Plenary round-up – November I 2020

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson,

Press conference by David SASSOLI, EP President - EU long term budget - MFF

Copyright © European Union 2020 – Source : EP/DAINA LE LARDIC

During the first November 2020 plenary session, the main debate followed Council and Commission statements on the multiannual financial framework (including own resources), on a rule of law conditionality mechanism and the recovery fund for Europe, subsequent to the agreements recently reached by Parliament’s negotiators in trilogue negotiations. Members also discussed the outcome of the United States presidential elections, and condemned recent terror attacks following Council and Commission statements on fighting terrorism and the right to freedom of expression and education. Members also held debates on access to Covid‑19 vaccination and the impact of Covid‑19 emergency measures on democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law.

EU general budget for 2021

Members discussed next year’s spending plans in anticipation of the formal adoption of the final agreement on the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF). Members debated and adopted, by large majority, amendments to the Commission’s proposed EU general budget for 2021, focusing on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Among other priorities for Europe’s recovery, Parliament voted to increase funding (by €15 billion compared to the Commission proposal) for 15 flagship programmes to support young people, the health sector and the European Green Deal. The 21-day conciliation period, during which Parliament and Council seek to reconcile their positions, now starts, with the aim of reaching agreement in time for Parliament to adopt the 2021 budget during the December plenary session.

EU4Health

Members debated the establishment of an important programme of EU health policy actions, known as EU4Health. Funded under Next Generation EU, the new programme should strengthen EU coordination on health matters, in line with Parliament’s position to place stronger focus on preventing disease, promoting health measures and reducing health inequality throughout the EU. Trilogue negotiations on the programme can now begin, as Members adopted Parliament’s position on the basis of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee report on financing the EU4Health programme 2021‑2027, by a significant majority.

Sustainable Europe Investment Plan

Members debated and adopted, by large majority, a joint Budget (BUDG) and Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committee report, welcoming the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan and supporting the mix of public and private funding, but also questioning whether the promised €1 trillion can indeed be mobilised by 2030, given the negative economic outlook. Parliament proposes changes to the current plans to take account of the role of trade policy, to measure the impacts of the support effectively, and to ensure that the ‘do no harm’ principle is respected.

EU-China Geographical Agreement

Members approved the EU-China agreement on cooperation on and protection of geographical indications by a significant majority. The agreement, protecting geographical indications for 100 products each from the EU and China, with a further 175 products to be protected within 4 years, can now be formally concluded by the Council. Parliament’s International Trade (INTA) Committee calls for strong implementation of the measures in the agreement, including deeper customs cooperation.

European network of public employment services

Members adopted, by a large majority, a report on revision of the European Network of Public Employment Services that would extend the agreement on cooperation among organisations supporting job-seekers to 31 December 2027. The report by Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) highlights the benefits reaped by these organisations working together and proposes a revised focus for the network – to work towards preventing unemployment and increasing employability.

Baltic cod fisheries

Members approved proposals to support permanent cessation of fishing by fishermen affected by the closing of the eastern and western Baltic cod fisheries owing to the poor health of fish stocks in the Baltic Sea, as well as the related western Baltic herring fisheries. Under the agreement, financial support will be made available for crews and communities to remove fishing capacity permanently.

Senegal and Seychelles fisheries agreements

Parliament gave its consent to two EU fisheries agreements with Senegal and Seychelles. The first ever EU bilateral fisheries agreement, signed with Senegal in 1979, allows EU vessels to fish in Senegalese waters while also helping to support the development of a sustainable fisheries policy in the region. Members voted to consent to a new protocol to implement the agreement. Members also approved a new agreement with the Seychelles, the EU’s most financially significant tuna agreement, giving EU vessels access to fishing grounds in the western Indian Ocean, and confirming cooperation on sustainable fishing in the region.

Election of a Vice-President of the European Parliament

Members elected Roberta Metsola (EPP, Malta) as first Vice‑President, following Mairead McGuinness’s nomination as Commissioner for Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union. Replacing the President in the chamber, Vice-Presidents are responsible, as members of the Bureau, for financial, organisational and administrative decisions on Parliament’s functioning, and interinstitutional relations.

Opening of trilogue negotiations

Members confirmed four mandates for negotiations: from the Culture and Education (CULT) Committee on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council for the European Capitals of Culture for 2020‑2033; from the ECON committee on the proposal for a regulation laying down a general framework for securitisation and creating a specific framework for simple, transparent and standardised securitisation to help the recovery from the Covid‑19 pandemic, and on the proposal for a regulation as regards adjustments to the securitisation framework to support the economic recovery in response to the Covid‑19 pandemic; and jointly from BUDG and ECON committees on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Recovery and Resilience Facility.


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

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/11/17/plenary-round-up-november-i-2020/

Citizens’ enquiries on the EP position on armed hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan

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Citizens often send messages to the President of the European Parliament (or to the institution’s public portal) expressing their views on current issues and/or requesting action from the Parliament. The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (AskEP) within the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) looks into these issues and replies to the messages, which may sometimes be identical as part of wider public campaigns.

The President of the European Parliament has recently received a large number of messages calling on the Parliament to condemn the hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Citizens first began to write to the President on this subject in September 2020, when violent clashes between both countries resumed over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. In October, citizens renewed their call in reaction to the strikes on the Azerbaijani city of Ganja, and more broadly in view of the escalation of the conflict.

Please find below the main points of the reply sent to citizens who took the time to write to the President of the European Parliament on this matter (in English, German and Italian).

Main points made in the reply in English

The European Parliament and the Head of EU diplomacy, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Josep Borrell held a plenary debate on the European Union reactions to the renewed escalation in violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region on 7 October 2020.You can watch the video recording of the debate on the Multimedia Website (starting from 9:16:30 minutes).

In his statement, HR/VP Josep Borrell indicated that the current military confrontation along the line of contact in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone was of utmost concern for the EU. He also said: ‘Our position is clear: the fighting must stop. Both sides need to re-engage in meaningful negotiations (..). There can be no military solution to the conflict, nor external interference. This position was reinforced by the European Council held on the 1st and 2nd of October’.

Leading Members of the European Parliament have issued a joint statement on the military clashes in which they express great concern about the renewed escalation of violence on the line of contact and call on the authorities of Armenia and Azerbaijan to observe the ceasefire strictly.

The European Union has welcomed the humanitarian ceasefire agreement reached on 10 October between Armenia and Azerbaijan. HR/VP Josep Borrell deplored the strikes on the Azerbaijani city of Ganja resulting in civilian loss of life and serious injury.

HR/VP Josep Borrell has contacted the ministers of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and Azerbaijan and stressed the necessity to fully respect the agreed ceasefire without delay and to stop targeting of civilians. He confirmed that the EU remained ready to support the parties in a long-term solution to the conflict and will continue to monitor the situation.

The European Parliament has also held debates and adopted resolutions on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh region in previous years.

In a 2018 recommendation on the negotiations on the EU-Azerbaijan Comprehensive Agreement, Parliament recommended, ‘to ensure that high priority is given to dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan and to enhanced EU participation in peacefully solving the Nagorno-Karabakh’.

In addition, Members of the European Parliament have addressed parliamentary questions on various issues concerning the situation in the region to the European Commission. In an answer of 31 August 2020 to a parliamentary question regarding the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, HR/VP Josep Borrell indicated on behalf of the European Commission: ‘The EU has urged both sides to stop the armed confrontation, refrain from action and rhetoric that provoke tension, and undertake immediate measures to prevent further escalation. (..) both sides should make use of their mechanism for direct communication. (..) The EU has encouraged all regional actors to support efforts toward de-escalation’.

Furthermore, we would like to draw your attention also to the efforts made by the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with the South Caucasus, the homepage of which also contains numerous communications from the delegation and its chairs on recent developments in these countries.

Main points made in the reply in German

Das Plenum des Europäischen Parlaments und der Hohe Vertreter der Union und Vizepräsident der Kommission Josep Borrell debattierten am 7. Oktober 2020 über den Umgang der Europäischen Union mit der erneuten Eskalation des gewaltsamen Konflikts zwischen Armenien und Aserbaidschan um die umstrittene Region Bergkarabach. Die Videoaufzeichnung der Debatte finden Sie auf der Multimedia-Website des Parlaments (ab Minute 09:16:30).

In seiner Erklärung wies Josep Borrell darauf hin, dass die militärischen Auseinandersetzungen an der Kontaktlinie im Konfliktgebiet Bergkarabach der EU große Sorge bereiten. Er ließ auch wissen: „Unser Standpunkt ist klar: Die Kämpfe müssen aufhören. Beide Seiten müssen sich wieder an sinnvollen Verhandlungen beteiligen […]. Der Konflikt kann weder militärisch noch durch Einflussnahme von außen gelöst werden. Der Europäische Rat bestätigte diesen Standpunkt auf seiner Tagung vom 1. und 2. Oktober.“

In einer gemeinsamen Erklärung zu den militärischen Auseinandersetzungen äußern hochrangige Mitglieder des Europäischen Parlaments ihre große Besorgnis über die erneute Eskalation der Gewalt an der Kontaktlinie. Sie fordern Armenien und Aserbaidschan auf, die Waffenruhe strikt einzuhalten.

Zur Lage in Bergkarabach hat das Europäische Parlament auch in den vergangenen Jahren bereits Debatten geführt und Entschließungen angenommen.

In einer Empfehlung aus dem Jahr 2018 zu den Verhandlungen über das umfassende Abkommen zwischen der EU und Aserbaidschan trat das Parlament dafür ein, „dem Dialog zwischen Aserbaidschan und Armenien und der stärkeren Mitwirkung der EU an der friedlichen Beilegung des Konflikts um Bergkarabach […] oberste Priorität“ einzuräumen.

Darüber hinaus haben Mitglieder des Europäischen Parlaments parlamentarische Anfragen zu verschiedenen Aspekten der Lage in der Region an die Europäische Kommission gerichtet. In seiner Antwort vom 31. August 2020 auf eine parlamentarische Anfrage zum Konflikt zwischen Armenien und Aserbaidschan um Bergkarabach erklärte Josep Borrell im Namen der Europäischen Kommission: „Die EU hat beide Seiten nachdrücklich aufgefordert, die bewaffnete Auseinandersetzung zu beenden, von Handlungen und Worten abzusehen, die weitere Spannungen hervorrufen können, und umgehend Maßnahmen zu ergreifen, damit die Lage nicht weiter eskaliert.“ Beide Seiten sollten außerdem direkten Kontakt miteinander aufnehmen, und die EU habe „alle regionalen Akteure ermuntert, die Bemühungen um eine Deeskalation zu unterstützen.“

Hinweisen möchten wir Sie auch auf die Bemühungen der Delegation des Europäischen Parlaments für die Beziehungen zum Südkaukasus. Auf ihrer Website finden Sie zahlreiche Mitteilungen der Delegation und ihrer Vorsitzenden zu den aktuellsten Entwicklungen in den betroffenen Ländern.

Main points made in the reply in Italian

Il 7 ottobre 2020 il Parlamento europeo e l’Alto rappresentante/Vicepresidente Josep Borrell hanno tenuto un dibattito in plenaria sulle reazioni dell’Unione europea alla nuova escalation di violenza tra Armenia e Azerbaigian nella regione contesa del Nagorno-Karabakh. È possibile guardare la videoregistrazione del dibattito sul sito Multimedia Centre del Parlamento (a partire dal munito 9:16:30).

Nella sua dichiarazione, Josep Borrell ha affermato che l’attuale scontro militare lungo la linea di contatto nella zona di conflitto del Nagorno Karabakh è causa di profonda preoccupazione per l’UE. Ha inoltre aggiunto: “La nostra posizione è chiara: i combattimenti devono fermarsi. Entrambe le parti devono riprendere negoziati significativi (…). Non ci può essere alcuna soluzione militare al conflitto né alcuna interferenza esterna. Questa posizione è stata rafforzata dal Consiglio europeo del 1° e del 2 ottobre”.

Alcuni deputati di spicco al Parlamento europeo hanno rilasciato una dichiarazione congiunta sugli scontri armati, in cui esprimono grande preoccupazione per la rinnovata escalation di violenza sulla linea di contatto e invitano le autorità di Armenia e Azerbaigian a rispettare rigorosamente il cessate il fuoco.

Negli anni scorsi il Parlamento europeo ha inoltre tenuto dibattiti e approvato risoluzioni sulla situazione nella regione del Nagorno-Karabakh.

In una raccomandazione del 2018 sui negoziati relativi all’accordo globale tra l’UE e l’Azerbaigian, il Parlamento ha raccomandato “di garantire che sia attribuita un’elevata priorità al dialogo tra l’Azerbaigian e l’Armenia e alla partecipazione rafforzata dell’UE alla risoluzione pacifica del conflitto del Nagorno-Karabakh”.

I deputati al Parlamento europeo hanno inoltre rivolto alla Commissione europea interrogazioni parlamentari riguardanti varie questioni relative alla situazione nella regione. Nella risposta del 31 agosto 2020 a un’interrogazione parlamentare sul conflitto tra l’Armenia e l’Azerbaigian nel Nagorno-Karabakh, l’Alto rappresentante/Vicepresidente Josep Borrell ha dichiarato a nome della Commissione europea: “L’UE ha esortato entrambe le parti a porre fine allo scontro armato, ad astenersi da azioni o retorica che provochino tensione e ad adottare misure immediate per evitare un’ulteriore escalation. (…) entrambe le parti dovrebbero utilizzare il meccanismo di comunicazione diretta. (…) L’UE invita tutti gli attori della regione a sostenere gli sforzi a favore della distensione”.

Inoltre, desideriamo richiamare la Sua attenzione anche sugli sforzi realizzati dalla delegazione per le relazioni con il Caucaso meridionale del Parlamento europeo, la cui pagina iniziale contiene anche numerose comunicazioni elaborate dalla delegazione e dai suoi presidenti sui recenti sviluppi nei paesi interessati.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/11/16/citizens-enquiries-on-the-ep-position-on-armed-hostilities-between-armenia-and-azerbaijan/

Global mega-trends: Scanning the post-coronavirus horizon

Written by Danièle Réchard,

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The European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS) – the strategic foresight network of the European Union institutions – offers a valuable ‘free space’ in which to conduct a genuine continental, and potentially global, conversation about where the world is heading over the medium to long run. It was initiated by the European Parliament almost a decade ago in order to help promote a serious discussion of this kind.

The third ESPAS Global Trends Report, Global Trends to 2030: Challenges and Choices for Europe, as published in April 2019. Transposing into the European context the kind of strategic foresight analysis undertaken in the United States by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) on global trends since the end of the 1990s, it aims to sketch the global and longer-term backdrop against which Europeans will seek to shape their future. The coronavirus pandemic broke out less than a year later.

At the moment, as Bruno Tertrais has put it, ‘we’re still at the stage in which everyone sees their views and assumptions as being confirmed by the corona crisis. This is true in the West and East, on the left and on the right’. This is understandable and projections based on reliable data are still scarce. The time-horizon of analysis generally does not go beyond 2022-23 (for example, the IMF and OECD Economic Outlooks). So the starting-point of any reflection is uncertain: What is the true death toll of the pandemic? How serious will the second wave be, and will there be a third? Which of the (possibly already) observable economic, societal, political and geopolitical consequences of the crisis will have a serious and long-lasting impact? Many strategic foresight teams, for example at the Atlantic Council, have nevertheless started to draw up ‘post Covid-19 scenarios’, which have been usefully listed by the OECD.

This paper aims to help distinguish the ‘signal’ from the ‘noise’. It provides a rolling review of the ‘inflections’ to the mega-trends – or at least of their perception among a wide array of global thinkers – that were identified in the 2019 ESPAS Global Trends Report. It follows the distinction used in the ESPAS report between ‘mega-trends’, ‘catalysts’ and ‘game-changers’ and stresses their inter-linkages.

Once we have taken enough steps back and gathered solid data and expertise, we will possibly be able to produce a new narrative about our future. This will most likely involve a ‘reshuffling’ of the trends. In particular, two ‘meta-trends’ might be singled out that transversally permeate all other trends and indeed all aspects of human life: technological innovation and inequality.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Global mega-trends: Scanning the post-coronavirus horizon‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/11/16/global-mega-trends-scanning-the-post-coronavirus-horizon/

Trade negotiations between the EU and ASEAN member states

Written by Krisztina Binder,

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In 2017, the European Union–Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) dialogue partnership celebrated its 40th anniversary. The same year saw the 50th anniversary of the founding of ASEAN. The ASEAN region is currently the world’s fifth largest economy, a dynamic economic area home to more than 660 million consumers.

To ensure better access to opportunities in the region’s market, the European Union (EU) started negotiations with ASEAN for a region-to-region free trade agreement (FTA) in 2007. After negotiations were suspended in 2009, the EU decided to pursue bilateral trade agreements with the individual ASEAN member states. To date, six have begun talks on bilateral FTAs with the EU: Singapore and Malaysia in 2010; Vietnam in 2012; Thailand in 2013; the Philippines in 2015; and Indonesia in 2016. Negotiations have already been concluded and FTAs entered into force with two of these countries, Singapore and Vietnam, in November 2019 and August 2020, respectively. Negotiations are under way with Indonesia, while talks are currently on hold with Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

In the longer term, these bilateral FTAs would allow the establishment of a region-to-region FTA, which remains the EU’s ultimate ambition. By bringing together two of the world’s largest economic areas, the agreement would establish a free trade area with a combined market of more than 1 billion people.

It is in the EU’s interest to strengthen its economic cooperation with ASEAN, in order to maintain its competitive position in this dynamically developing region. Closer trade and investment relations could also pave the way towards the EU’s goal of a strategic partnership between the two regional blocs, encompassing political as well as economic cooperation.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Trade negotiations between the EU and ASEAN member states‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/11/13/trade-negotiations-between-the-eu-and-asean-member-states/

Thirty years of European territorial cooperation

Written by Christiaan Van Lierop,

entry into France through the Italian Alps

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Established in 1990, the first European territorial cooperation initiative, Interreg I, focused on cross-border cooperation. Action in this area has expanded over the years to cover broader initiatives such as trans-national cooperation, involving countries from wider geographical areas, and inter-regional cooperation, which brings together regions from across the whole EU. These three strands together make up European territorial cooperation (ETC), which is one of the two main goals of cohesion policy today and which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

With the removal of many of Europe’s frontier posts, travelling freely across borders has become second nature for millions of EU citizens. European territorial cooperation has brought Europeans closer together, strengthened connectivity and improved the natural environment, supported by EU mechanisms such as the European groupings of territorial cooperation, and macro-regional strategies. Yet despite these achievements, numerous obstacles to closer cooperation still remain, such as divergent national rules in the areas of employment, healthcare and social security. Recent years have witnessed increased calls to address these hurdles, with the 2015 Luxembourg EU Presidency launching discussions on a new instrument for cross-border projects, leading to the 2018 European Commission proposal for a cross-border mechanism, and the Commission rolling out initiatives such as the cross-border review and the b-solutions project, which aims to identify and find solutions to remaining bottlenecks, helping to boost growth and cohesion in EU border regions.

With negotiations under way on post-2020 cohesion policy, there is broad agreement among many stakeholders on the importance of strengthening Interreg beyond 2020. Yet the budget for ETC has been significantly reduced under the current Interreg proposals despite the many achievements of this policy, not least in recent months during which cross-border cooperation has provided a lifeline for many border regions. The coronavirus pandemic has revealed that territorial cooperation arguably needs protecting more than ever, with the sudden closure of EU internal borders a stark reminder that European territorial cooperation cannot be taken for granted.

This is a further updated edition of a briefing from March 2018.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Thirty years of European territorial cooperation‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/11/12/thirty-years-of-european-territorial-cooperation/

Important projects of common European interest: Boosting EU strategic value chains

Written by Marcin Szczepański,

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Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union provides for the possibility of approving state aid for ‘important projects of common European interest’ (IPCEIs). These provisions have been used very rarely until recently. A specific framework enabling the creation of IPCEIs, originally only in the areas of research, development and innovation, and environmental protection has been in place for 15 years, yet only four such projects have been notified to and assessed by the Commission so far. The first two – in the area of infrastructure – were partially annulled by the Court of Justice, and the Commission opened in-depth investigations to examine their compatibility with State aid. One of those concluded that the aid was legal, the other is ongoing.

The next two were launched successfully in the areas of strategic value chains for microelectronics and batteries. After this rather modest start, there seems to be strong momentum to create more IPCEIs, including in the context of the debate on how to foster the emergence of ‘European champions’. The marked political shift towards greater technological sovereignty and strategic autonomy within the EU has been given further impetus with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted global value chains and highlighted the case for a more self-sufficient EU model. IPCEIs may be useful tools for creating complex new value chains that have the potential to ensure the EU’s long-term competitiveness and economic growth.

A growing number of governments, experts and organisations have been calling for the simplification of current rules to make IPCEIs more frequently and widely used. The European Parliament would also like to see the requirements for the IPCEIs streamlined to allow smaller industrial research projects also to acquire IPCEI status. In its 2021 work programme, the European Commission announced the revision of the current IPCEI framework planned for the fourth quarter of the year.


Read the complete briefing on ‘Important projects of common European interest: Boosting EU strategic value chains‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/11/12/important-projects-of-common-european-interest-boosting-eu-strategic-value-chains/

Technical Support Instrument [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Stefano Spinaci (1st edition),

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On 28 May 2020, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a regulation on a Technical Support Instrument that would provide Member States with technical support to strengthen their institutional and administrative capacity in designing and implementing reforms. In the context of the ‘Next Generation EU’ recovery plan, it would support them to prepare and implement recovery and resilience plans, and make reforms and investments related to the green and digital transitions.

Modelled on an instrument proposed by the Commission in 2018, the Technical Support Instrument would replace the Structural Reform Support Programme that has helped implement over 1 000 reform projects in the Member States since 2017. Under the current Commission proposal, a budget of €864.4 million has been set aside for the instrument over the 2021-2027 period (by contrast, the Structural Reform Support Programme has a budget of €222.8 million for 2017-2020).

The Council of the EU agreed its position on 22 July 2020. At the European Parliament, the Committee on Budgets (BUDG) and the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) are working jointly on this file under Rule 58 of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure. On 1 October 2020, the joint committee adopted its final report and decided to enter into interinstitutional negotiations. The Parliament confirmed the decision in its first October plenary session.

Versions

EU Legislation in progress timeline

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/11/11/technical-support-instrument-eu-legislation-in-progress/

European Parliament Plenary Session – November I 2020

Written by Clare Ferguson.

European Parliament plenary sessionThe first item on Parliament’s agenda for the November I session, now that the outcome of the US presidential elections is clear, is to take stock of the results, which are likely to have considerable impact on political and trade relations worldwide.

However, before turning to external policy, and in anticipation of a final agreement on the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF), Members will discuss next year’s spending plans in anticipation of the overall framework being formally adopted. On Wednesday afternoon, therefore, Members will debate amendments to the Commission’s proposed EU general budget for 2021, with particular focus on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. While Council has proposed considerable reductions, Parliament’s Committee on Budgets (BUDG) has tabled a report which reverses many of the cuts and proposes increased spending on programmes linked to Next Generation EU (NGEU) funding, the European Green Deal, and education and employment, among other priorities for Europe’s recovery.

However, the coronavirus crisis has also had an effect on NGEU itself, with doubts raised that the funding available under the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan is sufficient to successfully execute the European Green Deal under current conditions. The need to improve climate-related aspects of the agreement on future EU spending is an important aspect of Parliament’s criticism of the European Council’s agreement on the next MFF. Specifically, Members will debate a report on Wednesday afternoon, adopted jointly by the BUDG and Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) Committees that, although welcoming the plan and supporting the mix of public and private funding, questions whether the promised €1 trillion can indeed be mobilised by 2030, given the negative economic outlook. Parliament’s committees propose changes to the current plans to take account of the role of trade policy, to measure the impacts effectively, and to ensure that the ‘do no harm’ principle is respected.

The Covid‑19 pandemic has also highlighted that disease recognises no borders, and led to calls for greater coordination of health matters in the EU. On Thursday morning, Members will debate the establishment of an important programme of EU health policy actions, known as EU4Health. With funding proposed under NGEU, the new programme would strengthen EU coordination on health matters, in line with Parliament’s position to place stronger focus on preventing disease, promoting health measures and reducing health inequality throughout the EU. Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee has put forward a report that supports the proposed EU measures, particularly to fight cancer, as well as suggesting that an EU-wide steering group of public health experts is set up to oversee implementation.

A crucial part of the economic recovery will involve getting people back into work. On Wednesday evening, Members will vote on formal adoption of a decision on the way forward for the EU network of Public Employment Services (the organisations that support job-seekers) in the EU. The report by Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) highlights the benefits reaped by these organisations working together to improve support for those searching for employment. The report proposes a revised focus for the network – to work towards preventing unemployment and increasing employability, especially by encouraging the improvement of digital skills in the EU workforce.

Maintaining a level playing field in trade relations is important to securing employment levels in an economy. In a joint debate on Thursday afternoon, Members will discuss an International Trade (INTA) Committee report on the EU-China agreement on cooperation on and protection of geographical indications. These quality denominations are an important aspect of trade agreements, protecting producers against counterfeiting. The proposed agreement protects geographical indications for 100 products each from the EU and China. The INTA committee report calls for strong implementation of the measures agreed, including deeper customs cooperation.

Turning to a key EU environmental policy, Members consider several issues regarding prudent management of fishing stocks during this session. On Wednesday evening, Members will vote on formal adoption of a provisional agreement to provide financial support for the crew and communities affected by the poor health of cod stocks in the Baltic Sea, including over 300 fishing vessels in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, Denmark and Germany. As the fisheries will have to close permanently, and there is no capacity for vessels to convert to target other under-pressure species, financial support under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) will be necessary to cope with the major reduction in fishing opportunities. Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries (PECH) has approved the proposal to close the eastern and western Baltic cod fisheries as well as western Baltic herring fisheries.

The first ever EU bilateral fisheries agreement, signed with Senegal in 1979, has allowed EU vessels to fish in Senegalese waters while also helping to support the development of a sustainable fisheries policy in the region. Following a joint debate on Thursday morning, Members will vote on consent to a new protocol to implement the agreement. Parliament’s PECH committee has recommended that consent be granted, and indicates some priorities for modernising fishing control, to help Senegal fight illegal fishing. In the case of the Seychelles, the EU’s most financially significant tuna agreement, Parliament will also consider on Thursday morning, whether to consent to a new agreement providing access to fishing grounds in the western Indian Ocean, and cementing cooperation on sustainable fishing in the region. Parliament’s PECH committee calls for better implementation of sustainability measures, particularly in view of the overfishing of yellowfin tuna in the region. More generally, the PECH committee criticises the provisional application of international agreements prior to Parliament giving its consent.

Parliament stands by its long-term commitment to a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, including a negotiated and viable two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The EU has recently welcomed the normalising of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, known as the ‘Abraham Accords’. Brokered by the United States, the Palestinian Authority and all Palestinian factions have nevertheless denounced the agreements. On Wednesday afternoon, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will make a statement before Parliament on the geopolitical implications of the Abraham Accords in the region.

Finally, following Mairead McGuinness’s nomination as Commissioner for Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union, Members will take part in the election of her replacement as first Vice-President of the European Parliament on Thursday morning. The Vice-Presidents replace the President in the chamber and are responsible, as members of the Bureau, for financial, organisational and administrative decisions on Parliament’s functioning, as well as interinstitutional relations.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/11/10/european-parliament-plenary-session-november-i-2020/

Europe confronts the second wave [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

Concept of COVID-19 cornoavirus second wave infection following first wave and flattening of the curve illustrated by graph and virus symbols drawn on asphalt. Concept of new cases after easing of coronavirus restrictions.

© ronniechua / Adobe Stock

As the United States has been choosing its President, an explosion of cases in a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic has forced many governments in Europe to reintroduce strict confinement measures, including new lockdowns, curfews, bans on meetings and the closure of many businesses, notably in the hospitality and tourism sectors. The moves are meant to act as a firebreak on the exponential growth in Covid-19 infections and prevent health sectors in many countries from becoming overloaded. Whatever happens next, economies will contract this year in the great majority of countries around the world, even if in varying degrees, with significant social and political implications.

This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on pandemic related issues. Earlier think tank studies on the issue can be found in the ‘What Think Tanks are Thinking’ of 23 October.

Preserving development cooperation during Covid-19 times
Friends of Europe, October 2020

Pandemic is a wake-up call for mental healthcare reform in Europe
Friends of Europe, October 2020

The pandemic and the economic crisis: What lies ahead for the Western model?
Friends of Europe, November 2020

The challenge for Spain to use the EU’s pandemic recovery fund wisely
Centre international de formation européenne, November 2020

Crise du covid et lutte contre le changement climatique
Centre international de formation européenne, November 2020

Tracking the mounting challenges among those who have lost their jobs
Brookings Institution, November 2020

As the pandemic rages on, it’s time for NATO to step up
German Marshall Fund, November 2020

As Covid-19 cases surge, the country’s economic recovery is losing steam
Brookings Institution, October 2020

Will Americans trust a Covid-19 vaccine? Not if politicians tell them to
Brookings Institution, October 2020

What Covid-19 has cost the climate
Brookings Institution, October 2020

Can public education return to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic?
Brookings Institution, October 2020

NATO’s response to Covid-19: Lessons for resilience and readiness
Brookings Institution, October 2020

Fighting Covid misinformation
German Marshall Fund, October 2020

European Union recovery funds: Strings attached, but not tied up in knots
Bruegel, October 2020

The pandemic will structurally change the global economy more than we think
Bruegel, October 2020

What role for the European Semester in the recovery plan?
Bruegel, October 2020

Crise du Covid et lutte contre le changement climatique
Centre international de formation européenne, October 2020

Brexit and Covid-19 are a toxic mix
Centre for European Reform, October 2020

Will the Coronavirus pandemic deliver a coup de grâce to Schengen?
Centre for European Reform, October 2020

War and Covid-19 in Yemen
Istituto Affari Internazionali, October 2020

Schengen under pressure: Differentiation or disintegration?
Istituto Affari Internazionali, October 2020

Governments take steps to save tourism from Covid-19
Peterson Institute for International Economics, October 2020

Southern Europe will regret not taking EU loans now
Peterson Institute for International Economics, October 2020

Europa krisenfest machen: Europäische Mindeststandards für die nationale Grundsicherung
Bertelsmann Stiftung, September 2020

The Corona crisis and the stability of the European banking sector: A repeat of the Great Financial Crisis?
Bertelsmann Stiftung, September 2020

After the pandemic: Global overheating to take centre stage at T20 and G20
Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, November 2020

Crisis presidency: How Portuguese leadership can guide the EU into the post-Covid era
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

The world is woefully unprepared for climate-driven natural disasters
Council on Foreign Relations, October 2020

Inconfinables ? Les sans-abri face au coronavirus
Fondation Jean Jaurès, October 2020

High hopes, low expectations: Brussels’ perspective on the future of Europe after Covid-19
European Policy Centre, October 2020

The European Parliament’s involvement in the EU response to the corona pandemic
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, October 2020

Covid: Faute d’avoir mis à profit les six derniers mois, l’État sacrifie nos libertés
Institut Thomas More, October 2020

Coronavirus tracking apps: Normalizing surveillance during states of emergency
Carnegie Europe, October 2020

Covid-19: Une bataille stratégique entre la Chine et les États-Unis en Amérique latine
Institut des relations internationales et stratégiques, October 2020

Upholding the World Health Organization
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, October 2020

The re-shaping of the political discourse in times of crises
Fondation Européenne d’Etudes Progressistes, October 2020

The Covid crisis, an opportunity for a ‘new multilateralism’?
Confrontations Europe, October 2020

Covid-19 and the legal impact on the shipping industry and the case of Cyprus
Cyprus Centre for European and International Affairs, October 2020

L’Europe, le monde et la crise du Covid-19
Terra Nova, October 2020

Global trade today: Five basic facts about global trade
European Centre for International Political Economy, October 2020

Corona politics: The cost of mismanaging pandemics
Kiel Institute for the World Economy, September 2020

28 semaines plus tard: Y aura-t-il un monde d’après?
Fondation pour la recherche stratégique, September 2020

Covid-19 pandemic: Insights from RAND
Rand Corporation, September 2020

The Covid-19 gender gap: How women’s experience and expertise will drive economic recovery
Chatham House, September 2020


Read this briefing on ‘Coronavirus: Europe confronts the second wave‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/11/10/europe-confronts-the-second-wave-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

Understanding farm structure

Written by Rachele Rossi,

Flat tractor set. Farmer, agricultural worker with plant, chicken, sheep, rabbit, cow, milk, fruit or feeding farm animal. Harvest man with apple. Girl isometric images isolated on white background.

© Aurielaki / Adobe Stock

Farm structure refers to the composition and organisation of an agricultural productive unit, typically for growing crops and rearing farm animals. Farm structure data allow analysis of the functioning of farms and their responses to events and agricultural policies. While basic statistics are key for capturing the essentials of the EU farming sector, understanding the various elements of farm structure implies more thorough analysis of the data.

Measuring farm structure

Farm structure defines an agricultural productive unit in terms of sizes of the land area and livestock herds, the labour force working on the farm and its main characteristics (such as age or working time), the means of production, and legal and organisational aspects of land tenure, farm management and market access. It is a key aspect of an agricultural system, along with agro-ecological (farming system, soil, altitude, climate, etc.) and economic factors (farm resources and inputs, product diversity, integration in the food chain, etc.).

In the past century, the development of agricultural policies prompted the need for information on farm structure, with the objective of understanding how agriculture was changing, what elements were triggering such change and what future direction it might take. On the basis of farm structure statistics, it is possible, for example, to build up typologies of farm types, analyse the drivers of farm structural change, and evaluate the interaction between agricultural policy and structural change in agriculture.

In the EU, the Farm Structure Survey (FSS) has delivered a continuous record of harmonised data on the structure of European farms since 1966, providing a picture of the situation every third year, on average. Although the topics covered have remained significantly stable, some changes have been introduced to reflect changing realities over the years. The legislation adopted in 2018 introduced a new approach to collecting data as from the Agricultural Census 2020, with the objectives of both preserving the continuity of the survey’s core elements and introducing flexibility in data collection to better address data needs.

EU farm structure in basic figures

The FSS includes information on land use, livestock numbers, labour input, etc. These can be aggregated by dimension such as geographic level, time and farm type. Therefore, there are countless ways to analyse and present the data on farm structure, depending on the information need to be addressed.

Farm and farm workforce size

Distribution of EU farms by land area (hectares)

Distribution of EU farms by land area (hectares)

A common indicator to describe farm structure is the farm size, though it can refer to various measures, such as land area, economic outcomes, or farm labour. The FSS data indicate that two thirds of the 10 million EU farms have less than five hectares of land and the majority of these farms do not exceed two hectares (see figure to the right). Also, more than two thirds of EU farms have a total standard output (i.e. an estimate of the average farm output based on standard values) of below €8 000 a year. EU farms count on average less than one annual work unit (i.e. the equivalent of a full-time job). Indeed, while about 20 million people work on EU farms, this figure includes full- and part-time farm managers and workers, seasonal labour, and farmer’s family members providing help (often free labour) when needed.

Land use and livestock

Crops and animals are vital elements of the farm structure. The average EU farm has 16 hectares of agricultural land, compared to averages of 180 hectares in the United States, 315 hectares in Canada, and 4 331 hectares in Australia. Altogether, EU farms utilise roughly 157 million hectares of land, of which about one third for growing cereals, slightly less than one third for permanent grassland, and the remaining area for other crops (with industrial crops, permanent crops, and temporary grass and grazing occupying the largest surfaces). Moreover, 5.6 million EU farms with livestock count millions of farm animals – with pigs being the largest group followed by bovines, sheep and goats – plus countless poultry birds as well as other types of animals (e.g. rabbits and horses). On average, they have 21 livestock units (i.e. a reference unit to calculate livestock as the equivalent of one dairy cow). The distribution of land and livestock varies a lot across EU farms, with the smallest farms showing the greatest diversity in terms of on-farm activities.

Beyond the main figures

Basic indicators such as farm distribution by size class or average size are invaluable tools to get a glimpse on the predominant characteristics of farm structure. These are very much revealing of an EU farming sector largely made up of small-sized farms. However, these figures do not embrace the extreme diversity in the EU farming sector (disclosed in Eurostat’s agriculture regional statistics). Therefore, more details are needed for planning adequate farm policies or drawing conclusions on farm economics, including on the methodology behind available data.

Need to dig into the data

Average livestock units per farm with pigs and/or poultry

Average livestock units per farm with pigs and/or poultry

Understanding how farm structure affects the functioning of the farm involves information on such issues as farming specialisations, agricultural practices, agronomic and environmental conditions, and the degree of local development. Therefore, going beyond the main indicators may reveal whether a given farm structure is just right or not adequate at all for a viable farming activity. For example, it may help to explain whether a significant farm workforce is an appropriate labour input or if it stems from a low level of mechanisation or a lack of alternative job opportunities. Also, farms may have large or small acreage, or no land at all, without this accounting, on its own, for strong or weak economic performance. Indeed, farms may have large surfaces because they keep land under cereal production or breed animals on extensive grazing areas. On the other hand, fruit groves or the use of common land (especially for sheep and goat farms) often relate to farms with small land area. The table to the right shows a relevant example of farms with no land area rearing pigs and/or poultry indoors. Although they are not counted as large farms based on hectares of land, these are certainly very large farms based on their high animal numbers compared to the average pig and poultry farm.

Methodological caveats

The European Union’s farm statistics legislation allows national authorities a certain degree of autonomy in defining the scope of the survey, while respecting minimum coverage requirements which ensure appropriate representation of the farming sector. Hence, each country defines the set of thresholds above which an agricultural activity is in the scope of the survey. This limits the survey’s cost and burden by focussing on the farms targeted by agricultural policies and excluding very small units. Therefore, a given farm would be below the survey’s thresholds in a country where agricultural production takes place mostly in medium-sized to large farms, but be included in the scope of the survey in a country where semi-subsistence or small farms are the backbone of agriculture. As a result, the high share of small farms at EU level overall originates from a small group of countries (largely from Romania). However, this should not result in over- or under-representation of any agricultural sectors or farming types. The national methodological reports detail the diverse approaches, where the scope of the survey varies from the absence of any thresholds (such as in Malta and Romania, where all entities in the administrative farm register are included) to relatively high thresholds (such as in Germany and Sweden, where farms are included only with a larger number of farm animals or cultivated hectares compared to other countries).


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Understanding farm structure‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/11/09/understanding-farm-structure/