Месечни архиви: November 2016

How the EU budget is spent: Erasmus+

Written by Sidonia Mazur, Denise Chircop;
Graphics by Christian Dietrich.

Graduation cartoon

© Trueffelpix / Fotolia

Erasmus+ is the European Union’s single programme encompassing action in the fields of education, training, youth and sport for the years 2014-2020 with a financial envelope just below €15 000 million. Erasmus+ comes under the budgetary heading ‘Smart and Inclusive Growth’.

The programme finances learning mobility for individuals, cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices, policy reform, and the Jean Monnet sub-programme. The latter promotes European integration studies through centres of excellence, research, teaching and debates with a budget of €12 million.

Erasmus+ also includes an international dimension and therefore reinforces EU external action: by contributing towards the modernisation of higher education in neighbouring and enlargement countries; as well as by promoting international exchanges and volunteering for young people. The new programme replaced eight previous programmes: Comenius, Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Grundtvig, Youth in Action, Erasmus Mundus, ALFA III, Tempus and Edu-link.

More than four million individuals will benefit from the experience of moving to another country, among them 650 000 vocational education and training students and 500 000 young volunteers. Funds are also earmarked for a number of transnational projects linking education and training institutions, private enterprises and the public sector to enhance cooperation. Each project receives between €500 000 and €1 million.

However, exchange does not depend solely on mobility. The European Youth Portal, EPALE, eTwinning and the School Education Gateway IT platforms were created and are kept updated to support transnational collaborative projects. Furthermore, policy-makers are supported through the exchange of best practice as well as by means of data collected by institutions such as the Eurydice network, Eurostat, CRELL and CEDEFOP, which make it possible for Member States to compare their performance against that of others.

Funded actions back European priorities in the areas of education, training and youth. They seek to facilitate new contacts, networks and synergies to encourage skills development, enhance young people’s employability, and foster their integration and participation in society.

Actions in favour of the European dimension in sport are a novelty under Erasmus+. The aim is to tackle threats to the integrity of sport, such as intolerance and discrimination, and to promote good governance, dual careers for athletes, voluntary activities, social inclusion, equal opportunities and health-enhancing physical activities.

Countries participate in Erasmus+ either as programme or partner countries. Member States are automatically programme countries but currently the group also includes Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey. Other countries from around the world can become partner countries on the basis of bilateral agreements.

The European Parliament monitors the implementation of Erasmus+ with initiative reports, regular hearings and the publication of studies. It also defended the programme’s budget, both at the time of its adoption, and during the latest round of budgetary negotiations.

Read the complete briefing on ‘How the EU budget is spent: Erasmus+‘.

Erasmus+ as share of sub-heading 1a: Competitiveness for growth and jobs

Erasmus+ as share of sub-heading 1a:
Competitiveness for growth and jobs

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/11/23/how-the-eu-budget-is-spent-erasmus/

Event Summary: Obama’s legacy

Written by Elena Lazarou,

EPRS Presentation of public findings: ' The Legacy of the Obama Administration '

Bruce STOKES director of global economic attitudes at Pew Research Center

Against the backdrop of Donald Trump’s surprise election victory the previous week, the External Policies Unit of EPRS organised an event asking ‘Will There Be an Obama Legacy: Impacts on America, Europe, and the World’, on Monday, 14 November 2016. Naturally, the panellists’ focused both on the achievements of the outgoing President, and on the conditions which led to the election of the controversial Republican candidate. They also reflected on the possible future agenda of the President elect, who will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States in January 2017.

Providing an overview of current US public opinion, Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center, Washington DC, underlined the varying views that different demographic groups hold on specific policy issues in the US, such as jobs, immigration and terrorism trade. He highlighted the decline in public trust in media and business, while trust in the government fell to all-time low of around 30%. On the external affairs front, the Pew polls demonstrate that Americans are becoming less supportive of trade and of American involvement in the world. Sir Peter Westmacott, Former British Ambassador to the US, echoed white/Middle America’s dissatisfaction with the US electoral system, and pointed out that a large part of the electorate voted on the basis of feelings rather than reason. This need for change felt by many was an important driver of the electoral result. Sir Westmacott described President Obama’s legacy as largely successful, with key accomplishments despite Republican Congress resistance throughout most of the Obama Presidency. He referred to successes with Obamacare, climate change policy and to foreign policy achievements, with an emphasis on Cuba and Iran. What the President elect will do remains to be seen (especially regarding President Obama’s achievements), as a lot will depend on the nominations Trump makes to the key posts in his administration.

EPRS Presentation of public findings: ' The Legacy of the Obama Administration '

EPRS Presentation of public findings: ‘ The Legacy of the Obama Administration ‘

President Obama’s influence in the progress made in relations with Cuba, and a number of international agreements (Iran deal, TTP), notwithstanding, Jeppe Kofod, Member of the European Parliament and Vice-Chair of the Delegation for Relations with the United States, also argued that, in the context of the US elections, Obama’s legacy might very well depend on the policies of the future President Trump. Trump has indicated he would go back on a number of President Obama’s efforts (including ‘renegotiating the Iran deal’ and pulling out of the Paris Agreement and TPP). Mr Kofod examined Obama’s policy footprint, and specifically his efforts in diplomacy, including his initial determination to reset relations with Russia. Mr Kofod also referred to the ongoing issue of nominations to the Supreme Court, noting that any Trump administration nominations would likely have a significant impact on continuity. This view was also echoed by Julian Barnes from the Wall Street Journal, who briefly spoke on the changes to the scope of Obama’s legacy brought about by the election of Donald Trump. As Obama used his executive powers extensively, precisely due to the resistance of the Republican majority Congress, a number of policies stand a greater chance of being undone by the next President. The same conclusion can be made regarding President Obama’s shifts in projecting military power, first to Asia, then back to Eastern Europe after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

EPRS Presentation of public findings: ' The Legacy of the Obama Administration '

EPRS Presentation of public findings: ‘ The Legacy of the Obama Administration ‘

While President Obama will be remembered for his multilateral approach in foreign policy multilateralism (Paris Agreement, G20, Iran deal), his legacy also includes the emancipation, during his administrations, of groups and voices who felt that they were not being heard. Elena Lazarou, Policy Analyst at EPRS, opened the floor for the debate, pointing out that Barack Obama will be remembered for his changes in style and policy shifts. His personal style and rhetoric attracted the public and that is why he remains so popular. The ‘Yes we can’ motto was indicative of his ability to capture the will for change, and is in fact rather similar to Trump’s communications today. Looking ahead to Trump’s Presidency, his relations with Congress and with the EU, questions and answers reflected on why the election went wrong for the Democrats, what might be the future of the party, the country, and what direction US-EU relations may take.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/11/23/event-summary-obamas-legacy/

Ahead of the EU-Ukraine summit: Increasing pressure for progress

Written by Naja Bentzen,

Ukraine crisis map. Pro-russians protests in the eastern cities.

© peteri / Fotolia

Three years ago, on 21 November 2013, Ukraine’s then President, Viktor Yanukovich, caved in to Russian pressure and decided against signing the EU-Ukraine association agreement. The following ‘dignity revolution’ paved the way for Yanukovich’s own ousting on 22 February 2014, igniting hope among Ukrainian citizens for a future closer to the European Union.

The Ukraine crisis catapulted the country to the forefront of the EU policy agenda, triggering sanctions on Russia over its illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014, and its role in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since then, the EU has significantly boosted its support to Ukraine, which – despite the ongoing hybrid war – has taken important steps on the path towards European integration, not least by signing the association agreement (which includes agreement on a deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA) in June 2014, and applying it provisionally.

The way forward in EU-Ukraine relations – including visa liberalisation, and implementation of the February 2015 Minsk peace deal, as well as reforms and anti-corruption measures in Ukraine – will be the focus of the EU-Ukraine summit due to be held on 24 November 2016. The summit takes place amid uncertainty over future US policy vis-à-vis NATO, Russia and Ukraine, increasing the pressure on both Ukraine and the EU to keep a steady hand.

In December, EU leaders will decide on the extension of European sanctions against Russia over its role in Ukraine, against the background of the forthcoming US leadership change. President-elect Donald Trump has made a number of comments suggesting that he may soften US policy towards Moscow, sparking concern among Ukrainians over a potential weakening of US support for their country.

Visa liberalisation: A ‘positive signal’ ahead of the EU-Ukraine summit

Enhanced mobility of citizens is a core objective of the eastern partnership (EaP), in which Ukraine is a priority country. Popular among EaP citizens, visa-free access to Europe is seen as a ‘carrot’ for authorities to implement key reforms. The Commission presented its proposal for visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens on 20 April 2016.

In its 14 November conclusions on the eastern partnership, the Council underlined the importance of a ‘timely finalisation of the decision-making processes required for visa liberalisation for both Georgia and Ukraine’. On 17 November, the Permanent Representatives Committee confirmed, on behalf of the Council, its negotiation position and support for the Commission proposal to provide for visa-free travel for Ukrainians to the EU. Once a new ‘suspension mechanism’ – an emergency brake in case visa-free travel is abused by non-EU nationals – has been agreed, the Slovak Presidency will start negotiations with the European Parliament. This explicit ‘positive message in the run up to the EU-Ukraine Summit on 24 November’ is a signal of support for Ukraine in the light of uncertainty over the direction of the new US administration vis-à-vis Russia.

Minsk agreements: Military situation remains unpredictable

Weekly totals of explosions of Minsk-proscribed weapons

Weekly totals of explosions of Minsk-proscribed weapons

Despite an October 2016 agreement in Berlin among France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia (‘Normandy four’) to draw up a roadmap by the end of November on how to implement the 2015 Minsk peace deal, the security situation in eastern Ukraine remains tense and unpredictable, with no improvement in sight. According to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) special monitoring mission to Ukraine (SMM), ‘sophisticated’ military supply lines enable either side to ‘quickly turn on or off’ their ceasefire violations.

Anti-corruption: new large-scale project to be launched

Over the past two years, reforms have moved forward with support from the EU, including eliminating energy subsidies and establishing a new police force, as well as adopting new legislation on anti-corruption measures and establishing anti-corruption institutions. Nevertheless, corruption remains a persistent source of internal and external disillusionment, leading to a number of resignations of high-ranking reformers. Corruption also played a key role for Dutch voters who rejected the EU-Ukraine association agreement in the 6 April 2016 referendum.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities have implemented a new e-declaration system which aims to make public officials criminally liable for providing false information. More than 100 000 officials have made their (partly controversially significant) assets publicly available. As part of the EU’s efforts to help Ukraine combat corruption, in September 2016 EU Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, and Danish Foreign Affairs Minister, Kristian Jensen, presented a €16 million project to fight corruption in Ukraine. The ‘support to combat corruption in Ukraine 2017-2019’ programme will run over three years from early 2017.


Recent developments in the European Parliament: MEPs press for visa liberalisation

The Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) adopted a report on 26 September 2016, which recommended waiving visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens entering the Schengen area. In its opinion on the visa-free regime with Ukraine, the EP’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) called for Ukraine to be granted a visa-free regime ‘without any further delays, in recognition of the progress the country has achieved on its European path since the Euromaidan protests’.

Members of a delegation of the European Parliament’s Security and Defence Subcommittee (SEDE), led by its chair Anna Fotyga (ECR, Poland), conducted a field trip to eastern Ukraine on 4-11 November 2016. During their trip, the MEPs condemned the illegal annexation of Crimea, and urged all relevant EU institutions to make visa liberalisation a reality for the citizens of Ukraine.

On 17 November 2016, the LIBE Committee backed an agreement on operational and strategic cooperation between Ukraine and Europol (2016/0811(CNS)), following the recommendation expressed in the report by Mariya Gabriel (EPP, Bulgaria). The plenary vote is scheduled for 22 November 2016.


Read also our briefing: Ahead of the EU-Ukraine Summit: Increasing pressure for progress.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/11/22/ahead-of-the-eu-ukraine-summit-increasing-pressure-for-progress/

The European Council and EU efforts to strengthen the partnership with the United Nations on crisis management

Written by Suzana Elena Anghel,

In June 2016, the European Council ‘welcomed’ the presentation of the Global Strategy for the European Union. One element in the strategy is the recognition of the United Nations’ central role in maintaining international stability, and a call for an integrated EU approach to conflicts and crises. It is thus timely to consider what progress has been made so far on EU-UN cooperation on crisis management, in line with the European Council’s guidelines.

Main developments in the European Council on EU-UN crisis management cooperation

United Nations flag

Lukasz Stefanski / Shutterstock

The EU-UN partnership on crisis management has been shaped through several European Council meetings over the course of 15 years, given that the European Council defines the strategic orientations of the European Union. The Helsinki European Council in December 1999 and the Santa Maria de Feira European Council in June 2000 defined the EU’s approach to civilian and military crisis management, and expressed the Union’s recognition of the UN’s responsibility in maintaining international peace and security. The Thessaloniki European Council adopted the European Security Strategy in June 2003, recognising the UN’s role in safeguarding international peace and stability. The June 2004 European Council endorsed the Joint Statement on UN-EU Cooperation in Crisis Management of September 2003, which called for coordination on planning, training and information exchange, as well as the sharing of best practice and lessons learned. A permanent joint consultative mechanism in the form of the EU-UN Steering Committee on Crisis Management, which meets twice a year, was established to foster the ‘exchange of views on thematic and geographical issues’. Its output has been criticised due to the absence of ‘more strategic and forward-looking discussions’.

The European Council endorsed a new Joint Statement on UN-EU Cooperation in Crisis Management at its June 2007 meeting. The document outlined progress made since 2003 and reiterated the need to continue strengthening cooperation in planning, training and information exchange. It recognised the progressive institutionalisation of EU-UN relations and called for continued regular exchanges of views at senior political level and senior official level. The EU Battlegroups’ potential for rapid intervention in EU-led operations under UN mandate was welcomed. This point remains to be implemented, as the EU has not used the Battlegroups on operations to date. Experts considered the 2007 Joint Statement to represent a ‘more strategic document’, an expression of a progressively ‘maturing’ relation between the two organisations, allowing for the development of a ‘longer term strategic framework’. Novosseloff (2012: 150) considered that the EU-UN partnership on crisis management evolved from scarce interaction in the early 2000s to active cooperation by the mid- to late 2000s, but back to reduced interaction prior to 2012, due mainly to ‘internal and inter-organizational’ dynamics that affected both the EU and the UN.

The December 2012 European Council was the first meeting since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty at which the Heads of State or Government called for the strengthening of EU-UN relations on crisis management. At two other meetings, in December 2013 and in June 2015, they reiterated this call, referring to the UN as a ‘key partner’. The EU’s policy in support of UN peacekeeping for the 2012-2014 period was laid out in Actions to enhance EU CSDP support to UN peacekeeping and its Plan of Action. This consisted of six key elements, namely: 1) a clearing house mechanism relating to civilian and military capabilities; 2) a ‘modular approach’ entailing an EU military component to UN operations; 3) autonomous civilian EU deployment in support of UN operations; 4) autonomous military EU deployment in support of UN operations; 5) targeted assistance to regional (i.e. African Union, AU)/sub-regional organisations; and 6) cross-cutting areas (i.e. training and exercises, security sector reform). Experts assessed its implementation as ‘uneven’, with very limited progress made in certain areas, particularly on the development of the clearinghouse mechanism.

Seven priorities for 2015-2018 are outlined in the document ‘Strengthening the EU-UN Strategic Partnership on Peacekeeping and Crisis Management’: 1) strengthening rapid response capacity (i.e. the EU Battlegroups), 2) supporting African peace and stability through increased UN-EU-AU cooperation; 3) facilitating EU Member States’ contributions to UN operations; 4) cooperating on rule of law and security sector reform (SSR); 5) logistics support; 6) information exchange; 7) completion and follow-up of the 2012-2014 Plan of Action, in particular as regards military and civilian capabilities development, streamlining operational planning, training, and integration of lessons learned. In September 2016, HR/VP Federica Mogherini identified an integrated approach to crises and conflicts, including capacity-building and in particular security sector reform, among the key priorities for the implementation of the Global Strategy with which the European Council was presented in June 2016. The development of capabilities is another area where progress may be envisaged, when the European Council considers defence priorities at its December 2016 meeting, following the Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap.

EU Member States’ contribution to UN peacekeeping and crisis management

Top 5 EU Member States in personnel contributions to UN missions out of total, collective EU Member States' contributions (August 2016)

Top 5 EU Member States in personnel contributions to UN missions out of total, collective EU Member States’ contributions (August 2016)

Individual EU Member States’ contributions to UN missions consist of both capabilities and funding. In August 2016, the UN reported 100 950 persons deployed on UN peace operations. EU Member States, with the exception of Luxembourg and Malta, were collectively contributing 5 549 persons or 5.5 % of the overall international contribution to UN missions, distributed among EU Member States as shown in Figure 1.

In 2015, at the Leaders’ Summit on UN Peacekeeping, European Council President Donald Tusk called for the strengthening of EU-UN cooperation on crisis management, while stating that, collectively, EU Member States represent the main financial contributor to UN peacekeeping. The EU Member States’ cumulative contribution is around 40 % of the total UN peacekeeping budget, with the five largest EU Member States (Germany, France, UK, Italy and Spain) contributing over 28 % of the UN peacekeeping budget for the 2013-2015 period. This confirms expert assessments that Member States are currently more inclined to contribute financially rather than in personnel numbers to UN missions. Additionally, several CSDP operations/missions either acted as ‘bridging missions’ until a UN operation was set up (e.g. EUFOR RCA),  were conducted in parallel to and in close cooperation with a UN operation (e.g. EUSEC RD Congo; the first UN/EU pre-deployment assessment mission in Mali which evaluated the Malian security sector), or were set up as a follow-up to a UN operation (e.g. EUPM BiH).

The European Parliament’s views on EU-UN cooperation

The European Parliament has referred to EU-UN cooperation on crisis management almost every year in its resolutions on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), on the implementation of CSDP, and on the EU priorities ahead of the UN General Assembly. In a resolution of June 2016, the European Parliament welcomed the priorities set for 2015-2018 with respect to strengthening EU-UN crisis management cooperation, called on ‘the EU Member States to significantly increase their military and police contributions to UN peacekeeping missions’, and welcomed the ‘signing of the EU-UN administrative arrangement on exchanging classified information’, which will, most likely, contribute to improving cooperation in peacekeeping. One month later, in July 2016, the European Parliament asked the Council ‘to further develop procedures for the use of EU Common Security and Defence Policy in support of UN operations, including through the deployment of EU Battlegroups, or through capacity building and Security Sector Reform initiatives’.

Download this publication on ‘The European Council and EU efforts to strengthen the partnership with the United Nations on crisis management‘ in PDF.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/11/22/the-european-council-and-eu-efforts-to-strengthen-the-partnership-with-the-united-nations-on-crisis-management/

How the EU budget is spent: European Neighbourhood Instrument

Written by Matthew Parry,

How the EU budget is spent: European Neighbourhood Instrument

© M.studio / Fotolia

The European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) was established in 2014 by Regulation (EU) No 232/2014 and endowed with a budget of just over €15.4 billion for the 2014-2020 period. The ENI funds EU efforts to cooperate with and promote development in 16 countries and territories on its eastern and southern frontiers, as part of its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The countries and territories are: Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, the Republic of Moldova, Morocco, the occupied Palestinian territory, Syria (with whose government the EU suspended cooperation in 2011), Tunisia and Ukraine. The idea is that, by incentivising reform in these countries and forging links between them and the EU market, the EU can encourage them to become more democratic, more prosperous and more stable. The EU pursues this objective through bilateral action plans – which should eventually lead to association agreements – negotiated with partner countries and comprising a mix of jointly agreed legal, social and economic reforms supported by ENI financial assistance.

Assessments and audits of projects funded by the ENI and its predecessor for the 2007-2013 period, the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), carried out by the European Commission, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) and others, cite both examples of best practice and cases where implementation could be improved. For example, the ECA found, in a special report published in September 2016, that projects designed to strengthen public administration in Moldova had merit and had delivered results as anticipated, but that the Commission had not made correct use of conditionality or aligned its approach with Moldova’s own strategic objectives. On the other hand, an ECA special report published in March 2016 singled out a project entitled ‘promoting respect for sub-Saharan migrants’ rights in Morocco’, begun in January 2013 (€2 million) and part-funded by the ENPI, as an example of best practice for setting a limited number of objectives and identifying specific and measurable targets.

Some academics and think-tank analysts have questioned the ENP’s broader rationale of influencing and encouraging reform in countries on the EU’s frontiers with little or no immediate prospect of EU accession. One argues that the ENP, as an attempt by the EU to replicate an approach previously used in candidate countries in the European neighbourhood countries, has had only limited success.

Read the complete Briefing on ‘How the EU budget is spent: European Neighbourhood Instrument‘ in PDF.

 

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/11/22/how-the-eu-budget-is-spent-european-neighbourhood-instrument/

Road safety in the EU

Written by Ariane Debyser ,
Graphics by Giulio Sabati,

Road safety in the EU

© Bits and Splits / Fotolia

Between 1991 and 2014, and especially after 2000, the EU witnessed substantial improvements in terms of road safety, whether measured in terms of fatalities, accidents or injuries. Over a shorter period, between 2001 and 2010, the number of deaths on EU roads decreased by 43 %, and by a further 17 % since 2010.

The most recent figures, however, show that progress in reducing the fatality rate has slowed and that specific road users or demographic groups are not witnessing the same improvements as the rest of the population.

Road safety is a shared competence, implying that many measures are primarily dealt with by Member States. However, the EU, in line with Article 91(c) TFEU, has significantly developed the acquis in this area, with the Commission adopting several policy frameworks on road safety. In 2003, the EU set itself a target in terms of reducing road fatalities, and regularly monitors progress towards this goal. In its July 2010 communication ‘Towards a European road safety area: policy orientations on road safety 2011-2020’, the Commission proposed to continue aiming for a target to halve the overall number of road deaths in the EU by 2020, starting from 2010. The EU is also looking at innovations which have a strong safety potential.

The European Parliament has adopted numerous resolutions regarding or covering road safety, calling notably for a fully fledged strategy for people sustaining serious injury and for more detailed and measurable targets.

 

Read the complete briefing on ‘Road safety in the EU‘ in PDF.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/11/21/road-safety-in-the-eu/

Refugee and asylum policy in Australia: Between resettlement and deterrence

Written by Ionel Zamfir ,

Refugee and asylum policy in Australia Between resettlement and deterrence

© electra kay-smith / Fotolia

Australia has established a refugee policy which has proved highly effective in deterring irregular migrants, but has attracted much criticism from human rights organisations. Its main drivers have been mandatory detention and offshore processing of irregular asylum-seekers arriving by boat. Since it was enacted, drownings at sea no longer occur and irregular migration by boat to its shores has completely stopped.

However, the conditions in the offshore centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, where people arriving by boat have been sent, have been criticised as inappropriate by civil society organisations, and these people’s indefinite detention there was deemed to constitute arbitrary detention under international law. Further to such criticism, recently, the two countries have decided to allow asylum-seekers to move freely and, if determined to be refugees, to settle in the community. However, the situation of the refugees in the two countries remains extremely precarious and no lasting solution is yet in sight, despite Australia’s efforts to secure resettlement agreements with other third countries.

At the same time, Australia has remained open to asylum-seekers and refugees who enter through official channels, and is one of the countries admitting most refugees resettled through the UNHCR.

This briefing is an extended and updated version of an earlier publication, from October 2015.

Download this complete publication on ‘Refugee and asylum policy in Australia: Between resettlement and deterrence‘ in PDF.

 

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/11/21/refugee-and-asylum-policy-in-australia-between-resettlement-and-deterrence/

Universal Children’s Day 2016

universal children's day, handsAs we mark the UN’s Universal Children’s Day this year, how are children in Europe faring in some of the key areas covered in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and what is the European Union doing to protect their rights and ensure their wellbeing? How do children themselves see their lives and what would they like their governments to do for them?

Background

In 1954, the United Nations recommended that all countries establish a national day to promote children’s rights and welfare, and set 20 November as Universal Children’s Day. It was on this date that the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), in 1989. The CRC, which has been ratified by all the European Union (EU) Member States, requires governments to realise every child’s rights to adequate living conditions, health and education, as well as their rights to family life, to be protected from violence, not to be discriminated against, and to have their views heard. The EU itself is not a party to the Convention, but the CRC plays an important role in guiding the development of its law on children’s rights. Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (based on Articles 3, 9, 12 and 13 of the CRC), recognises that children are independent holders of rights with their own needs and interests, whilst Article 3 TEU makes protecting the rights of the child one of the goals the Union must pursue in internal and external policy. The EU has a policy framework on children’s rights and child protection and an overall strategy for work in this area. The EU and its Member States must also ensure that their work towards the new UN Sustainable Development Goals aligns with the CRC.

Overall measures of child wellbeing in Europe

The CRC commits governments to providing every child with an adequate standard of living to ensure physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development, including support to those in need (Article 27), access to education (Article 28), and health (Article 24).

Social and economic disadvantages in early life have repercussions into adulthood and even across generations, making child wellbeing vital for individuals and society as a whole. Unicef’s 2016 State of the World’s Children Report illustrates that both developing and developed countries need to do more to reach children and families at risk of poverty and exclusion. In the EU, one in four children are affected (25 million) according to Eurostat figures. Whilst children’s risk of poverty or social exclusion varies between countries, being highest in Romania (46.8 %) and Bulgaria (43.7 %), and lowest in Sweden (14.0 %) and Finland (14.9 %), the rate rose from 2010 to 2015 in approximately half of the EU Member States. The highest increases were in Greece (up from 28.7 % in 2010 to 37.8 % in 2015), Cyprus (+7.1 pp), and Italy (+4.0 pp). Unicef finds that the economic crisis has had a lasting impact on child wellbeing in Europe and that the poorest and most vulnerable children have suffered disproportionately. Its league tables, with indicators on poverty, education and health, show how far countries have allowed their most disadvantaged children to fall behind the ‘average’ child. In ‘How’s life for children?’ the OECD measures 10 dimensions of well-being, highlighting divergences between boys and girls, and children of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. Children with disabilities and migrant children also face problems accessing health services, uneven opportunities for education and higher rates of poverty, and those in the older age range are disproportionately likely not to be in training or employment.

Protecting the rights of children in conflicts and on the move

The CRC commits governments to protect and care for children who are affected by armed conflict (Article 38) and aid their recovery (Article 39). Child refugees have the right to special protection and help (Article 22).

An estimated 250 million children across the world live in areas affected by conflict, and the UN reports that related children’s rights violations are on the rise. According to Unicef’s 2016 study on child migrants and refugees around the world, 28 million children have been forcibly displaced, with a further 20 million child migrants. Children now make up half the world’s refugees. In Europe, around 30 % of asylum-seekers in 2015 and the first half of 2016 were children, nearly 70 % fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. An alarming number are travelling alone. It is reported that almost 90 000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in EU countries in 2015. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) finds that their situation raises concerns and should be a priority for national governments. Unicef stresses that urgent action is needed to protect children at all stages of their journey, including when they reach their destination, where they may face obstacles to integrating and starting new lives. It also highlights that failure to identify children at risk and provide safe transit and reception facilities that meet child protection standards and legal and practical access to asylum make them particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Europol figures show that at least 10 000 refugee children have gone missing after arriving in Europe, with many feared to be exploited and abused for sexual or labour purposes. Children are also particularly vulnerable to both physical and psychological violence while in migration detention, making it a threat to their wellbeing.

Protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation

The CRC commits governments to protect children from all forms of violence and abuse (Article 19) and sexual exploitation (Article 34).

Unicef has documented widespread violence against children around the world. It may take numerous forms (physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect) and happen in various contexts, including at home, at school and within institutions. Analysis of violence towards children in the EU finds that the extent is difficult to assess, but existing estimates give cause for concern. Besides child migrants, vulnerable children include children with disabilities and girls at risk of FGM. There are also new challenges in the digital environment, which can be a risky space for children. Online child sexual abuse is on the rise, according to Europol.

Recent EU action

On children’s wellbeing. FRA is analysing national data related to the Commission’s 2013 strategy ‘Investing in children: Breaking the cycle of disadvantage’, which aims to help prevent and tackle child poverty and social exclusion and promote children’s wellbeing. To identify the best policies and approaches to effectively promote the well-being of children and young people, EU-funded research has reviewed policy in each Member State and explored the feasibility of a longitudinal study to fill the gap in comparable data. NGOs, including Eurochild and the EU Alliance for Investing in Children are also calling on the European Commission to ensure that children’s rights are mainstreamed throughout the proposed European Pillar on Social Rights, which has the potential to help eradicate child poverty and promote children’s well-being. The public consultation on the pillar is open until 31 December 2016.

On conflict and migration. The EU has Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict. It is supporting education in emergencies and working with Unicef to protect child refugees and migrants. The 10th European Forum on the rights of the child on 29-30 November 2016 will focus on their protection, whilst FRA is conducting research on migration-related detention of children in the EU.

On EU action to protect children from violence. The EU has adopted legislation to eradicate various forms of violence to which children are subjected, including human trafficking and sexual abuse and exploitation. Member States have primary responsibility for child-protection systems, but the EU also supports national action. Recent initiatives include a mapping of the national systems and a Better internet for children strategy. The EU is also taking steps to ensure that children are heard.

The European Parliament does not have a specific committee on children’s rights, but has a cross-party Child Rights Intergroup. Many MEPs have pledged to become child rights champions through signing a Child rights manifesto. Parliament regularly speaks out on the issue, and has called for action on child poverty and online child sexual abuse and an end to migration detention for children. Parliament has also stressed the need to protect all child migrants and refugees, and specifically unaccompanied minors and girls. on issues that affect them.

Listening to children’s voices and views

Under the CRC (Article 12), children have the right to express their views and be heard on issues that concern them.

The UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child has found that this article has been one of the most challenging to implement, due to widespread concerns about children’s competence to be involved in decisions and a lack of knowledge about how to ensure their participation. The EU has been taking steps in this area, including a study to map legislation, policy and practice on child participation in all its Member States.

Children’s Worlds, the first worldwide survey to measure children’s own perceptions of their wellbeing, has findings for seven EU countries (DE, ES, ET, MT, PO, RO, UK), and will later have results for a further three (FI, IT, PT).

The Council of Europe’s ‘Austerity Bites: Children’s Voices’ project allowed thirty-six children and young people across eight different municipalities and regions of Europe (Rome, the Hague, Ghent, Athens, Brussels, Glasgow, Preston, Marseille) to give their views by creating their own short films and animations on the impact of austerity measures.

The Exile Voices project has allowed Syrian refugee children aged 10 to 15 to document their daily lives.

In a worldwide consultation of children for the UN, protection from violence was one of their highest priorities.

In 2014, 2 693 children aged between 4 and 19 from 71 different countries were consulted on how governments should spend public money on children, producing key messages on why and where they should invest and how children could be involved in decisions.

Ahead of Universal Children’s Day, the European Parliament hosted a symposium with children to discuss how children’s voices can be heard on issues that affect them.

Where to get more information:

On events around Universal Children’s Day

On measuring children’s wellbeing

On child migrants and refugees

On violence against children

On Children’s right to be heard

“Please protect our right to speak up and decide things about matters that affect us. It is our life and our choices. No matter what a decision affecting us is, it is our decision that counts. People can’t choose our life for us no matter how old, because we are humans and we have rights.” Francesca, 13 (Source: Unicef)

 This at a glance publication is available on the EPRS Think Tank

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/11/20/universal-childrens-day-2016/

What if I had to put my safety in the hands of a robot? [Science and Technology Podcast]

Written by Lieve Van Woensel with Sarah McCormack

Will intelligent robots bring us benefits in relation to security and safety, or will the vulnerabilities within these systems mean that they cause more problems than they solve?

Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are currently found in a wide range of services and applications, and their numbers are rapidly increasing. CPS are intelligent robotic systems linked to the Internet of Things. They make decisions based on the ability to sense their environment. Their actions have a physical impact on either the environment or themselves. This is what sets CPS apart: they are not solely smart systems, but rather, they have physical aspects to them. These robots are likely to infiltrate our everyday lives in the coming years. Due to this, we must look at what impact they will have on citizens’ safety and security. The question remains, how safe are these technologies?

Potential impacts and developments

shutterstock_192948218Such systems often work as part of a network in which information is exchanged, normally using wireless connectivity, which can be vulnerable to hackers and criminals. These networks may be seen as the coupling of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems, known as IT-OT integration. Issues arise due to the diminished level of security of the OT compared to that of the IT system. Should someone infiltrate these systems they could potentially access the data gathered by the CPS and corrupt the system itself. Although this is a sobering thought, we are seeing the development of technologies which promise to better protect these systems and hence individuals’ information, such as through the creation of quantum cryptography, which will (at least in theory) be impossible for a hacker to defeat.

Listen to podcast: What if I had to put my safety in the hands of a robot?

Robots can have positive impacts on our safety. For example, they can aid disaster relief workers. Automated vehicles with the ability to make autonomous decisions can access dangerous sites to help save victims, and keep workers themselves safe and out of harm’s way. Driverless cars are another example of autonomous robots that are becoming more commonplace and are expected to be safer for citizens. This is based on the fact that the systems will not tire or suffer from road rage, and that they are better at calculating manoeuvres. The taxi company Uber is in fact already planning on replacing 160 000 drivers with driverless cabs. However, the recent Tesla case, where a driver was killed as the car in autopilot mode did not recognise another car against a bright sky, shows that more work needs to be done to increase their safety. Robots can have medical applications too. CPS can effectively monitor the body and provide the correct medication when needed, ensuring the safety of the patient. However, possible safety concerns can arise should the system malfunction or, as is the case with other technologies, they could be hacked to deliver a fatally high dose to patients.

Another type of robot increasingly being used are drones. They have been used by governments for security, for example in civil surveillance tasks such as border patrols to minimise numbers of illegal immigrants entering countries. Concerning refugees, the ability to closely monitor flowz of people will mean that better relief and aid can be provided, assisting in their safety. Citizens are also increasingly using drones as they are becoming cheaper to purchase and their range is increasing. These drones, in the hands of civilians, while often used for leisure, can also be used for nefarious and criminal purposes, such as the delivery of munitions. They can also be fitted with guns or used to fly explosives or dangerous materials into areas, as was seen when a drone carrying radioactive sand was flown onto the roof of the Japanese prime minister’s office. Drones are also a threat to conventional aircraft. Thus, we may need to look at counter-drone technologies, as have been seen in Tokyo, where the police catch rogue drones in nets.

Another possible safety concern is the misinterpretation of the signs from CPS by humans, leading to negative consequences. Most fatal accidents in factories with CPS happen when the robot is undergoing maintenance and moves in a way that the human worker did not expect. The ability to predict the systems’ movement and behaviour is vital to ensure control over them and the safety of humans who come into contact with them.

A large amount of data on individuals will be stored on databases through the increased use of CPS. The information gathered will range from that regarding individuals’ identity to that regarding their purchases, habits and journeys. However, it is not yet known whether this information will end up being linked together and analysed by either unofficial or official bodies. Regardless of the motivation behind the monitoring we may see that it results in altering individuals’ behaviour. With the continuous monitoring of individuals by CPS controlled by both government and non-state bodies, could this lead to an Orwellian scenario, where people change their behaviour out of fear of being watched? This idea poses a threat to CPS, as it can turn public opinion against them.

The ability to control CPS needs to be studied. Robot ethics is difficult to harmonise, as judgments of what is and what is not ethical involve knowledge of the context in question. The robots’ way of deciding which action is ethically correct in given circumstances will be similar to how a human would make this decision. The ability to make this decision will depend on how it is programmed, and we must therefore ask ourselves who should be responsible for programming these ethical guidelines.

Anticipatory law-making

In a world increasingly being shared with robots we will face legal questions regarding data ownership, privacy, safety and liability. Changes in and perhaps even the introduction of legislation to accommodate for the risks that robots pose will be required to ensure that citizens remain safe and secure.

CPS can improve the management of power and materials leading to a more secure environment. Systems’ abilities to shut down when not in use will help to reduce energy waste. Governments will in most cases need to introduce legislation to ensure that this is implemented.

The main legal question, which will arise alongside the development of autonomous robots, will be that of liability. Should an accident occur with a driverless car, who will be held responsible? Will it be the driver, the car or the manufacturer? Currently, some car manufacturers are taking responsibility for accidents that occur with their driverless cars. In Germany, Sweden and the UK, legislation has already been reviewed to allow for the testing of driverless cars on public highways. As it is expected that driverless cars will become commonplace in the future, countries will need to put in place appropriate legislation to protect their citizens.

With the large amount of information collected by CPS, improved and broader data protection laws should be sought. We will also need to examine who owns the data and within what framework it can be shared. Who amongst the individual, the organisation collecting the data and political institutions should be responsible for ensuring that the data is kept safe must also be agreed. We will need to examine existing and emerging data practices, and assess the risk of increased surveillance. The concept of privacy may need to be re-worked, and the concept of vulnerability in the context of CPS will need to be specified in this context.

Robots can increase our safety as seen through driverless cars, drones used for monitoring, embedded medical devices and robots used for disaster relief. Yet safety and liability concerns remain. Overall, the world should not become more unsafe due to the increased use of robots, but adequate legislation will be needed to ensure that the possible negative effects do not outweigh the positive ones.

A study on the ‘Ethics of Cyber Physical Systems’ has recently been published by the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel. A chapter of that study, written by Professor M. Henshaw (Loughborough University, UK) and J. van Barneveld, MSc (Technopolis Group, The Netherlands), has provided inspiration for this publication.

Read this Plenary At a Glance note on ‘What if I had to put my safety in the hands of a robot?‘ in PDF.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/11/19/what-if-i-had-to-put-my-safety-in-the-hands-of-a-robot-science-and-technology-podcast/

Establishing a Skills Guarantee [Plenary Podcast]

Written by Monika Kiss,

Surveys reveal that 70 million adults have insufficient basic skills, which can lead to problems at individual and societal levels. The Skills Guarantee aims to encourage upskilling pathways at national level, with implementation and monitoring supported by the European Commission. The European Parliament highlights the importance of the involvement of social partners, the recognition of informal learning outcomes, the appropriate use of funds, synergies with other tools and more action at EU level.

Low-skilled groups at risk on the labour market

A survey by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that nearly 70 million Europeans lack basic reading and writing skills, and even more cannot use numbers or digital tools effectively in daily life. This lack of skills exposes these groups to a high risk of unemployment, poverty and social exclusion, and increases the risk of lower productivity and loss of competitiveness. Additionally, new ways of working, such as collaborative economy models, have generated changes in the skills types needed.

The Skills Guarantee

Establishing a Skills Guarantee

© Claudia Paulussen / Fotolia

In the framework of the new skills agenda for Europe, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Council recommendation on establishing a skills guarantee to help low-skilled adults without upper secondary education acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills, and possibly progress towards an upper secondary qualification or equivalent (EQF level 4) on 10 June 2016. In the heterogeneous target group are unemployed, employed or inactive people over 25 (not covered by the ‘youth guarantee‘) with different educational histories, all needing to strengthen basic skills. Member States (MS), in cooperation with social partners, education and training providers, as well as local and regional authorities, should put in place flexible pathways for upskilling. These consist of three steps: a skills assessment, enabling low-qualified adults to identify their existing skills and upskilling needs; designing and delivering education and training tailored to an individual’s and local labour market’s needs; and the recognition of the skills acquired through personalised pathways. These measures are part of a more comprehensive set of policy actions tackling the broader skills challenges: raising the overall level of skills in the EU, making better use of existing skills and anticipating the skills needed. The recommendation calls on MS to draft an implementation action plan within one year from the proposal’s adoption, including coordination arrangements, priority target groups and available financial resources at MS level. The Commission should support the implementation and monitoring of the skills guarantee. Financial support should be provided by the ESF, Erasmus+, EaSi, ERDF, FEAD, EGF or EAFRD.

Listen to podcast ‘Establishing a Skills Guarantee

The European Parliament

The 2006 Recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning was implemented by MS for all levels of education and training and stressed the importance of literacy, numeracy, and digital competences. The 2008 Recommendation on the European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning established a reference framework of qualification levels defined through learning outcomes. Both recommendations are for now under revision as parts of the new skills agenda. On 8 November 2016 Parliament adopted an oral question (by Thomas Händel, GUE/NGL, Germany) to the Commission concerning the proposal’s implementation. Parliament asked how MS will be involved in the non-legally binding initiative, and if a mechanism to support MS in the elaboration of their action plans and their monitoring was foreseen. Furthermore, Parliament asked how stakeholders, including social partners, would be involved; if this initiative can be covered without additional funding and especially whether there will be procedures for the reallocation and appropriate use of funds, and a strategy encouraging the participation of MS in the initiative. Finally, Parliament asked how the Commission envisages to tackle early school leaving through this recommendation. The question will be posed at the November Plenary session.

Read this Plenary At a Glance note on ‘Establishing a Skills Guarantee‘ in PDF.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2016/11/18/establishing-a-skills-guarantee-plenary-podcast/