parliament’. Furthermore, regardless of the Council’s non-recognition of this very symbolic name, the Members continued to operate under the name of ‘European Parliamentary Assembly’ until the name was formally recognised in the 1987 Single European Act.

The first direct election in 1979 has long been interpreted as a ‘turning point’, marking an irreversible shift in the life of the institution. However, as Van Zon and Professor Westlake argued, this event was simply the accomplishment of a long process. Direct elections can therefore be seen as an extraordinary event in the process of the Parliament’s efforts ‘to start acting’ as a transnational, rather than an international, assembly. They are the result of almost 30 years of Members’ contribution to setting the European agenda, claiming to ‘speak on behalf of the people’, and renaming their assembly the European Parliament. Van Zon outlined that these direct elections represented an impetus for Parliament to become a stronger, cohesive, efficient and legitimate body.

Van Zon underlined that his analysis dispels the myth of a powerless and fragile institution, preparing itself for an incumbent electoral disaster. Van Zon noted that, in his opinion, if Parliament’s powers may have seemed rather opaque to the public in the past, the Spitzenkandidaten procedure is one way in which the lines of Parliament’s accountability are becoming more evident. Indeed, Van Zon indicated the extent to which the lead candidate procedure demonstrates the last example of Parliament’s ‘DNA’ behavioural attitudes at work:

  1. ‘Claim to speak on behalf of the people’ – ‘respect the outcome of the election’;
  2. ‘Call yourself a parliament and act like one’ – ‘Parliaments are involved in the formation of governments’;
  3. ‘Don’t try to change the rules, change the costumes instead’ – ‘interpret the Lisbon Treaty instead of changing it’.

Professor Westlake and Koen Van Zon’s lecture made a strong case for the existence of a Parliamentary ‘DNA’ that, since its very inception and well before direct elections, has provided proof of unprecedented resilience. If today radical or eurosceptic parties are no longer excluded from Parliament (as was the case in the past), their presence will not ‘bring the house down’. On the contrary, Van Zon argued that the Parliament is and always has been strong enough to uphold the democratic promise to welcome dissent at the very heart of democracy. This will strengthen, rather than damage, such a ‘genetically resilient’ institution.


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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/05/21/understanding-the-european-parliaments-history-how-the-parliament-of-the-1950s-and-1960s-shaped-our-institution-today/

Artificial intelligence, data protection and elections

Written by Shara Monteleone,

Tastatur Europa

© SimpLine / Fotolia

The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica case in 2018, revealing alleged misuse of personal data for political advertising, demonstrated how the underlying values of the European data protection rules are essential for democracy. The EU has recently adopted a series of additional initiatives to support free and fair elections, reflected not least in European Parliament (EP) debates and resolutions.

Personal data and data analytics

Every day, most of us use digital devices, searching or posting online, and produce considerable amounts of data, capable of revealing, with the help of algorithms and data analytics, information about how we think and feel. It is said that ‘we are data‘, as the digital profiles so created can be used to predict our behaviour and personalise the services accessed. Data protection rules are in place to reduce the risks of improper use, of which the user is often unaware. When the purpose of the personal and behavioural data collected is to filter the content users can see, to influence their opinions or even to target them as voters, the issue at stake is nothing less than the democratic system itself.

The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica case

In 2018, newspapers reported that a UK-based political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica (CA), had improperly obtained data on 87 million Facebook (FB) users (including 2.7 million Europeans), without their consent. Data collection was initially made via a third-party application that 270 000 FB users were invited to install (voluntarily) for research purposes. Data of friends of friends, collected exponentially, were passed to CA, which used that data to target online voters/users with personalised political ads, allegedly seeking to manipulate their behaviour in the 2016 UK and US polls. Afterwards, FB announced it had made changes to restrict app developers’ access to data, and CA shut down in 2018. However, the connections between unlawful data processing and disinformation/manipulation of data revealed have raised criticism in Europe.

The European Parliament: A long tradition of supporting data protection

As part of its varied powers, also widely exercised in the data protection field, the EP has been active in investigating the scandal of Facebook/CA – which are companies certified under the EU-US data transfer deal, the Privacy Shield. The EP adopted a resolution in July 2018 on the (in)adequate protection afforded by the Shield to guarantee European users’ rights, and called on the European Commission to suspend the agreement. Moreover, a series of hearings were organised to assess the impact of the Facebook/CA case, and FB CEO Mark Zuckerberg was invited to meet EP Members, although the answers provided were unsatisfactory.

An EP resolution, adopted in October 2018 on the use of FB users’ data by CA, urges Member States to engage with online platforms to increase awareness and transparency regarding elections.

Micro-targeting, disinformation campaigns and data surveillance

While micro-targeting for political campaigns may simply be seen as commercial advertising, it may threaten democracy, public debate and voters’ choices substantially when the related practices rely on the collection and manipulation of users’ data (big data analytics) to anticipate and influence their political opinions and election results (computational propaganda). While GDPR is considered a strong instrument to ensure digital technologies are consistent with democratic values, it may not be sufficient alone.

A social media post says a lot about us. As we live in what has been defined as a black box society, our behaviours, preferences and the related data become (through clicks) (freely) available to large, commercial technology companies (also defined as ‘surveillance capitalists‘ due to the market concentration created), creating a vulnerability in both our digital and real lives. Such companies could develop methods capable not only of automating and translating every activity into data, but also capturing the surplus of personal data, to make users uncover data that they would otherwise not provide, and to transfer this knowledge into power. For these reasons, privacy and competition laws must be considered as intertwined. A behaviour, or a decision, can be manipulated in a certain way for commercial aims, but also for political outcomes, often without the users’ awareness or choice. Such concerns may rise, given the increased availability to some of these companies of surveillance tolls (traditionally used by intelligence services).

EU Voice

The European Parliament has consistently investigated such disinformation and unlawful data processing and urged a strong and coordinated European response. The measures adopted at the EU level in 2018 include: the Commission’s communication on ‘Tackling online disinformation‘, supporting a European approach; the creation of an independent European network of fact-checkers; the Code of Practice on Disinformation, signed by several online platforms: a self-regulatory tool, which should improve transparency on the origin of the news, on how it is sponsored and targeted, and should also help with concrete actions in view of the elections. As a result, Facebook recently launched transparency rules.

While elections remain primarily a Member State responsibility, a package on free and fair European elections was adopted to protect the electoral process from disinformation campaigns based on the misuse of voters’ data, including: financial sanctions (signed in March 2019) for European political parties in case of deliberate infringement of data protection rules to influence EU elections (i.e. taking advantage of unlawful data processing); a recommendation for Member States to cooperate in securing the European elections; and guidance on the application of data protection law in the electoral context.

Artificial intelligence, data protection and elections

Given their popularity, all European political parties currently use online social media for electoral campaigning. However, the lawfulness of some parties’ data collection and use remains questionable.

Technological possibilities may enhance or undermine political decision-making. As there is a strong relationship between digital technology, democracy and polarisation of public discourse (a user is exposed to a one-sided set of information), its design impacts participation, debate and democracy.

It is clearer than ever that, while privacy and data protection are essential for other rights and freedoms (of thought, of choice, of movement), the use of new, often-opaque, automated decision-making practices, relying on algorithms, requires higher transparency, as well as joint accountability on the part of different actors, and ethical considerations. The European Data Protection Supervisor (working with other EU bodies to ensure that data are used responsibly and that voter rights are respected), stressed that data protection is a prerequisite for fair and democratic elections, and called for regulators (electoral, media, data protection authorities) to make a joint effort to protect election integrity.


Read this ‘At a glance’ on ‘Artificial intelligence, data protection and elections‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/05/21/artificial-intelligence-data-protection-and-elections/

Marking International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

Written by Rosamund Shreeves,

Over the 2014-2019 legislature, the European Parliament has strongly condemned all forms of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans-sexual and intersex (LGBTI) people. Parliament has stressed the urgency of tackling increasing levels of hate speech and hate crime motivated by bias against a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and put forward concrete proposals for combating hate speech and harmful stereotypes in the media. Parliament has also drawn attention to the human rights situation of LGBTI people outside the EU on many occasions. In February 2019, it asked the Commission to make LGBTI rights a priority in its work programme for 2019-2024 and to adopt a new LGBTI strategy for this period, joining the 19 EU Member States who had already urged the Commission to ensure a strong follow-up to the EU’s current strategy.

Advocacy organisations are reporting diverging trends in the situation of LGBTI people, both globally and in Europe, with a worsening environment in some countries due to repressive and discriminatory legislation and spikes in hate crimes, contrasting with legal and social improvements in others.

This May, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), plans to launch a major survey of LGBTI people’s experiences across the EU. A follow-up to the agency’s first survey in 2012, it will ask about issues affecting people’s everyday lives, including discrimination, harassment and violence – and will be extended to cover the specific experiences of intersex people.

The FRA’s first survey of more than 93 000 people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender painted a worrying picture of discrimination in schools, workplaces, healthcare settings and public places, and widespread experiences of harassment and violence. Almost half (47 %) of the respondents said they had felt personally discriminated against or harassed in the previous year because of their sexual orientation, with the figures highest for lesbian women and transgender respondents. One in two respondents said that they avoided certain places for fear of being harassed, threatened or assaulted because of being LGBT, whilst one in four said that they had been attacked or threatened with violence over the previous five years. However, only one in ten people had reported incidents of discrimination, and only one in five of the most serious incidents of violence were reported to the police, mainly because respondents believed that nothing would happen or change as a result. Some feared a homophobic or transphobic reaction from the authorities.

As we approach the European elections, it is worth flagging that almost half of all respondents to the first FRA survey believed offensive language about LGBT people by politicians to be widespread in their country of residence. Figures for individual countries varied from 1 % in Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, to 33 % in Poland, 42 % in Bulgaria, 51 % in Italy and 58 % in Lithuania. Monitoring reports by the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance data (ECRI) confirm their concerns. Between 2014 and 2018, ECRI recorded incidents of homophobic and transphobic hate speech from politicians – and failures to counter them – in several EU Member States, along with more positive examples where hate speech was systematically condemned. The European network of Equality Bodies, Equinet, has also reported that a growing number of election campaigns in Europe are marred by scapegoating and discriminatory language or hate speech against certain groups.

During the campaigning for the 2014 European elections, ILGA-Europe, the European branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, received reports of 42 incidents of hate speech against LGBTI people and other minority groups. For the 2019 elections, the organisation is uniting with a broad spectrum of civil society organisations to appeal for ‘No Hate’ campaigning, calling on all candidates, politicians, the media and people in the public eye not only to avoid engaging in, or amplifying, rhetoric that could incite discrimination, prejudice or hatred on any ground, but also to counter it actively. In addition, ILGA-Europe is encouraging candidates to sign a pledge to stand up for human rights and equality for all LGBTI people in the European Union and beyond, by committing to listen to their concerns and work proactively to close gaps in legal protection, strengthen EU policy and support human rights defenders.

Two EPRS briefings published to mark this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), on 17 May, look in detail at the scope of the rights and protections against discrimination for LGBTI people within the European Union, the steps the EU and Parliament in particular have taken over the last term to further LGBTI rights, and EU external action in this area. EU external action focuses on Africa, where a majority of countries have legislation criminalising homosexuality and the public expression of sexual or gender behaviour that does not conform to heterosexual norms. For the EU, promoting LGBTI rights is complex, as in several African countries, the very notions of sexual orientation and gender identity as grounds for discrimination are contested, and seen as ‘un-African’.

For further reading:

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/05/16/marking-international-day-against-homophobia-transphobia-and-biphobia/

Area of freedom, security and justice: Cost of non-Europe

Written by Wouter van Ballegooij,

Lady Justice Stature n Germany, Frankfurt

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Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999, the EU offers its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice (AFSJ). In this area, the free movement of persons should be ensured, in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum and migration, as well as preventing and combating crime. The European Parliament has gradually acquired equal legislative powers with the Council of Ministers, in an area that was previously intergovernmental. This contributes to better law-making, trust and legitimacy in the area of justice and home affairs. The policy agenda in the area of migration and security was, however, fundamentally reshaped following the rapid rise in the number of asylum seekers and irregular migrants arriving in the EU in 2015, and a string of terrorist attacks. Despite these challenges, surveys show that citizens expect the EU and its Member States to deliver an AFSJ, notably in the area of free movement, immigration and the fight against terrorism.

In October 2016, the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee requested the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) produce a ‘cost of non-Europe Report’ on the AFSJ. This blogpost introduces a briefing on the series of analyses produced by EPRS in response to this request, covering asylum, border control and visa policy (forthcoming), legal migration, the fight against organised crime and corruption, and terrorism, as well as procedural rights and detention conditions, equality and the fight against racism and xenophobia.

State of play

Substantial progress has been made since the EU declared its aim of creating an area of freedom, security and justice 20 years ago. In particular, the Schengen Borders Code abolishes internal border controls except under specific circumstances and provides EU Member States with common rules that govern external border controls and entry requirements. In addition, the EU has developed a Common European Asylum System (CEAS). Furthermore, the EU aims at building a comprehensive immigration policy. Several EU directives have facilitated third country nationals’ admission and residence in an EU Member State. The EU also established security measures ranging from those coordinating crime prevention to police and judicial cooperation. Moreover, the EU supports operational cooperation between national law enforcement authorities through the exchange of information contained in a number of EU and national information systems. Beyond the right to asylum, the EU has developed common standards in other areas of fundamental rights. These standards include non-discrimination, data protection, the free movement and residence of EU citizens, and the rights of victims and suspected and accused persons. Finally, a number of EU agencies support national authorities in these areas.

Gaps, barriers and their impacts

However, the various cost of non-Europe reports point to a number of gaps and barriers. In particular, there is a lack of consistent monitoring and enforcement of EU values and norms. The root causes are to be found in weaknesses in the existing EU legal and policy framework on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights. Lower fundamental rights standards have a negative impact on mutual trust between Member States, which is based on the presumption that an independent judiciary enforces these standards and that the material conditions are in place that allow for the effective exercise of fundamental rights. In addition, respect for the rule of law presents a necessary condition for economic transactions. The lack of enforcement is also felt in the particular policy areas covered by the AFSJ.

Furthermore, the reports identify a number of outstanding gaps in the EU’s framework in certain areas:

  • a permanent, robust and effective Union response regarding search and rescue operations at sea;
  • a framework that would allow legal entry in the EU for the purpose of applying for international protection;
  • a framework on legal migration covering all third country nationals;
  • EU criminal policy preparation more comprehensively involving the European Parliament and national parliaments;
  • EU legislation covering individuals who are discriminated against on the basis of their religion and belief, sexual orientation, disability and age outside employment;
  • EU legislation protecting suspects throughout the criminal procedure, including during the pre-trial detention phase.

These deficiencies have a significant impact at individual level, notably in terms of preventing the effective exercise of fundamental rights by EU citizens and third country nationals alike. For example, negative impacts accumulate along the asylum journey, resulting in the tragic loss of life in the Mediterranean in the pre-arrival phase and further violations in the arrival, application and post application phases. Discrimination has serious impacts on individuals. A denial of rights, material and immaterial damage, health status, and a loss of earnings, among other impacts, are just a number of problems they face. These deficiencies also have a negative effect on budgetary spending, growth and tax revenue, which is estimated at at least €180 billion annually, with the lack of enforcement of EU values still to be assessed in more detail.

Policy options

Further EU action in four main areas would have significant benefits:

  1. Monitoring and enforcement of EU values through an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights;
  2. Creating safe legal pathways for migrants and asylum-seekers to enter the EU, respectively though a binding immigration code and EU legislation on humanitarian visas;
  3. Instilling a European law enforcement culture; and
  4. Completing the Union’s fundamental rights framework, notably through the adoption of the ‘horizontal’ anti-discrimination directive and a directive on the substantive criteria and procedural requirements related to pre-trial detention;

In particular, this could allow individuals to fully enjoy their fundamental rights and make EU society more secure, open, fair and prosperous. This would also foster trust in the EU on the basis of its ability to deliver on its aims.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Area of freedom, security and justice: Cost of non-Europe‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/05/14/area-of-freedom-security-and-justice-cost-of-non-europe/

What are Spitzenkandidaten?

Future Leaders of the Next Generation of Business People

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The European Parliament regularly receives enquiries from citizens on the election of the President of the European Commission and the process known as ‘Spitzenkandidaten‘ or ‘lead candidates’.

Under the Treaty on European Union, EU leaders in the European Council propose the candidate for the President of the European Commission. However, EU leaders need to do so while ‘taking into account’ the results of the European elections and ‘after having held the appropriate consultations’ (Article 17.7 of the Treaty). The European Parliament then elects the Commission President by a majority of its members (376 of 751 votes).

In 2014, European political parties appointed lead candidates for the European Parliament elections (sometimes referred to as Spitzenkandidaten, in German); with the presidency of the Commission going to the candidate from the largest political group in the European Parliament. This process led to the election of Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission President.

In 2019, the European Parliament is committed to repeating the lead candidate process, with the presidency of the Commission going to the candidate capable of gathering sufficient parliamentary support. The European Parliament made clear that it stands ready to reject any candidate who was not appointed as a lead candidate. While the Commission and its President have equally expressed strong support for the lead candidate process, the European Council has emphasised that it has the autonomous competence to nominate the candidate, and insisted that ‘there is no automaticity in this process’.

Ahead of the 2019 European elections, seven European political parties have put forward one or several lead candidates for the presidency of the European Commission. You can find out more on who they are on the European Parliament website.

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.

Further information

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/05/14/what-are-spitzenkandidaten/

Using technology to help those in need

Written by Nera Kuljanic,

As a result of conflict and protracted crises, 200 million people are currently in need of international humanitarian assistance around the world. Providing timely and adequate assistance to everyone who needs it is an increasingly challenging task, due to the growing needs of people and the complex nature of the crises. To make things worse, billions of dollars are still needed to close the funding gap. All of this places the humanitarian system under considerable strain. Can technology help to do more with less?

Technological innovations are perceived as an enabler in preventing such crises and helping to reduce human suffering during crises. A new STOA study analyses the impact of technological innovations in humanitarian assistance as transformative tools for both people in need and humanitarian actors. Although humanitarian innovations go beyond ICT, such as new shelter, sanitation and water solutions, this study is oriented towards ICT-enabled improvements. The technologies are considered to be part of preparedness, response, and recovery, reconstruction and risk reduction activities. The study provides an overview of the current state-of-play and developments with regard to ICT-related innovation in humanitarian assistance, and lists a number of options for policy-makers to further technological innovation in humanitarian assistance.

overview of technologies assessed in the study

overview of technologies assessed in the study

Technological innovation in humanitarian assistance

ICT technologies and digitalisation are not new to the humanitarian domain. Nevertheless, ongoing developments in the field and the ubiquity of technologies such as mobile devices, are fundamentally transforming humanitarian assistance. The availability and use of mobile phones and social media platforms by people affected by humanitarian crises; geospatial technologies and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, drones) to detect crises; biometric identification to facilitate humanitarian support; a shift to digital payments with e-vouchers and mobile money as relief provisions, are just some examples. Embracing technological innovation is a way forward to better address the needs of those affected by crises and the challenges of providing humanitarian assistance. Interpretations of what this entails however vary among actors. For example, some may focus more on the ‘innovation process’, whereas others focus on ‘technology’ and its ‘adoption’. There is also an ongoing discussion on ethics, technical standards and responsible innovation, as well as ‘information as a right’ in the humanitarian domain. In addition, involving local communities and capabilities is important to foster local ownership and engagement.

Transformative nature of technologies and how to make the most of them

Technological innovation in humanitarian assistance is maturing and growing, and this has led to an increasing awareness of challenges and opportunities in the field. Innovation transforms the way in which humanitarian assistance is organised and executed, it redefines relationships between actors in the field and it affects financial flows. It can facilitate new ways of addressing the humanitarian funding gap. It also enables a shift of focus from response and recovery to prevention and preparedness and offers opportunities for increased local ownership and engagement. However, the use of technological innovation in humanitarian assistance raises serious concerns about inclusiveness and the protection of the most vulnerable due to privacy and cybersecurity issues, and it requires shared technological standards. Additionally, the use of technological innovation requires different ways of working, skills and capabilities of institutional and individual actors.

The study lists and explains a number of policy options to further technological innovation in humanitarian assistance. These are divided in three categories: (1) those related to ‘objectives’ of technological innovation; (2) those that focus more on the technological innovation ‘process’; and (3) those related to ‘implementation’ of technological innovation.

The above points are the main conclusions of the recently published STOA study on technological innovation in humanitarian aid. Requested by Enrique GUERRERO SALOM (S&D, ES) through the Committee on Development (DEVE), the study was carried out by Capgemini Netherlands, under STOA management. A list of sources complements the study, which draws on information and feedback collected during 11 interviews with various experts on the topic.

If you read the study, please get in touch via email to let us know what you think. Your opinion counts for us.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/05/13/using-technology-to-help-those-in-need/