Месечни архиви: март 2020

EU Budget 2021-2027: Challenges and opportunities

Written by Alessandro D’Alfonso and Velina Lilyanova,

© European Union 2020, EPRS

The European Council of 20-21 February 2020 failed to reach agreement on the EU’s next multiannual financial framework (MFF) at the level of EU Heads of State or Government. Although the date of the next European Council meeting devoted to the topic has not yet been decided, with the ongoing coronavirus crisis occupying leaders’ attention, the shape and function of the post-2020 MFF is still an urgent issue, since the current framework comes to an end in December. Many points remain open for discussion. As a contribution to the ongoing debate, EPRS has published three papers on the EU budget and the related negotiations, drafted by external specialists for an EPRS expert seminar organised ahead of the February European Council meeting.

As highlighted by Anthony Teasdale, Director General of EPRS, the expert seminar ‘EU Budget 2021-2027: challenges and opportunities’ aimed to facilitate and stimulate an open discussion on the next MFF as an important milestone for the future of the EU. At this event, EPRS and the Budgetary Policies Unit of the Members’ Research Service had the privilege to host the European Parliament’s entire MFF negotiating team, namely: Johan Van Overtveldt (ECR, Belgium), Chair of the Committee on Budgets; Jan Olbrycht (EPP, Poland), MFF co-rapporteur; Margarida Marques (S&D, Portugal), vice-chair of the BUDG Committee and MFF co-rapporteur; José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, Portugal), Own Resources co-rapporteur; Valérie Hayer (Renew, France), Own Resources co-rapporteur; and Rasmus Andresen (Greens/EFA, Germany). Each Member of the negotiating team provided insightful assessments of the key issues at stake both on the expenditure and revenue sides of the EU budget. Held under the Chatham House rule, the seminar triggered a very engaged and lively discussion, which kept the room full for the entire duration of the event.

Three well-known experts in the budgetary field participated as external speakers: Giacomo Benedetto, Jean Monnet Chair in EU Politics at Royal Holloway, University of London; Jorge Núñez Ferrer, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS); and Eulalia Rubio, Senior Research Fellow at Jacques Delors Institute in Paris. Giacomo Benedetto focused on a possible new package for finance and expenditure in the EU budget, analysing the challenges that the net-balances logic poses to reform. Jorge Núñez Ferrer examined how the EU budget can allow Member States to save at national level, but stressed the need for a broader perspective since the benefits of the EU budget are not limited to savings. Looking at the usefulness of flexibility in the budgetary framework, Eulalia Rubio explored ways of enhancing it in the next MFF, while not neglecting the possible costs and implications. Their three papers are available at the end of this blog post.

In addition, the debate, moderated by Sidonia Mazur, EPRS policy analyst, also benefited from internal expertise. Richard Crowe, from Parliament’s Legal Service, analysed the legal challenges related to the process of negotiating the MFF and shared insights on several aspects, including the steps needed in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario. Alessandro D’Alfonso, EPRS policy analyst, examined the major role that climate action might have in defining the next MFF, including through its mainstreaming across the EU budget, which he examined in a recent paper. Magdalena Sapala, also an EPRS policy analyst, delved into flexibility, presenting her recent paper on such instruments in the MFF. She underlined in particular how flexibility is crucial for ensuring efficiency.

In brief, the expert seminar showed that the EU finds itself at a turning point, where many things have to be defined at the start of a new institutional cycle, and identified key issues at stake. Far from being an accounting exercise, the decision on the next MFF is highly political and will be crucial in determining the level of ambition of the EU as regards jointly tackling common challenges and objectives. Parliament’s negotiators made it clear that the European Parliament is united and resolved to secure a good MFF that benefits all EU citizens. In addition, they recalled that Parliament’s consent to the MFF will be conditional on a satisfactory reform of own resources. Following the February European Council and disappointed with its failure, Parliament’s negotiating team reiterated this position, stressing the need for a political vision and calling for an ambitious compromise based on agreed common objectives for a stronger Europe.

In a debate on the MFF in the March I plenary session, Members of the European Parliament strongly criticised the cuts envisaged in the compromise put forward by the European Council President in February 2020, including in view of the current coronavirus crisis and of recent tensions at the Greek-Turkish border. Against the background of the delay in finding an agreement, they again urged the Commission to present a contingency plan to protect beneficiaries of EU funding, and demanded that the next MFF be endowed with an appropriate level of resources.

Read the papers:

External contributions

EPRS in-depth analyses

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/31/eu-budget-2021-2027-challenges-and-opportunities/

The European Council, health policy and pandemics

Written by Izabela Cristina Bacian,

© Blue Planet Studio / Adobe Stock

The European Council (of EU Heads of State or Government) has been active in its response to the coronavirus crisis. So far it has held three video-conference calls of national leaders on the subject, with a view to seeking to develop a coordinated response both among the Member States and collectively at EU level. This note sketches the context, describes some of the instruments available to the Union, and compares responses to the outbreak s of Ebola in the past and COVID-19 today.

EU competence on health policy

The European Union (EU) has limited competence in the area of health, as set out in Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Article 168 states, inter alia, that a high level of human health protection is to be ensured in the definition and implementation of all EU-level policies and activities. The Article further provides that action at EU level is to complement national policies, including through monitoring, early warning of and combatting serious cross-border threats to health. Member States are, in liaison with the European Commission, to coordinate their policies and programmes in the areas covered by EU-level action within the domain of public health. The main responsibility lies with the Member States when it comes to defining their health policy; organising, managing and delivering health services and medical care; and allocating the resources assigned to them. In addition, following several rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the EU can pursue public health objectives through the integration of the internal market, having Article 114 (TFEU) as its legal basis.

Tackling cross-border threats to health

The EU relies on a number of EU agencies and mechanisms to launch and coordinate an EU wide response.
Decis ion 1082/2013/EU of the Parliament and Council provides the framework for dealing with serious cross-border threats to health in the EU. Following the adoption of that decision, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) put in place an Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) and a Health Security Committee (HSC), the latter composed of Member States’ representatives. An alert through the EWRS leads to the preparation of a risk assessment by ECDC or other competent agencies, depending on the nature of the threat. Members States then consult each other within the HSC and with the Commission, in order to coordinate their responses.

Moreover, Council Implementing Decis io n 2018/1993 established the EU Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) Arrangements. The ICPR mechanism supports the Council presidency, Coreper and the Council, by providing tools and creating a platform for sharing information and coordinating crisis responses at political level. These include: 1) roundtable discussions with key players, including the Commission, the European External Action Service, the office of the European Council President, EU agencies, affected Member States and experts; 2) analytical reports; 3) a web platform; and 4) a 24/7 contact point ensuring contact among the key players. Article 13 of Decision 2018/1993 provides for a specific role for the European Council: notably, staff of the President of the European Council can be invited to participate fully in the IPCR from the moment of its activation and on preparedness activities.

Decision 1313/2013/EU of the Parliament and Council established the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM), which enhances cooperation between Member States/participating states, with a view to improving prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. The UCPM was strengthened in 2019.

Health policy discussions in the European Council

Whilst health policy issues are not generally addressed at European Council meetings, Heads of State or Government did meet in 2014 to coordinate the EU response to the Ebola virus outbreak in west Africa, and are currently doing so to steer management of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. On both occasions, the Heads of State or Government intervened following the designation of the virus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization. While the Ebola outbreak was limited to the African continent, the WHO stated on 11 March that the COVID-19 outbreak is a pandemic. The approach of the European Council to these two health crises has consequently been different. The Ebola crisis affected a number of countries in Africa, in particular Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea; whilst it was the worst outbreak since the discovery of the Ebola virus (1976), very few cases were detected in the EU, in just two countries, Spain and the UK. The COVID-19 outbreak, on the contrary, currently covers more than 150 countries with an increasing number of infections in all EU Member States.

The European Council met on two occasions to discuss the Ebola outbreak, on 30 August 2014, in a special meeting to discuss a range of issues, such as the conflict in Ukraine and high-level appointments; and in a regular meetin on 23-24 October 2014. Regarding the overall coordination of that crisis, the European Council invited the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Commission to develop a package of measures addressing the wider political, security and economic implications of the Ebola crisis in west Africa. The European Council furthermore appointed an EU Ebola Response Coordinator to bring together the Member States, the EU institutions and all international partners concerned. The objective was to boost the countries’ capacity to address the crisis, which included deployment of medical staff, equipment and medical evacuation of health workers through the Union Civil Protection Mechanism. The EU and its Member States provided more than €1 billion to fight the epidemic. The development of a vaccine was also launched at the time, and it was supported by two projects from the Innovative Medicines Initiative funded by the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. On 11 November 2019, the Commission granted the first-ever marketing authorisation to the company Merck Sharp & Dohme B.V. for a vaccine against Ebola.

Regarding the current COVID-19 outbreak, following the detection of the first cases of infection in the EU on 24 January 2020, the Croatian Council Presidency activated the IPCR in information-sharing mode four days later, and escalated it to full mode on 2 March. Three video-conference calls have taken place to date – on 10 March, 17 March and 26 March, with the 27 Heads of State or Government, the High Representative, and the presidents of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the Eurogroup. EU leaders identified five priorities: 1) limiting the spread of the virus; 2) ensuring the provision of medical equipment; 3) promoting research, including the development of a vaccine; 4) tackling the socio-economic consequences; and 5) coordinating the orderly repatriation of EU citizens stranded in third countries.

On 13 March, the Commission set out a coordinated EU-level response, envisaging: a more flexible application of EU State aid rules to help businesses facing economic difficulties; the use of specific clauses in the Stability and Growth Pact to allow for exceptional expenditure; the redirection of €1 billion from the EU budget as guarantee for the European Investment Fund to incentivise banks to provide businesses with liquidity; and action to alleviate the impact on employment by accelerating the procedure on the proposal for a European unemployment reinsurance scheme. The Commission is to release €37 billion in liquidity under a Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, with two urgent legislative proposals approved by the European Parliament on 26 March.

Following the introduction of border controls by some Member States, EU leaders agreed on the need to ‘ensure the passage of medicines, food and goods’ and to enable citizens to travel to their home countries.
Moreover, to limit the spread of the virus, they also approved a temporary 30-day ban on non-essential travel to the EU, as announced  by the Commission on 16 March 2020. With over 100 000 EU citizens stranded in third countries, the High Representative has announced that the EEAS would help Member States to coordinate consular assistance for their repatriation.

The supply of protective equipment is also being ensured by means of placing a requirement that exports of such equipment outside the EU are subject to prior authorisation. Furthermore, the development of a vaccine is currently under way, with up to €80 million of financial support being granted to CureVac, an innovative vaccine developer. EU Heads of State or Government have also supported the Commission’s efforts to engage with industry, run joint public procurement to provide sufficient protective equipment, and purchase protective equipment through the civil protection framework. The Commission has been asked to speed up the procedures in that respect and to increase, as needed, the initial budget for the strategic rescEU stock pile of medical equipment. EU leaders have called on Member States to increase testing as a matter of urgency. The European Council has called for a ‘coordinated exit strategy, a comprehensive recovery plan and unprecedented investment’ to fight the pandemic.

Read this ‘At a glance’ on ‘The European Council, health policy and pandemics‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/31/the-european-council-health-policy-and-pandemics/

Reply to the campaign against the EP resolution on fundamental rights of people of African descent in Europe

© sharafmaksumov / Adobe Stock

The President of the European Parliament sometimes receives large numbers of identical messages on a given topic. The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (AskEP) is asked to reply to these campaign messages. Replies to campaigns are also published on the EPRS blog.

The President of the European Parliament has received a large number of messages calling on the Parliament to revoke its resolution on the fundamental rights of people of African descent in Europe.

See below for the reply sent to citizens who wrote to the President of the European Parliament on this matter (in English and German).

Reply in English

The European Parliament adopted the resolution on fundamental rights of people of African descent in Europe  on 26 March 2019. You can find the video recording of the relevant debate here.

The resolution was adopted by 535 votes to 80 with 44 abstentions (p. 11 of the annex ‘Results of votes‘). You will find the result of the roll-call vote under item 31 of the relevant annex, B8-0212/2019 – Resolution, pp. 68-69.

As you can see from the procedure file, the motion for a resolution was tabled on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

Reply in German

Das Europäische Parlament hat die Entschließung zu den Grundrechten von Menschen afrikanischer Abstammung in Europa am 26. März 2019 angenommen. Die Videoaufnahme der diesbezüglichen Debatte können Sie hier finden.

Die Entschließung wurde mit 535 Stimmen dafür, 80 Stimmen dagegen und 44 Enthaltungen angenommen (S. 12 der Anlage „Ergebnisse der Abstimmungen“). Die Ergebnisse der namentlichen Abstimmung finden Sie in dem entsprechenden Protokoll, unter Punkt 31. B8-0212/2019 – Entschließung, S. 68-69.

Wie Sie dem Verfahrensmerkblatt entnehmen können, wurde der Entschließungsantrag im Namen des Ausschusses für bürgerliche Freiheiten, Justiz und Inneres (LIBE) eingereicht.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/30/reply-to-the-campaign-against-the-ep-resolution-on-fundamental-rights-of-people-of-african-descent-in-europe/

Reply to the ‘Stop Extremism’ campaign

© stanciuc / Adobe Stock

The President of the European Parliament sometimes receives large numbers of identical messages on a given topic. The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (AskEP) is asked to reply to these campaign messages. Replies to campaigns are also published on the EPRS blog.

The President of the European Parliament has received a large number of messages calling on the Parliament to reject, if submitted for a vote, an ‘Anti-Extremism Directive’.

See below for the reply sent to citizens who wrote to the President of the European Parliament on this matter (in English, German and Italian).

Reply in English

As regards your reference to the European Citizens’ Initiative Stop Extremism, we would like to draw your attention to the relevant European Commission website. There you will find information about the progress the initiative has made.

We would also like to draw your attention to the fact that the ‘draft act’ (‘Rechtsaktentwurf‘) mentioned on the website referred to by the European Parliament can in no way be regarded as an official European Commission proposal for a directive.

In overall terms, a citizens’ initiative puts a topic on the political agenda in a way that commits the Commission to address citizens’ concerns properly, although the Commission is not obliged to follow the initiative. If it decides not to act, however, it will give clear reasons.

Should the Commission decide to adopt a legislative proposal on a citizens’ initiative, that proposal will be dealt with under the ordinary legislative procedure and must therefore be considered and, if appropriate, adopted by the co-legislators (in general by the European Parliament and the Council; in some cases only by the Council).

The relevant deliberations and decisions in the parliamentary procedure are to be held by the Members of the European Parliament in the exercise of their independent mandate (Rule 2 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament).

Reply in German

Insoweit Sie sich auf die Europäische Bürgerinitiative Stop Extremism beziehen, möchten wir Sie auf die einschlägige Website der Europäischen Kommission aufmerksam machen. Dort finden Sie Informationen zum aktuellen Bearbeitungsstand dieser Bürgerinitiative.

Ergänzend weisen wir darauf hin, dass es sich bei dem auf der erwähnten Website angeführten „Rechtsaktentwurf“ keineswegs um einen dem Europäischen Parlament vorliegenden offiziellen Richtlinienvorschlag der Europäischen Kommission handelt.

Insgesamt ist festzuhalten, dass mit einer Bürgerinitiative ein Thema auf die politische Tagesordnung gebracht wird, das die Kommission dazu verpflichtet, sich ernsthaft mit den Anliegen der Bürgerinnen und Bürger auseinanderzusetzen, aber sie ist nicht dazu verpflichtet, der Initiative Folge zu leisten. Allerdings wird die Kommission in einem solchen Fall ihre Gründe für die Ablehnung klar und eindeutig darlegen.

Sollte die Kommission allerdings beschließen, auf eine Bürgerinitiative hin einen Vorschlag für eine Rechtsvorschrift anzunehmen, so durchläuft dieser das übliche Gesetzgebungsverfahren und muss daher von den gesetzgebenden Organen (im Allgemeinen dem Europäischen Parlament und dem Rat oder in einigen Fällen nur vom Rat) geprüft und gegebenenfalls angenommen werden.

Die entsprechenden Beratungen und Beschlussfassungen im parlamentarischen Verfahren sind von den Mitgliedern des Europäischen Parlaments im Rahmen ihres freien Mandates (Artikel 2 der Geschäftsordnung des Europäischen Parlaments) durchzuführen.

Reply in Italian

Per quanto riguarda l’iniziativa dei cittadini europei Stop Extremism, richiamiamo la vostra attenzione sul pertinente sito web della Commissione europea. Vi troverete non solo informazioni sullo stato attuale di tale iniziativa, ma anche sulle prossime fasi procedurali previste.

A titolo integrativo, vi facciamo presente che il “progetto di atto giuridico” citato nella pagina web menzionata non costituisce assolutamente una proposta ufficiale di direttiva della Commissione europea presentata al Parlamento europeo.

In generale va chiarito che un’iniziativa dei cittadini inserisce nell’agenda politica un tema che impegna la Commissione ad occuparsi seriamente dell’interesse delle cittadine e dei cittadini, senza obbligarla per questo a dar seguito all’iniziativa. In questo caso, comunque, la Commissione deve illustrare in termini chiari e univoci i motivi del rifiuto.

Qualora la Commissione dovesse invece decidere di adottare un progetto di atto giuridico sulla base di un’iniziativa dei cittadini, esso è sottoposto alla procedura legislativa usuale e deve quindi essere esaminato ed eventualmente adottato dagli organi legislativi (in generale il Parlamento europeo e il Consiglio o in alcuni casi solo il Consiglio).

Le pertinenti deliberazioni e decisioni nel quadro della procedura parlamentare dovranno essere adottate dai deputati al Parlamento europeo nell’esercizio del loro libero mandato (articolo 2 del Regolamento del Parlamento europeo).

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/30/reply-to-the-stop-extremism-campaign/

The impact of coronavirus on Schengen borders

Written by Costica Dumbrava and Giulio Sabbati,

The Schengen Area

The Schengen Area consists of 26 countries that have agreed to remove regular checks at their internal borders in order to facilitate the free and unrestricted movement of people: 22 EU Member States (Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden), and 4 associated countries (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein). The Schengen Borders Code lays down the common rules governing the management of internal and external EU borders, including rules and procedures concerning the exceptional introduction of border checks at internal borders. According to the Code, Member States can introduce temporary border checks at their internal borders in cases of a foreseeable threat (e.g. a special event), an immediate threat or in the situation of persistent serious deficiencies relating to external borders.

In March 2020, the coronavirus outbreak has pushed many Member States to reintroduce border controls at internal borders on the grounds of an immediate threat to public policy. According to Article 28 of the Code, the duration of such exceptional measure must be limited to no more than ten days, with the possibility to extend them by renewable periods of 20 days, up to a maximum of two months. Member States must notify the Commission and the other Member States before taking action, specifying the reasons, scope and duration of the measures. This information must be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council too. The Commission is supposed to issue an opinion after consulting the other Member States.

In order to ensure the free circulation of goods and services in the single market during the ongoing health crisis, the European Commission put forward guidelines for border management measures. On 17 March, the members of the European Council accepted the Commission’s proposal to introduce a coordinated restriction of non-essential travel into the EU for a period of 30 days. The travel restriction provides for exemptions for nationals of all EU Member States and Schengen Associated States (UK nationals will be treated in the same way as EU citizens due to the current transition period), for the purposes of returning to their homes and for travellers with an essential function or need. As of 24 March, all Member States except Ireland (due to its common travel area with the UK) have implemented the temporary restriction.

The European Parliament has consistently defended the Schengen Area and condemned the unjustified reintroduction of internal borders. On 16 March, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, the Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE), called for a coordinated approach and urged Member States to take measures that fully respect the Schengen rules and the principles of proportionality, solidarity among Member States, and non-discrimination.

Read the complete briefing on ‘The impact of coronavirus on Schengen borders‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/30/the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-schengen-borders/

Plenary round-up – Brussels, March II 2020

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson,

Extraordinary EP Plenary session - European coordinated response to the COVID-19 outbreak - First remote plenary session of EP history

© European Union 2020 – Source: EP / Philippe BUISSIN

The need to observe strict sanitary measures, in view of the COVID-19 contagion, requires a flexible response from everyone. Consequently, the European Parliament organised and conducted its March II plenary session with new precautionary measures, allowing it to act rapidly to carry out its essential legislative function during the crisis. Parliament’s Bureau put in place an alternative voting procedure for the 26 March extraordinary plenary session. The new procedure meant that all Members – with most unable to be present in Brussels – could vote from a distance, sending their voting papers to Parliament’s Secretariat by e-mail. Parliament has adjusted its calendar, replacing the regular plenary part-sessions with shortened sessions until the summer. The temporary voting procedure will be available until 31 July 2020, unless extended by Bureau decision. Moreover, the Secretariat is working to put in place a more advanced remote voting system, which would enable more complex votes to be held among Members, in both committee and plenary, thus ensuring Parliament can carry out its essential budgetary and legislative functions throughout the ongoing public health crisis.

The session focused on three urgent legislative proposals responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Parliament adopted its positions on temporary suspension of EU rules on airport slots, creation of a Corona Response Investment Initiative and extension of the EU Solidarity Fund, almost unanimously, less than two weeks after the European Commission tabled its proposals. With the Council also agreed on the three texts, the measures can now be adopted in the coming days. Members also heard from the Commission and Council on the coordination of the European response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Allocation of slots at airports in the EU: Common rules

The Parliament adopted a proposal seeking to amend the common rules on allocation of slots at EU airports. The Commission proposed to temporarily suspend rules obliging airlines to use their slots. The suspension until October 2020, with retroactive effect from 1 March 2020, will ensure legal certainty for air carriers, given the grounding of aircraft due to the drop in demand for flights and widespread travel restrictions. It will also end unnecessary emissions from near-empty (‘ghost’) flights that carriers might have been tempted to operate to maintain their rights. Under the current regime, known as the ‘use it or lose it’ rule, airlines must use their slots at least 80 % of the time during the period for which they are allocated, or see the slots, which are a valuable resource, allocated to others.

Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative

Parliament adopted an initiative introducing specific measures mobilising a total of €37 billion of cohesion fund investment in Member States’ healthcare systems, as well as initiatives to provide support to SMEs in the form of working capital, and to specific mutual funds supporting fishermen. The Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative will reallocate unused cash reserves available under the European structural and investment funds. The Commission will now use unspent 2019 advance payments to Member States to release €8 billion of investment liquidity to kick-start the initiative, with expenditure on crisis-response capacity eligible for funding retrospectively from 1 February 2020.

Extension of the EU Solidarity Fund

Members adopted the proposal extending the scope of financial assistance already available to Member States and accession candidate countries under the EU Solidarity Fund. The Fund intervenes to help countries hit by major natural disasters. The Parliament agreed that EU-level intervention under the Fund is also justified in the case of a major public health emergency, such as the COVID-19 outbreak, including medical assistance, as well as measures to prevent, monitor or control the spread of diseases. Disbursement will now be speeded up, and advance payments raised to 25 % of the expected EUSF contribution (limited to €100 million) for countries seriously affected by the crisis.

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

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/27/plenary-round-up-brussels-march-ii-2020/

Reply to the campaign about the European Commission’s proposal to amend the rules concerning lead concentration in PVC

© Maxx-Studio / Shutterstock

The President of the European Parliament sometimes receives large numbers of identical messages on a given topic. The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (AskEP) is asked to reply to these campaign messages. Replies to campaigns are also published on the EPRS blog.

The President of the European Parliament has received a large number of messages calling for the European Parliament to reject a Commission proposal to amend the rules concerning lead concentration in PVC.

You can find below, in English, Italian, German and French, the reply sent to citizens who wrote to the President of the European Parliament on this matter.

Reply in English

We would inform you that on 12 February 2020, the European Parliament rejected the Commission proposal to amend the rules concerning lead concentration in PVC. The resolution was adopted by 394 votes to 241, with 13 abstentions.

As a result, the draft measure will not be adopted by the Commission. It may however either submit an amended draft or present a new one.

Further information is available in the press release.

Parliament has long held the position that recycling PVC must not perpetuate the problem of heavy metals. Lead in PVC has been phased out in the EU since 2015, thanks to the EU PVC industry’s voluntary commitment, however lead in PVC can continue to enter the EU via imported PVC products.

Further information on PVC in the EU is available on the Commission’s dedicated webpage.

Additional material on chemicals and EU policies is available from the EP Think Tank, for instance a briefing on Chemicals and the circular economy.

Reply in Italian

La informiamo che il 12 febbraio 2020 il Parlamento europeo ha respinto la proposta della Commissione volta a modificare le norme relative alla concentrazione di piombo nel PVC. La risoluzione è stata adottata con 394 voti favorevoli, 241 contrari e 13 astensioni.

Di conseguenza, il progetto di misura non sarà adottato dalla Commissione. Potrà tuttavia presentare una bozza modificata o presentare una nuova proposta.

Ulteriori informazioni sono disponibili nel comunicato stampa.

Il Parlamento sostiene da tempo che il riciclaggio del PVC non deve perpetuare il problema dei metalli pesanti. Il piombo nel PVC è stato gradualmente eliminato nell’UE dal 2015 grazie all’impegno volontario dell’industria del PVC nell’UE, ma il piombo nel PVC può continuare a entrare nell’UE attraverso i prodotti in PVC importati.

Ulteriori informazioni sul PVC nell’UE sono disponibili sulla pagina web dedicata della Commissione.

È disponibile materiale supplementare sulle sostanze chimiche e le politiche dell’UE presso il gruppo di riflessione del PE, ad esempio il briefing sulle sostanze chimiche e dell’economia circolare.

Reply in German

Wir möchten Ihnen hiermit mitteilen, dass das Europäische Parlament am 12. Februar 2020 den Vorschlag der Kommission zur Änderung der Vorschriften über den Bleigehalt in PVC abgelehnt hat. Die Entschließung wurde mit 394 Ja-Stimmen bei 241 Nein-Stimmen und 13 Enthaltungen angenommen.

Die Kommission wird diesen Entwurf einer Maßnahme dementsprechend nicht annehmen. Sie kann allerdings einen geänderten oder einen neuen Entwurf vorlegen.

Weitere Informationen finden Sie in der entsprechenden Pressemitteilung.

Das Parlament ist seit langem der Ansicht, dass das Recycling von PVC nicht zu einem Stillstand beim Problem der Schwermetalle führen darf. Die PVC-Industrie in der EU verzichtet seit 2015 freiwillig auf die Verwendung von Blei in PVC, aber es dürfen nach wie vor PVC-Erzeugnisse mit Bleigehalt in die EU eingeführt werden.

Auf der Website der Kommission sind weitere Informationen über PVC in der EU verfügbar.

Weiteres Material über Chemikalien und politische Maßnahmen der EU sind beim Think Tank des EP verfügbar, beispielsweise ein Briefing über Chemikalien im Zusammenhang mit der Kreislaufwirtschaft.

Reply in French

Nous souhaitons vous informer que le 12 février 2020, le Parlement européen a rejeté la proposition de la Commission visant à modifier les règles concernant la concentration de plomb dans le PVC. La résolution en question a été adoptée par 394 voix pour, 241 contre et 13 abstentions.

Il s’ensuit que ce projet de mesure ne sera pas adopté par la Commission. Cette dernière peut néanmoins présenter un projet modifié ou un nouveau projet.

D’autres informations sont disponibles dans le communiqué de presse.

Le Parlement estime depuis longtemps que le recyclage du PVC ne doit pas perpétuer le problème des métaux lourds. Depuis 2015, le plomb présent dans le PVC est éliminé progressivement grâce à un engagement volontaire de l’industrie européenne du PVC, mais il peut continuer d’entrer dans l’Union via des produits en PVC importés.

Pour de plus amples informations sur le PVC dans l’Union, veuillez consulter la page web de la Commission consacrée à ce thème.

D’autres documents sur les produits chimiques et les politiques de l’Union en la matière sont disponibles sur le Think Tank du Parlement européen, comme la note d’information intitulée «Chemicals and the circular economy» (les produits chimiques et l’économie circulaire).

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/27/reply-to-the-campaign-about-the-european-commissions-proposal-to-amend-the-rules-concerning-lead-concentration-in-pvc/

Terrorist content online: Tackling online terrorist propaganda [EU Legislation in Progress][Policy Podcast]

Written by François Théron (1st edition),

© fotolia

Dissemination of terrorist content is one of the most widespread and most dangerous forms of misuse of online services in the field of internal security. In line with the 2015 European agenda on security and taking into account the impact of this propaganda on the radicalisation, recruitment and training of terrorists, the European Commission launched a voluntary system for tackling terrorism online, based on guidelines and recommendations. However, given the limitations of the method, on 12 September 2018 the Commission then adopted a proposal for a regulation preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online. While the Council rapidly reached a position on the proposal, in December 2018, the European Parliament adopted its first-reading position in April 2019. Following the European elections, interinstitutional trilogue negotiations then began in autumn 2019, with a new rapporteur.


Listen to policy podcast ‘Tackling online terrorist propaganda‘ on YouTube.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/26/terrorist-content-online-tackling-online-terrorist-propaganda-eu-legislation-in-progresspolicy-podcast/

Coronavirus: Impact and reaction [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

© wladimir1804 / Adobe Stock

Governments around the world are introducing increasingly harsh measures to contain the highly contagious coronavirus, which causes the often lethal COVID-19 disease. Borders in many countries have been shut, schools, restaurants and non-food shops closed, and a ban on public and sometimes private meetings has been introduced. According to news media reports, confirmed coronavirus cases around the world exceeded 377,000 across 194 countries and territories as of 24 March, with more than 16,500 of them having been fatal.

This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports from international think tanks on the coronavirus and related issues. Earlier publications on the topic can be found in the previous item in the series, published on 18 March.

How Brussels could get crisis management right this time
European Council on Foreign Relations, March 2020

The culture and politics of the coronavirus
Clingendael, March 2020

Coronavirus: Why the EU needs to unleash the ECB
Chatham House, March 2020

CureVac, covid-19, and economic statecraft: Lessons for Europe
European Council on Foreign Relations, March 2020

We should re-launch the G-20 as a global rescue mechanism
Friends of Europe, March 2020

Resilience before reinvention: The EU’s role in the Covid-19 crisis
European Council on Foreign Relations, March 2020

Covid-19: A trigger for global transformation? Political distancing, global decoupling and growing distrust in health governance
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, March 2020

The Coronavirus is a test for the West
Carnegie Europe, March 2020

European elections in a time of coronavirus
Brooking Institution, March 2020

Europe under siege
European Policy Centre, March 2020

Six proactive steps in a smart trade approach to fighting COVID-19
Council on Foreign Relations, March 2020

EU limits on medical gear exports put poor countries and Europeans at risk
Peterson Institute for International Economics, March 2020

The Coronavirus pandemic should end Europe’s comfort zone
Carnegie Europe, March 2020

The EU needs to step up its response to the COVID-19 outbreak
Centre for European Reform, March 2020

How is the Fed dealing with the Coronavirus crisis?
Council on Foreign Relations, March 2020

Seven early lessons from the coronavirus
European Council on Foreign Relations, March 2020

How the indiscriminate virus reinforced our inequalities and the lessons we can draw from this when it is all over
Egmont, March 2020

Big data versus COVID-19: Opportunities and privacy challenges
Bruegel, March 2020

Three scenarios for a Covid-19 world: We can still make the right choices
Friends of Europe, March 2020

Le COVID-19 met l’Europe au pied du mur
Confrontation Europe, March 2020

Italy’s Coronavirus experience and the challenge of extreme crises to liberal democracies
German Marshall Fund, March 2020

The Coronavirus pandemic lets China score a win in Serbia
German Marshall Fund, March 2020

International order and the European Project in times of COVID19
Instituto Affari Internazionali, March 2020

Why $1 trillion is not enough
Brooking Institution, March 2020

Coronavirus: Britain on the brink
European Council on Foreign Relations, March 2020

Infected: The impact of the coronavirus on the Middle East and north Africa
European Council on Foreign Relations, March 2020

Containing the economic nationalist virus through global coordination
Peterson Institute for International Economics, March 2020

Poland: Politics in a time of corona
European Council on Foreign Relations, March 2020

Drastische Maßnahmen im Kampf gegen das Coronavirus
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, March 2020

The EU, coronavirus and crisis management: Is ‘solidarity’ real or just a prop?
Real Instituto Elcano, March 2020

COVID-19 and broken Collusion: The oil price collapse is one more warning for Russia
Bruegel, March 2020

COVID-19 Emergency: Europe needs a vaccine
Instituto Affari Internazionali, March 2020

COVID-19: A moment for unity
Brooking Institution, March 2020

Will modernity survive the corona infection?
Clingendael, March 2020

The European coronavirus response must be a solution, not more stigma
Bruegel, March 2020

The Coronavirus is Iran’s perfect storm
Brooking Institution, March 2020

Be bold now: Coronavirus, the Eurogroup and fiscal safety nets
Bruegel, March 2020

The economy and policy in the coronavirus crisis to date
Brooking Institution, March 2020

A letter to Santa, the G7
Bruegel, March 2020

State of denial: How the coronavirus caught the West off guard
Friends of Europe, March 2020

Caught unprepared by pandemic, Europe must relearn tough lessons
Carnegie Europe, March 2020

La planète à l’heure du coronavirus : Un monde affolé qui bascule dans l’inconnu
Institut Thomas More, March 2020

Frankreich: Eingesperrt und alleingelassen
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, March 2020

The social distancing economy
Rand Corporations, March 2020

Covid-19: l’Union européenne et le défi de la résilience
Fondation Robert Schuman, March 2020

Sans-abri et épidémie: Que faire?
Fondation Jean Jaurès, March 2020

Transatlantic take 360: Responses to COVID-19
German Marshall Fund, March 2020

China is not a Coronavirus role model
Hudson Institute, March 2020

L’Inde à l’heure du coronavirus: Une bombe à retardement globale?
Institut Montaigne, March 2020

Read this briefing on ‘Coronavirus: Impact and reaction‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/26/coronavirus-impact-and-reaction-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

What if smartphones could help contain COVID-19?

Written by Christian Kurrer,

© Shutterstock

The recent outbreak of respiratory diseases triggered by the new coronavirus poses a challenge to public health worldwide. As governments evaluate how to stop further contagion, what role could smartphone apps play in the overall effort? Can tracking data recorded by smartphones help better understand and stop the spread of the virus?

From its first appearance in Wuhan in December 2019, the new coronavirus has spread to a majority of countries in the world, including most EU Member States.

The outbreak of this new respiratory ailment poses challenges to our medical systems – and society at large – at many different levels.

On one hand, there is the issue of dealing with individual patients, helping them to recover as quickly as possible, while searching for drugs that can help the recovery process and possibly a vaccine that can protect people at risk in the future.

On the other hand, there is the challenge of slowing the spread of the virus into those parts of the population it has not yet reached. This includes getting a better understanding of where and how the virus is actually being transmitted. Appealing to the wider population to increase their personal hygiene effort (washing hands, sneezing into the elbow, etc.) is helpful, as are targeted measures to cancel large gatherings, sporting events, school classes or restrict travel, extending to various levels of confinement. While all these measures can undoubtedly help contain the virus, they are, however, rather unspecific, in the sense that they impose a heavy burden on a large group of people, while possibly not being sufficiently restrictive on those who actually, although unknowingly, are carrying the virus.

In view of halting the further spread of the virus as efficiently as possible, without imposing unnecessary restrictions and disruption on the wider population, it is therefore of key importance for health authorities to quickly identify all possible contact persons with whom an infected person might have interacted recently, to test those contact persons, and focus monitoring and effective quarantine measures on the contact persons identified.

Potential impacts and developments

At the early stages of the outbreak, health authorities therefore focussed much of their energy on this process of identification of contact persons. Those who test positive for the coronavirus seem to have generally cooperated well with the authorities, and this made it possible to identify and isolate additional carriers of the virus quickly, preventing them from further spreading the virus. This process of interviewing every single carrier of the virus, and reaching out to all possible contact persons, is, however, time and labour intensive, and carriers might not always remember in great detail all the contacts they have had over the past few days.

What if we used smartphones to make this process faster and more efficient?

In recent years, smartphones have increasingly attracted attention as a key tool in emergency and disaster situations. Almost all smartphones today are equipped with GPS sensors, and most of them track the location of their owners – places they visited and the times – in great detail. This tracking can be switched off by individual users, but many users keep tracking enabled, to allow the smartphone to deliver a range of useful location services, such as recommending best travel routes and interesting nearby restaurants, or providing feedback on the number of steps walked and other health parameters.

Infected patients who share their location history on their smartphones with public health authorities can help them quickly identify the restaurants, cinemas, parks or other places the patient had frequented, where they could possibly have been infected, or where they may have transmitted the virus to other people. However, it would remain a challenge to identify all the other persons who have recently visited the same places in order to test them for a possible infection.

This is where big data could play a crucial role: comparing the location history of infected individuals with the location history of all other smartphone users (tested positive or not yet tested) could help health authorities gain a much better understanding of where the transmission might have occurred, and who else should be tested urgently. At the same time, individual smartphone users could obtain an instant assessment of how close they have recently been to potential infection sources, whether they should take measures urgently, or whether there is less reason to worry.

Comparing location histories using such a system could dramatically simplify the task of halting the spread of the novel coronavirus. At the same time, it would also raise a host of serious questions about possible data privacy and digital self-determination issues that merit careful consideration.

Anticipatory policy-making

Many people feel uncomfortable about sharing their location history, even in the context of a health emergency. It is unlikely that citizens would appreciate being identified as a potentially infected person through online media. They would, however, probably value a system that helps them to better understand the extent of their personal risk of having contracted the virus during a recent holiday or at an event they attended. Citizens would also appreciate more precise information about places they should refrain from visiting to avoid infection.

Individual infected users might not mind if close relatives and friends get automated warnings about the infection, but would not want that information needlessly divulged to the general public in a personalised form. They might understand the need to share their data with public health authorities, but might be worried to what degree this makes their personal lives transparent to public authorities in general (despite many people seeming less worried about sharing data with companies that make profits from that data). Citizens might appreciate having access to a better picture of their own risk status, but would be uncomfortable with this being shared in the future with insurance companies, employers, or for other commercial purposes. Ultimately, policy-makers will have to decide how transparent such a system is to the individual user, the provider collecting the data on the smartphone, and to public authorities.

Generalising the use of big data to assess the individual risk profiles of a large number of people certainly infringes the right to privacy and informational self-determination, but not using this technology and instead imposing more indiscriminate measures on the populations of whole regions or countries also comes with a cost in terms of personal freedoms. The challenge is to reach a broad societal consensus on the right balance between maximising the benefit we can derive in terms of containing the spread and gaining a better understanding of the disease, while minimising the possible infringement of individual rights. China and South Korea were swift to use smartphone technology in the current crisis, with some problematic implications. What lessons can we learn from the experience in those countries as applications begin to be developed in the EU, the United Kingdom and the United States of America?

Read this ‘At a glance’ on ‘What if smartphones could help contain COVID-19?‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Read all EPRS publications on the coronavirus outbreak

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/25/what-if-smartphones-could-help-contain-covid-19/