Месечни архиви: ноември 2019

European Capitals of Culture: In search of the perfect cultural event

Written by Ivana Katsarova,

European Capitals of Culture

© Ico Maker / Fotolia

Between 1985 and 2019, 60 cities have held the title of European Capital of Culture – most recently Matera in Italy and Plovdiv in Bulgaria in 2019. Initiated in 1983, by Greece’s then Minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri, the concept took shape two years later as an inter-governmental initiative under the name of the ‘European City of Culture’. The success of the event was such that in 1999, the Council of the EU transformed it into a Community action, and created a more transparent rotational system for the designation of the titleholder.

The selection procedure – last modified in 2014 – places particular focus on the monitoring of proposals, the enhanced European dimension of projects, improved competition between candidate cities, and the redefinition of the selection panel role.

As more and more cities enter the European Capitals of Culture race, substantial sums of money are being spent, including on the bidding process. While in the early years of the programme (1985‑1994) the average operating budget was around €25 million per city, this amount has more than doubled to reach some €60 million per city for the period 2007-2017.

With rising budgets, there is also increased scrutiny of cities, national governments and the EU, as to the wider benefits in terms of the cultural development, social cohesion and city image that most bids promise. This, in turn, has led to more frequent and sophisticated monitoring and evaluation of the whole process, both by the European Commission and by the host cities themselves.

The symbolic celebration of European cultural identities is however closely tied to the economic success of the operation. According to experts, over time a number of conflicts and tensions have become apparent due to the multiple and sometimes contradictory objectives of the event, e.g. economic and cultural, to name just two. Additional criticism includes failure to enable local ownership, difficulty in overcoming social divides and exhaustion of local resources. Notwithstanding that, ex-post evaluations of the event show that in general it boosts economic growth and tourism, helps build a sense of community and contributes to urban regeneration.

Read the complete briefing on ‘European Capitals of Culture: In search of the perfect cultural event‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/11/29/european-capitals-of-culture-in-search-of-the-perfect-cultural-event/

Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, November II 2019

Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochaka,

EP Plenary - Presentation by the Commission President-elect of the College of Commissioners and their programme

© European Union 2019 – Source : EP/FMA -CCR

The November II plenary session highlights included the vote on the new European Commission, agreement on the 2020 budget, and Parliament’s declaration of a climate emergency. Parliament adopted positions on preparation for COP25, and on the Istanbul Convention, and also debated statements by the Vice-President of the European Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR/VP) on Eastern Neighbourhood developments, on the situation in Israel and Palestine, and on the situation in the Middle East, including the crises in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. Debates took place, inter alia, on Commission and Council statements on: the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution; on the EU response to the impact of extreme weather events; on discrimination and hate speech against LGBTI people; on the World Trade Organization Appellate Body; as well as on the protection of forest and environmental defenders in the EU. The 2019 Lux Prize, which tells the story of a young woman’s feminist struggle in conservative North Macedonian society, was awarded to God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunija, directed by Teona Strugar Mitevska.

Election of the European Commission

Following European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen’s presentation of the full College of Commissioners and their programme, the confirmatory vote on the appointment of the new Commission to replace the outgoing Juncker Commission took place. Members approved the von der Leyen Commission by a large majority (461 votes in favour, 157 against and 89 abstentions). The new Commissioners will officially take office on 1 December, ready to begin work on their new portfolios under the President’s agenda for a ‘Union that strives for more’, including a ‘Green Deal’ and a revitalised economy.

2020 budgetary procedure

Members approved the EU budget for 2020 by a large majority. As sought by Parliament, the approved conciliation agreement reverses most of the Council’s cuts to the Commission’s draft budget, and increases funding for some of Parliament’s priority areas, leading to an overall increase of €400 million compared to the draft budget. With both Parliament and the Council having approved the joint text before 3 December, Parliament’s President was able to sign the 2020 budget into law. This, the final budget of the 2014-2020 period, concludes the budgetary cycle and aims to prepare the transition to the 2021-2027 framework.

United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25)

Members held a joint debate on climate change and heard Council and Commission statements on the climate emergency, as well as their responses to oral questions on the actions undertaken to pursue the Paris Agreement’s objectives. In a symbolic vote, Members declared a climate emergency, while Parliament also voted on a resolution on its position ahead of the COP25 Climate Change Conference in Madrid this year, which seeks to reinforce the EU’s ambition for net-zero global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

EU accession to the Istanbul Convention

Members marked International Day for the elimination of violence against women with Council and Commission statements on EU action to tackle this violation of human rights. Parliament voted overwhelmingly (500 votes in favour, 91 against, 50 abstentions) in favour of a resolution calling on the Council to urgently conclude the EU’s ratification, for which Parliament’s consent is required, and to encourage the remaining seven Member States to ratify the Istanbul Convention without delay.

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

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/11/29/plenary-round-up-strasbourg-november-ii-2019/

Dual quality of products – State of play

Written by Nikolina Šajn,

In recent years, the concern that some branded products might be inferior in the Member States that have joined the European Union (EU) since 2004 has become ever more apparent. This concern has come to be known as the ‘dual quality of products’. To address the issue, between 2018 and 2019, the European Commission’s Joint Research Service (JRC) compared a set of branded food products sold under the same name and in the same or similar packaging across Member States – the first time a harmonised testing methodology has been used to compare products from the whole of the European Union. The analysis sought to determine whether, despite the identical or similar packaging, there were differences in product composition and, if so, whether those differences corresponded to any geographical pattern. Results showed that about one third of the branded food products analysed had a composition that differed from one Member State to another. However, the results did not point to any geographical pattern that might explain those differences.

In 2017, the Commission had already sought to clarify the relevant legislation with a notice introducing a test that national consumer protection authorities could use to determine on a case‑by‑case basis whether the dual quality of food products was misleading. Later, in April 2018, in the framework of the ‘new deal for consumers’, its proposal for a new directive on modernisation of EU consumer protection rules sought to include the dual quality of products (not just of food products) in the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. The European Parliament has long voiced its concerns about the dual quality of products and had called for it to be added to the ‘blacklist’ of practices that should always be considered as banned. However, the text of the new directive on modernisation of consumer protection rules as adopted by the co-legislators did not include dual quality as a practice that must be considered unfair in all cases, but rather as one that must be proven to be misleading on a case-by-case basis. The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) has criticised this, while business organisations defend the right of companies to differentiate their products in different markets.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Dual quality of products – State of play‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/11/26/dual-quality-of-products-state-of-play/

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, 2019

Written by Rosamund Shreeves and Martina Prpic,

Consent Matters…

Credits: European Commission / Eurostat

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November is a time to take stock of what has been done to root out this violation of women’s and girl’s human rights. It is also a moment to identify where improvements must be made to legislation, policy and practice on the ground to ensure that all women can live free from violence and insecurity. This year, the global focus for the international day is the issue of rape and the importance of ensuring that there is clarity across society regarding the concept of consent.

The most comprehensive survey on violence against women at EU level, published by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) in 2014, shows that one in 10 women has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 15, and one in 20 has been raped. Yet a 2016 Eurostat survey shows that more than one in five respondents (22 %) believe that women often make up or exaggerate claims of rape and just over a quarter (27 %) think that there are situations (reflecting attitudes regarding appropriate behaviour for women), where sexual intercourse without consent is justified. Such victim-blaming attitudes are one of the factors that can deter women from reporting rape and obtaining support and justice. Research shows that prosecution rates are not increasing in line with rising reporting rates and conviction rates for rape tend to be low. As several recent court cases in Spain demonstrate, consent – and the question of how it is established – is also crucial to legal definitions and prosecutions of rape.

The benchmark established in Article 36 of the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) is that lack of consent should be the central element in the framing of rape as a criminal offence. As of November 2019, 21 EU Member States have ratified the Convention (AT, BE, DE, CY, DK, EE, EL, ES, FI, FR, HR, IE, IT, LU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SE, SI) and the EU is in the process of acceding to it (within its competences). An evaluation report for the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly has found that one impact of the Convention has been to encourage states to amend rape legislation to better correspond with Article 36, but the monitoring process has also shown that several countries are encountering difficulties in aligning their legislation with this standard. Analysis conducted by Amnesty International in 2018 found that a minority of EU countries (Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Sweden and the UK, since joined by Greece in 2019), define rape based on ‘absence of consent’. Denmark has also announced plans to alter its legislation. Legal definitions of rape often include other elements such as use of force, threat, or coercion. Research conducted by the European Union’s Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE) in 2016 found this to be the case in a majority of EU Member States (23 countries). The explanatory report accompanying the Istanbul Convention clarifies that where legal definitions include such additional elements, rigid approaches to prosecution, such as requiring proof of physical resistance in all circumstances, do not reflect the wide range of ways in which victims can respond and risk leaving certain types of rape unpunished. It also stresses the importance of ensuring that gender stereotypes or myths about male and female sexuality do not affect interpretations of rape legislation and the prosecution of rape cases.

Along the continuum of gender-based violence, lack of consent is an important element in another hidden and previously unrecognised form of abuse, which is receiving increasing attention in the media and at international level. In October 2019, both the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on violence against women and the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly identified the issue of violence and mistreatment of women and girls during childbirth and in reproductive healthcare as a widespread, systemic issue and human rights violation. Coerced or forced abortion and sterilisation is one extreme example, which the Istanbul Convention (Article 39) requires signatory countries to criminalise. Women in the EU also share testimonies via movements (e.g. #BreakTheSilence (#prekinimosutnju) in Croatia; ‘EnoughSilence‘ (#bastatacere) in Italy; ‘Me too during childbirth‘ (Minä myös synnuttäjänä) in Finland; and #PayeTonUtérus in France), of other medical interventions resulting in physical and emotional trauma. These include: induced labour and episiotomies, performed without explanation or consent; interventions without pain relief or anaesthesia; verbal and physical abuse; and ineffective complaints procedures. Contributors to the United Nations (UN) report highlight that particular groups of women, including women with disabilities and migrant women, may be especially vulnerable to such abuse.

Where these practices occur during pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum, they are defined as obstetric violence. Legal definitions and specific legislation against obstetric violence already exist in Argentina (2009), Venezuela (2007) and Mexico (2014). As yet, there are no specific laws in Europe. However, the issue has been recognised at political level in individual EU Member States, such as France, where a 2018 report on obstetric and gynaecological violence by the Haut Conseil à l’Egalité demonstrated the existence and scale of the problem and recommended 26 measures focused on further research, prevention and improving awareness and complaints procedures. The measures were not unanimously welcomed but have been endorsed by the national union of obstetricians. The World Health Organization (WHO) already highlighted in 2015 that disrespectful, abusive, or neglectful treatment during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum violate women’s rights, deter women from seeking and using maternal health care services and have implications for their health and well-being. The WHO’s recommendations were endorsed by the UN and the Council of Europe. They include calls on governments to support research into respectful and disrespectful care practices, introduce programmes to improve the quality of maternal health care, develop systems of accountability and meaningful support for professionals and involve all stakeholders including women in efforts to improve quality of care and eliminate disrespectful and abusive practices. Civil society organisations in the EU contributed to the UN report and issued their own call to action in 2018.

European Parliament positions

During the previous legislative term, the European Parliament drew attention to the rise in online violence against women, including threats of rape. At a hearing on violence against women on 18 November, its’ Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) announced that it will be working on reports on cyberviolence and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the coming months. In 2018, Parliament condemned forced sterilisation of women with disabilities.

Related EPRS publications:

Violence against women in the EU: State of Play, EPRS, European Parliament, November 2019.

The Istanbul Convention: A tool to tackle violence against women and girls, EPRS, European Parliament, November 2019.

Monitoring the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, EPRS, European Parliament, November 2019 (forthcoming).

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/11/24/international-day-for-the-elimination-of-violence-against-women-2019/

European borders [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

© DesignRage / Shutterstock

© DesignRage / Shutterstock

The European Union helps its Member States to secure their external borders, whilst ensuring an area of free movement without internal borders. Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, inter alia, coordinates and organises joint operations with Member States, provides surveillance and risk analysis, and supports cooperation between law enforcement authorities. The EU also helps Member States to fight crimes such as human trafficking, child abuse and smuggling of illegal goods. The issue of borders is closely linked to EU migration policy, which is being debated with a view to its reform, following the 2015 migration crisis.

This note offers links to commentaries and studies by major international think tanks on the issue of borders and some related reports on migration. More papers specifically on migration can be found in earlier items from the same series, published in October and December 2018.

Is post-1989 Europe building walls?
Carnegie Europe, November 2019

The influence of EU migration policy on regional free movement in the IGAD and ECOWAS regions
Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik, November 2019

New beginnings: A fresh start in EU asylum policy
Notre Europe, September 2019

El despliegue fronterizo en el contexto de la Union Europea bajo el actual ethos securitario
Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, September 2019

Regional cross-border cooperation in the Danube region: A promising approach within the enlargement policy of the EU?
Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade, September 2019

New beginnings: A fresh start in EU asylum policy
Notre Europe, September 2019

Westbalkan als Migrationsroute: Europäische Strategien und lokale Lösungen 2015-2019
Österreichische Institut für Internationale Politik, September 2019

Border games: Has Spain found an answer to the populist challenge on migration?
European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2019

A new budget for the EU
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik,, August 2019

Military mobility and the EU-NATO conundrum
Clingendael, July 2019

The EU’s security Union: A bill of health
Centre for European Reform, June 2019

EU migration policy towards Libya: A policy of conflicting interests
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, June 2019

Can regular migration replace irregular migration across the Mediterranean?
Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2019

Irregular migration and smuggling of migrants along the Balkan route: 2011-2017
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, June 2019

Healthy boundaries: Remedies for Europe’s cross-border disorder
European Union Institute for Security Studies, May 2019

Governance of the global refugee regime
Centre for International Governance Innovation, May 2019

Untying the Gordian knot of the common European asylum system: Dublin IV reform
EUROPEUM, May 2019

Infrastructure management contracts: Improving energy asset management in displacement settings
Chatham House, April 2019

Infrastructure for growth: How to finance, develop, and protect it
Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, April 2019

Reducing irregular migration flows through EU external action
Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, March 2019

Beyond operation Sophia: what role for the military in migration policy?
Dahrendorf Forum, LSE Ideas, March 2019

Money wise: Improving how EU funds support migration and integration policy objectives
Migration Policy Institute, March 2019

Migration and the next EU long-term budget: key choices for external action
European Centre for Development Policy Management, March 2019

Migration: Solid nations and liquid transnationalism? The EU’s struggle to find a shared course on African migration 1999-2019
Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik, February 2019

Pushing the boundaries: how to create more effective migration cooperation across the Mediterranean
European Council on Foreign Relations, January 2019

System upgrade: Improving cross-border access to electronic evidence
Global Public Policy Institute, January 2019

The refugee crisis and the EU’s externalisation of integrated border management to Libya and Turkey
College of Europe, December 2018

Beyond borderlands: Ensuring the sovereignty of all nations of Eastern Europe
Atlantic Council, November 2018

For a European policy on asylum, migration and mobility
Notre Europe, November 2018

Competing priorities at the EU’s external border
European Policy Centre, November 2018

Kosovo and Serbia are talking about redrawing their borders: It’s a terrible idea.
Carnegie Europe, September 2018

EU Grenzpolitiken: der humanitäre und geopolitische Preis von Externalisierungsstrategien im Grenzschutz
Österreichische Institut für Internationale Politik

Cross-border access to electronic data through judicial cooperation in criminal matters
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2018

Complaint mechanisms in border management and expulsion operations in Europe
Centre for European Policy Studies, March 2018

The Global Compact on refugees offers an opportunity to revive responsibility sharing
Chatham House, March 2018

The European Border and Coast Guard: Addressing migration and asylum challenges in the Mediterranean?
Centre for European Policy Studies, February 2017

Read this briefing on ‘European borders‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/11/22/european-borders-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

What if hydrogen could help decarbonise transport? [Science and Technology podcast]

Written by Christian Kurrer,

© Shutterstock

The use of hydrogen as a fuel for transport might hold the key for decarbonising our overall energy system, by complementing the generation of electricity from fluctuating renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

Twenty-seven years after the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, and possibly around a decade before the earth’s climate reaches a tipping point, our transport sector still overwhelmingly runs on fossil fuels, and in particular oil. A growing number of voices call ever more urgently for a fundamental system change.

In the last couple of years, the public debate on decarbonising our transport sector has been dominated by the prospect of battery electric cars, which represent a very promising path towards reducing some of the carbon emitted by transport. As electric cars enter mass production, prices will fall further, and batteries will become increasingly powerful. When electric cars are charged using renewable energy, they can indeed help lower the carbon footprint of the transport sector.

There are, however, a couple of disadvantages that electric cars will not be able to overcome in the near future: battery electric cars will always be much heavier than conventional cars, especially if consumers demand autonomy to a range of several hundreds of kilometres. Equally, recharging batteries will always take much longer than refuelling a car with petrol or gas.

While electric cars seem attractive for users that drive only a few kilometres a day, and who can recharge at times when electricity demand can be fully met by renewable energy sources – wind or solar, depending on the country – they are not ideal for users driving longer distances, who would need to recharge their vehicle in the middle of the day (when electricity is often in high demand and prices typically much higher). And even if battery electric cars succeeded in securing a significant part of the market for private vehicles, in other parts of the mobility sector batteries would simply not be practical. Trucks, trains on non-electrified lines, cargo ships, or aeroplanes will not be able to pack the number of batteries on board necessary to cross the continent, travel the seas, or take passengers up in the air. But what if we used hydrogen gas and fuel cells to produce the necessary electricity on board, rather than storing it in heavy battery packs?

Potential impacts and developments

Instead of storing electrical energy in batteries, large-scale electrolysers allow chemical storage of electrical energy, by using the electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen gas. Tanks on-board the vehicles can then be filled with energy-rich hydrogen gas, which can be used to generate electricity in ‘fuel cells’. The particular interest of this approach is that vehicles could store large amounts of hydrogen on-board, refuel quickly if necessary, and produce only pure water as an exhaust output.

The concept of hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars already attracted much attention following the first oil shock in the 1970s. At that time, the objective was to find a cheaper alternative to oil, and one idea was to use cheap and abundant nuclear energy to produce all the hydrogen we need for our mobility. However, oil prices soon started to stabilise or to fall, and the promise of cheap and abundant electricity from nuclear power plants never became reality. Producing hydrogen with electricity generated by coal or gas-fired power plants is also too expensive, and does not help the climate. In consequence, the idea was relegated to the back burner for many decades.

Today, we still do not have the cheap and abundant sources of electricity that nuclear power once promised, but the electricity market is nonetheless undergoing a fundamental transformation that is attracting new interest to hydrogen technology. As we increasingly switch to fluctuating power sources such as photovoltaic (PV) or wind, the issue of matching supply and demand becomes increasingly cumbersome. As we install ever greater generating capacity to meet electricity demand, even on cloudy days with little wind, we are increasingly frequently in a situation where generating capacity exceeds demand significantly, and where the market prices for electricity fall to zero. This excess electricity could be used to produce cheap hydrogen. And if the price of electricity remains low for several hours a day on average, it will become economically feasible to produce cheap hydrogen in adequate quantities.

In this way, hydrogen generation facilities and wind or PV farms could become a symbiotic couple that boosts each other’s business case: The electricity used for producing hydrogen would help stabilise electricity prices when renewable energy is abundant. Wind farms would therefore generate higher returns on investment, which would attract additional investment in wind farms. And, as the number of wind farms increases, electricity generation will more often exceed demand, which means longer periods each day when cheap electricity is available for hydrogen production.

Anticipatory policy-making

Most of the technology for this new era of hydrogen mobility has already been available for many decades. Today, active international cooperation focuses on standardisation and safety aspects. It is already possible to buy anything from bicycles, cars, trucks to trains, ships, and even aeroplanes that are fuelled by hydrogen. While there are still very few production and distribution facilities for green hydrogen in Europe, and prices of hydrogen, vehicles and distribution systems are still relatively high, there is a growing perception that we are about to reach a tipping point, at which greater availability of hydrogen will increase the interest and uptake by consumers, and increasing uptake from consumers will further drive down prices to quickly reach market competitiveness.

In such a situation, even relatively modest political measures and financial investment can help these technologies reach the tipping point faster. Local governments are already stepping up their efforts to promote the production of hydrogen to supply early adopters. Public procurement programmes for hydrogen buses or trains can help industry increase production and drive down the costs of these vehicles. Tax incentives for purchasing fuel-cell vehicles and differentiation between tax rates for hydrogen and petrol would encourage more people to become early adopters, which will in turn drive down prices faster. The European Commission has recently identified hydrogen technologies as one of its six newest strategic and future-oriented industrial sectors in which Europe should aim for global leadership.

Battery electric vehicles will undoubtedly continue to play an important role in decarbonising the transport sector, especially for small and light-weight vehicles used for shorter distances. For heavier vehicles over longer distances, however, hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles seem to be a promising answer. And beyond the transport sector, once the price of hydrogen has fallen sufficiently, hydrogen can help decarbonise other parts of the economy, too, for instance in the iron and steel or cement industries, or be used as a raw material for fertiliser production and other chemical processes.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘What if hydrogen could help decarbonise transport?‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to Science and Technology podcast ‘What if hydrogen could help decarbonise transport?’ on YouTube.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/11/22/what-if-hydrogen-could-help-decarbonise-transport-science-and-technology-podcast/

European Parliament Plenary Session November II 2019

Written by Clare Ferguson,

© European Union – European Parliament

Now that Parliament has heard all candidate Commissioners and been assured of their suitability for their appointed portfolios, the November II plenary session agenda indicates that Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen is expected to present the full College of Commissioners and their programme on Wednesday morning. The confirmatory vote on the election of the Commission to replace the current caretaker arrangement then follows at lunchtime, after which the new Commissioners will be ready to begin work on their new portfolios under the President’s agenda for a ‘Union that strives for more’, including a new ‘Green Deal’ and a revitalised economy.

Launching such plans requires funding, of course, and on 18 November (the last day of the conciliation period), the current Finnish Presidency announced that Member States and the European Parliament had reached an agreement on the EU budget for 2020. As proposed by Parliament, the agreement reverses most of the Council’s cuts to the Commission’s draft budget, and increases funding for some of Parliament’s priority areas, leading to an overall increase of €400 million compared to the draft budget. Parliament will therefore consider the agreed joint text on Tuesday afternoon (with a possible vote scheduled on Wednesday). If both Parliament and the Council approve the joint text before 3 December, Parliament’s President can sign the definitive agreement. However, should Parliament reject the compromise, the Commission would then have to draw up a new draft. This seventh, and last, budget of 2014-2020 ends the current budgetary cycle and prepares the transition to the 2021-2027 framework.

With wildfires in the Amazon and Australia, Venice under water, and the EU Environment Agency warning that Italy and Hungary are at particular risk of flooding, the devastating effects of increasing numbers of climate change-related weather events have come to the top of the political agenda ahead of the COP25 Climate Change Conference in Madrid this year. Members will hold a joint debate on climate change on Monday evening, and hear Council and Commission statements on the climate emergency, as well as their responses to oral questions on the actions undertaken to pursue the Paris Agreement’s objectives. Parliament seeks to reinforce the EU’s ambition for net-zero global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, upgraded nationally determined contributions by 2020, and a higher 2030 emission reduction target of 55 %. Members will also hear Commission statements on the EU response to extreme meteorological events and their impact on urban areas and cultural heritage on Tuesday evening, and on the protection of forest and environmental defenders in the EU on Thursday morning.

Another subject hitting the headlines on a regular basis is that of society’s treatment of women and children. One in three women (33 %) in the EU has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15; 75 % of female managers or professionals have experienced sexual harassment; and one in ten women have suffered sexual harassment or stalking made possible by new technologies. Members will mark the International Day for the elimination of violence against women on Monday evening, with Council and Commission statements on EU action to tackle this violation of human rights. The EU plans to accede to the Istanbul Convention, put in place by the Council of Europe, and Parliament has regularly reviewed progress towards accession, for which its consent is required. In the meantime, Parliament continues to seek to dispel any misconceptions that have prevented some EU Member States from ratifying the Convention. Members will vote on a motion for a resolution on EU accession to the Istanbul Convention and other measures to combat gender-based violence on Thursday afternoon.

Following the debate marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly’s Declaration and the 30th anniversary of the ensuing Convention of the Rights of the Child on 13 November, Members will also vote on a resolution (debated during the November I Brussels plenary) on Tuesday lunchtime, underlining the European Parliament’s consistently strong commitment towards children’s rights. Parliament will reiterate its pledge to protect & promote children’s rights, including ensuring support for the fight against global poverty, which particularly affects children.

The battle to protect these and other human rights continues worldwide. Thirty years since Parliament first awarded its prize for champions of freedom of thought, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, laureate of the 2018 Sakharov Prize, will address the plenary in a formal sitting on Tuesday lunchtime. Sentsov was unable to receive his award in person, due to his sentencing to 20 years in prison in Russia for his opposition to the annexation of Crimea. In response to such international pressure, Russia released Sentsov in September this year. Parliament will award the 2019 prize in December.

Similarly, Parliament awards its annual LUX prize for the best film dealing with issues at the heart of European public debate, such as ending poverty, combating violence against women, and integrating vulnerable communities. Parliament will announce this year’s winner on Wednesday lunchtime.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/11/22/european-parliament-plenary-session-november-ii-2019/

EU support for fighting global poverty: Implementing UN SDG 1 – ‘Ending poverty’ [Policy podcast]

Written by Marta Latek,

© mantinov / Shutterstock.com

© mantinov / Shutterstock.com

Poverty affects more than a quarter of the world’s population, and that is why erasing it is a principal objective for humanity, enshrined as the first of a number of goals (SDGs) in the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Poverty is more than just having insufficient income – it is a multidimensional phenomenon closely related to unequal access to education, health and other basic services. Increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, extreme poverty destroys the lives of millions through malnutrition, high infant mortality rates and the violence and insecurity it fuels.

Poverty eradication is an ongoing objective of EU development policy. It has recently gained new momentum with the incorporation of the SDGs into the 2017 European consensus on development – the framework for EU action in the area of development cooperation. The EU supports, through its different instruments and programmes, key areas, such as education, healthcare, social security and good governance, relevant to poverty eradication in developing countries. The 2018 Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs has further reinforced the focus on those sub-Saharan countries where poverty is at its highest, through an innovative approach that goes beyond aid and seeks to forge an ‘equals alliance’. Its main pillar, the European Fund for Sustainable Development, aims, through EU grants and guarantees, to mobilise massive public and private investment necessary for the economic take-off of the continent, which would provide jobs and access to basic services for the growing African population.

Some doubt that using aid to subsidise private investment is the optimal way to tackle poverty, and insist on strict implementation of development objectives, environmental and social standards, and on highlighting human rights in all projects. Others also denounce the diversion of aid to finance migration management in countries of origin and transit of migration from Africa to Europe. A shift towards a post-growth economy is perceived by many as a radical long-term solution for global well-being and sustainability of the planet.

Read the complete briefing on ‘EU support for fighting global poverty: Implementing UN SDG 1 – ‘Ending poverty’‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to policy podcast on YouTube.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/11/22/eu-support-for-fighting-global-poverty-implementing-un-sdg-1-ending-poverty-policy-podcast/

Children’s rights and the UN SDGs: A priority for EU external action [Policy podcast]

Written by Ionel Zamfir,

© Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

The United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for sustainable development includes a strong commitment by all states to respect human rights, in line with international law and other relevant international documents, in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This covers the rights of the child as enshrined mainly in the UN Covenant on the Rights of the Child and other relevant human rights treaties. No action to implement the SDGs can be detrimental to the rights of the child.

More than a normative framework guiding the implementation of the SDGs, the rights of the child are a fundamental enabling factor for sustainable development and vice versa. Healthy, well-nourished, well-educated children, who are protected from violence and abuse, are the best guarantee of long-term sustainable development. On the other hand, the rights of the child can only be realised in an appropriate environment – peaceful, prosperous, protective of the child and fostering human development. Thus, there is a natural convergence between the SDGs and specific children’s rights.

The SDGs, through the comprehensive and regular monitoring they put in place, provide an opportunity for an assessment of the state of the most fundamental rights of the child, as enshrined in the Covenant. Most recent data actually warn that many relevant SDGs may not be achieved by 2030. While progress has been steady in certain areas, particularly on health-related issues, in others, progress has been less conclusive.

The EU prioritises children’s rights and relevant SDGs in its external action. It aims at mainstreaming human rights including children’s rights in its development assistance to connect the normative and developmental dimensions. The European Parliament has repeatedly defended the need to protect and promote children’s rights through EU external action, and has asked the Commission to propose a strategy and action plan in this sense.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Children’s rights and the UN SDGs: A priority for EU external action‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to policy podcast on YouTube.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/11/22/childrens-rights-and-the-un-sdgs-a-priority-for-eu-external-action-policy-podcast/

ESPAS Conference 2019: Challenges and choices for Europe

Written by Leopold Schmertzing with Pauline Boyer, Miro Folke Guzzini, Linus Olle Johanen Sioeland, Linda Kunertova, Gabriel Lecumberri, Sophie Millar, Arto Ilpo Antero Vaisanen,

The European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS) held its latest annual conference On Monday, 14 and Tuesday, 15 October 2019 (see here for blog posts about past conferences). This was the last of the ESPAS cycle that started with the European Election in 2014 and the publication of the 2014 report ‘Global trends to 2030: can the EU meet the challenges ahead?‘.

This year’s conference can be counted as the first of a new ESPAS cycle, following the election of a new Parliament and the publication in April of a new ESPAS Report. ‘Global trends to 2030: Challenges And choices For Europe‘ was the basis for broad ranging discussions within the ESPAS community on the future of Europe and the world.

Setting the scene and opening address

In her welcome to the ESPAS conference session hosted in the EPRS Library Reading Room, Ann Mettler, Head of the EPSC and Chair of ESPAS, questioned Europe’s resilience in the face of an emerging age of impunity. Vice-President of the European Parliament, Othmar Karas (EPP, Austria), then opened the proceedings, welcoming the new commission’s proposal to institutionalise foresight. The European Parliament will be a partner in this effort; finding innovative ways to improve our common future is in the Parliament’s DNA. The EU can only shape the future through being persistent in its efforts and taking responsibility in the world. ESPAS can help by continuing to talk truth to power.

The future of equality

Member of the European Parliament, and returning STOA Panel Chair, Eva Kaili, chaired the first panel discussion of the day. In his introductory video, science fiction author Tom Hillenbrand focused on possible future inequalities caused by climate change and data injustice. Sergio Bitar emphasised the role of access to public goods and civic participation in governance in achieving a higher level of equality worldwide. Cinzia Alcidi of CEPS pointed to the need to prevent tax avoidance by multinationals that have exploited loopholes for too long. For Stijn Hoorens, increasing automation favours workers with intuitive creative skills and makes jobs with manual repetitive tasks disappear, thereby increasing inequality. Heather Grabbe of the Open Society Foundation argued that the combination of already-present social inequalities in society with new forms of highly personalised automated political targeting has given rise to the wave of populism we are seeing on a global scale.

The future of ageing

In a video introduction, Richard K. Morgan, author of the book and TV series Altered Carbon, evoked a future in which the rich would live forever, while the rest of the population would quickly become bored of life. Rainer Muenz, of the European Political Strategy Centre at the European Commission, stressed that there are three kinds of ageing: biological, as humans increase their life spans; demographic, as different age cohorts change size; and societal, as our understanding of what to do at a certain age changes. Lorna Harries of the University of Exeter highlighted that although ageing is natural, age-related diseases can be treated. With more funding into the causes of these diseases, we could live healthier for longer. For Mathew Burrows from the Atlantic Council, war-prone young populations and intergenerational inequality are the main side-effects of ageing trends internationally. Isabella Pirollo of the ESPAS Young Talent Network chaired this panel.

The future of universities

Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University, started his keynote address by highlighting that the dual system of state and private universities in the USA has created a vibrant and creative atmosphere envied around the world. The main threats to the university come from the decreasing but still sizeable gap between university research interests and world affairs, from rising populist and nationalist politics, and from the general disrespect for truth and facts. In the ensuing conversation with the Parliament’s Secretary General Klaus Welle, President Bollinger discussed issues such as the need for an alliance of democracies that safeguard higher education and the challenges of the digital transformation. The session was chaired by the Director-General of EPRS, Anthony Teasdale.

Normandy Peace Index

Etienne Bassot and Elena Lazarou from EPRS and Serge Stroobants of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) spoke about this new global peace index, developed by EPRS in collaboration with IEP. It measures each country’s position in relation to 11 key threats of peace, drawing attention to present and possible future areas of conflict. The Index is a new powerful tool for policy analysis and policy-making.

The future of power in a ‘poly-nodal’ world

In a video introduction, August Cole, author of Ghost Fleet, described how two fictional characters from his book, a silicon-valley big-wig and an eccentric space-industry billionaire, change the course of a US-Chinese conflict, set in 2040. Florence Gaub explained the concept of a poly-nodal world, in which winners and losers are determined by their ability to forge connections and rally others around a cause. She wondered whether Russia was able to build and maintain reliable connections. Simon Serfaty, formerly of CSIS, noted that the EU has enough wealth to be a power in the world – even if it is not a world power. He asked who would be at the top table in 2030, and suggested that for several years, too much time has been spent on marginal matters. Benedetta Berti of NATO’s policy planning staff underlined that strategic friendship is based on more than transactional content. Alexander Mattelaer of the Free University of Brussels argued for increased defence spending, and asked several challenging questions: should extra funding be spent within the NATO or the EU framework? What level of increase would create the possibility of EU strategic autonomy? In the chair, Maciej Popowski of EPRS noted the importance of being able to turn enemies into friends – a skill the USA seems to be neglecting.

From foresight to action

Ann Mettler led a discussion on the nature of foresight in government. She recalled the words of the new Vice-President of the European Commission for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight, Maroš Šefčovič: ‘Foresight is not a luxury item. It’s a must’. Leon Fuerth, former National Security Advisor to US Vice President Al Gore, identified three differences between experts and politicians that have a negative impact on foresight: a lack of a common language; different missions; and conflicting values. Only a common purpose and the intervention of the public can overcome these issues. Mikko Duvfa of Sitra used three symbols for a new way to look at foresight. Entangled rubber bands stand for a holistic view of trends instead of a separated one. Campfires symbolise the need for humility and outreach. Thirdly, joint dreaming means inspiring the consumers of foresight instead of reporting to them. Oliver Gnad of the Bureau für Zeitgeschehen told the story of German government foresight. Germany’s strategic capacity improved only after changes to an anti-strategic mindset, the federal structure and misguided incentive structures. Finally, Bénédicte Rougé of the French Senate outlined the work of the Senate delegation for strategic foresight, which acts as a channel to political visibility and as a platform allowing citizens to tell their stories.

The future of ESPAS

Honorary President of ESPAS, James Elles, chairing the session, recounted how ESPAS developed into the inter-institutional system of long-term trends analysis that it is today and stated that its future looks bright. Klaus Welle noted that based on ESPAS research, Parliament had conducted a ‘back-casting’ exercise – it had looked at where it wanted to be in ten years and identified what capabilities were missing. Leo Schulte-Nordholt of the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU highlighted the value of the exchanges with academia and practitioners at the conference. ESPAS plays a vital role as a compass for the future and as a tool for cooperation. Ann Mettler voiced her appreciation at seeing ESPAS develop under her tenure. Pleased with the creation of an interinstitutional space of trust for important discussions, she looked forward to seeing others building on this success. Finally, Hervé Delphin of the EEAS stated that ESPAS is keeping decision-makers informed of foresight and its insights so that they can act on them, particularly in the foreign policy field, where short-term crisis seems to conceal long-term disasters. In closing, James Elles thanked the participants and Anne Mettler in particular, as outgoing chair.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/11/20/espas-conference-2019-challenges-and-choices-for-europe/