Major challenges for EU tourism and policy responses [Policy Podcast]

Written by Vasilis Margaras,

Major challenges for EU tourism and policy responses

© Alfio Finocchiaro / Shutterstock.com

Constituting the third-largest economic activity in the EU, tourism is of considerable importance as a source of economic growth, regional development and employment. Although it has been badly affected by the economic crisis in the past years, tourism has proved resilient, as witnessed by the growing number of visitors to the EU over the years. Nonetheless, the industry is faced with a number of challenges and mounting competition, in particular from emerging non-European destinations, whose share in the global tourist market is gradually increasing. Because of its transversal nature, tourism is impacted upon by various policies, including those on transport, environment, consumer protection and regional development. These policies are not always easy to coordinate.

Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) allows the EU to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States in the domain. However, this legal advance has not led to a great impetus towards EU-level policy-making in tourism. Although EU legislation has progressively covered a number of fields in which the EU has exclusive or shared competency with the Member States (such as transport, transport security and passenger rights), tourism policy remains essentially nationally regulated.

In recent years, the European Commission has presented two strategies on tourism: ‘Europe, the world’s No 1 destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe (2010)’, in which it sets out the EU’s priorities and actions regarding the sector, and ‘A European strategy for more growth and jobs in coastal and maritime tourism’ (2014). In a resolution from 2011, the Parliament made a number of suggestions for achieving a competitive modern and sustainable tourism. In 2015, the Parliament welcomed the 2014 European Commission strategy and called for the adoption of a number of additional initiatives to ensure that it is implemented in real terms.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Major challenges for EU tourism and policy responses‘.


Listen to podcast ‘Major challenges for EU tourism and policy responses

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/17/major-challenges-for-eu-tourism-and-policy-responses-policy-podcast/

Limits on exposure to carcinogens and mutagens at work: Second proposal [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Nicole Scholz (1st edition),

Limits on exposure to carcinogens and mutagens at work: Second proposal

© elnavegante / Shutterstock.com

The European Commission has proposed to amend Directive 2004/37/EC by expanding its scope and by including and/or revising occupational exposure limit values for a number of cancer- or mutation-causing chemical agents. The initiative is proceeding in steps. The first proposal, submitted in May 2016, covered 13 priority chemical agents. The current (second) proposal addresses a further seven agents.

Broad discussions with scientists and the social partners fed into both proposals. While welcoming the current proposal, trade unions nonetheless deplore its lack of ambition and notably criticise the fact that diesel-engine exhaust emissions have not been included in it. Some actors on the employers’ side, reacting to the Commission’s set of measures as a whole, welcome the specific guidance to help enterprises implement rules. The legislative process is still in its initial stages.

 

Versions

Stage: National parliaments

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/17/limits-on-exposure-to-carcinogens-and-mutagens-at-work-second-proposal-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Contracts for the supply of digital content and personal data protection

Written by Rafał Mańko and Shara Monteleone,

Digitaler Fingerabdruck

© psdesign1 / Fotolia

The proposed directive on the supply of digital content is intended to regulate the main contractual rights and duties of parties to contracts for the supply of digital content and services, and create a harmonised legal framework for digital content to benefit both consumers and businesses. It covers not only contracts where digital content or services are provided in exchange for money, but also those where the consumer provides personal or other data in lieu of money to gain access to digital content or services.

The interplay between this proposed private law instrument and the existing public law rules on data protection (notably the recently adopted General Data Protection Regulation) have been the subject of some debate. The European Data Protection Supervisor’s recent opinion was critical of the proposal, arguing that, in the EU, personal data ‘cannot be conceived as a mere economic asset’ and cannot therefore be treated as the consumer’s contractual counter-performance in lieu of money.

The draft report prepared by the co-rapporteurs in Parliament includes those contracts in which consumers do not pay a price (but potentially provide data) within the scope of the proposal. It eliminates however the notion of personal data as a form of contractual ‘counter-performance’. The co-legislators are now facing the challenging task of reconciling the fundamental rights approach with the requirements of economic reality, including the need to grant legal protection to consumers who provide their data in order to access digital content or services.


Read this briefing on ‘Contracts for the supply of digital content and personal data protection‘ in PDF.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/16/contracts-for-the-supply-of-digital-content-and-personal-data-protection/

The political impact of the European Parliament in the 1980s

Written by Christian Salm,

EPRS roundtable discussion - ' The political impact of the European Parliament in the 1980s: Writing EU history '

Research on the history of the EU has mainly covered the impact of the nation states and their governments on the European integration process. Consequently, historical research on the role of the EU’s supranational institutions has been neglected. There are only a few exceptions where historical studies reconstruct the influence of the European Commission on various dimensions of European integration. One example is two volumes on the history of the Commission, which give an inside view of this institution in the 1970s and 1980s. Source-based comprehensive historical research on the European Parliament, explaining its development since it foundation in the 1950s, does not exist. An EPRS project on the history of the Parliament will partly remedy this gap in the existing historiography on the EU. The project seeks to research the character and culture of the first two directly-elected European Parliaments, from June 1979 to May 1989, and the role they played in the institutional development of the Community and in the launching of the single market programme.

On 10 March 2017, EPRS organised a roundtable discussion to launch this history project. It brought together academics Birte Wassenberg (Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Strasbourg), Wolfram Kaiser (Professor of European Studies at the University of Portsmouth), and Laurent Warlouzet (Professor of Contemporary History at the Université de Boulogne), who will all write on the subject for the project. In addition, Gijs de Vries, a prominent MEP (NL, ELDR) from 1984 onwards participated in the roundtable discussion and described his personal experiences as an MEP in the 1980s. EPRS Director-General, Anthony Teasdale, opened the roundtable, emphasising that the EPRS history project will seek to raise awareness among new generations of the work of the Parliament in the past, when it made a substantial impact, despite having only limited powers.

EPRS roundtable discussion - ' The political impact of the European Parliament in the 1980s: Writing EU history 'Birte Wassenberg, who is carrying out a study on the character, composition and culture of the first two directly elected Parliaments, underlined the importance of the first direct election of June 1979 to understanding the Parliament’s character and culture in the 1980s in her presentation. She argued that the first direct election not only gave the Parliament a more democratic outlook, but also contributed to increasing the Parliament’s confidence to become an engine for democratisation in Europe and the world. Among other important aspects on the Parliament’s character, composition and culture, Wassenberg’s study will tackle questions such as: Did the Parliament’s direct elections lead to an increase in representativeness? How did direct elections affect affiliation and political developments inside the Parliament’s various bodies?

Moving from Parliament’s culture and character to its influence on European policy-making in the 1980s, Wolfram Kaiser, responsible for the study on the Parliament’s impact on the institutional development of the Community, underlined that the Parliament created a trajectory for its own advocacy of institutional reform from the time of its foundation in the 1950s onwards. Looking at the 1980s, Kaiser stated that in the Draft Treaty on European Union, adopted by Members in 1984, the Parliament saw its main contribution to the renewed debate of the time regarding institutional reforms at the European level. His final study will seek, inter alia, to demonstrate how futile it is to judge the impact of the Parliament on European policy-making, not based on its limited formal legal power in the 1980s, but with a focus on how the Parliament, political groups and individual MEPs used networks and expertise to advance particular positions on the policy regarding legislative issues within the context of institutional development.

Laurent Warlouzet, writing on the Parliament’s impact on launching and completing the single market programme, began his presentation by arguing that the Parliament asserted its role in policy-making in the 1980s by rejecting two draft Community budgets, in 1979 and 1984. Using the example of various Parliament reports, Warlouzet stressed that the European Parliament was able to take an intellectual role in the debate on how to design and set up the single market programme. Further topics that Warlouzet’s study will capture include, for example, Parliament’s interactions with the Commission, the Council and the Communities’ Member States in defining the single market agenda, and the practical work of the Parliament in amending single market legislation proposed by the Commission.

The concluding discussion focused on methodological issues related to all three studies. Speakers underlined that they will use a wide range of historical sources, especially from the European Parliament’s historical archives. The three studies are expected to be published in spring 2018.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/16/the-political-impact-of-the-european-parliament-in-the-1980s/

European information systems in the area of justice and home affairs: An overview

Written by Costica Dumbrava,

immigration control at airport, security technology concept.

© laufer / Fotolia

High levels of irregular migration and the increase in transnational terrorist activities have pushed the EU to take concerted measures to strengthen its external borders and to enhance internal security. The revision and development of information systems for border management and law enforcement has been a key aspect of this response.

As identified by the European Commission, the European information systems in the area of justice and home affairs have a number of important shortcomings related to: suboptimal functionalities, persistent information gaps, limited utilisation, fragmented overall architecture, and limited interoperability. To address these shortcomings, the Commission has put forward a series of proposals to revise existing information systems and to establish new ones.

A general trend has been the expansion of the law enforcement components of information systems, including of those that were not originally intended for such purposes. The recast Eurodac Regulation, which came into force in July 2015, allows for the use of the Eurodac database of asylum-seekers’ fingerprints for preventing, detecting and investigating terrorist offences and other serious crimes. Similarly, access to the Visa Information System was given to national law enforcement authorities and to Europol.

While the use of information systems has improved in most cases, the full potential has not yet been reached. For example, alerts on foreign terrorist fighters are still not systematically inserted and checked in the Schengen Information System. Only a minority of Member States make use of Eurodac and the Visa Information System for law enforcement purposes. Member States’ contributions to databases remain uneven. For example, just five Member States have reported almost all the cases of verified foreign terrorist fighters recorded in the Europol Information System. Some Member States are not yet connected electronically to the Interpol stolen and lost documents database, as they have not yet implemented the Prüm framework. Although Europol was given access to most databases, it has not yet made full use of its access rights.

Apart from taking measures to maximise the use and benefits of the information systems, the Commission has put forward legislative proposals aimed at expanding the scope of the existing systems. The proposals revising the Schengen Information System oblige Member States to issue alerts on persons related to terrorist offences and to introduce information about entry bans and return decisions in the system. The recast Eurodac Regulation makes it mandatory for Member States to collect data on third-country nationals or stateless persons who have been apprehended crossing EU

borders irregularly or remaining illegally on EU territory. The proposal for a revised criminal records information system enables authorities to determine which Member State holds criminal records of a third-country national.

In view of closing information gaps concerning persons who might pose a security threat but are not covered by the existing systems, the Commission has presented proposals to establish two new information systems. The entry/exit system will record entry and exit data from all third-country nationals (including from visa-exempt third countries) crossing Schengen borders. The European travel information and authorisation system will collect pre-arrival information on third-country nationals (including family members of EU citizens) travelling to the EU. The new information systems will be built to ensure interoperability with other relevant information systems, while ensuring data protection rules are respected.


Read the complete in-depth analysis on ‘European information systems in the area of justice and home affairs: An overview‘ in PDF.


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Illegal border crossings and first time asylum applications (in millions)

Figure 2 – Illegal border crossings and first time asylum applications (in millions)

International tourist arrivals in the EU, including projections

International tourist arrivals in the EU, including projections

Terrorism related arrests, attacks and deaths

Figure 3 – Terrorism related arrests, attacks and deaths

European information systems in the area of justice and home affair

Figure 4 – European information systems in the area of justice and home affair

Alerts on persons in the SIS (in millions)

Figure 5 – Alerts on persons in the SIS (in millions)

Searches in the SIS (in billions)

Figure 6 – Searches in the SIS (in billions)

Applications for Schengen visa (in millions)

Figure 7 – Applications for Schengen visa (in millions)

VIS searches for asylum purposes and for visa verification in the territory

Figure 8 –VIS searches for asylum purposes and for visa verification in the territory

Data subjects in Eurodac (in millions)

Figure 10 – Data subjects in Eurodac (in millions)

VIS searches for law enforcement purposes

VIS searches for law enforcement purposes

New data subjects related to asylum claims and corresponding hits in Eurodac

Figure 11 – New data subjects related to asylum claims and corresponding hits in Eurodac

Data subjects in the EIS (in millions)

Figure 13 – Data subjects in the EIS (in millions)

New data subjects related to illegal stay and corresponding hits in Eurodac

New data subjects related to illegal stay and corresponding hits in Eurodac

Foreign terrorist fighters in the EIS

Figure 14 – Foreign terrorist fighters in the EIS

Member states implementing the Prüm Decisions on key types of data

Figure 15 – Member states implementing the Prüm Decisions on key types of data

Requests and notifications sent through ECRIS (thousands)

Figure 16 – Requests and notifications sent through ECRIS (thousands)

Single search interface for European information systems

Figure 18 – Single search interface for European information systems

Eurojust's cases

Eurojust’s cases

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/15/european-information-systems-in-the-area-of-justice-and-home-affairs-an-overview/

NATO and EU defence [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

NATO round table 3d on white background

© Ch_Alexandr / Fotolia

The US President, Donald Trump, will meet with the other leaders of the NATO member states at a summit in Brussels on 25 May 2017. Among issues on the table are the new US Administration’s commitment to Europe’s security, and the levels of military spending in Europe, which Washington considers too low. President Trump’s early statements created doubts in Europe about the future of transatlantic relations, but he and his officials have since reassured both NATO and the European Union that such ties will remain very important.

This note offers links to commentaries, studies and reports by major international think tanks, on NATO, its relations with the EU and the wider issue of European security. More papers on the topics can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are thinking’, published in December 2016.

Strategic autonomy and EU-NATO cooperation: squaring the circle
Egmont, May 2017

NATO’s role in post-Caliphate stability operations
Rand Corporation, May 2017

Lessons from Russia’s operations in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine
Rand Corporation, May 2017

Enhancing NATO’s forward presence
Carnegie Europe, April 2017

Transatlantic fragmentations and policy adaptation: The security of Europe in 2025
German Marshall Fund, April 2017

France’s Trumpian defense policy
Carnegie Europe, April 2017

European defence in the French elections
Clingendael, April 2017

European defence cooperation in the second machine age
European Union Institute for Security Studies, April 2017

Funding EU defence cooperation
European Union Institute for Security Studies, April 2017

The CARD on the EU defence table
European Union Institute for Security Studies, April 2017

Trapped in the twilight zone? Sweden between neutrality and NATO
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, April 2017

European relations with Russia: Threat perceptions, responses, and strategies in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis
Rand Corporation, April 2017

European defence in view of Brexit
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, April 2017

France and the future of European defence
Friends of Europe, April 2017

How the EU can save NATO
Egmont, March 2017

The new NATO-Russia military balance: implications for European security
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 2017

The UK and the Western alliance: NATO in the new era of realpolitik
Policy Exchange, March 2017

European defence: Action and commitment
Clingendael, March 2017

Revolutionäre Ereignisse und geoökonomisch-strategische Ergebnisse: Die EU- und NATO-“Osterweiterungen” 1989-2015 im Vergleich
Zentrum für Europäische Integrationsforschung, March 2017

Recasting EU civilian crisis management
European Union Institute for Security Studies, March 2017

How we have become an enemy in the eyes of Russia: The EU as portrayed by Kremlin propaganda
Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, March 2017

Defining dialogue: How to manage Russia-UK security relations
Royal United Services Institute, March 2017

The difference resilience makes: U.S. national preparedness, from civil defence to resilience
Österreichisches Institut für Internationale Politik, March 2017

Security is about more than just military spending
Friends of Europe, March 2017

Core Groups: The way to real European defence
Egmont, February 2017

Differentiated integration in defence: A plea for PESCO
Istituto Affari Internazionali, February 2017

The EU: From comprehensive vision to integrated action
European Union Institute for Security Studies, February 2017

Europe in a new world order
Bruegel, February 2017

Handling Russia should not be so difficult for the West
Chatham House, February 2017

At the gate: Civil and military protection of Europe’s borders
Clingendael, February 2017

The NPT and the origins of NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements
Institut français des relations internationales, February 2017

NATO as a “Nuclear Alliance”: Background and contemporary issues
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, February 2017

Mission Ukraine: normative or strategic objectives?
College of Europe, February 2017

Reforming NATO’s partnerships
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, January 2017

European defence: The year ahead
European Union Institute for Security Studies, January 2017

Glimmer of hope for the Common Security and Defence Policy
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, January 2017

Border security in Eastern Europe: Lessons for NATO and partners
German Marshall Fund, January 2017

Southern challenges and the regionalization of the Transatlantic Security Partnership
German Marshall Fund, January 2017

Finding our bearings: European security challenges in the era of Trump and Brexit
Institute of International and European Affairs, January 2017

The “Belarus factor”: From balancing to bridging geopolitical dividing lines in Europe?
Clingendael, January 2017

The EU’s winter package for European security and defence
Centre for European Policy Studies, December 2016

From Suez to Syria: Why NATO must strengthen its political role
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, December 2016

European security: Challenges at the societal level
OSCE Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions, December 2016

Poland, the Czech Republic and NATO in fragile security contexts
Institute of East-Central Europe, Association for International Affairs, December 2016

La defensa europea entre la Estrategia Global y su implementación
Real Instituto Elcano, December 2016

EU defence, Brexit and Trump: The good, the bad and the ugly
Centre for European Reform, December 2016

Achilles, the tortoise and CSDP: The way forward for Europe’s defence
Institut de relations internationales et stratégiques, December 2016

The economics of European defence
Institut de relations internationales et stratégiques, December 2016

The EU’s Security and Defence Policy: Will the new strategy bear fruit?
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, December 2016

Europe’s new defence agenda: Major hurdles still remain
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, December 2016

Interferenzen, Wechselwirkungen und die Herausforderungen für die Rüstungskontrolle und Abrüstung in Europa
Österreichisches Institut für Internationale Politik, December 2016

Winter is coming: Chilly winds across northern Europe
European Union Institute for Security Studies, December 2016

The European air transport command: A viable model for promoting European military cooperation
College of Europe, December 2016

What’s next for NATO’s capabilities? Collective defence and neighbourhood Stabilization: The Italian perspective
Istituto Affari Internazionali, December 2016


Read this briefing on ‘NATO and EU defence‘ in PDF.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/12/nato-and-eu-defence-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

EP Plenary Session May I: What future for liberalism, multilateralism, and free trade?

Written by Clare Ferguson,

European Parliament Spring

© Europen Parliament / P.Naj-Oleari

With a Commission statement scheduled for Tuesday morning dealing with globalisation, the EU’s place in the world leads the agenda for the first European Parliament plenary session in May.

Multilateralism is a core element of EU international relations – both the 2003 European security strategy and the 2016 global strategy emphasise the importance of a rules-based global order – with multilateralism as a key principle. In light of recent protectionist shifts in the political landscape, the future of multilateralism is, however, in question. The United Nations (UN) is the foremost institution of the global liberal order. The formal sitting this session, scheduled for Wednesday lunchtime, will hear an address by António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, a firm supporter of global solidarity and international cooperation through multilateral agreements. Guterres’ strong reformist agenda for the UN focuses on the institution’s operations in promotion of peace, sustainable development, and renewing the institution’s internal management, to face an increasingly troubled world.

Continuing on international trade relations, Parliament will discuss a report on the EU-South Korea free trade agreement, now in its fifth year, on Wednesday evening. Although some technical barriers persist, the total trade between the countries has risen to €85.9 billion in 2016. The recent election of liberal politician Moon Jae-in as the country’s President is expected to herald a more stable political era in the country, which could call on the EU’s dialogue and negotiating experience in a new approach to its northern neighbour.

As the global population rises, demands on resources increase. When some people find it hard to get enough to eat, throwing edible food away seems crazy – yet in the EU we waste 88 million tonnes every year. Parliament is keen to move towards a circular economy in the EU, and its Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) points out that clearly defining food waste, how it can be measured, and imposing a binding target to reduce waste by 50 % by 2030, can help. Members will discuss changing food labelling, so that food is no longer thrown away because of confusing ‘best by’ and ‘sell by’ dates, on Monday evening. This could both reduce food waste and simultaneously improve food safety, as well as making it easier and less costly to donate food to the needy.

Resource efficiency: Reducing food waste, improving food safety [Plenary Podcast]

 

Turning to affairs at home, one of the EU’s strengths is the variety of its regions, yet this leads to greatly differing needs for territorial development. As these cannot be met by a one-size-fits-all funding solution, the Parliament’s Regional Development Committee is proposing improvements to the way EU funding is disbursed, so that regions can obtain the right funding mix, balancing cohesion policy funding between financial instruments and grants, in a report for debate on Thursday morning. Allocating cohesion policy funding is not the end of the story, however. In difficult economic times, some countries need technical assistance to advance the administrative reforms required for planning and execution of cohesion policy funding, and Members will therefore also discuss a report on the outlook for technical assistance.

It can be hard for legislation to keep up with fast-moving new and emerging technologies. On Tuesday afternoon, Members discuss the growing influence of the financial technology sector, known as FinTech, on the financial services market, and the need for a level playing field. When the rules are not the same in different countries, new companies can be tempted to try ‘jurisdiction shopping’ – operating in countries where the rules are less strict – which puts both their own firms and customers at risk. In view of the fragmented nature of the measures to date, Parliament has identified a need for a comprehensive action plan on FinTech, to ensure that EU citizens are protected by common rules, without stifling innovation. The proposals for an EU framework for financial technology are based on three principles: same rules for same services; technology neutrality; and proportionality.

Finally, being locked out of your subscription to your favourite magazine, music stream, or video channel, when on holiday or a business trip in another country is annoying when you have paid for the service. On Wednesday afternoon, Members will take moves to end this unsatisfactory situation to the next level by voting on a compromise text on new rules on cross-border portability of online services. The moves include pinning down what is meant in law by ‘temporary presence’, and ‘Member State of residence’, as well as providing a waiver for providers of rights-free content. However, some key issues remain unresolved.

Cross-border portability of online content [Plenary Podcast]

 

 

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/12/ep-plenary-session-may-i-what-future-for-liberalism-multilateralism-and-free-trade/

CO2 emissions from aviation [Policy Podcast][EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Gregor Erbach (1st edition),

Globe with green airplane wing flying over a tropical cloudscape. Metaphor or concept of energy conservation and more efficient flying in the aviation industry to save energy and reduce CO2 output in order to combat global warming.

© FlemishDreams / Fotolia

CO2 emissions from all flights to and from airports in the European Economic Area (EEA) have been included in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) since 2012. Although this would include flights between an airport within the EEA and an airport outside it, the application of the ETS to such flights was temporarily suspended, until the end of 2016, to allow for the development of emission-reduction measures with a global scope by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and to avoid conflicts with international trading partners. In October 2016, ICAO adopted a global market-based measure (GMBM), which would become operational in 2021. In February 2017, the European Commission proposed a regulation to prolong the derogation for extra-EEA flights, gradually reduce the number of aviation allowances from 2021 onwards, and prepare for the implementation of the GMBM. In the European Parliament, the proposal has been referred to the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

Versions

Stage: Committee vote

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/12/co2-emissions-from-aviation-policy-podcast/

The Collaborative Economy: What’s at stake?

Citizens have contacted the European Parliament wanting to know how the EU is regulating the new fast moving ‘collaborative or sharing economy’. This rapidly evolving sector touches on a number of aspects of the economy including in the areas of accommodation (short-term letting); passenger transport; household services; professional and technical services, and collaborative finance.

Commission communication

Share concept on a smartphone

Thodonal / fotolia

The European Commission has put forward guidelines in the form of a communication that highlights some of the key issues as stake to foster the Collaborative economy whilst ensuring adequate protections for consumers and workers.

The communication, entitled ‘A European agenda for collaborative economy’ on 2 June 2016 which aims to provide clarity on applicable EU rules and policy recommendations to help citizens, businesses and EU countries fully benefit from the new business models and promote the balanced development of the collaborative economy.

The communication defines the collaborative economy as ‘business models where activities are facilitated by collaborative platforms that create an open marketplace for the temporary usage of goods or services often provided by private individuals […] Collaborative economy transactions generally do not involve a change of ownership and can be carried out for profit or not-for-profit.’

According to the Commission communication: ‘Gross revenue in the EU from collaborative platforms and providers was estimated to be EUR 28 billion in 2015. Revenues in the EU in five key sectors almost doubled compared with the previous year and are set to continue expanding robustly.’

 

The European Parliament in action

In an own-initiative report that is debated and voted on in the May 2017 plenary session, the need to address regulatory grey areas that cause significant differences among Member States due to national and local regulations and case law is stressed.  Some key recommendations of the report include:

  • consumer rights: information to consumers about the rules applicable to each transaction and their rights; collaborative platforms should put in place effective systems for complaints and for settling disputes,
  • workers’ rights: fair working conditions and adequate protection should be guaranteed for all workers in the collaborative economy; workers should also be able to transfer and accumulate users’ electronic ratings and reviews, which constitute their ‘digital market value’, and
  • taxation: similar tax obligations should be applied to businesses providing comparable services, whether in the traditional economy or in the collaborative economy; MEPs advocate innovative solutions for improving tax compliance and call on platforms to collaborate to this end.

More information is available in the European Parliament press release of 3 May 2017 and in  procedure file 2017/2003(INI) in the Parliament’s Legislative Observatory.

Several European Parliament questions on the collaborative economy have been put to the Commission by MEPs including on the impact on the tourism sector. The Commission replies on 4 May 2017 on tourism: ‘…Private individuals offering services via collaborative platforms on a peer-to-peer and occasional basis should not be automatically treated as professional service providers. Notably, not everything that can be considered justified and proportionate to professional services providers is automatically also justified and proportionate to those offering services on an occasional basis.’

Moreover, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on 29 October 2015 on ‘New challenges and concepts for the promotion of tourism in Europe’ where inter alia, MEPs ‘emphasise that the current legislation is not suited to the sharing economy, and that for this reason local and national governments have started to analyse such online platforms and are trying to regulate their effects, often applying disproportionate measures which are somewhat disparate within the Union.’

Furthermore, in November 2016, the European Parliament organised a workshop on collaborative economy with different stakeholders presenting a variety of business models and best practices across Europe within collaborative economy.

 

Further information

The European Parliament has prepared several studies and briefings into the sector: For example, the briefing on A European agenda for the collaborative economy – November 2016 which sets out different stakeholders’ positions, the briefing on Tourism and the sharing economy – January 2017 (both prepared by the European Parliamentary Research Service).

A study on the Collaborative Economy – January 2017.  In-depth analyses on: The Collaborative Economy: and on Socioeconomic, Regulatory and Policy Issues – February 2017, Critical assessment of European Agenda for the collaborative economy, – February 2017, An economic review on the Collaborative Economy – December 2016  (all for Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee). An in-depth analysis for the Employment and Social Affairs Committee on the Situation of Workers in the Collaborative Economy – October 2016. An infographic and article on the collaborative economy – May 2017.

The European Commission webpage on the collaborative economy contains official documents, analytical papers and upcoming events on this rapidly evolving sector.

 

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/12/the-collaborative-economy-whats-at-stake/

António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General: a strong reformist agenda in difficult times

Written by Ionel Zamfir,

The election

António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres

António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres

António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres became the new Secretary-General (SG) of the United Nations on 1 January 2017, following an election process that was unprecedentedly transparent, including public debates with the ten candidates. His election raised much hope that he would be able to tackle the difficult challenges confronting the global body, whose prestige and credibility – many believed – had diminished under the previous leadership. The election of a Portuguese national to the top UN post was somewhat surprising. It had been assumed that an informal principle of regional rotation would guide the choice, which would have favoured a candidate from the Eastern Europe group of states, rather than Western Europe – home to most former UN Secretaries-General. Guterres’ smooth selection by the Security Council was likely made possible by his personal and professional qualities and by his extensive diplomatic and political experience. It was also in line with the UN General Assembly’s recommendation, calling for a new Secretary-General who ‘embodies the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity and demonstrates a firm commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN’.

The person behind the role

Anónio Guterres is the first UN Secretary-General to have previously held a top political position at the national level. He was Portugal’s Prime Minister between 1995 and 2002 and chair of the European Council in early 2000. Ideologically, Guterres is a socialist politician, and is also a practising Catholic, demonstrating on many occasions his compassion for the disenfranchised in both words and deeds. Guterres is a polyglot, speaking several languages fluently (English, French, and Spanish, as well as his native Portuguese). During his campaign, he emphasised the importance of fostering multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious societies. He is also father to two children.

As UN High Commissioner for Refugees between 2005 and 2015, Guterres is not new to the UN, and is credited with reforming this UN body: cutting the share of headquarters and staff expenditure in total costs by roughly half, reducing staff by a fifth, and Geneva-based staff by as much as 30 % through redeployment to crisis regions, and all while partnerships with NGOs and governments increased and programme implementation was high. His experience in dealing with refugees is likely to have favoured his selection, given the urgency of the refugee issue worldwide today.

The task at hand

The UN Secretary-General is the United Nations’ top official and the world’s chief diplomat. He is empowered by the UN Charter to bring any threat to international peace and security to the Security Council’s attention. He cannot receive instructions from any government, but in practice has to take into account the concerns of member states, while upholding the values enshrined in the Charter. The SG often takes a mediation role, providing ‘good offices’ to prevent international disputes. The duration of his term is five years.

António Guterres’ vision for the UN

Guterres has outlined his vision for the UN top job on several previous occasions, and most prominently in the vision statement he presented to the General Assembly on 4 April 2016 to launch his candidacy, and in the speech he delivered at his investiture in December 2016. Guterres emphasises that today’s world faces serious challenges, such as horrific violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses, large scale migration, global terrorism, and megatrends such as climate change, population growth, rapid urbanisation, food insecurity and water scarcity, which increase competition for resources and heighten tensions.

Conflict prevention was the mantra of Guterres’ candidacy to the UN’s highest post. As he has repeatedly stated, the most serious shortcoming of the UN is its inability to prevent crises. The global institution is much more focused on solving conflicts then on preventing them. This can be remedied by strengthening the resilience of societies, re-establishing human rights, including social and economic rights, as fundamental values applicable also to minorities, and promoting gender equality. This fundamental shift of policy orientation may however not be easy to accomplish, since many states could prove reluctant to finance peace building initiatives.

In order to achieve this objective, Guterres proposes to reform the UN in three main areas:

(1) Peace. A global reform of the UN strategy, operations and structures in the field of peace is the cornerstone of his approach. To this end, Guterres commissioned a review by a special team, whose report is due in June. A review of UN anti-terrorist activities and better coordination among the 38 UN bodies dealing with terrorism-related aspects will also take place. A zero tolerance policy for sexual crimes committed by UN peace keepers – an issue of serious concern affecting UN peace-keeping in the past – will be implemented.

(2) Sustainable development. A comprehensive reform of the United Nations development system, at headquarter and country levels is envisaged, to involve the humanitarian and development spheres directly from the outset of a crisis.

(3) The internal management of the institution. Eliminating red tape, decentralisation and flexibility is the third big objective, coupled with more effective communication, as well as gender parity. Guterres explicitly states that the need for reform is urgent: ‘looking at United Nations staff and budgetary rules and regulations, one might think that some of them were designed to prevent, rather than enable, the effective delivery of our mandates.’

The current challenges faced by the UN Secretary-General

Guterres has to steer the organisation through choppy waters. From his position at the helm of the UN, he has to restore confidence in its capacity to deal with the world’s most pressing crises, after this was shaken by the UN’s inability to deal with the Syrian conflict and its humanitarian consequences. Moreover, Guterres has to deal with a United States’ administration openly hostile to the UN and to global multilateral institutions and cooperation in general. One of his most difficult tasks is therefore to maintain US interest in and support for the UN. While his reformist agenda may find some common ground with long-term US demands for a slimmer and more efficient UN, any reduction in US funding, as advocated repeatedly by the Trump administration, could significantly incapacitate the UN. The US provides around a quarter of the UN budget, and the cuts would most likely affect UN agencies that rely on voluntary funding, as well as peace operations. The USA has already cut its financing to the UN Population Fund, under a policy that bans US aid to organisations promoting abortion. This cut was allegedly based on a false perception of the activities of this agency. All this raises questions about what kind of relation Guterres will have with the USA and other powerful countries – either appeasing or assertive – a dilemma that previous secretaries-general also faced in the past.

United Nations – European Parliament rapport

Guterres will address the European Parliament Plenary on 17 May 2017. This will not be the first time that he visits the institution. He visited the EP in April 2010 to deliver a speech on refugees, and in September 2015 participated in a debate with MEPs on migrants’ human rights. Following his election, Martin Schulz, then President of the European Parliament, expressed his satisfaction with the choice of a European candidate, and his confidence that Guterres will strengthen the UN’s role as a central actor in global governance.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/05/12/antonio-guterres-united-nations-secretary-general-a-strong-reformist-agenda-in-difficult-times/