Месечни архиви: септември 2017

Languages, multilingualism, translation and interpretation

Written by Magdalena Pasikowska-Schnass,

Cartoon characters saying hello in different languages


Europeans celebrate the diversity of their languages each year on 26 September, with the international community focusing on translation and interpretation a few days later on 30 September. The European Union manages the complexity of its 24 official languages, and the variety of regional and minority languages spoken across its territory, through multilingualism, translation and interpretation.

The European Day of Languages, established by the Council of Europe in 2001, resulted from the successful experience of the European Year of Languages. This EU joint initiative organises events devoted to the EU’s linguistic richness. The Council of Europe, (which uses only English, French, German, Italian and Russian as official languages for communication among its 47 member states), celebrates the 36 languages spoken across the European continent.

International Translation Day (30 September) was declared by the International Federation of Translators in 1953, but only obtained recognition from the United Nations General Assembly at its 24 May 2017 session. The EU institutions, where communication depends on translation and interpretation, celebrate the day by opening their premises to showcase the work and role of translators and interpreters in this multilingual environment.

As Members represent citizens at home, the work of the European Parliament in particular relies on translation and interpretation to accommodate the linguistic diversity of its Members and guarantee Parliament’s democratic role. Interpreting the current 24 EU official languages leads to 552 language combinations. Parliament’s plenary debates also provide for sign language interpretation, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by the EU in December 2010. On 23 November 2016, the EP adopted a resolution on sign languages and professional sign language interpreters, stressing the need for official recognition for a variety of regional sign languages. In its earlier resolution of 14 April 2016, the EP highlighted that international sign language interpretation of all plenary debates facilitates its communication with all EU citizens. Consequently, an EU funded project on machine translation for administration has been operating for some years in the EU institutions. The EU also supports literary translation through its Creative Europe programme and the European Parliament LUX Film Prize provides the winning films with funding for subtitling in all EU languages.

The EU has a rich linguistic variety – 24 official and between 60 and 80 regional and endogenous minority languages.  10 % of citizens speak a regional and minority language as a mother-tongue. Some regional or minority languages outnumber speakers of some state languages, such as the 6 million Roma who speak a language which does not belong to one single territory or region.

The EU therefore provides support for lifelong language learning at various levels of education, during formal schooling or in informal extra-curricular settings. It also promotes student exchanges through the Erasmus+ programme, which favour informal language learning.

The European Parliament opens its doors on 30 September 2017 to the public to celebrate Multilingualism Day with a series of activities and talks on translation and interpretation.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/09/30/languages-multilingualism-translation-and-interpretation/

Understanding the EU customs union [Policy Podcast]

Written by Cemal Karakas,

Page of paper with words Customs Clearance and glasses.

© designer491 / Fotolia

In December 2016, the European Commission adopted its long-term plan to strengthen the governance and management of the EU customs union. The customs union, in place since 1968, is a pillar of the single market, and vital to the free flow of goods and services. According to the Commission, a strong customs system helps foster competitive businesses, increases wealth, and also protects against terrorist, health, and environmental threats.

The customs union operates under the legal framework of the Union Customs Code (UCC), in force since May 2016. However, while customs rules are the same across the EU, national customs authorities do not always apply them in a consistent manner. The Commission has therefore proposed structural and administrative changes, inter alia, on customs policy monitoring, formulation, and implementation. In addition, the Commission proposes to tackle administrative issues (e.g. application of EU law, competency building for custom officials, aligning new EU-wide IT systems dedicated to customs procedures), and border management coordination.

The European Parliament is critical of the differences between customs systems at the national level, in particular regarding customs duties and customs clearance, since these create fragmentation, additional administrative burdens (in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises), and hamper e-commerce. The Parliament suggests, among other things, the creation of more uniform electronic customs requirements and risk-assessment programmes. Parliament has also called on the Commission to present an interim report evaluating EU customs policy by 2017, including a review of the problems, overlaps, gaps, and complaints filed with customs authorities, and customs infringements.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Understanding the EU customs union‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to podcast ‘Understanding the EU customs union

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/09/29/understanding-the-eu-customs-union-policy-podcast/

Introducing a European services e-card [EU Legislation in Progress] [Policy Podcast]

Written by Monika Kiss (1st edition),

Stempelrondell mit Hand

© sunnychicka / Fotolia

Cross-border provision of services in the EU is relatively common, and is undertaken by an increasing number of entities, especially in sectors such as construction and business. Despite this fact, many service-providers still face obstacles to benefitting from comparable business opportunities available to local persons and organisations.

The proposed regulation and accompanying directive aim to tackle these remaining obstacles through the introduction of a European services e-card, meant to increase and simplify cooperation between home and host Member States, as well as through the simplification of the procedures applicable to cross-border service-providers.

The proposal drew a mixed response: stakeholders generally welcomed the Commission’s efforts to remove existing barriers; however, they raised concerns about possible undesirable consequences that the new proposal might trigger, such as reduced control opportunities, and increases in bogus self-employment and social dumping. These views were shared by a number of national parliaments.


Stage: EESC






Listen to podcast ‘Introducing a European services e-card

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/09/29/introducing-a-european-services-e-card-eu-legislation-in-progress-policy-podcast/

EP Plenary Session October: Looking to the future of the EU

Written by Clare Ferguson,

Strasbourg - Plenary session November 2015

European Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The recent speech by French President Emmanuel Macron, proposing greater European integration on issues where EU Member States agree to move forward, echo the proposals made by Jean-Claude Juncker in his address on State of the European Union. One example of such ‘two-speed’ European cooperation on Parliament’s agenda this week is the agreement between 20 EU Member States to establish a European Public Prosecutor’s office, which will take over the criminal investigation and prosecution of those who commit fraud against the EU budget; a task for Member State governments up to now. Defrauding EU funds is a crime against all EU citizens, and Parliament is keen to support the fight against such theft. This is particularly important in the case of cross-border crime such as VAT fraud, where protection of EU finances suffers from uneven levels of protection. A decentralised structure is proposed for the body, with an independent European Public Prosecutor supervising European Delegated Prosecutors in the Member States. Parliament will decide whether to give consent to the proposed arrangements on Wednesday afternoon.

Listen to podcast ‘Establishing the European Public Prosecutor

Still looking to the future of the EU, on Tuesday morning Parliament will adopt a resolution on the state of play of the Brexit negotiations to date. European Parliament consent is required to conclude an eventual agreement with the United Kingdom on the conditions for the country’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union. Parliament’s priority concerns are that citizens’ rights are protected, that all EU-28 financial commitments are met by all 28 Member States in full, and that the issues around the border between the UK and Ireland are satisfactorily settled. While recent negotiations have shown some signs of progress, it remains to be seen whether the Parliament will interpret this progress as sufficient to recommend that talks on a future EU-UK relationship begin.

With much change in the international environment and the current drift towards protectionist moves, Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety is calling for European leadership in defence of the Paris Agreement, following the USA’s announced intention to withdraw. A debate will take place on Tuesday afternoon, in response to oral questions put to the Parliament regarding the forthcoming COP 23 climate change conference, to be held in Bonn, Germany (6-17 November). Members have tabled questions on the measures the Council and Commission plan to take to ensure that climate-related measures are sufficiently financed, that EU industry is protected against third countries with less ambition, and to prepare a zero-emissions strategy for the EU.

In fisheries conservation, the European Union has exclusive competence in EU external fisheries management (barring a couple of exceptions), and is thus a party to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). As such, the Commission proposes to incorporate ICCAT’s binding recommendations fully into EU law. These include 28 recommendations for conservation, management and control of fisheries, to protect species such as tropical tunas, swordfish, marlins, and sharks, while limiting incidental catches of seabirds and turtles. Parliament wants the rules to level the playing field between EU and third-country fleets, and will debate proposals as to how to ensure transparency in quota-setting, and encourage traditional fisheries and fishing practices with a low environmental impact, on Monday evening.

Finally, Parliament continues with the maritime theme in a joint debate scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, which will discuss the issue of safety in passenger ships. Although travel in European waters is the safest in the world, the EU intends to strengthen EU legislation, particularly in respect of fire safety standards. Clarifying and harmonising EU rules, and extending them to cover aluminium vessels, will make the rules easier to manage and enforce. Proposals also include new rules on registering the number of people present on board passenger ships – information that is vital to emergency services in the case of an accident. Parliament is keen to ensure that the passenger data recorded gives enough detail to be able to help victims of accidents at sea, and of course that this personal data is treated in accordance with data protection standards. Parliament’s Committee on Transport is also concerned that passenger shipping that operates almost continually, such as ro-ro (roll-on-roll-off) ferries and other high-speed passenger vessels, require frequent safety inspections due to their intensive use. The proposals for debate seek to harmonise the rules, making four to eight-monthly inspections a priority, and with a view to ensuring a decent working environment for ferry crews.

Listen to podcast ‘Safety rules and standards for passenger ships


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/09/29/ep-plenary-session-october-looking-to-the-future-of-the-eu/

Understanding nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles

Written by Vincent Reillon,

explosion nuclear bomb in ocean

© Romolo Tavani / Fotolia

Nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles need to be understood if the risks and challenges they entail are to be grasped. This understanding starts with two processes discovered in the last century – nuclear fission and nuclear fusion – that have the ability to release a significant quantity of energy from a very limited amount of matter.

On the one hand, these reactions can be used to produce energy. Controlled nuclear fission is the process on which nuclear power plants are based. Nuclear fusion, meanwhile, requires the ability to control a reaction that occurs at temperatures of millions of degrees. The control of nuclear fusion for energy production is the objective of the ITER project.

On the other hand, uncontrolled nuclear fission and fusion reactions can be used to design nuclear weapons whose destructive power is far greater than traditional weapons. The first atomic bombs were produced and used during World War Two and based on nuclear fission. Since then, the design of nuclear weapons has been modified to include nuclear fusion reactions, leading to a sharp increase in the yield of nuclear bombs. The development of nuclear weapons requires mastery of technologies for the production of nuclear fuels (enriched uranium and plutonium), making access to these weapons limited.

Advances in the production and design of nuclear weapons have made them smaller and suitable for mounting in the warheads of ballistic missiles. These missiles, whose functioning is similar to space rockets, can deliver their charge at a very long range (up to 15 000 km for intercontinental ballistic missiles).

Read the complete briefing on ‘Understanding nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Table 1- Key characteristics of ballistic and cruise missiles

Key characteristics of ballistic and cruise missiles

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/09/29/understanding-nuclear-weapons-and-ballistic-missiles/

Safety rules and standards for passenger ships [Plenary Podcast]

Written by Marketa Pape,

Ferry leaving Dover Harbour

© Jenny Thompson / Fotolia

After a review of the EU legislation on passenger ship safety, the European Commission proposed a number of changes to simplify the existing rules and cut administrative costs, while making sea travel safer. This proposed directive clarifies technical requirements for construction, stability and fire protection of vessels travelling on domestic routes. The newly defined standards should provide for uniform national interpretations and make the rules easier to update, monitor and enforce.


With about 400 million passengers embarking or disembarking in EU ports annually, passenger ships contribute significantly to mobility. The existing regulatory framework has ensured a high level of passenger safety, with accident statistics ranking EU waters among the safest in the world. However, Directive 2009/45/EC, which incorporated international standards into EU law, included several ambiguous provisions, which national authorities interpreted in different ways; in particular with respect to the types of ship covered by its rules.

European Commission proposal

The proposal aligns references and definitions with other existing EU legislation. As to the scope, the directive would apply to ships made of steel or equivalent material, thus covering most modern passenger ships. However, the Commission proposed to leave smaller ships (below 24 metres) to be regulated at national level, as these are more sensitive to local conditions. The directive would also now cover ships made of aluminium, which implies significant retrofitting costs for about 100 vessels, to comply with fire safety standards. The proposal would also simplify the definition of sea areas in which ships can operate. Two issues in particular raised discussion, the exclusion of smaller ships and the fire safety requirements for aluminium ships.

European Parliament position

The Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) adopted its report on 11 April 2017, largely supporting the proposal. While agreeing with the exclusion of ships of under 24 metres, it asked the Commission to provide guidelines to ensure their safety. It also supported the inclusion of vessels made of aluminium, but suggested a longer transition period for their adaptation. Furthermore, it insisted that the EU should be proactive in monitoring and improving social conditions of workers on board, as these can impact on vessel safety.

Outcome of the trilogue negotiations

Negotiations between the Council and Parliament concluded on 15 June 2017. They agreed that ships below 24 metres (as well as sailing ships and ships not propelled by mechanical means, tenders and offshore service ships) would remain outside the scope of the directive. Member States with no seaports and no ships flying their flag can derogate from the directive, while Greece can derogate from the rule on establishing sea areas. Member States with more than 60 passenger ships made from aluminium can also derogate – for 10 years for ships built before the directive enters into force and for 12 years for new ships, provided that they operate only between ports of that Member State. The Commission’s power to adopt delegated acts has been limited to seven years. Member States will have two years to introduce the new rules into national legislation. On 11 July, the TRAN Committee endorsed the text, which is now due for a vote during the October I plenary session.

First-reading report: 2016/0170(COD); Committee responsible: TRAN; Rapporteur: Daniela Aiuto (EFDD, Italy). For further information, see our ‘EU Legislation in progress’ briefing.

Read this Plenary At a Glance note on ‘Safety rules and standards for passenger ships‘ in PDF on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to podcast ‘Safety rules and standards for passenger ships

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/09/28/safety-rules-and-standards-for-passenger-ships-plenary-podcast/

Establishing the European Public Prosecutor [Plenary Podcast]

Written by Piotr Bąkowski,

The European Parliament is expected to vote during the October I plenary session on giving its consent to the proposed regulation on the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), agreed by 20 Member States under enhanced cooperation in June 2017.


Establishing the European Public Prosecutor

© kalafoto / Fotolia

Currently, criminal prosecutions for offences against the EU budget fall under exclusive competence of the Member States, which has reportedly led to an uneven level of protection of the EU’s financial interests. Hence the idea of setting up the EPPO to combat crimes affecting the EU’s financial interests, such as fraud in EU regional and agricultural funds. It would thus complement the role of existing competent EU bodies that, though gradually strengthened over time, remains limited to administrative investigations run by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), coordination, and exchange of information (e.g. through Eurojust).

European Commission proposal

In July 2013, the Commission adopted a proposal for the establishment of the EPPO, based on Article 86 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) providing for a special legislative procedure that requires unanimity in the Council and the Parliament’s consent. Under the proposal, the Office would be a decentralised EU body with a hierarchical structure, composed of the European Public Prosecutor and the European Delegated Prosecutors, the latter being an integral part of the EPPO, but located in the Member States.

Enhanced cooperation

Under Article 86 TFEU, the lack of unanimous agreement in Council opened the way for a group of at least nine Member States to establish enhanced cooperation. In April 2017, 16 Member States notified their intention to launch such cooperation and four more joined later. On 8 June, the Member States involved reached agreement on the regulation, which requires the consent of Parliament. Under the agreement, the EPPO would operate as one single office with a decentralised structure organised at two levels. The Central Office would be composed of the European Chief Prosecutor, the College (with one European Prosecutor per participating Member State), the Permanent Chambers, and the Administrative Director. The decentralised level would consist of the European Delegated Prosecutors located in the Member States and with a double
role, acting on behalf of the EPPO and exercising functions as national prosecutors. In order to ensure effective coordination and a uniform approach throughout the EU, their work would be supervised by the central level.
In general, the tasks of the EPPO would be to investigate, prosecute and bring to judgment by national courts the perpetrators of offences against the Union’s financial interests defined under the ‘PIF Directive‘ adopted in July 2017 – including cross-border VAT fraud involving total damage of at least €10 million – as well as other offences inextricably linked to them. Any extension of this competence to cover serious crimes having a crossborder dimension (as allowed by Article 86(4) TFEU) requires a unanimous decision of the European Council.

European Parliament position

Parliament’s interim reports (2014, 2015) advocated a strong and independent EPPO with jurisdiction distinct from that of national authorities, and supported the hierarchical structure proposed by the Commission. By contrast, the Council developed the idea of the Office’s collegiate structure (involving college members from all participating Member States) and of concurrent (rather than exclusive) competence of the Office and national prosecution services, enshrined by the agreement under enhanced cooperation. The EP’s 2016 interim report sought clarification on this new approach, and in September 2017, the EP Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) recommended giving consent to the draft Council regulation.

Consent procedure: 2013/0255(APP). Committee responsible: LIBE, Rapporteur: Barbara Matera, EPP, Italy.

Read this Plenary At a Glance note on ‘Establishing the European Public Prosecutor‘ in PDF on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to podcast ‘Establishing the European Public Prosecutor

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/09/28/establishing-the-european-public-prosecutor-plenary-podcast/

Intelligent urban transport systems: a new technology which could change our lives [Science and Technology Podcast]

By Christian Kurrer, with James Tarlton,

Intelligent urban transport systems

© Fuyu liu / Shutterstock.com

Can information technology contribute to alleviating traffic gridlock in our increasingly congested urban areas?

Over 70 % of all Europeans live in cities, and as this percentage continues to increase, cities become even more congested. Inhabitants suffer from increasingly poor air quality and more noise, as their cities become generally less liveable.

The recent car emissions controversy has drawn considerable attention to the problem of air pollution generated by private car traffic. The row revealed that efforts to reduce air pollution in Europe through stricter emissions regulations are largely ineffective. There is some, justified, expectation that a switch from gasoline to electric vehicles will have a significant impact on pollution levels, but the introduction of electric cars will still take years, and switching to electric vehicles alone will do little to solve the worsening congestion problems.

In recent years, we have therefore seen a renewed interest in the possibilities of intelligent transport system (ITS) solutions.

Potential impacts and developments

Numerous initiatives are under way to investigate how ITS can contribute to making traffic flow smoother and therefore more efficient. Many possibilities arise from the fact that cars are becoming ever more intelligent and increasingly communicate with their immediate environment. Already today, cars can adapt their speeds to the car driving in front, and future interaction with intelligent traffic signals will cut delays and fuel consumption. Cars will be able to book a parking spot at their destination in advance. Currently, satellite navigation systems can optimise routes accounting for the actual traffic situation, but future systems could communicate with each other through a central computer to optimise the overall set of routes that all vehicles should take, avoiding situations where too many drivers want to switch at the same time to the same seemingly faster route around a bottleneck.

All of these technological options would certainly allow more efficient management of current traffic levels. The question is, however, whether this will actually translate into less congestion in urban areas, or whether encouraging even more users to commute to work using their personal car would balance out the increases in fluidity.

Allowing more private passenger traffic to reach city centres smoothly, at the same time, would raise the problem of where to park all these cars. We would not gain much if traffic became smoother, but parking spaces increasingly difficult to find.

Anticipatory policy-making

Solving traffic gridlock in urban areas might require more than just increasing the traffic flow at individual intersections. It might require a more fundamental reassessment of how we want to meet our mobility needs in the future, make use of public spaces, and organise our urban lives.

One option could be to aim at an intelligent traffic system giving absolute priority to surface-bound public transport such as buses or trams. Traffic signals along roads employed by public transport could be programmed in such a way that buses would never have to stop for a red light, nor for cars blocking the road. A major drawback of public bus services today is that their effective travelling speed in urban areas rarely exceeds 15 km/h, and that their frequent stops at bus stops mean that they move even slower than private cars.

With ITS, we could drastically change this situation, potentially even doubling the effective travelling speeds of buses, which also means that the same number of buses and drivers could transport twice as many passengers.

In other words, the most effective way to faster, more fuel-efficient passenger car traffic might actually be an investment in the attractiveness of public transport. In addition to speed, the price of public transport is also a key aspect influencing individuals’ transport choices. Many people find the price of a single ride ticket too expensive for occasional use, or find tariff structures too confusing to understand. Public transport authorities perhaps focus too much effort today in selling and controlling tickets, with ever more high-tech access control systems, rather than actually transporting their passengers. A bus driver, who stops at a bus stop for a minute to sell a single-ride ticket for €2, while 60 passengers wait in the back, is a macro-economic nonsense.

Listen to podcast ‘Intelligent urban transport systems

If efficient public transport is considered to be a public necessity, we may need to think more fundamentally about who should pay for it, and how. Perhaps one might simply consider switching over to providing public transport for free as a rule, the same way in which we switched over to free public education decades ago. At the same time, we could re-assess whether cities should continue to provide free on-street parking spaces for residents. Charging residents for on-street parking could raise the necessary funds to make public transport free for all. Disincentivising parking of private cars on public roads could also make more public space available for even smoother public transport services. In addition, instead of using increasingly sophisticated machines to sell and control tickets for people who travel to town by bus, we could use all of this technical ingenuity to install systems that control and charge motorists who drive to cities in personal cars, providing additional funds to improve public transport.

Furthermore, besides focusing on the technical infrastructure, other options at the user level could make our transport system more intelligent. Daily commuters fill the streets at present, often travelling more or less similar routes in separate cars. ITS systems that would make spontaneous identification of options for ride sharing easier could reduce the need to use individual cars most of the time.

Many options exist therefore to make our traffic system more intelligent. Modern information technology offers tremendous opportunities in this field, but we will still need human ingenuity and imagination to harness its full potential.

This post is part of a series based on the EPRS publication ‘Ten more technologies which could change our lives‘, which draws attention to ten specific technologies and promotes further reflection about other innovations, in a follow-up to the 2015 ground-breaking publication ‘Ten technologies which could change our lives – potential impacts and policy implications‘. The publications explore the promises and potential negative consequences of these new technologies, and the role that the European Parliament as co-legislator could, and should, play in shaping these developments. The publications feed into the work and priorities of the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel and parliamentary committees.

Tell us what other important technological developments you see that might have a significant impact on the way we live in the future, and that would require European policy-makers’ attention, by leaving a comment below or completing our feedback questionnaire.

To keep up-to-date with STOA activities, follow our website, the EPRS blog, Twitter, You tube and Think Tank website.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/09/28/intelligent-urban-transport-systems-a-new-technology-which-could-change-our-lives/

South Korea: Economic indicators and trade with EU

Written by Enrico D’Ambrogio and Giulio Sabbati (both EPRS),

In cooperation with Caterina Francesca Guidi (from GlobalStat | EUI),

South Korea is one of the top countries in terms of doing business and holds a good score within the Human Development Index. Meanwhile its economy has slowed in recent years and female labour market participation remains lower than most OECD countries, with little progress. Trade with the EU has benefitted from 2011 bilateral Free Trade Agreement, namely making a boost in EU’s exports to South Korea.

Download this infographic on ‘South Korea: Economic indicators and trade with EU‘ in PDF.

GlobalStat, a project of the EUI’s Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and the Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation aims to offer the best available gateway to statistical data. It is easily accessible, intuitive to use, and free of charge. In just three clicks it offers data from 1960 onwards for 193 UN countries, five continents and 12 political and regional entities – including the European Union – gathered from over 80 international sources. The project, presents data as diverse as income distribution, water resources, housing, migration, land use, food production, nutrition, or life expectancy, which contributes to a better understanding of the interrelations between human living conditions and globalisation trends.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/09/27/south-korea-economic-indicators-and-trade-with-eu/

Maritime matters matter – World Maritime Day, 28 September

Written by Marketa Pape,

Two small boats docked to industrial ship in port at sunny day

©Pavel Losevsky, Fotolia

Celebrated since 1978 as an official United Nations day, World Maritime Day draws attention to issues related to shipping safety and security, and the marine environment. The main debates and celebrations take place at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) headquarters in London during the last week of September. Since 2005, parallel events are held all over the world – last year hosted by Turkey, and this year, Panama.

The IMO – a United Nations specialised agency responsible for regulating international shipping – chooses a theme each year. This year focuses on ‘Connecting ships, ports and people‘, highlighting the vital cooperation among the many actors involved in shipping and logistics, and following on from the 2016 theme of ‘Shipping: indispensable to the world‘.

Maritime sector and sustainable development goals

Both themes are linked to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which address the major challenges of today’s world: the growing population; threats to the environment and food security; climate change; and diminishing natural resources. While the link may seem rather loose, it is not. Shipping transports around 80 % of world trade, whether food, commodities, raw materials, or consumer goods. Without shipping, the modern economy, based on well-functioning imports and exports, would not be possible. With more than 50 000 merchant ships registered in over 150 countries and manned by more than a million seafarers from all over the world, shipping is an activity which requires global rules.

Creating these rules is IMO’s task. Over the past 50 years, the organisation has developed, agreed and adopted international regulations covering maritime safety, environmental protection, legal matters, and other areas. As a result, shipping has become safer, as well as more efficient and environment-friendly. The theme of the 2017 World Maritime Day points out that a well-functioning maritime sector, where shipping works in partnership with ports and is supported by governments, can significantly contribute to global stability and sustainable development.

The IMO and the EU

All Member States of the European Union are also IMO members and, as such, obliged to follow its rules. In addition to these, the EU has adopted its own body of maritime legislation over the years, mostly transposing international standards into EU law, to make them legally enforceable in EU waters. While following the developments in the IMO closely, the EU is – in some areas – more ambitious, however. This is particularly the case of EU efforts to reduce global emissions from shipping, strongly supported by the European Parliament. Nevertheless, the EU holds the view that adequate international standards, whenever feasible, are preferable to specific unilateral European solutions.

Recent EU legislative initiatives on maritime issues

In March 2017, Union legislators adopted a regulation on market access to port services, opening the way to more transparency in the ports sector. In June, the European Commission changed rules for state aid rules to ports to allow Member States to invest into sea and inland ports without prior notification.

Having reviewed the existing passenger ship safety legislation, the Commission proposed to adapt the EU safety rules and standards for passenger ships, digitalise the registration of persons on board, and strengthen the regime of inspections of ro-ro ferries and passenger craft. All three proposals have been finalised and will be voted in the September European Parliament plenary session.

As to the people working on board EU-flagged vessel, the Commission proposed to enshrine into EU law an agreement reached between social partners in the maritime sector in July 2017. The agreement seeks to ensure better protection for seafarers against abandonment in foreign ports, and strengthen their rights to compensation.

Changes to the rules governing port reception facilities, to make sure that waste from ships stopping at EU ports is collected and effectively treated, are expected to be published soon.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/09/27/maritime-matters-matter-world-maritime-day-28-september/