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Updated: 15 hours 36 min ago

Defending academic freedom in Europe: Call for action

Fri, 12/03/2021 - 08:30

Written by Andrés García with Laia Delgado Callico.

The scope for European Union (EU) action to respond to current challenges to academic freedom is not always clear. Members of the European Parliament addressed this question at a recent STOA conference, which looked for ways of building on several European initiatives focusing on academic freedom (such as Article 13 of the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights, the Bonn Declaration on Freedom of Scientific Research, and the League of European Research Universities (LERU) advice paper ‘Academic freedom as a fundamental right‘.

The event, held online on 9 November 2021, was organised by STOA with the support of the European University Association (EUA). It served to clarify the definition of academic freedom and frame the challenges in the EU context while aiming at identifying options for addressing them. In addition to the conference, an official STOA mission to Budapest took place on 3‑5 November 2021, led by STOA Second Vice-Chair Ivars Ijabs (Renew, LT) and included visits to the Central European University (CEU) and other institutions, to acquire first-hand experience of their current operating conditions and activities in the context of discussions on academic freedom.

The conference was opened by STOA Chair Eva Kaili (S&D, Greece), who highlighted that academic freedom is closely linked to institutional autonomy, which refers to the capacity of higher-education and/or research organisations to independently govern research and education without state or other interference. Professor Klavdija Kutnar, President of the Council for Higher Education of the Republic of Slovenia and Rector of the University of Primorska, welcomed the participants on behalf of the Slovenian EU Presidency. She emphasised that society continues to place hope in science, sometimes treating it as a beacon that guides society towards a distant, but more sustainable and just future. Academic freedom creates the right environment for science to turn all these hopes into reality.

This was followed by introductory remarks from the conference chair, First STOA Vice-Chair Christian Ehler (EPP, Germany). He underlined that academic freedom is part of the enlightenment tradition that shaped Europe and is shared in the EU research area (ERA). While academic freedom has been a democratic norm in the EU for decades, this norm has recently started to erode. This event should be the starting point to a serious debate within the EU on academic freedom and how to protect it; as well as a call for action. Christian Ehler insisted that monitoring and non-committal statements are not enough to stop the decline of academic freedom in Europe – we need effective action that results in real world changes. The European Parliament will drive this conversation and push for the action needed to protect academic freedom in Europe. Institutional autonomy is fundamental, and universities are susceptible to interference through the control of their funding schemes. However, universities, in their turn, have to support academic freedom themselves. For Christian Ehler, it is therefore everyone’s responsibility to protect and ensure academic freedom in the EU.

Panel 1: Scene setting

The first panel served to set the scene by identifying and distinguishing different elements of the debate in Europe today, notably the progress made, challenges faced, and the particular role of institutional autonomy. The panel started with a talk by Kurt Deketelaere, Professor of Law at KU Leuven, who presented the LERU advice paper. He referred to academic freedom as a core, almost sacrosanct, aspect of modern universities, which is legally recognised in a broad variety of hard and soft law instruments, but is nonetheless under pressure worldwide. He pointed out that academic freedom has three different dimensions: as an individual right, as an institutional right, and as a state obligation.

This was followed by Liviu Matei, Professor of Higher Education Policy and Provost of CEU, speaking on the state of and prospects for academic freedom in Europe. He insisted on the multidimensional aspect, which requires support from multiple actors. While the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and EU higher education frameworks have institutional support at European level to uphold academic freedom, the existing instruments may not be enough. Any conceptual reference for academic freedom must be centred on the core function of the university, which is the production, transmission, dissemination, and curation of knowledge as a public good.

Panel 2: What can be done?

Building upon these insights, the second panel served to explore the measures that can be taken in response to challenges to academic freedom in Europe, with particular reference to matters of institutional autonomy. It took the format of a roundtable discussion with Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) Sabine Verheyen (EPP, Germany); Ivars Ijabs; Viviane Hoffmann, Deputy Director-General, Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture (DG EAC) at the European Commission; Anna Panagopoulou, Director, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation at the European Commission (DG RTD); and Amanda Crowfoot, Secretary-General of EUA. During his intervention, Ivars Ijabs reported on the STOA mission to Budapest and argued that, in his view, a possibility for European research funds to bypass Member States’ central authorities would be advisable, in order to ensure independent funding. Sabine Verheyen highlighted that, at EU level, fundamental academic values are at the core of the Bologna process and referred to the global Academic Freedom Index.

The conference was moderated by Robert‑Jan Smits, President of the Executive Board of Eindhoven University of Technology, and former Director‑General of DG RTD (2010‑2018).

During his closing remarks, Christian Ehler identified academic freedom as a fundamental principle and stressed the need for a mechanism to ensure Member States comply with the provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in relation to academic freedom. He concluded with a call for action from the European Commission and for a discussion with the Council, which should result in specific measures, at a time when academic freedom is under threat.

The full recording of the workshop is available here.

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

Categories: European Union

ASEAN: Economic indicators and trade with EU

Thu, 12/02/2021 - 08:30

Written by Györgyi Mácsai and Giulio Sabbati.

The economies of most ASEAN countries contracted due to the turmoil caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Three of them, however, (Brunei, Myanmar/Burma and Vietnam) still managed to grow in terms of GDP, although at a much slower rate than in previous years. Despite the fact that the value of trade in goods declined by 10 % to €189 billion, the ASEAN countries remain an important partner for the EU, collectively representing 5 % of the EU’s overall trade in 2020, ranking in sixth place after China, USA, APEC members (other than ASEAN), the UK and Switzerland. At the same time the EU is the fourth biggest trade partner of the ASEAN group after China, other APEC members and the USA. Mechanical appliances, electrical equipment and agri-food make up half of the trade in goods between the two blocs, both for exports and on the import side.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘ASEAN: Economic indicators and trade with EU‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Business environment and socio-economic indicators in ASEAN countries EU exports and imports of services_ASEAN EU exports of goods to ASEAN EU imports of goods from ASEAN EU trade with ASEAN and Top EU partners GDP growth and GDP per capita of ASEAN countries Main trading partners of the EU and of ASEAN Unemployment in ASEAN countries
Categories: European Union

EU recovery package

Wed, 12/01/2021 - 14:00

Written by Magdalena Sapała.

If you are you looking for a comprehensive source of information, analysis and infographics explaining the recovery package for Europe, you are in the right place. This blog post will lead you through a collection of EPRS publications, financial data, legal acts and other interesting sources of information and analysis on the topic.

Content:

Section 1 – What is the recovery package for Europe?

Section 2 – How is the recovery package implemented?

Section 3 – How is the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) implemented?

Section 4 – How are the other programmes financed under the Next Generation EU implemented?

Section 5 – Key EPRS publications and infographics

Section 6 – Other interesting sources of information

(1) What is the recovery package for Europe?

In December 2020, the European Union (EU) agreed the recovery package for Europe: the seven-year budget, known as the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF), and a special instrument aiming at helping the EU economy to recover in the aftermath of the Covid‑19 crisis – the European Recovery Instrument ‘Next Generation EU’ (Figure 1). While the MFF ensures financial means for the functioning of the European Union, for the investments and implementation of various EU policies, Next Generation EU provides an extraordinary, temporary instrument, created to address the exceptional consequences of and challenges posed by the Covid‑19 pandemic. Both elements of the financial package differ in their sources of financing. The MFF is financed from the EU’s own resources. Most of these (70 %) comes from direct payments from the Member States’ national budgets, calculated on the basis of gross national income (GNI). The rest comes from customs duties, contributions based on value added tax (VAT) collected by the Member States, and since 2021, from a national contribution based on non-recycled plastic packaging waste. The Next Generation EU recovery instrument, however, is financed from money borrowed by the Commission on behalf of the EU on the international capital markets (the first borrowing operations began in June 2021). Then, by 2058 at the latest, Next Generation EU should be repaid from the EU’s own resources. The EU budget will repay the grants and their borrowing costs, while the Member States that have taken loans will be responsible for their repayment. To help repay the borrowing, new sources of revenue for the EU should be in place by that time.

See this image in 24 languages on Flickr. Links to useful legal documents (2) How is the recovery package implemented?

In December 2020, the approval of the 2021-2027 MFF and Next Generation EU, followed by the completion of the ratification process of the own resources decision in May 2021, opened the way for the implementation of the recovery package for the EU (see the timeline in Figure 4) .

The MFF (€1 210.9 billion in current prices) covers the years 2021 to 2027, and is implemented through more than 40 programmes and funds under seven main EU spending priorities, known as headings (for details about the agreement on the 2021‑2027 MFF see the EPRS blog).

Next Generation EU (€806.9 billion in current prices) is implemented through seven programmes. The bulk of the instrument (90 %) was allocated to the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), and the remaining 10 % to the programmes co-financed under the 2021‑2027 MFF, i.e. regional development (React-EU), rural development, Horizon Europe, the Just Transition Fund, Union Civil Protection Mechanism (RescEU), and InvestEU. In other words, up to 2023, these programmes will be partly financed and implemented under the MFF and partly under NGEU. The proportions of both components vary by programme. While the NGEU share in the total allocation on Horizon Europe is 6 %, it is 56 % in the JTF.

Under Next Generation EU, the legal commitments on spending have to be made during 2021‑2023, whereas the payments can be made until the end of 2026. Each year the amount to be used under the instrument will be entered to the EU budget as an external assigned revenue (read more about the external assigned revenue and the EU annual budget in the EPRS publication Economic and Budgetary Outlook 2021).

Most of the Next Generation EU resources have been pre-allocated to the Member States. Figure 2 illustrates the distribution of NGEU funding under the RRF, React-EU, JTF and rural development programmes per Member State and capita. Spending under the Horizon Europe, RescEU and Invest EU programmes will be distributed to different projects across the EU on a competitive basis.

Figure 2 – Pre-allocated funds under Next Generation EU

(3) How is the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) implemented?

The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is the main building block of Next Generation EU. Its budget amounts to €723.8 billion (current prices) and is divided between non-repayable grants (€338 billion) and loans (€385.8 billion). The Member States’ maximum indicative financial envelopes under the RRF were decided in the RRF regulation (Annex I‑IV) and pre-allocated. However, the actual amounts to be transferred to the Member States (see Figure 3) and the calendar of payments depend on many conditions. They concern two areas in parallel, as presented on each side of the timeline in Figure 4. Legislative and organisational procedures had to be completed before the financing of the NGEU Recovery Instrument, including the RRF, could become operational, as well as the process of drawing up, evaluating and approving the individual countries’ planned reform and investment to be implemented using the borrowed resources.

Figure 3 – Distribution of the Recovery Resilience Facility (grants) by Member State.

Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) grants by Member State and per capita (current prices)

Figure 4 – Timeline of the main events in the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility.(grants) by Member State.

National Recovery and Resilience Plans

Any Member State wishing to use the RRF must submit a national recovery and resilience plan (NRRP). This document should outline the national reform and investment package, referring to the areas specified under the six pillars (See Article 18 and Annex V of the RRF Regulation) and to the challenges identified in the European Semester Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs). The preparation of the plans by the Member States, their positive assessment by the Commission, and approval by Council (implementing decision adopted by qualified majority), are the key preconditions for the first transfers from the RRF. Only once these are in place can the Commission conclude an agreement with each Member State on a legal commitment authorising the financial contribution and begin the pre-financing phase (Table 1).

Summary of progress (as of 21 October 2021):

  • 26 NRRPs have been submitted to the Commission (the submission deadline has been postponed for the Netherlands, where recent elections and negotiations on the formation of a new government have delayed the preparation of the plan);
  • 22 NRRPs positively assessed by the Commission (the plans from Bulgaria – submitted on 15 October 2021, Hungary, Poland and Sweden are still in the assessment procedure);
  • 22 NRRPs approved by the Council.

Table 1 – Implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans: state of play as of 28 October 2021 (€ billion, current prices)

Member State Submission dateRequested amountsMaximum amountsAmounts in Implementing Decision  grantloangrantloangrantloan Belgium (BE)01/05/20215.9 5.932.85.9 13/07/2021Bulgaria (BG)15/10/20216.6 6.34.2   Czechia (CZ)02/06/20217.1 7.114.37 06/09/2021Denmark (DK)30/04/20211.6 1.621.91.6 13/07/2021Germany (DE)28/04/202127.9 25.6240.925.6 13/07/2021Estonia (EE)18/06/20211 11.91 28/10/2021Ireland (IE)28/05/20211 118.71 06/09/2021Greece (EL)28/04/202117.812.717.812.517.812.713/07/2021Spain (ES)30/04/202169.5 69.584.869.5 13/07/2021France (FR)29/04/202140.9 39.4168.439.4 13/07/2021Croatia (HR)15/05/20216.4 6.33.76.3 26/07/2021Italy (IT)01/05/202168.9122.668.9122.768.9122.613/07/2021Cyprus (CY)17/05/202110.211.510.226/07/2021Latvia (LV)30/04/20211.8 221.8 13/07/2021Lithuania (LT)15/05/20212.2 2.23.22.2 26/07/2021Luxembourg (LU)30/04/20210.1 0.12.80.1 13/07/2021Hungary (HU)12/05/20217.2 7.29.7Undergoing assessment  Malta (MT)13/07/20210.3 0.30.80.3 05/10/2021Netherlands (NL)Postponed  655.3   Austria (AT)01/05/20214.5 3.527.23.5 13/07/2021Poland (PL)03/05/202123.912.123.934.8Undergoing assessment  Portugal (PT)22/04/202113.92.713.914.213.92.713/07/2021Romania (RO)31/05/202114.31514.21514.21528/10/2021Slovenia (SI)01/05/20211.80.71.83.21.80.726/07/2021Slovakia (SK)29/04/20216.6 6.36.36.3 13/07/2021Finland (FI)27/05/20212.1 2.116.42.1 28/10/2021Sweden (SE)28/05/20213.2 3.332.2Undergoing assessment   Payments

Pre-financing should take place within two months of the adoption of the agreement and is set at a maximum 13 % of the financial contribution (grants) and 13 % of the loan. The Member States will implement their NRRPs and send the Commission requests for payment twice a year. The disbursements will be made once the relevant milestones and targets set out in the implementing decision have been reached. All payments must be made by 31 December 2026. Table 2 includes detailed information about the progress of payments.

Table 2 – Disbursement of pre-financing as of 28 October 2021 (€ billion, current prices)

 DateAmounts disbursed (max 13 % of total allocation)Share of total allocationRemaining amount Austria28/09/20210.4513 %3.05Belgium03/08/20210.7713 %5.15Croatia28/09/20210.8213 %5.48Czech Republic28/09/20210.9213 %6.08Cyprus09/09/20210.1613 %1.05Denmark02/09/20210.213 %1.35France19/08/20215.1213 %34.25Germany26/08/20212.259 %23.36Greece09/08/20213.9613 %26.53Italy13/08/202124.8913 %175.54Latvia10/09/20210.2413 %1.59Luxembourg03/08/20210.0113 %0.08Lithuania17/08/20210.2913 %1.94Portugal03/08/20212.1613 %14.45Slovakia13/10/20210.8213 %5.51Slovenia17/09/20210.2313 %1.57Spain17/08/20219.0413 %60.48Total52.33367.46Source: European Commission, Press releases. European Parliament role in the scrutiny of the RRF

The European Parliament is not directly involved in the assessment of the national plans or adoption of the implementing decisions that authorise the financial contributions to the Member States. Those roles belong to the European Commission and the Council respectively. However, based on the provisions of the RRF Regulation (in particular Articles 25 and 26) and the Interinstitutional Agreement on cooperation on budgetary matters, the Parliament can scrutinise the work of the Commission. Special fora have been set up to assist the European Parliament in the execution of its role.

Interinstitutional cooperation
  • Interinstitutional meetings on the implementation of Next Generation EU (based on the Interinstitutional Agreement, Annex I, part H). These meetings include representatives of the Parliament, Council and Commission, and should take place at least three times a year (meetings took place on 29 April, 15 July and 14 October 2021). They are not open to the public.
  • Recovery and resilience dialogue with the European Commission (based on Article 26 of the RRF Regulation). These meetings should take place every two months, are open to the public and live-streamed by the European Parliament (three meetings have taken place so far, on 10 May, 14 July and 1 September 2021)
Parliament’s internal cooperation:
  • The two main committees dealing with the topic are the Committee on Budgets (BUDG) and the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON), but many others are involved in the discussions on different aspects of the RRF. Their meetings are open to the public and live-streamed.
  • The Standing Working Group (BUDG and ECON) on scrutiny of the RRF (based on the Conference of Presidents decision of 4 March 2021) serves as a preparatory and follow-up forum for the bi-monthly recovery and resilience dialogue. It consists of 27 Members of BUDG, ECON and associated committees, nominated by the political groups. Meetings are not open to the public.
Plenary debates and resolutions

In addition, the Parliament regularly debates the topic during plenary sessions. It has also adopted resolutions concerning the implementation process:

  • 11 March 2021 – Plenary debate on respecting the partnership principle in the preparation and implementation of national recovery and resilience plans, and ensuring good governance of the spending.
  • 18 May 2021 – Plenary debate on the right of information regarding the ongoing assessment of the national recovery and resilience plans.
  • 20 May 2021 – Resolution on the right of information regarding the ongoing assessment of the national recovery and resilience plans.
  • 8 June 2021 – Plenary debate on European Parliament’s scrutiny on the ongoing assessment by the Commission and the Council of the national recovery and resilience plans.
  • 10 June 2021 – Resolution on the views of the Parliament on the ongoing assessment by the Commission and the Council of the national recovery and resilience plans.
  • 6 October 2021 – Plenary debate on state of play on the submitted RRF recovery plans awaiting approval.
(4) How are the other programmes financed under the Next Generation EU implemented? Regional development REACT-EU

Financial planning (commitments, current prices, billion):

 20212022TotalREACT-EU39 79510 82450 620    Source: European Commission, 2021

European Commission website on the implementation of REACT-EU

Rural development

Financial planning (commitments, current prices, € billion):

 20212022TotalRural development2 3885 6388 070    Source: European Commission, 2021

NGEU-rural development pre-allocation per country: see the European Commission data.

Just Transition Fund

Financial planning (commitments, current prices, € billion):

 202120222023TotalJust Transition Fund2 1224 3304 41610 868     Source: European Commission, 2021

NGEU-JTF pre-allocation per country: see the European Commission data.

See also the EPRS animated infographic on the Just Transition Fund

Horizon Europe

Financial planning (commitments, current prices, € billion):

 202120222023TotalHorizon Europe1 8041 7861 8225 412     Source: European Commission, 2021 RescEU

Financial planning (commitments, current prices, € billion):

 202120222023TotalRescEU6866796922 056     Source: European Commission, 2021 InvestEU

Financial planning (commitments, current prices, € billion):

 202120222023TotalInvestEU1 7831 8182 4736 074     Source: European Commission, 2021 (5) Key EPRS publications Legislative trains (6) Other sources of information

Useful links on Member States’ national recovery and resilience programmes

 National recovery and resilience planRequested amounts (COM press release)Implementing decision (ID)Commission assessment of the national plan (annex to ID)Commission staff working documents (SWD) – analysis of the national planBelgium (BE)BEBEBEBEBEBulgaria (BG)BG    Czechia (CZ)CZCZCZCZCZDenmark (DK)DKDKDKDKDKGermany (DE)DEDEDEDEDEEstonia (EE)EEEEEEEEEEIreland (IE)IEIEIEIEIEGreece (EL)ELELELELELSpain (ES)ESESESESESFrance (FR)FRFRFRFRFRCroatia (HR)HRHRHRHRHRItaly (IT)ITITITITITCyprus (CY)CYCYCYCYCYLatvia (LV)LVLVLVLVLVLithuania (LT)LTLTLTLTLTLuxembourg (LU)LULULULULUHungary (HU)HUHU   Malta (MT)MTMTMTMTMTNetherlands (NL)     Austria (AT)ATATATATATPoland (PL)PLPL   Portugal (PT)PTPTPTPTPTRomania (RO)ROROROROROSlovenia (SI)SISISISISISlovakia (SK)SKSKSKSKSKFinland (FI)FIFIFIFIFISweden (SE)SESE   

European Commission on Recovery and Resilience Facility

Council of the EU on the recovery plan for Europe

European Commission expert group on the RRF

EUROSTAT European statistical recovery dashboard – Eurostat user-friendly presentation of 23 indicators for monitoring the recovery (updated monthly)

First recovery and resilience dialogue with the European Commission, Economic Governance Support Unit, European Parliament, May 2021.

Examples of recovery trackers:

CEPS – Recovery and Resilience Reflection Group

Algebris Investments

Greenrecoverytracker.org

Bruegel dataset on the recovery and resilience plans

ZOE institute for future-fit economies

Track the recovery – US example

Categories: European Union

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing: The optimist of the European integration process

Wed, 12/01/2021 - 08:30

Written by Philippe Perchoc.

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was one of Europe’s leading figures in the generation which came after that of the founding fathers. He was close to Jean Monnet, but he himself said that his main source of inspiration was Robert Schuman. For both Schuman and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, their relationship with Germany was a thread running through their lives.

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was born in Koblenz, Germany, where his father had been posted in the French administration after the First World War. Giscard d’Estaing was involved in the liberation of Paris at a very young age and then in military operations at the end of the Second World War. After studying engineering, he chose a career in public administration, going on to be an economic adviser in various post-war French governments.

He was later elected as an MP in Auvergne, where his family had roots, and was then appointed Secretary of State for Finance at the very young age of 32. He held various ministerial positions in this field, moving in European circles and spending time with colleagues from other European Community Member States. Elected French President in 1974, he favoured a policy of economic and social liberalism. His main accomplishments came in the areas of women’s, young people’s and disabled persons’ rights. At international level, he drew on the support of the German Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, to develop political and monetary initiatives.

Defeated in the 1981 elections, he continued his political career at regional, national and European level. He carried on working to bring about monetary union and develop the Franco-German partnership, before chairing the Convention on the Future of Europe, which culminated in the drafting of the Constitutional Treaty. Despite his disappointment at the rejection of that treaty, he continued to serve Europe until the end of his life.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Valéry Giscard d’Estaing: The optimist of the European integration process‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

World AIDS Day 2021: 1 December

Tue, 11/30/2021 - 18:00

Written by Laurence Amand-Eeckhout.

World AIDS Day, proclaimed by the United Nations in 1988, takes place each year on 1 December. It aims at raising awareness, fighting prejudice, encouraging progress in prevention, and improving treatment around the world. Although the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is preventable, significant HIV transmission remains a challenge to EU Member States’ health systems. This year’s theme ‘End inequalities. End AIDS.’ underlines the urgent need to tackle economic, social and cultural inequalities in order to end AIDS by 2030.

Background

Attacking the body’s immune system (the white blood cells or ‘CD4 cells’), HIV weakens its defence against other infections and diseases, including tuberculosis and some types of cancer (such as lymphomas and Kaposi’s sarcoma). The most advanced stage of HIV infection (with a CD4 count below 200) is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Found in a variety of body fluids, such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk, HIV can be transmitted through sex, blood transfusion, the sharing of contaminated needles and between mother and child during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding. People who are at high risk of getting HIV can take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medicine to reduce the risk of infection. People diagnosed with HIV and treated early can now expect to live a normal lifespan. Infections can be treated to prevent progression to AIDS by decreasing viral load in an infected body (antiretroviral therapy, ‘ART’). However ART does not cure HIV infection and there is no vaccine.

There is some evidence that people living with HIV experience more severe outcomes and have higher comorbidities from Covid‑19. Moreover the coronavirus pandemic had indirect effects as, in some countries, lockdowns or other restrictions disrupted HIV or AIDS testing or treatment services.

The United Nations (UN) Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is leading the global effort to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN in 2015 (Goal 3). UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO).

On World AIDS Day 2021, the WHO’s four main messages to global decision-makers are: re-commit to end HIV, as the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic require a renewed effort to address this public health threat by 2030; tackle HIV and Covid‑19 together, by confronting the special challenges presented by the Covid‑19 pandemic for people living with HIV; focus on equality to ensure that everyone, everywhere, has equal access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care, including Covid‑19 vaccination; concentrate on those left behind, to include the diverse groups of people being marginalised in each country. Facts and figures

UNAIDS data show that, in 2020, 1.5 million people contracted HIV, 37.7 million people were living with HIV and nearly 700 000 people died of AIDS-related causes.

According to the 2020 report on ‘HIV/AIDS surveillance in Europe’ (2019 data), published jointly by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the WHO Regional Office for Europe, HIV affects more than 2 million people in the European region (as defined by WHO), particularly in the east. In 2019, 25 000 people were diagnosed with HIV in the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA), with more men than women as in previous years. It is estimated that about 120 000 people are living with undiagnosed HIV in the EU/EEA, implying that about one in seven of those living with HIV are not aware of their status. The number of AIDS-related deaths reported in the EU has more than halved in the past decade.

EU action on HIV/AIDS

EU Member States are responsible for their own healthcare policies and systems. However, according to Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the EU complements national policies while also fostering cooperation between Member States. In the EU, HIV/AIDS policy focuses on prevention and on supporting people living with the disease.

The European Commission has mobilised measures and instruments across several policy areas in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This includes support to Member States to help them to reach the global objective under target 3 of the UN SDGs, to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. In that context, the Commission facilitates the exchange of best practices through the Health Security Committee, as well as dedicated networks on the EU Health Policy Platform. The new 2021‑2027 EU4Health programme supports actions to address the consequences for mental health on patients suffering from cancer and other vulnerable situations, including people living with HIV/AIDS. The Commission’s work programme for 2021 encourages the development of community-based services, the setting-up of Union-wide networks and the design of tools/guides for community-based services (notably prevention towards hard-to-reach populations and early diagnosis). Since the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the EU has significantly invested in HIV/AIDS research. Horizon 2020 and the 2021‑2027 Horizon Europe programme support research ranging from basic research to the development and testing of new treatments, new vaccine and microbicide candidates, and novel diagnostic tools.

On the world stage, the EU supports the Global Fund against AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (in 2019, the EU pledged €550 million for 2020‑2022).

In its May 2021 resolution on accelerating progress and tackling inequalities towards ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, the European Parliament calls on the Commission to address AIDS as a global public health crisis, to prioritise health as part of the EU-Africa strategy, to work with Member States and partners to invest in community engagement and community-led responses as key components in the fight against HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination, as well as to integrate HIV prevention and care with other local healthcare service offers, as an entry point for HIV information, education, communication and training. Challenges

Despite the progress made, communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS are examples of epidemics that pose significant public health and economic challenges and require a multi-sectoral approach and multi-level cooperation. Progress needs to be made in terms of diagnosis, which often comes too late. According to ECDC, in Europe, every second HIV diagnosis (53 %) happens at a late stage of infection, when the immune system has already started to fail. Delayed treatment can also lead to the spread of HIV infection to others.

Better prevention tools (awareness-raising, PrEp, needle exchange programmes, promotion of safer sex) are crucial, in particular for people who are reluctant to use health services. The fear of discrimination and stigmatisation can reduce the incentive to take an HIV test (HIV self-testing and community-based HIV testing can help). On 4 November 2021, ECDC announced the launch of a survey to gather information on stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV in Europe and central Asia.

Research and innovative solutions are required to find an effective prophylactic vaccine and therapeutic HIV vaccines or cure, to fight the threat of HIV drug resistance, and to improve the quality of life for those living with the disease, including long-term management of patients.

HIV infection has become a manageable chronic health condition. However many people living with HIV face inequalities. In addition to the prospect of reduced quality of life and poorer health outcomes than the rest of population, many of them are economically disadvantaged, have lower levels of education and do not have rapid access to quality treatment and care. In 2020, 65 % of new adult HIV infections globally were among key affected populations and their partners, including sex workers, people who inject drugs, prisoners, transgender people, gay men and other men who have sex with men (these populations accounted for 96 % of new HIV infections in western and central Europe). These key populations are most at risk but are sometimes more difficult to reach. The UNAIDS 2021‑2026 Global AIDS Strategy underlines the need for a new approach that reduces the inequalities that drive the AIDS epidemic and puts people at its centre, involving communities, and prioritising human rights, respect, and dignity.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘World AIDS Day 2021: 1 December‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

Prospects for EU economic recovery [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Tue, 11/30/2021 - 14:00

Written by Marcin Grajewski.

Uncertainty is growing over the recovery of the European economy from the recession generated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The European Commission has painted an optimistic growth scenario in its most recent forecast, with the economy expected to expand by 5 per cent and 4.3 per cent in 2021 and 2022 respectively. However, an increasing number of analysts see the potential for growth dampened by new restrictions in the run-up to Christmas this year given a fourth/fifth wave of the pandemic currently gripping Europe, compounded by the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus. Higher inflation, partly resulting from high energy prices and disrupted supply chains, is also seen as a threat to the economy of the euro area and the wider EU, as are high public debt levels in many countries.

This note gathers links to recent publications and commentaries from many international think tanks on the state of the European economy and on debates on how to reform it.

How robust is the EU recovery?
Centre for European Policy Studies, November 2021

A transatlantic divide? Transitory inflation in Europe but persistent in the US
Centre for European Policy Studies, November 2021

Rethinking EU economic governance: The Stability and Growth Pact
European Policy Centre, November 2021

Why the EU’s recovery fund should be permanent
Centre for European Reform, November 2021

Instruments of a strategic foreign economic policy
Bruegel, Kiel Institute for the World Economy, DIW Berlin, November 2021

Including home-ownership costs in the inflation indicator is not just a technical issue
Bruegel, November 2021

Fiscal arithmetic and risk of sovereign insolvency
Bruegel, November 2021

Next Generation EU borrowing: A first assessment
Bruegel, November 2021

The new euro area inflation indicator and target: The right reset?
Bruegel, November 2021

Does money growth tell us anything about inflation?
Bruegel, November 2021

Growth and inflation after the pandemic in the EU
Bruegel, November 2021

Is the risk of stagflation real?
Bruegel, November 2021

Covid-19 financial aid and productivity: Has support been well spent?
Bruegel, November 2021

Zu den Verteilungseffekten der derzeit hohen Inflationsraten
Ifo Berlin, November 2021

Rethinking EU economic governance: The Stability and Growth Pact
European Policy Centre, November 2021

How can the CMU and Banking Union contribute to European sovereignty and economic recovery?
Confrontations Europe, November 2021

Reinventing the European banking sector
Institut Montaigne, November 2021

Supply chain disruptions: The risks and consequences
Rand Corporation, November 2021

How Germany’s coalition negotiations could change the EU’s political landscape
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, November 2021

Keynesian supply shocks and Hayekian secondary deflations
Ludwig von Mises Institute, November 2021

Don’t let up: The EU needs to maintain high standards for its banking sector as the European economy emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic
Bruegel, October 2021

Germany’s post-pandemic current account surplus
Bruegel, October 2021

The European energy price spike: Overcoming the fossil fuel crisis
Jacques Delors Institute, October 2021

Why have Europe’s energy prices spiked and what can the EU do about them?
Centre for European Reform, October 2021

Rising energy prices: What European solutions?
Fondation Robert Schuman, October 2021

The consequences of ‘modern monetary theory’
Confrontations Europe, October 2021

Purchasing power suffers from inflation such as ketchup and toothpaste
Itinera, October 2021

Inflation in the euro area: Factors mostly have only a temporary effect, but risk of prolonged elevated inflation remains
DIW, October 2021

The effects of natural disasters on price stability in the euro area
DIW, October 2021

Fiscal rules in a post-Covid brave new world: No need to sprint
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2021

Climate action and Europe’s fiscal debate: Politics and possibilities
E3G, October 2021

Joint Economic Forecast Autumn 2021: Crisis is gradually being overcome – align action with lower growth
Ifo, September 2021

Ifo Economic Forecast Autumn 2021: Supply bottlenecks in manufacturing slow overall economic recovery
Ifo, September 2021

Monetary arithmetic and inflation risk
Bruegel, September 2021

Remote work, EU labour markets and wage inequality
Bruegel, September 2021

The pandemic’s uncertain impact on productivity
Bruegel, September 2021

Brexit and European finance: Prolonged limbo
Bruegel, September 2021

Can climate change be tackled without ditching economic growth?
Bruegel, September 2021

Euroraum im Herbst 2021
Institut für Weltwirtschaft Kiel, September 2021

Arbeitsintensive Unternehmen sind ein Katalysator für Geldpolitik und ihre Verteilungseffekte
DIW, September 2021

A revised European Semester under centralised management: The risk of overlooking social policy
Egmont, September 2021

EU employment dynamics: The pandemic years and beyond
European Trade Union Institute, September 2021

Options for inclusive post-pandemic labour markets
Migration Policy Institute, September 2021

The rising cost of housing
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2021

Europe shouldn’t worry about inflation
Centre for European Reform, July 2021

Will European Union recovery spending be enough to fill digital investment gaps?
Bruegel, July 2021

Recovery and resilience: A first assessment
Lisbon Council, July 2021

Reforming the European Stability Mechanism: Too much but never enough
Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, July 2021

How can a reform of the Stability and Growth Pact foster sound fiscal policies?
Centre for European Policy, June 2021

Read this briefing on ‘Prospects for EU economic recovery‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

European Commission Work Programme for 2022

Tue, 11/30/2021 - 08:30

Written by Nora Hahnkamper-Vandenbulcke and Stefano Vettorazzi.

This briefing is intended as a background overview for parliamentary committees (and their respective secretariats) planning their activities in relation to the European Commission work programme for 2022, adopted on 19 October 2021.

Since March 2020, the European Union – and the world – has been significantly affected by the outbreak of the Covid‑19 pandemic. To reinforce public health sectors and mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, the European Union has adopted a wide range of measures in areas such as health, economy, research, borders and mobility. Moreover, under the Union’s long-term budget for 2021‑2027 and the Next Generation EU instrument, including the Recovery and Resilience Facility, €2 018 trillion has been mobilised to support the recovery.

In the past two years, the Covid‑19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on the Commission’s work programmes. While the original 2020 work programme was published in October 2019, due to the pandemic, the Commission presented an adjusted 2020 programme in May 2020, focusing on protecting the lives and livelihoods of EU citizens. According to the 2021 work programme, more than 800 previously unplanned measures were thus taken in the first months of the pandemic. While the 2021 programme also included action to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, it announced a shift from strategy to delivery, with the aim of delivering on the Commission’s six headline ambitions to accelerate the transition towards a fairer, healthier, greener and more digital society.

The Commission’s 2022 work programme, entitled ‘Making Europe stronger together’, perpetuates the 2021 programme’s twofold ambition (i.e. to recover from the pandemic and to boost the Commission’s transformative agenda). However, in line with its title, special emphasis is placed on helping the Union emerge stronger and more resilient. This should be achieved by implementing the measures agreed over the last year, as well as through additional investment and reform to ‘accelerate the twin green and digital transitions, and build a fairer, more resilient and more cohesive society’. In its 2022 programme, the Commission also wishes to pay particular attention to the younger generation, proposing a ‘European Year of Youth 2022’ and presenting a youth action plan in European Union external action.

Annexes I and II of the 2022 work programme set out 68 legislative and non-legislative initiatives to be presented by the Commission in 2022. Even if the number of legislative initiatives (45) – which are the focus of this briefing – is lower by far than the 82 legislative initiatives envisaged under the 2021 programme, it nevertheless outnumbers the 37 initiatives planned under the original 2020 programme.

Categories: European Union

A common charger for electronic devices: Revision of the Radio Equipment Directive [EU Legislation in Progress]

Mon, 11/29/2021 - 18:00

Written by Nikolina Šajn (1st edition).

On 23 September 2021, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal to amend the 2014 Radio Equipment Directive, as a first step towards mandating a common charger for mobile phones and other small portable devices. Under the proposal, these devices would have to be equipped with a USB Type-C receptacle that can be charged with cables compatible with USB Type‑C, and to incorporate the USB Power Delivery communication protocol. The proposal would go hand in hand with an initiative on the eco-design of external power supplies, so that the receptacle and the communication protocol for both ends of charger cables would be harmonised.

The European Parliament has long been in favour of harmonising chargers for mobile phones and other small portable devices, and has in recent years called on the Commission to act urgently. Associations representing consumers have welcomed the Commission proposal and called for the final act to also include wireless charging, while organisations representing businesses are more likely to favour a voluntary approach, warning that harmonisation would stifle innovation.

Versions
  • November 2021: A common charger for electronic devices: Revision of the Radio Equipment Directive (1st edition)
Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2014/53/EU on the harmonisation of the laws of the Member States relating to the making available on the market of radio equipment Committee responsible:Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO)COM(2021) 547
23.9.2021Rapporteur:Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, Malta)2021/0291(COD)Shadow rapporteurs:Andrey Kovatchev (EPP, Bulgaria)
Liesje Schreinemacher (Renew, The Netherlands)
Anna Cavazzini (Greens/EFA, Germany)
Marco Campomenosi (ID, Italy)
Evžen Tošenovský (ECR, Czechia)
Kateřina Konečná (The Left, Czechia)Ordinary legislative procedure (COD)
(Parliament and Council on equal footing – formerly ‘co-decision’) Next steps expected: Publication of draft report
Categories: European Union

Citizens’ enquiries on the Egyptian Government’s planned settlement agreement with Euroclear

Mon, 11/29/2021 - 14:00

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 European Parliament has recently received a large number of messages which express concern at a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2019 between the Egyptian government and Euroclear, a financial services company. Citizens first began to write to the European Parliament on this subject in November 2021, often also addressing their complaints to Euroclear. The messages criticised the planned settlement agreement as violating the Egyptian constitution.

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

Main points made in the reply in English

We understand that you are referring to a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2019 between the Egyptian government and Euroclear Bank, intended to facilitate international investment in Egyptian domestic debt instruments.

We would like to draw your attention to the fact that, despite its name, Euroclear is a Belgium-based financial services company and not an institution of the European Union.

According to European Union (EU) law, the European Parliament is not authorised to intervene in matters that are the responsibility of national authorities of EU countries or of non-EU countries, such as Egypt. For these reasons, please understand that we are not in a position to provide further assistance on this matter.

Categories: European Union

Strategic Compass: Towards adoption

Fri, 11/26/2021 - 18:00

Written by Elena Lazarou.

On 15 November 2021, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission (HR/VP) Josep Borrell presented the draft European Union (EU) ‘Strategic Compass’. Amidst geopolitical competition, rising threats, accelerated technological development, climate crisis and global instability, the compass aims to facilitate a ‘common sense of purpose’ in Union security and defence, strengthen action, deepen partnerships, and stimulate innovation. On 30 November 2021, Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) will hold an exchange of views on the state of play of the Strategic Compass.

Background

In November 2021, in a joint session of EU foreign affairs and defence ministers, the Council held an exchange on the first draft of the Strategic Compass, the product of work to streamline and boost the EU’s security and defence policy, under way since the start of the German Council Presidency in July 2020. The document, intended to provide political-strategic guidance for the next 5 to 10 years, received broad support from ministers, who committed to working towards adoption of the final compass in March 2022. Key messages from the Council and the HR/VP include widespread support for the capability resilience and partnership approach reflected in the draft compass, as well as an emphasis on complementarity with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). According to the media and leaked versions of the document, the compass focuses on boosting operational capacity while outlining strategic domains – such as outer space, maritime presence, and cyberspace – to enhance EU resilience, capabilities and ties with partners. It lists concrete deliverables for the short (2022) and medium terms (2025) across the compass’s four baskets (capabilities, crisis management, resilience, partnerships).

Incentivising action with flexibility

The Strategic Compass highlights that the EU needs ‘more rapidity, robustness and flexibility’ to undertake a full range of civilian-military actions. It proposes that an EU rapid deployment capacity is established, which would embody a ‘modular force of up to 5 000 troops’ by 2025. Building on the contested yet-to-be deployed EU battlegroups, the new force should be made up of land, sea and air components. By 2023, the compass envisages live exercises and additional deployment of civilian common security and defence policy (CSDP) missions, making 200 experts available within 30 days. The Military Planning and Conduct Capability (set up in 2017) would also be able to plan the EU’s non-executive military missions. The draft proposes strengthened support between CSDP missions and ad hoc coalitions. European Union Naval Force Somalia (EUNAVFOR) Atalanta and EU Training Mission (EUTM) Mali would be amongst the first missions to form these operational links by 2022. It further asserts greater space for ‘flexible modalities for the implementation of Art. 44 TEU ‘that enables the Council to entrust implementation of CSDP tasks to a group of willing Member States’. Invoking this ‘flexibility mechanism’ is perceived as encouraging states’ involvement and expediting the speed of deployments. The use of constructive abstention (Art. 31 TEU) whereby states who neither support nor object to an action, have a ‘way out’ of the decision-making process without blocking the initiative, is also mentioned. During a SEDE hearing on 15 November 2021, Chair of the EU Military Committee, Claudio Graziano, clarified that the decision to deploy these forces would be taken by unanimity, and in the subsequent stages by the contributing Member States. Experts note that sustained political engagement will be crucial for delivering on these ambitions.

Capability development and resources: Investing in EU defence

The draft compass commits the EU to revising its defence capability planning, including the headline goal process, by 2023. In consultation with the European Commission and the European Defence Agency (EDA), the HR/VP will also provide the European Council with an annual progress report while the threat analysis is to be revisited at least every five years to ensure its continued relevance. ‘Strategic enablers’, i.e. the equipment required for conducting expeditionary operations, are a strategic priority. These include surveillance capabilities, defence systems and space communication to preserve EU access to strategic domains. Several enablers, such as the future combat air system and the main ground combat system are already under way, albeit coordinated outside the EU structures. The HR/VP urges states to supply ‘associated assets and the necessary strategic enablers’ so that the compass does not remain a ‘paper tiger’, a concern reportedly expressed by certain Member States. The German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), a think-tank, has proposed using the interlinkages between the draft compass, and the existing initiatives (e.g. high impact capability goals and capability development plan). In addition, the draft sets 2023 as a benchmark for reassessment of the scope of common costs, while encouraging regular increases in defence budgets. While making use of the European Defence Fund, additional investment in innovation, and research and technology are also envisaged. It is noted that greater investment in European innovation reduces dependencies on third parties and secures critical supply chains. However, the gradual increase in defence spending observed between 2014 and 2019 is likely to be affected by the economic impact of Covid‑19, which has shifted Member States’ priorities, contributing to decreased funding for defence instruments under the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework. With limited buy-in, persistent capability gaps, and pandemic-affected economies, some have argued that the ‘Strategic Compass could end up as an unaffordable wish list’, signalling caution to Member States.

Partnerships Mutual defence and assistance
With regard to the mutual defence clause in the Treaty of Lisbon (Art. 42(7) TEU) the draft Strategic Compass envisions strengthened mutual assistance via frequent exercises, which could also entail the cyber domain, from 2022 onwards. This resonates with expert views, e.g. the Egmont Institute and Clingendael, which have argued in favour of an expansion of the use of the clause to also apply to non-military forms of subversion, embodied in some hybrid threats. DGAP has also suggested that the assistance should be of a more binding nature. On 29 November 2021, SEDE will hold a public hearing on Article 42(7), with a briefing from the EEAS on an EU-level exercise on that article.

The draft compass maintains that the transatlantic bond forms a cornerstone of EU security and defence, supporting the establishment of a dedicated EU‑United States Security and Defence Dialogue by 2022 and more frequent information exchanges between the North Atlantic Council and the EU Political and Security Committee. The 2021 NATO Brussels Declaration reiterates the necessity to ‘intensify further [our] consultations and cooperation’ with the EU. Consequently, mutual security concerns should drive joint inclusive exercises to advance Euro-Atlantic security. Importantly, the document proposes the creation of the rapid deployment capacity and the rapid hybrid response teams, in line with NATO’s standards. The overall responsiveness to challenges would be strengthened through cooperation with like-minded states, such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Norway, with the latter two already invited to participate in the military mobility project. The draft proposes collaboration with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), United Nations (UN) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on, for example, early warning and conflict prevention – mechanisms which also bolster resilience.

Strategic culture

The draft document defines strategic culture as a shared perception of threats and a common strategic vision. The joint threat analysis (to be carried out periodically) is seen as a building block for a single strategic culture, a point also made in the conclusions of the CARD 2020, report, which links the forging of a common security and defence culture to the EU’s ability to address differing threat perceptions. Experts caution that the concept is largely ‘elusive’, albeit an essential feature of defence; they note Member States are likely to continue prioritising threats vital to their own national interests. Some proposals see the compass process as a way to create sub-groups of Member States, based on their overlapping threat perceptions.

European Parliament position On 15 November 2021, the SEDE subcommittee held an exchange of views with General Claudio Graziano, Chair of the EU Military Committee, incorporating an extensive discussion of the proposed EU rapid deployment capacity. Since the summer of 2020, SEDE has held numerous hearings on the ‘four baskets‘. The draft annual European Parliament report on the implementation of the CSDP (rapporteur: Nathalie Loiseau, Renew, France) makes extensive reference to the Strategic Compass process and to Parliament’s expectations for it to deliver.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Strategic Compass: Towards adoption‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament

Categories: European Union

Plenary round-up – November II 2021

Fri, 11/26/2021 - 14:00

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson.

Due to the deteriorating Covid‑19 situation, the November II plenary session in Strasbourg was again organised with the possibility for Members to vote remotely. Parliament debated a number of Council and European Commission statements, including on: coordination of Member States’ coronavirus measures; police violence against Roma people; preparation of the 12th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference; state of the Energy Union; a European action plan against rare diseases; and on international port congestion and increased transport costs. Members also debated the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 21‑22 October 2021, and heard Council and Commission statements on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Parliament adopted several resolutions and legislative acts, inter alia on a European strategy for critical raw materials, EU sports policy, and on a pharmaceutical strategy for Europe.

Situation in Belarus

Prior to an address by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarusian opposition leader, to a formal sitting of Parliament, Members heard Commission and Council statements on the situation in Belarus, with President Sassoli condemning the security and humanitarian consequences of the instrumentalisation of migrants by Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s Belarussian regime.

Common agricultural policy (CAP)

One of the main ways in which the EU spends its budget remains the common agricultural policy (CAP). Following a joint debate, Members adopted an agreement reached (after lengthy negotiations between the co-legislators) on three proposals to reform EU farm policy for the new budgetary period – the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF). Given the time taken to reach these agreements, the new reforms should come into effect on 1 January 2023, with a temporary extension currently in place for 2021 and 2022 spending. The first file concerns the new requirement for each EU Member State to draw up a CAP strategic plan, setting out exactly how they will use the CAP to support farmers, and market and rural development. This new delivery model should provide greater flexibility and subsidiarity, and is expected to better align CAP spending with EU environmental and climate priorities. Members then adopted an agreement on the CAP horizontal regulation on financing, management and monitoring rules that reflects Parliament’s desire for a stronger crisis reserve and a clearer division of tasks in the governance system. Finally, Members agreed a compromise reached on reform of the common market organisation in agriculture, which governs production of and trade in agricultural products, where Parliament has ensured the reform leads to a more agile agricultural market and protects our natural resources.

European Union’s 2022 budget

Negotiations to agree the EU budget for 2022 took place in a very dynamic context, with the urgent need to tackle the Covid‑19 pandemic, climate change and humanitarian crises uppermost in negotiators’ minds. Members debated and then adopted the provisional agreement reached between the co‑legislators during recent budgetary conciliation. Parliament has insisted that funding should be boosted for the top priorities for 2022 spending: the coronavirus recovery and the green and digital transitions, focusing on groups hard-hit by the pandemic such as small businesses and young people. Parliament also supports stronger health measures, including for the COVAX programme, as well as spending on security, migration, asylum and integration, fundamental rights and Union values.

Outcome of COP26 in Glasgow

Members heard and debated Commission and Council statements on the outcome of the 26th Conference of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26). With countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDC) ahead of the event leading to an estimated 2.7°C warming towards the end of the century, the host, the United Kingdom, set the goal to keep a limit of 1.5°C warming within reach. Members were divided on the success of the conference, although it was largely regarded as an important step in the right direction. However, Members also called for more ambition from EU and non-EU countries (particularly China).

Revision of the Financial Regulation

The EU Financial Regulation, which governs the establishment, implementation and scrutiny of the EU budget, needs to be updated to ensure good governance of the funding made available under the new MFF and the Next Generation EU fund. Members debated and adopted an own-initiative resolution anticipating the European Commission’s forthcoming proposal for an update to the Financial Regulation. The report calls for modernised budgetary rules that fully reflect EU values (e.g. on the rule of law, on climate impacts and on gender). It also underlines the need to increase transparency and democratic accountability by ensuring information about recipients of EU funding is made public and, importantly, that the Parliament’s role in scrutinising expenditure is respected. This is considered particularly important when managing crises or when ‘off-budget instruments’ are established.

Legal migration policy and law

Members adopted a legislative-initiative resolution, based on a Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee report, calling for a package of amendments to current EU legal migration policy and law, to make it easier for non-EU citizens who migrate legally to the EU to find employment. While the EU has already taken measures to allow highly qualified non-EU citizens to take up employment in the EU, a gap remains, as labour markets need low- and medium-skilled workers.

Digitalisation of reporting, monitoring and audit of EU spending

The variety of different reporting systems used by EU governments (over 290) unnecessarily complicates the vital task of scrutinising EU spending to ensure citizens’ interests are respected. Members adopted a legislative-initiative resolution, following a Budgetary Control (CONT) Committee report, calling for digitalisation to streamline the reporting, monitoring and auditing of EU spending. The resolution demands that an integrated and interoperable electronic information and monitoring system is set up before the end of 2021, to collect, monitor and analyse information about recipients of EU funding in all Member States.

International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) is the first instrument in Europe to set legally binding standards specifically to prevent gender-based violence, protect victims of violence and punish perpetrators. The EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention is a priority under the EU 2020-2025 gender equality strategy. The EU signed the Convention in June 2017. Accession now requires a Council Decision and prior consent by the European Parliament. Parliament adopted an interim resolution in September 2017 and continues to review progress. On the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November), Parliament held a debate on the Commission’s statement on the state of play on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.

Opening of trilogue negotiations

Members confirmed, without vote, a mandate for negotiations from the Culture and Education (CULT) Committee on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on a European Year of Youth 2022. An Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) Committee mandate for negotiations on the proposal for a directive on the adequate minimum wages in the EU was also approved by a vote in plenary.

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

Categories: European Union

Resilience of global supply chains: Challenges and solutions

Fri, 11/26/2021 - 08:30

Written by Marcin Szczepański.

The growing importance of global supply chains has fundamentally changed the way the global economy and goods manufacturing are organised. While trade conducted through global supply chains has fallen somewhat as a share of total trade since the 2008-2010 global financial and economic crisis, more than two-thirds of international trade still involves transactions made possible by such chains. The EU is profoundly involved in these production chains, more so than most other countries, and significantly more than both the United States and China.

The pandemic disrupted many supply chains at its outbreak, and the subsequent economic recovery, the strongest on record, led to enormous further strain on the global supply system; surging demand, coupled with shortages of workers, ships, containers, air cargo space and clogged ports, created a ‘perfect storm’. Supply chain bottlenecks are starting to weigh on the economic recovery, slowing growth and leading to delays, holding back the manufacturing sector and fuelling inflation.

The EU had recognised its strategic dependence on some foreign inputs even before the pandemic, and had started to seek ways to increase its autonomy – a quest which has been accelerated by the impact of the coronavirus. To improve the resilience of supply chains, the EU is applying a policy mix that aims to increase domestic capacity, diversify suppliers and support the multilateral rules-based trade environment; it has also enhanced its cooperation with the US on supply chains. Other like-minded countries apply a similar policy mix, focusing on supporting reshoring or nearshoring.

While this situation is not ideal, global supply chains are hard to reconfigure, and increasing their resilience is a time-consuming and costly process. Moreover, most experts predict that reshoring or nearshoring will be of limited importance. With time, though, resilience may improve through international cooperation, diversification and the accelerated uptake of digital technologies.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Resilience of global supply chains: Challenges and solutions‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

Understanding EU policies for persons with disabilities

Thu, 11/25/2021 - 14:00

Written by Marie Lecerf.

Both the EU and its Member States have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and use its definition of disability as a common reference at EU level. Bearing in mind that there is no other harmonised definition of disability in the EU, and that there is a wide variety of statistical surveys in terms of questions asked and population surveyed, a complete statistical assessment of disability in the EU does not yet exist. However, the annual Eurostat statistics on income and living conditions survey reveals that, in Europe, the prevalence of disability is higher among female, older and less educated respondents. Furthermore, studies show that the coronavirus pandemic has affected people with disabilities disproportionately more than others.

The EU combats all forms of discrimination alongside and in support of its Member States. To improve the situation of disabled people, it has introduced a series of initiatives, programmes and strategies over a number of decades. The European Parliament has been highly active in the bid to end all forms of discrimination against disabled people since the start of the 1980s.

In 1997, Article 13 of the European Community Treaty, introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam, (now Article 19 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU) on the human right not to suffer from discrimination on the grounds, in particular, of disability, paved the way for a genuine disability policy. The first step in this regard was the adoption of a 2001-2006 action programme to combat discrimination. Later, the 2010-2020 European disability strategy sought to enable disabled people to exercise their rights and participate fully in society and the economy. A new 2021-2030 strategy, incorporating the lessons learned from its predecessor, seeks to ensure that all persons with disabilities in the EU, regardless of their sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, age or sexual orientation enjoy their human rights; have equal access to participation in society and the economy; are able to decide where, how and with whom they live; move freely in the EU regardless of their support needs and, no longer experience discrimination.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Understanding EU policies for persons with disabilities‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

Revising the Effort-Sharing Regulation for 2021-2030: ‘Fit for 55’ package [EU Legislation in Progress]

Thu, 11/25/2021 - 08:30

Written by Dessislava Yougova (1st edition).

The EU’s effort-sharing legislation covers greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in sectors not included in the EU emissions trading system. A wide range of sources account for these emissions, such as petrol and diesel used for road transport, energy used for heating and cooling in buildings, animal digestion and fertilisers used in agriculture, waste treatment, and small industries. To cut the emissions in these sectors, the EU effort-sharing legislation establishes binding targets and sets up annual emissions allocations for each Member State for the 2013-2020 and 2021-2030 periods. On 14 July 2021, the European Commission submitted a proposal on a regulation amending the binding annual emissions reductions by Member States from 2021 to 2030. It reviews the collective and national targets set up in the Effort-Sharing Regulation (ESR). The proposal is part of the ‘fit for 55’ package, which aims to adapt EU climate and energy legislation to the new EU objective of an at least 55 % reduction in net GHG emissions by 2030 compared to 1990, in accordance with the recent European Climate Law. In order to contribute to the new climate ambition, sectors covered by the ESR should achieve a collective reduction of 40 % in their emissions by 2030 compared to 2005.

The file has been referred to the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). Initial debates have been held and a draft report is being prepared.

Versions
  • November 2021: Revising the Effort-Sharing Regulation for 2021-2030: ‘Fit for 55’ package (1st edition)
Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) 2018/842 on binding annual greenhouse gas emission reductions by Member States from 2021 to 2030 contributing to climate action to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement Committee responsible:Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI)COM(2021)555
14.07.2021Rapporteur:Jessica Polfjärd (EPP, Sweden)2021/0200(COD)Shadow rapporteurs:Javi López (S&D, Spain)
Linea Søgaard-Lidell (Renew, Denmark) Margrete Auken (Greens/EFA, Denmark) Silvia Sardone (ID, Italy)
Anna Zalewska (ECR, Poland)
Silvia Modig (The Left, Finland)Ordinary legislative procedure (COD)
(Parliament and Council on equal footing – formerly ‘co-decision’) Next steps expected: Publication of draft report
Categories: European Union

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2021 – Getting down to the roots

Wed, 11/24/2021 - 18:00

Written by Rosamund Shreeves.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November marks the beginning of 16 days of global activism to raise awareness of this enduring violation of women’s and girl’s human rights and to share promising solutions. The end goal, symbolised by the colour orange, is to create a brighter world where all women live free from the many forms of violence perpetrated against them because they are women and from the attitudes and behaviours that allow this violence to continue. In connection with this year’s campaign, the United Nations (UN) stresses that gender-based violence against women is pervasive but not inevitable and that there are effective means of preventing and stopping it.

Once again, the backdrop to this year’s campaign is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Worldwide, it has been associated with an increase in many forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG), including domestic violence, cyber-violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), early marriage and human trafficking. Within the EU, the biggest spotlight has fallen on the rise in domestic violence, connected with lockdowns and the economic impacts of the pandemic. In 2020, comparative research for the European Parliament concluded that the pandemic has led to an increase in the prevalence and intensity of violence against women in some EU countries. This research and the European Institute for Gender Equality’s analysis of the impacts of the pandemic on intimate partner violence also find that the pandemic has created significant challenges for victim support organisations – as well as shining a harsh light on gaps in provision. Many forms of violence, including trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, have moved online, making victims even less visible and less able to ask for help and protection, as well as complicating efforts to tackle it.

At the same time, the pandemic has catalysed action. The efforts made during the pandemic illustrate what can be done with political will and resources. The Covid‑19 Global Gender Response Tracker, launched by UN Women and UNDP in September 2020, continues to monitor measures taken by governments worldwide to address violence against women and girls. It shows that the majority of EU countries have responded proactively to protect women, maintain existing services and introduce innovative ways of providing support for victims. EU Member States have shared promising measures. Some will use EU recovery funding to expand support for women who are victims of violence, including Belgium (for housing) and Spain (for hotlines).

Tackling gender-based violence – what works?

Good data is key to implementing successful prevention measures and providing survivors with the right support. In Italy, longitudinal data on calls to the national anti-violence helpline has helped to direct resources to services. It also demonstrates that information campaigns organised around the annual International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and during the pandemic have been effective in raising women’s awareness of the tools available and their ability to seek help. In Spain, policies for eradicating violence against women are based on a national survey. Since 2019, it has included detailed questions for all types of violence about who the aggressor was, whether more than one perpetrator was involved, where the violence took place, how often, what the impacts were, whether and how it was reported and how satisfied the victim was with the result. Among other things, this level of data has made it possible to identify women who are particularly vulnerable to violence. For example, it shows that women with disabilities are more likely to suffer physical or sexual violence from a partner and that for one in five (23.4 %) their disability resulted from their partner’s violence. It also shows that young women aged 16 to 24 are more likely to experience stalking and sexual harassment, while women aged over 65 are more likely to experience intimate partner violence than women who are under 65, less likely to use services and more likely to hide the violence. Intimate partner violence is also higher for women born abroad. Reliable EU-level data could provide a similar level of knowledge to inform policy. The last EU-wide survey on violence against women was conducted in 2012. Eurostat will publish the findings of the follow-up, now underway, in 2023.

A comprehensive framework of legislation for preventing violence, supporting victims and prosecuting perpetrators is another important lever. Research shows that ratification of the Istanbul Convention, which sets minimum standards in all these areas, has contributed directly to the creation of services for victims in a number of EU countries and led to improvements in prevention and prosecution. EU accession to the Convention remains one of the EU’s priorities for preventing and combating violence against women, since it could help to provide more equal protection for women across Europe against all forms of gender-based violence. However, since 2017, when the EU signed the Convention, the accession process has stalled in the Council, where Member States must reach an agreement on the proposal. In October 2021, the European Court of Justice clarified that the decision should be taken by qualified majority voting, but the Council may take more time to build support before taking a decision. In view of the delay, the European Commission is now set to propose alternative legal measures. On 12 November 2021, Helena Dalli, the European Commissioner for Equality, explained to Members of Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) and Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs (LIBE) Committees that the EU directive on violence against women to be proposed by the Commission will set standards for prevention, protection and access to justice for victims, and criminalisation of specific forms of violence against women, to the extent of EU competence. It will take a victim-centred and intersectional approach and go beyond the Istanbul Convention by addressing both online and offline forms of violence. The European Parliament has long considered that EU accession to the Istanbul Convention and an EU directive are both important initiatives that should be pursued in parallel. Another longstanding demand is for violence against women to be added to the areas of serious crime listed in the Treaties, in recognition of its severity across the Union and as a solid legal basis for a comprehensive EU directive. In September 2021, Parliament adopted an own legislative initiative resolution with recommendations to the Commission on adding gender-based violence to the existing areas of serious crime. The accompanying European added value assessment by EPRS identifies five reasons why the EU has grounds to criminalise gender-based violence, including evidence that it costs society more than the crimes already listed in Article 83(1), including corruption, organised crime and illicit drug trafficking. The EWL, Europe’s umbrella organisation for women’s organisations, is also calling for violence against women to be recognised as an area of serious crime in Article 83(1) TFEU and for an EU directive on violence against women.

Transforming the attitudes, behaviours, and social norms that lie at the root of violence against women and girls is both a vital way of preventing it and a challenge. The World Health Organization and UN Women, amongst others, stress that this is a fruitful and effective area for intervention. Their framework, RESPECT women: Preventing violence against women, provides guidelines and examples of good practices for policy-makers for working with communities and individuals – including men and boys.

What are the attitudes and norms in Europe around violence against women? In the past 20 years, the European Commission has conducted Eurobarometer surveys in 1999, 2010 and 2016. The number of EU Member States and the specific questions have varied over time. However, all the surveys have asked for people’s views on how widespread different types of violence against women are, whether they are wrong in all circumstances, and whether they are or should be against the law. The 2016 survey found that there is a need for action, particularly in some countries. The majority of respondents in every country consider that specific acts of psychological, economic and sexual violence and sexual harassment are wrong and either are already against the law or should be so. However, significant minorities did not agree. For instance, almost all respondents (96 %) found domestic violence against women unacceptable, but 12 % did not think it should always be punished by law and 15 % considered it to be a private matter that should be handled within the family. One in ten Europeans (11 %) said that forcing a partner to have sex should not be against the law. Over a quarter (27 %) considered that rape can be justified in certain circumstances, for example, if the woman went home with someone (11 %), was drunk at the time (10 %), wearing revealing or ‘sexy’ clothing (10 %), did not fight back physically (10 %), or had had multiple sexual partners in the past (7 %). Around one in five respondents held other victim-blaming views, for example that women often make up or exaggerate claims of abuse or rape (22 %), or that violence against women is often provoked by the victim (17 %). More recent national polls paint a similar picture. In Italy, a 2018 survey on gender roles, stereotypes and attitudes to sexual violence found significant levels of prejudice around sexual violence. Last year, a survey by the Czech academy of sciences found that two thirds of respondents recognise the harm that may be caused to victims of psychological and physical domestic violence, but one third do not believe that forcing unwanted sexual intercourse upon a spouse or a partner, or socially isolating them would potentially cause very serious damage. The national and European polls illustrate that there is a gap between what Europeans believe and the reality. For example, while 96 % of Europeans say that it is unacceptable, the EU wide survey on violence against women found that 22 % of women have experienced domestic violence against women. There is also a significant gender gap. In Czechia, women consider domestic violence to be a more serious problem than men. The 2016 EU poll found that even in the youngest age groups, girls were more likely than boys to speak about gender-based violence and consider that it should be illegal.

The EU Gender Equality Strategy for 2020-2025 recognises that there is considerable work to do to address sexist perceptions about gender-based violence. It identifies educating boys and girls about gender equality from an early age and supporting the development of non-violent relationships as a key part of an effective policy for preventing violence against women and girls. Action planned by the European Commission includes exchanges of good practice and funding for violence prevention focusing on men, boys and masculinities. Funding of €4 224 700 has recently been announced for projects in this area. These will build on existing EU-funded initiatives, such as work with perpetrators to prevent violence against women, which has issued guidelines for working with men to challenge cyberviolence and published examples of examples of best practices.

Parliament will hear an update on progress towards EU accession to the Istanbul Convention and hold a debate on violence against women at its plenary session on 25 November 2021. A number of its male Members have been ambassadors for the White Ribbon Campaign for male allies against gender-based violence.

Related EPRS publications Events for this year’s international day: At the UN:
  • Official UN event, Wednesday 24 November, 16.00-17.30 Brussels time. recording available. The event includes statements on the EU’s external policy on gender-based violence, including the results of the joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative.
At the European Parliament:
  • Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) workshop on Femicide as a global human rights concern: from recognition to action, Monday 6 December 2021, 16.45‑18.15, Brussels, Paul Henri Spaak building, room 1A002 / via webstreaming

In Strasbourg: In Brussels: In Luxembourg

Categories: European Union

EU-Belarus relations: State of play – Human rights situation

Tue, 11/23/2021 - 18:00

Written by Jakub Przetacznik and Martin Russell.

Over the summer and autumn of 2021, in what is increasingly viewed as a hybrid warfare tactic aimed at destabilising Europe, Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s Belarussian regime has instrumentalised migrants, manipulating the organisation of flights from the Middle East to Minsk and deliberately orchestrating migrants’ onward travel to the EU-Belarus border. With weather conditions endangering migrants’ lives, the situation has also led to serious humanitarian consequences. This activity – which many argue also aims at distracting attention from the worsening situation of freedom in the country, with attacks against independent society, journalists and electronic media users – is only the latest in a string of events underlining deteriorating EU relations with Belarus.

The Lukashenka regime has been isolated since the falsified presidential elections of August 2020, and the brutal crackdown against peacefully protesting Belarusians. Instead of embracing dialogue with the democratic opposition and wider Belarusian society, Lukashenka chose another path, involving continued brutal repression of the country’s citizens. The worsening human rights situation and hijacking of Ryanair flight FR 4978, in June 2021, provoked a response from the EU. This includes a ban on Belarusian air carriers landing in or overflying the EU, a major extension of the list of people and entities already subject to sanctions, and the introduction of sanctions on key sectors of the Belarusian economy.

The European Parliament plays an active part in shaping this EU response. Parliament does not recognise Lukashenka’s presidency and has spoken out on human rights abuses in Belarus. Awarded Parliament’s 2020 Sakharov Prize, the Belarusian democratic opposition is frequently invited to speak for the Belarusian people in the European Parliament. Following the recent developments, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya will make a formal address to the European Parliament in plenary session, on 24 November 2021.

This Briefing updates a previous edition, published in July 2021.

Read the complete briefing on ‘EU-Belarus relations: State of play – Human rights situation‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

COP26 climate change conference: Outcomes

Tue, 11/23/2021 - 14:00

Written by Liselotte Jensen.

Following prolonged talks, the 26th Conference of the Parties ended late on 13 November 2021. With countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDC) ahead of the event leading to an estimated 2.7°C warming towards the end of the century, the host, the United Kingdom, set the goal to keep a limit of 1.5°C warming within reach.

Outcomes of the conference

A main outcome of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) is the Glasgow Climate Pact, requesting leaders to revisit their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) ahead of next year’s COP27. It notes the need to reduce emissions by 45 % by 2030, from 2010 levels, to align with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C ambition. From COP27, annual ‘pre-2030 ambition’ high-level ministerial meetings are to ensure climate action in this critical decade. A work programme to deliver on the global goal for adaptation was launched. Doubling of adaptation finance levels by 2025, compared to 2019, within the annual US$100 billion climate finance pledge was also agreed. The text further specifies the need to ‘phase down’ unabated coal and phase out inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies. COP26 also delivered on its goal to finalise the Paris rulebook, which allows for operationalisation of key aspects such as international carbon markets, the agreement on emissions accounting and reporting under the Enhanced Transparency Framework, and agreed common timelines in NDC submissions (every five years with a ten-year view).

Countries representing 85 % of world forest cover promised to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. The Global Methane Pledge reached 100+ signatories, as did a clean vehicles pledge. Other commitments focused on reducing aviation and shipping emissions, while 30 countries and development banks vowed to end new public financing for unabated fossil-fuel projects by 2022. The Breakthrough Agenda will seek to deliver development and deployment of innovative technological solutions across several key sectors.

European Parliament position and role

Ahead of COP26, the European Parliament adopted its COP26 resolution at its October II plenary session, calling on world leaders to raise ambitions and for Europe to lead the way in ensuring a green global recovery and climate policies, in line with the just transition principle. The Parliament pointed to the overall need for increased climate finance, including striking a balance between mitigation and adaptation funds, to achieve the conditional aspects of NDCs. It urged a global end to fossil fuel subsidies, and pointed to the need to address specific sector challenges and potent warming gases such as methane. It called on the parties to finalise the Paris rulebook, ensuring transparency, strong environmental integrity and ambition. The Parliament previously adopted a resolution on climate diplomacy in 2018, and declared a climate and environment emergency in 2019. On the basis of the ‘Fit for 55‘ proposals, the European Parliament will have a key role as co-legislator in ensuring a legal framework fit to deliver the targets set in the Climate Law.

Reactions and next steps

Disappointment was voiced at the final text calling for a ‘phase down’ rather than a ‘phase out’ of coal, although observers point to this as significant, as it is the first time coal is singled out in a COP decision text. Criticism from developing countries regarding failed climate finance promises created tension ahead of COP26. An overruled proposal by the G77 and China for a finance facility dedicated to loss and damage reportedly almost jeopardised the Glasgow Climate Pact. Instead, a ‘Glasgow Dialogue’ on funding for loss and damage was launched, along with a strengthening of the Santiago Network. An ad-hoc work programme to quantify the post-2025 climate finance goal was also agreed. To close the Paris rulebook, carry-over of some 2013‑2020 Kyoto Protocol credits was agreed, an admission starkly criticised by some climate non-governmental organisations.

Read this ‘At a glance’ on ‘COP26 climate change conference: Outcomes‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

Deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure: Fit for 55 package [EU Legislation in Progress]

Mon, 11/22/2021 - 08:30

Written by Jaan Soone.

On 14 July 2021, the European Commission presented a package of proposals to equip the EU’s climate, energy, land use, transport and taxation policies to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 % by 2030, compared with 1990 levels – the ‘fit for 55’ package. The package includes a proposal to revise the 2014 directive on alternative fuels infrastructure and turn it into a regulation.

In the draft regulation the Commission proposes binding targets for electric vehicle charging points and hydrogen refuelling points, electric charging for stationary aircraft at airports and on shore power supply for ships at ports. It also contains provisions for EU Member States to ensure coverage of refuelling points for liquefied natural gas (LNG) dedicated to heavy-duty vehicles and LNG refuelling points in maritime ports.

In the European Parliament, the file has been referred to the Transport and Tourism Committee.

Versions Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure, and repealing Directive 2014/94/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council Committee responsible:Transport and Tourism (TRAN)COM(2021) 559
14.07.2021Rapporteur:Ismail Ertug (S&D, Germany)2021/0223(COD)Shadow rapporteurs:Jens Gieseke (EPP, Germany)
Caroline Nagtegaal (Renew, the Netherlands)
Anna Deparnay-Grunenberg (Greens/EFA, Germany)
Roman Haider (ID, Austria)
Carlo Fidanza (ECR, Italy)
Elena Kountoura (The Left, Greece)Ordinary legislative procedure (COD)
(Parliament and Council on equal footing – formerly ‘co-decision’) Next steps expected: Publication of draft report © teksomolika / Adobe Stock
Categories: European Union

Alternative fuel vehicle infrastructure and fleets: State of play

Fri, 11/19/2021 - 18:00

Written by Jaan Soone.

In December 2019 the European Commission published a communication on the Green Deal, in which it outlined its priorities to transform the EU into a resource-efficient and competitive economy and to meet the EU’s climate commitments.

Subsequently, in line with the Green Deal, the European Climate Law was adopted in July 2021, setting in law the EU target for 2030 of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 % compared with 1990 levels. To deliver the targets agreed in the European Climate Law, the Commission adopted a set of legislative proposals known as the ‘Fit for 55’ package on 14 July 2021. To speed up emissions reductions in transport, the package includes proposals to tighten the emissions trading scheme and widen its scope, proposals to increase the use of alternative fuels in aviation and shipping, stricter CO2 emissions standards for road vehicles, and a proposal to amend the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID) and transform it into a regulation.

This briefing provides a snapshot of the current state of play in alternative fuels recharging and refuelling points, and in the number of alternative fuel vehicles in circulation in EU countries. Since the adoption of the AFID in 2014, infrastructure deployment for the various alternative fuels in road transport has grown, however differences persist between Member States. Similarly, the uptake of alternatively fuelled vehicles differs between Member States, and petrol and diesel engines continue to dominate vehicle fleets. Nonetheless, the market for electric vehicles has strongly matured, and the market for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has also developed. The market for natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vehicles is mature and has seen slow growth, but vehicles have remained concentrated in a few Member States. The briefing also summarises recent projections for future take-up of these vehicles.

See also the EPRS ‘EU Legislation in progress’ briefing on the revision of the Directive on the Deployment of Alternative Fuels Infrastructure (AFID).

Read the complete briefing on ‘Alternative fuel vehicle infrastructure and fleets: State of play‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Categories: European Union

European Parliament Plenary Session – November II, 2021

Fri, 11/19/2021 - 13:00

Written by Clare Ferguson.

Parliament’s second plenary session of November takes place in Strasbourg, with Members firmly focusing their agenda on one of Parliament’s most important tasks – its scrutiny of the way in which EU funds are spent.

Citizens expect the EU to spend its budget efficiently and transparently, and the European Parliament represents citizens’ interests through several mechanisms allowing for thorough checks of EU spending. One of the main ways in which the EU spends its budget remains the common agricultural policy (CAP). Following a joint debate scheduled for Tuesday morning, Members are scheduled to vote on the agreement reached (after lengthy negotiations between the co-legislators) on three proposals to reform EU farm policy for the new budgetary period – the 2021‑2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF). However, given the time taken to reach these agreements, the new reforms would come into effect on 1 January 2023, with a temporary extension currently in place for 2021 and 2022 spending. The first file concerns the new requirement for each EU Member State to draw up a CAP strategic plan, setting out exactly how they will use the CAP to support farmers, and market and rural development. This new delivery model should provide greater flexibility and subsidiarity, and is expected to better align CAP spending with EU environmental and climate priorities. The agreement on the CAP horizontal regulation on financing, management and monitoring rules reflects Parliament’s desire for a stronger crisis reserve and a clearer division of tasks in the governance system. Members are then expected to consider the compromise reached on reform of the common market organisation in agriculture, which governs production of and trade in agricultural products, including issues such as geographical indications. Parliament has been keen to ensure that the reform leads to a more agile agricultural market that responds to consumer and producer needs alike, and reflects the EU’s priorities in protecting our natural resources. Underlining the focus on climate measures, Members will also hear Council and Commission statements on the outcome of COP26 in Glasgow on Wednesday morning.

As can be seen from the organisation of CAP funding, 80 % of EU expenditure overall is handled at national level, through shared management of EU programmes. The variety of different reporting systems used by EU governments (over 290) unnecessarily complicates this vital task. A Budgetary Control (CONT) Committee legislative-initiative report calling for digitalisation to streamline the reporting, monitoring and auditing of EU spending is therefore scheduled for consideration on Tuesday afternoon. The report demands that an integrated and interoperable electronic information and monitoring system is set up before the end of 2021, to collect, monitor and analyse information about recipients of EU funding in all Member States. The EU Financial Regulation itself, which governs the establishment, implementation and scrutiny of the EU budget, also needs to be updated to ensure good governance of the funding made available under the new MFF and the Next Generation EU fund. On Monday evening, Members will consider an own-initiative report anticipating the European Commission’s forthcoming proposal for an update to the Financial Regulation. The report calls for modernised budgetary rules that fully reflect EU values (e.g. on the rule of law, on climate impacts and on gender). It also underlines the need to increase transparency and democratic accountability by ensuring information about recipients of EU funding is made public and, importantly, that the Parliament’s role in scrutinising expenditure is respected. This is considered particularly important when managing crises or when ‘off-budget instruments’ are established.

Negotiations to agree the EU budget for 2022 took place in a very dynamic context, with the urgent need to tackle the Covid‑19 pandemic, climate change and humanitarian crises uppermost in negotiators’ minds. On Tuesday afternoon, Members are scheduled to consider Parliament’s position on the provisional agreement reached this week between the co‑legislators. Parliament has insisted that funding should be boosted for the top priorities for 2022 spending: funding the coronavirus recovery and the green and digital transitions, including a focus on groups hard-hit by the pandemic such as small businesses and young people. Parliament also supports stronger health measures, including for the COVAX programme, as well as spending on security, migration, asylum and integration, fundamental rights and Union values.

The rule of law was one Leitmotif of the European Council meeting of 21‑22 October 2021 and Members will hear Commission and Council statements on the outcome of that meeting on Tuesday afternoon. This will be followed by statements on the situation in Belarus and at its border with the EU, particularly the security and humanitarian consequences. Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is expected to make a formal address to Parliament on Wednesday lunchtime.

Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee has tabled a legislative-initiative report for Tuesday afternoon, which calls for a package of amendments to current EU legal migration policy and law, to make it easier for non-EU citizens who migrate legally to the EU to find employment. The EU workforce is ageing, and could fall to 51 % of the total population by 2070. While the EU has already taken measures to allow highly qualified non-EU citizens to take up employment in the EU, a gap remains, as labour markets need low- and medium-skilled workers. The proposals include: creating a talent pool for non-EU applicants who wish to migrate legally; a voluntary framework for talent partnerships with third countries; an admission scheme for self-employed and entrepreneur migrants; a framework to recognise third-country nationals’ skills and qualifications; possibilities for short-term mobility to complement legal migration; and creation of a transnational advisory service network.

Finally, Council and Commission statements are expected on Thursday morning on the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women and the state of play on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.

  • Digitalisation to streamline reporting, monitoring and auditing of EU spending (Think Tank)
  • Legal migration policy and law (Think Tank)
  • Financing, management and monitoring of the post-2022 EU agricultural policy (Think Tank)
  • Amending rules on the common market organisation (CMO) in agriculture (Think Tank)
  • Revision of the Financial Regulation (Think Tank)
  • Strategic planning in the EU’s post-2022 agricultural policy (Think Tank)
  • Adoption of the European Union’s 2022 Budget (Think Tank)

Categories: European Union

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