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Updated: 22 hours 36 min ago

The rise of digital health technologies during the pandemic

Thu, 04/15/2021 - 18:00

Written by Mar Negreiro,

© Jackie Niam / Adobe Stock

Coronavirus has accelerated the rise of digital health, a broad concept that includes solutions for telemedicine and teleconsultation, remote monitoring, connected devices, digital health platforms and health apps. The concept also covers the related health data analysis and application in systems based on big data, for instance for epidemiological research and AI-enabled diagnosis support.

Digital technologies are becoming critical in the fight against the ongoing pandemic. They have been used, among other things, for online medical consultations from home and for increasing efficiency in diagnosis and treatment of patients through telemedicine, which, like teleworking and online education, has been a novel experience for many.

Likewise health workers have been using digital technology to diagnose the virus. For instance, China has developed new e-health apps allowing patients to assess their Covid-19 symptoms remotely. Patients with existing critical illnesses, reluctant to go to hospital because of the risk of contracting the virus, have been able to get online consultations from home and have in some cases been monitored remotely. Moreover, thanks to the availability of digital health records and e‑prescriptions in many EU countries, it has been possible to issue repeat prescriptions remotely, limiting unnecessary contact between doctors and patients and reducing the chances of exposure to the virus.

Nevertheless, there are many challenges to overcome as advances in digitalisation of healthcare come with drawbacks. They highlight a widening ‘digital divide’ that risks leaving behind the elderly and socially disadvantaged, who are less able to master or afford the technology. In addition, liability, reimbursement and cybersecurity issues are among the other key challenges that need to be considered, as cyber-attacks on hospitals are on the rise. Meanwhile, the transfer of personal health data is fuelling a debate over who owns and controls that data, raising questions over individuals’ rights to privacy. What is clear is that digital health is here to stay.

Read the complete briefing on ‘The rise of digital health technologies during the pandemic‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Percentage of people (aged 16 to 74) using the internet for health-related activities

Categories: European Union

STOA delegation virtual visit to the Joint Research Centre (JRC) site in Ispra, Italy

Thu, 04/15/2021 - 14:00

Written by Andrés García Higuera,

STOA delegation virtual visit to the Joint Research Centre

Scientific and technological advances lie at the heart of economic growth, and will be key to the economic recovery post-coronavirus. In line with their mission to support technological innovation, the legislators on the European Parliament’s Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) recently took part in a virtual visit to the Joint Research Centre (JRC) site at Ispra, Italy – Europe’s leading research campus with a wide range of laboratories and unique research infrastructures. The JRC’s operations at Ispra are geared to providing science-based responses to policy challenges with scientific, technological and socio-economic dimensions, with a number of their key research areas being of particular relevance and interest to STOA, including their research on the economics of climate change, on energy efficiency and transport, and on knowledge for growth.

Initially scheduled for May 2020, this STOA Panel virtual visit took place on Tuesday 16 March 2021, following an introductory presentation of the JRC mission and activities and a formal invitation issued to Members by the Director-General of the JRC, Stephen Quest, at the STOA Panel meeting of 29 January 2021. Although it would have been preferable to visit the site physically to interact with the impressive team of JRC scientists, this virtual alternative allowed eleven Members of the European Parliament to attend the visit organised by Eva Kaili, (S&D, Greece and STOA Chair) – highlighting the relevance of the JRC’s work to policy-makers.

Stephen Quest welcomed the delegation, underlining the need for high-quality science and for information to be shared with policy-makers to provide a service, through them, to wider society. This JRC-STOA cooperation goes beyond research, to knowledge management and better communication between science and policy, in line with the mandate of both STOA and the JRC to assess science and technology and inform policy-making.

The visit began with a presentation of the JRC-Ispra work on Artificial Intelligence with a European perspective and its focus on the health sector. The JRC operates ‘AI Watch‘, the artificial intelligence (AI) observatory for Europe, in partnership with the European Commission’s Directorate‑General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CNECT), and supports the development of AI policy through its research activities. This was followed by a session dedicated to ‘The Green Deal’, another of STOA’s priorities, where the Knowledge Centre on Bioeconomy was presented. The next session was dedicated to ‘Quality of Life’, in which the upcoming Knowledge Centre on Cancer (KCC) was presented as part of the European Commission’s activities to tackle cancer, supporting the European Union’s Beating Cancer Plan, the Mission on Cancer, and connecting with some 12 European Commission Directorates-General. The visit continued with a remote tour of some of the JRC laboratories at Ispra, which began by presenting the Vehicle Emissions Laboratory (VELA) and its work in relation to car emission measurements. The delegation continued with a visit to the European Laboratory for Structural Assessment (ELSA) and an overview of its work in relation to energy efficiency and the seismic safety of buildings.

This visit served to provide STOA Panel members with much information and insight into JRC activities, as well as making useful links with experts, in view of future STOA work. The Ispra facility is the biggest centre of the JRC and half the JRC’s staff are based there, with 1 500 people working at its diverse laboratories and research facilities – connected by 35 kilometres of internal roads, at this unique site situated beside Lago Maggiore in northern Italy.

STOA looks forward to further collaborations with the JRC to exploit the synergies that became apparent through this visit, as well as to facilitating follow-up exchanges between experts and STOA Panel members on the topics addressed in these virtual sessions.

Read More: STOA delegation virtual visit to the Joint Research Centre site in Ispra | News

Your opinion counts for us. To let us know what you think, get in touch via stoa@europarl.europa.eu.

Categories: European Union

STOA Workshop ‘Decarbonising European industry: hydrogen and other solutions’

Thu, 04/15/2021 - 08:30

Written by Andrés García Higuera (STOA) with Marlene Arens and Jakob Wachsmuth (Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI),

What are the options for closing the carbon cycle through substitution of fossil fuel use and how can they help to meet the Green Deal objectives? How can the EU hydrogen strategy contribute to this objective?

These questions were addressed at a STOA workshop, chaired by Members of the European Parliament and STOA Panel members Tiemo Wölken (S&D, Germany) and Patrizia Toia (S&D, Italy), and held on 1 March 2021. The event provided a broad view of hydrogen and other solutions for decarbonising European industry for some 390 participants. Policy-makers, scientists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and industry representatives highlighted the opportunities and risks of a hydrogen economy. Several speakers discussed the hierarchy of hydrogen use (steel and chemical industry, aviation and shipping are commonly agreed upon), and where it should not be used (household heating and private transport, according to some). Some industry representatives and some scientists called for decarbonisation of the European industry, where hydrogen use is supplemented by technologies that enable closed carbon cycles, while NGOs and other scientists called for a clear phase-out of fossil fuels.

Key takeaways

STOA Panel member Timo Wölken opened the workshop and introduced the political context, mentioning key legislation and goals such as the long-term targets of climate neutrality in the EU and the publication of the EU hydrogen strategy. Additionally, he pointed to the proposed legislation on a trans-European energy infrastructure and the Fit for 55 package.

Stressing that private investment is needed to advance, STOA Panel Member Patrizia Toia emphasised the current strong European push for hydrogen and the ongoing technological research.

Birgit Honé, Rapporteur for the European Committee of the Regions’ opinion on clean hydrogen, pointed out that hydrogen could be a great opportunity for regional development, as the production of local green hydrogen might provide €30 billion of added value and 800 000 additional jobs. She concluded that the Fit for 55 package should entail becoming fit-for-green-hydrogen.

Sarah Nelen, Deputy Head of Cabinet of European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans, addressed the urgency for climate action in industry, as 2030 is very close in terms of investment cycles, which are typically long in energy-intensive industries, meaning that the EU needs to prepare for a roll-out of hydrogen. Sarah Nelen also highlighted the advantages of the EU as a single market when it comes to the implementation of standards, certification or infrastructure.

Stating that meeting EU sustainability targets requires that we pass to a circular economy for carbon, Gabriele Centi, President of the European Research Institute of Catalysis, sees the need for a long-term vision on how to close the carbon cycles. He also called for a system approach, focusing on replicability and flexibility, and spoke of the need to create an innovation ecosystem with all relevant stakeholders, as well for a radical system change to replace incremental innovations.

Carl de Maré, Head of Technology Strategy at Arcelor Mittal, stated that betting on hydrogen was risky, as hydrogen is not yet available, is expensive, and current synergies would be lost. He saw smart carbon usage as an opportunity, because the emitted carbon could be used for other products, supporting circular carbon concepts. Carl de Maré concluded that taking CO2 as a resource was a ‘no-regret’ option, which should be developed further to achieve carbon neutrality.

Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at the World Wildlife Fund, pointed out that green hydrogen is a scarce resource and should therefore be used in selected sectors only, such as shipping, steel and chemicals, and not for large-scale heating and road transport purposes. Moreover, she stressed that blue and pink hydrogen are not sustainable options. She strongly argued for a clear phase-out of fossil fuels and that hydrogen should be produced only from additional renewable electricity. She also strongly argued for increased efforts on energy efficiency and for the inclusion of the public in decision-making. Imke Lübbeke concluded that hydrogen has a crucial role, but this role needs to be considered carefully.

Presenting the results of an almost finalised STOA study, Frank Meinke‑Hubeny (VITO/EnergyVille) pointed out the implications of a steel production transition to hydrogen. If Europe’s current coal-based steel production switched to green hydrogen, 37‑60 GW of electrolysis capacity would be needed, which is more than the current EU target for 2030 of 40 GW. He also warned that hydrogen based steel-making would not be available on a broad scale in the next five years and that green hydrogen would not be cost-competitive by 2030. However, considering the long-term perspectives, Frank Meinke‑Hubeny found that hydrogen-based steel-making was likely to be cheaper than coal-based steel-making by 2050. He added in this regard that grey and blue hydrogen might be available at lower cost than green hydrogen by 2030. The draft study he presented also analyses infrastructure needs and finds that repurposing of current natural gas grids seems preferable to building new pipelines.

Heiko Reese (IG Metall) stressed the importance of the EU steel industry as an employer of 330 000 people. He also underlined that both companies and employees support the European climate goals. In his view, hydrogen is a technically feasible option for decarbonising the steel industry, but this would imply the need for huge amounts of hydrogen and thus huge investment. Moreover, operational costs would increase, as hydrogen is more expensive than coal. Public support is therefore crucial to enable this steel transition. In addition, cross-border infrastructure is also needed, and not only for hydrogen.

Directing his audience to consider the challenges of switching the steel industry to hydrogen, Carlo Mapelli (Politécnico di Milano) noted that operational costs will increase and that storage and transport of hydrogen is a complex issue. He suggested that a promising future option might be to use the existing gas infrastructure when combining steel production with carbon capture and utilisation. In this context, he added that handling CO2 is not dangerous at all and that carbon could be utilised for products such as carbon nanotubes, graphite, bio-char or bio-methane.

Closing the workshop, Tiemo Wölken stated that, in his view, it is now the task of policy-makers to push for the realisation of cost-effective hydrogen supply and use.

Next steps

The STOA study ‘Carbon-free steel production. Cost reduction options and usage of existing gas infrastructure’, soon to be published on the STOA website, finds that a hydrogen-based industry may be more profitable than a fossil-based industry in the long term. In that sense, hydrogen offers a technically feasible and promising option for decarbonising European industry. However, there are huge economic implications for the current stock of production technologies and the energy system, in addition to operational costs. An additional, ongoing, STOA study on ‘The potential of hydrogen for decarbonising EU industry’, being developed by Fraunhofer ISI and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, will provide guidance for this task by looking at policy options for decarbonising EU industry and realising a hydrogen economy. The final report is expected in October 2021. STOA continues to carry out its mission of providing Parliament’s committees and other parliamentary bodies with independent, high-quality and scientifically impartial studies to support the assessment of the impact of possibly introducing or promoting new technologies and identifying, from the technological point of view, the options for the best courses of action to take.

For more details read the full workshop report or watch the recording of the event.

Categories: European Union

Can online platforms have a net positive effect on the economy and society?

Wed, 04/14/2021 - 18:00

Written by Mihalis Kritikos,

© Adobe Stock

Existing economic theories, based on foundational notions of ‘markets’ and ‘firms’, may not be sufficient to correctly interpret the behaviour of online platforms. This was one of the main conclusions of the study ‘Online platforms: Economic and societal effects’, which was carried out by Professor Annabelle Gawer of Surrey Business School, University of Surrey, at the request of the STOA Panel, following a proposal from Member of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili (S&D, Greece), Chair of the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA).

Online platforms, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, play an increasingly central role in the economy and society. They have grown to an unprecedented scale, propelled by data-driven business models. Their rapid growth has caused concerns about market dominance and the widening information and power asymmetry between platforms and citizens, businesses and regulators. Online platforms have a massive impact on individual users and businesses, and are recasting the relationships between customers, advertisers, workers and employers. This has triggered a public debate on the economic dominance of platforms and their practices of pervasive data collection.

Their effects are distinct and identifiable, although they are certainly only one important piece in the puzzle of the rapidly reorganising global economy. For example, the platform operators, while still claiming to be only an intermediary, have gained unprecedented control over the organisation of work, as they are likely to generate fragmented work schedules and increasing levels of part-time work without the employment-related benefits that previously characterised much employer-based full-time work.

What are the very different and significant impacts that digital platforms may have on different social groups and employment sectors? How are the new models of the platform economy affecting employment (with the creation of new types of jobs), business models (with the appearance of new sectors of business activity) and the social fabric (need for insurance schemes and a welfare state that correspond to the new forms of the economy)? Are the recent legislative proposals contained in the European Commission’s proposed digital markets act (DMA) and digital services act (DSA) tackling the identified regulatory challenges sufficiently?

Against this background, the study offers a definition of digital platforms, provides a classification of the most salient types of digital platforms and pays particular attention to the ‘big tech’ companies (Alphabet-Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft). The characteristics of digital platforms are examined in detail, with a particular focus on how these platforms create value, the common economic, business and governance characteristics that they share, and their geographical distribution.

Professor Gawer presents a detailed synthesis of the literature, to assess how the new economic models have affected users, businesses, competition, innovation, employment and the social fabric. More concretely, the study sheds light on the multiple ways platforms create and capture value in the digital economy, including their positive effects on global innovation, such as their large investments in research and development, the stimulation of innovation in complementary products and services, and the special role of the design of the digital interface in solving the recurring tension between stimulating third-party developers’ complementary applications and maintaining platform control.

In addition, the study assesses how digital platforms are currently regulated under EU law and maps the main regulatory challenges that their operation (and expansion) is raising in the domains of competition and innovation, working conditions and labour markets, consumer and societal risks, and environmental sustainability. It documents a set of important issues not fully addressed by existing European regulation and enforcement, and provides a thorough overview, based on a state-of-the-art literature review, of these platform companies’ most significant effects on the economy, on workers, and more broadly on society.

In terms of the regulatory challenges, the report highlights four in particular: the limits of traditional antitrust analysis and tools; the violation of privacy and competition by the accumulation of data; the platforms’ systemic avoidance of sectoral regulations; and the difficulties in tackling illegal and harmful content online. The study’s findings suggest that the regulatory challenges that arise from platform employment include the mis-categorisation of platform employees; the disproportionate power of platforms over workers; and the low wages facing many platform workers.

The study offers a series of policy options for competition and innovation, working conditions and labour markets, consumer and societal risks, and environmental sustainability. These policy options are based on a set of substantive principles: freedom of competition; fairness of intermediation; the sovereignty of decision-making; access to fair social protection for all workers; access to dignified work and minimum living standards; and support of workers’ voice in the organisation of their work.

Where the report differs from the DMA and the DSA proposals is in calling for (i) a stronger merger control regime for gatekeeper platforms; (ii) a tailored, enforceable, Code of Conduct that each gatekeeper platform should have for itself; (iii) greater scope for national authorities to intervene where there are country-specific issues; and (iv) a new users’ right to reasonable inferences, in order to curtail the generation of ‘high-risk inferences’, i.e. those that are privacy-invasive, reputation-damaging, and have low verifiability.

The study is of high scientific and technological interest, not only due to its detailed analysis of the effects and challenges posed by the operation of online platforms, but also because the issues observed and presented cut across a range of areas, including competition and innovation, work and the labour market, and the integrity of the social fabric. The proposed policy options, including those on a new regulatory framework and on new institutional arrangements for regulation enforcement, will inform the ongoing discussion on the soundness and adequacy of the Commission’s DMA and DSA proposals.

Read the full report and accompanying STOA Options Brief to find out more.

Your opinion counts for us. To let us know what you think, get in touch via stoa@europarl.europa.eu.

Categories: European Union

How artificial intelligence and space technologies will enable the green and digital transitions

Wed, 04/14/2021 - 14:00

Written by Nera Kuljanic,

Europe is a space force and communicating the tangible benefits the European space programme delivers daily to all Europeans is an important priority. This was the leitmotif of the workshop on the use of artificial intelligence (AI), big data and space technologies in terrestrial management, hosted on 23 February 2021 by the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) and chaired by Member of the European Parliament and STOA Panel Member, Maria Manuel Leitão Marques (S&D, PT).

Manuel Heitor, Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education in Portugal, welcomed the attendees on behalf of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) and recognised the workshop as an ideal moment to launch a discussion about new policy options to enhance research, governance and regulation related to AI in the public sector.

With the aim of raising awareness of the opportunities offered by space technologies and AI, especially in view of the growing volume of space data and the potential of using AI in the public sector, the workshop featured presentations of projects that illustrate how space technologies and AI can help to address related issues at local, national, EU and international levels.

Capabilities in space for benefits on Earth

Monitoring land cover and land use is important for public policy in many ways: for land planning, agricultural, forest and water management, estimating and managing fire, flood and erosion risks, and mitigating climate change and related effects. Having reliable and detailed maps is key. Mário Caetano from the Portuguese Directorate-General for Territory explained the advantages of Copernicus – the EU’s Earth observation programme. It provides large volumes of data with high spectral and spatial resolution and a much better revisit time, while AI-based algorithms interpret and classify satellite images. Compared with traditional mapping, where the landscape complexity is often lost and the process is expensive and time consuming, Copernicus allows us to create more useful maps.

Miguel Bello, CEO of the Atlantic International Research (AIR) Centre, described some of the many applications in sea and ocean monitoring and management. Combined with satellite imagery, AI tools can predict and mitigate the effects of ocean pollution disasters, like oil spills or underwater volcanic eruptions, to protect coast and fishing areas; assist in monitoring natural disaster impacts all over the world; or provide early warning for aquaculture of harmful algae blooms that cause losses of several billion euro to the industry globally. The AI tools are also useful in the fight against piracy at sea and the control of (illegal) vessel traffic, where the behaviour of the boats can be identified thanks to machine learning.

As part of the EU Green Deal and the implementation of the Paris Agreement, important work is ongoing towards establishing the European capacity to monitor human carbon dioxide emissions (part of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS)). Richard Engelen from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) explained the data and tools supporting this work. Satellite observations show the total impact of anthropogenic emissions and natural effects on the atmosphere, and Earth System models help to translate satellite and ground-based observations into emission estimates. Large volumes of such data are used to train algorithms that are then able to translate new observations into new emission estimates. These can be used, for example, to detect and account for the effect of weather on atmospheric pollutants, which was important to correctly assess the impact of Covid‑19 lockdowns on pollutant emissions.

The new European Commission-led initiative ‘Destination Earth’ will develop a very high-precision digital model of the Earth to monitor and simulate natural and human activity, and to develop and test scenarios that would enable more sustainable development and support European environmental policies. Nicolaus Hanowski from the European Space Agency (ESA) explained how a combination of big data, AI and advanced computing will facilitate improved monitoring and predictive information at local, regional and global scale.

AI for smart, more liveable cities

The effective adoption and use of AI solutions represent transformative potential for municipalities. In the City of Amsterdam, AI, ubiquitous sensors and algorithms allow for a new view of the city and a better way to manage it. Maarten Sukel presented specific AI-enabled initiatives to detect and collect garbage and abandoned objects, maintain roads and infrastructure, and observe social distancing in Covid‑19 times in a transparent and privacy-friendly way. As a result, the city is safer, greener and better maintained.

How to translate more data into more benefits for all

European space infrastructure generates large amounts of data that can help understand how our planet is changing, but it can also bring opportunities for business and science, and feed into applications for citizens. Moreover, with the growing number of satellites and the large amount of data generated by them, AI will be crucial to help extract information from their observations, enhance analytic and forecast capabilities, and turn them into tailor-made products and services. The combination of AI and Earth Observation therefore offers great potential to better respond to major societal and policy challenges. How can we turn this potential into action? Ricardo Conde, President of the Portuguese Space Agency; Roya Ayazi, Secretary General of NEREUS (Network of European Regions Using Space Technologies); Matthias Petschke, Director at the Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space (DG DEFIS) of the European Commission; and Nicolaus Hanowski, Head of the Mission Management & Ground Segment Department at the European Space Agency (ESA), took part in the discussion.

Lack of dissemination on EU space initiatives, capabilities and possibilities was a recurrent point during the event, and all speakers agreed that industry, the research community and administrations at all levels must step up their dissemination efforts. Digital literacy is not to be underestimated in this respect, as it is important that citizens understand the impact of these new technologies, and they appreciate and utilise the open and freely available data and information (including algorithms). Space technologies and AI can play a role in reducing inequalities, as they enable new capabilities that allow us to see the world in a new way and therefore offer a new approach to addressing inequalities.

When it comes to the uptake of space technologies in regions across the EU, user realities differ. More cohesion is needed for the equal sharing of benefits, as Copernicus is seen as a fundamental instrument for green climate and digital transitions. Some of the factors that can help to bring this forward were specifically mentioned by the panellists. Administrations and policy-makers at different levels need to be familiar with the opportunities Copernicus offers. However, even with the best political will, administrative ambition and free and open data, ultimately, technical capabilities and skills are needed to translate the potential into products and services. Among local and regional administrations in particular, joining forces, sharing experiences and solutions, and cooperating closely is key for the successful uptake of Copernicus possibilities. On a national level, it is important to recognise the new opportunities for science, industry and society, and design and implement specific policies to facilitate development of downstream applications.

Member of the European Parliament and STOA Panel member, Lina Gálvez Muñoz (S&D, ES), closed the event by introducing an additional element – inclusiveness, in particular with regard to gender – as a key ingredient of the green and digital transitions.

If you missed out this time, you can watch the webstream.

Your opinion matters! If you participated in the event, let us know what you think at stoa@europarl.europa.eu.

How can #AI help monitoring human carbon dioxide emissions? @RichardJEngelen: Earth system models versus machine learning: the best from both should be exploited. #Tech4Earth @EP_ScienceTech @ECMWF @CopernicusECMWF @CoCO2_project funded by @EU_H2020 pic.twitter.com/T8clyr7Vgj

— STOA Panel (@EP_ScienceTech) February 23, 2021

Closing the #Tech4Earth event @linagalvezmunoz calls for communicating better the important role of AI, big data & space technologies for green and digital transition and smart, resilient cities, the benefits for citizens and the programmes and projects on the EU and local levels pic.twitter.com/FbcUcs1NBs

— STOA Panel (@EP_ScienceTech) February 23, 2021

Feliz coincidência

Espaço e inteligência artificial é o tema do seminário que promovi no Parlamento. Nada combinado com a NASA. A escolha da data foi do @EP_ScienceTech, mas calhou bem!

Registo aberto até domingo no link abaixohttps://t.co/ujvppuWD3m

— Maria Manuel Leitão Marques (@LeitaoMarquesEP) February 19, 2021

Deputy Director of #CopernicusAtmosphere Monitoring Service @RichardJEngelen will be speaking at an @EP_ScienceTech event tomorrow about the @CoCO2_project and how #AI4EO can support @CopernicusECMWF services.

For more information and registration visit https://t.co/eTFBD7MWaW pic.twitter.com/RqTixTxh8G

— ECMWF (@ECMWF) February 22, 2021

Categories: European Union

Smart villages: Concept, issues and prospects for EU rural areas

Tue, 04/13/2021 - 14:00

Written by Ana Martinez Juan and James McEldowney,

© Jure / Adobe Stock

Although there is no legal definition of a ‘smart village’ within EU legislation, there are a number of distinguishing features associated with the smart village concept, with the involvement of the local community and the use of digital tools being seen as core elements. The concept implies the participation of local people in improving their economic, social or environmental conditions, cooperation with other communities, social innovation and the development of smart village strategies. Digital technologies can be applied to many aspects of living and working in rural areas. The smart village concept also suggests the adoption of smart solutions in both the public and private sectors over a wide range of policy fields such as improving access to services, developing short food supply chains and developing renewable energy sources.

The smart village concept is gaining traction on the rural development agenda, coinciding with the ongoing reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP). A key element of this reform will be a new delivery model based on each Member State developing a CAP strategic plan. In December 2020, the Commission published its recommendations for each Member State on the direction their plans need to take to achieve the CAP objectives and the European Green Deal targets. The Commission’s analysis highlight the gaps Member States must address if the Green Deal target of 100 % access to fast broadband internet in rural areas by 2025 is to be met. Much will depend on how Member States respond to these recommendations in drawing up their CAP strategic plans. The European Parliament has made a significant contribution to the smart village concept, taking part in a pilot project on smart eco-villages and supporting the European Commission’s 2017 action plan for smarter villages. The European Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee have meanwhile both indicated their support for the concept through events, opinions and communications.

Watch the video on ‘What is a smart village?’ on YouTube.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Smart villages: Concept, issues and prospects for EU rural areas‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Images Languages

Broadband in rural areas

Smart villages: rural NGA broadband coverage in Europe

Български (jpg | pdf) – Español (jpg | pdf) – Čeština (jpg | pdf) – Dansk (jpg | pdf) – Deutsch (jpg | pdf) – Eesti Keel (jpg | pdf) – Ελληνικά (jpg | pdf) – English (jpg | pdf) – Français (jpg | pdf) – Gaeilge (jpg | pdf) – Hrvatski (jpg | pdf) – Italiano (jpg | pdf) – Latviešu Valoda (jpg | pdf) – Lietuvių Kalba (jpg | pdf) – Magyar (jpg | pdf) – Malti (jpg | pdf) – Nederlands (jpg | pdf) – Polski (jpg | pdf) – Português (jpg | pdf) – Română (jpg | pdf) – Slovenčina (jpg | pdf) – Slovenščina (jpg | pdf) – Suomi (jpg | pdf) – Svenska (jpg | pdf)

Graphic taken from the EPRS Briefing ‘Smart villages: Concept, issues and prospects for EU rural areas‘.

Categories: European Union

Addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online [EU Legislation in Progress]

Fri, 04/09/2021 - 16:00

Written by Katrien Luyten (2nd edition),

© kebox / Adobe Stock

Dissemination of terrorist content is one of the most widespread and most dangerous forms of misuse of online services in the field of internal security. In line with the 2015 European agenda on security, and taking into account the impact of this propaganda on the radicalisation, recruitment and training of terrorists, the European Commission launched a voluntary system for tackling terrorism online, based on guidelines and recommendations. However, given the limitations of self-regulation, in September 2018 the Commission proposed a regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online through the removal of such content within one hour of being posted.

While the Council rapidly reached a position on the proposal, the European Parliament adopted its first-reading position in April 2019. Following the European elections, and the appointment of a new rapporteur, interinstitutional trilogue negotiations on the proposal began in autumn 2019. The trilogue meetings were delayed several times, because of the coronavirus pandemic among other reasons. After a new series of terrorist attacks hit Europe in autumn 2020, Parliament and Council reached political agreement on 10 December 2020. The most contentious issues related to the cross-border effect of withdrawal orders and to the use of automated filters to detect terrorist content online. The Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) approved the interinstitutional agreement on 11 January 2021, and the Council then adopted its first-reading position on 16 March. The text is due to be voted at second reading in the April plenary session.

Complete version Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online Committee responsible: Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) COM(2018) 640
12.9.2018 Rapporteur:

Patryk Jaki (ECR, Poland)

2018/0331(COD) Shadow rapporteurs: Javier Zarzalejos (EPP, Spain)
Marina Kaljurand (S&D, Estonia)
Maite Pagazaurtundúa (Renew, Spain)
Jean-Paul Garraud (ID, France)
Patrick Breyer (Greens/EFA, Germany)
Cornelia Ernst (The Left, Germany) Ordinary legislative procedure (COD) (Parliament and Council on equal footing – formerly ‘co-decision’) Next steps expected: Second-reading vote in plenary

Categories: European Union

The role of the European Council in negotiating the 2021-27 MFF

Fri, 04/09/2021 - 14:00

Written by Ralf Drachenberg with Margot Vrijhoeven,

© Adobe Stock

As a result of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) and the coronavirus pandemic, the political and economic context for the negotiations on the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF) was extremely challenging – and quite different to the previous set of MFF negotiations – testing the (limits of the) EU’s resilience and solidarity. Despite the challenges faced, the EU institutions finally managed to agree on a €1.8 trillion financial package, the biggest in EU history. To reach this historic result, the MFF negotiations went through five distinct phases, including key moments when the European Council significantly influenced developments.

In 2014, the European Parliament had been highly critical of the process leading to the deal on the 2014‑2020 MFF, and in particular, of the degree of involvement of the European Council, which in its view had over-stepped the role assigned to it by the Treaties. When comparing the European Council’s influence on the MFF negotiations then and today, can a (d)evolution be observed, or has its role been more of the same, giving the impression of déjà vu?

The analysis shows that the European Council has remained as involved as ever and that its role has become even more central in the negotiations. The European Council got involved very early in trying to influence the policy priorities of the next MFF, as well as the negotiation schedule. Other indications of this involvement are the increased number of meetings in general and on the MFF in particular during the negotiation period, as well as the increased level of detail of the European Council’s considerations on the MFF (as measured in length of the conclusions). EU Heads of State or Government not only gave detailed conclusions on the MFF regulation, but also on other related legislative issues, such as the rule of law regulation, which ought to have been dealt with between the European Parliament and Council exclusively.

Thus, the 2021-2027 MFF negotiations not only reconfirmed the European Council’s influence on the legislative aspects of the MFF; they also strengthened the European Council’s role as arbiter in the legislative process (i.e. by stepping in and moving issues from the Council level to the European Council level). At the request of a Member State (or group of Member States), the European Council can notably get involved in the assessment of another Member State’s implementation of the (legislation on the) MFF, in particular with respect to the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) and the rule of law. Consequently, the 2021‑2027 MFF negotiations represent a case study of European Council intervention in various parts of the policy cycle: agenda-setting and legislative decision-making, as well as assessing implementation, often exceeding the role envisaged in the Treaties.

Comparing the 2014-2020 and the 2021-2027 MFF negotiations also shows that, besides the new rule of law conditionality, negotiations focused initially on the traditional controversial issues: the size of the EU budget, the balance between policy areas, the existence and size of rebates and the use of new own resources. Following the onset of the pandemic and the decision to link the new recovery fund to the MFF, a second set of sensitive issues was added to the negotiation basket; these include: the size of the recovery fund, the balance between grants and loans, the allocation criteria for funding, the length and modalities of repayment, as well as the governance of the recovery fund.

These new issues, together with Brexit and the absence of the UK in the negotiations, contributed to an adjustment of the traditional Member State alliances on multiannual budgetary issues within the European Council. The assessment of EU leaders’ Twitter communications on the MFF illustrates the fragmentation of the two previously relatively firm blocs of net contributors (namely Member States that contribute more to the EU budget than the amount of EU funding they receive) and net payers, and their moves to various new MFF alliances.

EU leaders’ Twitter communications on the MFF also illustrate a development in their messaging from one individual European Council meeting to another, as well as throughout 2020 as a whole. On the one hand, the assessment highlights the active use of Twitter by EU Heads of State or Government as a tool to display their participation in the negotiations and as a platform to celebrate national successes in the process. At the same time however, EU leaders did not use the opportunity provided by this type of social media to explain their priorities in the MFF negotiations to their electorate or how they reached the final compromise.

This analysis has also highlighted the European Parliament’s critical stance regarding the European Council’s involvement throughout the 2021‑2027 MFF negotiations. Initially, the Parliament’s criticism focused mainly on EU leaders’ direct interference in the legislative sphere. In the final phase of the negotiations, Parliament mainly criticised the delays in the timing of adoption by the European Council and its role in the governance of the RRF, as well as commenting on the legal standing of European Council conclusions.

Read this ‘in-depth analysis’ on ‘The role of the European Council in negotiating the 2021-27 MFF‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

Citizens’ enquiries on the waiving of immunity three Members of the European Parliament

Sat, 04/03/2021 - 08:30

Citizens often send messages to the European Parliament 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.

© Adobe Stock

The European Parliament has recently received a large number of messages related to the request from Spanish authorities to waive the immunity of three Members of the European Parliament: Carles Puigdemont i Casamajó (Non-attached, Spain), Antoni Comín i Oliveres (Non-attached, Spain) and Clara Ponsatí Obiols (Non-attached, Spain). Citizens first began to write to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit on this subject in February 2021, calling on Members of the European Parliament to vote against the waiving and recalling the termination of the mandate of Oriol Junqueras Vies on 3 January 2020. On 9 March 2021, however, the European Parliament decided to waive the immunity of Carles Puigdemont, Antoni Comín and Clara Ponsatí.

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

Main points made in the reply in English

We are writing to inform you that immunity of Members of the European Parliament is regulated by the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament. Following a request from a competent national authority to the European Parliament that the immunity of a Member be waived, Parliament’s President announces the request to the plenary and refers it to the parliamentary committee responsible for examining the request, the Committee on Legal Affairs. The Committee may ask to be provided with any information or explanation that it deems necessary. The Member concerned is given an opportunity to be heard, and may present any documents or other written evidence.

The Committee on Legal Affairs then adopts, in camera, a recommendation to the whole Parliament to approve or reject the request. At the plenary session following the Committee’s decision, Parliament reaches a decision by a simple majority vote. Following the vote, the President immediately communicates Parliament’s decision to the Member concerned and to the competent authority of the Member State concerned.

In votes held on 8 March 2021, the European Parliament decided to waive the immunity of Members Carles Puigdemont, Antoni Comín and Clara Ponsatí. You can find the detailed result of the votes here.

To summarise, regarding Oriol Junqueras, on 19 December 2019, President David Sassoli informed the Parliament concerning the content and consequences of the European Court of Justice judgment in case C-502/19, Junqueras Vies, published on the same day. After an in-depth assessment of the effects of the judgment on the composition of Parliament carried out by Parliament’s services, the President instructed Parliament’s administration to open the mandates of the three new Members: Oriol Junqueras, Carles Puigdemont and Antoni Comín. The statement of the President on the European Court of Justice ruling can be found here.

However, taking account of the decision of the Junta Electoral Central of 3 January 2020 and pursuant to the decision of the Tribunal Supremo of 9 January 2020, the mandate of Oriol Junqueras terminated with effect on 3 January 2020. The President therefore announced in the plenary session of Monday 13 January 2020 the start of mandate of the three Members on 2 July 2019, and the termination of the mandate of Oriol Junqueras on 3 January 2020.

Main points made in the reply in Spanish

Le informamos de que la inmunidad de los diputados al Parlamento Europeo está regulada por el Reglamento interno del Parlamento Europeo. Cuando una autoridad nacional competente presenta al Parlamento Europeo un suplicatorio para que se suspenda la inmunidad de un diputado, el presidente del Parlamento lo pone en conocimiento del Pleno y lo remite a la comisión parlamentaria competente, que es la Comisión de Asuntos Jurídicos. Esta comisión puede pedir toda información o explicación que estime necesaria. El diputado en cuestión tiene la oportunidad de ser oído y puede presentar los documentos o cualquier otra prueba escrita que proceda.

La comisión aprueba entonces, a puerta cerrada, un documento en el que recomienda al Parlamento como institución que apruebe o desestime el suplicatorio. Durante la sesión plenaria subsiguiente a la decisión de la comisión, el Parlamento toma una decisión por mayoría simple. Tras la votación, el presidente comunica de inmediato la decisión del Parlamento al diputado interesado, así como a las autoridades competentes del Estado miembro en cuestión.

En la votación del 8 de marzo de 2021, el Parlamento Europeo decidió suspender la inmunidad de los diputados al Parlamento Europeo Carles Puigdemont, Antoni Comín y Clara Ponsatí. Puede consultar el resultado detallado de las votaciones en este enlace.

Por cuanto se refiere a Oriol Junqueras, el presidente Sassoli informó al Parlamento el 19 de diciembre de 2019 del contenido y las consecuencias de la sentencia del Tribunal de Justicia en el asunto C-502/19, Junqueras i Vies, publicada ese mismo día. Tras un examen en profundidad por parte de los servicios del Parlamento de las consecuencias de la sentencia sobre la composición de la Cámara, el presidente encargó a la administración que hiciera efectivos los mandatos de los tres nuevos diputados: Oriol Junqueras, Carles Puigdemont y Antoni Comín. La declaración del presidente sobre la sentencia del Tribunal de Justicia de la Unión Europea puede consultarse aquí.

Sin embargo, teniendo en cuenta la decisión de la Junta Electoral Central del 3 de enero de 2020 y tras el auto del Tribunal Supremo del 9 de enero de 2020, el mandato de Oriol Junqueras expiró con efectos desde el 3 de enero de 2020. Por consiguiente, el presidente tomó nota en el Pleno del lunes 13 de enero de 2020 del inicio del mandato de los tres diputados el 2 de julio de 2019 y de la anulación del mandato de Oriol Junqueras con efectos desde el 3 de enero de 2020.

Main points made in the reply in Italian

Desideriamo informarLa che l’immunità dei deputati al Parlamento europeo è disciplinata dal regolamento del Parlamento europeo. Ogni richiesta diretta al Parlamento europeo da un’autorità competente di uno Stato membro e volta a revocare l’immunità di un deputato, è comunicata in Aula dal Presidente del Parlamento e deferita alla commissione competente, ossia la commissione giuridica. La commissione può chiedere le informazioni o spiegazioni che ritiene necessarie e al deputato interessato viene offerta l’opportunità di essere ascoltato e di presentare documenti o altri elementi scritti.

La commissione approva, a porte chiuse, una raccomandazione all’intero Parlamento affinché approvi o respinga la richiesta. Alla tornata successiva alla decisione della commissione, il Parlamento adotta una decisione a maggioranza semplice. In seguito alla votazione, il Presidente comunica immediatamente la decisione del Parlamento al deputato interessato e all’autorità competente dello Stato membro in questione.

Nelle votazioni del 8 marzo 2021, il Parlamento europeo ha deciso di revocare l’immunità dei deputati Carles Puigdemont, Antoni Comín e Clara Ponsatí. Il risultato dettagliato delle votazioni è disponibile a questo link.

Per quanto riguarda Oriol Junqueras, il 19 dicembre 2019 il Presidente Sassoli ha informato il Parlamento in merito al contenuto e alle conseguenze della sentenza della Corte di giustizia nella causa C-502/19 Junqueras/Vies, pubblicata lo stesso giorno. Dopo una valutazione approfondita degli effetti della sentenza sulla composizione del Parlamento da parte dei servizi del Parlamento, il Presidente ha incaricato l’amministrazione di avviare i mandati dei tre nuovi deputati: Oriol Junqueras, Carles Puigdemont e Antoni Comín. La dichiarazione del Presidente sulla sentenza della Corte di giustizia dell’Unione europea può essere consultata a questo link.

Tuttavia, tenuto conto della decisione della Junta Electoral Central spagnola (commissione elettorale centrale) del 3 gennaio 2020 e in applicazione della decisione del Tribunal Supremo spagnolo (Corte suprema) del 9 gennaio 2020, il mandato di Oriol Junqueras è stato risolto a decorrere dal 3 gennaio 2020. Pertanto, lunedì 13 gennaio 2020 il Presidente ha annunciato in Aula l’inizio del mandato dei tre deputati il 2 luglio 2019 e la cessazione del mandato di Oriol Junqueras il 3 gennaio 2020.

Main points made in the reply in French

Nous tenons à vous informer que l’immunité des députés au Parlement européen est régie par le règlement intérieur du Parlement européen. À la suite d’une demande de levée de l’immunité d’un député présentée par une autorité nationale compétente au Parlement européen, le Président du Parlement en fait l’annonce en plénière et la transmet à la commission parlementaire compétente, à savoir la commission des affaires juridiques. La commission peut demander toute information ou explication qu’elle juge nécessaire. Le député concerné a la possibilité d’être entendu et il peut présenter tout document ou autre preuve écrite.

À huis clos, la commission adopte une recommandation invitant le Parlement dans son ensemble à approuver ou rejeter la demande. Pendant la séance plénière suivant la décision de la commission, le Parlement arrête une décision à la majorité simple. À la suite du vote, le Président communique sans délai la décision du Parlement au député intéressé et à l’autorité compétente de l’État membre concerné.

Lors de votes tenus le 8 mars 2021, le Parlement européen a décidé de lever l’immunité des députés Carles Puigdemont, Antoni Comín et Clara Ponsatí. Vous trouverez le résultat détaillé des votes en cliquant sur ce lien.

Pour rappel, en ce qui concerne Oriol Junqueras, le Président David Sassoli a informé le Parlement européen, le 19 décembre 2019, du contenu et des conséquences de l’arrêt de la Cour de justice dans l’affaire C-502/19, Junqueras Vies, publié le même jour. Après une analyse approfondie des effets de l’arrêt sur la composition du Parlement par les services du Parlement, le Président a chargé l’administration de rendre effectifs les mandats des trois nouveaux députés: Oriol Junqueras, Carles Puigdemont et Antoni Comín. La déclaration du Président du Parlement sur la décision de la Cour de justice est disponible ici (en anglais).

Toutefois, compte tenu de la décision de la Commission électorale centrale du 3 janvier 2020 et en application de la décision de la Cour suprême du 9 janvier 2020, le mandat d’Oriol Junqueras a pris fin avec effet au 3 janvier 2020. Par conséquent, le Président a annoncé lors de la plénière du lundi 13 janvier 2020 que le mandat des trois députés avait commencé le 2 juillet 2019 et que le mandat d’Oriol Junqueras avait pris fin le 3 janvier 2020.

Main points made in the reply in German

Ferner möchten wir Ihnen mitteilen, dass die Immunität der Mitglieder des Europäischen Parlaments in der Geschäftsordnung des Europäischen Parlaments geregelt ist. Beantragt eine zuständige nationale Behörde beim Europäischen Parlament, dass die Immunität eines Mitglieds aufgehoben wird, gibt der Präsident des Parlaments den Antrag im Plenum bekannt und befasst den zuständigen parlamentarischen Ausschuss, den Rechtsausschuss, damit. Der Ausschuss kann die zuständige Behörde um jede Information oder Auskunft ersuchen, die er für erforderlich hält, um sich eine Meinung darüber bilden zu können, ob die Immunität aufzuheben oder zu schützen ist. Der Abgeordnete wird angehört, und er kann Dokumente oder andere schriftliche Nachweise vorlegen.

Der Ausschuss nimmt unter Ausschluss der Öffentlichkeit eine Empfehlung an das ganze Parlament an, den Antrag zu billigen oder abzulehnen. Während der auf den Beschluss des Ausschusses folgenden Plenartagung stimmt das Parlament über den Antrag ab und entscheidet mit einfacher Mehrheit. Unmittelbar nach der Abstimmung setzt der Präsident das betreffende Mitglied und die zuständigen Behörden in dem betreffenden Mitgliedstaat von der Entscheidung des Parlaments in Kenntnis.

In seinen Abstimmungen vom 8 März 2021 beschloss das Europäische Parlament, die Immunität der MdEP Carles Puigdemont, Antoni Comín und Clara Ponsatí aufzuheben. Die ausführlichen Abstimmungsergebnisse finden Sie über diesen Link.

Zur Erinnerung: Was Oriol Junqueras betrifft, unterrichtete Präsident Sassoli das Parlament am 19. Dezember 2019 über den Inhalt und die Folgen des am selben Tag veröffentlichten Urteils des Gerichtshofs in der Rechtssache C-502/19, Junqueras Vies. Nachdem die Dienststellen des Parlaments die Folgen des Urteils für die Zusammensetzung des Parlaments eingehend bewertet hatten, wies der Präsident die Verwaltung an, die Mandate dreier neuer Mitglieder aufzunehmen: Oriol Junqueras, Carles Puigdemont und Antoni Comín. Die Erklärung des Präsidenten zu dem Urteil des Gerichtshofs finden Sie hier.

Unter Berücksichtigung der Entscheidung der Zentralen Wahlkommission Spaniens vom 3. Januar 2020 und gemäß der Entscheidung des Tribunal Supremo (Oberster Gerichtshof Spaniens) vom 9. Januar 2020 endete das Mandat von Oriol Junqueras mit Wirkung vom 3. Januar 2020. Daher teilte der Präsident am Montag, 13. Januar 2020, im Plenum mit, dass die Mandate dreier Mitglieder am 2. Juli 2019 begonnen haben und das Mandat von Oriol Junqueras am 3. Januar 2020 endete.

Main points made in the reply in Dutch

De immuniteit van de EP-leden is geregeld in het Reglement van het Europees Parlement. Wanneer een bevoegde nationale autoriteit het Europees Parlement verzoekt om de immuniteit van een EP-lid op te heffen, deelt de voorzitter dat verzoek mee aan de plenaire vergadering en verwijst het naar de bevoegde parlementaire commissie. In dit geval is dat de Commissie juridische zaken. Deze commissie kan verzoeken om de informatie of opheldering die zij nodig vindt. Het EP-lid in kwestie krijgt de kans te worden gehoord en kan documenten of andere schriftelijke bewijsstukken overleggen.

De commissie neemt achter gesloten deuren een aanbeveling aan voor het hele Parlement om het verzoek goed te keuren of af te wijzen. Tijdens de plenaire vergadering die volgt op het besluit van de commissie, neemt het Parlement bij gewone meerderheid een besluit. Na de stemming brengt de voorzitter van het Parlement het betrokken EP-lid en de bevoegde autoriteit van de lidstaat in kwestie onmiddellijk op de hoogte van het besluit van het Parlement.

Bij stemmingen op 8 maart 2021 heeft het Europees Parlement besloten de immuniteit van de EP-leden Carles Puigdemont, Antoni Comín en Clara Ponsatí op te heffen. De gedetailleerde uitslag van de stemmingen vindt u hier.

Wat Oriol Junqueras betreft, bracht voorzitter Sassoli op 19 december 2019 het Parlement op de hoogte van de inhoud en de gevolgen van het arrest van het Hof van Justitie in de zaak C-502/19, Junqueras Vies, dat op dezelfde dag was gepubliceerd. Eerst hebben de diensten van het Parlement de gevolgen van het arrest voor de samenstelling van het Parlement grondig beoordeeld. Daarna heeft de voorzitter de administratie opgedragen de mandaten van de drie nieuwe EP-leden – Oriol Junqueras, Carles Puigdemont en Antoni Comín – open te stellen. De verklaring van de voorzitter over de uitspraak van het Europees Hof van Justitie is hier te vinden.

Gelet op het besluit van de Spaanse Junta Electoral Central van 3 januari 2020 en in overeenkomst met het besluit van het Tribunal Supremo van Spanje van 9 januari 2020, eindigde het mandaat van Oriol Junqueras vanaf 3 januari 2020. Daarom kondigde voorzitter Sassoli tijdens de plenaire vergadering van maandag 13 januari 2020 aan dat het mandaat van de drie EP-leden op 2 juli 2019 was begonnen en dat het mandaat van Oriol Junqueras op 3 januari 2020 was geëindigd.

Categories: European Union

The EU strategic autonomy debate [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Tue, 03/30/2021 - 18:00

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

© JEGAS RA / Adobe Stock

An increasing number of politicians and analysts argue that the European Union should boost its ‘strategic autonomy’ and/or develop a higher degree of ‘European sovereignty’. These concepts encompass a greater potential for independence, self-reliance and resilience in a wide range of fields – such as defence, trade, industrial policy, digital policy, economic and monetary policy, and health policy – following a series of events in recent years that have exposed Europe’s vulnerability to external shocks.

The debate emerged in the late 2010s, after the French President, Emmanuel Macron, called for a conscious ‘European sovereignty’ and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that Europe would have to take its destiny into its own hands, as it could no longer necessarily rely on the United States to protect it. This latter statement followed President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark nuclear deal with Iran, in which the EU had invested significant political capital. In parallel, there is growing concern about the implications for Europe of the progressive hardening of positions between the US and China, on both economic and political fronts.

This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from international think tanks on the European issues related to European strategic autonomy and sovereignty.

The Conference on the Future of Europe: Comparing the Joint Declaration to institutions’ expectations
European Policy Centre, March 2021

Steady as she goes: Key takeaways from the Commission’s new fiscal guidance
European Policy Centre, March 2021

Money talks: EU strategic autonomy requires a strong euro
European Policy Centre, March 2021

Lessons from the battleground: EU strategic autonomy after the ‘vaccine wars’
European Policy Centre, February 2021

Stepping into the driver’s seat: The EU should double down on US-Iran diplomacy
European Policy Centre, February 2021

Fostering Europe’s strategic autonomy – Security and defence policy: Time to deliver
European Policy Centre, October 2020

How Brussels sees the future of Europe after Covid-19
European Policy Centre, September 2020

Differentiated cooperation in European Foreign Policy: The challenge of coherence
European Policy Centre, August 2020

Breaking the law of opposite effects: Europe’s strategic autonomy and the revived transatlantic Partnership
Egmont, March 2021

For a new NATO-EU bargain
Egmont, February 2021

The EU-MENA partnership: Time for a reset
Egmont, February 2021

No peace from corona: Defining EU strategy for the 2020s
Egmont, January 2021

Ten reflections on a sovereignty-first Brexit
Centre for European Reform, December 2020

The EU can’t separate climate policy from foreign policy
Bruegel, March 2021

Strategic autonomy or strategic alliance?
Bruegel, February 2021

The geopolitics of the European Green Deal
Bruegel, February 2021

US separates climate concerns from financial oversight in contrast to EU activism
Bruegel, February 2021

Résilience : La nouvelle boussole
Bruegel, January 2021

Getting America back in the game: A multilateral perspective
Bruegel, January 2021

From self-doubt to self-assurance: The European External Action Service as the indispensable support for a geopolitical EU
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung; Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies; Centre for European Policy Studies, January 2021

From scale to purpose? The EU’s support for start-ups in the global race for tech dominance
Bertelsmann Stiftung, January 2021

European strategic autonomy and third countries: The defence industrial dimension
Globsec, January 2021

Europe and Biden: Towards a new transatlantic pact?
Wilfried Martens Centre, January 2021

The strategic compass charting a new course for the EU’s Security and Defence Policy
Wilfried Martens Centre, December 2020

Deglobalisation in the context of United States-China decoupling
Bruegel, December 2020

Europe is losing competitiveness in global value chains while China surges
Bruegel, November 2020

What if… not? The cost of inaction
European Union Institute for Security Studies, January 2021

Fostering Europe’s strategic autonomy: A question of purpose and action
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, European Policy Centre, December 2020

Time to go beyond the meta-debate on EU strategic autonomy in defence
Jacques Delors Centre, December 2020

Sovereignty over supply? The EU’s ability to manage critical dependences while engaging with the world
European Union Institute for Security Studies, December 2020

Climate superpowers: How the EU and china can compete and cooperate for a green future
European Council on Foreign Relations, December 2020

A new transatlantic bargain: An action plan for transformation, not restoration
European Council on Foreign Relations, November 2020

Protect, constrain, contest: Approaches for coordinated transatlantic economic and technological competition with China
LSE Ideas, January 2021

Unlocking European defence: In search of the long overdue paradigm shift
Istituto Affari Internazionali, January 2021

The quest for European strategic autonomy: A collective reflection
Istituto Affari Internazionali, January 2021

Space as a key element of Europe’s digital sovereignty
Istituto Affari Internazionali, December 2020

Europe of defence in the new world (dis)order: Choices for Italy
Istituto Affari Internazionali, November 2020

Going transatlantic: The EU’s lean walk towards strategic relevance
Istituto Affari Internazionali, November 2020

Pourquoi l’Europe doit-elle être stratégiquement autonome?
IFRI, December 2020

Are Europe’s leaders ready for a Biden presidency?
Clingendael, November 2020

Rebuilding the transatlantic relationship: Transatlantic policy forum in review
Europeum, November 2020

The EU’s strategic compass and its four baskets: Recommendations to make the most of it
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, November 2020

Read this briefing on ‘The EU strategic autonomy debate‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

Outcome of the video-conferences of EU leaders on 25 March 2021

Tue, 03/30/2021 - 14:00

Written by Suzana Anghel and Ralf Drachenberg,

© Adobe Stock

Due to the worsening epidemiological situation, EU leaders met on 25 March 2021 in a series of video-conferences instead of a two-day physical meeting. The top priority was the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, notably through increasing production, delivery and deployment of vaccines. EU leaders reaffirmed the pharmaceutical companies’ obligation to respect contractual delivery deadlines, and underlined the role of export authorisations. They confirmed the pro-rata population key for the allocation of vaccines and called on EU institutions to treat work on the proposed digital green certificate as a matter of urgency. Another highlight of the European Council meeting was the exchange of views with the President of the United States, Joe Biden – the first such meeting for 11 years – which focused on the coronavirus pandemic and common challenges. In addition, EU leaders reviewed recent work in the area of the single market, industrial policy and digital, and discussed the situation in the eastern Mediterranean and relations with Turkey. The Euro Summit video-conference discussed the international role of the euro.

1.     Meeting format and new time-specific commitments

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel acknowledged that the change of format from a physical to a virtual meeting did not simplify decision-making on a number of difficult subjects and required thorough preparation. This change also impacted the agenda. On the one hand, it allowed US President Biden to attend the meeting as a guest. On the other hand, the strategic debate on Russia was postponed and turned into an information point only.

Table 1 – New European Council commitments and requests with a specific time schedule

Policy area Action Actor Schedule Digital taxation Strive to reach a consensus-based solution within the framework of the OECD Member States and EU Mid-2021 Digital taxation Put forward a proposal on a digital levy Commission First half of 2021 Russia Hold a strategic debate European Council 24-25 June 2021 2.     European Council video-conference Response to coronavirus pandemic

As flagged up in the EPRS outlook, the fight against the pandemic again topped the meeting’s agenda.

Progress on production, delivery and deployment of vaccines

The European Council reiterated its call for ‘accelerating the production, delivery and deployment of vaccines’, and stressed the need to intensify all efforts to this end. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, outlined that 88 million doses had now been delivered and 62 million doses were available to be administrated in the EU. Considering the commitments from the different pharmaceutical companies, the EU is on track to achieve the goal of having 70 % of the EU’s adult population vaccinated by the summer. This could have been done faster ‘if all pharmaceutical companies had fulfilled their contracts’. AstraZeneca is expected to deliver only 70 million doses in the second quarter instead of the 180 million set out in their contract. To increase production of Covid-19 vaccines the European Commission is organising a matchmaking event on 29-31 March 2021 for companies producing vaccines, or supplying the raw materials needed, in the EU.

The ‘export authorisation mechanism’
With the objective of providing transparency of exports of Covid-19 vaccines to countries outside of the EU, the European Commission created on 30 January 2021 an export authorisation mechanism’.
Functioning
Vaccine exports are subject to prior authorisation by the national competent authority of the Member State in which the goods are manufactured.
Scope
The export authorisation mechanism only applies to exports from companies with which the EU has concluded advance purchase agreements (APAs): AstraZenecaSanofi-GSKJanssen Pharmaceutica NV, BioNtech-Pfizer, CureVac, and Moderna).
On 21 March 2021, the Commission introduced new criteria for the mechanism, namely
Reciprocity – does the destination country restrict its own exports of vaccines or required raw materials?
Proportionality – are the conditions prevailing in the destination country better or worse than in the EU?
Timeframe
Originally to last until 12 March, it was extended until 30 June 2021.
Source: European Commission. Exports of Covid-19 vaccines

A potential EU ‘export ban’ for Covid-19 vaccines manufactured in the EU was heavily debated in the days running up to, and at the meeting itself. EU leaders underlined ‘the importance of transparency as well as of the use of export authorisations’ and reaffirmed that ‘companies must ensure predictability of their vaccine production and respect contractual delivery deadlines’. President von der Leyen stressed that companies have first to honour their commitments to the EU before they can export to other parts of the world.

Main message of the Parliament’s President: President David Sassoli stressed the need to ‘speed up the distribution and administration of vaccines both inside and outside the EU. But …. it is time to apply the principles of reciprocity and proportionality before giving the green light to exports from the EU.’

Allocation of coronavirus vaccines

Under-delivery by AstraZeneca strongly impacted the allocation of coronavirus vaccines among Member States, as some had chosen a higher proportion of this vaccine in their portfolio than others. In response to the criticism from some Member States about the allocation of vaccines, EU leaders confirmed the European Commission’s methodology of a ‘pro-rata population key for the allocation of vaccines’. Nevertheless, they asked EU ambassadors (Coreper) to allocate the 10 million accelerated BioNTech-Pfizer doses in a ‘spirit of solidarity’. Some EU leaders, such as Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, indicated that they were very much open to find a way to help Croatia, Bulgaria and Latvia in this respect, but that it is currently difficult to conclude that Austria has an issue.  

Common EU approach to the lifting of restrictions

Due to the serious epidemiological situation, notably the variants of the virus, EU leaders confirmed that ‘restrictions, including as regards non-essential travel, must therefore be upheld for the time being’. At the same time, the unhindered flow of goods and services within the single market also needed to be ensured. To provide some perspective, EU leaders stated that ‘preparations should nevertheless start on a common approach to the gradual lifting of restrictions’. The European Council had first called for such a ‘common approach’ in April 2020, with the Commission providing numerous contributions to safe border reopening, most recently on 17 March 2021 with its ‘common path’.

Digital green certificate

EU leaders called on EU institutions to advance with the legislative and technical work on the digital certificate ‘as a matter of urgency’. Just prior to the video-conference, the European Parliament agreed to use the urgent procedure (i.e. speeding up the legislative process by referring the proposal directly for adoption to the plenary, without nomination of a rapporteur, drafting a report or proposing amendments), to deal with the Commission’s proposal on a ‘digital green certificate’.

Global solidarity

EU leaders stressed that the European Union will continue to strengthen its global response to the pandemic, and called for rapidly advancing on the creation of a ‘vaccine-sharing mechanism’ to complement and support COVAX’s role in the deployment of vaccines.

Single market, industrial policy, digital transformation and the economy Single market, and industrial policy

In line with previous European Council conclusions, EU leaders highlighted the need for an inclusive and sustainable recovery. They underscored the role of labour market and skills policies in the green and digital transitions. The European Council stressed the need to further accelerate these green and digital transitions with appropriate vehicles to support multi-country projects, as well as to strengthen the competitiveness and resilience of European industry, including SMEs.

Digital policy

Recalling its conclusions of 1-2 October 2020 and of 10-11 December 2020, the European Council welcomed the Commission’s communication on the 2030 Digital Compass and called on the Council to examine it and formulate policy guidelines. EU leaders reiterated their core objective of ensuring Europe’s digital sovereignty and the need to enhance international outreach efforts on digital issues, while upholding all relevant data protection legislation. They invited the Commission to present the proposal for a regulatory framework for artificial intelligence and assess the progress made in establishing the sectoral data spaces as announced in the European strategy for data of February 2020. The European Council called on the co-legislators to advance on the digital services act, the digital markets act, and the data governance act proposals to strengthen the digital single market.

EU leaders stressed the need to address urgently the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy, to ensure fairness and effectiveness. Despite internal divisions, they reiterated their strong preference for and commitment to a global solution on international digital taxation.

European Semester

EU leaders welcomed the policy priority areas of the annual sustainable growth strategy and invited the Member States to reflect on them in their national recovery and resilience plans.

External relations EU-US relations

The discussion with President Biden on transatlantic relations aimed at showing unity and shaping a new EU-US agenda. President Biden called for ‘closer cooperation on common challenges’, whilst President Michel stressed that the EU and the US had a ‘historic opportunity to re-energise [their] cooperation’ and to ‘deepen [their] historic bond’. A new transatlantic agenda emerged, focused on combating Covid-19, fighting climate change, democracy promotion, countering disinformation, and digitalisation. President Biden stressed the US’s ‘desire to work together on shared foreign policy interests, including China and Russia’ and ‘noted the need for continued EU‑US- engagement on Turkey, the South Caucasus, eastern Europe, and the Western Balkans’. President Michel spoke of ‘authoritarian tendencies morphed into new models’ which ‘threaten democracy, human rights and the rules based order’. He called for strengthened multilateralism, including in NATO, in which ‘Europeans are determined to assume [their] fair share of the burden’.

Main message of the Parliament’s President: President Sassoli stressed that a strong EU-US relationship was needed and ‘renewed cooperation’ would give impetus ‘to our global leadership’.

Russia

President Michel informed the EU leaders of the latest developments in EU-Russia relations. The strategic debate on relations with Russia was postponed to the June 2021 European Council.

Eastern Mediterranean

The European Council held a discussion on the situation in the eastern Mediterranean and on relations with Turkey, thereby welcoming the joint communication on the ‘State of play on EU-Turkey political, economic and trade relations’. EU leaders reaffirmed the EU’s interest in ‘a stable and secure’ eastern Mediterranean and ‘mutually beneficial relations with Turkey’. They notably welcomed recent de-escalation efforts and the resumption of bilateral Greek-Turkish talks, whilst reaffirming their ‘full commitment to a comprehensive settlement’ of the Cyprus problem and expressing support to the upcoming negotiations under UN auspices with the EU as an observer. High Representative Josep Borrell was invited to continue work on the multilateral conference on the eastern Mediterranean, an initiative put forward by President Michel in October 2020.

The EU leaders confirmed the ‘dual track’ approach defined in October and December 2020. Hence, engagement with Turkey will be ‘phased, proportionate and reversible’ in several areas of mutual interest such as economic cooperation, including the modernisation of the customs union, public health, people-to-people mobility, climate, counter-terrorism and migration. Regarding migration, they invited the Commission to present a proposal for a financial framework allowing a continued offer of EU financial assistance for Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. EU leaders expect Turkey to play a positive role in solving the Libyan, Syrian and Southern Caucasus crises, and will ‘remain vigilant on this matter’. President Michel stressed the conditionality aspect and suggested that ‘more formal decisions’ could be expected in June 2021 were a positive course of action to be maintained. The European Council stressed that ‘recent decisions represent major setbacks for human rights’ without specifically mentioning Turkey’s recently announced withdrawal from the Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. Prior to the meeting, the European Parliament had warned about the degradation of human rights and rule of law in Turkey, and called for including them on the EU’s agenda with Turkey.

3.     Euro Summit video-conference

EU leaders held a discussion with the President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, and the President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe, on the international role of the euro. They stressed the role of the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the need for a robust, inclusive and sustainable recovery with enhanced economic resilience. In order to achieve a sound European financial architecture, EU leaders emphasised the need to strengthen Economic and Monetary Union, to complete the Banking Union, and make progress towards a true Capital Markets Union. They will review progress towards these goals at their June 2021 meeting.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Outcome of the video-conferences of EU leaders on 25 March 2021‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

Citizens’ enquiries on ratification of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment

Tue, 03/30/2021 - 08:30
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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 on the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI). Citizens first began to write to the President on this subject in March 2021. In their messages, citizens called on the EU not to ratify the agreement as a result of human rights abuse in China. In recent resolutions, the European Parliament has indicated that it will carefully scrutinise the agreement, including its provisions on labour rights, while taking into account the human rights situation in China.  

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.

Main points made in the reply

On 30 December 2020, the European Commission and China reached an agreement in principle on a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. Nevertheless, the European Parliament must vote in favour of the agreement, following the consent procedure, for it to come into force.

Specifically, the European Parliament adopted a resolution in January 2021, on the crackdown on the democratic opposition in Hong Kong. In its resolution, Parliament states that it will carefully scrutinise the agreement, including its provisions on labour rights. Parliament also reminds the Commission that it will take the human rights situation in China, including in Hong Kong, into account when asked to endorse the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, or future trade deals with China. 

The European Parliament also adopted a resolution in December 2020 on forced labour and the situation of the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In the resolution, Parliament states that it is of the opinion that the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment must include adequate commitments to respect international conventions combating forced labour. Parliament considers, in particular, that China should therefore ratify the relevant International Labour Organization Conventions.

The European Parliament has started to scrutinise the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. The Committee on International Trade (INTA) and the Sub-committee on Human Rights (DROI) held an initial exchange of views on the agreement in their meetings of 24 and 25 February 2021 respectively (INTA video from start and DROI video from 10.05am).

More information on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment is available on Parliament’s Legislative Train schedule and in a European Parliamentary Research Service Briefing from March 2021.

More broadly, the webpages of the Delegation of the European Union to China might also be of interest.

Categories: European Union

Demographic outlook for the European Union 2021

Mon, 03/29/2021 - 08:30
© European Union, 2021

The impact of demography on economic, social and environmental developments in the world is undeniable. According to the latest statistical data, population trends that were already present in the EU before 2019, continued to persist. For instance, despite its population increase from 354.5 million in 1960 to 447.7 million in 2019, the EU-27 represents a shrinking proportion of the global population, which grew, for its part, from 3.03 billion in 1960 to 7.71 billion in 2019. However, EU population growth is not due to a higher birth rate (the number of live births is constantly shrinking; it stood at 4.15 million in 2019, compared to 6.79 million in 1964), but to the fact that people live longer. In fact, life expectancy rose dramatically from 69.86 years in the 1960-1965 period to 81 years in 2018, and in parallel, the median age of the population increased from 38.4 years in 2001 (earliest Eurostat data available) to 43.7 years in 2019. The ageing of the EU-27 population poses challenges to the labour market, due to the shrinking size of the working-age population. In 2019, there were only around two working-age persons (15-64 years) for every younger or older person likely to be dependent on them. Other potential challenges include pressures on the healthcare system, higher age-related public spending and the depopulation of certain regions.

Demography is on the agenda of the von der Leyen Commission; future EU responses will focus on lifelong learning and healthy lifestyles, as well as on bringing more people (women, migrants, disabled people and older workers) onto the labour market through incentives. Even if the actual implications of the coronavirus pandemic for demography are not yet measurable, surveys are already pointing to an increase in the number of deaths compared to similar periods from previous years, mainly in remote areas with less developed healthcare systems or in areas with high population density and frequent intergenerational contacts. There has also been a decrease in fertility rates, mainly due to economic reasons. In fact, unemployment and poverty were already a challenge for the EU before the pandemic, but the stressful economic and health situation it brought about has only exacerbated this challenge.

Poverty is closely correlated with fertility rates at country level, even if the causal explanations of this fact remain disputed among scientists. The level of women’s education is one of the factors cited to explain why poverty goes hand in hand with high fertility rates. Globally, children and the elderly – two age groups that are both dependent on working-age adults – are particularly vulnerable to poverty. Less developed countries, where general poverty is more widespread, are at higher risk of child and older-age poverty. In comparison with other G20 countries, EU Member States show lower relative poverty rates among both children and seniors.

Findings on migration to the EU seem to show a certain link to poverty – with migrants escaping poverty in their countries of origin and improving their families’ lives through remittances – but this link has to be put into perspective. International migrants are generally people of intermediate wealth and level of skills allowing them to cover the high costs and risks associated with migration. The poorest in third countries seem to lack these resources and knowledge; for them, migration is more a recklessly risky attempt to survive or escape from poverty. Within the EU, internal migration is seen as an expression of free labour mobility – a fundamental freedom of EU citizens. Unlike migration to the EU, it is not regarded as a one-way movement, as witnessed by the tendency towards return migration to some sending EU Member States in central and eastern Europe since 2016. As regards age-related tendencies in migration, both international migrants to the EU and internal migrants in the EU are mostly of working age (20-64 years), with international migrants to the EU having a median age of 29.2 years, much lower than the median age for the EU-27.

Demographic Outlook for the European Union 2021

 

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As regards people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU-27, after their number peaked at 108.7 million in 2012, it fell to 92.4 million (21.1 %) in 2019. The risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU involves a combination of three main factors: monetary poverty, severe material deprivation and/or very low work intensity. Monetary poverty was the most prevalent form of poverty and social exclusion in 2019, with 16.5 % of the EU-27 population (72.4 million persons) being at risk of poverty, to a rather small extent combined with one or both of the other two factors. There are large differences when analysing the risk of poverty or social exclusion by age. In 2019, the highest risk of poverty or social exclusion was recorded for those aged 18-24 years (27.8 %) and the lowest for those aged 65 years and over (18.6 %). In-between these two age groups, the risk of poverty or social exclusion was 19.9 % for people aged 25-49 years and 21.9 % for those aged 50-64 years. The youngest age group – under 18 years – also faced a relatively high risk (22.5 %).

Education reduces the risk of high poverty and may prevent the occurrence, in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, of a generation that would otherwise be much poorer than the generation following the 2008 crisis.

Women are most at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Household composition also has a direct impact on the risk of poverty. This risk looms as soon as there are children to look after at home, and rises as their number increases. Of all family types, single adult households face the biggest risk of poverty or social exclusion. Moreover, work no longer guarantees protection against poverty.

There are considerable variations in the number of people at risk of poverty across EU regions. Urbanisation also plays a role. In western Europe, the risk of social exclusion and poverty tends to be a bit higher in cities than in rural areas. On the other hand, in eastern Europe, rural areas tend to have a higher number of people affected by poverty than cities. Nevertheless, there are considerable pockets of poverty within urban areas too. There is also a clear trend of wealth accumulation at the EU core versus its periphery.

The coronavirus crisis has engendered specific risks for the most deprived and posed an unparalleled challenge for the actions supported by the EU as regards people living in poverty and/or social exclusion. To face the major labour crisis triggered by the pandemic and its social consequences, the EU has taken initiatives to address immediate needs and mitigate negative impacts on employment and social policy.

Read the complete study on ‘Demographic outlook for the European Union 2021‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

Plenary round-up – March II 2021

Fri, 03/26/2021 - 14:00
© European Union 2021 – Source : EP/Daina Le Lardic

The highlight of the March II 2021 plenary session was the joint debate on the preparation of the European Council and Digital Green Certificates. A number of further joint debates were held on 2019‑2020 enlargement progress reports on Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia, on the reform of EU own resources, on a capital markets recovery package: adjustments to the securitisation framework and on a European strategy for data. These debates were followed by votes.

Other debates held following Council and Commission statements concerned Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, and the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the rule of law in Malta. Proposals on guidelines for the 2022 EU budget, implementation of the Ambient Air Quality Directives, for a new EU-Africa strategy, and legislation on exports, brokering, technical assistance, transit and transfer of dual-use goods, were also debated and voted.

Own Resources Decision

Members debated the continuing reform of EU financing, following which they voted on three Council regulations that complete the EU budget’s revenue system for the current spending period. The new revenue streams envisaged under the Own Resources Decision are required to raise sufficient resources to repay borrowing for the Next Generation EU (NGEU) funding, which aims at financing key EU objectives on climate change and the digital economy. Members considered the proposed regulation on implementing measures to which the Parliament gave its consent; and approved a further two proposals on which Parliament is consulted, concerning the operational provisions for collecting a new own resource from plastic packaging waste, and modifying provisions on collecting the value added tax-based own resource, agreed under the Own Resources Decision. Further proposals for new own resources are under consideration, however, the Own Resources Decision is currently undergoing Member State ratification, without which urgent spending under NGEU to recovery from the coronavirus crisis cannot begin.

Guidelines for the 2022 EU budget

Parliament also debated and adopted a Committee on Budgets (BUDG) report that aims at proposing a set of guidelines to assist the European Commission in drawing up the draft 2022 EU budget. The committee’s focus is firmly on prioritising the social and economic recovery, particularly in respect of the impact on young people. The BUDG committee also calls for maximum flexibility in disbursing the budget to face the challenges of climate change and digital transition, and underlines the importance of spending on both health and security.

Capital markets recovery package

There is no doubt that the economic shock of the coronavirus measures will be severe. Following a joint debate on the capital markets recovery package, Members approved provisional agreements reached during interinstitutional negotiations on two European Commission legislative proposals. The first updates the framework for securitisation in the EU to enhance banks’ capacity to help to fund the recovery, and the second amends the securitisation framework itself. While the provisional agreements incorporate most of the changes called for by Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON), proposed performance-related triggers and amendments on non-performing exposures were not agreed upon. However, some additional details have been included, such as specifying the formulae to calculate the maximum capital requirement in case of a qualifying traditional non-performing exposures securitisation. The texts also task the European Banking Authority with monitoring the measures and reporting to the European Commission, which will consider whether to propose further amendments.

A European strategy for data

As data is the driving force of the European digital transformation, Parliament debated an EU market for personal and non-personal data that fully respects European rules and values and adopted an own-initiative report on a European strategy for data. Parliament also adopted a resolution on the European Commission’s evaluation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Control of exports, transfer, brokering, technical assistance and transit of dual-use items

Members debated, and approved by an overwhelming majority, the text agreed in trilogue on the revision of the exports of dual-use items, under consideration for some years now. To both protect legitimate business interests and simultaneously reinforce protection of human rights in the world, the need for new limits on exports of dual-use items is clear. There is considerable EU trade in these goods or technologies, which are generally used for civilian purposes, but can also be turned to alternative military use in, for example, weapons of mass destruction, or cyber-surveillance.

EU-Africa strategy

Aiming to boost international cooperation on both climate change and migration issues, Members discussed and voted on an own-initiative report from Parliament’s Development Committee (DEVE) on proposals for a new EU-Africa strategy. The DEVE report underlines the need to refocus the partnership towards attaining greater sustainability and inclusive development, with particular focus on security, agriculture and health issues, and human rights.

Cohesion policy and climate change

Despite the economic ravages of the pandemic, the EU stands by its firm commitment to tackle the climate emergency and – accounting for one-third of the entire EU budget – cohesion policy is set to make a major contribution. Members debated and adopted an own-initiative report by the Committee on Regional Development (REGI), which points to the need for coordinated and coherent climate action across all policies and governance levels. The report stresses the key role of local and regional authorities in translating the wider EU climate ambition stated in the Paris Agreement and European Green Deal into action at the local level.

Read the complete ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – March II 2021‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

Inside the New European Bauhaus: How to design and build a more sustainable future?

Thu, 03/25/2021 - 14:00

Written by Ivana Katsarova,

What techniques, materials and skills will be needed to foster a better future in the wake of the global pandemic? This was just one of the questions raised during a European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) online roundtable on the ability of the New European Bauhaus initiative to pool expertise and ideas from architects, urban planners, designers and citizens, on building a more sustainable future.

This lively discussion took place in the slipstream of the recent European Commission pledge to bring the European Green Deal into people’s minds and homes and become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Indeed, one of the ways to help achieve this ambitious goal lies in the new European Bauhaus initiative, set to demonstrate that what is necessary can also be beautiful. Participants in an online roundtable entitled ‘Inside the New European Bauhaus: How to design and build a more sustainable future?‘, which took place on 16 March 2021, looked at these issues through the prism of a number of inspiring projects, offering advice, but also expressing some caution.

Etienne Bassot, Director of the Members’ Research Service in the EPRS, set the scene for the debate by outlining the wider context of the New European Bauhaus initiative.

Laurence Farreng (Renew, France) European Parliament rapporteur on the greening of the EU’s flagship programmes Erasmus+, Creative Europe and the Solidarity Corps, confirmed that the cultural and creative industries are ready to take part in shaping the European Green Deal by bringing innovative ideas. While hailing the fact that professionals and citizens have already made more than 300 contributions, Laurence Farreng expressed concern regarding the initiative’s funding, which has not been clearly defined, and pleaded for a top-up from the European Regional Development Fund.

Similarly, Laurence Farreng regretted that the current name is linked to the past and is not evocative enough for citizens, but also expressed the hope that the New European Bauhaus initiative will help to add a human dimension to the European Green Deal. Finally, she reminded the audience that the original Bauhaus school was known for its craft-based curriculum, hoping that the initiative would become a true driver of change while also bridging the gap between the creative sector and the education sector.

How can new life be injected into a cultural heritage gem from 1930, knowing that historical buildings need to meet the same requirements in terms of safety and comfort as modern ones, and that fitting technical infrastructure in such buildings is expensive and clashes with the preservation of the original aesthetics? Krystyna Kirschke, Professor at the Faculty of Architecture at Wrocław University of Science and Technology (Poland) answered this tricky question by explaining the complex renovation techniques used to restore the Renoma department store and the old railway station in Wrocław to their former glory. The success of the Renoma project was such that the modern extension to the store added in 2009 was nominated for the 2011 EU Mies van der Rohe Contemporary Architecture award; the Wrocław railway station meanwhile welcomes 20 million passengers a year.

Interestingly, the approach advocated by the panellists, went well beyond creatively-designed projects, presenting new visions for society as a whole.

Highlighting the importance of the circular approach through the reuse of materials (without transformation, as opposed to recycling) Maarten Gielen – co-founder of ROTOR Design Practice in Belgium – presented an Interreg-funded project launched in 2019, which aimed at a 50 % increase in the volume of reclaimed building elements in north-west Europe by 2032. Today, only 1 % of such elements are reused, the rest ending up crushed, melted down, or disposed of, with a high environmental impact and a net loss of economic value. The aim of the project is to help dealers in reclaimed materials to structure their efforts, for example by producing technical specifications for specific materials, enabling them to participate in public procurement procedures.

Importantly, Maarten Gielen reminded participants of the need to examine the various forms of sustainability critically. Indeed, despite its formal beauty, the Bosco Verticale project (2014, Boeri Architects, Milan, Italy) – the pioneering incorporation of a vertical forest into 44 storeys across two towers – incurs very high maintenance costs, making it accessible only to wealthier residents. In conclusion, Maarten Gielen called for the reinvention of beauty, with careful restraint and a focus on perception, sculpting the eye instead of the building. He also expressed his hope that the various partners involved in the New European Bauhaus initiative would be invited to help design the legislative efforts accompanying it, so that it becomes more than just another EU-funded programme.

The round table event was also treated to a musical interlude. A video excerpt from Benjamin Millepied’s L A Summer Dance intensive classes offered a fresh and inspiring perspective on creative learning. By turning an old garage into a space where young people could practice what they love, a neighbourhood grew into a community. Over two weeks, the project provided 24 secondary school students from disadvantaged backgrounds with two weeks of full-day, professionally taught dance and choreography classes, resulting in a full dance piece performed at the project’s annual gala.

Focusing in particular on the challenge of improving city dwellers’ experience, Xavier Matilla, chief architect with Barcelona city council (Spain), shared some insights from the Superblocks project. The idea was to offer a quiet space for inhabitants to enjoy local cultural events and activities. The Superblocks project seems to have found the solution: by giving streets back to the people, revitalising social events rather than just improving physical infrastructure, organising mobility more efficiently and, importantly, offering new opportunities for outdoor activities. The aim of the project – currently under way in the Eixample district – is to offer all residents a square or ‘green street’ within 200 metres of their homes, with a substantial increase in the number of meeting and relaxation areas. In addition, the transformation of the space has helped to increase the number of social activities in the Sant Antoni neighbourhood from just one in 2013 to 32 in 2019. This successful blueprint is now set to be extended to the whole of the city of Barcelona. Some priority areas have already been defined with a view to lowering air pollution and expanding green areas.

Highlighting the importance of participatory music projects in combating xenophobia, racism and antisemitism, Lukas Pairon, co-founder of the Social Impact of Making Music (SIMM) platform, talked participants through some inspiring projects being carried out by practitioners united by their common interest in the role of music as a social work tool. De Ledebirds, a community orchestra from Ghent in Belgium has a large repertoire of world music and welcomes musicians (to be) of all levels. Similarly, the Al‑Farabi Music Academy in Berlin (Germany) offers a chance for young people who have fled conflict zones to sing or play music with young people from different backgrounds, thus experiencing the universal power of music. Launched 10 years ago, Demos (France) is a cultural democratisation project mixing various social groups and centred on musical practice in an orchestra for children aged 7 to 12. Having successfully expanded to the whole of France, the project expects to number 60 orchestras by 2022.

Finally, Marcos Ros (S&D, Spain) founder of the New European Bauhaus Friendship Group at the European Parliament confirmed that the project comes at a crucial moment for the EU – a time of transition towards economic recovery, the Green Deal and digitalisation – and should serve as a preliminary phase for the renovation wave. He also argued that this should be an opportunity to reimagine not only buildings and cities but also our way of life. Insisting that the funding of the project should reflect its interdisciplinary nature, Marcos Ros pointed to various potential financial sources such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility, Horizon Europe, and the European Regional Development Fund, without ruling out the possibility for co-financing from EU Member States. Hoping that open citizen participation will prevail over elitist movements, he underscored that Parliament should retain a substantial role in the process. Bringing the inclusion dimension to the fore, Marcos Ros argued that the New European Bauhaus initiative should reach the smallest towns and villages in the EU, so that real money and real solutions can reach real people.

The event gathered some 150 virtual participants at its peak, with audience questions focusing on elitism versus inclusion, European versus local level of intervention, new versus old construction materials.

Interestingly, an instant poll among those attending the event revealed that over two thirds perceived the New European Bauhaus initiative as a mixture of architecture, aesthetics and arts, climate change, energy efficiency and innovative social solutions.

  • The following EPRS publications provide further insight and food for thought:

Categories: European Union

What is the EU doing to combat cybercrime?

Thu, 03/25/2021 - 08:30
© Adobe Stock

Citizens turn to the European Parliament to ask what the EU is doing to combat cybercrime. Over recent years, cybercrime has been a growing threat to the EU: it is estimated to have increased fivefold from 2013 to 2017. The most prominent types of cybercrime are attacks against information technology (IT) systems, online fraud (including phishing and identity theft), and illegal online content (including incitement to terrorism and child sexual abuse). With an increasing reliance on the internet due to the measures taken against the coronavirus, specific crimes targeting citizens’ fears about the pandemic have also increased. However, cyber-attacks are not exclusively conducted with a criminal intent. Increasingly, they have played a role in what is known as hybrid warfare, taking the shape of disinformation attacks to influence democratic processes. As borders do not limit cybercrime, it is essential for the European Union to develop a common approach in order to complement the national capabilities of EU countries that primarily address these issues.

Cybersecurity bodies

To achieve this, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) was established in 2004. It cooperates with EU countries and institutions and helps to make the EU more resilient against cyber-attacks, in particular by contributing to cyber policy, operational cooperation and capacity building. Current key topics include fostering cloud computing security, ensuring the robustness of critical infrastructure against attacks as well as providing resources regarding the cybersecurity issues brought on by the coronavirus.

Additionally, the European Union’s law enforcement agency Europol established the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) in 2013, to ‘help protect European citizens, businesses and governments from online crime’. It has since been involved in high-profile operations as well as on-the-spot operational support, and also made cybercrime one of its priority areas from 2018‑2021.

European Parliament actions

Given this increase in the frequency of cybercrime and the growing digital connectedness of the EU, a 2019 Regulation on cybersecurity (replacing the 2013 Cybersecurity Act) aims at ensuring the proper functioning of the internal market and a high level of cybersecurity, cyber resilience and trust within the Union. In the course of adopting the regulation, the European Parliament highlighted the importance of a common response to cyber-attacks, helped by expertise provided through the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity. This is also meant to facilitate operational cooperation between EU countries.

The European Parliament had previously adopted a resolution on the fight against cybercrime in October 2017, where it underlined that fighting cybercrime should be first and foremost about safeguarding and hardening critical infrastructures and other networked devices and not only pursuing repressive measures.

EU cybersecurity strategy 

In December 2020, the Commission presented a new cybersecurity strategy. The strategy aims to bolster Europe’s collective resilience against cyber threats. Specifically, the Commission put forward legislative proposals on the security of network and information systems and on the protection of critical infrastructure. Both proposals aim to address both cyber and physical resilience of critical entities and networks: the European Parliament and EU countries are working on these proposals.

Other measures taken by the EU

In May 2019, the EU countries established a sanctions framework for cyber-attacks originating outside the EU, which enables them to place sanctions on perpetrators of cybercrime and can act as a deterrent by increasing the consequences of conducting a cyber-attack against EU countries or international organisations.

Further information

Keep sending your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP)! We reply in the EU language that you use to write to us.

Categories: European Union

European Parliament Plenary Session – March II 2021

Tue, 03/23/2021 - 18:00

Written by Clare Ferguson,

With several major debates on the agenda, Members will pack a number of legislative items into the short time available for the part-session taking place on 24 and 25 March 2021. Before that, however, they will discuss preparations for this week’s European Council meeting. Switched to videoconference only a few days before, this meeting of EU leaders will focus on issues with vaccine supplies and the vaccination strategy, and will also debate the Commission’s proposed ‘Digital Green Certificates’ which could be used to prove an individual has been vaccinated or has a recent negative test.

On Wednesday afternoon, Members are scheduled to debate the reform of EU financing, known as own resources, following which they are expected to vote on three Council regulations that complete the EU budget’s revenue system. The new revenue streams envisaged under the Own Resources Decision are required to raise sufficient resources to repay borrowing for the Next Generation EU (NGEU) funding, which aims at financing key EU objectives on climate change and the digital economy. Members will consider the proposed regulation on implementing measures that requires Parliament’s consent; and a further two proposals on which Parliament is consulted, concerning the operational provisions for collecting new own resources from plastic packaging waste and value added tax, agreed under the Own Resources Decision. Further proposals for new own resources include a carbon border adjustment mechanism; a digital levy; a revised emissions trading system (ETS); and financial tax contributions. However, the Own Resources Decision is currently undergoing ratification by the Member States, without which spending under NGEU cannot begin. A Committee on Budgets (BUDG) report furthermore deplores the delays in ratification, which is holding up vital borrowing and lending operations under the NGEU recovery instrument – urgently needed to prioritise the recovery from the coronavirus crisis. On Wednesday afternoon, Parliament will also debate the BUDG committee report, which aims to propose a set of guidelines that will assist the European Commission in drawing up the draft 2022 EU budget. Naturally, committee’s focus is firmly on prioritising the social and economic recovery, particularly in respect of the impact on young people. The BUDG committee also calls for maximum flexibility in disbursing the budget to face the challenges of climate change and digital transition, and underlines the importance of health and security spending.

There is no doubt that the economic shock of the coronavirus measures will be severe. In a further joint debate on Wednesday, on the capital markets recovery package, Members will debate the provisional agreements reached during interinstitutional negotiations on two European Commission legislative proposals. The first updates the framework for securitisation in the EU to enhance banks’ capacity to help to fund the recovery, and the second amends the securitisation framework itself. While the provisional agreements incorporate most of the changes called for by Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON), proposed performance-related triggers and amendments on non-performing exposures were not agreed upon. However, some additional details have been included, such as specifying the formulae to calculate the maximum capital requirement in case of a qualifying traditional non-performing exposures securitisation. The proposals also task the European Banking Authority with monitoring the measures and reporting to the European Commission, which will consider whether to propose further amendments.

Despite the economic ravages of the pandemic, the EU stands by its firm commitment to tackle the climate emergency and – accounting for one-third of the entire EU budget – cohesion policy is set to make a major contribution. On Wednesday evening, Members are expected to debate an own-initiative report by the Committee on Regional Development (REGI), which points to the need for coordinated and coherent climate action across all policies and governance levels. The report stresses the key role of local and regional authorities in translating the wider EU climate ambition stated in the Paris Agreement and European Green Deal into action at the local level.

Aiming to boost international cooperation on both climate change and migration issues, Members will discuss an own-initiative report from Parliament’s Development Committee (DEVE) on proposals for a new EU-Africa strategy on Wednesday evening. The DEVE report underlines the need to refocus the partnership towards attaining greater sustainability and inclusive development, with particular focus on security, agriculture and health issues, and human rights.

Finally, to both protect legitimate business interests and simultaneously reinforce protection of human rights in the world, the need for new limits on exports of dual-use items has become clear. There is considerable EU trade in these goods or technologies, which are generally used for civilian purposes, but can also be turned to alternative military use in, for example, weapons of mass destruction, or cyber surveillance. Under consideration for some years now, Members will turn their attention to this important human rights issue on Thursday afternoon, in a debate on an interinstitutional agreement on the revision of the export control regime.

Categories: European Union

The New START Treaty between the US and Russia: The last surviving pillar of nuclear arms control

Tue, 03/23/2021 - 14:00

Written by Martin Russell,

© area51uk / Adobe Stock

The US and Russia both have formidable arsenals of potentially destructive nuclear weapons. Although a nuclear-free world remains a distant dream, the two countries have taken steps to limit the risk of nuclear conflict, through a series of arms control agreements limiting the number of strategic weapons that each can have. In force since 2011, the New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START) is the latest of these agreements.

Under New START, Russia and the US are limited to an equal number of deployed strategic warheads and weapons carrying them, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles. To ensure compliance, there are strict counting rules and transparency requirements, giving each side a reliable picture of the other’s strategic nuclear forces.

The 2019 collapse of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty left New START as the only major surviving US-Russia arms control agreement. In early 2021, with New START due to expire in February and the two sides deadlocked over the conditions for extending it, it looked as if the last remaining restrictions on the world’s two main nuclear powers were about to lapse.

Following a last-minute reprieve by newly elected US President, Joe Biden, the two parties agreed to extend New START until 2026, thereby giving each other welcome breathing space to negotiate a replacement treaty. There are still many unanswered questions about the kind of weapons that a future treaty could include.

Read the complete briefing on ‘The New START Treaty between the US and Russia: The last surviving pillar of nuclear arms control‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders on 25-26 March 2021

Tue, 03/23/2021 - 08:30

Written by Ralf Drachenberg,

© Adobe Stock

One year after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the fight against the virus will again top the agenda of the European Council meeting on 25-26 March 2021. EU leaders are expected to focus their discussions on ‘digital green certificates’ (providing proof of vaccination and/or Covid-19 test results) and progress on production, delivery and deployment of vaccines. They will work further on developing a common EU approach to the gradual lifting of restrictions and refer to global solidarity. Other agenda points are digitalisation, including digital taxation, the single market and industrial policy. In respect of external relations, EU leaders will review the situation in the eastern Mediterranean and hold a strategic discussion on Russia. The subsequent Euro Summit will discuss the international role of the euro.

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

The Leaders’ Agenda for 2020-21 envisaged a physical European Council meeting in March 2021. However, due to the still serious health situation, this has been replaced by video-conference sessions. As is customary, at the start of the European Council meeting, the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, will address the Heads of State or Government. António Costa, the Prime Minister of Portugal, which currently holds the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, will provide an overview of progress made in implementing previous European Council conclusions. The Leaders’ Agenda 2020-21 published in October 2020 placed economic issues as well as Russia on the agenda. The eastern Mediterranean was added to the agenda due to the commitment made at the European Council meeting of 10-11 December 2020.

2. European Council agenda points Policy area Previous commitment Occasion on which commitment was made Coronavirus The European Council will return to this issue regularly. 1-2 October 2020 Single market, industrial policy and digital The European Council will return to the topics of the single market, industrial policy and digital at its meeting in March 2021. In this context, it will also assess the situation regarding the work on the important issue of digital taxation. 1-2 October 2020 External relations Submit a report on the situation in the eastern Mediterranean and EU-Turkey political and economic relations for consideration. 10-11 December 2020 EU coordination efforts in response to the coronavirus pandemic Progress on production, delivery and deployment of vaccines

EU Heads of State or Government will address developments regarding vaccine delivery and vaccination across the EU. Current figures show 69.5 million doses delivered and 51 million doses administrated in the EU (state of play 16/03). EU leaders will address the extension of the export authorisation scheme, most likely welcoming it.

EU leaders are also expected to discuss the temporary suspension of administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine in 20 EU Member States, due to concerns over the safety of the jab, despite the World Health Organization (WHO) having urged countries to continue administrating the AstraZeneca vaccine. On 18 March, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded that the ‘benefits still outweigh the risks’.

Moreover, the criticism from some Member States, spearheaded by Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, about the allocation of coronavirus vaccines is also likely to be addressed. In preparation for the summit, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel held a video-conference on 17 March with the leaders of Croatia, Austria, Bulgaria, Latvia, Czechia and Slovenia.

More positive developments regarding the fight against coronavirus came on 11 March, when the EMA recommended the Johnson & Johnson vaccine be authorised for use in the EU. This brings the number of authorised Covid-19 vaccines to four, adding to those from BioNTech-Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna (for a detailed overview of the different Covid-19 vaccines approved or under examination by the EMA see EPRS table). Moreover, on 16 March, the Commission announced that BioNTech-Pfizer would accelerate the delivery of 10 million doses for the second quarter of 2021.

Common EU approach to the gradual lifting of restrictions

EU leaders also aim at further developing a common EU approach to the gradual lifting of coronavirus pandemic related restrictions. In that context, on 17 March, the European Commission adopted a communication on ‘a common path to safe and sustained re-opening’. In this communication, the Commission invites the European Council to ‘call for an agreed approach to a safe re-opening based on a solid scientific framework’ and ‘to support further coordination on efforts to contain the pandemic at a global level, based on the Team Europe approach’ (i.e. supporting partner countries in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences).

Free movement of persons and digital green certificates

At their last video-conference on the fight against coronavirus, on 25 February 2021, EU leaders called for ‘work to continue on a common approach to vaccination certificates’ and promised that they would return to this issue. On 17 March, the Commission put forward the ‘Digital Green Certificate’, with the aim of facilitating safe free movement of citizens in the EU during the Covid‑19 pandemic. EU leaders are expected to welcome the proposal and to invite the co-legislators to adopt it rapidly. An in-depth discussion is expected on the proposal, notably regarding the type of rights such a certificate would provide.

The next practical steps will be for the Commission to set up the digital infrastructure to facilitate the authentication of Digital Green Certificates and for Member States to introduce the necessary changes in their national health records’ systems.

Regarding the free movement of people, the eight Member States which had previously set temporary internal border controls due to Covid-19 (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Portugal and Spain), have all renewed them until the end of March or even into April.

The ‘Digital Green Certificate’
The Digital Green Pass is a proof in digital form that a person:

  • has been vaccinated against Covid-19;
  • has a negative test result; or
  • has recovered from Covid-19.

Travellers holding this certificate should be exempted from restrictions on free movement on the same basis as citizens of the visited Member State.
It ensures a very high level of data protection.
It does not

  • present a precondition to free movement or require a person to be vaccinated;
  • discriminate between different vaccines, authorised by the EMA;
  • share any personal medical data.

Source: European Commission.

Single market, industrial policy, digital transformation and the economy

EU leaders will take stock of progress on the single market, industrial policy and digital transition.

Single market and industrial policy

The return to a well-functioning single market, especially in the field of services, and the protection of fair competition are at the centre of the EU’s agenda. In line with previous European Council conclusions, EU leaders will probably highlight the need for an inclusive and sustainable recovery and the removal of remaining unjustified barriers. The European Council will most likely briefly discuss the role of labour markets and skills policies in the green and digital transitions.

EU leaders will debate industrial policy in the light of the update of the Commission’s 2020 Industrial strategy expected for 27 April 2021. They will most likely underscore the need to strengthen competitiveness and resilience, and to accelerate the green and digital transitions.

Digital transition

The European Council will once again discuss the digital transformation, which is a key pillar of the EU’s recovery from Covid-19. Charles Michel has repeatedly stated the role that digital sovereignty ‘plays in our greater goal of strategic autonomy’, while digital transformation is a prerequisite for a successful economic recovery strategy. EU leaders will also probably endorse the Commission’s communication, 2030 Digital Compass: The European way for the Digital Decade, and call for the Council to examine it and formulate relevant policy guidelines. In line with the conclusions of the economic and finance ministers on 16 March, they will most probably put particular emphasis on the need to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy and support the ongoing negotiations on digital taxation in the OECD, which are aimed at achieving a global and consensus-based solution by mid-2021. Despite the efforts of Italy, Spain and France for a European solution, a group of low-tax countries, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Germany, the Netherlands and Romania will push for a global solution. However, the European Council will most likely also state its readiness to move forward with an EU solution, should there be no progress in the G20/OECD format. Indeed, the Commission is expected to put forward a proposal, separate from the OECD negotiations, on a digital levy by June 2021, which the European Council will probably note during the meeting.

European Semester

Following the Council’s conclusions of 25 January, EU leaders will most probably endorse the policy priority areas of the annual Sustainable Growth Strategy and welcome the draft Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area.

External relations Situation in the eastern Mediterranean

The European Council is expected to take stock of the situation in the eastern Mediterranean. In 2020, tensions in the region reached a new high. EU leaders have repeatedly called on Turkey to stop its unilateral actions and commit to de-escalation as a means to facilitate cooperation. They agreed to embark with Turkey on a re-energised agenda should tensions de-escalate, dialogue be renewed and stability return to the region. In early 2021, Greece and Turkey resumed bilateral talks on maritime delimitation, with several rounds already concluded, whilst the Council has closely monitored progress. As a parallel process, talks on the Cyprus issue are expected to resume under UN leadership in April 2021. At the request of EU leaders, High Representative Josep Borrell will present a report on EU-Turkey relations, which will focus on the political, economic and trade relationship. No decision on the way forward in the relationship with Turkey is expected at this stage, as EU leaders will most probably continue to monitor developments.

Russia

For the first time since October 2016, EU leaders will hold a strategic debate on relations with Russia, at a time when bilateral relations are at a ‘new low’. The High Representative’s visit to Moscow earlier this year did not succeed in ‘reversing the negative trend’ in EU-Russia relations, and an opportunity to have ‘a more constructive dialogue’ was lost. Borrell himself was criticised not only for undertaking the visit, but also for the lack of results and the negative impact on the EU. To uphold principles and values as well as show unity, the EU activated its recently introduced global human rights sanctions regime and imposed sanctions on officials responsible for the illegal imprisonment of opposition leader, Alexei Navalny. EU leaders had condemned Navalny’s detention, and called for his release.

In preparation for the European Council meeting, the Foreign Affairs Council noted that Russia ‘was drifting towards becoming an authoritarian state and away from Europe’. Ministers have reconfirmed their attachment to the ‘five guiding principles’ which have governed EU relations with Russia since 2016. This reflects continuity rather than adaptation to a rapidly changing environment in which Russia’s increased assertiveness is a reality.

In recent years, Russia has multiplied destabilisation attempts, through targeted disinformation and cyber-activities against EU Member States and partners in the Western Balkans. In parallel, it has maximised its action regionally in Syria and in the illegally occupied Crimea where accelerated militarisation is under way and human rights abuses accumulate. For the past seven years, the European Council has succeeded in achieving and maintaining unity in setting and renewing sanctions in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Yet shaping an effective Russia policy requires more than consensus on that one issue. At present, there is a window of opportunity to rethink the EU’s Russia strategy in close cooperation with the US, under the new EU-US transatlantic agenda. Furthermore, both the EU and NATO are currently developing their strategic visions and should grasp the opportunity to reflect (jointly) on their future relationship with Russia.

3. Euro Summit

On 26 March, the Euro Summit will meet in an inclusive format with all EU-27 leaders (while the 19 leaders of the euro-area countries automatically attend, leaders of the other Member States that have ratified the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the EMU (now all 27) only participate by right in certain discussions). The focus will be on the euro’s international role and ways to ‘strengthen our autonomy in various situations’, in line with the Commission’s communication of 19 January on the European economic and financial system. EU leaders will probably receive an update on the state of play of banking union and fiscal support measures, with a focus on the fiscal strategy, the fiscal stance in the euro area, and the future of the ongoing coordinated fiscal response.

Read this briefing on ‘Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders on 25-26 March 2021‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

Electronic evidence in criminal matters [EU Legislation in Progress]

Mon, 03/22/2021 - 14:00

Written by Sofija Voronova and Piotr Bąkowski,

© sveta / Adobe Stock

In December 2020, the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee adopted its reports on a pair of 2018 legislative proposals on electronic evidence in criminal matters, and mandates to start trilogue negotiations on the two proposals. The proposed new rules would allow law enforcement and judicial authorities to directly request (or temporarily secure) electronic data needed for investigating and prosecuting crime from electronic service providers operating in the EU (wherever the data is stored), and would impose an obligation on these service providers to appoint a legal representative for the purpose of gathering evidence and answering competent authorities’ requests. This two-part legislative initiative is the result of an almost two-year process of reflection on how to better adapt criminal justice to the challenges of the digital age, with a specific focus on jurisdiction in cyberspace and access to electronic evidence. The initiative is part of a broader array of international efforts to improve the legal framework and address persistent legal uncertainty that affects law enforcement and private parties alike.

Complete version A: Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on European Production and Preservation Orders for electronic evidence in criminal matters

B: Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down harmonised rules on the appointment of legal representatives for the purpose of gathering evidence in criminal proceedings Committee responsible: Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) A: COM(2018) 225
17.04.2018
2018/0108(COD Rapporteur: Birgit Sippel (S&D, Germany) B: COM(2018) 226
17.04.2018
2018/0107(COD) Shadow rapporteurs: Nuno Melo (EPP, Portugal)
Moritz Körner (Renew Europe, Germany)
Annalisa Tardino (ID, Italy)
Sergey Lagodinsky (Greens/EFA, Germany)
Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová (ECR, Slovakia)
Cornelia Ernst (The Left, Germany) Ordinary legislative procedure (COD) (Parliament and Council on equal footing – formerly ‘co-decision’) Next steps expected: Trilogue negotiations

Categories: European Union

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