Месечни архиви: октомври 2017

The EU’s beekeeping sector

Written by Rachele Rossi,

Apiary - woman beekeeper with bees

© Jaroslav Moravcik / Fotolia

Every year, the EU’s 600 000 beekeepers and their 16 million beehives produce 200 000 tonnes of honey. This is not however sufficient to cover demand on the EU market, and the shortfall is made up by imports, above all from China. Threats to bee health and market competition make the economic viability of apiculture a critical matter. EU policies aim therefore to address these issues and promote beekeeping, an activity that is of vital importance to the environment.

EU beekeeping in numbers

Beekeepers and hives in the EU

The EU numbers approximately 600 000 beekeepers and 16 million hives according to 2016 data reported by the Member States. Only 4 % of EU beekeepers have over 150 hives, commonly considered the minimum for professional producers. However, this figure gives only an average indication of the number of hives that could provide a viable revenue, as the boundary between professionals and amateurs can vary across countries depending for example on differing profitability or income levels. Beekeepers are present in all EU countries, with big differences in terms of numbers and size (see Table 1). Germany accounts for about one in every six EU beekeepers, while there are only a few hundred in Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta. In Italy, beekeepers with more than 150 hives manage 60 % of all bee colonies. While 72 % of EU apiculturists are members of a beekeepers’ association, differences across the EU show fewer affiliates in France, Italy, Poland and Spain. National figures show a drop in the number of beekeepers but an overall stable number of beehives over recent years. EU farm statistics confirm this trend as regards farms with beehives.

EU honey production and trade

Honey is the best-known product of beekeeping, although other apiculture products (royal jelly, propolis, pollen and beeswax) and services (e.g. renting out bees for pollination) can represent a source of income for beekeepers. EU beekeepers produce an average of 200 000 tonnes of honey a year, which makes the EU the second world producer after China, with respectively 12 % and 28 % of world production. However, the EU is not self-sufficient and China is the main source of EU honey imports. EU beekeepers have relatively high production costs compared with world competitors, and the limited EU exports of honey are priced higher than imports to the EU.

Main challenges facing beekeepers

Profitability is crucial for the sustainability of the apiculture sector. Like other agricultural producers, beekeepers must cope with production and market challenges. When it comes to production, various factors can affect productivity in a beekeeping enterprise. Outbreaks of animal diseases, exposure to chemicals, losses in plant diversity, adverse climatic conditions or the deterioration of bees’ natural habitats owing to natural or human factors can all threaten the productive capacity of beehives. These factors can also be among the causes of the bee health problems and high bee mortality rates registered in recent decades. Not only do bee colony losses affect the economic viability of apiculture, but threats to bee health are a source of much wider concern, well beyond beekeepers, given bees’ role in the natural pollination of cultivated crops and wild plants and therefore in the preservation of the environment and the production of food.

As for the market, world competitors with lower production costs and cheaper prices represent a threat to EU producers’ market share. Furthermore, a ‘control plan‘ organised recently by the European Commission has highlighted illicit practices (e.g. adulteration of honey with sugar) carried out both in and outside the EU. Non-compliance with EU rules on production standards, labelling, etc. affects beekeeper income and has triggered a call from producers for broader checks to secure fair competition on the EU market.

EU policies addressing apiculture issues

Agricultural market

Agricultural policy measures always impact on beekeeping, whether directly or indirectly. Indirectly, they can help to improve the impact of farming practices on the environment (and thus on bees), for example by promoting the maintenance of permanent grassland or the adoption of environmentally friendly techniques. As for direct measures, apiculture products are part of the EU’s agricultural markets and, in this context, EU funds are available to support bee health, hive management, technical assistance, analysis and research, market monitoring and product quality. To benefit from these funds, which cover up to 50 % of total expenses, EU Member States draw up three-year national apiculture programmes in cooperation with beekeeping organisations (Article 55 of Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013). Every Member State has a programme in place, for an overall 2017‑2019 budget of €216 million (half from the EU budget) allocated according to the number of beehives in each country. Previous programmes used over 90 % of available EU funds. In defining measures to promote beekeeping, the European Commission can consult stakeholders in the civil dialogue group on animal products, whose strategic agenda seeks to promote beekeeping needs in EU agricultural policy making.

Promotion and quality

Beekeeping products can also benefit from promotion measures co-financed by the EU with a budget of over €100 million a year (Regulation (EU) No 1144/2014). Honey is included in several multi-product promotion campaigns in and outside the EU, while a Slovenian campaign is aimed at increasing public and beekeeper awareness of EU quality schemes. In this respect, more than 30 types of honey produced across the EU have received EU quality labels denoting protected designation of origin (PDO) or protected geographical indication (PGI), which can help to increase their economic potential.

Plant health, food security, research and innovation

EU policies covering areas other than agriculture can also help to address apiculture-related issues. On the plant protection side, for instance, decisions as to whether or not to authorise the use of a particular substance can have a significant impact on apiculture, as research has provided scientific evidence of the effects of certain pesticides on bees. On the food security side, the recently adopted Regulation (EU) 2017/625 on checks and penalties related to marketing rules in the EU food industry could benefit apiculture given the differences in production practices across the world and the high quantity of imported honey in the EU. This legislation contains measures that could help to fight honey adulteration fraud by producers both in and outside the EU. Various EU-funded research projects have studied bee health, honeybee colony losses, beehive management, etc. A recent €9 million project financed by the EU research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 is investigating hazard identification for bees, focusing on exposure to chemicals, the presence of pathogens, and bee nutrition. The European Food Safety Authority is, meanwhile, setting up an EU Bee Partnership (expected to be up and running in 2018), a platform for sharing data on bee health.

European Parliament

In its role as co-legislator, Parliament has adopted a number of measures promoting EU beekeeping. The 2013 reform of the CAP addressed concerns expressed in a number of Parliament resolutions on bee health and the situation of beekeeping (20 November 2008, 25 November 2010, 15 November 2011), while an own-initiative report (2017/2115(INI)) tabled by the rapporteur Norbert Erdös (EPP, Hungary) on prospects and challenges for EU beekeeping is currently under deliberation. Alongside its legislative contribution, Parliament recently hosted a hearing on the apiculture sector, while the sixth annual edition of Beeweek took place earlier this year. Stakeholders used these opportunities to share their views on the challenges facing beekeeping and the need to support its vital role for the environment, agriculture and rural areas, and have put forward a position paper on the future of EU agricultural policy, calling for concrete action to promote bee-friendly farming.

Read this At a glance on ‘The EU’s beekeeping sector‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Number of beekeepers in selected EU countries

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/24/the-eus-beekeeping-sector/

EU-Australia free trade agreement – Moving towards the launch of talks [International Agreements in Progress]

Written by Krisztina Binder,

Graphics: Giulio Sabbati and Samy Chahri,

Australia flag combined with european union flag

© Argus / Fotolia

The prospective EU-Australia free trade agreement (FTA) will complement the economic dimension of the current longstanding and evolving relationship with a new element. In addition to opening up new bilateral commercial opportunities, the FTA would also both facilitate the creation of new ties with global production and commercial networks and help to advance the trade policy interests of the EU in the Asia-Pacific region.

The economic cooperation already in place includes a number of bilateral agreements that provide a good basis for the future negotiations. However, given that Australia is a major agricultural and agri-food exporter globally, it is expected that, in the course of the negotiations, certain sensitive issues may be raised. The EU is committed to taking European agricultural sensitivities fully into consideration in its negotiating strategy, seeking to protect vulnerable sectors through specific provisions.

On 13 September 2017, the European Commission presented the draft negotiating directives for the FTA with Australia. This draft mandate, in line with the EU Court of Justice’s recent opinion on the EU-Singapore FTA, covers only those areas falling under the EU’s exclusive competence. Therefore, the prospective agreement could be concluded by the EU on its own and could be ratified at EU level only. The Commission aims to finalise the negotiations before the end of its mandate in late 2019.


International Agreements in Progress

Read the complete briefing on ‘EU-Australia free trade agreement – Moving towards the launch of talks‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/24/eu-australia-free-trade-agreement-moving-towards-the-launch-of-talks-international-agreements-in-progress/

EU-New Zealand free trade agreement – All set for the launch of negotiations [International Agreements in Progress]

Written by Krisztina Binder,

Graphics: Giulio Sabbati and Samy Chahri,

New zealand flag with european union flag, 3D rendering

© Argus / Fotolia

New Zealand already enjoys a number of bilateral trade cooperation agreements with the EU. These agreements pave the way for negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and New Zealand. However, both sides are expected to raise several sensitive issues during negotiations, not least because New Zealand is a major and competitive producer and exporter of agricultural goods. The EU is committed to taking European agricultural sensitivities fully into consideration in its negotiating strategy, seeking to protect vulnerable sectors through specific provisions.

In addition to facilitating trade and investment flows between the parties, the FTA would create a level playing field for the EU with other trading partners that have already concluded FTAs with New Zealand. The FTA would also strengthen the EU’s position in Asia-Pacific value chains, and help to advance the trade policy interests of the EU in the region.

On 13 September 2017, the European Commission presented draft negotiating directives for an FTA with New Zealand. This draft mandate, in line with the EU Court of Justice’s recent opinion on the EU-Singapore FTA, covers only areas falling under the EU’s exclusive competence. Therefore, the prospective agreement could be concluded by the EU on its own and could be ratified at EU level only. The Commission aims to finalise negotiations before the end of its mandate in late 2019.

International Agreements in Progress

Read the complete briefing on ‘EU-New Zealand free trade agreement – All set for the launch of negotiations‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/24/eu-new-zealand-free-trade-agreement-all-set-for-the-launch-of-negotiations-international-agreements-in-progress/

US decertification of the Iran nuclear deal

Written by Elena Lazarou,

On 13 October, US President Donald Trump announced his decision not to certify Iran’s compliance with the international nuclear agreement of 2015. This will likely result in a vote on the deal in Congress. The EU and the rest of the international community intend to keep to the agreement.

President Trump’s announcement

During his electoral campaign, Donald Trump had stated that he would pursue a much tougher stance on Iran compared with his predecessor. On 13 October, he laid out his strategy and stated that he would not certify Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Legal basis

Iran after the nuclear deal: Implications for the region and the EU

© Guillaume Le Bloas / Fotolia

Under the US Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), the US president must certify Iranian compliance with the deal every 90 days to avoid triggering provisions enabling Congress to commence procedures for re-imposing sanctions. While the JCPOA itself does not stipulate or require certification, the act was put in place in May 2015 to give Congress oversight of the agreement, largely on account of the scepticism of a number of its members. INARA requires the president to publicly certify every 90 days that Iran is in technical compliance with the deal and, more broadly, that ‘suspension of sanctions [is] appropriate and proportionate to the specific and verifiable measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear programme’.

More specifically, the president must certify to Congress the following five elements:

  • Iran is ‘transparently, verifiably, and fully’ implementing its nuclear obligations;
  • there is no Iranian ‘material breach’ of the nuclear agreement;
  • Iran has not acted, covertly or not, to ‘significantly advance’ its nuclear programme;
  • US sanctions relief is ‘appropriate and proportionate’ to Iran’s nuclear obligations; and
  • the agreement is ‘vital’ to US national security interests.

The latest deadline for certification was 15 October. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran remains technically compliant. The IAEA has verified Iran’s compliance eight times, most recently on 31 August 2017. Since the implementation of the JCPOA, the USA has imposed additional sanctions on Iran relating to non-nuclear issues, such as terrorism, the ballistic missile programme, and human rights violations.

What happens next?

As decertification does not automatically re-impose sanctions, it does not violate the JCPOA, or signify immediate US withdrawal. Rather, it shifts responsibility as to whether to withdraw onto Congress. Congress will now have a 60-day window in which to decide whether to re-impose the sanctions on Iran that were suspended by the 2015 deal. The decision will be taken through an expedited process, which requires a simple majority in both Houses. A decision to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions would violate the deal, and lead to a US withdrawal from the agreement. However, Congress may opt for more moderate measures, such as holding hearings, passing more symbolic sanctions than the pre-2016 ones, or even not imposing any sanctions at all. The de-certification comes at a time when Senators Corker and Cotton are working on legislation to amend INARA, so that sanctions would be automatically re-imposed if Iran came within a year of obtaining a nuclear weapon. The proposed legislation would change the certification requirement to every six months.


The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed in July 2015 between Iran and the E3/EU+3 – France, Germany, the UK, the EU, China, Russia and the USA. It aims to normalise Iran’s relationship with the rest of the international community and was endorsed by the UN Security Council on 20 July 2015. The main objective of the JCPOA is to ensure the purely peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. In exchange, the other parties agreed to gradually lift restrictive measures on Iran. Iran and the E3/EU+3 envisaged that the implementation of the JCPOA would allow Iran to move forward with ‘an exclusively peaceful, indigenous nuclear programme’ and the rest of the international community to progressively ‘gain confidence’ in Iran’s intentions. In addition, Iran agreed that it would not seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons. The deal provides for extensive monitoring by the IAEA and an inquiry into evidence of past work on nuclear warhead design. Full implementation of the JCPOA is expected to generate a more positive climate for cooperation with Iran in the long term.



Reactions to President Trump’s decision were immediate and predominantly critical. All parties to the agreement have asked the US not to withdraw from it. In a joint statement, the British, French and German leaders noted that the JCPOA had been ‘unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2231’ and that the IAEA had ‘repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA through its long-term verification and monitoring programme’. The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission (HR/VP), Federica Mogherini, emphasised that no one country could terminate the deal, which is quintessentially multilateral and which ‘the international community, and the EU with it, has clearly indicated is, and will, continue to be in place’. On 16 October, the EU Foreign Affairs Council unanimously endorsed a statement that considers President Trump’s decision not to certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA as being made ‘in the context of an internal US process’. The statement encouraged the USA ‘to maintain its commitment to the JCPOA and to consider the implications for the security of the United States, its partners and the region before taking further steps’. The HR/VP has announced that she will be travelling to Washington DC to address the issue with the US administration and Congress.

Russia has warned the US of the dangerous implications of a potential US withdrawal from the agreement and reaffirmed its own commitment to the pact. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stated that Iran will continue to honour its commitment to the deal as long as it serves its interests. China has also called on the USA to preserve the JCPOA, not least since Iran holds a pivotal position in its ‘belt and road’ initiative.


The majority of experts agree that the Iran deal should be maintained, a position that is also held by Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. A US withdrawal from the deal would raise questions for Iran as to whether it is still bound by the deal and destabilise the ongoing process of normalising relations, potentially even leading to Iran leaving the NPT and thereby disregarding any legal constraint against building nuclear weapons. In addition, it would create tensions between the USA and the other parties to the agreement, including key EU and NATO allies. The American think tank Brookings has assessed the decision to de-certify as risky for the President’s credibility and for American global leadership. Various analyses point to the potential increase of Russian and Chinese influence should the USA decide to withdraw from the agreement. Last but not least, the dismantling of the JCPOA would have dire repercussions for the Iranian economy and would likely weaken support for President Rouhani’s reform efforts. For all the above reasons, the majority of analyses predict that Congress will not be reinstating sanctions on Iran.

Read this At a glance on ‘US decertification of the Iran nuclear deal‘ in PDF.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/20/us-decertification-of-the-iran-nuclear-deal/

EU enlargement, Western Balkans and Turkey [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

European Flag on a Blue Sky

© alfexe / Fotolia

In his State of the Union speech in September 2017, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for keeping a credible European Union membership perspective for Western Balkan countries, while ruling out the possibility of Turkey joining the EU in “the foreseeable future” due to violations to the rule of law and fundamental rights.

According to the Commission’s assessment, the forecasts for economic growth in the Western Balkans are good, although progress on reform has been slow, the rule of law has been weak, and corruption is persistent. From the Western Balkans, only Croatia joined the EU, in 2013. Accession talks continue with Montenegro and Serbia. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania are official candidates. Bosnia and Herzegovina formally applied for EU membership in 2016, and remains a potential candidate country, along with Kosovo.

Relations between Turkey, an official candidate country, and the EU have been strained for some time due to what many politicians and analysts perceive as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic style.

This note offers links to a series of recent studies and comments from major international think tanks and research institutes on EU enlargement, Western Balkans and Turkey. More reports on the EU enlargement process can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are thinking’ published in March 2017. More reports on Turkey are available in another edition of the series, also published in March.

Enlargement and Western Balkans

The obsolescence of the European Neighbourhood Policy
Centre for European Policy Studies, Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies, October 2017

Balkan enlargement and the politics of civic pressure: The case of the public administration reform sector
European Policy Centre, October 2017

What Europe can do for the Western Balkans
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2017

EU enlargement: Door half open or door half shut?
Centre for European Reform, October 2017

Balkan Enlargement and the politics of civic pressure
European Policy Centre, Belgrade, October 2017

Possible date for EU accession and the years ahead
European Policy Centre, Belgrade, October 2017

Quality of the response of judiciary in BiH to corruption: Preliminary results
Analitika, October 2017

Serbia’s pursuit of interest in the EU
European Policy Centre, Belgrade, September 2017

The ‘Berlin Process‘ for the Western Balkans: Is it delivering?
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2017

The Balkans, the Black Sea region and China
Clingendael, July 2017

The Western Balkans in the European Union: Perspectives of a region in Europe
Instituto Affari Internazionali, July 2017

Is the EU on the move again? The development of the CSDP and “multi-speed” EU
European Policy Centre, Belgrade, July 2017

Fostering resilience in the Western Balkans
European Union Institute for Security Studies, June 2017

Kosovo’s EU candidate status: A goal within reach?
European Policy Centre, June 2017

Towards a smart staff retention policy for the sustainable EU integration of Serbia
European Policy Centre, Belgrade, June 2017

EU Enlargement: A six percent target for the Western Balkans
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, June 2017

EU and the Western Balkans: Addressing together challenges and using opportunities
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, June 2017

The Western Balkans in the European Union: Enlargement to what, accession to what?
Instituto Affari Internazionali, May 2017

What price do Serbia and Macedonia have to pay to save the EU?
Europeum, May 2017

Does the EU really care about the Western Balkans?
Carnegie Europe, May 2017

The Macedonian crisis: A failure of EU conflict management?
Centre for European Policy Studies, May 2017

The six countries of the Western Balkans need the EU’s full attention
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, March 2017

Balkan Barometer 2017. Business Opinion Survey,
Regional Cooperation Council, October 2017

Political Trends & Dynamics: Emerging Leadership in Southeast Europe
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, September 2017

The Crisis of Democracy in the Western Balkans: Authoritarianism and EU stabilitocracy
BiEPAG, March 2017


Turkey and the EU: No end to the drift
Centre for European Reform, October 2017

The EU should not turn its back on Turkey
European Policy Centre, October 2017

Turkey’s relations with Germany and the EU: Breaking the vicious circle
European Policy Centre, October 2017

Is Turkey Weakening NATO?
Carnegie Europe, September 2017

Turkey and EU at a crossroads: How to fix a wrecked relationship
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, July 2017

Turkey and the EU: Perpetual crisis or restricted cooperation?
German Marshall Fund, June 2017

Four steps to an EU-Turkey reset
Carnegie Europe, June 2017

European Union-Turkey: From an illusory membership to a “privileged partnership”
Fondation Robert Schuman, June 2017

Turkey, the EU and the Mediterranean: Perceptions, policies and prospects
Istituto Affari Internazionali, June 2017

Turkey’s evolving array of diplomatic challenges
Carnegie Europe, June 2017

The axiology of EU cultural diplomacy in Muslim majority countries: The paradox of Turkey
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Institute for European Studies, June 2017

The EU-Turkey refugee deal and the not quite closed Balkan route
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, June 2017

The “new Turkey” in the making: What should the EU’s strategy be?
Polish Institute of International Affairs, June 2017

The Turkish economy is struggling with political volatility
Chatham House, June 2017

“Hang them in Taksim”: Europe, Turkey and the future of the death penalty
European Stability Initiative, May 2017

The Chapter Illusion: For honesty and clarity in EU-Turkey relations
European Stability Initiative, May 2017

Why the EU should terminate accession negotiations with Turkey
Centre for European Policy Studies, April 2017

Turkish referendum: Erdogan home but not yet dry
European Council on Foreign Relations, April 2017

Making the EU-Turkey refugee deal work
Bruegel, April 2017

Turkey’s constitutional referendum: What you need to know
European Council on Foreign Relations, April 2017

Negotiating Brexit: The prospect of a UK-Turkey partnership
Carnegie Europe, March 2017

Energy and climate strategies, interests and priorities of the EU and Turkey
Istituto Affari Internazionali, March 2017

Read this briefing on ‘EU enlargement, Western Balkans and Turkey‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/20/eu-enlargement-western-balkans-and-turkey-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

Radio frequency identification tags: a new technology which could change our lives [Science and Technology Podcast]

By Lieve Van Woensel and Andrés Garcia, University Castilla La Mancha, Spain (guest contributor), with James Tarlton

Radio frequency identification tags

© Andreynikolaev / Shutterstock.com

The Internet of Things is slated to transform our way of life – while radio frequency identification tags, and other short-range communication devices, are already with us – how might this technology change our way of life?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is replacing barcodes on a massive scale, as a way of tagging consumer goods. In the light of recent food scandals, this could facilitate the traceability of food and beverages in a more efficient and exhaustive way than what is feasible with barcodes.

RFID is also the technology behind the tags that are now common on some clothes, books or other products, easily distinguished thanks to a kind of coil, or piece of foil, that acts as an antenna. With this technology, gates containing the required reader detect products as they pass through. While this is similar to some older anti-theft systems, now it is also possible to identify specific products uniquely for other purposes, such as billing or to consult a product’s characteristics. This is possible because the tag contains an ID number that is longer than those used in barcodes, and is structured in such a way that it can be used to automatically access databases with additional information on the internet.

This capability of the reader to not only identify the product, but also to access a plethora of related information, has given rise to ideas such as smart objects or the Internet of Things (IoT). A smart object is an object that enhances its interaction not only with people but also with other smart objects. The Internet of Things is the integration of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.

New applications of these ideas are constantly appearing, and research in this area is thriving. RFID tags could be useful throughout the product life cycle, from the gathering of the required parts or raw materials, all along the manufacturing and supply chains, including at the point of sale, and up to the processes of recycling and waste management. This could shorten queues at supermarkets, as all products in the trolley are read instantaneously. Users could also benefit by taking advantage of the capability of the objects themselves to provide access to related information, such as usage instructions, that appliances can automatically access. For example, a bag of food could update the freezer on the required temperature for adequate preservation, or warn it about upcoming expiration dates, or inform the microwave oven about the required cooking temperature and time.

However, the concept of tracking objects raises some concerns. Whereas a smartphone is likely to remain a relatively conspicuous device, the somewhat hidden tag in an object that can mysteriously give access to so much information can be seen as a threat.

Listen to podcast ‘Radio frequency identification tags [Scientific and Foresight Podcast]

Potential impacts and developments

It is important to note that, for reasons of efficiency and price, basic RFID tags used for tracking consumer goods work in the ultra-high frequency (UHF) range and are passive (i.e. do not have batteries). This is noteworthy because it defines the properties and capabilities of the tag. Using UHF means that the reading ranges may be relatively long under certain conditions but, on the other hand, not having batteries means that they are required to use the power coming from the carrier signal provided by the antennas connected to the reader. In addition, UHF is prone to malfunction in the presence of liquids (that absorb the energy) or metals (that reflect the signal creating interference). All of this results in readers being necessarily quite costly and conspicuous (e.g. as a reading arch in a shop) even if tags are not.

Another implication of the requirement for such simple tags (to use very little energy), is that the communication protocols implemented in them are rather basic. This means that they are not secure, as they do not include encryption or any other measures of protection. Further research is currently underway in these areas, but for the moment, it is possible to tamper with the information in several ways (counterfeiting, eavesdropping, cloning, spoofing, jamming etc.).

As well as basic UHF RFID tags, other tags are also very common and even simpler, as is the case for those using near field communication (NFC) technology. NFC uses lower frequencies; meaning tags are only read at very short distances (usually by a hand-held device) and one at a time. The advantage is that they require only a cheap and simple reader. On the other hand, many other types of tags with improved capabilities also exist, as by adding a battery (to make ‘active tags’); they may become sufficiently complex for many different applications. Active tags can include sensors, actuators and a large memory, and make extended communication ranges possible. All of these capabilities again contribute to public concern regarding the applications of this technology.

Anticipatory policy-making

It is important to note that, at present, any small tags hidden in everyday objects are always simple, passive devices; with quite limited capabilities, (versions that are more powerful are usually bigger and far more conspicuous). Therefore, it is always difficult to read a tag, and even more so in the EU, where the power of readers is limited to two watts by law (while four watts are allowed in the USA). This means that reading ranges are usually limited to about two metres. Furthermore, the authorities can easily detect and control the readers, as they work in a similar way to radar. However, it is important to keep in mind that these tags are designed for simple consumer goods. Therefore, even if the possibilities associated with their use are rather broad, it is unlikely that any hypothetical ‘Big Brother’ will use the tags.

On the other hand, there is a real concern on the part of the developers about the safety of this technology when used for certain applications. To begin with, it would be important to ascertain a realistic limit to the power used by the readers, as this creates a serious limitation. While two watts seem to have very little effect on the human body, it is important to take into account that UHF uses the same wavelengths as microwave ovens. Therefore, there is a concern regarding the possibility of ‘hot spots’ appearing in certain locations that may affect biological products. For example, hospitals use UHF RFID tags to track bags of blood, but there does not seem to be any specific research on the effects that the readers may have on the preservation of these products.

There are still many possible improvements around RFID, but the technology is already available, and the possible applications are many. It is true that there is no complete guarantee that the technology is fault-free and tamper-proof, but we cannot compare the simple tags designed to identify consumer goods with the devices that could be used to track a person, such as smartphones. Nevertheless, the use of this interesting technology can certainly help solve the many problems that appear along supply chains, affecting consumers. It may be preferable to accept the remote possibility of the authorities knowing what you are eating, rather than risk food poisoning.

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/2017/10/20/radio-frequency-identification-tags-a-new-technology-which-could-change-our-lives/

Text and data mining: a new service for libraries?

Written by Andras Schwarcz,

EPRS event - ' Text and Data Mining: A new Service for Libraries ? 'Text and data mining (TDM), the automated analysis of digital data searching for trends, correlations and patterns, is rapidly gaining prominence due to exponentially increasing amounts of digital data (‘Big Data’) and decreasing technology prices. TDM enables researchers to access and analyse material that was previously impossible to process. Is TDM the next step for libraries to provide information to their users? This was the premise of the event organised by the European Parliament’s Library, inviting experts to explain their take on the role libraries can and should play in utilising this new research potential. The panel consisted of Catherine Stihler (S&D, United Kingdom), Kiera McNeice of the British Library, Julien Roche, professor at Lille University, and was moderated by Joe Dunne, Director of the EP Library. Julia Reda (Greens/EFA, Germany) presented some opening remarks on the subject before the panel discussion began.

Now that the scientific information produced exceeds the amount humans can process, Text and data mining is necessary to advance research. TDM has the potential to accelerate innovation by making research more efficient, by reducing literature review time by 80 %, and by discovering connections between apparently unrelated datasets. TDM may consequently help reinterpret existing knowledge. It can help the research community and indirectly the general public to benefit from a larger proportion of research data generated mostly using public funds.

STIHLER, Catherine (S&D, UK)

STIHLER, Catherine

There are some issues hindering the spread of TDM globally, and especially Europe. The first to tackle are legal – such as the unclear and fragmented legal framework for copyright. Currently, researchers need the express consent of each data publisher to be able to mine for information, even if they have the right to access the data. This discourages researchers from covering a wide range of datasets, especially relevant in niche fields. Rule for copyright exceptions, digital rights management (DRM) and definitions of such crucial terms as ‘non-commercial use’ are unclear and vary across Member States. Publishers and data owners often set legal restrictions to data mining in their licensing contract with libraries and research institutions, but also technical restrictions to bulk download and crawling their websites, especially hindering APIs developed by researchers. Although many major publishers have developed and standardised their technology to allow easy access and bulk downloads, smaller publishers are not all as advanced, and do not grant easy and standardised access for TDM. There is a lack of technical expertise and fora or expert networks where researchers and institutions such as libraries could access know-how.

The debate surrounding TDM in the EU therefore is currently focused on copyright, an initiative under discussion in the European Parliament. For TDM there is a need for a unified and clear legal framework on exceptions, to be able to use all the research data to which a researcher has legal access for machine reading and data mining, even with tools developed by researchers. Further to the copyright issues, access to data, standards and interoperability need to be addressed at EU level. These are necessary for Europe to be able to compete with Asia and the USA. There is also a need for dialogue between the data users and the publisher to achieve a balance between profit for publishers and public access to knowledge. There is also much to do in educating researchers on the potential of TDM, developing tools for TDM – areas where libraries could be in the forefront.



Libraries have a public service mission to help the public navigate the digital world, make information and data publicly available in all forms. The role of the library in finding specific information is being extended to finding trends and connections in information. More specifically, libraries need to play a bridging role in connecting researchers and IT developers that brings the research questions together with the research tools. Libraries need to educate non-specialists, highlighting the potential of TDM. They need to act as proponents of data harmonisation by using open standards. They can serve as information hubs, influencers and content providers, contact points for researchers, and help developing TDM strategies for other institutions. Libraries have always played a leading role in archive digitalisation, now they have to provide machine-readable digital archives. For these reasons, librarians’ jobs will be transformed, becoming data scientists and machine reading experts.

The panel concluded that the European Parliament Library has certainly potential in the TDM field, in semantic research in the EP archives and repositories of open data, especially legal texts.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/20/text-and-data-mining-a-new-service-for-libraries/

The reintegration of returning migrants [Policy Podcast]

Written by Marta Latek,

Atelier de formation de couture.

© lemélangedesgenres / Fotolia

Returning more and more migrants with irregular status to their countries of origin has become a key European Union aim in efforts to reduce illegal migration. Despite its high political priority, reiterated in European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s 2017 State of the Union address, the effective implementation of this objective is problematic, mainly due to resistance at the individual level, but also from the countries of origin. The 2016 partnership framework with third countries attempts to enhance cooperation with partner countries on readmission, using a wide range of positive and negative policy incentives. To make the return option more attractive for migrants with irregular status, the EU’s return policy promotes voluntary returns through reintegration assistance packages. No less than 90 specific assisted voluntary return and reintegration programmes (AVRR) have been established by EU Member States, co-financed by the European Union, and implemented mainly by the International Organization on Migration (IOM).

Maximising sustainable returns, understood not only as absence of re‑emigration, but also as a returnee’s positive impact on the development of their communities of origin, is a key challenge. The nature of return chosen, and the success of economic and social integration of migrants in host countries, are the main factors of successful reintegration at the pre-departure stage, together with social and psychological counselling in preparing the reintegration project. Following arrival, training and in-kind assistance to start up a business, accompanied by measures to re-establish social networks, are what works best. Close cooperation with local partners is necessary to include reintegration assistance within existing development initiatives, to avoid duplication, resentment against returnees, and to respond to local needs.

Read the complete briefing on ‘The reintegration of returning migrants‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to podcast ‘The reintegration of returning migrants

Top 20 states of non-EU citizens returned to their country of origin, 2015-2016

Top 20 states of non-EU citizens returned to their country of origin, 2015-2016

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/19/the-reintegration-of-returning-migrants-policy-podcast/

Implementing the Aarhus Convention, Access to justice in environmental matters [Policy Podcast]

Written by Anne Altmayer,


© BillionPhotos.com / Fotolia

The Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters is an international agreement that gives the public a number of rights with regard to the environment. It consists of three pillars, one of them covering the right of access to justice in cases of non-compliance with environmental law.

Implementation of the convention’s provisions on access to justice have been the focus of two recent documents, one published by the European Commission and the other by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee.

While the European Commission examines the implementation of the convention provisions in the Member States, the UNECE Committee takes a critical look at implementation at EU level. Both papers point to shortcomings, in particular with regard to the right of non-governmental organisations to be heard in court.

Regarding implementation at Member State level, the Commission has launched a dialogue procedure with each Member State concerned. When it comes to implementation at EU level, the convention’s Meeting of the Parties in September 2017 postponed its decision on the findings of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee in respect of the EU to its next meeting in 2021.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Implementing the Aarhus Convention, Access to justice in environmental matters‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to podcast ‘Implementing the Aarhus Convention, Access to justice in environmental matters

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/19/implementing-the-aarhus-convention-access-to-justice-in-environmental-matters-policy-podcast/

Smart borders: EU Entry/Exit System [Plenary Podcast]

Written by Anita Orav,

Closeup of girl holding passports and boarding pass at airport

© laufer / Fotolia

The Commission has envisaged integrated border management for several years, in response to increased traveller flows and the new security context. The Entry/Exit System proposed aims to set up a database where entry and exit information of third-country travellers is recorded. Following a political agreement with the Council, the Parliament is expected to vote on the texts in October.


In 2013, the Commission presented its Smart Borders package, proposing to establish an Entry/Exit System and a Registered Traveller Programme for third-country nationals travelling to the EU. The overall aim was to make border controls faster, more reliable and interconnected with other EU information systems in the area of justice and home affairs. However, the proposals did not achieve consensus among the co-legislators, who raised doubts regarding the cost of the initiatives, their technical feasibility and projected benefits. Based on the results of further technical assessment, the Commission presented new proposals on 6 April 2016.

European Commission proposals

The 2016 package includes a revised proposal for a regulation establishing an Entry/Exit System (EES) and a proposal for a regulation amending the Schengen Borders Code as regards the use of the EES. The system would apply to all non-EU nationals, both requiring visas and visa-exempt, travelling to the Schengen area. Instead of manual stamping of passports, the date, time and place of entry and exit, as well as the passenger’s biometric data would be stored in a database for five years. Automation would enable calculation of the duration of authorised stay within the Schengen area, help to identify over-stayers and fight document and identity fraud. In addition to border control and consular posts, national law-enforcement authorities and Europol could query the database to identify terrorists, criminals and suspects, as well as victims of serious crimes.

European Parliament position

On 22 February 2017, the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) adopted reports on the EES and its use. The committee agreed with the proposal to store a combination of four fingerprints and a facial image of travellers, but considered that data should be kept for only two years. It requested that border management and law enforcement be treated as two separate purposes for data processing in the EES, an issue also raised by the European Data Protection Supervisor. As Member States may establish national facilitation programmes for pre-vetted travellers, the report set out technical provisions to reduce border formalities. On 29 June, the Parliament and Council reached agreement on the political issues of the proposals. The data retention period was set at three years, and exceptionally five years when there is no exit data after the expiry of the authorised stay. They agreed on law-enforcement access but not on access for asylum authorities. The possibility of transferring data for law enforcement or return purposes to third countries, and EU Member States not participating in the EES, was kept, under certain conditions.

The agreed text is due to be voted in plenary in October. However, in July 2017 the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that the agreement to transfer passenger name record (PNR) data between the EU and Canada is incompatible with EU fundamental rights, such as respect for private life and protection of personal data. The Commission undertook to ensure compliance of data transfers to non-EU countries with the Court’s opinion. The EP and Council have both been assessing the impact of the opinion on the two Smart Borders proposals.

First-reading reports: 2016/106(COD) and 2016/0105(COD); Committee responsible: LIBE; Rapporteur: Agustín Díaz De Mera García Consuegra, EPP, Spain. For further information, see our ‘EU Legislation in progress briefing‘.

Read this Plenary At a Glance note on ‘Smart borders: EU Entry/Exit System‘ in PDF.

Listen to podcast ‘Smart borders: EU Entry/Exit System

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/19/smart-borders-eu-entryexit-system-plenary-podcast/