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European Day of Languages: Multilingualism as a cornerstone of better communication

Written by Ivana Katsarova.

Some 7 000 languages are spoken globally today. However, half of the world’s population shares just six native languages, and some 90 % of all languages could be replaced by dominant ones by the end of the century.

Following the success of the European Year of Languages (2001), the Council of Europe designated 26 September as the European Day of Languages.

National languages are a fundamental feature of a country’s cultural identity and an important element of its sovereignty. The European Union (EU) operates as a ‘family’, whose members preserve their cultural identity, a principle that is reflected in the EU motto ‘United in diversity’. When acceding to the EU, new Member States declare which of their languages will become an official EU language. Currently, the EU has three alphabets (Cyrillic, Greek and Latin) and 24 official languages, which are listed in the Treaties (Article 55(1) TEU). Alongside official EU languages, national sign languages and the languages spoken by the immigrant or refugee populations complete the linguistic picture of the EU.

EU countries are also committed to the preservation of regional or minority languages. The critical threshold for the survival of a language is estimated at 300 000 speakers. According to Unesco, there are 221 endangered regional and minority languages in the EU, which are not necessarily spoken within one and the same state. Their protection and promotion is ensured by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages adopted under the auspices of the Council of Europe in 1992, and ratified by 16 EU countries.

Multilingualism is not only an expression of the EU countries’ cultural identities but it also helps preserve democracy, transparency and accountability. No legislation can enter into force until it has been translated into all official languages and published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Crucially, the provisions relating to the EU language regime can only be changed by a unanimous vote in the Council of the EU.

Looked at from the supranational perspective of the EU, effective multilingualism can only be achieved if ways are found for citizens and bodies to communicate with each other – either by using a language other than their native one, or by setting up a comprehensive translation system. The EU has sought to facilitate both modes of communication, by supporting language learning in the Member States and by creating, maintaining and expanding a complex set of interpretation and translation services.

The EU promotes language learning but has limited influence over educational and language policies, as these are the responsibility of the individual EU countries. Statistics show that in 2016, over one third (35.4%) of the working-age adults in the EU-28 reported that they did not know any foreign languages. A similar proportion (35.2 %) declared that they knew one foreign language, while just over one fifth (21 %) said they knew two foreign languages. Younger people – 73.3 % of the EU’s population aged 25-34, and those holding university degrees (83 %) – reported that they knew at least one foreign language.

The European Parliament is committed to ensuring the highest possible degree of multilingualism in its work. Based on the 24 official languages, the total number of linguistic combinations rises to 552, since each language can be translated into the 23 others. Currently, over 1 000 translators and over 500 interpreters offer their services to the 705 Members of the European Parliament. Internally, the EU institutions mostly use just three working languages: English, French and German.

The overall cost for delivering translation and interpretation services in the EU institutions is around €1 billion per year, which represents less than 1 % of the EU budget or just over €2 per citizen.

Adoption of a single EU language has sometimes been considered, but democracy, transparency and accountability require that all EU citizens understand clearly what is being done in their name, yet as shown previously, over 35 % of all adults in the EU do not know any foreign languages. Moreover, respect for linguistic diversity is enshrined in the Treaties (Article 3(3) TEU) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (Article 22).


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘European Day of Languages: Multilingualism as a cornerstone of better communication‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/09/24/european-day-of-languages-multilingualism-as-a-cornerstone-of-better-communication/

The cost of alternative crop protection practices

Written by Lieve Van Woensel with Carl Pierer.

Earlier this year, STOA published a study on the future of crop protection. This study was carried out in the context of a growing world population and the resulting need to improve food productivity per hectare. The overall objective was to present an overview of crop protection options for European farmers, which might enable them to work sustainably while securing food production, preserving biodiversity and supporting their incomes.

As a follow-up to this study, STOA commissioned an analysis of the cost of alternative crop protection practices for the major field and garden crops in the EU‑27, including cereals, vegetables, grapes, olives and citrus fruits. The Lead Panel Member for the initial study, as well as for the follow-up, was Herbert Dorfmann (EPP, Italy), a STOA Panel member.

No one size-fits-all

The study aimed at providing a clear picture of which practices are economically most attractive in the different EU Member States. To do so, it identified four clusters of Member States as a function of both average crop protection cost and dominant type of plant production:

  • Consisting predominantly of central European countries, this cluster has average crop protection costs and general field cropping (arable crops other than cereals, oilseed and protein crops, e.g. potato, sugar beet, onion, vegetables), as the dominant type of plant production.
  • Consisting mainly of southern European countries, this cluster shares the characteristics of the first, but in addition olives and wine also figure prominently in their plant production.
  • Consisting of mostly northern and eastern European countries, this cluster has low crop protection costs and an important production of cereals, oilseed and protein crops.
  • The final cluster of largely north-western European countries has high crop protection costs and general field cropping.

While the EU’s agricultural sector is very diverse in crop specialisation, farm size distribution, labour availability and cost of operation, the members of each of these clusters have comparable agricultural characteristics and are likely to experience comparable effects when adopting and implementing alternative crop protection strategies.

Alternative practices in focus

The costs were estimated for the following seven alternative practices, drawn from the previous study:

1. Mechanical techniques

Mechanical techniques refer to replacing (part of the) chemical weed control by mechanical weed control. The cost varies from crop to crop and the differences between Member States are large. Because mechanical weeding cannot remove all the weeds, some crops require up to 150 hours of additional manual labour per hectare. Between Member States, the costs vary, because of differences in the cost of labour. Innovative methods with sensors allow for more precise weeding and could, in time, reduce the number of hours of manual weeding required.

2. Plant breeding

Disease and crop pest resistance can be improved through plant breeding, which decreases the need to apply plant protection products (PPPs) against specific diseases or pests. The cost is low for the farmer, with potential economic benefits if new varieties are used correctly. However, in crops such as olives, grapes and citrus fruit, it takes a long time for new varieties to become widely effective, as replanting cycles last between 25 and 40 years.

3. Biocontrol

An example of biocontrol is using natural predators to control insects that threaten a crop. These measures are standard in greenhouse horticulture. In uncontrolled outdoor settings this is more complex and costly.

4. Induced resistance

Costs for this type of practice are particularly hard to estimate, as the vast majority of the products have no proven efficacy. Experts indicate that in balanced systems, where all aspects are under control, they will likely have limited effects.

5. Applying ecological principles to increase biodiversity

Biodiversity can be increased in many ways. The study estimates the cost for several options. However, for whole systems that increase biodiversity, such as strip cropping and agroforestry, little data is available about the cost and benefits.

6. Precision agriculture

Precision agriculture ranges from simple measures – using global navigation satellite systems, such as the EU’s Galileo, for steering guidance – to using sensors to identify diseases. The cost and benefits vary widely and the benefits do not always outweigh the cost for the farmer.

7. Green PPPs

The cost of green PPPs depends on their efficacy. Many products have proven to be effective, but the costs are determined by the number of applications required. Some green PPPs are already widely used and have proven to be a good alternative.

Challenges to implementation

A specific challenge for farmers is to integrate several alternative practices in order to reduce their synthetic pesticide use as much as possible. Most individual practices require training and that is even more the case for combining different practices. Practices such as plant breeding and mechanical weeding require little to no training. Biocontrol, induced resistance and green pesticides require a minimum of training in the field. The application of ecological principles also requires knowledge and repeated field sessions for demonstration and advice. Precision agriculture requires a broad availability and knowledge of machinery and information technology, besides agronomy and soil science. EU facilities such as the Farm Advisory System (FAS) and the European Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI) could support training, especially for small and family farms.

Finally, given the large diversity of the EU’s agricultural sector, a future challenge could be to put forward policy options for the clusters of Member States identified, and even within the clusters, as to what combination of practices would be most effective for reduction in use of PPPs, while at the same time being economically promising.

Your opinion counts for us. To let us know what you think, get in touch via stoa@europarl.europa.eu.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/09/23/the-cost-of-alternative-crop-protection-practices/

General product safety regulation [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Nikolina Šajn (1st edition).

On 30 June 2021, the Commission adopted a proposal for a general product safety regulation, which would replace the current General Product Safety Directive, as part of the regulatory fitness-check programme (REFIT). The proposal seeks to address the challenges of product safety of emerging technologies, including use of artificial intelligence (AI) and connected devices, and to establish clear obligations for online marketplaces, which consumers increasingly use for their online purchases. The proposal would create a single set of market surveillance rules for both harmonised and non-harmonised products, including by aligning the provisions with the Market Surveillance Regulation, and would improve the effectiveness of product recalls. For non-harmonised products where neither manufacturers nor distributors are established in the European Union, it would introduce a requirement for a person to be responsible for the product in the Union. The proposal would clarify consumer remedies and harmonise maximum penalties for infringements. In the European Parliament, the file has been provisionally referred to the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection.

Versions

EU legislation in progressEU legislation in progress

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Thinking about the future: What is the future of sovereignty and of European sovereignty?

Written by Joanna Apap.

‘What is the future of sovereignty and of European sovereignty?’ The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) put forward this very topical question to participants in the first of a series of forward-looking events devoted to ‘Thinking about the Future’. On 7 September, the participants in this online roundtable, organised in partnership with the Groupe d’études géopolitiques research centre, assessed the contemporary meaning of sovereignty and its potential evolution in the coming years. Anthony Teasdale, Director General of EPRS, welcomed a panel of academics and commentators: Sebastian Lumet, Director of the Brussels office of Le Grand Continent; Luiza Bialasiewicz, Political Geographer and Professor of European Governance at the University of Amsterdam; Quentin Peel, Associate Fellow, Chatham House and former Europe and foreign editor for the Financial Times; and Céline Spector Professor in Philosophy at the Sorbonne University, Paris.

Sebastian Lumet presented the work of his research centre on sovereignty, as well as links to the work of the other participating speakers.

Sketching out the vast territory for this debate, moderator Franck Debié, Director of the European Parliament’s Library within EPRS, pointed out that although European integration involves the pooling of national sovereignty, it is only recently that the idea of a free-standing ‘European sovereignty’ has entered mainstream debate. Questions to be answered include: What is European sovereignty? How does it apply to the European debate? Where is the locus of power? To what extent is sovereignty to remain within national or geographical confines, or can we look beyond borders through a global conceptual lens particularly in this digital age? How far is it a legal concept and how far about maximising practical influence in the world? How might it and national sovereignty evolve in the future? Could the panel answer some or all of the above questions by looking at the past, present, as well as, future perspectives of sovereignty in Europe?

Franck Debié and Céline Spector began with an exploration of the historical background of sovereignty, looking back to France in the16th century where Jean Bodin used the new concept of sovereignty to bolster the power of the French king over the rebellious feudal lords, facilitating the transition from feudalism to nationalism. Their conversation ranged from the foundational ideas of English philosopher Thomas Hobbes – that in every true state some person or body of persons must have the ultimate and absolute authority to declare the law, which paved the way for our modern concept of sovereignty – to John Locke and Jean‑Jacques Rousseau’s theories that the state is based upon a formal or informal social contract, entrusting power in return for common protection. Such theories led to the development of the doctrine of popular sovereignty that found expression in the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. The origin of checks and balances, like the separation of powers itself, is specifically credited to Montesquieu. Thus, the idea of popular sovereignty exercised primarily by the people became combined with the idea of national sovereignty exercised not by an unorganised people in the ‘state of nature’, but by a nation embodied in an organised state. In the 19th century, English legal theorist John Austin concluded that sovereignty is vested in a nation’s parliament.

Looking at sovereignty in Europe today and what the future may hold, Luiza Bialasiewicz and Quentin Peel noted an evolution both in Europe and internationally. The growth of democracy imposed important limitations upon the power of the sovereign and of the ruling classes. Increased state interdependence restricted the principle that ‘might is right’ in international affairs. Citizens and policy-makers generally recognised that there can be no peace without law and that there can be no law without some limitations on sovereignty. They started, therefore, to pool their sovereignties to the extent needed to maintain peace and prosperity. The European Union is a salient example of such division of powers and pooling of sovereignty. Quentin Peel noted that ‘sovereignty’ remains contested, however, and pointed to the term’s misuse during the Brexit campaign. The pooling of sovereignty at European level, on migration, the rule of law, the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction, and its consequences for national parliamentary sovereignty, all proved to be issues that motivated people in the United Kingdom to vote to leave the Union.

The panellists argued that, to define the concept of European sovereignty, the term needs to be decoupled from its traditional meaning. Digital technologies and the transformations brought about by Covid‑19, have led to geopolitical developments in sovereignty that surpasses national confines, giving birth to a European Sovereignty. Technological warfare, as well as global competition in addressing the pandemic, demonstrated the new sovereignty and pooling of power that played a key role in the recovery process. Conversely, ‘anti-vaxxers’ and anti-lockdown campaigners demonstrated a desire for self-determination or ‘individual sovereignty’, while the EU digital Covid‑19 certificate brought new meaning to sovereignty for citizens. The introduction of the euro had already brought shared financial sovereignty for a group of EU Member States. Now, when dealing with great powers, the EU has started to develop its strategic autonomy, which in turn, reinforces European sovereignty. The building of European sovereignty is an incremental process, which reinforces the European Union, without striving to building a super-state.

To watch the event, please click here.

Relevant links for further information on this theme:

You can find the next coming EPRS online events here.

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‘Thinking about the future: What is the future of sovereignty and of European sovereignty?’

Written by Joanna Apap.

‘What is the future of sovereignty and of European sovereignty?’ The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) put forward this very topical question to participants in the first of a series of forward-looking events devoted to ‘Thinking about the Future’. On 7 September, the participants in this online roundtable, organised in partnership with the Groupe d’études géopolitiques research centre, assessed the contemporary meaning of sovereignty and its potential evolution in the coming years. Anthony Teasdale, Director General of EPRS, welcomed a panel of academics and commentators: Sebastian Lumet, Director of the Brussels office of Le Grand Continent; Luiza Bialasiewicz, Political Geographer and Professor of European Governance at the University of Amsterdam; Quentin Peel, Associate Fellow, Chatham House and former Europe and foreign editor for the Financial Times; and Céline Spector Professor in Philosophy at the Sorbonne University, Paris.

Sebastian Lumet presented the work of his research centre on sovereignty, as well as links to the work of the other participating speakers.

Sketching out the vast territory for this debate, moderator Franck Debié, Director of the European Parliament’s Library within EPRS, pointed out that although European integration involves the pooling of national sovereignty, it is only recently that the idea of a free-standing ‘European sovereignty’ has entered mainstream debate. Questions to be answered include: What is European sovereignty? How does it apply to the European debate? Where is the locus of power? To what extent is sovereignty to remain within national or geographical confines, or can we look beyond borders through a global conceptual lens particularly in this digital age? How far is it a legal concept and how far about maximising practical influence in the world? How might it and national sovereignty evolve in the future? Could the panel answer some or all of the above questions by looking at the past, present, as well as, future perspectives of sovereignty in Europe?

Franck Debié and Céline Spector began with an exploration of the historical background of sovereignty, looking back to France in the16th century where Jean Bodin used the new concept of sovereignty to bolster the power of the French king over the rebellious feudal lords, facilitating the transition from feudalism to nationalism. Their conversation ranged from the foundational ideas of English philosopher Thomas Hobbes – that in every true state some person or body of persons must have the ultimate and absolute authority to declare the law, which paved the way for our modern concept of sovereignty – to John Locke and Jean‑Jacques Rousseau’s theories that the state is based upon a formal or informal social contract, entrusting power in return for common protection. Such theories led to the development of the doctrine of popular sovereignty that found expression in the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. The origin of checks and balances, like the separation of powers itself, is specifically credited to Montesquieu. Thus, the idea of popular sovereignty exercised primarily by the people became combined with the idea of national sovereignty exercised not by an unorganised people in the ‘state of nature’, but by a nation embodied in an organised state. In the 19th century, English legal theorist John Austin concluded that sovereignty is vested in a nation’s parliament.

Looking at sovereignty in Europe today and what the future may hold, Luiza Bialasiewicz and Quentin Peel noted an evolution both in Europe and internationally. The growth of democracy imposed important limitations upon the power of the sovereign and of the ruling classes. Increased state interdependence restricted the principle that ‘might is right’ in international affairs. Citizens and policy-makers generally recognised that there can be no peace without law and that there can be no law without some limitations on sovereignty. They started, therefore, to pool their sovereignties to the extent needed to maintain peace and prosperity. The European Union is a salient example of such division of powers and pooling of sovereignty. Quentin Peel noted that ‘sovereignty’ remains contested, however, and pointed to the term’s misuse during the Brexit campaign. The pooling of sovereignty at European level, on migration, the rule of law, the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction, and its consequences for national parliamentary sovereignty, all proved to be issues that motivated people in the United Kingdom to vote to leave the Union.

The panellists argued that, to define the concept of European sovereignty, the term needs to be decoupled from its traditional meaning. Digital technologies and the transformations brought about by Covid‑19, have led to geopolitical developments in sovereignty that surpasses national confines, giving birth to a European Sovereignty. Technological warfare, as well as global competition in addressing the pandemic, demonstrated the new sovereignty and pooling of power that played a key role in the recovery process. Conversely, ‘anti-vaxxers’ and anti-lockdown campaigners demonstrated a desire for self-determination or ‘individual sovereignty’, while the EU digital Covid‑19 certificate brought new meaning to sovereignty for citizens. The introduction of the euro had already brought shared financial sovereignty for a group of EU Member States. Now, when dealing with great powers, the EU has started to develop its strategic autonomy, which in turn, reinforces European sovereignty. The building of European sovereignty is an incremental process, which reinforces the European Union, without striving to building a super-state.

To watch the event, please click here.

Relevant links for further information on this theme:

You can find the next coming EPRS online events here.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/09/21/thinking-about-the-future-what-is-the-future-of-sovereignty-and-of-european-sovereignty/

Remaining active in spite of the pandemic

This year, the #BeActive campaign, which has accompanied the event since its launch by the European Commission in 2015, is driving its message home with new urgency.
As teleworking, self-isolation and (for a while) closed gyms
became a daily reality, finding new, creative ways to remain
physically active is now essential.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/09/21/remaining-active-in-spite-of-the-pandemic/

Long-term vision for rural areas: European Commission communication

Written by James McEldowney.

In June 2021, the European Commission published a communication setting out a long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas. The range of challenges facing such areas is acknowledged. They include issues relating to demographic change, such as the loss of population from remote rural areas, lower levels of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, poor access to services, and issues concerning connectivity. A lower proportion of households in rural regions have access to next generation broadband compared to the EU average. Tertiary education and basic digital skill levels are lower in rural areas and a significant gap exists between male and female employment rates. The share of young people aged 15 to 29 years neither in employment nor in education or training is higher in rural areas.

The response set out in the Commission’s communication includes proposals for a rural pact engaging actors at EU, national, regional and local levels to support the vision and an action plan to support stronger, connected, resilient and prosperous rural areas. A rural observatory will be established to improve data collection and analysis on the situation of rural areas. In support of its proposals, the Commission will put in place a rural proofing mechanism to assess the anticipated impact of major EU legislative initiatives on rural areas.

Offering an initial analysis of the communication and its implications for future policy for rural areas, this briefing examines the challenges and opportunities these areas face. It summarises the views and responses of stakeholders regarding the Commission’s long-term vision and the findings of the public consultation launched by the Commission in September 2020. Evidence is also presented on the levels of trust rural dwellers have in the different levels of governance. The key drivers that will shape rural areas between now and 2040 are identified from the findings of a foresight analysis undertaken by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), which is included in the communication. Lastly, consideration is given to the experience of applying the rural proofing mechanism, including perspectives on its utility and application in practice.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Long-term vision for rural areas: European Commission communication‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Citizens’ engagement and expectations of the Conference on the Future of Europe

Written by Silvia Kotanidis.

What sort of European Union do we want to see in the future? What is working well in the EU and what could be improved? These are just two examples of the kind of questions that the European citizens’ panels, part of the Conference on the Future of Europe, will have to answer. The Conference on the Future of Europe marks the first time in the history of the EU that citizens have been included in a consultative process in such a structural and innovative manner. The conference, first announced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in 2019, is now entering its key phase, with the first European citizens’ panel meeting taking place on 17 September 2021.

The widening gap between citizens and institutions is a known pattern, not only at EU level but also at national level in many countries. Against this backdrop, some forms of participatory democracy – such as citizens’ assemblies – already successful in Ireland and elsewhere in recent years, promise to provide a format that allows an open exchange of views in a collaborative environment.

The citizens’ panels were proposed and designed to give a voice to citizens in the most inclusive way possible. As such, the panels’ key requirement is that they represent the EU population faithfully. The result is that 800 EU citizens, equally distributed into four citizens’ panels, will be called upon to discuss issues and concerns that they may themselves identify. The debate is supported by a multilingual digital platform, the main hub of the conference. The citizens’ panels are not meant to replace representative democracy however, but rather to complement it.

The Conference on the Future of Europe is a complex democratic exercise in which the multilingual digital platform gathers ideas from citizens and civil society, citizens’ panels give recommendations, and the conference plenary makes proposals on the basis of which the executive board of the Conference will draft the final report. The contribution of the citizens’ panels will feed into the proposals of the conference plenary and, ultimately, into the final report of the conference that the executive board will present at the end of the conference for the institutions to follow up.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Citizens’ engagement and expectations of the Conference on the Future of Europe‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

See selection of our material for all CoFoE topics

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/09/17/citizens-engagement-and-expectations-of-the-conference-on-the-future-of-europe/

Plenary round-up – September 2021

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson.

During the September 2021 plenary session in Strasbourg, Parliament held a number of debates, including on legislative proposals for health and disease prevention, and the Brexit Adjustment Reserve; as well as on natural disasters in Europe; the Pegasus spyware scandal; media freedom; and on further deterioration of the rule of law in Poland. Members debated Commission and Council statements on the July 2021 ‘Fit for 55′ package of legislative proposals, in the light of the latest IPCC report. Council presented its position on the draft general EU budget for 2022, ahead of the Parliament voting its position during the October II session. Parliament also debated statements from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, Josep Borell, on the situation in Afghanistan and in Lebanon. A number of other resolutions and legislative acts were adopted, inter alia on: the instrument for pre-accession assistance (IPA III); a new EU-China strategy; fair working conditions, rights and social protection for platform workers; and on guidelines for Member States’ employment policies.

State of the Union

The highlight of this session was European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union address – an important moment to take stock of the year’s achievements and present the priorities for the coming 12 months. The coronavirus is still far from conquered, and life – from everyday routines at individual level to global trends affecting the whole world – has entered a phase of profound change. The six political priorities outlined in this Commission’s original mandate have therefore been recalibrated to deliver on promises to tackle climate change, economic challenges, health threats and migration.

Health and disease prevention

Parliament held a joint debate on health and disease prevention. Following the coronavirus pandemic and its effects, efforts continue to strengthen the EU’s response to health threats. These include legislative proposals to boost EU defences against cross-border health threats, and to strengthen the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Although responsibility for health policy remains with the Member States, the pandemic has highlighted areas where stronger preparedness measures could better protect EU citizens and address cross-border health threats in future. Parliament debated a Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) report that supports increased consideration of all environmental, animal or human factors with an impact on health, as well as promoting cooperation and transparency – which could lead to smoother joint procurement for items such as personal protection equipment, should that be necessary in future. A further ENVI committee report on strengthening the ECDC was also debated. The committee proposes to extend the ECDC’s mandate beyond communicable diseases to cover those that have a wide impact, including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancer, diabetes, and mental illness. Both reports were referred back to the committee, and trilogue negotiations on the two proposals can now begin.

Brexit Adjustment Reserve

Members debated, and later formally adopted, the text agreed following interinstitutional negotiations, on the planned Brexit Adjustment Reserve. Parliament has succeeded in modifying the proposals to ensure support for EU businesses – particularly fisheries and those in close proximity to the United Kingdom – against the additional costs ensuing from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. A €5 billion budget will be made available over the period to December 2023, with funds distributed using an allocation method taking account of each country’s trade with the UK, its fisheries in UK waters, and the population size in maritime border regions neighbouring the UK. Members also adopted measures to adapt the current year’s EU budget to cover €1.6 billion in pre-financing for the ‘Brexit Adjustment Reserve’, under amending budget No 1/2021.

Blue Card Directive

With an ageing population and an increasing need for skilled workers to sustain economic growth, the EU has to compete with other regions to attract highly qualified immigrants. Members debated and adopted a final text resulting from interinstitutional negotiations on the proposed revision of the EU Blue Card Directive. Parliament has long called for the revision of this legislation, which provides a legal route for migration to the bloc, not least in the face of considerable recent refugee movements. Following Parliament’s vote on the new rules, skilled applicants will be admitted to remain on EU territory for at least two years if they are able to present a minimum six-month work contract or a binding job offer. Admission to the EU Blue Card scheme should also become more inclusive, with reduced salary thresholds.

EU-Russia political relations

While the 1994 EU‑Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement remains in force today, relations have deteriorated since 2000. An already strained situation has worsened in the face of aggressive Russian foreign policy in Ukraine and Syria, as well as its repression of domestic dissent. Parliament held a debate on political relations between the EU and Russia, following which Parliament adopted a recommendation to Council, the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The recommendations drafted by the Foreign Affairs (AFET) Committee call for a revision of the current stance, which combines pushing back with constraint and engagement, and proposes to base future relations on six principles. These include activating deterrence against security and hybrid threats alongside dialogue and engagement that offers incentives, such as trade and visas, in support of Russian democratic transformation.

Gender-based violence as a new area of crime

Members adopted an own-initiative legislative report setting out proposals to add gender-based violence to the list of serious crimes at EU level to enable the adoption of EU legislation in this area. Despite the extent of gender-based violence and the harm it causes, the EU currently has no specific legal instrument to address the issue, and the Member States take different approaches to criminalisation. This means that legal definitions and the level of protection for victims vary across the EU. Adding gender-based violence to the list of particularly serious crimes set out in Article 83(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) would establish a stronger legal basis for the Council and Parliament to adopt a comprehensive directive establishing common legal definitions and common minimum rules for sanctions. Article 83(1) TFEU provides for the list to be extended to new areas of crime that have a ‘cross-border dimension resulting from the nature or impact of the offences or from a special need to combat them on a common basis’.

Opening of trilogue negotiations

Members confirmed three mandates for negotiations: from the Industry Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee on the proposal for a decision on the participation of the Union in the European Partnership on Metrology, jointly undertaken by several Member States, and on the proposal for a regulation on European data governance; as well as from the Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee on the proposal for a regulation on a pilot regime for market infrastructure based on distributed ledger technology.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – September 2021‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/09/17/plenary-round-up-september-2021/

International Equal Pay Day

Written by Marie Lecerf.

As things stand, the gender pay gap persists globally and in the European Union, and progress in reducing it is slow. The coronavirus pandemic is a further brake on gender equality. To accelerate the realisation of the principle of ‘Equal pay for work of equal value’, the United Nations marked the first International Day for Equal Pay on 18 September 2020. This year, for its second edition, the debate will focus on ensuring that equal pay remains at the centre of the response to the pandemic and recognition of women’s major contribution to economic recovery.

A persisting gender pay gap


The gender pay gap by Member State. Source: Eurostat, Gender pay gap statistics.

The ‘gender pay gap’ is a measurable indicator of inequality between women and men. It generally refers to the average difference between the remuneration of employed women and male workers.

Although the gender pay gap is measured by different methods and indicators, data clearly show that women around the world still earn less when compared to men. According to the Global Wage Report 2018/2019 – What lies behind gender pay gaps, produced by the International Labour Organization (ILO), on average, women earn around 20 % less than men. Despite the increase in women’s educational attainment and participation in the labour market over the years, the gender pay gap remains a persistent and multi-dimensional issue in all countries and across all economic sectors. For women with children, women of colour, migrant women, and women with disabilities, the discrepancy is even larger. In 2019, women’s gross hourly earnings were on average 14.1 % below those of men in the European Union (Eurostat, EU-27). Across Member States, the gender pay gap varied widely, ranging from 1.3 % in Luxembourg to 21.7 % in Estonia.

The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected women in the economic sphere. It is likely to have long-term adverse effects on gender equality. Research already suggests that the gender pay gap will widen because of the pandemic. 

International Equal Pay Day

The United Nations’ commitment

Mainstreaming the gender perspective is key to the implementation of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Since 2015, the ‘Equal pay for work of equal value’ principle has been recognised as one of the priority areas of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), as mentioned in target 8.5: ‘By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value’.

In 2017, under the leadership of the ILO, the UN entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women (UN Women) and the Gender Initiative of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and together with governments, labour organisations (e.g. ITUC), employers’ organisations (e.g. IOE) and other dedicated agencies, the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) was launched for the effective and swift achievement of the principle.

On 15 November 2019, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 18 September as International Equal Pay Day. The resolution was introduced by the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) with the support of Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Panama, South Africa and Switzerland. The day is intended to promote further action towards the achievement of equal pay for work of equal value.

The first International Equal Pay Day – 18 September 2020

On 18 September 2020, the first International Equal Pay Day, international leaders committed to taking affirmative action to narrow the gender pay gap. EPIC called on participants to put pay equity at the heart of Covid-19 recovery efforts by introducing integrated policy responses aimed at mitigating job and income losses resulting from the pandemic and ensuring that women do not end up disproportionately shouldering these job losses and reductions in incomes.

The 2021 Equal Pay Day

This year’s celebration will focus on the efforts of key labour market actors to ensure that equal pay remains central to pandemic responses worldwide and to fully recognise the contributions of women to coronavirus pandemic economic recovery. The event aims to strengthen commitments to closing the gender pay gap across regions and sectors.

European Union initiatives

Equal pay for equal work is one of the EU’s founding principles, enshrined in Article 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. However, the implementation and enforcement of this principle remain a challenge. Since then, there have been initiatives to address the gender pay gap both at EU and Member State levels. Although some reduction of the gender pay gap has been recorded in most EU Member States, the challenge persists.

In her political guidelines, the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, announced that she would introduce a proposal on binding pay transparency measures in order to address the gender pay gap and ensure application of the principle of equal pay for equal work. The Commission’s legislative proposal was adopted on 4 March 2021. It is one of the key priorities in the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025. The proposed directive to strengthen the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value between men and women through pay transparency and enforcement mechanisms would focus on two aspects of equal pay: measures to ensure pay transparency and better access to justice for victims of pay discrimination.

European Parliament position

Parliament has been calling for stronger measures on pay transparency and equal pay for a number of years. In its resolution of 8 October 2015 on ‘Equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation’, Parliament asked the Commission to draw up a legislative proposal on equal pay, incorporating measures on strengthening pay transparency, together with effective means of enforcement, such as mandatory pay audits for large companies. Parliament’s resolution of 30 January 2020 on the ‘Gender pay gap‘ urged the Commission to ensure that the forthcoming pay transparency legislation applies to both the public and private sectors, promotes the role of the social partners and collective bargaining, and includes strong enforcement policies for those failing to comply. Parliament also asked for the proposal to incorporate a number of concrete measures.

Parliament’s resolution of 21 January 2021 on the new ‘EU Gender Equality Strategy’ stresses that binding measures are necessary to close the gender pay gap.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘International Equal Pay Day‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/09/16/international-equal-pay-day/