Месечни архиви: септември 2016

Climate change, Cotonou, Colombia and more – October I Plenary Session

Written by Clare Ferguson

Sunset outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg

© European Union 2015 – European Parliament

There is a distinctly global feel to the agenda for the first European Parliament plenary session of October. In preparation for the 22nd Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC in Marrakesh, Members return to the subject of climate change on Tuesday, with the ambition of the EU’s current pledges to cut emissions put into question in a draft resolution  by Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. Members have also tabled oral questions to the Council and Commission regarding the action they intend to take to ensure that COP 22 makes advances on the key elements of the Paris Agreement. Dependent on discussions among ministers in the Environment Council on 30 September, Parliament may also be asked to give its consent to the ratification of the Paris Agreement next week, with Ségolène Royal, president of the COP 21 expected to attend the vote. If it proves possible for the EU to conclude its ratification of the Paris Agreement in early October, the threshold for the agreement to enter into force would likely be reached before COP 22 starts.

The European Union has long held good relations with the 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries known as the ‘ACP’, however the ACP countries themselves are less and less homogenous. The Cotonou Agreement regulating EU-ACP relations since 2000 comes to an end in 2020, and unpicking the strands of the agreement, based on the core EU values of promoting democracy, supporting development and trade cooperation, would not be simple. Several options exist for replacing the Cotonou Agreement, and the first plenary session of October will kick-off with a debate on a report calling for the agreement to be renewed as a framework of direct agreements on a regional basis. Parliament’s priority is to ensure an equal political partnership, and to bring the European Development Fund, from which development assistance is paid, under the control of the EU budget.

While most people would agree that free trade in goods is a good thing, they would probably also agree that trade in items that could be used for torture or execution should be subject to strict controls. Balancing limitations to trade is delicate, and loopholes in current legislation are being exploited, despite the EU’s best efforts to ban and/or control trade of such materials. Members of the Parliament’s International Trade Committee have worked with civil society organisations and the Council to come to a compromise revising the current ban, on which Parliament will vote on Tuesday morning. The revision includes prohibiting services and advertising related to goods used in torture and execution, and the creation of an Anti-Torture Coordination Group.

Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has been asked to make a statement to Parliament regarding the Colombian Peace Process, following the signature of the Final Peace Agreement in Colombia on 26 September 2016, and which is likely to alter the EU relationship with the country.

Returning to European waters, EU agreements to protect European fisheries lay down agreed control measures, such as inspections at sea and on land, and sanctions for those who break the rules. It is vital that these controls are carried out in the same way for all fishing fleets in all EU countries. On Monday evening, Parliament will discuss the measures in place to ensure that, through Member State cooperation, fisheries rules are uniformly respected, and that control procedures and sanctions are standardised across the EU.

Another area where uniform legislation can help businesses to operate throughout the single market is that of materials which comes into contact with our food. The food that we eat is an excellent delivery system for chemicals – which may be either beneficial or harmful to our health. The issue of food contamination from packaging and other materials that come into contact with food also appears to be underestimated. On Wednesday, Parliament will debate a report by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), which indicates that there is a dangerous gap between the reality of food production in the EU, and the legislation governing food contact materials (FCM). Organisations representing both businesses and consumers appear to agree, as shown in an implementation assessment prepared by EPRS for the ENVI Committee. Members will look at ways to increase public health and consumer protection on food contact materials throughout the EU, whilst simultaneously harmonising regulation of FCMs to facilitate the single market.

Finally, an important element in ensuring that citizens enjoy their right to a free trial is making sure that those involved in criminal proceedings who do not have the means to access a lawyer are provided with legal aid. On Tuesday morning, Members will scrutinise a compromise to the Commission’s original proposal for a directive to ensure the effectiveness of the right to access to a lawyer in criminal and in European Arrest Warrant (EAW) proceedings, in a first reading.



Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/09/30/climate-change-cotonou-colombia-and-more-october-i-plenary-session/

Technology and inequality: Can computers help or is it ‘all their fault’?

Written by Dr Mihalis Kritikos,

Technology and inequality: Can computers help or is it ‘all their fault’?

© Scanrail1 / Shutterstock

On 11 October 2016, the European Parliament’s Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel will host a workshop, chaired by Panel member Georgi Pirinski (S&D, Bulgaria), to discuss the effects of new technologies on labour markets. The workshop will bring together policy-makers, experts from academia, industry representatives and NGOs to assess the practices in place and options for going forward.

The labour markets of the EU Member States are in a painfully slow recovery from the recession following the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. In absolute terms, on average 22.9 million people were unemployed in the European Union in 2015. The number of people unemployed for one year or more nearly doubled, from 6.1 to 12.3 million between 2008 and 2013.

Technological change and the risk of computerisation often raise fears that workers will be replaced by computers and computer-enabled robots. New technologies are expected to have profound effects on the types of skills that the workers of tomorrow will need, and a more disruptive impact on employment than during previous episodes of major technological innovation. In recent years, there has been a revival of concerns that automation and digitalisation might dramatically reshape labour markets, and may lead to the automation of a much broader range of tasks than just routine tasks, including those that were previously the exclusive domain of humans, resulting in what has been called technological unemployment. A range of policy reports has explored the relationship between digitalisation, jobs and skills and between technological change and job polarisation.

Today, there is an intensive discussion on the relationship between technology, employment and inequality. This STOA workshop will highlight the potential impact of new digital technologies – including driverless cars, the ‘digital’ factory, industrial and service robots, or ‘Big Data’ – in production, administration, or transport and logistics, and explore their potential implications for employment, skills, education and inequality in the coming decades.

Will these technologies create new jobs, new opportunities for European firms and bring back economic growth? Or will they lead to more unemployment, more polarisation between high-paid, high-skilled and low-paid, low-skilled jobs, and a exacerbate inequality in European societies? Who will win and who will lose from the impact of new technology on more traditional areas of employment? This workshop will bring together academic scholars, as well as experts from the European industry and the trade unions, to discuss these and related issues with policy-makers.

The speakers will provide an overview of the current digital transformation of EU industries, present industry and trade unions’ vision of the relationship between new technologies and employment, and investigate the relationship between technology, employment and skills in the European Union, and the ultimate distribution of the costs of digitalisation.

The workshop is highly topical, given the recent report from the United Kingdom Parliament on automation and the workforce, and the ongoing discussion within the European Parliament on the DELVAUX draft report on Civil Law Rules on Robotics, which is expected to provide a basis for future legislation at EU level. The draft report stresses the impact robotics could have, among other things, on future employment, and suggests a close monitoring of job trends, to avoid undesirable repercussions on the employment market.

Interested? Register for the workshop before 5 October and make your voice heard during the debate.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/09/30/technology-and-inequality-can-computers-help-or-is-it-all-their-fault/

The future of Jewish communities in Europe

The future of the Jewish communities in Europe. The mutating virus: understanding anti-semitism.

The future of the Jewish communities in Europe. The mutating virus: understanding anti-semitism.

Written by Magdalena Pasikowska-Schnass

Every society driven by hate […] ends by destroying itself’ (Lord Jonathan Sacks)

The second conference this year in the framework of Article 17 TFEU dialogue between the European Parliament and representatives of confessional, and philosophical and humanist organisations was held on 27 September 2016. Convened by EP President Martin Schulz and Antonio Tajani, Vice-President with responsibility for implementation of Article 17 TFEU, the event, which was attended by approximately 250 participants, was devoted to the future of the Jewish communities in Europe. The theme could scarcely be more topical, given the context of growing anti-Semitism, and violence against Jews in the EU, with growing numbers of Jews leaving Europe in recent years.

Vice-President Tajani’s opening speech, stressed the traditional presence of Jews in Europe, and was mirrored in President Schulz’s closing remarks on the essential contribution of Jewish communities to European culture and identity. The President’s statement that Europe has to be a better home for its Jewish citizens echoed concerns expressed by Members of the EP and representatives of the Jewish communities present at the event. The keynote speaker, Lord Jonathan Sacks (former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth), presented the evolution of anti-Semitism through the long history of discrimination against the Jewish community in Europe to the present day, in his speech ‘The Mutating Virus’.

The future of the Jewish communities in Europe. The mutating virus: understanding anti-semitism.

The future of the Jewish communities in Europe. The mutating virus: understanding anti-semitism.

Three panel discussions (on the current situation in Europe, national patterns and experiences and future perspectives) provided contributions from Jewish spiritual leaders, academics and intellectuals. The panellists analysed the alarming statistics on anti-Jewish violence, hate crimes, anti-Holocaust rhetoric and violence in the streets and on the internet. Speakers explained the mechanisms behind anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist views, which feed into extremism both on the left and right side of the political spectrum, and translate into anti-Semitism. They also spoke about the impact on Jewish children of seeing soldiers protecting their schools, kosher shops, and places of worship. As solutions, they stressed: the need to strengthen European security policy; for education on human rights and European values, and on the Jewish contribution to Europe’s development; to better integrate immigrants and refugees from areas where strong anti-Jewish sentiment prevails; the need for a common definition of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism; and for a common framework for penal measures.

The future of the Jewish communities in Europe. The mutating virus: understanding anti-semitism.

The future of the Jewish communities in Europe. The mutating virus: understanding anti-semitism.

The final speaker, the prominent French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, sounded a more optimistic note, stressing the differences between the Europe of the 1930s and now. Despite certain similarities in the political context, characterised by successive crises, growing populism, anti-Semitism, and terrorism, Mr Levy underlined the common position among political figures in Europe, who strongly condemn the violence and discrimination against Jewish communities in Europe. Conscious that anti-Semitism will never stop or disappear, he stated that the way forward is for the Jewish communities to be strong and proud of their contribution to European culture, science and history, and to affirm their place in Europe.



Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/09/29/the-future-of-jewish-communities-in-europe/

Economic impact of Big Data

Written by Eulalia Claros and Ron Davies,

Advances in information and communication technologies, the increasing use of electronic devices and networks, and the digitalisation of production processes mean that vast quantities of data are generated daily by economic and social activities. This ‘big data’ can be transmitted, collected, aggregated and analysed to provide insights into processes and human behaviours. Big data analytics have the potential to identify efficiencies that can be made in a wide range of sectors, and to lead to innovative new products and services, greater competitiveness and economic growth. Studies suggest that companies that adopt big data analytics can increase productivity by 5%-10% more than companies that do not, and that big data practices in Europe could add 1.9% to GDP between 2014 and 2020.

However big data analytics also pose a number of challenges for policy makers. Whilst protecting privacy and personal data has arguably received the most attention, other big-data-related issues are expected to appear on the European Union policy agenda. These include ‘data ownership’ principles that determine who shares in the rights associated with big data; data localisation requirements that may unjustifiably interfere with the ‘free flow of data’; labour shortages of skilled data workers and data-aware managers; and the creation of a new digital divide that risks marginalising those who do not make extensive use of information and communication technologies.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Big data and data analytics‘.

Download the infographic on ‘Economic impact of Big Data‘.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/09/29/economic-impact-of-big-data/

Understanding the Single Market for services [Policy Podcast]

Written by Marcin Szczepański,

Services account for 70% of European Union (EU) GDP and for a similar share of jobs, but only 20% of services, representing 5% of EU GDP, are provided across borders. Intra-EU trade in services has been less affected by the crisis than trade in goods, however, and experts agree that further integration of the market will bring about significant economic gains. The free movement of services was mentioned in the Treaty of Rome back in 1957. Liberalisation efforts started at the end of the 1980s and with the introduction of sector-specific legislation and, more specifically, the horizontal Services Directive, many barriers have been removed. The market is much more open to EU-wide competition than in the past.

Listen to podcast: Understanding the Single Market for services [Policy Podcast]

Nevertheless, many obstacles to greater integration persist and addressing them is a complex process, cutting through various policy fields and dependent on finding a compromise between sometimes divergent national interests. Also, the implementation of existing legislation is in many instances imperfect and national regulation of services often differs across the Member States making it difficult for businesses, especially SMEs, to provide their services throughout the EU. In its 2015 Single Market Strategy the Commission proposed a number of initiatives to address many of the shortcomings identified and to deepen the integration of the European services market.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Understanding the Single Market for services‘.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/09/29/understanding-the-single-market-for-services-policy-podcast/

European Pillar of Social Rights for a more social Europe [Policy Podcast]

Written by Nora Milotay,

The European Pillar of Social Rights is the European Commission’s latest major initiative in the field of employment and social affairs. It is intended to serve the further ‘socialisation’ of the Economic and Monetary Union by strengthening its employment and social aspects, as stated in the Five Presidents’ Report on ‘Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union’ from June 2015. In March 2016, the Commission published a preliminary outline of the Pillar, which is now undergoing broad consultation. In its final form, the Pillar could help not only the euro-area countries but also the other EU Member States achieve upward convergence of their social and employment performance.

Listen to podcast: European Pillar of Social Rights for a more social Europe [Policy Podcast]

The outline released by the Commission for the consultation contains principles for equal opportunities and access to the labour market, for fair working conditions and for adequate and sustainable social protection that could become a European reference framework for monitoring and benchmarking. They are based on the EU’s social acquis. The Pillar could become a binding instrument, but its final content and implementation are still open for discussion.

Read the complete briefing on ‘European Pillar of Social Rights for a more social Europe‘.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/09/29/european-pillar-of-social-rights-for-a-more-social-europe-policy-podcast/

Effort sharing regulation, 2021-2030: Limiting Member States’ carbon emissions [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Gregor Erbach,

Cubes - CO2

© Kromosphere / Fotolia

In July 2016, the European Commission presented a proposal for a regulation to limit post-2020 national emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in sectors not covered by the EU emissions trading system (ETS). These include transport, buildings and agriculture.

The proposed regulation would be the successor of the Effort Sharing Decision that sets annual national GHG emission limits for the period 2013-2020.

The proposed regulation is part of the EU’s efforts to reduce its GHG emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. This target was set by the European Council in October 2014, and also constitutes the EU’s international commitment under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.



Stage: Commission proposal


Member State's GHG reduction targets and maximum annual flexibilities

Member State’s GHG reduction targets and maximum annual flexibilities

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/09/28/effort-sharing-regulation-2021-2030-limiting-member-states-carbon-emissions-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Land use in the EU 2030 climate and energy framework [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Gregor Erbach (1st edition),

CO2 post-it on a tree

© Petair / Fotolia

On 20 July 2016, the European Commission proposed a regulation regarding the inclusion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals from land use and forestry in the EU 2030 climate and energy framework. This would be the first time that the land-use sector is formally included in EU climate policy. The proposed regulation would require Member States to balance emissions and removals from the land-use sector over two five-year periods between 2021 and 2030. It sets out accounting rules and allows for certain flexibilities.

The proposed regulation is part of the EU’s efforts to reduce its GHG emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. This target was set by the European Council in October 2014, and is also the EU’s international commitment under the Paris Agreement on climate change.



Stage: Commission proposal



Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/09/28/land-use-in-the-eu-2030-climate-and-energy-framework-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Regional and minority languages in the European Union

Written by Magdalena Pasikowska-Schnass,

Multilingual languages word cloud concept

© Ricochet64 / Fotolia

Nearly half of the approximately six thousand languages spoken in the world are vulnerable or in danger of disappearing. In the EU, 40 to 50 million people speak one of its 60 regional and minority languages (RMLs), some of which are at serious risk.

RMLs account for linguistic diversity and belong to humanity’s intangible cultural heritage. International organisations, such as Unesco, the Council of Europe and the OSCE, are concerned with the risk that RMLs face and undertake actions to protect their linguistic rights. Non-respect for regional or minority communities’ linguistic rights is qualified as racial discrimination, a breach of human rights.

While language policy is an exclusive competence of its Member States, the EU can support actions promoting and protecting RMLs. However, the current complex political and economic situation in the EU is not favourable for such efforts. Nevertheless, over the years, the EU has undertaken education-related initiatives at all levels of teaching, including with regard to research that facilitates the production of RML teaching materials, the presence of RMLs in cyberspace, and the work on modern-world RML terminology. It has also recognised the need for RMLs to be taught to non-native speakers and has supported their media dissemination. The European Parliament has supported the promotion of RMLs and called for the protection of endangered languages.

Read the complete briefing on ”Regional and minority languages in the European Union‘.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/09/28/regional-and-minority-languages-in-the-european-union/

Motor vehicles: New approval and market surveillance rules [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Didier Bourguignon (2nd edition),

Motor Vehicles: New approval and market surveillance rules

© vectorace / Fotolia

The automotive industry is a major player in the European economy, accounting for 6.4% of gross domestic product and 2.3 million jobs in the European Union (EU). However, it has been facing difficulties as a result of the economic crisis.

In September 2015, the Volkswagen (VW) case highlighted weaknesses in the implementation of type-approval rules for motor vehicles in the European Union, in particular as regards standards on emissions of air pollutants and carbon dioxide.

In 2016, as part of preparations from previous years but also in response to the VW case, the European Commission proposed strengthening the type-approval system for motor vehicles. Its goal is to ensure effective enforcement of rules (including through market surveillance), to strengthen the quality and independence of technical tests and to introduce EU oversight on the type-approval process.


Stage: Draft Report


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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/09/27/motor-vehicles-new-approval-and-market-surveillance-rules-eu-legislation-in-progress/