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Parliament launches its first European Gender Equality Week

 

At the initiative of the Women’s Rights Committee, the European Parliament is holding its first ever European Gender Equality Week from 26 to 29 October.

2020 sees the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This important milestone provides an opportunity to discuss the achievements and future challenges for the advancement of girls' and women's rights and gender equality. Therefore, the European Parliament, at the initiative of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee, decided to hold for the first time a European Gender Equality Week from Monday 26 to Thursday 29 October.

 

To mark the occasion, all EP Committees have been invited to either hold a debate, a presentation, an exchange of views, or a hearing on topics related to gender equality, and many of them replied favourably. To name just a few, the Civil Liberties Committee will hold a hearing on human trafficking on Monday evening, the new special Committee on Beating Cancer will hold a public hearing on ‘‘Beating breast cancer: challenges and opportunities’’ on Tuesday afternoon, and the sub-committee on Human Rights will organise an exchange of views with prominent women activists on Wednesday morning.

 

The Women’s Rights Committee, associated with many of these events, will also hold its own event on Thursday at which the Director of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), Carlien Scheele, will present the findings of the Gender Equality Index 2020, with a special focus on digitalisation in the world of work and its consequences for gender equality.

 

Some other Committees that were unable to participate this time have committed to look into gender mainstreaming aspects in their fields of competences later this year.

 

For the full programme of events in all participating Committees, click here.

 

You can watch all these events via webstreaming on the EP Multimedia Centre.

Quote
Ahead of the first Gender Equality Week, Women’s Rights Committee Chair Evelyn Regner (S&D, AT) said: "I am glad that so many bodies of the European Parliament responded to our invitation and join us to celebrate the first European Gender Equality Week. I believe it will bring fresh perspectives to our long battle for women’s empowerment and gender equality. This has become even more important now with the outbreak and foreseeable aftermath of COVID-19. Since the outbreak, we are witnessing a range of devastating effects on women and, more generally, on gender equality. It is high time that we give gender mainstreaming more visibility and recognition in all policy areas in order to ensure that the 21st century indeed becomes that of women."

Member states must stop selling EU passports immediately, MEPs demand

 

EU citizenship cannot be traded as a commodity, according to a majority of speakers, who want to end the “golden passports” schemes currently in place in some member states.

In a plenary debate with Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, MEPs stressed the inherent risks that these programmes give rise to, namely money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. They insisted that Europe must not have “a fast-track entrance for criminals”.

MEPs underlined that granting EU citizenship to third-country nationals without proper checks and transparency has negative consequences in other member states, eroding mutual trust and undermining common values.

Several speakers referred to the recent scandal in Cyprus, where high-ranking officials – including the Speaker of the national parliament – were secretly recorded offering to assist a fictional Chinese executive with a criminal record in getting a Cypriot passport through the national “citizenship by investment” scheme. They also acknowledge the Commission’s decision to open infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta, though some complained that it has taken too long to act.

Some MEPs noted that the share of revenues from these programmes is significant for countries such as Cyprus, whilst many argued that EU values and rights should not be for sale.

 

Background

Cyprus, Malta, and Bulgaria are the three EU countries where it is possible to get citizenship in exchange for an investment, the so-called “golden passports”. As many as 19 EU countries operate “residence by investment” programmes, known as “golden visas”.

In January 2019, the European Commission established a group of experts with representatives from all EU member states to develop common standards and guidelines in this area. After four meetings last year, the group has so far not met in 2020.

The 2020 Sakharov Prize awarded to the democratic opposition in Belarus

 

The democratic opposition in Belarus has been awarded the 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
 

European Parliament President David Sassoli announced the laureates in the Brussels plenary chamber at noon on Thursday, following an earlier decision by the Conference of Presidents (President and political group leaders).

 

“Let me congratulate the representatives of the Belarusian opposition for their courage, resilience and determination. They have stood and still stay strong in the face of a much stronger adversary. But they have on their side something that brute force can never defeat - and this is the truth. So my message for you, dear laureates, is to stay strong and not to give up on your fight. Know that we are by your side”, President Sassoli said, following the decision.

“I would also like to add a word on the recent killing of one of this year’s finalists, Mr Arnold Joaquín Morazán Erazo, part of the Guapinol environmental group. The group is opposing an iron oxide mine in Honduras. It is imperative that a credible, independent and immediate investigation is launched into this case and those responsible must be held to account”, he added.

 

Protesting against a brutal regime

The democratic opposition in Belarus is represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women, as well as prominent political and civil society figures. Read more about the laureates, as well as the other finalists here.

Belarus has been in the midst of a political crisis since the disputed presidential elections on 9 August, which led to an uprising against authoritarian President Aliaksandr Lukashenka and a subsequent brutal crackdown on demonstrators by the regime.

The Sakharov award ceremony will be held on 16 December.

On Wednesday, Parliament also adopted new recommendations calling for a comprehensive review of the EU's relations with Belarus. Read more here.

 

Background

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and the prize money is 50 000 euros.

Last year, the prize was given to Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur economist fighting for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority.

President Sassoli press conference on EU summit

 

When: Thursday 15 October at 15:30 - Where: Anna Politkovskaya pressroom and via Skype

 

EP President David Sassoli will hold a press conference at 15.30 tomorrow (15 October) following his address to heads of state or government at the EU summit. He will comment on the topics EU leaders will discuss during their meeting, like EU-UK relations, tackling COVID-19, climate change and relations between the EU and Africa.

 

President Sassoli will also reiterate Parliament’s position and expectations regarding the ongoing negotiations on the EU’s long-term budget (MFF) and on Own Resources.

 

Follow the press conference LIVE on Parliament’s webstreaming or EbS+.

 

Journalists are welcome to attend the press conference in person, respecting the precautionary measures in force (see below), or participate remotely and ask questions via Skype.

Parliament will be using an interactive virtual press environment (with interpretation) based on Skype TX, in conjunction with the traditional EbS and web-streaming services.

 

If you are unable to attend and wish to ask a question:

You will need a SKYPE account;

Connect to VOXBOXEP and write your name and media organisation in the chat box.

Please use headphones and a microphone for better sound quality.

 

The system will be managed by Parliament’s media services and you will be placed in a queue (virtual waiting room) before being invited to ask your question(s).

If you have any trouble connecting, you can contact: +32 22834220 or use the Skype chat box.

After asking a question / listening to the reply (and any follow-up), you should then disconnect from Skype so that the next journalist in line can be connected to the press briefing room.

You only need to connect through Skype if you wish to ask a question.

 

REMINDER: working conditions in Parliament for journalists in light of Coronavirus

 

It is mandatory to wear a community mask that covers the mouth and nose at all times while in Parliament's buildings. This is to continue to ensure Parliament's operational capacity, while at the same time avoiding health risks for Members, staff and other persons working in and visiting the European Parliament. In addition, temperature controls are being carried out on all persons entering Parliament’s premises.

However, journalists may remove their mask for the duration of a recording (stand-ups, interviews, studio recordings) or when asking a question in the press room, if the social distancing measures are respected. The press room on the ground floor (Paul-Henri Spaak building) is also now open again for those who need to work from Parliament, though social distancing rules remain in force.

Please refrain from coming to EP premises if you present any symptoms of a respiratory infection, if you have knowingly been in contact with an infected person in the last 14 days or if you have been to regions with very high transmission rates.

EU4Health: 9.4 billion EUR budget needed for new EU health programme

 

  • EU must invest more in strengthening healthcare systems
  • Support for digitalisation of healthcare through European eHealth Record
  • Health inequalities must be reduced

 

To fill gaps exposed by COVID-19 and ensure that health systems can face future threats to public health, an ambitious EU health programme is needed, say MEPs. 

On Wednesday, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety adopted its report on the programme for the EU's action in the health sector, the so-called “EU4Health Programme” with 74 votes to 5 and 1 abstention.

 

MEPs want to raise the budget for the programme to EUR 9.4 billion, as originally proposed by the Commission, to enhance health promotion and make health systems more resilient across the EU. COVID-19 has shown that the EU is in urgent need of an ambitious EU health programme to ensure that European health systems can face future health threats. This is not possible if the budget is reduced to EUR 1.7 billion as proposed by member states.

 

To reach the programme's objectives, the report proposes, inter alia, to:

 

  • focus more on disease prevention
  • reduce health inequalities
  • digitalise healthcare through the creation and application of the European eHealth Record
  • address resistance to vaccination in the EU
  • strengthen the European Union’s fight against cancer in synergy with the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan
  • prevent and manage chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes
  • take more specific actions to address medicine shortages and make better use of antimicrobials, such as antibiotics
  • promote health by addressing health risks — such as the harmful use of alcohol and tobacco.

 

To ensure it is implemented effectively, MEPs propose to set up a Steering Group consisting of independent experts in the field of public health.

 

MEPs also want to increase cooperation at EU level to improve readiness in case of a health crisis. They call for the mandates of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to be strengthened.

 

Quote

After the vote, Parliament’s rapporteur Cristian-Silviu Buşoi (EPP, Romania) said: “The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the need for well-defined and adequately-financed health instruments as well as for boosting innovation and investing more in health in general. It will be crucial to increase funding for the EU4Health Programme to €9.4 billion, as proposed by the Commission in May, in order to have the capacity to deal with future pandemics and health threats, and to make our health systems more resilient.”

 

Next steps

Parliament is expected to vote on this report at the latest during the 11-12 November plenary session, after which Parliament is ready to start negotiations with member states so that the programme can be implemented from the beginning of 2021.

 

Background

On 28 May 2020, the Commission put forward a new stand-alone EU4Health Programme for 2021-2027 as part of the Recovery Plan to build resilient health systems in the EU by tackling cross-border health threats, making medicines available and affordable, and strengthening health systems. The Health Programme was previously under the initial EU long-term budget 2021-2027 as one element of the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+).

Rule of law conditionality: rapporteurs’ statement after the first trialogue

 

Constructive first round of talks, however Council's and Parliament's positions remain far apart from each other, with Parliament insisting on mechanism that can be applicable in practice.

 

After conclusion of the first round of informal legislative negotiations with the Council, EP co-rapporteurs on the rule of law conditionality mechanism Petri Sarvamaa (EPP, FI) and Eider Gardiazabal Rubial (S&D, ES) said on Monday:

“We have approached the issues up for the negotiation today from our respective standing points in good spirit and already found convergence in some topics, but the Council and Parliament positions are still far apart from each other. European citizens and taxpayers deserve a properly functioning Rule of Law mechanism that can be applicable in practice.”


The next rounds of negotiations are expected to happen later this month.

 

Background

The European Parliament has been ready to negotiate since January 2019 and it's main demands are unchanged: an applicable mechanism, proper protection of the final beneficiaries, inclusion of the EP in the decisions to trigger the mechanism, as well as inclusion of a panel of independent experts to assist the Commission- read more on the EP position.

In a plenary debate preceding the trilogue many MEPs criticised the Council’s position, saying it did not create an instrument that could ever be triggered in practice, by referring the voting system in Council that would allow to suspend or reduce EU budget payment to a country that disrespects the rule of law. MEPs stressed that with continued violations of rule of law and corruption in some EU countries, the EU owed it to its citizens and taxpayers to effectively protect the EU budget. Read more of the debate

Parliament objects to legislation on food products that might be harmful to kids

 

  • Precautionary principle must guide policy
  • Children are most exposed and must be protected

 

To protect European consumers’ health, especially those of children, MEPs objected to Commission proposals on food products containing titanium dioxide and acrylamide.

The first objection concerns the Commission’s proposed amendment to the legislation laying down specifications for food additives as regards titanium dioxide (E 171). It was approved with 443 votes to 118 and 135 abstentions.

Parliament calls on the Commission to apply the precautionary principle and to remove E171 from the EU list of permitted food additives that are currently used mainly to colour confectionery, bakery and pastry products as well as chewing gum, candies, chocolates, and ice cream. As these products are very popular with children, MEPs are particularly concerned about them being potentially very exposed to the additive. They underline that France banned sales of food products containing titanium dioxide as of 1 January 2020 and that 85 000 citizens across Europe have signed a petition to support the French ban.

The second objection concerning the Commission’s proposal to amend the rules setting maximum levels of acrylamide in certain foodstuffs for infants and young children was also approved with 469 votes to 137 and 90 abstentions.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) previously confirmed that acrylamide, which is a processing contaminant that occurs naturally when some foods are heated, potentially increases the risk of developing cancer in all age groups. In the resolution, MEPs request that the Commission lower the proposed maximum level allowed for two food products often given to infants and young children, as they are the most exposed, based on their body weight. They also underline that biscuits and rusks that are not specifically produced for infants and young children, but are often given to or even marketed to them, should face the same, more stringent demands.

Next steps

As Parliament has adopted these two objections, the Commission cannot approve the proposed actions and is now obliged to amend or withdraw them.

Plenary approves a call to urgently complete the Capital Markets Union 

 

MEPs called for simplified rules for SMEs, mid-caps and start-ups so that they can receive funding, in a non-binding resolution adopted on Thursday.

The Capital Markets Union (CMU) should be developed more quickly, MEPs say, arguing that this would allow companies deprived of funding to tap into financial markets and reduce their dependence on bank lending.

 

They take note of the Commission Communication of 24 September 2020 regarding the Capital Markets Union for people and business but insist on a stronger commitment to achieving real progress on issues such as supervision, taxation and insolvency laws, which still represent major obstacles to the true integration of EU capital markets.

 

Simplified rules

To this end, MEPs proposed several targeted changes, aligning and simplifying the existing provisions concerning issues such as: capital requirements, reporting frameworks, or listing requirements for SMEs regarding Initial Public Offerings. They also call for the EU venture capital and private equity markets to be developed more quickly in order to increase transparency and reduce fragmentation. At the same time, the text stresses the need for adequate prudential rules to build the capacity of financial institutions to absorb losses.

 

New provisions

The Commission should come forward with several legislative proposals, MEPs suggest, including a proposal on 'European Secured Notes' (ESNs), as a new dual-recourse funding instrument for banks. This could help improve access to financing for SMEs across the EU, or a European Single Access Point for financial and non-financial information in respect to listed and unlisted EU companies.

Investor protection

MEPs point out that the CMU requires a developed investor base with suitable investment options for retail investors paired with improved disclosure and the ability to compare key information. They call for a more horizontal, harmonised approach to consumer and investor protection in EU financial services legislation, adapted to the green and digital transitions, in order to ensure effective and consistent levels of protection for financial products and providers.

 

Finally, the adopted text highlights that the CMU should be a key contributor to the transition towards a sustainable, competitive and resilient economy, complementing public investment and in line with the EU Green Deal. The text also points out that Europe competes for capital in a global market, therefore efficient and resilient European capital markets are critical to protecting Europe’s economic sovereignty.

The resolution was adopted with 417 votes to 205 and 72 abstentions.

Parliament calls on member states to fully exploit the European Youth Guarantee

 

  • More resources needed to support employment for young people 
  • MEPs call for a ban on unpaid internships 
  • Youth Guarantee must become a binding instrument to ensure that no one is left behind 

With youth unemployment on the rise in the EU, MEPs want member states to take stronger action to counter the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on young people. 

In a resolution adopted on Thursday with 574 votes to 77 and 43 abstentions, the European Parliament urges member states to ensure that young people who register for the Youth Guarantee schemes are offered “good-quality, varied and tailored jobs, training or internships”.

 

With the youth unemployment rate at 17.6% in the EU in August 2020 (up from 14.9% before the COVID-19 crisis) and expected to continue rising, Parliament calls for more funds to strengthen the Youth Guarantee scheme for 2021-2027.

 

MEPs deplore that in July the European Council significantly reduced, from 15 to 10%, ESF+resources under shared management earmarked to support action to boost youth employment, which is “contradictory to the Union’s ambition to invest in young people”.

 

Ban unpaid internships, traineeships and apprenticeships

Parliament condemns the practice of unpaid internships, traineeships and apprenticeships, which exploit young people’s work and violate their rights. It calls on the Commission to table a legal framework for an effective and enforceable ban on these practices.

 

Tackling discrimination to ensure no one is left behind

MEPs stress that the Youth Guarantee should be embedded in a coherent set of social and welfare policies to ensure that the various subgroups of young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs) have access to it. “Any discrimination experienced by young people on any grounds must be actively combatted in Youth Guarantee schemes”, they say.

 

Binding instrument 

MEPs deplore the voluntary nature of the Youth Guarantee (currently a Council recommendation) and call on the Commission to propose a Youth Guarantee instrument that is binding for all member states.

 

Background

Since 2013, the Youth Guarantee has helped 24 million young people to get training, education or work. In July 2020, the Commission proposed to extend its coverage to include youngsters under 30, helping even more people to make the green and digital transitions.

Reinforcing the Youth Guarantee contributes significantly to the ongoing implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

In July 2020, Parliament endorsed an overall allocation of €145 million for the Youth Employment Initiative that supports young people who live in regions where the youth unemployment rate is above 25%.

EU-UK relations: MEPs approve rules to ensure Eurotunnel safety and cooperation

 

  • Channel railway safety to be maintained by UK and France
  • France to negotiate common rules applicable to the Channel Tunnel

 

Parliament supports legislation that aims to ensure the tunnel railway connecting continental Europe and the UK continues to operate safely and efficiently.

MEPs endorsed on Thursday two proposals concerning the Channel Tunnel with the goal to maintain the same set of rules governing the whole railway tunnel once the UK has the status of a third country.

 

The legislation will empower France to negotiate a new international agreement with the UK and maintain the Intergovernmental Commission as the main safety authority for the Eurotunnel.

 

Additionally, the regulations on the safety and interoperability arrangements will allow, as amended by the Parliament, negotiations between France and the UK to begin without delay.

 

The decision empowering France to negotiate an agreement supplementing its existing bilateral Treaty with the UK concerning the operation of the Channel Fixed Link was endorsed with 687 votes in favour, three against and four abstentions.

 

The regulation on application of railway safety and interoperability rules within the Channel Fixed Link was adopted with 687 votes in favour, four against and four abstentions.

 

Next steps

The amendments adopted by the Parliament correspond to the Council’s position. The Council will now have to formally adopt its first reading position. The regulation will enter into force the day after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU.

 

Background

If nothing is agreed, as of 1 January 2021, national safety authorities in the UK and France would have authority over their own half of the tunnel. EU regulations would no longer apply to the part of the tunnel that is under the UK’s jurisdiction.

 

The Parliament voted on the proposals under urgent procedure.

State of the European Union address

 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen came to the European Parliament in Brussels to deliver her first State of the European Union address. In it she looked back at what the Commission had done over the past year and unveiled a slew of new EU initiatives, which she then discussed with MEPs during the subsequent debate.

 

The plans she announced included measures to tear down single market restrictions, a new strategy for the Schengen zone, a proposal to increase the 2030 target for emission reduction to at least 55% and investment for digital technologies. The EU’s decision making process also needs to be speeded up.

 

Regarding foreign affairs, she stressed the need for collaboration in international bodies, but recognised the need for the EU to lead reforms of the WHO and the WTO. Although China was an important partner on issues such as climate change, this should not prevent the EU from speaking out on human rights violations, she said.

 

Von der Leyen talked about the impact the coronavirus has had and said

this year’s event made clear the need to build a stronger European Health Union: “It’s time to do that and to start making this a reality. We must now draw the first lessons from the health crisis."

 

Von der Leyen urged stepping up efforts to deal with migration. "Migration is a European challenge and all of Europe must do its part," she said.

 

The Commission President announced an action plan to fight racism and hate speech. She also stood for the rights of LGBTQI people and for the mutual recognition of family relations in the EU.

 

"The future will be what we make of it. And Europe will be what we want it to be. We should stop trying to break it down and work to build it up, make it stronger and build the world we want to live in,” she concluded.

 

MEPs’ reactions

MEPs were broadly supportive of many of the new initiatives announces, but also keen to highlight areas where the EU should focus on.

 

Manfred Weber (EPP, Germany) said job creation should be a priority: “Take Italy, 40% of the young people in Italy are still unemployed. And we can never accept another lost generation in today’s European Union.” He added: “You can spend the money of the recovery fund only once and our priority is the future of Europe’s young generation.” Weber also underlined the need for the EU to speak with one voice on foreign matters. Regarding Belarus, he said: “If we are credible, let the people out in the streets in Minsk see that Europe is on their side.”

 

S&D chair Iratxe García Pérez (Spain) talked about the different challenges facing Europe. Arguing in favour of a financial transactions tax, she said: "It is only in this way that we will be able to invest in ecological transitions and social including without leaving anyone behind." She was pleased with the new 2030 target of an emissions reduction but said we should not forget that "people are part of this transitions, so we need a strategy to counter poverty, including child poverty and including a minimum wage," which von der Leyen mentioned in her speech. She called for support for the cultural sector and the creation of an European cultural platform to "allow young people to collaborate and strengthened European cultural fabric".

 

Dacian Cioloş (Renew, Romania) said Europe has made considerable progress in recent months: "There is no doubt that the recovery plan is a historic step forward and it embodies the power of the Union and our ability to overcome crises together." However, he emphasised the need to respect the rule of law as a key principle when it comes to funds, to maintain people’s trust: "[...] the Union's financial interests must be protected from corruption and conflicts of interest." He praised the Commissions' reaction to the Parliament's call to impact assessment regarding climate legislation, and its digital plans.

 

Nicolas Bay (ID, France) lamented the lack of market protection measures in Europe during the height of the health crisis, as well as the strict environmental rules weakening the competitiveness of European companies: "This does not help the independence and prosperity of European future, rather it will make Europe ever more fragile on the world stage."

 

Ska Keller (Greens/EFA, Germany) criticised the conditions for accepting migrants at EU's external borders. "It is a very shameful state we are in [...] and it is our collective responsibility as Europeans," she said, urging the Commission to take up the fight with member states for adequate conditions, "to make it a top priority to help people in need and not to give in to this disastrous state we're in". She welcomed the proposed target of 55% reductions in emissions by 2030. "The climate cannot be negotiated with so we'd better move fast".

 

Ryszard Antoni Legutko (ECR, Poland) said that the last decade has been turbulent for the EU, and that it is in a worse shape today than it was ten years ago. “Every year over the last decade, we have heard from every Commission President that a radiant future is awaiting us and the days of EU glory are just around the corner, providing of course that the European Commission and the European institutions receive more competences...Fewer and fewer people across Europe take this message seriously.”

 

Manon Aubry (France), co-chair of the GUE/NGL Group, criticised the speech for not mentioning the crisis of solidarity that exists in the EU, exemplified by tax havens, or issues relating to the rule of law in Poland and Hungary. She also criticised the 55% objective of reducing climate emissions as not enough. “In order to tackle the challenges that face us, we have to change everything. Our only focus should be the environment and social aspects,” she said and called for fiscal justice, tax justice and the end of tax havens in Europe.

 

Reacting to what MEPs has said, von der Leyen called for a “constructive approach towards migration”. "Every year about two million people do come to Europe and 140,000 refugees, we should be able to manage that." She said the Commission would be putting forward a legislative proposal next week. On the rule of law, she said the Commission was taking “the most systematic and the most comprehensive approach in our history”.

Hearing of Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis on trade portfolio

 

Trade Committee MEPs questioned Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, candidate for the trade portfolio, on greener trade, enforcement, China and Mercosur.

Mr Dombrovskis announced “a launch of a WTO trade and climate initiative, focusing on green goods”, acknowledging that “today, trade is about much more than just trade”. He intends to reshape the EU’s future trade policy to make it more sustainable, including in the Mercosur trade agreementwhere the EU must “find lasting solutions for the Amazon region” before its ratification.

 

“Europe needs to become more assertive”, he said, adding that EU’s trade partners using unfair practises will be met with new tools, including a new anti-coercion mechanism- if needed, even against the United States. 

 

With China, Mr Dombrovskis seeks to conclude the investment agreement now under negotiation while ensuring that the trade relationship is “restructured to be reciprocal, balanced and fair”.

 

Enforce sustainable trade deals in practice

 

MEPs welcomed the planned new trade defence measure but also emphasised that the EU’s tools must be sharp enough to ensure that “existing trade agreements don’t only work on paper but in practice, too.” 

 

On Transatlantic trade relations, some MEPs asked for the EU to prepare for the WTO judgment to impose USD4 billion worth of tariffs on US goods in the Boeing case.

 

Several MEPs called for a trade policy linked closely to the Green Deal and the Sustainable Development Goals, and a long-awaited proposal on enforcing sustainable development chapters in trade agreements through sanctions. Several MEPs expect a new trade commissioner to ensure the Mercosur deal is environmentally sustainable and to protect the respect for human rights in the investment deal with China.

 

MEPs asked the candidate about obligatory due diligence for companies to ensure sustainable supply chains, which Mr Dombrovskis pledged to propose. Other MEPs wanted to know about future steel safeguards against dumping on the EU market and prospects for an EU-UK trade deal.

 

You can watch the video recording of the full hearing here.

 

Next steps

Based on the committees’ recommendations, the Conference of Committee Chairs will assess the outcome of the hearing and forward its conclusions to the Conference of Presidents. The latter will carry out the final evaluation on 6 October and decide if the hearing can be concluded. If so, the plenary will vote on whether or not to approve the portfolio change on 7 October, in Brussels.

Plastic packaging waste: EU needs to boost recycling to achieve ambitions

 

There is a significant risk that the EU will not meet its plastic packaging recycling targets for 2025 and 2030, according to a review by the European Court of Auditors (ECA). The update of the legal framework for plastic recycling in 2018 reflects the EU’s increased ambitions and could help boost recycling capacity. The scale of the challenge facing the Member States should not be underestimated, however. New and more accurate recycling reporting rules and a tightening of plastic waste export rules will reduce the EU’s reported recycling rate. Concerted action is thus needed to get the EU to where it wants to be in just 5 to 10 years’ time, the auditors say.

Packaging alone, such as yogurt pots or water bottles, accounts for about 40 % of plastic use and over 60 % of plastic waste generated in the EU. It is also the type of packaging with the lowest recycling rate in the EU (slightly over 40 %). To address this growing waste problem, the European Commission adopted the plastics strategy in 2018, which included updating the 1994 Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) and doubling the current recycling target to 50 % by 2025 and even 55 % by 2030. Reaching these targets would be a significant step towards achieving the EU’s circular economy goals. 

“To meet its new recycling targets for plastic packaging, the EU must reverse the current situation, whereby we incinerate more than we recycle. This is a daunting challenge”, said Samo Jereb, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the review. “By resuscitating single-use habits amid sanitary concerns, the COVID pandemic shows that plastics will continue to be a mainstay of our economies, but also an ever-growing environmental threat.”

Over recent years, the EU has been striving to address flaws in its framework for packaging waste. The Commission is planning to revise the packaging design rules (‘essential requirements’), which at present are deemed unenforceable in practice. This could result in better packaging design for recyclability and could incentivise reuse, the auditors note. Similarly, new EU rules intend to harmonise and reinforce Extended Producer Responsibility schemes, so that they promote recyclability (for instance via fee modulation systems or even deposit-return schemes) and not only lighter packaging, as most currently do. These changes are needed to help attain the new recycling targets.

The update of the PPWD introduced more rigorous criteria for calculating recycling rates. Current figures are far from being accurate or comparable across Member States. The new calculation methods should provide a more reliable picture of the actual share of plastic packaging being recycled. It is estimated that this could lead to a significant drop in reported recycling rates, from the current figure of 42 % to barely 30 %. 

The challenge of ramping up recycling capacity in the EU is all the greater given the new and soon-to-be-applied ‘Basel convention’, which sets stricter conditions for shipping plastic waste abroad. Member States are highly reliant on non-EU countries to manage their plastic packaging waste and reach their recycling targets. Nearly a third of the EU’s reported plastic packaging recycling rate is achieved through shipments to non-EU countries for recycling. As from January 2021, however, most plastic waste shipments will be banned. This, combined with the lack of capacity to treat this waste within the EU, constitutes another risk to achieving the new targets, warn the auditors. It also risks leading to an increase in illegal shipping and waste crime, against which the EU framework is too weak.

The EU’s ambition to improve its plastic packaging recycling reflects the scale of the environmental challenge that plastics pose. With its new approach, the EU has the opportunity to gain a first-mover advantage and reinforce its position as a global leader in plastic packaging recycling. However, given the challenges and gaps to be overcome, EU Member States may not meet the new targets. Significant and concerted action is required, urge the auditors, if the EU is to almost double the amount of plastic packaging waste it recycles by 2030.

EU climate law: press conference by Parliament rapporteur Jytte Guteland

 

When: Wednesday 7 October at 10:00 - Where: Anna Politkovskaya pressroom (European Parliament in Brussels, room SPAAK 0A50) and via Skype

Following today’s debate 15.00 - 17.00 and vote on amendments to Parliaments draft report on a European climate law, including a more ambitious 2030 emissions reductions target, Parliaments rapporteur Jytte Guteland (S&D, Sweden) will hold a press conference Wednesday 7 October at 10:00 in the Anna Politkovskaya pressroom.


Journalists are welcome to attend the press conference in person, respecting the precautionary measures in force (see below), or participate remotely.


Parliament will be using an interactive virtual press environment (with interpretation) based on Skype TX, in conjunction with the traditional web-streaming services.


If you are unable to attend and wish to ask a question:

  • You will need a SKYPE account.
  • Connect to VOXBOXEP and write your name and media organisation in the chat box


Please use headphones and a microphone for better sound quality.


The system will be managed by Parliament’s media services and you will be placed in a queue (virtual waiting room) before being invited to ask your question(s).


If you have any trouble connecting, you can contact: +32 22834220 or use Skype chat box.


After asking a question / listening to the reply (and any follow-up), you should then disconnect from Skype so that the next journalist in line can be connected to the press briefing room.


You only need to connect through Skype if you wish to ask a question.


REMINDER: working conditions in Parliament for journalists in light of Coronavirus


It is mandatory as of 13 May to wear a community mask that covers the mouth and nose at all times while in Parliament's buildings. This is to continue to ensure Parliament's operational capacity, while at the same time avoiding health risks for Members, staff and other persons working in and visiting the European Parliament. In addition, as of Monday 15 June, temperature controls will be carried out on all persons entering Parliament’s premises.


However, journalists may remove their mask for the duration of a recording (stand-ups, interviews, studio recordings) or asking a question in the press room. if the social distancing measures are respected. The press room on the ground floor (Paul-Henri Spaak building) is also now open again for those who need to work from Parliament, though social distancing rules remain in force.


Please refrain from coming to EP premises if you present any symptoms of a respiratory infection, if you have knowingly been in contact with an infected person in the last 14 days or if you have been to regions with very high transmission rates.

Press Conference on the Digital Services Act by Alex Saliba (IMCO rapporteur) - 28 September, at 15.00

 

The Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee rapporteur on the Digital Services Act, Alex Agius Saliba, will hold a press conference on Monday, at 15.00, after the vote in committee. 

MEPs’ demands to the EU Commission on how digital services, including online platforms, should be regulated will be set out in a vote in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee on Monday, 28 September. 

 

The rapporteur, Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, MT), will brief journalists on the outcome of the vote and answer questions in a press conference at 15.00.

 

In this “legislative initiative” report, the Internal Market Committee will request the EU Commission to address and tackle current shortcomings in the online environment in the Digital Services Act (DSA) package, due to be presented by the end of the year.

 

The committee recommendations will touch upon a wide range of issues, including transparency and information obligations for online marketplaces, product safety online, the spread of illegal content online, artificial intelligence, effective enforcement and supervision measures, including fines, and ex-ante regulation to prevent (instead of merely remedy) market failures caused by big platforms.

 

Journalists are invited to attend the press conference in person (EP press conference room), respecting the precautionary measures in force (see below), or participate remotely.

 

Parliament will be using an interactive virtual press environment (with interpretation) based on Skype TX, in conjunction with the traditional EbS and web-streaming services.

 

If you are unable to attend and wish to ask a question:

You will need a SKYPE account;

Connect to VOXBOXEP and write your name and media organisation in the chat box.

 

Please use headphones and a microphone for better sound quality.

 

The system will be managed by Parliament’s media services and you will be placed in a queue (virtual waiting room) before being invited to ask your question(s).

 

If you have any trouble connecting, you can contact: +32 22834220 or use Skype chat box.

 

After asking a question / listening to the reply (and any follow-up), you should then disconnect from Skype so that the next journalist in line can be connected to the press briefing room.

 

You only need to connect through Skype if you wish to ask a question.

 

You can follow the press conference LIVE on the EP Multimedia Centre or EbS.

 

REMINDER: working conditions in Parliament for journalists in light of coronavirus

 

It is mandatory to wear a community mask that covers the mouth and nose at all times while in Parliament's buildings. This is to continue to ensure Parliament's operational capacity, while at the same time avoiding health risks for Members, staff and other persons working in and visiting the European Parliament. In addition, temperature checks are being carried out on all persons entering Parliament’s premises.

 

However, journalists may remove their mask for the duration of a recording (stand-ups, interviews, studio recordings) or when asking a question in the press room, if the social distancing measures are respected. The press room on the ground floor (Paul-Henri Spaak building) is also now open again for those who need to work from Parliament, though social distancing rules remain in force.

Please refrain from coming to EP premises if you present any symptoms of a respiratory infection, if you have knowingly been in contact with an infected person in the last 14 days or if you have been to regions with very high transmission rates.

Council must present serious compromise proposals on EU’s long-term budget

 

“We are ready to accelerate the negotiations, but the Council does not show any real will to negotiate our key demands”, says Budgets Committee Chair Johan Van Overtveldt.

“Parliament has been ready to negotiate the new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF 2021-2027) with Council since November 2018. Since then we have insisted that we needed to be involved early enough in the negotiations to ensure a smooth process. Our demand was ignored completely and we were offered instead short and unilateral briefings ahead of and after the General Affairs Council meetings, which led nowhere”, said the Chair of the Committee on Budgets and of the EP’s negotiating team for the next long-term EU budget and Own Resources reform, Johan Van Overtveldt (ECR, BE).

 

“Parliament’s requests have been known for two years, during which time we have waited for the Council to agree a position. Council is now asking the Parliament to accelerate and to have a deal in three weeks. This is not serious and disrespectful towards the role of this institution, and the citizens we represent.”

 

Mr Van Overtveldt added: “We are ready to accelerate the negotiations, but Council does not show a real will to negotiate on our key demands. So far we have seen no movement on the possibility to reinforce any of the EU programmes we have put forward. This is not an institutional battle. We are fighting to reinforce 15 concrete EU programmes, defending EU researchers, who are desperate about Council's cuts; companies who have seen much-needed financial support scrapped with the Council's decision to suppress the Solvency Support Instrument and to reduce Invest EU; students who see their possibilities to further learning reduced due to the cuts in Erasmus; health operators who are fighting every day to combat COVID-19 and face a proposal to slash a much needed Health Programme. Just to give a few examples.”

 

“We are also very concerned about the repercussions of the costs of repayment of the debt the EU is going to assume with “Next Generation EU” (NGEU). If Council does not commit without ambiguity to the introduction of new Own Resources, which Parliament is asking, the risk is that programmes will have to be further reduced, which is unacceptable. There are concrete ideas for new Own Resources on the table that would even support our strategic policy objectives. The EP does not want to see them evaporate. We need a robust and binding calendar to follow up on”, the Chair continued.

 

“Last week, with an incredible acceleration of our work, Parliament has cleared the way for Council for the ratification of the Own Resources Decision in the member states, thus kicking off the NGEU initiative. Now, Council tells us that they will not launch that until there is an agreement on the MFF. This is their political choice. It cannot be put on the back of Parliament, who has done its job responsibly.

 

Parliament is as eager as Council to find a quick agreement, but time has come now for Council to treat us as a partner and to seriously engage in negotiations so that a good agreement can be reached and that the EU programmes can enter into force as foreseen”, Mr Van Overtveldt underlined.

 

“The ball is in Council's court: member states need to move and to come up with serious counterproposals on the top-ups for EU programmes and on Own Resources. Parliament is not up for gambling of course, the Treaty foresees a safety net in case of no agreement, a contingency plan, which both the Commission and the Council have so far refused to consider, which would allow the programmes to start functioning on 1 January 2021 on the basis of the 2020 amounts”, Johan Van Overtveldt concluded.

Time to crack on with the implementation of proposed tax rules 

 

Numerous MEPs on Thursday told Commissioner for taxation Paolo Gentiloni that it was high time to tackle member state reticence to progress on tax justice.

Speaking during the first hearing of the newly created subcommittee on tax matters, MEPs taking the floor as the spokesperson for their respective groups highlighted the need to quickly translate the political messages from citizens and the proposals already tabled by the Commission into tangible instruments to fight ever-growing tax evasion and avoidance. Some others also pointed out that such progress would need to happen without creating a negative effect on the EU’s competitiveness or on the purchasing power of citizens.

 

You can watch the meeting again here.

 

Unacceptable practices and foot-dragging

With the crisis we are in tax fraud and evasion is even less acceptable than ever before, Commissioner Gentiloni said in his opening statement. He underlined that up to EUR 140 billion EUR are lost each year to aggressive tax planning and the VAT gap has reached around EUR 180 billion per year.

 

MEPs urged the Commissioner to continue the work the previous Commission had left off at, calling on him to pay more attention to addressing the reticence of some of the member states which has led to a backlog of proposals in the Council. One MEP suggested that the subcommittee could help in pressuring member states by using the forum as “a space for constructive embarrassment of those who do not cooperate”, an idea openly supported by the Commissioner and some other MEPs.

 

Right balance

Consumers’ purchasing power and the competitiveness of the EU’s companies would also need to be kept in mind when devising new taxes, some MEPs said. An MEP also said that care should be taken with the rollout of any new tax to not compound the negative economic effects from the COVID-19.

 

Next steps

The subcommittee is expected to soon agree on its work programme for the coming months. The next meeting is scheduled for 28 October.

 

Background

The subcommittee on tax matters was given the green light by the plenary in June. It will be composed of 30 members and its mandate instructs it to deal primarily with the fight against tax fraud, tax evasion and tax avoidance, as well as financial transparency for taxation purposes. Before the establishment of the subcommittee, the EP had a number of special committees looking into specific aspects of tax evasion and avoidance, money laundering, and other financial crimes.

Changes in Commission: hearings to take place on 2 October

 

The Conference of Presidents (EP President and leaders of political groups) on Tuesday adopted the calendar of hearings of Mairead McGuinness and Valdis Dombrovskis.

The hearings of Mairead McGuinness - Commissioner-designate in charge of financial services, financial stability and the Capital Markets Union - and Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis - set to assume responsibility for the trade portfolio - are scheduled to take place on 2 October.


Mrs McGuinness will be heard by the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee from 9.00 to 12.00, where MEPs will evaluate if she is suitable to become a member of the College of Commissioners and if she is qualified to carry out the particular duties assigned to her.


Mr Dombrovskis will be heard by the International Trade Committee from 13.00 to 16.00. The Committees on Foreign Affairs, on Economic and Monetary Affairs, on Development and on Budgets will be invited to participate and can ask one oral question each. Since he is already a member of the Commission, Mr Dombrovskis only has to answer questions on whether he is suitable for the portfolio assigned to him.


Before the hearings can start, Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee examines the declaration of financial interests presented by Commissioner-designate McGuinness and Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis to confirm that there is no conflict of interests in connection with their future portfolio in the Commission. Both also have to respond to written questions addressed to them by the responsible committees.


The hearings on 2 October will be followed immediately by meetings in which the Chairs and group representatives (coordinators) of the committees will evaluate their performances.


On 5 October, the Conference of Committee Chairs will assess the outcome of the two hearings and forward its conclusions to the Conference of Presidents. The latter is responsible for the final evaluation and decision to close the hearings or request further actions, in its meeting on 6 October.


The vote by EP Plenary is scheduled for 7 October.

European values: towards a permanent monitoring mechanism against backsliding

 

  • Legislative initiative to protect democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights through preventive and corrective measures
  • The EU is “structurally ill-equipped” to tackle backsliding in its member states, while facing an “unprecedented and escalating crisis of its founding values”
  • Parliament, Council and Commission to monitor developments in all EU countries with help from independent experts

 

The EU needs a “robust, comprehensive and positive agenda” to effectively protect and reinforce EU values, according to the Civil Liberties Committee.

 

With 51 votes to 14 and one abstention, the Civil Liberties Committee adopted on Tuesday a legislative initiative report that envisions an EU mechanism being established to protect and strengthen democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights. The text reiterates MEPs’ concerns regarding “the rise and entrenchment of autocratic and illiberal tendencies”, further compounded by COVID-19, as well as “corruption, disinformation and state capture”, in several EU countries.


An “Annual Monitoring Cycle” with preventive and corrective measures
Aiming to protect the European Union’s legal order, the fundamental rights of its citizens, and its international credibility from the deterioration of Article 2 TEU values, MEPs propose an objective and evidence-based tool that would apply equally, objectively and fairly to all member states, while respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.


This new “Annual Monitoring Cycle” must include preventive and corrective measures, ranging from country-specific recommendations to budgetary conditionality. To this end, the three EU institutions should establish a permanent “Interinstitutional Working Group on Union Values”, which will hear from a panel of independent experts in cooperation with the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.


The Committee’s proposal aspires to integrate and complement existing mechanisms, such as those provided in Article 7 TEU. MEPs regret the Council’s inability to make meaningful progress in ongoing Article 7 procedures and note that this failure “is in fact enabling continued divergence”. They welcome the Commission’s work on the Annual Rule of Law Report, among other instruments, whilst pointing out that the areas of democracy and fundamental rights should not have been omitted from it.


Quote
“To prevent further democratic backsliding, the EU needs a change of pace to place the protection of its values at the heart of European politics. We propose a legally binding interinstitutional agreement that will consolidate and enhance existing initiatives, which will in turn increase the EU's ability to protect itself”, said rapporteur Michal Šimečka (Renew, SK).


Next steps
The report is set to be voted on by the full house at the 5-8 October plenary session.


Background
Parliament has asked since 2016 for a permanent mechanism to be established and insisted since 2018 that the new tool should be linked to protecting the European Union’s budget when there are generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law. MEPs and stakeholders alike have referenced the European Semester as a useful existing resource to draw upon.


In her inaugural address in July 2019 and in her Political Guidelines, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged to respond with a proposal for a legislative act whenever Parliament, acting by a majority of its members, adopts a resolution requesting a legislative proposal. Find out more about Parliament’s right of legislative initiative.

MEPs approve €6.2 billion to tackle crisis and speed up vaccine deployment

 

  • EU budget 2020 to be increased by €6.2 billion
  • €1.1 billion to develop and deploy a COVID-19 vaccine
  • Cohesion funds will be reinforced with €5.1 billion

 

The funds will allow the EU to improve its chances of having an effective and safe vaccine available as soon as possible, and to step up COVID-19-related cohesion funding.

Cohesion funds will be topped up with €5.1 billion to ensure that requests for reimbursements from member states for actions taken under the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+) can be covered. The CRII+ was created to relax the cohesion spending rules to increase flexibility, whereas the CRII redirected unspent money from the EU budget to tackling the COVID-19 crisis.

 

The vaccine-related €1.1 billion will increase payments for the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI), a significant part of which is used to secure the production of vaccines in the EU and sufficient supplies for its member states. This is part of the European Commission’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy.

 

Parliament approved the proposal with 643 votes in favour, 29 against and 14 abstentions.

 

Background

Recognising the importance and urgency of the proposal that was tabled on 28 August, Parliament treated it under the urgent procedure (Rule 163 of the Rules of Procedure) without a report from the Committee on Budgets.

Eastern Mediterranean: Turkey must immediately end illegal drilling activities

 

  • Turkey to should refrain from unilateral actions
  • Concern about the current state of EU-Turkey relations
  • Further sanctions to be considered

 

MEPs condemn Turkey’s actions in the Greek and Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone and express full solidarity with the two member states.

MEPs voiced their concern regarding the ongoing dispute and the related risk of further military escalation between EU member states and an EU candidate country

 

Ahead of a Special European Council meeting on 24/25 September on the dangerous escalation and the role of Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, MEPs express their full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, in a resolution adopted by 601 votes in favour, 57 against and 36 abstentions.

 

Stating that the EU is clear and determined in defending its interests, MEPs call on Turkey to immediately end any further illegal exploration and drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, to refrain from violating Greek airspace and Greek and Cypriot territorial waters and stop “nationalistic warmongering rhetoric”

 

Deteriorating state of EU-Turkey relations

A solution can only be found through dialogue, diplomacy and negotiations, MEPs say, calling on all actors involved, especially Turkey, to commit to an urgent de-escalation by withdrawing their military forces from the area. They welcomed Turkey’s decision to withdraw one of its seismic research vessels from the area on 12 September as the first step towards easing tensions, condemning at the same time Turkey’s plans to extend the term of duty of another drilling ship.

MEPs express serious concern about the current state of EU-Turkey relations, which are being seriously affected by the dire human rights situation in Turkey and the erosion of democracy and rule of law.

 

Further sanctions are not excluded

They call for both Turkey and the member states to support the political dialogue in Libya and to adhere to the arms embargo imposed by the UNSC. MEPs deplore the negative impact that current Turkish foreign policy and other actions in the Mediterranean are having on the stability of the region, including Syria.

Insisting that further sanctions can only be avoided through dialogue, they call on the Council to stand ready to develop further restrictive measures that should be sectoral and targeted and would not have an adverse impact on the people of Turkey or the refugees residing there

 

Background
In the last few months, tensions have been mounting over Turkey’s increased gas exploration activities in the area within the Greek and Cypriot exclusive economic zone. In the meantime, Greece and Turkey have put their militaries on high alert and have sent warships into the area. Prior to Tuesday’s debate, MEPs discussed Turkey’s problematic role in the region with the High Representative Josep Borrell in Plenary in July.

MEPs want new cars to respect emission limits under real driving conditions

 

  • Discrepancy between laboratory and real driving emission tests must end by 30 September 2022
  • MEPs set more stringent limits on portable equipment used to determine compliance with emission limits
  • Air pollution is the number one environmental cause of premature death in the EU

 

As of September 2022, cars must meet EU limits on NOx emissions under real driving conditions to comply with air pollution limits, says the European Parliament.

On Thursday, Parliament adopted its position with 485 votes to 169 and 42 abstentions on the Commission proposal to re-introduce legal exemptions (through a so-called conformity factor) on nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from light passenger and commercial cars (Euro 5 and Euro 6) for type approval of vehicles tested under real driving conditions in order to comply with the EU General Court ruling of 13 December 2018.

 

Real driving emissions tests

Previously, data on car emissions such as NOx were obtained through laboratory tests. The EU is the first region in the world to use real driving emissions (RDE) tests to measure such pollutants emitted by vehicles while driven on the road. However, emissions from these vehicles in real-world driving conditions tend to be significantly higher.

To address technical uncertainties regarding measurements obtained through Portable Emission Measurement Systems (PEMS), which measure emissions from engines while they are being used, the Commission introduced the so-called ‘conformity factor’, which allows for higher emissions under real driving conditions to take into account a margin of error.

To reduce NOx emissions, Parliament wants the conformity factor currently in place to be annually lowered, based on assessments by the Joint Research Centre. After being immediately lowered from 1.43 to 1.32, it should be gradually reduced and cease to apply by 30 September 2022, after which only the raw data from tests carried out under real driving conditions would be used to determine compliance with EU emission limits.

The report also asks that the Commission establish by June 2021 more stringent requirements for the portable measuring equipment to be used for RDE tests.

 

Quote

Following the vote, Parliament’s rapporteur on the file, Esther De Lange, said: “Today’s outcome is based on a broad agreement between the political groups. We have to be realistic about the discrepancy between emissions measured in laboratories and those measured in real-driving conditions by taking into account statistical and technical uncertainties linked to these measurements. At the same time, it's important to show ambition by gradually lowering the value for the conformity factor through annual downward revisions, based on the scientific assessments of the Joint Research Centre."

Next steps

Parliament is now ready to start negotiations with EU member states to agree on final rules.

Background

According to the 2019 Air Quality Report by the European Environment Agency, air pollution led to more than half a million premature deaths in 2016 and is the number one environmental cause of premature death in the EU. As passenger cars produce 40% of total EU NOx emissions, they are a significant source of air pollution, especially in urban areas.

Emission measurements in the automotive sector were the subject of an EP inquiry committee (EMIS), set up in 2016 after the ‘diesel scandal’. You can read its key recommendations here.

Parliament requests more support for regions to make energy transition a success

  

  • Parliament broadened scope of the new Just Transition Fund (JTF) 
  • Social cohesion is a guiding principle for providing support under the JTF 
  • Particular focus on least developed regions, outermost regions, islands 
  • European Council must increase level of resources to meet actual needs 

 

MEPs are ready to start negotiations with the Council on setting up the Just Transition Fund to mitigate the social impact of greening the economy.

On Wednesday 16 September, MEPs adopted Parliament’s position on the Commission proposal on the JTF with 417 votes in favour, 141 against and 138 abstentions.

Parliament insisted on a substantial increase in JTF resources from the EU budget for 2021-2027 (EUR 25 billion in 2018 prices compared to EUR 11 billion proposed by the Commission and the decrease to EUR 7,5 billion agreed by the European Council). This amount should be supplemented by EUR 32 billion in current prices, as proposed under the EU Recovery Instrument.

Moreover, MEPs confirmed key provisions outlined in the draft recommendations by the Regional Development Committee:

  • Providing support to people, the economy and the environment,
  • Creation of a “Green Rewarding Mechanism”, allowing 18% of the total JTF resources to be allocated to member states that reduce their greenhouse gas emissions more quickly than others,
  • A share of 1% of the total amount will be allocated for islands, and 1% for the outermost regions,
  • A co-financing rate of up to 85% of costs for eligible projects across the EU,
  • Possibility to transfer resources from other cohesion funds on a voluntary basis,
  • Broadening the scope to include microenterprises, sustainable tourism, social infrastructure, universities and public research institutions, energy storage technologies, low-emission district heating, smart and sustainable mobility, digital innovation, including digital and precision farming, projects fighting energy poverty, as well as culture, education and community building,
  • A derogation for investments in activities related to natural gas, for regions heavily reliant on the extraction and combustion of coal, lignite, oil shale or peat, if they qualify as “environmentally sustainable” in accordance with the Taxonomy Regulation and comply with six additional cumulative conditions,
  • In addition, only 50% of the national allocation will be available for countries which have not yet committed to a 2050 national target for climate neutrality, until such a target is adopted.

 

Quote

Rapporteur Manolis Kefalogiannis (EPP, GR) said: “The EU is aiming, as part of the European Green Deal, to socio-economically transform regions relying on fossil fuels and carbon-intensive industries. On 6 July, the Regional Development Committee successfully approved the draft report establishing the Just Transition Fund as a whole. The JTF will become a key component of the EU’s cohesion policy. We are now ready to kick off inter-institutional negotiations; at the same time, the JTF will be closely linked to the MFF 2021-2027 and the new Recovery Instrument (Next Generation EU).”

 

Next steps

Inter-institutional negotiations are expected to start as soon as possible, on all matters except for the financial envelope, which is to be agreed upon in parallel talks on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

 

Background

The Commission published in January a legislative proposal on the Just Transition Fund (JTF), the first legislative proposal implementing the priorities set out in the European Green Deal, followed in May by an amended proposal containing an increase of the Fund’s resources.

In order to ensure that negotiations with the Council can start as soon as possible, the Regional Development Committee requested that both the draft report and the mandate for negotiations be put to the EP plenary vote directly. According to Rule 71, if Parliament as a whole were to reject a committee’s decision to enter into negotiations, the report could only be voted on during the following plenary session, thus delaying negotiations between Parliament, Council and the Commission.

EP TODAY 15 September

Russia/Belarus/Lebanon/Mediterranean

 

In a series of debates starting at 9.15 with EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell, MEPs will comment on the situation in Russia and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, on Belarus, Lebanon and on the upcoming Special EU summit, focussing on the dangerous escalation of tensions and the role of Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Resolutions on Russia, Belarus and the Eastern Mediterranean will be put to the vote on Thursday.

Watch the debate live on Parliament’s Multimedia Centre and on EbS+

 

Viktor ALMQVIST
(+32) 470 88 29 42
EP_ForeignAff

 

Snjezana KOBESCAK SMODIS
(+32) 470 96 08 19
EP_ForeignAff

 

COVID-19 tests/risk classification

MEPs will debate from 14.30 to 15.30 the lack of coordination regarding COVID-19 health assessments and risk classification and its consequences for the Schengen area. They are set to call for a common EU approach. A resolution will be put to the vote on Thursday.

Watch the debate live on Parliament’s Multimedia Centre and on EbS+

 

Andreas KLEINER
(+32) 498 98 33 22
EuroParlPress


In brief

Ahead of Wednesday’s debate on the State of the European Union, lead MEPs will discuss the European Union’s priorities and react to questions and ideas from citizens. Find more details here.

The live event from 16.00 to 18.00 will be webstreamed here, as well as on EbS.

 

Votes

The first voting session lasts from 10.30 to 11.45, with results announced at 14.15.

MEPs will vote on amendments on

  • a Union Civil Protection Mechanism (final vote Wednesday)
  • the European Union’s system of own resources (final vote Wednesday)
  • the Implementation of the EU Association Agreement with Georgia (final vote Wednesday).

 

The second voting session lasts from 17.00 to18.15 with results announced the next morning at 9.00.

MEPs will vote, among other things, on

  • the EU’s role in protecting and restoring the world’s forests (final vote)
  • the EU-African security cooperation in the Sahel region, West Africa and the Horn of Africa (final vote)
  • Type approval of motor vehicles/Real Driving Emissions (vote on amendments, final vote Wednesday)
  • Establishing the Just Transition Fund (vote on amendments, final vote Wednesday)
  • Arms export (vote on amendments, final vote Wednesday).

State of the European Union: Tuesday live online event with key MEPs

 

Ahead of Wednesday’s debate on the State of the European Union, lead MEPs will discuss the European Union’s priorities and react to questions and ideas from citizens.

As European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is to address the House on Wednesday, Parliament will hold a central live event the day before, on Tuesday 15 September, from 16.00 to 18.00, to be opened by Parliament Vice-President Katarina Barley (S&D, DE).

 

The live event will be webstreamed here, as well as on EbS.

 

After a quick catch-up session on the role of Members of the European Parliament, representatives from the political groups will present their own political priorities and expectations ahead of the debate.

 

The event will feature a debate with young Europeans with EP Vice-President Othmar Karas (EPP, AT), where they will discuss young people’s ideas for a better Europe.

 

The next debate will evolve around the major current topics in the European Parliament, with Committee Chair for Environment, Public Health and Food safety Pascal Canfin (Renew, FR) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chair David McAllister (EPP, DE) .


A multilingual website encourages citizens to get involved and facilitates contact with MEPs. The EP Liaison Offices in the member states have organised over 150 online activities over three weeks.

 

Background

The State of the European Union debate is a key moment to demonstrate the European Commission’s accountability towards the EU’s democratically elected representatives. It focuses on important issues like the coming economic recovery, climate change, youth unemployment and migration flows. This annual event is significant to promote a more transparent and democratic European Union. It is an opportunity to bring the European Union closer to the citizens, highlighting the year’s core action points and challenges. Citizens’ rights and the democratic process are at the heart of this unique plenary debate.

The EP central Facebook page will stream the debate in English, in addition to the regular streaming in all languages on the EP website. After the debate, a wrap-up video will be made available in 24 languages.

State of the EU debate: how to follow and get involved

Find out how to follow the State of the Union debate on 16 September, looking at what the EU has done recently and what still needs to be done.

 

What is the State of the European Union debate?

The State of the European Union debate takes place every September when the president of the European Commission comes to the European Parliament to discuss with MEPs what the Commission has done over the past year, what it intends to do in the coming year and its vision for the future. This year will be the first State of the EU address by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen .

This is an opportunity for Parliament, the EU’s only directly-elected institution, to hold the European Commission to account.

 

Why is the 2020 State of the EU debate important?

This year the EU has been fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and working to relaunch the economy in its wake. The debate is a chance to review what worked and what needs to be improved, as well as an opportunity to discuss what the EU is planning next.

It also comes at a moment when the EU institutions are negotiating the next long-term budget, which will shape the EU for years to come.

 

How to follow and take part

The debate will be streamed live online on our website on 16 September from 9.00 CET. Interpretation will be available in all 24 official EU languages. Simply select the language of your choice. The Parliament and the Commission will also be streaming it on Facebook.

 

Join the debate on social media. Using the hashtags #SOTEU and #StrongerTogetherEU you can join the discussion on our TwitterLinkedIn and Instagram pages.

 

Find photos and videos in Parliament’s multimedia centre.

 

Discover what MEPs say about the State of the European Union on their social media channels on EP Newshub.

 

Participate in events ahead of the State of the European Union debate

 

This year events will be organised all over the EU, from Athens to Zagreb, to tie in with the debate. To find out what’s happening near you, get in touch with a European Parliament liaison office in your country.
In Malta the discussion is online today. Imagine Europe is live on the European Parliament in Malta Facebook page from 16.30 to 19.30 with MEPs Roberta Metsola (EPP), Miriam Dalli and Josianne Cutajar (S&D), and Romanian MEP Dragoș Pîslaru (Renew).

 

Don’t miss the two-hour live programme on the State of the European Union with leading MEPs on 15 September. Interpretation will be available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish. Follow live on our Facebook page.

Covid19: Sassoli - Strasbourg declared red zone / Next plenary will take place in Brussels

Statement by the President of the European Parliament

 

The seat of the European Parliament is Strasbourg, this is laid down in the Treaties that we want to respect. We have done everything to resume the normal course of our plenary sessions in Strasbourg. However, the resurgence of the pandemic in many Member States and the decisions taken by the French authorities to classify the entire Lower Rhine department as a red zone, obliges us to reconsider the move to Strasbourg. While we are very disappointed about this decision, we have to consider that the transfer of the administration of the European Parliament would entail quarantine for all staff upon their return to Brussels.

We are going through a difficult time and I am grateful for all the cooperation, availability and expertise shown by the City of Strasbourg, the health authorities, and the government.

The European Parliament's wish is to return to Strasbourg and we are confident that, in the face of a decline of the pandemic, this will be possible.

The plenary session of the European Parliament from 14 to 17 September will take place in Brussels.

Public Discussion in Malta on the State of the European Union with MEPs and student groups

The European Parliament’s plenary will debate the State of the European Union with Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen following the delivery of her first SOTEU speech on Wednesday 16 September at 9.00. This is the most important EU public discussion of the year when the Commission lays out its working plan and priorities for the year ahead and MEPs debate these, giving opinions and direction at an early stage of upcoming EU action.

Anticipating this debate, Maltese MEPs Roberta Metsola (EPP), Miriam Dalli and Josianne Cutajar (S&D), and Romanian MEP Dragoș Pîslaru (Renew) will be discussing with the public in the Imagine Europe debate -  live online on 10 September 2020 from 16.30 to 19.30 on the European Parliament in Malta Facebook page.

MEPs Miriam Dalli and Josianne Cutajar (S&D) will be discussing with young people how they envisage a future European Union on the first panel. The National Youth Council’s Nigel Caruana, JEF Malta’s Chantelle Sammut, and the European Studies Organisation’s Bernice Theresa Bonello will be joining this debate and taking questions from the public together with the MEPs. 

The second part of the discussion will analyse the challenges the EU is about to face with MEP Dragoș Pîslaru (Renew, RO), EP Co-Rapporteur on the Recovery and Resilience Facility, together with Professor Roderick Pace and Dr Mark Harwood of the Institute for European Studies.

 

“When the Recovery Plan was announced, I felt hope, as did most EU citizens. Best of all was the component encouraging Member States to run vital reforms and investments: the Recovery and Resilience Facility. We witnessed extensive debates about numbers, about the loans and grants proportion, but little has been discussed about the content and design of this Facility. This is where the European Parliament must have a say”.

- MEP Dragoș Pîslaru, ECON Co-Rapporteur on the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

 

To round-up, the kind of Europe the citizens want will be up for discussion by the third panel with MEP Roberta Metsola (EPP), Aditus’ Neil Falzon, SOS Malta’s Claudia Taylor East, and MaltaTogether founder Mark Weingard. These panels will take questions from the public too. 

The discussion will be introduced by the Head of the European Parliament Office in Malta Mario Sammut, the Head of the Commission Representation Elena Grech, and the Head of the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee Mandy Falzon. 

Imagine Europe is being organised jointly by the European Parliament Office in Malta, the EC Representation in Malta, and Meusac. 

 

More info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/311562456723598/

Follow live here: https://www.facebook.com/ParlamentEwropew

LUX prize will be awarded jointly by the European Parliament and the European Film Academy

On Saturday , Sabine Verheyen, Chair of Parliament’s Culture Committee unveiled the details of the revamped LUX award, from now on to be called “LUX— the European Audience Film Award”.
 

  • LUX prize from now on to be awarded together with the European Film Academy 
  • Audience and MEPs to jointly choose winner 
  • Shortlist of three films to be announced in Reykjavik in December  
  • Winning film to be announced in EP plenary sitting on 28 April 2021 
  • Limited format due to Covid-19

 

“Until now, LUX filmography has emotionally echoed our political work on environment, migration, fighting poverty and inequalities as well as on democracy and pluralism. Now we will continue this work with strong and amazing partners and take the award a step further,” said Sabine Verheyen (EPP, DE), Chair of Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee, while unveiling the details of the revamped award on Saturday in Venice.

 

She added that due to COVID these were “difficult times for the audiovisual and film environment” and said that the award presented an opportunity to “come together in building a stronger sense of community and belonging in defending cinema and culture”.

 

“Cinema is a tool that has never ceased to describe and narrate our complex society, and above all it is one of the most fundamental ways of understanding the reality in which we live.” said David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, in his video address to the Venice film festival audience.

 

A truly pan-European Audience Award

The LUX Award, until recently organized and awarded by the European Parliament alone, from now will be awarded by the European Parliament and the European Film Academy, in partnership with the European Commission and the Europa Cinemas network.

It will be formally called “LUX - the European Audience Film Award by the European Parliament and the European Film Academy”, with the shortened adaptation “LUX European Audience Film Award”.

Mike Downey, chairman of the European Film Academy, will be the Honorary President of the LUX jury.

 

New selection procedure

Until recently, only Members of the European Parliament were entitled to vote for the competing films. With the new award, the winner will be selected jointly by MEPs and the public, each representing 50% of the vote.

The three European films that will make up the LUX Award selection will be selected by a panel of film industry professionals.

On 22 June, the EP’s Committee on Culture and Education approved the list of members for the Selection Panel, by adding new members:

- Teona Strugar Mitevska, Macedonian film director who won the LUX Prize last year film God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunya;

- Fatima Djoumer, Head of International Relations of Europa Cinemas

- Vanessa Henneman, Dutch talent agent and lawyer specialized in intellectual property rights and copyrights, who is also a member of the European Film Academy Board;

- Maria Silvia Gatta, a policy officer of European Commission, who will serve as an observer.

The new members will join the standing members who remain in their positions from previous years — see more on the LUX award web.

 

The timeline

The three nominated films this year will be announced during the European Film Awards Ceremony in Reykyavik, Iceland, on 12 December.

Until April, the three nominated films subtitled in the 24 official EU languages will then be screened across Europe. The public will have the chance to cast their votes and rank the nominated films by giving them 1 to 5 stars. The audience and the MEPs each have 50% of the vote.

On April 28 2021 the winner will be announced in the LUX Award Ceremony during the plenary sitting of the European Parliament.

 

Limited format due to Covid-19

In the new format five nominees will be competing for the award each year, and subtitled in 24 European languages. However, due to the impact of Covid-19 on the film industry market, the number of films running for the award in the first edition will be exceptionally three.

Press Briefing: EU Tourism Sector in Covid-19 crisis 

The European Parliament's Tourism Task Force MEPs will hold a briefing and a Q&A session for journalists on Tuesday, 8 September at 15:00 CEST on the situation of the tourism sector in the EU and the way forward.

 

The briefing will be held on the record via videoconference by 

  • Transport and Tourism Committee Chair Karima Delli (Greens/EFA, FR)
  • Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar (EPP, PT) - Tourism Task Force Steering Group
  • István Ujhelyi (S&D, HU) - Tourism Task Force Steering Group
  • José Ramón Bauzà Díaz (Renew, ES) - Tourism Task Force Steering Group

 

Please register for the briefing until Monday, 7 September at 18:00 by confirming your interest to Press Officer Inga Höglund inga.hoglund@europarl.europa.eu mentioning the media you are working for. All participants will receive the link to the online briefing on Tuesday morning.

COVID-19: EU countries should harmonise testing procedures and frequency

 

  • The upsurge of COVID-19 cases at EU level in the last five weeks to 46 infections per 100.000 inhabitants per week
  • Need to harmonise testing procedures as testing frequency ranges from 173 to 6.000 per 100.000 per week in EU member states
  • A stronger role for the ECDC needed including enabling it to issue recommendations

 

EU needs a common approach to limit COVID-19 and avoid member states designating other EU countries as red zones, EP’s committee responsible for public health says.

 

On Wednesday, the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety held a debate with Dr Andrea Ammon, Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), after she gave an update on the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic in the EU and the ECDC’s work to address it.


Dr Ammon highlighted the most recent data related to COVID-19 in the EU including:

  • Notification rate at EU level on the rise in the last five weeks to currently 46 COVID-19 infections per 100.000 inhabitants per week
  • Epidemiological situation different across the EU ranging from 2 to 176 cases per 100.000 inhabitants
  • Testing for COVID-19 range from 173 to 6.000 per 100.000 inhabitants per week which has a direct impact on the notification rate
  • Second infections of COVID-19 very rare and with milder symptoms
  • A protocol on winter and seasonal flu is being established by ECDC with member states for 1 October, including increased flu vaccination for vulnerable groups


Many MEPs highlighted the need to achieve a common approach in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and replace the current tendency for many member states to designate other EU countries as red zones and close borders.


COVID-19 testing must be harmonised at EU-level
MEPs also deplored that there is still no common modality for counting COVID-19 cases or for testing as each country follows the recommendations of its own scientific agencies without coordination.


This was echoed by Dr Ammon, who said harmonising testing procedures and frequency is key to achieving better and more comparable data on infection levels in Europe. Dr Ammon furthermore welcomed talks to expand the ECDC’s mandate to also issue recommendations, which currently is only the competence of member states, as well as to increase its resources. The issue of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccinations and vaccine-hesitancy including by some young people was raised as a challenge and Dr Ammon said the ECDC is doing what it can to inspire trust.


Committee Chair Pascal Canfin (Renew, FR) informed that there will be a debate with the Commission on COVID-19 vaccines on 7 September as well as a public hearing planned for 22 September.


Watch the full recording of the debate here.


Background

The ECDC is the EU agency monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and issuing regular epidemiological updates and risk assessments. The ECDC Risk assessment on COVID-19, released on 10 August 2020 shows that a recent increase in COVID-19 cases has been reported in many EU/EEA countries following the relaxation of certain rules to allow for a more normal life while the virus is still in circulation.

A new Head for the European Parliament Office in Malta 

Dr Sammut is an EU official with 16 years of experience within the European institutions. During the last seven years he was a member of the European Parliament’s Legal Service, focusing on economic legislation and defending the European Parliament’s position at the European Court of Justice. Previously, he worked for the Council of the European Union and the European Court of Auditors. 

In 2016 he was also seconded by the European Parliament to the Maltese Permanent Representation to the European Union to assist the Maltese Presidency of the EU Council. Dr Sammut is a lawyer specialised in European Union Law having obtained a Master Degree from the College of Europe in 2004.   

He will now be heading the EP Office’s communication and engagement in Malta on the role and powers of the European Parliament and its work in order to ensure citizens understand the impact of the institution on their lives. 

 

EP Offices - officially entitled European Parliament Liaison Offices - are present in each EU Member State. They are the first point of contact for EU citizens with the EU institution that is the voice of the citizens within the EU. 

 

The main role of the EP Offices is to inform and communicate locally the impact of the European Parliament’s legislative work on people’s lives. EP Offices work also with the media, authorities and institutions, representations, NGOs and stakeholders, amongst others, throughout the EP legislative process and communicate the values, campaigns and positions of the European Parliament. 

 

Dr. Mario Sammut succeeds Dr. Peter Agius, who left the EP Office in 2017, and Ms. Anna Zammit Vella, who was acting head ad interim. 

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Dr Mario Sammut is the new Head of the European Parliament Office in Malta as from September 1 2020.

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EU long-term budget deal must be improved for Parliament to accept it  

 

The recovery fund is a “historic move”, but long-term EU priorities such as the Green Deal and the Digital Agenda are put at risk, MEPs say.

 

  • A positive step for the short-term recovery, but cuts to long-term budget are unacceptable 
  • Democratic oversight of EU Recovery Instrument necessary for accountability 
  • Binding commitment to new sources of EU revenue is indispensable 
  • Clear mechanism linking EU financing to respect for Rule of Law required 
  • MEPs are prepared to withhold their consent to long-term budget unless deal is improved

 

In a resolution on the conclusions of the extraordinary European Council meeting of 17-21 July 2020, adopted by 465 votes against 150, with 67 abstentions, MEPs pay tribute to the victims of the coronavirus and to all the workers who have been fighting the pandemic. They underline that “people in the EU have a collective duty of solidarity.”

 

Positive step for recovery, inadequate in the long term 
In the text, which serves as a mandate for the upcoming negotiations on the future EU financing and recovery, Parliament welcomes EU leaders’ acceptance of the recovery fund as proposed by Parliament in May, calling it a “historic move for the EU”. MEPs deplore however the “massive cuts to the grant components” and call for full democratic involvement of Parliament in the recovery instrument which “does not give a formal role to elected Members of the European Parliament”.
As for the long-term EU budget, they disapprove of the cuts made to future-oriented programmes and consider that they will “undermine the foundations of a sustainable and resilient recovery.” Flagship EU programmes for climate protection, digital transition, health, youth, culture, research or border management “are at risk of an immediate drop in funding from 2020 to 2021", and that as of 2024, the “EU budget as a whole will be below 2020 levels, jeopardising the EU’s commitments and priorities.”


Parliament cannot accept a bad agreement
Parliament thus does not accept the European Council’s political agreement on the 2021-2027 MFF as it stands and “will not rubber-stamp a fait accompli”. MEPs are “prepared to withhold their consent” for the long-term EU budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) until a satisfactory agreement is reached in the upcoming negotiations between Parliament and the Council, preferably by the end of October at the latest for a smooth start of the EU programmes from 2021.
In the case however that a new MFF would not be adopted on time, MEPs recall that Article 312(4) of the TFEU provides for the temporary extension of the ceiling of the last year of the present MFF (2020), and that this would be fully compatible with the recovery plan and the adoption of the new MFF programmes.


Rule of Law 
Parliament “strongly regrets” that the European Council significantly weakened the efforts of the Commission and Parliament to uphold the rule of law, fundamental rights and democracy in the framework of the MFF and the recovery plan, recalling that the Rule of Law Regulation will be co-decided by Parliament.


New sources of EU revenue and repayment of EU-debt
MEPs reiterate that Parliament will not give its consent for the MFF without an agreement on the reform of the EU’s own resources system, including the introduction of a basket of new own resources by the end of the 2021-2027 MFF which is necessary to cover at least the costs related to the recovery plan.
They believe that the EU Heads of State and Government have failed to tackle the issue of the recovery instrument repayment plan and recall that without further cuts to key programmes or increasing the Member States’ contributions to the EU budget, new own resources is the only acceptable option to Parliament.


Mid-term revision indispensable
Parliament demands that a legally binding MFF mid-term revision enters into force by the end of 2024 at the latest and stresses that this revision must include the ceilings for the 2025-2027 period, the introduction of additional own resources and the implementation of the climate and biodiversity targets.

Citizens call for a bigger EU budget to tackle crisis, new survey shows

A majority (56 %) says the EU should have more financial means to overcome the impact of the pandemic. Public health tops the priority list, with economic recovery and climate change. 

In a new survey commissioned by the European Parliament and conducted in the second half of June 2020, nearly seven out of ten respondents (68%) want a stronger role for the EU in fighting this crisis. More than half (56%) believe this requires greater financial means for the EU, which should be directed primarily at tackling the impact of the pandemic on the health sector and the economy.

Among Maltese respondents, 84% want a stronger role for the EU in fighting this crisis and 62% believe this requires greater financial means for the EU.

More than half of respondents (53%) remain dissatisfied with the solidarity shown between EU Member States during the pandemic, although more people now have a more positive view than was the case in April (+ 5 points).

Commenting on the results of the latest survey, EP President David Sassoli said:

“The results of this survey clearly show that EU citizens expect the EU to show more solidarity and take more action to assist the recovery. They also recognise the need for a larger EU budget to tackle the unprecedented impact the pandemic has had on our economy and society. In the context of the current budget negotiations, Parliament stands by the citizens in their call for a more effective and ambitious EU."

 

Widespread awareness about EU actions against COVID-19 - and satisfaction is growing

Three out of four European citizens (76%) have heard about the various EU measures proposed to fight the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. 36% of respondents, an increase of three points compared to the first survey of this kind in April, also know what these measures are. Of those who have heard about the EU measures against COVID-19, 49% are satisfied with them. A clear increase of almost 7 points on average (compared to 42% in April) confirms the growing public support for the proposed measures, many of which have still to be implemented.

 

Majority still not satisfied with solidarity between EU Member States 

While just over half of respondents across the EU (53%) are not satisfied with the solidarity shown between EU Member States during the pandemic, 39% of EU citizens on average say that they are satisfied. This is an average increase of 5 points since April 2020, most notable in Portugal and Spain (both +9 points), Germany, Greece, Romania and Slovakia (all around +7 points).

 

The EU should improve common tools to face crises such as COVID-19

Around two-thirds of respondents (68%) agree ‘the EU should have more competences to deal with crises such as the Coronavirus pandemic’, backed by an absolute majority in 26 Member States. The strongest support for more EU competences comes from respondents in Portugal and Luxembourg (both 87%), Cyprus (85%), Malta (84%), Estonia (81%), Ireland (79%), Italy and Greece (both 78%), as well as Romania (77%) and Spain (75%).

 

An absolute majority of Europeans support a larger EU budget to fight COVID-19

56% of Europeans believe the EU should have greater financial means to be able to overcome the consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic. In 15 EU Member States, an absolute majority of respondents agrees with this claim, led by Greece (79%), Cyprus (74%), Spain and Portugal (both 71%). In Malta 62% agree.

Asked about the policy fields where this enlarged EU budget should be spent, public health tops the priority list for European citizens. 55% of respondents find spending on public health to be the most important, coming first in 17 EU Member States. Following this top priority, economic recovery and new opportunities for businesses (45%), employment and social affairs (37%) as well as the fight against climate change (36%) follow suit. In Italy (58%), Slovenia (55%) and Lithuania (54%), funding the economic recovery comes first. Citizens in Austria (48%) and Denmark (45%) see the continued fight against climate change as the EU’s top priority, while in Slovakia (63%), Croatia (58%) and Finland (46%) the most mentioned response is employment and social affairs.

In Malta, public health also tops the priority list, followed by immigration issues, then education training and culture, and climate change and environmental protection.

 

Personal financial difficulties remain significant

A clear indicator showing how important it is to make the necessary decisions for the Recovery Package as soon as possible is the worrying personal financial situation of European citizens since the beginning of the pandemic. Nearly unchanged since April, 57% of respondents say that they have experienced personal financial difficulties. Most mentioned is the ‘loss of income’ (28%), as a key issue in 21 Member States, with highest returns in Hungary and Spain (both 43%), Bulgaria and Greece (both 41%) as well as Italy (37%).

In Malta 62% of respondents say they have not experienced any of the difficulties listed in the survey, whilst 18% say they have suffered a loss of income.

 

Less uncertainty and fear, hope and confidence are on the rise 

A significant development can also be seen in respondents’ feelings about the crisis, with citizens from 15 EU Member States choosing ‘hope’ (41% overall) to best describe their current emotional state. This sentiment now comes a close second to ‘uncertainty’, which is mentioned by 45% of respondents, a decrease of 5 points compared to April (50%). Negative feelings are decreasing overall: ‘fear’ (17%, -5), frustration (23%, -4), helplessness (21%, -8), while feelings of ‘confidence’ increase by 3 points to 24% and ‘helpfulness’ by 2 points to 16% on EU average.

MEPs filling the ranks of five new committees
 

Maltese MEPs on cancer, artificial intelligence, and tax matters committees

On Friday the names of the MEPs who will sit on the new committees established in June were announced.

 

  • Members’ lists announced for new subcommittee, three special committees and a committee of inquiry 
  • Committees to focus on taxation, artificial intelligence, foreign interference, cancer and animal transport

 

The full members' list as announced in plenary this morning is available here. Maltese MEP Miriam Dalli (S&D) will sit on the Special Committee on Beating Cancer as a full member. Substitute members on these new committees include three other Maltese MEPs.  MEP Roberta Metsola (EPP) will be a substitute member on the Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence in a Digital Age as will MEP Alex Agius Saliba (S&D). MEP Alfred Sant (S&D) will be a substitute member on the Subcommittee on Tax Matters.

The members of these committees are chosen by the political groups, which communicate their selection to Parliament’s President. Each political group is allocated a number of seats in proportion to the number of MEPs it accounts for in the whole of the EP.

The chairs and vice-chairs of each committee will be decided at the constitutive meetings in September.

In its June plenary session, the Parliament established a subcommittee on taxation, three special committees - one on cancer, another on artificial intelligence and a third on foreign interference, and a committee of inquiry on animal transport.

Each special committee is composed of 33 members, whereas the subcommittee and committee of inquiry have 30 members each.

 

Background 

According to Parliament’s rules of procedures, the term of office of a special committee (Rule 207) may not exceed twelve months, except where Parliament extends that term on its expiry. A committee of inquiry’s term (Rule 208) of office is also twelve months and can be extended twice by three-month periods. The term of office of a subcommittee (Rule 212) is open-ended. Special committees, committees of inquiry and subcommittees cannot adopt legislative texts.

Subcommittees may be established either when their related standing committee is created or at the request of an already established standing committee, in the interests of the latter’s work and subject to prior authorisation by the Conference of Presidents. The area of responsibility of the subcommittee is clearly defined.

A committee of inquiry investigates alleged breaches or maladministration in the implementation of EU law.

Boost energy storage in the EU to help spur decarbonisation

 

As energy from renewable sources is increasingly part of the European energy mix, MEPs propose ways to step up storage solutions such as hydrogen or home batteries.

 

  • More storage is needed to secure supply, as solar and wind have a variable electricity output 
  • MEPs propose options to develop hydrogen and batteries  
  • Decentralised storage should be promoted through home and car batteries 

 

In a report adopted on Friday with 556 votes to 22 and 110 abstentions, MEPs outline their strategy for energy storage, which is set to play a crucial role in reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Lead MEP Claudia Gamon (Renew Europe, AT) said: “Energy storage will be essential for the transition to a decarbonised economy based on renewable energy sources. As electricity generated by wind or solar energy is not always available in the quantities needed, we will need to store more. Apart from technologies that we already know work well like pumped hydro storage, a number of technologies will play a crucial role in the future, such as new battery technologies, thermal storage or green hydrogen. These must be given market access to ensure a constant energy supply for European citizens.”

Green hydrogen

Parliament calls on the European Commission and member states to remove regulatory barriers that hamper the development of energy storage projects, such as double taxation or shortcomings in EU network codes . The Trans-European energy networks also need to be revised in order to improve eligibility criteria for those wishing to develop energy storage facilities, MEPs say.

They also highlight the potential of hydrogen produced from renewable sources (so-called “green hydrogen”), and call on the Commission to continue supporting research into and the development of a hydrogen economy. Support measures could help to reduce the cost of green hydrogen and make it economically viable, they say. The Commission should also assess if retrofitting gas infrastructure to transport hydrogen is possible, as the use of natural gas is only of a transitional nature and should gradually diminish.

 

Batteries made in the EU and new storage options

Parliament also supports the Commission’s efforts to create European standards for batteries and to reduce dependence on their production outside of Europe. The EU relies heavily on importing raw materials from sources where extraction degrades the environment. This should be reduced through enhanced recycling schemes and by sourcing raw materials sustainably, possibly in the EU.

Finally, MEPs propose ways to boost other storage options, such as mechanical and thermal storage, as well as the development of decentralised storage through home batteries, domestic heat storage, vehicle-to-grid technology and smart home energy systems.

 

Background

In order to reach the goals of the Green Deal and the Paris Agreement on climate change, the European energy system will need to become carbon-neutral by the second half of this century. However, while renewable sources of energy are key to achieving this, some of the most important renewables are not always reliable: solar and wind power output depends on the time of day, the seasons and the weather. As the share of variable renewables increases, energy storage is playing an increasingly important role in bridging the time lag between energy production and energy consumption.

The European Commission estimates that the EU will need to be able to store six times more energy than it does today to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

 

Parliament wants a European Health Union

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEPs believe that the EU needs to play a stronger role in public health ©AdobeStock_Robert-Kneschke   

 

COVID-19 has highlighted the need to give the EU a far stronger role in the area of health, MEPs say in a resolution on the EU’s future public health strategy

In a resolution adopted on Friday by 526 votes to 105 and 50 abstentions, the European Parliament sets out the principles of the EU’s future public health strategy post-COVID-19.

MEPs underline the need to draw the right lessons from the COVID-19 crisis and engage in far stronger cooperation in the area of health to create a European Health Union. This should include common minimum standards for quality healthcare, based on urgently needed stress tests of member states’ healthcare systems to identify weaknesses and verify that they are prepared for a possible resurgence of COVID-19. 

The resolution calls for a European Health Response Mechanism to be created rapidly to respond to all types of health crises through better coordination and management of the strategic reserve of medicines and medical equipment.  The upcoming EU pharmaceutical strategy must contain measures to make essential medicines more immediately available in Europe. Diversified supply chains need to be put in place to guarantee affordable access at all times. 

The new dedicated 9.4 billion EUR EU4Health Programme is strongly welcomed and MEPs believe that long-term investments and commitments are needed. They request the establishment of a dedicated EU fund to improve hospital infrastructure and health services.  On top of that, the European health agencies ECDC and EMA, as well as joint health research, must be strengthened. 

With the COVID-19 crisis ongoing, MEPs also reiterate their call for affordable access for all people worldwide to future COVID-19 vaccines and treatments as soon as they are available.  Joint EU procurement must be used more systematically to avoid competition between member states when public health is at stake. 

 

Background

Primary responsibility for public health and, in particular, healthcare systems lies with the member states. However, the EU has an important role to play in improving public health, preventing and managing diseases, mitigating sources of danger to human health, and harmonising health strategies between member states.

Parliament has consistently promoted the establishment of a coherent EU public health policy and in a resolution on the post-2020 EU budget revision and economic recovery plan, MEPs insisted that a new stand-alone European health programme should be created.

The Commission has since presented a proposal for 9.4 billion EUR EU4Health programme for 2021-2027 as part of the Next Generation EU recovery plan.

To watch the plenary debate, click here (08.07.2020).

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Parliament to allow COVID-19 vaccines to be developed more quickly

To develop, authorise and make safe COVID-19 vaccines available more easily, MEPs today adopted a temporary derogation from certain rules for clinical trials.

 

  • Fast-track development of vaccines key to stopping the pandemic 
  • More flexibility for researchers to speed up clinical trials 
  • Safety of future COVID-19 vaccines must not be compromised

 

Parliament today adopted a new Regulation by 505 votes to 67 and 109 abstentions, via the urgent procedure, that will allow COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to be developed more quickly.

Developing and deploying an effective and safe vaccine against the virus is the most likely permanent solution to stop the pandemic. To this end, the Commission has proposed an EU vaccines strategy for COVID-19 including a temporary and strictly COVID-19-related derogation from certain rules for clinical trials.

Clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines are a time-consuming step before authorisation, as they need to be carried out in several member states to ensure the populations for whom the vaccines are intended are represented and to generate robust and conclusive data.

Some COVID-19 vaccines and treatments already being developed may be defined genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and are thus covered by the relevant EU GMO Directives. As national requirements to assess the environmental risks of clinical trials on medicinal products that contain or consist of GMOs vary considerably across member states, a derogation from these rules is needed to avoid significant delay in developing life-saving vaccines and treatments.

 

Background

The Commission has proposed a Regulation to derogate temporarily - only for the period during which COVID-19 is a public health emergency - from certain provisions of the GMO Directive for clinical trialson COVID-19 vaccines and treatments that contain or consist of GMOs. The derogation should apply only to operations necessary to conduct the clinical trial phase and for compassionate or emergency use in the context of COVID-19.

The derogation will facilitate the development, authorisation and consequently availability of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. When debated last week in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, members agreed on the need to adapt the rules but stressed that standards for vaccine quality, safety and efficacy must be maintained.

MEPs set out new measures to stop money laundering

Interconnected registers of beneficial owners, a preventive blacklisting policy and effective sanctions are among tools proposed by MEPs to stop money laundering.

 

  • Harmonised anti-money laundering policies across the EU 
  • High-quality registers of beneficial ownership 
  • Beefed up EU-level supervision and information sharing between member states
  • In a resolution adopted on Friday with 534 votes to 25 and 122 abstentions, MEPs welcomed the Commission’s Action Plan on how to fight effectively against money laundering and terrorist financing and highlighted the most pressing changes needed to achieve an efficient EU framework.

 

Better implementation and cooperation

MEPs deplore the incorrect and patchy implementation of the Anti-money laundering/Combatting Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) rules in member states and call for a zero-tolerance approach and infringement procedures against member states who lag behind in transposing the rules into national law. Judicial and law enforcement authorities in member states must cooperate more and share information with each other, they say.

Parliament welcomes the fact that its proposal to create a coordination and support mechanism for Financial Intelligence Units (FIU) was taken on board. It would give member states access to the relevant information and support work on cross-border cases

 

Effective use of data

MEPs want the Commission to address the persisting lack of quality data to identify ultimate beneficial owners by setting up interconnected and high-quality registers in the EU with high standards of data protection. They also want to widen the scope of supervised entities to include new and disruptive market sectors such as crypto-assets. Finally, MEPs reiterate that non-cooperative jurisdictions and high-risk third countries must be immediately blacklisted, while creating clear benchmarks and cooperating with those undertaking reforms.

 

Harmonise dissuasive sanctions at EU level

MEPs call for the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders to be enforced. This would make criminal assets easier to recover across borders and enable swift cross-border cooperation. In addition, they want the European Central Bank to be able to withdraw the licences of any banks operating in the euro area that breach AML/CTF obligations, independently of the assessment of national AML authorities.

In the resolution, MEPs recall crimes of corruption and money laundering such as Luanda Leaks, as well as other reported scandals, such as Cum Ex, the Panama Papers, Lux Leaks and the Paradise Papers, which have repeatedly undermined citizens’ trust in fair and transparent financial and tax systems.

Finally, they highlight the valuable contribution of international investigative journalism and whistle-blowers in exposing possible crimes. They call on authorities to identify those who instigated the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and to investigate those against whom serious allegations of money laundering are still pending.

Energy: EU funding for priority projects should reflect 2050 climate objectives

The Commission should update its guidelines to select priority energy projects that are fully in line with its climate policy, said Parliaments.

 

  • Legislation on Trans-European Energy networks to be revised this year 
  • MEPs give early input on upcoming proposal 
  • Vote follows plenary debate on 4th list of Projects of Common Interest (PCI)

 

The revision of the TEN-E guidelines, to be proposed by the European Commission later this year, should be consistent with EU energy and climate targets for 2030, its long-term commitment on decarbonisation and the energy-efficiency-first principle, said MEPs in a resolution adopted on Friday by 548 votes in favour, 100 against, and 4 abstentions.

In order to ensure that the projects selected for the next PCI (projects of common interest) list are in line with the EU’s climate commitments, MEPs call on the Commission to also propose transitional guidance before the end of 2020. To be granted PCI status, projects must contribute to keep the energy supply affordable, in keeping with the five principles of the Energy Union.

The TEN-E regulation was set up in 2013, before the Paris Agreement was adopted, and several developments have since significantly changed the landscape of energy policy, MEPs recall.

 

Background

The European Parliament rejected an objection to the 4th PCI list last year, following a debate with the European Commission.

Under the Trans-European Network-Energy (TEN-E) Regulation, adopted in 2013, the Commission identifies the most important PCIs across the EU, so that these projects can benefit from simplified permits and the right to apply for EU funding from the Connecting Europe Facility.

Most projects aim at ensuring undisrupted delivery of electricity and gas to all parts of the EU, by closing cross-border gaps in the network and enhancing local storage capacity.

EU must prioritise fight against youth unemployment, homelessness and poverty

MEPs want social inclusion and people’s wellbeing at the heart of EU economic policies, with equal priority given to social, environmental and economic objectives. 

 

  • EU Employment Guidelines must be revised in light of COVID-19 outbreak 
  • Fiscal flexibility for EU countries has to reflect the scale and duration of the crisis 
  • Close gender pay-, pension- and employment gaps  

 

Parliament adopted a resolution to feed into the forthcoming EU Employment Guidelines on Friday with 550 votes in favour, 128 against and 10 abstentions, calling for radical measures to cushion the employment and social shock caused by the pandemic.

 

Quote

Rapporteur José Gusmão (GUE/NGL, PT) said: “The report on the employment guidelines adopted today shows a complete reversal of the positions that have dominated the European institutions for many years. In a context in which the problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are further aggravated by precarious employment relations and the deregulation of the labour market, this report proposes an alternative path that is as clear as it is urgent.“

The fight against youth unemployment, homelessness and poverty must be prioritised through a reinforced Youth Guarantee, a strong Child Guarantee for tackling child poverty and the Housing Firstapproach, the text says. MEPs insist that more efforts are needed to close the gender pay -, pension and employment gaps and that the gender impact of social and employment policies should be closely monitored.

In light of the social and employment consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, and to strengthen the EU response to similar future crises, MEPs call for a revision of the EU Employment Guidelines, which underpin the country-specific recommendations of the European Semester.

 

Allow for fiscal flexibility as long as needed

MEPs consider that the so-called ‘General escape clause’, that gives member states unprecedented fiscal flexibility to protect employment and finance public health and social services, has to reflect the scale and duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

Only companies that are not registered in tax havens, that respect the applicable collective agreements and that do not pay dividends or bonuses should be allowed to apply for financial assistance from the SURE mechanism for short-time work, they add.

 

Background

The Employment Guidelines (Article 148 of the TFEU) present strategic objectives for national employment policies in the fields of employment, education and social inclusion. The Council will adopt the act after consulting the European Parliament. The Guidelines serve as a basis for country-specific recommendations (part of the European Semester) in the different areas concerned.

The European Commission presented this year’s revision of the Employment Guidelines in February 2020, in order to integrate the four dimensions of the Annual Strategy for Sustainable Growth (ASGS) and, in particular, the dimension of environmental sustainability to reflect the vision of a strong social Europe for just transitions

Parliament calls on EU Commission to step up action against dangerous chemicals

The upcoming new EU chemicals strategy for sustainability must better protect our health and the environment, says Parliament in a resolution adopted on Friday.

 

  • Support green innovation and end toxic recycling 
  • Call for endocrine disruptors in toys, food contact materials and cosmetics to be phased out 
  • Protect children, pregnant women and the elderly

 

Following Wednesday’s debate, where MEPs requested the Commission to close loopholes in EU chemicals legislation to help REACH to function more efficiently, Parliament adopted a resolution by 653 votes to 17 and 11 abstentions. It calls on the Commission to come up with a new chemicals strategy that effectively ensures that health and the environment are well protected, by minimising exposure to hazardous chemicals. Further regulatory measures are needed to protect vulnerable groups in particular such as children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly.

According to MEPs, the new chemicals strategy must fully reflect the precautionary principle and the polluter-pays principle, and ensure more transparent approval processes. It should also stimulate competition for developing safe and sustainable alternatives, e.g. by committing to securing funds for research.

MEPs believe in the ‘one substance – one hazard assessment’ principle: substances should be reviewed by only one EU agency to speed up the process and make chemicals regulation more consistent.

 

Reduce exposure to endocrine disruptors and pesticides

The resolution calls for a comprehensive EU framework on endocrine disruptors (EDCs) to effectively minimise the extent to which humans and the environment are exposed to EDCs. Specific provisions on toys, food contact materials and cosmetics should be inserted into legislation to treat EDCs in the same way as substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction.

It also calls on the Commission to heed the various calls of the European Parliament to improve the EU’s authorisation procedure for pesticides and accelerate the transition towards low-risk pesticides.

 

Encourage green innovation and end toxic recycling

MEPs call on the Commission to develop EU criteria for Sustainable Chemicals to provide incentives for sustainable chemistry, materials and technologies, especially non-chemical alternatives that are safe. Harmful chemicals also end up in recycled products and should therefore be covered by the same rules as new products.

The EU must also minimise and progressively replace animal testing by using more new approach methodologies and intelligent testing strategies.

 

Next steps

The resolution is Parliament’s input to a new EU chemicals strategy for sustainability to be presented by the Commission this autumn. A draft roadmap was open for feedback until 20 June. It is part of the European Green Deal.

EU recovery and long-term budget: Leaders must do better

Commenting on the draft conclusions for the 17 July EU summit, EP’s negotiators disagree with additional cuts to the long-term EU budget and urge the European Council to improve the text.

 

  • President Michel’s recovery proposals come at the cost of some key priorities 
  • EU’s long-term objectives should not be sacrificed for short-term recovery 
  • Lack of binding commitment to new Own Resources risks burdening next generations with repayment of recovery debt

 

“We have read the draft European Council conclusions (‘negotiating box’) presented by President Charles Michel on Friday very carefully.

We appreciate that President Michel has taken on board the size and balance of the Recovery instrument as proposed by the Commission, and we urge the European Council members not to water it down. The grants are an essential part of this instrument and a decrease would be unacceptable.

However, we regret that this comes at the cost of some fundamental elements of the package.

Firstly, we cannot accept the very low level proposed for the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) ceilings for 2021-2027. While the European Commission already downsized its original proposal by 35 billion Euros last May, this proposal is slashing it even further by cutting another 25 billion Euros from key programmes such as Erasmus+, Digital Europe, Horizon Europe and migration. This is unacceptable and another step away from Parliament’s position. The European Union’s long-term objectives have not disappeared with the COVID-19 outbreak and should not be sacrificed for the sake of short-term recovery. Nevertheless, we welcome the new climate target of 30% and its application to both the MFF and the Recovery Instrument.

Secondly, we deplore backward-looking proposals on the revenue side. An outdated mechanism of financial corrections (“rebates”) would immediately be re-established for five countries, and a further type of correction would be built into the new plastic-based contribution. Yet when it comes to setting up a modern basket of new own resources, any decision is postponed to later, without any commitment on the part of the Member States. We should not leave the next generations with the choice of refinancing common debt either through additional national contributions or through reduced investment capacities. We need a clear and binding calendar for the introduction of new own resources, with a basket of new ones as of 1 January 2021. It remains one of the European Parliament’s conditions for its consent on the expenditure side.

Finally, several provisions proposed by President Michel could jeopardise the effective implementation of the programmes (notably those under the Recovery instrument) as well as Parliament’s democratic oversight. The Parliament will ensure that its power of control is respected when negotiating with the other institutions over this issue, as proposed in President Michel’s negotiating box. Furthermore, the way in which the rule of law mechanism is enforced is key. We ask for a proper negotiation, respecting the rules laid down in the treaties. Our values cannot be an adjustment variable for a deal.

We recall that Parliament will provide its consent to the new MFF Regulation only if it is satisfied with the overall MFF, own resources and recovery package. Furthermore, many of the elements contained in the draft European Council conclusions are governed by legislative acts that are to be co-decided on an equal footing between Parliament and the Council.
We therefore urge the European Council to be ambitious and substantially improve the proposal, by taking on board Parliament’s views and finally opening the way for long overdue inter-institutional negotiations. We need sufficient financial means to overcome challenges that are clearly identified by the European Union and its Member States. We must meet the citizens' expectations.”

 

Parliament wants a European Health Union

MEPs believe that the EU needs to play a stronger role in public health ©AdobeStock_Robert-Kneschke   

COVID-19 has highlighted the need to give the EU a far stronger role in the area of health, MEPs say in a resolution on the EU’s future public health strategy

 

  • Affordable access for all to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments 
  • Stress tests of healthcare systems in member states urgently needed 
  • Create an EU Health Response Mechanism to fend off future pandemics
  • In a resolution adopted on Friday by 526 votes to 105 and 50 abstentions, the European Parliament sets out the principles of the EU’s future public health strategy post-COVID-19.

 

MEPs underline the need to draw the right lessons from the COVID-19 crisis and engage in far stronger cooperation in the area of health to create a European Health Union. This should include common minimum standards for quality healthcare, based on urgently needed stress tests of member states’ healthcare systems to identify weaknesses and verify that they are prepared for a possible resurgence of COVID-19. 

The resolution calls for a European Health Response Mechanism to be created rapidly to respond to all types of health crises through better coordination and management of the strategic reserve of medicines and medical equipment.  The upcoming EU pharmaceutical strategy must contain measures to make essential medicines more immediately available in Europe. Diversified supply chains need to be put in place to guarantee affordable access at all times. 

The new dedicated 9.4 billion EUR EU4Health Programme is strongly welcomed and MEPs believe that long-term investments and commitments are needed. They request the establishment of a dedicated EU fund to improve hospital infrastructure and health services.  On top of that, the European health agencies ECDC and EMA, as well as joint health research, must be strengthened. 

With the COVID-19 crisis ongoing, MEPs also reiterate their call for affordable access for all people worldwide to future COVID-19 vaccines and treatments as soon as they are available.  Joint EU procurement must be used more systematically to avoid competition between member states when public health is at stake. 

 

Background

Primary responsibility for public health and, in particular, healthcare systems lies with the member states. However, the EU has an important role to play in improving public health, preventing and managing diseases, mitigating sources of danger to human health, and harmonising health strategies between member states.

Parliament has consistently promoted the establishment of a coherent EU public health policy and in a resolution on the post-2020 EU budget revision and economic recovery plan, MEPs insisted that a new stand-alone European health programme should be created.

The Commission has since presented a proposal for 9.4 billion EUR EU4Health programme for 2021-2027 as part of the Next Generation EU recovery plan.

To watch the plenary debate, click here (08.07.2020).

MEPs want the EU to play a stronger role in improving public health

In a debate on the EU’s future public health strategy, MEPs said COVID-19 has shown that the EU needs stronger tools to deal with health emergencies.

In the plenary debate with Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides and the Council, preceding Friday’s vote on a resolution on the EU’s public health strategy post-COVID-19, MEPs highlighted the need to draw the right lessons from the COVID-19 crisis. Many argued for the need to give the EU a far stronger role in the area of health.

While emphasising that the current pandemic is still far from over, MEPs underlined the need to ensure that health systems across the EU are better equipped and coordinated to face future health threats as no member state can deal with a pandemic such as COVID-19 alone.

Several MEPs mentioned that a stronger EU role in the area of public health must include measures to tackle shortages of affordable medicines and protective equipment as well as support to research.

Some MEPs requested that the European health agencies ECDC and EMA be strengthened, while others argued for the need for a European Health Union with EU minimum standards.

The vote on the resolution will take place on Friday afternoon, with results being announced at 18.00.

 

Background

Primary responsibility for public health and, in particular, healthcare systems lies with the member states. However, the EU has an important role to play in improving public health, preventing and managing diseases, mitigating sources of danger to human health, and harmonising health strategies between member states.

Parliament has consistently promoted the establishment of a coherent EU public health policy and in a resolution on the post-2020 EU budget revision and economic recovery plan, MEPs insisted that a new stand-alone European health programme should be created.
The Commission has since presented a proposal for 9.4 billion EUR EU4Health programme for 2021-2027 as part of the Next Generation EU recovery plan

 

To watch the full debate, click here.

Parliament approves increased water reuse

To prevent water shortages in the EU, Parliament today approved the Water Reuse Regulation.

 

  • Water scarcity is affecting more and more EU countries 
  • More water reuse expected to alleviate the stress on freshwater supply 
  • EU farmers will have more water available for irrigation, also during heatwaves

 

The new law defines minimum requirements at European level for the first time for reclaimed water (i.e. urban wastewater that has been treated in a reclamation plant) to be used for agricultural purposes in a safe way, protecting people and the environment. It was adopted without a vote at the opening of the Plenary.
The new rules aim to ensure that treated wastewater is more broadly reused in order to limit use from water bodies and groundwater. The fall in groundwater levels, due in particular to agricultural irrigation, but also industrial use and urban development, is one of the main threats to the EU water environment
“Today marks another important milestone towards the transition to a circular economy for water resources. In this way, step by step, we are bringing concrete results for the environment", said lead MEP Simona Bonafè (S&D, IT).
“We could potentially reuse 6.6 billion cubic metres of water by 2025, compared to the current 1.1 billion cubic metres per year. That would require an investment of less than EUR 700 million and would enable us to reuse more than half of the current volume of water coming from EU wastewater treatment plants theoretically available for irrigation, avoiding more than 5 % of direct extraction from water bodies and groundwater”, she added.


Next steps
The adopted measures will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union and shall apply three years after entry into force.

Background
According to the Commission’s Report on the European Water Scarcity and Droughts Policy, water scarcity remains an increasingly big problem for many member states. At least 11% of the European population and 17% of its territory have been affected by water scarcity. During summer, over half of the population in the Mediterranean region is affected by water stress (Source: European Commission).

Parliament approves candidate for post of EU banking watchdog boss

 

The plenary on Wednesday approved the nomination of François-Louis Michaud for the post of Executive Director of the European Banking Authority.

 

  • MEPs in plenary have approved the new candidate for Executive Director of the European Banking Authority
  • Decision overturns the negative opinion expressed in the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee last week

 

Mr Michaud, whose candidacy had been put forward by the European Banking Authority’s (EBA) supervisory board, was approved by 343 votes to 296, with 56 abstentions. He was the second candidate put forward this year for the post after the first person proposed, Gerry Cross, was turned down by the House last January.

Mr Michaud underwent a hearing in the EP’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and was then turned down by a small majority of its MEPs on Friday. However, the plenary did not follow the committee’s recommendation.

 

Background 

The Executive Director of the EBA is responsible for its day-to-day management.

The EBA is one of the three authorities set up in the wake of the financial and banking crisis of 2007-2008. Together with the European Securities and Markets Authority and the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority, the three watchdogs constitute the EU’s alarm system in the case of excessive risk or irregularities in the financial services environment.

The EBA has been searching for an Executive Director after the departure of Adam Farkas, who left to join the lobby group Association for Financial Markets in Europe in January. MEPs expressed displeasure at his departure to a directly interested lobby, with no cooling-off period.

Parliament sounds alarm over children in Japan taken from EU parents

MEPs are concerned over the high number of parental child abduction cases due to the reluctance of Japanese authorities to comply with international law.

 

  • Increasing number of unsolved child abduction cases where one parent is an EU national and the other Japanese 
  • Japan is not complying with international rules on child protection 
  • Shared custody not possible under Japanese law 
  • Visiting rights of non-custodial parent limited or non-existent

 

In a resolution adopted on Wednesday with 686 votes in favour, 1 against and 8 abstentions, Parliament expressed its concerns over children’s wellbeing as a result of children in Japan being abducted by a parent. They call on the Japanese authorities to enforce international rules on child protection and to introduce changes to their legal system to allow for shared custody.

 

Enforcing international law

Parliament regrets that one of the EU’s strategic partners does not appear to be complying with international rules on child abduction. They urge the Japanese authorities to enforce domestic and foreign court decisions on the return of the child and on access and visiting rights after the parents’ relationship has ended, in order to bring their domestic laws in line with their international commitments and obligations.

MEPs underline that safeguarding the child’s best interest must be the primary concern and abduction cases must be handled swiftly to avoid long-term adverse consequences on the child and the future relationship with the non-custodial parent. They point out that under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), every child has the right to maintain a personal relationship and direct contact with both their parents, unless it is contrary to their interests.

 

Improve cross-border cooperation and information

Due to the cross-border nature of these legal disputes, Parliament insists that all child protection systems have transnational and cross-border mechanisms in place. They propose that in addition to the Hague Conference, citizen-friendly European information platforms should be developed to support parents in cross-border disputes. The text also recommends that reliable information on family law and children’s rights in non-EU countries like Japan should be made available, as well as difficulties that may arise in cases of divorce or separation.

Parliament calls for more international cooperation among member states and with third countries to implement international legislation on child protection. MEPs urge member states to inform citizens about the risk of child abduction in Japan. To further increase pressure on authorities, MEPs urge member states and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs to include the issue on the agenda of all bilateral and multilateral meetings with Japan.

 

Background information

Parliament has received a significant number of appeals in the past few years on cases of Japanese parental child abduction and visiting rights, where one of the parents is an EU citizen. Petitioners point out that international court decisions in Japan on the return of the child are not being enforced properly, as Japanese law lacks shared custody provisions.

The issue gained international attention in 2019 after German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on behalf of concerned parents. A formal complaint was also launched last year to the UN Human Rights Council by left-behind parents, arguing that Japan was violating the UNCRC and the Hague Convention.

Debate on EU budget and recovery:

“A deal in the Council is not the final deal”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Commission's proposals for the long-term budget and recovery are the minimum acceptable for Parliament. © EP/DLL-JBR-LDI

Looking back on the 19 June and forward to the 17 July European Council meetings, MEPs conveyed their stance on future EU financing and economic recovery.

In the debate with European Council President Charles Michel and Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič, most MEPs reiterated that the Commission’s proposals for the recovery package and a revamped long-term EU budget are the bare minimum that is acceptable for Parliament.

MEPs also demanded a proper repayment plan, including several new “EU Own Resources” - sources of revenue - like a digital tax or one based on the Emissions Trading System (ETS), to avoid citizens having to pay back the recovery debt.

 

Several members insisted that

  • conditions attached to the recovery funds must not result in new austerity measures,
  • rule of law must be respected,
  • investments must strengthen the EU’s resilience, for example by boosting the digital agenda.

 

While for some MEPs the whole package amounts to a “meagre 1,5%” of the EU’s GNI, others, however, said the size of the package was too big and deplored that the EU would be taking on debt.

A number of MEPs said that it is important to look at the long term, in case there are more lockdowns to come. They underlined that “a deal in the Council is not the final deal”, as the European Parliament stands ready to negotiate. It will have a final say (vote by absolute majority) before the 2021-2027 long-term budget (MFF) can enter into force.

As provided for under Article 324 of the Treaty, David Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament, Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, in her capacity as rotating Presidency of the Council, as well as Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, have met with Commission President von der Leyen on 8 July to take stock of progress and prepare the political negotiations that lie ahead.

 

Background 

On 19 June, EU heads of state or government exchanged views via video conference to discuss the recovery fund plans to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and a new EU long-term budget presented by the European Commission on 27 May 2020 in Parliament. They did not manage to agree on a common position.

EU leaders will meet again, physically, in Brussels on 17 July to try to come to an agreement among themselves based on concrete proposals which Charles Michel, President of the European Council, is expected to present before the summit meeting.

 

Review individual statements:

Charles MICHEL, European Council President

Maroš ŠEFČOVIČ, for the Commission

Siegfried MUREŞAN (EPP, RO)

Iratxe GARCÍA PÉREZ (S&D, ES)

Valérie HAYER (Renew Europe, FR)

Gilles LEBRETON (ID, FR)

Philippe LAMBERTS (Greens/EFA, BE)

Johan VAN OVERTVELDT (ECR, BE)

Manon AUBRY (GUE/NGL, FR)

 

Further information 

Statements by EP President David Sassoli on the long-term EU budget and recovery fund

EP Research briefing: “Outcome of the European Council video-conference of 19 June 2020”

Letter from five EP group presidents to EU Heads of State or Governments (18 June)

EP Multimedia Centre: free photos, video and audio material - Special European Council, 17 and 18 July 2020  

EP Multimedia Centre: free photos, video and audio material - European Council, 19 June 2020

MFFdebate

The Commission's proposals for the long-term budget and recovery are the

minimum acceptable for Parliament. © EP/DLL-JBR-LDI

EU leaders prepare timetable and structure for EU budget negotiations

The four presidents of the main EU institutions met today to prepare the intensive inter-institutional negotiations that lie ahead.

A read-out of the meeting between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her capacity as head of the rotating Presidency of the Council, and the President of the European Council Charles Michel, on 8 July 2020.
Today, President von der Leyen received the Presidents of the European Parliament, of the Council of the EU and of the European Council, in order to take stock of progress in the discussions regarding the next Multiannual Financial Framework and NextGenerationEU, and prepare the intensive inter-institutional negotiations that lie ahead.
They analysed the economic forecasts for the coming months that point to a severe recession and noted that the crisis will have a deep social impact across the European Union. They reaffirmed their strong commitment to do everything in their power to mitigate this social impact and to help the European economy rebound rapidly.
On this basis, participants concurred that reaching an agreement swiftly on an ambitious European recovery package is the EU's highest priority for the coming weeks. This will require strong coordination between the EU institutions, at each stage of the process, as well as swift ratification of the key elements according to each member states’ constitutional provisions.
The participants discussed the timetable of the forthcoming negotiations and the next steps in the process. President Michel provided updates on his bilateral discussions held with Heads of State or Government and on preparations for the European Council meeting on 17-18 July.
The participants stressed that it would be essential that Heads of State or Government reach an agreement during this European Council meeting in order to allow for the inter-institutional negotiations to start. They further exchanged views on the main elements that will structure the discussion. President Sassoli presented the Parliament’s main conditions to secure its approval.
The four Presidents agreed to stay in close contact throughout the coming weeks and months. President von der Leyen expressed her intention to reconvene meetings under article 324 of the Treaty, as appropriate, at key stages in the discussions.

Parliament adopts major reform of road transport sector  

 

Parliament backs revised rules to improve drivers’ working conditions and stop distortion of competition in road transport. 

 

  • Improving drivers’ working conditions 
  • Clear rules on posting of drivers 
  • Better enforcement to fight illegal practices

 

MEPs endorsed all three legal acts without any amendments, as adopted by EU ministers in April 2020. The political agreement with the Council was reached in December 2019.

The revised rules for posting of drivers, drivers’ driving times and rest periods and better enforcement of cabotage rules (i.e. transport of goods carried out by non-resident hauliers on a temporary basis in a host member state) aim to put an end to distortion of competition in the road transport sector and provide better rest conditions for drivers.

 

Better working conditions for drivers

The new rules will help to ensure better rest conditions and allow drivers to spend more time at home. Companies will have to organise their timetables so that drivers in international freight transport are able to return home at regular intervals (every three or four weeks depending on the work schedule). The mandatory regular weekly rest cannot be taken in the truck cab. If this rest period is taken away from home, the company must pay for accommodation costs.

 

Fairer competition and fighting illegal practices 

Vehicle tachographs will be used to register border-crossings in order to tackle fraud. To prevent systematic cabotage, there will be a cooling-off period of four days before more cabotage operations can be carried out within the same country with the same vehicle.

To fight the use of letterbox companies, road haulage businesses would need to be able to demonstrate that they are substantially active in the member state in which they are registered. The new rules will also require trucks to return to the company’s operational centre every eight weeks. Using light commercial vehicles of over 2.5 tonnes will also be subject to EU rules for transport operators, including equipping the vans with a tachograph.

 

Clear rules on posting of drivers to ensure equal pay

The new rules will give a clear legal framework to prevent differing national approaches and ensure fair remuneration for drivers. Posting rules will apply to cabotage and international transport operations, excluding transit, bilateral operations and bilateral operations with two extra loading or unloading.

 

Next steps

The adopted rules will enter into force after they are published in the Official Journal of the EU in the coming weeks.

The rules on posting will apply 18 months after the entry into force of the legal act. The rules on rest times, including the return of drivers, will apply 20 days after publication of the act. Rules on return of trucks and other changes to market access rules will apply 18 months after the entry into force of the act on market access.

Protection of transported animals: Parliament establishes inquiry committee

MEPs decided to set up an inquiry committee to look into alleged breaches in the application of EU animal welfare rules during transport within and outside the EU, on Friday.

 

  • Scope: investigating failure to enforce EU rules on protecting transported animals 
  • Composition: 30 MEPs, names to be announced later by political groups 
  • Duration: final report to be submitted within 12 months

 

MEPs decided to set up an inquiry committee to look into alleged breaches in the application of EU animal welfare rules during transport within and outside the EU, on Friday. 

The new inquiry committee, established by 605 votes in favour to 53 against, with 31 abstentions, should investigate alleged violations in the application of European Union law on the protection of animals during transport and related operations within and outside the EU, including by air, road, rail and sea. It will focus on how EU rules are being implemented by member states and whether the EU Commission is enforcing them properly, says the adopted decision.

The committee will look into the EU Commission’s alleged failure to act upon the evidence that EU rules on moving live animals across the EU and to third countries are being seriously and systematically infringed. It will investigate a suspected lack of implementation and enforcement of EU provisions on space allowance and headroom for transported animals, on their watering, feeding and bedding, and on temperature and ventilation system during transport.

Future members of the committee could examine how the Commission and member states ensure compliance with EU rules on handling of transported animals, on long distance journeys, on preventing delays, and on transport of unfit animals and animals that have not yet been weaned. They can also inquire into the alleged failure of the EU’s executive and national authorities to enforce EU rules on welfare of transported animals also outside the Union, when moving live animals from EU to non-EU countries.

 

Composition and duration

The inquiry committee should consist of 30 MEPs. Their names will be communicated by political groups at a later stage and announced in plenary.

The committee must submit its final report within 12 months from the moment of being established.

 

Background

The new inquiry committee was established upon request presented by 183 MEPs to the Conference of Presidents (EP President and leaders of political groups in the House). The aim was to look into alleged violations in the application of European Union law governing live animal transport both within and outside the Union.

Sassoli calls for action on recovery: "Our citizens expect bold action"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parliament President David Sassoli urged EU leaders to take action on Europe’s recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

Sassoli addressed heads of state and government at the start of a video conference of the European Council on 19 June to discuss the recovery plan and the EU’s next long-term budget.

“Time is a luxury we cannot afford,” he said. “We need to act urgently and courageously, as EU citizens, businesses and economies need an immediate response. Our citizens expect bold action. Now it is time for us to deliver.”

Sassoli called the Commission proposal “ambitious” but added: “In our view it only scratches the surface of what needs to be done.”

The President also spoke out against issuing loans as part of the recovery plans. “Parliament is keen to stress that any common debt issued must be repaid fairly, without burdening future generations,” he said.

“Let us not forget that providing support solely in the form of loans would have an asymmetric impact on the indebtedness of the individual member states and would be more costly for the Union as a whole. We have an opportunity now to refashion Europe and make it more equal, greener and more forward-looking. To this end, we should seize our chance to introduce a basket of new own resources.”

Sassoli called the introduction of new own resources for the EU “an essential prerequisite” for any overall agreement on the EU’s long-term budget.

Stressing the importance of an ambitious recovery plan and budget, he said: “Now is not the time to water down our ambitions. We need to show our citizens the value of Europe and our ability to come up with solutions that matter in their lives.”

The President also addressed the ongoing EU-UK talks on future relations. The previous day Parliament had adopted a report setting out its views. “We will push for an ambitious, overarching and comprehensive agreement in line with the joint commitments undertaken in the political declaration. We believe that this is the best possible outcome for both sides and, despite the limited time available, with goodwill and determination, it is still possible.”

SassoliEUco190620

MEPs want to boost energy storage in the EU to help spur decarbonisation

As energy from renewable sources is increasingly part of the European energy mix, MEPs propose ways to step up storage solutions such as hydrogen or home batteries.

 

  • Increased storage is needed to secure supply as solar and wind have variable output 
  • MEPs propose options to develop hydrogen and batteries 
  • Support research and development of a hydrogen economy 
  • Decentralised storage should be promoted through home and car batteries

 

In a report adopted on Monday, MEPs in the Industry, Research and Energy Committee outline their strategy for energy storage, which plays a crucial role in reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate change.

Lead MEP Claudia Gamon (Renew Europe, AT) said: “Energy storage will be essential for the transition to a decarbonised economy based on renewable energy sources. As electricity generated by wind or solar energy will not always be available in the quantities needed, we will need to store energy. Apart from storage technologies that we already know work well like pumped hydro storage, a number of technologies will play a crucial role in the future, such as new battery technologies, thermal storage or green hydrogen. These must be given market access to ensure a constant energy supply for European citizens.”

 

Green hydrogen

The Industry, Research and Energy Committee calls on the European Commission and member states to remove regulatory barriers that hamper the development of energy storage projects, such as double taxation or shortcomings in EU network codes. The Trans-European energy networks also need to be revised in order to improve eligibility criteria for those wishing to develop energy storage facilities, MEPs say.

MEPs also highlight the potential of hydrogen produced from renewable sources (so-called “ green hydrogen”), and call on the Commission to continue supporting research into and development of a hydrogen economy. Support measures are needed to reduce the cost of green hydrogen to make it economically viable, they say. The Commission should also assess if retrofitting gas infrastructure to transport hydrogen is possible, as the use of natural gas is only of a transitional nature.

 

Batteries and new storage options

The committee also supports the Commission’s efforts to create European standards for batteries and to reduce dependence on their production outside of Europe. The EU’s heavy dependence on importing raw materials from sources where extraction degrades the environment should be reduced through enhanced recycling schemes and by sourcing raw materials sustainably, possibly in the EU.

Finally, MEPs propose ways to boost other storage options, such as mechanical and thermal storage, as well as the development of decentralised storage through home batteries, domestic heat storage, vehicle-to-grid technology and smart home energy systems.

 

Next steps

The report was adopted with 53 votes to 3, and 15 abstentions. It will be put to a vote during the 8-10 July plenary session.

 

Background

In order to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the European energy system will need to become carbon-neutral by the second half of this century. However, while renewable sources of energy are key to achieving this, some of the most important renewables are not always reliable: the output of solar and wind power depends on the time of day, the seasons and the weather. As the share of variable renewables increases, energy storage is playing an increasingly important role in bridging the gap in time between energy production and energy consumption.

The European Commission estimates that the EU will need to be able to store six times more energy than today to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

MEPs call on EU Commission to step up action against dangerous chemicals

 

The upcoming new EU chemicals strategy for sustainability must better protect our health and the environment, says the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee.

 

  • Further protection for children, pregnant women and the elderly needed 
  • Call for new provisions on endocrine disruptors for toys, food contact materials and cosmetics 
  • Support green innovation and end toxic recycling

 

On Monday, the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee adopted a resolution by 65 votes to 1 and 14 abstentions, calling on the Commission to come up with a new chemicals strategy for sustainability that effectively ensures a high level of protection of health and the environment, minimising exposure to hazardous chemicals. It also says that further regulatory measures are needed to adequately protect vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly.

The new chemicals strategy must fully reflect the precautionary principle and the polluter-pays principle, as well as being more transparent during the approval process. It should also encourage safe and sustainable alternatives to be developed in a competitive way, including through a clear commitment to securing funds for research.

MEPs believe there is a need to support the ‘one substance – one hazard assessment’ principle, to allow substances to be reviewed by only one EU agency to speed up and make chemicals regulation more consistent.

 

More to be done on endocrine disruptors and pesticides

The resolution calls for a comprehensive EU framework on endocrine disruptors (EDCs) to effectively minimise the extent to which humans and the environment are exposed to EDCs, and insert specific provisions into legislation on toys, food contact materials and cosmetics to treat EDCs like substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction.

It also calls on the Commission to heed the various calls of the European Parliament to improve the EU’s authorisation procedure for pesticides and accelerate the transition towards low-risk pesticides.

 

Encourage green innovation and end toxic recycling

MEPs call on the Commission to develop EU criteria for Sustainable Chemicals to provide incentives for sustainable chemistry, materials and technologies, especially non-chemical alternatives that are safe.

MEPs also underline that there are harmful chemicals in recycled products and therefore call for the same rules that apply to new products to apply to recycled materials.

The EU must also minimise and progressively replace animal testing through expanded use of new approach methodologies and intelligent testing strategies.

 

Next steps

The resolution, which still has to be adopted by Plenary, is Parliament’s input to the upcoming EU chemicals strategy for sustainability foreseen to be presented by the Commission this autumn. A draft roadmap was open for feedback until 20 June. It is part of the European Green Deal.

 

An oral question to the Commission has also been adopted, asking what measures the Commission is intending to take under the chemicals strategy for sustainability and in particular, how the Commission intends to improve the functioning of REACH to close the regulatory gaps in EU legislation.

EPP supports Paschal Donohoe for Eurogroup President

 

EPP expresses its full support for Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Finance of Ireland in his campaign to become the next Eurogroup President.

As one of the Eurogroup’s longest-serving members, and as an elected politician since 2007 from EPP member party Fine Gael, Minister Donohoe has the necessary experience to lead the Eurogroup at this time. He has committed to acting as a bridge builder between all Member States; North and South, East and West, small and large.

He also has a clear vision for an effective, inclusive and transparent Eurogroup which will drive economic growth and jobs. Being from a Programme country such as Ireland — which has experienced one of the EU’s fastest economic transformations and is now a net contributor to the EU budget— also means he deeply understands the challenges and concerns different countries are facing.

Over the past few months, COVID-19 has disrupted our economies as well as people's lives. The EPP backs Paschal Donohoe for President of the Eurogroup. He will strive for a strong and inclusive European recovery.

Il-baġit tal-UE u l-pjani ta’ rkupru taħt skrutinju fil-plenarja tal-Kumitat Ewropew tar-Reġjuni

 

Il-Kummissarji Ewropej għall-baġit, is-suq intern, il-ġestjoni tal-kriżijiet, u d-demokrazija u d-demografija ser jindirizzaw l-assemblea matul l-ewwel sessjoni plenarja ibrida tal-Kumitat.

Johannes Hahn, il-Kummissarju Ewropew għall-Baġit tal-UE, ser jiddiskuti l-pjan ta’ rkupru tal-Unjoni Ewropea u l-baġit fit-tul emerġenti mal-mexxejja lokali u reġjonali fit-2 ta’ Lulju, waqt sessjoni plenarja tal-Kumitat Ewropew tar-Reġjuni msawra mill-problemi ekonomiċi u tas-saħħa maħluqa mill-pandemija. Tliet Kummissarji Ewropej oħra ser jiddiskutu wkoll ir-reazzjonijiet politiċi u strateġiċi tal-UE għall-kriżi: Dubravka Šuica, il-Viċi President tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea,  ser tindirizza kwistjonijiet relatati mad-demokrazija u d-demografija, il-Kummissarju Thierry Breton  ser iwieġeb għall-mistoqsijiet dwar is-suq intern, u l-Kummissarju Janez Lenarčič ser jirrevedi wħud mill-azzjonijiet tal-UE għall-ġestjoni tal-kriżijiet.

Il-mexxejja lokali u reġjonali ser jivvotaw fuq riżoluzzjoni dwar il-baġit fit-tul tal-UE (il-Qafas Finanzjarju Pluriennali (QFP) għall-2021-27) u l-Pjan ta’ Investiment għal Ewropa Sostenibbli, li huwa l-pilastru tal-investiment tal-Patt Ekoloġiku żviluppat mill-Kummissjoni Ewropea biex jiggwida lill-UE lejn newtralità karbonika sal-2050.

Il-membri tal-Kumitat Ewropew tar-Reġjuni (KtR), li għandu sitt gruppi politiċi, ser jiddeċiedu wkoll dwar il-prijoritajiet politiċi tal-assemblea għall-2020-25. Meta ġie elett bħala President tal-Kumitat fi Frar, Apostolos Tzitzikostas (EL/PPE), il-Gvernatur tar-Reġjun tal-Maċedonja Ċentrali, qal li huwa kien ser jippromovi demokrazija Ewropea “modernizzata”, sforzi biex ikun hemm reazzjoni għat-“trasformazzjonijiet profondi” li jirriżultaw mir-“rivoluzzjonijiet ekoloġiċi, diġitali u demografiċi attwali”, u l-politiki tal-UE – bħall-politika ta’ koeżjoni – li l-impatt tagħhom  għandu “l-akbar rilevanza reġjonali u lokali”. 

Il-Patt Ekoloġiku – u l-ħtieġa li jitqiegħed fil-qalba tal-pjani ta’ rkupru għall-ekonomiji lokali u reġjonali – ser ikun is-suġġett ta’ dibattitu separat. 

Il-membri tal-Kumitat Ewropew tar-Reġjuni ser jivvotaw ukoll fuq tmien rapporti li jinkludu rakkomandazzjonijiet minn gvernijiet lokali u reġjonali lill-istituzzjonijiet tal-UE li jieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet. Bosta mill-Opinjonijiet oriġinarjament kienu skedati għall-adozzjoni f’Mejju f’sessjoni plenarja li ġiet ikkanċellata minħabba l-lockdown mifrux mal-UE kollha. 

Fid-dawl tal-limitazzjonijiet relatati mas-saħħa, għadd limitat biss ta’ membri ser ikun jista’  jattendi fiżikament. Il-membri l-oħrajn ser jipparteċipaw online. Il-bidla għal format ibridu ser tinvolvi wkoll bidla fil-votazzjoni elettronika. Is-sessjoni plenarja ser tkun mifruxa fuq tlett ijiem, pjuttost milli fuq jumejn bħas-soltu.

Is-sessjoni plenarja ser tkun ippreċeduta, fid-29 ta’ Ġunju, minn laqgħa tal-Bureau tal-KtR, li fiha t-tliet presidenzi li jmiss tal-Kunsill tal-Unjoni Ewropea ser jippreżentaw l-aġenda komuni tagħhom. L-Ambaxxatur Michael Clauss ser jirrappreżenta lill-Ġermanja, li ser ikollha l-Presidenza b’rotazzjoni fit-tieni nofs tal-2020, l-Ambaxxatur Nuno Brito ser jistabbilixxi l-prijoritajiet tal-Portugall għal Jannar-Lulju 2021, filwaqt li l-Ambaxxatur Iztok Jarc ser jiddiskuti l-għanijiet tas-Slovenja matul il-presidenza ta’ sitt xhur tagħha fit-tieni nofs tal-2021.  

MEPs call for free movement across borders to be swiftly and fully re-established

 

  • A swift return to a fully functional Schengen area is needed to safeguard freedom of movement and ensure the EU’s economic recovery, say MEPs.
  • Borders must be reopened respecting the principle of non-discrimination 
  • Recovery Plan for Schengen needed urgently 
  • Schengen rules should be revised to ensure a truly European governance

 

MEPs express their concern about remaining internal border controls in the Schengen area and their impact on people and businesses, in a resolution adopted on Friday by 520 votes in favour, 86 against and 59 abstentions.

They stress that a swift and coordinated return to a fully functional Schengen area is of utmost importance to safeguard freedom of movement, one of the main achievements of European integration, and to ensure the EU’s economic recovery after the pandemic. MEPs reject any uncoordinated, bilateral action by individual EU countries and highlight the principle of non-discrimination in the reopening of borders.

MEPs also urgently call for a discussion on a Recovery Plan for Schengen to prevent any temporary internal border controls from becoming semi-permanent. The plan should also include contingency plans in case of a potential second wave.

Civil Liberties Committee Chair and rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) said: “While it is good news that more and more internal border restrictions are being lifted, the way in which it has been done leaves a lot to be desired. Without the return to a fully functional Schengen Area, we are still missing an essential stepping-stone on our way to recovery. A complete return to free movement, no discrimination, mutual trust and solidarity are of utmost importance and core values of the EU.”

 

Future of Schengen: new governance and enlargement

In the medium-term, MEPs stress that a reflection on how to enhance mutual trust between member states and ensure a truly European governance of the Schengen area is needed. In light of new challenges, they call on the Commission to propose a reform of Schengen governance.

MEPs also ask Council and member states to increase their efforts in Schengen integration and take the necessary steps to admit Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia into the Schengen area.

 

Background

After introducing internal border checks to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, EU countries have started to lift controls and related travel restrictions. The Commission recommended to Schengen countries that they should lift the internal border controls by 15 June 2020; the Commission in turn set up an online platform called Re-open EU with up-to-date information for travellers.

 

The Schengen Area encompasses most EU member states, except for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania. Of non-EU states, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have joined the Schengen Area. Europe is celebrating this week the 35th anniversary of the agreement that was signed on 14 June 1985 in Schengen (Luxembourg) to abolish internal border controls.

The European Union maintains a strong commitment toward the Eastern Partnership; this is even more true for the EPP, which has been one of the major actors vis-à-vis the Eastern Partnership since its launch.

 

During the past decade, together with our partners, we have gone through important milestones: signing the Association Agreements (including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova); establishing visa-free regimes in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova; concluding the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership agreement with Armenia; deeper engagement with Belarus; increasing our economic ties; achieving progress in implementing 20 deliverables by 2020; advancing  reforms; facilitating people-to-people contacts.

 

The Eastern Partnership has come a long way since 2009. This framework has brought our eastern neighbours closer to European standards, recognised their aspirations and become a real power for change, democratisation and reform.

 

It has been a decade since the launch of the Eastern Partnership, almost two decades since the “Rose revolution” and the “Orange revolution”, and three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union – it is time to move forward and to discuss our enhanced cooperation beyond 2020, and to set up long-term benchmarks. In light of Russia’s aggressive policy, the rising influence of China in the region and the security situation around our eastern borders, the EU needs to develop a clear strategy and a political vision for how to further engage with our partners.  

 

The Eastern Partnership Summit is an opportunity to build on our achievements and to inject new dynamism into our relationships. In light of the upcoming summit in 2021, I would like to underline our main priorities:

 

 

* Values – we underline our joint commitment to fundamental values and international law; to the principles upon which the EU was founded: notably those of peace, friendship, solidarity, responsibility, prosperity, freedom, democracy, non-discrimination of persons belonging to minorities, respect for diversity, rule of law and human dignity.

* Ambitions – we continue to support strongly the European aspirations of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova; this support is reflected in all previous EPP Eastern Partnership declarations and congress resolutions. We recognise these partners’ sovereign choices, ambitions and goals in their relations with the EU.

* Deliverables – with each and every one of our partners, we have a concrete, specific agenda of very concrete measures and policies that can benefit citizens. Implementation of the identified milestones and targets helps to demonstrate the value of the Eastern Partnership both for partner countries and for EU Member States. The achievements of our partners should constitute a strong basis for further integration with the EU as well as bring our societies and economies together.

* Differentiation – we need to further enrich the Eastern Partnership in line with the principles of differentiation, strict conditionality, joint ownership, joint responsibility and solidarity: the “more for more” and “less for less” principle. We support closer cooperation with EU associated countries – Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, particularly – a tailor-made cooperation with more ambitious EU political and economic integration objectives in order to improve motivation for speeding up reforms.

* Security – we need to increase cooperation between the EU, its Member States and select members in matters of security, intelligence, and defence. A new initiative – a security compact of the Eastern Partnership – is a good starting point for such a discussion.

* Conflict resolution – we reiterate our support for territorial integrity within internationally recognised boarders; we condemn Russian aggression and annexation of Crimea and Russia’s occupation of Donbass, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria; we reiterate our comprehensive support for the efforts and basic principles of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution.

* Solidarity – we support our partners in difficult times: in this Covid-19 pandemic, the European Union is committed to solidarity with the citizens of Eastern Partnership countries, not only in word but also in action. As part of its global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the European Commission has mobilised an emergency support package of around 1 billion euros for Eastern Partnership countries.

* Resilience – we must strengthen the resilience of our partners: to work towards resilient economies, environmental resilience, resilience against corruption and terrorism: to become more resilient against hybrid threats, cyberattacks, disinformation, propaganda, election meddling and third-country interference.

* Citizens – we have to strengthen links between citizens, support increased mobility, avoid brain drain, promote inclusive education, invest in youth and support civil society.

* Democratisation – we believe in democratisation rather than stabilisation; the EPP has been always determined to fight for democratic standards. Therefore, we call on all Eastern Partnership governments to assure free and fair elections, to support media freedom, to respect the rule of law, to stop politically motivated persecutions and to continue the fight against corruption.

* Communication – we need to improve our communication: to ensure that EU support, engagement and policies are well promoted and explained to the citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

EU-UK talks: MEPs display unwavering support for the EU position 

  • MEPs firmly behind EU negotiator Michel Barnier 
  • The UK’s cherry-picking approach is a no-go for the EU 
  • Agreement on level playing field and fisheries required to obtain European Parliament’s consent

 

Parliament regrets that differences remain substantial, with little time left to reach an agreement on the future EU-UK relationship

In a resolution adopted by a large majority on Thursday, Parliament takes stock of the EU-UK negotiations on a new partnership so far and acknowledges the negotiating parties’ call to intensify talks in July.

They regret that no real progress has been achieved in the talks after four negotiating rounds, and that differences remain substantial.

MEPs emphasise that a comprehensive agreement is in the interest of both parties. However, having the UK side cherry-pick certain policies and push for access to the single market after Brexit is “unacceptable” for the EU, says the text, expressing deep concern over the British government’s insistence on only wanting to negotiate areas that are in the interests of the UK.

The resolution also reiterates Parliament’s full and unwavering support for the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier in his talks with the British negotiators, based on the political mandate given to him by EU member states and Parliament.

MEPs further call on the UK to respect its commitments set out in the Political Declaration, signed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and ratified by both the EU and the UK.

 

Withdrawal obligations

Strict implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the faithful implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, for the EU citizens in the UK but also on UK citizens’ rights in the EU, is a precondition to ensure the trust needed to conclude a deal on the future relationship, notes the text.

 

Competition on equal footing, fisheries

The text further emphasises that Parliament’s consent to any future trade agreement with the UK is conditional on the British government agreeing to a level playing field (common rules and standards) in the area of, among others, environmental protection, labour standards, and state aid, and on the conclusion of a satisfactory agreement on fisheries. This is a necessity due to the UK's geographical proximity, level of interconnectedness and already high level of existing alignment and interdependence with EU rules.

The British government has so far not engaged in negotiations on the provisions ensuring equal competition, the resolution notes.

The resolution, adopted by 572 votes in favour, 34 against and 91 abstentions, will be available here(18.06.2020)

 

Quote

“The European Union and the United Kingdom have shown their willingness to significantly advance in the negotiations during the month of July. With its timely resolution adopted today, the European Parliament is expressing its readiness to conclude an ambitious and fair agreement, without compromising our principles and our objectives”, said David McAllister (EPP, DE), Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs and the UK Coordination Group (UKCG), commenting on the plenary vote and the outcome of the EU-UK high-level meeting on 15 June.

Click on names to view full video recordings of individual plenary statements by

David McAllister

Bernd Lange (S&D, DE), Chair of the European Parliament International Trade Committee, member of the UKCG

Kati Piri (S&D, NL), co-rapporteur, member of the UKCG

Christophe Hansen (EPP, LU), co-rapporteur, member of the UKCG

 

Background

The current transition period expires on 31 December 2020. For a new trade deal and overall agreement to enter into force the following day, it needs to be signed at the latest in October by the negotiating sides. The text would then need to be ratified by both the European Parliament and the UK Parliament, and, in case of a so-called mixed-agreement, by the national parliaments of all the EU member states.

COVID-19 crisis is a potential geopolitical game-changer, warn MEPs

 

MEPs want Europe to be united, take the lead on the global scene and show solidarity to its partners.

A global pandemic needs global solutions, and the EU has to be at the centre of this response, said High Representative and Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell in a plenary debate on the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis on EU foreign policy, on Thursday.

To this end, the EU has launched a Team Europe response to support its partner countries in facing the pandemic, said Mr Borrell in his introductory speech. It is vital to boost sustainable and green investment in the EU’s partner countries worldwide, he added. “This crisis will be a crisis of biblical consequences”, warned the EU foreign affairs chief, stressing also the importance of extending the European Union’s programmes for refugees.

 

COVID-19 crisis a “geopolitical game-changer”

The pandemic has brought about changes of tremendous dimensions and will be a potential “geopolitical game-changer”, MEPs pointed out, be it due to the deterioration of democracy and fundamental freedoms in many parts of the world, increasing disinformation campaigns, cyber-attacks, or isolationism instead of multilateral cooperation.

They supported strong and coordinated measures that would clearly show solidarity to EU partners throughout the world.

Recalling the EU’s ambitions to be a global player, MEPs called for unity in facing the crisis. They pointed out that in the absence of the US as a global leader, Europe should step in and take on this role.

Several MEPs called for an adequate EU response to China, saying that the country has not acted as a reliable partner and accusing its government of human rights breaches, a state-led economy, spreading fake news and an inability to fight the pandemic transparently.

 

Background

Among key aspects of EU foreign policy affected by the COVID-19 crisis are relations with major powers, humanitarian aid, development and peacekeeping, as well as the fight against disinformation and cyber-attacks. The crisis has also highlighted the debate about the future of multilateralism, which is one of the primary concerns that EU foreign policy must tackle.

 

In its resolution adopted on 17 April 2020, the European Parliament has called for an update of the EU Global Strategy in the light of the global impact of the crisis, and for more strategic EU action that would also include better strategic communication.

You can watch the recording of the full debate here

Parliament sets up Tax subcommittee and three special committees 

 

  • Economic and Monetary Affairs Subcommittee to look into tax matters 
  • Special committees set up to deal with cancer, artificial intelligence, foreign interference including disinformation 

 

A large majority of MEPs voted on Thursday to set up a permanent subcommittee on tax matters and three special committees for 12 months. 

Following a proposal by the Conference of Presidents (president and chairs of political groups), plenary set out the responsibilities, numerical strength and term of office of three special committees and the tax subcommittee. The lists of members of each committee will be announced in a subsequent plenary session.

 

Tax subcommittee

After a series of special committees and a committee of inquiry, created to delve into the various tax leaks and scandals of recent years, Parliament today established a more permanent setup to shed light on the matter.

The subcommittee on tax matters will be composed of 30 members. It will deal particularly with the fight against tax fraud, tax evasion and tax avoidance, as well as financial transparency for taxation purposes.

The subcommittee’s composition will be decided during the July plenary session and the Chair of the committee during the subcommittee’s constitutive meeting.

 

Background on tax special committees and inquiry committee

Parliament began delving deeply into the tax scandals emerging over the last years in February 2015 as a result of the Luxembourg Leaks. It set up a special committee on tax rulings and other similar measures due to their nature or their effect (TAXE). This was followed up in December 2015 with the creation of TAXE2. In June 2016, as a result of the Panama Leaks, the EP created a committee of inquiry on money laundering, tax avoidance and tax fraud (PANA). Finally, with the Paradise Papers Leaks, in March 2018 a special committee on financial crime, tax fraud and tax evasion (TAX3) was set up.

There are currently two other subcommittees, that of Human Rights and that of Security and Defence, both under the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

COVID-19: Easing rules to encourage banks to lend to companies and households

 

  • Temporary and targeted relief in prudential rules for EU banks
  • Banks and supervisors will be on the same footing and banking system remains stable
  • Counterbalance the severe economic consequences of the pandemic
  • More flexibility in EU banks’ prudential rulebook to focus on lending to the COVID-19-stricken economy.

 

On Thursday evening, Plenary approved the “quick fix” to the capital requirement regulation (CRR) to temporarily ensure favourable conditions for banks. This will support credit flows to companies and households and absorb losses, mitigating the economic consequences of the COVID-19 lock-down.

With a view to striking a balance between a robust and stable banking system and securing much-needed credit for the EU economy, MEPs agreed on specific temporary changes to the CRR, which will have to be coherently applied in the EU.

 

The adopted changes include

  • Deferred application of the leverage ratio buffer (leverage ratio is a ratio between a bank’s capital and its exposures) by one year to January 2023 to allow banks to increase the amount that they would be able to loan.
  • Pensioners or employees with a permanent contract will be able to get a loan under more favourable prudential conditions. The loan will be backed by the borrower’s pension or salary.
  • Advanced application of both the SME and infrastructure supporting factor, which allows for a more favourable prudential treatment of certain exposures, ensuring credit flows to SMEs and supporting investments in infrastructure.
  • Banks will now be able to treat some software as their own capital, an exemption that will kick in earlier than planned. This could also encourage banks to invest in software and digitalisation.
  • Liquidity measures provided by central banks in a crisis context will be effectively channelled by banks to the economy

 

In order to support funding options in non-euro member states fighting the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the MEPs reintroduced transitional arrangements for exposures to national governments and central banks denominated in a currency of another member state. Finally, taking into account the extraordinary impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the extreme levels of volatility in the financial markets, MEPs agreed to introduce a temporary prudential filter to calculate unrealised losses on banks' holdings of public debt.

 

More details can be found here.

 

Next steps

The new rules have been adopted with 502 votes to 169 and 17 abstentions.

The plenary session vote on the CRR quick fix was the final vote on the text already agreed with the Council. The changes will enter into force on the day following its publication in the Official Journal of the EU.

Parliament calls for a new ambitious EU Disability Strategy

·

As the current EU Disability Strategy comes to an end, Parliament is calling on the European Commission for an ambitious post-2020 strategy. Discover its priorities.

 

What the Parliament wants in the new EU Disability Strategy

The European Parliament wants an inclusive society in which the rights of people living with disabilities are protected and adapted to individual needs and where there is no discrimination.

On 18 June Parliament adopted a resolution with its priorities for a new EU Disability Strategy post 2020, building upon the current European Disability Strategy for 2010-2020.

Parliament wants the EU to lead in promoting the rights of people with disabilities and calls for an ambitious, comprehensive and well-funded strategy based on the principles of diversity and full inclusion.

 

The resolution calls on the European Commission for:

  • A new strategy to be developed in close cooperation with people with disabilities, their families and organisations
  • A gender-based approach to address specific forms of discrimination against women and girls
  • The mainstreaming of the rights of all people living with disabilities into all policies and areas
  • Clear and measurable targets and regular monitoring
  • Recovery and mitigation measures to avoid people with disabilities getting disproportionally affected by health crises such as Covid-19
  • Equal access for people with disabilities to health care, employment, public transport, housing
  •  The implementation and further development of the EU disability card pilot project, which allows for mutual recognition of disabilities in some EU countries
  • A common EU definition of disability

 

People living with disabilities in Europe: facts and figures  

  • There are an estimated 100 million people with disabilities in the EU 
  • The employment rate of persons with disabilities (aged 20-64) stands at 50.6%, compared to 74.8% for people without disabilities. (2017) 
  • 28.7% of persons with disabilities in the EU are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared to 19.2% of the general population. (2018) 
  • 800,000 people living with disabilities are denied the right to vote in the EU 

     

EU disability measures so far

The European Disability Strategy was put in place to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 

  • An international legally binding human rights treaty setting minimum standards to protect the rights of people with disabilities 
  • The EU and all member states have ratified it 
  • Both EU and member states are obliged to implement the obligations, according to their competences 

Among the concrete initiatives launched thanks to the European Disability Strategy is the European Accessibility Act, which ensures that more products and services like smartphones, tablets, ATMs or e-books are accessible to people with disabilities.

 

The directive on web accessibility means people with disabilities have easier access to online data and services online because websites and apps operated by public sector institutions, such as hospitals, courts or universities, are required to be accessible.

Returning to free movement across borders is of utmost importance

 

  • A swift return to a fully functional Schengen area is needed to safeguard freedom of movement and ensure the EU’s economic recovery, says the Civil Liberties Committee.
  • Recovery Plan for Schengen needed urgently 
  • MEPs suggest regional approach may be more proportionate than national border controls 
  • Reform of rules needed to ensure a truly European governance of Schengen

 

Civil Liberties Committee MEPs express their concern about the current situation of internal border controls in the Schengen area and their impact on people and businesses, in a resolution adopted on Thursday by 53 votes in favour, 6 against and 6 abstentions.

They stress that a swift and coordinated return to a fully functional Schengen area is of utmost importance to safeguard freedom of movement, one of the main achievements of European integration, and to ensure the EU’s economic recovery after the pandemic.

While demanding that member states reduce restrictions on the freedom of movement to the same extent that COVID-19 containment measures are being relaxed, MEPs suggest that a regional approach may be more proportionate than national border controls. Restrictions on freedom of movement could be lifted where the public health situation in neighbouring regions has comparably improved.

MEPs also urgently call for a debate on setting up a Recovery Plan for Schengen and the ways and means to return to a fully functioning Schengen area as quickly as possible, to prevent temporary internal border controls from becoming semi-permanent. The plan should also include contingency plans in case of a potential second wave.

Civil Liberties Committee Chair and rapporteur Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) said: “For the vast majority of EU citizens, the Schengen area constitutes one of the greatest achievements in the history of the EU, and it has never before experienced the outbreak of such a serious pandemic on its territory. I strongly deplore any unilateral or disproportionate measures by individual Member States to impose border restrictions upon other Member States without communication or a clear and limited timeframe. All actions meant to restore a fully operational Schengen area must be coordinated at EU level and fully respect the principle of non-discrimination”.

 

Future of Schengen: new governance and enlargements

In the medium-term, MEPs stress that a reflection on how to enhance mutual trust between member states and ensure a truly European governance of the Schengen area is needed. In light of new challenges, they call on the Commission to propose a reform of Schengen governance.

MEPs also ask in their resolution for the Council and member states to increase their efforts in Schengen integration and take the necessary steps to admit Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia into Schengen. Except for these three countries, Cyprus and Ireland, all EU countries are part of the Schengen area. Of non-EU states, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have joined Schengen.

 

Next steps

The resolution follows a debate in the Civil Liberties Committee on the situation in the Schengen area. The plenary is expected to vote on the resolution in its plenary session taking place 17-19 June.

EU future at stake: MEPs broadly welcome Commission’s recovery package proposals

 

Focussing on future generations, Commission President von der Leyen discussed the €750 billion recovery instrument within a revamped long-term EU budget in plenary.

 

Following the presentation by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the pledge by the Croatian Council representative Nikolina Brnjac to work with member states to swiftly conclude negotiations with Parliament on the new package, political group leaders took the floor to outline their initial reactions. Click on names to view the individual statements. 

“European solidarity is back and we are opening a new chapter for the EU”, Manfred Weber (EPP, DE) said. The new money needs to be spent on fresh ideas and not on Europe’s old problems. “Solidarity goes hand in hand with responsibility”, therefore it must be clear how the money will be paid back, he said, calling for new own resources and for digital giants to pay their part.

Iratxe García Perez (S&D, ES) thanked von der Leyen for an ambitious proposal and for giving the EP “the role it deserves” in the design of the recovery package. Warning that the survival of the European project is at stake, she urged the Council to adopt the new MFF by qualified majority to avoid keeping the EU “hostage by four member states that prefer a national response to a European one”.

“It is a game changer, unprecedented in the history of Europe”, said Dacian Ciolos (Renew, RO). “The MFF and the recovery plan must focus on the future”, with the Green deal and digital agenda as building blocks, he said. “We may differ on some details, but I really welcome the approach”, he said, reminding member states that “the EU is not a cash machine. Solidarity comes with values”.

Jörg Meuthen (ID, DE) rejected the package proposal as “completely wrong and nonsense”, without a proper legal basis and lacking responsibility or economic sense. The Commission wants to spend money “as if there was no tomorrow”. It is a huge price for European taxpayers, he concluded.

Ska Keller (Greens/EFA, DE) urged: “We must not repeat the big mistakes of the past and force countries into austerity and blind market ideologies. Instead, we need to make sure that the money is well invested into projects that will help in the long term, create jobs and save the one planet that we have.”

Johan van Overtveldt (ECR, BE) said: “If we are going to allow loans and grants, there must be clear conditions. The money needs to go to where it is most needed, and there must be safety mechanisms in place for our businesses. People working and saving should not have to “fork out” for these programmes”.

“Instead of making a clean break with past dogmas”, the Recovery Plan stops “midstream” said Manon Aubry (GUE/NGL, FR). Welcoming the new proposals on Own Resources, she called for the crisis debt to be cancelled, for direct perpetual loans to member states, and for public support to be conditional on social considerations.

The Commission has also unveiled its adjusted Work Programme for 2020, which will prioritise the actions needed to propel Europe's recovery and resilience.

 

Next steps

Parliament and Council will discuss the new proposals and decide on their final shape in upcoming negotiations.

EP negotiators: recovery plan crucial, but do not trade long-term for short-term

 

  • It is high time to start negotiations on the MFF with the Council without delay, said the EP’s negotiating team for the long-term EU budget and Own Resources reform.
  • The €750 billion borrowing plan is an important proposal for an efficient recovery
  • Recovery strategy should not be financed at the expense of the MFF, MEPs said in reaction to the Commission’s long-term budget and recovery plan proposals
  • Danger of weakened EU budget after recovery phase, preventing EU from investing in common future
  • Parliament ready to reject any proposals that would not meet its standards

 

The six members of the MFF/OR negotiating team commented on the Commission’s proposals for a revised Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and recovery plan presented on Wednesday in an extraordinary plenary session:

“We will carefully assess the package of proposals presented by the European Commission today. We positively acknowledge the reinforcement of the current MFF in 2020 and the significant borrowing which are much needed.

Today’s Commission proposals are an important step. We therefore regret that the Commission has reduced its original MFF proposal, thus moving further away from Parliament and closer to the European Council President’s February 2020 proposal. Once the recovery phase is behind us, this could leave us with a weakened budget that prevents the EU from investing in its common future - such as climate and digital transformation - leaving it more vulnerable to further crises.

Parliament shares the view that the recovery plan will be channelled through the MFF and must be embedded in a reformed system of own resources. But it would be self-defeating to trade the long-term against the short-term: the recovery strategy should not be financed at the expense of the core MFF and its wider objectives, which the COVID-19 outbreak has made more relevant than ever. Furthermore, any new budgetary tool must ensure Parliament’s participation and the community method to boost democratic oversight, transparency and accountability.

We express, however, our concerns about future debt and the way it will be repaid in the future.

Parliament agrees with the general approach that the long-term repayment of the borrowing should be re-financed by new, genuine own resources in order to use European, rather than ever more national means to finance our needs and thus to avoid a new dividing line between net contributors and net recipients. We regret, however, that the Commission is only putting forward a menu of possible revenue sources rather than submitting concrete legislative initiatives for a basket of new own resources as requested by Parliament, which would also have immediate economic and policy benefits as of 2021. Parliament recalls its consent is conditional on the introduction of a basket of new own resources without further delay.

Parliament must give its consent to any new MFF, and stands ready to do so if the final agreement will include its main priorities and will genuinely provide for Parliament’s participation. We call on the Council to work constructively with Parliament on improving the Commission’s proposals.

Failing an agreement before the end of the year, 2020 ceilings would be automatically extended. That is why Parliament has formally requested that the Commission present an MFF contingency plan in order to eliminate any risk of discontinuity or disorderly extension. A contingency plan based on 2020 ceilings could indeed provide a better basis for the European Union’s recovery than a late and inadequate MFF.

Since November 2018, we have repeatedly expressed our readiness to engage with the Council on the MFF and the Own Resources, to no avail. Given how urgent this is, it is high time to start these negotiations without further delay.”

 

The EP's negotiating team for the next long-term EU budget and Own Resources reform

 

Johan Van Overtveldt (ECR, BE), Chair of the Committee on Budgets

Jan Olbrycht (EPP, PL), MFF co-rapporteur

Margarida Marques (S&D, PT), MFF co-rapporteur

José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT), Own Resources co-rapporteur

Valérie Hayer (RENEW, FR), Own Resources co-rapporteur

Rasmus Andresen (Greens/EFA, DE)

Follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EP_Budgets/lists/mff-negotiation-team

Migration and asylum: member states to collect more statistical data  

 

EU member states will have to collect more data about immigration, residence permits, illegal entry and returns, under new rules already agreed by MEPs and the Council.

With 65 votes to 2, the Civil Liberties Committee backed on Monday the new Regulation on Community statistics on migration and international protection, which aims to ensure the availability of reliable, relevant and timely statistics in that field.

The Regulation covers the collection of statistics on administrative and judicial procedures in EU countries relating to immigration, granting of residence permits, citizenship, asylum and other forms of international protection, illegal entry and stay, and returns.

Under the new rules, member states will have to increase the frequency of the data they provide to Eurostat and disaggregate them by age and sex, by citizenship of the persons concerned and by unaccompanied minors.

In the case of residence permits, they will have to clarify whether they are first-time permits, the grounds on which they are issued and length of validity. Concerning returns, collected data must reflect the type of return and the assistance received, as well as the country of destination.

Some of the new data collections will start immediately, while others will be first tested in pilot studies. Eurostat will coordinate the pilot projects, with member states participating on a voluntary basis, to assess their feasibility, quality and comparability, and the costs and burdens involved.

In the presentation of his draft recommendation to the Civil Liberties Committee, Jan-Christoph Oetjen(Renew, DE), who led the Parliament’s negotiating team in the interinstitutional talks, considered the changes will be a significant improvement “towards more evidence-based policy making in the migration and asylum field”.

 

Next steps

Following endorsement by Parliament as a whole, likely in the June plenary session, the text will be published in the Official Journal of the EU. The changes will apply from March 2021 (part of the provisions) and July 2021 (the rest).

EC President to present recovery package in extraordinary plenary

 

President von der Leyen will unveil the revised long-term EU budget and recovery plan proposals in plenary on Wednesday at 13.30, followed by a debate.

In view of the COVID-19 crisis, Parliament has requested a substantial overhaul of the EU budget framework 2021-2027, including a recovery fund, in resolutions adopted on 17 April and 15 May.

To stimulate economic and social recovery, MEPs call for a robust package of about € 2 trillion embedded in the multiannual framework (MFF), and not to its detriment. The new seven-year budget must cover citizens’ immediate needs and aim at social cohesion and sustainable economic development in the EU based on digital and green transitions, they say.

To win Parliament’s approval, the new recovery plan should be financed through recovery bonds backed by the EU budget and avoid financial engineering that would circumvent democratic oversight.

 

The EP's negotiating team for the next long-term EU budget and Own Resources reform:

Johan Van Overtveldt (ECR, BE), Chair of the Committee on Budgets

Jan Olbrycht (EPP, PL), MFF co-rapporteur

Margarida Marques (S&D, PT), MFF co-rapporteur

José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, PT), Own Resources co-rapporteur

Valérie Hayer (RENEW, FR), Own Resources co-rapporteur

Rasmus Andresen (Greens/EFA, DE)

Follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EP_Budgets/lists/mff-negotiation-team

 

Next steps

Parliament and Council will discuss the new proposals and decide on their final shape in upcoming negotiations.

As it might take months before an agreement on the new MFF is found, Parliament urged the Commission to table a contingency plan to allow for a smooth financial start of EU programmes in 2021.

 

Debate: Wednesday, 27 May

Procedure: Presentation by the Commission, followed by a debate (with the Council presidency)

Press conference by EP President David Sassoli at 17.00 on MFF, Recovery Plan and the upcoming German Presidency

 

LINKS 

Parliament resolution on new MFF and recovery package (15.05.2020)

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/priorities/eu-response-to-coronavirus/20200512IPR78912/parliament-eu27-need-EU2-trillion-recovery-package-to-tackle-covid-19-fallout

 

Press Release by EP President David Sassoli: Call to institutions and governments: act fast and be ambitious (15.05.2020)

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/the-president/en/newsroom/call-to-institutions-and-governments-act-fast-and-be-ambitious

 

Press Release by EP President David Sassoli: Frugal four must be aware of the seriousness of the challenges we face (25.05.2020)

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/the-president/en/newsroom/sassoli-frugal-four-must-be-aware-of-the-seriousness-of-challenges-we-face

 

Q&A on the EU long-term budget (MFF)

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20200115IPR70326/q-a-on-the-eu-s- long-term-budget-multiannual-financial-framework-mff

 

EP Research briefings and background notes on the MFF and related proposals

https://epthinktank.eu/2018/09/24/post-2020-multiannual-financial-framework/

 

Free photos, video and audio material

http://audiovisual.europarl.europa.eu/default.aspx

Migration and asylum: member states to collect more statistical data  

 

EU member states will have to collect more data about immigration, residence permits, illegal entry and returns, under new rules already agreed by MEPs and the Council.

With 65 votes to 2, the Civil Liberties Committee backed on Monday the new Regulation on Community statistics on migration and international protection, which aims to ensure the availability of reliable, relevant and timely statistics in that field.

The Regulation covers the collection of statistics on administrative and judicial procedures in EU countries relating to immigration, granting of residence permits, citizenship, asylum and other forms of international protection, illegal entry and stay, and returns.

Under the new rules, member states will have to increase the frequency of the data they provide to Eurostat and disaggregate them by age and sex, by citizenship of the persons concerned and by unaccompanied minors.

In the case of residence permits, they will have to clarify whether they are first-time permits, the grounds on which they are issued and length of validity. Concerning returns, collected data must reflect the type of return and the assistance received, as well as the country of destination.

Some of the new data collections will start immediately, while others will be first tested in pilot studies. Eurostat will coordinate the pilot projects, with member states participating on a voluntary basis, to assess their feasibility, quality and comparability, and the costs and burdens involved.

In the presentation of his draft recommendation to the Civil Liberties Committee, Jan-Christoph Oetjen(Renew, DE), who led the Parliament’s negotiating team in the interinstitutional talks, considered the changes will be a significant improvement “towards more evidence-based policy making in the migration and asylum field”.

 

Next steps

Following endorsement by Parliament as a whole, likely in the June plenary session, the text will be published in the Official Journal of the EU. The changes will apply from March 2021 (part of the provisions) and July 2021 (the rest).

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Hungary's emergency measures: MEPs ask EU to impose sanctions and stop payments

  • Indefinite state of emergency and limits to free speech incompatible with EU values
  • Commission should open infringement procedures and Council should proceed with Article 7
  • EU funding must become conditional on respect of rule of law

 

Democracy and fundamental rights are under threat in Hungary, say most MEPs, who urge the Commission and the Council to protect Hungarian citizens and rule of law.

In a debate with EC Vice-President Vera Jourová and the Croatian Presidency of the EU, a majority of speakers underlined that the emergency measures taken by the Hungarian Government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including the declaration of an unlimited state of emergency, are not in line with EU rules and warned of the increasing risk to democracy.

Several MEPs called on the European Commission to finish scrutinising the legal changes and open infringement procedures. They specifically asked for payments to Hungary to be stopped, in the framework of the new financial perspectives and the recovery plan, unless rule of law is respected. They also criticised the passive attitude of the Council and insisted it moves on the Article 7 procedure initiated by the Parliament.

Some MEPs defended the decisions taken by a democratically elected Parliament in Hungary and compared the exceptional measures adopted in the country with those taken by other EU member states, such as France or Spain.

 

Background

In its resolution of 17 April, Parliament already stated that the decisions in Hungary to prolong the state of emergency indefinitely, to authorise the government to rule by decree, and to weaken the Parliament’s oversight, are “totally incompatible with European values”.

MEPs highlighted that all COVID-related measures “must be in line with the rule of law, strictly proportionate [...], clearly related to the ongoing health crisis, limited in time and subjected to regular scrutiny.”

You can watch the debate via Video on demand.

President Sassoli press conference on COVID-19 and the EU Recovery Plan

 

The EP President will hold a press conference Friday 15 May at 13:30, right after the end of this week’s plenary session.

 

When: Friday 15 May at 13:30

Where: Anna Politkovskaya pressroom and via Skype

This week, Parliament debated and voted on, among other things, the long-term EU budget revision and recovery plans, a contingency plan to guarantee continuity of EU funding, COVID-19 emergency measures in Hungary and their impact on the rule of law, the use of smartphone apps in managing the spread of the pandemic and the development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

How to follow the press conference online
Parliament will be using an interactive virtual press environment (with interpretation) based on Skype TX, in conjunction with the traditional EbS and web-streaming services.

You can follow the press conference on EbS+ or via Parliament’s web-streaming.

If you wish to ask a question:

  • You will need a SKYPE account.
  • Connect to VOXBOXEP and write your name and media organisation in the chat box

Please use headphones and a microphone for better sound quality.

 

The system will be managed by Parliament’s media services and you will be placed in a queue (virtual waiting room) before being invited to ask your question(s).

If you have any trouble connecting, you can contact: +32 22834220.

After asking a question / listening to the reply (and any follow-up), you should then disconnect from Skype so that the next journalist in line can be connected to the press briefing room.

You only need to connect through Skype if you wish to ask a question.

REMINDER: working conditions in Parliament for journalists in light of Coronavirus


It is mandatory as of 13 May to wear a community mask that covers mouth and nose at all times while in Parliament's buildings. This is to continue to ensure Parliament's operational capacity, while at the same time avoiding health risks for Members, staff and other persons working in and visiting the European Parliament.

Journalists, who have to come to Parliament in person, are therefore asked to bring a mask and wear it in order to access Parliament's premises. There is no requirement as to the type of mask, as long as it covers both nose and mouth.

The wearing of a mask for journalists is now compulsory and necessary at all times. However, journalists could exceptionally and for the limited duration of a recording (stand-ups, interviews, studio recordings) remove their mask, if the social distancing measures are respected. This exception also applies to taking the floor in press conferences. Please note that masks should be put on again immediately after the recording. The exceptions do not apply to bilateral conversations or interviews that are not recorded.

To allow for this exception, journalists are required to keep a distance of 2 meters preventively.

Please refrain from coming to EP premises if you present any symptoms of a respiratory infection, if you have knowingly been in contact with an infected person in the last 14 days or if you have been to regions with very high transmission rates.

COVID-19 tracing apps: MEPs stress the need to preserve citizens' privacy

 

  • Voluntary, non-discriminatory and transparent
  • Strictly limited to contact tracing
  • Data must be deleted as soon as the situation allows

 

Citizens need data protection and privacy safeguards with regard to new smartphone apps used to manage the spread of the pandemic, say MEPs.

In a plenary debate on Thursday, MEPs noted that, together with other COVID-19 related measures such as social distancing, masks and testing, contact tracing apps can help to manage the spread of the pandemic. However, most MEPs highlighted that the safety of citizens’ personal data and privacy need to be guaranteed when it comes to the use of these apps. Most EU countries have already launched or intend to launch a mobile tracing app designed to track individuals who are infected or at risk of contracting the virus.

MEPs highlighted that the tracing apps must be truly voluntary, non-discriminatory and transparent. The use of the application must be strictly limited to contact tracing and the data must be deleted as soon as the situation allows. MEPs also emphasized the need for a coordinated approach in developing and using the apps to ensure their cross-border interoperability.

Commissioner Didier Reynders and Croatian State Secretary Nikolina Brnjac shared the MEPs’ views on the need to ensure that citizens can trust the safety of the apps. Reynders responded to MEPs’ concerns by highlighting that national authorities will work together with the EU data protection authorities to ensure that the tracing apps comply with EU privacy and data protection laws in place. He also stressed that the Commission strives to ensure a common approach between EU countries so that the apps are interoperable.

You can watch the debate via video on demand.

 

Background

In a plenary resolution adopted on 17 April, Parliament stressed that national and EU authorities must fully comply with data protection and privacy legislation. “Mobile location data can only be processed in compliance with the ePrivacy Directive and the GDPR”, says the resolution.

On 16 April, the Commission published an EU toolbox for the use of mobile applications for contact tracing and warning and on 13 May interoperability guidelines for approved contact tracing mobile applications.

Long-term EU budget: Parliament wants safety net for beneficiaries

 

The current health crisis compels us to tackle the risk of the next long-term EU budget not coming into force on 1 January 2021 with even more urgency, MEPs say.

Risk of payments being disrupted if agreement on the post-2020 long-term EU budget is not reached in time

MEPs urge Commission to table a contingency plan to guarantee continuity of EU funding in aftermath of COVID-19

On Wednesday, MEPs adopted a legislative resolution by 616 votes in favour, 29 against and 46 abstentions, requesting that the European Commission submit a proposal for an MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework) contingency plan by 15 June 2020.

While current budgetary ceilings would be automatically extended if no new MFF is in place next year, nonetheless many programmes will expire at the end of 2020, like cohesion, Erasmus or research programmes. The aim is to provide a safety net for citizens, regions, cities, farmers, universities or businesses who benefit from EU programmes, and rule out any risk of the current MFF and programmes being discontinued or extended in a disorderly way.

 

Focus on tackling consequences of COVID-19

MEPs say the plan should refocus the budget temporarily on addressing and mitigating the immediate economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak and on helping in the recovery by adding flexibility and funding, as was already done under this year’s budget.

On 17 April, the EP called for a massive recovery and reconstruction package that involves increasing the MFF. According to today’s resolution, the contingency plan would provide a better basis than a late or inadequate MFF for the European Union’s recovery and political priorities.

Quotes

Jan Olbrycht (EPP, PL), co-rapporteur: “The current situation needs extraordinary solutions. We are afraid that the new MFF 2021-2027 will not be ready on time due to accumulated, severe delays. Therefore, we urge the European Commission to propose a contingency plan for next year’s budget. In times of crises and instability, beneficiaries of the EU budget should have a clear vision of the next year. Members of the European Parliament are searching for all possible solutions to secure the stability of the EU budget.”

Margarida Marques (S&D, PT), co-rapporteur: “Citizens, businesses and civil society would not understand why on 1 January 2021, we don't have an EU Budget in place. If it was already difficult to accept this before this pandemic, it is much more difficult now with the severe impact of COVID-19 on families, schools, businesses and economies.

We call on the European Commission to present an ambitious EU budget proposal on time for the next seven years, with an anchored Recovery Fund that meets citizens' expectations. The Commission is already delayed in presenting its new proposal; the European Council must reach an agreement and the European Parliament must give its consent. But we cannot take any further risks. We call once more on the European Commission to present a Contingency Plan. This plan must be effective and provide a safety net for beneficiaries of EU programmes.”

 

Background

As the current long-term EU budget runs out on 31 December 2020, the EU needs a new budgetary planning horizon for the next seven years. The EU Commission thus presented plans for the next MFF for 2021-2027 in May 2018, and announced a new proposal for May 2020 to take account of the health crisis and its consequences. The European Parliament adopted its position in November 2018, and re-confirmed it in October 2019. The Council has not yet been able to agree on a position.

 

Next steps

The report has been endorsed by a majority of Parliament’s component members. As a consequence, the Commission has to either submit a relevant proposal, or else must inform Parliament of the reasons why it will not do so, according to article 225 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.

Upon her approval as Commission President by Parliament last July, Commission President von der Leyen pledged: “When this House, acting by majority of its Members, adopts Resolutions requesting the Commission to submit legislative proposals, I commit to responding with a legislative act in full respect of the proportionality, subsidiarity, and better law-making principles.”

Parliament approves increased water reuse

 

To prevent water shortages in the EU, Parliament today approved the Water Reuse Regulation.

 

  • Water scarcity is affecting more and more EU countries 
  • More water reuse expected to alleviate the stress on freshwater supply 
  • EU farmers will have more water available for irrigation, also during heatwaves

 

The new law defines minimum requirements at European level for the first time for reclaimed water (i.e. urban wastewater that has been treated in a reclamation plant) to be used for agricultural purposes in a safe way, protecting people and the environment. It was adopted without a vote at the opening of the Plenary.

The new rules aim to ensure that treated wastewater is more broadly reused in order to limit use from water bodies and groundwater. The fall in groundwater levels, due in particular to agricultural irrigation, but also industrial use and urban development, is one of the main threats to the EU water environment

“Today marks another important milestone towards the transition to a circular economy for water resources. In this way, step by step, we are bringing concrete results for the environment", said lead MEP Simona Bonafè (S&D, IT).

“We could potentially reuse 6.6 billion cubic metres of water by 2025, compared to the current 1.1 billion cubic metres per year. That would require an investment of less than EUR 700 million and would enable us to reuse more than half of the current volume of water coming from EU wastewater treatment plants theoretically available for irrigation, avoiding more than 5 % of direct extraction from water bodies and groundwater”, she added.


Next steps

The adopted measures will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union and shall apply three years after entry into force.

MEPs want an ambitious, future-oriented budget with the recovery fund as part of it

 

MEPs will fight for an EU budget commensurate with the challenges of the COVID-19 fallout

  

In a debate on the new EU long-term budget and recovery fund, MEPs paid tribute to citizens’ courage and insisted the EU budget must not leave anyone behind.

 

In the plenary debate preceding the vote on a resolution on the long-term budget and recovery fund, MEPs paid tribute to those citizens who are at the forefront during the health crisis, like nurses or grocery store employees. They motivate us with their courage and are shouldering their responsibility, MEPs said, and now member states in the Council must follow suit and stop procrastinating, moralizing or haggling over budgetary net benefits. The EP will be ready to support them.

 

The next long-term EU budget must be ambitious and future-oriented, and the recovery fund must be a part of it, members underlined. It is important not to forget about the regions and the farmers and focus on the future, by tackling climate change, digitalisation, securing the younger generation’s future and supporting the weakest in society. A key demand was that Parliament must be properly involved in the process of setting up and implementing the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and recovery fund: it will “fight for a democratic budget that cares for the people”.

 

Some MEPs warned of a dominant China, and emphasised the need to “protect EU jobs and companies”, for example from hostile takeovers. There were also calls to protect and improve the single market as a vehicle for recovery.

 

The President of the European Council Charles Michel, who reported on the latest European Council videoconference, promised a “strong and ambitious strategy” based on the EU budget and the recovery fund, and urged that the crisis must strengthen European integration, instead of aggravating differences between countries.

 

Commission President von der Leyen outlined her plans for a revamped MFF and recovery plan, based on three pillars - recovery and repair, kick-starting the economy and learning the lessons. She also pledged that the EP will play a full role in the entire recovery package and the budget.

Standing together to mark Europe day 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seventy years after the Schuman declaration, Europe is facing a crisis

that makes EU solidarity more important than ever.

 

Europe Day is held every 9 May to mark the anniversary of the speech by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman that led to the foundation of the European Union.

As we mark Europe Day, we remember how Europeans made history in 1950 and pay tribute to those who are making history today. In the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, 9 May 2020 represents an important opportunity to celebrate unity and solidarity in Europe.

Normally, the Parliament organises events for visitors at its premises. As this is not possible due to the pandemic this year,   Parliament and the other institutions have created a digital open day, bringing people together in this time of crisis by highlighting the sense of solidarity and emphasising what the EU is doing to help.

Among the highlights, Parliament President David Sassoli is scheduled to take part in a live debate on Saturday morning, with interpretation into various languages.

Other events include a Facebook live with Parliament Vice-Presidents Othmar Karas and Katarina Barley, video messages from the leaders of the political groups, a virtual visit to the plenary chamber in Brussels and a panel discussion on Schuman and his vision for Europe.

You can also enjoy an online exhibition, featuring items from the Parliament’s archives.

Follow Parliament’s all-day Facebook event and check the European Parliament’s website.

Events can also be followed on the European Parliament in Malta Facebook page that will include a #EuropeansAgainstCovid19 Facebook live with the Erasmus Students’ Network Malta and the Kunsill Nazzjonali taż-Żgħażagħ, in a special stay-at-home edition of Europe Day instead of our customary outdoor events at City Gate Valletta, the University campus, and elsewhere together with the EC Representation. 

This year the Malta’s EP Office’s and the EC Representation’s social media will also show highlights from today’s Xarabank talk show, on TVM  at 20.50, focusing on Europe Day and featuring interviews with MEPs Roberta Metsola and Miriam Dalli and Commissioner Helena Dalli.

 

 

Schumandeclaration

Statement by EP Conference of Presidents on the Schuman Declaration anniversary

 

Statement by European Parliament’s President and leaders of political groups on the Schuman Declaration anniversary

The celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration comes at a moment when Europe is facing its most difficult challenge since the end of the Second World War: a health, economic and social crisis triggered by the outbreak of COVID-19.
The Schuman Declaration, which laid the foundations of our European Union, started a unique and genuine political project to guarantee peace and prosperity and to improve the lives of all European citizens. Already 70 years ago the Schuman Declaration contained the idea that “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.” This step-by-step approach led to the European Union we know today.
Since the very beginning, the European project has been about building a political and economic community, based on the values arising from our common European history, like solidarity, openness, freedom, tolerance, equality in diversity and respect for the rule of law.
Jean Monnet, the author of the Schuman Declaration, declared that “people do not change if it is not out of necessity, and they only see the need in times of crisis”. Each crisis is an opportunity to take a step forward. Likewise, the current crisis heightens the urgency for the European Union to start to work on how to become more effective, democratic and closer to citizens. 
Over the last 70 years the world has changed dramatically and the role of the European Union is more crucial than ever. In a new emerging geopolitical order and in the context of an ecological emergency, our responsibility is to accept to become a global force of stability and peace, rule of law, sustainability and multilateralism.
This crisis has shown at a very high cost that the EU remains an unfinished project and that the failure to organize solidarity, or to counter the on-going attacks on fundamental rights and rule of Law are not theoretical debates.
Because we stand on the shoulders of giants, the capacity of the European institutions and all Member States to respond to current health, social, economic, environmental, security and institutional challenges should be at least commensurate with the political ambition contained in the Schuman Declaration. We need to strengthen and deepen the democratic legitimacy of the European Union, and ensure its policies and leadership are the expression of the citizens of Europe in a fully-fledged European parliamentary democracy.
We believe that it is time for an ambitious debate on the future of Europe with EU citizens and all stakeholders, in order to shape the Union in which we want to live together and to find an agreement among European citizens on the political foundations we want to build for the recovery of the European continent. Solidarity has become the main condition of our future common achievements.
In this context, we continue to believe that the planned European-wide project, the “Conference on the Future of Europe” is the appropriate forum to fulfil this ambition. The Conference needs to be convened as soon as possible and has to result in clear proposals by engaging directly and meaningfully with citizens, in order to bring about a profound reform of the Union, enabling it, above all, to take decisions in the common European interest so as to make the EU more effective, united, democratic, sovereign and resilient.
We reaffirm Parliament’s position and take note of the Commission’s position that the Conference process, its concept, structure, timing and scope should be agreed upon jointly by the three institutions. Therefore, we call on the Council to come forward with an ambitious position concerning the Conference.
Beyond the joy and gratitude at having been united and at peace for 75 years, we need to remember that solidarity does not end at our borders. The current pandemic reminds us of the importance of multilateralism in tackling common challenges and crises together. Instead of reverting to national egotism, a strengthened and more integrated European Union that collaborates closely with international partners in a spirit of mutual fairness and understanding should be the way forward.

Sassoli to EU institutions: “Be brave on EU recovery plan

 

Statement by President Sassoli on the EU recovery plan, which will be anchored to the next Multiannual EU budget.

 

“Now is the time to be courageous and ambitious with the actions backed by the EU budget. Parliament must be a key player in this process together with other institutions, so it can contribute to making it the best possible tool to help the European economy and its citizens. It is urgent to find an agreement on the recovery plan and the next multiannual budget.

Members had set very ambitious targets before the current crisis. Now is not the time to lower our ambitions and settle for a plan and a budget that would not be up to the challenges ahead.

The recovery package must be sizeable and add value, and must be embedded in a strong MFF. We must not lose sight of our long-term investments and strategic objectives. The crisis increased the imbalance between European regions and the recovery plan should help fill this gap.

Means have to be available now for our Members States, companies and affected workers. Time is of the essence.

As budgetary authority, the Parliament must be associated to the design of the recovery plan. We will also have a critical look at the MFF revised proposal and we reiterate the request for a contingency plan.

Parliamentarians need to have full say on where the money is invested since they represent citizens and the common good. As it has demonstrated since the beginning of its mandate, the Parliament is not a mailbox.

The increase of the own resources, announced by the Commission, is positive, but it should be permanent and be accompanied by new types of own resources, which remains a prerequisite to any agreement on the MFF.

All of Europe is affected by the current crisis. We, as European leaders, must rise to the challenge. We must protect the most vulnerable among us. More than ever, Europe needs to be strong and work for all Europeans, who look to us now in this moment of crisis.”

COVID-19: National authorities should do more to raise awareness of EU action

 

  • The European Parliament’s Vice-Presidents for communication today called on member states to do more to inform the public about EU action and solidarity in combatting COVID-19.
  • Information and communication is a crucial tool in the battle against coronavirus 
  • EU institutions are supporting solidarity measures in member states 
  • National authorities should do more to raise awareness of EU actions to fight COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on public health and the economy

 

“Information and communication are crucial in tackling the current health and economic crisis brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic”, stated European Parliament Vice-Presidents, Othmar Karas (AT, EPP) and Katarina Barley (DE, S&D) today, after two months of concerted EU efforts to tackle the pandemic.

“In the first instance, it is vital that all national authorities communicate clearly to the public about the measures needed to contain the spread of the virus, especially when considering lifting the lockdown. This must be done in a coordinated way across the EU”, Vice-President Othmar Karas stated.

“It is also imperative, in the interest of maintaining EU unity and solidarity, that national authorities also make an effort to communicate EU-wide collective action to assist the member states through this crisis in order to combat disinformation. Therefore, press conferences and video updates of European Commission President von der Leyen, especially when taking place in the European Parliament, should be broadcast widely in the member states. Information creates awareness”, added Karas.

Vice-President Katarina Barley stated, “After all, the initiatives taken at EU level are approved not only by Members of the European Parliament from all member states, but also ministers from all national governments. We all play a part in the decision-making and we all have a stake in the outcome.”

Ms. Barley continued, “This is important for reasons of accountability, transparency, democracy and trust in our governance structures. Many aspects of the current crisis require a common approach and pooled resources; in agreeing rules to maintain open borders for the flow of vital medical and food supplies, support for businesses, jobs or consumers, funds to promote research into viable vaccines, common rules for the airline industry, support measures for agriculture and the tourism sectors and assistance to our immediate neighbours and third country partners.”

“The EU and ECB together have mobilised hundreds of billions of euros in financial support to underpin state finances and the economy, which is only possible due to the credit worthiness of the European Union and the large-scale leverage it has when acting together,” explained Karas.

Finally, yet importantly, Vice-President Barley emphasised: “Much of this effort goes under-reported or worse, disinformation campaigns are gaining traction and feeding the public a diet of fake news that is detracting from the true efforts to support each other in these very difficult and uncertain times.”

Stop cooperation with and funding to the Libyan coastguard, MEPs ask

 

The EU should stop channeling funds to Libya to manage migration and to train its coastguard, as the violation of human rights of migrants and asylum-seekers continues.

In a debate in the Civil Liberties Committee with representatives of the Commission, Frontex, UNHCR, the Council of Europe and NGOs, a majority of MEPs insisted that Libya is not a “safe country” for disembarkation of people rescued at sea and demanded that the cooperation with the Libyan coastguard stops.

Most of the speakers acknowledged the challenges faced by front line countries receiving most of the migrants and asylum-seekers fleeing Libya, namely Italy and Malta, and underlined that the European common asylum system needs to be reshuffled, with a focus on solidarity among member states and respect of international legislation. Others made clear that member states are entitled to protect their borders, especially in the middle of a health crisis such as the current one. Some instead criticised the closure of ports due to the COVID-19 pandemic and stressed that letting people drown cannot be a solution.

 

Background

According to UNHCR, the human rights situation inside Libya is extremely complicated, in the context of intensifying combat, the coronavirus crisis and the high number of economic migrants, refugees and internally displaced people needing material and humanitarian assistance. Around 1,500 people remain in detention centers in appalling conditions, arbitrary detentions continue to take place and resettlement schemes of the most vulnerable people to neighbouring countries have been suspended.

Since the beginning of the year, 3,277 persons have arrived in Italy by sea and 1,135 in Malta. On 1 April, the EU naval Operation Irini succeeded Operation Sophia, with a focus on enforcing the arms embargo to Libya, in an attempt to contribute to the pacification of the country.

 

You can watch the debate again.

COVID-19: Stepping up EU's response to alleviate the effects of the crisis

image001
  • Maximum flexibility to channel EU structural funds not yet used to fight impact of COVID-19 on citizens 
  • Enhanced support to EU fishers, aquaculture farmers and agri-food producers 
  • Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will continue to provide assistance where it is most needed
  • MEPs voted remotely due to the COVID-19 crisis. © European Union 2020 - EP 

 

In Friday’s extraordinary plenary session, the European Parliament endorsed the “Corona Response Investment Initiative Plus” (CRII+) package proposed by the European Commission on 2 April by means of an urgency procedure.

The approved proposals are:

Specific measures so that EU funds can be used flexibly. The adopted measures will allow member states to transfer resources between the three main cohesion funds (the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund), between the different categories of regions and between the funds’ specific priority areas.

Exceptionally, it will be possible to fully finance cohesion policy programmes related to COVID-19 through 100% EU funding during the accounting year starting on 1 July 2020 and ending on 30 June 2021. The measures also simplify programme approval to speed up implementation, make financial instruments easier to use and simplify audits.

New rules will allow farmers to benefit from loans or guarantees at favourable conditions to cover their operational costs of up to €200.000. They will also free unused agriculture-related rural development funding to fight COVID-19.The proposal was adopted with 689 votes in favour, 6 against and one abstention.

Specific measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in the fishery and aquaculture sector. Measures include supporting fishers that have to temporarily stop operating, financial aid for aquaculture producers when production is suspended or reduced, support to producer organisations for temporary storage, as well as a more flexible reallocation of national operational funds.

MEPs also approved, following informal agreement with the Council, a series of improvements that will allow support to be given to new fishers and fishers on foot (i.e. those fishing without a boat). These improvements will also adapt provisions for outermost regions to deal with the crisis, as well as providing budgetary flexibility to help countries that have exhausted all allocated funding. The amended proposal was adopted with 671 votes in favour, 10 against and 15 abstentions.

Specific measures to guarantee the continued functioning of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). Measures include the possibility to finance the provision of protective equipment for workers and volunteers, the temporary 100% co-financing from the EU budget and lighter reporting and audit measures during the COVID-19-crisis.

Following informal agreement with the Council, MEPs also approved changes that allow for aid to be delivered using new methods, such as through electronic or paper vouchers, to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the operations and to reach the most vulnerable and excluded. The approved measures aim to protect the most vulnerable people from falling victim to COVID-19 and to ensure that food aid and basic material assistance still reaches them, while respecting social distancing and personal protection. The amended proposal was adopted with 686 votes in favour, 7 against and 3 abstentions.

 

Next steps

The Council has to formally approve Parliament's position. The adopted measures will enter into force once published in the Official Journal of the European Union in the coming days.

Sassoli: We must be voice of European citizens

 

Extracts from a speech of President Sassoli at opening of European Parliament Plenary session

 

Speaking at the opening of the European Parliament’s plenary session in Brussels, the second to be held remotely due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Parliament President David Sassoli thanked key workers for keeping Europe going. He said:

“Right now, our healthcare professionals are at the forefront of the fight against this virus. They deserve all our support, admiration and gratitude for the work they are doing and for the generosity they show even in the most difficult circumstances. I said it and I repeat it, the humanity of our citizens is our greatest asset.

“The small gestures of concrete solidarity keep us going. That is what Parliament wanted to do by opening its kitchens to prepare up to 1000 meals a day for homeless people and volunteers. We will also provide shelter for 100 vulnerable women in our Brussels premises. While in Strasbourg and Luxembourg, we have given the authorities the ability to use Parliament's premises for emergency-related activities. They are the cities that host us, and we are forever grateful for that.

Speaking on the week’s plenary agenda the President added:

“It is especially important to keep our democracies alive and to listen to our citizens during this period. This week we will discuss and vote on a resolution on coordinated EU action to combat the pandemic and its consequences, along with other urgent measures. Our aim is to ensure the best possible actions are taken and highlight the funds that are needed to ensure the maximum possible resources are available to Member States. We must be ambitious because European citizens need a rapid response.

“At this moment we must be the voice of our brave citizens, contribute to this fight with discipline, and do what we can to build a better future.”

The full text of the speech is available here

Erasmus+ students during Covid-19: MEPs call for more support and clarity

 

  • The 165 000 current Erasmus+ exchange students and 5000 EU volunteers need reassurance that they will be reimbursed and retain their status, MEPs say.
  • Extra costs must be reimbursed and rules applied flexibly 
  • Students must not lose an academic year 
  • EU volunteers could help member states to tackle the COVID-19 crisis

 

In a letter addressed to Commissioner Mariya Gabriel on Wednesday, the Members of the Culture and Education Committee point out that the Commission’s current way of communicating, as well as the different approaches and lack of information from national agencies, do not provide certainty that extra costs will be reimbursed and that Erasmus+ exchange students and participants of the Solidarity Corps programme will be able to retain their status.

They also ask for students to be supported to ensure that they do not lose this academic year and can obtain the necessary academic credits via virtual learning.

 

EU volunteers must retain their status and be deployed to national schemes

In their letter, MEPs also call on the Commission to ensure that Solidarity Corps programme participants can retain their status as volunteers for the planned duration of their placement, even if it has been suspended. They would therefore be able to complete their voluntary service and not risk losing family income, like child support, that is linked to the volunteer status.

They also recommend repurposing the voluntary activities for the suspended European Solidarity Corps participants, for example by deploying volunteers to national support schemes being implemented to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, MEPs call for “a clear policy, clearly communicated and consistently implemented across member states”, saying that people and organisations affected are “deeply worried” and “need to feel that the Commission is on their side”.

 

”The class of 2020 needs us”

“We call on the Commission to directly support all those participating in education, culture and youth programmes. That means working with national agencies, universities, technical colleges, schools, youth organisations and voluntary organisations to make sure our participants are safe and are given help to get home where necessary. It also means reassuring them that extra costs will be reimbursed, that project rules will be applied flexibly and that they will retain their status as Solidarity Corps volunteers or Erasmus+ learners.”, said Sabine Verheyen (EPP, DE), Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education.

“We have a duty to make sure that those who signed up to our programmes get the help and the support they need. The class of 2020 needs us”, she stressed.

 

Background

Currently 165 000 people across Europe are on an Erasmus+ exchange and 5 000 more are involved in Solidarity Corps volunteering projects.

A total of 65 Maltese students were participating in the higher education programme. Of these 47 returned to Malta while 18 stayed abroad. A total of 243 other European nationals were in Malta as Erasmus+ students: of these 107 returned to their countries, whilst 136 remained. 

The Commission has communicated that member state agencies which coordinate the projects may invoke force majeure clauses to enable grants to be paid when exchanges are cut short or otherwise interrupted, to enable activities to be postponed and to allow exceptional costs to be reimbursed.

In the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, the EESC calls for unprecedented solidarity between Member States.

 

The European Economic and Social Committee has adopted, ahead of the Eurogroup meeting on 7 April 2020, a declaration calling for timely and urgent responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Faced with the public health concerns and the political, economic and social consequences of the crisis, the EESC Members, as representatives of organised civil society, are united in stressing the crucial need for joint and prompt action.

The Committee underlines that this pandemic is a test of solidarity in political, financial, social and scientific terms for the European Union.

In these difficult times, we must not forget that we belong to a community of shared destiny. Only a European Union that upholds the principle of solidarity will be able to face the crisis, EESC Members stressed.

The EESC is convinced that in these times of big uncertainty only a comprehensive European Economic Recovery Plan will enable the EU to rebuild a more sustainable and resilient European economy

In this declaration, the EESC gives clear guidelines for a joint effort to cope with the effects of this pandemic that affects enterprises, workers, civil society and everyone’s well-being.

 

DECLARATION

European Economic and Social Committee

The EU's response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the need for unprecedented solidarity amongst Member States

For an urgent and comprehensive European economic recovery plan

The COVID-19 crisis represents first of all a human health emergency, secondly a severe economic and social threat and thirdly a potential challenge for democratic institutions.

Facing this crisis – one of the worst of its history – the EU must be guided by the principle of being considered a community of common destiny. Through this principle, the EESC recalls that it is possible to adopt and coordinate common and solidarity measures to counter the negative health, economic and social effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

In this regard the EESC values the swift response of the European Commission and welcomes all the EU measures announced so far. The EESC however considers these measures as only the first tangible expression of EU solidarity and responsibility towards its citizens, companies and workers, as well as a necessary first vital step in our collective fight against the pandemic.

At the same time, the Committee believes that the scale of the measures and the amount of resources activated must be commensurate with the size of the emergency in order to be effective. We are living in exceptional times, causing unbearable pressure on EU citizens, companies and workers, who rightly fear for their health, their jobs, and the future of their children. This moment calls for strong political leadership and a unanimous act of courage by Europe’s political leaders. Our citizens and indeed history will judge us by what actions we take or fail to take at this incredibly important moment.

The EESC is convinced that – in these times of great uncertainty – only a comprehensive European economic recovery plan would allow the EU Member States, its citizens, companies and workers to best face the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild a more sustainable and resilient European economy.

In the EESC's view, such a recovery plan should include in the first place the following measures targeted at ensuring an appropriate fiscal and monetary policy response throughout the EU that is commensurate with the dimension and objectives of our Economic and Monetary Union:

  • exploring the full potential of the ESM to actively help all Member States in restoring market confidence through its precautionary credit lines, which should be made available swiftly and without discriminatory conditionality, while appropriately adapting its pricing policy to take into account the current ultra-low market rates;
  • swiftly establishing the European instrument for temporary support (SURE) which has just been proposed by the Commission. This will be an important instrument to mitigate the economic and social effects of the COVID 19 pandemic with the specific aim of protecting jobs and people in work;
  • create a dedicated COVID 19 fund that will represent the EU’s war chest to provide the maximum financial support possible to all the EU Members States in two steps: the first one to face the health, economy and social emergency and the second one to kickstart the European economy once the health emergency is over. Access to this fund must be equal to all Member States and should be address to preventing businesses from going into bankruptcy, guarnteeing employment and helping European companies and self-employed to re-emerge in the shortest time possible;
  • reinforcing the anticyclical role of the European Investment Bank by increasing its capacity and confirming the role of the ECB as a lender of last resort which should be able to provide unlimited liquidity through further unconventional monetary policy measures, with a view to addressing the liquidity needs of the real economy, maintaining the integrity of the euro area, enhancing the functioning of the single market and supporting the role of the EU as a global economic player.

In line with the position of the European Parliament, the EESC urges the Commission to revise the current EU budgetimmediately to take the dimension of the COVID-19 crisis into account by:

  • mobilising the available financial margins in the 2020 budget; Ø  refocusing the 2019 EU surplus, instead of returning this money to
  • Member States, and using these funds entirely to facilitate the budgeting of Corona-related actions, preferably at EU level;

 

amending the existing legislation in the field of cohesion, so that the Member States can have greater flexibility to make transfers between the different cohesion policy programmes in order to quickly redirect resources to where they are most needed.

 

In addition to the above, it is clear that a fully operational Single Market is more important than ever before and that its completion will be a cornerstone of the recovery. Currently, while safeguarding the health of their citizens, it is vital that Member States establish green corridors that allow the free flow of critical goods and supplies through the Union.

Furthermore the EESC strongly believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the harsh reality that the EU lacks the necessary rules and conditions to face up to such an emergency in a quick and coherent manner. The harsh lessons being learnt from this health emergency must put on the European agenda the creation of a ‘EU Health Union’.

COVID-19 will have a deep and negative impact on the achievement of the SDGs and the objectives of the European Green Deal. For this reason, the EESC insists on the need to face this urgent threat as soon as possible and focus our recovery efforts without undue delay on the SDGs and the Green Deal.

 

Maintaining the rule of law and European values

The European Union is based on common European values which are non-negotiable under any circumstances[1]: respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law. These values cannot be forgotten when the EU and its Member States face an emergency and its fallout in terms of economic and social challenges. While the response to the current crisis needs to be swift and warrants certain exceptional and time-limited measures, these cannot go against the rule of law and cannot endanger democracy, the separation of powers and the fundamental rights of European citizens. The EESC insists that all policy measures in this respect must be fully in line with our common values as laid down in Article 2 of the TEU.

This outbreak is a test of solidarity – political, financial, social and scientific – for the whole European Union. We need to come together to fight a common and existential threat that does not respect borders, ensure that we have the resources necessary to bring this outbreak to an end and to find shared answers to shared problems together.

European Parliament to hold extraordinary plenary on 16 and 17 April

 

The EP’s President and political group leaders decided to hold an extraordinary plenary to continue with parliamentary work on the special measures to fight the pandemic.

Parliament’s President and political group leaders (Conference of Presidents) held a remote meeting on Thursday morning and agreed to convene an extraordinary plenary session on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 April in Brussels.

On the agenda will be a debate with Council and Commission and a vote on a resolution on EU coordinated action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. The EP is also ready to vote on any legislative or budgetary proposals prepared in time by the European Commission to further address the current situation.

The Conference of Presidents updated the EP’s calendar of activities to introduce additional dates for remote meetings for EP governing bodies, committees and political groups. You can find it here.

Group leaders also raised concerns about the emergency measures recently adopted in Hungary. A majority of the groups asked President Sassoli to relay their concerns in a letter to the Commission, asking them to evaluate the situation and consider activating the Article 7 procedure of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). This procedure would allow the EU to ensure that European core values are not at risk.

 

Remote voting system and health measures

The current precautionary measures adopted by the European Parliament to contain the spread of COVID-19 do not affect work on legislative priorities. Core activities are reduced, but maintained to ensure the institution’s legislative, budgetary, scrutiny functions are maintained.

Parliament has agreed to introduce an alternative remote voting system. Based on public health grounds, it will enable votes to take place, with adequate safeguards to ensure that Members’ votes are individual, personal and free.

Fact-checking Day: Fighting the virus of disinformation on Covid-19

 

  • The outbreak of the coronavirus has led to fake news and disinformation spreading, which hamper efforts to contain the pandemic.
  • Disinformation endangers citizens’ health and democracy 
  • Fake news also originates from actors close to the US “alt” right, China and Russia 
  • EU website busts most common myths related to the pandemic

 

Today 2 April, on International Fact-checking Day, Parliament is contributing to raising awareness of the dangers of disinformation, not only for citizens’ health, but also for democracy.

Whereas many battle day and night to save lives from the coronavirus, health organisations and fact-checkers have uncovered another dark side of the pandemic - organisations and individuals exploiting the crisis for political or commercial manipulation, instead of supporting those saving lives.

EU institutions have repeatedly warned of the risks linked to disinformation attempts and scams. To support factual and reliable information, a joint EU page has been set up about Europe’s response to the virus. It also busts the most common myths related to the Covid-19 outbreak.

According to a report by the EEAS anti-disinformation taskforce EUvsDisinfo, some false claims come from actors close to the US “alt” right, to China and to Russia. In these cases, the aim is political, to undermine the European Union or to create political shifts.

Parliament’s Vice-President Othmar Karas (EPP, AT) insisted that “False claims are easy to check. Proof of EU solidarity is easy to find. The EU has very limited formal powers in health matters, but EU countries and the EU as a whole are looking at ways to help the victims of the crisis. At this very moment for example, German nurses and doctors are taking care of COVID-19 patients flown in from Italy or France. Czechia sent 10.000 protective suits to both Italy and Spain. Austria and France sent millions of masks to Italy.”

“Last week, Members of the European Parliament almost unanimously adopted urgency measures to free up money to help EU countries finance healthcare, medical assistance or prevent further spread of the disease. In the other EU institutions, people are also working tirelessly to find effective and quick ways to support the victims of this crisis, be it those who are ill, healthcare workers or people who have lost their jobs or income due to the crisis”, he  concluded.

Vice-President Katarina Barley (S&D, DE) highlighted that “In times like these, lives depend on all of us listening to health authorities, and spreading lies or questioning the truth becomes even more dangerous. It is important that the institutions continue to closely cooperate with online platforms, encouraging them to promote authoritative sources, demote content that is found to be false or misleading, and take down illegal content or content that could cause physical harm.

Parliament is launching a campaign to support the EU response to the crisis and to show our citizens that this continent is filled with Europeans fighting side by side against COVID-19.”

She also called on everyone to pay specific attention to online disinformation attempts: “Today, on International Fact-checking Day, we would like to remind people of the importance of fact-checking and we are sharing fact-checking tips in all languages. Just as we respect social distancing and wash our hands, we have the duty to stop the spread of fake advice and manipulative stories”.

Vice-President Karas added: “In a crisis like this, fact-checking is not about being the wise guy finding pleasure in correcting people who make mistakes; rather, it is our civic duty to protect European citizens and the democratic society we have created."

 

COVID-19: Parliament approves crucial EU support measures

 

As part of the EU’s joint response to the COVID-19 outbreak, MEPs almost unanimously adopted three urgent proposals in an extraordinary plenary session, on Thursday. 

The urgent measures to help people and businesses tackle the crisis were voted on in plenary less than two weeks after the Commission tabled its proposals.

 

The approved proposals are:

The Corona Response Investment Initiative: these measures are meant to channel €37 billion from available EU funds as soon as possible to citizens, regions and countries hit the hardest by the Coronavirus pandemic. The funds will be directed towards healthcare systems, SMEs, labour markets and other vulnerable parts of EU member states’ economies. The proposal was adopted with 683 votes in favour, 1 against and 4 abstentions.

The extension of the EU Solidarity Fund to cover public health emergencies. The measures will make up to €800 million available for European countries in 2020. Operations eligible under the Fund will be extended to include support in a major public health emergency, including medical assistance, as well as measures to prevent, monitor or control the spread of diseases. The proposal was adopted with 671 votes in favour, 3 against and 14 abstentions.

Temporarily suspending EU rules on airport slots: this will stop air carriers from operating empty flights during the pandemic. The temporary suspension means that airlines are not obliged to use their planned take-off and landing slots to keep them in the next corresponding season. The 'use it or lose it' rule will be waived for the whole summer season, from 29 March until 24 October 2020. The proposal was adopted with 686 votes in favour, no votes against and 2 abstentions.

 

Next steps

The Council has to formally approve Parliament's position. The adopted measures will enter into force once published in the Official Journal of the European Union in the coming days.

Il-Membri tal-Parlament Ewropew Maltin jipparteċipaw mill-bogħod f’sessjoni plenarja straordinarja dwar miżuri biex niffaċċjaw il-COVID-19

 

Il-Parlament Ewropew bħalissa qiegħed jivvota dwar tliet miżuri kbar biex l-Unjoni Ewropea tindirizza l-pandemija tal-COVID-19.

Is-sessjoni straordinarja tal-plenarja tal-Parlament għaddejja llum b’mod li qatt ma sar qabel - mill-bogħod.  687 MPE madwar l-Unjoni pparteċipaw minn djarhom u qed jivvutaw bl-imejl hekk kif kien irrakkomandat biex inwaqqfu l-firxa tal-pandemija. Kienu biss ftit il-MPE preżenti fil-plenarja: il-President Sassoli li mexxa s-seduti, u MPE li tkellmu fil-parti l-kbira f’isem il-gruppi politiċi tagħhom.

Il-MPE Maltin kienu fost dawk li pparteċipaw mill-bogħod. Hawn huma l-kummenti tagħhom dwar il-vot mill-bogħod u għalfejn, il-miżuri li qed jittieħdu llum u l-impatt tagħhom, u l-azzjoni tal-UE biex tikkumbatti din il-pandemija u l-effetti tagħha ‘lil hinn mill-ħidma tal-lum.

 

Dwar il-vot mill-bogħod:

David Casa (Kwestur, PPE):

“Illum huwa jum storiku għall-Parlament Ewropew, hekk kif għall-ewwel darba, aħna l-Membri vvutajna b’mod elettroniku, mid-djar tagħna. Il-COVID-19 biddel il-mod ta’ kif ngħixu, ta’ kif naħdmu, u anke ta’ kif ninnegozjaw u napprovaw il-liġijiet Ewropej. Fil-verità, il-proċess hu wieħed simili ta’ kif issir is-soltu, bid-differenza li jieħu aktar ħin peress li l-voti jridu jingħaddu fiżikament. Ninsab ċert li wara l-vot tal-lum, se jkun hemm diskussjonijiet fix-xhur li ġejjin dwar kif nistgħu naħdmu aħjar, niddjalogaw aħjar u anke napprovaw liġijiet b’mod aktar malajr”.

 

Roberta Metsola (Kap tad-Delegazzjoni Maltija tal-PPE):

“Se nivvotaw fuq wieħed mill-akbar pakketti li rat l-Ewropa. Ser inniedu fond ta’ 37 biljun euro biex ngħinu s-sistemi tas-saħħa, in-negozji u l-impjiegi. Se nwessgħu l-mekkaniżmu ta’ solidarjetà tal-UE biex ikopri emerġenzi tas-saħħa pubblika u niżguraw il-flessibilità meħtieġa biex nissalvagwardjaw linji tal-ajru, inklużi flotot żgħar bħall-Air Malta. Dan il-virus ma jaraf l-ebda fruntiera, u għalhekk irridu niżguraw li ma jkun hemm l-ebda differenza fir-rispons bejn Stati Membri kbar u dawk żgħar. Aħna lkoll qegħdin fl-istess dagħjsa. Dan għandu jkun il-proġġett tal-Ewropa fl-azzjoni”.

 

Miriam Dalli (Kap tad-Delegazzjoni Maltija tas-S&D):

“Dak li qabel kienu jgħidulna li hu impossibbli issa sar possibbli: sal-lum qatt ma sar vot b’mod remot u anke bħala ommijiet fil-liv tal-maternità, qatt ma kellna l-vot remot. Il-mod ta’ kif ivvutajna llum kien wieħed pjuttost sempliċi, u limitat għal numru żgħir ta’ voti - li fl-opinjoni tiegħi juri bl-aktar mod ċar kemm il-Parlament Ewropew għandu bżonn jinvesti ferm aktar fit-teknoloġija.  Il-Parlament għandu jkun l-ewwel wieħed li jagħti eżempju”. 

 

 Alfred Sant (S&D):

“Kien meħtieġ li ssir xi ħaġa biex il-Parlament Ewropew ma jispiċċax pjattaforma għat-tixrid tal-coronavirus jekk jiltaqa' fiżikament fi plenarja. L-esperjenza ta' vot mill-bogħod jidher li rnexxiet, imma l-voti li ttieħdu kienu ta' struttura ħafifa. Irid isir aktar xogħol tekniku biex ix-xogħol li l-plenarja s-soltu twettaq ikun jista' jittieħed kollu mill-‘bogħod’ mid-deputati kollha”.

  

Alex Agius Saliba (S&D):

“Il-ħtiega li x-xogħol u d-deċiżjonijiet jkomplu jittieħdu f’dawn iċ-ċirkostanzi straordinarji li qed ngħixu fihom hija waħda kbira. Iċ-ċittadini Ewropej jistennew minnha illi naġixxu sabiex nissalvagwardjaw is-sitwazzjoni ekonomika u sanitarja tagħhom f’dawn iż-żminijiet.” 

 

Il-miżuri vvutati llum:

Josianne Cutajar (S&D):

“Kif stenna kulħadd l-aġenda ta’ din il-plenarja hija ffukata u ddedikata biss għal miżuri ta’ emerġenza b’rabta mal-imxija tal-COVID-19. Għaldaqstant ħadna deċiżjonijiet importanti dwar flessibilità tar-regoli fiskali u finanzjament kemm jista’ jkun spedit indirizzat anke lejn il-qasam essenzjali tas-saħħa tal-pajjiżi membri (u dawk li bdew it-triq lejn is-sħubija). Ilkoll ninsabu f’emerġenza, għad li mhux kull pajjiż milqut bl-istess rata s’issa, u l-Kummissjoni wieġbet għall-pressjoni tagħna l-Ewro-parlamentari f’qasir żmien biex illum il-Parlament Ewropew ta l-approvazzjoni ħalli nsostnu s-servizz mediku li qed jirċievu l-Ewropej. Is-saħħa hija prijorità ewlenija u l-fondi li l-Kummissjoni qed tiffaċilita huma primarjament indirizzati lil hemm. Hemm aktar oqsma li ntlaqtu direttament bl-imxija tal-virus u l-fondi Ewropej u l-faċilitajiet li qed nagħmlu possibbli huma intiżi biex il-pajjiżi membri jsostnu lin-negozji fi ħdanhom,inkluż dawk żgħar u medji, u jissalvagwardjaw l-impjiegi biex il-qawmien ekonomiku wara l-kriżi tal-pandemija jkun rapidu kemm jista’ jkun”.

  

Alfred Sant (S&D):

“Il-miżuri vvotati huma utli għalkemm baqa' ħafna xi jsir qabel risposta Ewropea għall-imxija se tkun effettiva. Fuq ħafna fronti l-pajjiżi membri qed jaħdmu għal rashom. Għal Malta, kienet importanti d-deċiżjoni biex jitwal iż-żmien li l-kumpaniji tal-ajru se jkunu jistgħu ma jużawx is-slots tagħhom fl-ajruporti Ewropej bla ma jitilfuhom.”

 

Miriam Dalli (S&D):

“Il-miżuri li se nikkonfermaw illum fil-Parlament Ewropew għandhom l-għan li jindirizzaw tlett kategoriji differenti: investiment ta’ €37 biljun biex jgħin lin-negozji, ħaddiema u kumpaniji; estensjoni tal-iskop tal-Fond Ewropew għas-solidarjetà biex jindirizza skopijiet ta’ saħħa pubblika; u għajnuna lil-linji tal-ajru biex dawn ma joqgħodux itiru għal xejn, sempliċiment biex isalvaw slot f’ajruport. Huwa importanti li kull pajjiz, inkluż Malta, tagħmel l-aħjar użu minn dawn il-fondi u mir-regoli temporanji li qed toħrog il-Kummissjoni Ewropea biex jgħinu lill-ħaddiema u lil min iħaddem”.

 

Roberta Metsola (PPE):

“Ir-riposta tagħna ma tistax tkun nofs qalb. Ma nistgħux nibżgħu nonfqu u ma nistgħux naħsbuha darbtejn qabel nagħmlu dak kollu li hemm bżonn biex nissalvagwardjaw l-ekonomiji u l-impjiegi tal-popli tagħna”. Metsola ħeġġet lill-gvernijiet tal-Istati Membri biex jirreaġixxu malajr u qalet li “in-nuqqas ta' azzjoni jew kull tip ta’ eżitazzjoni se iffissru prezz għoli li rridu nħallsu.”.

Alex Agius Saliba (S&D):

“Għalkemm dawn il-miżuri huma mportanti u ser ikunu ta’ ftit solljev għaċ-ċittadini u l-industriji Ewropej, nistgħu nagħmlu ferm aktar. Illum se nkun qed nivvota favur il-miżura li jiġu allokati 37 biljun euro f’fondi ta’ koeżjoni li ser jintużaw sabiex nimmobilizzaw investimenti fil-kura tas-saħħa f’kull stat membru filwaqt illi ngħinu lill-ekonomiji. Vot importanti huwa wkoll dak dwar is-sospensjoni tar-regoli dwar l-użu tal-islots fl-ajruporti: din is-sospensjoni hija kruċjali għall-Air Malta hekk kif bħalissa b’numru ta’ titjiriet li mhux qed jiġu operati qiegħda f’riskju illi titlef l-aċċess futur biex topera minn u lejn numru ta’ ajruporti kruċjali”.

  

David Casa (PPE):

“Nemmen li, bħal dejjem, l-Unjoni Ewropea qed terġa’ tqum għall-okkażjoni u turi li meta ċ-ċittadini Ewropej l-aktar li jkollhom bżonnha, tkun hemm - kemm biex tassigura li l-pajjiżi għandhom l-aqwa riżorsi biex jindirizzaw il-pandemija tal-virus, kif ukoll biex l-impatt ekonomiku u soċjali fuq l-impjiegi tan-nies ikun l-inqas possibbli. Faċli mhix, pero’ nemmen li bil-pakkett propost mill-Kummissjoni Ewropea u approvat minna llum, it-triq li qbadna hi waħda fid-direzzjoni t-tajba”.  

 

‘Lil hinn mill-ħidma tal-lum:

David Casa (PPE):

“Issa rridu nassiguraw li dak li approvajna llum ma jkunx l-aħħar pass, imma l-ewwel minn sensiela ta’ għajnuniet lill-gvernijiet, negozji u ħaddiema madwar l-Ewropa kollha. Forsi fuq l-aħbarijiet naraw kif l-ammonti ta’ nies li mardu bil-coronavirus hu akbar f’pajjiż milli f’ieħor, pero’, jien ninsab ċert li l-impatt ekonomiku u soċjali mhux biss se jkun fuq pajjiż wieħed jew tnejn, imma fuq l-Istati Membri kollha tal-Unjoni Ewropea, inkluż Malta”. 

  

Alex Agius Saliba (S&D):

“Dawn għandhom ikunu l-ewwel sett ta’ inizjattivi u fil-futur qarib hemm bżonn illi l- Kummissjoni Ewropea tmexxi ‘l quddiem aktar pakketti ta’ għajnuna sabiex nevitaw kollass ekonomiku u soċjali fuq livell Ewropew. Qed nisħaq illi għalkemm nilqa’ b’mod pożittiv il- flessibilita’ fl-inizjattiva tal-Kummissjoni wieħed għandu jikkunsidra wkoll ir-realtajiet partikolari ta’ kull stat membru fosthom l-industriji żgħar u medji ta’ pajjiżna li huma aktar suxettibli li jiġu negattivament affetwati minn din il-krizi”. 

Josianne Cutajar (S&D):

“Nemmen li jonqos x’nagħmlu. Neħtieġu Pjan ta’ Salvataġġ għat-Turiżmu, qasam li fuqu tistrieħ l-ekonomija ta’ reġjuni u anke pajjiżi bħal Malta u Għawdex. Ir-restrizzjonijiet imposti għall-ġid tagħna lkoll jagħtu aktar minn daqqa ta’ ħarta lill-avjazzjoni, is-settur tal-ospitalità, tal-ikel u tad-divertiment. Dawn ma jfissrux biss profitti u investiment imma impjiegi u għajxien tal-familji. Mingħajr għajnuna diretta u mingħajr ma nħallu lill-gvernijiet jieħdu l-miżuri li jħossu li huma neċessarji biex jinjettaw il-fiduċja u l-ħajja f’dawk l-inizjattivi li jqisu kruċjali, l-impatt ekonomiku negattiv tal-virus se ndumu ntabbu bih bil-wisq aktar mill-virus innifsu”.

Roberta Metsola (PPE):  “L-uniku mod kif nirreaġixxu għal din il-kriżi tal-COVID-19 huwa li l-Ewropa tkun magħquda b’solidarjetà sħiħa. Dan ifisser li għandna nagħmlu dak kollu possibbli biex nimminimizzaw il-kontaġju, inżommu l-linji tal-provvista tal-Ewropa funzjonali, niżguraw li s-sistemi tal-kura tas-saħħa jkollhom l-appoġġ kollu meħtieġ u nissalvagwardjaw l-impjiegi f'dan il-mument daqstant kritiku”. 

Miriam Dalli (S&D):

“Dan mhux iż-żmien fejn kulħadd jaqdef għal rasu. Il-President tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea Ursula Von de Leyen stqarret bl-aktar mod ċar li r-rispons fil-bidu kien tal-mistħija meta anke l-esportazzjoni ta’ ċertu tagħmir mediku ġie mwaqqaf. Irridu naċċertaw ruħna li ngħaqdu l-forzi tal-pajjiżi kollha tal-Unjoni Ewropea flimkien biex il-provvista ta’ prodotti essenzjali tibqa’ għaddejja. Wara kollox fejn hemm l-għaqda hemm is-saħħa. Nemmen li dan l-atteġġjament biss jista’ jgħinna nqumu lura fuq saqajna malajr kemm jista’ jkun”.

  

Il-MPE - wara li dalgħodu vvutaw biex jattivaw il-proċeduri ta’ emerġenza - bħalissa qed jivvutaw fuq:

L-Inizjattiva ta’ Investiment għar-Rispons għall-Corona virus, li tqiegħed għad-dispożizzjoni €37 biljun mill-Fondi ta' Koeżjoni lill-Istati Membri biex jindirizzaw il-konsegwenzi tal-kriżi,

 

Proposta leġiżlattiva sabiex testendi l-ambitu tal-Fond ta’ Solidarjetà tal-UE biex tkopri emerġenzi ta' saħħa pubblika,

 

Il-proposta tal-Kummissjoni biex twaqqaf l-hekk imsejħa titjiriet fantażma ikkawżati mill-imxija tal-COVID-19.

 

Ir-riżultat tal-votazzjoni għandu jitħabbar fil-23.00.

MEPs and the Commission’s President discussed how the EU can enhance collaboration among EU countries in the common fight against COVID-19

 

Showing strong support for EU measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, MEPs spoke up for strong EU solidarity to help citizens in Thursday’s plenary debate

 

  • 687 MEPs participated in the first vote of the special plenary to deal with COVID-19 urgency measures 
  • MEPs called for enhanced solidarity among member states to tackle the challenges 
  • Long-term EU measures must mitigate the economic impact and invest more in research
  • Prior to a crucial urgency vote on the first batch of measures proposed by the Commission to help members states tackle the pandemic in an efficient and coordinated way, MEPs called for EU countries to collaborate and to keep internal borders open to allow medical equipment and goods to be delivered.

 

Respecting strict sanitary precautions, lead MEPs from all political groups gathered in a special session in the Brussels chamber on Thursday, with others following the debate from home. Thanks to special procedures put in place, all MEPs were able to cast their votes remotely: 687 MEPs participated in the first vote to approve the urgency procedure.
Opening the debate, President David Sassoli reiterated that the Parliament would not cease to function despite the pandemic. “This is the only way we can serve people, serve our communities, and serve healthcare workers who are sacrificing themselves on the wards of our hospitals across Europe,” the President said. “The Parliament will continue to fulfil its democratic role”, he added.
Emphasizing the need for common action and preserving the single market, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, “When we needed an ‘all for one’ spirit, many gave an ‘only for me’ response. But things are now improving. The free movement of goods and services is the only way to get supplies to where they are needed. Putting barriers between us simply makes no sense! Europe’s citizens will remember the decisions and actions we take today.”
Esteban González Pons (EPP, ES) said: “We need the Europe that comes out on its balcony every evening to applaud health care workers”. He echoed the Commission president and called for resources to be channelled to local health care and for the free flow of medical equipment and goods to be guaranteed. He called for political systems to be maintained, investment into research, and solidarity among European leaders whose “European spirit is failing.”
“Today’s decisions are but a first step”, said Javier Moreno Sánchez (S&D, ES), stressing the need to also put forward measures such as an EU Marshall plan, funded by a new common European debt instrument, and a European unemployment fund, to help mitigate the economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.
“If Europe is about economic and monetary solidarity, health solidarity is even more necessary” saidDominique Riquet (Renew, FR). He supported steps against empty flights, and said well-organised supply chains are the means to stabilise Europe and fight the disease. “I want this aphorism to apply to Europe and its citizens: whatever does not kill us will make us stronger”, he concluded.
Nicolas Bay (ID, FR) criticised the EU response "We have a big challenge and you are absent. The European Commission has put Europeans at risk. The EU is not even capable of coordinating the measures taken by the member states. The COVID-19 crisis is a nail, perhaps the last one, in the coffin of an impotent bureaucracy”, he said.
Thanks and gratitude are not enough, said Ska Keller (Greens/EFA, DE) who called for help to be extended to the Western Balkans, too. The Greens call for financial help to people who have lost their income and, through “coronabonds”, to ensure the stability of EU countries. These extraordinary times “are not a pretext to undermine checks and balances”: governments must remain under the control of national parliaments, she added.
Derk Jan Eppink (ECR, NL) proposed a different pragmatic response to the crisis. “The new euro bonds or “coronabonds” would not be an effective way to revitalise the European economy. People urgently need cash. National central banks should instead provide credits at zero interest rates to our citizens and companies.”
“A protective Europe would look after its essential workers. Rather than applauding the carers, cashiers, the people on whom our lives depend, let us help them”, said Manon Aubry (GUE/NGL, FR), pleading for the production of health equipment to be shared and for a clear and coordinated strategy to lift the lockdown.

Sassoli: Democracy cannot be suspended in face of COVID-19

 

The European Parliament today met to vote on urgent EU measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, including support for health care systems and financial assistance for the member states most effected by the current crisis. It is the first European Parliament plenary session to use remote voting.

 

Opening the session, European Parliament President David Sassoli said:

“We are experiencing an extraordinary and unexpected situation. We have had to take unprecedented decisions in the last weeks, trying to anticipate rapidly changing circumstances to protect the health of staff and Members, while guaranteeing that the democratic work of the institution can continue.

“We had to slow down, of course. But we have not stopped, because democracy cannot be suspended in the midst of such a dramatic crisis. Indeed, it is our duty, in these difficult times, to be at the service of our citizens. As legislators, we have the means, the possibility, and the duty to help.

“Today we are present, albeit remotely, united through this unprecedented, extraordinary format. We are determined to make our contribution in the fight against this pandemic by guaranteeing that the democratic work of this parliament can continue. This is the only way we can serve people, serve our communities, and serve healthcare workers who are sacrificing themselves in the wards of our hospitals across Europe.

“A few days ago, this horrible virus hit us very closely, it took away a young life, a young man who worked right here with us in the European Parliament. Our deepest condolences go to the family of Giancarlo as well as to the families of all the people who have lost their lives because of COVID-19.”

“I want to recognise all those people who fight this virus every day with courage and determination, to those who are sick first of all, to the medical staff who work tirelessly throughout Europe and also to citizens who with their responsible behavior will be decisive in eradicating this pandemic.”

European Parliament to hold extraordinary plenary on 26 March

 

EP President and political group leaders decided to hold an extraordinary plenary session next Thursday, 26 March to allow for the implementation of special measures.

Parliament´s President and Group leaders (Conference of Presidents) held an informal exchange of views on Thursday morning. They approved in written procedure the proposal of EP President Sassoli to convene an extraordinary plenary session next Thursday, 26 March in Brussels to debate and vote on the first three legislative proposals of the European Commission to tackle the effects of the COVID19 pandemic in EU Member States.

EP President David Sassoli said: “The European Parliament is doing its duty and will continue to do so. Parliament must remain open, because a virus cannot bring down democracy. We are the only European institution voted in by its citizens and we want to continue representing and defending them”.

 

On the agenda:

The Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, which will make available €37 billion of the Cohesion funds to member states to address the consequences of the crisis,

a legislative proposal to extend the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund to cover public health emergencies

a Commission proposal to stop the so-called ghost flights caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

It is key that the European Parliament adopts these three proposals swiftly, to provide concrete support to EU citizens and to the Member States in this unprecedented situation.

The Bureau of the European Parliament will adopt specific measures for this session to ensure the votes can be organised remotely.

This plenary will formally replace the session foreseen for 1-2 April.

Sassoli: Europe is showing the power of solidarity

 

Statement by President David Sassoli on European Parliament’s response to COVID-19 crisis

Following a video conference with leaders of political groups in the European Parliament, European Parliament President David Sassoli called an extraordinary plenary session for March 26 to approve measures to tackle COVID-19. It will be the first plenary session to use a remote voting system.

“I want to express my warmth and solidarity to all those suffering and all those who have lost loved ones. I want to stress my admiration and support for all those who are on the front line fighting this pandemic.

“Europe is moving. Faced with this dramatic situation, with a duty to defend lives, livelihoods, and stability for all, the European Union is acting. Of course, we had to fight against national selfishness, but now it is a clear how we are going to face this emergency.

“Last night's decision by the ECB to make 750 billion Euros available adds to Parliament’s calls, to the measures of the Commission, to those of the States, to possible additional initiatives, such as mobilizing another 500 billion from the European Stability Mechanism, the so-called bailout fund. We are talking about an intervention that, overall, is close to two trillion euros. The greatest demonstration of the power of European solidarity in a long time. Comparable to the Marshall plan, the programme that helped us get back from the ruins of World War II.

“This money will help us limit the effects of Covid19, and will support research to identify an effective vaccine. It provides useful resources to support our economy and our model of social protection. It will protect jobs, businesses, and ensure families are not left alone in the face of these challenging times.

"At this stage it provides money needed by our medical facilities, by doctors and staff who, with great passion and generosity, are committed to saving the lives of many. The Union cannot allow anyone to remain alone. None of you will be left alone.

"The European Parliament is also doing and will continue to do its duty. I was determined that Parliament would remain open because democracy cannot be stopped by this virus, because we are the only European institution elected by citizens and we want to represent and defend them.

"For this reason I decided to convene an extraordinary plenary session on Thursday 26 March in order to approve the emergency measures presented by the European Commission. It will be the first plenary that will use the distance voting system. In the face of this emergency, we must use all the means we have available.

"It is a difficult time. We want to be close to families who have lost loved ones, to those who are sick, and to European compatriots who are experiencing a moment of great fear. We must use all our energies and appeal to everyone's responsibility. Europe will only succeed if we are united, courageous and supportive.”

A video message by President Sassoli is available here.

Delivering masks across borders: EU Single Market protecting citizens’ health

The continuous supply of essential goods and vital medical and protective equipment within the Single Market is key to addressing the COVID-19 crisis.

The chairs of Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, Petra De Sutter (Greens/EFA, BE), and Transport Committee, Karima Delli (Greens/EFA, FR), welcomed today’s rapid decision of EU Transport ministers to support green lane supply routes (giving priority to transport of essential goods such as food as well as vital medical and protective equipment), as suggested by MEPs and the Commission. The aim of the new and urgent COVID-19 measures is to protect health and keep goods and essential services available within the EU’s internal market.

“Completely closing down borders might seem like the safest way to protect our citizens, but we all depend on imports from other member states to keep our supplies uninterrupted. Guaranteeing the unobstructed transport of essential goods such as food and guaranteeing an uninterrupted supply of vital medical and protective equipment, ensures that this crisis will not turn into a catastrophe. We rely and we depend on each other when it comes to our public health”, said the Chair of the Internal Market Committee.

“Installing so-called ‘green lanes’ – especially for medical and protective equipment – is of utmost importance in the coming days and weeks”, stressed Ms de Sutter, referring to member states’ commitment on the supply of medical equipment.

Transport Committee Chair Karima Delli said that smooth border crossing and coordination between member states will be essential to overcome this crisis. “We have to find ways to keep our transport systems going and to reduce queues to save time and money. We stand ready to act together and quickly and we stand behind the drivers and the whole transport sector that is working tirelessly to keep the goods flowing during this crisis”, said the Chair.

“There is an urgent need to implement measures to end ghost flights. Airlines must be provided with guarantees on future slots. This is the only way to prevent empty flights in the EU,” she concluded.

Niżguraw it-tqassim tal-maskli: Suq Uniku tal-UE li jipproteġi s-saħħa

taċ-ċittadini  

 

Il-provvista kontinwa ta' oġġetti essenzjali u tagħmir mediku u protettiv vitali fis-Suq Uniku hija kruċjali biex tiġi indirizzata l-kriżi tal-COVID-19.

Il-presidenti tal-Kumitat għas-Suq Intern u l-Ħarsien tal-Konsumatur tal-Parlament, Petra De Sutter (Ħodor / EFA, BE), u tal-Kumitat tat-Trasport, Karima Delli (Ħodor / ALE, FR), laqgħu d-deċiżjoni rapida tal-lum tal-ministri tat-Trasport tal-UE li jagħtu prijorità lit-trasport ta' oġġetti essenzjali bħal ikel kif ukoll tagħmir mediku u protettiv vitali billi jappoġġjaw ir-rotot ta’ karreġġjati ħodor għat-trasport tal-provvisti, kif issuġġerit mill-MPE u mill-Kummissjoni. L-għan tal-miżuri ġodda u urġenti marbuta mal-COVID-19 huwa li jipproteġu s-saħħa u jiżguraw li l-prodotti u s-servizzi essenzjali jkunu disponibbli fis-suq intern tal-UE.

"L-għeluq totali tal-fruntieri jista' jidher bħala l-aktar mod sigur biex nipproteġu liċ-ċittadini tagħna, imma fir-realtà aħna lkoll niddependu fuq importazzjonijiet minn stati membri oħra biex inżommu l-provvisti tagħna bla interruzzjoni. Garanzija ta’ trasport mingħajr ostakoli ta' oġġetti essenzjali bħall-ikel u ta' provvista bla interruzzjoni ta' tagħmir mediku u protettiv vitali, tiżgura li din il-kriżi ma ssirx katastrofu. Aħna niddependu minn u noqogħdu fuq xulxin meta niġu għas-saħħa pubblika tagħna”, qalet il-President tal-Kumitat għas-Suq Intern.

"L-installazzjoni tal-hekk imsejħa 'karreġġjati ħodor' - speċjalment għat-tagħmir mediku u protettiv - hija ta’ importanza massima fil-jiem u l-ġimgħat li ġejjin", saħqet il-MPE de Sutter, li rreferiet għall-impenn li ħadu l-istati membri dwar il-provvista ta' tagħmir mediku.

Il-President tal-Kumitat tat-Trasport Karima Delli qalet li l-qsim bla xkiel tal-fruntieri u koordinazzjoni bejn l-istati membri ser ikunu essenzjali biex tingħeleb din il-kriżi.

"Irridu nsibu modi kif inżommu s-sistemi tat-trasport tagħna u nnaqqsu l-kjuwijiet biex niffrankaw il-ħin u l-flus. Aħna ninsabu lesti li naġixxu flimkien u malajr u nappoġġjaw bis-sħiħ is-sewwieqa u s-settur tat-trasport kollu li qed jaħdem bla heda biex jiżgura l-provvista tal-merkanzija tul din il-kriżi”, qalet il-President.
"Hemm bżonn urġenti li jiġu implimentati miżuri biex jintemmu t-titjiriet fantażma. Il-linji tal-ajru għandhom jingħataw garanziji fuq slots futuri. Dan huwa l-uniku mod kif jiġu evitati titjiriet vojta fl-UE, ” ikkonkludiet il-MPE Delli.

Positive from EUCO: Europe shows it is united and ready to act

 

Statement by the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli

 

“Europe is correcting the selfishness and lack of coordination between national governments in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. Today the extraordinary meeting of the European Council gave the green light to the Commission’s proposals, also indicated by the European Parliament, to tackle the spread of the virus and help countries in need.

 

Finally, we are showing a real sense of solidarity: preferential lanes for the passage of medical equipment, defending the free movement of goods in the EU, and the first important economic support for our families and businesses. A united Europe, willing and ready to act, is finally on the field to tackle this dramatic challenge. We are a European family - nobody will be left alone and nobody will have to act alone. The European Parliament is ready to do its part to protect the lives and livelihoods of all our people. We will not give up living as Europeans.”

 

EP President David SASSOLI video statement on the EU leaders’ video conference on Covid-19

Sassoli: Von der Leyen is right – governments must not act unilaterally, we need stronger EU coordination

 

Statement by European Parliament President David Sassoli on latest Commission COVID-19 response.

 

"Following Sunday’s appeal by the President of the European Commission, member state governments must stop limiting supplies of medical equipment within the EU and stop taking unilateral action to prevent free movement. This battle is Europe-wide and must be fought with strong coordination between governments and EU institutions.

“The challenges presented by the rapid spread of COVID-19, show that cooperation and solidarity are needed now more than ever. No effort will be spared to protect people’s health and help those in need. We need to ensure adequate production and supply of medical equipment, so it is available wherever it is needed in the EU. This virus does not respect any border, attempts to fight it alone will fail.

“Ensuring our internal market continues to function and its rules are respected is of vital importance. We need to ensure that supplies and products can get where they are needed. Solidarity, mutual trust, and sincere cooperation should guide our actions to fight against this pandemic.

“Reinforcing controls at external borders of the EU, in line with our rules and international obligations, can help ensure that the Schengen system works effectively. However, the reintroduction of internal border controls, when not based on the advice or data from health authorities, causes more harm than good. It imposes major economic costs on the EU as a whole and prevents goods arriving where they are needed. We need to ensure the proper functioning of the Schengen area.

“In this moment, we all need to build mutual trust, cooperation and solidarity. These principles are at the heart of the European project and are needed now more than ever.”

Għeluq tal-fruntieri: il-President tal-Kumitat għal-Libertajiet Ċivili jitlob proporzjonalità u koordinazzjoni fl-UE

 

Dikjarazzjoni tal-President tal-Kumitat għal-Libertajiet Ċivili, Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) dwar l-introduzzjoni mill-ġdid ta' kontrolli fuq il-fruntiera f'xi fruntieri interni ta' Schengen minħabba l- virus korona.
Fl-aħħar jiem, bosta stati membri tal-UE reġgħu introduċew kontrolli fuq il-fruntiera fil-fruntieri interni tagħhom fiż-żona Schengen jew saħansitra għalquhom għal ċerti kategoriji ta' vjaġġaturi waqt li xi stati membri oħra qed jikkunsidraw dawn il-miżuri.
Bħala l-president tal-kumitat għal-Libertajiet Ċivili, il-Ġustizzja u l-Intern, waqt li nifhem bis-sħiħ il-ħtieġa għal miżuri ta' politika pubblika li jirrestrinġu l-interazzjoni soċjali biex inaqqsu t-tixrid tal-virus korona, inħeġġeġ lill-istati membri biex jieħdu l-miżuri tagħhom b'rispett sħiħ tal-prinċipji tal-proporzjonalità u, fuq kollox, tas-solidarjetà bejn l-Istati Membri tal-UE, tan-nondiskriminazzjoni u tar-regoli applikabbli ta' Schengen. Huwa fundamentali li meta jittieħdu l-miżuri ma ssir l-ebda diskriminazzjoni bejn iċ-ċittadini tal-UE.
Huwa biss permezz ta' approċċ ikkoordinat, aktar milli azzjonijiet meħuda minn Stati Membri individwali, li se nirnexxu meta nindirizzaw l-isfida li kollha ninsabu ffaċjati biha.
Il-kumitat għal-Libertajiet Ċivili qed jissorvelja mill-qrib is-sitwazzjoni u jistenna li l-Kummissjoni, il-Presidenza tal-Kunsill u l-Istati Membri jipproteġu l-benefiċċji kollha taż-żona Schengen”.

Budget MEPs ready to adopt all necessary measures to tackle the Corona emergency

 

BUDG Chair and coordinators welcome Commission announcements, but deplore mere “re-use” of existing funds and insist on fresh and additional financial means to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

 

"The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is an exceptional and global challenge for all of us, and puts our health systems and businesses under pressure. In this difficult moment, we believe Europe needs to act together and show solidarity”, Members of the Committee on Budgets said on Friday.

“We welcome the European Commission's announcement of Friday 13 March on the mobilization of available resources within the cohesion policy destined to leverage even more funding for our health systems, SMEs and labour markets impacted. However, these measures are insufficient as they just propose to re-use funds already available to the Member States for a different purpose. We believe that in this situation Member States need to be ready to provide also fresh financial means to tackle this crisis and help mitigate the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, in addition to the measures announced on 13 March, the Committee on Budgets urges the Commission to propose to mobilize also fresh appropriations, which are available in the 2020 budget through margins and flexibility instruments."

“The impacts on our economy are now tangible. The Committee on Budgets stands ready to quickly process all the necessary budgetary initiatives destined to alleviate the negative impacts on our health systems, our economy and on the EU citizens”, Budget MEPs added.

The European Citizen’s Prize 2020 - honouring exceptional Europeans

The call for applications / nominations is now open

 

The European Citizen’s Prize 2020 - honouring exceptional Europeans

The call for applications / nominations is now open

 

The European Parliament invites European citizens, groups of citizens, associations and organizations to apply themselves or nominate somebody else for the European Citizen’s Prize 2020 for exceptional projects they have carried out. 

 

Eligible are national, cross-border and pan-European projects promoting closer integration and cooperation, as well as the values enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union: dignity, equality, solidarity, justice, citizen rights and freedoms.

 

Among the winning projects of past editions were also ones dealing with social care and integration, education, inter-cultural dialogue, art and culture, environmental protection and historical memory.

 

The deadline for applying or nominating someone else for the Prize is 20 April 2020 at midnight Brussels time.

 

The winners will be announced in July 2020 and invited to the award ceremony in November 2020 in the European Parliament.

 

Additional information: CitizensPrize@europarl.europa.eu

 

Apply or nominate here https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/EuropeanCitizensPrize

 

Rules of the European Citizen’s Prize https://www.europarl.europa.eu/at-your-service/files/be-heard/prizes/en-citizens-prize-rules.pdf

 

Website of the European Citizen’s Prize https://www.europarl.europa.eu/at-your-service/en/be-heard/prizes

“Il-baġit tal-UE qed jirriskja li jkun ta’ falliment għan-nies u rigal lill-populiżmu” jwissi l-President tal-KtR, Apostolos Tzitzikostas

 

Il-Kumitat Ewropew tar-Reġjuni (KtR) jitlob li jiġu ppreservati l-fondi għall-isptarijiet, l-iskejjel, it-trasport lokali, l-ambjent, l-universitajiet u n-negozji ż-żgħar.

 

“F’isem il-Kumitat Ewropew tar-Reġjuni, qed inniedi appell biex jiġi evitat li jitnaqqas l-investiment li jgħin biex itejjeb il-ħajja tan-nies fil-bliet u r-reġjuni” qal il-President tal-KtR, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, jumejn qabel is-Summit Ewropew Speċjali dwar il-baġit tal-UE.

 

“Għandna nkomplu ninvestu l-flus tal-kontribwenti fil-komunitajiet lokali, peress li dan huwa ta’ benefiċċju kemm għall-pagaturi netti tal-baġit tal-UE kif ukoll għall-benefiċjarji netti. Jekk jitnaqqsu l-fondi tal-UE għall-isptarijiet u l-iskejjel, it-trasport lokali, l-ambjent, l-universitajiet u n-negozji ż-żgħar, dan ikun ta’ falliment għan-nies u rigal lill-populiżmu” żied jgħid il-President tal-KtR.

 

“Għall-maġġoranza tal-Istati Membri tagħna, il-finanzjament tal-UE għall-koeżjoni, l-agrikoltura u l-iżvilupp rurali jammonta għal madwar 50% tal-investiment pubbliku kollu. Din mhijiex biss solidarjetà tal-UE fil-prattika, iżda spinta għat-tkabbir ekonomiku, il-ħolqien tal-impjiegi u s-suq uniku, li hija ta’ benefiċċju għalina lkoll", kompla l-President Tzitzikostas.

 

“Ninsab imħasseb ħafna dwar ir-riskji li jiġu pperikolati dawk il-politiki li jqarrbu ’l-Ewropa lejn iċ-ċittadini, u liċ-ċittadini lejn l-Ewropa. Aħna konxji mill-impatt finanzjarju tal-Brexit, iżda l-ispejjeż ma għandhomx jiġġarrbu mill-bliet u r-reġjuni. Mhijiex kwistjoni ta’ flus, dan huwa investiment għall-futur tal-poplu tagħna", temm jgħid.

 

Il-Viċi President tal-Kumitat Ewropew tar-Reġjuni, Vasco Alves Cordeiro, ikkummenta wkoll fid-dawl tas-Summit.

 

“L-aħħar proposta tal-QFP tolqot ħażin il-politika ta’ koeżjoni bi tnaqqis ta’ 12% meta mqabbel mal-qafas attwali, b’rati ta’ kofinanzjament li għadhom inqas minn dawk tal-perjodu attwali. Deċiżjoni li jitnaqqas l-appoġġ għall-iżvilupp reġjonali, b’mod partikolari permezz tal-politika ta’ koeżjoni, mhux ser tqarreb lill-UE lejn iċ-ċittadini tagħha.  Ir-reġjuni u l-bliet mhux se jkunu jistgħu jagħmlu aktar għaċ-ċittadini tagħhom u għall-UE b’inqas appoġġ mill-UE. Jeħtieġ li qabel kollox l-UE tqis l-inugwaljanzi li dejjem qed jiżdiedu. Dan il-QFP huwa l-unika opportunità għall-mexxejja tal-UE biex jiggwidaw lill-UE fit-triq lejn ugwaljanza sostenibbli u tranżizzjoni ġusta li ma tħalli lura l-ebda żona u l-ebda persuna. Falliment ikun ta’ theddida għall-kredibilità tal-proġett tal-Unjoni Ewropea. Wasal iż-żmien li l-Istati Membri tal-UE jallokaw il-flus fejn verament hemm bżonnhom.”


Women's rights: MEPs call for action to fight backlash against gender equality 

 

  • MEPs set their priorities for the upcoming UN Commission on the Status of Women
  • Call for the EU to take strong action against all measures undermining women’s rights

 

Ahead of the 64th UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW64) in New York in March, Parliament spelled out its priorities on Thursday.

 

In a resolution adopted by 463 votes in favour, 108 against and 50 abstentions, MEPs deplore that many of the challenges identified by the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years ago are still relevant today.

 

They call on the Council to ensure a unified EU position and act to counter the backlash against gender equality and all measures undermining women’s rights.

 

Setting out their priorities for the upcoming UNCSW session in March, MEPs call for measures boosting women’s economic and political empowerment:

 

  • greater inclusion of women in the labour market;
  • more support for female entrepreneurship;
  • close the gender pay gap (16%) and pension gap (37%);
  • favour domestic and care responsibilities being shared equally;
  • promote education for girls and encourage greater participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers;
  • promote gender-balanced representation at all levels of decision-making, and
  • unblock the “Women on Boards Directive” in the Council.

 

To step up protection of women, the EU should:

  • urgently conclude the EU ratification of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women;
  • allocate adequate resources to combat gender-based violence and protect victims, and
  • protect and promote the rights of groups experiencing multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination, e.g. women with disabilities, women of colour, migrant women and LGBTIQ people.

 

The EU must act globally by:

 

  • promoting and supporting the inclusion of a specific gender chapter in all future EU trade and investment agreements;
  • condemning the US ‘global gag’ rule, which cuts US funding for international organisations if they provide or lobby for abortion services;
  • significantly supporting funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights, and
  • promoting greater participation of women in climate action, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and mediation processes.

 

Background

The Beijing Declaration was adopted by the UN at the end of the 4th World Conference on Women on 15 September 1995 to promulgate a set of principles on the equality of men and women. The Platform for Action called for strategic actions in areas such as economy, education, health, violence and decision-making.

 

Upcoming EP events: ‘‘The long walk towards gender equality: what remains to be done?’’

Journalists are invited to a seminar on 4 March in Brussels dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration. The next day, the EP Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee will organise a meeting with national MPs on the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration. A delegation of Women’s Rights MEPs will attend the UNCSW64 in New York, 16-18 March.

 

 

 

 

More than money: the long-term EU budget is a tool for Europe’s future

MEPs underlined that Parliament will only give its consent to a budget that meets the European Union’s ambitions, in a debate on EU funding for 2021-2027.

Talking about the budget means talking about the EU’s future, MEPs said in a key plenary debate with Nikolina Brnjac, Croatian State Secretary for Foreign and European Affairs, representing the Council, and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The debate on Wednesday came ahead of a special EU summit starting on 20 February, where member states will try to agree on a common position on the next multiannual financial framework (MFF).

Most MEPs insisted that sufficient funding is key to achieve common ambitions such as fighting climate change, the digital and ecological transformation, dealing with the social consequences of the latter, and continuing to support regions and cities, farmers, young people, researchers or entrepreneurs. Implementing the Green Deal with a reduced budget, for example, would mean cutting successful EU programmes elsewhere, MEPs highlighted. Some said that certain EU policies need to be assessed more thoroughly, and that more spending discipline is needed.

In addition, introducing new sources of revenue (“Own Resources”) for the EU and linking the EU budget to the respect of rule of law are key for MEPs.

 

 

 

 

Stop illegal trade in cats and dogs, says European Parliament

  •  
  • Mandatory EU system of identification of cats and dogs 
  • Better enforcement and tougher sanctions for illegal trading 
  • Encourage citizens to adopt, rather than purchase, pets

To protect animal welfare, pet owners and public health, MEPs call for an EU Action Plan to end illegal trade in companion animals.

 

With 607 votes for, 3 votes against and 19 abstentions, MEPs on Wednesday adopted a non-binding resolution demanding action against illegal trade in pets that causes animal to suffer, spreads diseases, and generates high revenues for organised international crime.

 

MEPs are calling for measures, such as:

  • a mandatory EU system to register cats and dogs,
  • an EU definition of large-scale commercial breeding facilities, known as puppy mills,
  • improved law enforcement and tougher sanctions, and
  • encouraging people to adopt, rather than purchase, pets.

 

Background

An estimated 46,000 dogs are traded between EU countries every month, most of them without being registered. Commercial breeders are abusing the EU’s pet movement legislation (Regulation (EU) No 576/2013), intended for non-commercial movement of pet animals, e.g. travelling with their owners.

 

 

 

 

 

Central Macedonia Governor elected President of the EU's Committee of the Regions

 

Apostolos Tzitzikostas: "My priority is to bring Europe closer to people"

Greece's Apostolos Tzitzikostas (EPP) was elected President of the European Committee of the Regions today. The Governor of Central Macedonia in Greece will lead the EU's assembly of local and regional elected politicians for the next two and a half years. During the Committee's first sitting of the new five-year mandate, its members also elected Vasco Ilídio Alves Cordeiro - President of the Regional Government of the Azores, Portugal – as their First-Vice President.

Speaking in front of the Committee's 329 members from all EU 27 Member States, the President laid out three main priorities during his term in office: 

 

"First, the European Union must be at the service of its people and their places of living in their villages, cities and regions. We must support territorial cohesion, innovation, entrepreneurship, but also find credible solutions to managing migration led by solidarity. Secondly, regions and cities must focus on understanding and responding to the profound transformations of the current green, digital and demographic revolutions. Finally, we must strengthen European democracy, putting regions and cities at its very heart, in order to bring Europe closer to people."

 

Referring to Brexit as "the wake-up call", he further called for the EU to be more effective in responding to citizens' needs, "As elected local and regional politicians, we must make the European Union capable of reaching the hearts of those who feel neglected or forgotten. Europe must take decisions as close as possible to citizens to improve their lives. We must make Europe act to meet citizens' demands and regain trust. Europe must prove it can listen and change ". 

 

The newly elected First-Vice President, Vasco Ilídio Alves Cordeiro, said during his acceptance speech, " My election confirms that in this institution all regions and cities matter and should be able to play an active role in the European project despite of distance, size or wealth. The EU needs to be the motor for achieving a future full of promises and we are going to have to roll up our sleeves so that all regions and cities have their role to play. Their role is crucial to help the EU achieve its goal of not leaving anyone behind. The challenges ahead require boldness and courage to be faced. As the new first vice-president, I will work to make sure the voice of local and regional authorities is heard."

 

 

 

 

 

EU Auditors to examine gender mainstreaming in the EU budget

 

Gender mainstreaming is the practice of systematically considering gender when preparing, designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating policies and activities. The European Court of Auditors is conducting an audit to assess whether the Commission has used gender mainstreaming in the EU budget to promote equality.

Gender equality is one of the fundamental values enshrined in the EU treaties. Failing to promote equality may have significant negative effects on jobs, productivity and GDP growth, according to a recent study by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). EIGE also found that although there had been progress on gender equality within the EU since 2013, progress was uneven across Member States.

Already for the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF), the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission agreed to apply “gender-responsive elements” where appropriate in budgetary procedures. However, a recent internal spending review of current EU programmes found that gender equality had not been mainstreamed across the EU budget in the same way as climate change or biodiversity. Instead, specific programmes, mainly those tackling employment and social issues, had been used to address discrimination based on gender.

“Taking into account gender when deciding and implementing the EU budget is crucial in promoting equality between women and men”, said Eva Lindström, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the audit. “We want to see whether the Commission has applied this principle in the EU budget. This is an important analysis to undertake with negotiations for the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework currently ongoing”.

The audit report, due to be published in the first quarter of 2021, will particularly assess whether:

—          there is an appropriate framework to promote gender equality;

—          the MFF and the annual EU budgets incorporate a gender perspective; and

—          the Commission is able to demonstrate the gender equality results of the main EU funding programmes.

The audit scope includes the common agricultural policy (CAP), the European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) and the Erasmus programme.

Notes to Editors

Gender equality is one of the fundamental values of the EU treaties. The 1957 Treaty of Rome introduced the principle of equal pay. Commitment to equality is expressed both in the Treaty on European Union and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Both the Council and the European Parliament are committed to gender equality. The Commission plays a major role in incorporating gender concerns into programme implementation and in monitoring and evaluating results. In 2019, new Commission President Ursula von der Leyen placed gender equality high on her political agenda. The post of Equality Commissioner has been created and a new EU gender equality strategy is currently being developed, in parallel with negotiations on the next multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2021-2027.

The European Court of Auditors today published a preview of its audit on gender mainstreaming. Audit Previews provide information on an ongoing audit task. They are based on preparatory work undertaken before the start of an audit and should not be regarded as audit observations, conclusions or recommendations.

 

 

 

 

 

Growing ECR Group elects Władysław Ortyl as its president

 

Władysław Ortyl, Head of Podkarpackie region, was today elected the new president of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Committee of the Regions. He will lead the growing conservative political group over the next two and a half years.

Mr Ortyl is a prominent member of the Law and Justice Party which has governed Poland since 2015. His vast political experience includes three terms in the Polish Senate and serving as secretary of state in the Polish Ministry of Regional Development.

Commenting on the outcome of the elections, the newly-elected ECR president said: "I thank all our members for their confidence in me. Our group is home to some of the most influential political parties in Europe and to many inspirational independent politicians who all share one goal: to shape a reformed European Union which respects all Member States and local communities. Under my leadership, we will continue to be the advocate of common sense and proportionate regulation. Our membership is growing and so are our ambitions to reform the EU".

Despite the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU and the loss of valued members of the Conservative Party, the ECR Group in the CoR continues to grow. It now has 44 members including fifteen heads of region, ten mayors and deputy mayors, four presidents of regional councils and more than a dozen regional ministers and councillors.

Rob Jonkman, Alderman in Opsterland in the Netherlands and former president of the ECR Group, was elected the ECR's first vice-president, as well as the group's political coordinator in the Economic Policy and Financial Affairs committees.

The group's other vice-presidents will be Marco Marsilio, president of Abruzzo region in Italy; Oldřich Vlasák, councillor in Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic and former vice-president of the European Parliament; and Juraj Droba, Head of the Bratislava Self-Governing region in Slovakia.

The group also elected five political coordinators in a number of policy fields. Dr Pavel Branda (Deputy Mayor of Radlo) will lead on cohesion policy; Jakub Chełstowski (Head of Silesia region) on energy and climate change; Robert Kościuk (Mayor of Krasnystaw) on natural resources; Daniela Ballico (Mayor of Ciampino) on employment and research; and Matteo Bianchi MP will be responsible for external relations.

As a sign of the group's increasing influence, ECR members are expected to chair the Joint Consultative Committee between the EU and Montenegro, and assume some of the leading roles in the committees for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC) and Economic Policy (ECON).

 

Little progress from EU action on pesticides, say Auditors

 

Progress towards measuring and reducing risks from pesticide use in the EU has been limited, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors. Several Member States have been late in fully transposing the directive on sustainable use of pesticides, while incentives for farmers to adopt alternative methods remain weak. In addition, the European Commission is unable to precisely monitor the effects or risks resulting from pesticide use, say the auditors.

Plant protection products (“pesticides”) are used to protect crops against harmful organisms, pests and diseases. They include insecticides, fungicides and herbicides, which can put pressure on the environment and pose risks to human health. Since 1991, the EU has had common rules on their authorisation and use, and in 2009 it adopted the directive on sustainable use of pesticides. The auditors assessed whether EU action in this respect had been successful.

Several EU Member States were late in transposing the directive into national law, and infringement procedures were initiated in 2012 against two of them. The auditors also found that the European Commission had not properly checked the completeness or correctness of transposition. For example, not all Member States transposed into national law the requirement for farmers to apply integrated pest management (IPM). Since 2016, however, the Commission has taken increased action to enforce implementation of the directive on sustainable use of pesticides, acknowledge the auditors.

Along with the directive, IPM has been made mandatory for farmers. IPM means only using pesticides if prevention and other methods fail or are not effective. However, there are no clear criteria or specific requirements to help ensure enforcement and assess compliance. In parallel, a category of ‘low-risk plant protection products’ has been created. However, only 16 out of 487 substances, or 3%, have been made available for use to date, which is insufficient, say the auditors. 

They also note that there are few incentives for farmers to reduce their dependency to pesticides. In particular, applying IPM principles is not included as a condition for receiving CAP payments, the auditors point out.

“The European Commission has been unable so far to substantially reduce and control risks associated to pesticides use by farmers”, said Samo Jereb, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. “An opportunity to properly address this issue was offered by a new Common Agricultural Policy coming into force in 2021, but was unfortunately missed.”

The auditors found that statistics on active substances and their usage published by the Commission (Eurostat) were not detailed enough to be useful. Nor was the data provided by Member States sufficiently harmonised or up-to-date. 

Finally, although some Member States have developed national indicators for measuring risks and impact, these are not comparable across the EU. Initial Commission attempts to develop such indicators at EU level were unsuccessful due to the lack of relevant data. The first two EU-wide risk indicators were only introduced in November 2019, ten years after the adoption of the directive, and neither of these indicators takes into account how, where and when pesticides are used. The Commission therefore still lacks a robust evidence base to assess whether the directive has achieved the EU’s objective of making pesticide use sustainable, the auditors conclude.

As the European Commission is currently evaluating the legislation in this policy area against a backdrop of increasing public and parliamentary concern, the auditors recommend: 

  • verifying integrated pest management at farm level;
  • allowing integrated pest management to be linked to payments under the new CAP;
  • improving statistics on plant protection products; and
  • developing better risk indicators.

 

Editors Note 

Special report 05/2020 “Sustainable use of plant protection products: limited progress in measuring and reducing risks” is available on the ECA website (eca.europa.eu) in 23 EU languages.

The ECA published special reports in 2019 on related issues, namely EU food safety policy and the EU control system for organic products. This year, we also plan to publish special reports onbiodiversity in farming and on pollinators.

The ECA presents its special reports to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, as well as to other interested parties such as national parliaments, industry stakeholders and representatives of civil society. The vast majority of the recommendations we make in our reports are put into practice.

Ambitious measures needed to ensure equal pay for women, say MEPs

 

  • MEPs demand binding measures on the gender pay gap and pay transparency
  • Enforce the principle of equal pay for equal work as enshrined in the treaties (Article 157 of the TFEU)
  • 16% average gender pay gap in the EU (37% for pensioners)
     

MEPs urge the Commission to present an ambitious Gender Equality Strategy, including measures to reduce the gender pay gap.

In the resolution adopted on Thursday by 493 votes in favour, 82 against and 79 abstentions, the Parliament welcomes the commitment of the new Commission President to make ‘equal pay for equal work’ the founding principle of the new European Gender Strategy to be presented in March.

MEPs want this strategy to include binding provisions on pay transparency and on the gender pay gap, applying to both the public and private sectors, as well as strong enforcement policies, clear targets and monitoring to better measure progress. They also call for the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan to be revised by the end of 2020, which should set clear targets for the member states to reduce the gap over the next five years.

To tackle the root causes of the gender pay gap, Parliament urges member states to invest in early childhood education and care services, as well as in family-friendly working arrangements to ensure women’s equal participation in the labour market. Considering the gender pay gap is more than twice as high for pensioners, MEPs also call for adequate provisions for older women such as credits for care periods, adequate minimum pensions and survivor’s benefits.

Lifelong learning and vocational training for women should ensure they have access to high-quality employment and opportunities. In particular, MEPs call for greater promotion of entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and digital education for girls from an early age, in order to combat existing educational stereotypes and ensure women enter developing and well-paid sectors.

 

Background

According to the Commission, the EU gender pay gap in hourly pay is 16%, although this varies significantly across member states, whereas the gender gap in pension income is 37%.

Sassoli: “Nazism and racism are not opinions but crimes”

Statement by President Sassoli at the ceremony in the European Parliament marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz

  

The European Parliament today marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and International Holocaust Remembrance Day with a solemn ceremony at its plenary session in Brussels. Members of Parliament were joined by holocaust survivor and Italian senator for life Liliana Segre. 

During the ceremony European Parliament President David Sassoli said: 

“On this day in 1945, the gates of the abyss were opened on European soil. In Auschwitz, the very essence of humanity was brought into question by the desire of the Nazi regime to exterminate the Jewish people and with it the Roma and Sinti people, Slavic people, political opponents, and LGBTI people. 
“Auschwitz embodies the very denial of our civilization. A civilization growing from Jewish and Christian origins, that met the Islamic world, that drove the enlightenment, wrote peaceful coexistence into law, which fought against barbarism and for the defence of human dignity, which sought to build an idea of people living together in our countries and cities. Our civilization’s drive for ever greater freedom stopped at the threshold of Auschwitz’s gates. 
“Faced with this, today, full of emotion and gathered in recollection, we bow before all the victims of the Holocaust. We want to take on our duty to remember. We take on this duty because we know that Europeans built Auschwitz, we must take ownership of what happened and live up to our responsibilities.
“Auschwitz and all the factories of death scattered throughout the European area, represent a fundamental question to our society, our civilization, our culture and imposes obligations on us. Above all, it imposes an obligation to act whenever we see violence and discrimination, whenever an anti-Semitic and racist action occurs in our societies. 
"Nazism and racism are not opinions but crimes. Whenever we read in newspaper articles of acts of violence, attacks, or racist insults, we must consider these attacks addressed at each of us. They are attacks on Europe and on the values it represents, and embody the two diseases of the modern nation that are spreading across our continent – an almost sacred view of borders and a search for a pure and univocal identity – be it religious, ethnic or cultural – which inevitably leads to the creation of enemies.
“On the contrary, Europe was built and should continue to be built on our diversity, representing a plurality of voices, with political, religious and cultural freedom. It is precisely for this reason that we must be grateful to Judaism, which allowed us to form that universalist spirit which is an integral part of our world-view.
“This is why we turn to governments to be vigilant to all forms of intolerance. The vandalism carried out in Jewish cemeteries, the assaults on synagogues and places of worship, the threats to which European Jewish families are subjected. To all the forms of intolerance that minorities face across each one of our Member States every day.
“These obligations are written clearly in our Treaties. We ask the European Commission and the Council to do their utmost to ensure that they are enforced. These principles must guide our actions, to keep the memory of what happened in Auschwitz alive and transmit it to future generations.
“We all express our gratitude to Senator Liliana Segre who is here among us today to give us her testimony. Auschwitz is unspeakable. However, I want to believe that the testimony of those who have seen the unspeakable manages to move our hearts and inspire our actions, so that this can never happen again.”

 

No more lead in PVC to protect public health, say MEPs

 

  • No safe level for lead in PVC products
  • Commission’s proposal not compatible with REACH regulation
  • Parliament to vote on whether or not to veto the Commission regulation at February plenary

 

To protect human health and the environment, the Environment Committee objected on Tuesday to a Commission proposal allowing lead in recycled PVC.

On Tuesday, the Environment Committee adopted a resolution objecting to the Commission’s proposal to amend the rules concerning lead concentration, and particularly concerning lead in PVC. Members consider that the proposed amendments do not protect human health and the environment enough, which is also the primary objective of the REACH regulation.

 

The Commission regulation proposes restricting the use and presence of lead and its compounds in articles produced from Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a widely produced synthetic plastic, setting a maximum concentration limit of lead of 0,1 % by weight of the PVC material. It also introduces two derogations.

 

No exceptions for recycled PVC

MEPs are unhappy with two proposed derogations for recovered PVC materials, which will be in place for 15 years. One would allow concentration of lead up to 2 % by weight of rigid PVC and the other 1 % by weight of flexible/soft PVC.

 

MEPs recall that lead is a toxic substance that can seriously affect health, including irreversible neurological damage, even in low doses. They believe that the levels proposed by the Commission do not correspond to “safe levels” and underline there are alternatives to PVC available. They also highlight that recycling should not justify the continued use of hazardous substances, as prevention takes priority over recycling.

 

Next steps

The resolution was adopted with 42 votes to 22 and 4 abstentions. It will now be put to a vote at the February plenary in Strasbourg. If Parliament objects within the deadline set of 27 February 2020, the draft measure shall not be adopted by the Commission. The Commission may either submit an amended draft or present a new one.

 

Background

Parliament has long held the position that recycling PVC must not perpetuate the problem of heavy metals. Lead in PVC has been phased out in the EU since 2015 due to the EU PVC industry’s voluntary commitment, but lead in PVC continues to enter the EU via imported products.

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European Commission launches the 2020 European Social Innovation Competition with €150,000 for three innovations in sustainable fashion

 

The European Commission is today announcing the launch of the 2020 edition of the European Social Innovation Competition. Under the theme Reimagine Fashion: Changing behaviours for sustainable fashion, this year’s competition is looking for early stage projects that will change the ways we produce, buy, use and recycle fashion and encourage a more sustainable change in consumer behaviour. The competition is open to entrants from across the EU Member States and Horizon 2020 associated countries until the application deadline on Wednesday 4 March. A jury will select three winning ideas in November, each of which will receive an award of €50,000.

“European consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of their consumer habits. Building on Europe’s position at the forefront of global fashion, this year’s social innovation competition is looking for innovations that change the ways we produce, use and wear fashion and encourage more sustainability across the fashion industry,” says Slawomir Tokarski, Director of Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing, DG GROW.

The aim of the 2020 European Social Innovation Competition is to improve the environmental and social impact of fashion. EU citizens on average buy more than 12kgs of clothing yearly, the production of which contributes 195 million tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere and uses 46 billion cubic meters of water. Clothing accounts for between 2% and 10% of the environmental impact of overall EU consumption. At the same time, more than 30% of clothes in Europeans' wardrobes have not been used for at least a year. Once discarded, over half the garments are not recycled, but end up in mixed household waste and are subsequently sent to incinerators or landfill.

To address these issues, this year’s competition is looking for ideas that contribute to improving the sustainable production, use and consumption of fashion as well as the end of life stage of fashion products. These ideas should aim to reduce the overall environmental footprint of fashion, improve its societal impact, and help change behaviours in a sustainable way by helping to develop new products, services, processes and innovative business models. Solutions presented at the competition should also be scalable at the local, national or European levels. The competition is open to all with innovative and creative ideas on making the fashion industry more sustainable, including social innovators, entrepreneurs, students, designers, businesses and other doers, makers and change creators.

The competition will complement several measures the Commission has already implemented to address the problem of sustainability in fashion. The circular economy package, adopted in 2018, will for the first time, require Member States to ensure that textiles are collected separately. The new Waste Directive requires Member States to set up such schemes at the latest by 2025.  The Packaging Waste Directive introduces targets for the recycling 60% of all packaging by 2025 and 70% by 2030. The currently binding Textile Regulation of 2011 lays down rules for labelling and marking of all textile products, including an obligation to state the full fibre composition of textile products at all stages of industrial processing and commercial distribution, and rules on textile fibre names.

 

 

Applications are open until Wednesday 4th March noon CET. For full details visit: https://eusic.challenges.org/ or go to https://ec.europa.eu/growth/industry/innovation/policy/social/competition_en

 

More information about European Social Innovation Competition:

Launched in memory of social innovation pioneer Diogo Vasconcelos, the European Social Innovation Competition is a challenge prize run by the European Commission across all EU Member States and Horizon 2020 associated countries. Now in its 8th year, the Competition acts as a beacon for social innovators in Europe, employing a proven methodology for supporting early-stage ideas and facilitating a network of radical innovators shaping society for the better. Each year the Competition addresses a different issue facing Europe.

This year, the focus is: Reimagine Fashion: Changing behaviours for sustainable fashion. Today’s launch of the competition online will be followed by a formal launch event in Valencia, Spain on 12 February, as well as a series of post-launch webinars. Thirty semi-finalists will be invited to the European Social Innovation Academy in July where they will receive mentoring and training to structure their development plans. A second round of judging will identify the 10 finalists.

The Competition is organised by the European Commission with support from Nesta Challenges, Kennisland, Ashoka Spain, the European Network of Living Labs, and Scholz & Friends.

 

For information on earlier editions and winning projects, visit:

https://ec.europa.eu/growth/industry/innovation/policy/social/competition_en

 

Questions about the Competition can be sent to: info@socialinnovationprize.eu

 

Follow the Competition on Twitter: @EUSocialInnov #diogochallenge

 

Subscribe to the Competition newsletter here: https://eusic.challenges.org/

EU Ombudsman must continue push for more transparency in Council

and Commission

 

MEPs approved the annual report on the European Ombudsman’s investigations in 2018.

The text (approved with 563 in favour, 3 against and 63 abstentions) commends the Ombudsman’s role in making the EU legislative process more transparent to the public in order to hold elected officials and governments to account.

 

According to the 2018 report, the Ombudsman’s office opened a total of 490 inquiries and closed 545. 17 996 citizens called on its services for help. 2 180 requests were handled as complaints, among which 880 fell within the EU watchdog’s mandate.

Inquiries related to transparency, accountability and public access to information and documents continued to account for the largest number of cases (20.6%) handled by the Ombudsman’s services in 2018.

 

Democratic accountability undermined by Council’s secrecy

The submission of the Special Report on the practices of the Council of the EU to the Parliament marked a significant moment in 2018. The EU watchdog’s report included several recommendations to increase transparency and public access to documents in the Council, which Parliament fully endorsed and further expanded.

 

MEPs again reminded the Council to align its working methods with the standards of a parliamentary democracy, as required by the Treaties, and encouraged the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly to continue to follow up on her inquiry.

 

Better access for citizens

The Ombudsman plays a crucial role in enabling citizens’ direct participation in EU policy-making, namely via the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), MEPs point out. They ask for ECI’s usage and the implementation of its latest provisions to continue to be monitored.

 

MEPs also welcome the redesign of the Ombudsman’s website, which offers a new, user-friendly ‘Fast-Track’ procedure for citizens to access documents.

 

Shut “revolving doors”

MEPs welcome the new Code of Conduct for Commissioners, which bans former commissioners from lobbying the Commission. However, they believe that further reinforcements are needed and that the Ombudsman should continue to monitor compliance with the Commission’s revised rules on ‘revolving doors’, that came into place as a result of her 2018 inquiry.

 

“The Ombudsman is the link between the EU's administration and EU citizens and is therefore an important institution. In the past decades, the EU Ombudsmen worked closely with the Parliament and I hope that will be the case in the decades to come”, said the rapporteur Peter Jahr (EPP, DE).

 

Background information

On 18 December, Parliament re-elected Emily O’Reilly for a new five-year term as European Ombudsman.

 

To save biodiversity, MEPs call for binding targets at global and EU level

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  • At least 10 % of the EU’s long-term budget should boost biodiversity
     
  • 30 % of EU territory should be natural areas
     
  • Binding reduction targets for pesticide use needed in the EU

MEPs want the upcoming global biodiversity conference COP 15 to agree on legally binding targets, as was the case for the Paris agreement on climate change.

Parliament adopted its position in view of the 2020 UN biodiversity conference (COP 15), in Kunming (China) in October by show of hands.

 

To stop the current trajectory of biodiversity loss, the conference needs to agree on legally binding targets with timelines, performance indicators and reporting mechanisms based on common standards, says the resolution.

 

EU must lead the way

Parliament wants the upcoming EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 to ensure that the EU leads by example

  • by ensuring that at least 30 % of EU territory consists of natural areas,
  • by restoring degraded ecosystems by 2030,
  • by taking biodiversity objectives into account in all EU policies, and
  • by earmarking a minimum of 10 % of the 2021-2027 long-term budget for efforts to improve biodiversity.

 

MEPs also underline the need for more sustainable agricultural and forestry practices, including EU-wide binding reduction targets on pesticide use.

 

“For Parliament, the crucial points will be defining European and global objectives for biodiversity that should include better protection of natural ecosystems, reducing pesticide use in Europe and making the agriculture and the fishing sector sustainable. 2020 will be a key year for biodiversity with the IUCN in June in Marseille and the COP15 in October in China.”, said Pascal Canfin (RE, FR), Chair of the Environment Committee.

 

Background

Parliament has consistently prioritised biodiversity, and repeatedly warned of its continuing, unprecedented loss.

The UN Biodiversity Convention entered into force on 29 December 1993. A delegation from the European Parliament will attend its 15th meeting in Kunming, China, from 19 October to 1 November 2020.

COP 15 is expected to adopt a post-2020 global biodiversity framework setting the global biodiversity course for the next 10 years and beyond.

Parliament supports European Green Deal and pushes for even higher ambitions

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  • MEPs welcome the EU plan to become climate neutral by 2050

  • This requires a higher 2030 emission reductions goal of 55%

  • Supports ambitious sustainable investment plan to achieve the Green Deal

MEPs support the European Green Deal, but highlight challenges, including ensuring a just and inclusive transition and the need for high interim targets.

Parliament adopted on Wednesday its position on the European Green Deal, unveiled by Commission President von der Leyen in a plenary debate in December. MEPs welcome the European Green Deal and support an ambitious sustainable investment plan to help close the investment gap. They also call for an adequately funded just transition mechanism.

 

Speed up the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions

Parliament wants the upcoming Climate Law to include higher ambitions for the EU’s 2030 goal of emissions reductions (55% in 2030 compared to 1990, instead of “at least 50% towards 55%”, as proposed by the Commission). The EU should adopt these targets well in advance of the UN climate change conference in November, MEPs say. They also want an interim target for 2040 to ensure the EU is on track to reach climate neutrality in 2050.

 

To prevent carbon leakage due to differences in climate ambition worldwide, Parliament calls for a WTO-compliant carbon border adjustment mechanism.

 

MEPs stress that they will amend any legislative proposals to meet the objectives of the Green Deal. Higher targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy, including binding national targets for each member state for the latter, and a revision of other pieces of EU legislation in the field of climate and energy are needed by June 2021, they add.

 

The resolution was adopted with 482 votes for, 136 against and 95 abstentions.

 

“Parliament overwhelmingly supported the Commission’s proposal on the Green Deal and welcomes the fact that there will be consistency between all European Union policies and the objectives of the Green Deal. Agriculture, trade and economic governance and other policy areas must now be seen and analysed in the context of the Green Deal”, said Pascal Canfin (RE, FR), Chair of the Environment Committee.

EU ecodesign and energy labels improving energy efficiency, say Auditors

 

EU action on ecodesign and energy labelling has contributed to greater energy efficiency, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors. However, there were significant delays in the regulatory process and the impact of the policy risked being overestimated. In addition, non-compliance with the regulation by manufacturers and retailers remains a significant issue, say the auditors.

As part of its fight against climate change, the EU is committed to improving its energy efficiency by 20% by 2020 and 32.5% by 2030. To help achieve these targets, the European Commission has taken measures focusing on greener product design (ecodesign) and consumer information on energy consumption and environmental performance (energy labelling).

The auditors confirmed that the Commission had used sound and transparent methodologies to select the regulated products. This has resulted in EU policy prioritising over 30 product groups with the highest energy-saving potential. At the same time, the auditors noted avoidable delays in the regulatory process, which reduced the impact of the policy as ecodesign requirements were likely to be outdated and energy labels no longer relevant to help consumers differentiate between the best and worst performing products. Meanwhile, the Commission is taking steps to improve energy labels. However, integration of the circular economy remains ad hoc, say the auditors. 

The Commission regularly reports on the results of its ecodesign and energy labelling policy. Some assumptions used, however, are likely to have overestimated the impact of the policy. For instance, they do not consider non-compliance with the regulations, nor implementation delays. Moreover, the Ecodesign Impact Accounting (EIA) does not take into account the difference between theoretical consumption derived from harmonised standards and real-life energy consumption. For example, fridge-freezers are tested without opening the doors and with no food inside. There is therefore a risk that savings are overestimated, the auditors warn.

In EU Member States, market surveillance authorities (MSAs) are responsible for ensuring that products sold on their territory are compliant with energy labelling and ecodesign legislation. The Commission, however, plays an important role in facilitating cooperation between MSAs. The information and communication system on market surveillance is intended to help share inspection results, though some functional limitations reduce its effectiveness.

The Commission has also funded several projects over the last decade to strengthen surveillance of ecodesign and energy labelling, with positive results, say the auditors. However, it remains doubtful whether these have really changed the way Member States perform their market surveillance duties. In practice, the number of product models tested in laboratories is still relatively small. Overall, the Commission recently estimated that 10 to 25% of products sold do not comply with EU law. The auditors conclude that non-compliance by manufacturers and retailers remains a significant issue.

In order to enhance the impact of the ecodesign and energy labelling policy for the period after 2020, the auditors make a number of recommendations to the European Commission covering:

measures to speed up the regulatory process, for instance by adopting implementing measures when they are ready, rather than when a package is complete;

improvements in the way the impact of the policy is measured and reported, by improving assumptions and using a methodology that measures actual energy consumption by end users; and

action to facilitate information exchange between market surveillance authorities in Member States and to improve compliance with the policy. This should include improving relevant tools for Member States, disseminating best practices and providing training upon request.

 

Notes to Editors 

Ecodesign and energy labels are complementary:

EU ecodesign legislation works by laying down energy efficiency and other requirements for product design, thereby improving environmental performance. Products that do not meet these requirements cannot be sold in the EU, thus removing the worst-performing products from the market.

EU energy labels show how an appliance ranks on a scale from A to G according to its energy consumption. They estimate the annual energy consumed by each product and rank similar products according to their energy efficiency class. This allows consumers to make informed decisions. 

Special report 01/2020 “EU action on Ecodesign and Energy labelling: important contribution to greater energy efficiency reduced by significant delays and non-compliance” is available on the ECA website (eca.europa.eu) in 23 EU languages.

The ECA presents its special reports to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, as well as to other interested parties such as national parliaments, industry stakeholders and representatives of civil society. The vast majority of the recommendations we make in our reports are put into practice.

Innovation made in Europe: winners of the EIT Awards 2019 announced​

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has announced this year’s winners of the prestigious EIT Awards.

 

Michael Dittel, LeafTech (Germany), Marc Julien, Diabeloop (France), Matthew Dickson, CorPower Ocean (Sweden/United Kingdom), Sara Guimarães Gonçalves, Trigger.Systems (Portugal), and David Pistoni Perez, Zeleros (Spain), won the top prizes for innovations in the fields of climate, energy and health.

Celebrating outstanding innovations, the EIT Awards winners were chosen by an international jury and featured 19 nominees from across Europe, competing in categories recognising excellence in innovation in the fields of climate, energy, digitisation, food, health, and raw materials.

 

More than 400 leading entrepreneurs, cutting-edge innovators, and policymakers gathered at the EIT Awards ceremony in Budapest. The winners were presented with their awards by Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport; László Palkovics, Hungarian Minister for Innovation and Technology; Sanja Damjanović, Montenegrin Minister of Science; Laima Kaušpadiene, Member of the EIT Governing Board; and, Prof. Werner Weidenfeld, Rector of the Alma Mater Europaea.

 

Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport responsible for the EIT commented: ‘My congratulations to the EIT Award winners 2019, and to all the nominees. They are an inspiration to innovators across Europe, and proof that the EIT, Europe’s largest innovation network, increasingly succeeds in supporting ambitious entrepreneurs, job creation and solutions to the challenges facing our societies. I look forward to seeing this innovation community continue to go from strength to strength in the coming years.’

 

Dirk Jan van den Berg, Chair of the EIT Governing Board added: ‘Congratulations to all of today’s EIT Awards winners! It has been impressive to watch the talented innovators pitch here in Budapest and discover their ground-breaking innovations made in Europe. Impressively, ventures supported by the EIT Community have already raised EUR 1.5 billion in external investment. Powering entrepreneurs to turn their best ideas into solutions for a greener, healthier and more sustainable planet is at the heart of the EIT, Europe’s most experienced innovation engine.’


2019 EIT Awards Winners

The EIT Awards, unveiled yesterday, celebrates the best of Europe’s talented entrepreneurs who power solutions to pressing challenges facing Europe in climate, energy, digitisation, food, health, and raw materials. The Awards encourage entrepreneurs and promote innovation made in Europe.

 

Michael Dittel, LeafTech (Germany) and supported by EIT Climate-KIC won the EIT CHANGE Award. This award recognises top graduates from EIT education programmes and the winner is awarded EUR 20 000. ‘As a creative person with a passion for engineering and innovation, I never knew where to put my ideas and energy. The EIT Climate-KIC Master label degree showed me the right path’ said Michael Dittel. 

 

Marc Julien, Diabeloop (France), and supported by EIT Health, won the EIT Innovators Award. This award recognises teams with high impact products and services and is awarded EUR 50 000. ‘Partners are essential as nobody has the skills to face all the challenges of building innovative products and entering the market on their own. The EIT Community has helped us foster cross-border cooperation in a major way.’ said Marc Julien.

 

Matthew Dickson, CorPower Ocean based in Sweden and supported by EIT InnoEnergy, won the EIT Venture Award. This award recognises successful entrepreneurial start-ups and scale-ups and the winner is awarded EUR 50 000. ‘EIT InnoEnergy were the ones who first believed in our product and were ready to actually put money into it, thus attracting other investors.’ said Matthew Dickson.

 

Sara Guimarães Gonçalves, Trigger.Systems (Portugal) and supported by EIT InnoEnergy, won the EIT Woman Award. This award recognises outstanding women innovators and is awarded EUR 20 000. ‘There is a lot of gender bias in our sector but EIT InnoEnergy provided me with the necessary empowerment tools to make it’ said Sara Guimarães Gonçalves.

 

David Pistoni Perez, Zeleros (Spain) and supported by EIT Climate-KIC, won the EIT Public Award. This award recognises the public’s top innovation with thousands of votes cast across Europe. ‘The EIT is the perfect bridge to scale our disruptive innovation project at European level’ said David Pistoni Perez.

 

Laura Kövesi confirmed as European Chief Prosecutor​

Parliament’s leading MEPs endorsed today Laura Codruţa Kövesi’s appointment as the first head of the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

 

The decision by the Conference of Presidents (EP President David Sassoli and political group leaders) follows an agreement in September between Parliament and Council negotiators on the new European Chief Prosecutor. Parliament’s negotiating team backed Ms Kövesi throughout the negotiations.

 

Following her confirmation today, Ms Kövesi can start her seven-year mandate. The Council endorsed the deal earlier this week.

 

Background

The EPPO, which is expected to be operational at the end of 2020, will be an independent office in charge of investigating, prosecuting and bringing to justice crimes against the EU budget, such as fraud, corruption or cross-border VAT fraud above 10 million euros. The list of crimes could be extended in the future to include, for example, terrorism.

 

So far, 22 member states have joined the EPPO. The five countries that currently do not participate - Sweden, Hungary, Poland, Ireland and Denmark - could join at any time.

 

The EPPO central office will be based in Luxembourg, along with the Chief Prosecutor and a College of Prosecutors from all participating countries. They will head the day-to-day criminal investigations carried out by the delegated prosecutors in all participating member states.

 

EIT turns up the volume on Creative & Cultural Industries​

Powering of European creative & cultural industries revealed at INNOVEIT, the annual forum of Europe’s innovation Institute. Innovators join entrepreneurs, investors and political leaders to tackle societal challenges and create jobs in Europe.

 

Plans to launch Europe’s new creative and cultural industries’ Knowledge and Innovation Community will be presented today in Budapest at INNOVEIT, the European Institute for Innovation and Technology’s (EIT) annual innovation forum. This is part of the European Commission’s plans for the EIT’s 2021-2027 strategy that includes a 25% budget increase to EUR 3 billion.

 

By giving new opportunities to the 12.5 million Europeans employed in the EU’s creative and cultural sector - that is 7.5% of all employment in the EU economy - the EIT’s new Knowledge and Innovation Community will be of strategic importance to powering innovation in the creative and cultural sectors.

 

Almost 400 participants from the innovation, business, research and education sectors as well as policy makers will gather in Budapest today for INNOVEIT. They will discuss the EIT’s key role in driving innovation across Europe and celebrate the EIT Awards, showcasing some of Europe’s top innovations. The high-level conference takes place with the participation of Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport; László Palkovics, Hungarian Minister for Innovation and Technology; Sanja Damjanović, Montenegrin Minister of Science and leading entrepreneurs, cutting-edge innovators and policymakers, including keynote speaker Michela Magas. Follow the event through the livestream: innoveit.eu.

 

Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport responsible for the EIT, said: ‘Education and creativity are vital in building a resilient, competitive and cohesive Europe for the future. I am proud of how the EIT helps us promote both supporting talented innovators and nurturing entrepreneurial mind-sets. I am convinced that this focus on people, their aspirations and ideas can also help us make a success of the new Knowledge and Innovation Community on the cultural and creative sectors that we have proposed.’

 

Dirk Jan van den Berg, Chair of the EIT Governing Board added: ‘The EIT will transform the best ideas into new products, services and jobs in the creative and cultural industries. With the EIT Community’s unique network and track record in business creation and acceleration, our ventures have raised EUR 1.5 billion in external investment. Recently our first ‘unicorn’ venture emerged: Northvolt who aims to produce the world’s greenest batteries. This highlights the EIT’s huge potential to power European creative & cultural industries.’

 

Keynote speaker Michela Magas, Founder and Creative Director of Music Tech Fest and Chair of the Industry Commons Foundation, commented: ‘I’m delighted to speak at INNOVEIT at this critical time for this sector. Europe has rightly placed Creative and Cultural Industries as a driving force of innovation and there are now excellent opportunities for creative innovators to work with the EIT to tackle grand societal challenges, contribute to upskilling and create new jobs. EIT partnerships are an important vehicle for combining competences from the CCI with novel data-driven technologies coming out of industry sectors for a win-win situation. I’m thrilled about the opportunities a new EIT Knowledge and Innovation Community will bring to the CCI and cement its importance at the centre of all innovation.’

 

Total turnover of the performing arts sector in Europe (including live music) is worth more than EUR 32 billion. The performing arts sector is the largest employer among the creative and cultural sector in Europe, employing 1.25 million people. Over three quarters of employees are creators and/or performers.

 

Video game entrepreneur Yoan Fanise, Co-founder, DigixArt, Videogames, said: ’Video games, child’s play? Nothing could be farther from the truth! I’ve worked on some of the world’s best-known video games and I can tell you that phenomenally creative teams are needed to design, finance and market successful video games. Real technical and skilled talent is needed at many levels. The video game industry is a cross-sectoral success story; so, I’m delighted to see the EIT planning to deploy its unique innovation model in creative and cultural industries. Europe needs this focused global support.’

The audio-visual and multimedia sector has seen tremendous growth in Europe. Activities related to the publishing of computer games saw compound average growth of more than 25% in terms of total gross value added over the period 2008-2016. The creative and cultural sector’s economic weight is comparable to that of ICT and the accommodation and food services sectors yielding more than 4% of EU GDP.

Brexit// Statement by David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament​ after meeting with Boris Johnson 

I have just had a meeting with Prime Minister Johnson. I came here in the confident hope of hearing proposals that could take negotiations forward. However, I must note that there has been no progress.

 

As you know, a deal between the EU and UK requires not only a positive meaningful vote of the House of Commons, but also the European Parliament’s approval.

 

It is therefore important that the UK Prime Minister hears directly from the European Parliament on its approach to Brexit. I am grateful to Mr Johnson for giving me that opportunity.

 

Our approach is very straightforward. We think an orderly Brexit, the UK leaving with a deal, is by far the best outcome. The deal that we thought had been agreed with the UK last year was a text the EP could have supported. It resolved all the issues associated with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. It provided certainty for citizens and businesses. It looked forward to a close future EU-UK relationship. As things stand, it remains the best possible agreement.

 

As I explained to Mr Johnson, the Parliament will not agree to a deal at any price. We will not agree to a deal that undermines the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process or compromise the integrity of our single market. This we made plain in our resolution adopted with a huge majority in September.

 

We have examined the UK proposals to replace the original backstop and our response is that these are a long way from something to which the Parliament could agree. In addition, they are not immediately operable.

 

Negotiations, I know, are continuing and the Parliament, through its Brexit Steering Group, is being kept fully informed by Michel Barnier of the progress on those talks.

 

There are two alternatives to a deal at this juncture: extension or no deal.

 

On an extension, the Parliament is open to this possibility, should there be a good reason or purpose for this. But requesting an extension is a matter for the UK and it is not my place to comment on the political controversies or legal issues that are being debated in the United Kingdom.

 

As far as no deal is concerned, we are very clear that this would be a very negative outcome. It will be economically damaging to both parties, in particular to the UK. It will have very serious consequences on the island of Ireland. It will increase uncertainty for business and above all for citizens. “No deal” would clearly be the responsibility of the UK government.

 

On citizens, we will continue to ensure that in all scenarios their rights are protected.

 

I do hope a no-deal outcome can be avoided, but if not, the EU has taken the necessary measures to prepare for this outcome.

 

I continue to place my faith in good sense and responsibility but among friends, duty demands that we tell each other the truth.

EU sustains improvements in financial management for third year in a row, say Auditors​

In its 2018 annual report, published today, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) has concluded that the EU accounts present a “true and fair view” of the EU’s financial position. For the third year in a row, the auditors have issued a qualified opinion on the regularity of the financial transactions underlying the accounts. This reflects the fact that a significant part of the EU’s 2018 expenditure was not materially affected by errors and that such errors are no longer pervasive across spending areas. At the same time, challenges remain in high-risk spending areas such as rural development and cohesion, say the auditors.

 

“Thanks to improvements in its financial management, the EU now meets high standards of accountability and transparency when spending public money. We expect the incoming Commission and the Member States to sustain this effort,” said ECA President Klaus-Heiner Lehne. “The start of a new legislative term and of a new financial programming period create a window of opportunity. Policymakers should grasp it to focus EU policies and spending on delivering results and added value.”

 

The overall level of irregularities in EU spending has remained stable within the range observed during the two previous years. The auditors estimate a 2.6 % error in 2018 expenditure (2.4 % in 2017 and 3.1 % in 2016). Errors were found mainly in high-risk spending areas, such as in rural development and cohesion, where payments from the EU budget are made to reimburse beneficiaries for the costs they have incurred. These spending areas are subject to complex rules and eligibility criteria, which may lead to errors.

 

With a renewed leadership in the EU institutions and following the European Parliament elections this year, the EU is at an important crossroads and must seize the momentum to deliver results, say the auditors. The EU’s budget accounts for no more than 1 % of gross national income of all Member States, so it is vital that its spending should not only comply with the rules but also deliver results.

 

The auditors also highlight challenges to EU budgetary and financial management that are of particular relevance for the new long-term budget cycle. The Member States’ absorption of structural and investment funds, which account for almost half of the current multiannual financial framework (MFF), remains low despite increased momentum and significantly higher claims in 2018. The Commission needs to take measures to avoid undue pressure on payment needs at the start of the new MFF (2021-2027), which could be caused by delayed claims from the current one. Furthermore, the increase in guarantees supported by the EU budget (€92.8 billion at the end of 2018) adds to the budget’s exposure to risk, which the Commission will have to address under the new MFF.

 

Hearing of Vice-President-designate Maroš Šefčovič

Constitutional Affairs and Legal Affairs MEPs questioned the candidate for the Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight portfolio.

 

Political groups’ coordinators from the committees will meet within 24 hours to assess the performance of Vice-President-designate Šefčovič.


 

Closing the gap between EU citizens and EU institutions


 

During his introductory speech, Mr Šefčovič said that the “natural partnership between the Parliament and the Commission” needs to evolve into “world-class anticipatory governance”. He also reiterated that the Commission will present legislative proposals based on EP resolutions and committed to resume negotiations on Parliament’s right of inquiry.


 

MEPs put forward several questions on proposals to enhance information-sharing through EU research resources and shared databases, as well as on citizens’ and national parliaments’ role in defining future EU legislation. Members also questioned the Vice-President-designate on the “one in, one out” principle, which aims to reduce red tape, and received assurance that the EP will have a leading role in the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe.


 

The candidate mentioned the need to modernise the REFIT platform - an expert group whose goal is to simplify laws and reduce burdens - and the need to follow e-government best practice while addressing concerns on the emergence of Artificial Intelligence.


 

You can watch the video recording of the full hearing here.

 

EPP President: An ÖVP government is key to a strong Austria in a strong Europe 

Ahead of the parliamentary elections this Sunday in Austria, the President of the European People’s Party (EPP), Joseph Daul, has wished the best of luck to EPP member party Die Neue Volkspartei (ÖVP) and chairman, Sebastian Kurz:

 

“For the past two years, Die Neue Volkspartei and Sebastian Kurz have worked tirelessly on reforms to improve the lives of Austrian citizens and breathe new life into the country’s economy. In Sunday’s elections, a strong result for ÖVP will ensure Sebastian Kurz is returned to the position of Chancellor.  Only then can Austria continue on the necessary reform path and deliver the clarity and stability that the Austrian people are calling for.

 

As leader of ÖVP, Sebastian Kurz has once again assembled a team of impressive and experienced candidates. ÖVP has a clear vision for Austria’s future that is rooted in our centre-right values. The next Austrian government, led by Sebastian Kurz, will ensure families can take care of their loved ones and address citizens’ concerns on issues like climate change, migration and digitalisation.

 

An ÖVP-led government with Sebastian Kurz at the helm is the key to a strong Austria in a strong Europe. Sebastian Kurz represents a new generation of European leaders, I am convinced that Austria will continue to benefit from his experience, his centre-right values and his commitment to the EU.

 

On behalf of the EPP family, I wish the best of luck and electoral success to ÖVP and party chairman Sebastian Kurz”, concluded President Daul.

 

 

 

Hearing of Commissioner-designate Didier Reynders 

The Civil Liberties and Legal Affairs committees questioned Didier Reynders, Belgian candidate for the Justice portfolio, on rule of law and modernising justice systems. 

 

Political groups’ coordinators from the committees will meet within 24 hours to assess the performance of Commissioner-designate Reynders.

 

Rule of law mechanism, European arrest warrant and combatting corruption

 

During his introductory speech, Mr Reynders said that in his first year he will propose an “up and running” rule of law mechanism involving Parliament and Council, which will apply to all member states, with particular focus on those countries where risks have been identified. He referred to recent allegations made against him, underlining that the case has been dismissed and that “rule of law also means presumption of innocence.”

 

Other priorities mentioned by the Commissioner-designate were a possible review of the European arrest warrant, full support for setting up the European Public Prosecutor's Office, the swift adoption of the collective redress directive, trust and safety as an integral part of Artificial Intelligence policy and the full implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation.

 

MEPs put forward several questions on the new rule of law mechanism, the ongoing Article 7 proceedings concerning Hungary and Poland and whether there should be action against other EU countries. They also asked about the Parliament’s right of initiative, human rights and environmental protection in commercial dealings, as well as holding multinationals to account.

 

Members also questioned the Commissioner-designate on the need to establish an EU strategy for combatting corruption and digitalising judicial systems in the EU.

 

You can watch the video recording of the full hearing here.

 

Press point

 

At the end of the hearing, Committee Chairs Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) and Lucy Nethsingha (Renew Europe, UK) held a press point outside the meeting room: watch it here.

 

Next steps

 

Based on the committees’ recommendations, the Conference of Presidents will decide on 17 October if Parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed. If so, the plenary will vote on whether or not to elect the Commission as a whole on 23 October, in Strasbourg.

 

Background

 

The joint hearing with Legal Affairs and Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committees was chaired by Juan Fernando López Aguilar and Lucy Nethsingha. The Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee was associated to this hearing and therefore its members also took part.

 

Further information

 

Dedicated website for the 2019 hearings 

Didier Reynders (official documents) 

 

 

 

Save the date: EPP Congress in Zagreb on 20-21 November,

Press Registration​

The European People’s Party (EPP) will hold its Statutory Congress on 20 and 21 November in Croatia.

Detailed information can be found at zagreb2019.epp.eu

 

Co-hosted by Prime Minister of Croatia and Hrvatska demokratska zajednica (HDZ) leader, Andrej PLENKOVIĆ, and EPP President Joseph DAUL and EPP Secretary General Antonio LÓPEZ-ISTÚRIZ, the Congress in Zagreb will focus on effective policies to combat climate change, on empowering the younger generations and the Western Balkans.

 

The Congress will also elect the EPP Presidency, including the President, Vice-Presidents, Treasurer and Secretary General. 2,000 participants from more than 40 countries have been invited to participate in the Congress in Zagreb.

 

The list of invitees includes the EPP’s EU heads of state and government: Nicos ANASTASIADES (Cyprus), Boyko BORISSOV (Bulgaria), Klaus IOHANNIS (Romania), Krišjānis KARIŅŠ (Latvia), Angela MERKEL (Germany), Kyriakos MITSOTAKIS (Greece) and Leo VARADKAR (Ireland) as well as the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude JUNCKER, the European Council President Donald TUSK and the President-Elect of the European Commission Ursula VON DER LEYEN. Deputy Prime Ministers Hugo DE JONGE (The Netherlands) and Koen GEENS (Belgium), party leaders Béla BUGÁR (Slovakia), Sebastian KURZ (Austria),  Helir-Valdor SEEDER (Estonia), Markus SÖDER (Germany), and opposition leaders Silvio BERLUSCONI (Italy), Pablo CASADO (Spain), Adrian DELIA (Malta), Frank ENGEL (Luxembourg) Janez JANŠA (Slovenia), Ulf KRISTERSSON (Sweden), Gabrielius LANDSBERGIS (Lithuania), Jean LEONETTI (France), Petteri ORPO(Finland), Søren PAPE POULSEN (Denmark), Rui RIO (Portugal), Grzegorz SCHETYNA (Poland) and Marek VÝBORNÝ (Czechia) have been invited. The list of participating non-EU heads of state and government at the EPP Congress and Summit in Zagreb will be published at a later stage.

 

The Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament Manfred WEBER will be present.

 

Accreditation

 

Journalists wishing to attend the EPP Congress must register by 15 November 2019 at 13:00 CET via the dedicated e-form at:https://epp.org/2mjQ9dj

 

Audiovisual Coverage - Hearings of the Commissioners-designate

Hearing of Didier REYNDERS, Commissioner-designate, Justice

Wednesday 2 October 09:00 - 12:00


Download the opening statement (HD quality)
Watch the webstreaming
View/download HD videos,photos and audios from the multimedia package
View/Download from EbS

Hearing of Helena DALLI, Commissioner-designate, Equality

Wednesday 2 October 14:30 - 17:30


Download the opening statement (HD quality)
Watch the webstreaming
View/download HD videos,photos and audios from the multimedia package
View/Download from EbS

 

Hearing of Sylvie GOULARD, Commissioner-designate, Internal Market

Wednesday 2 October 14:30 - 17:30


Download the opening statement (HD quality)
Watch the webstreaming
View/download HD videos,photos and audios from the multimedia package
View/Download from EbS+

Hearing of Elisa FERREIRA, Commissioner-designate, Cohesion and Reforms

Wednesday 2 October 18:30 - 21:30


Download the opening statement (HD quality)
Watch the webstreaming
View/download HD videos,photos and audios from the multimedia package
View/Download from EbS

Hearing of Janez LENARČIČ, Commissioner-designate, Crisis Management

Wednesday 2 October 18:30 - 21:30


Download the opening statement (HD quality)
Watch the webstreaming
View/download HD videos,photos and audios from the multimedia package
View/Download from EbS+

Hearing of Commissioner-designate Janusz Wojciechowski​

The Agriculture and Rural Development Committee questioned the Polish candidate for the agriculture portfolio Janusz Wojciechowski on EU farm policy reform and trade negotiations. 

Political groups’ coordinators from the committee will meet shortly after the hearing to assess, within 24 hours, the performance of Commissioner-designate Wojciechowski.

 

Future of EU farming and farmers

 

During his introductory speech, Mr Wojciechowski said the EU needs a “long-term vision for European agriculture”, inspired by current EU climate and energy strategies. The first step should be a “special report” looking into the “true picture” of the current situation on the ground. He called for further support for EU farmers, better environmental protection and for animal-welfare standards to be improved.

 

MEPs put forward several questions on the ongoing reform of EU farm policy, on how to make sure it remains a truly common policy that delivers both for farmers and consumers and how to make it more environmentally sound. Mr Wojciechowski said he was “open to discussions” to improve legislative proposals on the reform of the EU’s farm policy already on the table.

 

Members also questioned the Commissioner-designate on ways to ensure that EU farmers and consumers are better protected in free-trade talks, specifically mentioning for instance the ongoing EU-Mercosur negotiations, and asked him how foreign countries’ protectionist measures should be handled. They also discussed strengthening farmers’ position in the food supply chain, fairer distribution of direct payments within and among member states and measures to tackle anti-microbial resistance.

 

You can watch the video recording of the full hearing here.

 

Next steps

 

Based on the committees’ recommendations, the Conference of Presidents will decide on 17 October if Parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed. If so, the plenary will vote on whether or not to elect the Commission as a whole on 23 October, in Strasbourg.

 

Background

 

The hearing with Agriculture and Rural Development Committee MEPs was chaired by Norbert Lins (EPP, DE). Members from the associated Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee also participated in the hearing.

 

Further information

Hearing of Janusz Wojciechowski, Commissioner-designate, Agriculture 

Dedicated website for the 2019 hearings 

Timetable of all the hearings 

 

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) will publish its annual report

on the 2018 EU budget on 8 October 2019

Publication

 

The report will be available on the ECA’s website eca.europa.eu in 23 EU languages on Tuesday 8 October from 00.01. The press kit will include:

 

* annual reports on the EU budget and on the European Development Funds;

* a summary document entitled "2018 EU audit in brief";

* a press release;

* a FAQ sheet;

* high-resolution photos.

 

Presentation

 

8 October 2019, European Parliament - CONT, Brussels

 

ECA President Klaus-Heiner Lehne and Lazaros S. Lazarou, the ECA Member responsible for the annual report, will present the annual report to the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) at 09.00: the presentation will be broadcast LIVE on Europe By Satellite.

 

10 October 2019, ECOFIN, Luxembourg

 

ECA President Lehne, accompanied by ECA Member Lazarou, will present the annual report at the ECOFIN Council meeting, in the presence of the Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources.

 

23 October 2019, European Parliament - Plenary, Strasbourg

 

ECA President Lehne, accompanied by ECA Member Lazarou, will present the annual report at the European Parliament plenary session, in the presence of the Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources.

From 8 October onwards, ECA Members will present the annual report to the oversight authorities in different Member States. Information on the dates and countries of these presentations will be available on the ECA website eca.europa.eu and Twitter @EUauditors.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

 

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) is the independent external auditor of the European Union. Its audit reports and opinions are an essential element of the EU accountability chain. They are used to hold to account those responsible for implementing EU policies and programmes: the Commission, other EU institutions and bodies, and administrations in Member States.

 

The ECA warns of risks, provides assurance, indicates shortcomings and good practice, and offers guidance to EU policymakers and legislators on how to improve the management of EU policies and programmes. Each year for the annual report, the auditors check the EU accounts and provide their opinion on two questions: whether the accounts are accurate and reliable, and to what extent there is evidence of money having been received or paid out in error (known as regularity and legality). They test samples of transactions to provide statistically-based estimates of the levels of error in the EU’s revenue and in the different spending areas such as natural resources or cohesion.

 

In 2018, EU spending totalled €156.7 billion, the equivalent of 2.2 % of the general government spending of the Member States taken as a whole and 1.0 % of EU gross national income.

 

 

 

 

Hearing of Commissioner-designate Ylva Johansson​

The Civil Liberties Committee quizzed Ylva Johansson, candidate for the home affairs portfolio, on migration and asylum, security and the future of Schengen.

Political groups’ coordinators from the committee will meet within 24 hours to assess the performance of Swedish Commissioner-designate Johansson.

 

A fresh start on migration and asylum

 

During her introductory speech, Ms Johansson stressed that one of her main tasks would be to propose a new pact on migration and asylum. “It is difficult, but failure is simply not an option”, she said. Legal and safe pathways to the EU for migrants are also part of the solution, Johansson noted.

 

MEPs asked Johansson to clarify how she plans to build consensus on reforming the asylum system. They also put forward several questions on search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, the situation of migrants and asylum seekers stranded in Libya and the agreements with non-EU countries on migration.

 

EU’s security strategy and the future of Schengen

 

Ms Johansson explained that her aim is to build an effective Security Union. She committed to work tirelessly against terrorism and all forms of radicalisation. On Schengen, Johansson stressed that her key objective is to return to a fully functioning, internal border control-free Schengen area.

MEPs also questioned the Commissioner-designate on the measures to be taken on organised crime, respect for fundamental rights in security and border control policies as well as the possible future enlargement of the Schengen area.

You can watch the video recording of the full hearing here.

 

Press point

 

At the end of the hearing, Civil Liberties Committee Chair Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) held a press point outside the meeting room: watch it here

 

Next steps

 

Based on the committees’ recommendations, the Conference of Presidents will decide on 17 October if Parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed. If so, the plenary will vote on whether or not to elect the Commission as a whole on 23 October, in Strasbourg.

 

 

 

Hearing of Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner-designate for Health

The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee questioned Stella Kyriakides, candidate for the Health portfolio.

Political groups’ coordinators from the committee will meet within 24 hours to assess the performance of the Cypriot Commissioner-designate.

 

Pesticides, endocrine disruptors topic discussed

 

During her introductory speech, Ms Kyriakides said that the environmental and demographic changes faced by European societies can be dealt with only through a “one health” approach, placing good health and healthy food under a single policy umbrella. Her priorities include the new “farm to fork” strategy to improve food safety, action against antimicrobial resistance, and making sure that a steady stream of affordable medicines is made available to citizens.

MEPs put forward several questions on how the commissioner-designate would act with regard to the fight against cancer, the situation on pesticides, endocrine disruptors, bee health and in finding ways to get member states’ to implement EU legislation more effectively.

Members also questioned the Commissioner-designate on the need to unlock the situation in Council on health technological assessment legislation. Later in the hearing, MEPs raised the issues of the Commission repeatedly approving GMO imports, how to protect consumers from food fraud, and the availability of oncological treatments.

You can watch the video recording of the full hearing here.

 

Press point

At the end of the hearing, the commissioner-designate held a press point outside the meeting room: watch it here.

 

Next steps

Based on the committees’ recommendations, the Conference of Presidents will decide on 17 October if Parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed. If so, the plenary will vote on whether or not to elect the Commission as a whole on 23 October, in Strasbourg.

The Agriculture committee was associated to this hearing.

 

 

 

 

MEPs to attend UN conference on migration in Morocco

A European Parliament delegation participates in the UN intergovernmental conference on migration in Marrakech, Morocco, on 10-11 December.

 

The delegation, led by Linda McAvan (S&D, UK), will represent the position of the European Parliament at the conference to adopt the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

 

From the outset, the Parliament has supported the goals of the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the related process as a unique opportunity to establish a global governance regime and to enhance coordination on international migration.

 

The resolution on 18 April 2018 insists that the compact for migration “should be people-centred and human rights-based, and should provide for long-term, sustainable and comprehensive measures, for the benefit of all parties involved, building on the principle of partnership and strengthened cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination”. It should protect the most vulnerable (women and children, unaccompanied minors), prevent human rights abuses, and be based on partnership with a broad range of stakeholders, the Parliament stated.

 

The members of the EP delegation are the following:

 

Linda McAvan (S&D, UK), chair of the development committee and of the EP delegation

Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D, IT), chair of the human rights committee

EAnna Maria Corazza Bildt (EPP, S), civil liberties committee

Željana Zovko (EPP, HR), development and foreign affairs committees

Cécile Kyenge (S&D, IT), civil liberties and development committees

Elena Valenciano (S&D, ES), foreign affairs and human rights committees

Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA, NL), civil liberties and development committees

Laura Ferrara (EFDD, IT), civil liberties and human rights committees

Udo Voigt (NI, DE), civil liberties committee

Quote

 

“The Global Compact that will be agreed next week is an important step towards creating an international system to better manage migration and cut the amount of people migrating via dangerous, illegal routes. Whilst a number of EU countries are shamefully refusing to sign the voluntary Compact, the European Parliament’s presence in Marrakesh is a symbol of the EU’s strong support of the UN process,”, said Linda McAvan (S&D, UK) before the delegation left for Marrakesh.​

Background

 

The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2016, marked the beginning of multilateral negotiations to adopt two global compacts on refugees and for safe, orderly and regular migration.

 

A fairer sharing of the burden and responsibility for hosting and supporting refugees is the objective of the Global Compact on refugees, a non legally binding tool which has already been agreed upon. The similarly non-binding Global Compact on migration seeks to ensure that migrants in vulnerable situations are treated in an adequate way, via durable solutions, addressing at the same time the risks and challenges linked to migration in the countries of origin, transit and destination.

 

Among the EU member states, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria have announced their intention not to join the intergovernmental Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Press contact in Marrakesh

For on-site information, please contact Manuel Gil Manrique, +32.477.855.293.​

Further Information

European Parliament resolution on the UN Global Compac for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and on Refugees

New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants

Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

UN conference on Global Compact on Migration (UN site)

Subcommittee on Human Rights

Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

Committee on Foreign Affairs

Committee on Development

 

EU Budget 2019 deal: EP boosts support for researchers and the young

• Provisional deal reached on Tuesday

• Boosting funds for Erasmus+, climate protection, research, tackling migration and youth unemployment

• Cuts in funding for Turkey

 

MEPs have fought for and obtained better support for students, unemployed youngsters and researchers, as well as additional funds to boost key initiatives supporting SMEs.

 

 

Late on Tuesday evening, the negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement on the 2019 EU Budget, a few days before the last plenary session of the year.

The preliminary figures are €165.8 billion in commitment appropriations and €148.2 billion in payment appropriations. Detailed figures will be available later.

Youth, growth and jobs​

MEPs succeeded in reinforcing, on top of the Commission’s original budget proposal, programmes they considered key to boosting growth and jobs, reflecting widely agreed European Union priorities, namely Erasmus+ (+€240 million), Horizon 2020 (research programme, +€150 million) and COSME (support for SMEs, +€5 million). Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ will be further boosted through a €100 million amending budget coming next year.

 

All in all, Parliament obtained an additional €688.5 million in the area of “growth and jobs”, also securing an increase for the Youth Employment Initiative of €116.7 million in commitment appropriations, raising the total to €350 million, to help youngsters seeking a job.

Refugee and migration crisis, cutting funds for Turkey​

For Parliament, tackling migration and security are also among the European Union’s top priorities. They managed to boost the Commission’s draft budget for agencies with security-related tasks (Europol, Eurojust).

 

Similarly, for the external dimension of the migration challenge, they boosted priority lines by €171 million (on top of the draft budget) on the EU’s external action, which includes the Eastern and Southern Neighbourhoods, Western Balkans, UNRWA (+€21 million) and the Development and Cooperation Instrument (+€63 million).

 

On Turkey, MEPs made sure pre-accession funds were cut by €146.7 million, as they consider the deteriorating situation in relation to democracy, rule of law and human rights worrying.

 

After having secured sufficient reinforcements for EU programmes fostering jobs, competitiveness and cohesion, Parliament also agreed to financing part of the €3 billion second tranche of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRT) with a total of €2 billion from the 2018 and 2019 budgets

Climate and agriculture​

As a supplementary effort to fight climate change, some of the reinforcements obtained by the EP (+€4 million for LIFE, +€8 million for sustainable transport in Horizon 2020) aim at inching closer to the target of 20% of climate-relevant spending in the EU budget for the 2014-2020 period.

 

Furthermore, the Parliament’s negotiating team has obtained an additional €15 million in EU support for member states affected by African swine fever.

Next Steps

After Council has formally adopted the compromise, it will be submitted for approval to the Committee on Budgets on 10 December, then voted on in plenary in the European Parliament (planned for 12 December in Strasbourg) and signed into law by its President.

 

Around 94% of the EU’s budget goes to citizens, regions, cities, farmers and businesses. The EU’s administrative expenses account for approximately 6% of the total.

Quotes

“Despite it being impossible to apply the option in Article 15-3 of the new Financial Regulation to carry over research appropriations not committed in the previous financial year, I welcome the agreement. Two significant steps forward have been made in research (Horizon 2020, +11% compared to 2018), and mobility of young people, students and apprentices (ERASMUS, +12% compared to 2018). These two programmes will also benefit, as of the first half of 2019, from an overall bonus of 100 million euros via a draft amending budget. Let us be clear in our intentions with regard to other improvements in the field of security and defence, as well as in tackling migration policy”, said Jean Arthuis (ALDE, FR), Chair of the Committee on Budgets.

 

“With this proposal, the Parliament and the Council are endorsing a reasonable budget that will address some extremely important issues, like jobs, climate change, research & innovation and the human aspect of migration.

 

In the next weeks, we are going to finalise the deal and to get it approved by both branches of the budgetary authority”, said the lead rapporteur (Commission section of the EU budget 2019) Daniele Viotti (S&D, IT).

 

“It’s a great success for EU citizens, but also for a positive global development on science, with €150 million more for the Horizon 2020 programme. Youngsters will benefit from an additional €240 million for Erasmus, with €100 million more to come next year for both initiatives”, said Paul Rübig(EPP, AT), rapporteur for the other sections.

Background

Negotiations had resumed on the basis of a new Draft Budget, after the 21-day conciliation procedure provided for by the Treaty ended without an agreement two weeks ago. The last bones of contention were the necessary level of funding for researchers (Horizon 2020) and students (Erasmus+), where a vast majority of high-quality projects and applicants cannot be supported due to lack of funding available. In order to boost those programmes in line with Parliament’s demands, the Commission identified unused research appropriations from past budgets which had to be cancelled in 2017 and which could be revived, thanks to a new financial flexibility rule adopted by Parliament and the Council earlier this year. The Council, however, inflexibly refused to apply this new rule for 2019, and Parliament’s delegation therefore had to secure fresh appropriations instead (nearly half a billion Euros extra for both programmes).

Further Information

Budgetary powers of the European Parliament

Fact sheets on the European Union – The budgetary procedure

Committee on Budgets

European Commission: Budgetary documents 2019

MEPs want ambitious funding for cross-border projects to connect people

• EUR 11.16 billion for cross-border cooperation

• Co-financing rate for projects set at 80%

• Simplify funding rules for small projects implemented by civil society

 

Economic and social cohesion and cooperation in neighbouring border regions should get maximum support, according to the Regional Development Committee.

 

In Monday´s vote, MEPs recommended adding an extra EUR 2.73 billion to earmark a total amount of EUR 11.16 billion for European territorial cooperation (Interreg), to be funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF+) and the Cohesion Fund for the 2021-2027 programming period.

 

The committee recommends allocating

• EUR 7,5 billion (67,16 %) to cross-border cooperation,

• EUR 1.97 billion in total (17,68 %) for transnational cooperation,

• EUR 357.3 million in total (3,2 %) for outermost regions’ cooperation,

• EUR 365 million in total (3,27 %) for interregional cooperation, and

EUR 970 million (8,69 %) to the new initiative on interregional innovation investments.

Special attention to SMEs and small projects​

Applications for People2people and small-scale projects involving SMEs should be encouraged by removing administrative barriers and simplifying access to funding.

 

The maximum co-financing rate for projects should be set at 80 % – 10 % more than what the European Commission initially proposed.

Quote

“Interreg is an important symbol against the concept of isolation and for cooperation amongst neighbours. We want border hindrances to be removed – including, above all, the ones in people’s minds. Border regions should become communal spaces in which Europe becomes a tangible reality in everyday life. This is what the Interreg programme enables us to do”, said Parliament’s rapporteur Pascal Arimont (EPP, BE).

Next Steps

The text was adopted with 23 votes to 0 and no abstentions and will be tabled for a plenary vote in January to obtain a mandate for negotiations with the Council.

Background

The role of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is to contribute to reducing disparities between the development levels in the various regions and to support the least favoured regions, among which particular attention is to be paid to cross-border regions, rural areas, areas affected by industrial transition, areas with a low population density, islands and mountain regions. The purpose of the resolution is to lay down the specific provisions for the European territorial cooperation goal (Interreg) supported by the ERDF and external financing instruments for the period 2021-2027.

Further Information

Committee on Regional Development

Pascal Arimont (EPP, BE)

Procedure File and documents

EP Research briefing on European territorial cooperation

Interreg portal (European Commission)

What Europe does for me

 

EP Committees: EU Budget 2019 to focus on young people – BUDG – Corrigendum

• MEPs boosted funds for Erasmus+, tackling youth unemployment and migration, research, infrastructure investments and climate protection 

• Resolution complements the recent vote on figures and completes MEPs’ position on next year’s EU budget 

• Plenary to confirm position on 24 October, negotiations with Council to start in November 

 

Budgets Committee MEPs demanded an  EU budget for 2019 capable of tackling the numerous challenges that the EU continues to face, in a vote on Tuesday.

 

MEPs’ priorities for next year’s budget are “sustainable growth, innovation, competitiveness, security, tackling the root causes of refugee and migration flows, managing refugee and migration flows, the fight against climate change and the transition to sustainable energy, and a particular focus on young people.”

 

They “fail to understand” the reasoning behind the cuts proposed by the Council to the European Commission’s draft budget, especially those to the research and infrastructure programmes, which are “the very programmes designed to make the EU economy more competitive and innovative.” Budgets Committee MEPs thus decided to restore all those cuts, with limited exceptions.

 

In addition, MEPs intend to particularly boost programmes supporting the young, with significant increases to Erasmus+ and the Youth Employment Initiative. Further major top-ups to the Commission’s 2019 draft budget that MEPs want to push through during upcoming negotiations with the Council concern research and infrastructure programmes and those tackling migration.

 

A more detailed account on the figures can be found in this recent press release.

 

Members of the Budgets Committee on Tuesday voted on a motion for a resolution by co-rapporteurs Daniele Viotti (S&D, IT) and Paul Rübig (EPP, AT) concerning the EU draft budget 2019, almost two weeks after the corresponding vote on the figures. The resolution was adopted by 27 votes to 5, with 2 abstentions.

Next Steps

Parliament as a whole will vote on Wednesday, 24 October on a proposed budget amounting to €166.3 billion in commitments, which is €721 million more than the original European Commission proposal, and €149.3 billion in payments (including special instruments).

 

The plenary vote will kick off three weeks of “conciliation” talks with the Council, with the aim of reaching a deal between the two institutions in time for next year’s budget to be voted on by Parliament and signed by its President on 29 November.

 

In the chair: Mr Jean Arthuis (ALDE, FR)

Further Information

Steps of the procedure 

Committee on Budgets 

Rapporteur, Daniele Viotti (S&D, IT) 

Rapporteur, Paul Rübig (EPP, AT) 

Draft budgetary resolution 2019 (consolidated version available soon) 

Press release: “EU Budget 2019: MEPs increase funding on youth, migration and research” (26.09.2018) 

Documents on the budget 2019 (Parliament’s website) 

Documents on the budget 2019 (Commission’s website)

Facebook: MEPs demand a full audit by EU bodies to assess data protection

• Competition rules should be upgraded to reflect the digital reality

• Measures to prevent election meddling

• EU institutions may consider shutting their Facebook accounts if citizens’ data at risk

• Member states should investigate alleged misuse of online political space by foreign forces

 

EU bodies should be allowed to fully audit Facebook to assess data protection and security of users’ personal data, said Civil Liberties MEPs on Wednesday.

 

MEPs take note of the privacy improvements undertaken by Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but recall that the company has yet not carried out the promised full internal audit. They recommend that the company makes “substantial modifications to its platform” to comply with EU data protection law.

 

The committee also urges Facebook to allow the EU Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) and the European Data Protection Board to carry out “a full and independent audit” and present the findings to the European Commission and Parliament and national parliaments.

 

The resolution, passed with 41 votes to 10 and 1 abstention, summarises the conclusions reached after the meeting last May between leading MEPs and with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the three subsequent hearings to clarify the impact of the Facebook data breach by Cambridge Analytica. It also refers to the latest data breach suffered by Facebook, on 28 September, which exposed access tokens for 50 million accounts.

Fight against election meddling​

MEPs note that the General Data Protection Regulation and the new rules on European political party funding already foresee sanctions for breaching data protection rules to influence elections’ outcomes.

 

To prevent electoral meddling via social media, they also propose:

 

• applying conventional “off-line” electoral safeguards, such as rules on transparency and limits to spending, respect for silence periods and equal treatment of candidates;

• making it easy to recognize online political paid advertisements and the organisation behind them;

• banning profiling for electoral purposes, including use of online behaviour that may reveal political preferences;

• social media platforms should label content shared by bots and speed up the process of removing fake accounts;

• compulsory post-campaign audits to ensure personal data are deleted;

• investigations by member states with the support of Eurojust if necessary, into alleged misuse of the online political space by foreign forces.

Update competition rules and increase algorithmic transparency​

MEPs call on the European Commission to upgrade EU competition rules to reflect the digital reality, look into the social media platforms’ possible monopoly and audit the advertising industry on social media.

 

The text also asks for much greater accountability and transparency on algorithmic-processed data by any actor, be it private or public.

Facebook accounts of EU institutions​

MEPs ask all EU institutions, agencies and bodies to verify that their social media pages and the analytical and marketing tools used “should not by any means put at risk the personal data of citizens”. If needed, they suggest that they “consider closing their Facebook accounts” to protect personal data of every individual contacting them.​

Call on the Commission to suspend Privacy Shield​

MEPs call on the European Commission to suspend the Privacy Shield agreement (designed to protect EU citizens whose personal data are transferred to the US for commercial purposes), since US authorities failed to comply with its terms by 1 September 2018.

Quote

Claude Moraes (S&D, UK), Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee and rapporteur, said: “This resolution makes clear that we expect measures to be taken to protect citizens’ right to private life, data protection and freedom of expression. Improvements have been made since the scandal, but, as the Facebook data breach of 50 million accounts showed just last month, these do not go far enough.”

Next Steps

The resolution will be put to a vote by the full Parliament during the next plenary session (22-25 October) in Strasbourg.​

Further Information

Interview with rapporteur Claude Moraes: “We have to look at how social platforms are used for campaigns”

Multimedia package: Data Protection

Video: extracts from the vote – statement by rapporteur Claude Moraes

Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

 

Humanitarian visas to avoid refugees’ deaths

• Holders would access EU territory for the sole purpose of requesting international protection

• To be issued at EU embassies and consulates abroad

• 90% of those granted international protection in the EU arrived via irregular means

• Around 30 000 people have died trying to reach Europe since 2000

 

EU countries should be able to issue humanitarian visas at embassies and consulates abroad, so people seeking protection can access Europe without risking their life.

 

With 39 votes to 10, the Civil Liberties Committee agreed on Wednesday to ask the European Commission to table, by 31 March 2019, a legislative proposal establishing a European Humanitarian Visa, giving access to European territory – specifically to the member state issuing the visa – for the sole purpose of submitting an application for international protection

 

MEPs stress that despite numerous announcements and requests for safe and legal pathways for asylum-seekers into Europe, the EU lacks a harmonised framework of protected entry procedures. They underline that, due to insufficient legal options, an estimated 90% of those granted international protection reached the European Union through irregular means.

Cut the death toll, combat smuggling and improve use of migration funds​

According to the committee, humanitarian visas would help to address the intolerable death toll in the Mediterranean and on the migration routes to the EU (at least 30 000 persons have died at EU borders since 2000), to combat human smuggling, and to manage arrivals, reception and processing of asylum claims better.

 

This tool should also contribute to optimising member states’ and the EU’s budget for asylum, law enforcement procedures, border control, surveillance and search and rescue activities, MEPs say.

Security screening before issuing the visa​

Beneficiaries will have to prove well-founded exposure to or risk of persecution and not be in a resettlement process already. The assessment of the application should not involve a full status determination process, but before issuing the visa, each applicant should be subject to a security screening, through the relevant national and European databases, “to ensure that they do not pose a security risk”.​

Quote

Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES), rapporteur, said: Against the background of an unacceptable death toll in the Mediterranean, the EP needs to deliver. The vote today is a limited step, but nonetheless a very important political signal to the EU Commission. We need to do more to help those human beings in need, as there are currently clearly not enough legal and safe pathways to the EU for those seeking international protection.”

Next Steps

This legislative initiative will be put to a vote by the full House in the November plenary session. If adopted by plenary by qualified majority, the Commission will have to give a reasoned reply to Parliament’s request.

Further Information

EP Research Service: Added value assessment on humanitarian visas (July 2018)

Procedure page

Committee on Civil Liberties web page

Deal on protecting workers from exposure to harmful substances

• Parliament negotiators added diesel fumes to the list of harmful substances

• Exposure limit values and skin notations for eight additional cancer-causing substances

• Better protection of some 20 million workers in the EU

 

A deal on new EU rules to better protect workers from exposure to carcinogenic and mutagenic substances was struck by Employment Committee MEPs and the Council.

 

12 million workers in the EU potentially exposed to diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEE) will now be better protected, as diesel fumes and their corresponding exposure limit value were added to the final deal.

 

The second revision of the 2004 directive intends to further lower the risk for workers of getting cancer, which is the primary cause of work-related deaths in the EU.

 

The negotiators agreed on the European Commission proposal to set the exposure limit values (maximum amount of substance allowed in workplace air) and/or skin notations (possibility of significantly absorbing substance through the skin) for five additional carcinogens:

 

• trichloroethylene, 4,4-methylenedianiline, epichlorohydrine, ethylene dibromide and ethylene dichloride.

Quotes

Claude Rolin (EPP, BE), rapporteur, said: “This agreement is a successful outcome, as we managed to introduce a limit value for diesel engine exhaust emissions (DEEE), after months of negotiation. In the European Union, more than 12 million workers are exposed occupationally to DEEE. This second revision of the directive gives a clear signal: monitoring occupational exposure to more and more harmful substances substantially strengthens workers’ protection. We need to constantly monitor this. Cancer is the leading cause of work-related death in the E.U. It is unacceptable that workers lose their lives while trying to earn a living.”

 

Marita Ulvskog (S&D, SE), Employment Committee Chair and rapporteur for the first batch of substances, added: “In a joint effort with the Austrian Presidency, and with the technical support of the Commission, we were able to reach this pragmatic agreement, under which 8 additional cancer-causing chemicals will be covered by the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive, including diesel exhaust. We can be proud of this agreement, which will prevent more than 100,000 deaths caused by cancer over the next 50 years and is a milestone on the path to delivering the European Pillar of Social Rights.”

 

Further Information

Procedure file

EP Committees: Security: better access to data for border control and migration management – LIBE

• EU security and border control information databases to exchange information 

• Easier access for border guards, migration and police officers and judicial authorities 

• Safeguards for protection of fundamental rights and access to data 

 

New measures to improve data exchange between EU information systems for border, security and migration management were backed by the Civil Liberties Committee

 

The measures, adopted by Civil Liberties MEPs on Monday, would facilitate the tasks of border guards, migration officers, police officers and judicial authorities by providing them with more systematic and faster access to various EU security and border-control information systems.

 

By enabling the exchange of data between the systems, they will become interoperable. The main elements approved are:

 

European search portal allowing simultaneous searches, rather than searching each system individually;

Shared biometric matching service for cross-matching fingerprints and facial images from several systems;

Common identity repository providing biographical information such as dates of birth and passport numbers of non-EU citizens for more reliable identification;

Multiple identity detector, detecting whether a person is registered under multiple identities in different databases

 

Furthermore, MEPs ensured that proper safeguards will be in place on protecting fundamental rights and access to data.

 

The systems covered by the new rules would include the Schengen Information System, Eurodac, the Visa Information System (VIS) and three new ones: the European Criminal Records System for Third Country Nationals (ECRIS-TCN), the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

Quotes

Rapporteur Jeroen Lenaers (EPP, NL) said: “The proposals significantly improve the way EU information systems are used to enhance the security of European citizens, while at the same time safeguarding fundamental rights such as privacy. We are not collecting more data, we are simply using the existing data to its full potential.”

 

Rapporteur Nuno Melo (EPP, PT) said: “The proposed measures will address current weaknesses and shortcomings in information management. They will make it possible to clarify that the information provided is correct and complete. This is essential for protecting our external borders and improving internal security.”

Next Steps

The draft report on interoperability between EU information systems focusing on borders and visa was adopted by 45, to 10, with no abstentions.

 

The draft report on interoperability between EU information systems focusing on police and judicial cooperation, asylum and migration was approved by 45, to 9, with no abstentions.

 

The committee also approved a mandate to start informal talks with the Council, which can start as soon as Parliament as a whole gives its green light.

Further Information

Procedure file: Interoperability between EU information systems (borders and visa)

Procedure file: Interoperability between EU information systems (police and judicial cooperation, asylum and migration)

EP Think Tank: Interoperability between EU information systems for security, border and migration management

Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs

 

Brexit: EP Steering Group insists on need for Ireland/Northern Ireland backstop

European Parliament Brexit Steering Group chaired by Guy Verhofstadt issued the following statement this Monday 15 October:

 

“We have followed very closely the developments of the last 24 hours.

 

It is our very strong view that the Withdrawal Agreement must include a workable, legally operational and all-weather backstop for the Ireland/Northern Ireland border fully in line with the Joint Report of last December and the Prime Minister May’s letter to President Tusk of 19 March 2018.

 

Without such a backstop, the European Parliament would not be in a position to give its consent to the Withdrawal Agreement.

 

We reiterate our full support for the Chief Negotiator and his negotiating strategy.”

 

 

Composition of the Brexit Steering Group:

 

Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit coordinator and Chair

Elmar Brok

Roberto Gualtieri

Philippe Lamberts

Gabriele Zimmer

Danuta Hübner

Further Information

More information on the Brexit Steering Group

EP News page on Brexit

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