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Annual EU budgetary procedure: An introduction to the steps in the EP

Written by Sidonia Mazur,


© Marco2811 / Fotolia

The European Parliament (EP) and the Council are the budgetary authority of the European Union. The two institutions, assisted by the European Commission, decide on the budget in the annual EU budgetary procedure.

The annual EU budget funds EU policies and programmes following the Union’s political priorities and legal obligations. The financial year starts on 1 January and ends on 31 December.

The European Parliament amends the Council position through the work of its Committee on Budgets (BUDG) and the specialised parliamentary committees. The EP then adopts the Parliament’s reading in plenary session.

This briefing presents possible scenarios set in the EU Treaties for adoption or non-adoption of the annual budget. It explains differences between the Treaty calendar and the ‘pragmatic calendar’.

The key actors in establishing the Parliament’s position are: the Committee on Budgets and EP specialised committees, in particular the BUDG chair, the annual budget rapporteurs and their shadows, BUDG coordinators and budget rapporteurs in specialised committees.

An amendment to the Council’s position is a tool enabling Members of the European Parliament to modify the annual budget draft. This briefing sketches the life cycle of such an amendment.

The European Parliament and the Council work out an agreement on the annual budget through negotiations consisting of trilogue meetings and conciliation.

Last but not least, this briefing explains what happens if there is no agreement on the EU annual budget.

Read this briefing on ‘Annual EU budgetary procedure: An introduction to the steps in the EP‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/07/22/annual-eu-budgetary-procedure-an-introduction-to-the-steps-in-the-ep/

3 Key Questions on Nuclear applications and ballistic missiles

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/07/20/3-key-questions-on-nuclear-applications-and-ballistic-missiles/

Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, July II 2019

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson.

Election of the President of the Commission - Statement by the Newly Elected President of the Commission

© European Union 2019 – Source : EP

The main highlight of the July II plenary session was the election of Ursula von der Leyen as President of the European Commission. Other highlights included a statement by Viorica Dăncilă, Prime Minister of Romania, on the outcome of that country’s Council presidency, and by Antti Rinne, Prime Minister of Finland on the priorities for the current Finnish Council Presidency. Parliament also debated statements by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on implementation of the EU Global Strategy, and the situation in Venezuela (also adopting a resolution), in the Persian Gulf and in Moldova. Debates were also held on Council and Commission statements on humanitarian assistance in the Mediterranean and clean air zones in EU cities. Members also decided on the numerical strength of the interparliamentary delegations.

Election of the President of the European Commission

Following a statement by the President-elect, Parliament elected Ursula von der Leyen as President of the European Commission (by 383 votes, 327 against and 22 abstentions – the minimum number required, an absolute majority of parliament’s Members, was 374). Members will effectively have to confirm her appointment in October, when they vote on the full college of Commissioners, after hearings with each of the candidate Commissioners during which policy directions for the next five years can be assessed.

Review of the Romanian Presidency of the Council

Prime Minister of Romania, Viorica Dăncilă, addressed the plenary to present the outcomes of the Romanian Presidency of the Council. The Presidency programme focused on four core issues: European convergence; security; Europe’s place on the world stage; and common values. The Presidency team were able to conclude about 80 files in key areas such as the banking union, justice and home affairs, and Brexit contingency planning. They also reached 10 common understandings on sectoral programmes under the EU’s long-term budget for 2021 to 2027.

Presentation of the programme of the Finnish Presidency of the Council

Antti Rinne, Prime Minister of Finland, presented the programme of activities of the incoming Finnish Presidency of the Council. The priorities for this new presidency are: strengthening common values and the rule of law; making the EU more competitive and socially inclusive; strengthening the EU’s position as a global leader in climate action; and protecting the security of citizens comprehensively.

Humanitarian assistance in the Mediterranean

Recent loss of life in the Mediterranean reflects the need for concerted action at Member State level, and underlines the unsustainability of current arrangements. Tragedies continue to occur, despite the EU’s increased commitment to saving lives and giving humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum-seekers arriving by boat on the northern shores of the Mediterranean, through reinforcing EU operations. The Council and Commission made statements on their plans to tackle this issue. As proposals on reviewing the Dublin legislation and Common European Asylum system remained blocked at the end of the last term, this issue is sure to be high on Parliament’s agenda in the coming months.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on “Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, July II 2019” in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/07/19/plenary-round-up-strasbourg-july-ii-2019/

3 Key Questions on Circular economy

We are used to an economy based on a ‘take-make-consume-throw away’ pattern: this is the linear economy.

When we recycle, repair, share, or when a company buys a service rather than a product, we speak of a circular economy. It is much more than just waste management 2.0.

Didier Bourguignon from the European Parliamentary Research Service is here to answer three key questions on circular economy.

See also:

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/07/19/3-key-questions-on-circular-economy/

3 Key Questions on European Defence

The Treaty of Lisbon established the European Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) which substituted the former European Security and Defence Policy. The main aim of the CSDP is the promotion of security and peace. One of its key goals is to establish common European defence capabilities, but not necessarily a European army, as is often rumoured.

In 2012 the global and regional geopolitical environment began to change. Terrorism, violent extremism, and hybrid threats all presented new risks to security, peace and stability. This brought the European Union into a new mind-set about the future of its security and defence. Two of the main realizations were that it had to increase defence spending and that Member States needed to coordinate their defence capabilities. As a result, in December 2017, 25 members of the European Union decided to launch Permanent Structured Cooperation in Defence, which is also known as PESCO.

Elena Lazarou from the European Parliamentary Research Service is here to answer three key questions on EU defence.

See also our Peace & Security Outlook 2018.

Our “3 Key Questions on …” series of video interviews with our policy analysts include visual aids to getting a swift grasp of the policy challenges at hand. Take a look at the full series on YouTube.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/07/18/3-key-questions-on-european-defence/

3 Key Questions on Blockchain voting

Blockchains are a remarkably transparent and decentralised way of recording lists of transactions. Their best-known use is for digital currencies such as Bitcoin, which announced blockchain technology to the world with a headline-grabbing 1000% increase in value in the course of a single month in 2013.

Despite the digitalisation of several important aspects of modern life, elections are still conducted largely offline, on paper. Since the turn of the century, e-voting has been considered a promising and, perhaps, inevitable development that could speed up, simplify and reduce the cost of elections. It has been seen as a potential means of increasing engagement and turnout, and even restoring links between citizens and political institutions. Using blockchain technology for e-voting could increase transparency while allowing more fluid and decentralised decision-making. It could even introduce new functionality such as ‘self-implementing manifestos’. Certainly, this could be useful for decision-making in many organisations, but could it work on a larger scale, for example, in the European elections?

Listen to Philip Boucher, an EPRS policy analyst, explaining the issues in 3 key questions on blockchain voting.

Or read more about “How blockchain technology could change our lives” in this in-depth analysis

Our “3 Key Questions on …” series of video interviews with our policy analysts include visual aids to getting a swift grasp of the policy challenges at hand. Take a look at the full series on YouTube.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/07/17/3-key-questions-on-blockchain-voting/

3 Key Questions on Disinformation and democracy

The techniques used by anti-democratic state and non-state actors to disrupt or influence democratic processes are constantly evolving. The use of algorithms, automation and artificial intelligence is boosting the scope and the efficiency of disinformation campaigns and related cyber-activities. In response, the EU is stepping up its efforts to protect its democratic processes from manipulation ahead of the European elections in May 2019.

Listen to Naja Bentzen, an EPRS policy analyst, explaining the issues in 3 key questions on Disinformation and democracy.

Or read more in our publications:

Our “3 Key Questions on …” series of video interviews with our policy analysts include visual aids to getting a swift grasp of the policy challenges at hand. Take a look at the full series on YouTube.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/07/16/3-key-questions-on-disinformation-and-democracy/

3 Key Questions on Competition Fines

Some companies use monopoly situations or join forces with other companies to fix prices in order to overcharge. The European Union punishes this kind of unfair behaviour and the European Commission has the power to issue what are known as competition fines.

Listen to Sidonia Mazur, an EPRS policy analyst, explaining the issues in 3 key questions on Competition Fines.

Or read more in our publications: EU competition policy: key to a fair Single Market.

Our “3 Key Questions on …” series of video interviews with our policy analysts include visual aids to getting a swift grasp of the policy challenges at hand. Take a look at the full series on YouTube.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/07/15/3-key-questions-on-competition-fines/

What if we didn’t need cows for our beef? [Science and Technology podcast]

Written by Lieve Van Woensel with Jens Van Steerteghem,

© Worldpics / Shutterstock

With the help of cells from a single cow, scientists can produce 175 million hamburgers. When fully commercialised, this type of technology could greatly impact the way we produce and consume meat.

Today, meat is produced in an inefficient way. A whole living, breathing, feeling, moving animal is grown and only a fraction of the energy given through food is recovered in edible body parts. From an evolutionary point of view, the animal is intent on reproduction, not meat production. Scientists are working to avoid this detour in order to increase efficiency and improve animal welfare. The idea is to grow the meat directly in a petri dish or bio-reactor.

Scientists start by taking special cells from the animal of interest, suspend them in an adequate growth medium in which they can divide and grow, and provide a scaffold to which the cells can attach and the cell culture can take structure. The type of starter cells is important because they determine on the one hand how fast the cells divide, and on the other hand how similar they are to a muscle cell, which is what meat mainly consists of. Stem cells divide rapidly but must be induced to differentiate into muscle cells, whereas muscle cells are already differentiated but hardly proliferate at all. The solution is to start with ‘in-between’ cell types such as myoblasts, which are acceptable on both fronts. These starter cells can be extracted from animals painlessly. The growth medium needs to contain all nutrients the myoblast cells require to grow, while being cost-effective and without animal ingredients. So far, scientists use foetal calf serum for research purposes only, and are still investigating ethical substitutes to be used for commercial purposes. The scaffold needs to be edible and flexible enough to move and provide the muscle cells with periodic contractions, providing a ‘workout’ of sorts. Alginate, chitosan or collagen derived from non-animal sources fulfil these requirements, periodically stretching under changes in temperature and acidity. Globally, several companies have plans to enter the market (Finless Foods, Mosa Meats, Memphis Meats). The first cultured meat products are expected to appear in supermarkets as early as 2021.

A joint Oxford and Amsterdam University study shows that, compared to conventional meat, the environmental impact of cultured meat is potentially very small, with ‘up to 96 % lower greenhouse gas emissions, 45 % less energy, 99 % lower land use, and 96 % lower water use’. Taking into account that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates global meat demand will increase by 73 % by 2050, and that livestock farming is responsible for 18 % of all greenhouse emissions, 30 % of land use, and 8 % of water use, efficiency increases could be crucial for achieving sustainable meat production.

The obstacle to rolling out cultured meat production is the price – in 2008, it was speculated that 250 grammes would cost about US$1 million. However, this cost is rapidly decreasing. In 2015, Mark Post, Lead Researcher at Maastricht University, said the marginal cost could fall to about €8 for one burger. When the technology of large-scale production in bioreactors is mature, prices should decline even further. It is estimated that such burgers could eventually be produced for €3 500 euro per tonne, which is around 1.5 times the current cost of conventional European beef production.

Additional advantages of cultured meat include the possibility of adding nutritional value, omega-3 fatty acids for example, less exposure to pathogens and chemicals such as pesticides, and reduced use of antibiotics. This latter point is important, considering that 70 % of all antibiotics are used in agriculture, which causes antibiotic resistance in human pathogens.

While cultured meat can be used for making processed meat products such as sausages, burgers and nuggets, creating meats with a lot of structure, such as steak, is not yet in sight. In order to acquire the appearance, taste, smell and texture, cultured meat must consist of both small and large muscle fibres with connective tissue and fat cells. This will to a large extent determine whether cultured meat is commercially viable. On the other hand, the possibility of engineering meat for optimal nutrition, or even customisation on an individual basis, may prove to be a large advantage ­– especially considering that the consumption of processed meat is linked to heart disease, digestive tract cancer, and type-2 diabetes.

The artificiality of cultured meat, as well as the high price, is certain to deter some consumers. But it is conceivable that lower prices and consumer environmental and health concerns could arguably eventually win out. A market for high-quality animal meat that is difficult to culture will probably be around for longer. Religious dietary restrictions will also determine the popularity of cultured meat in large parts of the world: religious scholars continue to disagree on whether it is kosher, halal, or violates the position of cows in Hindu culture.

If cultured meats were to take over the market, general tolerance for animal suffering might decrease, and any suffering might be seen as unnecessary, even to meat-eaters.

It is likely that, if cultured meat were to become the future standard, dairy and egg prices would increase, because the meat produced as a by-product would be less profitable. However, substitutes are also being researched for all these products; in the future, cultured dairy and eggs could be more cost-effective and cheaper.

Once cultured meat companies wish to enter the EU market, they will have to comply with the Novel Food Regulation. This defines novel foods as those that had not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the EU before 15 May 1997, and lays down that novel foods must undergo pre-market authorisation evaluating the food as safe for consumers, that their consumption is not nutritionally disadvantageous, and that they are properly labelled, so as not to mislead consumers. The labelling of cultured meat therefore also needs to be investigated, as well as the question as to whether cultured meat can be considered ‘meat’ according to the EU definition of meat as ‘edible parts of the animals […], including blood’.

Finally, cultured meat will inevitably have an impact on the meat market, with consequences for conventional meat producers. However, as even conventional farming increasingly involves the use of new technologies, some farmers might be able to reorient their businesses to also incorporate this type of food production. To apply this new technology for the production of cultured meat, guidelines for best practices in its production and the processing will certainly be required.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘What if we didn’t need cows for our beef?‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to podcast ‘What if we didn’t need cows for our beef?‘.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/07/12/what-if-we-didnt-need-cows-for-our-beef-science-and-technology-podcast/

Role and election of the President of the European Commission

Written by Silvia Kotanidis,

Extraordinary meeting of the EP Conference of Presidents with Ursula von der LEYEN, candidate for President of the European Commission

© European Union 2019 – Source : EP

The President of the European Commission has taken on an ever more prominent leading role within the College of Commissioners, with the increasingly presidential system eclipsing the principle of collegiate decision-making. With the European Parliament now more involved in the appointment, the Presidency has not only become a much more politicised office, but the President has also gained greater influence vis-à-vis the other members of the Commission.

The Commission President plays a crucial role in relations between Parliament and Commission. Presenting his or her priorities to Parliament prior to election sets the course for the whole term, on which the President will be called to account by Parliament. Building on this, Parliament has an increasingly prominent role in political agenda-setting, shaping the EU’s legislative programming together with the Commission and the Council.

At the end of President Barroso’s second term as Commission President, many had criticised the lack of ambitious initiatives undertaken, whereas others believe that the economic and institutional difficulties which the EU faced made this inevitable. The legacy of President Juncker’s mandate can claim, on the one hand, to show progress in trade and defence, although some maintain that more ambition could have been displayed in other areas, for instance on the digital market or monetary union. On the other hand, the Juncker Commission introduced some significant changes in the College’s working methods and a more political role for the Commission.

Whereas Jean-Claude Juncker had been a Spitzenkandidat (lead candidate) in the European elections, Ursula von der Leyen, nominated as candidate for the Commission presidency by the European Council on 2 July, was not. As none of the Spitzenkandidaten were seen to have a clear majority in Parliament, it remains to be seen whether an ‘outsider’ from that process can muster the support of the required majority of Parliament’s component Members at the time of the election, currently planned for the July II plenary session.

This is an updated edition of a 2014 briefing drafted by Eva-Maria Poptcheva.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Role and election of the President of the European Commission‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/07/12/role-and-election-of-the-president-of-the-european-commission-2/