Cross-border threats to health: EU action on preparedness and response [Policy podcast]

Written by Nicole Scholz,

© science photo / Shutterstock

Serious threats to health – such as those due to infectious disease outbreaks or environmental factors – do not respect borders. They do, however, require cross-border cooperation and a coordinated response.

Decision No 1082/2013/EU is the framework for European Union action on health emergencies. It provides for information exchange, risk assessment and joint procurement, among other mechanisms. The EU-level response is coordinated by the Health Security Committee. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control meanwhile plays a crucial role in identifying, assessing and communicating threats to health from communicable diseases. Parliament has adopted own-initiative and legislative resolutions focusing both on the general and more specific aspects of cross-border threats to health.

At global level, all EU Member States are party to the legally binding International Health Regulations that require them to develop, strengthen and maintain core public health capacities for surveillance and response. Implementation is coordinated by the World Health Organization.

Going forward, Member States have expressed interest in exploiting the potential of joint procurement beyond pandemic influenza vaccines. Moreover, a joint action on strengthened International Health Regulations and preparedness in the EU has recently been launched, focusing, in particular, on countering biological and chemical terror attacks in Europe across the health, security and civil protection sectors.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Cross-border threats to health: EU action on preparedness and response‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to policy podcast ‘How well prepared is the EU for serious health emergencies?‘ on YouTube.

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EU cohesiveness and cohesion [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

The European Union is envisaged as an area of growing stability, security and prosperity, with integration allowing it to boost citizens’ living standards and to enhance its influence globally. Generous cohesion and regional development funds are meant to limit wealth disparities among the various EU regions and countries. However, frequent difficulties in forging common foreign and economic policies, due to national differences, can diminish the EU’s domestic effectiveness and international leverage, while inequalities in income have been widening, especially in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008.

This note brings together commentaries, analyses and studies by international think tanks and research institutes from the last year on EU cohesiveness and cohesion.

A new look at net balances in the European Union’s next multiannual budget
Bruegel, December 2019

Europe’s coherence gap in external crisis and conflict management
Centre for European Policy Studies, December 2019

Don’t be afraid of political fragmentation
Chatham House, December 2019

EU circular economy and trade: Improving policy coherence for sustainable development
Institute for European Environmental Policy, November 2019

Europe’s coherence gap in external crisis and conflict management: The EU’s integrated approach between political rhetoric and institutional practice
Bertelsmann Stiftung, November 2019

Unequal Germany: Socioeconomic disparities report 2019
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, November 2019

States of change: Attitudes in Central and Eastern Europe 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall
Open Society Foundation, November 2019

The Balkan model and the balkanization of East Central Europe
Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Institute of World Economics, November 2019

The drafting of a European business code
Fondation Robert Schuman, November 2019

One trillion euros for Europe: How to finance a European silkroad with the help of a European silk road trust, backed by a European sovereign wealth fund and other financing instruments
Wiener Institut für Internationale Wirtschaftsvergleiche, November 2019

Reducing health inequalities: The role of civil society
Fondation Européenne d’Etudes Progressistes, November 2019

Articulating the logic of nuclear-sharing
Institute for European Studies, October 2019F

A geographically fair EU industrial strategy
European Policy Centre, October 2019

With or without you: Are central European countries ready for the euro?
Bruegel, October 2019

Structural change, institutions and the dynamicsof labor productivity in Europe
German Marshall Fund, October 2019

A fresh look at the health-wealth correlation: A case study of European countries
Central European Union Institute, October 2019

All at sea: Europe’s crisis of solidarity on migration
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2019

Holding together what belongs together: A strategy to counteract economic polarisation in Europe
Wiener Institut für Internationale Wirtschaftsvergleiche, September 2019

Hidden treasures: Mapping Europe’s sources of competitive advantage in doing business
Centre for European Policy Studies, September 2019

Give the people what they want: Popular demand for a strong European foreign policy
European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2019

Wirtschaftliche Polarisierung in Europa: Ursachen und Handlungsoptionen
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, August 2019

EU cohesion policy: A suitable tool to foster regional innovation?
Bertelsmann Stiftung, August 2019

European cohesion: Progress at a snail’s pace
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, August 2019

Trying times: Rethinking social cohesion
Bertelsmann Stiftung, August 2019

Osteuropa trotzt dem globalen Gegenwindby
Wiener Institut für Internationale Wirtschaftsvergleiche, July 2019

Fixing the European social malaise: Understanding and addressing the grievances of European workers
Instituto Affari Internazionali, German Marshall Fund, Mercator, July 2019

Cross border services in the internal market: An important contribution to economic and social cohesion
Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft Köln, June 2019

Effectiveness of cohesion policy: Learning from the project characteristics that produce the best results
Bruegel, June 2019

Ein neuer Haushalt für die EU: Die Verhandlungen über den mehrjährigen Finanzrahmen 2021–2027
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, June 2019

From enlargement to the unification of Europe
Open Society Foundations, June 2019

Convergence to fair wage growth? Evidence from European countries on the link between productivity and real compensation growth, 1970–2017
European Trade Union Institute, June 2019

The opportunities of the modernisation fund for the energy transition in Central and Eastern Europe
Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2019

How to improve European Union cohesion policy for the next decade
Bruegel, May 2019

Migration et cohésion en Europe: Un défi, pas une contradiction
Institut français des relations internationales, May 2019

Promoting sustainable and inclusive growth and convergence in the European Union
Bruegel, April 2019

Posted workers regulations as a cohesion test in the enlarged EU
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, April 2019

Europe’s East-West divide: Myth or reality?
Carnegie Europe, April 2019

Heterogeneity within the euro area: New insights into an old story
Centre d’études prospectives et d’informations internationales, March 2019

Revisiting the euro’s trade cost and welfare effects
Institut für Weltwirtschaft Kiel, March 2019

Gender equality in Europe: What progress in 2019?
Fondation Robert Schuman, March 2019

How are you doing, Europe? Mapping social imbalances in the EU
Jacques Delors Institute, Bertelsmann Stiftung, February 2019

Une assurance-chômage européenne : Ce qu’en pensent vraiment les citoyens
Notre Europe, February 2019

Finding a Visegrad added value in the new cohesion policy, 2021-2027
EUROPEUM, January 2019

Read this briefing on ‘EU cohesiveness and cohesion‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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EU strategy for the Alpine region [Policy podcast]

Written by Pernilla Jourde,

© pixbul / Fotolia

Launched in January 2016, the European Union strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP) is the fourth and most recent macro-regional strategy to be set up by the European Union. One of the biggest challenges facing the seven countries and 48 regions involved in the EUSALP is that of securing sustainable development in the macro-region, especially in its resource-rich, but highly vulnerable core mountain area. The Alps are home to a vast array of animal and plant species and constitute a major water reservoir for Europe. At the same time, they are one of Europe’s prime tourist destinations, and are crossed by busy European transport routes. Both tourism and transport play a key role in climate change, which is putting Alpine natural resources at risk.

The European Parliament considers that the experience of the EUSALP to date proves that the macro-regional concept can be successfully applied to more developed regions. The Alpine strategy provides a good example of a template strategy for territorial cohesion; as it simultaneously incorporates productive areas, mountainous and rural areas, and some of the most important and highly developed cities in the EU.

Although there is a marked gap between urban and rural mountainous areas, the macro-region shows a high level of socio-economic interdependence, confirmed by recent research. Disparities (in terms of funding and capacity) between participating countries, a feature that has caused challenges for other EU macro-regional strategies, are less of an issue in the Alpine region, but improvements are needed and efforts should be made in view of the new 2021-2027 programming period. Furthermore, the strong bottom-up approach behind the development of the EUSALP ensures local ownership of the strategy, a key element for success.

This is an update of a Briefing by Vivienne Halleux, from August 2016.

Read the complete briefing on ‘EU strategy for the Alpine region‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to policy podcast ‘Securing sustainable development in the Alpine Region‘ on YouTube.

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Is data the new oil? Competition issues in the digital economy [Policy podcast]

Written by Marcin Szczepański,

© Feodora /

The global debate on the extent to which current competition policy rules are sufficient to deal with the fast-moving digital economy has never been more pertinent. An important part of this debate concerns the market power of large high-tech companies that dominate many online markets. The main factors behind these developments are economies of scale and scope, network externalities, and the rising economic significance of data, which are a highly valuable commodity in an online economy. While being indispensable to the development of potential game changers – such as artificial intelligence – data are also a crucial input to many online services, production processes, and logistics – making it a critical element in the value chain of many different industries.

Data-dependent markets are also characterised by a high level of concentration and, according to many experts, high entry barriers relating to access to and ownership of data – which make it difficult to challenge the incumbent companies. On the other hand, the large players are generally considered to be very productive and innovative. Some studies, however, show that the diffusion of know-how and innovation between the market leaders and the rest of the economy may be affecting competiveness in general.

One possible way to correct these shortcomings is to regulate the sharing of data. While the risks of policy-making in this field are generally well-known and centre around the need to protect privacy – particularly where personal data are involved – and to prevent the collusive aspects of data sharing, there is currently no global model to follow. The European Union has taken multiple initiatives to unlock data markets through modern, user-centred laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the regulation on the reuse of public sector information. The global thinking seems to gradually favour more prudent oversight of the market, considering its economic heft.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Is data the new oil? Competition issues in the digital economy‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to policy podcast ‘Is data the new oil? Competition issues in the digital economy’ on YouTube.

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European Parliament Plenary Session January I 2020

Written by Clare Ferguson,

© European Union – European Parliament

Parliament returns to work for this first plenary session of 2020 with considerable plans for the year ahead (although two major issues remain to be settled: the future multiannual financial framework and the withdrawal of the United Kingdom). While there will be no review of the outgoing Presidency, Council and European Commission statements presenting the programme of activities of the new (and first) Croatian Council Presidency are expected on Tuesday morning, and will give an indication of the main issues to be tackled in the first half of the year ahead. The priorities for the Presidency’s six-month tenure include developing European economic and social cohesion and convergence; making stronger connections between European citizens, focusing on the infrastructure that allows smooth mobility of people and goods; boosting internal security to protect citizens and tackling migration issues; and strengthening multilateralism and Europe’s influence in the world.

Included in the first of these priorities is the von der Leyen Commission’s new European Green Deal. Following the extraordinary debate held on 11 December 2019 (in a new format of ‘scrutiny session’ that Parliament may repeat in future), Members will vote on a motion for resolution on Wednesday lunchtime. The Green Deal encompasses a number of initiatives, such as legislative proposals on a European climate law, extension of the EU emissions trading system, a carbon border tax and a review of energy taxation. Among the new strategies planned on issues such as industry, sustainable foods, biodiversity and new funding plans, is an ambition to ‘lead the world’ at the 2020 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Accordingly, Members will hear a Commission statement on the COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity on Wednesday afternoon. The EU post-2020 biodiversity framework to 2030 needs to be in place in time for the 15th meeting of the parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Kunming, China in October 2020. Parliament, however, is already asking questions about the – as yet unachieved – 2020 biodiversity targets, and how the Commission proposes to strengthen implementation of measures to protect biodiversity, notably by moving away from voluntary commitments and towards legally binding measures to conserve and protect nature.

The Commission has also planned for a major new initiative to build stronger connections between European citizens and the EU. Parliament has already been preparing for the planned Conference on the Future of Europe, and will set out its position following a debate on Wednesday morning. Parliament has high expectations for the conference and is eager to contribute to its conception, which requires careful design to afford maximum opportunities for citizens to contribute to the future direction of the European Union, while avoiding the pitfalls inherent in any selection. Already in late 2019, Parliament set up a working group to reflect on the structure of the proposed Conference, seeking to ensure that the aims and scope of the conference remain realistic and result in meaningful outcomes.

Returning to the final priority on the Presidency’s list, to strengthen Europe’s influence in the world, Members will debate the 2018 Annual report on the human rights and democracy in the world and the European Union’s policy on the matter on Tuesday afternoon. This comprehensive exercise takes stock of all EU actions in the area of human rights and democracy. Its publication provides Parliament with an opportunity to review EU action and make recommendations for the future, in an annual resolution adopted in response to the report. The 2018 EU report underlines the importance of the EU taking a leading global role in defence of democracy and human rights, particularly in the face of rising authoritarianism and shrinking space for democracy worldwide – a view Parliament is expected to share.


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Ten issues to watch in 2020

Written by Etienne Bassot,

© kojihirano, Eugenio Marongiu, Alfa Photo, Fotosr52, View Apart, Nicolas Economou, Angurt, FooTToo, vchal, Maridav /

A new European Parliament and new European Commission, a new decade, and a new financial framework to adopt for the next seven years – 2020 would seem to be a year full of new beginnings. But 2020 does not start with a blank page: next to the political commitments already made and work programmes already adopted, a range of issues are already on the table, some recent, some less so, but all requiring our understanding, and each calling for action.

To help us to see where we need to focus and take action, the European Parliamentary Research Service has asked a dozen of its policy analysts to select, from myriad interesting topics, ten issues to watch in 2020. These issues concern all aspects of European policies: economic and social, European citizens and migrants, the most advanced technologies and most affected regions, budget and finances, as well as trends within our European borders and across the oceans or at the pole. Some of these issues follow directly from previous editions of this publication – such as the multiannual financial framework, migration, and the impact of US politics on transatlantic relations. Others are assessed in a new light, for example climate action and energy transition. And still others are brand new in this series of publications, such as the ‘gamification’ of EU democracy, and the Arctic.

Behind this diversity, two main themes emerge: climate and solidarity. These two themes will not come as a surprise: they were at the heart of campaigns for the European elections last year, and continue to make the headlines at both European and national levels. The December 2019 Parlemeter – the Eurobarometer survey for the European Parliament – confirms that, first and foremost, European citizens demand a greener and fairer Europe. Climate change, poverty and social exclusion are citizens’ key priorities for the European Parliament to address.

Climate and solidarity have therefore logically inspired the written contributions as well as the visual representation of the ten issues and their interaction, represented on the cover of this publication. In 2020, no issue can be presented, let alone understood, in isolation, detached from its interactions with others. As one example among many, biodiversity calls for climate action, which will affect the adoption of the multiannual financial framework, which will define the Just Transition Fund, which will influence the fight against poverty and exclusion that affect children, who interact via 5G, which enables more on-line involvement of citizens, who coordinate support to migrants using new technologies or express their concerns for the Arctic on line, and so on.

In a world in which all issues are directly or indirectly related to the others, the thinking follows this pattern. It follows that, with this publication as increasingly elsewhere, you can choose to read these issues in any order you wish. Cross-referencing will make the connections and guide you from one subject to the other.

We hope that you will enjoy reading this latest edition of ‘Ten Issues to Watch’ and that it will stimulate your reflections and ignite your curiosity as you explore the challenges and opportunities of 2020.

Read the complete in-depth analysis on ‘Ten issues to watch in 2020‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Global Trendometer 2019

Written by Eamonn Noonan,


The future is very present in discussions around and about the European Union. This spring, the European Parliament concluded its series of debates with Member State Heads of State or Government on the Future of Europe. A major European Union (EU) strategic foresight report, Global Trends to 2030: Challenges and Choices for Europe, was published not long after. A new legislative period began after the European Parliament elections, and the 2014-19 Commission has made way for a new executive, led by Ursula von der Leyen.

This edition of the Global Trendometer also looks to the future. Like its predecessors in 2016, 2017 and 2018, it identifies, tracks and analyses a selection of trends ranging across social, economic, and political subjects. It focuses on the medium- to long-term, and seeks to uncover implications for the EU. The purpose is to support the deliberations of EU decision- and lawmakers.

The opening essays in this edition cover the future of democracy and of social policy. We then provide a set of short scenarios, sketching possible – fictional – futures for several North African countries. Shorter pieces look at trends, uncertainties and disruptions on six further topics: the auditing of algorithms, China’s social credit scheme, space, life expectancy, political slogans, and collective nostalgia.

The Trendometer is part of a systematic effort to develop a strategic foresight culture within the EU. This effort has proceeded not least through the framework of the interinstitutional ESPAS initiative. The allocation of responsibility for foresight to a Vice-President of the incoming European Commission is another step towards anticipatory governance in Europe.

As the saying goes, predictions are difficult, especially about the future. Human affairs are complex, and are buffeted by chance and indeed irrationality. This makes it impossible to predict outcomes with certainty. However, this does not mean it is futile to study the future. On the contrary, it is all the more reason to take a systematic approach to forward analysis.

Asking questions to which one does not know the answers is a good place to start. When examining a less than ideal situation, for example, it is worth addressing questions such as:

  • Are misconceptions, oversimplifications and preconceived notions in play?
  • What are the negative trends? Are they structural, accidental or attitudinal?
  • How serious are the consequences of negative trends?
  • What are the barriers to correcting negative trends?

Creating ‘safe spaces’ for open discussion is another critical step. A foresight process should allow the expression and consideration of professionally argued contrarian views. This improves the chances of a balanced portrait of challenges and options, and in turn paves the way for better informed decisions at critical junctures in the future. Good choices depend on having a number of carefully prepared options to choose between.

The European Union has been compared to a supertanker. The emphasis on dialogue and consensus in EU decision-making means it is not easy to change course quickly. This adds to the case for enhanced strategic foresight capacity. A shared analysis of key risks and opportunities, and a common understanding of fundamental values, interests and goals, are European public goods. As we have seen in the past decades, trying to debate from first principles once a crisis hits only complicates the search for solutions. It is time to embrace an anticipatory approach, and to routinely develop options for responding to different eventualities. To borrow a phrase from Diderot, “examining everything, without exception and without ceremony”, is a step towards identifying the correct course, even in a storm.

Read the complete study ‘Global Trendometer 2019‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Global Trendometer 2019 in a nutshell

Global Trendometer 2019 in a nutshell

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Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, December 2019

Written by Clare Ferguson and Katarzyna Sochaka,

EP Plenary session - Conclusions of the European Council meeting of 12 and 13 December 2019 - European Council and Commission statements

© European Union 2019 – Source : EP/Fred MARVAUX

The December plenary session highlights included the election of the European Ombudsman; commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights becoming legally binding; and the award of the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Parliament adopted positions on the rule of law in Malta, following the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and on public discrimination and hate speech against LGBTI people, including LGBTI-free zones. It also debated statements by the Vice-President of the European Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR/VP) on the humanitarian situation of the Uyghur in China and in Venezuela and Nicaragua, on the migration and refugee crisis, and on the violent crackdown on recent protests in Iran. Debates took place, inter alia, on Commission and Council statements on: the 30th anniversary of the Romanian revolution of December 1989; the post-2020 EU disability strategy; the COP25 outcome; animal welfare conditions during transport to third countries; and the US Trade Representative’s announcement on France’s digital service tax. Parliament also voted on appointments to the Executive Board of the European Central Bank.

European Green Deal – extraordinary plenary session on 11 December

During an extraordinary December plenary session, Members debated the European Green Deal presented by Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans after its adoption by the European Commission the same day. Outlined in Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s political guidelines, the Green Deal aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, while boosting industrial competitiveness and ensuring a just transition for the regions and workers affected. Key aims include preserving Europe’s natural environment, a ‘farm to fork’ strategy for sustainable food, and a new circular economy action plan.

Election of the Ombudsman

In the election of the European Ombudsman, Members chose to re-elect incumbent Emily O’Reilly, following a tight third round of votes against Julia Laffranque (320 votes against 280, out of 600 votes cast). O’Reilly’s main priority remains tackling the lack of transparency in national governments’ role in EU law-making. The Ombudsman’s office represents citizens and others who wish to lodge complaints regarding the actions of EU administrative bodies, and aims at ensuring that EU institutions respect citizens’ rights and the principles of good administration.

10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty

Parliament commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty and that of the Charter of Fundamental Rights becoming legally binding. With the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Council became a formal EU institution, and the anniversary provided an occasion to review the formal and informal changes it brought about in the role of the EU institutions. The new competences added under the Treaty have yet to be fully exploited, however, and represent a rich seam of unused Treaty potential for the future.

European Council meeting of 12 and 13 December 2019

Parliament heard a report on, and debated the conclusions of, the latest meeting of the European Council, on 12 and 13 December 2019. At this first European Council meeting chaired by the new President, Charles Michel, EU leaders announced an agreement on the objective of achieving a climate-neutral EU by 2050, despite one Member State’s inability to commit to implementing this objective at this stage. No agreement was reached on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), but the European Council mandated its President to take the negotiations forward. The Council also considered the proposed Conference on the Future of Europe, and tasked the incoming Croatian Presidency with working towards defining a Council position, and to engage with the European Parliament and the Commission. EU leaders also discussed a wide range of international issues, including relations with Turkey and Russia.

Sakharov Prize 2019

Parliament awarded its 2019 Sakharov Prize to laureate Ilham Tohti. The European Parliament is committed to defending human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the award highlights those who stand up for the right to freedom of expression, safeguard minority rights or champion international law and democracy. Currently imprisoned by the Chinese government (his daughter received the prize on his behalf), Ilham Tohti is a moderate advocate of Uyghur minority rights who eschews radical separatist movements in favour of dialogue with the Han majority. Parliament’s President has urged the Chinese government to release Tohti, and called for China to respect minority population rights, particularly in the light of the ‘China-cables’ exposé of Chinese treatment of the Uyghur.

Joint debate on VAT fraud and payment service providers

Members debated, and approved by a large majority, two reports providing opinions on the proposals for a regulation and directive to better combat VAT fraud in the e-commerce sector. E-commerce is booming, and while it offers opportunities to increase cross-border sales, the EU is keen to avoid that it also allows increased tax fraud. Tackling VAT fraud related to e-commerce therefore requires robust systems for the transmission and exchange of VAT-relevant payment data (such as who is supplying the goods). Consulted on two European Commission proposals (on maintaining and exchanging electronic payment records), Parliament recommends the establishment of a common EU system for the collection of comparable statistics on intra-Community VAT fraud and the publication of national estimates of VAT revenue losses due to fraud. It also proposes to extend the period during which payment service providers are required to keep information on cross-border payment transactions, from two to three years.

CAP: Flexibility pillars for 2020 and financial discipline from 2021

While there is broad agreement that interim measures are necessary to bridge the funding gap until the MFF can be agreed, the EU still needs to put transitional provisions in place. Parliament’s Budgets and Agriculture Committees agreed that those who benefit from EU funding should not suffer harm because of the procedural delays. Consequently, no amendments were tabled to the Commission’s proposal for a regulation extending the current rules on flexibility between the pillars of the common agricultural policy (CAP) until the end of 2021, and Parliament approved its first-reading position under a simplified procedure. The stability of EU farmer income support post-2020 is now ensured, as the new regulation extends the 2015-2019 rules on flexibility between CAP pillars, i.e. moving money from national envelopes for rural development to the envelope for direct payments.

EU-Gambia Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement

Members voted in favour of concluding a new EU fisheries agreement with The Gambia, including a proposed annual EU contribution of €550 000. Half of this amount covers access rights for EU fishing vessels to Gambian waters and half should assist The Gambia to develop its fisheries sector in a sustainable manner, including preventing illegal fishing.

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

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Priority dossiers under the Croatian EU Council Presidency

Written by Lucienne Attard (The Directorate-General for the Presidency),


© meunierd / Shutterstock

For the first time since joining the European Union in 2013, Croatia will hold the rotating Council Presidency from 1 January to 30 June 2020. Croatia is a parliamentary, representative democratic republic, where the Prime Minister of Croatia is the head of government in a multi-party system.Executive power is exercised by the government and the President of Croatia. Legislative power is vested in the Croatian Parliament. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Parliament adopted the current Constitution of Croatia on 22 December 1990 and decided to declare independence from Yugoslavia on 25 May 1991.

The Croatian Parliament is the unicameral representative body of the citizens of the Republic of Croatia. Under the terms of the Croatian Constitution, the ‘Sabor’ represents the people and is vested with legislative power. The Sabor is composed of 151 members elected for a four-year term based on direct, universal and equal suffrage by secret ballot. Seats are allocated according to the Croatian Parliament electoral districts: 140 members of the parliament are elected in multi-seat constituencies, 8 from the minorities and 3 from the Croatian diaspora.

Since 19 October 2016, the Prime Minister of Croatia is Mr Andrej Plenković. There are four deputy prime ministers: Davor Božinović, Zdravko Marić, Damir Krstičević and Predrag Štromar. The government ministers are from the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Croatian People’s Party – Liberal Democrats (HNS), with two further ministers being independent politicians. TheCroatian Democratic Union (Croatian: Hrvatska demokratska zajednica or HDZ, literally Croatian Democratic Community) is a liberal conservative political party and the main centre-right political party in Croatia. It is one of the two major contemporary political parties in Croatia, along with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP). It is currently the largest party in the Sabor with 55 seats.


This note looks at the Croatian Presidency’s priorities, focusing essentially on the four core priorities, which will guide its work until June 2020. Those dossiers which figure in the Joint Declaration agreed to by the three institutions as priorities for 2018-2019 are marked with an asterisk (*). Also includedare some legislative files which the Conference of Presidents (COP) of the European Parliament endorsed in a list of ‘unfinished business’ in October 2019, and on which work between the two co-legislators has started or will resume.

The four main priority areas of the Croatian Presidency are:

  • A Europe that is developing,
  • A Europe that connects,
  • A Europe that protects, and
  • An influential Europe.

The challenges currently facing the Union are well known and include in particular Brexit and the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (MFF) (2018/0166 APP)*, which the Croatian Presidency commits to carrying forward. Croatia also pledges to focus on disparities in economic development, climate change, migration, misinformation campaigns and growing populism.

This presidency will follow on the work of the Finnish Presidency, taking into account the priorities of the Strategic Agenda 2019-2024 endorsed by the Member States at the European Council on 20 June 2019. The Strategic Agenda covers the protection of citizens’ freedoms; developing a strong and vibrant economic base; building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe; and promoting European interests and values on the global stage.


In an effort to reduce differences between Member States, and to foster economic and social cohesion and convergence, Croatia will work towards an ambitious, balanced and sustainable MFF.During Parliament’s eighth legislature, a number of committees worked on the proposals for sectoral programmes, which will implement the overall MFF for 2021-2027. However, the actual amount of the next seven-year EU budget still needs to be established by the Council and then approved by Parliament. Agreeing the new seven-year programme has been complicated by, on the one hand, the appointment of a new Commission, and on the other hand, by time-consuming and complex issues such as Brexit.

Brexit is a major question that the Croatian Presidency will be facing, considering the deadline of 31 January 2020 for the UK to exit the EU. The general election on 12 December in the UK gave an unambiguous result, and the UK parliament can now be expected to move forward in time for the Brexit date. In the coming months there will need to be negotiations on the new relationship to be tailored with the UK, and this will most certainly dominate the political environment in the first half of 2020.

In line with Croatia’s first priority, the following legislative proposals could feature during the Croatian Presidency:

  • Establishment of the Reform Support Programme (2018/0213 COD) (MFF file)*
  • European Investment Stabilisation function (2018/0212 COD) (MFF file)*
  • Recovery and Resolution of central counter-parties (2016/0365 COD)*
  • Credit services, credit purchasers and the recovery of collateral* (2018/0063A COD)
  • Accelerated extrajudicial collateral enforcement* (2018/0063B COD)
  • Framework for the development of EU Sovereign Bond-backed Securities (SBBS) (2018/0171 COD)*
  • European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS) (2015/0270 COD) *

On matters relating to the strengthening of competitiveness and skills, the Croatian Presidency plans to focus on digitalisation of business, competitiveness of European industry and SMEs, mobility of scientists and researchers, and modernisation of agriculture. The following are some of the pending proposals which would fall under this remit:

  • Support for strategic plans to be drawn up by Member States financed by EAGF and EAFRD (2018/0216 COD) (MFF file)
  • Programme for single market competitiveness of enterprises, including SMEs and European statistics 2021-2027 (2018/0231 COD) (MFF file)
  • Horizon Europe framework programme for research and innovation 2021-2027 and specific programme implementing it (2018/0224 & 0225 COD) (MFF file)
  • Digital Europe Programme 2021-2027 (2018/0227 COD) (MFF file)
  • Common agricultural policy (CAP) 2021-2027 (2018/0218 COD) (MFF file)
  • Common agricultural policy: financing, management and monitoring (2018/0217 COD) (MFF file)

With regard to the mobility of scientists and researchers, there is the pending proposal on the Entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly skilled employment(2016/0176 COD)*. This proposal, known as the Blue Card directive, remains blocked over the question of harmonisation vs national schemes.

In the context of a green Europe, and of sustainable economic growth and development, the following could feature prominently:

  • Regulation on the framework to facilitate sustainable investment (2018/0178 COD)
  • Programme for the environment and climate action (LIFE) 2021-2027 (2018/0209 COD) (MFF file)
  • Minimum requirements for water reuse (2018/0169 COD)

The Croatian Presidency also intends to work towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement, with a transition to a low-carbon and circular economy, and on conservation of biodiversity, protection of the marine environment and efficient water and waste management. It is to be noted that legislative proposals on the matter are being prioritised by the European Commission. A European Green Deal has already been adopted by the College of Commissioners and presented in Parliament on 11 December 2019. New legislative proposals in this connection will be adopted and published in the coming months.

On social matters, the Croatian Presidency highlights the need to implement the European Pillar of Social rights, including work-life balance and promoting equality between women and men, as well as better opportunities for young people and promoting lifelong care for one’s health. In this regard, there is the non-evolution on the legislative proposal on Gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges (2012/0299 COD). On the other hand, there is a possibility that the proposal on the Coordination of social security systems (2016/0397 COD)* could be concluded by the Finnish Presidency before the end of its term in December 2019. This proposal affects the social rights of some 12 million citizens and their families.


The main areas of concern under this heading are the establishment of a single, European transport area, high quality and secure data infrastructure, an integrated energy market and stronger connections between Union citizens. To this end, the following pending legislative proposals could be negotiated during the Croatian Presidency:

  • Charging of heavy goods vehicles (Eurovignette) (2017/0114 COD)*
  • Use of vehicles hired without drivers for the carriage of goods by road (2017/0113 COD)*
  • Combined transport of goods between Member States (2017/0290 COD)*
  • Access to the international market by coach and bus services: further opening of national markets (2017/0288 COD)*

On stronger connections between Union citizens, the Croatian Presidency proposes to focus on further strengthening the mobility of students and researchers – in this context, negotiations on the Erasmus programme for education, training, youth and sport 2021-2027 (2018/0191 COD) will beessential, as well as on the Creative Europe programme 2021-2027 (2018/0190 COD). Equally important in terms of youth programmes, is the European Solidarity Corps programme 2021-2027(2018/0230 COD) (MFF file).


Internal security, more effective control of external borders, interoperability of IT systems and stronger resilience to external threats and malicious cyber activities, are amongst the key areas the Presidency would like to focus on. The following legislative proposals are relevant:

  • European production and preservation orders for electronic evidence in criminal matters * (2018/0108 COD) (known as one of the e-evidence files)
  • Appointment of legal representatives for the purposes of gathering evidence in criminal proceedings* (2018/0107 COD) (also an e-evidence file)
  • Internal Security Fund 2021-2027 (2018/0250 COD)Visa Information System* (2018/0152 COD)
  • Preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online* (2018/0331 COD)
  • Respect for private life and the protection of personal data in electronic communications (e-privacy)* (2017/0003 COD)
  • Returning illegally staying third-country nationals* (2018/0329 COD)

On the reform of the Common European Asylum system, and questions of migration, the co-legislators did not conclude the following proposals and work, it is hoped, would resume quickly:

Asylum: Member States responsible for examining an application for international protection (Dublin system)* (2016/0133 COD) – this is the key file of the asylum package and the one that held up the conclusion of most other files in the package

  • European Union Agency for Asylum* (2016/0131 COD)
  • Eurodac* (2016/0132 COD)
  • Standards for the reception of applicants for international protection* (2016/0222 COD)
  • Standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection* (2016/0223 COD)
  • Common procedure for international protection in the Union* (2016/0224 COD)
  • Union Resettlement Framework* (2016/0225 COD)


Strengthening multilateralism, fulfilling the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals and promoting European values and interests are amongst the key points for the EU’s external action. The Croatian Presidency considers that an effective enlargement and neighbourhood policy, including in the Western Balkans, is necessary for further economic development in Europe. To this end, an EU-Western Balkans Summit will take place in Zagreb in May 2020. Prior to this, the European Council pledged to discuss enlargement matters again after failing to approve Northern Macedonia and Albania for accession negotiations.

Equally important are the negotiations on the Instrument for pre-accession assistance (IPA III) 2021-2027 (2018/0247 COD) (MFF file).

The Croatian Presidency also considers it a priority to intensify relations with third countries and to strengthen transatlantic relations. Trade agreements with Vietnam and Mercosur are nearing completion, with consent for the first due to be given by the INTA committee in January and plenary in February 2020. Referral to Parliament of the Mercosur agreement is expected by mid-2020.

On questions of security and defence, negotiations on the European Defence Fund 2021-2027(2018/0254 COD) (MFF file) will be important in terms of the crisis-response capacity described in the Presidency priorities.


The Croatian Presidency has announced it intends to build cooperation and agreement among Member States in a spirit of consensus and mutual respect. In this light, work on the Conference on the Future of Europe is expected to intensify, at a time where the challenges facing the EU are significant, including the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU. Similarly, it is expected that a new Joint Declaration for 2020, between the three institutions, will see the light of day during the Croatian Presidency, after the new Commission has presented its annual work programme for 2020.

Read this briefing on ‘Priority dossiers under the Croatian EU Council Presidency‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

The Directorate-General for the Presidency (DG Presidency) plays a key role throughout each parliamentary procedure, from its launch until its conclusion through the adoption of an EP resolution or legislative act, in particular in ensuring the smooth running of the plenary sessions. The staff of the DG play a key coordination role across the different services of the Parliament, and support Members in a wide range of activities. The Interinstitutional Relations Unit within DG Presidency, amongst other tasks, prepares a broad range documents concerned with strategic programming, such as on activities of the Commission and the Council.

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2019: A year of challenges and choices [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

© Artur Szczybylo /

The European Parliament elections and formation of a new European Commission with new priorities, together with a general economic slowdown against the backdrop of the US-China trade conflict, to say nothing of Brexit, defined 2019 as a year of tough choices in the context of old and new challenges. Those include efforts to fight climate change, the defence of the rules-based international order, the advance of the digital revolution, the emerging debate over the EU’s strategic sovereignty, and the need to re-define relations with the United Kingdom post-Brexit.

This note offers links to recent selected commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on the state of the EU in 2019 and its outlook in several important areas.

Commission, elections, dilemmas

The future of the European Union: Scenarios for the start of the new legislature
Istituto Affari Internazionali, November 2019

The new EU leadership: The von der Leyen Commission focuses on Europe’s geoeconomic power
Finnish Institute for International Affairs, November 2019

Can Europe learn to play power politics?
Centre for European Reform, November 2019

Moving beyond the ‘crisis’: Recommendations for the European Commission’s communication on migration
European Policy Centre, September 2019

Spitzenkandidaten poker
European Council on Foreign Relations, July 2019

Comparative trends in EU governance
Clingendael, July 2019

How to govern a fragmented EU: What Europeans said at the ballot box
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2019

The changing global order and its implications for the EU
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, March 2019

No end in sight for the EU’s democracy and rule of law crisis
German Marshall Fund, March 2019

Joining forces: The way towards the European Defence Union
European Political Strategy Centre, February 2019


Four pillars to make or break the European Green Deal
Bruegel, November 2019

4 priorities for the COP25 climate conference in Madrid
World Resources Institute, November 2019

Financing climate change and sustainable growth
LSE, Grantham Institute on Climate Change, November 2019

Coming soon: A massive laboratory for ‘Green New Deals’
Bruegel, October 2019

Cities, climate change and chronic heat exposure
LSE, Grantham Institute on Climate Change, September 2019

The ambition call: European Union
New Climate Institute, August 2019

Planning for 2050: Shifting the focus towards long-term climate objectives
Ecologic Institute, August 2019

Europe’s clean energy transition: An economic opportunity, an environmental imperative
Friends of Europe, July 2019

A 100 percent renewable energy system in Europe is technically possible and economically rational
Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, May 2019

What is climate resilience and why does it matter?
Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, April 2019

Defence and foreign policy

Towards a European Security Council?
Centre for European Reform, November 2019

The militarization of US foreign policy: Engagement with Europe increasingly about defense
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, November 2019

The changing global order: Which role for the European Union?
Stiftung Genshagen, October 2019

Sub-surface competition in the EuroAtlantic area: The challenge to Western dominance
Institut français des relations internationales, October 2019

Mission possible? The geopolitical Commission and the partnership with Africa
European Centre for Development Policy Management, October 2019

Defend, engage, maximise: A progressive agenda for EU-China relations
Foundation for European Progressive Studies, October 2019

Democratization first: The community method in CFSP as a precondition for a European defence policy
Institut français des relations internationales, September 2019

The multilateral system under stress: Charting Europe’s path forward
Clingendael, July 2019

From plaything to player: How Europe can stand up for itself in the next five years
European Council on Foreign Relations, July 2019

Strategic autonomy for European choices: The key to Europe’s shaping power
European Policy Centre, July 2019


A trade war ceasefire is just what America’s economy needs
Peterson Institute for International Economics, December 2019

EU trade policy: Global enforcer for the European Green Deal
European Policy Centre, December 2019

The rise of economic nationalism threatens global cooperation
Peterson Institute for International Economics, September 2019

La politique de sanctions de l’Union européenne: Ambition multilatérale contre ambition de puissance
Institut français des relations internationales, October 2019

Shaping a new international trade order: Competition and co-operation among the European Union, the United States, and China
Dahrendorf Institute, October 2019

The real cost of Trump’s trade wars
Centre for European Policy Studies, August 2019

The unravelling of the Shanghai ‘Deal’: US-China trade-cum-currency conflict comes to Europe
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, August 2019

Transatlantic trade: The emergence of an EU geo-economic strategy?
German Marshall Fund, July 2019

A reflection on the Mercosur agreement
Bruegel, July 2019

US-China trade war: Why the EU should take sides and favour the rules-based order
Istituto Affari Internazionali, July 2019

Economy and euro

Manufacturing employment, international trade, and China
Bruegel, November 2019

The single market remains the decisive power of the EU
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2019

Beyond industrial policy: Why Europe needs a new growth strategy
Jacques Delors Institute, October 2019

The single market remains the decisive power of the EU
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2019

Changing guard of the ECB
Institute of International and European Affairs, September 2019

New beginnings: A new approach to euro zone reform
Notre Europe, September 2019

The role of the European Central Bank
Council on Foreign Relations, August 2019

ECB monetary policy in the post-Draghi era
Peterson Institute for International Economy, June 2019

The Economic and Monetary Union: Past, present and future
Centre for Social and Economic Research, March 2019

Mapping the conflict between EU member states over reform of the euro zone
LSE Ideas, January 2019

Digital revolution

An industry action plan for a more competitive, sustainable and strategic European Union
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, November 2019

The case for platform governance
Centre for International governance innovation, November 2019

Beyond industrial policy: Why Europe needs a new growth strategy
Jacques Delors Institute, October 2019

5G: What we talk about when we talk about trust, the EU risk assessment process
European Centre for International Political Economy, October 2019

Analytical report: Preparing the armed forces for disruptive technological changes
European Policy Centre, September 2019

The end of techno-utopianism
German Marshall Fund, September 2019

Artificial Intelligence prediction and counterterrorism
Chatham House, August 2019

How to strengthen Europe’s agenda on digital connectivity
Clingendael, July 2019

Digitalisation and European welfare states
Bruegel, July 2019

Harnessing artificial intelligence
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2019


Path to a softer Brexit? UK PM’s win gives him leeway
Centre for European Reform, December 2019

Getting the UK ready for the next phase of Brexit negotiations
Institute for Government, December 2019

The EU should prepare for all UK post-election scenarios
European Policy Centre, December 2019

Brexit, transition and Northern Ireland
The UK in a Changing Europe, December 2019

Brexit, the democratic question in Europe, and the future of the EU
German Marshall Fund, December 2019

What does the Conservative election victory mean for Brexit?
Open Europe, December 2019

The first hundred days
Policy Exchange, December 2019

Boris Johnson’s next act: Saving the UK
Atlantic Council, December 2019

Brexit endgame: British voters back Boris and Brexit
Brookings Institution, December 2019

How economically damaging will Brexit be?
Centre for European Reform, November 2019

Just a little Brexit?
Centre for European Policy Studies, September 2019

Read this briefing on ‘2019: A year of challenges and choices‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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