European Parliament and the path to German reunification

Written by Christian Salm,

© neftali / Shutterstock

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, set in motion by the events of 9 November 1989, which led to Germany’s full reunification within less than a year. The accession of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) to the Federal Republic of Germany (Federal Republic) completed the reunification process on 3 October 1990. Moreover, with the accession of the former GDR to the Federal Republic, the GDR integrated into the European Economic Community (EEC) of the time via a special procedure. As the GDR’s status as a subject of international law ended with its accession to the Federal Republic, a normal EEC Treaty accession procedure was not possible. The European Parliament followed the chain of profound political developments triggered by the fall of the Berlin Wall closely.

1989 – A historical turning point

In the contemporary history of Europe and its integration process, 1989 was a crucial turning point. The fall of the Berlin Wall in November of that year was one of several events that launched democratic change in central and eastern Europe. Events in 1989 included: the end of the Hungarian communist power monopoly (January); Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s victory in partially free elections in Poland (June); overthrow of the Bulgarian Head of State and Party Leader Todor Zhivkov (November); the execution of Romanian President Nicolae Ceauşescu, and the election of human rights activist Václav Havel as President of Czechoslovakia (December). Nevertheless, the fall of the Berlin Wall particularly characterised 1989 as a historical turning point, signalling the end of the 50-year east-west conflict and the beginning of today’s free movement throughout Europe. At the time, the EEC was about to implement the goals of the 1986 Single European Act, the first major revision of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, and intended to establish the single market by December 1992. Against this background, the European Parliament paid particular attention in its debates and analyses regarding the far-reaching political changes in central and eastern Europe and the impact of the process of German unification on the EEC.

European Parliament response to the fall of the Berlin Wall

The European Parliament reacted quickly to the November 1989 events in Berlin. As the Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs was meeting in the Reichstag from 8 to 10 November, some Members of the European Parliament actually experienced the opening of borders between East and West Berlin at first-hand. In a public statement of 10 November, the Committee welcomed the GDR authorities’ decision to ease border crossings at the inner-German border. Due to uncertainty regarding whether borders might remain open, the Committee’s public statement also expressed the hope that the GDR authorities would abolish remaining restrictions on passenger transport at the inner-German border within a very short time.

Some days later, on 22 November 1989, the European Parliament held a plenary debate on the events in central and eastern Europe. The attendance of two members of the European Council, French President François Mitterrand and Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl, underpinned the high political relevance of this debate, with the fall of the Berlin Wall a prominent topic. In his speech, Kohl stated that ‘Germany will be completely united only if progress is made towards the unification of our old continent. Policy on Germany and policy on Europe are completely inseparable’. Kohl’s speech therefore clearly indicated that his enlargement policy was based on an awareness that a united Germany would need support from Europe and the EEC. The speech also aimed at allaying European partners’ fears that a united Germany would aspire to European hegemony.

A European Parliament resolution following the debate also included the message that German reunification and European integration were two sides of the same coin. It stressed that ‘having regard to recent developments in the GDR, and notably the opening of the Berlin Wall … the closer integration of the EEC will create the basis for closer cooperation with the states of Central and Eastern Europe … and closer ties between the German states’. To study the broader possible consequences of German reunification, especially with a view to the European integration process, the European Parliament set up a Temporary Committee to consider the impact of the German unification process on the EEC.

Temporary Committee to consider the impact of the process of German reunification on the EEC

Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission at the time, inspired the creation of the Temporary Committee, pointing out to the European Parliament in January 1990 that, given the special situation in the GDR after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was conceivable that East Germany might rapidly integrate into the EEC. In response to this political assessment, Parliament decided to create a Temporary Committee tasked with analysing the impact of GDR integration into the EEC on the latter’s fields of activity, to make a constructive Community contribution to the German unification process, and to adapt the EEC itself to the new geopolitical landscape.

Set up in February 1990, the Temporary Committee consisted of 20 Members. Among them were three former foreign ministers: Claude Cheysson (France), Fernando Morán López (Spain), and Leo Tindemans (Belgium). Furthermore, former President of the European Parliament, Simone Veil (France), and former West German Ambassador to the United Nations, Rüdiger von Wechmar, sat on the committee. The inclusion of such major European political figures demonstrated the importance of the Temporary Committee within the European Parliament.

At its constituent meeting, the Temporary Committee drew up a plan of action enabling it to consider the institutional aspects of German reunification, the overall political context, and the impact on EEC sectoral policies. To cover these different areas, the Committee held discussions at its regular meetings with representatives of the governments of the GDR, the Federal Republic and even the United States and Soviet Union. Moreover, the Temporary Committee, with the help of the Parliament’s Directorate-General for Research, collected information and opinions on the situation in the GDR from across the political spectrum. These activities contributed to the work of the Committee’s rapporteur, Alan John Donnelly (United Kingdom), a Member of the Group of the European Socialists of the time. Parliament adopted Donnelly’s interim report in plenary in July 1990.

The report emphasised the need to bring about European integration in parallel with German reunification. It proposed to prevent derogations and transitional measures granted to the former GDR from weakening central EEC objectives, including the full achievement of the single market. Moreover, the report underlined the need to place the German reunification process within the wider context of relations with central and eastern Europe. The report argued that the GDR’s entry into the EEC could play an important bridge function with those countries. The report also looked at a number of other specific policy issues raised by German reunification, such as industrial and competition policy considerations, transport and telecommunications, energy and research, and economic and social cohesion. In addition, the report proposed to assign observer status in the European Parliament to representatives from the former GDR.

Representation of the former GDR in the European Parliament

The suggestion to give observer status to representatives of the GDR aimed at responding to the need to represent the 17 million inhabitants of East Germany in the EEC after the accession of the former GDR to the EEC. The Federal Republic refrained from both requesting additional Commissioners and greater voting power within the Council. However, it demanded representation for the East German Länder in the European Parliament. Complying with this demand raised two particularly problematic issues for the Parliament: First, any changes in the number of Members would have disturbed the balanced system of representation, according to the size of each country’s population but with an equal number of Members (81) for each of the EEC’s most populous countries (France, Italy, the United Kingdom and West Germany). Second, it would have been incompatible with democratic principles if, following German reunification, East German citizens were to be represented for a considerable period by Members they had not themselves elected. The solution found was to invite 18 non-voting Members from East Germany to the European Parliament as observers. Finally, in the 1994 election, the number of MEPs elected in Germany was increased by that amount. Current German Member, Constanze Krehl (S&D), was one of these East German observers from 1991 to 1994.

German reunification and European Union

The Temporary Committee adopted its final political report in November 1990. It again emphasised the need to pursue the process of German reunification in parallel with European integration. Moreover, the report stated that German reunification should be considered as a step towards European union. In fact, German reunification contributed to creating the momentum for the EEC leaders of the period to launch the December 1990 intergovernmental conference on European monetary union and political union, which concluded at the Maastricht Summit in December 1991, and the agreement to promulgate a new treaty on European Union.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘European Parliament and the path to German reunification‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/11/05/european-parliament-and-the-path-to-german-reunification/

The powers of the European Parliament

Written by Laura Tilindyte,

EU flags waving in front of European Parliament building. Brussels, Belgium

© Grecaud Paul / Fotolia

Since its inception in 1951, the European Parliament has come a long way. Initially a consultative body composed of delegations of national parliaments, it became a directly elected institution, obtained budgetary and legislative powers, and now exercises influence over most aspects of EU affairs. Together with representatives of national governments, who sit in the Council, Parliament co-decides on European legislation, in what could be seen as a bicameral legislature at EU level. It can reject or amend the European Commission’s proposals before adopting them so that they become law. Together with the Council of the EU, it adopts the EU budget and controls its implementation.

Another core set of European Parliament prerogatives concerns the scrutiny of the EU executive – mainly the Commission. Such scrutiny can take many forms, including parliamentary questions, committees of inquiry and special committees, and scrutiny of delegated and implementing acts. Parliament has made use of these instruments to varying degrees. Parliament has the power to dismiss the Commission (motion of censure), and it plays a significant role in the latter’s appointment process.

Parliament has a say over the very foundations of the EU. Its consent is required before any new country joins the EU, and before a withdrawal treaty is concluded if a country decides to leave it. Most international agreements entered into by the EU with third countries also require Parliament’s consent. Parliament can initiate Treaty reform, and also the ‘Article 7(1) TEU’ procedure, aimed at determining whether there is a (risk of) serious breach of EU values by a Member State.


Read this briefing on ‘The powers of the European Parliament‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/11/05/the-powers-of-the-european-parliament/

STOA Panel gears up for the new parliamentary term

Written by Nera Kuljanic with Sophie Millar,

election of a Chair and two Vice-Chairs for the first half of the 9th parliamentary termDuring the latest plenary session in Strasbourg, on 24 October, MEPs appointed to the European Parliament’s Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) held their first meeting to elect a Chair and two Vice-Chairs for the first half of the 9th parliamentary term. Eva Kaili, Greek MEP and member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group in the European Parliament, will continue as Chair, carrying on from the last parliamentary term. She will work alongside Christian Ehler, a German MEP and member of the European People’s Party (EPP) Group, who was elected as First Vice-Chair of STOA, and Ivars Ijabs, Latvian MEP and member of the Renew Europe Group, who will serve as Second Vice-Chair. The meeting was chaired by Ewa Kopacz, Polish MEP, EPP member and European Parliament Vice-President responsible for STOA. The four MEPs, as members of the STOA Bureau, will work together with the other 21 STOA Panel members to support STOA’s mission: comprehensive monitoring and analysis of scientific and technological opportunities and challenges that are relevant for individual and societal progress and wellbeing.

In an ever-advancing and changing technological and scientific landscape, STOA is a vital platform for the European Parliament, constantly evolving to keep pace with developments. Through scientific foresight, technology assessment and horizon scanning, STOA provides timely assessments of techno-scientific trends to support Parliament’s committees, Members and their staff. These take the form of studies and other reports, but also events (workshops and Annual Lectures) and initiatives such as the MEP-Scientist Pairing Scheme. The net result is promoting scientific advice and dialogue as the foundation of well-informed policy decisions. The European Science-Media Hub (ESMH), under the remit of STOA, is also establishing itself as a recognised hub for direct interaction and exchange among policy-makers, journalists and other science communicators, and researchers. The ESMH promotes evidence-based practices for high-quality and trustworthy science communication through networking and training.

Highlights of the work conducted in the last parliamentary term include strategic foresight studies on robotics, precision agriculture, 3D bio-printing and assistive technologies, as well as technology assessment studies on topics linked to the information society, such as the General Data Protection Regulation, artificial intelligence, algorithms, disinformation, blockchain, harmful internet use, social polarisation, and the future of teaching and working. Sustainable management of natural resources was also a priority for STOA, examining subjects such as waste management, farming without agri-chemicals and climate change. The Panel also took an interest in health and the life sciences, with topics ranging from the Ebola outbreak, to food safety, organic food and brain research. Finally, activities relating to science policy and global networking included studies on technologies and the arts, on overcoming innovation gaps in the EU-13 Member States and on the internationalisation of EU research, and events organised jointly with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the European Research Council (ERC), the European Space Agency (ESA), the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Science and Technology in Society (STS) forum and UNESCO, to name but a few.

Looking ahead to advances in science and technology and the political agenda for the next five years, the STOA Panel’s new Vice-Chair Christian Ehler predicted: “STOA will become an even more crucial instrument in the European Parliament. Now we might need STOA more than ever before”.

The STOA Panel meets regularly during the Parliament’s plenary sessions in Strasbourg. The meetings are announced on the STOA website, together with the webstreaming link and supporting documents. The new Panel will start its mandate with a discussion on the priorities and direction for STOA in the 9th parliamentary term at its meeting on 28 November 2019. The Panel Members are new, but the objective stays the same for STOA: to remain the European Parliament’s reference point for science-related advice, technology assessment and scientific foresight.

 

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/31/stoa-panel-gears-up-for-the-new-parliamentary-term/

European Cyber Security Month

Written by Gregor Erbach,

Cyber Security. Combination padlock in electronic cyberspace. 3D rendered image.

© vitanovski / Fotolia

It is hard these days to imagine (or remember) life without smartphones and computers, without online services helping us with almost every aspect of our daily lives, be that at work – for communication and general productivity – or in our free time – for travel bookings, shopping, banking or entertainment … The list goes on. Meanwhile, more and more everyday objects can now be connected to the internet. Lightbulbs, televisions, refrigerators, vehicles, medical devices and industrial control systems are just a few examples of devices that can be linked up to the ‘internet of things’.

Naturally, these developments offer countless opportunities for new services and business models in the digital single market. However, at the same time they also represent new ways for cybercriminals and others to steal data, money and identities, spread disinformation, and generally cause serious physical and economic damage. These threats are on the increase, in terms of both scale and impact, and can sometimes affect critical infrastructure and democratic processes, heightening the need for thorough risk analysis and effective protection.

This is the backdrop to European Cyber Security Month, which is run every October by ENISA (the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security) together with the European Commission and other partners. The campaign first took place on a small scale in 2012 and has been growing ever since. It now involves hundreds of activities and events throughout the EU and beyond, with a view to reminding citizens of the risks and threats, raising awareness of how to protect against them, and spreading best practice.

The general message for this October’s European Cyber Security Month was that cyber security is everybody’s responsibility. This message was supported by two main themes: the first was ‘cyber hygiene’, helping the public to get into the good habits necessary to stay safe on line; the second focused on staying safe in the context of new and emerging technology.

Meanwhile, in September 2017, the Commission adopted a cybersecurity package with new initiatives to further improve EU cyber-resilience and prepare for the challenges ahead. More specifically, the co-legislators adopted the Cybersecurity Act in April 2019. This new regulation has given ENISA greater powers and introduced a European cybersecurity certification framework to reassure buyers of digital products and services and improve market access for suppliers. To promote and coordinate European cybersecurity research, the Commission is proposing to set up a cybersecurity competence centre and network. The European Parliament adopted its position on the proposal earlier this year and is now in negotiations with the Council.

So, how is your cyber hygiene? The European Parliament’s IT department put together a special quiz for European Cyber Security Month: why not click on the link and give it a try!

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/30/cybersecurity-month/

Impeachment of the United States President

Written by Elena Lazarou with Nicholas Lokker,

On 24 September 2019, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California), announced the launch of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, the fourth President in the history of the United States to face the prospect of such an inquiry. The US Constitution provides for an impeachment process, but interpretations of the relevant clauses vary, creating controversy.

Background

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On 24 September 2019, the Speaker of the United States (US) House of Representatives (the House), Nancy Pelosi, announced the launch of an impeachment inquiry into the President, Donald Trump. The direct motivation for this decision was a whistle-blower’s complaint alleging that Trump had pressured the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate Joe Biden, a potential Trump rival in the 2020 presidential election, during a phone call on 25 July. On 25 September, the House passed resolution H.RES. 576: ‘Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to the whistleblower complaint of August 12, 2019, made to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community’. The resolution demanded immediate transmission of the whistle-blower’s complaint to the Congressional intelligence committees. The bill was introduced by Representative Adam B. Schiff (Democrat, California), Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees the US intelligence agencies.

Impeachment in the US Constitution

An impeachment inquiry is one of the many steps of the process of impeachment and removal provided for in the US Constitution. Inquiry (also referred to as investigation) is a political process preceding the possible House vote on the articles of impeachment provided for in the Constitution.
Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution states that the ‘President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors’.

How does the impeachment process work? The roles of the House and the Senate

Article I, Sections 2 and 3 describe the impeachment process in the US Congress. As shown in Figure 1, while the House alone holds the power to instigate the process, the final vote to remove an official from office takes place in the Senate. Within the House, the impeachment process proceeds in three phases: (1) initiation of the impeachment process; (2) Judiciary Committee investigation, hearings, and mark-up of articles of impeachment (meetings to propose and vote on a draft bill ‘marking up’ the legislation before Committee members); (3) full House consideration of the articles of impeachment. Initiation can either take the form of a resolution calling for an impeachment (subsequently referred to the Committee on the Judiciary), or of a call for investigation of an official by a standing committee or a special committee for that purpose (subsequently referred to the Committee on Rules, which has jurisdiction over the authorisation of committee investigations). According to the Congressional Research Service, the 2019 process has proceeded on the basis of a third option, whereby, following the Speaker’s statement that the House is launching an ‘official impeachment Inquiry’, the House ‘might take the position that such an inquiry is already underway, and opt to allow its committees to continue their ongoing investigations or begin new inquiries using their existing investigative tools and authorities’. The Speaker’s statement directed six committees to proceed with the investigation, following which the Committee responsible may recommend a set of ‘Articles of Impeachment’ to the full House in the form of a simple resolution. If the articles are adopted, they are sent to the Senate for trial, presided over by the Chief Justice of the US (currently John G. Roberts, a 2005 Bush nominee). Although constitutional experts differ on whether the Senate is obliged to hold a trial, the current Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has confirmed he would do so.

While the Constitution is sufficiently clear about who may be impeached and the process for doing so, there has been significant debate around permissible reasons for impeachment. Specifically, one can interpret ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ in various ways. Academics have typically argued that this rules out impeachment ‘simply for incompetence or general unfitness for office […] It is a remedy for abuses of public office’. Yet, where one can choose to make this distinction for an individual case remains undefined. For instance, it is not clear whether an official must act with ill intention, or whether both private as well as public offences can be grounds for impeachment. One of the most contentious points is whether impeachment requires the literal breach of a US law. Certain experts have held that this is not necessary: ‘abuse of power, corruption and injury to the nation’ is enough. Yet, many take the opposite view, arguing that this interpretation is not ‘consistent with the text or spirit of the Constitution’.

Figure 1 – Impeachment in six steps

Impeachment and politics

Impeachment is in practice both a legal and a political process. Since the power of impeachment rests with
Congress, a politicised institution, it is natural that political calculations often affect the process. As former
US President Gerald Ford famously remarked, ‘An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history’. Following the mid-term election of 2018, the US Congress is divided, with a Democrat majority in the House of Representatives and a Republican majority in the Senate. While Democrats alone fulfil the percentage requirement in the House to move to trial (51 %), Republicans hold only 53 of the 100 Senate seats, where a two-thirds majority is required. Even if all Democrat and Independent Senators were to vote in favour of impeachment, at least 20 Senate Republicans would need to find the President guilty for the latter to be removed from office.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/28/impeachment-of-the-united-states-president/

Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, October II 2019

Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochaka,

Plenary session - Statement by the President of the Commission - Review of the Juncker Commission

© European Union 2019 – Source : EP

The October II plenary session highlights included statements and debates on the outcome of the European Council meeting of 17 and 18 October 2019, and a review of the Juncker Commission’s term. Parliament also debated statements made on behalf of the Vice-President of the European Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR/VP) on the Turkish military operation in north-east Syria and its consequences, and on the violent suppression of young people’s and students’ protests in Iraq. Debates took place, inter alia, on Commission and Council statements on the effects of the Thomas Cook bankruptcy, on the dangers of violent right-wing extremism, on criminalisation of sexual education in Poland and on storms in Europe, followed by debates on accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. Members declined to approve the 2017 accounts of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and European Council/Council, and adopted Parliament’s position on the general budget of the EU for 2020, which now goes to conciliation.

Conclusions of the European Council meeting of 17 and 18 October 2019

Members debated European Council and Commission statements on the outcome of the European Council meeting of 17-18 October 2019. After endorsing a revised United Kingdom withdrawal agreement, and approving a revised political declaration in the European Council (Article 50) format, EU Heads of State or Government tackled contentious issues including the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework, enlargement, climate change and Turkey. Together with Commission President-elect, Ursula von der Leyen, EU leaders also discussed future EU political priorities and the follow-up to the 2019-2024 strategic agenda.

Review of the Juncker Commission

Although the renewal of the European Commission has been postponed beyond the scheduled date of 1 November, current President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker presented a statement, debated with Members, encompassing a review of the Juncker Commission. Whilst facing some challenging situations during 2014-2019, including terrorist attacks and increased refugee movements, analysis of the Juncker Commission’s 10 priorities shows that two thirds of the Commission’s proposals during the period resulted in changes to the law. However, progress has been slower on growth, jobs, investment and trade.

General budget of the European Union for 2020

Parliament adopted its position on all sections of the general budget of the European Union for 2020. Parliament’s Committee on Budgets proposed to reject the reductions made by the Council and to increase expenditure on social and climate target priorities instead. The budget will now be the subject of conciliation negotiations with the Council. If the institutions reach a compromise, Parliament would vote on that during the November II plenary session. In the absence of an agreement, the European Commission is required to submit a new draft budget.

Discharge 2017: European Asylum Support Office and European Council/Council

Members refused to approve the 2017 accounts of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and European Council and Council. The Budgetary Control Committee (CONT) report on EASO’s budget criticises its internal control system, but notes that the new EASO management has committed to reforms. As to discharge for the Council and European Council, the CONT Committee report underlines that the institution has again failed to provide information requested, to separate the budget of the European Council from the Council’s budget, and to align with the interinstitutional transparency register.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, October II 2019‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/25/plenary-round-up-strasbourg-october-ii-2019/

EPRS workshop: early career researchers discuss the role of research in policy-making

Written by Christiaan van Lierop, 

Master Class at the European Week of Regions and Cities

logo-EWRC-2019-CMYK-positive-vertical

While regular contact with researchers, academics and the broader policy-making community is part of our core business at the EPRS, it is always a particular pleasure to meet with PhD students and young researchers who are experts in regional policy. That is why we were very happy to be involved once again in the organisation of a specialist workshop as part of the European Week of Regions and Cities’ Master Class for early career researchers, which took place in Brussels from 7 to 10 October 2019.

Bringing together 29 specially selected early career researchers from across the EU, this year’s workshop examined the role of research in policy-making at the European Parliament by focusing on three main themes: forging closer ties between researchers and policy-makers, enhancing the communication of cohesion policy and, lastly, future trends and topics for research in the field of cohesion policy. As in previous years, discussions took place around three tables, one for each theme, with participants invited to get actively involved in the debate at each table, providing everybody with the chance to have their say. With each participant an expert in the field of regional policy, the stage was set for a frank, open and lively discussion. This led to a number of key findings, set out below.

Forging closer ties between researchers and policy-makers

Participants stressed the need for more continuous links between researchers and policy-makers at local government level in particular. Noting that the relationship between researchers and policy-makers is a multilevel process, coordinating and developing synergies between researcher/policy-maker relations at municipal, regional, national and European levels, they argued that interaction between researchers and policy-makers at the local government level called for different, more participatory styles of research that could elicit support and interest from local authorities. When it came to finding experts, speakers stressed the importance of using certain keywords for searches and considered that researchers should be proactive by highlighting their profiles through researchgate or h-index if they wanted to have greater visibility. Another idea was to draw up e-mail lists of experts in different topic areas using university databases, with one participant suggesting that universities could be required to keep their databases updated with information about their staff expertise.

Enhancing the communication of cohesion policy

The workshop found that if EU cohesion policy is to be brought closer to citizens and the knowledge gap between politicians and the general public closed, it is important to deliver a message that could have an impact across borders, to tell a story and to establish communication channels for active exchange. One way of doing this could be to strengthen EU identity by stressing the significance of Europe as an integration project and by helping people understand that Europe forms an integral part of their everyday lives. There was clearly a need to make local projects more visible: one idea was to make it compulsory for local municipalities that receive EU funding to allocate a fixed amount of the money received to communications activities about the funded project. Other ideas included organising more Open Day events at the EU institutions for citizens as well as sessions that bring together different groups of people, such as low-income workers or socially excluded groups, who may know little about the EU, to explain what the EU is doing for them. This would take the form of special meetings at the workplace or at community centres.

Future trends and topics for research in the field of cohesion policy

On a general note, participants felt that it was vital to make topics appealing by creating awareness and involving stakeholders. Equally, regional capacity-building was also important as this could help policy-makers learn to cope with various challenges through feedback loops of multilevel governance that could facilitate the process of better learning for policy-makers. More specifically, a number of topics were highlighted as possible areas of future research. These included issues such as how to implement cohesion policy more effectively or that of assessing absorption capacity of funds through multiple criteria such as GDP, migration, climate change or youth unemployment. The individual challenges facing certain types of regions were also the subject of discussion: participants drew attention to the question of planning in cross-border regions and cross-border cooperation in general and looked at how to help lagging regions by focusing, in particular, on why it is difficult for them to implement smart specialisation strategies.

This workshop for early career researchers certainly provided some valuable thoughts and ideas can help feed into the work of both researchers and policy-makers and we look forward to the next edition of this event in 2020.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/24/eprs-workshop-early-career-researchers-discuss-the-role-of-research-in-policy-making/

A fresh look at the future of work in the EU

Written by Monika Kiss,

Businessman showing a virtual display of internet business network on his hand

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Economic and technical changes are redrawing the map of the world of work: new jobs are appearing while others are becoming obsolete, and atypical work patterns are replacing full-time work and open-ended contracts.

In addition, work is increasingly being carried out on online platforms connecting buyers and sellers, or by large project teams across borders and time zones.

Robotics and digitalisation raise new questions, as machines progressively replace the human workforce for routine tasks, and new types of professional and personal skills are required to respond to technological progress.

Active labour-market policies are gradually adapting to the changing reality in the world of work. This concerns social security systems, which increasingly face include new, and constantly changing requirements, as well as ethical and practical problems relating to robotics. The EU focuses on protecting workers’ rights while ensuring innovation, as the examples of the recently adopted Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions and the establishment of the new European Labour Authority illustrate. The need for the new digital skills that are essential to successfully master the challenges of the new working environment also continues to grow.

This is an update of an earlier Briefing on the Future of work in the EU, from April 2017, PE 599.426.


Read the complete briefing on ‘A fresh look at the future of work in the EU‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/24/a-fresh-look-at-the-future-of-work-in-the-eu/

The revised Brexit deal: What has changed and next steps?

Written by Carmen-Cristina Cîrlig,

© Firn / Fotolia

Brexit talks between the EU and the UK had reached a standstill in spring 2019, with the House of Commons refusing to vote in favour of the negotiated withdrawal agreement, including a Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. The new UK government led by Boris Johnson, who came into office on 24 July, made a priority of finalising preparations for leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019, unless the EU was willing to renounce the ‘backstop’ included in the Protocol. However, the EU continued to restate its opposition to removing what it considered a legally operational safety net that would prevent a future hard border on the island of Ireland, in the absence of concrete proposals from the UK. At the beginning of October 2019, the UK government sent its proposals on revising the above-mentioned protocol, which were received with a measure of concern by the EU and other stakeholders. Discussions aimed at bridging the gap between the UK and EU positions were stepped up and, after a series of concessions, the EU and UK announced they had reached a revised withdrawal agreement, which was then immediately endorsed by the European Council on 17 October 2019.

With only days to go until 31 October 2019, the date on which the UK is set to leave the EU, completing the ratification procedures to allow the withdrawal agreement’s entry into force on 1 November is going to be a challenge. Whereas on the EU side no major obstacles are foreseen, in the UK, the House of Commons decided on 19 October to withhold approval for the revised deal until Parliament passes the related implementing legislation. Required by law to send the EU a request for an extension of the Article 50 period until 31 January 2020, the UK Prime Minister is nonetheless still aiming to fulfil all the necessary steps for the ratification of the withdrawal agreement to allow its entry into force on 1 November. This is also the stated aim of the European Union, although if the European Council were to decide in favour of granting an Article 50 extension, following the UK request, that decision would have to be taken before the end of October.


Read this briefing on ‘The revised Brexit deal: What has changed and next steps?‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/22/the-revised-brexit-deal-what-has-changed-and-next-steps/

Outcome of the European Council (Article 50) meeting on 17 October 2019

Written by Izabela Bacian with Fernando Hortal Foronda,

© Fotolia

Leaders of the 27 EU Member States (EU-27) endorsed the agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) with a revised Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, as well as a revised political declaration on the framework of the future EU-UK relationship. They invited the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council to take steps to ensure the entry into force of the withdrawal agreement by 1 November 2019. Following postponement of the House of Commons vote to approve the deal, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, will consult the EU-27 Heads of State or Government as to whether to agree to the request he received on 19 October for an extension of the Article 50 negotiation period to 31 January 2020.

1. UK Withdrawal Agreement

On 17 October 2019, the European Commission and United Kingdom reached agreement at negotiators’ level on a revised Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and a revised political declaration on the framework of the future EU-UK relationship. Both were endorsed by the European Council (Article 50) at its meeting later the same day. The revised Protocol provides a legally operative solution that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, protects the all-island economy and the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. Contrary to the previous solution (the ‘backstop’), the revised Protocol no longer presents an insurance policy that applies unless and until the EU and the UK conclude a subsequent agreement that replaces it in part or in full. Instead, the agreed solution will continue to apply unless it fails to receive the democratic support of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Throughout the three-year long negotiations, several proposals have been made to address the unique situation on the island of Ireland and avoid the creation of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. These have included proposals under which Northern Ireland would remain part of both the single market and the EU customs union, or more recently where the whole of the UK remained part of a single customs union with the EU.

The latest proposal, agreed on 17 October 2019, (detailed in Box 1) is based on four main elements: 1) Northern Ireland remains aligned to a limited set of EU rules, notably relating to goods, and will still apply the Union Customs Code for goods entering its territory. There will be no checks on goods at the border or on the island; 2) Regarding customs duties, Northern Ireland remains within the UK’s customs territory. Differentiated treatment would be applied between goods entering Northern Ireland headed for its market and goods bound for the EU market, with the latter paying EU tariffs; 3) To maintain the integrity of the single market and avoid distortions of competition, Northern Ireland will remain under EU rules for value added tax (VAT), while the UK will collect the VAT; and finally, 4) To ensure long-term democratic support for the application of relevant EU rules in Northern Ireland, the consent of the Northern Ireland representatives will be required after an initial four years following the entry into force of the Protocol (after the end of the transition period, in theory December 2020). Consent will be required periodically to extend the arrangements: where that consent has previously been given with a cross-community majority, eight years thereafter, but where only a simple majority has been found, four years thereafter. Should consent not be given, the arrangements would cease to apply to Northern Ireland two years later.

Issue Revised Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland
Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement The Protocol provides a legally operative solution that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, protects the all-island economy and the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions.
Regulatory compliance for goods Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of rules related to the EU’s single market in order to avoid creating a hard border on the island of Ireland. This will concern legislation on goods, food safety and animal and plant health measures (sanitary and phytosanitary), rules on agricultural production and marketing, VAT and excise in respect of goods and state aid rules. Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK’s VAT area. The UK will charge reduced rates of VAT in Northern Ireland on products for which the Irish VAT rate is lower.
Consent of Northern Ireland The Protocol is a fully legally operative solution that will continue to apply unless it fails to receive the democratic support of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Assembly will be asked to provide its consent for the Protocol four years after the end of the transition period and every eight or four years thereafter, depending on whether a cross-community majority or only a simple majority is obtained. This consent will concern issues of regulatory alignment on goods and customs, the single electricity market, VAT and state aid.
Customs Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the United Kingdom. It will be able to benefit from participation in the UK’s independent trade policy. While Northern Ireland will leave the EU Customs Union, the Union Customs Code will continue to apply to all goods entering Northern Ireland. No checks or controls will be necessary on the island of Ireland.
Customs duties EU customs duties will apply to goods entering Northern Ireland only if those goods pose a risk that they will subsequently enter the EU single market. The Joint Committee will establish, before the end of the transition period, the criteria necessary to make that determination. For goods from third countries that are not at risk of entering the EU, customs duties in Northern Ireland will be the same as in other parts of the UK.
Revised political declaration
Nature of future relationship The precise nature of commitments should be commensurate with the scope and depth of the future relationship and the economic connectedness of the parties.
Parties should uphold the common high standards applicable in the EU and UK at the end of the transition period in the areas of state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environment, climate change, and relevant tax matters.
Level playing field The precise nature of commitments should be commensurate with the scope and depth of the future relationship and the economic connectedness of the parties.
Parties should uphold the common high standards applicable in the EU and UK at the end of the transition period in the areas of state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environment, climate change, and relevant tax matters.

2. Future relations with the UK

In the Article 50 meeting’s conclusions, the European Council reiterated its gratitude to EU Chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, ‘for his tireless efforts and for his contribution to maintaining unity among EU-27 Member States throughout the negotiations’. The European Council restated its determination to pursue as close a political partnership as possible with the UK. Nevertheless, negotiations on ‘a balanced, ambitious and wide-ranging free trade agreement’ depend on ‘sufficient guarantees for a level playing field‘, as stressed in the European Council guidelines. The EU-27 leaders committed to maintaining the future relationship with the UK as an item for discussion at each formal European Council meeting.

Regarding the content of the political declaration, the UK has indicated that it would be pursuing the negotiation of a free trade agreement, eliminating the possibility of joining the EU customs union in the future, and aiming for a higher level of regulatory divergence from the EU.

3. Procedure in the UK Parliament

In the meantime, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson put forward a motion for the House of Commons to approve the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration on Saturday 19 October. This was to comply with two key pieces of legislation: 1) the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which states that the ratification of the withdrawal agreement requires the agreement and the political declaration to be approved by a resolution in the House of Commons; and 2) the European Union (Withdrawal) (No 2) Act 2019 (commonly known as the Benn Act). The latter states that the House of Commons must either agree to the withdrawal agreement or agree to leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement; and should the House fail to agree to either of these scenarios by 19 October, it requires the Prime Minister to request an extension, to 31 January 2020, of the negotiating period under Article 50(3).

At its sitting on 19 October, the House of Commons adopted an amendment, the ‘Letwin Amendment’ (proposed by Conservative MP, Sir Oliver Letwin). This amendment delays approval of the withdrawal agreement unless and until implementing legislation (referred to as the Withdrawal Agreement Bill) is passed. Given this delay, and to comply with the Benn Act, a letter was sent to European Council President Donald Tusk later the same day, requesting an extension of Article 50 to 31 January 2020. At the same time, Johnson sent a second letter deploring the ‘corrosive impact of the long delay on delivering on the mandate of the British people’ as expressed in the 2016 referendum. Johnson committed to put the necessary legislation forward without delay, so that a vote in the House of Commons could still take place in the week beginning 21 October. On Monday of that week, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, rejected a motion by the Government aimed at holding another meaningful vote on the agreement, on the basis that the motion was of the same substance as two days earlier, and without any change in circumstances, and thus proceeding in this way ‘would be repetitive and disorderly’. Subsequently the government introduced the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on 21 October, and proposed an accelerated timetable to complete all stages of its passage in the House of Commons by the end of that week.

The current Conservative Party UK government has a minority of votes in the House of Commons. Despite the Conservative-Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) agreement under which the DUP has supported the government, the DUP has announced that its MPs will vote against the deal, expressing concerns about the negative impact of the deal on Northern Ireland’s economy and the Belfast Agreement political settlement, based on the consent principle. Close cooperation on Brexit between the DUP and the European Research Group (ERG) within the Conservative party, may lead some ERG Conservative MPs to vote against the deal. However, Johnson may be able to build a majority if a sufficient number of former Conservative MPs, other independents and some Labour MPs support the deal.

4. Procedure in the EU and consultation on a further extension

The EU-27 leaders invited the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council to take the necessary steps to ensure the entry into force of the withdrawal agreement by 1 November 2019. Following the UK request for a further extension, European Council President Donald Tusk responded that he would ‘now start consulting with EU leaders on how to react’. The previous request for an extension had generated differences in opinion among Member States, with a minority led by France calling for a short extension, and a larger number favouring a longer period.

While Johnson has offered to attend another European Council meeting to discuss the situation, EU‑27 leaders have not confirmed this. Should a consensus arise on the duration of the extension, the decision could be taken by written procedure, without convening another European Council (Article 50) meeting. Some Member States, notably Germany, have indicated openness to a short technical extension.

In the meantime, on 21 October, the Scottish and Welsh First Ministers, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, sent a letter to Donald Tusk calling for an extension long enough to ensure proper scrutiny of the Withdrawal Agreement by both parliaments, as well as sufficient time for a referendum, which both of the signatories favour, to be held.

The Council has given its authorisation for signature, and the agreement has been sent to the European Parliament for its consent. The European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, the body coordinating the Parliament’s approach in the negotiations with the UK, met to examine the deal on 21 October 2019. The rapporteur, Guy Verhofstadt, appointed by Parliaments’ Constitutional Affairs Committee (responsible for the consent procedure) will in due course draw up a recommendation for Parliament on whether to approve the withdrawal agreement.

The European Parliament’s consent is given by a simple majority vote. Following Parliament’s consent, the Council may conclude the agreement by ‘super’ qualified majority (at least 72 % of the participating Member States, comprising at least 65 % of their population).

Statement by the President of the European Parliament

At the European Council meeting on 17 October, EP President David Maria Sassoli (S&D, Italy) welcomed the agreement reached with the UK and also expressed his gratitude to the EU’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, for the results achieved. He announced that the European Parliament would immediately begin detailed examination of the terms and content of the agreement, to ensure its coherence with the EU and its citizens’ interests.

Following a meeting of the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents on 21 October, Sassoli announced that the European Parliament would only vote on giving its consent once the UK Parliament had approved the agreement. In the meantime, the Constitutional Affairs Committee would start its examination of the deal. Parliament would be ready to ‘move forward rapidly when needed’, he emphasised.


Read this briefing on ‘Outcome of the European Council (Article 50) meeting on 17 October 2019‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2019/10/22/outcome-of-the-european-council-article-50-meeting-on-17-october-2019/