Месечни архиви: октомври 2019

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty 2019: EU contribution to the fight against child poverty

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty 2019


Written by Marie Lecerf,

Over recent decades, there has been marked progress in reducing poverty worldwide. The research conducted by this year’s Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences laureates, Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer, has considerably improved the ability to fight global poverty. Nevertheless, despite this progress, the number of people living in extreme poverty remains too high, even in Europe and, in particular, amongst children.

As 2019 also marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 20 November 1989), celebration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 17 October is a great opportunity to take stock of what the European Union is doing to fight against child poverty in its own Member States.

Child poverty in the European Union

In 2017, 112.8 million people in the EU-28 lived in households at risk of poverty or social exclusion (i.e. 22.4 % EU-28, Eurostat, latest data available). With an at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion rate of 24.9 % in the EU-28, children were at greater risk in 2017 than the total population: almost one in four children in the European Union is at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This situation was mirrored in 19 EU Member States.

child are at greater risk of poverty or social exclusion

Source: Eurostat, 2019

EU contribution to the fight against child poverty

As child poverty in the European Union remains a reality, especially for certain groups (children in single parent, large or migrant families), child poverty has become a major policy concern for the European Union. Precarious living conditions during childhood have a detrimental effect, not only on attainment in school but also on health and on the ability to integrate socially during adolescence and early adulthood. The consequences of poverty experienced in childhood or adolescence can continue into later life and may be passed on from one generation to the next.

EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

The European Union and its Member States are bound to comply with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, Article 24 of which is entirely dedicated to the rights of the child: ‘1. Children shall have the right to such protection and care as is necessary for their well-being. They may express their views freely. Such views shall be taken into consideration on matters which concern them in accordance with their age and maturity. 2. In all actions relating to children, whether taken by public authorities or private institutions, the child’s best interests must be a primary consideration.’

EU policy responses to child poverty

Fighting child poverty in the EU is primarily the responsibility of the Member States. Nevertheless, at EU level, there is broad consensus that action is needed to lift children out of poverty and to promote children’s wellbeing.

One of the targets of the European 2020 strategy is to reduce the number of people living in poverty by 20 million (compared with 2008). In 2013, the European Commission adopted, and the European Council endorsed, a Recommendation ‘Investing in children – breaking the cycle of disadvantage’. Considering child poverty from a comprehensive perspective, it sets a three pillar structure: employment and adequate income, access to quality services and children’s participation.

In November 2015, Parliament adopted a resolution on reducing inequalities with a specific focus on the most vulnerable children. In 2017, Parliament went a step further, requesting that the Commission implement a preparatory action on establishing a possible child guarantee scheme. This guarantee should ensure that every child in poverty receives free access to quality early childhood education and care, education, healthcare, and access to decent housing and adequate nutrition.

The proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights in November 2017 demonstrates an increased willingness to tackle child poverty in the European Union. Article 11 explicitly reflects that the fight against child poverty is a priority under the social Europe approach, while referring to children’s right to be protected from poverty.

EU funds are key in tackling child poverty

Numerous financial instruments provide a framework for Member States to implement measures to address child poverty with the support of the European Union.

  • The 2013 Recommendation calls for the opportunities provided by the European Social and Investment Funds during 2014-2020 to be used when possible to help children.
  • The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) complements EU funding to fight child poverty. Its objectives are to alleviate the worst forms of poverty by providing food and/or basic material assistance as well as social inclusion activities for the most deprived. Children represent almost one-third (30 %) of the total number of people receiving food support.
  • The EU’s proposal for the upcoming 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework, including the European Social Fund +, highlights the need to strengthen the fight against poverty and social exclusion. On 4 April 2019, the European Parliament adopted a legislative resolution on the European Commission’s proposal on the ESF+, proposing that Member States should allocate at least 5 % of their ESF+ resources to targeted actions aimed at implementing the European Child Guarantee. It also recommended that Member States should allocate at least 27 % of their ESF+ resources to specific objectives in the field of social inclusion, and at least 3 % of their resources to the specific objective of the social inclusion of the most deprived and/or material deprivation. On 2 October 2019, the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs voted on the decision to enter into interinstitutional negotiations, so that the dossier can progress.

Despite all the actions and policies undertaken, the task ahead to eradicate child poverty in the European Union will be a daunting challenge for the next decade. Hopefully, as Esther Duflo recently said, their research could also provide a source of inspiration for the European Union.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/16/international-day-for-the-eradication-of-poverty-2019-eu-contribution-to-the-fight-against-child-poverty/

Outlook for the European Council (Article 50) meeting on 17 October 2019

Written by Izabela Bacian with Fernando Hortal Foronda,

drapeau - Grande Bretagne - eu

© Fotolia

The October European Council meeting will represent an important point on the timeline of negotiations on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, as leaders will be taking stock of the situation heading up to the end of the extension period on 31 October 2019. This Briefing provides an overview of European Council guidelines and decisions taken to provide direction to the negotiations since the UK’s formal notification of withdrawal on 29 March 2017.

1. Background

Following a referendum on 23 June 2016, in which 51.9 per cent of participants voted to leave the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom (UK) submitted the formal notification of its intention to leave to the European Council on 29 March 2017. According to the procedure laid out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), this notification triggered a two-year period during which the EU and the UK were to negotiate the terms of the UK’s withdrawal. The European Council, meeting without a UK representative (termed ‘European Council (Article 50)’ meetings), outlined the general direction for the negotiations in a series of sets of guidelines.

Guidelines of 29 April 2017: In its first set of guidelines, the European Council (Article 50) decided that the negotiations would be divided into two phases. The first phase would set the terms of the withdrawal and clarify the impact of UK’s withdrawal on three critical issues: 1) citizens’ rights, 2) finances, and 3) the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The second phase would focus on negotiating the EU’s future relationship with the UK as well as agreeing any necessary transitional arrangements. Based on the European Council guidelines of 29 April, the Commission adopted a recommendation and Council (EU-27 format) a decision authorising the opening of negotiations.

Guidelines of 15 December 2017: Informed by a joint report from the EU and UK negotiators of 8 December 2017, the European Council (Article 50) decided at its December meeting that sufficient progress had been made on phase one, and adopted additional guidelines for the second phase of negotiations. All the commitments made during phase one would have to be respected and ‘translated faithfully into legal terms’. A transition period was agreed for a period of two years, during which the UK would ‘no longer participate in or nominate or elect members of the EU institutions, nor participate in the decision-making of the Union bodies, offices and agencies’. It would have to respect the whole body of EU law, including new law, budgetary commitments, and judicial oversight, including the competence of the Court of Justice of the EU. Moreover, the UK would continue to participate in the customs union and the single market (with all four freedoms) as well as comply with EU trade policy until the end of the transition period, but not beyond. The framework for the future relationship would be elaborated in a political declaration accompanying the withdrawal agreement.

On 29 January 2018, the Council (EU-27 format) adopted supplementary negotiating directives concerning a transition period, which would apply from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement, and not last beyond 31 December 2020. Commitments made by both parties in the December 2017 joint report were translated by the Commission into legal terms in a draft withdrawal agreement released on 28 February 2018. By 19 March 2018, full agreement had been reached on many issues, including citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the transition period.

As regards the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, negotiators agreed that a solution would be found in line with the three scenarios detailed in the December 2017 joint report: 1) first, the UK commits to avoid creating a hard border on the island and proposes a solution in the context of the future EU-UK relationship; 2) if this were not possible, it would then propose a specific solution to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland; 3) in the absence of agreed solutions, the UK would continue to ‘maintain full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union which support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and the protection of the Good Friday Agreement of 10 April 1998’. While discussion on all options continued, scenario three, known as the ‘backstop’, was included in a Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the draft agreement.

Guidelines of 23 March 2018: The European Council (Article 50) issued guidelines in March 2018 outlining the EU’s position on the future relationship with the UK. The EU-27 restated the EU’s determination to have ‘as close as possible a partnership with the UK in the future’. Regarding economic cooperation with the UK, the European Council stated its readiness to initiate work on a free trade agreement (FTA) and outlined the issues to be addressed therein. Such an agreement would have to be based on a balance of rights and obligations, ensuring a level playing field, whilst preserving the integrity of the single market. In addition, the guidelines concentrated on several areas where the EU expressed an interest in maintaining strong relations with the UK, in particular the fight against terrorism and international crime, as well as security, defence and foreign policy.

As for the implementation of the backstop, a compromise was reached based on the UK’s June 2018 proposal for a temporary customs partnership. A single customs territory would be established between the EU and the entire UK (not just Northern Ireland) covering all trade in goods except fisheries and aquaculture. While the UK would harmonise its commercial policy with the EU’s to the extent necessary for the functioning of the single customs territory, including alignment with the EU’s common external tariff, Northern Ireland would have to apply EU customs law. In addition, Northern Ireland would remain aligned with EU law related to the internal market in a number of areas, including agriculture and environmental protection and regulation, technical regulations on goods, state aid, EU VAT and excise, and other areas of North-South cooperation.

2. Ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement

On 25 November 2018, at a special meeting of the European Council (Article 50), EU leaders endorsed the withdrawal agreement and approved the political declaration, on the basis of the future relationship. Three protocols, on Ireland/Northern Ireland, on Gibraltar, and on the UK Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus, are included. The decision to sign the agreement was subsequently adopted by the Council on 11 January 2019, although the signature has not taken place. The Council in the meantime forwarded the decision on the agreement’s conclusion to the European Parliament for its consent.

In accordance with section 13 of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the agreement was submitted to the House of Commons for approval. It was rejected a first time on 15 January 2019, the main concerns revolving around the nature of the backstop. This led then UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, to ask for additional clarifications. A legally binding instrument related to the withdrawal agreement, providing clarification and legal guarantees on the nature of the backstop, was agreed at a meeting in Strasbourg on 11 March 2019, between Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and May, accompanied by a joint statement supplementing the political declaration. The ‘Strasbourg package’ was approved by the March 2019 European Council. The backstop is to serve as an ‘insurance policy’, with the aim being to replace the backstop by 31 December 2020, as previously underlined by the European Council in its conclusions in December 2018. Should the backstop be triggered, this would be on a temporary basis only until such time as an alternative arrangement avoiding a hard border is put in place. The withdrawal agreement allows for a one-time extension of the transition period, for one or two years.

Despite these additional assurances from the EU, the agreement was rejected in the UK Parliament a second time, on 12 March. The House of Commons voted two days later to call for an extension of the two-year period under Article 50. A third vote, before the European Council meeting on 21 March, was not possible, since, as stated by the Speaker, John Bercow, the House of Commons could not vote again on the ‘same proposition or substantially the same proposition’. Consequently, on 20 March, May formally asked the European Council for an extension until 30 June 2019.

Responding to May’s request, the March 2019 European Council (Article 50) adopted a decision extending the period, but not to the date requested. It agreed to an extension until 22 May 2019, on the condition that the UK Parliament were to approve the withdrawal agreement by 29 March. If not, the extension would run until 12 April 2019 and the UK would have to indicate the way forward. By that date, the UK would need to announce the holding of European elections, considering its obligation to do so if it were still a Member State on 23-26 May 2019. On 29 March 2019, the UK Parliament held a third vote on the agreement along with the ‘Strasbourg package’ resulting in a third rejection. Following up on a second request by May for an extension until 30 June 2019, a special meeting of the European Council was held on 10 April 2019, at which EU leaders discussed the feasibility of granting a short or a longer extension. The compromise decision granted the UK a six-month extension of the Article 50 period until 31 October 2019 at the latest.

Following this third rejection and a breakdown in cross-party Brexit negotiations aimed at finding common ground for a deal, Theresa May announced her resignation as party leader on 24 May, with effect from 7 June 2019. On 23 July, Boris Johnson won the Conservative Party leadership, thus replacing Theresa May as Prime Minister. In his first letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, on 19 August 2019, Johnson underlined the UK’s commitment to achieve an agreement with the EU in full respect of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. However, he stressed that ‘the backstop cannot form part of an agreed Withdrawal Agreement’ given that it ‘locks the UK, potentially indefinitely, into an international treaty which will bind us into a customs union and which applies large areas of single market legislation in Northern Ireland’. He added ‘the Government will not put in place infrastructure, checks or controls at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland’.

Following Johnson’s decision to prorogue the UK Parliament from 9 September until 14 October 2019 (later deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court), on 4 September the House of Commons approved the EU Withdrawal (No 2) Act (known as the Benn Act). This legislation requires the UK government to seek an extension of the Article 50 period until 31 January 2020, unless the House of Commons approves a deal with the EU or agrees to a no-deal Brexit by 19 October 2019.

3. Way forward

Two weeks ahead of the planned Brexit date, the 17-18 October 2019 European Council meeting is expected to be dominated by Brexit. EU-27 leaders will discuss the most recent developments, and notably Johnson’s proposal of 2 October 2019 for a new Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland to replace the backstop (detailed in Table 1), as well as potentially explore the feasibility of a further extension. While the June 2019 European Council stated that the withdrawal agreement was not open for renegotiation, EU leaders remained open for talks regarding the content of the political declaration if the UK position were to evolve. The EU’s reaction to the proposal has been expressed in detailed terms by EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier during the European Parliament’s plenary part-session on 9 October 2019. He expressed three main concerns regarding the new proposals.

First, despite a strong commitment from the UK to avoid customs and regulatory checks as well as any physical infrastructure at the border, many questions remain as to the means of implementation, which had not been addressed in the text. Not only would this create uncertainty but would rely on technology not yet developed or tested; it would also require exemptions from the Union Customs Code and changes to the Common Transit Convention. Second, the current Protocol creates a legally operational safety net available immediately, while the new proposal, applicable only as of the transition period, would add uncertainty. In addition, as underlined by the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, the Parliament’s consent would be required in a context where the full implications of the new arrangements could not be known.

The third issue concerned consent for Northern Ireland. While the current text includes a mechanism allowing for Northern Irish representation – which could still be improved – the new proposal would allow Northern Ireland institutions to decide unilaterally not to activate the agreed solution. And, were it to enter into force, it would allow them to review it every four years. As the Northern Ireland Assembly has not sat for almost three years, and its ability to reconvene is questioned, making application conditional on its consent would render an agreed solution hypothetical and provisional. Finally, Barnier added that the UK’s plan to diverge in areas such as social, environmental and tax rules, on which the current political declaration provides for a level playing field, would not be acceptable.

Table 1: Proposals from Prime Minister Boris Johnson of 2 October 2019

The Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group stated in early October that it did not consider the latest proposal ‘a basis for an agreement to which the EP could give consent’, as it did ‘not address the real issues, namely the all-island economy, the full respect of the Good Friday Agreement and the integrity of the Single Market’. In September, the Parliament warned that it could ‘not give consent to a Withdrawal Agreement without a backstop’.

EU-27 unity has endured throughout the three years of negotiations and this is also due in no small part to the role that the European Council President has played at critical times in finding agreement among the 27 leaders and leading the way forward. In recent statements, Donald Tusk has emphasised yet again the seriousness of the issues at stake, although in a rather straightforward manner. He welcomed the positive signals of the meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Johnson, and emphasised that ‘a no deal Brexit will never be the choice of the EU’.

Read this briefing on ‘Outlook for the European Council (Article 50) meeting on 17 October 2019‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/16/outlook-for-the-european-council-article-50-meeting-on-17-october-2019/

Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders, 17-18 October 2019

Written by Ralf Drachenberg and Suzana Anghel,

Brexit, deal or no deal concept. United Kingdom and European Uni

© Fotolia

The meeting of Heads of State or Government on 17-18 October is expected to be dominated by Brexit. The EU-27 leaders will probably meet in a European Council (Article 50) format to discuss the most recent developments in the negotiations, and deliberate on possible consequences. At its formal meeting, the European Council will discuss the recently adopted Strategic Agenda 2019-24 and the priorities of the new Commission in the presence of the incumbents as well as the incoming Presidents of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and of the European Council, Charles Michel (current Prime Minister of Belgium). EU Heads of State or Government will also exchange views on the current state of play on the MFF negotiations in the Council, where differences in opinion remain significant on certain issues, not least on the overall size of the 2021-2027 budget. Finally, the European Council will discuss the external dimension of climate policy and consider the possibility of opening accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. The meeting could also discuss foreign policy issues, notably the evolution of the situations in Ukraine and Syria, where a Turkish military operation has commenced in the northern part of the country.

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

As announced in the June 2019 European Council conclusions, EU Heads of State or Government will return to the issues of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021-27 and the Strategic Agenda 2019-24, as reflected in the annotated draft agenda.

At the start of the meeting, the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, will address the European Council meeting for the first time in his mandate. Antti Rinne, Prime Minister of Finland, which currently holds the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of Ministers, will provide an overview on the progress made in implementing previous European Council conclusions.

As announced in the June 2019 European Council conclusions, EU Heads of State or Government will return to the issues of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021-27 and the Strategic Agenda 2019-24, as reflected in the annotated draft agenda.

At the start of the meeting, the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, will address the European Council meeting for the first time in his mandate. Antti Rinne, Prime Minister of Finland, which currently holds the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of Ministers, will provide an overview on the progress made in implementing previous European Council conclusions.

2. European Council meeting

Multiannual Financial Framework

On 17 October 2019, EU Heads of State or Government will hold an exchange of views on the next MFF. The discussion will be based on a paper by the Finnish Presidency informing EU leaders on the state of play in the negotiations. The most recent exchange of views between Member States on the main elements of the MFF took place in the General Affairs Council (GAC) of 16 September. Both the GAC discussions and the content of a draft ‘Negotiating Box’ (i.e. a document indicating the progressive completion of the negotiation, used by successive GAC meetings to prepare the final deliberation in the European Council), show that the differences of opinion on many sensitive aspects remain significant (see EPRS Legislative Train Schedule: MFF – 2021-2027). Some Member States continue for instance to advocate an EU budget equivalent to 1.0 per cent of total EU GNI, while others support a higher figure. Another point of contention is the size of the allocations to the common agriculture policy and cohesion funds.

With a view to its next meeting in December, the European Council is expected to invite the Finnish Council Presidency to update, based on the results of the discussions between EU leaders, the June 2019 Negotiating Box, including numbers. Thus, in December 2019, EU leaders would only for the first time discuss concrete numbers for the MFF, making the aim of ‘reaching an agreement in the European Council before the end of the year’ difficult to achieve.

On 10 October 2019, the new European Parliament adopted a resolution on the MFF reiterating that ‘Parliament will not rubber-stamp a fait accompli from the European Council’ and calling on the European Council to refrain from adopting detailed and purportedly binding conclusions based on the MFF negotiating box, as this would amount to direct interference in the legislative sphere’.

The next institutional cycle

This meeting is the first European Council since EU Heads of State or Government agreed on a package of candidates for the EU high-level positions (see Figure 1), and the subsequent election of the new European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, on 16 July by the European Parliament. President-elect von der Leyen will outline her priorities for the new Commission, and discuss the recently adopted Strategic Agenda 2019-24 with EU Heads of State or Government.

Figure 1: Overview of high-level office-holders since the 2009 EP elections

The European Council is also expected to adopt a decision appointing Christine Lagarde as President of the European Central Bank, with her nomination part of the package agreed by the European Council on 2 July. Her appointment follows a hearing in the European Parliament and the subsequent positive recommendation. This meeting is the last scheduled European Council to be presided over by Donald Tusk, who will be replaced as European Council President by Charles Michel (currently Prime Minister of Belgium) as of 1 December.


For the third meeting in a row, the European Council will discuss climate, with a focus on its external dimension. EU leaders are expected to reiterate their support to the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, to discuss the outcome of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit held in New York in September 2019, and to prepare for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) to be held in Santiago de Chile in December 2019. They could also discuss the guidelines for the EU’s long-term strategy on climate change that they had committed to finalise by the end of 2019.

A group of eight EU states has recently called ‘to increase the EU’s emissions-cut target from 40 per cent to 55 per cent by 2030’, in line with a Dutch proposal made by Prime Minister Mark Rutte as part of the Future of Europe debate in the European Parliament plenary. Earlier this year, divergent views on the way forward to a carbon-neutral EU economy were particularly noticeable. In June 2019, a group of Member States (initially eight, later expanding to 18) as well as the European Parliament have expressed support for the European Commission’s communication ‘A Clean Planet for all’, pleading for an ambitious and timely climate policy promoting EU carbon-neutrality by 2050. Due to a lack of consensus on the target date for achieving carbon neutrality, the June 2019 European Council conclusions mention the objective of a transition to carbon neutrality, but specify in a footnote that ‘For a large majority of Member States, climate neutrality must be achieved by 2050’. The countries reluctant at that time to commit to a date to achieve climate neutrality were Czechia, Estonia, Hungary and Poland.

External relations

EU leaders are expected to discuss several foreign policy issues, notably the situation in Ukraine and in Syria. As regards Syria, they will most probably consider both the in-country situation, as well as the regional situation, including the ongoing Turkish military operation in the northern part of Syria. Several Member States, including France and Germany, have already expressed their concern about Turkey’s ‘unilateral military operation’ in the northern part of Syria, warned about its possible humanitarian consequences, including a possible increasing influx of migrants on the Eastern Mediterranean route, and urged Turkey to end its offensive. The Foreign Affairs Council on 14 October noted that some Member States have decided to stop arms-exports licensing to Turkey but did not decide on ‘a formal EU-wide arms embargo’.


Although agreement was not reached at the General Affairs Council of 15 October 2019, the European Council will most probably consider whether or not to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.

Whilst the Commission had given a positive recommendation, the decision to open or not accession negotiations with the two countries was postponed from June 2019 to October 2019 at the latest, due to persisting diverging views among the Member States, including France and the Netherlands which oppose the opening of accession negotiations. A possible solution, based on a German proposal, would consist of green-lighting the opening of accession negotiations with both countries whilst only North Macedonia would be given a clear date to start negotiations.

Enlargement gained momentum following the joint letter of the leaders of the EU’s institutions – the European Council President Donald Tusk, the European Parliament President David Sassoli, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and the European Commission President-elect Ursula Von der Leyen. In their letter, they outlined that the EU ‘stands before a strategic choice’ on whether or not to decide to open accession negotiations with the two Western Balkan countries which have fulfilled their share of the bargain and complied with the requirements set upon them so far. Prior to this, during his September 2019 visit to Albania and North Macedonia, Donald Tusk said that he has ‘always thought that the EU should open accession talks with both Albania and North Macedonia, in line with the positive recommendations from the Commission,’ whilst a similar position was also expressed by the Visegrad Four (V4) group.

Other Items

Standing by their earlier commitment, EU leaders will most probably once again condemn Turkey’s drilling activities in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone and reaffirm their solidarity with Cyprus.

3. European Council (Article 50) meeting

On Friday 18 October 2019, EU-27 leaders will possibly also meet in a European Council (Article 50) format to discuss the latest developments in the process following the United Kingdom’s notification of its withdrawal under Article 50 TEU.

On 2 October 2019, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, made a new proposal, including a differentiated EU-UK customs regime with no controls at or near the border which aims to replace the current ‘backstop’. The objective of the backstop, which was agreed upon by the previous UK government, is to prevent the creation of a hard border on the island of Ireland; it envisages that the UK would leave the single market but remain in a single EU-UK customs territory. The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed ‘that while the UK has made some progress, a number of problematic points remain in the proposal, on which further work is needed by the UK’. This sentiment was also shared by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, whose message to the UK Prime Minister was that the EU ’remains open but [is] still unconvinced’. A meeting between Johnson and his Irish counterpart, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, on 10 October concluded that both ‘could see a pathway to a possible deal’. Following a meeting between EU and UK negotiators the following day, the Commission announced that ‘the EU and the UK have agreed to intensify discussions over the coming days’.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, informed the General Affairs Council (Article 50) of 15 October, preparing the European Council (Article 50), about the state of play in Brexit negotiations and assessed that an agreement before the summit would be very difficult but still possible.

It is not excluded that the UK Prime Minister could – at the European Council meeting or shortly after – request a further extension to the Article 50 negation period. The recently adopted European Union (Withdrawal) (No 2) Act 2019 requires the UK government to request a three-month extension, if it has not secured the approval of the House of Commons for either: 1) a withdrawal agreement, or 2) leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement, by the end of 19 October.

Read this briefing on ‘Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders, 17-18 October 2019‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/16/outlook-for-the-meetings-of-eu-leaders-17-18-october-2019/

Mainstreaming of climate action in the EU budget: Impact of a political objective

Written by Alessandro D’Alfonso,

© Mediaparts / Fotolia

The European Union (EU) has developed many legislative measures related to climate change, and is on track to meet its 2020 targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the improvement of energy efficiency and the increased use of renewables. However, analysts estimate that more demanding targets in the medium- and longer-term require significant financial investments in mitigation and adaptation measures. Public resources can play an important role in financing such investment needs, not only directly but also in attracting funding from other sources.

In the broader field of EU finances, three main categories of climate-related initiatives can be identified: relevant projects and activities across a broad range of funding instruments in the EU budget; programmes for the demonstration of innovative technologies, funded by the EU’s Emissions Trading System; and climate finance from the European Investment Bank. While the EU budget represents only 2 % of public spending in the Union, it has features that can amplify its impact and make it particularly relevant for climate-related objectives, including the greater predictability of long-term investments ensured by its Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

In the 2014-2020 MFF, the EU decided to step up the contribution that the EU budget makes to action on climate change, by committing to spending 20 % of its financial resources on relevant measures. This political objective sets the broader framework for mainstreaming of climate in the EU budget, which consists of the incorporation of climate considerations and objectives across the major EU funding instruments. Climate mainstreaming takes place at different levels: a political objective and a tracking methodology for the overall budget; the design and implementation of specific funding instruments; and monitoring, reporting and evaluation, both for the overall budget and for specific instruments. Decision-makers and actors involved differ, depending on the phase.

According to the latest data, the EU should almost be able to reach the objective of spending 20 % of its 2014-2020 resources on climate by the end of the programming period. Some of the largest EU programmes under shared management with Member States are also the largest contributors to the climate target in absolute figures: agricultural funds, the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund. However, some smaller instruments have significant climate-relevance.

Assessments of the tracking methodology and of its impact have identified both achievements and shortcomings. The creation of a broad political objective is deemed to have triggered ambitious work and a greater focus on climate. Climate spending in instruments such as the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund has increased both quantitatively and qualitatively. However, other areas such as the common agricultural policy have not shown significant progress, despite the emergence of some good practices. Criticisms have included: the absence of a common mechanism to assign sub-targets to individual instruments; some inconsistencies in the methodology with over-estimations in some areas and under-representation in others; and a performance framework more focused on outputs than on results and impact.

The adoption of an overall objective for climate expenditure in the EU budget contributes to the establishment of a general framework against which to assess progress and areas for improvement in climate-related activities. For the post-2020 MFF, the European Commission has proposed to raise the objective to 25 % of the EU budget, while the European Parliament has called for an even more ambitious approach. Elements in the MFF proposals, such as the creation of some links to National Energy and Climate Plans, could reinforce the effectiveness of climate mainstreaming. The revenue side of the EU budget also has the potential to contribute to climate objectives, but its reform is considered extremely difficult due to the requirement for unanimity in the Council.

Read this ‘in-depth analysis’ on ‘Mainstreaming of climate action in the EU budget: Impact of a political objective‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/14/mainstreaming-of-climate-action-in-the-eu-budget-impact-of-a-political-objective/

Reform of the Service of Documents Regulation [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Rafal Manko,

Business people are exchanging document

© sebra / Fotolia

In May 2018, the Commission put forward a proposal for amending the existing Regulation on Cross-border Service of Documents in civil proceedings. The proposal aims, above all, to replace the existing mechanisms of paper transmission with an electronic system. National information technology (IT) systems would be connected into one network, and the use of paper transmission would become an exception, available only in the event of a failure of the electronic system. Within Parliament, a draft report was prepared by the Legal Affairs Committee in October 2018, and in February 2019, the institution adopted its first-reading position on the proposal.

Within Council, following an exchange of views between delegations and work at technical level, a policy debate is envisaged. Once Council reaches a general approach, trilogue negotiations will be able to start.


timeline 10 steps trilogue with second reading

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/14/reform-of-the-service-of-documents-regulation-eu-legislation-in-progress/

A globalisation that works for everyone? Penny Goldberg discusses the 2020 World Development Report

Written by Klemen Zumer with Paul Anton Kindermann,

Chief Economist of the World Bank (WB), Penny Goldberg, presented an exclusive snapshot of the 2020 World Development Report in the Library Reading Room at the European Parliament on 1 October 2019, discussing the economic challenges and perspectives of global value chains (GVCs) for economic development: what can policy makers do to facilitate sustainable growth through GVCs? This question is particularly pressing in the wake of continuous trade conflicts that dampen expectations for further growth. The high-level event with Penny Goldberg and EP Vice President Pedro Silva Pereira kicked off intensified EPRS cooperation with the World Bank that will spark many follow up initiatives.

GVCs constitute a central layer of today’s unprecedentedly interconnected world economy. In a GVC, countries do not simply trade products. They produce together, as different steps of a single production process are distributed to different locations around the world, and the parts produced in each place are shipped across the globe often crossing borders multiple times. GVCs extend the division of labour to an international scale. In the contemporary world economy, almost all countries participate in GVCs; at different stages of the economic chain, they export raw materials, semi-finished goods, or eventually goods ready for consumption. The steady emergence of these GVCs over four decades has powered an economic revolution that boosted economic growth.

In general, the World Bank finds comprehensive empirical evidence that GVCs facilitate major income growth in manufacturing countries. And in developing countries, GVC firms have contributed to significant poverty reductions. On the other hand, Penny Goldberg identifies two major problems that come as costs of participating in GVCs. First, the economic gains that result from GVCs are distributed unequally across and within countries: participation in GVCs disadvantages unskilled workers, and women and youth are generally placed in lower value-added segments of production. Second, the high transportation costs are a strain on the environment. Thus, policy-makers are called upon to ensure that benefits are shared and the environment protected – e.g. by a carbon tax or stronger regulations on particular industries and polluters. Only then can globalisation ‘work for everyone’.

While these policies are needed urgently, the profound potential of GVCs for further, sustainable economic growth can only be harnessed if the rule-based international trade system is maintained and strengthened. Penny Goldberg warned that the continuation of protectionist measures could push more than 30 million people into poverty and crush global income. In concert with EP Vice President Pereira, she emphasised that international cooperation on trade is critical for the sustainable growth of all countries and suggested several criteria that new deep trade agreements should fulfil – such as stronger rules on subsidies. Vice-President Silva Pereira recalled the problems of trade agreements which lacked public support and came under heavy scrutiny. Here, he said, the EP should, among other things, push for prominent placement of sustainable development chapters in new, comprehensive agreements.

Following a lively question and answer session, Penny Goldberg promised to be back at EPRS soon to discuss the report in more detail.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/14/a-globalization-that-works-for-everyone-penny-goldberg-discusses-the-2020-world-development-report/

Origins of the 2019-24 EU Strategic Agenda: The Future of Europe debate and the Sibiu European Council

Written by Suzana Anghel and Ralf Drachenberg,

© Fotolia

The Sibiu Summit of 9 May 2019 and the subsequent adoption of the 2019-24 Strategic Agenda on 20 June 2019 constitute the end of the Future of Europe debate (at least in its current iteration), which was initiated following the June 2016 UK referendum on EU membership. Five milestone moments marked three distinct phases in the Future of Europe debate: 1) diagnostics and reflection (June to mid-September 2016); 2) deliberation and proposals (mid-September 2016 to March 2017); and 3) delivery and vision (April 2017 to June 2019).

One of the main findings of this study is that throughout the Future of Europe process, EU Heads of State or Government reiterated three core messages that also featured prominently in all the milestone documents: the need for unity, priority to EU citizens, and focus on (policy) delivery. Moreover, the three policy priorities – migration, security and the economy – identified in the Bratislava Declaration, have been the focus over the entire period of the Future of Europe process (June 2016 to June 2019), forming the European Council’s ‘rolling agenda’ of policy priorities. Despite developments in the European Council composition in that same period (as a result of the arrival of 16 new Heads of State or Government), the core messages remained almost identical, even though, often, different players were involved in drafting the related declarations and statements.

Another finding of the study is that both the European Council and the European Parliament emerged stronger from the three-year Future of Europe debate. The introduction of the Leaders’ Agenda and of the new working methods allowed EU leaders to ‘take things into their hands’ and to concentrate on solving sensitive issues by debating them well in advance at leaders’ meetings. The Parliament was active throughout the Future of Europe debate. In addition to adopting resolutions and expressing its vision in specific documents, it solidified its role as a forum for open debate by holding a series of plenary debates with EU Heads of State or Government.

An examination of the most recent phase of the Future of Europe debate (April 2018-June 2019) showed that three more or less parallel processes – the activities under the Leaders’ Agenda, the debates in the Parliament, and the citizens’ consultations – lasted throughout that whole phase and shaped the Sibiu Declaration and the subsequent (new) Strategic Agenda 2019-24.

The study identifies strong continuity between the new Strategic Agenda and its predecessor with regard to some policy issues, while also noting that other significant policy issues have been added and there has been a shift in focus within the different policy areas. Both the Sibiu Declaration and the new Strategic Agenda strengthen the policy focus on the EU’s role as a global player in actions related to climate change.

When comparing the 2019-24 Strategic Agenda with other milestone documents that were issued during the Future of Europe debate, a certain degree of continuity on horizontal and institutional issues can be observed. However, the Strategic Agenda envisages that the different EU institutions should revisit their working methods, indicating that some institutional evolution can be expected in the near future. In the case of the European Council, for instance, this could lead to the operationalisation of the 2019-24 Strategic Agenda through a new Leaders’ Agenda under the next President of the European Council.

Read this ‘study’ on ‘Origins of the 2019-24 EU Strategic Agenda: The Future of Europe debate and the Sibiu European Council‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/11/origins-of-the-2019-24-eu-strategic-agenda-the-future-of-europe-debate-and-the-sibiu-european-council/

CAP Amending Regulation (CMO): Amending regulations on the CMO for agricultural products, quality schemes and measures for remote regions [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Beata Rojek,

© Julien Eichinger / Fotolia

On 1 July 2018, as part of the work on the EU’s 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework, the European Commission proposed a package of three regulations with the aim of reshaping and modernising the common agricultural policy (CAP).

One of these proposals, the Amending Regulation, introduces changes to rules governing the common market organisation (CMO) in agricultural products (including the rules on wine), the EU quality schemes (geographical indications) and the support measures for remote regions. The aim is to equip agricultural markets and support measures to face new challenges, update provisions, simplify procedures and ensure consistency with other regulations on the future CAP.


timeline-10 steps-voted in plenary

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/11/cap-amending-regulation-cmo-amending-regulations-on-the-cmo-for-agricultural-products-quality-schemes-and-measures-for-remote-regions-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Plenary round-up – Brussels, October I 2019

Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochacka,

Plenary session - Resumption of session and order of business- Council and Commission statements - Preparation of the European Council meeting of 17 and 18 October 2019- Council and Commission statements

© European Union 2019 – Source : EP

Highlights of the October I plenary session included statements and debates on the preparation of the European Council meeting of 17 and 18 October 2019, on greening the European Investment Bank (EIB), in the presence of the Bank’s president, and on how to prevent conflicts of interest in the EU. Parliament also debated statements made by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR/VP) on the situation in northern Syria and Ukraine. Debates took place on Council and Commission statements on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and own resources. Finally, Members discussed Commission statements on United States tariffs on European goods following the World Trade Organization’s Airbus dispute decision, on authorisation of genetically modified organisms, and on the fight against cancer.

Statements by the High Representative

Federica Mogherini, as HR/VP, made statements on northern Syria and on the situation in Ukraine. With the election in Ukraine this year for both a new President and Parliament, increased efforts have been made to relaunch talks on settling the Donbass conflict, under the Normandy format. President Volodomyr Zelenskiy’s room for manoeuvre remains limited, however, with little sign of follow-up on the Minsk Agreements commitments and the conflict in the country’s east continuing.

Post-2020 EU budget

Council and Commission outlined the progress made on narrowing the gaps between Member States’ positions on the post-2020 EU budget; nevertheless it is clear that the European Council is not yet close to finalising its position and thus the subject will remain on the agenda in the months ahead. In advance of EU leaders’ discussions next week, the Parliament adopted its position on both the MFF and the own resources system. The resolution adopted, on a motion tabled by four political groups (EPP, S&D, Renew and Greens/EFA), largely seeks to reiterate the positions adopted by Parliament during the last term.

Euro area employment and social policies

Members debated and adopted a report from the Employment & Social Affairs (EMPL) Committee on the employment and social policies of the euro area, a contribution to the annual European Semester process. Parliament’s position should feed into Council recommendations on euro-area policies, due to be adopted in November 2019. The committee’s report emphasises the need to strengthen social rights, ensure universal coverage, and to develop labour market and education policies to ensure adequate social protection and address skills mismatches more effectively.

Amending the EU budget for 2019

Parliament voted on a report on draft amending budget No 4 (DAB 4/2019), which amends the Council’s position, seeking to redeploy savings to other major EU programmes that currently lack funding. Parliament therefore calls on the Commission to present a new proposal along these lines.

Negotiations ahead of Council’s first reading

The President announced 43 decisions by the ECON, ITRE, TRAN, ENVI, LIBE, REGI, EMPL, CONT, IMCO, AFET and DEVE committees to enter into interinstitutional negotiations, in accordance with Rule 72. Parliament’s positions adopted earlier at first reading will provide the mandates for these negotiations.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – Brussels, October I 2019‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/11/plenary-round-up-brussels-october-i-2019/

Oleg Sentsov: The 2018 Sakharov Prize laureate

Oleg Sentsov: Ukrainian filmmaker and symbol for political prisoners

Born on 13 July 1976 in Simferopol (Crimea), Oleg Sentsov studied marketing at Kyiv State Economics University. He did not particularly enjoy these studies, which he said ‘disillusioned’ him. After managing a computer club in Simferopol and playing online video games professionally for years – eventually becoming the Ukrainian champion – Sentsov became the leader of the Crimean gaming movement. This experience of the gaming world served as inspiration for his first feature film Gamer, which was released in 2011 and later screened at a number of international film festivals.

Euromaidan as a turning point for Ukraine — and for Sentsov

Sentsov’s work on his film Rhino, about children of the 1990s, was interrupted in 2013, when he joined the Revolution of Dignity (‘Euromaidan’) that broke out in Ukraine after pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovich decided to suspend talks on an EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. In February 2014, the protests paved the way for a new pro-European government and for Yanukovich’s ousting. When Moscow responded by illegally annexing Crimea and launching a hybrid war against Ukraine, Sentsov helped bring food to Ukrainian soldiers and organised rallies for a united Ukraine in Simferopol. The Russian Federal Security Service arrested Sentsov in Crimea in May 2014, and deported him to Russia. In what Amnesty International called a ‘cynical show trial’, a Russian military court convicted Sentsov to 20 years imprisonment for plotting terrorist acts in August 2015. Sentsov denies the charges, which he and human rights groups call politically motivated. Sentsov said he was beaten for 24 hours in an attempt to force him to confess. Russian authorities refused to investigate the allegations of torture. In May 2018, Sentsov began a hunger strike, demanding the release of all Ukrainians held on political grounds in Russia and annexed Crimea. Sentsov ended the 145-day hunger strike on 6 October 2018. In a handwritten statement, he explained that he had no choice but to halt the hunger strike to avoid being force-fed due to the critical state of his health.

International support, including from the EU and the European Parliament

The European Union, the United States, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, human rights groups, filmmakers’ and writers’ associations and even Russian film-director Nikita Mikhalkov, who has close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, had all requested Sentsov’s release. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission (HR/VP) repeatedly underlined that Sentsov’s detention breached international law, and urged Russia to return Sentsov and fellow activist Oleksandr Kolchenko to Ukraine. In a June 2018 resolution, Parliament requested the immediate release of Sentsov and the 70 other Ukrainian citizens illegally detained in Russia and Crimea. Announcing the Sakharov Prize laureate in Strasbourg on 25 October 2018, then European Parliament President Antonio Tajani stated that Sentsov’s ‘courage and determination’ has made him ‘a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world’. With the award of the Sakharov Prize, Parliament is ‘expressing its solidarity with him and his cause’, Tajani said: ‘We ask that he be released immediately’.

Responses to the 2018 Sakharov Prize

While Russia’s Foreign Ministry criticised Parliament’s award of the prize to Sentsov as ‘absolutely politicised’, others hailed the decision. PEN America called it ‘a powerful statement in defence of writers, artists, political prisoners, and all those … actively fighting for free thought and free expression in a time of creeping – and not so creeping – authoritarianism around the world’. Human Rights Watch said the award would help increase the pressure on Moscow to release Sentsov. European Council President Donald Tusk renewed his call on Moscow to ‘free Sentsov and all other political prisoners following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea’. Then Prime Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman, expressed gratitude to Parliament for the award, which he called ‘a strong message highlighting the necessity of democracy protection in the world’.

Sentsov’s release in a landmark prisoner swap

Moscow rejected Kyiv’s calls to swap Sentsov and Ukrainian journalist Roman Suschenko, arrested in Moscow in 2016 on espionage charges, for Russian prisoners, until 7 September 2019, when Ukrainian prisoners in Russia were exchanged for 35 prisoners held in Ukraine. The other Ukrainian prisoners released include Suschenko, as well as 24 Ukrainian sailors who were detained in November 2018, when Russia seized three Ukrainian Navy vessels off Crimea. Although the prisoner swap – in line with the 2014-2015 Minsk Peace Agreements – sparked questions about some of the prisoners released by Ukraine, the move was generally hailed by European leaders, including by the HR/VP. The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, expressed ‘relief and profound joy’ at the release, adding that he looked forward to meeting Sentsov in person in Parliament and handing him the Sakharov Prize.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Oleg Sentsov: The 2018 Sakharov Prize laureate‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/11/oleg-sentsov-the-2018-sakharov-prize-laureate/