Месечни архиви: април 2021

Plenary round-up – April 2021

Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochacka,

© European Union 2021 – Source : EP / Jan VAN DE VEL

The April 2021 plenary session featured a debate on the outcome of EU-UK negotiations and the vote on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Members also debated the conclusions of the 25 and 26 March 2021 European Council meeting and the outcome of the 6 April 2021 high-level EU-Turkey meeting. Members debated ways to save the summer tourism season and provide EU support to the hospitality sector, and underlined the need for affordable Covid‑19 testing. Parliament also debated statements by High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission, Josep Borell, on Russia, Alexei Navalny, the military build-up on Ukraine’s border and the Russian attack on an arms depot in Czechia, on Chinese counter-sanctions, and on the fifth anniversary of the Peace Agreement in Colombia. Parliament also voted on a mandatory transparency register for outside interests meeting with the three institutions.

EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement

Parliament debated and approved, by a very large majority (660 votes to 5 with 32 abstentions), a decision to grant consent to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed by the EU with the United Kingdom and adopted a resolution on the subject. The Council completed the final adoption of the agreement on 29 April 2021, bringing the Brexit process to an end.

EU Covid-19 certificates

Parliament debated and adopted a mandate under the urgent legislative procedure to begin negotiations with the Council on the proposed digital green certificate. Parliament agrees with the Council and Commission that the proposed ‘certificate’ should facilitate free movement for Europeans when safe to do so. To avoid confusion, Parliament proposes to rename the initiative the ‘EU Covid‑19 certificate’.

2019 EU budget discharge

An important tool used by Parliament to ensure correct use of EU funding, Members debated and granted discharge for the European Commission and other agencies’ implementation of the 2019 budget. Parliament also granted discharge for the EU institutions other than the European Commission, except for the European Council and the Council, due to Council’s continued lack of cooperation. Finally, Parliament granted discharge for 31 of the 32 decentralised EU agencies subject to discharge. A decision to postpone discharge for the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), until financial and human resource management issues are clarified, was adopted by an overwhelming majority.

Rail passengers’ rights and obligations

Parliament adopted at second reading the legislation on rail passengers’ rights and obligations, which strengthens passenger rights while reducing burdens on rail companies.

Dissemination of terrorist content online

As existing self-regulatory measures appear to have failed, Members debated and approved an early second-reading agreement on a new regulation addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online. The ambitious proposal seeks quick and smooth removal of content that seeks to radicalise, recruit or incite to violence. However, Parliament has also insisted on the need to protect freedom of speech.

Joint debate on research and innovation

Members held a joint debate on research and innovation in the EU. They approved the new Horizon Europe programme, which will allocate €95.5 billion to research and innovation that addresses the Union’s key challenges, including climate change and digitalisation. Members voted on the agreed text of the programme itself as well as on the specific implementing programme, which sets out more detailed provisions. Members also voted on the final text of two proposals concerning the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) in Budapest, a key part of Horizon Europe.

European Defence Fund

Parliament adopted at second reading the proposal to establish the European Defence Fund. This first-ever multiannual financial programme supporting defence research and technology will aim at reducing costly duplication of military procurement, with a budget of €7 billion.

Digital Europe programme

Members approved (without a vote) the early second-reading agreement on a proposal aimed at ensuring that the EU does not fall behind in the crucial strategic area of digital capacity. The Digital Europe programme will now fund investment in large-scale digital capacities in five key areas (advanced computing and data, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and advanced digital skills), with a focus on technology such as supercomputers that would otherwise be too expensive for single Member States.

Union anti-fraud programme

Reinforcing efficient protection of the EU budget, Members adopted an early second-reading agreement on the Union anti-fraud programme, for which Parliament negotiated a budget of €181.2 million.

LIFE programme

Members approved an early second-reading agreement (without a vote) on the new LIFE programme. Although, given the EU’s current ‘green’ priorities, Parliament initially called for €7 billion, the final proposal nevertheless allocates €5.45 billion for environmental initiatives.

Union Civil Protection Mechanism

Parliament debated and approved a final agreement on the financing for the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, ensuring that civil protection, prevention, preparedness and disaster response are prioritised.

Justice and citizens, equality, rights and values programmes

Parliament debated and approved funding for a new justice programme, aimed at upholding EU values. Parliament is a keen defender of core EU values and has fought hard for adequate funding, set at €305 million, for the measures. These include further development of a European area of justice based on the rule of law, mutual recognition and mutual trust, promoting justice for all and in particular gender equality and LGBTQI rights – issues that have not met with universal approval among the Member States. Members also approved an agreement on a new citizens, equality, rights and values programme, within the justice programme and aimed at funding the fight against inequality and discrimination in the EU.

European Globalisation Adjustment Fund

Parliament approved (without a vote) an early second-reading agreement on a proposal widening eligibility for European Globalisation Adjustment Fund intervention to include victims of restructuring and the Covid‑19 crisis and speeding up allocation of funds. With a maximum annual allocation of €186 million (outside the MFF), the fund will be renamed the European Fund for Transition.

Single market, competitiveness of enterprises and European statistics programme

Members approved (without a vote) an early second-reading agreement on the proposed single market, competitiveness of enterprises and European statistics programme, aimed at tackling existing and new barriers to competition and boosting consumer protection. The programme allocates a €4.2 billion budget to improvements to EU law, market surveillance, sustainability and access to quality European statistics.

Opening of trilogue negotiations

Members confirmed the mandate for negotiations from the Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) Committee on the proposal for amending Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work.


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

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/04/30/plenary-round-up-april-2021/

Countering hybrid threats and disinformation campaigns

Written by Zsolt G. Pataki with Katerina Mavrona,

© Adobe Stock

‘Hybrid threats’, i.e. actions aimed at harming their targets through overt or covert military or non-military means, are increasingly used by state or non-state actors seeking to undermine democratic societies, in pursuit of strategic aims, without the necessity of financing the real costs of a classical military aggression. Hybrid tactics threaten citizens’ trust in democratic institutions, exacerbate political polarisation, sow confusion through stealth and through concealment of attackers’ identities, and do so using tools that are widely available and therefore cost-effective (e.g. information distortion and its amplification through digital communication technologies). In this way, perpetrators, foreign governments or domestic affiliates, profit from turning civil liberties, such as the freedom of expression, into vulnerabilities to manipulate and attack. However, just as online platforms and social media help launch disinformation campaigns at scale, so can communication and digital technologies act as barriers to online subversion.

Ways to achieve this are the subject of the ‘Strategic communications as a key factor in countering hybrid threats’ study by Iclaves and commissioned by the European Parliament’s Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA), following a request from the Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE). Targeting audiences via online platforms is one of many instruments available in the hybrid threat toolbox. The study presents complementary tactics, including the funding of political parties and cultural organisations, employment of strategic leaks and cyber weapons, use of religious influence or the fuelling of concerns about migration. At the centre of these, however, the study discerns an all-pervasive ingredient: the informational component. Information manipulation can ultimately transform, exacerbate and distort people’s beliefs, attitudes or emotions. Yet, for the same reason, the authors highlight that information can redeem the impact of hybrid tactics and help counter disruptive narratives.

Disinformation campaigns begin with the manipulation of content, usually addressing real facts from a distorted perspective, rather than presenting audiences with entirely fabricated stories. While this strategy lends some credibility to promulgated narratives, it also requires that the message bypasses traditional ‘gatekeepers’: journalists, editorial desks or fact-checkers. Online platforms offer fertile terrain for successful manipulation: they act as technological enablers – perpetrators deploying bot accounts by the thousands to amplify narratives is routine practice today – as long as questions on platform responsibility for content moderation remain unsettled.

How can the cycle be broken? The taxonomy of responses comprises sequential stages of prevention, detection and response. Across these, the study examines different response actions, ranging from intelligence, legal, diplomatic or even military action to informational measures and initiatives. As the name implies, ‘strategic communications’ come into play with a twist, as they are not about disjointed responses to unsolicited adversarial activity, but are executed according to predetermined and systematic plans and are designed to advance distinct policy goals. As such, they demand high levels of coordination among stakeholders. What is more, strategic communications planners anticipate that audiences may find themselves in conflictual environments and subject to a constant ‘information buzz’ made up of distorted or blatantly false messages.

What do strategic communications entail for the EU and its Member States? While democracies face an asymmetric fight against actors with no reservations about deploying illegitimate methods or illegal tools, the response resides in adherence to the very principles under attack. Truthfulness and credibility, the understanding of cultures, ideas and identities, reliance on and practice of mutual comprehension are the themes upon which strategic communications are structured. To present and assess these ideas, the study explores seven case studies extensively, where hybrid tactics with informational components were deployed and concomitant strategic-communications-based responses were used (e.g., external financing of religious extremism in the Netherlands, foreign influence by Russia and China through academia and think tanks, the Russian intervention in Ukraine, disinformation campaigns against North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations in Lithuania). The study derives a number of challenges to effective strategic communications campaigns from these case studies, followed by targeted policy options.

Likely digital solutions to disinformation include the deployment of artificial intelligence for detection, the use of hyperconnectivity – afforded by the upcoming 5G rollout – for conducting mass fact-checking campaigns, or investment in blockchain security to improve traceability and ensure the integrity and veracity of stored and disseminated information. In the study conclusions, the reader can find a comprehensive table listing the risks emerging technologies pose in the context of hybrid aggression, as well as the advantages they offer for defenders and policy-makers. To successfully incorporate technological options to strategic communication responses, however, a comprehensive policy approach is required, and this is reflected in the study’s policy options.

The proposed policy options extend from the regulatory domain to investment policy: the authors mention further EU legal framework harmonisation to specifically target hybrid threats, disinformation and foreign interference, arguing for example in favour of adaptations to the EU sanctions regime, and for streamlining upcoming regulation on artificial intelligence. They also make explicit reference to strengthening the Code of Practice on Disinformation, signatories to which are major online platforms. In the case of investment policy, greater use of financial instruments for innovation to close the technological gap between the EU and its global competitors is proposed. Finally, emphasis is also placed on EU initiatives for improving coordination across the hybrid-threat stakeholder ecosystem, both internally (in the EU) and with external actors and organisations, including NATO.

The STOA Options Brief linked to the study contains an overview of various policy options. Read the full report to find out more, and let us know what you think via stoa@europarl.europa.eu.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/04/29/countering-hybrid-threats-and-disinformation-campaigns/

The level playing-field for labour and environment in EU-UK relations

Written by Issam Hallak,

© niroworld / Adobe Stock

The level playing-field (LPF) provisions of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) constitute a key part of the agreement, and became a major source of divergence between the negotiators. LPF provisions establish rules to safeguard fair competition between the parties’ businesses. A notable component are the rules on social provisions, labour, environment and climate change, often referred to as the ‘trade and sustainable development’ (TSD) chapters in other free trade agreements (FTAs).

The trading relationship between the EU and the UK is fundamentally different from that with other non-EU countries since, on the one hand, EU laws were applicable to the UK until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 and, on the other, these two economies neighbour each other and are strongly interconnected. The TCA is therefore designed to maintain sufficiently ‘convergent’ standards to safeguard fair competition, while providing each party with the freedom to implement its own approach to social and environmental protection.

To this end, the TCA requires that parties do not weaken or reduce their levels of social, labour and environmental standards as of the end of 2020 (non-regression); the EU commitments on climate change, in particular on climate neutrality by 2050, will also remain for both parties. In addition, the TCA introduces rebalancing provisions creating a mechanism whereby a party can take ‘proportionate measures’ in order to offset any (adverse) ‘material impacts on trade or investment’ resulting from ‘significant divergences’ between parties. It also allows either party to request a review with a view to amending the agreement, and either party can opt to terminate the trade chapters if the amendment is not satisfactory.

Although the TCA LPF provisions on labour and environment are in many respects similar to those in the EU’s new generation FTAs, they strengthen the enforcement of non-regression provisions by allowing for remedial measures, and also reinforce the precautionary approach. The TCA also represents a notable innovation with its rebalancing and review provisions.


Read the complete briefing on ‘The level playing-field for labour and environment in EU-UK relations‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/04/27/the-level-playing-field-for-labour-and-environment-in-eu-uk-relations/

European Parliament Plenary Session – April 2021

Written by Clare Ferguson,

Strasbourg - Plenary session November 2015

European Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Members of the European Parliament certainly have their work cut out for them this month with a very full agenda, featuring budgetary discharge in respect of EU financial management in 2019, spending plans for a number of EU programmes in 2021‑2027, and a number of other legislative proposals, including on the proposed digital green certificate. The session will kick off with European Council and Commission statements on the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 25 and 26 March 2021 and on the outcome of the high-level meeting between the EU and Turkey on 7 April 2021, overshadowed by protocol issues. A key point on the agenda will be the vote on Parliament’s consent to the Council decision concluding the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (which has been provisionally applied since 1 January, and could thus come fully into force on 1 May). Members will also debate a number of foreign affairs topics with the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, in particular the latest developments with Russia, not least the build-up of troops on the border with Ukraine. Members will then debate recommendations on EU-India relations, ahead of the May EU-India summit.

In a joint debate scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, Members will consider granting discharge for the 2019 EU budget. This annual exercise is carried out through 52 separate discharge decisions. The first batch concerns the European Commission, executive agencies and the European Development Funds, where Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) recommends discharge is granted. However, not without sounding the alarm regarding a deteriorating level of errors in spending and increasing incidences of fraud, particularly in agriculture and cohesion funding. The second set concerns EU institutions other than the European Commission, where, as every year since 2009, the CONT committee proposes to postpone the decision for the European Council and the Council, due to Council’s continued lack of cooperation. The committee recommends granting discharge for the expenditure of all other institutions, including the European Economic and Social Committee – although for the latter, observations are made regarding past cases of harassment. Finally, while various shortcomings are noted, the CONT committee recommends discharge is granted for a total of 31 of the 32 decentralised EU agencies subject to discharge. The committee proposes to postpone the decision in respect of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), due to issues with financial management and recruitment, as well as allegations of violations of fundamental rights.

Moving on to a number of proposals for EU funding for programmes in the 2021‑2027 financial period, Parliament is due to vote on the proposed regulation to tackle such fraud against EU finances on Thursday morning. The Union anti-fraud programme would build on the Hercules III programme. Parliament has negotiated a rise in the overall budget to €181.2 million, as well as to set the maximum rates for co-financing for grants at 80 % of the eligible costs.

On Tuesday afternoon, Parliament will debate and vote on funding for a new justice programme, specifically aimed at upholding EU values. Parliament is naturally a keen defender of citizens’ rights and core EU values and has fought hard for adequate funding for the measures. These include further development of a European area of justice based on the rule of law, mutual recognition and mutual trust, promoting justice for all and gender equality and LGBTQI rights in particular – issues that are not the subject of universal accord among the Member States. Members are also expected to vote on an agreement on a new citizens, equality, rights and values programme on Tuesday afternoon, complementing the justice programme and specifically aimed at funding the fight against inequality and discrimination in the EU.

Parliament is expected to debate and vote on the final agreement on the Union Civil Protection Mechanism on Monday evening. Here, Covid‑19 has highlighted the limits of what Member States can do alone, especially in situations that cross borders, and consequently the need for better EU preparedness to tackle natural and manmade disasters. Parliament has ensured that, of the €3.319 billion allocated, civil protection, prevention, preparedness and response to disaster measures are prioritised. The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund intervenes when employees are made redundant, often due to companies relocating their operations outside Europe. With such emergency solidarity funding likely to be under pressure due to the pandemic, Parliament is expected to vote on Tuesday afternoon on formal adoption of a proposal widening eligibility to include victims of restructuring and the Covid‑19 crisis and speeding up allocation of funds. With a maximum annual allocation of €186 million (outside the MFF), the fund will be renamed the European Fund for Transition.

The crisis has also galvanised moves towards greater strategic autonomy. On Thursday afternoon, Members are due to vote on Parliament’s second-reading position on a proposal aimed at ensuring that the EU is not left behind by big players, such as the United States and China, in the crucial strategic area of digital capacity. The proposed digital Europe programme is intended to fund investment in large-scale digital capacities in five key areas (advanced computing and data, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and advanced digital skills), with a focus on technology such as supercomputers that would otherwise be too expensive for single Member States. Regulation of the digital space has been somewhat overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic recently, however posting of hate, violence and terrorist propaganda online has nonetheless continued. As existing self-regulatory measures appear to have failed, Members are expected to vote on an agreement for a new regulation addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online on Wednesday evening. The ambitious proposal seeks to remove content that seeks to radicalise, recruit or incite to violence within one hour of it appearing online. However, Parliament has insisted on striking a balance between removing such content and the need to protect fundamental rights, including the freedom of speech.

On Thursday afternoon, Members are expected to vote on a proposed new regulation on the LIFE programme, dedicated to environmental and climate objectives. Although, given the EU’s current ‘green’ priorities, Parliament initially called for €7 billion, the final proposal nevertheless allocates €5.45 billion for environmental initiatives, including a high number of biodiversity and ecosystem protection projects. Meanwhile, for anyone wishing to improve their personal carbon footprint by travelling long distance by train instead of by air, the issue of missed connections has proved a deterrent. This should improve with changes to the legislation on rail passengers’ rights and obligations. Parliament is due to vote on an agreement on Wednesday evening that strengthens passenger rights while reducing the burden on rail companies.

On Monday afternoon, Members will hold a joint debate on research and innovation in the EU. The Horizon Europe programme will have a budget of over €95.5 billion for the seven years, to support research and innovation addressing the Union’s key challenges such as climate change and digitalisation. Members are to vote on the agreed texts of the programme itself and on the specific implementing programme, which sets out more detailed provisions on the programme’s planned elements. They are then expected to vote on the final text of two proposals concerning the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) in Budapest, a key part of Horizon Europe. The proposals for a revised EIT regulation and a decision on the EIT strategic innovation agenda (SIA) reflect new funding priorities and the increased need to encourage economic growth and job creation through the EIT-led knowledge innovation communities. While Parliament proposed a €4.8 billion budget, protracted MFF negotiations led to a more constrained overall Horizon Europe budget, with a lower share for EIT of only €2.965 billion.

On Thursday morning, Parliament will vote on its second-reading position on establishment of the European Defence Fund. The proposals aim at reducing costly duplication of military procurement and research and technology activities. Tested under the previous EU financial framework, if the Fund is approved, €7 billion will be allocated to the first-ever multiannual financial programme supporting EU defence research and development.

Finally, on Tuesday afternoon, Members are expected to vote on a proposal to improve competitiveness. The single market, competitiveness of enterprises and European statistics programme aims at tackling existing and new barriers to competition and boosting consumer protection. The programme will allocate a budget of €4.2 billion according to six specific objectives, including improvements to EU law, market surveillance, sustainability and product safety, all underpinned by the availability of high-quality European statistics.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/04/23/european-parliament-plenary-session-april-2021/

Customs programme: Supporting cooperation to strengthen the customs union [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Miroslava Karaboytcheva (1st edition),

© Visual Generation / Adobe stock

On 18 June 2018, the Commission put forward a proposal for a regulation establishing a Customs programme for cooperation in the field of customs over the 2021-2027 MFF period, a successor to Customs 2020. The programme’s main objective is to fund actions aimed at strengthening the customs union.

On 15 December 2020, the co-legislators reached agreement in trilogue. The Council adopted its first-reading position on 1 March 2021. On 8 March 2021, IMCO – the committee responsible for the file in the European Parliament – adopted its recommendation for second reading of the Customs programme by the Parliament.

The Parliament voted to adopt the first-reading position without amendments on 10 March 2021, and the final act was signed the following day. The regulation was published in the Official Journal on 15 March 2021 and entered into force immediately, and with retroactive application as of 1 January 2021.

Versions

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/04/22/customs-programme-supporting-cooperation-to-strengthen-the-customs-union-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Belgrade-Pristina dialogue: The rocky road towards a comprehensive normalisation agreement [Policy Podcast]

Written by Branislav Staníček,

© Oleksandr / Adobe Stock

Regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations are key elements in the EU accession process for all western Balkan countries. Serbia and Kosovo have both declared their intention to join the EU. However, despite some initial successes, such as the Brussels Agreement of 2013, the dialogue facilitated by the EU and initiated in 2011 has stalled. In 2020, the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue was relaunched and supported by the international community. The appointment of United States (US) special presidential envoy Richard Grenell and special EU representative Miroslav Lajčák reflected the importance of the normalisation process. However, a lack of coordination and communication between the US and the EU means that no real progress has yet been made. The reasons for the very limited results are multiple, ranging from the internal political situation in both countries, to ambiguous and asymmetrical expectations of the normalisation agreement.

Whereas for Kosovo the final goal is clear – recognition by Serbia of its statehood – for Serbia, normalisation of relations is interpreted in economic terms as an ‘economic normalisation’ and there is only limited space to go beyond those terms. Serbia also stresses that the process must remain within the framework defined by the Serbian Constitution, which considers Kosovo to be an integral part of the Serbian territory, and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244. Currently, the most sensitive issue, the setting-up of the association/community of Serbian municipalities in Kosovo, agreed in 2013, shows that the challenges are rooted deeply in history and have a much broader regional context.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Belgrade-Pristina dialogue: The rocky road towards a comprehensive normalisation agreement‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to policy podcast ‘Belgrade-Pristina dialogue: The rocky road towards a comprehensive normalisation agreement’ on YouTube.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/04/22/belgrade-pristina-dialogue-the-rocky-road-towards-a-comprehensive-normalisation-agreement-policy-podcast/

EU legislation and policies to fight racial and ethnic discrimination [Policy Podcast]

Written by David de Groot,

© Yuliia / Adobe Stock

Racial and ethnic minorities face discrimination and its consequences on a daily basis. The exact scale of the problem is hard to gauge owing to a lack of data and general under-reporting of racist incidents. The pandemic has seen a major increase in reports of racist and xenophobic incidents, however, while racial and ethnic minority groups have been disproportionately affected by the crisis, with higher death and infection rates.

Although since 2000 the European Union (EU) has introduced legislation to combat racial and xenophobic discrimination, the problem persists, with the need for new measures recently highlighted by the global Black Lives Matter protests. A number of studies also point to the cost of racial discrimination not only for the individuals concerned but also for society as a whole. For instance, a 2018 EPRS report argued that the loss in earnings caused by racial and ethnic discrimination for both individuals and societies amounts to billions of euros annually. The problem is also acknowledged by EU citizens: a 2019 survey found that over half of Europeans believe racial or ethnic discrimination to be widespread in their country.

To address racial discrimination and its underlying inequalities, the European Commission has put forward a number of equality strategies and actions. The first European Summit against Racism was held on 19 March 2021. The European Parliament, meanwhile, has long been demanding an end to racial discrimination. In recent resolutions, Parliament has called for an end to structural racism and discrimination, racial profiling and police brutality, and for the right to protest peacefully.


Read the complete briefing on ‘EU legislation and policies to fight racial and ethnic discrimination‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to policy podcast ‘EU legislation and policies to fight racial and ethnic discrimination’ on YouTube.

Opinion on how widespread ethnic discrimination is in the Member State

Opinion on how widespread ethnic discrimination is in the Member State

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/04/21/eu-legislation-and-policies-to-fight-racial-and-ethnic-discrimination/

Building up resilience to cross-border health threats: Moving towards a European health union [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Nicole Scholz (1st edition),

© m3ron / Adobe Stock

On 11 November 2020, the European Commission put forward a proposal for a regulation on serious cross-border threats to health. In the light of lessons learned from the Covid-19 crisis, it aims to strengthen the EU’s health security by revising Decision No 1082/2013/EU (the ‘Cross-Border Health Threats Decision’). The proposal was presented in a package that also includes proposals to strengthen the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), as first steps towards a European health union.

Stakeholders widely welcome the proposal and the package. Some say it could be improved further, suggesting concrete elements, while others think it should go beyond crisis preparedness. Still others consider it a springboard to a bigger role for the European Union (EU) in health. Parliament has repeatedly called for stronger cooperation on health, for a new regulation to replace the Cross-Border Health Threats Decision, and for revised mandates of both the ECDC and the EMA.

Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety is responsible for the file and the rapporteur’s draft report is expected to be presented in committee on 22 April 2021. In Council, work is ongoing in the working party on pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Versions

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/04/21/building-up-resilience-to-cross-border-health-threats-moving-towards-a-european-health-union-eu-legislation-in-progress/

EPRS debates the MFF negotiations with President Sassoli

Written by Ralf Drachenberg,

© European Parliament / EPRS 2021

Does the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF) represent an evolution for the EU or déjà vu? On 14 April 2021, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) hosted an online policy round table with the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, discussing exactly this question. The first of two online policy roundtables to examine the recent negotiations on the 2021‑2027 MFF, the discussion concentrated on the lessons learned from the negotiations, as well as what the outcome delivers for citizens. There are at least four take-aways from the discussions.

1. Centrality of the European Council

All participants agreed that the centrality of the European Council in the discussions was clearly a case of ‘déjà vu’, as EU Heads of State or Government have always been heavily involved in long-term EU budget negotiations, as national governments have to provide the majority of the funding. While some argued that the role of the European Council has become more influential in recent years, others predicted that any alternative scenario in the current order of the European Union would be unlikely, as MFF negotiations are likely to remain forever Chefsache.

2. Important developments

At the same time, this round of MFF negotiations included important evolutionary elements for both EU integration and EU governance. One of the most important evolutionary aspects was the increase of the own resources ceiling. This clearly has the potential to radically change the EU’s own resources system, a point which was stressed both by the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, (S&D, Italy) and by Jim Cloos, Secretary General, Trans-European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) and former Deputy Director-General in the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. Another evolution was the new Recovery and Resilience Facility, and the possibility for the EU to borrow money on the markets. Participants agreed that another evolution in these MFF negotiations was the recalibration of ‘traditional’ alliances on the MFF, unravelling the two formerly solid blocks of net contributors and net beneficiaries.

3. An MFF agreement born out of crisis

Participants concurred that the agreement on the 2021‑2027 MFF was historic, but that it needs to be placed in the correct political and economic context, as it was clearly a result of the Covid‑19 crisis. In the view of Brigid Laffan, Director of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute, the MFF agreement showed how the EU as an organisation has learned from previous crises and as a result, the EU’s response was a lot less intergovernmental and rather more a collective agreement between the EU‑27 and the EU institutions. The discussions also aligned around the fact that Brexit had a positive effect on the MFF agreement, because there would have been no supranational instruments for the Covid‑19 recovery with the United Kingdom as an EU member.

4. What will the future bring?

While there was debate about the extension of qualified majority voting in the Council, most participants agreed that the Conference on the future of Europe could provide an ideal moment to take further steps towards EU integration in the budgetary field. One possibility would be to build on the achievements of the European Parliament, notably the legally binding agenda for the introduction of new own resources. Another possibility would be to find ways to make the evolutionary element of borrowing money on the markets more permanent, as requested by Antonio Tajani (EPP, Italy), Chair of the European Parliament’s Conference of Committee Chairs and Chair of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs. In his view, in order to face future crises, the EU needs the continuation of the SURE programme, a strong EU4Health programme, a modern EU industrial policy and a reform of the EU decision-making process.

To engage EU leaders in the discussions on the Conference on the future of Europe and create the necessary political buy in, EPRS Policy Analyst Ralf Drachenberg, suggested a similar initiative to the 2019 series of plenary debates with EU Heads of State or Government on the future of Europe.

More information on the 2021‑2027 MFF negotiations.

Moderated by Astrid Worum, Head of the EPRS European Council Oversight Unit, the event was very well attended, with close to 300 participants. Those who missed the event can watch the recording or read the EPRS in depth analysis on The role of the European Council in negotiating the 2021‑2027 MFF praised by all speakers for its relevance and high quality. The second EPRS event on the 2021‑2027 will take place on 4 May 2021 at 13:30‑15:00.


Conference on the Future of Europe: https://futureu.europa.eu/

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/04/21/eprs-debates-the-mff-negotiations-with-president-sassoli/

What is the EU doing to enable citizens to access online content when travelling within the EU?

Female hands using a smartphone with geoblocking on screen and Padlock over EU map. European Union Digital single market and regulation against Geo-blocking and geographically-based restrictions

© Adobe Stock

Citizens frequently turn to the European Parliament to ask what the European Union is doing to enable citizens to access online content when travelling within the EU?

Between 2015 and 2019, the number of internet users trying to get cross-border access to content almost doubled, according to a Eurobarometer survey. In many cases, however, consumers were not able to access (or only partially) the service they had subscribed to, or they were not able to use the online content they had previously purchased or rented in their home country. New legislation on access to online content when abroad entered into force in April 2018, followed by legislation on unjustified geo-blocking in December 2018.

2017 Regulation on accessing online content abroad

Against the background of the Digital Single Market Strategy published in 2016 by the European Commission, the European Union adopted legislation to end restrictions on accessing online content abroad.

The 2017 legislation on portability of online content enables users to access, the same way as they do at home, their online film subscriptions and other digital products when temporarily present in another EU country. This is subject to prior verification of the country of residence of the subscriber.

To mark one year since the entry into force of the EU legislation on portability, the European Commission issued a press statement.

2018 Regulation on geo-blocking

Geo-blocking prevents consumers from purchasing consumer goods and accessing digital content online from other EU countries. According to the European Commission, 38 % of retailers selling consumer goods and 68 % of digital content providers that replied to an inquiry into the e-commerce sector answered that they geo-block consumers located in other EU countries.

The 2018 legislation on addressing unjustified geo-blocking ensures that buyers of goods or services from another EU country are treated like local customers. More details is available on the Legislative Train website. A review of the regulation by the European Commission, in particular the assessment of the scope, is overdue since spring 2020. In February 2021, the European Parliament, through its parliamentary Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), put a question to the European Commission whether it intended to address the implementation issues in an upgraded legislation.

The European Commission website on geo-blocking features more information on its action.

European Parliamentary questions

Members of the European Parliament regularly address questions to the European Commission on cross-border content portability, for example regarding access to online content services, the effects of geo-blocking, or exemptions.

Further information

Keep sending your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP)! We reply in the EU language that you use to write to us.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2021/04/20/what-is-the-eu-doing-to-enable-citizens-to-access-online-content-when-travelling-within-the-eu/