World Food Programme: Food for peace

Written by Eric Pichon,

On 9 October 2020, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) ‘for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict’. Adding to a worrying rise in food insecurity, the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have pushed millions more people to the brink of famine. The WFP’s expertise on emergencies, often in conflict areas, has provided relief to the most fragile populations. The EU supports the WFP through funding, knowledge-sharing, and protecting its vessels from piracy in certain waters.

Food security during the coronavirus pandemic

The Global Report on Food Crises 2020 (GRFC 2020) counted 135 million acutely food-insecure people in 2019 in its analysis of 55 countries and territories – the highest figure since the first report in 2017. A September 2020 update of the report estimates that between 83 and 132 million more people might be under-nourished in 2020 due to the pandemic. This update – covering 26 of the 55 GRFC 2020 countries and territories, plus Togo – confirms that measures to combat the pandemic have compromised access to food for millions. Lockdown and quarantine measures have reduced economic activity and revenue for both households and governments, while infected people have had to face increased health expenditure. The measures also disrupted the food supply chain. Despite the fact that most countries endeavoured to keep essential food and agricultural activities running, lockdown and border closures have hindered food transport and trade, leading also to higher levels of food loss. Food shortages caused by this disruption, combined with revenue losses, have increased nutritional deficiencies for the already most fragile populations, including those with higher nutritional needs such as aged and sick persons, pregnant and lactating women. The first year of the pandemic may have caused more than 120 000 additional nutrition-related child deaths in low- and middle-income countries. Moreover, Covid‑19 restrictions have complicated humanitarian access and therefore obstructed food supply for refugees, internally displaced persons, and other victims of man-made and natural disasters (such as internally displaced persons in central Africa,

Numbers of acutely food-insecure people by key driver (2019)

Numbers of acutely food-insecure people by key driver (2019)

Venezuelan migrants or Syrian refugees). Coronavirus concerns have also distracted global attention from other crises. Most development aid providers – including the EU and its Member States – have reoriented their funds towards coronavirus-related programmes and projects. Vaccination campaigns against other diseases have slowed. Peace-keeping missions have been scaled back, while at the same time coronavirus-related measures have exacerbated tensions and triggered unrest due to their economic consequences or their impact on freedom of assembly, leaving room for jihadist and other armed groups in fragile countries to operate. This will have a direct impact on food security, as conflict and insecurity are one of the main drivers of food crises (and the primary driver in 22 countries, see Figure 1). The Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee underlines that not only does conflict create hunger, and hunger trigger conflicts, but hunger can also ‘be used as a weapon’, despite its prohibition under international humanitarian law.

Read the complete ‘at a glance’ on ‘World Food Programme: Food for peace‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Key issues in the European Council: State of play in October 2020

Written by Suzana Anghel, Izabela Bacian, Ralf Drachenberg and Annastiina Papunen,

© Adobe Stock

The role of the European Council is to ‘provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development’ and to define its ‘general political directions and priorities’. Since its creation in 1975, the European Council has exercised considerable influence over the development of the European Union, a process enhanced by its designation as a formal institution of the Union under the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.

The European Council Oversight Unit within the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) monitors and analyses the activities, commitments and impact of the European Council, so as to maximise parliamentary understanding of the political dynamics of this important institution.

This EPRS publication, ‘Key issues in the European Council’, which is updated every quarter to coincide with European Council meetings, aims to provide an overview of the institution’s activities on major EU issues. It analyses twelve broad policy areas, explaining the legal and political background, the main priorities and orientations defined by the European Council and the results of its involvement to date, as well as some of the future challenges in each policy field.

Read this study on ‘Key issues in the European Council: State of play in October 2020‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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European Parliament Plenary Session – October II 2020

Written by Clare Ferguson,

© European Union 2020 – Source : EP

Parliament’s second plenary session in October will be the first ever to be held entirely virtually, due to the ongoing pandemic. Despite meeting online, however, Members will nevertheless address a full agenda that features, among other things, the conclusions of the European Council meeting and discussion of the future relationship with the United Kingdom, as well as hearing the European Commission’s plans for its work programme for 2021. Parliament will also announce the laureate of the Sakharov Prize for outstanding achievements in the service of human rights, on Thursday.

The session commences on Monday evening with an important joint debate on efforts to regulate new technologies to ensure that they maximise benefits to people in the EU while also minimising the risks. Parliament has long called for revision of the outdated EU framework for online services, particularly in the light of large discrepancies in application of the rules between EU countries. In advance of the expected Commission proposal on a Digital Services Act package, Parliament’s committees have tabled three reports setting out an initial position on the revision. An Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee legislative-initiative report details the measures necessary to update legislation to reflect new information society services. These should ensure that the rules apply to all goods and services providers, regardless of where they are located, and better protect EU consumers against fraudulent practices, targeted advertising, and automated decisions. The parallel Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee legislative-initiative report recommends standards to which platforms should be held and the application of different approaches to ‘legal ‘and ‘illegal’ online content. The report seeks to balance the requirements to protect both users’ rights and their right to freedom of speech. The Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee own-initiative report echoes the IMCO and JURI concerns and calls for improved cooperation between service providers and national supervisory authorities, as well as the creation of an independent EU body with the power to sanction online operators who do not comply. While the Commission is not obliged to include Parliament’s position in its proposal, its President has pledged to take account of Parliament’s views.

Parliament has also been active in considering the implications – both positive and negative – of harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, for the lives of people in the EU. In the same joint debate on Monday evening, Parliament will also consider three reports from the JURI committee on ethics, civil liability, and intellectual property in artificial intelligence, setting out Parliament’s positions. The first legislative-initiative report deals with the requirements for a framework of ethical principles for the development, deployment and use of AI, robotics and related technologies, which will be vital to ensuring innovation takes a direction that protects people’s rights. A second legislative-initiative report sets out recommendations for a legal framework for civil liability that identifies a hierarchy of risks, and measures to compensate for harm caused by the technology. A third own-initiative report highlights the need to foster the free flow, access, use and sharing of data, while also protecting intellectual property rights and trade secrets.

Tuesday morning will be devoted to another important joint debate, on the Commission’s package of three legislative proposals to overhaul the common agricultural policy (CAP) for 2021‑2027. While Parliament supports modernisation of the CAP, it warns against moves to introduce budget cuts, particularly in view of the challenges facing this vital sector, which needs to restructure to play its part in protecting the environment and rural communities, and to attract younger people to the sector. One of the proposals seeks to combine interventions under two pillars of the CAP (income and market support, and rural development) in a strategic plan for all expenditure. Another concerns the improved financial management of CAP funding, with Member States allocated greater responsibility for conformity and control of agricultural support funding. A further Commission proposal concerns amendments to regulations on agricultural product quality schemes – specifically wine production in the EU’s outermost regions, including controversial issues regarding authorised wine grape varieties and the labelling of plant and dairy-based meat substitutes. Parliament is expected to adopt its position for negotiations with Council following the debate.

Agricultural production – of which the EU is a major importer – is also a major driver of global deforestation. On Wednesday afternoon, Members return to efforts to halt the continued loss of forests, which are so vital to the fight against climate change. An Environment, Public Health & Food Safety (ENVI) Committee legislative-initiative report calls on the European, Commission to take regulatory action to prevent products associated with deforestation or forest degradation from entering the EU market. The ENVI committee proposes an EU framework to protect forests worldwide, guaranteeing that commodities imported into the EU are legal and sustainable, and that safeguards indigenous peoples and local communities’ human rights.

In view of the strategic review of PESCO taking place this year, later on Monday evening, Members will consider the implementation and governance of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the EU’s Treaty-based military and defence cooperation mechanism that aims to boost EU responsibility for its own security in a vastly more challenging geopolitical environment. Under PESCO’s binding commitments, participating Member States aim at achieving a competitive European defence industry through collaborative projects. Parliament has long supported the creation of PESCO. However, it is critical of certain shortcomings, including the lack of coherence between, and strategic justification for, projects to date. Parliament also calls for increased scrutiny powers, including for national parliaments.

Parliament is also expected to vote on recommendations on relations with Belarus on Tuesday afternoon, following a report from the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) on relations with Belarus. While agreeing with the overall EU stance towards Belarus following the disputed August 2020 elections, the AFET committee supports the general EU line of action, recommends that Parliament decline to recognise Lukashenka as the legitimate president of Belarus and calls for a peaceful resolution to the standoff.

With exclusive competence to grant, postpone or ultimately refuse discharge for the execution of the EU budget (once the Council has delivered its recommendation), Parliament returns on Monday evening to the discharge of the 2018 EU general budget for the European Council and Council and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Having postponed a decision in May 2020, Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (BUDG) has re-examined the files and proposes that Parliament refuse discharge in both cases. Parliament has seen no change in the lack of cooperation from the European Council and Council, specifically on accountability and transparency, which has led Parliament to refuse to grant discharge since 2009. Parliament also considers the EESC has displayed a lack of accountability, budgetary control and good governance of human resources in relation to serious misconduct by one of its senior members.

Finally, the last agenda item on Monday evening concerns a request to mobilise €2 054 400 from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to support workers who have lost their jobs as a result of financial difficulties at two shipyards in Galicia (Spain). Parliament’s Committee on Budgets (BUDG) report on the proposal agrees with the proposal to support workers, which will also help them to reskill in what was already a region of low employment before coronavirus struck.

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Understanding the financing of intergovernmental organisations: A snapshot of the budgets of the UN, NATO and WTO [Policy Podcast]

Written by Magdalena Sapala with Sophia Stutzmann,

© exopixel / Adobe Stock

Access to stable and adequate financial resources is a crucial condition for the realisation of the global goals of intergovernmental organisations (IGOs). In recent decades, alongside global political changes and the evolution in the role of multilateral cooperation, the resourcing and budgetary management of IGOs have also changed. Moreover, funding available to IGOs has become ever more diversified and complex both in terms of its origin and type.

This briefing presents selected aspects of the financing of three of the world’s largest IGOs: the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It presents the size and evolution of their budgets as well as the main contributing countries to these budgets, with a particular focus on the EU Member States. The analysis is based mainly on budgetary data for the financial year 2018.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Understanding the financing of intergovernmental organisations: A snapshot of the budgets of the UN, NATO and WTO‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to policy podcast ‘Understanding the financing of intergovernmental organisations: A snapshot of the budgets of the UN, NATO and WTO’ on YouTube.


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Upholding human rights in Europe during the pandemic [Policy Podcast]

Written by Anja Radjenovic with Gianna Eckert,

brown gavel and medical protective masks on marble background

© European Union 2020 – Source : EP / Emilie GOMEZ

The severe coronavirus outbreak has forced governments across the world to resort to drastic measures in order to slow down the spread of the virus and prevent a public health crisis. As elsewhere, these emergency measures taken in Europe have affected all aspects of societal life and profoundly impacted people’s personal freedoms and individual rights, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Although certain human rights can be suspended in situations of emergency, human rights conventions, such as the ECHR, continue to apply even then. In fact, many human rights instruments provide for such situations and contain dedicated ’emergency clauses’ that give governments additional flexibility to address crises. Indeed, within the ECHR framework, Article 15 is one such clause that allows Council of Europe (CoE) member states to temporarily diverge from their ordinary convention obligations to resolve an emergency, provided certain conditions are met.

During the coronavirus pandemic, derogation clauses such as Article 15 of the ECHR, have gained particular importance, as so far 10 CoE member states have notified their intention to derogate from certain ECHR provisions in order to tackle the outbreak.

This briefing explains the functioning of Article of the 15 ECHR and its application to the current health emergency. Furthermore, it lists some fundamental rights and freedoms that have been affected by the coronavirus emergency measures, while also showcasing how Member States have sought to reconcile measures to protect public health with the fundamental rights principles enshrined in the ordinary framework of the ECHR. The briefing also stresses that it is key to protect the human rights of vulnerable persons, including during the implementation of recovery strategies.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Upholding human rights in Europe during the pandemic‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to policy podcast ‘Upholding human rights in Europe during the pandemic’ on YouTube.

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Outlook for the European Council of 15-16 October 2020

Written by Izabela Bacian and Ralf Drachenberg,

EP Plenary session - Results of the first voting session

© European Union 2020 – Source : EP / Emilie GOMEZ

Only two weeks after the last European Council meeting, EU Heads of State or Government gather again on 15-16 October 2020, to address future EU-UK relations, EU-Africa relations and climate change. On climate, EU leaders will evaluate the progress on the EU’s objective of climate neutrality by 2050 and hold an orientation debate. Regarding EU-UK relations, they will assess the implementation of the withdrawal agreement, receive an update on the negotiations on the future EU-UK partnership and discuss the preparatory work for all scenarios after 1 January 2021. In addition to EU-Africa relations, other external relations issues are likely to be discussed, notably the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. EU leaders will also return to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Implementation: Follow-up of previous European Council commitments

At the start of the European Council meeting, the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, will address the Heads of State or Government. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, which currently holds the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, will provide an overview of progress made in implementing previous European Council conclusions.

As announced in the new Leaders’ Agenda 2020-21, EU leaders will discuss the EU-UK negotiations, hold an orientation debate on climate and focus their exchanges in the external relations field on Africa. At the special European Council meeting of 1-2 October, EU leaders also pledged to return to the matter of the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as well as regularly coming back to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

One outstanding task for the European Council is to define the strategic guidelines for legislative and operational planning within the area of freedom, security and justice, as required by Article 68 TFEU. The European Council had been expected to adopt new ‘strategic guidelines for legislative and operational planning’ within the area of freedom, security and justice in spring 2020, but the topic has still not been included on the European Council’s agenda to date, nor is it mentioned in the Leaders’ Agenda 2020-21.

2. European Council agenda points

EU-UK relations

The EU and the UK have been engaged throughout the year in discussions on a new partnership agreement encompassing a wide range of areas including trade, fisheries, thematic cooperation, and internal and external security. To date, nine negotiation rounds have been held, on the basis of the Political Declaration accompanying the Withdrawal Agreement – both finalised in October 2019. The political declaration outlines the areas for negotiations, with 11 chapters opened as follows: 1. Trade in goods; 2.Trade in services and investment and other issues; 3. Level playing-field for open and fair competition; 4. Transport (aviation and roads); 5. Energy and civil nuclear cooperation; 6. Fisheries, 7. Mobility and social security coordination; 8. Law enforcement cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters; 9. Thematic cooperation; 10. Participation in Union programmes; and 11. Horizontal arrangements and governance. Foreign policy, security and defence are not formally included in these talks, but as outlined in the Political Declaration, the UK’s participation in specific EU instruments and programmes is possible.

The European Council emphasised in its guidelines of March 2018 that the future relationship should be based on a balance of right and obligations, ensure a level playing-field and respect for the integrity of the single market and the customs union, as well as the indivisibility of the four freedoms. The scope and depth of the future relationship would be determined precisely by the commitment of both parties to adhere to high standards in the areas of State aid, competition, social and employment standards, environment, climate change, and relevant tax matters.

The European Commission’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, has repeatedly stressed that the EU has paid particular attention to the UK’s three ‘red lines’, namely, ability to determine its future laws without constraints, no role for the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and the ability to manage its own fisheries independently. Progress has however been slow since the very beginning. Despite convergence of positions in many areas such as trade in goods, services and investments, and Union programmes, and recent positive developments in, inter alia, social security coordination and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, divergences have persisted on issues of major significance for the EU. These are: i. level playing-field provisions on State aid, competition, state-owned enterprises (SOEs), taxation, labour and social protection, environmental protection and the fight against climate change; ii. the governance framework, specifically on dispute settlement/ enforcement; and iii. an agreement on fisheries. While convergence is likely on competition and SOEs, difficulties remain on interpretation by the CJEU of EU law (State aid), respect for the principle of non-regression (tax avoidance, labour, environment and climate) and alignment of future legislation (labour, environment and climate change).

The negotiations were shaken up following the publication by the UK, on 9 September 2020, of the internal market bill, which, if adopted in its current form, would be in clear breach of the terms of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland attached to the Withdrawal Agreement, with respect to state aid and customs obligations. Indeed, the Protocol states that EU State aid rules will apply to any UK act affecting trade between Northern Ireland and the EU, and while Northern Ireland remains in the UK’s customs territory, the Union Customs Code will still apply to the flow of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Clauses 41-45 of the bill would over-ride these provisions. Despite the Commission’s request to amend the bill before 30 September 2020, the British government did not withdraw these provisions, leading to the launch of infringement proceedings, on 1 October 2020, as the Withdrawal Agreement provides for legal remedies in the event of violations of the obligations within it. The UK has one month to provide a reply to the Commission. The implementation of the Protocol, under the responsibility of the EU-UK Joint Committee, will also need to be stepped up as ‘no grace’ period will be granted after the end of the transition period, as stressed by Mr Barnier in July when it was clear that the UK did not wish to extend the transition period. The state of play of the negotiations was discussed briefly at the 1-2 October special European Council meeting, a substantive discussion will however take place on 15‑16 October to assess the situation as well as future scenarios after 1 January 2021. Meeting with Micheál Martin, Taoiseach of Ireland, on 8 October, Charles Michel stressed that the EU stood in full solidarity with Ireland regarding the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, as what is at stake is the ‘peace and stability of the island of Ireland and the integrity of the single market’. He urged significant steps to be taken in the negotiations, not only on fisheries, the level playing-field and governance, but also on trade in goods, energy and water transport, as ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’.

Climate change

The European Council will hold an ‘orientation debate’ on climate change, on the basis of the Commission’s 2030 Climate Target Plan. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed the EU’s determination to cut greenhouse gas emission by at least 55 % by 2030, stressing that the target was ‘ambitious, achievable and beneficial for Europe’. Voting on the proposed European Climate Law, the European Parliament supported an even higher binding target of 60 % greenhouse gas emissions cuts by 2030. Furthermore, the Parliament considers the funding for climate related projects under the 2021-27 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) insufficient to allow both the 2030 and 2050 climate targets to be met. Ahead of the coming European Council meeting, civil society representatives called for a more ambitious climate policy, warning that the Paris Agreement goal of limiting the rise of global temperature to 1.5 °C could only be met by achieving at least a 65 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

EU leaders will most probably also consider progress made on achieving climate neutrality by 2050. At their last discussion on this matter in December 2019, all but one Member State, Poland, had agreed to make climate neutrality by 2050 a binding commitment to be set in the European Climate Law. In the interim, Poland has reviewed its 2040 energy roadmap and showed openness to commit to climate neutrality – albeit without confirming 2050 as a target.

Usually, at their October meeting, EU leaders take stock of progress made in the implementation of the Paris Agreement ahead of the yearly UN Conference of Parties (COP). However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, COP 26 in Glasgow was postponed by a year, to 1-12 November 2021. Nonetheless, progress will be needed in finalising and submitting national long-term strategies, as only 15 out of 27 Member States had done so by July 2020.

External relations


The coronavirus outbreak led the European Council to postpone the strategic debate on relations with Africa, initially planned for June 2020. For similar reasons, the EU-African Union summit planned for autumn 2020 will most likely only take place in early 2021. The EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, recognised that the pandemic had slowed down ‘outreach efforts’, but confirmed that the ‘ambition’ to increase partnership with Africa remains intact.

A strengthened partnership with Africa has been a priority for the Presidents of both the European Council, Charles Michel, and the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, from the beginning of their respective mandates. EU-Africa relations were on the agenda of the first European Council meeting chaired by Mr Michel in December 2019. He then put cooperation in stemming the spread of coronavirus in Africa high on the agenda and welcomed the efforts made, particularly through the G20, to reduce African debt. He was active at both multilateral and bilateral levels, attending in person or by video-conference: the African Union summit, several summits with the G5 Sahel countries, as well as a series of bilateral meetings with African leaders at which economic, development and security aspects were considered. Similarly, Ursula von der Leyen spoke of Africa as ‘our close neighbour and our most natural partner’, calling for a ‘comprehensive strategy on Africa’ and making her first visit as President outside the EU to the African Union. More recently, in the ‘State of the Union’ address she underlined that the new strategy with Africa is a ‘partnership of equals’ since ‘both sides share opportunities and responsibilities’, and it will enable them to shape the world of tomorrow by working closely on climate, trade and digital.

Alexei Navalny poisoning

Following confirmation from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that Russian opposition leader Navalny was indeed the victim of a poisoning attempt using a nerve agent, the European Council is expected to discuss his case again. Calling once again on Russia to cooperate fully with the OPCW, President Michel confirmed that EU leaders would discuss possible sanctions against Russia. Setting sanctions would allow some of the sensitivities expressed recently by certain Member States’ representatives, including the President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda, as regards relations with Russia to dissipate. However, more needs to be done to ensure that EU Member States speak with one voice. To facilitate further convergence, a strategic debate on relations with Russia is scheduled for March 2021.

Other external relations issues

The European Council could consider other external relations items, in particular the situation in regions or countries which it has committed to monitor closely, as is the case for the eastern Mediterranean, Nagorno-Karabakh, Belarus and Ukraine.

Other Items

Taking stock of the coronavirus pandemic

EU leaders are also expected to exchange information on coordination efforts at national and European level regarding the coronavirus pandemic. On 4 September 2020, the Commission proposed a Council recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The proposal outlines: i) common criteria and thresholds in deciding on whether to introduce restrictions to free movement. It also includes, ii) the mapping of common criteria using an agreed colour code; iii) a common approach to the measures applied to persons moving to and from areas which are identified as higher risk; and iv) commitments to provide the public with clear and timely information. During a meeting of the General Affairs Council on 22 September, Member States ‘expressed broad support for the proposed approach to the collection and presentation of data by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)’, and stressed the ‘importance of clear and timely communication between member states and to the public’. If the General Affairs Council of 13 October 2020 adopts this recommendation, it would most likely be welcomed by the European Council.

Read this briefing on ‘Outlook for the European Council of 15-16 October 2020‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Trump or Biden: Where next for US foreign and defence policy? [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

© vik_y / Adobe Stock

The United States is heading for a presidential election on Tuesday 3rd. November that will pit incumbent Republican candidate, Donald Trump, against the former Democrat Vice President and Senator, Joe Biden. Many analysts and politicians say that this contest may well be one of the most important since the end of World War II, as it will offer a stark choice between two entirely different paths for US foreign and defence policy. During his four years in office, analysts stress how President Trump, whose decisions were often unpredictable, has reversed many aspects of traditional US foreign and defence policy, which had previously been based on a respect for international institutions and a strong Transatlantic alliance.

This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports from international think tanks on the U.S. electoral campaign and the legacy of President Trump.

Les élections américaines et au-delà
Institut français des relations internationales, October 2020

Four years of Trump: The US and the world
Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, October 2020

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

Bonding over Beijing
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2020

A U.S. foreign policy for the middle class
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2020

Trump’s ‘virtual reality’ foreign policy
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2020

A ReSTART for U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control: Enhancing security through cooperation
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2020

The world gave the United States one do-over
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2020

What a Biden administration should learn from the Trump administration’s regulatory reversals
Brookings Institution, September 2020

Trump’s violent debate performance is a reflection of his racially violent policies
Brookings Institution, September 2020

Election 2020: Where are we?
Brookings Institution, September 2020

What a second Trump term would mean for the world
Brookings Institution, October 2020

Charts of the week: Coronavirus and swing states; fading American Dream; foreign-born population share
Brookings Institution, October 2020

From consensus to conflict: Understanding foreign measures targeting U.S. elections
Rand Corporation, October 2020

How Russia targets U.S. elections, black workers and Covid-19, TikTok
Rand Corporation, October 2020

The challenges of the post-pandemic agenda
Bruegel, July 2020

Trump’s international economic legacy
Bruegel, September 2020

Diversification and the world trading system
Bruegel, September 2020

Together or alone? Choices and strategies for Transatlantic relations for 2021 and beyond
German Marshall Fund, October 2020

Count people where they are
Center for American Progress, October 2020

Joe Biden’s alternative minimum book tax
American Enterprise Institute, October 2020

President Trump’s debate performance overshadows a record to support
Manhattan Institute, October 2020

Pulling U.S. forces from Europe: Show me the sense please
Friends of Europe, June 2020

America: A European power?
Friends of Europe, October 2020

Expect chaos for the November election
Heritage Foundation, September 2020

Diplomacy during the quarantine: An opportunity for more agile craftsmanship
Carnegie Europe, September 2020

A Biden victory could reset transatlantic relations
European Council on Foreign Relations, July 2020

How Europe can defend itself against US economic sanctions
European Council on Foreign Relations, August 2020

Touching the elephant: European views of the transatlantic relationship
European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2020

Trump’s Kosovo show: No big deal
European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2020

The pandemic was supposed to be great for strongmen. What happened?
European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2020

Why America is facing off against the International Criminal Court
European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2020

Trump’s dirty tricks
European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2020

Three dangers Trump’s Covid poses for the world
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

Trump’s international economic legacy
Peterson Institute for International Economics, August 2020

The high taxpayer cost of ‘saving’ US jobs through ‘Made in America’
Peterson Institute for International Economics, August 2020

Trump’s trade war timeline: An up-to-date guide
Peterson Institute for International Economics, September 2020

How Trump’s export curbs on semiconductors and equipment hurt the US technology sector
Peterson Institute for International Economics, September 2020

Americans’ views of government: Low trust, but some positive performance ratings
Pew Research Center, September 2020

Voters’ attitudes about race and gender are even more divided than in 2016
Pew Research Center, September 2020

Trump-Biden, Round One: Lots of animosity, little in the way of straight answers
Hoover Institution, September 2020

Donald Trump’s foreign policy successes
Hoover Institution, September 2020

One thing Biden and Trump seem to agree on: We need to focus on innovation
German Marshall Fund, September 2020

What if elections didn’t matter? The Belgian solution
Cato, August 2020

Balancing tradeoffs between liberties and lives
Cato, September 2020

Covid-19 is also a reallocation shock
Cato, September 2020

Dutch views transatlantic ties and European security cooperation
Clingendael, September 2020

Trump has a serious young voter problem
NDN, September 2020

Donald Trump and Sonny Perdue’s USDA made the Covid-19 hunger crisis worse
Center for American Progress, September 2020

The GOP’s pivot away from fiscal relief hurts millions of Americans
Progressive Policy Institute, September 2020

Biden versus Trump
Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft, August 2020

The US troop withdrawal plan
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, August 2020

An alliance of democracies: With the US or for the US?
Egmont, July 2020

Amerikas apartheid: Der neue alte Exzeptionalismus und seine außenpolitischen Folgen
German Council on Foreign Relations, July 2020

An all-mail election would be dangerous for democracy
Heritage Foundation, June 2020

Fostering Europe’s strategic autonomy: A new agenda for trade and investment
European Policy Centre, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, June 2020

Democracy maybe: Attitudes on authoritarianism in America

New America Foundation, June 2020

Understanding gender equality in foreign policy
Council on Foreign Relations, June 2020

Read this briefing on ‘Trump or Biden: Where next for US foreign and defence policy?‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Plenary round-up – Brussels, October I 2020

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson,

 EP Plenary session - Results of the first voting session

© European Union 2020 – Source : EP / Emilie GOMEZ

During the first October 2020 plenary session in Brussels, Parliament held a debate on the rule of law and fundamental rights in the context of introducing conditionality measures in the framework of the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF) and Next Generation EU. In parallel, Parliament’s negotiating team on the next MFF announced a pause in talks, due to concerns over the Council’s lack of engagement on the key issue of top-ups for 15 flagship EU programmes. Parliament also discussed the conclusions of the special European Council meeting of 1‑2 October and the preparations for the next regular European Council meeting, on 15‑16 October 2020.

Parliament approved the allocation of new responsibilities to Executive Vice-President of the Commission Valdis Dombrovskis and approved the appointment of Mairead McGuinness as member of the European Commission.

Parliament also debated the role of the European Supervisory Authorities in the Wirecard scandal, on the fight against money laundering, following the FinCEN revelations, and on the impact of the Covid‑19 outbreak on long-term care facilities. Parliament debated statements from the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell, on the resumption of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, on the EU diplomatic mission in Venezuela, and on the situation in Iran.

EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights

Members debated, and approved by a large majority, a Parliament legislative-initiative report on the creation of an annual monitoring mechanism on the rule of law, fundamental rights and democracy that proposes to integrate and reinforce respect for democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights (DRF) in the EU. These shared values are binding on Member States and the European Union (EU) institutions, and while several mechanisms have been created to promote them and ensure they are respected, these are judged not to be effective. Members were critical of the extent of the protection afforded to the EU budget under the current Council position now the subject of trilogue negotiations. However, Parliament’s aim is to have a mechanism that goes much wider to cover values beyond just the rule of law, as in the current MFF-linked proposal.

Digital finance

Members debated and adopted, by a large majority, an Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) legislative initiative report with recommendations for the European Commission on regulating digital finance. The report takes a closer look at the emerging risks in crypto-assets and the regulatory and supervisory challenges, where fintech provides unprecedented opportunities for both a more efficient and transparent financial sector – and for financial criminals to escape detection. The ECON committee calls on the European Commission to propose comprehensive supervisory measures to regulate crypto-assets, such as Bitcoin, to boost cyber-resilience in view of the vulnerability of such virtual assets to cyber-attack, as well as to improve the management of associated data.

Capital markets union

Parliament focused on proposals for further development of the capital markets union, particularly to offer small businesses and individual investors a wider range of investment options and help drive the recovery. The ECON committee report Members debated and approved proposes the urgent removal of barriers to investment. It also calls for an EU framework for digital finance that provides high data-protection and privacy standards (and challenges the dominance of large technology companies); improved promotion of financial literacy; and for the EU to consider equivalence decisions for suitable third-country markets.

Amending budget No 7/2020: Update of revenue (own resources)

Members voted on amending budget No 7/2020, approving the Council position and definitively adopting the update to the revenue side of the current year’s EU budget, in view of the negative impact of coronavirus on the EU economic outlook, as well as other technical issues. Although income from value added tax and gross national income is falling as a result of the economic climate, and negative exchange rates have also had an impact, more positively, the amounts available from paid-up fines and penalties has increased.

European Climate Law

Members debated and approved the Commission’s proposal for a new European Climate Law. However, while the Commission is proposing a 55 % reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, Parliament endorsed the demands of an Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) report calling for greater ambition: 60 % reductions in 2030, a 2040 target and all Member States to be climate neutral in 2050. The vote determines Parliament’s position for trilogue negotiations once the Council adopts its position.

Gender balance on company boards

Members debated, with the Commission and the Council, the current state of play of the much-delayed proposed directive to ensure gender balance on company boards, agreed by Parliament in 2013. Parliament has long supported the measures and called for progress on the file, which remains blocked in Council. Proven to improve the health, value and transparency of companies, the proposal seeks to ensure that listed companies’ boards have at least 40 % of non-executive directors of the under-represented sex.

European forest strategy

A vital resource in the fight against climate change, to date the EU has no policy on forests and the forestry sector, meaning that management of this precious resource is somewhat fragmented. Members debated and adopted an Agriculture and Rural Development Committee report on the way forward for a European forest strategy. The strategy could pave the way for an ambitious approach to sustainable forest management where adapting to changing climate conditions and promoting environmental, societal and economic sustainability will maintain both economic viability and environmental sustainability, including helping to tackle disastrous forest fires.

Channel Tunnel

Parliament debated and endorsed two proposals on legislation to ensure the safe operation of the railway between France and the United Kingdom after December 2020. Negotiations between France and the UK can now begin on a new international agreement on safety arrangements. The current safety authority would retain oversight of operations in the tunnel.

Opening of trilogue negotiations

Members confirmed three mandates for negotiations: from the International Trade (INTA) Committee on the proposal for a regulation introducing exceptional trade measures for countries and territories participating in or linked to the European Union’s Stabilisation and Association process; from the Budgets (BUDG) and the ECON Committees on the proposal for a regulation establishing a Technical Support Instrument, and from the Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) Committee on the proposal for a regulation on the introduction of specific measures for addressing the Covid‑19 crisis.

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

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Foresight for resilience: The European Commission’s first annual Foresight Report

Written by Eamonn Noonan,


Slightly simplified image of a vintage barometer forecasting a change in the weather. Connotations of climate change and global warming

© Adobe Stock

Strategic foresight can help near-term recovery become resilient over the long term. This is the key message of the European Commission’s first ever annual Foresight Report. The coronavirus crisis has shown the interconnectedness of today’s world, as well as the difficulty of effectively identifying and communicating emerging challenges. More than ever, systematic and participatory work to explore both opportunities and vulnerabilities, and to tease out synergies across sectors, is needed.


With the 2020 Strategic Foresight Report, the effort to enhance the EU’s foresight capacity moves to a new phase. This is a response to the present pandemic and to earlier crises that called into question the effectiveness of EU horizon-scanning. It also takes forward the work of the interinstitutional ESPAS network, which has pressed the case for anticipatory governance through its activities and reports on global trends.

The report examines EU capacities, vulnerabilities and opportunities across four priority areas: socio-economic, geo-political, green, and digital. It emphasises the connections between sectors. One example is the interplay between new technology, job creation, education needs and stakeholder interests. Another is the case of critical raw materials. Reducing dependence on these can have benefits across the green, digital, strategic and economic agendas.

Economic and social sphere

Challenges abound in the wake of the pandemic. According to the report, ‘economic, gender, skills, regional, and ethnic inequalities have all worsened’. Regional inequalities and the problems of rural areas mean that a ‘geography of discontent’ must be addressed.

In order to reinvigorate Europe’s social market economy model, social and fiscal reforms need to be aligned with the objectives of inclusiveness, digitalisation, decarbonisation and sustainability. Resilience involves not simply the maintenance of existing social systems, but also adaptation to ensure that they thrive in the future.

Public and private investments are key to resilience and recovery, but there are questions about the narrow focus on gross domestic product (GDP) as a metric. A well-being index may well be more suitable now.

Open strategic autonomy

Against a background of renewed international tensions, the report suggests that ‘the EU needs a common understanding of the security environment’. Threats to cybersecurity are accelerating; key infrastructure must also be made more resilient.

But strategic autonomy cannot be seen as purely defensive. Quite the opposite. The report sees an opportunity to revitalise the rules-based multilateral order, based on the realisation that ‘global challenges require effective, agile international cooperation and common solutions’. Trade remains central to the EU’s power and resilience, and the promotion of a level playing-field can address existing vulnerabilities. Production capacity in Europe needs attention, especially in strategic sectors.

A green future

Environment policy can benefit from greater foresight capacity as it negotiates both huge challenges and huge opportunities. The International Labour Organization (ILO) suggests a well-managed shift to a greener economy could create 24 million new jobs globally by 2030. Clean, circular production can drive both competitiveness and growth. Environmental restoration will become increasingly important.

The stakes are high; global warming of 3 °C would result in a loss of 1.36 % of GDP, or over €170 billion a year –as well as tens of thousands of lives. Digitalisation has an environmental cost: the mining of bitcoins is reckoned to consume more energy than Austria or Czechia, while the global footprint of the tech sector is similar to that of the aviation industry.

Resilience is improved if growth and wellbeing can be decoupled from consumption of natural resources with the attendant environmental impact; this long-term challenge calls for long-term policy planning.

Digital opportunities and vulnerabilities

Opportunities abound in the digital sector; new technologies have a positive impact in several areas, from enhancing healthcare and the delivery of public services to augmenting productivity and reducing carbon footprints.

There are significant risks, including the accentuation of inequalities, the erosion of individual rights and the further spread of disinformation intended to undermine democracy.

Modern, secure, and high-speed infrastructure can help overcome today’s digital divides, whether social or between urban and rural areas. Structured foresight analysis can examine ways to steer innovation towards outcomes which mesh with the goals of inclusiveness, sustainability, democracy and security.

Strategic foresight as a resource for governance

The Commission report sets out several foresight techniques which will inform its policy-making.

  • Horizon scanning is critical to the early identification of emerging threats.
  • Scenario development can give a framework for high-level debates on preferred futures.

Another innovation is the use of resilience dashboards, alongside existing monitoring work on the Social Scoreboard and the Sustainable Development Goals. Dashboards are at the meeting point of foresight and policy. They offer the opportunity to compare where we are with where we want to be.

Identifying roadblocks is a first step towards designing instruments to overcome them, and to channelling resources to vulnerable areas.

They are all the more important at the intersection of levels of government. Linking the levels can help towards greater synergy between actions at regional, national and European level.

A similar approach has been followed by a risk mapping and capabilities and gaps mapping produced by the European Parliament as think pieces for the Foresight Report. This is a step towards systematically matching capabilities, at regional, national and EU levels, to the risks identified as most serious. As the EP risk mapping notes, there are high-impact risks for which the EU level currently has no available instruments; this needs particular attention.

The initiatives set out in the report, taken together, can align policy and planning across the geopolitical, green and digital areas, and thereby enhance social and economic resilience in the long run.


Strategy is a process, not an event. Recognising this, the Commission’s first Foresight Report emphasises the importance of a broad-based and participatory approach. Thus the ESPAS Conference will see the launch of an EU-wide Foresight Network, including both European and Member State bodies, and involving the private sector and independent experts. The Commission also anticipates that foresight work can contribute to the Conference on the Future of Europe.

Foresight is relevant across the entire policy cycle, and improved foresight capacity is all the more valuable a resource at a time when a pandemic has brought such acute challenges for governance in Europe and around the world.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Foresight for resilience: The European Commission’s first annual Foresight Report‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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EU Just Transition Fund: how does it work? [Animated Infographic]

Written by Agnieszka Widuto,

The Just Transition Fund will support European Union (EU) regions relying on fossil fuels and high-emission industries in their green transition. Our animated infographic shows how it works.

What is the Just Transition Fund?

EU Just Transition FundThe Just Transition Fund is an EU funding tool for regions dependent on fossil fuels and high-emission industries. The aim is to help them prepare for the transition necessary to achieve at least a 55 % reduction in emissions by 2030, and climate neutrality by 2050.

The European Green Deal and EU climate policies aim to improve environmental quality, ensure clean air and reduce health risks for the population. To achieve this green transition, the EU will support carbon-intensive regions in diversifying their economies and creating new jobs. Activities supported by the Just Transition Fund will include investments in small and medium-sized enterprises, research and innovation, renewable energy, emissions reduction, clean energy technologies, site regeneration, circular economy, and upskilling and reskilling of workers. The Just Transition Fund is part of a broader Just Transition Mechanism, which also includes two other pillars: a scheme under InvestEU aimed at mobilising private investments and a public sector loan facility to generate public financing.

The introductory section of the infographic provides an overview of the most important details of the Just Transition Fund.

How much funding?

In January 2020, the European Commission proposed an allocation for the Just Transition Fund (JTF) amounting to €7.5 billion under the 2021‑2027 EU budget. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Commission increased this amount to €10 billion from the EU budget and added a top-up of €30 billion from the Next Generation EU instrument in May 2020. This brought the total JTF amount to €40 billion. It is expected that the EU budget amount will be complemented by national co-financing and transfers from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund+. With additional funds generated through InvestEU and public sector loan facility, the Just Transition Mechanism is expected to mobilise at least €150 billion of investment.

Animated  infographic on Just Transition Fund

At the European Council meeting in July 2020, EU leaders proposed an allocation of €7.5 billion under the EU budget and €10 billion from Next Generation EU, reducing the total JTF budget to €17.5 billion. The European Parliament, in its amendments to the Commission proposal voted in September 2020, recommended raising the core budget amount of JTF to over €25 billion.

A section of the infographic called ‘Allocations’ shows a break-down of the amounts for each pillar of the Just Transition Mechanism, expected additional funding mobilised, and amounts proposed by each of the EU institutions during the negotiation process. By clicking on each respective EU institution, the infographic immediately shows the differences between their proposals.

Which regions will the JTF support?

Funding is available to all EU countries. The European Commission identified a preliminary list of eligible regions in each country.

The allocation method is based on the following socio-economic criteria: industrial emissions in regions with high carbon intensity; employment in industry in these regions; employment in coal and lignite mining; production of peat; production of oil shale and oil sands.

In the ‘JTF Allocation Method’ section, the infographic shows total JTF allocations by Member State and the aid intensity per inhabitant, according to the May 2020 Commission proposal. It explains the allocation method and provides graphs for each of the allocation components by Member State. Click on an individual country to see more detailed information on the allocations. The visualisation also takes the additional criteria mentioned in the proposal (minimum and maximum level of support and a prosperity criterion) into account.

The infographic was prepared by Sorina Ionescu and Frederik Scholaert. Each section of the infographic provides a link to Further reading materials, including an EPRS legislative briefing on the Just Transition Fund.

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