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Artificial intelligence made in Europe

Written by Mihalis Kritikos,

Artificial intelligence made in EuropePositive, reliable and human-centric artificial intelligence (AI) relies on the willingness of Europe as a whole to design a balanced and inclusive governance framework that would allow it to become a leader in the development of trustworthy AI technologies worldwide. That was the main conclusion reached in the frame of the high-level workshop organised by the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) on 29 January 2020 at the European Parliament in Brussels. The first STOA event for this parliamentary term (2019-2024) drew a full house with Members of the European Parliament, European Commission leaders, academic experts and representatives of international organisations debating how to strike the right balance on AI. Harnessing the numerous benefits that the transformative power of AI can bring needs to also take account of the necessity to mitigate a number of potential risks – from hampering people’s fundamental rights, such as privacy or non-discrimination – to undermining European values such as democracy, human dignity and the right to assemble.

The event proved to be a timely occasion to discuss how Europe could maximise the benefits and address the challenges of AI in a human-centric way, coming only a few days before the publication of the European Commission’s legislative plans on AI in the form of a White Paper on 19 February 2020. Trust and security of EU citizens will be at the centre of the EU’s strategy. There was a consensus that AI poses a wide range of new risks that need to be addressed in a proactive and step-wise manner, by putting in place the necessary safeguards and standards that would ensure that European citizens remain protected. The panellists also agreed that AI regulation should be pursued on the basis of a thorough risk-assessment approach and a thorough evaluation – and potential adaptation – of the EU regulatory framework within clearly defined ethical boundaries.

The event was opened by the STOA Chair and moderator of the event, Eva Kaili (S&D, Greece), who argued that the development of AI is a battlefield between those in favour of a transnational regulatory control of its applications and those supporting digital protectionism and localised solutions for its governance. Her opening question about how to achieve digital sovereignty without protectionism set the ground for a highly engaging discussion between Members and the keynote speaker, Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for ‘a Europe fit for the digital age’. The Commission work programme for 2020 contains a series of legislative initiatives in the field of AI aiming at setting the terms for the best possible use of the potential of digital data and the development and uptake of artificial intelligence that respects our European values and fundamental rights. Speaking directly after the announcement of the work programme, Vestager highlighted that positive, reliable and human-centric AI relies on two ecosystems – one of trust and one of excellence – for the EU to reap benefits while protecting our freedoms and values. In an attention-grabbing speech, Vestager emphasised the need to make sure that the deployment of AI respects all EU values of an open and free society, by strengthening stakeholder engagement and enhancing the transparency and explainability of algorithmic decision-making. She argued in favour of a cautious regulatory approach when it comes to high-risk AI applications, especially in the domains of healthcare and transport, and noted that the Commission’s efforts should also focus on enhancing transparency about the capabilities, but also the limitations, of artificial intelligent systems.

Artificial intelligence made in EuropeSeveral Members posed a series of demanding questions on AI and data ownership, privacy, access and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), quality and traceability of data, attracting talent and teaching skills necessary for the EU AI industry, cybersecurity, and fostering trust. Responding, Vestager highlighted that ‘AI is a race, not just in a geopolitical sense, but rather in our ability to serve our citizens’, by adopting norms that are innovation-friendly and respectful of the European socio-ethical acquis. She noted that not all innovation is equal, therefore we need the kind of AI innovation that will be shaped by simple but firm priorities that are enforceable, focused on social good and have citizens in the driver’s seat. Given the pervasive character of the technology and its data-driven nature, she emphasised the need for a common European data ethics framework and the development of common data spaces.

Following the discussion with Commissioner Vestager, Professor Andrea Renda, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), compared AI with a ‘beast we need to tame’ for a purpose, because AI should be seen as a means, not an end in itself. He noted that AI should be built with speed and control, based on European principles and take man, machine and the planet into consideration. Highlighting the need to make sure that those who create value should also be those who profit from it and calling for a reconsideration of open data policies in the field of AI, Renda argued in favour of a smart regulation, centred on the need to adopt rules and standards that are flexible, proportionate and based on a risk-assessment approach. Anthony Gooch, Director of Public Affairs and Communications at OECD, then shared his experience of working on technological trends and noted that it is not the technology itself, but its use, that matters, arguing for the need for more reflective oversight structures. Gooch noted that AI is a general-purpose technology that will affect everybody and everything, so it is essential to ensure that the process of embedding ethical principles and values in AI-based decision-making systems is transparent and inclusive.


Twitter Hashtag: #AIforEU


In her closing remarks, Eva Kaili argued for smart regulatory solutions that are enforceable and principle-based, and ensure protection of privacy, fundamental human rights and democracy. Such norms should contain positive obligations that could facilitate the embedding of values such as transparency and explainability in AI development. She also emphasised the need to assess the capacity of the current EU ethical and legal framework to confront the governance challenges that are associated with the deployment and application of a disruptive and transformative technology, to respond to European needs. She further argued that Europe has a unique opportunity to shape the direction of AI, at least from a socio-ethical perspective.

Finally, as STOA Chair, Eva Kaili announced that the event marks the establishment of a specialised Centre for AI, under STOA responsibility. The Centre will coordinate efforts in the domain of AI; set global standards and provide the necessary public space for debating the terms of the development, design and deployment of AI applications in a wide range of policy areas; and provide expertise on the possibilities and limitations of AI and its implications from an ethical, legal and societal perspective.

If you missed out this time, you can access the presentations and watch the webstream of the workshop via the STOA events page.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/02/11/artificial-intelligence-made-in-europe/

Effects of 5G wireless communication on human health [Policy podcast]

Written by Miroslava Karaboytcheva,

© PopTika / Shutterstock.com

The fifth generation of telecommunications technologies, 5G, is fundamental to achieving a European gigabit society by 2025.

The aim to cover all urban areas, railways and major roads with uninterrupted fifth generation wireless communication can only be achieved by creating a very dense network of antennas and transmitters. In other words, the number of higher frequency base stations and other devices will increase significantly.

This raises the question as to whether there is a negative impact on human health and environment from higher frequencies and billions of additional connections, which, according to research, will mean constant exposure for the whole population, including children. Whereas researchers generally consider such radio waves not to constitute a threat to the population, research to date has not addressed the constant exposure that 5G would introduce. Accordingly, a section of the scientific community considers that more research on the potential negative biological effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) and 5G is needed, notably on the incidence of some serious human diseases. A further consideration is the need to bring together researchers from different disciplines, in particular medicine and physics or engineering, to conduct further research into the effects of 5G.

The EU’s current provisions on exposure to wireless signals, the Council Recommendation on the limitation of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields (0 Hz to 300 GHz), is now 20 years old, and thus does not take the specific technical characteristics of 5G into account.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Effects of 5G wireless communication on human health‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to policy podcast ‘Is 5G wireless communication safe for human health?‘ on YouTube.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/02/11/effects-of-5g-wireless-communication-on-human-health-policy-podcast/

Desertification and agriculture

Written by Rachele Rossi,

© wk1003mike / Shutterstock

Desertification is a land degradation process that occurs in drylands. It affects the land’s capacity to supply ecosystem services, such as producing food or hosting biodiversity, to mention the most well‑known ones. Its drivers are related to both human activity and the climate, and depend on the specific context. More than 1 billion people in some 100 countries face some level of risk related to the effects of desertification. Climate change can further increase the risk of desertification for those regions of the world that may change into drylands for climatic reasons.

Desertification is reversible, but that requires proper indicators to send out alerts about the potential risk of desertification while there is still time and scope for remedial action. However, issues related to the availability and comparability of data across various regions of the world pose big challenges when it comes to measuring and monitoring desertification processes. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the UN sustainable development goals provide a global framework for assessing desertification. The 2018 World Atlas of Desertification introduced the concept of ‘convergence of evidence’ to identify areas where multiple pressures cause land change processes relevant to land degradation, of which desertification is a striking example.

Desertification involves many environmental and socio-economic aspects. It has many causes and triggers many consequences. A major cause is unsustainable agriculture, a major consequence is the threat to food production. To fully comprehend this two-way relationship requires to understand how agriculture affects land quality, what risks land degradation poses for agricultural production and to what extent a change in agricultural practices can reverse the trend. Cropland expansion and intensification of agriculture are among the drivers of land degradation processes that can lead to desertification. Yet, agriculture itself can provide solutions to land degradation.

Almost half of the EU Member States have declared that part of their territory is affected by desertification, yet there is no EU-level strategy to tackle this problem.

EU agricultural policy can have an impact on the elements and drivers of desertification, for example, by promoting sustainable agriculture in the awareness that protecting farmland productivity is of interest to the public and farmers alike.


Read this briefing on ‘Desertification and agriculture‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/02/11/desertification-and-agriculture/

EU trade and transport of live animals

Written by Rachele Rossi,

Every year, millions of live animals are transported within and outside European Union (EU) territory for trade purposes. EU legislation regulates the protection of animals during transport, but reports of breaches of the rules and accidents raise doubts on the transport of live animals and have rekindled the debate on the need to improve the current legislation.

Background

© Jiri Foltyn / Shutterstock

The EU has a large population of farm animals. In 2018, EU herds counted 87 million bovine animals, 147 million pigs, some 100 million sheep and goats, 290 million laying hens, not to forget countless chicks and other types of animals, from rabbits to horses. Most of these animals experience transport during their life. In most cases, it is essentially domestic transport, i.e. transport from the farm to the slaughterhouse, or from one farm to another for production reasons (such as calves transported to cattle-fattening farms). In some cases, transport of live animals from one place to another occurs in relation to trade, because animals are sold alive on the market for different purposes. This happens in both intra‑EU trade and with EU imports and exports to or from third countries. The distances travelled can vary a lot.

The EU legislative framework

Transport of live animals is regulated by Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations. It covers the transport of live animals (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish) taking place in connection with an economic activity, both within the EU and when entering or leaving the Union. An EPRS European Implementation Assessment of October 2018 provides a comprehensive overview of the main issues at stake in transport of live animals and of the implementation of the legislation by national competent authorities, with which lies primary responsibility for carrying out checks on both animals and means of transport, and taking appropriate enforcement measures.

EU transport of live animals in numbers

Number of animals transported for trade

Approximately 3.5 million sheep and goats, 4.3 million head of cattle, 33.4 million pigs, and 1 000 million poultry were traded alive between EU countries in 2018. Belgium, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, and Italy exchanged more than 1.8 million head of cattle. The reason behind over 70 % of animal transfers within the EU was the production cycle, in the case of cattle and pigs, and slaughtering, in the case of sheep and goats. The import and export of live animals with third countries represents less than 10 % of intra‑EU trade. Cattle is the most traded live animal category, mostly for export to third countries (below half a million animals in 2015). The number of live pigs traded with third countries is much lower than the number of pigs exchanged for intra‑EU trade, whereas the number of live sheep exported from the EU (2 million a year) is almost as high as the number of sheep traded within the EU.

EU countries of origin and destination of animals transported for trade

Trade of live animals involves all world regions. Some EU countries appear among the main importers and exporters at global level. Table 1 provides an overview of the main EU players for each animal category.

Economic value of EU trade in live animals

The value of EU trade in live animals

The value of intra‑EU trade in live animals was €8.6 billion in 2018. Bovine animals, pigs and poultry made the highest values. The value of EU trade in live animals with countries outside the EU was much lower, and amounted to less than €3 billion in 2018, the greatest part represented by EU exports to third countries. Bovine animals, poultry, and sheep and goats made the highest values in EU exports of live animals for food production. EU exports of live horses are typically related to non‑food purposes, as well as the vast majority of EU imports of live animals, which involves mostly horses and other categories of animals (such as other mammals, birds, reptiles, bees, insects, etc.). EU exports of live animals to third countries have been rising in recent years.

Live animals vs animal products

Value of EU exports of live animals and of meat and edible meat offal in 2018

Value of EU exports of live animals and of meat and edible meat offal in 2018

In 2018, EU countries traded meat and edible meat offal for about €37 billion in intra‑EU trade and for about €14 billion outside the EU (70 % of which was represented by EU exports and 30 % by EU imports).

Generally, for any type of trade and animal category, the value of EU trade in meat and edible meat offal is much higher than the value of EU trade in live animals. Only the value of EU exports of live sheep and goats and, to a lesser extent, of live bovine animals, is higher than the value of EU exports of the respective meat and meat offal, as shown in Figure 1.

European Parliament position

The conditions of transport of live animals are part of the wider sphere of animal protection and welfare. The EU policy on animal welfare, including its 2012-2015 strategy, has lifted EU standards in this domain. To continue delivering, Parliament has advocated on a number of occasions – such as in its January 2020 resolution on the European Green Deal – a proposal for a new strategy to pave the way for a general EU animal welfare law. However, what has prevailed so far is to prioritise the implementation and enforcement of existing legislation. Parliament has also brought up the issues of export and transport of live animals and the treatment of animals exported to third countries (such as slaughtering methods). In a 2019 resolution, it acknowledged progress made, but expressed concerns over reports of breaches of the rules and of inappropriate vehicles used for animal transport. In November 2019, the sinking in the Black Sea of a cargo ship with more than 14 000 sheep on board reignited criticism of the cruel conditions in which animals are transported over long distances and, more generally, against the export and transport of live animals, due to the harsh conditions in which animals are kept. Following this accident, on 17 December 2019, Parliament held a debate in plenary, during which the Council representative announced the adoption of Council conclusions on animal welfare that acknowledge the need to continue improving the welfare of animals in transport over long distances. The Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, reiterated the initiatives undertaken by the Commission and the need to address unresolved issues. A number of Members took the floor to demand better treatment of animals during transport, and some Members called for new rules to limit or prohibit transport of live animals. Moreover, the Parliament’s Animal Welfare Intergroup held a meeting focused on the transport of Romanian sheep to the Persian Gulf, and more generally on the conditions of the transport of unweaned animals, including within the EU.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘EU trade and transport of live animals‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/02/10/eu-trade-and-transport-of-live-animals/

US ‘Peace Plan’ for the Middle East

Written by Beatrix Immenkamp,

On 28 January 2020, United States President Donald Trump released his administration’s ‘vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace’. The White House Plan, coupled with earlier Trump administration moves, marks a distinct departure from past US policy on the Middle East Peace Process. Key elements are illegal under international law, as they advocate the annexation of occupied territory. Israeli leaders have welcomed the plan, seen as meeting Israel’s key demands. The leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas have been united in rejecting the proposal, and the PA has since cut ties with Israel and the USA. The plan is meant to serve as the basis for future direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, to stretch over four years. However, the Israeli government has announced plans to implement parts of it unilaterally in the near future.

Key points of the White House plan

Palestinian statehood. The ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan would see Israel agree to the creation of a future Palestinian state as set out in ‘a conceptual map‘. However, the establishment of a – demilitarised – Palestinian state within four years is subject to several conditions, which are difficult to meet under current circumstances. They include the Palestinian Authority (PA) taking control in Gaza, the disarming of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other armed groups, a commitment to non-violence and recognition of Israel as ‘the nation state of the Jewish people’. The capital of the Palestinian state would comprise a Palestinian town outside the city of Jerusalem and several eastern Jerusalem neighbourhoods (see below).

Borders and Israeli settlements. Israel would acquire sovereignty over about 30 % of the West Bank, through the annexation of the vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as well as most of the Jordan Valley. A future Palestinian state would incorporate the remainder of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as additional land located in the desert straddling the Israeli-Egyptian border. The total would be ‘reasonably comparable in size to the West Bank and Gaza’, with the non-contiguous areas connected by roads, bridges and tunnels. Many commentators have likened the result to a ‘Swiss Cheese’.

Security arrangements. A future Palestinian state would be demilitarised. Israel would ‘maintain overriding security responsibility for the State of Palestine’, including control of border crossings, airspace and the electromagnetic spectrum. Counter-terrorism efforts would remain under Israeli control until the Palestinian security apparatus meets predefined security criteria.

© Haaretz Newspaper

© Haaretz Newspaper

Palestinian refugees. The plan explicitly renounces Palestinian refugees’ ‘right to return’ to Israel (a key Palestinian demand in previous negotiations), instead offering them the option of ‘absorption into the State of Palestine’, or ‘local integration in current host countries’, or in third countries (subject to their agreement).

Jerusalem. The plan proposes that Jerusalem become the ‘undivided capital of Israel’, giving Israeli sovereignty over all parts of the city west of the Israeli separation barrier, including most of East Jerusalem, with nearly 300 000 Palestinian residents, and the Old City. It disregards Palestinians’ claim to all of East Jerusalem. Palestinians are offered a capital in Abu Dis, and several neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, including Kafr Aqab and Shuafat (see map). It is ambiguous and potentially provocative regarding the city’s holy sites, advocating ‘maintaining the status quo at the Temple Mount/Haram a-Sharif’, but permitting ‘people of every faith to pray there’.

Economic framework. The second part of the plan, which the White House had already released in June 2019, comprises a US$50 billion economic plan, intended to spur the Palestinian economy.

US endorsement of key Israeli positions

In December 2017, the USA recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, mirroring the official Israeli position on the status of the city, and subsequently moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On 21 March 2019, President Trump announced that the USA would recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. On 18 November 2019, the Trump administration declared that Israel’s West Bank settlements did not violate international law. During the unveiling of the plan on 28 January 2020, President Trump said that the USA would ‘recognise Israeli sovereignty over the territory’ that the plan provides to be part of the state of Israel. Emboldened by the plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that his government would move to annex Jewish West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, but only after the Israeli elections on 2 March 2020. Left-wing Israeli politicians have spoken out against the White House plan.

Reactions to the plan

The Palestinian leadership severed contact with the US administration after the latter recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. In June 2019, the Palestinian leadership rejected the economic part of the US plan, calling the 96-page document ‘meaningless’ and ‘impractical’. The PA has refused to be involved in the elaboration of the political part of the US administration’s peace plan, having lost faith in the role of the US as an ‘honest broker’. On 1 February 2020, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the Palestinian Authority would cut ties with Israel and the USA over the proposed plan, including over security cooperation. The Arab League has unanimously rejected the ‘US-Israeli deal of the century’, as has the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Arab states, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, agreed ‘not to cooperate with the US administration to implement the plan’. Reactions from Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Qatar had earlier shown qualified support, calling for the renewal of negotiations, while three Gulf Arab states (Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates) actually attended the unveiling of the plan at the White House on 28 January 2020. Russia has questioned the feasibility of the White House plan, noting that it contravenes several United Nations (UN) resolutions. The PA is calling for a UN Security Council resolution to condemn the US peace plan. The USA is expected to veto the resolution, in which case it is likely to be submitted for a vote to the UN General Assembly.

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians

There have been many attempts to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians since the Middle East war of June 1967, in which Israel occupied the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza, the Golan Heights and parts of the Sinai peninsula. UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed on 22 November 1967, embodies the principle that has guided most of the peace negotiations – the exchange of land for peace. Clause 1 of Resolution 242 called for Israel to withdraw from the ‘territories’ conquered in 1967, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Efforts to resolve the dispute between Palestinians and Israelis have centred on the principle of a ‘two-state solution’ to the conflict, with an independent Palestinian state created alongside the state of Israel. One of the most intractable issues in peace talks has been Jerusalem. The Israeli 1980 Basic Law on Jerusalem declared Jerusalem to be the ‘complete and united’ capital of Israel. Israel officially rejects any division of the city, the seat of the Israeli government. Palestinians, for their part, seek to establish the capital of their future Palestinian state in East Jerusalem. The international consensus has so far been that Jerusalem would have to be the capital of both states, in a manner to be agreed between the two sides in the conflict during ‘final status’ negotiations. Other critical issues have been the approximately 230 settlements Israel has built in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, home to approximately 660 000 Israelis; and the right of return to Israel of Palestinians who fled Israel in 1948, as well as their descendants. There are 5.5 million registered Palestine refugees across the Middle East.

The position of the European Union and the European Parliament

In reaction to the White House plan, EU High Representative Josep Borrell recalled the established EU position and commitment to a negotiated, viable two-state solution, respecting all relevant UN resolutions and internationally agreed parameters. He criticised the US initiative as departing from these parameters and noted that the EU does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over territories occupied in 1967, that annexation of such territories would be contrary to international law, and that such a move would ‘not pass unchallenged’. In 2017, the European Parliament reiterated its strong support for the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. In 2014, Parliament recognised Palestine statehood.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘US ‘Peace Plan’ for the Middle East‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/02/10/us-peace-plan-for-the-middle-east/

Financing the European Union [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

© luzitanija / Fotolia

The European Union is preparing its next long-term budget – the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). However, more than one and a half year after the European Commission made its MFF proposal, differences persist over the size of the budget and spending levels on particular policies. The European Parliament has called for an ambitious budget, capable of financing new initiatives, such as the European Green Deal. Despite tensions, a decision on the next MFF is still expected in 2020, before the planned start of the next financing period the following year. The later the decision comes, the more significant the negative consequences for beneficiaries of the EU budget, as some aid programmes could be delayed.

This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from international think tanks on the EU’s long-term budget and related issues. The current item includes a recent package of publications on the MFF prepared by the European Parliamentary Research Service.

How could net balances change in the next EU budget?
Bruegel, January 2020

EU budget negotiations: The ‘frugal five’ and development policy
European Think Tank Group, January 2020

A new look at net balances in the European Union’s next multiannual budget
Breugel, December 2019

The future of EU finances: New own resources
EUROPEUM, December 2019

How much will the UK contribute to the next seven-year EU budget?
Breugel, December 2019

Budget debate: the battle of the 1% threshold
Fondation Robert Schuman, December 2019

The MFF non-decision: More at stake than delays
European Policy Centre, December 2019

Who pays for the EU budget rebates and why?
Bruegel, December 2019

10 Years of redistribution between the EU Member States
Centrum für Europäische Politik, December 2019

Cross-border, but not national, EU interregional development projects are associated with higher growth
Bruegel, October 2019

New beginnings: An EU budget in support of the next Commission’s agenda
Notre Europe, September 2019

Reconciling foreign policy and development priorities in the EU budget (MFF 2021-2027)
Institute of International and European Affairs, September 2019

A new budget for the EU: Negotiations on the multiannual financial framework 2021–2027
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, August 2019

Paris-proofing the next Multiannual Financial Framework
European Policy Centre, June 2019

Mainstreaming innovation funding in the EU budget
Jacques Delors Institute, May 2019

From ‘paymaster of Europe’ to ‘shaper of Europeʼs future’: A new self-perception of Germany in the EU
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, May 2019

Migration and the next EU long-term budget: Key choices for external action
European Centre for Development Policy Management, March 2019

A jumbo financial instrument for EU external action?
Bertelsmann Stiftung, February 2019

Reducing climate risk in the post-2020 EU budget
E3G, February 2019

Leveraging the next EU budget for sustainable development finance: The European fund for sustainable development plus
European Centre for Development Policy Management, February 2019

The MFF: Europe’s other ticking clock
European Policy Centre, January 2019

EU budget implications of a no-deal Brexit
Bruegel, January 2019

Reforming the MFF and cohesion policy 2021-27: Pragmatic drift or pragmatic shift?
European Policies Research Centre, January 2019

Financing EU external action: Understanding member state priorities
European Think Tanks Group, December 2018

Budget européen 2021-2027: Doter l’Europe des moyens de nos ambitions
Terra Nova, November 2018

Funding the just transition to a net zero economy in Europe: Opportunities in the next EU budget
E3G, November 2018

Can the V4’s priorities shape ‘Europe’s Priorities’? The multiannual financial framework 2021-2027
EUROPEUM, November 2018

Die Finanzierung der EU nach 2020: Zeit für Reformen
Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft Köln, October 2018

Strengthening cohesion in the EU: How can structural reforms contribute?
European Policy Centre, October 2018

Negotiating the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework in an electoral year: Which consequences?
Notre Europe, Jacques Delors Institute, September 2018

Aiming high or falling short? A brief analysis of the proposed future EU budget for external action
European Centre for Development Policy Management, September 2018

More money, fewer problems? How the ‘Migration Crisis’ affected funding under the MFF
Jacques Delors Institute, Berlin September 2018

Resources for a prosperous Europe: Redesigning the EU budget in a progressive way
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, September 2018

The EU’s multiannual financial framework and some implications for CESEE countries
Bruegel, September 2018

The EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework: Where should Italy stand?
Instituto Affari Internazionali, September 2018

The EU Budget and Common Agricultural Policy beyond 2020: Seven more years of money for nothing?
Bertelsmann Stiftung, August 2018

ESM reform: No need to reinvent the wheel
Jacques Delors Institute, Berlin August 2018

Making better use of public funding: The role of national promotional banks and institutions in the next EU budget
Notre Europe, Jacques Delors Institute, August 2018

Winners or losers? The Baltic States in the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework negotiations
International Centre for Defence and Security, July 2018

EU reform: Does everything have to change for things to remain the same?
Carnegie Europe, July 2018

Le Fonds européen de défense ou l’enfant prodige de la défense européenne
Confrontations Europe, July 2018

Budget de l’Union européenne: Quel compromis possible entre la France et l’Allemagne?
Fondation Robert Schuman, June 2018

Financing sustainability: Triggering investments for the clean economy
European Political Strategy Centre, June 2018

A stabilization fund can make the euro area more crisis-proof
Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik, June 2018

The MFF proposal: What’s new, what’s old, what’s next?
Notre Europe, Bertelsmann Stiftung, May 2018

Should the EU budget have a stabilisation function?
Centre for European Policy Studies, May 2018

New EMU stabilisation tool within the MFF will have minimal impact without deeper EU budget reform
Bruegel, May 2018

Common or own goals: Reforming the financing of the European Union
Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, April 2018

No escape from politics: Four tests for a successful fiscal instrument in the euro area

Notre Europe, Bertelsmann Stiftung, March 2018

EPRS publications

Economic and Budgetary Outlook for the European Union 2020
January 2020

The 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework in figures
January 2020

European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund 2021-2027
January 2020

Single market, innovation and digital: Heading 1 of the 2021-2027 MFF
January 2020

Natural resources and environment: Heading 3 of the 2021-2027 MFF
January 2020

Migration and border management: Heading 4 of the 2021-2027 MFF
January 2020

Financing EU security and defence: Heading 5 of the 2021-2027 MFF
January 2020

Financing the EU’s administration: Heading 7 of the 2021-2027 MFF
January 2020

Neighbourhood and the world: Heading 6 of the 2021-2027 MFF

November 2019

Cohesion and Values: Heading 2 of the 2021-2027 MFF

January 2019

2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework and new Own Resources: Analysis of the Commission’s proposal
June 2018


Read this briefing on ‘Financing the European Union‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/02/07/financing-the-european-union-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

European Parliament Plenary Session February 2020

Written by Clare Ferguson,

Now that both the new Parliament and the new European Commission are in place and making their positions clear on a number of fronts, Members return to a full agenda for the February plenary session in Strasbourg.

A foggy day in Strasbourg. Louise Weiss building and Winston churchill passerelle - Ill river

© European Union 2019 – Source : EP

This year’s European Union (EU) budget is the last under the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF). Time is therefore pressing to finalise negotiations on the MFF for 2021-2027. However, negotiations on the proposals put forward by the previous Commission are proving rather complicated, not least due to the withdrawal of a major net contributor, the United Kingdom, from the EU. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, has called an Extraordinary European Council Meeting on the MFF, scheduled for 20 February 2020, to attempt to finalise an agreement on the proposed new structure for EU finances, which aims to shift the priority for spending towards a climate-resilient economy. Members are due to hear statements from the European Council and Commission on Wednesday morning on the preparation of that meeting. Parliament will also hear Council and Commission statements on the previous morning, on the negotiating mandate for the negotiations for a new partnership with the UK. Members are expected to vote on a resolution on the subject on Wednesday.

Parliament will also hear a statement by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell Fontelles, on the EU response to the United States Middle East plan proposed by US President Donald Trump and referred to as the White House plan. While Parliament will not vote a resolution on the subject, the EU position and its strong commitment to a two-state solution that respects international law is already well established.

An important aspect of relations with non-EU countries, Members will continue on the theme of international trade in a joint debate on Tuesday morning. Parliament is then set to vote (on Wednesday lunchtime) on whether to consent to two trade agreements with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The agreements (a Free Trade Agreement covering exclusive EU competences, including customs and competition rules, and an Investment Protection Agreement based on competences, such as agriculture and environment, that are shared with EU Member States), could see exports to Vietnam rise by almost 30 %. Although there is some concern regarding the human rights situation in the country, Parliament’s committees scrutinising the proposed agreements have concluded that engaging with Vietnam is the best way to encourage improvement. The agreements must subsequently be ratified by Vietnam (as well as EU Member States in the case of the IPA), before entering into force.

With so much focus in the news on the effects of globalisation and giant multinationals, it may be easy to forget that companies with fewer than 250 employees account for 99.8 % of non-financial firms in the EU, and create 85 % of new jobs. The Commission has not forgotten, and uses its ‘SME Test’ to look at the impact of new legislation on such companies. Parliament is a staunch supporter of a business-friendly EU where small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and innovators benefit from a level playing field, and promotes the use of impact assessment to gauge the effects of new legislation on SMEs in particular. The Commission will make a statement to plenary on Monday evening on the progress made with minimising the impact of EU legislation on SMEs through the better regulation initiative. It may also give an indication of what to expect in the new industrial strategy for Europe, expected in March 2020 and its communication on better regulation, expected sometime afterwards.

Christine Lagarde will attend the plenary session on Tuesday afternoon for the first time in her capacity as President of the European Central Bank (ECB), for the presentation of an Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee report on the ECB’s annual report for 2018. Reflecting on the rather mixed economic results of the period, the committee points out the need for a review of ECB monetary policy, with full Parliament involvement, as well as public consultation. It also underlines the ECB’s responsibility to consider the impact of policy on the environment, and urges the ECB to continue to improve transparency and communications with citizens. The report also calls for better gender balance on the ECB Executive Board and Governing Council.

Progress towards gender equality more generally has stalled, and the current Parliament has lost no time in demanding a robust EU gender equality strategy. The Commission will make a statement on Wednesday afternoon on its proposals for a new gender equality strategy, the preparation of which involved informal input from the Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM). Following a related plenary debate on 18 December 2019, Members are also due to vote on a motion for resolution on Wednesday lunchtime on the EU strategy to put an end to female genital mutilation around the world. Parliament has long been active in raising awareness of the need to act to end the practice, which it considers a form of persecution, as part of its combat against all forms of violence against women and girls.

For the strengthened European Border and Coast Guard Agency (EBCG – formerly Frontex) to carry out its work in support of EU countries’ border and migration management, it needs to be able to verify the documents presented by people wishing to cross the EU’s external borders. However, the proliferation of both authentic and fake documentation makes the agency’s work that much harder. On Wednesday evening, Members will debate the details of a provisional agreement with the Council (and vote the following day) on the online system collecting False and Authentic Documents Online (FADO). Under the agreed text, the EBCG will take over management of the system, which stores details of travel, identity, residence and civil status documents, driving and vehicle licences issued by Member States or the EU. Personal data will be kept to the minimum necessary for operations and availability filtered according to status, such as authorities involved in document fraud, or the general public.

Finally, the Council and Commission will also make statements on the ongoing threat to the Rule of law in Poland on Tuesday evening.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/02/07/european-parliament-plenary-session-february-2020/

3 key questions on autonomous vehicles

An autonomous vehicle is a robot that can bring people or goods from one place to another without a human driver. But such a thing as a fully autonomous vehicle does not exist yet not even in the testing phase.

Listen to Tatjana Evas, an EPRS policy analyst, explaining the issues in 3 key questions on autonomous vehicles.

Or read more in our publications:


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


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/02/07/3-key-questions-on-autonomous-vehicle/

Public economic support in the EU: State aid and special economic zones [Policy podcast]

Written by Cemal Karakas, Carla Stamegna, Ioannis Zachariadis,

© frank_peters / Shutterstock.com

© frank_peters / Shutterstock.com

State aid can be defined as an advantage given by a government that may provide a company with an unfair competitive edge over its commercial rivals. State aid can take several forms, such as public subsidies, tax relief, or the purchasing of goods and services on preferential terms. While the European Union (EU) competition rules consider State aid to be incompatible with the internal market, they allow such aid when it promotes general economic development, for example, when tackling the challenges of global competition, the ongoing financial crisis, the digital revolution, and demographic change. To this end, all EU Member States provide some public economic support, for instance, to the coal mining sector, banks, or the digital economy. To contribute to regional development and to increase competitiveness, some Member States have created special economic zones (SEZs), which offer an attractive combination of tax-and-tariff incentives, streamlined customs procedures, less laws, provision of infrastructure, and creation of business clusters.

The European Commission is currently evaluating the State aid modernisation (SAM) package and some of its related laws, as these will expire by the end of 2020. The European Parliament takes a two‑fold stance towards public economic support in the EU. On the one hand, Parliament stresses that State aid should support ecological transformation and foster the development of services, knowledge, and infrastructure rather than providing support to specific companies. On the other hand, it calls on the Commission to ensure that State aid is reduced in the long term, given its distortive effects on the internal market. While the temporary State aid offered to the financial sector to stabilise the EU financial system might have been necessary, Parliament calls on the Commission to scrutinise and eventually remove this aid. Parliament, inter alia, also calls on the Member States to abandon unfair competition practices based on unjustified tax incentives and to adopt appropriate rules in the Council.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Public economic support in the EU: State aid and special economic zones‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to policy podcast ‘How State aid works in the EU‘ on YouTube.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/02/07/public-economic-support-in-the-eu-state-aid-and-special-economic-zones-policy-podcast/

Western Balkans: the rocky road to enlargement

Written by Branislav Stanicek,

How can enlargement of the European Union remain a realistic, merit-based and politically credible exercise, when some Member States are unwilling to move forward with concrete steps, such as opening negotiation talks? This was the key question at the heart of the European Parliamentary Research Service policy roundtable held on Tuesday, 28 January 2020, which gathered over 120  participants, including Members of the European Parliament, experts and think-tankers.

EPRS roundtable ' Western Balkans : A rocky road to enlargement '

EPRS roundtable ‘ Western Balkans : A rocky road to enlargement ‘

Organised on the same day as the European Parliament’s Western Balkans Summit (convened by President David Sassoli and attended by the speakers of the Western Balkan parliaments), the timely roundtable provided a moment for reflection one week ahead of the European Commission’s presentation of a new methodology of enlargement. Eduard Kukan, former Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs, and former Member, opened the discussion was opened with a keynote speech. Previously appointed United Nations (UN) Special Envoy on Kosovo by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, a role he held alongside Carl Bildt, Kukan warned against the deepening frustration of regional leaders, pointing out that ‘with new and new additional requests, the whole process will lose credibility’. Taking the positive experience and transformational power of past enlargements for central and eastern European countries into account, he remarked that it is in the interest of the both the EU and the Balkan countries to propose tangible benefits for the people when acceding countries are closing negotiation chapters. With regard to the speed of and calendar for EU enlargement, Kukan said that ‘not acting quickly enough would worsen the situation’.

Tanja Fajon (S&D, Slovenia) also warned against possible enlargement fatigue and strongly supported the accession process. As Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for Serbia, Fajon will visit Belgrade, together with the EP Rapporteur for the country, Vladimir Bilčik (EPP, Slovakia) and the new Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, on 6 and 7 February 2020. It is expected that the Serbian electoral crisis and the implementation of the obligations to improve electoral conditions will be the focus of the visit. Fajon and Bilčik were involved in mediating inter-party dialogue on this issue in November and December 2019, while this will be Várhelyi’s first visit to Serbia since his appointment as Commissioner.

The economic aspects of enlargement, as well as the changes proposed in the French ‘non-paper’, were presented by Milica Delevic, Director for Governance and Political Affairs at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Member of the European Council on Foreign Relations. Delevic warned against the risk of slipping into theology on enlargement, with promises of a ‘future life’, and underlined the importance of the pace of enlargement and opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia for the credibility and success of the process. The alternatives could be increased third power influence and a slower pace of reforms.

Tim Judah, Balkans Correspondent for The Economist, then presented the demographic challenges facing the whole region. All Balkan countries are in strong demographic decline, facing ‘brain drain’, as well as undocumented migratory flows. There is a lack of serious analysis of the region’s demographic decline, depopulation and the hollowing-out of the labour force. In 2050, Serbia’s population will fall by 23.8 %, Croatia by 22.4 % and Kosovo by 11 %, compared to 1990. Bosnia and Herzegovina has a fertility rate of 1.26, one of the lowest in the world. With a median age of 29, Kosovo is the youngest country in the region, but does not escape demographic decline: as almost a fifth of its population lives abroad. Branislav Stanicek, Policy Analyst with EPRS noted that such declining demographics will have a direct impact, slowing GDP growth, the main component of which is household consumption. In addition to slower growth, declining demography will also accentuate deflationary pressures, as an ageing population tends to decrease spending, and deflation is much harder for monetary institutions to tackle than inflation. To provide tangible benefits to Balkan citizens, Stanicek supported the proposal of a gradual integration of European policies by the countries of the region. European broadband networks, digital, transport and energy infrastructures as well as investment within the Horizon Europe programme all provide the possibility of excellent initiatives for the region. As an example, in addition to the 2019 inter-regional agreement to curb roaming fees (the six Western Balkan countries agreed to cut roaming fees by 27 % in July 2019, and to abolish all roaming fees from July 2021), roaming fees could be cut for Western Balkans citizens travelling within the EU as well.

Concluding the roundtable, Lívia Járóka (EPP, Hungary), Vice-President of the European Parliament replacing the EP President for the Western Balkans, thanked the participants for their engagement and shared her personal experience as the first female Roma MEP, as well as her activities in favour of social inclusion, education and Roma communities. Járóka noted the excellent opportunity available to the EU to be the driver of positive change and reforms throughout the region, as has already been observed in central Europe. She also underlined the importance of keeping all communities engaged, and doing more for the social inclusion of minorities in the Western Balkans. It is important that EU and Croatian Presidency work together to prepare a pan-European Roma strategy and that Western Balkan countries play an integral part. Finally, Járóka noted the European Parliament’s support for the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia ‘as soon as possible’ and that the Parliament will work together with other EU institutions and Member States to accompany future enlargement policy. She also thanked the Croatian Presidency for their strong support and the emphasis they have placed on Western Balkan European integration.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/02/06/western-balkans-the-rocky-road-to-enlargement/