Месечни архиви: януари 2020

Economic and Budgetary Outlook for the European Union 2020

Written by Alessandro D’Alfonso, Angelos Delivorias, Magdalena Sapała and Carla Stamegna,

Trade in goods with the world, euro area and US

Trade in goods with the world, euro area and US © European Union, 2020

Growth in the European Union and euro-area economies – albeit still positive – slowed significantly in 2019. Moreover, prospects for the next two years remain muted, against the backdrop of a generalised slowdown. Uncertainty is the overarching theme of this year’s outlook, whether at regional level, or more globally, and whether in terms of short-term policy or deeper, structural economic factors affecting the world’s important economies.

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Europe progressed at uneven speeds, from both geographic and sectoral perspectives. Moreover, while downward trends are expected for all the factors underpinning GDP (private and public consumption, investment and exports), their respective contributions to the final figure are also set to change (for example, private consumption will carry less weight). When it comes to employment, the positive trends observed last year are continuing. In this context, the forecasts for 2019 and 2020 have observed – and tried to explain – the reasons why, contrary to textbook theory, (i) an increase in wages did not come immediately after the improvement in employment conditions, and (ii) when the increase in wages came, it did not translate into an increase in prices (inflation).

For 2019, the general government deficit is expected to reverse its previous decline and pick up modestly, a trend that is likely to continue for the next two years. The debt-to-GDP ratio, meanwhile, decreased in 2019 both for the euro area and for the EU as a whole, and is expected to maintain its downward trend in 2020. Lastly, inflation for the euro area is expected to remain below the ECB target of 2 % in the near future, a trend that played a part in the European Central Bank’s decision to resume its asset purchase programmes in 2019, after a brief pause, and to take further accommodative measures. The 2020 EU budget amounts to €168.7 billion, representing only 2 % of total public spending in the European Union – approximately 1 % of gross national income (GNI). Despite its volume, the overall impact of the EU budget is amplified by a number of features, including: a higher share of resources devoted to investment than in national budgets; the capacity to leverage additional funding from other sources; and attention to policy areas where the pooling of resources can provide the EU as a whole with added value (such as research, innovation and development cooperation).

The most prominent aspect of the agreement between the European Parliament and the Council of the EU on the 2020 budget, highlighted by all the negotiating parties, was the increased focus on climate-related action. This additional ‘greening’ of the EU annual budget is designed to help the EU meet the 20 % goal for climate-related spending over the 2014-2020 MFF period. Other spending priorities include stimulating investment, growth and research, and new jobs, especially for young people, as well as addressing migration and security challenges. As in all previous years of the 2014-2020 MFF, the budgetary authority had to resort to the flexibility provisions in order to finance these persistent policy challenges.

The 2020 EU budget is the last under the EU’s current financing framework. This year, the EU institutions and Member States are expected to finalise the design of the next multiannual financial framework (MFF) to cover the 2021-2027 period. Negotiations, which are based on the proposals that the Juncker Commission tabled in mid-2018, are proving lengthy and complex. Taking into account the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, the proposal organises allocations for 27 Member States, around a new structure reinforcing priorities that emerged during the current MFF, such as research, innovation, digital transformation, climate action, borders, migration, security and defence. Against the backdrop of the new agenda for Europe set out by the von der Leyen Commission, financial support for the recently proposed European Green Deal and the transition to a climate-resilient economy will be a major topic in the debate on the next MFF.

Current global trends, the emergence of new economic powers and the development of new technologies are leading to a potential transition of the international monetary system from a still dollar-dominated environment to a more diversified and multipolar system involving several international currencies. After quickly establishing itself as the second most important global currency, the euro gradually lost international standing from the mid-2000s onwards, and has only recently shown signs of reversing the trend.

Recent unilateral third-country actions, such as the renewal of sanctions on Iran, and challenges to international rules-based governance and trade, have highlighted the need to reinforce the EU’s economic and monetary sovereignty. As a result, the idea that the single currency could be a tool of foreign economic policy is coming back into fashion, and the case for an increased international role for the euro being considered more prominently. The benefits arising from this role would seem to offset the possible challenges, nonetheless the consequences of a stronger international role for the euro should be carefully assessed, including those affecting the ECB’s monetary policy.

Against this backdrop, the Commission adopted a communication, ‘Towards a stronger international role of the euro’, and a recommendation on the international role of the euro in the field of energy in December 2018. In this context, the strengthening of the euro’s international role is seen ‘as part of Europe’s broader commitment to an open, multilateral and rules-based global economy’. In the same month, the Euro Summit discussed economic and monetary union reform and, in this context, noted the Commission’s communication, and called for ‘work to be taken forward to this end’.

Policies supporting the euro’s international role should address three broad weaknesses in the institutional design of the EU and EMU: the ability to provide stability both domestically and internationally; the limited depth and liquidity of euro-area financial markets; and Europe not speaking with a single voice on international matters, including security.


Read the complete study ‘Economic and Budgetary Outlook for the European Union 2020‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/31/economic-and-budgetary-outlook-for-the-european-union-2020/

Plenary round-up – Brussels, January II 2020

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson,

EP Plenary session - Consent vote on the Withdrawal Agreement of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union andthe European Atomic Energy Community

© European Union 2020 – Source : EP

The highlights of the January II plenary session included discussion and the vote on the agreement on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, the ceremony to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and a debate on the von der Leyen Commission’s first work programme, for 2020. Parliament also debated the coronavirus outbreak, the humanitarian situation on Greek islands, the strategy for sustainable mobility and transport, and the EU’s response to devastation following floods in Spain. It also debated statements on the rights of indigenous peoples and India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019. Finally, Members adopted Parliament’s calendar of part-sessions for 2021 and 2022.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Holocaust remembrance in the EU takes place around International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January, the date on which the Auschwitz Birkenau extermination camp in Poland was liberated. The European Parliament has long warned against the rise of neo-fascist violence, and particularly the increase in violence against Jews, calling for EU countries to take action to counter revisionist narratives that aim at denying or trivialising the mass murder of 6 million European Jews. Jewish communities in the EU have consequently been shrinking recently, in reaction to increasing anti-Semitic acts. The commemoration provides an ideal opportunity to promote public discourse on the facts of the Holocaust. It is also an occasion in many EU Member States, as in Parliament itself, to honour the victims of the less well known Roma and Sinti Holocaust.

Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union

Members gave consent in a single vote to the conclusion, by the Council on behalf of the EU, of the treaty on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. The Withdrawal Agreement was agreed between EU leaders and the UK Prime Minister in October 2019. It includes provisions covering citizens’ rights, the financial settlement, rules on the transition period, governance, protocols and annexes. It will enter into force at the end of January, whereupon the United Kingdom will become a third country, ending 47 years of EU membership. With the departure of 73 British Members, the Parliament itself will consequently change. Twenty-seven seats will be redistributed among 14 Member States, with the remaining 46 seats held in reserve for future EU enlargements and/or the possible creation of a transnational constituency.

Commission 2020 work programme

Members heard and discussed a statement on the Commission’s work programme for 2020, adopted on 29 January 2020. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced considerable changes in the focus and scope of the Commission’s work for the next few years. President von der Leyen’s ambitions include forging a stronger partnership between the Commission and Parliament by, among other things, providing greater support for Parliament’s right of legislative initiative, prioritising dialogue between the institutions during international negotiations, and submitting legislative proposals in response to Parliament resolutions adopted by a majority (in line with Article 225 TFEU).

Negotiations ahead of Council’s first reading

The President announced two committee decisions to enter into interinstitutional negotiations, on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund 2021-2027 (EMPL) and on a framework for the recovery and resolution of central counterparts (ECON). Parliament’s earlier first-reading positions provide the mandates.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – Brussels, January II 2020‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/31/plenary-round-up-brussels-january-ii-2020/

Adventures in the war against reality: a veteran expert reports from the frontline

Written by Naja Bentzen,

EPRS Book talk - ' This is not propaganda, adventures in the war against reality 'How should democracies respond to disinformation, without compromising freedom of expression? This question preoccupied policy-makers in and beyond Europe in the previous policy cycle and will continue to dominate the debate in Brussels in the new legislature.

Against this backdrop, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) invited Peter Pomerantsev – a renowned, seasoned expert on information disruption; Director of the Arena Initiative; Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics; and Research Fellow at Johns Hopkins University – to speak about disinformation at the EPRS Reading Room on Thursday, 23 January 2020. Pomerantsev’s first book, ‘Nothing is true and everything is possible‘, was published in 2014, at the beginning of the Parliament’s 8th legislature. His most recent work, ‘This is not propaganda – adventures in the war against reality‘, was published in 2019, just ahead of the new legislature.

This first EPRS event on disinformation of the 9th legislature was an excellent opportunity to take stock of the EU’s response to online disinformation so far and at the same time to hear about Pomerantsev’s new book. Philipp Schulmeister, Head of the European Parliament’s Public Opinion Monitoring Unit, opened the event with a reminder that the war against reality, the undermining of trust in facts and in democracy itself – concerns the future of democracy and thus of the European Parliament itself.

EPRS Book talk - ' This is not propaganda, adventures in the war against reality 'Monika Nogaj, Head of the EPRS External Policies Unit who moderated the event, asked Pomerantsev to elaborate on the seemingly surrealist title of the new book ‘This is not propaganda’. Indeed, Pomerantsev explained that the title is a reference to Magritte’s painting ‘This is not a pipe’. The surrealist gap between word and meaning seems to have returned: in a world of ‘influence campaigns on steroids’, the words ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom of expression’ are increasingly used in a way that is detached from their meaning.

Pomerantsev explained that the attempt to manipulate reality and make truth unknowable (which he experienced himself when he was working in Russia as a reality TV producer in 2001-2010 and captivatingly analysed in ‘Nothing is true and everything is possible’), has now spread to the rest of the world. In ‘This is not propaganda’, Pomerantsev analyses the different manifestations of emotional influence, disinformation and coercion in the rest of the world: the Philippines, Mexico and the Balkans. These frontlines involve technological and ideological players, as well as a change in culture: when nostalgia is more important than the future, when emotions trump facts – partly because they bring more revenue for online platforms – real information becomes secondary.

Building a bridge between the hotspots in Pomerantsev’s book and the political reality in Brussels, Naja Bentzen of EPRS pointed out that the awareness of disinformation in Brussels has increased significantly since Pomerantsev’s first book was published, coinciding with Russia’s hybrid war and information attacks against Ukraine in the wake of the pro-democratic and pro-EU Maidan revolution. The US Presidential elections and the Brexit referendum in 2016 increased the sense of urgency in Brussels, further exacerbated by the 2018 revelations that Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political advertising purposes. The EU’s response to disinformation has evolved accordingly. The first key milestone, the establishment of the East StratCom Task Force in 2015, consistently supported by the European Parliament, was followed by the launch of the EU’s European approach to online disinformation, which included a Code of Practice signed by the major online platforms in 2018. The European Commission’s final response to the behaviour of online platforms ahead of the European elections in May 2019 is expected this spring.

EPRS Book talk – ‘ This is not propaganda, adventures in the war against reality ‘

Against this backdrop, Pomerantsev elaborated on his expectations for the EU’s final response, on the likely ‘Brussels effect‘. Although Pomerantsev indicated that we cannot trust platforms to regulate themselves, banning microtargeting, as some suggest should be part of the response, is hardly feasible or practical, as we cannot sufficiently define the terms. Instead of focusing on content, Pomerantsev suggests focusing on behaviour and, more generally, increasing transparency. In addition, he proposes that a non-commercial public service internet, that rewards collaboration instead of attention-seeking behaviour, should be created.

The phrase ‘knowledge is power’ can mean very different things. In authoritarian systems, ‘knowledge is power’ means controlling access to information and suppressing public debate. For the tech industry, ‘knowledge is power’ can mean controlling access to our data and monetising the public debate. In an open democracy, we multiply power by sharing knowledge; this is the key mission of the European Parliamentary Research Service.

Pomerantsev’s first book was a source of inspiration in the debate in Brussels during the previous legislature. In sharing his knowledge and reports (with a spellbound audience), Pomerantsev has already enlightened the disinformation-related debate in the new policy cycle: empowering his audience of experts from EU institutions, as well as Members of the European Parliament such as Markéta Gregorová (Pirates, Czechia) and Ivars Ijabs (Renew, Latvia), to empower others to survive the war against reality.

Further reading:

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/30/adventures-in-the-war-against-reality-a-veteran-expert-reports-from-the-frontline/

Just transition in EU regions

Written by Agnieszka Widuto,

© Marcin Kadziolka / Shutterstock.com

The EU plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 % by 2030, and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. This will require a socio-economic transformation in regions relying on fossil fuels and carbon-intensive industries. As part of the European Green Deal, the new Commission has announced a ‘Just Transition Mechanism’ of €100 billion to support the territories most affected by the transition towards climate neutrality.

Background

In December 2019, the European Commission published a communication presenting the European Green Deal. Further details on financing followed in January 2020 in the communication on the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan (European Green Deal Investment Plan), including the ‘Just Transition Mechanism’. On 14 January 2020, the Commission also published the legislative proposal on the ‘Just Transition Fund’ (JTF), which specified its scope of support. The establishment of the Fund entailed amendments to the proposal on the Common Provisions Regulation governing cohesion policy funds, which are expected to complement the resources of the JTF. These steps come in response to the need for finance for the transformation towards climate neutrality and investment in restructuring of regional economies, to mitigate the social impacts and expand activities supporting the green transition.

Just Transition Mechanism

The mechanism will consist of three pillars: the Just Transition Fund, a just transition scheme under InvestEU and a loan facility with the European Investment Bank (EIB). Taken together, it is expected to mobilise at least €100 billion for just transition in EU regions.

The Just Transition Fund will have its own budget of €7.5 billion, complemented by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), as well as national co-financing. With these additional resources, it is expected to generate €30-50 billion in total. Support will be available to all Member States, while focusing on the regions most affected by climate transition. It will be allocated on the basis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of industrial facilities in NUTS2 regions with high carbon intensity, employment in industry in these regions, employment in coal and lignite mining, production of peat and production of oil shale. The allocation method will also take into account the country’s level of economic development (gross national income (GNI) per capita). Eligible territories will correspond to NUTS3 regions or parts thereof. The activities supported will include investments in SMEs, clean technologies, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and reskilling of workers. Territorial just transition plans will be prepared, and a set of indicators used to monitor progress.

just transition mechanism

Source: European Commission, 2020.

The dedicated just transition scheme under InvestEU is expected to mobilise up to €45 billion, mostly of private investments. The target of generating this amount corresponds to a provision of around €1.8 billion from the EU budget under the InvestEU programme. Its scope will be broader than the Just Transition Fund, financing projects not only in just transition territories, but also outside (if these projects are key to the transition within the just transition territories). It will fund renewable energy investments, energy efficiency schemes, and energy and transport infrastructure, including gas infrastructure and district heating, as well as decarbonisation projects, economic diversification of the regions and social infrastructure.

The public-sector loan facility with the European Investment Bank, backed by the EU budget, will provide subsidised financing to local authorities in the regions concerned. It is expected to leverage public funding and mobilise €25-30 billion in investments. The loan facility will rely on a contribution of €1.5 billion from the EU budget and EIB lending of €10 billion at its own risk. Support may take the form of an interest rate subsidy or an investment grant (financed from the EU budget), blended with loans provided by the EIB to municipal, regional or other public authorities. It will finance energy and transport infrastructure, district heating networks, energy efficiency measures including renovation of buildings, and social infrastructure. Similar to InvestEU funding, its scope will go beyond the transition territories to include other regions, if the projects are key to transition within the just transition territories. This may be the case for instance for transport or energy infrastructure projects that improve the connectivity of the just transition territories.

Advisory support and technical assistance

In addition to funding and technical assistance available under the Just Transition Mechanism, the communication on the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan also lists a number of supporting measures. The InvestEU Advisory Hub will offer tailored advisory services on sustainable projects, including just transition. The Structural Reform Support Programme (and its successor, the Reform Support Programme) will provide technical support to public authorities on reforms to achieve climate transition, including preparation of territorial just transition plans. Moreover, assistance will be available through a new Just Transition Platform, managed by the Commission and building on the existing Platform for Coal Regions in Transition.

Links with cohesion policy

The Just Transition Fund will be implemented under cohesion policy and complemented by its resources. Its delivery will be governed by the amended Common Provisions Regulation and included in partnership agreements and programmes. According to the proposal on the JTF, the Fund will be a key tool to prevent regional disparities from growing as a result of the transition towards climate neutrality. Thus, it will contribute to strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion. In terms of funding, the Fund will have its own resources of €7.5 billion. The proposed amendments to the CPR also introduce a new article 21a stipulating that JTF resources will be complemented from ERDF, ESF+ or a combination of these two funds. The total of ERDF and ESF+ resources transferred to the JTF will be between 1.5 and 3 times the amount of JTF support. In order to ensure continued impact of cohesion policy, the resources transferred from either the ERDF or the ESF+ cannot exceed 20 % of the respective ERDF and ESF+ allocation to the Member State concerned. Member States are also expected to provide national resources, with levels of EU co-financing set according to the categories of regions in which the territories concerned are located.

European Parliament position

Parliament called for the establishment of a Just Energy Transition Fund of €4.8 billion in its November 2018 resolution on the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework. The call for the establishment of the Fund was echoed by the European Committee of the Regions in its opinion on ‘The socio-economic structural change in Europe’s coal regions’ of October 2019. In its resolution of January 2020 on the European Green Deal, Parliament stressed that just transition is about more than just a fund, but a whole-policy approach underpinned by investment, which must ensure that no one is left behind. In a debate during the January 2020 plenary session with the Commission, some MEPs expressed scepticism about the complementary transfer of funds from cohesion policy to JTF. The work on the Just Transition Fund proposal is currently in preparatory phase. The European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development (REGI) is expected to take the lead (publication of the rapporteur’s draft report will be the next step). While revisiting the proposal on InvestEU is not envisaged, a new legislative proposal to set up the EIB loan facility under the Just Transition Mechanism is expected in March 2020.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Just transition in EU regions‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/29/just-transition-in-eu-regions/

The von der Leyen Commission’s priorities for 2019-2024

Written by Etienne Bassot,

EP Plenary session – Implementing and monitoring the provisions on citizens’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement

In her statements to the European Parliament in July and November 2019, as candidate for European Commission President and President-elect respectively, Ursula von der Leyen outlined the six political priorities that would shape the working programme of the European Commission over the next five years. While the former Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, had claimed to lead a ‘political Commission‘, his successor, Ursula von der Leyen, has pledged to lead a ‘geopolitical Commission‘. Such a Commission will have a political agenda in which reinforcing the EU’s role as a relevant international actor, and trying to shape a better global order through reinforcing multilateralism, is to become a key priority (‘A stronger Europe in the world’). The other main political priorities of the Commission are brought together under five broad headings: ‘A European Green Deal’, ‘A Europe fit for the digital age’, ‘An economy that works for people’, ‘A new push for European democracy’, and ‘Promoting the European way of life’. Together they define the framework within which the Commission will act in the coming five years. The structure and working methods announced by von der Leyen show that her Commission will differ from its predecessors in a number of ways.

What is new in the ‘geopolitical Commission’

New structure

Concerned about the coordination and coherence of the College’s activities and decisions, von der Leyen has decided to structure the Commission around three executive vice‑presidents (Frans Timmermans, Margrethe Vestager, and Valdis Dombrovskis) and five vice‑presidents (Josep Borrell Fontelles, Maroš Šefčovič, Věra Jourová, Dubravka Šuica, and Margaritis Schinas). The executive vice-presidents are to assume a dual role as commissioners dealing both with a specific portfolio and as coordinators responsible for one of the core topics of the political agenda, while the five remaining vice-presidents will assume a single coordinating role for specific policy priorities.

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Borrell), who also has the role of Vice-President (HR/VP, Article 18(4) TEU), coordinates the external aspects of the work of all Commissioners, in addition to being responsible for the European External Action Service (EEAS). The importance attached to the EU’s external action under von der Leyen’s political priorities explains why external policy will be systematically discussed and decided upon by the College. A specific Group for external coordination (EXCO) has been created to prepare the external aspects of College meetings on a weekly basis and to enhance coordination between the Commission and the EEAS. It remains to be seen how this new approach and emphasis will fit with the dual character of the mandate of the HR/VP and the prevalence of the Council in every decision taken under the common foreign and security policy.

The Commission President had originally assembled a gender-balanced College, although this balance was lost with the new candidates replacing those who failed to pass the parliamentary hearings process. But von der Leyen has sought to favour gender equality with new rules for the composition Commissioners’ cabinets (private offices), requiring Commissioners to include 50 % of women among their administrator staff. She has also pledged to work towards gender equality among the Commission’s senior management.


Read the complete briefing on ‘The von der Leyen Commission’s priorities for 2019-2024‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/29/the-von-der-leyen-commissions-priorities-for-2019-2024/

European Parliament Plenary Session January II 2020

Written by Clare Ferguson,

European Parliament building Brussels

European Union, EP

The agenda for the European Parliament Plenary Session of 29 and 30 January 2020 is a sombre one, featuring a solemn ceremony in remembrance of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU).

The European Parliament has been warning against the rise of neo-fascist violence and particularly the increase in violence against Jews for some time, calling for EU countries to take action to counter revisionist narratives that aim at denying or trivialising the mass murder of 6 million European Jews. Jewish communities in the EU have consequently been shrinking recently, in reaction to the increase in acts of anti-Semitism. Holocaust education is vital to keeping the memory of victims alive and learning from past mistakes. Holocaust remembrance in the EU takes place around International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January, the date on which the Auschwitz Birkenau extermination camp in Poland was liberated. The commemoration provides an ideal opportunity to promote public discourse on the facts of the Holocaust. It is also an occasion in many EU Member States, as in Parliament itself, to honour the victims of the less well known Roma and Sinti Holocaust.

Later on Wednesday evening, Members will approve or deny consent in a single vote (with no amendments possible), to the conclusion, by the Council on behalf of the EU, of the treaty on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. The text of the treaty was agreed between EU leaders and the UK Prime Minister in October 2019. The product of a rather tortured process, the Withdrawal Agreement includes provisions covering citizens’ rights, the financial settlement, rules on the transition period, governance, protocols and annexes. A separate Political Declaration provides the basis for future EU-UK economic and security cooperation. Should Members concur with the Constitutional Affairs Committee recommendation to give their consent to the agreement, it should enter into force at the end of January, whereupon the United Kingdom will become a third country, ending 47 years of EU membership. With the departure of 73 British Members, the Parliament itself will consequently change. Twenty-seven seats will be redistributed among 14 Member States, with the remaining 46 seats held in reserve for future EU enlargements and/or the possible creation of a transnational constituency.

Looking to the future, Members will hear a statement on the Commission’s Work Programme for 2020 on Thursday morning. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced considerable changes in the focus and scope of the Commission’s work for the next few years. President von der Leyen’s ambitions include forging a stronger partnership between the Commission and Parliament by, among other things, providing greater support for Parliament’s right of legislative initiative, prioritising dialogue between the institutions during international negotiations, and submitting legislative proposals in response to Parliament resolutions adopted by a majority (in line with Article 225 TFEU).

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/29/european-parliament-plenary-session-january-ii-2020/

Agreement on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU

Written by Carmen-Cristina Cîrlig,

© designer491 / Shutterstock.com

On 29 January 2020, the European Parliament is set to vote on the recommendation to give consent to the treaty on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU), endorsed in its current version by EU leaders and the UK Prime Minister in October 2019. Parliament’s consent, following the completion of the UK’s domestic procedures for ratifying the agreement, will allow its entry into force on 1 February 2020. The UK will then cease its 47-year membership of the EU, although EU law will remain applicable to the UK during an 11‑month transition period ending on 31 December 2020. If however Parliament were to deny consent, the UK would leave the EU without a deal on 1 February 2020, absent another extension of the Article 50 period.

The EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement

After 40 months of negotiations, three extensions to the Article 50 TEU negotiating period and two draft agreements endorsed by the EU-27 leaders and the UK Prime Minister, the approval of the treaty setting out the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is now close to completion. Initiated in June 2017, the negotiations focused in a first phase on three key issues: protecting UK and EU citizens’ rights, agreeing a financial settlement, and ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland. In the second phase of talks, from December 2017 on, the framework for the future EU-UK relationship and transitional arrangements were discussed. On 14 November 2018, negotiators agreed a draft withdrawal treaty and a political declaration setting out the framework for the future EU-UK relationship, both promptly endorsed by then UK Prime Minister Theresa May and EU-27 leaders. However, the UK House of Commons voted repeatedly to reject the withdrawal deal; and after taking office in July 2019, the new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out to renegotiate the ‘backstop’ solution for Northern Ireland. On 17 October 2019, the European Council endorsed a revised withdrawal agreement, in which the main changes related to Northern Ireland, and revised political declaration. Subsequently, the EU-27 granted a further Article 50 extension to the UK until 31 January 2020 to allow the ratification process to be completed.

The withdrawal agreement is an extensive legal document comprising: common and final provisions, citizens’ rights, the financial settlement, rules on the transition period, other separation issues (rules on concluding ongoing processes at the end of the transition period, e.g. ongoing judicial procedures) and governance of the agreement. It also includes three Protocols (on Ireland/Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, and the UK Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus) and annexes. The Political Declaration is a non-binding text, providing the basis for future EU-UK economic and security cooperation. The few changes in October 2019 reflect the UK government’s ‘different level of ambition’ with respect to the future EU-UK relationship.

The transition (or implementation) period is to last until 31 December 2020, during which time the UK, although a third country, is treated as a Member State (with the exceptions set out in the withdrawal treaty), but without any EU decision-making or representation rights. This period is extendable once (before 1 July 2020) for up to one or two years. The transition period was meant to allow time for negotiations on the future partnership, however experts consider that 11 months is insufficient to reach a comprehensive agreement in all relevant areas (the trade relationship, security cooperation, immigration, data-sharing, fisheries, etc.), all the more so if the UK wishes to diverge significantly from EU standards after the transition.

As regards the border issue, the revised agreement reverts from the previous UK-wide backstop option to a Northern Ireland-only solution, whereby once the transition period ends, Northern Ireland will apply EU customs and tariffs legislation, as well as the relevant EU single market rules needed to avoid any regulatory or customs border on the island of Ireland. A consent mechanism for Northern Irish authorities is also included. However many of the detailed rules necessary for the operation of this Protocol have still to be established by the parties.

In terms of governance, a Joint Committee made up of EU and UK representatives will be responsible for the implementation and application of the agreement. The treaty also includes a mechanism for dispute settlement, based on arbitration (with the role of the Court of Justice of the EU preserved if the dispute relates to a question of interpretation of EU law), and compliance provisions.

Ratification procedure

In the United Kingdom

The general election in the UK in December 2019 delivered a clear majority to the Conservative party of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, thus facilitating the adoption of the necessary legislation for ratifying and implementing the Withdrawal Agreement. On 19 December 2019, the government introduced the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 2019-2020, which fulfils two roles: 1) it gives effect domestically to the withdrawal treaty (the UK being a dualist state); and 2) it fulfils provisions of the previous EU Withdrawal Act 2018 which requires an Act of Parliament before the UK can ratify the treaty.

The bill repeals previous domestic requirements related to the ratification of the withdrawal agreement; implements the transition period; delegates a range of powers to the government for the implementation of the citizens’ rights provisions, the Protocol on Northern Ireland and the separation issues; and, importantly, it confers direct effect to the relevant provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, after the transition, and foresees that incompatible or inconsistent domestic legislation must be disapplied. In terms of changes from the October version, the bill does not include powers for the UK parliament relating to the future relationship negotiations and agreements, and blocks the possibility of the government asking for an extension to the transition period. The bill completed its passage through the UK Parliament on 22 January, with the House of Lords choosing not to insist on its earlier amendments, and received Royal Assent on 23 January 2020.

In the European Union

In December 2018, the European Commission adopted two proposals on the signing and conclusion of the withdrawal agreement. On 11 January 2019, the Council (Article 50) adopted a decision on signing the agreement and approved a draft decision to conclude the agreement. Both the decision to sign and to conclude the agreement were subsequently amended in light of the Article 50 extensions and the revised deal in October 2019. The draft Council decision to conclude the agreement was sent to Parliament for consent in October 2019. According to Rule 88 of its Rules of Procedure, Parliament gives its consent to a withdrawal agreement by a majority of votes cast (i.e. simple majority of Members present). Members elected in the UK have the right to vote. If Parliament gives consent, the Council can adopt the decision to conclude the agreement with a ‘super qualified majority’, following the treaty’s signature by both parties. Ratification by Member States is not required. For the agreement to enter into force, the parties must provide written notification that their internal ratification procedures are completed.

European Parliament position

Throughout the negotiations, Parliament has made its views heard through various resolutions and through its Brexit Steering Group has cooperated closely with the other EU institutions, in particular the Commission’s Task Force in charge of the EU-UK talks. On 15 January 2020, the EP adopted a new resolution on implementing and monitoring provisions on citizens’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement.

The recommendation on consent was drawn up by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO), rapporteur Guy Verhofstadt (Renew Europe, Belgium). Ten other Committees adopted opinions in the form of letters from their respective chairs to the AFCO Chair. On 23 January 2020, AFCO voted to recommend giving consent to the agreement by 23 votes, with 3 against, and no abstentions. In plenary, on 29 January 2020, there will be a single vote, to approve or deny consent, no amendments being possible.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/27/agreement-on-the-united-kingdoms-withdrawal-from-the-eu/

Brexit: The final countdown [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

© Delphotostock / Fotolia

It is now clear that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on 31 January 2020. It will do so on the basis of the revised Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the EU-27 and the UK by Boris Johnson after he became Prime Minister last year. Both sides will then start negotiations on future relations, including on trade, which will run during the transitional period, currently due to end on 31 December 2020. The UK government has said it will set out its hopes for the future partnership after Brexit has happened.

This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from international think tanks on numerous challenges facing the UK, EU and their future ties after their divorce.

Brexit: Getting it done
European Policy Centre, January 2020

Flexibility does not come for free
Centre for European Reform, January 2020

Devolution restored in Northern Ireland as the British and Irish Governments prepare for the next phase of Brexit
Open Europe, January 2020

Scotland’s European choices as UK exits the EU
Scottish Institute for European Relations, January 2020

The Irish 2020 election and Brexit
The UK in a Changing Europe, January 2020

The UK seeks its own ‘phase one’ deal on Brexit
Peterson Institute for International Economics, January 2020

Britain voted for independence, but it has achieved isolation
European Council on Foreign Relations, January 2020

Brexit’s finish line is only the ‘end of the beginning’ for Britain and the European Union
Council on Foreign Relations, January 2020

Getting Brexit done: What happens now?
Institute for Government, January 2020

Attention turns to the structure of next phase Brexit talks
Open Europe, January 2020

A bumpy level playing field awaits the next round of Brexit talks
Institute for Government, January 2020

The North-East of England after Brexit
The UK in a Changing Europe, January 2020

Post-Brexit trade deals: What do the public think?
The UK in a Changing Europe, January 2020

Brexit endgame: Brexit nears, Northern Ireland assembly reconvenes, and Megxit distracts
Brookings Institution, January 2020

The Border into Brexit: Perspectives from local communities in the central border region of Ireland/Northern Ireland
The UK in a Changing Europe, December 2019

A post-Brexit Europe in a new decade
Carnegie Europe, December 2019

Britain must balance a transatlantic heart with a European head
Chatham House, December 2019

A Brexit trade deal by December 2020 won’t be much of a deal at all
The UK in a Changing Europe, December 2019

What Boris Johnson’s big win means for Brexit and Scotland
Chatham House, December 2019

Getting the UK ready for the next phase of Brexit negotiations
Institute for Government, December 2019

Will Boris Johnson go full speed ahead or wobbly on Brexit?
Council on Foreign Relations, December 2019

The end of twentieth-century Labour
Carnegie Europe, December 2019

How much will the UK contribute to the next seven-year EU budget?
Bruegel, December 2019

A very different Brexit year lies ahead
Open Europe, December 2019

A second independence referendum: When and how could Scotland vote again?
Institute for Government, December 2019

Post-election: Where next for a divided, diminished UK?
Scottish Institute for European Relations, November 2019

Independence, Scotland and EU accession: Challenges ahead
Scottish Institute for European Relations, November 2019

How economically damaging will Brexit be?
Centre for European Reform, November 2019

Brexit: Research and analyses
House of Commons Library, 2020

Latest thinking and research about Brexit from LSE
LSE Brexit blog, 2020

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/24/brexit-the-final-countdown-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

The European Union and Holocaust remembrance

Written by Magdalena Pasikowska-Schnass and Philippe Perchoc,

© cge2010 / Fotolia

The term Holocaust refers to the mass murder of 6 million European Jews, Roma and other persecuted groups, whom the Nazi regime and its collaborators sought to annihilate.

The expropriation, state-sponsored discrimination and persecution of the Jews by the Nazi regime began in 1933, followed by pogroms and their mass incarceration in concentration camps. Ultimately, this policy was extended to all Nazi-controlled European territories and countries during World War II, culminating in mass summary executions (‘Holocaust by Bullets’) and extermination in death camps. The perpetrators were prosecuted at the Nuremberg trials in 1945-1946; however, the tribunal preferred to indict them on charges of crimes against humanity rather than genocide.

It was not until 2005, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz that a United Nations resolution designated 27 January the day for international commemoration of the Holocaust, to be known as ‘International Holocaust Remembrance Day’.

In the European Union, numerous programmes seek to preserve the memory of these tragic events in the history of the continent. Since 1995, the European Parliament has adopted resolutions drawing attention to the obligation to remember not only through commemorations but also through education. In November 2018, the EU became a permanent international partner of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).


Read the complete briefing on ‘The European Union and Holocaust remembrance‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/24/the-european-union-and-holocaust-remembrance/

Support for fishermen affected by the eastern Baltic cod closure [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Frederik Scholaert (1st edition),

© Hans Christiansson / Shutterstock

Eastern Baltic cod has long supported the livelihoods of many Baltic fishermen, but stocks of this valuable fish have been declining sharply in recent years. Every year since 2014, total allowable catches have been reduced accordingly. Recent scientific advice, published in May 2019, reinforced concerns regarding eastern Baltic cod, showing an even steeper decline and estimating the stock to be below safe biological limits for the past two years. Scientists point to high natural mortality resulting from various environmental pressures, including a lack of salinity, little oxygen, pollution, high water temperatures and parasite infestation. On 22 July 2019, as an emergency measure, the Commission imposed an immediate closure of the fishery for six months, with the exception of a limited amount arising from the unavoidable by-catch. Subsequently, fishing opportunities for 2020 were cut by 92 %. As recovery of the stock is not expected before 2024, on 31 October 2019 the Commission issued a proposal amending the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Regulation in order to allow support for permanent cessation and introducing parallel changes to the Baltic multiannual plan by setting capacity limits for the fishing segments concerned and by including additional control and data collection measures.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/01/20/support-for-fishermen-affected-by-the-eastern-baltic-cod-closure-eu-legislation-in-progress/