Месечни архиви: October 2015

Back to economic issues

Written by Clare Ferguson
Coming back from the crises: (almost) all about economics

European Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Parliament’s next plenary session in Strasbourg, from 26-29 October 2015 will open with a joint debate on Monday evening linked to the Commission’s tax transparency package. The recent public scandals concerning controversial corporate tax practices have prompted the Commission to propose three measures in a tax transparency package: a proposal on mandatory automatic exchange of tax information, repeal of the existing Savings Tax Directive, and the EU-Switzerland agreement on the automatic exchange of financial account information. Will the measures lead to a revolution in the way corporations do business in Europe – or do they merely represent a natural evolution? Either way, Member States governments are hoping to be able to book higher tax revenues.

Exchange of tax information [Podcast]

 

Continuing on economic policy, the next day MEPs will vote on a compromise text endorsed by the Economic & Monetary Affairs Committee proposing a number of measures regarding the disclosure and reporting of securities financing transactions (SFTs) – secured transactions which contribute significantly to the efficiency of financial markets.

Also on Tuesday, the Commission will make a statement on the Europe 2020 strategy, the objectives of which are closely linked to cohesion policy, which it intends to review before the end of 2015. EU cohesion policy is an important investment tool, representing around one third of the EU budget, and aiming to make up for the economic difficulties suffered throughout Europe in the wake of the financial crisis. In addition, support for EU cohesion policy measures in the 2014-20 programming period depend on compliance with EU economic governance rules. Already somewhat controversial, the debate on the rules has been reopened by the Commission’s publication of guidelines on their application. The Parliament is concerned that economic governance mechanisms may hinder the EU’s economic recovery. The plenary will vote on a Regional Development Committee report which warns that application of such rules should be justified, proportionate and transparent. Concerns that economic recovery may be threatened by the EU’s underlying structural weaknesses and regional differences will also be addressed in a joint debate on the European Semester, a key monitoring element of the economic governance framework, on Wednesday.

The EU’s own finances come under scrutiny, on Tuesday afternoon, with Parliament’s reading of the 2016 EU budget. This represents a crucial step in the annual budgetary procedure, with the European Parliament due to decide whether and how to amend the Council’s position on the 2016 draft EU budget put forward by the European Commission. The EP’s Committee on Budgets proposes to reverse all the cuts made by the Council, and further increase funding in areas of key concern for citizens, including the migration crisis, youth employment, and research and innovation.

Members will return to the pressing situation of the refugee crisis on Tuesday morning, with a key debate on financing international funding, in preparation for the Valletta Summit in November. They will also vote on a report on the European law enforcement training agency (CEPOL), which proposes a new focus on the cross-border dimension, as well as promoting fundamental rights in law enforcement, such as privacy, data protection and victims’ rights.

Later on Monday evening the plenary will consider one of the main priorities of the European Parliament – human rights – and in particular, the trade in certain goods which could be used for capital punishment and torture. It seems that signing binding international agreements is not enough for some countries to stop using capital punishment or torture on their citizens, highlighted by recent high-profile cases of ‘botched executions’. To dissuade those still taking part in these practices, the Regulation will be reinforced and Parliament’s Committee on International Trade (INTA) has adopted extensive amendments to a Commission proposal – adding a ban on marketing and promotion of the prohibited goods, and forbidding their transport through EU territory, alongside other measures.

The session will resume on Wednesday morning with two measures which concern the food on our plates. No genetically modified organism (GMO) can be imported to the EU without prior authorisation and safety assessment. However, some Member States would like to ban GMOs altogether. MEPs will vote on measures which would provide Member States with an opportunity to ‘opt out’ of authorising the use of genetically modified crops for food and feed in their country. In a similar vein, new or exotic products and ingredients imported to the EU must also be authorised as safe to use, and Parliament has negotiated a Regulation clarifying the definition of a novel food, and speeding up the authorisation process.

Speeding up authorisation of novel foods [Podcast]

 

Still on health issues, Members round off their debate on Wednesday morning by considering the national emission ceilings for air pollutants. Despite improvements, air pollution still causes over 400 000 premature deaths each year in the EU. The Commission proposes to update and expand the rules on limits for quantities of air pollutants emitted each year by Member States.

Turning to a matter closer to home, a vote on proposals to harmonise the rules on voting in European elections is expected late on Tuesday. While EU law sets out some basic principles for European elections, national electoral laws apply to a great extent, which means that European Parliament elections are not currently run in the same way in all Member States.

Finally, after a second reading in Plenary, Members will vote on an end to roaming charges and EU-wide rules on net neutrality, as part of the strategy to create a digital single market.

 

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Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/10/23/coming-back-from-the-crises-almost-all-about-economics/

Outcome of the European Council of 15 October 2015

Written by Ralf Drachenberg, Stanislas de Finance
Outcome of the European Council of 15 October 2015

Shutterstock

The one-day European Council meeting held on 15 October 2015 again focused on the issue of migration, as indicated in the EPRS Pre-European Council Briefing. While assessing the state of implementation of the migration ‘orientations’ agreed upon by the informal European Council on 23 September 2015, EU Heads of State or Government concentrated on working to secure the European Union’s external borders. The main decisions taken in this respect were: the agreement to work on an integrated border management system, and also the enhancement of Frontex’s mandate in relation to the development of a European Border and Coast Guard System. The European Council also considered further cooperation with third countries regarding migration issues, welcomed the agreement of an EU-Turkey joint action plan, and looked at how to best ‘respond to the influx of refugees in Europe and ensuring returns’. Other agenda points addressed by Heads of State or Government were the situations in both Syria and Libya, the ‘Presidents’ report’ on completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union and the state of play concerning the UK referendum on EU membership.

Migration

The European Council assessed the implementation of the migration orientations agreed by the informal European Council on 23 September, based upon the European Commission’s report on progress in implementation of priority actions. In his invitation letter, European Council President Donald Tusk argued thatthe exceptionally easy access to Europe is one of the main pull factors’ and that the European Council should address ‘the future of the Dublin system’; ‘the specific role of the hotspots’ and ‘the strengthening of the EU’s external borders, including a possible EU border guard’.

External Borders

The discussions on migration concentrated on ‘securing the Union’s external borders’, with President Tusk remarking that progress on genuine border security was an important achievement of the European Council meeting. As mentioned in the EPRS Pre-European Council Briefing, EU Heads of State or Government agreed in their Conclusions on the gradual establishment of an integrated external borders management system. They also called for enhancing Frontex‘s mandate in relation to the development of a European Border and Coast Guard System, including the deployment of Rapid Border Intervention Teams. In his speech to the European Council, European Parliament President Martin Schulz recalled that the European Parliament had already included a ‘pilot project on the issue of a European Border and Coast Guard System in this year’s budget’. He also called upon European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to swiftly draw up a legislative proposal on this topic. The Commission is expected to rapidly present a package of measures regarding the improvement of the management of the EU’s external borders, indicating already in its report on progress in implementation of priority actions that it will bring forward proposals to develop a fully operational European Border and Coast Guard before the end of the year.

Cooperation with Third Countries

Another area examined by the European Council was the EU’s ‘cooperation with third countries’ on migration issues. While also calling for an effective and operational follow up to the Declaration of the High-level Conference on the Eastern Mediterranean – Western Balkans Route of 8 October 2015 and addressing the Valetta Summit on 11/12 November 2015, the main focus was on Turkey-EU relations. Following previous statements from European Council President Donald Tusk as well as from European Parliament President Martin Schulz, the European Council expressed its condolences to the people of Turkey following the Ankara bomb attack on 10 October 2015, where over 100 people were killed and over 400 injured, and pledged its support to fight terrorism. In recent weeks, Turkey has been repeatedly identified by the European Union as a fundamental cornerstone to address the migration crisis, most notably in the European Commission’s Draft Action Plan on support of refugees and migration management. In parallel with the European Council meeting, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner Johannes Hahn held discussions with the Turkish government regarding the ongoing migrant crisis. The draft action plan was endorsed by the EU Heads of State or Government in their Conclusions. The successful completion of this cooperation agenda was conditionally linked to accelerating the fulfilment of the EU visa liberalisation roadmap with Turkey. In his statement before the European Parliament in preparation of the 15 October European Council, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker acknowledged that there are currently considerable problems in Turkey and supporting the European Parliament’s calls for democratic reforms, press freedom and respect for other fundamental principles whilst also stressing that ‘we need Turkey’.

Financial Support

The European Council also asked the Member States to further contribute to the UNHCR, the World Food Programme and other agencies as well as to support the ‘EU’s Regional Trust Fund responding to the Syria crisis’ (‘Madad Fund’) and the EU Trust Fund for Africa. In his statement before the European Parliament in preparation of the 15 October European Council, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker criticised the lack of implementation by (a number of) Member States of the 23 September European Council decisions who are not delivering on their pledges to provide personal and financial assistance. He emphasised that the ‘European Institutions delivered, but the Member States failed to do so’. The Council in its session of 8 October 2015 and the European Parliament in its 14 October 2015 mini plenary session agreed on another amendment of the 2015 budget in order to manage the migration crisis. The criticism regarding Member States’ follow up to their financial commitments was repeated by the President of the European Council as well as European Parliament President Martin Schulz and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a joint press conference preceding the European Council. On this occasion, President Schulz and President Juncker announced that henceforth the President of the European Parliament and the President of the European Commission will meet prior to every European Council meeting to discuss and align, as far as possible, their positions. President Schulz stressed that this decision is based on inclusive cooperation between the two institutions who share the joint project of strengthening the community method for the functioning of the European Union. At the press conference President Juncker also indicated that the revision process of the Dublin rules, originally foreseen for March 2016, will be ‘speeded up’.

Management of migration flows

A third aspect the European Council addressed under migration policy was how to ‘respond to the influx of refugees in Europe and ensuring returns’. The EU leaders called for a continuation of the previously agreed objectives for setting up ‘hotspots’ to ensure the identification, registration, fingerprinting and reception of migrants, as well as ensuring their relocation and return. Emphasising the need for a rapid and full implementation of the decisions taken on relocation, resettlement and ‘hotspots’, the European Council also called upon Member States to fully support these efforts. Experts and the necessary resources should be provided to both Frontex and EASO for the Migration Management Support Teams working in the hotspot areas.

Regarding the issue of ‘returns’, the European Council also called for the full application, before the end of the year, of the Return Directive by Member States and for the effective implementation of all readmission commitments. It also decided to create a dedicated return office within Frontex. In order to include the right to organise joint return operations, the Council concluded that the mandate of Frontex should be enlarged and its role ‘enhanced’ regarding the acquisition of travel documents for returnees. With the aim of increasing the leverage of return and readmission, the ‘more-for-more principle‘ should be applied were appropriate and the Commission and the High Representative were asked to propose within six months comprehensive and tailor-made incentives to be used vis-a-vis third countries.

Syria and Lybia

Also as part of the discussion on migration, EU Heads of State or Government addressed the situations in both Syria and Libya. Regarding Syria, the European Council discussed political and military developments and assessed that ‘the Assad regime bears the greatest responsibility for the 250,000 deaths of the conflict and the millions of displaced people’ and that ‘there cannot be a lasting peace in Syria under the present leadership’. The European Council also expressed its concern about Russian attacks on Syrian opposition groups and civilians and the risk of further military escalation; it concluded that the focus should be on the fight against DAESH and other UN-designated terrorist groups in the framework of a united and coordinated strategy in tandem with a cogent political process on the basis of the Geneva Communiqué of 2012. The European Leaders reiterated the EU’s commitment to a full engagement in finding a political solution to the conflict in close cooperation with both the UN and regional countries, and called on all parties involved to work to that effect. On 9 October 2015, the UN adopted its Security Council Resolution 2240, which politically endorses the EU military operation ‘to Intercept Vessels off the Libyan Coast Suspected of Migrant Smuggling’. Regarding Libya, the European Council welcomed the UN’s proposals for a national unity government in Libya and called on all parties to swiftly endorse the political agreement. The EU reiterated its full support for the Government of National Accord as soon as it takes office.

The Conclusions of this European Council should also be seen in conjunction with the 12 October 2015 Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions, the Declaration of the High-level Conference on the Eastern Mediterranean – Western Balkans Route of 8 October and the Justice and Home Affairs Council Conclusions of 8 October 2015, which go into greater detail on some of the aspects addressed by EU Heads of State or Government on 15 October. The European Council acknowledged that the overall migration and asylum policy of the EU requires further discussions and continuing reflection. It plans to keep developments under review.

Using a new and unprecedented format and in view of the unfolding emergency in the countries along the Western Balkans migratory route, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called a ‘Leaders’ Meeting’ in Brussels on 25 October 2015 to discuss the refugee flows along the Western Balkans route, ‘to be held at the level of Heads of State or Government’. The objective of the meeting will be to agree common operational conclusions which could be immediately implemented.

Attending the ‘Leaders’ Meeting’ are the Heads of State or Government of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. The President of the European Council, the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have also been invited to attend this Leaders’ Meeting. The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex) will also be represented.

‘Presidents’ report’ on completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union

The European Council also took stock of the discussion on the Five Presidents’ report on completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union and EU Leaders reiterated that the process of completing the Economic and Monetary Union must be brought forward in full respect of the single market and in an open and transparent manner. The Leaders will return to these issues at their 17/18 December 2015 meeting. By that date, the Commission will have tabled specific proposals with a view to completing the EMU: (i) for the review of the six- and two-pack; (ii) for a more efficient Euro area external representation in multilateral organisations and bodies (e.g. IMF); and (iii) for a re-insurance system at EU level for national deposit guarantee schemes, which is expected to initiate the completion process of the banking union.

State of play on the UK referendum

As indicated in the EPRS Pre-European Council Briefing, this agenda point was mainly for information purposes and the main discussion is expected to take place at the European Council meeting in December 2015. At the 15 October meeting, European Council President Donald Tusk reported on the preparatory discussions between his officials and the UK over the course of the last few months and announced that Prime Minister David Cameron has committed to setting out the UK’s specific concerns in writing by early November.

Flight MH17

The European Council also welcomed an independent international report, conducted by the Dutch Safety Board, on the downing of flight MH17. The European Council welcomed and supported the ongoing efforts to hold accountable those responsible, in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2166.

UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) preparations

While it was not officially on the agenda or featured in the European Council Conclusions, the Paris COP21 preparations were nevertheless addressed by French President François Hollande during the European Council meeting as indicated in President Tusk’s invitation letter to the members of the European Council.

Read the Briefing on Outcome of the European Council of 15 October 2015 in PDF.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/10/23/outcome-of-the-european-council-of-15-october-2015/

Organised crime in the European Union

Written by Piotr Bąkowski
Organised crime in the European Union

© Tomo Jesenicnik / Fotolia

It is impossible to measure accurately the socio-economic cost of crime. However, the estimates available invariably quote very high figures, which lead to reflection in times of financial crisis and austerity.

Numerous organised crime groups are active in the EU, often with cross-border reach and multi-ethnic composition. There is a clear tendency of rigid and hierarchical structures being replaced by loose networks of small and volatile groups. These may be better adapted to the modern world with its rapid changes.

Some groups, having established a strong position in their countries of origin, go on to engage in illicit markets throughout the EU. They make use of their reputations and sophistication in certain types of crime to form profitable alliances with other groups. Italian, Russian and Albanian-speaking organisations are but a few of the ‘leaders’ in transnational crime in the EU.

It is difficult to think of a criminal activity that would not be considered by organised crime, with the profit and risk involved being the major criteria for their possible involvement. Apart from ‘traditional’ crime, including drug trafficking, such groups increasingly engage in legal business activities, which enables them to launder illegal gains, while benefiting from attractive licit markets. In any case, collusion of corrupt officials and dishonest businessmen is crucial to the success of such criminal enterprises.

This briefing is an update of an earlier one of 6 September 2013.

Read the complete Briefing on Organised crime in the European Union in PDF.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/10/23/organised-crime-in-the-european-union-2/

The European Council and the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris 2015 (COP 21)

Written by Susanna Tenhunen

In its March 2015 Conclusions, the European Council supported joint EU action ahead of the UN Paris Climate Change Conference. In particular, EU Leaders supported both commitments by individual states towards intended climate actions, known as “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDC), and coordinated EU-level action within the context of climate diplomacy. The objective of the Paris Climate Change Conference, to be held from 30 November to 11 December 2015, is to reach a comprehensive universal agreement with a view to keeping global warming below a threshold of 2 ˚C. It also aims to stimulate the transition towards low-carbon economies, whilst taking into account evolving global economic and geopolitical realities. The Paris Agreement would be implemented from 2020 onwards within the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC)

The Parties to the Convention have been asked to publicly declare in advance the level of commitment to mitigation and any respective policy actions that they intend to take under a new global agreement. This takes the form of intended nationally determined contributions (INDC).

The European Council and the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris 2015 (COP 21)

© COP21

The EU is committed to a binding target of reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 % by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, to be fulfilled jointly by the Member States. The INDCs of the EU and its Member States are based on the 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework agreed by the European Council in October 2014 and is included in the European Commission’s communication on the Paris Protocol. The EU’s INDCs were approved by the Environment Council, submitted to the UNFCCC and endorsed by the European Council in March 2015. The European Council has reserved the possibility of returning to the 2030 targets after the Paris Climate Change Conference. A European Council meeting is scheduled for 17-18 December, in the week following the UN Climate Change Conference.

EU leaders have repeatedly urged all Parties to the Convention to submit their contributions. As of 1 October 2015, which was the UN deadline for governments to submit their INDCs, 147 Parties to the Convention, including the EU and its Member States, had registered their commitments to the UNFCCC. This represents about 87% of global emissions. According to an analysis, the full implementation of these INDCs would be insufficient to limit global warming below 2 ˚C. More INDCs have been submitted since 1 October and many more countries are expected to present their commitments before the Paris Conference.

Climate Diplomacy ahead of COP 21

Preparations are in full swing for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris this December. The EU has focused on raising climate change as a strategic priority within political dialogue, supporting low-emission development through EU development cooperation and linking climate change to its potential long-term consequences, which includes security challenges. This strategy is based upon the Commission communication on the Paris Protocol and the Climate Diplomacy Action Plan, which guides the EU in building alliances with international partners within the context of the upcoming Paris Conference.

The European Council has supported action taken under the Climate Diplomacy Action Plan, developed jointly by the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Commission, and endorsed by the Foreign Affairs Council in January 2015. In July 2015, the Foreign Affairs Council held a discussion on climate diplomacy forming an inherent part of foreign policy. It approved conclusions on climate diplomacy and endorsed the EU Energy Diplomacy Action Plan, which supports action in this field relating to the external dimension of the Energy Union.

Climate issues were high on the agenda of the UN General Assembly of 15-28 September 2015. World Leaders highlighted the existence of a unique political momentum towards reaching a global climate deal in Paris. Climate issues were also dealt with in the G7 meeting held on 7-8 June 2015. In the Leaders’ Declaration, the G7 countries affirmed their determination to adopt at the Paris Climate Change Conference a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40-70 % by 2050, compared with 2010 levels. They stressed that this challenge can only be overcome by developing a global response. In terms of climate finance, the leaders pledged to continue efforts to mobilise financing from private and public sources within the context of action on climate mitigation. They also reiterated their ambition to make the Green Climate Fund – a key element in the financial structure of supporting developing countries – operational by the end of the year. The commitments of the G7 countries are a strong signal of movement towards low-carbon economies, but alone they are not sufficient to meet the 2 ˚C target. At the G20 meeting of 15-16 November 2015, EU leaders will continue to try to persuade other Parties to join this endeavour.

EU Position for the Paris Climate Change Conference

The Commission communication on the Paris Protocol presents the EU’s vision for the global climate policy after 2020. According to both the Commission and the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council, the EU is aiming for the adoption of an ambitious, legally binding agreement with universal participation and a strong transparency and accountability framework. This was again underlined by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union speech on 9 September 2015 before Parliament. The Environmental Council of 18 September 2015 adopted conclusions setting out the EU position for the international climate change negotiations at the Paris Conference. According to the conclusions, the global greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by at least 50 per cent by 2050, as compared to 1990 levels. It also proposes that the Paris Agreement would contain a mechanism to provide scrutiny and updates on the commitment of the parties at five-year intervals. The goal of reaching an ambitious, global and legally binding agreement was supported by the European Parliament in the resolution “Towards a new international climate agreement in Paris” (2015/2112(INI)), adopted on 14 October 2015. Parliament emphasised the role of climate finance and supported a regular revision of the INDCS. Moreover, it called for the EU and its Member States to set up more ambitious targets in line with its resolution of 5 February 2014 on the 2030 framework for climate and energy policies (2013/2135(INI).

Read this At a Glance on ‘The European Council and the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris 2015 (COP 21)’ in PDF

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/10/22/the-european-council-and-the-un-climate-change-conference-in-paris-2015-cop-21/

Reducing CO2 emissions from transport

Written by Marketa Pape
Graphics by Eulalia Claros
Reducing CO2 emissions from transport

© hfox / Fotolia.

International efforts to keep global warming below 2˚C and avoid catastrophic climate change require systematic cuts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in all areas of human activity.

Transport currently accounts for about a quarter of EU GHG emissions, making it the second highest emitting sector after the energy industries. While in other sectors, GHG emissions have been decreasing, in the transport domain they have risen by as much as 30% over the past 25 years. Tackling growing emissions has become a matter of urgency. EU measures to cut emissions from transport focus mostly on carbon dioxide (CO2) as the main GHG.

While at international level the EU strives for a global approach and adoption of binding targets by the relevant regulatory organisations, it has also set its own internal targets and put policies in place to reduce GHG emissions from individual transport modes. These include an emissions trading system, binding standards for new engines, rules for fuel quality and promotion of alternative fuels.

Worldwide, the imperative to reduce emissions has led many countries and cities to adopt their own legislation or put concrete measures in place, some of which are being shared, adapted and replicated.

The European Parliament continues to play an active role in promoting low-carbon transport and supporting ambitious climate policies. An EP delegation will take part in the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris, starting on 30 November 2015.

Read the complete Briefing on the ‘Reducing CO2 emissions from transport’ in PDF.

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Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/10/22/reducing-co2-emissions-from-transport/

Changing of the clocks from summertime to wintertime

Citizens recurrently turn to the Parliament with comments on the changing of the clocks. Some citizens are in favour of the summertime arrangement; others call on the Parliament to abolish summertime arrangements.

On Sunday 25 October 2015 at 3 a.m., clocks in the EU will be turned back one hour to 2 a.m. local standard time. In fact, twice a year the clocks in all EU Member States are switched from winter to summertime (on the last Sunday in March) and back from summer to wintertime (on the last Sunday in October).

Harmonising varying summertime arrangements

The standard time is wintertime and during the summer the time is put forward 60 minutes. The decision on the standard time falls within the competence of Member States. Most Member States introduced summer time in the 1970s, although some had started applying it much earlier for varying lengths of time. Since the 1980s the EU legislator, i.e. the European Parliament and the Council, have adopted several directives harmonising step by step the varying summertime arrangements, to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market. The main idea was to provide a stable, long-term planning which is important for the proper functioning of certain economic sectors, especially as regards transport.

EU legislation and its implications

The current reference text in EU legislation with regard to summertime arrangements for all Member States is Directive 2000/84/EC. In 2007, the European Commission published a report on the impact of this directive, providing a chronology of the European legislation and its implications for different sectors of activity.

In 2014, the Commission commissioned another study on the harmonisation of summertime in Europe. The study, entitled ‘The application of summertime in Europe‘, concludes that if summertime was not harmonised in the Union, it would entail substantial inconvenience and disturbance for citizens and businesses alike. The study also includes scenarios of abolishing summertime in one or more Member States and looks at the effects of this asynchronous application of summertime in the EU.

Public hearing and parliamentary questions

Fall back: from summer to winter time

© by-studio / Fotolia

In view of the concerns expressed by citizens regarding the summertime arrangements, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have submitted various parliamentary questions asking whether the Commission is planning to propose to repeal Directive 2000/84/EC on summertime arrangements.

Furthermore, three parliamentary committees held a joint public hearing entitled ‘Time to Revisit Summer Time?‘ on 24 March 2015. Since the hearing, new parliamentary questions have been submitted, pointing to experts’ findings that the current summertime arrangements have more negative than positive effects.

In its answers, for example to question E-004764-15 on the problem of summertime, the Commission refers to the abovementioned study and concludes that, at this stage, it has no intention to revise or repeal Directive 2000/84/EC.

The answer to oral question O-000111/2015 on the hearing on summertime changes in Europe, addressed to the Commission on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Committee on Transport and Tourism, has not yet been published. As soon as an answer is available, an ‘Answer(s)’ tab will appear next to the title of the question.

Petitions

For years, the summertime arrangements have also been subject of petitions that citizens have submitted to the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions (PETI). With regard to Petition 1477/2012, the European Commission explained in its reply that ‘an application of summertime throughout the year would in reality be no longer a harmonised “summertime” regime. It would abolish summertime and impose on Member States to change their standard time’. The decision on the standard time, however, falls within the competence of Member States – and not that of the EU.

The purpose of EU rules has therefore not been to harmonise the time regime in the EU, the Commission says, but to address the problems, notably for the transport sector, which arise from an uncoordinated application of clock-changes in the course of the year.

In 2014, the Committee on Petitions received several more petitions on the abolition of summer/wintertime in the EU, as stated in the minutes of the Petitions committee meeting of 14 July 2015 (page 4).

Information on petitions and procedures for submitting a petition to the European Parliament are available on the Parliament’s Petitions website .

The European Parliament will continue to follow the latest developments in this area.

Do you have any questions on this issue or another EP-related concern? Please use our web form. You write, we answer.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/10/21/changing-of-the-clocks-from-summertime-to-wintertime/

Organic farming legislation – Revision of regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Francesco Tropea (2nd edition)
Organic farming legislation

© European Union, 2015

The development of organic production is a political objective of the EU. Although its organic market has constantly expanded, the EU’s organic land area still represents only 6% of the total agricultural area and the difference between EU demand and production is covered by growing imports. To overcome the regulatory obstacles to the development of the sector and increase consumer confidence in the EU organic logo, in March 2014 the Commission adopted a proposal for a regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products, repealing Regulation No 834/2007. EU Agriculture Ministers agreed in June 2015 on a Council general approach to the proposal. On 13 October 2015, the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee voted on its draft report on the proposal and the mandate to begin negotiations with the Council.

Versions

Organic farming legislation

 

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Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/10/20/organic-farming-legislation-revision-of-regulation-on-organic-production-and-labelling-of-organic-products-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Review of the EU copyright Framework: European Implementation Assessment

Written by Stéphane Reynolds
Copyright button

© mtkang / Fotolia

This ‘European Implementation Assessment’ study aims to provide briefing for the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) ahead of the publication of the Commission’s legislative proposals concerning the modernisation of the EU copyright framework, which are expected towards the end of 2015. Its objective is to help JURI Members achieve a better understanding of the actual gaps and weaknesses in the existing EU framework.

The study originally responds to JURI’s request for an Ex-Post impact assessment on the implementation of Directive 2001/29/EC on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights (InfoSoc), linked to the non-legislative resolution on the same subject adopted in July 2015, Rapporteur Julia Reda MEP.

The copyright intensive industries, which are principally the cultural and creative industries such as the music business and the visual arts, play an important role in supporting EU economic growth and jobs, employing over 7.5 million people in the EU and contributing around €554.66 billion to the EU economy in 2012, or 4.2% of EU GDP. However, in the digital age, this contribution could be higher in view of the advanced development of the societies and economies of Europe, and especially given Europe’s cultural diversity and wealth, as well as its international influence.

The past 5 to 10 years have seen a very rapid increase in content consumption through digital channels as a result of technological developments, in particular, the widespread roll out and use of new products such as the smart phone, the tablet and internet TV. In contrast to this rapid evolution, a surprisingly low proportion of the revenue generated by these industries corresponds to digital sales. From the available industry data, it may be deduced that total revenue roughly attributable to digital content sales in the EU was most likely below €45 billion in 2012, i.e. no more than 8% of the approximate €554 billion overall revenues generated by the EU’s copyright industries, although this share is growing.

A variety of factors can explain the discrepancy between the extent of digital content consumption in the EU and actual digital sales. Although not all factors relate to the EU legal framework’s weaknesses, a modernisation exercise is likely to resolve many issues. Accordingly this European Implementation Assessment starts by focusing on the main EU instrument establishing an EU legal framework on copyright, which has not been updated or replaced since coming in to force, that is Directive 2001/29/EC on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society.

The study is divided into:

  1. an introduction presenting an overall analysis and summary of findings,
  2. an Ex-Post Impact Assessment on the InfoSoc Directive and related EU laws, and
  3. three EU Added Value briefing papers presenting options for reforming the copyright framework focusing on Legal Aspects, the Internal Market, and Industrial Relations.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/10/19/review-of-the-eu-copyright-framework-european-implementation-assessment/

Economic impact on the EU of sanctions over Ukraine conflict

Written by Marcin Szczepański
Confrontation between Russia and European Union

© staras / Fotolia.

Russia is the European Union’s third biggest trading partner. In 2014, trade volume between the European Union (EU) and Russia decreased, mainly due to the impact of the recession on the Russian economy, as well as the conflict in Ukraine which led to EU sanctions and Russian countermeasures.

Beginning in early 2014, the EU introduced and extended a range of diplomatic and economic sanctions against the Russian Federation in protest at Russian involvement in destabilising Ukraine and violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russia has retaliated with an embargo on certain EU agricultural products. Both the EU and Russian measures will be in place until at least June 2016.

It is hard to disentangle the effects of these sanctions from those stemming from the deteriorating economic situation in Russia. Although the overall impact on the EU economy has been rather limited, certain sectors and countries are more significantly affected. Estimates of the impact vary, but indicate overall that the European economy is resilient to the adverse effects of falling trade with Russia. Importantly, the EU’s financial sector is not considered to be systemically threatened by its exposure.

The most visible direct effect is the substantial fall in EU agri-food exports to Russia. The losses are, however, mitigated to a large extent by redirecting exports to alternative markets.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Economic impact on the EU of sanctions over Ukraine conflict‘ in PDF.

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Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/10/19/economic-impact-on-the-eu-of-sanctions-over-ukraine-conflict/

Syria [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski
Syria

Mybona / Shutterstock

The civil war in Syria has developed into the world’s worst ongoing humanitarian and security disaster. An estimated 250,000 people have been killed during four and a half years of hostilities, and over 11 million people have been forced out of their homes. The war has contributed to the expansion of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) controlled by a jihadi, extremist militant group. With an estimated 4 million Syrians having left the country, the conflict has also fuelled a refugee crisis in neighbouring countries including Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt, as well as Europe.

The ongoing fighting has exposed the inability of the international community to resolve the conflict. According to many analysts, the civil war has now turned into a full-blown proxy war involving regional and global powers, as highlighted most recently by Russia’s open military intervention. The European Union is a staunch supporter of a political solution to the conflict.

This note provides links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on the Syrian conflict.

Commentaries

Russia in Syria: Counterattacking at the UN
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2015

Don’t chase Putin out of Syria. Let him fail on his own
German Marshall Fund, September 2015

France’s diplomacy and the war in Syria: A strategic inflection, not a political turn-around
Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, October 2015

Putin’s gamble in Syria
Chatham House, October 2015

Russia’s long-term aims in Syria
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2015

What is Putin really up to in Syria?
Rand, October 2015

Merkel’s Syria trap
Carnegie Europe, October 2015

The long war in Syria: The trees, the forest, and all the king’s men
Center for Strategic and International Studies, October 2015

Five reasons why including Assad in a ‘managed transition’ will fail
Chatham House, September 2015

The West is walking into the abyss on Syria
Brookings Institution, September 2015

L’internationalisation du conflit syrien
Institut des relations internationales et stratégiques, September 2015

The insoluble Syrian problem: Only wrong answers?
Centre for European Reform, September 2015

What are Russia’s interests in Syria?
German Council on Foreign Relations, September 2015

It’s the war in Syria, stupid!
Friends of Europe, September 2015

Analyses

Syrian opposition guide
Institute for the Study of War, October 2015

Syrie : le pari risqué de Moscou
Institut français des relations internationales, September 2015

Constructing a new Syria: Dealing with the real outcome of the “ISIS War”
Center for Strategic and International Studies, October 2015

The moral and the strategic: The UK’s response to the Syrian crisis
Foreign Policy Centre, September 2015

Forecasting the Syrian civil war
Institute for the Study of War, September 2015

How the current conflicts are shaping the future of Syria and Iraq
Rand, September 2015

Syrian refugees in Jordan: confronting difficult truths
Chatham House, September 2015

Backbone of the Syrian revolt inclusion of rural Sunnis key for international efforts to end conflict
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, August 2015

Syria: An end to the hands-off policy
Centre for European Policy Studies, August 2015

Seizing local opportunities in Syria
Atlantic Council, August 2015

Law, guns and money: regulating war economies in Syria and beyond
Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, Clingendael, July 2015

The impact of the Syrian war on Kurdish politics across the Middle East
Chatham House, July 2015

Unstable authoritarianism: A new hybrid in Arab politics
Danish Institute of International Studies, June, 2015

Syria’s economy: Picking up the pieces
Chatham House, June 2015

The balance-sheet of conflict: criminal revenues and warlords in Syria
Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, Clingendael, May 2015

Iran in the Middle East: leveraging chaos
FRIDE, May 2015

The European Union against a BRICS Wall? The case of the Syrian crisis
College of Europe, May 2015

What drives Europeans to Syria, and to IS? Insights from the Belgian case
Egmont, March 2015

When Jihadis come marching home: The terrorist threat posed by Westerners returning from Syria and Iraq
Rand, February 2015

Syria calling: radicalisation in Central Asia
International Crisis Group, January 2015

War on two fronts: the EU perspective on the foreign terrorist fighters of ISIL
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, January 2015

Le jihad en Syrie et en Irak: un défi pour la France
Institut français des relations internationales, January 2015

Syria’s predicament: State (de-)formation and international rivalries
Sharaka, Instituto Affari Internazionali, November 2014

Iraq and Syria: Diversity threatened and destroyed
Bertelsmann Stiftung, August 2014

The regional struggle for Syria
European Council on Foreign Relations, July 2013

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2015/10/17/syria-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/