Месечни архиви: януари 2018

Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, January 2018

The Future of Europe: debate with Leo VARADKAR, Irish Prime Minister

© European Union 2018 – Source : EP

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson,

The January session highlights were the European Council conclusions debate and a presentation of Bulgarian Presidency priorities, as well as the first in a series of debates with EU leaders on the future of Europe, with the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar. Parliament voted, inter alia, on three clean energy package proposals; a review of dual-use items export controls; its opinion on the revised Brussels IIa Regulation; and gave its consent for the conclusion of the Marrakesh Treaty.

December European Council conclusions

During the debate on the conclusions of last December’s European Council, President Donald Tusk underlined the progress made in the negotiations between the European Union and the UK government on the first phase of talks, which have been addressing citizens’ rights, Ireland and the financial settlement. He did not exclude the possibility that the people of the United Kingdom might change their minds on the future relationship of their country with the European Union.

Conclusion of Estonian and presentation of Bulgarian Presidencies

Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas highlighted the main achievements of the Estonian Presidency, pointing out the importance of the digital dimension of EU policies. He also underlined defence cooperation, climate policy and the social dimension as the main policy fields in which the EU noted progress during the presidency.

As for the Bulgarian Presidency’s priorities, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov concentrated on the future of Europe and young people. The Western Balkans, digital economy, social issues, defence and the normalisation of relations with Turkey and Russia, and stability and security, including migration issues, are also on the agenda. Regarding negotiations on the next MFF, Bulgaria, as an EU budget beneficiary, supports maintaining the common agricultural and cohesion policies.

Statements on the Colombian peace process, Iran and Kenya

Commissioners Stylianides, Hahn and Malmström made statements on behalf of VP/HR Federica Mogherini regarding EU support for the Colombian peace process, the situation in Iran and Kenya. During debate, Members underlined the importance the EU places on supporting the practical implementation of the peace agreement in Colombia. They called for the release of all demonstrators imprisoned in Iran for taking part in protests against unemployment and the low standard of living. The uncertainty over the agreement with Iran on nuclear issues should not be seen as an excuse not to defend human rights in the country.

Commission statement on the EU strategy on plastics

The European Commission presented its strategy on plastics, expecting it – a key factor for the EU transition towards a circular economy – to have a positive effect on innovation, investment prospects, growth, jobs and competitiveness. It includes a range of means – legislation, economic incentives, voluntary agreements with industry – to transform product design, production, use, and recycling and reduction of marine litter. The aim is to cut the use of disposable plastics, restrict the intentional use of microplastics, encourage demand for recycled plastics, create a genuine single market for plastics, and to work to mobilise all European players and encourage international cooperation.

Clean energy – joint debate

Parliament adopted a strong position in line with EU climate commitments on three of the eight Commission proposals in the clean energy package: namely those for a revised energy efficiency directive, a recast directive on the promotion of renewable energy sources, and a new regulation on energy union governance. The existing legislation seeks to deliver 20% reductions by 2020. For the next period, to 2030, the Commission had proposed increased targets: to 30 % for improved energy efficiency, and for energy consumption to comprise 27 % renewable energy sources. For Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, these ambitions are insufficient (they proposed 40 % and 35 % respectively). The plenary voted for binding targets of 35 % for both, and Parliament’s representatives will now negotiate with the Council on that basis.

New framework for fisheries technical measures

Parliament adopted its position for trilogue negotiations on the proposals for a new framework for fisheries technical measures, and against the authorisation, on an experimental basis in the EU, of ‘electro fishing’, or electric pulse trawling, in the North Sea. The current technical measures, which govern which fish are caught, where and how, are much derided for their complexity and rigidity.

South Pacific fisheries management measures

Parliament’s Fisheries Committee considers that the proposal to transpose South Pacific fisheries management measures into EU law so that they are applicable to fishing vessels flying the flag of a Member State has already largely been carried out by the Commission. Members adopted their position, making specific changes to the text to cover use of certain nets that were not addressed, by an overwhelming majority, which will allow trilogue negotiations to proceed smoothly.

Implementation of EU macro-regional strategies

Where cooperation benefits all participants, the EU macro-regional strategy framework allows countries from the same geographical area to pool together resources to work on issues such as nature protection or transport, regardless of borders. By a large majority, Members adopted an own-initiative resolution calling for continued support for macro-regional strategies in the next multi-annual financial framework and for reinforced horizontal and vertical cooperation.

Review of dual-use export controls

Members adopted by an overwhelming majority the EP position for negotiations with the Council on the proposal to update EU rules on the control of exports, transfer, brokering, technical assistance and transit of dual-use items – goods and technologies that are usually used for legitimate purposes, but that can also be used as weapons, or for torture. The review also seeks to adapt the position to take account of the dangers of human rights violations due to the use by dictators of dual-use goods produced in Europe.

Implementation of the Youth Employment Initiative

The EU’s young people and children are the future citizens of Europe and therefore a high priority for Parliament. A large majority voted in favour of adoption of a resolution calling for a Parliament resolution on the implementation of the Youth Employment Initiative. It underlines the need to reach out to the most excluded young people, ensure that they receive good quality offers of employment, and that the Commission and Member States set realistic and achievable goals for the initiative.

Brussels IIa Regulation

With the best interests of the child its priority, Parliament adopted by large majority its opinion (under the consultation procedure) on the proposal to recast the Brussels IIa Regulation governing the jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of decisions in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility, and international child abduction. Parliament’s Committees on Petitions and Legal Affairs consider that the current proposals can be strengthened, particularly in cross-border cases, and to expand the child’s right to be heard in such proceedings.

Marrakesh Treaty

Following years of legal debate as to whether or not the EU could conclude the Marrakesh Treaty, which aims to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled, Parliament gave its consent to Council for the conclusion of the treaty.

Opening of trilogue negotiations

The Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee announced its decision to enter into interinstitutional negotiations on three legislative files, all of which were confirmed unopposed.

This ‘at a glance’ note is intended to review some of the highlights of the plenary part-session, and notably to follow up on key dossiers identified by EPRS. It does not aim to be exhaustive. For more detailed information on specific files, please see other EPRS products, notably our ‘EU legislation in progress’ briefings, and the plenary minutes.

Read this at a glance note on ‘Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, January 2018‘ in PDF on the Think tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/01/19/plenary-round-up-strasbourg-january-2018/

Europe’s challenges in 2018: Ten issues to watch

Written by Naja Bentzen, with contributions from Joanna Apap, Piotr Bakowski, Etienne Bassot,  Jesus Carmona, Denise Chircop, Enrico D’Ambrogio, Isabelle Gaudeul-Ehrhart, Nora Milotay, Eva‑Maria Poptcheva, Magdalena Sapala and Christian Scheinert,

DG EPRS discussion - 2018 : Navigating currents and winds - Ten issues to watch‘Ten issues to watch in 2018’ was presented in the Library of the European Parliament on 11 January, in the context of a roundtable discussion that attracted an audience of more than 130 people. The significant attendance demonstrated the high interest in the publication – the second edition of an annual EPRS publication designed to identify key issues and policy areas that are likely to feature prominently on the political agenda of the European Union over the coming year.

Following Director-General Anthony Teasdale’s introduction, European Parliament Vice-President Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso (EPP, Spain) opened the roundtable discussion. He pointed out that defending European values is today more necessary than ever, and that ‘2018 has to be the year in which the European Union stands firm in continuing to protect what is under threat: the rule of law in some countries and regions, the fight against corruption and the freedom of the press in others’. He underlined that ‘the European Union still needs to act as the guarantor of the European way of life, in opposition to all those who seek to destroy or weaken it: global terrorism, the aggressiveness of Putin’s Russia, or even the United States of President Trump’s return to conflictual positions.’

Members’ Research Service Director, Etienne Bassot then took the helm for the discussion, pointing out that — although the shocks of 2016 that shaped 2017 (the Brexit vote and the US presidential election) continue to play a key role, and the sea might continue to be rough — there is new hope and a new optimism for the European project. There is a feeling that Europe has a good wind in its sails, but even if we still face some headwinds, we can use the skills and tools that we have at our disposal to navigate the currents and obstacles we face. The roundtable discussion, during which ten EPRS ‘crew members’ presented these currents, obstacles, skills and tools, was followed by a short Q&A session.


DG EPRS discussion - 2018 : Navigating currents and winds - Ten issues to watch


To begin with the underlying currents — issues that have been underway for a while and are likely to continue to impact Europe’s course — Etienne Bassot highlighted migration, Brexit, disinformation/cybersecurity, youth empowerment, and inequality.

Migration (Joanna Apap, policy analyst, External Policies Unit): Due to record levels of displacement, human suffering, climate change, socio-economic impact on host communities as well as complex political ramifications in many countries, migration will continue to be high on the EU agenda in 2018 and beyond. The question as to how to ensure that the different interests and needs are addressed within a strong human rights framework is at the very heart of the debate on migration management, Joanna argued, concluding that ‘Migrants are not statistics. They are human beings. And human rights are universal’.

Brexit (Jesus Carmona, Head of the Citizens Policies Unit): We can expect the following for 2018 as regards Brexit negotiations: First, discussions about the transitional arrangements for the period between the end of the United Kingdom’s EU membership on 29 March 2019 and the start of a future relationship between the EU and UK. Second, the future framework for EU-UK relations. The Council is expected to adopt guidelines for the future relationship in March. Even if it is still early, some models for the future relationship have already being identified as possible scenarios: EFTA country model, EU-Canada type (CETA) or a Canada plus option, or the EU association agreement with Ukraine. Alternatively, even a ‘no-deal’ scenario. Negotiations on Brexit need to be finalised by the end of 2018, to allow time for the European Parliament to consent to the agreement, and for the UK parliament to approve, so that UK membership can end on 29 March 2019, as expected.

Disinformation and cybersecurity (Naja Bentzen, policy analyst, External Policies Unit): The EU’s responses to the threats from disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks will continue to evolve in 2018, in part pushed up the agenda by the European Parliament. For instance, the East StratCom TaskForce will have a real budget in 2018, for the first time since its creation in 2015. The Commission will publish a communication on fake news and online disinformation in spring 2018. Against the backdrop of evolving cyber-threats, EU cyber resilience will feature prominently in the coming year, and the EU is responding with host of measures, some yet to be launched, and others due to come to fruition in 2018.

Youth empowerment (Denise Chircop, policy analyst, Social Policies Unit): The EU’s policies, tools and funding dedicated to youth empowerment do not seem enormous compared to the challenges they address. Yet, if they reach citizens at grassroots level, where they are needed, their power of leverage can be significant. Decisions on the renewal of these tools will be made in 2018. The outcomes will determine how well the EU can support youth empowerment in the years to come.

Inequality (Nora Milotay, policy analyst, Social Policies Unit): The big divisions within and between European societies, along gender, generation, place of birth, and education lines, have led to a sharp decline in trust in governments. The role of policy is to shape co-production and fair distribution in line with new economic theory that considers the market as an outcome of an ongoing interaction between economic actors and institutions. EU policies will continue to address inequalities in this manner in 2018. The European Pillar of Social Rights will be further implemented through the European Semester and other legislative and non-legislative measures, like the social fairness package, that are meant to support Member States in their efforts to update their national welfare systems. This will happen within the framework of the further reflection of the future of EU competences and their added value in the different policy fields.


DG EPRS discussion - 2018 : Navigating currents and winds - Ten issues to watch

Etienne Bassot, Members’ Research Service Director

Etienne Bassot pointed out that, in navigation, currents are not the only influence to take into account – there are also obstacles, typified by issues such as terrorism and North Korea.

Terrorism (Piotr Bakowski, policy analyst, Citizens Policies Unit): With the challenge of terrorism unlikely to diminish in the near future, the EU will continue consolidating its counter-terrorism capabilities by improving the implementation of existing instruments and applying new approaches to this evolving phenomenon.

North Korea (Enrico D’Ambrogio, policy analyst, External Policies Unit): In the North Korean crisis, there is no war on the horizon. Nevertheless, further provocations by Pyongyang are still possible in 2018. Kim Jong-un is unlikely to give up on the nuclear and missile programme, as he sees them as the guarantee of his regime. This has distracted the international community from the appalling situation of human rights in North Korea, and perhaps time has come the EU to take up this challenge.

Tools and skills

As Etienne Bassot pointed out, navigation requires tools; including a solid financial framework, a stable euro area as well as European elections that opens a dialogue with the European voters.

Future financing of the Union (Magdalena Sapala, policy analyst, Budget Policies Unit): The Commission plans to propose a post-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF) in May 2018. The first post-Brexit MFF presents an opportunity for reform on both the revenue and the expenditure side of the EU budget, possibly including new own resources. The debate on the future financing of the European Union has already begun and the expectations regarding the new system of financing the EU are high.

Future of the euro area (Christian Scheinert, policy analyst, Social Policies Unit): Current proposals for modifying the Economic and Monetary Union‘s architecture may result in incremental change, but not in a ‘great leap’ forward. The stability of the euro area will therefore continue to depend on the framework which was put in place six years ago, in response to the sovereign debt crisis. This framework, known as ‘EMU 2.0’, already contains powerful tools which are not only suited to avoid the resurgence of a crisis, but are also geared towards supporting growth and employment.

European elections (Eva-Maria Poptcheva, policy analyst, Members’ Research Service): In the run-up to the 2019 European elections, we are still facing the challenge of making the elections to the European Parliament truly ‘European’. The electoral reform proposed by Parliament back in 2015 seeks to make elections more European both in form and substance. However, the consolidation of the Spitzenkandidaten-process was met with particular opposition in the Council. The nomination of lead candidates for the European election by the European political families seeks not only to Europeanise the electoral campaigns, but creates a direct political link between Parliament and the European executive, which has already translated into a further parliamentarisation of EU decision-making. This, as well as a possible future joint EU constituency with transnational lists and the composition of the Parliament after the UK leaves the EU, remain exciting issues to watch during 2018.

By collectively reflecting upon the ‘known unknowns’ in this roundtable discussion — sharing our findings and exchanging views — EPRS initiated a forward-looking debate to gain a better overview of the ‘big picture’, identify strategic issues for 2018, and find drivers for the European Parliament’s work. The topics for the 2018 edition of ‘Ten issues to watch’ were selected in a collective manner, and EPRS covers a wide spectrum of other issues in its publications, which can be found on our website.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/01/17/europes-challenges-in-2018-ten-issues-to-watch/

How assistive technologies could make society more inclusive of people with disabilities

Written by Philip Boucher,


© Zerbor / Shutterstock.com

Assistive technologies (ATs) are designed to improve the functional capabilities of people with disabilities. Some are relatively low-tech and very familiar, such as reading glasses, crutches and hearing aids. Others are more advanced, using cutting-edge science and technology, with future ATs under development that could have a huge impact on all our lives.

This week, STOA published the results of its study on ATs for people with disabilities. The study was requested by Ádám Kósa (EPP, Hungary) and carried out by the European Technology Assessment Group (ETAG), under the management of STOA.

The key results of the study are presented in a video, and are further summarised and developed in an In-Depth Analysis, published by STOA, which highlights that many current and future ATs could have a substantial positive impact on the inclusion of people with disabilities in society, education and employment. However, just because current ATs already bring many opportunities, that does not mean that social or regulatory action is not needed, nor does it mean that by waiting for future ATs we will inherit a more inclusive society. Indeed, if they are not developed and introduced carefully, ATs can pose risks for human rights, privacy, dignity, access to employment, freedom and social inclusion.

The first phase of the study focused upon the context of ATs, in particular the regulatory, health and demographic aspects. Three disabilities were considered: blindness and visual impairment, deafness and hearing impairment, and autism spectrum disorder. The three disabilities exhibit several similarities and differences that are important for current and future ATs. The analysis of the regulatory environment focused on Germany, Hungary, Portugal and Sweden, highlighting divergence in their approaches to supporting the use of ATs. These reviews are presented in Part I of the study. A review of current, emerging and future ATs is presented in Part II of the study.

The project then entered its primary research stage, which included surveys, expert interviews and a stakeholder workshop. People from each disability group, including users and non-users of ATs, participated in the survey, which focused upon their perspectives and needs with regard to technology and regulation. This was supplemented by expert interviews, selected so as to gain a deeper understanding of the potential and challenges of current and future ATs. The workshop brought together stakeholders from policy-making, NGOs, academia and industry to consider a wide range of potential impacts of ATs on society. These activities are presented in Part III of the study.

Through this combination of primary and secondary research, several social, technical, ethical, demographic, regulatory, economic and environmental trends were identified. These were used to compile four explorative scenarios about the future of ATs, which are published as an appendix to Part III of the study.

The final stage of the study was to develop legal and social-ethical reflections on the role of the European Parliament’s current and future initiatives. These were produced in-house by STOA, and led to a range of potential policy options regarding accessibility as a human right, privacy by design, informed consent, user-centred technology design, ethics oversight structures, AT classification systems, safety, the autonomy of choice to use ATs, and the availability of human care. The full range of reflections and policy options are presented in Part IV of the study.

The In-Depth Analysis concludes with several key messages. First, a proactive approach should be taken to ensure that current and future ATs respond to the needs and challenges of society. Second, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to promoting ATs may be inappropriate, as individuals have different needs, desires and preferences, and live in different social, economic and infrastructural contexts. Third, technology alone is not enough and should be combined with social and regulatory action. Fourth, actions should not exclusively focus on individuals with disabilities. Adequate responses to discrimination and stigma will require broad attitudinal and organisational change that permeates society. Some professions, particularly those at the front line of public services, need to understand how to communicate using ATs effectively, so as to ensure that they can deliver their services to all citizens. The designers and developers of all technologies – whether assistive or mainstream – would also benefit from a better understanding of the challenges of inclusion. Practical steps include co-creation and the enhanced involvement of people with disabilities from the earliest stages of technology development, and support for the emergence of a range of AT professionals who could support people with disabilities, technology developers, and other citizens to maximise the benefits of ATs. Fifth, and finally, it calls for more effective use of current technologies and regulations, combined with social action against discrimination and stigma, which could have a profound positive effect on all of our lives.

Your opinion counts for us. To let us know what you think, get in touch via email or complete a survey. Surveys are available for all STOA studies (click on the title and follow the link).

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/01/17/how-assistive-technologies-could-make-society-more-inclusive-of-people-with-disabilities/

The new EPRS App is available now!

Written by Mitja Brus,

EPRSWe begin 2018 with an exciting new European Parliamentary Research Service product! As of this week, you can download our brand new app to keep up-to-date with EPRS publications, and read them anywhere at any time on your smartphone or tablet.

The app gives you access to some 4 000 publications from July 2014 onwards, each of them available in full-text. All publications are sorted according to their length, so depending on how much time you have, you can quickly select what type of publication you need. You can also browse all publications by policy area, for example, if you are only interested in foreign affairs, all our publications are only two clicks away.

For those who prefer searching, we have added a powerful and fast search engine. Simply type your search term or keyword in the search box and publications are adapted to your search immediately. If you still have too many results, filters help you to narrow the results down by policy area, author, type of publication, and date of publication.

To allow you to read our publications when it’s most convenient for you, we also provide offline access. Inside the app, your Reading List is your personal folder, where you can collect the publications you want to read while travelling and not connected to the internet. Just swipe the title of the publication, then ‘add to reading list’, and the full text of the publication will be stored on your mobile device to read later.

Available for smartphones and tablets, you can download both versions of the app from Google Play and App Store.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/01/17/the-new-eprs-app-is-available-now/

Western Balkans in the spotlight in 2018

Written by Velina Liliyanova,

With positive messages and increased attention coming from the EU, 2017 seems to have ended on a high note for the Western Balkans. 2018 starts with the region being high on the agenda of Bulgaria’s EU Council Presidency, and promises a favourable context for advancing its EU bids. For this to happen, however, the six WB countries need to show results on the core EU-related reforms.

2003-2018: progress made over 15 years

Closeup of businessman and woman with jigsaw puzzle pieces in office

© Rido / Fotolia

At the 2003 EU-Western Balkans Thessaloniki Summit, the EU declared its ‘unequivocal support’ for the region’s European perspective. Over the ensuing 15 years, Croatia did become an EU Member State, but for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia the path to accession has been strewn with multiple (some shared, others specific) challenges that have prevented more concrete developments. There is progress, albeit slow: four countries have candidate status; BiH has applied for it; and only Kosovo has not. Visa-free travel, one of the most tangible results of the process, benefits all but Kosovo. All six have stabilisation and association agreements (SAA) with the EU, and Montenegro and Serbia, currently dubbed ‘frontrunners’, are negotiating multiple chapters of the EU acquis.

Since 2003, the EU has also changed: having had three enlargements (2004, 2007 and 2013) and welcomed 13 new members, it is currently negotiating one departure from its ranks for the first time. Over time, its approach to enlargement has grown stricter, involving stronger focus on the ‘fundamentals’: rule of law, economic governance and democratic institutions. The EU has been criticised for having side-lined the WBs’ accession process; a 2017 Balkan barometer shows that the WBs’ enthusiasm has also waned. The Berlin process, on the other hand, is often highlighted as a trigger of positive dynamics in regional cooperation, most recently with the agreed set up of a regional economic area and a transport community at the Trieste Summit.

Enlargement in the spotlight: will 2018 be a year of opportunity?

In 2014, the newly elected European Commission stated that there would be no enlargement during its term. Following this initial message, however, a number of events in 2017 pointed to growing willingness to bring enlargement higher on the EU agenda, thus also boosting the Western Balkans’ expectations for 2018.

In March 2017, HR/VP Federica Mogherini visited the region and acknowledged its fragility and exposure to internal and external challenges. The March 2017 European Council reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to the region. In his 2017 State of the Union address, Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, stated that the EU has to maintain a credible enlargement perspective for the WBs. In a subsequent letter of intent to the EP and the Estonian Prime Minister, the Commission announced a new initiative, to be launched with a 2025 perspective: an EU accession strategy for Serbia and Montenegro as frontrunner candidates. In a recent address, French President, Emmanuel Macron, said that a clear EU perspective for the region would keep external powers at bay. Bulgaria, holding the EU Council Presidency since January 2018, has WB enlargement among its priorities; accordingly, an EU-WB summit is scheduled for May 2018 and there are plans to extend EU ‘roam like at home’ policy to the region. These initiatives, together with the Commission’s soon-to-be-published enlargement reports, promise to shape a packed agenda until mid-2018 (Figure 1).

Enlargement-related agenda, first half of 2018.Supporters of WB enlargement argue that it is in the EU’s interest, as the WB are part of Europe and stability in them is linked to stability in the EU. Other supporters see further enlargement as a test for the EU’s aptitude to act as a global player and as a ‘success story’ that the European project needs.

The Western Balkan six: state of play and priority issues

Apart from the country-specific issues, experts observing the region have identified a number of trends, such as erosion of democracy, rule of law and media freedom, slack economic performance, fast-rising nationalist sentiments, and external influences, all of which require priority action. The challenge lies, therefore, in speeding up the enlargement process, but without compromising the quality of reforms.

With their ongoing EU accession talks, Montenegro and Serbia are currently seen as the region’s frontrunners. Despite domestic political polarisation and tensions with Russia, in June 2017 Montenegro joined NATO. It is ahead in the EU accession process, having opened 30 chapters and provisionally closed three, and having no major bilateral issues with its neighbours. The Commission urges it to keep the pace of reforms and economic growth and to deliver results with regard to the rule of law and the fight against corruption. Serbia has opened 12 of 35 chapters, two of which are provisionally closed. It expects to open three new ones in early 2018. Progress with the rule of law and the normalisation of relations with Kosovo (Chapter 35) are the two critical issues that are essential to the pace of its talks. Achieving greater independence of the judiciary and freedom of the press, lowering corruption and aligning more strongly with EU foreign policy are key to progress.

Albania expects a green light to start accession talks in 2018. The EU has commended Albania’s constructive regional role, alignment with EU foreign policy and reform efforts that include the adoption of a new vetting procedure for the judiciary, a key judicial-reforms package and constitutional amendments. To advance, Albania needs to implement judiciary reforms and tackle corruption and organised crime more efficiently.

From a frontrunner in the 2000s (the first to get candidate status and sign a SAA), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s EU prospects have dimmed, reaching their lowest during the country’s recent political crisis. While its new government, in office since mid-2017, has shown resolve to remedy the situation, FYR Macedonia has to deliver on a sizeable ‘3-6-9 reform agenda’ that builds upon a set of ‘urgent reform priorities‘ and the Pržino Agreement. It has also yet to address sensitive issues with some neighbours. Relations with Bulgaria are said to be on a good track after a recently signed friendship treaty, but to unblock the country’s EU bid, a breakthrough on its name dispute with Greece is needed. Conditions appear to be favourable: both parties have shown readiness to cooperate. With elections coming up in 2019 (parliamentary in Greece, presidential in FYR Macedonia, and European elections), the timing appears right for the next steps.

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) hopes to receive candidate status, but is delaying in answering the Commission questionnaire of late 2016. Its complex decision-making process has made reaching political compromise a daunting task even for simple issues, and keeps the country entangled in a ‘zero-sum game’. While the region expects positive momentum, 2018 has difficulties in store for BiH. With elections to be held in October 2018, ethnic and political tensions have started to rise. As ruled by its constitutional court in December 2016, BiH has to reform its electoral law or risk further chaos and delays to the implementation of its reform agenda.

Kosovos EU bid faces many challenges, not least the fact that five EU Member States have not yet recognised it. It has pledged to deliver quick progress on key SAA reforms and hopes to get a clear commitment on its EU future. However, despite support from the EU’s rule of law mission, organised crime and corruption levels are high and the judiciary remains vulnerable to political interference. Normalisation of relations with Serbia is a top priority, as is the implementation of key reforms. Additionally, to benefit from visa-free travel to the EU like the rest of the region, Kosovo has to meet two requirements: ratify a border demarcation deal with Montenegro and improve its track record in the fight against corruption.

The European Parliament’s position

EP President, Antonio Tajani, recently stated that ‘the future will be one of enlargement‘, confirming the EP’s traditional support for the Western Balkans’ EU integration, expressed in its annual resolutions over the years. In its 2017 annual report on human rights and democracy, the EP stressed that ‘enlargement policy is one of the strongest tools for reinforcing respect for democratic principles and human rights’ in countries aspiring to become EU members. The EP supports democratic processes therein through mediation, election observation and engagement in debate on topics relevant to accession. A recent example of an EP contribution is the EP-mediated dialogue in FYR Macedonia, which started in 2015 and helped lead the country’s political parties to agreement. In January 2018, the EP is to launch the ‘Jean Monnet’ process, to continue its debate with the Macedonian parliament. To increase its credibility in external policy, the EP has repeatedly urged full recognition of Kosovo by all EU Member States. As for the Western Balkans, the EP has continually stressed that the region needs political resolve to address outstanding issues on a national and regional level.

Read this At a glance on ‘Western Balkans in the spotlight in 2018‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/01/16/western-balkans-in-the-spotlight-in-2018/

Common agricultural policy

Written by Risto Nieminen,

Word cloud for Agricultural policy

© fotolia

  • Jobs, growth and investment – Employment in the EU’s rural areas is above its pre-crisis level. In 2015, 65 % of the working-age population had jobs.
  • Energy union and climate change – Net greenhouse gas emissions from EU agriculture continued to fall in 2014 to 516 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, down from nearly 522 million tonnes in the baseline year of 2012. Emissions continued their positive long-term trend, having fallen by 24 % since 1990 in the EU-28.
  • Digital single market – Broadband access in rural areas is improving. Next-generation access in rural areas had reached 40 % of homes by mid-2016 while standard access had climbed to 93 % of homes by mid-2016.

Source: European Commission.

What is agricultural policy for?

After World War II, Europe was in pieces, devastated and facing a shortage of food. The main objective of the European Coal and Steel Community, a new institution set up in 1952, was therefore to work to unite a fragmented Europe. Lack of food was one of earliest challenges; action at European level was necessary in order to make Europe self-sufficient in food and to secure an adequate food supply and the free flow of food and agricultural products within Europe. The common agricultural policy (CAP) was formed in 1962 to ensure that people could have food at affordable prices and that farmers would earn a fair living for their work. CAP is one of the European Union’s oldest common polices.

A sizeable world import-export market exists for agricultural products. In 2016 the EU28 exported €131 billion and imported €112 billion in agri-food products, with a balance of €19 billion (European Commission). Global agricultural prices are determined freely, based on supply and demand. If producer prices for agricultural products were higher, farmers would earn more and there would be less need for agricultural support; higher food prices do not benefit consumers however. The OECD-FAO expects real prices to remain flat or decline for most commodities. The reduction in prices poses existential challenges for many farmers who cannot compensate for price reductions by increasing their (production) efficiency or production levels. The European Union’s agri-food sector is one of its biggest economic sectors, numbering 22 million farmers and agricultural workers. Around 44 million jobs in food processing, food retail and food services are dependent on agriculture (European Commission).

The role of the EU’s common agricultural policy is to assist in providing a decent standard of living for Europe’s farmers and agricultural workers, along with a stable, varied and safe food supply for European citizens. It contributes to job creation and economic growth, helps to mitigate climate change (by means of financial incentives for greener farming for instance) and also encourages sustainable development.

Figure 1 below describes CAP’s objectives and the channels through which these are to be reached.

General and specific objectives of CAP

CAP also has an essential role to play in achieving the Juncker Commission’s 10 priorities, in full coherence with other policies, namely: boosting quality employment, growth and investment; harnessing the potential of the energy union, the circular economy and the bio-economy while bolstering environmental care and fighting and adapting to climate change; bringing research and innovation out of the labs and onto the fields and markets; fully connecting farmers and the countryside to the digital economy; and contributing to the European Commission’s agenda on migration (Source: European Commission).

Share of direct payments (DPs) in CAP spendingCAP has three inter-connected elements. These are income support for farmers (direct payments), market measures, and rural development. CAP operates by means of the European Union budget for agriculture. Under the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework €408.31 billion is reserved for CAP (approximately 38 % of the EU’s total budget). CAP expenditure is financed via two funds, which form part of the EU’s general budget. These are first the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) for direct payments to farmers (Pillar I), which includes measures to regulate agricultural markets, such as intervention buying and private storage aid; and second the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) for the rural development programmes of the Member States (Pillar II).

CAP spending primarily takes the form of direct payments to farmers (roughly 70 % of total CAP spending – which is close to 30 % of the EU’s total annual budget). Direct payments (DPs) are paid fully from the EU budget (there is no national co-financing) and are made to farmers in the form of basic income support based on the number of hectares farmed. On average this amounts to €267 per eligible hectare, on the condition that farmers respect strict rules on human and animal health and welfare, plant health and the environment. The amount of support is not linked to the volume of agricultural products produced. Around 7.3 million EU farmers receive direct payments. Currently approximately 70 % of payments go to 10 % of all recipients.

Over the years, the CAP financing structure has changed considerably. Export subsidies and market support measures have gradually decreased. Coupled direct payments (payments linked to production) have almost been phased out and replaced by decoupled direct payments (payments linked to hectares owned). The share of rural development financing has remained stable on the whole.

Europeans want good quality food products

According to Eurobarometer (2016):

  • More than half of Europeans think the EU’s main objectives in terms of agriculture and rural development policy should be ensuring agricultural products are of good quality, healthy and safe (56 %) and ensuring reasonable food prices for consumers (51 %).
  • Europeans believe the EU is fulfilling its role in securing the food supply in the EU (70 % agree) and in ensuring agricultural products are of good quality, healthy and safe (65 %).
  • Whilst an absolute majority agree the EU is fulfilling its role in ensuring a fair standard of living for farmers (52 %), a high proportion of respondents do not hold this view (35 % disagree). Similarly, important minorities disagree the EU is fulfilling its role in ensuring reasonable food prices (33 % disagree) and protecting the environment (31 % disagree).
  • The majority of Europeans consider all of the listed priorities of the CAP to be important, with two priorities mentioned more often as being ‘very important’: investing in rural areas to stimulate economic growth and job creation (47 %), and strengthening the farmer’s role in the food chain (45 %).

Examples of CAP-financed projects

A wide variety of projects have been financed through the CAP for example:

  • Fruit and vegetable producer organisations (EU wide – €736 million)
    The EU encourages farmers to set up producer organisations (associations and producer groups) and, by so doing, to strengthen their position on the market.
  • School milk scheme and school fruit scheme (EU wide – €250 million; €150 million for fruit and vegetables and €100 million for milk).
    This programme aims to increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables and dairy products at school so as to encourage healthier eating habits, in the context of declining consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables and an increased incidence of child obesity.
  • Market emergency measures, Poland (€72 million)
  • Broadband infrastructure in rural Lithuania (€51 million)
  • Restructuring a winery bottling plant (Spain)
  • Investment for adding value to meat products (Czech Republic)
  • Complex development of a Mangalica farm (Hungary)
  • Introducing new machinery and market innovations on Eberlin’s Apiary (Latvia)

Source – European Commission.

Focus on rural development

Key targets from the 2014-2020 rural development programmes include the following:

  • At least 30 % of funding for each rural development programme to be dedicated to measures relevant for the environment and climate change
  • 8 million training places
  • 15 000 cooperation projects
  • 333 000 agricultural holdings to invest in restructuring or modernisation
  • 178 000 agricultural holdings to be set up or further developed
  • 310 000 farms to become involved in quality schemes, short supply chains, local markets or producer groups/organisations
  • 646 000 farms to be covered by risk management schemes
  • 113 000 non-agricultural jobs to be created, of which 79 000 from the creation, diversification and development of small businesses;44 000 through the LEADER approach to local development
  • 50 million rural citizens to benefit from improved services

Source: European Commission.

Future challenges

According to the OECD and the FAO, the food and agriculture sector is up against a critical global challenge, namely that of securing access to safe, healthy and nutritious food for a growing world population, while at the same time using natural resources more sustainably and making an effective contribution to climate change adaptation and mitigation. In the face of this and numerous other global challenges, the future shape and format that CAP should take is still unknown. Eurobarometer provides insight into the expectations Europeans hold regarding common agricultural policy, and thus underpins continued improvements to CAP to reflect societal changes and shifting priorities.

The European Commission considers in its reflection paper on the future of EU finances that ‘there is a growing call for the policy to focus further on the provision of public goods, such as safe and healthy food, nutrient management, response to climate change, protection of the environment and its contribution to the circular economy’. Consequently the Commission has presented various options, including the ‘introduction of a degree of national co-financing for direct payments in order to sustain the overall levels of current support’.

A modernised CAP should be better able to respond to global challenges. It should provide more common public goods and generate more added value via better coordination and internal cooperation. Smarter and more efficient, economic and effective use of the EU’s common resources will be key factors for success in the next 60 years of common agricultural policy.

Read this briefing on ‘Common agricultural policy‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/01/16/common-agricultural-policy/

Economic and Budgetary Outlook for the European Union 2018

Written by Alessandro D’Alfonso, Angelos Delivorias, Marcin Szczepanski,

Economic and Budgetary Outlook for the European Union 2018

© European Union, EPRS

In 2017, the EU and euro-area economies continued their moderate growth (slightly over 2 %) in a context of global improvement (3.5 %) underpinned by a strong rebound in world trade, continuing growth in China and a return to growth in countries such as Brazil and Russia. This growth, which should continue in the next two years, was shared by all euro-area Member States for the first time since the crisis, and was accompanied by the creation of jobs – unemployment is at a post-crisis low – and strong investment, which reached pre-crisis levels.

With regard to public finances, the general government deficit for both the EU and the euro area has declined and is projected to decline further in the following years, to below 1 %. The general government debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to follow a similar path, decreasing to 85.2 % and 79.8 %, for the euro-area and the EU-28 respectively, a trend that, while positive, means levels are still a long way from the expected 60 %.

After significant fluctuations in 2016, inflation rose closer to the target, of around 2 %, by the fourth quarter of 2017, helped by the recovery in oil prices, but is not expected to reach the target until 2019, due to a negative base effect in energy prices and the increase of the euro’s nominal effective exchange rate. In this context, the European Central Bank continued with its unconventional monetary policy in 2017 and decided to keep it for 2018, albeit moderating its purchases as of January 2018, due to the improving economic outlook and the need to reduce the risk of financial imbalances.

The aforementioned positive trends concerning the euro-area economy, as well as the results of the various elections held in 2017 in the EU, have likely outweighed the negative developments such as the deteriorating geopolitical context, the uncertainty concerning the Brexit negotiations and the policy-mix outlook in the US. This has helped to strengthen the common currency against its major counterparts since spring 2017. As a result, the euro has appreciated against most of its major trading partners’ currencies. While these trends are projected to continue over the next two years, their strength is expected to subside, on account of the phasing out of temporary supportive fiscal measures in Member States and the tapering of accommodative monetary measures.

The 2018 EU Budget amounts to €160.1 billion, representing only some 2 % of total public spending in the European Union – approximately 1 % of gross national income (GNI). Despite its volume, the overall impact of the EU Budget is amplified by a number features, including: a higher share of resources devoted to investment than in national budgets; the capacity to leverage additional funding from other sources; and attention to policy areas where the pooling of resources can provide the EU as a whole with added value (e.g. research, innovation and development cooperation).

Agreed by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, the 2018 budget focuses on priorities such as promoting sustainable growth, creating employment, especially for young people, and addressing migration and security challenges. In recent years, these persistent policy challenges have almost exhausted the flexibility provisions available under the EU’s 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF). However, the 2017 adoption of the mid-term revision of the MFF has strengthened a number of flexibility tools, proving instrumental in reinforcing the resources devoted to key policy areas in 2018.

With the 2014-2020 MFF in the second half of its programming period, the debate on its successor and further streamlining of the EU Budget has already gained momentum, with a reflection paper on the future of EU finances published by the European Commission. Taking into account difficulties that the current MFF has experienced, one objective is to increase capacity to respond to the concerns of EU citizens and to the unprecedented challenges the Union is facing. In May 2018, following a broad consultation of stakeholders, the Commission is expected to present its proposals for the post-2020 MFF and a possible reform of the EU’s financing system.

Many instruments in the EU Budget directly or indirectly address the objectives of industrial policy, against the backdrop of a quickly evolving sector. The importance of the sector to the EU, in both economic and political terms, as well as the changing nature and scope of industry and industrial policy, made it the subject of this year’s economic focus. This examines industry in the EU from four perspectives (production, gross value added, employment and the regional perspective), its evolution over the past decade and the impact of the crisis, and presents the EU-level initiatives designed to rekindle industrial activity.

Read the complete study ‘Economic and Budgetary Outlook for the European Union 2018‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/01/15/economic-and-budgetary-outlook-for-the-european-union-2018/

The Brexit process [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

Brexit, flags of the United Kingdom and the European Union on asphalt road with legs

© Delphotostock / Fotolia

The EU’s Heads of State or Government gave the green light in December 2017 to the second phase of negotiations on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU. They agreed that ‘sufficient progress’ had been made in talks on issues in the first phase. Those include the UK’s financial obligations on leaving the EU, the rights of EU citizens within the UK and of UK citizens within the EU, and how to deal with the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The next phase of talks will focus on transitional arrangements and the future EU-UK relationship, including in the field of trade.

This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports published by major international think tanks and other organisations on EU-UK negotiations and on the implications of Brexit more widely. More studies on these issues can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are thinking’ from October 2017.

Brexit: Next steps in UK’s withdrawal from the EU
Library of the House of Commons, January 2018

‘Soft’ Brexit is no panacea: Why the Scottish government should lead on halting Brexit
Scottish Centre on European Relations, January 2018

The Brexit options, explained
Brookings Institution, January 2018

Blockchain and trade: Not a fix for Brexit, but could revolutionise global value chains (if governments let it)
European Centre for International Political Economy, January 2018

Brexit negotiators should consider global impact
Friends of Europe, January 2018

TPP: The UK is having a Pacific pipe dream
Centre for European Reform, January 2018

Brexit talks: What happens when the clock stops?
Scottish Centre on European Relations, January 2018

Compromis sur le Brexit: Trompe-l’œil ou réussite politique?
Institut des relations internationales et stratégiques, December 2017

An early transition deal won’t avoid the Brexit cliff edge
Institute for Government, December 2017

Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, December 2017

Trade after Brexit: Options for the UK’s relationship with the EU
Institute for Government, December 2017

The shared market: A new proposal for a future partnership between the UK and the EU
Institute for Public Policy Research, December 2017

Brexit breakthrough: Into ever-deeper fog over both the Northern Irish border and the Channel
Centre for European Policy Studies, December 2017

Brexit talks move on: They will be tough
Scottish Centre on European Relations, December 2017

Finding a sensible Brexit
Chatham House, December 2017

Dispute resolution after Brexit
Institute for Government, December 2017

Brexit: Le scénario hard de Theresa May de plus en plus hypothétique
Institut Thomas More, December 2017

Opportunities and risks in Europe in 2018
Bruegel, December 2017

Beyond the Westminster bubble: What people really think about immigration
Open Europe, December 2017

The burdens of Brexit
Rand Europe, December 2017

Brexit readiness update: The players improved their score
Peterson Institute for International Economy, December 2017

Brexit and the border: An overview of possible outcomes
UK in a Changing Europe, December 2017

UK + EU = Canada+?
Centre for European Reform, December 2017

Brexit: UK defers the hard choices
Carnegie Europe, December 2017

Brexit: A negotiation update
Brookings Institution, December 2017

Optimistic UK business confidence indicators predict smooth Brexit
Bruegel, December 2017

Brexit begins to take shape, as debate in Scotland continues
Scottish Centre on European Relations, December 2017

Brexit: Launching satellite Britain
European Policy Centre, December 2017

Alternate forms of Brexit and their implications for the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States
Rand Europe, December 2017

‘Why we’re stuck and how we want to get out of this’: Capacity building for the post-Brexit generation
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, December 2017

Britain opts for ‘Brexit in name only’
Peterson Institute for International Economics, December 2017

Perspectives on the Irish Border and Brexit negotiations
Policy Exchange, December 2017

Who’s afraid of the ECJ? Charting the UK’s relationship with the European Court
Institute for Government, December 2017

Brexit, phase two (and beyond): The future of the EU-UK relationship
Bruegel, December 2017

Brexit: Towards a deep and comprehensive partnership?
European Policy Centre, December 2017

Brexit: When the banks leave
Bruegel, December 2017

As Brexit negotiations are finely poised, the economic picture doesn’t get any less gloomy
Scottish Centre on European Relations, December 2017

Theresa May’s disunited kingdom
Carnegie Europe, December 2017

Ten predictions for the Brexit talks
Centre for European Reform, November 2017

A comment on the proposed EMIR revisions
Centre for European Policy Studies, November 2017

Dig for victory?
Centre for European Reform, November 2017

Europe’s problem with England
Institute of International and European Affairs, November 2017

The implications of Brexit for UK, EU and global agricultural reform in the next decade
Chatham House, November 2017

Negotiating Brexit: what do the UK’s negotiating partners want?
UK in a Changing Europe, November 2017

Brexit negotiations and legislation: Implied timeline
Institute for Government, November 2017

The Brexit negotiations: What do the British want?
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, November 2017

Relaunching the EU
Centre for European Reform, November 2017

Can Northern Ireland be kept in the EU?
Carnegie Europe, November 2017

Brexit means…? Or the urgency of defining Brexit before the Brexit happens
Fondation Robert Schuman, November 2017

Ireland on the rocky road to Brexit
Notre Europe, November 2017

Vaping solutions: An easy Brexit win
Institute of Economic Affairs, November 2017

Read this briefing on ‘The Brexit process‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/01/12/the-brexit-process-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

European Parliament Plenary Session, January 2018

Written by Clare Ferguson,

Strasbourg - Plenary session November 2015

European Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Twin key debates are scheduled on Parliament’s agenda on Wednesday morning, with the appearance of no less than two Prime Ministers. Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov, will present the programme of activities of the Bulgarian Presidency, followed by a debate with the Prime Minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, on the future of Europe. The Council and Commission will make statements reviewing the outgoing Estonian EU Presidency, and Donald Tusk, the European Council’s President, is due to report on the meeting of 14 and 15 December 2017, on Tuesday morning. The topical debate this session, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, will explore the issue of Russia and the influence of propaganda on EU countries, an effect that is becoming pressing for Parliament in the light of the upcoming European elections, which the Parliament’s political groups have agreed should be scheduled for 23-26 May 2019. (The proposed dates have now to be confirmed by the Council.)

The EU’s young people and children are the future citizens of Europe and therefore a high priority for Parliament. A report calling for a Parliament resolution on the implementation of the Youth Employment Initiative is scheduled for debate on Wednesday evening. The report underlines the need to reach out to the most excluded young people, ensure that they receive good quality offers of employment, and that the Commission and Member States set realistic and achievable goals for the initiative. Regarding employment, Thursday morning’s agenda kicks off with consideration of an Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee report on implementation of the Professional Qualifications Directive and the need for reform in professional services. With the best interests of the child the main concern, Parliament will also debate a report on the proposal to recast the Brussels IIa Regulation governing the jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of decisions in matrimonial matters and matters of parental responsibility, and international child abduction on Wednesday evening. Parliament’s Committees on Petitions and Legal Affairs consider that the current proposals can be strengthened, particularly in cross-border cases, and to expand the child’s right to be heard in such proceedings.

Many of the issues on the agenda for this session concern, directly or indirectly, good stewardship of our environment for this next generation. On Monday evening, Parliament is due to discuss three of the eight Commission proposals in the clean energy package: a revised energy efficiency directive, a recast directive on the promotion of renewable energy sources, and a new regulation on energy union governance. These measures seek to deliver, by 2020, 20 % improved energy efficiency, for energy consumption to use 20 % renewable energy sources, and strengthened criteria for biofuels. For Parliament’s Committees on the Environment, and Industry, Research and Energy, these ambitions are insufficient (they propose 40 % and 35 % respectively), and their joint report calls for longer-term planning – to 2050. The votes are to take place on Wednesday lunchtime.

Where cooperation on issues such as nature protection or transport benefits all participants, the EU’s macro-regional strategy framework allows countries from the same geographical area to pool together resources, regardless of borders. However, the EP Committee on Regional Development considers that improvements could be made to the implementation of EU macro-regional strategies in respect of commitment to and ownership of the initiatives, resources and governance. A debate on the Committee’s report will be held on Monday evening.

A Commission statement is expected on Wednesday evening on the EU strategy on plastics – an initiative planned under the renewed EU industrial policy strategy measures on the circular economy. An oral question on trade and sustainable development chapters in EU trade agreements, of which the CETA agreement is an example, is also scheduled as the last item on the agenda for Tuesday. The other trade issue on the agenda, later on Tuesday evening, is the proposal to update EU rules on the control of exports, transfer, brokering, technical assistance and transit of dual-use items – goods and technologies that are usually used for legitimate purposes, but that can also be used as weapons, or for torture.

Calling for appropriate inclusion of gender aspects in EU trade and development agreements as well as all aspects of the EU contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a short presentation will take place on Monday evening of the Women’s Rights & Gender Equality Committee report on women and gender equality in climate justice. Also on gender issues, an oral question on the fight against trafficking of women and girls for sexual and labour exploitation in the EU is scheduled for Wednesday evening.

The oceans are an important part of our environment, and an Environment Committee report on international ocean governance: an agenda for the future of our oceans, in the context of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals will be presented on Monday evening. Parliament will debate the proposals for a new framework for fisheries technical measures, which should simplify their application in the conservation of fishery resources and protection of marine ecosystems, on Monday evening. The current technical measures, which govern which fish are caught, where and how, are much derided for their complexity and rigidity. The proposal suggests splitting them into common measures for all fisheries, and a set of regional variants, a move supported by Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries. The European Union is a contracting party to the Convention Area of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO). Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries considers that the proposal to transpose South Pacific fisheries management measures into EU law so that they are applicable to fishing vessels flying the flag of a Member State has already largely been carried out by the Commission, but makes specific changes to the text to cover use of certain nets that were not addressed. Their report is also on the agenda for debate on Monday evening.

Parliament’s agenda for Tuesday afternoon is reserved for the regular appearance of the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. This plenary session will include statements on EU support to the Colombian peace process, (rejected by the Colombian people); and on the situation in Iran and Kenya. Debates on breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law follow on Thursday morning, including cases in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and human rights activists in China.

Finally, following quite some years of legal debate as to whether or not the EU could conclude the Marrakesh Treaty, which aims to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled, Parliament is expected to vote on Wednesday evening to give its consent to Council for the conclusion of the treaty. On Wednesday night the Commission will also make a statement to Parliament on the European Cultural Heritage Year 2018.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/01/12/european-parliament-plenary-session-january-2018/

EU efforts on counter-terrorism – Capacity-building in third countries [Policy podcast]

Written by Beatrix Immenkamp, with Patryk Pawlak and Georgios Barzoukas,

EU efforts on counter-terrorism - Capacity-building in third countries

© EUCAP Sahel Niger – Press and information team.

In the European Union (EU), responsibility for counter-terrorism lies primarily with Member States. However, the role of the EU itself in counter-terrorism has grown significantly in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks that have hit Europe in the post-‘9/11’ era. The cross-border aspects of the terrorist threat call for a coordinated EU approach. Moreover, the assumption that there is a connection between development and stability, as well as internal and external security, has come to shape the EU’s actions beyond its own borders. In the context of terrorism, the EU has an extensive toolkit of human and financial resources that support third countries in managing or mitigating terrorist threats.

A key element of EU action is capacity-building in partner countries, to ensure local ownership, a sustainable assistance model and the full use of local expertise for challenges that are geographically distinct. The EU’s external capacity-building efforts in counter-terrorism include security sector reform (SSR)-associated measures, such as strengthening the rule of law, improving the governance of security providers, improving border management, reforming the armed forces, and training law enforcement actors. As part of the EU’s multifaceted assistance, efforts to curb terrorist funding and improve strategic communications to counter radicalisation and violent extremism complement SSR-related activities. Soft-power projects funded through the Commission’s different funding instruments, coupled with both military and civilian common security and defence policy missions provide the framework through which the EU tries to address both the root causes and the symptoms of terrorism and radicalisation.

Read the complete briefing on ‘EU efforts on counter-terrorism – Capacity-building in third countries‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to podcast ‘EU efforts on counter-terrorism – Capacity-building in third countries

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/01/12/eu-efforts-on-counter-terrorism-capacity-building-in-third-countries-policy-podcast/