Месечни архиви: февруари 2018

Democracy support in EU external policy

Written by Ionel Zamfir,

DEMOCRACY on grunge world map

© Sean K / Fotolia

The EU’s policy of external democracy support has gained momentum, particularly after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which defined democracy as a fundamental principle of the Union, to be enshrined in all policies of external significance. Subsequently, several policy documents have outlined strategic orientations and sought ways to enhance implementation and policy coherence and effectiveness, a need often recognised by EU stakeholders and other players.

The EU has deployed all the tools at its disposal in order to support democracy and democratisation processes across the world. These tools range from political and diplomatic efforts, including political and human rights dialogues, to development aid instruments and extensive support for civil society and human rights defenders. As a result, democracy support has become better integrated into the EU’s external policies, particularly in the area of development, and better inter-linked with measures to protect human rights and the space needed for civil society to thrive.

The EU is the biggest commercial bloc and development aid donor in the world, and therefore has considerable leverage over its partner countries. However, as the EU does not want to use its power in a coercive manner, it has sought to move away from a classical relationship of donor conditionality to one of equal partnership, recognising that domestic dynamics and local ownership in third countries are essential for democratic progress. It has used sanctions mechanisms in its bilateral agreements and unilateral trade preferences mainly as a constructive tool to open dialogue and find solutions based on consultation and cooperation.

Read this complete briefing on ‘Democracy support in EU external policy‘ on the Think tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/28/democracy-support-in-eu-external-policy/

People with rare diseases [What Europe does for me]

A businessman in blue shirt is holding a magnifying glass in his hand, is searching for personnel or people. Detective looking for missing person crowd of miniature figures choosing most suitable one

© Hanna

Do you, or someone you know, suffer from a rare disease – that affects fewer than 5 in 10 000 people? Most rare disease patients suffer from even rarer conditions, affecting only 1 person in 100 000 or more. However, as there are over 5 000 rare diseases, the number of people suffering from them is high – it is estimated that 30 million Europeans live with a rare disease.

Most rare diseases are of genetic origin and have no cure. They can be life-threatening, complex and disabling. Often, correct diagnosis and treatment are established late. Medical expertise is scarce and scattered around the EU. This is where European cooperation can help, to pool resources on rare diseases to address these challenges.

The EU provides funding for patients’ organisations that connect patients, families, policy-makers and healthcare professionals. European laws have created incentives for researchers and companies to develop treatments, or what are known as ‘orphan drugs’ for rare diseases. To exchange information and provide support on complex or rare diseases that require highly specialised treatment and a concentration of knowledge and resources, the 2011 EU Directive on Patients’ Rights in Cross-border Healthcare established European Reference Networks of healthcare providers across Europe.

The EU also supports initiatives which foster diagnosis and registration of rare diseases, such as Orphanet and the European Platform on Rare Diseases Registries. Moreover, the EU finances scientific projects on rare diseases through its Horizon 2020 research programme.

Read more

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/28/people-with-rare-diseases-what-europe-does-for-me/

European Parliament Plenary Session, February II 2018

European Parliament building Brussels

European Union, EP

Written by Clare Ferguson

EU values are top of the agenda for the second plenary session of February, in Brussels, with a Commission statement expected on Wednesday afternoon on its decision to activate Article 7 (1) TEU as a result of the situation on the rule of law in Poland. Article 7 addresses any ‘serious and persistent breach by a Member State’ of the values of respect for ‘human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, set out in Article 2 TEU’. Later on Wednesday, Members will also consider the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs’ annual report on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU in 2016, which details the many challenges facing the EU’s pursuit of policy that reflects the values of Article 2 TEU.

Following an earlier statement on the European Council discussions during its informal meeting of 23 February 2018 on the long-term EU budget, as well as foreign affairs issues such as Syria, Turkey, and Brexit, Commission Vice-President/High Representative Federica Mogherini attends the plenary session on Wednesday evening to make a statement on the proposed EU-Cuba Agreement, where EU relations have developed on the basis of respect for democracy and human rights through the ground-breaking EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA), signed in 2016. Council and Commission statements are also expected on Wednesday evening on the work and legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Under Rule 113 on recommendations on the Union’s external policies, reports are tabled for Thursday morning on cutting the sources of income for jihadists, specifically targeting the financing of terrorism, and on the EU’s priorities for the 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, scheduled to take place in New York from 12 to 23 March 2018.

Alcoholic beverages with a minimum alcoholic strength of 15 % volume, known as spirit drinks, provide €10.2 billion a year in export earnings in the EU. The European Commission has proposed to update legislation regulating the sector and providing protection for local specialities. Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee is in favour of aligning current legislation in this area with the provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and proposes amendments to the proposal that would retain the Parliament’s role in the procedure, move registration of geographical indications of spirit drinks to an electronic register, and limit the levels of sweeteners. Parliament will discuss the Committee’s amendments and the mandate for trilogue negotiations on Wednesday evening. On an even ‘sweeter’ note, the final agenda item for Wednesday night is the prospects and challenges for the EU apiculture sector, a sector where production is insufficient to cover demand on the EU market, despite reaching 200 000 tonnes of honey annually

Following statements from the Council and Commission on Wednesday evening on the removal of several third countries from the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes, the first item on the agenda on Thursday is the mandatory automatic exchange of information in the field of taxation, where the Commission proposes to increase transparency in the way tax advice is provided to anyone trying to avoid taxation, such as companies carrying out aggressive tax planning. Although Parliament is only consulted, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) adopted a report seeking to strengthen the Commission’s proposals, particularly on reporting, while clarifying any exemptions for tax advice providers (known as intermediaries).

Later on Thursday morning, Parliament will vote on a report on the 2017 annual report on EU banking union. The report covers the three main elements of banking union: the single supervisory mechanism, the single resolution mechanism, and the – not yet in place – proposed European deposit insurance scheme. For the completion of the banking union, greater cooperation between national authorities is required to deal with emerging challenges to euro stability.

Members also consider a recommendation that the Parliament consent to the Council decision on the conclusion of the EU-US bilateral agreement on prudential measures regarding insurance and reinsurance on Thursday morning. EU insurers and reinsurers currently face barriers to trade with the United States, particularly linked to the amount of collateral they must maintain in the USA. Should Members vote to agree to ratification by the EU, the agreement will enter into force five years from the date of signature. Later on Thursday, Members will also vote on a first reading of a report on insurance distribution and the date of application of Member States’ transposition measures. Members are also expected to vote on Thursday lunchtime on a proposal to set up a special committee on financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance, as well as on the nomination of a Member of the Court of Auditors.



Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/26/european-parliament-plenary-session-february-ii-2018/

President Trump’s record to date [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

Lichtbox mit Buchstaben - AMERICA FIRST - auf einer amerikanischen Nationalflagge

© Birgit Reitz-Hofmann / Fotolia

Donald Trump has made a number of highly controversial decisions during his first 13 months as US President – whether on foreign trade, climate change, migration, taxation or health care. His unorthodox communication style, often using emotional tweets, has frequently confused both domestic and international audiences. Although his “America First” polices have not gone as far as some have feared, and he has presided over a period of continued economic growth, there remains very considerable anxiety about the path ahead.

This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports published by major international think tanks on Donald Trump’s presidency so far.

Relations with the EU and NATO

The U.S.–France special relationship after a year of Trump
German Marshall Fund, February 2018

The art of sticking with the nuclear deal: Why Europe should defy Trump on Iran
Centre for European Policy Studies, February 2018

Taking stock of the Transatlantic relationship after one year of Trump
Atlantic Council, February 2018

Trump’s European misstep
Carnegie Europe, February 2018

Saving Transatlantic cooperation and the Iran nuclear deal
Rand Europe, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, February 2018

Trump: The new dividing line in European politics
German Marshall Fund, January 2018

Transatlantic relations: Converging or diverging?
Chatham House, January 2018

Beyond European versus Transatlantic defense
German Marshall Fund, January 2018

Trump’s NATO policy ‘trending positive’
Atlantic Council, January 2018

In the era of Trump, can Europe step up on global democracy?
Carnegie Europe, December 2017

Trump’s message to Europe
Carnegie Europe, December 2017

US trade policy in the age of Trump: What role for Europe in the “New Nationalism”?
European Policy Centre, November 2017

A year after: Trump and Transatlantic relations in a time of risk
German Marshall Fund, November 2017

EU-China relations in the era of Donald Trump
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, October 2017

The transatlantic meaning of Donald Trump: A US-EU power audit
European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2017

Trump and Brexit
Bertelsmann Stiftung, September 2017

Security and international relations

Our take on Donald Trump’s first State of the Union
Atlantic Council, February 2018

Trump’s nuclear posture review
Clingendael, February 2018

One year of Trump
Atlantic Council, January 2018

Washington’s New Defense Strategy: Bridging the Transatlantic gap?
Carnegie Europe, February 2018

A year of Trump vs. Kim: Rhetoric gone nuclear
German Marshall Fund, January 2018

Trump’s diplomatic initiatives have isolated the United States
German Marshall Fund, January 2018

One year of President Trump: Views from around the world
German Marshall Fund, January 2018

Trump y el mundo: Un año de política exterior
Fundacion Real Instituto Elcano, January 2018

Trump im Aufwind: Mit der Wirtschaft wuchern, von Problemen ablenken
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, January 2018

The Donald J. Trump administration as seen from Tokyo: Will the US-Japan alliance remain unique?
Istituto Affari Internazionali, January 2018

Trump Security Strategy: A study in contrasts
Council on Foreign Relations, December 2017

Russia, Trump, and the 2016 U.S. election
Council on Foreign Relations, December 2017

Brookings experts on Trump’s National Security Strategy
Brookings Institution, December 2017

The contested global landscape in Trump’s New Security Strategy
German Marshall Fund, December 2017

U.S.-China counter-terrorism co-operation and its perspective on human rights
Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques, December 2017

Trump ou la diplomatie du choc: Les enjeux de Jérusalem capitale
La vie des idées, December 2017

United States policy in the Middle East: The need for a grand strategy
Institute for National Security Studies, November 2017

Western options in a multipolar world
Atlantic Council, November 2017

Trump, un an après: Un monde à l’état de nature?
Institut français des relations internationales, November 2017

Les Etats-Unis face à la Chine, de Henry Kissinger à Donald Trump
Institut français des relations internationales, November 2017

Mourning for America’: Donald Trump’s climate change policy
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, November 2017

Less is more? The US at the UN
European Union Institute for Strategic Studies, October 2017

U.S.-China tensions: Interplay between economics and politics
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2017

Does Donald Trump have a grand strategy?
Chatham House, September 2017

Meeting U.S. deterrence requirements
Brookings Institution, September 2017

Trump and the Paris Agreement: Better out than in
Bruegel, September 2017

Trade and economics

Why has the stock market risen so much since the US presidential election?
Peterson Institute for International Economics, February 2018

The President’s infrastructure proposal misses the mark: Too much cynicism, too little leadership
Brookings Institution, February 2018

Is Trump remaking American trade enforcement policy?
Brookings Institution, February 2018

Trump’s formula for growing the U.S. economy: What will work and what won’t
Brookings Institution, February 2018

Trump in Asia: The year in review
Peterson Institute for International Economics, January 2018

The international economic consequences of Mr. Trump
Bruegel, January 2018

U.S. trade policy in the Asia-Pacific region under President Trump: Implications for the European Union
German Marshall Fund, January 2018

Trump plays Reagan’s game on tariffs and taxes
Peterson Institute for International Economics, December 2017

Trade policy under President Trump: Implications for the US and the world
Chatham House, November 2017

Trump and the national debt
Council on Foreign Relations, November 2017

U.S. corporate tax reform
Council on Foreign Relations, November 2017

Trump unrestrained
Peterson Institute for International Economics, November 2017

Domestic situation and other reports

Will the Trump presidency turn out to be Watergate, McCarthyism or something else entirely?
Brookings Institution, February 2018

What Donald Trump can learn from Napoleon III
International Institute for Strategic Studies, February 2018

The U.S. immigration debate
Council on Foreign Relations, February 2018

From 14 points to 280 characters: Trump vs Wilson
Centre for European Reform, January 2018

Immigration under Trump: a review of policy shifts in the year since the election
Migration Policy Institute, December 2017

Saving the liberal order from itself
Institut Français des Relations Internationales, December 2018

A listening tour through Trump territory: Public policy and the “towns in between”
Progressive Policy Institute, August 2017

Read this briefing on ‘President Trump’s record to date‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/23/president-trumps-record-to-date-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

Citizens’ enquiries to the European Parliament in 2017

Torn piece of scroll uncovering 2017 review

Pixelbliss / Fotolia

On a daily basis, citizens from all across the EU and the wider world address the European Parliament to request information, express opinions or suggest ideas on an extensive range of topics. The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP) provides answers to citizens on the issues raised. In 2017, citizens put more than 52 000 questions, suggestions and comments to the European Parliament or its President.

Topics of the year

A central topic of the year was the situation in Catalonia, which was discussed by the European Parliament and the European Commission in a plenary debate entitled ‘Constitution, rule of law and fundamental rights in Spain in the light of the events in Catalonia’. The ongoing Brexit negotiations was another subject of significant interest, with questions often linked to the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in the EU.

As for the last few years, migration policy both at the EU and at the Member State level was an important issue for citizens addressing Ask EP. Citizens wanted to know how the EU was reacting to both an increase in the number of asylum seekers and migrants, as well on how to tackle its root causes. In addition, many citizens addressed the European Parliament on the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union to dismiss the case brought by Slovakia and Hungary on the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers, which the two Member States had opposed.

Also in central Europe, the situation of the rule of law and democracy in Poland triggered a considerable number of reactions from citizens, who wrote to the Parliament expressing their concerns on the separation of powers in the country and the independence of the judiciary.

Concerns on human health relating to the use of glyphosate-based herbicides was another key issue. The European Parliament received many comments from citizens requesting it to take action and reject the renewal of glyphosate in the EU list of approved active substances.

Moving outside of the EU, citizens turned to the European Parliament for answers on the situation in non-EU countries such as in Turkey, Ukraine, Syria, Russia, Venezuela, the Philippines and Iran. Citizens also wrote on the EU-Canada Trade Agreement, approved last year by the European Parliament.

Frequent themes

As in previous years, the functioning and activities of the European Parliament sparked citizens’ interest. Many citizens wanted to know about the activities of Members of the European Parliament and how to contact them, as well as how to exercise the right of petition, how to visit the institution, and how to apply for a job or a traineeship in the EU institutions.

Another fundamental concern frequently shared by citizens writing to our service relates to employment, social affairs and inclusion policies and activities, in particular regarding pension schemes, social-security benefits, working conditions, persons with disabilities and health care systems.

Once again, citizens expressed their views to the European Parliament on human rights around the world and the fight against terrorism, the fight against corruption in some EU Member States, the EU’s climate change policy and its consequences, air quality, waste management and water policy and the production of foie gras inside the EU.

Twice a year, wintertime and summertime arrangements, and the subsequent changing of the clocks, prompt citizens to share their views with the European Parliament, both in favour and against these arrangements.

Organised civil society

As the European Parliament is a key player in the EU decision-making processes, it regularly receives suggestions and comments from civil society actors. Some of the main topics in 2017 included animal testing, with many citizens requesting a Europe-wide moratorium on the use of animals in scientific research, and the visit of the Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee to Poland, where Members of the European Parliament observed the situation of women’s rights in the country.

A further topic of interest was the recommendation addressed by the European Parliament to the Council on the so-called ‘global gag’ rule, which ‘prevents international organisations from receiving US global health assistance if they provide, counsel for, refer to or advocate for abortion services’.

Furthermore, citizens wrote on the proposal for a regulation concerning the respect for private life and the protection of personal data in electronic communications which is awaiting its first reading in the plenary. The proposal seeks to achieve the modernisation of the Union data protection legal framework started by the General Data Protection Regulation.

Continue to put your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP). We reply to you in the EU language that you use to write to us.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/20/citizens-enquiries-to-the-european-parliament-in-2017/

EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement [International Agreements in Progress]

Written by Martin Russell,

EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement

© De Visu / Fotolia

The free trade agreement (FTA) with Vietnam has been described as the most ambitious deal of its type ever concluded between the EU and a developing country. Not only will it eliminate over 99 % of customs duties on goods, it will also open up Vietnamese services markets to EU companies and strengthen protection of EU investments in the country.

According to European Commission figures, the FTA could boost Vietnam’s booming economy by as much as 15 % of GDP, with Vietnamese exports to Europe growing by over one third. For the EU, the agreement is an important stepping stone to a wider EU-south-east Asia trade deal.

Despite the obvious economic benefits of the FTA for Vietnam, some of its more vulnerable manufacturing sectors may suffer from competition with the EU. NGOs have also criticised the EU for pursuing closer ties with a politically repressive regime known for its human rights abuses, although the deal includes some safeguards against negative outcomes.

Although the content of the FTA was already agreed in 2015, ratification has been delayed by a 2017 opinion of the European Court of Justice. The Court argued that some aspects of the EU-Singapore FTA, which is similar to the Vietnam FTA, are ‘mixed competences’, meaning that the FTA as it stands will have to be ratified not only by the EU but also by the 28 Member States. The Commission and Council are now considering whether to modify the agreement so that parts of it can be ratified more speedily by the EU alone.

international agreements in progress - step negotiation

Read the complete briefing on ‘EU-Vietnam free trade agreement‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

EU-Vietnam trade – facts and figures

EU-Vietnam trade – facts and figures

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/20/eu-vietnam-free-trade-agreement-international-agreements-in-progress/

Palm oil: economic and environmental impacts

Written by Martin Russell,

Economical and versatile, palm oil has become the world’s most widely used vegetable oil. However, its production comes at a heavy environmental cost, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia, the two main producers. Efforts to make its production more sustainable still have a long way to go.

Palm oil: a vital commodity

Plantation workers prepare to unload freshly harvested oil palm fruit bunches at a collection point.

© photomagically / Fotolia

Oil palm trees are native to West Africa, but were introduced to tropical regions of Southeast Asia and Latin America in the late 19th century. Oil extracted from the fruit was traditionally used in Africa for cooking, but has now found a wider range of uses: as a substitute for animal fats such as butter in baked products, soaps and cosmetics, or as a basis for biodiesel. Around half of packaged products in supermarkets contain palm oil. Although palm oil is not particularly healthy (it contains higher levels of saturated fats than most other vegetable oils), it has many advantages: compared to soybean (the world’s second most widely consumed vegetable oil after palm oil), it requires only one-tenth as much land, one-seventh as much fertiliser, one-fourteenth as much pesticide and one-sixth of the energy to produce the same quantity of oil, and is therefore very cheap. In addition, palm oil is highly resistant to oxidation, making it suitable for frying and giving it a long shelf life. As a result, consumption of palm oil has doubled over the past 15 years to nearly 8 kg per inhabitant of the globe, and shows no signs of slowing down. Until the 1960s oil palms were mainly grown in Africa, but since then production has shifted to Southeast Asia: according to FAO statistics, Indonesia (53 % of global output) and Malaysia (29 %) are the leading producers, followed by Thailand (4 %), Nigeria (2.6 %), Colombia (2.3 %) and Ecuador (1 %).

The economic and social impact of oil palm cultivation

Palm oil is the main agricultural export of Indonesia and Malaysia, generating 10 % and 5 % respectively of their exports. The sector provides employment for 721 000 smallholders and labourers in Malaysia, and 4 million in Indonesia; a further 11 million in the two countries are indirectly dependent on it. Most oil palm jobs are in remote rural areas, where alternative employment is scarce, thus helping to promote rural development and alleviate poverty. However, not all have benefited; in both countries, indigenous communities often lack legal documents certifying their ownership of land, and there are many legal conflicts between oil palm companies granted government concessions in forested areas, and the people who have used the land for centuries. In some cases, this has led to local people losing access to land and resources. As a result of such problems, in one survey nearly half of 187 villages in Indonesian Borneo were opposed to palm oil companies. There are also serious concerns about abusive labour conditions on some plantations.

The environmental impact of oil palm

An even bigger concern is the environmental impact. A European Commission study (2013) estimates that between 1990 and 2008, 5.5 million hectares (an area nearly twice the size of Belgium) of forest were lost to oil palm plantations, including 3.1 million in Indonesia and 1.4 million in Malaysia. This process continues, with around half a million hectares of additional plantations in Indonesia, and 100 000 in Malaysia every year; much of this expansion is happening at the expense of the region’s dwindling rainforests.

Deforestation is a major concern for several reasons. Compared to rainforests, palm oil plantations support only one fifth as many animal species. By eating into the habitats of the orang-utan and Sumatran tiger (both critically endangered species) as well as numerous smaller animals, they threaten biodiversity. At the same time, oil palms have less than 20 % as much above-ground biomass as rainforest trees, and a correspondingly lower capacity to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. That effect is exacerbated for the estimated one-third of Indonesian and Malaysian plantations located on waterlogged carbon-rich peaty soils. Draining such soils, which is necessary for the oil palms to grow, exposes the peat to oxygen, causing it to decompose and release huge quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Peat drainage in Southeast Asia, largely in order to clear land for oil palms, is estimated to cause the equivalent of 2 % of global fossil fuel CO2 emissions.

Forest fires are another even bigger contributor to global warming and a recurrent environmental disaster in Indonesia. Such fires can occur naturally, but many are started deliberately – mostly by smallholders practising ‘slash and burn‘ agriculture, but sometimes also by large plantation operators. In the dry season, fires can easily get of control, destroying huge tracts of forest. Around one-fifth of such fires can be directly attributed to palm oil, which also contributes indirectly, given that drained peat soils burn easily, helping fires to spread.

Some of Indonesia’s worst forest fires to date were in 2015. Over several weeks, Indonesia became the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, as fires destroyed an area almost the size of Belgium. Choking haze spread as far as Singapore, costing the Indonesian economy at least US$16 billion and causing as many as 100 000 premature deaths.

Producer country and EU efforts to make palm oil more sustainable

Indonesia has taken several measures to limit the social and environmental costs of palm oil, with varying results. For example, the One Map initiative aims to systematically record land ownership to prevent disputes between plantations and indigenous communities. In 2011, the government imposed a moratorium on issuing new permits for agricultural and logging activity in primary (not previously cleared) forests and peat lands, recently extended till May 2019; however, the moratorium has had little effect as large areas of forest are outside its scope, and in any case enforcement has been patchy. A few palm oil companies have been fined for their part in forest fires, but many more have escaped punishment.

In order to limit the need for new land, Malaysia hopes to raise output through increased productivity; however, there is no evidence of this happening, as palm oil yields per hectare have stagnated for several years. Planting palms on degraded land, on which forests have already been cleared or burned down, is an option, although one estimate suggests that in Indonesia just 0.3 million hectares of such land are suitable for oil palm – not nearly enough for the sector to avoid deforestation at its current rate of expansion.

Since 2014, EU law requires food products to list palm oil to be clearly identified as an ingredient on labels (and not merely as ‘vegetable oil’). France considered imposing a ‘Nutella tax’ on palm oil imports, but the proposal met with strong protests from Indonesia and Malaysia, and was dropped in 2016. In any case, deterring consumers from palm oil containing products may not help the environment given that other vegetable oils such as soy and rapeseed are also linked to large-scale deforestation.

Particularly controversial is the use of palm oil to manufacture biofuels. To reduce dependence on imported oil, Indonesia has set an ambitious target for 30 % palm oil blending in domestic fuels (Malaysia’s target is 15 %); for its part, the EU uses 45 % of its palm oil imports for biodiesel, and a further 15 % to produce heat and power. Given that at present more palm oil production is likely to mean more deforestation, total greenhouse gas emissions from palm biodiesel are probably higher than from fossil fuels. In January 2018, the European Parliament proposed amendments to the EU’s proposed directive on renewable energy, which if accepted by the Council would result in palm oil being phased out as a biofuel component by 2020.

Sustainable palm oil certification schemes

In its April 2017 resolution on palm oil and deforestation, the Parliament also recommends ensuring that all palm oil entering the EU is sustainable. Voluntary certification schemes already exist, of which the most widespread is the international Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The governments of eight EU countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom), as well as several major companies, have already committed to only buying from producers certified as sustainable. Among other things, RSPO standards include commitments not to clear primary forest, set off fires, or plant oil palms on land whose ownership is disputed. However, environmentalists argue that such commitments do not go far enough, as they do not ban deforestation in general. The European Parliament is in favour of a new certification scheme with tougher standards, to replace the RSPO and similar schemes. For its part, RSPO points out that higher standards would make it even harder to get producers on board; at present, just 19 % of global output is RSPO-certified, and most of this goes to Europe. Around two-thirds of the world’s palm oil is consumed in Asia, where there is less willingness to pay more for sustainable products. Moreover, even RSPO’s weak standards are frequently violated by the scheme’s certified producers, many of which use fire to clear land, or plant in areas claimed by indigenous communities without their consent. EU criticism has drawn a sharp response from producer countries, with Malaysia describing the proposed ban on palm oil in biofuels as ‘crop apartheid’ and threatening to boycott EU products.

Read this At a glance note on ‘Palm oil: economic and environmental impacts‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/19/palm-oil-economic-and-environmental-impacts/

Prospects for e-democracy in Europe

Written by Gianluca Quaglio, Carys Lawrie and Nada Alkhayat,

Direct democracy


E-participation in politics is expanding worldwide, driven by the development of digital tools that can be used for citizen involvement – social media, deliberative software, e-voting systems – and growing access to the internet. In Europe, while many e-democratic projects provide a sense of involvement in the political process for participants and contribute to community building, there remains a lack of direct, or even indirect, political or policy impact.

Moreover, in recent decades, citizen involvement in the EU political process has improved, with direct elections to the European Parliament, and Parliament’s increased competences and legislative powers. However, the multilevel system of EU policy-making sometimes makes it difficult for European citizens to track responsibilities and to hold the EU institutions accountable for the outcomes of their policies.

The STOA study on ‘Prospects for e-democracy in Europe’ investigates how to implement e-democracy at the EU level in a manner that supports public debate, deliberation and community building, and also has an impact on political decision-making. The project, the major results of which are summarised in an In-Depth Analysis, aimed to determine the conditions under which digital tools can facilitate different forms of citizen involvement in decision-making processes, and explored how these tools can be successfully transferred to the EU level.

The study sets out the current European e-participation landscape through a literature review, presented in Part I, and case studies at the local, national and European levels, which make up Part II. These cases involved a number of different categories of digital tools: websites that monitor politics; both formal and informal agenda-setting tools, such as e‑petition sites; and both non-binding and binding decision-making tools, such as e‑voting within political parties or for national elections.

The project provided suitability assessments of a series of policy options, determining their chances of success in increasing participation and impacting decision-making at the EU level. As a result, a number of options for policy-makers are presented.

General actions for designing e-participation processes include promoting active links to existing policy, encouraging provision of feedback to participants, and ensuring the sustainability of the process itself. There are also options for improving existing tools, such as the European Citizens’ Initiative, Your Voice in Europe and the European Parliament’s e‑petition system. Finally, new e-participation tools are set out that could encourage e‑participation at an EU level and exploit the untapped potential of citizens’ involvement in numerous policy areas.

In the institutional arena, the options are: online engagement, principally through creating a public platform that allows citizens to pose questions to Members of the European Parliament and their staff; crowdsourcing of policy ideas by citizens for early-stage policy development in the European Commission; and monitoring platforms for Council decisions. Additionally, participatory e‑budgeting was identified as the policy option with the greatest impact on decision-making, with particular relevance to the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund. A full explanation of these options can be found in Part III, while the STOA Options Brief contains a succinct overview of the policy options.

Your opinion counts. 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).

Read the complete study on ‘Prospects for e-democracy in Europe‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/19/prospects-for-e-democracy-in-europe/

The Platform Economy [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

Social media in election campaigning

@ Sepia 100 / Fotolia

The digital revolution is reshaping the world, changing people’s habits in communication, work, leisure and politics. A major part of this revolution is the expansion of the economy based on digital platforms that match demand and supply for labour without an intermediation of traditional corporations. Platforms also allow people to socialise regardless of geographic distance, find entertainment and travel opportunities easily, and do many other things. Some well-known platforms are Google, Twitter, Linkedin, Apple, Amazon, Uber and AirBnB.

While offering vast opportunities to the economy, platforms are also posing tough challenges, for example, in fostering often-precarious, project-based forms of employment at the expense of stable contracts with social security protection, or putting pressure on traditional news media.

This note brings together commentaries and studies by international think tanks and research institutes on the role of digital platforms, notably in labour markets, and related issues.

International development and the digital age
Friends of Europe, January 2018

Supporting press publishers in a digital era
European Policy Centre, January 2018

Digital transformation, responsive collaborations, democratic responsibility: Three challenges faced by public media platforms
Terra Nova, December 2017

Taxi and private hire vehicle regulation: A briefing
Institute of Economic Affairs, December 2017

The Internet and jobs: A giant opportunity for Europe
Centre for European Policy Studies, November 2017

Work in the European gig economy
Foundation for European Progressive Studies, November 2017

What is happening with platform workers’ rights? Lessons from Belgium
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2017

New coalitions for Europe’s digital future: Building capacity, improving performance
European Centre for International Political Economy, October 2017

The effect of geographical distance on online transactions
Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, October 2017

How ecommerce creates jobs and reduces income inequality
Progressive Policy Institute, September 2017

Back in the game: Reclaiming Europe’s digital leadership
European Political Strategy Centre, September 2017

A law on robotics and artificial intelligence in the EU?
European Trade Union Institute, September 2017

The Platform Economy and industrial relations: Applying the old framework to the new reality
Centre for European Policy Studies, August 2017

Digitalisierung im deutschen Arbeitsmarkt: Eine Debattenübersicht
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, August 2017

Impact of digitalisation and the on-demand economy on labour markets and the consequences for employment and industrial relations
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2017

Government responses to the Platform Economy: Where do we stand?
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2017

Policy choices for the digital age: Taking a whole economy, whole society approach
Friends of Europe, June 2017

The impact of the collaborative economy on the labour market
Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2017

Stepping up the game: The role of innovation in the sharing economy
Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln, May 2017

Economie collaborative: Comment l’Europe aborde le sujet?
Confrontations Europe, May 2017

The digital market for local services: A one-night stand for workers? An example from the on-demand economy
Centre for European Policy Studies, April 2017

Do we understand the impact of artificial intelligence on employment?
Bruegel, April 2017

The creative economy in Europe: Why Human beings remain the economy’s key asset
Lisbon Council, March 2017

Vers la providence 4.0? L’entrée dans le numérique de l’Etat-providence, dans les domaines du travail, de la santé et de l’innovation comparatif européen
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, March 2017

We must tackle long-term job insecurity, not just the excesses of the ‘gig economy’
Friends of Europe, March 2017

Tourisme en France: Cliquez ici pour rafraîchir
Institut Montaigne, March 2017

EU strategy: Reskilling for the fourth industrial revolution
Notre Europe, March 2017

An economic review of the collaborative economy
Bruegel, February 2017

Digital labour markets in the Platform Economy: Mapping the political challenges of crowd work and gig work
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, January 2017

Policy and politics in the era of the industrial Internet: How the digital transformation will change the political arena
Bruegel, December 2016

Technology disruptions as enablers of organizational and social innovation in digitalized environment
Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, December 2016

The online platform economy: Has growth peaked?
JPMorgan Chase & Co Institute, November 2016

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/16/the-platform-economy-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

What is the European Youth Event?

Citizens write to the European Parliament to discover more about the European Youth Event (EYE) and to find out the practical details.

Large group of diverse people

Rawpixel.com / Fotolia

The EYE is a two-day event organised by the European Parliament on its premises in cooperation with the European Youth Forum and other organisations. It gives young people the opportunity to take part in political debates, workshops and other activities and interact with leading EU figures, with a view to coming up with innovative solutions to major future issues.

Participants in this year’s event, EYE2018, the motto for which is ‘The plan is to fan this spark into a flame’, will go to Strasbourg on 1 and 2 June 2018 to meet and talk with European decision-makers and inspiring personalities. Some 8 000 participants aged 16-30 years old from all over Europe are estimated to be taking part in EYE2018.

The five themes of this year’s event will be:

  • Young and old: Keeping up with the digital revolution
  • Rich and poor: A fair share for everyone?
  • Apart and together: Fighting for a stronger Europe
  • In safety and in danger: Surviving turbulent times
  • Local and global: Protecting our planet.

EYE2018 will invite mostly young, inspiring thinkers, political decision-makers and key figures from the fields of business, research, culture and civil society as speakers at the various events. Additionally, EYE2018 will include concerts and artistic performances. YO!Fest, organised by the European Youth Forum, will take place outside the Parliament’s buildings.

EYE report

The most developed and popular ideas will be selected to kick-off the discussion in a number of activities at EYE2018, or will be included in the EYE report. This report, which will be published in July 2018, will collect the best ideas coming from the event. Following publication, it will be distributed to all Members of the European Parliament in autumn 2018. The European Parliament is looking for a team of young reporters to cover the EYE2018 and highlight the most relevant and hotly debated ideas.

Practical arrangements

The languages used at the event will be English, French and German. The EYE2018 is free, but participants will have to cover their own transport and accommodation costs and pay for their own meals.

The closing date has passed for group registrations (15 January 2018), however, anyone who cannot attend the event in person will be able to follow some of the activities via webstreaming and participate directly by asking questions and putting forward ideas on social networks. The EYE aims to involve young people from a variety of backgrounds.

During both days, participants will be able to attend three to four activities, booked in advance, and attend more activities (without reservation) at the Yo!Fest.

Further details about the programme and the event in general are available on the European Youth Event website, the EYE2018 FAQs and on the EYE Facebook page.

Two previous editions

The first edition of the EYE took place on 9-11 May 2014 and attracted more than 5 500 young people. The EYE2014 report was made available to MEPs (after the European elections) and served as a source of inspiration, as well as a guide to the hopes and concerns of Europe’s youth. Additionally, participants had the chance to present the most tangible ideas suggested by young people during the EYE to seven parliamentary committees and receive feedback in person from Members of the European Parliament.

The EYE2016 event took place on 20 and 21 May 2016. More than 7 500 young people aged between 16 and 30 from all over Europe took part. More information is available in the EYE2016 final report drawn up by the European Youth Press, which includes comments by the European Youth Forum. Additionally, participants presented and debated their ideas within ten parliamentary committees in the months after the event.

Do you have any questions on this issue or another EP-related concern? Please use our web form. You write, we answer.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/02/15/what-is-the-european-youth-event/