Месечни архиви: June 2018

Priority Dossiers under the Austrian EU Council Presidency

Written by Lucienne Attard (The Directorate-General for the Presidency),

Austria will hold the EU Council Presidency from July to December 2018. Its presidency comes at the end of the Trio Presidency composed of Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria. The last time Austria held the Council Presidency was in 2006.

Austria has a federal system of government with the Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, as head of government, a Vice-Chancellor and federal ministers. Chancellor Kurz has been in office since December 2017. The President and the government together form the executive branch in Austrian politics. The current government is a coalition government composed of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).

Austria has a bicameral parliamentary legislature consisting of two chambers: the National Council (Nationalrat) and the Federal Council (Bundesrat). The former currently has 183 members elected through proportional representation in a general election, while the Bundesrat has 61 members elected indirectly through provincial diets.

Political priorities of the Austrian Presidency

This note looks at the Austrian Presidency’s priorities, with those dossiers which figure in the Joint Declaration agreed to by the three institutions as priorities for 2018 until May 2019 marked with an asterisk (*).

A EUROPE THAT PROTECTS is the motto Austria has chosen for its Presidency. Austria considers that there have been several crises in recent years that have given rise to mistrust in the EU amongst European citizens. This mistrust needs to be addressed.

To this end, the Austrian Presidency has announced three main priorities for its term in office: security, competitiveness and stability. On security, it intends to focus on the fight against illegal migration, by securing Europe’s external borders, and on the reform of the Common European Asylum System. On competitiveness, it will work on matters related to the digital single market, specifically digitalisation. On stability, it has announced its intention to work towards EU accession of the Western Balkan countries.

A number of ongoing complex and challenging dossiers will also feature prominently during the second half of 2018, such as Brexit, the interinstitutional negotiations of a new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027and the reform of the EU.

Subsidiarity is another key element for the Austrian Presidency. The idea is that the scope of action of the EU would be re-defined via a ‘Subsidiarity Pact’, whereby tasks, which are better handled at Member State level, would be carried out at this level, thus taking decisions closer to the citizens. In the light of the upcoming European Parliament elections, this proposal may well find support amongst some Member States. The Austrian Presidency plans to hold a high-level conference in Bregenz, Austria on 15-16 November 2018, the conclusions of which would serve as substantial input to the European Council meeting in December 2018.

As part of the six-month roadmap, Austria will host several key events; most significant amongst these is the special summit on security, in Salzburg on 20 September 2018, and the EU-Asia conference on 23 and 24 November 2018. On the special summit on security, the Austrian Presidency position is that instead of fighting over the distribution of refugees, the EU must implement and improve external border protection. While Member States that are particularly under stress due to migratory flows should receive more support, it is also necessary to strengthen the mandate of Frontex as a way of combating illegal migration.


Read the full briefing here: Priority Dossiers under the Austrian EU Council Presidency.


The Directorate-General for the Presidency (DG Presidency) plays a key role throughout each parliamentary procedure, from its launch until its conclusion through the adoption of an EP resolution or legislative act, in particular in ensuring the smooth running of the plenary sessions. The staff of the DG play a key coordination role across the different services of the Parliament, and support Members in a wide range of activities. The Interinstitutional Relations Unit within DG Presidency, amongst other tasks, prepares a broad range documents concerned with strategic programming, such as on activities of the Commission and the Council.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/06/30/priority-dossiers-under-the-austrian-eu-council-presidency/

Fathers [What Europe does for you]

With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for fathers.

When fathers take leave to look after their children, the whole family benefits. Research shows there is a link between the amount of days’ leave fathers take and their satisfaction with their relationship with their child. Increasing fathers’ uptake of child-related leave is also considered beneficial for children’s development and gender equality. Fathers’ involvement in childcare also affects women’s decisions to have children. Despite this, fathers took only 2 % of the leave available to either parent in the EU in 2010. The EU wants to change that and give men more opportunities to get involved in caring for their families.

Silhouette of a happy young child smiling as he runs to greet his father with a hug at sunset on a summer day.

© Christin Lola / Fotolia

Thanks to EU law, mothers and fathers in all EU countries have the right to at least four months of parental leave each. In principle, this leave period can be taken by either parent, except for one month, which is non-transferable, to encourage fathers to take up more parental leave. The EU also offers protection from discrimination on the grounds of taking parental leave, which is especially relevant for fathers who wish to spend more time with their family, but are worried about possible negative consequences for their career. EU law guarantees job protection during and after such leave, which means that fathers are entitled to return to the same or equivalent job.

The EU is working on improving the current situation. It is considering the introduction of paternity leave and four months of non-transferable leave, both paid at least at the level of sick pay.

Further information

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/06/30/fathers-what-europe-does-for-you/

Mothers [What Europe does for you]

With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for mothers.

Despite progress on gender equality, mothers are generally still the primary carers in the family. If they have young children, they are more likely to be unemployed than women without children, while the opposite is true for men. The EU is committed to gender equality and aims to narrow this gap. It also aims to improve leave provisions for both parents, so that they are better able to combine work and private life.

Beautiful mother is tossing up her cute little son in sunflower field. Both are happy. Image with selective focus

© sushytska / Fotolia

Thanks to EU law, all EU countries have common minimum standards for maternity leave: minimum 14 weeks, two of which are mandatory, paid at least as much as sick pay. Pregnant and breastfeeding workers are also entitled to protection against working conditions that would jeopardise their health and that of their babies, and against dismissal from the beginning of pregnancy to the end of their maternity leave. Each parent is entitled to at least 4 months’ parental leave. One month of this is in principle non-transferrable, with the aim of encouraging uptake by fathers. Under EU law, the rights to protection from discrimination and job security also apply to parental leave, meaning that mothers are entitled to return to the same or equivalent job when the leave ends. Before all these changes, some countries did not satisfy EU standards and had to improve their legislation.

The EU is now working on improving the status of mothers through new rules and enforcement of the existing ones on leave, especially regarding protection against dismissal. It is also encouraging countries to improve the accessibility and quality of early childhood education and care systems.

Further information

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/06/30/mothers-what-europe-does-for-you/

European Parliament Plenary Session, July 2018

Written by Clare Ferguson,

European Parliament Strasbourg

European Parliament Strasbourg

Financial matters figure largely on the Parliament’s agenda for this last plenary session before the summer recess. The series of debates on the Future of Europe also continues, with a contribution from the Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, expected on Wednesday morning, followed by an address by the President of the Republic of Angola, João Lourenço, in a formal sitting on Wednesday lunchtime. Just as the summer recess begins, the Bulgarian Council Presidency comes to a close on 30 June, and Parliament will hear statements from the Council and the Commission on the outgoing presidency on Tuesday morning, as well as a presentation of the programme of activities of the Austrian Presidency, which starts on 1 July. The European Council and Commission will also make statements on Tuesday afternoon on the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 28 and 29 June 2018.

Parliament will begin its discussion of the EU’s finances with Amending Budget No 2 to the 2018 EU budget, which moves the surplus in the 2017 EU budget to the 2018 budget. The sum involved, €555.5 million, will decrease Member States’ contributions to the 2018 budget. The surplus is a result of the previous amending budget, plus the high level of competition fines feeding into the EU budget in 2017, and delays in implementation of programmes and therefore spending. Parliament will vote on a Committee on Budgets report on Wednesday lunchtime, followed by consideration of Amending Budget No 3 to the 2018 EU budget: Facility for Refugees in Turkey. Parliament’s Committee on Budgets has agreed to the allocation of funding for some 5 000 teachers currently providing education for over 300 000 refugee children in Turkey, on the condition that Parliament must be fully associated in the future decision-making process over the facility, when it comes up for review within the 2019 budgetary procedure. Returning to budgetary matters later on Wednesday afternoon, Parliament will also consider the mandate for trilogue for the 2019 draft EU budget, its position for initial negotiations with the Council. Parliament’s priorities for the 2019 budget are sustainable growth, innovation, competitiveness, citizenship, security, the fight against climate change, transition to renewable energy and migration, and young people. Parliament’s Committee on Budgets, however, notes that the current proposals leave very little flexibility for unexpected expenditure. Still on the budget, while the reform of EU financial rules for five sectoral regulations in the common agricultural policy field has already been separately agreed, Parliament will discuss the compromise its negotiators have agreed on the revision of the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union on Wednesday evening. The new amended Financial Regulation would limit trust funds to external actions; retain the non-profit principle and end transfers from structural funding to the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI); as well as maintaining the competences of the budgetary authority. Finally, a statement is expected by the President of the Eurogroup on Wednesday afternoon on the conclusion of the third economic adjustment programme for Greece.

The related issues of EU migration and security are likely to eat up a fair proportion of the EU budget for some time to come. During the July plenary session, Parliament will consider the next building block in the EU’s efforts to increase its military capabilities, the European defence industrial development programme (EDIDP), to be discussed on Monday evening. The proposed programme would be part of the European Defence Fund, and the EU has responded to an increasing security threat and key allies’ withdrawal of support, by setting up an envelope of €500 million to fund the development of defence equipment and technologies and boost the competitiveness of the EU defence industry.

Still on security, Parliament will again consider proposals for a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) to manage information about third-country nationals travelling within the Schengen area on Wednesday afternoon. The proposals seek to create an online system similar to those used in the USA and Canada to address the current lack of information about visa-exempt nationals travelling into Europe. Parliament wants to ensure that the information used in the system is strictly relevant, and that the system is secure, transparent and accountable.

When it comes to spending the EU budget, farm statistics provide the evidence used to make decisions on where to allocate funding within the framework of the EU common agricultural policy. In line with its policy to update all its statistical data, the Commission has made a proposal to update integrated farm statistics to make their collection more flexible, more detailed, more coherent, and to reduce the burden of data collection. Parliament will consider the agreed text on Monday evening.

Parliament will consider three current proposals on mobility in the EU during this session, in a joint debate on Tuesday afternoon. While the Transport Committee adopted the reports on social and market rules in the road transport sector, the Parliament as a whole did not endorse the committee’s mandates during the June session, and the three reports thus automatically come onto the agenda this session. While the majority of the Transport Committee voted in favour of enforcement requirements and specific rules for posting drivers in the road transport sector; and on daily and weekly driving times, minimum breaks and rest periods and positioning by means of tachographs, the Employment and Social Affairs Committee has decided to reintroduce its amendments in order to provide greater focus on working conditions for drivers in the road transport sector.

On employment more generally, a statute for social and solidarity-based enterprises would establish a common definition, based on specific criteria and good practices, enabling enterprises with a positive social, environmental or community impact, and which provide employment for 14.5 million people, to overcome regulatory obstacles. A great many legal forms of social enterprise exist in the EU, and Parliament will consider a recommendation to create a ‘European social label’ scheme on Thursday lunchtime.

Finally, with just under a year to go, Members are naturally turning their minds to the next European elections. On Wednesday afternoon, Parliament will vote on the reform of the electoral law of the EU which, among other things, sets new minimum thresholds for constituencies. While these will not be implemented until the 2024 EU elections, the proposals also include facilitating the extension of voting to different methods, and increased data protection. The idea of ensuring all EU citizens resident in third countries are able to vote was, however, not taken up by the Council. The Commission will also make a statement on the participation of persons with disabilities in the European elections on Thursday morning.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/06/29/european-parliament-plenary-session-july-2018/

What if law shaped technologies? [Science and Technology Podcast]

Written by Mihalis Kritikos,

Abstract Hammer judge form lines and triangles, point connecting network on blue background

© piick / Shutterstock

Technology does not operate outside its legal context. Law reacts to technological developments through the adoption, for example, of health and employment rules, or tax and risk assessment standards, to prevent technological advances from undermining human rights, environmental standards and democratic values. Law imposes critical choices upon objectively uncertain scientific judgements and value-biased knowledge. But what if law, overcoming the pacing and regulatory connection problems, could restore human agency in the face of overwhelming technological developments, shape the diffusion and adoption of technology in its various forms and even anticipate technological trends?

Legal provisions contain or imply decisions about the scope and ownership of intellectual property, about the permissible degree of extraction and processing of personal data, and about who is allowed to access technological outputs. These legal interventions mostly take the form of a reactive approach to today’s wide range of technological risks. The law’s ex-post-facto intervention, in this respect, may not necessarily constitute a weakness; the vagueness inherent in legal provisions may compensate for unforeseeable cases that require the questioning of traditional assumptions about the socio-technical context in which law will operate.

However, disruptive technologies develop at such an exponential pace that traditional legal oversight mechanisms are outpaced by the rate of technological change, the evolution of which is so rapid that it can escape the language of existing regulations. By the time new regulations become legally binding, they are often only able to address a minor part of the wider technological effects which have already spread beyond the conceptual scheme of law.


Listen to podcast ‘What if law shaped technologies?


As a result, the pre-existing legal structure may prove a poor match for new types of disputes raised by disruptive technologies. And the gaps are getting wider as technology advances ever more rapidly. So can the legal system overcome the temporal gap between the emergence of a technology and the subsequent need to exercise control over its possible effects, and retain both flexibility and responsiveness? What regulation is justified by a particular technology? Are particular legal instruments better suited to controlling particular technological developments characterised by high scientific uncertainty or high development costs? How can law regulate uncertain and unknown futures in the face of limited knowledge?

Uncertainty and lack of knowledge can be dealt with through the introduction of ‘sunset clauses’, which make rules subject to revision after a predetermined period of time, and forward-looking ex-ante regulatory impact assessments. Alternatively, under such conditions, regulation by agency may be considered a useful supplement to the traditional regulation by contract, as, in the case of the former, the regulatory regime can then be adjusted in a timely and more flexible manner in the light of market and technological developments. The question is if, given the constraints of a ‘hard law’ approach, legal systems are ready to adopt ‘prospective and homeostatic’ instruments, capable of adapting themselves to a changing technological landscape? In the frame of EU law, this role can be exerted, for example, by the numerous agencies established at the EU level in technology-based domains, such as the European Food Safety Authority, the European Chemicals Agency and the European Medicines Agency. These decentralised authorities have been empowered to adjust the EU regulatory regime to the latest technological developments by issuing expert opinions, decisions and guidelines, which, despite their non-binding legal character, constitute authoritative points of legal reference, due to their specificity, expert-driven nature and evidence-based approach.

Some countries like the UK, the USA, Switzerland and Australia have tried to bridge this gap by offering what is known as a ‘regulatory sandbox’. These initiatives aim to provide space where, primarily, fintech (financial technology) firms can test their innovations in a less restrictive regulatory environment for a limited period. This helps the firms in question to get licences and develop in a way that will make them compliant but in a more efficient manner.

What does the legal conceptualisation of technology mean for European policy-making?

Though the early stages in the development of a technology, when there are still many unknowns, are a challenging time for developing a legal framework, they can also be an opportune time for taking advantage of the flexibility of a new approach. Although no law can encode the entire complexity of technology as it is, let alone predict its future development, there is an imperative need for EU law to develop a proactive and iterative function, to anticipate technological trends and future risks of activities that are in constant evolution. While technology itself is not a reason to regulate, such a proactive approach could ensure that disruptive technologies are deployed in a way that is consistent with established principles and values.

In the frame of EU law, the adoption and application of the precautionary principle and the principle of intergenerational equity could affect the way a specific technology is framed and, if necessary, contained. The precautionary principle basically holds that, since every technology and technological advance poses some theoretical danger or risk, public policy should be crafted in such a way that no possible harm will occur when the technology is deployed. The principle of intergenerational equity requires legislators in the field of technology regulation to consider the impact current decisions will have on future generations’ interests in a variety of contexts, including fiscal policy, pension fund regulation and financial regulation more generally.

The role of delegated and implementing acts in the frame of the EU rule-making process is crucial, as their adoption may lead to the prioritisation of one technological path over another. Despite their apparent technical nature – given that their activation is triggered by scientific and technological developments – these acts might involve important political choices and have a significant impact on citizens’ daily lives. They are used in a wide range of policy areas, for example, implementing measures on energy labelling, authorisation of certain types of food additives and civil aviation safety control equipment. Technology assessments that forecast the social and economic impacts of new technologies, and regulatory impact assessments that attempt to predict the social and economic impacts of proposed EU legal acts are usually conducted ex ante, and may shape technological trajectories in an upstream manner.

The apparent effectiveness of regulatory sandboxes may also pave the way for the creation of testbeds for new technologies in the domain of the Internet of Things and driverless cars. The ability of the law to break with established traditional perceptions of technology, and operate in uncharted territory, will depend on the willingness of EU legislators to introduce new types of legal instruments.

It would also require the introduction of new forms of engagement with the evolving nature of scientific and technological ecosystems. While some ‘black swan’ technological events will remain impossible to predict, a real-time regulatory system that constantly analyses scientific trends would go a long way towards ensuring that regulatory policy proactively adapts to an evolving disruptive ecosystem, and influences the design of technologies.


Read this At a glance on ‘What if law shaped technologies?‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/06/29/what-if-law-shaped-technologies-science-and-technology-podcast/

Corporate taxation of a significant digital presence [EU Legislation in Progress][Policy podcast]

Written by Marcin Szczepański (1st edition),

Young businessman using innovative virtual touchscreen presses tax button. Tax payment. Government, state taxes. Data analysis, paperwork, financial research, report. Calculation tax return.

© wladimir1804 / Fotolia

Despite achieving unprecedented growth and profit rates, the digital economy seems to be relatively undertaxed when compared to more traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ companies. The current rules are based on the physical presence of taxpayers and assets, and there is a general understanding that they are not suited to taxing a digital economy characterised by reliance on intangible assets and ubiquitous services whose location is often hard to determine. International bodies are currently working on how to adapt tax rules to the digital reality.

The European Commission adopted a proposal in March 2018. It would allow taxation on the basis of digital rather than physical presence linked with the EU, for digital activities generating turnover of over €7 million, and with more than 100 000 users or 3 000 business to business contracts annually.

The proposal has met with mixed reactions from stakeholders. Although there is growing recognition that digital companies should pay similar tax rates to traditional companies, some consider the initiative to be premature given the ongoing search for a compromise at the level of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which is thought of as the permanent solution. Furthermore, the Council seems to be divided on the issue, whereas it needs to reach unanimity in order for the law to be adopted.

Versions


Listen to podcast ‘Corporate taxation of a significant digital presence


Effective average tax rate in the EU for international enterprises

Effective average tax rate in the EU for international enterprises

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/06/28/corporate-taxation-of-a-significant-digital-presence-eu-legislation-in-progresspolicy-podcast/

The EU and the Western Balkans: Where Next?

Written by Isabelle Ioannides and Velina Lilyanova,

The EU and the Western Balkans: Where next?

The EU and the Western Balkans: Where next?

On 18 June, EPRS hosted a roundtable discussion on ‘The EU and the Western Balkans: Where Next?’ in the Library of the European Parliament. It took place the day after the prime ministers of Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev respectively, signed a deal on the name issue that could potentially resolve the bilateral dispute that has run for over a quarter of a century. This only highlighted the timeliness of the question, ‘Where next?’, as Etienne Bassot, Director of EPRS’ Members’ Research Service, outlined in his introductory remarks.

2018 is a year of revived interest in the region. In February, the European Commission published a new EU enlargement strategy that aims to revitalise relations with the region. In April, it released its annual reports, taking stock of the situation in each of the candidate and potential candidate countries in the Western Balkans. In parallel, the European perspective and connectivity of the Western Balkans was at the top of the priorities of Bulgaria’s EU Council Presidency, which organised the first EU-WB summit in 15 years in Sofia. In July, when Bulgaria passes the baton on to Austria, the region will remain high on the agenda. Given this increased activity, the roundtable discussion aimed to revisit the state of play in the process of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans, assess achievements and challenges from the first half of 2018, and discuss how the EU can help support the transformation of the region in view of future enlargement.

The panellists were experts with varied and vast experience, both academic and political: Tonino Picula (S&D, Croatia), Member of the EP and Chair of the Delegation for relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina; Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director for the Western Balkans in the European Commission’s DG NEAR; Ivan Vejvoda, Permanent Fellow at the Vienna Institute for Human Sciences; Erwan Fouéré, Senior Associate Research fellow at CEPS; and Isabelle Ioannides, policy analyst in EPRS’ Ex-Post Evaluation Unit. The debate was moderated by Monika Nogaj, acting Head of the External Policies Unit in EPRS.

The EU and the Western Balkans: Where next?

The EU and the Western Balkans: Where next?

Tonino Picula, who spoke first, framed the debate, drawing on his long experience on the region, having been Croatia’s Foreign Affairs Minister in the early 2000s. Tonino Picula stressed the strategic importance of the Western Balkans and pointed to the pertinence of the EU examining the prospects of its relations with the region. He emphasised in particular the present context: a unique situation, in which the EU is negotiating the exit of a Member State, faces growing criticism from the inside, is surrounded by multiple external crises, and is confronted by the need to rethink the EU project as a whole. In such a context, achieving EU membership is an ever-more demanding task for the Western Balkans. Nevertheless, Tonino Picula asserted that, for a plethora of reasons, the EU needed to keep up the pace of its work in the region despite existing scepticism. He concluded by saying that he expected the political manifestos of political parties in next year’s European Parliament elections to reflect this topic, and the EU to continue to serve as a good mediator and facilitator. ‘EU membership, after all, remains the best way to promote reform and cooperation within the Western Balkans, as well as an insurance policy for the EU itself’, he said.

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera presented the new European Commission strategy and highlighted its two major achievements: on the one hand, its clear message that there would be no shortcuts to accession and that EU values would need to be abided by; and, on the other, the renewed EU commitment through six new flagship initiatives on key issues. Enlargement is a two-way process: just as the countries have to prepare for accession, so the EU has to prepare to absorb them and support them on their accession path. According to Ms Ruiz Calavera, it is crucial for the EU to ensure capacity to actually implement these flagships. To that end, the European Commission has put forward a proposal for increased funding for pre-accession in the new multiannual financial framework (MFF). She agreed with Tonino Picula on the need for political parties in the European Parliament to embrace the region in their agendas and have a clear vision on the issue of EU enlargement. Commenting on the name deal signed by Prime Ministers Tsipras and Zaev, she considered it a positive example for the region. Precisely for that reason, the upcoming June European Council decisions would be crucial for keeping momentum.

According to Ivan Vejvoda, what is really at stake is the credibility of the EU project itself. He reminded the audience that the enlargement perspective was never officially put in doubt by the EU, but rather within individual Member States (known as ‘enlargement fatigue’). This is illustrated in French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent statements (that the EU has to reform first, and expand afterwards), but it is also a false debate since the countries in the region themselves are not ready to join the EU in the next 5 to 10 years. What is key, however, is that the process continues and that credibility works, backed up by action. In that sense, if the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania do not receive a green light to start negotiations in June, we will not really be ‘in the credibility business’, he pointed out. The June Council decision, he reminded the audience, might be a fleeting piece of news, quickly passed over elsewhere, but one that would be closely monitored in the candidate countries and would linger on. It would have a demotivating effect on EU supporters in times when third parties (Russia, Turkey, China, and others) are lurking around the corner. Referring to the Western Balkans as ‘the non-integrated core part of Europe’, Ivan Vejvoda said that Europe would be doing its job if it manages to ‘keep this train moving’. Referring to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, he argued that both sides have realised that the issue cannot linger on forever and that the process is therefore imbued with a sense of realism. The economic links between the EU and the Western Balkans and the support of people in the region for the EU (even if at times this is silent) show that there is no alternative to EU enlargement. Last but not least, Ivan Vejvoda stressed the importance of education and the need for statesmanship and leadership in admitting to the young generation the darker side of the region’s history as a way to move towards reconciliation.

The EU and the Western Balkans: Where next?

The EU and the Western Balkans: Where next?

Erwan Fouéré welcomed the fact that the Western Balkans were back on the EU radar after having been neglected in recent years. The positive developments in 2018 are praiseworthy, but in parallel the EU needs to adopt an approach other than ‘business as usual’. In view of the future, the EU also has the responsibility to demonstrate more clearly the successes of EU enlargement policy, as the benefits of enlargement have not been sufficiently explained to an increasingly sceptical public. Erwan Fouéré spoke of the 17 June signing of the name deal, which he considers a diplomatic success. He commented on the strengths and weaknesses of the Zaev-Tsipras deal, pointing out that the weaknesses would complicate its ratification and implementation. Still, he agreed with the other speakers on the importance of the June European Council: it presents an opportunity to reward the work done on the ground and to show EU commitment in practice. An important message was also that all bilateral issues should be addressed by all sectors of societies, not political elites alone. On a concluding note, he expressed hope for the coming years, recalling the need for permanent EU efforts in the region and proper follow-up on its commitments.

Isabelle Ioannides focused on the ‘where next?’ in the event’s title. She agreed with the other speakers that the key word in the debate was credibility: how does the EU build and retain its credibility in the region? In her view, the EU must provide manageable, understandable perspectives, combined with specific roadmaps. The EU needs to insist on the implementation of reforms, but also better spell out the monitoring instruments announced and clearly name the spoilers in the process. Isabelle Ioannides raised the need for increased EU support for economic development – one way to counter frustration among youths and the consequent brain drain from the region. The EU also needs to consider further investing in structural reforms to boost growth in the medium term, and to include candidate countries in sectoral policies and programmes. More generally, it is essential for the EU to move away from a vision of the Western Balkans as mere recipients of funding, but rather to see the countries as co-designers of EU policies, which need to be included in the debate on the future of Europe. In parallel, it is important, she noted, that there be more transparency in the process: that the public (in both the Western Balkans and the EU Member States) be kept informed of the different benchmarks and of the EU contribution in supporting transformation in the region. The best proof that EU intentions are credible is to include a provision for potential accession of one or more of the candidate countries in the new MFF, something that may become unavoidable with the potential resolution of the name issue. In conclusion, enlargement is a win-win situation, momentum is there, but ultimately, more responsibility lies with the political leaders in the region to commit to real reforms, implement them, and fully exploit the current opportunity.

A lively Q&A session followed, which brought to the fore the issues of reconciliation, outstanding border disputes, the need to invest in young people, and the role of civil society as a much needed actor in the accession process.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/06/27/the-eu-and-the-western-balkans-where-next/

Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders, 28-29 June 2018

Written by Ralf Drachenberg and Suzana Anghel,

Asylum word cloud

© Fotolia

Expectations are high for the meetings of EU Heads of State or Government on 28 and 29 June 2018, as important decisions are required on several policy topics, including the reform of the euro area and the revision of the Dublin Regulation. Whether concrete results will emerge from this meeting on any, or all, of the controversial topics remains to be seen. The very full agenda of the European Council includes security and defence, migration, innovation and digital Europe, jobs, growth and competitiveness, the next multiannual financial framework and external relations. Following recent developments at national and European level, migration is likely to take an even more prominent place than originally expected. After the formal European Council meeting, EU Heads of State or Government will also convene for a Euro Summit and a European Council (Article 50) meeting. The Euro Summit will discuss further developments in the euro area, banking union, the gradual completion of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and a possible budget for the eurozone. At the European Council (Article 50) meeting, EU-27 leaders are expected to review the state of play in the Brexit negotiations, and adopt conclusions on the progress made.

1. Implementation: Follow-up on previous European Council commitments

In accordance with commitments made in its previous conclusions, the European Council should return to various aspects of security and defence policy (Table 1) at its June meeting. This is reflected in the annotated draft agenda for this European Council. Heads of State or Government are also expected to formally adopt the decision on the future composition of the European Parliament (EP).

2. European Council meeting

Migration

Heads of State or Government are expected to discuss the internal and external dimensions of migration policy. On the latter, the European Council is expected to recall the importance of effective external border control for a functioning EU migration policy. It will most likely reiterate its continuous vigilance and action on all three migration routes (i.e. the Central, Eastern and Western Mediterranean routes), stressing in particular its support to Italy as well as to the Libyan coastguard. The draft conclusions also foresee the creation of ‘disembarkation platforms’, in cooperation with UNHCR and IOM, which aims at reducing incentives for people to embark on perilous journeys, and at accelerating the division of economic migrants and those requiring international protection. The idea of such platforms had been considered previously, but re-emerged recently following an initiative by the Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, in cooperation with a small group of Member States. In order to prepare a joint European approach to asylum and migration, as opposed to a series of individual national approaches, a group of countries, including Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, France, Italy, Luxembourg Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovenia, Spain Sweden and Finland, met on 24 June in Brussels, hosted by European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker. No statement was issued, but some proposals discussed are expected to feature in the European Council conclusions, including an increase in the EU Trust Fund for Africa, a call on Member States to step up the effective return of irregular migrants, and more resources and a wider mandate for Frontex.

Concerning the internal dimension of migration, the European Council will notably address the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) under discussion since May 2016. During a plenary debate to prepare the June European Council, where many MEPs criticised the lack of decision by the Council on this issue, the European Parliament’s President, Antonio Tajani, stressed that Parliament had agreed its position on the matter in November 2017, and that its text would be an ideal basis for a compromise. On 14-15 December 2017, Heads of State or Government held an informal discussion on migration without any written conclusions, in the Leaders’ meetings format, which set the aim of deciding on the CEAS at the June 2018 meeting. President Tusk underlined that he still aimed to find a decision by consensus, but that reaching a compromise on the relocation mechanism might be hard to achieve and that the use of QMV would be an alternative if no compromise could be found. According to the new working methods under the Leaders’ Agenda, the result of the discussions at the informal leaders’ meetings should lead to an agreement at the following formal meeting dedicated to the matter – in this case the June European Council. It remains to be seen whether a consensus can be found at this meeting, some Member States having openly expressed doubt on the likelihood of meeting the June deadline. Recent developments, such as the position of the newly formed Italian government on migration, the situation resulting from Italy and Malta’s refusal to allow the rescue ship Aquarius, with 629 migrants on board, to dock, as well as the internal German government debate on migration, further complicate this already very sensitive dossier, and at the same time puts pressure on the European Council to find a solution.

Security and defence

On security and defence, the European Council will call to continue work on defence and counter-intelligence cooperation, including through the allocation of appropriate resources for fighting disinformation. Defence featured high on the Foreign Affairs Council’s agenda in the first half of 2018 and has been discussed at four meetings (in March, April, May and June 2018). Progress was made on a select number of cooperation mechanisms, notably on the European Defence Fund (EDF), with the European Commission proposing a regulation on 13 June 2018 on funding through the European Defence Fund under the next Multiannual Financial Framework, and on the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), on which the co-legislators reached a provisional agreement in May, which may lead to the legislative procedure being finalised by the end of 2018, as suggested by the European Council in its December 2017 conclusions. The European Commission and High Representative have also put forward a Joint Communication on hybrid threats, which the European Council will probably acknowledge in its June 2018 conclusions. Regarding civilian Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), progress was evaluated in May, and a civilian CSDP compact is expected for autumn 2018.

The European Council will request the continuation of work on the institutional architecture of permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) and on the development of programmes. It will also stress the importance of pursuing an inclusive approach where consistency between the requirements of the newly revised Capability Development Plan, the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence and PESCO projects is privileged. A first series of 17 PESCO projects was approved by the Council in March 2018, whilst more projects will be adopted in autumn 2018. The Dutch-led ‘military mobility’ project is the flagship of PESCO. It represents one of three complementary initiatives aimed at fostering military mobility (the November 2017 Joint Communication on improving military mobility in the EU and March 2018 Action Plan, and NATO’s own military mobility programme). Analysts consider that the upcoming NATO Summit, to be held in Brussels on 11-12 July 2018, could offer an opportunity to build synergies between these initiatives. In the interim, the European Council is expected to reiterate its previous December 2017 call to strengthen cooperation with NATO on military mobility. The EU leaders will also consider EU-NATO cooperation. They are expected to review the implementation of the 2016 Warsaw Joint Declaration with NATO and to call for a new Joint Declaration to be adopted at the July 2018 NATO Summit.

Jobs, Growth and Competitiveness

The European Council is expected to endorse the integrated country-specific recommendations as discussed by the Council, thus allowing the conclusion of the 2018 European Semester. In the field of taxation, the European Council will follow up on its informal discussion of 23 March 2018. It is likely to stress the EU fight against tax avoidance and evasion both internally and globally, while addressing the need to adapt taxation systems to the digital era, also taking into account the Commission proposals on digital taxation, and on VAT reform.

On trade, the EU remains committed to a rules-based multilateral system with an important role for the WTO. EU leaders are expected to discuss ways of improving its functioning, with regard to, inter alia, market distortive practices such as subsidies, and also ways of developing more effective and transparent enforcement of WTO rules. The European Council is also likely to reiterate its support for measures undertaken by the European Commission to protect the EU’s market in response to the US tariffs on steel and aluminium, including through legal proceedings initiated at the WTO.

Innovation and Digital Europe

During the meeting, leaders will most probably stress the need to deliver on the remaining legislative proposals concerning the Digital Single Market before the end of the current legislative cycle. The European Council will take stock of the informal discussion in Sofia on 16 May to call for a stronger and inclusive innovation ecosystem improving business access to financing, for encouraging greater risk-taking, and for promoting coordination between academia, industry and governments. It is likely to refer to the European Innovation Council pilot initiative under the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) to support disruptive innovation. The European Council may also address the question of a European data economy, encouraging further action to foster trust in data treatment and full enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation for all economic actors in the EU single market. The meeting may also underline the need for a coordinated approach of the Commission and Member States on artificial intelligence, and call for a swift agreement on the latest Commission data package on copyright and e-Privacy.

Multiannual Financial Framework

Heads of State or Government will continue their discussions on the next MFF following their informal meeting of 23 February 2018, held in an EU-27 format as the discussions were ‘future-oriented’. This time the UK is expected to take part in the discussions. The first European Council since the publication of the Commission’s proposals on the MFF in May will focus on its future handling and timeline (i.e. whether or not concluding the MFF negotiations before the EP elections will be attempted). Some members, such as the Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, and Angela Merkel, indicated their aim is to complete the negotiations during the current legislature. The European Council is most likely not going to commit to concluding the negotiations before the elections, but will ask Council and Parliament to accelerate the pace of their discussions.

External Relations

The Heads of State or Government could discuss the outcome of the recent G7 Summit in Canada and its impact on transatlantic relations, and come back to the issue of trade relations with the US. They could also raise other dossiers, such as the future of the Iran nuclear agreement.

The European Council might adopt conclusions on the Western Balkans. The timing of enlargement remains a divisive subject among Member States, and analysts are of the opinion that the decision to start accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania could be postponed, despite the Commission’s April 2018 recommendation in favour of their opening.

After the announcement by the governments of the Netherlands and Australia on 25 May 2018 that they ‘hold Russia responsible for its part in the downing of flight MH 17’, the European Council is likely to reiterate its October 2015 and October 2016 calls to fully establish the truth.

Other Items

Composition of the European Parliament

While not part of the draft agenda, Heads of State or Government are expected to formally adopt the decision on the future composition of the European Parliament. The European Council has, under Article 14(2) TEU, the obligation to adopt by unanimity, at the initiative of the EP and with its consent, a decision establishing the composition of the EP. With 566 votes for, 94 against, 31 abstentions, the EP has already given its consent in plenary on 13 June 2018. If the European Council confirms this proposal, the number of MEPs will be reduced from 751 to 705 in the 2019-2024 legislature, following the UK’s exit from the EU. The decision also provides for partial redistribution, among some Member States, of seats now held by UK Members.

3. Euro Summit

The Euro Summit will take place in an ‘inclusive’ format (with 27 Member States, including the 19 euro-area members, as well as the other Member States which have ratified the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the EMU, TSCG). The Member States’ representatives will discuss the long-term development of EMU, and the reforms called for during the last Euro Summit, on 23 March, notably the completion of the Banking Union, the development of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the deepening of EMU. They might also discuss the creation of a eurozone budget, as proposed during the Franco-German meeting of 19 June 2018.

4. European Council (Article 50) meeting

On 29 June 2018, the Commission’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, will update the EU-27 Heads of State or Government on the state of play in the Brexit negotiations. The European Council (Art. 50) will focus on the completion of work on withdrawal issues; the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland; and the framework for the future relationship with the UK. Following the latest round of negotiations, on 19-20 June 2018, Mr Barnier outlined the issues where progress had been made such as customs, VAT, Euratom and certificates for goods. He stressed however that ‘serious divergences remain on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland’ and recalled ‘that the Withdrawal Agreement must contain a fully operational backstop solution for Ireland and Northern Ireland’.


Read this briefing on ‘Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders, 28-29 June 2018‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Read also ‘The European Council’s ‘rolling agenda’ on European defence cooperation‘.


Current membership of the European Council

Current membership of the European Council

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/06/27/outlook-for-the-meetings-of-eu-leaders-28-29-june-2018/

People with substance abuse issues [What Europe does for you]

With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for people with substance abuse issues.

Drug use can lead to addiction, which has harmful consequences for health. In 2015, around 3.5 million European adults used cocaine, 1.8 million amphetamines and 1.3 million opioids. The number of Cannabis users reached 23.5 million. Misuse of prescription medicines, such as sedatives, pain relievers and stimulants, is also a growing concern.

Unconscious Man Face Down Behind Scattered Prescription Drugs and Glass of Alcohol.

© Andy Dean / Fotolia

If you have a substance abuse issue, you might be interested to know that the EU has a drugs strategy and action plan. The aim is to reduce the health and social risks and harm caused by drugs, and to ensure that treatment offered to drug users will help them recover and reintegrate into society. The EU has also established a European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) to provide information at European level, and has created a consultative body, the Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSF). In 2017, the EU adopted legislation to include new psychoactive substances (‘designer drugs’) in the definition of ‘drug’, and to set up an information exchange and an early warning system on them. Drugs-related health damage is among the priorities of the current EU health programme.

Some of the numerous projects financed by the EU to help people with substance abuse issues include a web survey on drugs; a network to strengthen research into the problem of illicit drugs; a responsive website and app for mobile devices for young consumers of new psychoactive substances, with background information, a self-assessment test and an intervention programme; and an initiative to improve training in addiction medicine for primary care doctors.

Further information

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/06/25/people-with-substance-abuse-issues-what-europe-does-for-you/

Combined transport directive review: Getting more goods off EU roads [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Marketa Pape (1st edition),

A train of containers parked in a shipping yard on the river Marne for the supply of supermarkets in Paris.

© olrat / Fotolia

The European Union’s efforts to reduce the negative impacts of transport include promoting a shift from road freight transport to lower-emission transport modes. This also includes combined transport operations, which consist of at least one road leg for initial or final haulage and one non‑road leg on rail or water. The 1992 Combined Transport Directive set out measures that were meant to increase the competitiveness of combined transport against road-only transport.

In 2017, 25 years after the directive entered into force, the Commission conducted a legislative review and proposed to simplify the existing rules and make combined transport more attractive by means of economic incentives. The initiative is part of the ‘mobility package’, a set of legislative proposals presented by the Commission to make EU transport safer, greener and more modern.

In the European Parliament, the TRAN committee is due to vote on its report in July, while the Council has found solutions to several issues, and published a progress report on 18 May 2018.

Stage: Committee vote

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2018/06/25/combined-transport-directive-review-getting-more-goods-off-eu-roads-eu-legislation-in-progress/