Месечни архиви: April 2016

Fighting trade in tools for torture and executions [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Ionel Zamfir (1st edition),

Old chains or shackles used for locking up prisoners or slaves

© Asmus Koefoed / Fotolia

The EU is committed to fighting torture and use of the death penalty throughout the world. Both phenomena continue to afflict a significant number of countries, and trade in torture tools is booming in the world. One of the most important measures taken by the EU has been its 2005 Regulation imposing restrictions in trade in torture tools. Despite some visible effects, it has been repeatedly criticised for loopholes which allow trade in goods that could be used for torture, executions and other ill-treatment, as well as related activities like brokering or advertising such goods to continue.

Responding to a 2010 European Parliament resolution, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal to amend the Regulation in 2014. The proposal, which is based on the approach that only proportionate and necessary trade restrictions should be imposed – to avoid cumbersome administrative procedures to exporters – addresses only in part the EP’s recommendations and the concerns of civil society organisations fighting torture. The EP’s International Trade Committee adopted several amendments that effectively address concerns raised by these organisations.


Stage: Submitted to Plenary


Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/04/05/fighting-trade-in-tools-for-torture-and-executions-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Japan and the EU [What Think Tanks are Thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

After more than two decades of economic stagnation, Japan is pushing ahead with a ‘three arrow’ reform package aimed at reviving growth through fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural changes, a strategy known as ‘Abenomics’, after the name of Liberal Democrat Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. The reforms are being pursued against a challenging background of high government debt, an ageing population and a fragile external security environment, with, for example, North Korea pushing ahead with its nuclear arms programme.

As advanced industrialised democracies, the EU and Japan have many common interests and values. The scope of the overall relationship has broadened in recent years, along the lines foreseen in the 2001 Action Plan. The EU and Japan are currently working towards a new Framework Agreement and a Free Trade Agreement.

This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on relations between Japan and the EU, as well as on economic and political developments in that country.

EU-Japan relations:

EU-Japan flags

ruskpp / Shutterstock

Advancing the EU-Japan strategic partnership in a transforming global environment: Challenges, opportunities and prospects
European Policy Centre, March 2016

Europe and Japan: Country by country
European Council on Foreign Relations, December 2015

The Japan-EU regulatory cooperation a key agenda for a ‘living partnership’
European Centre for International Political Economy, July 2015

Japan-Europe cooperation for peace and stability: Pursuing synergies on a comprehensive approach
Tokyo Foundation, June 2015

The Japan-EU partnership on global development
German Marshall Fund, June 2015

Negotiating in the shadow of TTIP and TTP: EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement
German Marshall Fund, June 2015

EU and Japan: Stepping up the game
European Union Institute for Security Studies, May 2015

The EU–Japan Summit considered in light of the renewed US–Japan defence guidelines: New momentum for the strategic partnership?
Egmont, May 2015

Waking up to geopolitics: A new trajectory to Japan-Europe relations
German Marshall Fund, May 2015

Japan’s new Middle East policy: Good news for Europe?
Clingendael, February 2015

Prospects for the EU-Japan strategic partnership
EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation, European University Institute, December 2014

Energy Union: Can Europe learn from Japan’s joint gas purchasing?
Centre for European Policy Studies, December 2014

Lessons from the Bank of Japan for the euro area
Bruegel, November 2014

EU-Japan Free Trade agreement negotiations: Stuck between TPP and TTIP?
Euro-Asia Management Association, November 2014

Will Europe scratch Japan’s back?
Centre for European Reform, June 2014

The Japan-EU negotiations on railway
European Centre for International Political Economy, April 2014

Growing the Japan-Europe partnership
Tokyo Foundation, April 2014

Japan and the EU in the global economy
Bruegel, April 2014

EU–Japan Free Trade Agreement: Opportunities and challenges for businesses in the CEE
Polish Institute of Foreign Affairs, March 2014

Other selected studies on Japan:

The telling of Japan’s ‘lost decade’: A comparison with the narration of the US and EU crises
Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry, March 2016

Is Japan caught in an upper income trap?
Asia Forum Japan, March 2016

La motivation pour l’armée japonaise est-elle en déclin?
Institut des relations internationales et stratégiques, March 2016

ASEAN’s regional role and relations with Japan: The challenges of deeper integration
Chatham House, February 2016

Japan’s security evolution
Cato Institute, February 2016

The future of capitalist democracy: UK-Japan perspectives
Chatham House, February 2016

The Abe restoration: Pushing past Japan’s wartime legacy and restoring a responsible use of force
Center for Strategic and International Studies, December 2015

The new Japan paradox
European Council on Foreign Relations, December 2015

Can the magic of Abenomics succeed?
Centre d’études prospectives et d’informations internationales, December 2015

Japan after two years of ‘Abenomics’
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, March 2015

Fukushima: Four years later
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, April 2015

Japan’s Security Policy: A Shift in Direction under Abe?
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, March 2015

The effort to stabilise the financial system in Japan: An outline and the characteristics of the programme for financial revival
Bruegel, March 2015

Japan again under Abe: Fresh start or more of the (not so great) same?
Bertelsmann Stiftung, February 2015

Japan is back’, including a new defense posture
Friends of Europe, October 2014.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/04/05/japan-and-the-eu/

Do we know enough about our brain?

Written by Sarah McCormack and Nera Kuljanic,

Brain disorders cost Europe nearly 800 billion euro a year, which is far greater than the cost resulting from cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes combined. On 15 March 2016 the EP’s Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel hosted a workshop in conjunction with the DANA Foundation in the context of the Brain Awareness Week (14-20 March 2016), an ongoing annual campaign promoting better understanding of the brain. The event brought together some of the leading European minds in neuroscience research. The DANA Foundation promotes brain awareness through partnering with organisations worldwide and organising wide-ranging activities, from classroom workshops, social media campaigns and open days at neuroscience labs. This workshop was chaired by Paul Rübig, STOA Chair, and moderated by Marina Bentivoglio, from the Department of Neuroscience, University of Verona.

Europe’s key role in neuroscience research

The keynote speaker, Richard Morris, from the University of Edinburgh, examined the rich tradition of neuroscience research carried out in Europe and worldwide by Europeans, as illustrated by the celebrated examples of the work of Alois Alzheimer, Alan Lloyd Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley. The work of European neuroscientists has led to the development of key insights in neuroscience.

It is estimated that 47 million people worldwideuffer from dementia and this number is only expected to increase in the future, especially in low and middle-income countries. Referring to their recent publication, Bengt Winblad and Angel Cedazo-Minguez from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden said that Alzheimer’s disease is a quiet epidemic, which requires urgent action. Their forward-looking recommendations for European policy-makers included developing EU guidelines for the provision of dementia care and the standardisation of biomarkers for research and clinical practice.

Better research is needed

Within research, raw data often goes missing, roughly 30% of graphs are ambiguous and a large number of trials give inadequate treatment descriptions, said Niall Boyce from The Lancet Psychiatry. So what could be done to improve the capability and capacity of the authors and reviewers? He explained that The Lancet has introduced a REWARD (REduce research Waste And Reward Diligence) campaign to promote and highlight well conducted research with minimal waste of resources, aiming for valid, credible and relevant outcomes.

Cerebral palsy, a movement and motor disorder appearing in early childhood, is another brain disorder plaguing Europe. Bernard Dan, from the European Academy of Childhood Disability, said that better research was needed for more targeted treatment and better training of clinicians in childhood brain disorders.

Mental disorders are some of the greatest challenges facing European society today. There is a link between the economic crisis and an increase in mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. Mara Dierssen, from the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, explained that an issue at the moment is that large companies have started to downsize their neuroscience research divisions and the number of drugs developed has halved in the last decade. She called for more funding in this field, as it would benefit society as a whole through greater understanding and better treatment of brain disorders.

What next?

In the discussion session after the presentations, the speakers highlighted that, besides more funding and efficient European research, greater integration between national and transnational research funding is needed more than ever. Political support will be crucial in both the creation of and maintaining of neuroscience research posts within universities and research centres. Mr Rübig concluded the event by explaining that the European Research Area should provide a common space for European researchers; this is something that needs to be further developed. There is a need to better facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills between researchers working towards common goals in different European countries.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/04/04/do-we-know-enough-about-our-brain/

European Union relations with Africa

Written by Marc Hall with Clare Ferguson,

EU-Africa relations, based on the Cotonou Agreement and the 2007 Joint Africa-EU Strategy, are centred on the promotion of peace and security on the continent. Activities include dialogue on policies including human rights issues such as women’s empowerment, decent work and social protection, the position of LGBT people, youth and activism; as well as democratic values in local governance, observation and elections, conflict prevention and resolution, conflict minerals and sustainable development.

Conflict minerals

One of the headline political concerns in EU relations with African countries is the issue of conflict minerals. Africa’s rich mineral deposits have often been described in terms of a ‘resource curse’, with competition over their extraction fuelling a cycle of conflict; however mining, for elements such as tungsten, tin and coltan, could potentially contribute to the economic and social development of local communities. The European Parliament, Commission and Council are currently in the process of discussing the final legislative text on the exploitation of these resources (by European companies), after the Parliament recently issued its amendments, including a mandatory certification scheme for minerals that goes beyond the original proposal of a voluntary system.

Decent work and social protection

EU Commissioners meet their African counterparts

© michal812 / Fotolia

Decent work and social protection in Africa is viewed as integral to balanced economic development, as reiterated in recent international fora such as the UN Sustainable Development Summit and the Addis Ababa conference on financing for development. Despite many African countries’ wealth of resources, the social situation for many remains difficult, such as in Nigeria where the exploitation of oil has delivered only limited social benefits. South Africa, another of the continent’s largest economies, has also failed to see progress distributed evenly amongst all social groupings, despite policies introduced post-Apartheid aimed at establishing social justice. One EU strategy to improve the working and social situation in third countries is the inclusion of social standards in economic partnership agreements, notably the Cotonou Agreement.

Women’s empowerment

Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is the 5th UN Sustainable Development Goal. Women are viewed as having a crucial role in addressing the key challenges of this century, such as poverty, inequality, and violence against women, as outlined in the European Year for Development. Women comprise the majority of small-scale farm labour in Africa and are therefore vital to achieving food security, as discussed at last year’s Universal Exhibition, Expo Milano, and at the International Day of Rural Women. Recognition of the role women can play in ensuring sustainable development, has also led to the mainstreaming of gender issues into other policy areas, such as EU trade policy. Furthermore, women’s rights, including active participation in public life, can serve as a useful litmus test for countries undergoing democratic transitions.

Sustainability and local governance

Sustainable development is development that balances economic, social and environmental objectives, without one coming at the expense of another. In this regard, governance on the local level is viewed as paramount, as it brings decision-making closer to where it is implemented and allows local actors to devise solutions that are pertinent to their area. The Social Economy, already a concept widely recognised in the EU, is gaining increasing attention amongst policymakers as a way to achieve equitable local development in other parts of the world.

EU/EP Election Observation in Africa: Experiences and Challenges

The European Parliament is highly active in election observation, as part of its commitment, enshrined in Articles 2 and 21 TEU and Article 205 TFEU, to promote democracy worldwide. Supporting democracy in Africa includes, for example, observation of elections in individual countries, such as in Niger, or monitoring the fulfilment of political pledges by leaders once they have been elected, such as Senegal President Macky Sall‘s decision not to apply a reduction of the presidential term, part of a number of constitutional changes, to his current mandate, despite an earlier electoral promise.

Conflict prevention and resolution

The past few years have unfortunately seen a number of conflicts break out on the African continent, such as in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. African countries have also had to deal with the threat of Islamic extremist groups, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Shabab in Somalia, groups affiliated with Islamic State and Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and Mali.

Political integration remains an important avenue for dealing with conflicts, in particular in the form of the African Union. The regional integration organisation has developed, for example, a sophisticated framework for dealing with coups d’états. The African continent has witnessed more than 200 military coups, successful or aborted, since 1960. However, the AU’s relations in recent years with the International Criminal Court, which plays a key role in prosecuting individuals accused of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, is cause for concern.

LGBTI rights

The rights of LGBTI people in Africa are a prominent issue. According to Human Dignity Trust, an NGO supporting people wishing to challenge anti-gay laws, just under half of the world’s laws that criminalise homosexuality are in Africa. More than four of five African countries have laws criminalising homosexuality or punishing LGBTI rights advocacy, as of 2014. The encouragement and non-punishment of discrimination can lead to violence against an LGBTI person in African countries, including rape and murder. Attitudes to the LGBTI community appear to be changing, however, with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopting a resolution in 2014 calling for the protection of all people’s rights regardless of actual or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity. Recent African court decisions have also reaffirmed these rights.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/04/04/european-union-relations-with-africa/

Patents and plant breeders’ rights

GMO plant in biological laboratory

Science photo / Fotolia

Following the decision of the European Patents Office (EPO) to authorise patents on certain products derived from conventional selection methods, many citizens have called on Parliament, as well as the Commission, to take steps in order to clarify existing EU rules and protect plant breeders’ access to biological resources.

Plant breeding is an innovative process that has been practised by farmers and farming communities since the birth of agriculture. For the sake of genetic diversity, it is important to have access to varieties and breeding methods that are not patented.

In response to the decision of the EPO to authorise two patents on tomato and broccoli derived from conventional selection methods, Parliament calls on the Commission to urgently clarify the existing rules – in particular, the Directive on biotechnological inventions – and to forward the clarification to the EPO.

European Parliament resolutions

In its non-legislative resolution on patents and plant breeders’ rights of 17 December 2015, Parliament notes that ‘products obtained from essentially biological processes, such as plants, seeds, native traits and genes, should be excluded from patentability’.

At the same time, Parliament calls on the Commission to clarify the scope and interpretation of Directive 98/44/EC on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions ‘in order to ensure legal clarity regarding the prohibition of the patentability of products obtained from essentially biological processes, and to clarify that breeding with biological material falling under the scope of a patent is permitted’. This directive aims primarily to determine what is and what is not patentable within the framework of advances in techno-scientific research.

Additional information on this resolution is available in this press release of 17 December 2015. Moreover, a summary on the subject of the legal protection of biotechnological inventions has been published on EUR-Lex, the website on which EU laws can be accessed.

Parliament had already, in its resolution of 10 May 2012 on the patenting of essential biological processes, called on the EPO ‘to exclude from patenting products derived from conventional breeding and all conventional breeding methods’.

The European Patents Office (EPO)

The European Patents Office (OEPO) offers inventors a uniform patent application procedure which enables them to obtain patent protection in up to 40 European countries.

The EPO is the executive body of the European Patent Organisation, an intergovernmental organisation that was set up in 1977 on the basis of the European Patent Convention (EPC).

On 25 March 2015, the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the EPO decided to authorise patents on a tomato (G0002/12) and a broccoli (G0002/13) which had been derived from conventional breeding methods.

Previously, the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the EPO had decided in two similar cases regarding broccoli (G2/07) and tomatoes (G1/08) to exclude such processes from patentability on the same legal basis.

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Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/04/01/patents-and-plant-breeders-rights/

Countering terrorism in the EU

Written by Clare Ferguson,

Minute of silence to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attacks in Brussels

European Union 2016 – Source : EP

Although no agreed definition of terrorism yet exists, modern international terrorism continues to pose a considerable threat to democracy, freedom and security globally. Terrorists such as ISIL/Da’esh continue to strike soft targets worldwide, murdering civilians of many nationalities. The number of people killed and the number of countries affected continues to grow. The trend suggests that further attacks are likely, as recent events in Belgium have made all too clear. In Europe, calls for measures to increase effective international counter-terrorism activities grow ever louder. However, the transnational nature of modern, fourth wave terrorism poses individual states with great difficulties in confronting global terrorists in isolation. Intelligence-sharing and judicial cooperation between states would appear to be the key to combating the threat posed to freedom and security. While attacks against public transportation systems are unfortunately not a new phenomenon, coordination between Member States on the possibility of a terrorist attack using non-conventional weapons such as chemical, biological, radiological or even nuclear materials is also now urgently needed.

Although competence on counter-terrorism in the EU lies with the Member States, the EU has naturally sought to act in the face of the terrorist threat to European and international culture and the economy, and to strengthen coordination of Member State activities. The EU has been particularly active in the areas of prevention of radicalisation, the foreign fighters phenomenon, the criminal justice response, and cooperation with third countries (including cooperation with the USA since 9/11). The United Nations considers prolonged unresolved conflict as one of the main factors conducive to the spread of global terrorism. To this end, 0.22% of the EU’s Multi-annual Financial Framework for 2014-2020, representing some €2 338.72 million in commitments, is earmarked for the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). The policy is designed to preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security. Support for action to stem violence in the Middle East and parts of Africa could have positive international implications. Following the Paris attacks in 2015, the Commission proposed a Directive on combating terrorism which is currently under consideration in Parliament’s committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

The link between terrorism and organised crime is widely recognised; indeed some recent terrorist profiles have been linked to the trade in illegal drugs, as well as looting of heritage sites, and illegal trade in oil. In June 2014, the Financial Action Task Force concluded that convertible virtual currencies may also become a vehicle for terrorism financing activity, thanks to the high level of anonymity they afford. The EU Action Plan for strengthening the fight against terrorist financing specifically focuses on tackling the abuse of the financial system for terrorist financing purposes, and targeting the sources of terrorist funding. As part of that plan, it is expected that the fourth anti money-laundering Directive, which was adopted in May 2015, will be updated in the near future to include, amongst other things, provisions designed to counter the fear that terrorists may use virtual currencies to transfer funding.

Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs is also currently considering a Commission proposal on the European Criminal Records Information System, one objective of which is to reduce crime and foster crime prevention, including terrorism. This electronic system allows Member States to exchange information on previous convictions against an individual from a third country by criminal courts in the EU. The European Commission’s impact assessment indicates that the choices to be made (voluntary or mandatory fingerprinting for instance), will certainly be costly to implement, and are likely to be influenced by the volatile security situation.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/03/31/countering-terrorism-in-the-eu/