Месечни архиви: януари 2021

Covid-19 vaccination campaigns: The public dimension

Written by Nicole Scholz,

© jessicagirvan / Adobe Stock

The arrival of the Covid-19 vaccines marks a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. For European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, vaccination is about self‑protection and solidarity. For many people, it is also about trust. Some are hesitant to get vaccinated, while others are against vaccination on principle. According to estimates, coverage of at least 60 % to 75 % is needed to establish population immunity through vaccination.

Polls show that sizeable numbers of people in the EU are hesitant − or even opposed − to vaccination in general. As regards Covid-19 vaccination, surveys suggest that Europeans are among the most sceptical in the world. According to the World Health Organization, vaccine hesitancy is complex and context-specific, varying across time, place and vaccine. Science has identified several behavioural factors underpinning vaccine uptake. Vaccine scepticism can also be linked to trust in government and is associated with certain political mindsets.

Many commentators agree that Covid-19 vaccine communication is a collective endeavour that should ideally involve institutional actors, healthcare professionals, scientists, journalists and people with standing in communities. There is a need to engage with the wider public, in particular with groups that have a low level of trust in scientists and are less favourable to vaccines. It is considered key to move towards an open dialogue that respects people’s emotions, and to understand the individual values behind doubters’ fears. Reaching diverse populations is deemed instrumental, as is involving political and community leaders in communication strategies.

The December 2020 European Council conclusions stressed the importance of providing clear factual information on Covid-19 vaccines and countering disinformation. The European Commission is set to roll out a two-phase vaccine communication campaign complementing the Member States’ efforts. The European Parliament has insisted on the need to counter the spread of unreliable, misleading and unscientific information on vaccination, and Members have repeatedly called for more transparency on the EU advance purchase agreements with vaccine developers.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Covid-19 vaccination campaigns: The public dimension‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Figure 1 Tips for professional reporting on Covid-19 (World Health Organization)

Figure 1 Tips for professional reporting on Covid-19 (World Health Organization)

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/01/29/covid-19-vaccination-campaigns-the-public-dimension/

Economic and Budgetary Outlook for the European Union 2021

Written by Alessandro D’Alfonso, Angelos Delivorias, Nora Milotay and Magdalena Sapała,

© European Union, 2021

Growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in Europe collapsed in 2020 as a result of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, in contrast with previous recessions, the uncertainty caused by the pandemic also caused a shift in consumption and investment patterns. In great part thanks to the discovery of effective vaccines against the virus, GDP growth is expected to rebound in the coming two years. This forecast depends on several variables, however, including the length and size of the support programmes put in place by governments and central banks, geopolitical tensions, and the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

When it comes to employment, the positive trends observed in previous years were reversed in 2020 as a result of the economic crisis. The picture would have been bleaker had it not been for various support schemes and policy measures at national level, supported by a number of measures at EU level, and the EU’s new SURE instrument for temporary support to unemployment schemes. Nevertheless, interpretation of the numbers must be nuanced, given that many unemployed people were pushed out of the labour force in 2020, hiding the full effect of the economic crisis. Moreover, future unemployment figures will depend on the timing and pace of the withdrawal of policy support schemes and on whether the economic recovery has materialised by then. Taking these factors into consideration, unemployment is expected to increase in 2021, and then decrease slightly in 2022.

General government deficits are expected to have increased significantly, as a result of the various fiscal measures put in place to counter the economic crisis. Deficits are expected to decrease from those highs in the next two years, but still remain over the 3 % limit set by the Maastricht Treaty. Similarly, the debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to increase significantly in 2020, both for the euro area and for the EU as a whole, and to continue increasing slightly in 2021 and 2022.

Lastly, in 2020, inflation for the euro area was slightly above zero and, despite picking up in the next two years, is still expected to remain below the target of 2 % set by the European Central Bank. In this context, but also to support the Member States, the ECB maintained its asset purchase programme (APP), launched a new one for the duration of the pandemic, and extended its accommodative measures.

The coronavirus pandemic influenced the negotiations on the medium-term architecture of EU finances, which resulted in the adoption of an unprecedented budgetary package in December 2020. This combines the €1 074.3 billion multiannual financial framework (MFF) for the years 2021 to 2027 with the €750 billion Next Generation EU (NGEU) instrument. The agreement brought new momentum to the EU budget, assigning it a major role in the Union’s strategy to relaunch the economy. The launch of NGEU, a temporary recovery instrument (2021-2023), to be financed through resources borrowed on the markets by the European Commission on behalf of the Union, is a major innovation.

The 2021 budget is of a transitional nature. As the first under the new MFF, it shows the amounts needed to launch the new generation of EU actions and programmes, but also provides the payment appropriations needed for the closure of the programmes relating to the 2014-2020 MFF. Furthermore, NGEU will significantly increase the resources channelled through the 2021 EU budget, adding an estimated €285.15 billion in commitments and €75.93 billion in payments to selected programmes. As a result, in 2021, total commitments will almost triple the usual annual expenditure of the EU budget. While investment in recovery and resilience measures is the overarching priority of EU spending in 2021, the EU budget will continue contributing to the achievement of other objectives, in such areas as the green and digital transition, cohesion and agriculture, security and defence, migration and border management, and the EU’s role in the world.

Social and employment policies are strongly interlinked with other major policy fields, most importantly the economy, the public health system and education. Social considerations are also part and parcel of all policy fields – also set out in Article 9 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – and are woven into the fabric of society, directly affecting people’s everyday lives. The coronavirus outbreak and lockdown measures have caused major disruption, and exacerbated existing social risks and challenges, such as: an ageing population; rising inequalities between socio-economic groups, generations, genders and regions; new forms of work; and greater polarisation of wages between higher and lower paid workers. This situation is threatening to increase the divergence between Member States, and regions, making achievement of one of the main EU objectives, (upward) social and economic convergence, more difficult. Moreover, it again raises issues around the sustainability of public finances. Therefore, there is an even greater need than before to update the EU’s welfare states and labour markets, which implies structural changes in many instances.

Given the complexity of the issues that social and employment policies have to tackle, the EU has a broad range of tools available to design and support the implementation of policies in the Member States. These range from setting minimum standards and targets, and providing policy guidance and funding, to the EU’s economic governance mechanism. Beyond the immediate response to the crisis, the EU intends to contribute to nurturing more systemic resilience across the board, to enable Member States to bounce back, or even forward, from shocks in a sustainable way, to preserve the well-being of all of the EU’s population.

Close to three quarters of the funding programmes within the multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2021-2027 and most of the investments through the new instrument, NGEU, can be used to support the implementation of policies that could contribute to the update of welfare states and labour markets. However, due to the relatively small size of the MFF compared to national budgets, its main function is to incentivise transformation and innovation on the ground that – in the longer term – can lead to systemic change. For that reason, the way the MFF, combined with other EU policy tools, shapes both the quantity and quality of spending (i.e. governance mechanisms and institutions on the ground) matters equally. This time, NGEU is designed to give an additional boost to the resources channelled through EU budgetary instruments and strengthen their pull for investment into relevant fields. Both new and old instruments seek to open avenues for increased solidarity among Member States based on common borrowing, and to promote a social investment approach to financing. In addition, through its other policy tools, including setting objectives and targets, the EU can help Member States to develop the necessary structures and institutions that in turn can help them absorb the increased funds more efficiently.

Read the complete study on ‘Economic and Budgetary Outlook for the European Union 2021‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/01/29/economic-and-budgetary-outlook-for-the-european-union-2021/

Holocaust education: ‘Never, never be a bystander

Written by Magdalena Pasikowska-Schnass,

© paveu / Adobe Stock

This year, 27 January, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marks the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. One focus of this annual day of commemoration is the responsibility borne by those who remain indifferent in the face of intolerance and discrimination. This places the Holocaust in the context of human rights, broadening Holocaust education to issues of tolerance, respect for human dignity, and democracy.

Holocaust education, which traditionally centres on the human and historical dimension, is also a vehicle for reflection on ethical and legal issues, and promotes critical thinking and open-mindedness. In contrast with ethical aspects and critical thinking, the legal dimension adds a new perspective to school education that can put additional pressure on the teachers responsible for Holocaust education, extending beyond their usual subject areas. Moreover, many European countries host immigrant populations whose collective history does not include this particular experience. Pupils and students meanwhile use social media, a potential source of conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, antisemitism and xenophobia. In this context, teachers need to be ready to deal with this subject in a difficult social environment. They also need adequate resources and tools to address inconvenient truths of the period.

International institutions, and the European Union and its bodies, encourage dialogue and research on these issues, recognising the importance of Holocaust education and its human rights aspects for democracy and tolerant societies. The European Union provides funds, expert bodies and agencies to address the history, education, pedagogy and rights aspects of Holocaust education in all its dimensions of discrimination, persecution and extermination of Jewish, Roma and Sinti populations, as well as other minorities.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Holocaust education: ‘Never, never be a bystander‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/01/27/holocaust-education-never-never-be-a-bystander/

Outcome of the European Council video conference of 21 January 2021

Written by Izabela Bacian and Suzana Anghel,

© Adobe Stock

Discussions at the 21 January video-conference meeting of EU leaders largely focused on a coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the evolving public health situation with the spread of new virus variants coming from the UK and South Africa, vaccination strategies and international solidarity. While agreeing to further restrictive measures to limit non-essential travel, keeping borders open to ensure the functioning of the EU’s single market was emphasised as essential. At the meeting, EU leaders also raised the issue of the detention of Alexei Navalny, condemning it and calling on the Russian authorities to release him.

Video-conference of the members of the European Council

For the ninth time since the outbreak of the pandemic, the European Council’s members met by video-conference to coordinate the coronavirus-crisis response. Unlike previous video-meetings of the Heads of State or Government, the conclusions presented by President of the European Council, Charles Michel, were labelled as ‘oral conclusions,’ and not as conclusions by the President of the European Council.

Response to coronavirus pandemic

In light of the new variants of the virus already present in a majority of Member States, EU leaders’ discussions largely focused on vaccination, testing and possible restrictions to non-essential travel. Regarding vaccination, President Charles Michel recalled that two vaccines had been approved, with more expected to follow. The EU has secured up to 2.3 billion doses of vaccines to date. Charles Michel stressed that vaccination needed to be accelerated, and therefore urged the delivery of the vaccines in the timeframe agreed with the pharmaceutical companies. He stressed that all means should be used to avoid delays in distribution, including early supply of doses. Following a Commission communication issued ahead of the video-conference meeting, EU leaders agreed that Member States should aim at vaccinating at least 80 % of people over 80 years old and 80 % of health and social service professionals by March 2021, and at least 70 % of the adult population by summer 2021. President Michel underlined that the EU needed to act on two fronts at the same time: accelerating vaccination capacity but also limiting the spread of the new variants, notably by restricting non-essential travel.

The issue of ‘vaccination certification’, with certificates showing the vaccination status of an individual, was an important element in the discussions. No concrete decisions were taken at this stage. Leaders agreed that the Commission should work with the Member States on common elements for such a certificate, which would solely have a medical purpose. At a later stage, it should be determined, if, and under what conditions, such certification could be used for other purposes. A number of Member States have recently called for the development of such a vaccination ‘passport’ or ‘certificate’. The European Commission agreed in principle that a vaccination certification could be useful from a medical point of view, as it would allow for better surveillance of vaccination uptake as well as of any reported secondary effects across the population. While a global standard exists, the yellow World Health Organization international certification, the use of any future certificate must be carefully considered given the many unanswered questions surrounding immunity levels. It is still unknown whether vaccination inhibits transmission of the virus and for how long it provides effective protection. Moreover, any vaccine certification would need to ensure the respect of the rights of those without access to the vaccine, as well as of those who may have legitimate reasons not to be vaccinated. Moreover, data privacy experts have already warned against the risk of improper storage and sharing of data. Consensus will thus be needed among the Member States on the future uses of vaccination certification.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen emphasised that more predictability and stability was necessary in the delivery process of the vaccines; she said the Commission would work together with the companies and the European Medicines Agency to this effect. Moreover, testing and specifically sequencing of the new variants needed to be increased. Given the low rate of sequencing across the Member States (<1%), the European Centre for Disease Control would be able to support the Member States in enhancing their sequencing capacity to reach at least 5 % of all positive tests.

While maintaining borders open remains crucial for the functioning of the single market, including for cross-border workers, the spread of the new variants requires Member States to refine their testing and quarantine criteria for both EU and non-EU travellers. Within the EU, the areas with a high circulation of the virus would in future be classified as ‘dark red’, and travellers from these areas would be required to undertake a test prior to departure. Travellers from third countries, on essential travel to Europe, would have to comply with the same requirement. The Council was therefore invited to review its previous recommendations on intra-EU travel and non-essential travel into the EU, in light of the risks posed by the new virus variants.

International cooperation on vaccines: Delivering on ‘a public global good’

International solidarity on vaccine distribution has been a key element of the EU’s crisis response from the early moments of the coronavirus outbreak. The European Council has on several occasions (most recently at its November 2020 and December 2020 meetings) stated that vaccines should be treated as ‘a public global good’, to which countries around the world should have timely and equitable access. To deliver on this commitment the European Commission has played, along with the World Health Organization and France, a central role in establishing COVAX, a global vaccine procurement facility. To date, the European Commission has pledged €500 million to COVAX in support to low- and medium-income countries. President Michel stressed that EU leaders remained committed to COVAX, and that the fight against Covid‑19 would only be successful if the pandemic was fought simultaneously in Europe and worldwide.

President von der Leyen confirmed that COVAX remained the main instrument for international solidarity on vaccines. She stressed that, in the current context, in which there is a ‘rush’ to vaccines, and partner countries face problems in securing supply, the EU is considering the establishment of a mechanism allowing the sharing of access to some of the vaccines procured by the Union; until COVAX is able to deliver large quantities of vaccines. The Team Europe mechanism will be used for that purpose, whilst vaccines will be channelled to partners through COVAX. The EU has set up Team Europe, a mechanism benefiting from a financial envelope of over €20 billion. This mechanism enables support to partner countries, including countries in the EU’s neighbourhood, to respond to the immediate needs of the health crisis.

Alexey Navalny

President Michel stressed that the EU leaders condemned the detention of Alexei Navalny, underlined that ‘Mr Navalny’s rights must be fully and unconditionally respected’, and called on the Russian authorities to release him and ensure his safety. EU leaders also called on Russia ‘to urgently proceed with an independent and transparent investigation’ on the poisoning attempt on Mr Navalny, and to fully cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to facilitate a fair international investigation.

EU-US relations

Speaking prior to the European Council meeting at the European Parliament, President Michel invited the new US President, Joe Biden, to work together to ‘build a new founding pact. For a stronger Europe. For a stronger America. For a better world.’ He has also extended an invitation to President Biden to attend an extraordinary meeting of the European Council in Brussels in parallel to the NATO summit. On both sides of the Atlantic there is political will to support multilateral action. In his inaugural speech, President Biden committed to ‘repair [US] alliances, and engage with the world once again’.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Outcome of the European Council video conference of 21 January 2021‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/01/25/outcome-of-the-european-council-video-conference-of-21-january-2021/

Online policy roundtable: Europe’s challenges in 2021: Ten issues to watch

Written by Isabelle Gaudeul-Ehrhart,

© Daniel Schludi on Unsplash; JFL Photography, 1STunningART, gustavofrazao, stasnds, Inna, Björn Wylezich, Olena, muratart, Premium Collection, and max dallocco on ©Adobe Stock; Wikimedia Commons | US Embassy Tel Aviv Creative Commons license

This year again, for the fifth consecutive time, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) held its first event of the year on ten key issues to watch in the year ahead. The goal of the event, which took place on 12 January 2021, was to set the scene and present major issues that are in every mind, such as the race to vaccinate against coronavirus, the EU recovery plan, or the new United States administration. It also aimed at highlighting longer-term developments, such as the fight against inequality, the twin (green and digital) transition and digital boost for the circular economy, migration and asylum including a new procedure to manage Europe’s borders, or EU neighbourhood policy, including relations with Turkey and stormy waters in the eastern Mediterranean. Finally, the event shone a spotlight on research issues that may lack the momentum to make the front pages, yet are nonetheless important, such as access to food for all, culture in crisis, or critical raw materials.

Opening the event, EPRS Director-General Anthony Teasdale, highlighted the continuity between past events, and particularly the last one, which focused on the significance of 2020 – ‘a year we are all going to remember’ – and future EPRS events.

The European Parliament Vice-President responsible for EPRS, Othmar Karas (EPP, Austria)

The European Parliament Vice-President responsible for EPRS, Othmar Karas (EPP, Austria) then invited us to see the current situation not as a crisis but as an opportunity. His positive take is based on the lessons we have learnt (cooperation, investment, comprehensive solutions), the progress we have achieved (the deal on the recovery plan, the ambitious green objectives, the agreement on the rule of law) and the opportunities ahead of us. He found this attitude best captured by the words of the German poet Friederich Hölderlin: ‘But where the danger is, grows the saving power also’.

Event moderator, EPRS Members’ Research Service Director Etienne Bassot, highlighted the importance of this event. First as a researcher-driven exercise; second for its collective dimension and the many interactions between the authors, their managers and editors; and third as a way to connect with the public and to launch a year of events – the audience hailed from Brussels to Athens.

After ten quickfire presentations given by EPRS researchers and analysts, Etienne Bassot opened the floor to questions. These covered all ten issues, illustrating the audience’s interest in EPRS policy analysts’ expertise. Towards the end of the discussion, the chair announced the results of a quick audience poll. Participants were asked to choose which of the ten issues they considered the most important. While the vaccine race and EU recovery plan – unsurprisingly – tied for first place, access to food for all ranked next, confirming the relevance of the selection of issues.

Readers can read the publication here and watch the recording of the event here.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/01/22/online-policy-roundtable-europes-challenges-in-2021-ten-issues-to-watch/

Plenary round-up – January 2021

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson,

© European Union 2021 – Source : EP / Eric VIDAL

The main debates of the January 2021 plenary session were on the inauguration of the new President of the United States, and the presentation of the Portuguese EU Council Presidency. Members also debated the humanitarian situation of refugees and migrants at the EU’s external borders, as well as the EU global strategy on Covid‑19 vaccinations, and the social and employment crisis caused by the pandemic and the EU’s response. Lack of transparency in Council appointments to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and the consequences of earthquakes in Croatia were also discussed. Members discussed the Court of Auditors’ annual report, and Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell made statements on the arrest of Aleksei Navalny, on enhancing EU external action in Latin America and the Caribbean, and on the latest developments in the National Assembly of Venezuela.

Enforcement of international trade rules

As the EU seeks to modify the Enforcement Regulation that protects its commercial interests in trade agreements, Members approved the text agreed between the EU institutions that extends EU counter-measures to cover trade in services and intellectual property rights, shortens the deadline for the review of the current EU regulation, and allows for provisional measures.

Right to disconnect

Members voted to approve a legislative initiative dealing with an issue exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic – the blurring of the work/home boundary and the need for a right to disconnect. While the digital transformation has meant that working schedules have become more flexible, workers’ rights to be able to disengage from work are under considerable strain. Although workers are protected in some EU countries, there is no legislation at EU level. The European Commission should now make a legislative proposal for a directive on the right to disconnect, to reaffirm the right to no professional solicitation outside working time.

European arrest warrant

Members debated an own-initiative report on the implementation of the Framework Decision on the European arrest warrant (EAW). Parliament has regularly called for a revision of this instrument (the first to allow judicial mutual recognition), due to issues regarding proportionality, judicial independence, prison conditions, and other problems. To date, the European Commission has declined to take up this invitation. While Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee recognises that the EAW is an effective instrument in combating serious cross-border crime and bringing perpetrators to justice, it nevertheless reiterates Parliament’s calls for a number of improvements

Common foreign, security and defence policy and human rights

Following a joint debate on Foreign Affairs (AFET) Committee annual reports on the implementation of the common security and defence policy (CSDP), the common foreign and security policy (CFSP), and democracy and human rights in the world, Members adopted resolutions on all three, with a large majority in the case of the third. While common EU positions on foreign policy are increasingly the rule rather than the exception, the coronavirus pandemic and a new, sometimes confrontational, geopolitical situation led to a more challenging global environment in 2020. The report on the implementation of EU CFSP reiterates that basic EU principles must be respected, and calls for greater ambition in CFSP. The committee notes that the EU’s credibility is in play and calls for debate on the question of qualified majority voting in some areas of foreign policy. An integral part of EU CFSP and the main instrument for intergovernmental defence cooperation between Member States, the second report debated looks at implementation of the common security and defence policy (CSDP). The report considers the EU’s global presence favourably in general, but also calls for further development of capabilities, greater cooperation with strategic partners, and underlines the need for democratic oversight, notably through consultation with Parliament. Members also adopted a resolution on the annual report on human rights and democracy in the world, which notes that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms has been considerably strained by the pandemic – exacerbating anti-democratic measures, discrimination, violence and hate speech. Climate change and environmental destruction have also increased threats to human rights, particularly for refugees and human rights defenders. The report urges the EU to streamline and monitor human rights and democratic standards in all its policies, including in international agreements. Parliament also seeks greater powers of scrutiny, notably of measures proposed under the 2020-2024 EU action plan on human rights and democracy.

Gender equality

Following a joint debate on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and other challenges (such as the digital gender gap) on gender equality., Members adopted resolutions based on three Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) Committee reports, each by an overwhelming majority. The reports welcome the new EU strategy for gender equality for 2020‑2025, but underscore the need to tackle a recent backlash on equality with clear timescales, monitoring, and indicators of success, and set out specific recommendations for responding to the effects of the coronavirus crisis and for promoting women’s and girl’s participation in the digital economy.

Opening of trilogue negotiations

Members confirmed the mandate for negotiations from the Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee on the proposal for a directive on credit servicers, credit purchasers and the recovery of collateral.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – January 2021‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/01/22/plenary-round-up-january-2021/

Sustainable and smart mobility strategy

Written by Marketa Pape,

© metamorworks / Adobe Stock

Transport is the backbone of the EU economy, connecting people and businesses across various EU regions and countries. The coronavirus pandemic has shown the impact of mobility restrictions on the free movement of people, goods and services and, at the same time, confirmed the essential role of transport in safeguarding the functioning of vital supply chains. However, transport also generates significant costs to society, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, environmental pollution, accidents, congestion and loss of biodiversity.

EU ambitions to address these negative impacts have increased over the years. In December 2019, the European Commission put forward the European Green Deal that aims to make the EU carbon neutral by 2050. This goal was subsequently endorsed by the European Parliament and EU Member States. To achieve climate neutrality, the EU transport sector has to cut its CO2 emissions by 90 %. This requirement is in stark contrast with the past trend: despite previously adopted measures, transport is the only sector in which greenhouse gas emissions have kept growing.

The Commission has therefore proposed a strategy outlining how it wants to transform the EU transport sector and align it with the European Green Deal, by making it green, digital and resilient.

While transport stakeholders have welcomed parts of the strategy as steps in the right direction, concerns about the text’s high ambitions and lack of concrete elements have been voiced.

The Commission is to start proposing the measures envisaged in 2021. It remains to be seen to what extent, with what modifications and how fast they will be adopted and then implemented by EU Member States, shaping transport transformation for the years to come.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Sustainable and smart mobility strategy‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/01/21/sustainable-and-smart-mobility-strategy/

Qualified majority voting in foreign and security policy: Pros and Cons

Written by Tania Latici,

© assetseller / Adobe Stock

In her first State of the Union speech, and in the section of the speech most applauded by the European Parliament, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for the use of qualified majority voting (QMV) in areas such as sanctions and human rights. The crises and security challenges accumulating in and around the European Union have added to the urgency of having a more effective and rapid decision-making process in areas pertaining to the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The core encumbrance against unanimous EU agreement on foreign policy is argued to be the absence of a common strategic culture among EU Member States.

The Lisbon Treaty’s architects have equipped the EU Treaties with ‘passerelle clauses’ – provisions usually aimed at modifying the decision-making of the Council of the EU. The passerelle clause for CFSP is Article 31(3) of the Treaty on European Union, which empowers the European Council to, by unanimous agreement, allow the Council of the EU to take decisions by QMV in some areas of the CFSP. Another option is an emergency brake – cancelling a vote for vital reasons of national policy – while constructive abstention is an option which allows a Member State to abstain from a unanimous vote without blocking it.

Since 2016, the EU has witnessed growing momentum to shape its identity as a security provider and peace promoter. From 2020 and until 2022, it is undertaking a strategic reflection process taking the form of a ‘strategic compass’, whereby the threats, challenges and objectives for the Union in security and defence will be better defined. It is in this context that the debate about QMV in foreign and security policy has resurfaced and continues to be the subject of policy discussions. Nevertheless, recent efforts to innovate in the EU’s methods for adopting sanctions in the field of human rights abuses (the European Magnitsky Act) have been unsuccessful in their attempt to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Qualified majority voting in foreign and security policy: Pros and Cons‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Figure 1 – The pros and cons of QMV in foreign and security policy

Figure 1 – The pros and cons of QMV in foreign and security policy

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/01/20/qualified-majority-voting-in-foreign-and-security-policy-pros-and-cons/

Brexit: The EU-UK trade deal [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

Europe map with waiting trucks - Brexit / border control/ customs check / 3d-illustration

© brainwashed 4 you / Adobe Stock

The European Union and the United Kingdom reached a last-minute deal on trade and other issues on 24 December 2020, thereby avoiding major disruption from 1 January 2021, the date on which the transition period ended. However, many politicians and experts have noted that the agreement does not cover all areas of potential partnership, as well as leaving some issues ambiguous, so there is much potential for complex further negotiations in the future. In practice, the EU-UK trading relationship has been further complicated, at least in the short term, by the effects of the coronavirus crisis and a recent upsurge in infections in the United Kingdom.

This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from international think tanks on Brexit and related issues. More studies on the topic can be found in a previous item from this series, published in September 2020.

Brexit brief
Institute of International and European Affairs, January 2021

The great Brexit heist
European Council on Foreign Relations, January 2021

The UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement 2020
Senior European Experts Group, January 2021

How Britain and the EU could cooperate on defence after Brexit
European Council on Foreign Relations, December 2020

How UK-EU trade cooperation can survive Brexit
European Council on Foreign Relations, December 2020

Warming relations: UK-EU climate cooperation after Brexit
European Council on Foreign Relations, December 2020

What’s in the EU-UK Brexit deal?
Council on Foreign Relations, December 2020

Ten reflections on a sovereignty-first Brexit
Centre for European Reform, December 2020

Brexit trade deal means ‘freedom’, but at a cost: The arguments will be far from over
Centre for European Reform, December 2020

Navigating accidental illegality
Centre for European Reform, November 2020

Post-Brexit foreign, security and defence co-operation: We don’t want to talk about it
Centre for European Reform, November 2020

The Brexit trade deal is no frictionless uncoupling
Centre for European Policy Studies, December 2020

Brexit, le malheur de rompre
Institut français des relations internationales, December 2020

Breaking up is hard to do: Royaume-Uni et Union européenne après le Brexit
Institut français des relations internationales, December 2020

A deal is done: What happens now?
UK in a Changing Europe, December 2020

Is Brexit war finally over?
UK in a Changing Europe, December 2020

Brexit is not done: This deal is no ‘game, set and match’
UK in a Changing Europe, December 2020

What the Brexit deal means for Northern Ireland
UK in a Changing Europe, December 2020

UK manufacturing welcomes the deal in as far as it goes
UK in a Changing Europe, December 2020

Boris Johnson’s brinkmanship: To the cliff edge or beyond?
European Policy Studies, December 2020

China and Brexit drive the UK’s ‘tilt’ to Indo-Pacific
Chatham House, November 2020

Brexit and coronavirus: Economic impacts and policy response
Institute for Government, December 2020

The Brexit deal is the latest case of the government’s disregard for parliamentary scrutiny
Institute for Government, December 2020

The New Year does not mean that Brexit is old news
Institute for Government, December 2020

The Brexit deal is about taking back control rather than ‘exact same benefits’
Institute for Government, December 2020

Partnerships for the future of UK foreign policy
Foreign Policy Centre, December 2020

Le Brexit pourrait-il mener à la fin du Royaume-Uni?
Egmont, December 2020

Parliament should have a meaningful vote on the EU trade deal. But it doesn’t
Foreign Policy Centre, December 2020

Partnerships for the future of UK foreign policy
Foreign Policy Centre, December 2020

Brexit: Adieu or Au revoir?
Friends of Europe, December 2020

European security after Brexit
Institut des relations internationales et stratégiques, December 2020

Brexit, the area of freedom, security, and justice and migration
Istituto Affari Internazionali, December 2020

Devolution in the UK and the combined challenges of pandemic and Brexit
Polish Institute of International Affairs, December 2020

The UK’s European question is far from over
Scottish Centre for European Relations, December 2020

Where next for Scotland and Brexit: Four challenges
Scottish Centre for European Relations, November 2020

Read this briefing on ‘Brexit: The EU-UK trade deal‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/01/20/brexit-the-eu-uk-trade-deal-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

After the storming of the US Capitol: A second impeachment trial of President Trump?

Written by Matthew Parry,

© Daniel Thornberg / Adobe Stock

At 13.00 EST on 6 January 2021, the 117th United States Congress and US Vice-President Mike Pence assembled in the Capitol Building, seat of the US Congress in Washington, DC, to tally the electoral votes certified by the 50 states and the District of Columbia, thereby declaring Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, respectively, US President-elect and Vice-President-elect. The ceremony was interrupted when an angry mob, seemingly encouraged by President Donald Trump in a speech earlier that day, broke into the Capitol and forced the Vice-President and Members of Congress to shelter in fear for their lives, while the intruders clashed with Capitol security and vandalised and stole property. Later that day, the combined forces of the police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Guard were able to evict the protesters and secure the building, allowing the Vice-President and Congress to re‑assemble and complete the ceremony.

The invasion of the Capitol, a symbol of US democracy, has had dramatic political consequences. Trump has now been impeached by the House of Representatives for the second time − the only US President in history to be so. Democratic Party leaders had already appealed, the day after the intrusion, to Vice‑President Pence to use the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the US Constitution to replace Trump against his will before the end of his term on 20 January. The US Senate appears set to conduct an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office, but it is not certain that it has the authority to do so, or what the trial’s legal or political outcome will be.

This Briefing considers some of the options that Congress had to deprive President Trump of power immediately after 6 January, and the options that remain after Joe Biden becomes President on 20 January 2021.

Read the complete briefing on ‘After the storming of the US Capitol: A second impeachment trial of President Trump?‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/01/20/after-the-storming-of-the-us-capitol-a-second-impeachment-trial-of-president-trump/