Месечни архиви: септември 2020

Coronavirus vaccines strategy

Written by Nicole Scholz,

© Leigh Prather / Adobe Stock

On 17 June 2020, the European Commission presented a strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing and deployment of vaccines against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The strategy aims to secure high quality, safe, effective and affordable Covid-19 vaccines for all in the EU within 12-18 months, if not earlier. To this end, the Commission has started to enter into advance purchase agreements with vaccine producers on behalf of the EU Member States. With the Coronavirus Global Response initiative and its participation in the COVAX facility, the EU is also positioning itself as a leader of global solidarity effort to speed up universal access to vaccines.

Context and main elements

A vaccine against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is considered to be the most likely permanent solution to stop the pandemic. As of 28 September 2020, 191 vaccine candidates are under development worldwide, with 40 being tested in humans. Vaccine development is complex, risky and costly and often lasts 10 to 15 years. The Commission’s two-pillar Covid-19 vaccines strategy proposes centralised procurement to secure vaccine supplies in a compressed timeframe. The objectives: ensuring vaccine quality, safety and efficacy; securing swift access to vaccines for Member States and their population while leading the global solidarity effort; and ensuring equitable access to an affordable vaccine as early as possible. The Commission seeks to diversify its vaccine candidate portfolio with different technologies and different companies. The strategy’s first pillar consists of securing the production of sufficient quantities of vaccines in the EU through advance purchase agreements with vaccine producers. In return for the right to buy a given number of vaccine doses for a set price, the Commission will finance part of the upfront costs faced by vaccine producers through advance purchase agreements. As the Commission points out, the high cost and failure rate make investing in a Covid-19 vaccine a high-risk decision for vaccine companies, and the agreements will allow investments to be made that otherwise ‘would simply probably not happen’. Once any of the vaccines proves successful, the Member States will be able to buy it directly from the company. Funding is considered a down payment on the vaccines that will actually be bought by the Member States. The agreements will be financed through the €2.7 billion Emergency Support Instrument (ESI), which Member States have the possibility to top up. According to the German Council Presidency, ‘a significant number of Member States already made a concrete financial commitment to increase the ESI budget’. The strategy’s second pillar involves adapting the EU’s regulatory framework to the current urgency while maintaining vaccine quality, safety and efficacy standards. The regulatory flexibilities offered by EU pharmaceuticals legislation can be used to speed up authorisation and availability of Covid-19 vaccines without compromising on standards. This includes early engagement with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) (Covid-19 EMA pandemic task force) and international cooperation; an accelerated procedure for authorisation (conditional authorisation); and flexibility as regards labelling and packaging (alleviating the language requirements). As some of the vaccine candidates are based on attenuated viruses or viral vectors that may fall under the definition of a genetically modified organism (GMO), the Commission proposed in June 2020 a regulation for a temporary derogation from certain rules for clinical trials of medicinal products involving GMOs. The procedure was treated urgently and the regulation entered into force on 18 July.

Parliament’s position and MEPs’ views

In a July 2020 resolution, Parliament called for ‘EU joint procurement to be used for the purchase of Covid‑19 vaccines and treatments, and for it to be used more systematically to avoid Member States competing against each other and to ensure equal and affordable access to important medicines and medical devices’, including new vaccines. On 7 September, Members of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) debated the vaccines strategy with Sandra Gallina, Deputy Director-General of the Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (SANTE). MEPs raised the issue of liability for vaccine producers, underlining that there should be no exceptions from current rules. The ENVI Chair stressed the need for transparency to achieve trust in Covid-19 vaccines and regretted that more information on the agreements had not been shared proactively. During a September joint hearing on Covid-19 vaccines, held by ENVI and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), MEPs questioned representatives of vaccine producers, academia, civil society and the EMA on advance purchase agreements, costs, patents and clinical trial data, as well as transparency.

EU’s role in global efforts

Under the Coronavirus Global Response, launched by the Commission in May, €15.9 billion has been pledged for universal access to tests, treatments and vaccines against coronavirus. It complements the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) global collaborative framework launched in April, which brings together governments, scientists, businesses, civil society, philanthropists and health organisations with the aim to accelerate development, production and equitable access to Covid-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. On 18 September, ‘Team Europe‘ – the Commission and the 27 Member States – joined COVAX, the ACT-A’s vaccine pillar. COVAX aims to get wealthier countries to sign up to help finance vaccines for low- and middle-income countries. According to the Commission, Team Europe will contribute to COVAX with €400 million in cash and guarantees: an initial €230 million in cash through a loan from the European Investment Bank, backed by the same amount in guarantees provided by the EU budget, will be complemented with €170 million in financial guarantees from the EU budget. EU participation in COVAX is complementary to negotiations with vaccine companies under the strategy, the Commission says.

Stakeholder views

In a letter to Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) considers it crucial that any agreements concluded with vaccine developers, including possible liability arrangements, are fully transparent, and everyone has access to information about vaccines. Consumers should benefit from quick and effective compensation schemes if they suffer an adverse reaction. BEUC notes that, in principle, vaccine developers need to remain liable for the products they develop and should be required to maintain strict post-marketing and surveillance. In a joint statement, six health groups request more transparency in the governance of the purchase agreements, including the EU’s spending on Covid-19 vaccines; high regulatory assessment standards; transparency of the joint procurement process; and transparent liability clauses to make sure responsibilities are fairly shared. In its report on pharmaceutical industry lobbying during the pandemic, the Corporate Europe Observatory bemoans that the advance purchase agreements ‘are being negotiated in the dark’ and use public money to remove financial risk and liability from the vaccine companies without corresponding public interest conditions.

State of play and next steps

Two contracts have so far been signed. A first agreement with AstraZeneca to purchase 300 million doses, with an option to buy 100 million more, entered into force on 27 August. A €336 million down payment was reportedly made. An agreement with Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to purchase up to 300 million doses entered into force on 18 September. As the Commission points out, exploratory talks have been concluded with: Johnson and Johnson for an initial purchase of 200 million doses and the possibility to buy 200 million more; CureVac for an initial 225 million doses; Moderna for an initial 80 million doses and the option to buy up to a further 80 million; BioNTech-Pfizer for an initial 200 million doses and an optional 100 million more. ‘Intensive discussions’ continue with other companies, reportedly including Novavax and ReiThera. According to the DG SANTE Deputy Director-General, the first vaccinations should take place by the end of 2020, and a large number of vaccine doses should become available in the first part of 2021. Vaccines would be distributed to EU Member States based on population size. It would be up to Member States to decide who will be vaccinated first. Prices would range from €5-15 per dose to assure affordability for all Member States.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Coronavirus vaccines strategy‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/09/30/coronavirus-vaccines-strategy/

Hotspots at EU external borders: State of play

Written by Katrien Luyten and Anita Orav,

Refugees just arrived from Turkey on the boat to the shore of the Greek island of Lesbos. Abandoned belongings and life jackets on the shore of the island of Lesbos, which was previously used by the refugees. November 2015

© aalutcenko / Adobe Stock

The ‘hotspot approach’ was presented by the European Commission as part of the European Agenda on Migration in April 2015, when record numbers of refugees, asylum-seekers and other migrants flocked to the EU. The ‘hotspots’ – first reception facilities – aim to improve coordination of the EU agencies’ and national authorities’ efforts at the external borders of the EU, in the initial reception, identification, registration and fingerprinting of asylum-seekers and migrants. Even though other Member States also have the possibility to benefit from the hotspot approach, only Greece and Italy host hotspots.

In Greece, the hotspot approach remains the key strategy in addressing migratory pressures. The EU-Turkey Statement of March 2016, closely linked to the implementation of the hotspot approach in Greece, led to a considerable drop in irregular migration flows from Turkey to the EU. However, returns of irregular migrants to Turkey – a cornerstone of the agreement – are low. The deteriorating relationship between Turkey and the EU is putting the agreement under increasing pressure.

The hotspot approach was also set up to contribute to the temporary emergency relocation mechanisms that – between September 2015 and September 2017 – helped to transfer asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy to other EU Member States. Even though 96 % of the people eligible had been relocated by the end of March 2018, relocation numbers were far from the targets originally set and the system led to tensions with Czechia, Hungary and Poland, which refused to comply with the mechanism.

Since their inception, the majority of the hotspots have suffered from overcrowding, and concerns have been raised by stakeholders with regard to camp facilities and living conditions – in particular for vulnerable migrants and asylum-seekers – and to gaps in access to asylum procedures. These shortcomings cause tensions among the migrants and with local populations and have already led to violent protests. On 8 September 2020, a devastating fire in the Moria camp, on Lesvos, only aggravated the existing problems. The European Parliament has called repeatedly for action to ensure that the hotspot approach does not endanger the fundamental rights of asylum-seekers and migrants.

This briefing updates two earlier ones published in March 2016 and in June 2018.

Read this briefing on ‘Hotspots at EU external borders: State of play‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Hotspots in Greece and in Italy

Hotspots in Greece and in Italy

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/09/29/hotspots-at-eu-external-borders-state-of-play/

Protecting EU common values within the Member States: An overview of monitoring, prevention and enforcement mechanisms at EU level

Written by Maria Diaz Crego, Rafał Mańko and Wouter van Ballegooiij,

© European Union, 2020

Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) lays down the founding values of the European Union, referring to ‘human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities’. The provision defines the constitutional core of the European Union through a set of values that are shared by the Member States. The EU’s founding values are binding not only on the EU institutions, but also on the Member States, as both candidate countries and Member States are required to comply with the EU’s founding values by virtue of the Treaties (Articles 7 and 49 TEU) and certain consequences are attached to situations where such values are not observed (for example, the impossibility to accede to the EU or the possibility of sanctions).

EU primary law provides for various mechanisms that can and have been used to monitor, prevent breaches of, or enforce EU values within the Member States, namely, the two procedures provided for under Article 7 TEU (preventive and sanctions), infringement procedures (Articles 258-259 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union − TFEU) and preliminary references (Article 267 TFEU). While the first mechanisms are to be used only in cases of systemic threats or breaches of EU values and are characterised by the leading role assumed by the Council of the European Union (Council, hereafter) and the European Council, the two other mechanisms can be described as judicial tools with regard to which the European Court of Justice assumes a major role.

Although the Treaties already provide for a range of tools that can be deployed to protect EU values within Member States, since 2007 the EU institutions have established a wide range of other mechanisms to monitor and prevent breaches of EU values in Member States. Between 2012 and 2014, the EU institutions created three monitoring and preventive tools to that end. The Commission launched its Justice Scoreboard in 2013, aimed at measuring the efficiency, quality and independence of the Member States’ justice systems, and feeding into the European Semester process for economic governance. A year later, in 2014, the European Commission established its rule of law framework, a preventive mechanism aimed at addressing threats to EU values before Article 7 TEU procedures are launched, and finally the Council decided to set up its annual dialogues on the rule of law.

However, these new mechanisms have not exhausted the discussion on the adequacy of the EU toolbox to address Member States’ deficiencies regarding EU values. In October 2016, Parliament called on the Commission to establish an EU pact on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, to monitor compliance with those values in the Member States. Although the Commission did not take up the proposal to start with, in 2019, it decided to take stock of experience gained from applying the existing mechanisms to different Member States and launched a broad debate on how to strengthen the EU mechanisms to address common values deficiencies in the Member States. As a result, the Commission decided to establish a Rule of Law Review Cycle (2019), a monitoring tool that has yet to bear fruit, with the European Commission issuing its first rule of law report in September 2020. In a similar vein, as part of the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF) legislative package, the Commission put forward a proposal for a regulation establishing rule of law conditionality, allowing EU institutions to withdraw or suspend EU funds for Member States with systemic deficiencies in that regard. At the time of writing, the proposal is still being considered by the co-legislators, although the introduction of rule of law conditionality was announced after the European Council special meeting of 17-21 July 2020 at which a political agreement was reached on the 2021-2027 MFF.

Taking these elements into account, this study aims to analyse the existing and proposed mechanisms for monitoring, prevention and enforcement of EU values within the Member States. The focus will be on their scope of application, the main procedural features and their effectiveness in addressing shortcomings in Member States as regards compliance with the common EU values enshrined in Article 2 TEU.

Read the complete ‘in-depth analysis’ on ‘Protecting EU common values within the Member States: An overview of monitoring, prevention and enforcement mechanisms at EU level‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/09/28/protecting-eu-common-values-within-the-member-states-an-overview-of-monitoring-prevention-and-enforcement-mechanisms-at-eu-level/

Coronavirus: The second wave? [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

© IlonaAutukaite / Adobe Stock

Since the end of the holiday season, the rate of Covid-19 infection has increased to levels now unseen since their peak in April 2020. Many cities, regions and now countries, have had to reinforce preventive measures. An increasing number of governments around the world already face a dilemma over whether or not to return to strict confinement, which would further cripple their economies. In this context, this year’s UN General Assembly, witnessed a bizarre digital stand-off between the Presidents of the United State and China, as they compete respectively for domestic and global approval of their handling of the pandemic.

This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports from international think tanks on coronavirus and related issues. Earlier publications on the coronavirus can be found in the previous item in this series, published by EPRS on 4 September 2020.

Europe and the Covid-19 crisis
Centre for European Policy Studies, September 2020

How Brussels sees the future of Europe after Covid-19
European Policy Centre, September 2020

How countries are holding elections during the Covid-19 pandemic
Council on Foreign Relations, September 2020

Protectionism is the wrong answer to Corona: Globalization increases prosperity
Bertelsmann Stiftung, September 2020

EU law in the time of Covid-19
European Policy Centre, September 2020

Employment and Covid-19
Bruegel, September 2020

Trade in pandemic time
Institut Jacques Delors, September 2020

A framework for evaluating approaches to symptom-screening in the workplace during the Covid-19 pandemic
Rand Corporation, September 2020

Covid-19: À bas la mondialisation, vive l’Europe ?
Institut français des relations internationales, September 2020

Géopolitique du Covid-19: Les analyses de l’Ifri
Institut français des relations internationales, September 2020

A New U.S. foreign policy for the post-pandemic landscape
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 2020

Algorithmic systems in the coronavirus pandemic
Bertelsmann Stiftung, September 2020

Russia after the Coronavirus crisis
German Marshall Fund, September 2020

After the pandemic: A view from the United States
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik

Just how do deaths due to Covid-19 stack up?
Council on Foreign Relations, September 2020

Ten facts about Covid-19 and the U.S. economy
Brookings Institution, September 2020

How the Netherlands can choose opt-outs from the EU coronavirus recovery fund
Cligendael, September 2020

Why the Covid-19 response needs international relations
Chatham House, September 2020

The pandemic as a test for the European asylum system
Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, September 2020

Migration in a post-pandemic world
Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, September 2020

Is development aid a victim of the EU budget deal?
Centre for European Reform, September 2020

Rebondir face au Covid-19: Neuf idées efficaces en faveur de l’emploi
Institut Montaigne, September 2020

Politics is wrecking America’s pandemic response
Brookings Institution, September 2020

The Covid-19 gender gap: How women’s experience and expertise will drive economic recovery
Chatham House, September 2020

Covid-19 exposes the fragility of Central Asia
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 2020

From survival to revival: How to help small businesses through the Covid-19 crisis
Brookings Institution, September 2020

New data shows small businesses in communities of color had unequal access to federal Covid-19 relief
Brookings Institution, September 2020

The consequence of Covid-19: How the United States moved from security provider to security consumer
Chatham House, September 2020

Is Covid-19 the end of US hegemony? Public bads, leadership failures and monetary hegemony
Chatham House, September 2020

Covid-19 et immigration: Le grand laisser-faire européen
Confrontations Europe, September 2020

Covid-19 in Palestine: A pandemic in the face of ‘settler colonial erasure’
Instituto Affari Internazionli, September 2020

Health partnerships: Views from East and West
Friends of Europe, September 2020

Connectivity in post-Covid-19 Eurasia
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, September 2020

How courageous schools partnering with local communities can overcome digital inequalities during Covid-19
Brookings Institution, September 2020

Orbán’s pandemic authoritarian grab
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, August 2020

Lutte contre le coronavirus: l’Uruguay, pays modèle en Amérique latine?
Fondation Jean Jaurès, September 2020

What is the world doing to create a Covid-19 vaccine?
Council on Foreign Relations, August 2020

La Covid-19 aura réussi à contaminer la Commission européenne
Egmont, August 2020

Consequences of Covid-19 in ASEAN states
Polish Institute of International Affairs, August 2020

Social media platforms need to flatten the curve of dangerous misinformation
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, August 2020

Read this briefing on ‘Coronavirus: The second wave?‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/09/25/coronavirus-the-second-wave-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

How the coronavirus pandemic shook up our relationship with food

Written by Tarja Laaninen,

© famveldman / Adobe Stock

First there was panic-buying. There were concerns over safety: could one be infected by food? Realisation of the efforts of supermarket staff, truck drivers and warehouse staff to keep food coming to customers. Spring amidst closed borders awakened us to how much we depend on foreign farm workers to pick fruit and vegetables. There were campaigns for furloughed employees to go and work on farms. Then came news about the conditions endured by some foreign workers in the food-processing industry. The rollercoaster of the coronavirus crisis has changed our relationship with food, but whether just temporarily or for good, remains to be seen.

Panic-buying and border closures

In March 2020, the world as we know it came to a halt. Lockdowns to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus drove many people to panic buying and stockpiling. The reintroduction of border controls resulted in blocked transport routes and long queues at border posts. Sights of empty supermarket shelves created even more anxiety – even if the reason was just that the personnel could not keep up with the pace of people emptying their shops. Panic buyers caused unprecedented strain on supermarket firms around the world. At times, shops had to limit the amount of a certain product any one shopper could buy at one time. Some supermarkets dedicated early shopping hours to senior citizens and healthcare workers, to give them a better chance to access food. Online delivery services were unable to cope with demand.

With restaurants and catering services closed and people teleworking, home cooking became a necessity –with the exception of an occasional take-away or home delivery. Shelves emptied of flour as people took to – or at least planned to take up – home baking. Sales of long-life products and frozen foods shot up. Some differences between EU countries became evident: while Italians went for packaged mandarins, dried legumes and rabbit meat, the French chose poultry sausage, pasta and rice, whereas people in the United Kingdom most increased their purchases of canned meats, vitamins and soup. As restaurants closed, markets shrunk for some commodities, such as seafood and fries, both often consumed in restaurants. Demand shifted away from higher value items towards staple and ready-to-eat foods that can be stored.

As the schools shut, children were left without school meals. Furloughed employees, people made redundant, the self-employed and people working with zero-hour contracts suddenly found themselves in food insecurity, and food banks struggled with increasing numbers of customers.

On the other hand, there was solidarity and creativity: when the bars and restaurants closed, some of their kitchens started cooking for healthcare workers or for homeless people; donating to food banks; coffees and meals were given free to healthcare workers. People started looking after their neighbours, volunteering to shop for the elderly and vulnerable living nearby. There were campaigns to recruit people made unemployed by the crisis to work on local farms to help bring food to peoples’ tables. Schemes opened where consumers could support local restaurants or breweries during the lockdown by buying meals or drinks in advance, with the promise of free food and beer when the doors reopened.

Food safety concerns dismissed

Safety concerns concerning transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes coronavirus disease (Covid‑19) by food were quickly determined to be minimal. Although the virus can remain on packaging for some hours or even days, depending on the type of material and environmental conditions, a virus needs a living host (human or animal) to multiply. The risk of infection from food products or packages is thought to be very low compared to person-to-person transmission, as the number of virus particles coming out of a person’s mouth or nose is far greater than a few virus particles remaining on foods or packaging. Even if an infected person coughs or sneezes on the surface of food or its packaging, outside a body viruses gradually become weaker and lose the ability to actively infect. Currently, there is no evidence that the virus that causes Covid-19 spreads to people through food. In any case, as always, it is recommended to wash or disinfect hands after shopping, handling of food packages, and before preparing or eating food.

The uncertainties surrounding the new virus did, however, cause some trade disruption, and still in June, for example, China halted imports of European salmon for a short while after reports that the virus was discovered on equipment used for handling fish at a Beijing market.

Awareness of working conditions of some workers in the food chain

Measures put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19 also disrupted the functioning of food supply chains. Grounding of airlines caused problems for the export of higher value perishable food products, including seafood, fruit and vegetables. Close working conditions in packing and processing facilities put the workforce at risk of contracting Covid-19. Social distancing requirements also reduced the numbers of import and export inspectors at borders. Platform workers, such as people working through food delivery apps, kept working through the crisis, delivering food and goods to the homes of those in quarantine or self-isolation. The crisis highlighted how these kinds of atypical workers lack basic social protection such as paid sick leave.

Other uneasy aspects of our current food system also became apparent, such as our dependence on seasonal farm workers to come from abroad to harvest much of our berries, fruit and vegetables. An estimated 800 000 to 1 million seasonal workers are hired in the EU each year, mainly in the agri-food sector. Not only that, there are countless undocumented migrants working 14 or 15-hour days on farms for as little as three or four euros an hour. Without contracts, they have no access to health care. In their camps, they rarely have reliable supplies of drinking water and live packed together.

In many countries, meat processing plants saw a high number of their employees becoming infected with coronavirus. This highlighted the working conditions in these establishments, with people working shoulder to shoulder without social distancing, and the cool and humid conditions favourable for the persistence of the virus. In addition, such work is often done by a low-paid migrant workforce brought in by subcontractors, and under pressure to continue working even when displaying symptoms.

What have we already learnt?

If anything, the very start of the crisis showed that people can still change overnight into unpredictable, panicked individuals. The daily availability of food in the supermarket was no longer the certainty it used to be. The pandemic provides an opportunity to learn more about vulnerabilities in the food system, in order to identify necessary investments and reforms that would further strengthen its resilience. In its new Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Commission announced in May 2020 that it will propose a ‘food contingency plan’ in 2021, with the aim of ensuring food supply and food security in the EU. At an informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Koblenz in September 2020, the ministers discussed lessons from the coronavirus pandemic to sustainably strengthen European supply chains, and to make the food and agricultural sectors even more resilient to crises. For example, the EU is highly dependent on imports from third countries of protein feed and certain active substances for veterinary medicinal products. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre has launched a survey to monitor the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the EU’s agricultural-food supply chain.

In light of the ongoing pandemic and in anticipation of future ones, researchers are stressing the importance of thinking about what is needed to ensure resilient food systems. Reliance on long and complex supply chains and ‘just-in-time’ delivery needs rethinking. Increasing resilience could, for example, require enriching the current food system with shorter supply chains creating a richer ecosystem of foods. Local provision of ‘critical’ products might include not only medical supplies and healthcare equipment, but also basic food – which could have important implications for the costs of food. Instead of seeing shocks as an abnormal thing, we are now moving to thinking that shocks will be a regular occurrence and we need food systems that will be able to deal with those shocks when they arrive. The European Commission has also announced in its ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy that it will make a proposal for a ‘legislative framework for sustainable food systems‘ in 2023.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘How the coronavirus pandemic shook up our relationship with food‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/09/25/how-the-coronavirus-pandemic-shook-up-our-relationship-with-food/

World Tourism Day

Written by Maria Niestadt,

Woman wearing a mask for prevent virus with baggage in international airport. Protection against Coronavirus and gripp

© Adobe Stock

To raise awareness of the importance of tourism, we mark World Tourism Day each year on 27 September. This year, however, World Tourism Day comes at a very particular time, with the tourism sector facing an unprecedented crisis due to the measures introduced to contain the spread of the coronavirus. In August 2020, the United Nations (UN) forecast a 58‑78 % reduction in international tourist arrivals in 2020. The crisis is affecting all countries, including several EU countries that are heavily dependent on tourism. Although travel has slowly restarted, travel demand and tourism confidence are at record lows and unemployment is rising across the sector. The same UN policy brief estimates that 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs worldwide are at risk, with women, young people and informal workers the most vulnerable. National travel restrictions in response to an uptick in Covid‑19 case numbers suggest that the sector will continue to face uncertainty for the remainder of the year, and into the next.

Although the EU has few powers in the tourism area, it has played an important coordinating role, by issuing guidelines and recommendations to help EU countries gradually lift travel restrictions and allow the safe resumption of travel. It has also taken steps to coordinate national travel rules and advice, which are often inconsistent. Travellers are confused by the constantly changing rules and advice, while at the same time struggling to apply their rights, in particular when their journeys are cancelled due to the pandemic.

The EU has also worked to provide tourism businesses with much-needed liquidity and support to retain their workforce, in addition to helping EU countries support their tourism businesses by relaxing EU fiscal and State aid rules. Furthermore, tourism is one of the sectors that can benefit from the €750 billion European recovery instrument (Next Generation EU) and various programmes in the EU’s long-term budget – although the absence of a dedicated budget line for tourism does not make it easy to quantify the amounts that will go to support the sector.

Parliament is following developments in the tourist sector with a keen interest. In a June 2020 resolution, it made suggestions for additional tourism support measures, including a dedicated budget line in the EU budget. Parliament has also called for a move to more sustainable forms of tourism that respect both the environment and our cultural heritage.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/09/25/world-tourism-day/

European Day of Languages: Digital survival of lesser-used languages

Written by Magdalena Pasikowska-Schnass,

Metal gears, cogs and characters inside of human head silhouette with speech bubble

© Andrey Kuzmin / Adobe Stock

Since 2001, Europe has marked European Day of Languages each year on 26 September, in order to focus attention on its rich linguistic diversity. The European Union boasts 24 official languages, and around 60 regional and minority languages are spoken across the Member States. Europe’s linguistic mosaic also includes a variety of sign languages spoken by half a million people, heritage languages such as ancient Greek and Latin, as well as Esperanto – a planned international language created in Europe.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), many world languages, including European ones, are endangered and could disappear due to the dominant role of languages such as English with a huge population of native speakers and other learners. Regional and minority languages (RMLs) together with smaller state languages – the ‘lesser-used languages’ – are under serious threat of extinction.

This threat is exacerbated by digital technology. The future of RMLs depends to some extent on their presence in new digital media. Young people communicate and seek information mainly via the internet. If online content is only available in dominant languages, lesser-used languages could become ‘digitally extinct’. However, digital technology is not necessarily a death sentence; it can also offer a rescue kit. Online education, online language learning and language technologies can help revitalise endangered languages. To achieve this objective, huge efforts are needed by speakers’ communities and language technology specialists to gather data, analyse and process it, in order to create language tools. With such tools, young people can create content in lesser-used languages and expand their use.

Read the complete briefing on ‘European Day of Languages: Digital survival of lesser-used languages‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/09/24/european-day-of-languages-digital-survival-of-lesser-used-languages/

Citizens’ enquiries on the situation in the Moria refugee camp in Greece and on the EU’s asylum and migration policy

Migrant and Refugee, word cloud concept on black background.

© Adobe Stock

Citizens often send messages to the President of the European Parliament (or to the institution’s public portal) expressing their views on current issues and/or requesting action from the Parliament. The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (AskEP) within the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) looks into these issues and replies to the messages, which may sometimes be identical as part of wider public campaigns.

The President of the European Parliament has recently received a large number of messages from citizens calling upon the EU to evacuate all refugees and asylum seekers from the hotspots on the Aegean islands to safe locations with humane living conditions. Citizens also appeal to the EU to put the rights of refugees and asylum seekers at the core of the EU’s migration strategy, based on a system of quotas and a fair distribution of asylum seekers between the EU countries.

Citizens first began to write to the President on this subject in September 2020 following the devastating fires in the Moria refugee camp. President Sassoli reacted immediately, pointing out in his statements the need for a humane and effective migration policy. On 17 September 2020, the European Parliament held a debate on the need for an immediate and humanitarian EU response to the current situation in the refugee camp in Moria.

Please find below the main points of the reply sent to citizens who took the time to write to the President of the European Parliament on this matter (in English, Italian, German, Spanish and French).

Main points made in the reply in English

Following the fires in Moria camp, President Sassoli stated on 9 and 10 September 2020 that ‘the images from Moria are devastating. We have to mobilise to support the women, men and children who need a roof over their heads immediately’. He added that ‘we need strong and lasting solutions for a humane, effective migration policy’.

The European Parliament held a plenary debate on the situation in Moria on 17 September 2020. You can watch the recording online.

The European Commission has financed the emergency evacuation of 400 unaccompanied minors from the camp, as well as temporary shelter for 1 600 people on a ferry in Lesbos. EU countries have provided further assistance through the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism.

Concerning the EU’s asylum and migration policy, please note that as long ago as 2016, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration, in which saving lives is pointed out as a first priority.

The European Parliament and the other EU institutions, as well as EU countries, are intensifying efforts to establish an effective, humanitarian and safe European migration policy. By deploying different programmes, over 528 000 people have been rescued in the Mediterranean since 2015, and the EU has provided support to both Greece and Turkey to help them manage migratory pressures.

Nonetheless, certain proposed reforms of EU migration policy, such as on a permanent EU relocation mechanism, or on amending the 2013 Dublin Regulation, have been withdrawn due to lack of agreement amongst the governments of EU countries.

More information on EU asylum and migration policy can be found in a briefing on solidarity in EU asylum policy by the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS), in an animated infographic on migration and asylum also by EPRS, and in European Parliament Fact Sheets.

Main points made in the reply in Italian

A seguito degli incendi nel campo di Moria, il 9 e il 10 settembre 2020 il Presidente Sassoli ha dichiarato che ‘le immagini che arrivano dal campo di Moria sono devastanti. Dobbiamo mobilitarci in sostegno di donne, uomini e bambini che necessitano di un tetto, immediatamente’. Ha inoltre aggiunto che ‘abbiamo bisogno di soluzioni forti e durature per una politica migratoria umana ed efficace’.

Il 17 settembre 2020 il Parlamento ha tenuto una discussione in Aula sulla situazione a Moria. La registrazione del dibattito è disponibile on line.

La Commissione europea ha finanziato l’evacuazione di emergenza di 400 minori non accompagnati dal campo, nonché alloggi temporanei su un traghetto a Lesbo per 1 600 persone. I paesi dell’UE hanno fornito ulteriore assistenza attraverso il meccanismo di protezione civile dell’UE.

Per ciò che riguarda la politica dell’UE in materia di asilo e migrazione, richiamiamo l’attenzione sul fatto che già nel 2016 il Parlamento europeo aveva approvato una risoluzione sulla situazione nel Mediterraneo e la necessità di un approccio globale dell’UE alla migrazione, in cui si sottolinea come salvare vite umane sia la priorità assoluta.

Il Parlamento europeo e le altre istituzioni dell’UE, così come i paesi dell’UE, stanno intensificando gli sforzi per istituire una politica migratoria europea efficace, umanitaria e sicura. Mediante l’attuazione di diversi programmi, dal 2015 sono state salvate nel Mediterraneo oltre 528 000 persone e l’UE ha fornito sostegno sia alla Grecia che alla Turchia per aiutarle a gestire le pressioni migratorie.

Tuttavia, alcune proposte di riforma della politica migratoria dell’UE, quali un meccanismo permanente di ricollocazione dell’UE o la modifica del regolamento Dublino del 2013, sono state ritirate a causa della mancanza di accordo tra i governi dei paesi dell’UE.

Maggiori informazioni sulla politica dell’UE in materia di asilo e migrazione sono disponibili in un briefing sul tema della solidarietà nel quadro della politica di asilo dell’UE a cura del Servizio Ricerca del Parlamento europeo (EPRS), in un ‘infografica animata sulla migrazione e l’asilo, anch’essa a cura dell’EPRS, e nelle note sintetiche del Parlamento europeo.

Main points made in the reply in German

Zu dem Brand im Lager Moria erklärte Parlamentspräsident Sassoli am 9. September 2020: „Die Bilder aus Moria sind niederschmetternd. Wir müssen handeln und den Frauen, Männern und Kindern helfen, die schleunigst ein Dach über dem Kopf brauchen.“ Am 10. September fügte er hinzu: „Wir brauchen solide und dauerhafte Lösungen für eine humane und wirksame Migrationspolitik.“

Zur Lage in Moria gab es am 17. September 2020 auch eine Debatte im Rahmen der Plenartagung des Europäischen Parlaments. Die Aufzeichnung dieser Debatte ist online abrufbar.

Die Europäische Kommission hat eine Noträumung finanziert, um 400 unbegleitete Minderjährige aus dem Lager zu bringen, und dafür gesorgt, dass 1 600 Menschen vorübergehend auf einer Fähre unterkommen, die im Hafen von Lesbos vor Anker liegt. Auch die EU-Mitgliedstaaten haben im Rahmen des Katastrophenschutzverfahrens der Union Hilfe geleistet.

Mit Blick auf die Asyl- und Migrationspolitik der EU hat das Europäische Parlament bereits 2016 eine Entschließung zur Lage im Mittelmeerraum und zur Notwendigkeit eines ganzheitlichen Migrationskonzepts der EU angenommen. Darin betont es, dass die Rettung von Menschenleben absoluten Vorrang haben muss.

Das Europäische Parlament, die sonstigen Organe und Einrichtungen der EU und die Mitgliedstaaten bemühen sich verstärkt um eine wirksame, humanitäre und sichere europäische Migrationspolitik. Mithilfe verschiedener Programme konnten seit 2015 über 528 000 Menschen aus dem Mittelmeer gerettet werden. Außerdem unterstützt die EU sowohl Griechenland als auch die Türkei bei der Bewältigung des Migrationsdrucks.

Einige Vorschläge zur Reform der Migrationspolitik der EU – etwa eine dauerhafte Umsiedlungsregelung der EU oder eine Änderung der Dublin-Verordnung von 2013 – wurden jedoch zurückgezogen, weil die Regierungen der EU-Mitgliedstaaten auf keinen gemeinsamen Nenner kamen.

Weitere Informationen über die Asyl- und Migrationspolitik der EU finden Sie im Briefing zur Solidarität in der EU-Asylpolitik des Wissenschaftlichen Dienstes des Europäischen Parlaments (EPRS), in der animierten Infografik zu Migration und Asyl des EPRS und in den Kurzdarstellungen des Europäischen Parlaments.

Main points made in the reply in Spanish

Tras los incendios del campo de Moria, el presidente Sassoli declaró los días 9 y 10 de septiembre de 2020 que «las imágenes de Moria son desoladoras. Tenemos que movilizarnos para prestar ayuda a las mujeres, los hombres y los niños que necesitan inmediatamente un techo bajo el que refugiarse». Añadió que «necesitamos soluciones firmes y duraderas para una política migratoria humanitaria y eficaz».

El Parlamento Europeo mantuvo un debate en el Pleno sobre la situación en Moria el 17 de septiembre de 2020. Puede usted consultar la grabación en línea.

La Comisión Europea ha financiado la evacuación de emergencia del campo de 400 menores no acompañados, así como un refugio temporal para 1 600 personas en un transbordador en Lesbos. Los países de la UE han proporcionado más ayuda a través del Mecanismo de Protección Civil de la UE.

En cuanto a la política de la Unión en materia de asilo y migración, cabe señalar que, ya en 2016, el Parlamento Europeo aprobó una Resolución sobre la situación en el mar Mediterráneo y la necesidad de un enfoque integral de la Unión sobre la migración, en la que se señala como primera prioridad el salvamento de vidas.

El Parlamento Europeo y las demás instituciones de la Unión, al igual que los Estados miembros, están intensificando sus esfuerzos para establecer una política europea de migración eficaz, humanitaria y segura. Con el despliegue de diferentes programas, más de 528 000 personas han sido rescatadas en el Mediterráneo desde 2015, y la UE ha prestado apoyo a Grecia y también a Turquía para ayudarles a gestionar las presiones migratorias.

Sin embargo, determinadas propuestas de reforma de la política de migración de la Unión, como la relativa a un mecanismo permanente de reubicación de la Unión o la modificación del Reglamento de Dublín de 2013 han sido retiradas debido a la falta de acuerdo entre los Gobiernos de los Estados miembros de la Unión.

Puede encontrarse más información sobre la política de asilo y migración de la UE en un briefing sobre la solidaridad en la política de asilo de la Unión, del Servicio de Estudios del Parlamento Europeo (EPRS), en una infografía animada sobre migración y asilo, también del EPRS y en las fichas temáticas del Parlamento Europeo.

Main points made in the reply in French

À la suite des feux survenus au camp de Moria, le président Sassoli a déclaré les 9 et 10 septembre 2020 que «les images du camp de Moria [étaient] bouleversantes» et que «nous [devions] immédiatement nous mobiliser et venir en aide aux femmes, hommes et enfants qui ont besoin d’un toit au-dessus de leur tête». Il a ajouté que «nous [avions] besoin de solutions solides et durables pour une politique migratoire humaine et efficace».

Le Parlement européen a tenu un débat en plénière sur la situation à Moria le 17 septembre 2020. L’enregistrement est disponible en ligne.

La Commission européenne a financé l’évacuation d’urgence de 400 mineurs non accompagnés du camp, ainsi que l’hébergement temporaire de 1 600 personnes sur un ferry à Lesbos. Les États membres ont fourni une aide supplémentaire par l’intermédiaire du mécanisme de protection civile de l’Union.

En ce qui concerne la politique de l’Union en matière d’asile et de migration, veuillez noter que le Parlement européen a adopté, dès 2016, une résolution sur la situation en Méditerranée et sur la nécessité d’une approche globale des migrations de la part de l’Union européenne, dans laquelle il est souligné que le sauvetage des vies doit être une priorité absolue.

Le Parlement européen, les autres institutions européennes, ainsi que les États membres redoublent d’efforts pour élaborer une politique migratoire européenne efficace, humaine et sûre. Plus de 528 000 personnes ont été secourues en Méditerranée depuis 2015 grâce à différents programmes. L’Union a également apporté son soutien à la Grèce et à la Turquie dans la gestion des pressions migratoires.

Néanmoins, certaines propositions de réforme de la politique migratoire de l’Union, telles qu’un mécanisme permanent de répartition au niveau de l’Union européenne, ou la modification du règlement de Dublin de 2013, ont été retirées en raison de l’absence d’accord entre les gouvernements des États membres.

De plus amples informations sur la politique européenne en matière d’asile et de migration sont disponibles dans une note d’information sur la solidarité dans la politique d’asile de l’Union et dans une infographie animée sur la migration et l’asile du service de recherche du Parlement européen, ainsi que dans les fiches thématiques du Parlement européen.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/09/24/citizens-enquiries-on-the-situation-in-the-moria-refugee-camp-in-greece-and-on-the-eus-asylum-and-migration-policy/

Outlook for the special European Council meeting of 24-25 September 2020

Written by Ralf Drachenberg and Suzana Anghel,

© Adobe Stock

At the special European Council on 24-25 September 2020, EU Heads of State or Government are expected to dedicate much of their time to external relations issues, notably to a strategic discussion on Turkey and a debate on relations with China. Continuing illegal Turkish drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean have made the former more urgent, while the latter is long overdue. The European Council is also likely to adopt extensive conclusions regarding the single market, industrial and digital policy, reiterating the key objective of achieving strategic autonomy, whilst maintaining an open economy. EU leaders are expected to call for development of EU autonomy in the space sector, a more integrated defence industrial base, and for the presentation of a ‘digital compass’ setting out the EU’s digital ambitions for 2030 in its move towards digital sovereignty. The European Council is also likely to seek development of new industrial alliances and the removal of remaining unjustified barriers, particularly in services. EU leaders will also take stock of the coronavirus situation and review the coordination of national and European measures.

1. Background to the special European Council meeting

The possibility that the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, would call a special meeting on 24-25 September 2020 was mooted in the press in early August. The objective was to discuss topics that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, EU leaders had been unable to discuss during the past six months, including digital policies, the single market, and relations with Turkey and China. The intention to discuss the situation in the eastern Mediterranean was formally confirmed by Charles Michel in his invitation letter to the European Council video-conference meeting of 19 August 2020 and confirmed by Heads of State or Government during that meeting. Other urgent issues requiring the European Council’s attention have occurred in the meantime and are also expected to be raised, notably the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Issues such as climate policy – originally scheduled for discussion but not addressed in recent months – are expected to feature on the agenda of the October European Council meeting.

2. Special European Council agenda items

Single market, industrial policy and digital transition

EU leaders will discuss the single market, industrial policy and digital topics, from the viewpoint of Europe’s strategic autonomy – a concept aimed at reducing European dependence on external actors, which President Michel calls ‘goal number one for our generation’.

Single market and industrial policy

One of the most urgent issues for the Heads of State or Government is to restore a fully functional single market, as it has been heavily impacted as a result of the border closures and lockdowns linked to coronavirus. President Michel stressed that it was essential to repair this ‘beating heart’ of the EU and to ensure that it can function properly. EU leaders will notably address the enforcement of single market rules and the removal of remaining unjustified barriers. ‘Getting back to normal’ may take some time however, and is unlikely until a safe and efficient vaccine against the coronavirus is found, which many experts predict might not happen before mid-2021.

The EU leaders are also expected to address EU industrial policy, which gained new impetus in spring 2020, with the Commission communication on ‘A New Industrial Strategy for Europe’. Taking the impact of the current crisis into account, the strategy aims at making Europe more resilient and autonomous. In this context, EU leaders may notably discuss efforts to step up ‘important projects of common European interest’ (IPCEI), to ensure a level playing field and develop new industrial alliances.

Furthermore, EU leaders may also reiterate their call for an updated competition policy framework taking the twin – green and digital – transitions into account, including possible rules governing digital platforms. They may also restate their commitment to World Trade Organization (WTO) reform, and call for progress on initiatives such as instruments to address the distortive impact of foreign subsidies in the single market.

Digital policy

The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the importance of digital sovereignty and digital transition in Europe, since an unprecedented digital leap with lasting effects took place during the pandemic. Thus, EU leaders are likely to discuss ways of achieving digital sovereignty and to endorse the June 2020 Council conclusions on the matter. They will put particular emphasis on issues such as artificial intelligence (AI), data, cloud services and 5G, which are crucial to shaping Europe’s digital future. Leaders may also request concrete steps are taken with the aim of ensuring the interoperability, security and privacy of European data, the implementation of the 5G cybersecurity toolbox, further development of the EU cloud infrastructure, and at providing a clear definition for high-risk AI. Furthermore, developing a joint secure public electronic identification (e-ID) for the EU, which was mentioned in the February communication on ‘Shaping Europe’s Digital Future‘, may also feature on the agenda.

External relations

EU-China relations

EU leaders will take stock of the multifaceted relationship with China, a country that is simultaneously a ‘cooperation partner’ (on climate change), ‘a negotiating partner’ (on trade), ‘a strategic competitor’ (on the economy) and a ‘systemic rival’ (with different values and political systems).

The EU-China Summit held on 22 June 2020, and the quadrilateral meeting on 14 September – attended by Charles Michel, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, as President-in-office of the Council of the EU, and by the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping – provided occasions to discuss a wide range of issues of common interest, including climate change and trade. They also provided the opportunity to raise diverging views on certain topics. This is notably the case on human rights abuses and on the tense situation in Hong Kong following the adoption of a national security law, which ‘erodes freedoms‘ and contradicts Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

There has been slight progress between the two meetings, with the signing of the EU-China geographical indications agreement. President von der Leyen referred to a ‘frank and open, and constructive and intense quadrilogue’, ‘with tangible actions discussed’. As regards a possible comprehensive agreement on investment, President von der Leyen confirmed progress and agreement on three issues: ‘disciplines regarding the behaviour of state-owned enterprises’; ‘forced technology transfer’; and ‘transparency of subsidies’. The EU remains committed to signing a comprehensive agreement on investment with China by the end of 2020, should agreement be reached on two pending issues: ‘market access’ and ‘sustainable development’.

Besides trade, the other major topic of the quadrilateral meeting was cooperation on climate change. President Michel stressed that the EU encourages China ‘to be even more ambitious’ with respect to greenhouse gas emissions reduction and possibly to set similarly ambitious targets to those the EU has set for itself, namely to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Chancellor Merkel noted that ‘a high-level dialogue is to be put in place between China and the European Union that is systematic rather than ad hoc’. This would allow close coordination on climate change issues and acceleration of the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, President von der Leyen confirmed that a physical meeting, similar to that initially planned to take place in Leipzig and postponed due to the pandemic, will be organised between the EU leaders and President Xi once the pandemic situation allows.

EU-Turkey relations

Since March 2018, the European Council has closely monitored and strongly condemned Turkey’s illegal drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean, whilst expressing solidarity with both Cyprus and Greece. During the summer of 2020, tensions increased and a dangerous escalation in military activity occurred. Both President Michel and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, have called for de-escalation of the situation. Meanwhile, Turkey withdrew its seismic research vessel, Oruç Reis. This led High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell to speak of a ‘step in the right direction’ and to call for further dialogue.

Against this backdrop, the European Council will hold a debate on EU relations with Turkey. It is likely – unless further de-escalation takes place – that the debate will ultimately focus on crisis management aspects, rather than on the long-term EU strategic approach to Turkey.

Turkey is an EU candidate country with which accession negotiations have been ‘frozen’ since 2018. It remains a partner for the EU in a series of areas, including migration. For 21 EU Member States, Turkey is also an ally in NATO. However, in recent years, the country has shown increasingly assertive behaviour and a willingness to assert its power regionally. Drilling activity in the eastern Mediterranean is not the only contentious issue. Turkey’s unilateral military intervention in northern Syria in autumn 2019, and its violation of the United Nations (UN) arms embargo on Libya, have also contributed to the rapid deterioration of relations, bringing High Representative Borrell to qualify the current state of play as a ‘watershed moment’ in the history of bilateral relations. Furthermore, there is growing concern regarding the deterioration of the human rights situation in Turkey, on rule of law violations, as well as on the unilateral decision to modify the status of Hagia Sofia.

Two long-standing issues could, if addressed in parallel, contribute in time to a normalisation of the EU’s relations with Turkey. Firstly, there is a need to solve the existing maritime border disputes, the source of past and current escalation in the eastern Mediterranean. This would require that parties bring the matter to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, whilst accepting ab initio that the Court in its decision might not meet in full their initial claims. Secondly, there is a need to resolve the Cyprus issue. High Representative Borrell has expressed hope that talks could resume under UN auspices, and dialogue with Turkey be re-established.

The European Parliament has closely monitored the evolution of the situation in the eastern Mediterranean. Its Committee on Foreign Affairs has called for de-escalation, expressed support for Greece and Cyprus, condemned Turkey’s illegal drilling activities and supported the view that targeted sanctions should be established, if, by the time EU leaders meet, the situation in the eastern Mediterranean has not improved. Earlier in summer 2020, High Representative Borrell confirmed that the European Council could discuss ‘a list of further restrictive measures’ in case there is no progress in engaging in dialogue with Turkey. Cyprus is threatening to block additional sanctions against Belarus should no new sanctions be adopted on Turkey.

Other external relations issues

EU leaders could once again consider the situation in Belarus, where the Belarusian people calling for freedom are facing repression. The European Council could endorse new sanctions on Belarus should the Council adopt them prior to the European Council meeting. However, EU leaders might be called to consider sanctions on Belarus and Turkey together, should no agreement be reached in the Council prior to their meeting.

The poisoning of Alexei Navalny with a Russian nerve agent, Novichok, represents not only an attempt to silence an opponent but also a breach of international law, which forbids the use of chemical weapons. Following this assassination attempt, Germany has asked that sanctions be adopted against Russia. High Representative Borrell stressed that Russia’s action would have an impact on EU-Russia relations, and EU leaders are expected to discuss the matter.

Other items

Taking stock of the coronavirus pandemic

The agenda also states that the Heads of State or Government will take stock of the coronavirus pandemic. They are expected to discuss the coordination of national measures to deal with the virus and restrictions on intra-EU movement. On 4 September 2020, the Commission proposed a Council recommendation covering common criteria and thresholds in deciding whether to introduce restrictions to free movement; the mapping of common criteria using an agreed colour code; a common approach to the measures applied to persons moving to and from areas which are identified as higher risk; and commitments to provide the public with clear and timely information.

On 15 September, Parliament debated EU coordination of health assessments and risk classification as well as the consequences for Schengen and the single market in the context of coronavirus. Prior to the debate, 75 Members of the European Parliament published an open letter, in which they criticised ‘the chaos at the internal borders of the European Union,’ as well as the ‘unilateral decisions to control or restrict borders’. They also called for a ‘common [European] methodology for health data collection and the qualification of risk mapping with common colour codes’. In preparation for the special European Council meeting, European Affairs Ministers are expected to discuss again the coordination of national measures to deal with coronavirus on 22 September.


EU leaders have failed to find agreement on reform of the European asylum system for years, notably on the distribution of migrants beyond the Member State of arrival. While not originally planned for discussion at this special European Council meeting, pressure has been building on EU leaders to return to the migration issue following the fire that destroyed the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. In this context, President von der Leyen announced that the European Commission would present a new migration pact on 23 September, aimed at overhauling the EU asylum system. On 15 September, President Michel visited the Moria camp, and called for ‘progress to have more convergence in the framework of [the EU’s] asylum policy’, while acknowledging that the debate in the Member States will be difficult.

Read this briefing on ‘Outlook for the special European Council meeting of 24-25 September 2020‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/09/21/outlook-for-the-special-european-council-meeting-of-24-25-september-2020/

Plenary round-up – Brussels, September 2020

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson,

EP Plenary session - State of the Union

© European Union 2020 – Source : EP / Laurie DIEFFEMBACQ

The September 2020 plenary session was the sixth conducted with Members participating remotely, using the alternative voting procedure put in place in March by Parliament’s Bureau, although a majority were again present in Brussels. As well as the Commission President’s traditional State of the Union address, Parliament held a joint debate on the risk of breach of the rule of law and LGBTI-free zones in Poland. Parliament also debated European Commission statements on the preparation of the special European Council focusing on Turkey’s actions in the eastern Mediterranean, on the consequences for the single market of EU coordination of sanitary measures in the ongoing pandemic, on combatting sexual abuse and exploitation of children, and on the need for a humanitarian EU response to the situation in the Moria refugee camp. Parliament also debated statements from the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell, on the situation in Belarus, in Lebanon and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. Parliament also voted on legislative proposals and resolutions, including on arms exports, the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU Association Agreement with Georgia, protecting world forests, EU-African security cooperation in the Sahel, type approval of motor vehicles and the importance of urban and green infrastructure.

State of the Union

The highlight of this session was Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union address – an important moment to take stock of the year’s achievements and present the priorities for the coming 12 months. While the coronavirus pandemic has put paid to the Commission’s ambition to move away from crisis-management mode, the political priorities outlined in the original six priorities for its mandate have been recalibrated to deliver on promises to tackle climate change, racism, health threats and migration, while also adjusting to the crisis scenario.

Opinion on the EU own resources system

Under the consultation procedure, Parliament adopted its legislative opinion on the EU own resources system proposal, allowing the Council to move ahead with its adoption on the basis of the July 2020 European Council conclusions and for the ratification process to begin in all 27 EU countries, so that the Recovery Plan can be implemented as soon as possible. Parliament’s Committee on Budgets (BUDG) has fast-tracked the procedure, treating it separately from the MFF proposals. It upheld its position that new own resource streams must be introduced (from carbon, emissions, plastics, and digital and financial services taxation) to finance at least the entire repayment costs of the recovery instrument, and also insists that they are introduced according to a legally binding calendar. The new own resources decision will empower the Commission to borrow on the markets, and also introduce a first new source of revenue for the EU budget from 1 January 2021: a uniform call rate by weight for non-recycled plastic packaging waste.

Amending Budget No 8/2020: Covering the financing needs of the Emergency Support Instrument and Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus

Members approved Draft Amending Budget No 8/2020, which sets out €6.2 billion in funding to tackle the coronavirus crisis and speed up Covid‑19 vaccine deployment under the Emergency Support Instrument and the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus.

Establishing the Just Transition Fund

Members approved, by a narrow majority, Parliament’s position for trilogue negotiations on the proposed establishment of an extension of €17.5 billion to the Just Transition Fund to help regions that rely on fossil fuel and high-emission industries to invest in clean energy technologies, emissions reduction, site regeneration and reskilling of workers. This decision is subject to conditions. Gas investments will have to be ‘sustainable’ under European taxonomy rules (with some derogations); must be used as a transition technology to replace coal, lignite, peat or bituminous shale; and must significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions without hindering the development of renewable energies in the territories concerned.

Reducing maritime transport CO2 emissions

Members adopted, by a large majority, an Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) report which sets out Parliament’s position for negotiations with the Council on the legislative proposal to reduce maritime transport CO2 emissions, aimed at reforming data gathering for monitoring purposes. The committee report proposes requiring shipping companies to reduce their annual average CO2 emissions by at least 40 % by 2030, with penalties for non-compliance.

Supporting a sustainable rail market in view of the coronavirus pandemic

Members approved proposals to support a sustainable rail market in view of the coronavirus pandemic allowing – temporarily and at least to the end of the year – measures to assist the rail sector face the effects of Covid‑19, including lower, waived or deferred track access charges. It also allows Member States to support rail infrastructure managers to cover any financial losses brought about by the new relief measures until the industry can get back to normal operations.

Opening of trilogue negotiations

Members confirmed two mandates for negotiations: from the Regional Development (REGI) Committee on exceptional additional resources and implementing arrangements under the 2014‑2020 European Regional Development Fund ‘Investment for growth and jobs goal’, to help foster crisis repair in the context of the Covid‑19 pandemic, and preparing a green, digital and resilient economic recovery (REACT‑EU); and from the Fisheries (PECH) Committee on the proposal for a regulation establishing a multiannual management plan for bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

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

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/09/18/plenary-round-up-brussels-september-2020/