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Negotiations on the next MFF and the EU recovery instrument: Key issues ahead of the July European Council

Written by Alessandro D’Alfonso, Marianna Pari, Magdalena Sapała,

© European Union 2020: EC – Audiovisual Service; Claudio Centonze

The current multiannual financial framework (MFF), also known as the EU’s long-term budget, comes to an end this year. While the European Commission put forward a proposal for the next MFF and its financing in May 2018, agreement has so far proved elusive under legislative procedures that give a veto power to each Member State. In recent months, the unfinished negotiations have become intertwined with the debate on the creation of a common EU tool to counter the severe socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. In May 2020, the Commission tabled revised proposals for a 2021-2027 MFF worth €1 100 billion and the EU own resources system, together with a proposal for a €750 billion recovery instrument, Next Generation EU (NGEU). The latter would be financed with funds borrowed on the capital markets to reinforce EU budgetary instruments in the 2021-2024 period. In addition, an amendment to the current MFF would provide a bridging solution to fund some recovery objectives this year already. The complex negotiations, which involve many different legislative procedures, are now entering a key phase. Issues expected to be under the spotlight include: the size of the MFF and of the NGEU and their interaction; reform of the financing system with the possible creation of new EU own resources; the breakdown of allocations (between policies and Member States); the contribution to the green transition; conditionalities (such as rules linking EU spending to the rule of law or to challenges identified in the European Semester); flexibility provisions to react to unforeseen events; the mix of grants and loans in the recovery instrument; and the repayment of funds borrowed under NGEU. European Council President Charles Michel has prepared a compromise package ahead of the July European Council meeting. If the Heads of State or Government find a political agreement, the next step will involve negotiations between Parliament and Council, since the former’s consent is required in order for the MFF Regulation to be adopted. Parliament, which has been ready to negotiate on the basis of a detailed position since November 2018, is a strong advocate of a robust MFF and an ambitious recovery plan. It has stressed that it will not give its consent if the package does not include reform of the EU financing system, introducing new EU own resources.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Negotiations on the next MFF and the EU recovery instrument: Key issues ahead of the July European Council‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/07/16/negotiations-on-the-next-mff-and-the-eu-recovery-instrument-key-issues-ahead-of-the-july-european-council/

Jacques Delors: Architect of the modern European Union

Written by Wilhelm Lehmann and Christian Salm,

© Communautés européennes 1985, 1990 – EP

The consensus among most historians of European integration and political scientists is that Jacques Delors, who served as President of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995, was the most successful holder of that post to date. His agenda and accomplishments include the EU single market, the Single European Act, Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the rapid integration of the former German Democratic Republic into the European Community. His combination of coherent agenda-setting and strong negotiating skills, acquired through long experience of trade union bargaining and years of ministerial responsibilities in turbulent times, puts Delors above other Commission Presidents, whether in terms of institutional innovation or the development of new Europe-wide policies. He also showed himself able to react swiftly to external events, notably the collapse of the Soviet bloc, whilst building Europe’s credibility on the international stage.

This Briefing records Delors’ life across its crucial stages, from trade union activist, senior civil servant, French politician, and Member of the European Parliament, to the helm of the European Commission, where he left the greatest individual impact on European integration history to date. It also traces the most important ideas that guided Delors in his national and European roles. Finally, it describes the political events and key actors which made Delors’ decade in office a time of important decisions and progress in the process of European integration and, in doing so, it draws on recent academic literature and on speeches Delors gave in the European Parliament.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Jacques Delors: Architect of the modern European Union‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/07/15/jacques-delors-architect-of-the-modern-european-union/

A crossroads of disciplines: How nanotechnology is revolutionising medicine

Written by Lieve Van Woensel and Sara Suna Lipp

How nanotechnology is revolutionising medicineNanotechnology, making it possible to manipulate matter on a ‘nano’ scale, emerged in the early 1980s. More recently, nanotechnology has become the intersection at which several scientific disciplines converge. The convergence of physics with biology has led to many scientific discoveries and nanotechnology applications, transforming the future of biology, and providing new solutions for medicine and healthcare. These include nano-sized artificial motors, built using biological molecules; while nanomedicine targets cancer cells, delivers drugs and battles antibiotic resistance bacteria. The recent coronavirus crisis demonstrated nanotechnology applications’ importance to finding fast and innovative solutions, such as for the detection and identification of viruses.

The online STOA workshop ‘The big future of nanotechnology in medicine‘, proposed and chaired by Lina Gálvez Muñoz (S&D, Spain) and STOA Panel member, was held on 25 June 2020. The workshop highlighted recent developments in nanotechnology and nanomedicine and provided a view of consumer perception and ethics in the field, as well as responsible research and innovation. Lina Gálvez Muñoz introduced the event, emphasising that the discussion on nanotechnology is even more relevant in the light of the recent coronavirus crisis. She welcomed the expert speakers: Sonia Contera, Professor at the Oxford Physics Department and author of Nano Comes to Life; Laura M. Lechuga, Professor at ICN2 and head of the CONVAT project; Maurizio Salvi, Senior Policy Analyst in the Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) Unit, European Commission; and Roxanne Van Giesen, Senior researcher in consumer research at CentERdata.

 

Keynote speaker Sonia Contera provided a historical perspective of developments in nanotechnology. She mentioned that, based on consumer and public responses, nanotechnology was one of the first technological sectors in the EU with a formal agenda for ethics and responsible innovation, pioneering this approach in the world. She explained that a new kind of nanotechnology is bringing together synthetic biology with computer sciences and physics, thus embracing biological complexity to create novel materials, drugs and future applications. In this context, she reviewed recent developments such as new antibacterials, cancer immunotherapies and vaccines, 3D-printed organs or organs-on-a-chip. Sonia Contera concluded by stating that the approach of science and technology is changing by adapting to the complexity of nature and highlighted the importance of diversity and multidisciplinarity in science to face the challenges of the 21st century.

The coronavirus crisis has shown that novel diagnostic tools for rapid, sensitive and specific testing and population screening are essential to tackling infectious outbreaks. Laura M. Lechuga, head of the CONVAT project (one of the first projects funded by the Horizon 2020 European Union framework programme to fight Covid‑19), explained that there are currently three different Covid‑19 diagnostic strategies. These are: (i) detection of the virus RNA genetic material by nucleic acid tests; (ii) detection of the intact virus by antigen detection tests; and (iii) detection of antibodies by serological tests. She described the limitations of each test; and highlighted the aim of the CONVAT project: to create point-of-care nanobiosensors that can provide fast, sensitive, massive and quantitative diagnostics. She concluded that the distinctive feature of nanophotonic biosensors, where light interacts with viral particles to produce a specific and quantitative signal, ranks them as a highly competitive technology. These tools will also make it possible to monitor animal reservoirs for the detection of new emerging viruses.

 

Maurizio Salvi, argued that nanotechnology is one of the most successful examples of ethical, legal and societal issues being strongly reflected in the innovation strategy in the field. He explained that, from the very beginning, nanomedicine has addressed issues such as safety, informed consent, non-discrimination in terms of accessibility, and the precautionary principle from an ethical viewpoint. He pointed out that different nanomedicine applications are evaluated separately. Governance of the nanotechnology sector at the European level shows an effort to embed the complexity of implications into a global strategy, however no unique solution addresses these ethical, legal or societal issues, and debates on national and local level are highly important.

Consumer perception significantly influences the development of technologies, as society can either accept or reject a new technology, and nanotechnology is no exception. Roxanne Van Giesen, a senior researcher on consumer perception, explained that such opinions are based on affect or cognition. She noted that applications more closely linked to the body, such as food or water, are more likely to raise societal concern, and rely more on emotions than knowledge. Interestingly, however, her data on nanomedicine showed similar acceptance levels as for conventional medicine. This underlined the fact that people more readily accept technologies when they are used in health/life-saving applications. The acceptance and success of this technology, she concluded, greatly depends on communication and increasing factual knowledge by building on existing knowledge of the target audience.

 

In the subsequent discussion, the importance of diversity and interdisciplinarity in science emerged as a key message. Public trust and consumer perception can only be influenced in a positive way if discussions are inclusive. Furthermore, the success of a nanotechnology application depends on the full synergy of different disciplines from the beginning of research and development to the end product.

In her concluding remarks, Petra De Sutter (Greens/EFA, Belgium) and STOA Panel member underlined the many ethical and policy-making challenges linked to nanotechnology. She pointed out that, as with artificial intelligence, policy-making in the nanotechnology field should follow a risk-based approach dependent on applications. She highlighted the importance of regulatory frameworks that are evidence-based and promote public trust. Petra De Sutter concluded the workshop by pointing out that the legislative sector also needs to move from reductionism to acknowledging complexity and interdisciplinarity in order to address complex technologies such as nanotechnology.

The full recording of the meeting is available here.

 

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/07/15/a-crossroads-of-disciplines-how-nanotechnology-is-revolutionising-medicine/

Towards a revision of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive

Written by Jaan Soone,

Power supply connect to electric vehicle for charge to the battery. Charging technology industry transport which are the futuristic of the Automobile. EV fuel Plug in hybrid car.

© Buffaloboy / Adobe Stock

In the December 2019 European Green Deal communication, which aims to reboot the EU’s efforts to tackle challenges related to climate change and the environment, the European Commission proposed to review the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive.

The Directive was adopted in 2014 to encourage the development of alternative fuel filling stations and charging points in EU countries, and required Member States to put in place development plans for alternative fuels infrastructure. However, according to a 2017 Commission evaluation, the plans did not provide sufficient certainty for fully developing the alternative fuels infrastructure network, and development has been uneven across the EU.

Car-makers and alternative fuels producers, clean energy campaigners and the European Parliament have called for the revision of the Directive, to ensure that sufficient infrastructure is in place in line with efforts to reduce emissions in the transport sector and to help meet the climate and environment goals set out in the Paris Agreement and the Green Deal.

On 27 May 2020, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Commission proposed the recovery plan for Europe in which it puts even greater focus on developing alternative fuel infrastructure, electric vehicles, hydrogen technology and renewable energy, repeating its intention to review the 2014 Directive.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Towards a revision of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/07/14/towards-a-revision-of-the-alternative-fuels-infrastructure-directive/

Outlook for the special European Council meeting of 17-18 July 2020

Written by Ralf Drachenberg,

© Shutterstock

Based on an updated ‘negotiating box’ presented by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, on 10 July, the special meeting of the European Council on 17-18 July will aim at finding a political agreement on the EU recovery fund, entitled ‘Next Generation EU’, and the multiannual financial framework (MFF) for the 2021-27 seven-year financing period. It will be the first meeting of EU Heads of State or Government to take place in person since the coronavirus outbreak. The last such physical meeting of the European Council – held on 20-21 February, prior to the crisis –failed to reach a political agreement on the EU’s long-term budget. The revised negotiating box, taking into account the Commission’s updated MFF proposals – adopted alongside, and linked to, its recovery fund proposals – envisages a reduced MFF amounting to €1.074 trillion. Furthermore, Charles Michel’s proposals maintain the balance between loans and grants for the recovery fund proposed by the Commission. While a lot of pressure is being applied to find an agreement urgently, it remains to be seen whether EU leaders will agree a deal at this meeting or whether yet another meeting will be needed. In any case, the current MFF negotiations have already taken much longer than was originally intended, potentially jeopardising the timely launch of the EU’s new spending programmes.

1. Consultations aiming at a compromise on the 2021-27 MFF and the recovery plan

Following the video-conference meeting on 19 June – which was the first occasion for Heads of State or Government to discuss and obtain clarifications on the proposals put on the table by the Commission on a revised MFF and on the recovery fund – Charles Michel launched a series of consultations with all the Member States, thus opening the negotiation phase.

When presenting the results of the 19 June meeting, Mr Michel also expressed awareness of the need to swiftly reach political agreement on the long-term budget. As the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, recalled when addressing that meeting, a political agreement in the European Council, once reached, does not end the negotiations, which can only be concluded with an agreement between the Parliament and the Council. A further delay in the adoption of the next MFF regulation could indeed negatively impact the timely launch of new EU programmes, and thereby the recovery of the EU economy.

2. Charles Michel’s new ‘negotiating box’

Based on the consultations held over recent weeks, on 10 July, Charles Michel presented his updated ‘negotiating box’ – a document aimed at facilitating the gradual completion of negotiations to prepare the final deliberation in the European Council. This replaces the earlier one he had presented on 14 February 2020, which was unable to generate the necessary consensus.

As stressed during his press conference, the latest Michel proposals are firmly ‘grounded in the political priorities of the European Union, climate transformation, digital agenda, European values and a stronger Europe in the world’, as outlined in 2019-24 EU Strategic Agenda. They aim at ensuring recovery following the coronavirus crisis and at mitigating the economic and social consequences thereof. Thus, the current proposals are built around three broad objectives: ‘first convergence, second resilience and (then) transformation. Concretely, this means: repairing the damage caused by Covid‑19, reforming our economies and remodelling our societies.’

The revised negotiation package addresses six issues: i) the size of the MFF, ii) the size of the recovery fund, iii) the existence and size of rebates, iv) the balance between grants and loans, v) the allocation criteria for funding, and vi) the link between the recovery fund, its governance and the role of different institutions as well as national reforms.

1) Overall size of the MFF: President Michel’s current compromise proposal envisages a reduced MFF of €1.074 trillion, in comparison to the Commission’s proposal of €1.1 trillion. It remains very close to the figure presented by the European Council President at the special European Council meeting in February. However, the proposed size of the long-term budget falls far short of the European Parliament’s ambitions for the Union for the next seven years. As underlined in a joint letter to the European Council from five of the seven political groups in the European Parliament ahead of the 19 June meeting, ‘the Union must meet its objectives and tackle the challenges thrown at it by the 21st century. The only way forward is to adopt a robust MFF for 2021-2027. [However,] the revised Commission proposals on the next MFF fall short [on] a number of commitments and ambitions. We will continue to defend Parliament’s position in the upcoming negotiations and we will not compromise on the future of the European Union’. Speaking to EU leaders at that meeting, President Sassoli stressed that the Parliament considered the Commission’s ambitious proposal as a starting-point and ‘will accept no retreat from this initial position, but rather seek to improve it’.

2) Overall size of the recovery instrument: According to Charles Michel, the recovery fund would remain at €750 billion, as proposed by the Commission.

3) Rebates: The negotiating box also envisages the continuation of the rebates or ‘budget correction mechanisms as lump sums’ for Austria, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. The European Commission proposed to phase out the current rebates over time, whilst the European Parliament has called for ‘the abolition of all rebates and corrections’.

4) The balance between loans and grants: The revised negotiating box aims to maintain the balance between loans and grants as proposed by the European Commission, i.e. €500 billion in grants and €250 billion in loans. As the grants include sub-categories relating to budgetary guarantees, in practice this translates into a three-way split of 58 % grants, 33 % loans, and 9 % budgetary guarantees (see EPRS Briefing on Next Generation Europe). As emphasised by the leaders of five political groups in the above-mentioned joint letter to the European Council, ‘we believe that [€]500 billion in grants is the bare minimum to provide a credible European response to such a huge crisis. We oppose any reduction’.

5) The allocation criteria for the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF): Charles Michel has reiterated that the objective is to ‘establish a real link between the Recovery Plan and the crisis’, and that funding should primarily go to countries and sectors most affected by the crisis. Therefore, 70 % of the RRF will be committed in 2021 and 2022 in accordance with the Commission’s allocation criteria. The remaining 30 % will be committed in 2023, taking into account the drop in GDP in 2020 and 2021. The total envelope should be disbursed by 2026.

6) Governance/conditionality: The last element of the revised negotiation package has three components:

  • The reform and resilience national plans: Based on the Commission’s country-specific recommendations, Member States will be required to prepare national recovery and resilience plans for 2021-23, in line with the European Semester. The plans will be reviewed in 2022, and the assessment of these plans will be approved by the Council by qualified majority vote (QMV), on a proposal by the Commission. The European Council President’s proposal would give a stronger role to the Council throughout the process, with a view to ensuring better implementation and a greater sense of ownership. This clearly implies limited involvement of the European Parliament in the process, and a lack of parliamentary oversight of implementation. As stressed by the five main political groups in the European Parliament, ‘we … will continue to strive for the full involvement of Parliament in the establishment and delivery of the Recovery Instrument with the aim of increasing its transparency and democratic accountability. We will use all means at our disposal to achieve this objective’.
  • Climate change: In order to reach the EU objective of climate neutrality by 2050, Charles Michel proposes to earmark 30 % of funding for climate-related projects. It is worth recalling that the topic of climate change was, prior to the pandemic, due to be discussed at the June 2020 European Council meeting, but that the point was absent from the video-conference discussions. This thus postponed to an unspecified point in time the debate on the end of the temporary exemption granted to Poland in December 2019, when the country announced that it could not commit to ‘the objective of achieving a climate neutral economy by 2050’. Securing the green envelope in the form proposed by the European Commission in May 2020 might enable Poland to commit to the 2050 climate objective, since the country would be among the top three beneficiaries of the Just Transition Fund.
  • Rule of law and European values: President Michel proposes to establish a strong link between funding and respect for governance and rule of law, thus maintaining his proposal from February on a new budget conditionality, which would allow the Council to adopt sanctions in the form of withdrawal of funding by QMV. However, this new budget conditionality has been substantially weakened in comparison to the Commission proposal, which envisaged that a recommendation on measures to be applied to a failing Member State would be subject to reverse qualified majority in the Council (i.e. a qualified majority would be needed to block the proposal, rather than to approve it). In this context, Mr Michel also proposed to ‘increase the funding for Rule of Law and values projects, through additional financing for the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Justice, Rights and Values Programme, with a special focus on disinformation and to promote media plurality’. He stressed that the framework would result in ‘a system of permanent rule of law monitoring’.

Other elements of the negotiating box

  • Repayments and own resources: Charles Michel proposes that repayments should start earlier, in 2026 rather than in 2028 as proposed by the Commission. In his view, this would enhance the pressure to introduce new own resources. He suggests that such own resources be introduced in three priority areas: plastic waste, a carbon adjustment mechanism and the digital levy. Subsequently, the Commission should come back with a revised proposal on the emissions trading system (ETS) and work would continue on a financial transaction mechanism. The introduction of new own resources is a crucial point for the European Parliament: as stressed in the joint letter from five political groups, ‘the Parliament would only give its consent to the next MFF if a basket of new own resources were to be introduced’.
  • New Brexit reserve: The negotiating box also includes a new Brexit reserve of €5 billion to counter unforeseen consequences in the most affected Member States and sectors.
  • Health: Funds for RescEU and health would increase in line with the Commission proposal, in order to respond to coronavirus and its consequences of.
  • Cohesion funding: Charles Michel has also stated that, whilst his revised MFF proposal was lower than the Commission proposal, the allocations for cohesion money should remain at the same level. Thus, his negotiating box also includes cuts and scaling back of policy areas such as Horizon Europe (the research programme) and Erasmus+. This approach goes against some important priorities of the Parliament, and notably announcements made by President Sassoli after the June 2020 meeting, with ‘the Parliament aiming to increase the allocation for the Erasmus+ programme.

3. Recent developments

On 8 July, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, invited the Presidents of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, the European Council, Charles Michel, and the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, President-in-Office of the Council of the EU, to an Article 324 TFEU meeting, to discuss the state of play in the negotiations on the next MFF and Next Generation EU. The four Presidents stressed that it would be essential for EU Heads of State or Government to reach an agreement at the upcoming European Council meeting, in order to allow the inter-institutional negotiations to start. They agreed to stay in close contact throughout the coming weeks and months. A similar Article 324 TFEU meeting took place on 27 June 2013, during the negotiations on the 2014-20 MFF. Two significant differences ought to be pointed out. First, the earlier meeting only included the presidents of three institutions (Martin Schulz for the Parliament, Enda Kenny for the Council and José Manuel Barroso for the Commission) and did not include the President of the European Council (then Herman Van Rompuy). Indeed, the Treaty does not mention the European Council with respect to the MFF, and provides for discussion within the institutional triangle. Second, the earlier meeting took place after a political agreement had been found in the European Council meeting of 7-8 February 2013.

On the same day as that four-way meeting, Charles Michel also outlined the conclusions of the 19 June 2020 European Council meeting during the plenary session of the European Parliament, and discussed with MEPs the preparation of the European Council meeting of 17-18 July. During the debate, MEPs emphasised the crucial importance of adequate financing for the long-term budget, and the critical need to introduce new own resources for the EU budget, without which the Parliament would not give its consent. President Sassoli reiterated that ‘for the European Parliament, the proposal of the European Commission is not a point of arrival, but the minimum basis from which to start. We cannot and must not go backwards. We will fight for the success of this proposal with all the means at our disposal.’ MEPs reminded Mr Michel that ‘a deal in the Council is not the final deal’, as the Parliament will have a final vote before the 2021-27 MFF can enter into force.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/07/14/outlook-for-the-special-european-council-meeting-of-17-18-july-2020/

Plenary round-up – Brussels, July 2020

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson,

Plenary session - Presentation of the programme of activities of the German Presidency - First round of Political group leaders - MEPs Debate

© European Union 2020 – Source : EP/Laurie DIEFFEMBACQ

The July 2020 plenary session was the fifth conducted with Members participating remotely, using the alternative voting procedure put in place in March by Parliament’s Bureau, although a majority were present in Brussels. During this session a number of Council and European Commission statements were debated, with the presentation of the programme of activities of the German Presidency a highlight. Members also debated the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 19 June and preparation of the meeting of 17-18 July 2020. Members heard Council and Commission statements on Union policy on preventing money laundering and terrorist financing, on the state of play of Council negotiations on the proposed regulation on the protection of the Union’s budget in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States, and on cultural recovery in Europe. Parliament also debated a Commission statement commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. Members debated statements from the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell, on stability and security in the Mediterranean and the negative role of Turkey, and on the situation in Belarus. Parliament voted on a number of legislative proposals and resolutions including on the European citizens’ initiative, a resolution on the humanitarian situation in Venezuela, and a chemicals strategy for sustainability.

EU post-coronavirus public health strategy

Members heard statements from the Council and Commission on the post-coronavirus public health strategy, which were followed by a debate on the measures required to reorganise EU assistance for various specific sectors following the pandemic and in light of its expected economic consequences. Parliament adopted, by a large majority (526 votes to 105 and 50 abstentions), a resolution in favour of stronger health cooperation and creation of a European Health Union. In learning lessons from the coronavirus crisis, Parliament underlined the need for common minimum standards and equal access to healthcare. To prepare for possible resurgence of the pandemic, Members called for a European Health Response Mechanism. Parliament also welcomed the newly proposed EU4Health programme.

Cohesion policy role in the coronavirus pandemic recovery

The Commission responded to an oral question on the role of cohesion policy in tackling the socio-economic fallout from Covid-19, agreeing with Parliament that a decision on the legislation regulating cohesion spending and the revised EU budget proposals is urgent.

Road transport: Social and market rules

Parliament adopted at second reading three important files on social and market legislation aimed at ending distortion of competition in the road transport sector and providing better rest conditions for drivers. The ‘Mobility Package’ now becomes law, ensuring better working conditions for freight drivers, fairer competition and measures to tackle illegal practices, as well as clear rules on posting of drivers to ensure equal pay.

Amending Budget No 5/2020: Continuing refugee and host community support

By a large majority (557 votes to 72 and 59 abstentions), Parliament approved draft amending budget (No 5) to the 2020 EU general budget, seeking to extend the humanitarian support currently provided for refugees and host communities in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey as a result of the Syrian crisis. Following this amendment, €485 million will maintain funding of the EU’s humanitarian support in Turkey, and €100 million will be used to fund projects assisting refugees in Jordan and Lebanon through mobilisation of the contingency margin in 2020.

Annual report on the European Investment Bank’s financial activities

Members adopted a resolution based on the Committee on Budgets’ report on the 2019 annual report on the European Investment Bank’s financial activities. The report welcomes the EIB’s reinforced focus on the EU priorities of green investment and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, but underlines that the bank can still do more in this direction. The report also expresses concern regarding continued exceptions for gas projects, the geographical coverage of EIB lending, the use and control of intermediaries to disburse external lending, as well as transparency towards other EU institutions.

Annual report on control of the EIB’s financial activities

The EIB’s move towards greening the EIB’s investment policy is also a focus of the Budgetary Control (CONT) Committee’s annual report on control of the EIB’s financial activities in 2018. Members adopted a resolution based on the report, which covers the activities of the EIB and the types of transactions and relationships it deals with in detail. The need to ensure funding for climate sensitive projects, and to ensure that ethics, integrity, transparency and accountability are key in all EIB activities was highlighted in the report.

2018 report on protection of the EU’s financial interests – Combating fraud

Members also adopted (421 votes to 167 and 93 abstentions) a resolution the 2018 report on protection of the EU’s financial interests and the fight against fraudulent use of EU funding, where a 25 % fall in the number of irregularities compared to the previous year is counterbalanced by the amounts involved having nevertheless risen by 183 %, necessitating continued vigilance and action by the EU Member States.

Boosting Roma inclusion process in Europe for the next decade

Members also heard and debated a Council and Commission statement on plans to adopt a new EU policy framework to tackle socio-economic exclusion and discrimination against Roma peoples. Parliament has already drawn attention to the need for stronger measures and will be making recommendations for the new EU framework for the equality and inclusion of Europe’s largest ethnic minority.

Annual human rights report 2019

Members held a joint debate on statements by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, on the 2019 annual report on human rights and democracy. The report provides an overview of EU actions to promote human rights worldwide, using development instruments, trade conditionality, external policies and diplomacy. The debate is just the first stage in a process under which Parliament will prepare its own report later in the year, providing indications for future measures, in advance of the adoption of a new EU action plan on human rights.

Opening of trilogue negotiations

Members confirmed (without a vote) two Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE) mandates on a European Institute of Innovation and Technology and on the strategic innovation agenda of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. They also confirmed an International Trade Committee (INTA) decision to open negotiations on Union rights for the application and enforcement of international trade rules, and an Employment & Social Affairs Committee (EMPL) decision on enhanced cooperation between public employment services.


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

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/07/14/plenary-round-up-brussels-july-2020/

EU tourism sector during the coronavirus crisis

Written by Maria Niestadt,

Young Woman Wearing Face Mask Walks Near the The Roman Coliseum In Rome, Italy.

© Andy Dean / Adobe Stock

Tourism in the European Union (EU) is one of the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, with some parts of the sector and some regions more affected than others. Most tourist facilities were closed during the peak of the crisis, and events cancelled or postponed. Tourism businesses are also among the last to resume activities, and even if they do, they still have to apply strict health protocols and containment measures, meaning that they can operate only at restricted capacity. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that tourism will decline 60-80 % this year, depending on the length of the health crisis and on the pace of recovery.

While aviation, cruise lines, hotels and restaurants are among the most affected, cycle tourism is becoming more popular during the recovery phase. An increasing number of tourists prefer domestic destinations, areas of natural value, active travel and avoiding overcrowded destinations, at least in the short-term. However, some changes might become permanent, such as the rise in purchasing tourism services online or the greater attention paid to hygiene and healthy living.

At the peak of the pandemic, most EU countries introduced temporary border controls and measures restricting free movement across the EU. However, the strictness and timeline of these measures varied greatly from one country to another. Recently, many EU destinations have started to lift national confinement and quarantine measures, including restrictions on travel. By 15 June 2020, most EU countries had opened their borders to EU travellers and had begun to plan to open borders to travellers from certain third countries as of 1 July 2020.

The EU has acted to support the tourism sector, whether by temporarily changing EU rules, helping to interpret current rules or by providing much-needed financial support. The European Commission helped to repatriate EU travellers. On 13 May 2020, the Commission adopted a comprehensive package of non-legislative measures for the tourism and transport sector, with the aim of helping EU countries to gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism and transport businesses to reopen. The Council and the European Parliament have, in general, welcomed the package, while making further suggestions on how to help the sector.


Read this briefing on ‘EU tourism sector during the coronavirus crisis‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/07/13/eu-tourism-sector-during-the-coronavirus-crisis/

Cultural tourism out of confinement

Written by Magdalena Pasikowska-Schnass,

The lockdowns, border closures and other restrictive measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic brought tourist and cultural activities to a halt in most EU Member States between mid-March and mid-June, significantly affecting businesses and consumers. A progressive easing of these restrictive measures is now under way.

Lockdown in tourism and culture

© Michele Ursi / Adobe Stock

The coronavirus brought much of the planet to a halt. Activities in the domains of tourism and culture were the first to be suspended, and among the last to resume. Tourism and culture have a high share of SMEs and precarious employment, and are among the sectors worst affected by the consequences of the crisis. They contribute a lot to the gross national product (GNP) of, and employment in, the Member States that were hit hardest by the pandemic. Among them, France, Italy and Spain are home to 16 % of Unesco World Cultural Heritage sites and to a third of EU cultural heritage sites. Sector stakeholders are concerned by the fact that 13 % of the 95 % of world museums that closed due to the coronavirus may never reopen.

Closed from mid-March, most EU internal borders reopened as of mid-June, whereas external borders started to reopen progressively in early July. Both internal and external tourism stopped from one day to the next, as did cultural activities with the closure of all cultural premises. World Heritage sites were closed or partially closed in 90 % of countries across the world in April. By the end of May, only 46 % of them had reopened.

Relationship between tourism and culture

A 2009 OECD publication highlights the mutually beneficial relationship between culture, which attracts tourists, and tourism, which enhances culture and creates income, while also supporting cultural heritage, production and creativity. Cultural tourism has been one of the fastest-growing global markets, and cultural and creative industries, in addition to cultural heritage, its driving force. In order to reap all the benefits of this relationship, partnership between the two sectors is essential. While sustainable tourism, protection and management of cultural assets promote local culture and well-being, badly planned tourism results in overcrowding and deterioration of traditional culture, in crime and increased property prices and taxes.

Moreover, loss of tourism revenue in places of cultural interest results in loss of social security and revenue for artists and cultural professionals. It strongly affects not only heritage sites, but also museums, crafts and cultural sectors which are often involved in seasonal cultural events and festivals.

According to estimates of the UN World Tourism Organization, tourism suffered a loss of US$80 billion in the first quarter of 2020; this has had a negative impact on those working in the cultural sector and on artists’ mobility, due to the cancellation of festivals and to border closures.

Easing of coronavirus-related measures in culture and tourism

According to Unesco, financial investment in the culture subsectors (museums, heritage sites, creative industries) will be strategic for economic recovery, possibly also benefiting tourism. To repair the damage to the creative economy, the World Bank has rapidly provided US$14 billion worth of liquidity to the sector.

Easing lockdown measures, while observing requirements such as keeping a physical distance, wearing a face mask or using a tracing app, across Member States and particularly in tourist regions, is equally challenging for the sectors of tourism and culture. As recommended by the OECD, because these sectors are highly interdependent and face similar difficulties, they could coordinate their efforts or set up joint partnerships to help each other survive and perhaps thrive.

Italy was the first to reopen some of its famous sites, in the last weekend of May, with the Leaning Tower of Pisa admitting only 15 persons at a time, with face masks and an electronic device to warn if the one-metre distance has been violated. Some cities have started using open public spaces for cultural activities, for example, for film projections on building facades (Rome), for cultural festivals and events in the streets and public squares (Seville), or for artists to display their works (Paris).

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) has made recommendations for museums’ reopening, including:

  • admitting a limited number of visitor to museums and galleries, and online ticket purchase in advance to manage the flow and ensure contactless entry;
  • prohibiting group tours and allocating strict time slots;
  • installing floor signs for social distancing;
  • organising special sessions for visits by elderly people;
  • introducing a one-way system for visits and replacing audio guides with smartphone apps;
  • placing protective barriers for exchanges that cannot occur digitally.

Performing Arts Employers’ Associations League Europe has published strategies for reopening theatres and cultural activities in different countries, and provided guidance on risk assessment and prevention.

European Commission proposal for tourism and transport

In its communication of 13 May on tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond, the Commission recognised the correlations between culture and tourism and proposed initiatives, such as technological and financial solutions, to support and potentially revive the two sectors.

The digital cultural heritage platform, Europeana, will further develop its tourism angle; in June it put on display European cultural jewels and hidden gems never before shown. The Cultural gems web app is launching a citizen ambassadors’ campaign to support proximity tourism. Opportunities to discover natural and cultural gems closer to home and taste local products could be even greater in 2021 – the European Year of Rail – when a host of events will be held to promote intra-EU tourism by train.

Joint efforts on the part of the Member States and the Commission to support information-sharing aim to encourage EU citizens to discover the diversity of landscapes, cultures and experiences in the EU. An example of these efforts is the Commission’s European Capitals of Smart Tourism award, initiated by the European Parliament in recognition of EU cities’ outstanding achievements as tourism destinations in four areas, among which cultural heritage and creativity. Another initiative the Commission intends to promote is the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN), launched in 2006. It enhances the visibility of emerging, non-traditional EU destinations committed to socially, culturally and environmentally sustainable tourism.

Patronage voucher schemes, set up by some Member States to encourage customers to support hotels or restaurants, could be extended to tourism-related aspects of the culture and entertainment sectors. The Commission Re-open EU web portal provides links to such schemes to help customers find all the initiatives and offers in the EU, linking up suppliers with all initiatives and platforms offering such schemes.

On 18 June, the Commission launched a social media campaign – ‘Europe’s culture – close to you: This Summer I visit Europe’ – with a focus on sustainable, local, cultural tourism. The campaign raises Europeans’ awareness of their rich cultural diversity and of the cultural sites in the EU that have been granted the European Heritage Label for their role in European history, and/or the European Heritage Awards/Europa Nostra Awards. The campaign also covers the Council of Europe cultural routes initiative. As part of this initiative, the EU supports the Routes4U project in four EU macro-regions – the Alpine, the Adriatic-Ionian, the Baltic Sea and the Danube – to foster their development through cultural heritage tourism.

European Parliament

A resolution on transport and tourism in 2020 and beyond (2020/2649(RSP)), adopted during the Parliament’s June plenary session, recalled that 68 % of EU tourists choose their holiday destination for its cultural heritage, and that cultural tourism accounts for 40 % of the sector. It highlighted the need to move to more sustainable forms of tourism that respect the environment and cultural heritage. It furthermore called on the Commission to strengthen the financial sustainability of cultural sites funded by the European Regional Development Fund and to allow the development of private-fund schemes to sustain them. The EP urged support for both the culture and the tourism sectors, especially for SMEs and the self-employed. It also urged the introduction of alternative support mechanisms for cultural workers who are heavily dependent on tourism, and for a larger budget for the Discover EU programme in order to boost youth tourism across the EU. It pointed to the fact that safety rules for visitors entail an extra burden on cultural institutions and sites, and to their need for public aid during the recovery period.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Cultural tourism out of confinement‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/07/10/cultural-tourism-out-of-confinement/

Coronavirus: Tough decisions ahead [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

© Steve / Adobe Stock

As the coronavirus crisis shows no sign of abating globally, many governments around the world face tough choices between easing virus containment measures, in order to allow economic recovery, or keeping these measures in place, to protect their citizens’ health and their healthcare systems from being overwhelmed. They have launched vast financial programmes to support vulnerable households and the newly unemployed, backed banks to keep credit flowing in the economy, and strengthened healthcare systems in anticipation of a possible second wave.

This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports from international think tanks on coronavirus and related issues. Earlier publications on financing the fight against the coronavirus can be found in the previous item in this series, published by EPRS on 6 July.

The financial fragility of European households in the time of Covid-19
Bruegel, July 2020

Conséquences et leçons d’un virus
Institut français des relations internationales, July 2020

Economy must not get stuck between lockdown and recovery
Chatham House, July 2020

EU recovery plans should fund the Covid-19 battles to come; not be used to nurse old wounds
Bruegel, July 2020

Masks off: Chinese coronavirus assistance in Europe
German Marshall Fund, July 2020

Covid could surge anywhere: This tool helps hospitals prepare
Rand Corporation, July 2020

Learning to live in a riskier world
Rand Corporation, July 2020

SURE: From temporary facility to permanent instrument
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2020

Circulation et commercialisation de chloroquine en Afrique de l’Ouest: Une géopolitique du médicament à la lumière du Covid-19
Institut français des relations internationales, July 2020

Credible emerging market central banks could embrace quantitative easing to fight COVID-19
Bruegel, July 2020

What will the next ‘Great Depression’ look like?
Friends of Europe, July 2020

Health sovereignty: How to build a resilient European response to pandemics
European Council on Foreign Relations, July 2020

Next generation EU: Shock absorber or larger, debt-financed EU budget?
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2020

BRI and cities: New opportunities of investment after Covid-19
Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, July 2020

Lukashenko’s Coronavirus election
German Marshall Fund, July 2020

Contextualizing the United Kingdom’s high Coronavirus mortality rates among Muslims
German Marshall Fund, July 2020

Europe’s good crisis
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2020

Clearer role for business regulators needed in monitoring trade agreements
Chatham House, July 2020

Covid-19 and the old-new politics of irregular migration from Libya
Wilfried Martens Centre, July 2020

Transatlantic Trends 2020
German Marshall Fund, Bertelsmann Foundation, Institute Montaingne, June 2020

Covid-19, le djihadisme au défi d’une pandémie
Fondation pour la recherche stratégique, June 2020

Together in trauma: Europeans and the world after Covid-19
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2020

A path to recovery from Covid-19 for small businesses
Rand Corporation, June 2020

Could the Coronavirus pandemic revive international cooperation?
Council on Foreign Relations, June 2020

Resilience in the face of a pandemic: Covid weighs unevenly across racial lines
Brookings Institution, June 2020

Emergency powers, Covid-19 and the new challenge for human rights
Instituto Affari Internazionali, June 2020

Is Covid-19 a game changer for Transatlantic narratives on China?
Chatham House, June 2020

The latest crisis of the European Union: The political, economic, and social consequences of the new coronavirus
Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade, June 2020

The multilateral order post-Covid: Expert voices
Institute for International and European Affairs, June 2020

Aspects of the cybersecurity ecosystem in the United States: Trends before and during the corona pandemic
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, June 2020

Quelles initiatives politiques internationales pour la prévention des maladies infectieuses d’origine zoonotique?
IDDRI, June 2020

Covid-19 and the Syrian economy: Implications for social justice
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, June 2020

Health sovereignty: How to build a resilient European response to pandemics
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2020

Revitalizing resilience is a tough but vital political challenge
Chatham House, June 2020

China’s responsibility for the Covid-19 pandemic: An international law perspective
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, June 2020


Read this briefing on ‘Coronavirus: Tough decisions ahead‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Read all EPRS publications on the coronavirus outbreak

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/07/10/coronavirus-tough-decisions-ahead-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

From AI to zero-waste life – An A-Z of EPRS resources on 35 policy topics

Written by Michael Kaczmarek and Lisa Pschorn,

EYE video recording (WEDFM) – © European Parliament

It is often difficult to find brief and accessible analysis of today’s burning European Union policy issues among the enormous amount of material available. Videos, podcasts and infographics, brief and longer analyses: EPRS colleagues transform their research and analysis into different formats, available on several platforms. To make it easier for you to find the analysis you need, EPRS has compiled topical selections of links to its publications and other online resources on 35 European Union policy areas.

The 35 one-page notes served as background information to questions discussed on Parliament’s European Youth Ideas Hub. A link to each of these Topical Digests is available via the ‘Learn more’ button in each section of the Hub. The whole collection of Topical Digests is also listed below, covering issues ranging from A-Z – from ‘Access to health’, or ‘AI as a force for good’, through ‘Green cities’ or ‘Migration and integration’, to ‘Vaccination’ and ‘Zero-waste life’.

Likewise, EPRS background information served as input for this year’s online edition of the European Youth Event (EYE), which ran from April to May 2020. The event’s 60 live-streamed online activities attracted over 2.2 million views. Several EPRS colleagues participated as speakers or moderators in four of these EYE online sessions, which you can (re)watch here:

What Europe does for me

Europe in 2020: 70 years after the Schuman Declaration

Work in times of crisis and after

Rural reactions to Covid-19

EPRS Topical Digests to continue the discussion

Below you can find the links to the Topical Digests (left column) that serve as background information to continue the discussion in the corresponding blog section of the European Youth Ideas Hub (right column).

EPRS Topical Digest Related question on the European Youth Ideas blog
Access to health Is it a right for all or a privilege for the few?
AI as a force for good How do we make sure technology serves the people?
Brexit Where do we go from here?
Budgeting What does it mean to put your money where your mouth is?
Climate Emergency Can we still save ourselves?
Dealing with news How do we know what is true in this chaotic mediascape?
Digital Addiction Are screens making us sick?
E-citizenship How to get heard in 2020?
EU-Africa How can we build a mutually beneficial partnership?
Europe and the US What is the role for young people?
Food of tomorrow How do we ensure zero hunger and a healthy diet for all?
Future of Education What’s worth learning in school?
Green Cities What should cities of the future look like?
Hate speech Are we becoming numb to it?
LGBTI rights We’re queer, we’re here and … is equality near?
Life fully What is a life well spent?
Living with disabilities How can we become more inclusive?
Mass surveillance Should we be yearning for some privacy?
Millennials and Mental health Are we burning out?
Migration and integration What does being European mean in 2020?
Modern slavery How do we stop it?
Perception of migration How to balance society’s compassion and fear?
Populism Is it a dangerous path or an intriguing opportunity?
Precarious contracts Is it time to stop saying yes to lousy jobs?
Rich-poor divide How do we make sure economic growth is inclusive?
Rural renewal How do we get young people to the fields?
Safety first Does this mean more or less weapons?
Slow Shopping Can we adapt business models to sustainable consumption?
Sustainable and reliable energy How to achieve it?
Trade and Corruption Do we deal with corrupt countries or not?
Understanding cultures How should education contribute to connecting people?
Vaccination How do we balance freedom of choice and public welfare?
Waste Should we buy less or dispose better?
Wonder woman How can we all be equal?
Zero-waste life What do we need to achieve it?

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/07/09/from-ai-to-zero-waste-life-an-a-z-of-eprs-resources-on-35-policy-topics/