Месечни архиви: януари 2016

Common Foreign and Security Policy [What Think Tanks are Thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

The EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) has developed significantly since the 1990s with the aim of enabling the Union to speak and act as one in world affairs. The 2009 Lisbon Treaty strengthened the potential of the policy by creating the post of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, backed by the European External Action Service (EEAS).

Although the EU’s foreign policy has been hailed for a number of successes, such as a deal between Serbia and Kosovo or a nuclear agreement with Iran, it is still often perceived as underdeveloped by analysts, who say that Member States pursue their own priorities and that there needs to be greater coordination between the CFSP and other EU external policies, such as on development and trade.

This note offers links to recent studies on EU foreign policy from major international think tanks and research institutes. Relations with Turkey, China, Africa, EU eastern neighbours, EU southern neighbours, candidates for EU membership and NATO have been covered in previous editions of ‘What Think Tanks are thinking’.


Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Millstone or multiplier? EU foreign policy
Centre for European Reform, January 2016

EU global strategy
Egmont, January 2016

Is Europe’s foreign policy under threat from its economic dependence?
German Marshal Fund, January 2016

The Commissioners’ Group on External Action: Key political facilitator
Centre for European Policy Studies, December 2015

Crafting the EU global strategy: Building blocks for a stronger Europe
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, December 2015

Federica Mogherini and her first year as HRVP
EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy, December 2015

The good, the bad and the ugly: European security: Autumn 2015
Institute of International and European Affairs, December 2015

‘One belt, one road’: An opportunity for the EU’s security strategy
Clingendael, December 2015

The EU, Russia and the quest for a new European security bargain
Clingendael, December 2015

European strategy, European defence and the CSDP
Egmont, November 2015

L’Europe à la croisée des chemins : La politique de défense et de sécurité a besoin d’initiatives franco-allemandes
Institut français des relations internationales, November 2015

Unerwartet, überraschend, ungeplant: Zugespitzte Situationen in der internationalen Politik
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, November 2015

Upstream of future crises: A comprehensive approach to European (External) Action
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, November 2015

The constitutional and historical relevance of the AFSJ and the CFSP/ESDP
Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies, October 2015

An EU global strategy for foreign and security policy… and even defence
Egmont, October 2015

Intelligence and decision-making within the Common Foreign and Security Policy
Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies, October 2015

Joining up or falling apart: Towards a networked communications model for EU foreign policy
European Policy Centre, October 2015

From Seville to Brussels: The architecture of global presence
Real Instituto Elcano, October 2015

On target? EU sanctions as security policy tools
European Union Institute for Security Studies, September 2015

Towards an EU global strategy
European Union Institute for Security Studies, September 2015

From 9/11 to Da’esh: What role for the High Representative and the external dimension of EU counter-terrorism policies?
Istituto Affari Internazionali, September 2015

Prospects for security on the European continent
College of Europe, August 2015

The road back to European power
European Council on Foreign Relations, August 2015

Global and operational: A new strategy for EU Foreign and Security Policy
Istituto Affari Internazionali, July 2015

Global strategy choices (GSC): Prognosis and strategic planning for European foreign and security policy
Austrian Institute for International Affairs, July 2015

Why Europe needs a global strategy
European Think Tanks Group, July 2015

The EU’s strategic partnership agreements: Balancing geo-economics and geopolitics
Egmont, June 2015

The labours of HR Federica Mogherini: Her pursuit of a strategy and effectiveness
Polish Institute of International Affairs, July 2015

The road back to European power
European Council on Foreign Relations, July 2015

The nuclear deal with Iran: Le moment suprême?
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2015

Global and operational: A new strategy for EU Foreign and Security Policy
Istituto Affari Internazionali, July 2015

Global strategy choices (GSC): Prognosis and strategic planning for European foreign and security policy
Austrian Institute for International Affairs, July 2015

Global and operational: A new strategy for EU Foreign and Security Policy
Istituto Affari Internazionali, July 2015

Global strategy choices (GSC): Prognosis and strategic planning for European foreign and security policy
Austrian Institute for International Affairs, July 2015

The EU’s strategic partnership agreements: Balancing geo-economics and geopolitics
Egmont, June 2015

The path to an upgraded EU foreign policy
Carnegie Europe, June 2015

Respect for human rights as a general objective of the EU’s external action
Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, June 2015

Reengineering EU Foreign Policy: Seven key issues
Carnegie Europe, June 2015

New Atlantic community: The European Union, the US and Latin America
Miami-Florida European Union Center, Consejo Argentino para las Relaciones Internacionales, May 2015

Fragile states: An urgent challenge for EU foreign policy
FRIDE, February 2015

Resetting EU external action: Potential and restraint
Jacques Delors Institute Berlin, February 2015

Challenges for European Foreign Policy
FRIDE, January 2015

Gaps between comprehensive approaches of the EU and EU Member States: scoping study
European Centre for Development Policy Management, January 2015

Improving the effectiveness of sanctions: A checklist for the EU
Centre for European Policy Studies, November 2014

Who’s in charge? Member States, EU institutions and the European External Action Service
Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, October 2014

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/29/common-foreign-and-security-policy-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

Back on the agenda: it’s the economy – February Strasbourg Plenary Agenda

Written by Clare Ferguson,

Sunset outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg

© European Union 2015 – European Parliament

The Strasbourg week begins with an emphasis on trade and the economy, with a visit on Monday by Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank. Draghi will be in the Parliament for the presentation of the Economic Affairs Committee report on the ECB’s annual report for 2014. The report describes the continued subdued state of the European economy (which is in part due to uneven growth, falling oil prices and a weak exchange rate), the risks that this entails for economic stability, and details the actions taken to rectify the situation, many of which can be seen reflected in EU policy today. In addition, it covers the Bank’s supervisory activities carried out under the Single Supervisory Mechanism in 2014.

Trade agreements with the EU can only be concluded after the European Parliament has given its consent. This being the case, the Parliament is working together with the Commission and the chief negotiators on the Trade in Services Agreement to ensure that the EU gets the best deal. The EU is the world’s largest importer and exporter of services (and 70% of the EU workforce is employed in the sector) and therefore a sound regulatory basis is crucial to international trade in this area. Under the economic integration agreement, each country will choose how far to open its services markets to foreign competition, and the EU’s initial offer explicitly excludes sensitive sectors such as public utilities, water distribution, education, health and social services. The Committee on International Trade’s report, to be debated in a first reading on Monday, presents recommendations to the European Commission on the negotiations for the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). The report notes that agreement should not lead to regulatory arbitrage and social dumping, and emphasises that European labour and social regulations should be fully respected when doing business in Europe. As rapporteur, Viviane Reding has stated, the EU expects ‘better international regulation, not lower domestic regulation’ and ‘competition by the rules, not for the rules’. The report will be voted on Wednesday, and EPRS have created a short podcast detailing the issues.

European Parliament recommendations on Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) [Plenary Podcast]

Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) has hit the headlines in recent times as an aspect of the discussion on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Growing public demand for more transparency regarding investment treaties and investment protection rules, and state parties’ positions on retaining regulatory capacity, led to Parliament and Commission support for the negotiation of what is known as the ‘Mauritius Convention on Transparency’. This United Nations instrument commits signatories to apply UNCITRAL rules on transparency to investment treaties concluded before 1 April 2014. As a not-inconsiderable body of bilateral European trade agreements (some 1 400) were agreed prior to this date, debate in the Council as to what basis the EU and its Member States can sign the Convention is currently at an impasse.

Whilst European biodiversity may not at first glance appear to be an economic issue, the Commission estimates the socioeconomic cost of missing the current biodiversity headline targets at some €50 billion per year – and that one in six EU jobs depend to some extent on nature and biodiversity. The conservation status of 77% of EU habitat types and 60% of species is now flagged as unfavourable, as EU biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation continues. The European Commission thus concluded, in its mid-term review of the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy, that progress has been insufficient. Only one of the biodiversity targets is on track (regarding invasive alien species), a further four show progress, and no significant progress has been made on increasing agriculture and forestry sector contributions to biodiversity protection. Parliament will discuss the continued concern expressed in the Committee on Environment, Public Health & Food Safety’s report about the loss of European biodiversity, and is expected to urge the Commission and Member States to ensure adequate financing and implementation of measures for their protection. Our podcast provides a brief overview.

Mid-term review of the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy [Plenary Podcast]

Discussion on the economic situation continues on Tuesday, this time with a first reading of the Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs proposed establishment of a European Platform against undeclared work, meant to help Member States prevent, deter and fight undeclared work. The aim of the European Platform is to combat all forms of employment abuse, such as bogus self-employment and envelope wages, with a budget of €2.1 million per year to combat all forms of employment abuse, such as bogus self-employment and envelope wages. The ‘undeclared economy‘ is estimated at over 18% of EU GDP and varies from below 8% to over 30% of EU Member States’ GDP. Undeclared work affects both individuals and society: individuals’ health, social & working conditions are put at risk when working clandestinely; as well as presenting unfair competition, and impacting on budgets and social security systems.

A Commission statement is also expected on Tuesday on the Commission’s decision on the Corporate Tax Package. Commissioner Moscovici has stated that 2016 should be the year of corporate tax reform and fiscal transparency, a position on which MEPs from most political groups agree.

Turning to international affairs, two VIPs will be visiting Parliament during this Plenary session. On Tuesday lunchtime, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia will address a formal sitting of the Parliament. On Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria will take his turn before MEPs. Elected in March 2015, in Nigeria’s first handover of power since the country’s transition to democracy in 1999, Buhari has promised to suppress the endemic corruption in Nigerian society. While the country is now Africa’s biggest economy, falling oil prices and multiple internal security threats lead to human rights violations and hamper social progress, in a country with a fast-growing and youthful population.

Wednesday afternoon, the Council and Commission will make statements on progress in the European integration process for Kosovo and Serbia, followed by a vote on motions for resolution from Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Last year’s conclusion of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Kosovo has put the country on the road to accession. However, the rule of law in the country remains a concern, particularly in the light of the allegations concerning the EULEX mission. The EU is ready to endorse a visa-free regime for Kosovo, but would like to see progress on parliamentary dialogue, economic inefficiency, crime and corruption, and normalisation of relations with Serbia. The Committee underlines the positive steps taken by Serbia towards EU accession – which opened its first negotiation chapters with the EU in 2015, having successfully demonstrated its commitment to political and economic reform. The EU has commended Serbia’s constructive approach to dialogue with Kosovo, and to the influx of refugees transiting the Western Balkans. The country has work still to do, however, on judicial reform, press freedom and human rights issues.

Debates on human rights issues take up the rest of the agenda on Wednesday, and on Thursday the Parliament turns to regional development policy, with a focus the particular challenges faced by island territories. European islands include some of the EU’s most well-known tourist destinations, and are home to considerable natural and cultural wealth. Island life is not always easy, however, as isolation, lack of resources and of opportunities may require a specific policy response.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/29/back-on-the-agenda-its-the-economy-february-strasbourg-plenary-agenda/

The Western Balkans: Frontline of the migrant crisis

Written by Velina Lilyanova

The Western Balkans: Frontline of the migrant crisis

Janossy Gergely / Shutterstock.com

2015 was a landmark year in the history of migration to Europe, with an unprecedented and constantly increasing flow of migrants making their way to the European Union. Fleeing poverty and war mainly in the Middle East and Africa, more and more people embarked on perilous journeys to reach the safety of Europe. In 2015, there was a significant surge in migrant transits across the eastern Mediterranean and the Western Balkans. The EU Member States bordering the Mediterranean Sea shared the challenge of the influx with other Member States and the Western Balkan countries, in particular the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia.

The 1990s wars in the Western Balkans triggered a mass exodus to other parts of Europe, which has had long-lasting consequences for the region. While today the Western Balkans remain a substantial source of migration, in the current context they are mainly a transit route. Countries in this particularly sensitive region have less-advanced welfare systems, limited institutional capacity and struggling economies that are further strained by having to provide for large numbers of transiting migrants. Having activated dormant political conflicts in the region, these developments risk turning into a major destabilising factor. In all likelihood, the crisis will last and the Western Balkans will remain a busy migrant route. This puts relations between the EU and the Western Balkan enlargement countries in the spotlight and makes the case for increased cooperation in a situation of mutual dependence. While the EU is already providing technical, humanitarian and financial assistance to the Western Balkans, it needs to come up with a coordinated approach focused not only on short-term measures, but also on the long-term consequences for the region, including their impact on the enlargement process as a whole.

For the complete briefing in PDF on ‘The Western Balkans: Frontline of the migrant crisis‘ please click here.

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Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/27/the-western-balkans-frontline-of-the-migrant-crisis/

Delivering the full benefits of ICT to the developing world

Written by Gianluca Quaglio and Liliana Cunha,

Delivering the full benefits of ICT to the developing world

@ Riccardo Mayer / Shutterstock

Over recent years, there have been increasing opportunities for inhabitants of low and middle-income countries (LMICs) to use information and communication technologies (ICT). ICT can potentially help LMICs tackle a wide range of health, social and economic problems. By improving access to information and enabling communication, ICT can play a role in fighting poverty, combating diseases and other health problems, and accomplishing better educational outcomes.

On the request of the European Parliament’s Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel, a project analysing the impact of ICT on poverty reduction in LMICs was carried out in 2015 and the final study was recently published. The Lead STOA Panel Member for the project was Dario Tamburrano, MEP (EFDD, Italy). The project had a specific focus on the health sector, elucidating which support ICT may provide to reduce inequalities and strengthen health systems in LMICs. In addition, present EU actions in the area of improving ICT diffusion in LMICs were assessed.

The study first describes the conditions hampering or facilitating the support of ICT to poverty reduction in LMICs, then focuses on the specific opportunities and obstacles in the use of ICT in the healthcare sector and, finally, it illustrates the EU policy approach for promoting ICT in LMICs. Evidence from desk analysis was complemented by the opinions of 145 surveyed experts, ten of which were also interviewed. Experts’ opinions confirm the evidence of desk analysis pointing to health and education as the main areas in which ICT can play a significant role in LMICs development.

Building upon the evidence collected, the study provides policy options for future action which the EU could undertake to help LMICs profit from all the opportunities that ICT offer. More specifically, the study calls for balancing top-down and bottom-up initiatives, so as to address access and capacity constraints in parallel, achieving thus better results in terms of economic growth and poverty reduction.

This study also serves as a follow-up on the STOA report from 2001.

Click here for a summary of the study findings and let us know what you think.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/27/delivering-the-full-benefits-of-ict-to-the-developing-world/

Combatting terrorism: prepare for a marathon, not a sprint

Written by Patryk Pawlak,

Global trends in terrorism

Global trends in terrorism

The analysis of trends in global terrorism demonstrates that over the past 10 years the number of countries affected by terrorism has increased from 49 in 2004 to 99 in 2014, bringing the total number of people killed in terrorist attacks to over 43 000. The terrorist attacks in Paris, Tunis, Bamako, Ankara, Beirut and most recently in Jakarta demonstrate clearly that the threat of terrorism is no longer confined to regions with weak institutions or a security vacuum.

The emergence of ISIL/Da’esh in 2014 and its successful campaign – both in terms of territorial gains and spreading terrorist ideology – have influenced other terrorist organisations worldwide, resulting in the expansion of the self-proclaimed caliphate beyond the borders of Syria and Iraq. Intelligence reports suggest that ISIL/Da’esh is increasing its operations in Central Asia, particularly in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The Western Balkans, too, are increasingly at the centre of attention given their role as hubs for transit and logistics for jihadists travelling to and from the conflict zones in Syria and Iraq. Several smaller groups have intensified their operations, including ISIL/Da’esh affiliated Ansar Biet al-Maqdis (also known as Wilayat Sinai) or an al-Qaeda’s offshoot al-Mourabitoun in Mali. It is also estimated that about 30 000 foreign fighters from all over the world have joined the ranks of ISIL/Da’esh.

Regarding the tactics and instruments used, the attacks on civilian targets (e.g. universities, hotels, shopping malls or places of worship) have intensified suggesting that small-scale and unsophisticated attacks which spread fear across Europe and in other regions might become more frequent. A scenario of a more catastrophic attack with the use of non-conventional weapons has been also presented even though conducting such attack would require significant resources and capacities. At the same time, the use of internet and new technologies has increased the capacity of terrorist groups to collect funds, recruit new members or spread propaganda via the internet. Analysis of the primary sources of funding of ISIL/Da’esh also confirms its reliance on bank looting and extortion, control of oil fields and refineries and robbery of economic assets.

Against this background, the European Union has taken a number of concrete measures aimed at limiting the terrorists’ capacity to operate both in the EU and in third countries resulting in an increase in the EU and Member State spending on counterterrorism. Following the terrorist attacks in Paris in January 2015, the European Council of 12 February 2015 adopted a statement outlining the EU’s counterterrorism agenda based on three pillars: ensuring the security of citizens, preventing radicalisation and safeguarding values and cooperating with international partners.

With regard to EU assistance to third countries, the Foreign Affairs Council of 9 February 2015 adopted conclusions on counter-terrorism which underline the importance of strengthening cooperation with the EU’s partners in North Africa, the Middle East, the Gulf, Turkey and the Balkans. Since February 2015, counterterrorism and security experts have been appointed to EU delegations in Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and Nigeria. In September, the EU and Tunisia met for the first time in the ‘targeted and upgraded’ counterterrorism political dialogue resulting in the adoption of a €23 million security sector reform programme. The EU’s thematic priorities for external counterterrorism engagement include: foreign terrorist fighters, border security, aviation security, combatting the financing of terrorism, countering violent extremism, and strategic communication.

The European Parliament has taken a stance on terrorism-related issues on several occasions. In February 2015, the Parliament called on Member States and the Commission to invest in addressing root cause of radicalisation, including through educational programmes, promoting integration, and social inclusion, among others. It has also expressed concern about radicalisation processes in prisons and asked EU Member States to pay particular attention to prison and detention conditions. In addition, the Parliament called on the Commission to evaluate as a matter of urgency the existing EU rules on the movement of illegal arms. The European Parliament’s work on counterterrorism continued throughout 2015 leading to the adoption of the resolution on Prevention of radicalisation and recruitment of European citizens by terrorist organisations. At the same time, while remaining committed to improving security of EU citizens, the European Parliament has also made it clear that it was not willing to compromise citizens’ civil liberties.

The Paris terrorist attacks of 13 November 2015 have once again highlighted the urgency of addressing the EU’s main weaknesses in the fight against terrorism. That momentum allowed the European Parliament and the Council to reach compromise on some of the most difficult dossiers in the past years: the EU Passenger Name Records system, Europol and the Network Information Security Directive. However, the key issue when considering EU legislation is its implementation. Given that the competences on counter-terrorism lie with national authorities, Member States have the primary responsibility for the implementation of EU laws. Since 9/11 the EU has adopted many pieces of legislation but Member States have not implemented these measures properly, in particular with regard to the cooperation between the Member States and Europol.

Unfortunately, the fight against terrorism and violent extremism is likely to stay on the policy agenda in the years to come. Therefore, to combat terrorism the international community needs to prepare for a marathon and not a sprint. The European Parliamentary Research Service through its research continues to support Members of the European Parliament in their effort to develop effective counter terrorism legislation and policies – from the start to the finish line.

See also a list of publications related to ‘Terrorism: the EU’s response‘,
which we prepared for the Press Seminar on terrorism organised by the EP’s Press Service on 26 January 2016.


Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/26/combatting-terrorism-prepare-for-a-marathon-not-a-sprint/

Seeking a better future for Syria

Written by Patryk Pawlak,

The total humanitarian, development, economic and stabilisation assistance provided by the EU and its Member States to Syrians and Syrian refugees since the beginning of the conflict amounts to over €4.4 billion. Following amendments to the EU budget last year, the total EU response in 2015 and 2016 will reach a total of almost €10 billion. That means that every EU citizen spends about one cent a day in support of a better future of Syria and the Syrian people.

How did it all begin?

Division of groups by ideology

Division of groups by ideology

The conflict in Syria has its roots in structural and economic problems that were already widespread in Syria in the early 2000s. Prior to the violent uprising of 2011, the countries of the greater Fertile Crescent experienced one of the most severe droughts in history. According to the United Nations Response Plan, by 2009, some 1.3 million inhabitants of eastern Syria had been affected by this disaster, with 803 000 persons having lost almost their entire livelihoods and facing extreme hardship. Between 2006 and 2009 the income of over 75 641 affected households decreased by 90% and their assets and livelihoods were severely compromised, resulting in large-scale migration out of the affected areas to urban areas (figures range from 40 000 to 60 000 families). At the time, the international community was slow to respond to the appeals of major donor organisations: according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, as of June 2010, only 33% of the required assistance had been provided. A report by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States suggests that a mass migration of farming families to urban centres and growing inequalities eventually contributed to the political unrest.

Where do we stand?

Since the beginning of the fighting in Syria in 2011, the conflict has forced over 4.3 million Syrians to flee the country and seek refuge across the region – primarily in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. Another 6.6 million people have been internally displaced. About 394 000 people live deprived of food and basic products in besieged areas in Syria. On 18 December 2015, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2254 – the first UN resolution laying out a possible political solution to the conflict in Syria, as Russia and China have vetoed four other UN Security Council resolutions on Syria since 2011. The resolution – mirroring in many aspects the agreement of 14 November 2015 reached by the 17-nation strong International Syria Support Group – includes a clear timeline towards peace in Syria: UN-mediated political talks to start in January 2016, followed by a national ceasefire, and a Syrian political transition (including UN-administered elections) before July 2017. But such a tight timeline might be very difficult to maintain.

The declared aim of fighting ISIL/Da’esh has prompted the involvement of several external actors. The United States mounted a 65-nation global coalition in September 2014 – with 22 coalition members currently engaged in the military operation ‘Inherent Resolve’. The ‘Train and Equip Program’ for Syrian soldiers to counter ISIL/Da’esh, launched in parallel to the aerial operation, brought limited results and has since been discontinued. Following the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015; France, the United Kingdom and Germany expanded military operations in Syria. For the first time in history, France also invoked the mutual defence clause enshrined in Article 42(7) of the Lisbon Treaty, requesting all EU partners to assist France in fighting ISIL/Da’esh. Russia’s involvement in fighting ISIL/Da’esh – in addition to supporting the government in Damascus – intensified in November 2015 following the terrorist attack on a Russian aeroplane in Egypt. Iran initially denied any military engagement, claiming that its involvement was in a purely ‘advisory’ capacity. However, numerous media reports suggest that at least 57 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps have been killed in Syria. Turkey’s involvement has also grown – including through direct military action and opening Turkish airspace and bases to coalition forces.

What role for the European Parliament?

The EU contribution to building refugee and host community resilience

The EU contribution to building refugee and host community resilience

Throughout 2015, the European Parliament was closely involved in the implementation of the legislative package proposed by the European Commission under the umbrella of the European Agenda on Migration. The European Parliament’s approach was laid down in its resolution of 10 September 2015 on migration and refugees in Europe. After having approved the first temporary emergency rules for relocating an initial 40 000 refugees from Italy and Greece, on 17 September 2015 the European Parliament backed the Commission’s new proposal to relocate an additional 120 000 asylum-seekers from Italy, Greece and Hungary.

As co-legislator, the Parliament is expected to take a position on the proposal for a regulation concerning a European list of safe countries of origin and monitor progress on the implementation of the hotspots in Greece and Italy. The European Parliament has also adopted a series of resolutions concerning humanitarian needs in Syria, in particular the situation in Palmyra and the Yarmouk refugee camp. In November 2015, the EP adopted a resolution on prevention of radicalisation and recruitment of European citizens by terrorist organisations, in which it stresses the vital importance of the EU establishing close cooperation with third countries, in particular with regard to strengthening links between internal and external security in the EU, promoting the exchange of good practices on deradicalisation, and dismantling terrorist networks.

What will happen next?

Political talks between the opposition groups and the Syrian government – planned for the beginning of January 2016 – have been already postponed to 25 January, and further delays are possible given the scope of unresolved issues, such as: finding a realistic middle ground between the pro- and anti-Assad camps; reconciling divergent positions of pro-government forces and hundreds of anti-government groups on a wide variety of issues; and establishing a list of the groups that will be allowed to participate in the political transition process.

With regard to the humanitarian situation in Syria, the donors’ conference – a follow up to previous pledging conferences organised by Kuwait – is scheduled for 4 February 2016 in London and will be hosted by the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the UN. According to a socioeconomic and damage assessment report by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), even if the conflict ceased today and GDP grew at an average rate of 5% each year, it would take the Syrian economy an estimated 30 years to return to the economic level of 2010. As the EU enters the final stage of its period of reflection on a Global Security Strategy, the tools and instruments needed to build more resilient societies, strengthen crisis management mechanisms, and step-up the democracy support processes need to be further explored.

Mentioned in this post:

Iran in Syria: Deal-maker or deal-breaker?

Russia in Syria: Playing for high stakes

United States and Syria: Strained credibility

The EU’s mutual assistance clause. First ever activation of article 42(7) TEU

Safe countries of origin. Proposed common EU list

US humanitarian response to the Syrian refugee crisis

Risk and resilience in foreign policy

International coalition to counter ISIL/Da’esh (the ‘Islamic State’)


Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/19/seeking-a-better-future-for-syria/

The World Economic Forum: Influential and controversial

Written by Angelos Delivorias,

Davos sign

© gustavofrazao / Fotolia

The World Economic Forum is considered to have significant influence. At the same time, it attracts considerable criticism. To its proponents, the organisation – through its meetings – enables business, NGOs and political leaders to meet and debate possible solutions to key issues of global concern. To its critics, the Forum, and specifically its annual meetings, is nothing more than an opaque venue for political and business leaders to take decisions without having to account to their electorate or shareholders. Nevertheless, its longevity and the high profile of those attending its events, make it an organisation that is well known and widely referenced.

This year, the Forum’s Annual Meeting – with the theme ‘Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution: how to adapt to the transformation of production, distribution and consumption systems, caused by mobile internet, smaller, cheaper and more powerful sensors, as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning’ – will be co‑chaired by six personalities from varying backgrounds, and attended by over 2 500 participants, including several European Commissioners.

Read the complete briefing on ‘The World Economic Forum: Influential and controversial‘ here.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/19/the-world-economic-forum-influential-and-controversial/

The Netherlands Presidency of the Council of the EU

Written by Vilma Karvelyte and Ingeborg Odink


Government of the Netherlands

Every 6 months on a rotating schedule , one European Union (EU) Member State leads the work of the Council of the EU. From 1 January 2016, the Netherlands will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from Luxembourg and will hold it until 30 June 2016, when the Presidency will be passed to the next trio partners Slovakia (from 1 July 2016) and Malta (from 1 January 2017). The Netherlands have already held the revolving  presidency of the Council of the EU eleven times between 1960 and 2004. The Declaration of Cooperation among the Houses of Parliaments of the Netherlands, Slovakia and Malta in support of the preparation and fulfilment of the parliamentary dimension of the Presidencies of these three EU Member States was signed on 20 April 2015.

The main priorities of the Netherlands Presidency’s six month programme are: 1) migration and international security; 2) creating growth and jobs through innovation; 3) sound finances and robust Eurozone; and 4) forward-looking climate and energy policy. These broad priorities are in line with the Council’s June 2014 Strategic agenda for the EU . More information on the Netherlands Presidency’s priorities can be found on the Presidency website .


The Netherlands Presidency – official website: eu2016.nl/
This website provides the latest news from the Dutch Presidency, live broadcasts from events and practical information.

Calendar for Council meetings during the first semester of 2016, January 2016

The agenda includes meetings and activities to be held in Brussels, Strasbourg and Amsterdam.

Knowledge & Innovation Calendar , Netherlands House for Education and Research, 20 November 2015
This Knowledge and Innovation Calendar provides an overview of all events scheduled by Dutch knowledge institutes during the Dutch presidency. These events will showcase best practices in Dutch education, research and innovation projects.

Recommendations and outlooks

Letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the House of Representatives on substantive preparations for the 2016 Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union, 28 January 2015, 16 p.

Letter from the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands to the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs on the priorities for the Dutch EU-Presidency, 14 December 2014, 5 p. (in Dutch)

Priority dossiers under the Dutch EU Council Presidency / Dora Boytha, European Parliamentary Research Service, 17 December 2015, 9 p.
This note aims to present the state of affairs in the policy fields of Dutch priority, as well as the most important related dossiers to be addressed by the Dutch Presidency.

The EESC priorities during the Dutch Presidency , 2015, 15 p.

Press release of the Committee of the Regions – Dutch EU Presidency to focus on investments, urban strategy and better regulation in 2016

TEPSA-recommendations to the Dutch EU-Presidency , 2015, 21 p.
Recommendations of the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’, the Trans European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) and representatives from national and European political institutions, civil society, media and academia on the priorities of the Dutch Council Presidency and other topics that are relevant on the current and future EU agenda.

The Netherlands: An Unexpectedly Turbulent EU Presidency / David Bokhorst , European Futures, 7 December 2015
This article takes a closer look at the challenges which the Netherlands will have to face in coordinating Council affairs.

Amnesty International recommendations to the Dutch EU Presidency , January – June 2016, 12 p.
Amnesty International recommendations to the Dutch EU Presidency on human rights issues in relation to six thematic areas: migration, anti-discrimination, human rights in the EU, human rights defenders, conflict minerals, and ending torture.

The European Asscher agenda / the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’, 9 December 2015, 11 p.
The sensitive topic of labour migration is one of the main focal points of the Dutch Presidency. The aim of this policy brief is to identify the areas of tension with regard to this specific priority of the Dutch EU Presidency. The challenges posed by the Dutch agenda include the balance between internal market and social policy objectives, the diverging interests of the “receiving” and  “sending” countries and the role of labour migration in the EMU.

Recommendations of the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union speaking for American business in Europe (AmCham EU) to the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union, 2015, 28 p.
AmCham EU believes that the Dutch Presidency comes at critical time in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations and hopes that the Netherlands will continue to help facilitate these and push for more enhanced cooperation across the Atlantic. AmCham EU hopes the Dutch openness and commitment to trade will also be a determining factor in pushing for a more ambitious EU trade policy and pleads for action in five key areas: building skills for the future, furthering integration of the single market, promoting revolutionary change for industrial leadership, developing new models of innovation and entrepreneurship, and fostering Europe’s leadership in an integrated global economy.

The Social and Employment Situation in the Netherlands and Outlook on the Dutch EU Presidency 2016 / Bert-Jan Buiskool, Simon Broek, Giancarlo Dente, Policy Department A: Economy and Scientific Policy, European Parliament, October 2015, 12 p.
This European Parliament briefing note gives an overview of current issues in the employment and social policy fields in the Netherlands, and prospects for the Dutch Presidency.

Dutch Presidency: The stars aligned? / Arne Koeppel, FTI Consulting, September 2015, 4 p.
In this publication, Dutch Public Affairs firm IvCB, together with FTI Consulting, takes a closer look at the upcoming Presidency and analyses its’ significance for business.

Fern’s proposed priorities for the Dutch Presidency: Addressing EU Drivers of Deforestation , March 2015, 2 p.
In this publication, non-governmental organisation Fern highlights three policy areas where they see a clear role for the Netherlands to take an initiative under its Council Presidency, namely: an Action Plan on reducing deforestation and respecting rights, EU sustainable bioenergy policy and a follow up on the outcomes of the review of the FLEGT Action Plan.


Programme of the Netherlands Presidency of the Council of the European Union (1 January – 30 June 2016), 21 p. (in English)

On 3 December 2015 the General Affairs Council endorsed The 18 month programme of the Council (1 January 2016 – 30 June 2017) , prepared by the Dutch, Slovak and Maltese Presidencies and the High Representative, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Council, 3 December 2015, 24 p.
This programme will serve as a guideline for the presidency for the next 18 months and is to provide continuity to the policy followed by the Council of the European Union.

Country-related information

Rijksoverheid.nl is the collective website of the 11 Dutch ministries . The site provides information on legislative proposals, regulation and policy plans, e.g. the stage of proceedings they are in, their consequences for citizens etc. The site also provides information on the Dutch government , e.g. government plans. Information from the Government and its ministries to the non-Dutch speaking international and domestic public is communicated via the English language website Government.nl .

Overheid.nl is the central access point to all information about government organisations in the Netherlands. ‘Dutch government websites’ provides a selection of websites on subjects such as tourism, trade and culture. You will also find links to the English-language pages. of the websites of Dutch government organisations. Under ‘About the Dutch government’ you will find information on how Dutch government services are organised.

The country page of One World Nations Online gives a broad overview of Netherlands’ art, culture, people, environment, geography, history, economy and government.


Statistics Netherlands provides statistical information on a multitude of societal aspects, from macro-economic indicators such as economic growth and consumer prices, to the incomes of individual people and households in the Netherlands.

Eurostat provides statistics at European level that enable comparisons between countries and regions. Here you can also find a statistical profile of the Netherlands .

Facts and figures about the Netherlands and its representation and position in the EU can be found on the country page of the official website of the European Union ( http://europa.eu/ )


Latest (website of the Netherlands Presidency)

TV-Newsroom (website of the Council of the European Union)

Latest news about Netherlands Presidency of the Council of the EU , source EMM (European Commission)

EurActiv – EU news and policy debates: Dutch Presidency


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Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/19/the-netherlands-presidency-of-the-council-of-the-eu/

European Commission’s 2016 Work Programme

Written by Ariane Debyser

Road to 2016

© Marco2811 / Fotolia

On 27 October 2015, the European Commission adopted its Work Programme for the year ahead (2016 CWP), and presented it to the European Parliament the same day. Based on the 10 political guidelines set out in mid-2014 by President Jean-Claude Juncker, it builds on the ‘framework strategies’ adopted by the Commission since entering office and places emphasis on the legislative measures and concrete followup actions needed to implement them.

The 2016 CWP includes relatively few entirely new actions. Most of the initiatives it contains have already been announced and fit into the framework strategies presented earlier; a few of them were to be presented before the end of 2015. The CWP also looks beyond 2016, providing for the necessary preparatory work, such as evaluations, consultations or impact assessments, for actions to be included in future work programmes.

Confronted with major unexpected events dominating the political agenda, such as the migration crisis and, more recently, the major terrorist attacks in Paris, the Commission may be compelled, as in 2015, to adapt to emerging challenges, taking immediate action and/or accelerating implementation in certain areas (for example, with counter-terrorism measures).

The EP had adopted a resolution in September 2015 setting out its recommendations for the forthcoming CWP. In that it called on the Commission to use its right of initiative to the full extent, in order to give the Union clear leadership, reaffirmed its attachment to the ‘Community method’ and welcomed progress in the negotiations on a new inter-institutional agreement on better law-making, since completed.

Find the complete briefing on ‘European Commission’s 2016 Work Programme

Listen to EPRS policy podcast on YouTube on the Commission Work Programme 2016:

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/18/european-commissions-2016-work-programme/

Understanding the EU Rule of Law mechanisms

Written by Eva-Maria Poptcheva,

EU Law

© Esin Deniz / Fotolia

The European Union is founded on values common to all Member States. These are supposed to ensure a level of homogeneity among Member States, while respecting their national identities, and so facilitate the development of a European identity and their integration based on mutual trust. Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union provides mechanisms to enforce EU values, based on a decision by the Council with the participation of the Commission and Parliament.

The current mechanism is said to be unusable due to the high thresholds needed to adopt a decision in the Council, as well as Member States’ political unwillingness to use it. Various new approaches have been proposed by academics and by political actors, from a new independent monitoring body – the ‘Copenhagen Commission’, through extending the mandate of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), to introducing the possibility for the EU to suspend national measures suspected of infringing EU law.

In 2014, the Commission adopted a new ‘Rule of Law Framework’ featuring a structured dialogue between the Commission and the Member State concerned and Commission recommendations and follow-up. On 13 January 2016, the Commission decided for the first time to initiate such an assessment of the situation in a Member State, with regard to two Polish laws – on the powers of the constitutional court and on the management of state TV and radio broadcasters.

The European Parliament launched the idea of a ‘European fundamental rights policy cycle’ with the cooperation of the EU institutions, Member States and the FRA, as a ‘new Copenhagen mechanism’ to monitor the situation in Member States. At present, Parliament’s Civil Liberties and Justice Committee is drafting a legislative own-initiative report on an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, relying on common and objective indicators.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Understanding the EU Rule of Law mechanisms‘ here.

Key events regarding the EU rule of law

1997, Amsterdam Treaty: Article 7 sanctioning mechanism for violation of rule of law, fundamental rights and other basic principles is established.

2000: Bilateral sanctions against Austria in response to the arrival in government of the Freedom Party (FPÖ).

2009, Lisbon Treaty: EU values are introduced into the Treaties, replacing the previous ‘principles’.

2010-2012: Several Member States under scrutiny for possible rule of law violations: France for collective expulsions of Roma, Romania for non-compliance with Constitutional Court decisions, Hungary for measures affecting the independence of its judiciary.

March 2013: Commission presented the EU Justice Scoreboard, including statistics on the justice systems in the Member States and data on the relationship between compliance with the rule of law and the functioning of the internal market.

March 2013: Letter from the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands to the Commission President, calling for a new mechanism to safeguard fundamental values in the EU.

March 2014: Commission adopts a Communication on a Rule of Law Framework as an earlier phase, complementary to the Article 7 TEU mechanisms.

December 2014: Council decides to hold an annual ‘dialogue’ in the General Affairs Council on the ‘rule of law’ in Member States.

2015/2016: EP legislative own-initiative report ‘EU mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights’ (LIBE Committee).

13 January 2016: European Commission launches structured dialogue with Poland under the Rule of Law Framework.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/18/understanding-the-eu-rule-of-law-mechanisms/