Sunday 21 December 2014

Currently browsing 'EU Priorities 2020'

What should the EU’s overall priorities be? Or those of the next Presidency? And what should the EU Council really be talking about when they next meet.

 

What will be important in 2015?

Posted by on 19/12/14
From a European viewpoint… 2015 is officially the “European Year of Development”, but politically the upcoming elections in the UK (May 2015) will most likely intensify tensions in and reporting on the UK when looking at the European Union and even London’s EU membership. If 2014 was the year of the elections and new faces [...]

“Junker’s Stimulus Plan Is Unrealistic On Many Fronts”

Posted by on 18/12/14
By Dim Rapidis Dimitri B. Papadimitriou on ECB interest rates policy, deflation, Junkers’s fiscal stimulus plan, debt management and the Stability Pact, US economy, and the economic crisis in Greece.

2015—Can We Make It Different?

Posted by on 18/12/14

The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on where we are compared to where we want to be. A few days ago I came across a post by British MEP, Richard Corbett. He wrote about how the pragmatism of the EU is important for solving problems, but “when we focus exclusively on self-interested arguments, we risk forgetting the underlying motivation for what we do – and this is dangerous.”

Mr. Corbett describes three reasons why this is dangerous, and why we should avoid isolationism. I would like to focus on one particular suggestion that he makes there: “The best way to fight the negativity of narrow-minded nationalism is to present an alternative, positive story which shows the myths up [about Europe] for the nonsense they are.”

The problems of self-interest and narrow nationalism that Mr. Corbett points to are definitely on target. And yet, merely pointing out the problem won’t make it disappear. The forces that push for segregation are far greater and deeper than meets the eye, and require a conscious effort on the part of many organizations working in sync to provide a sustainable, long term solution.

Self-interest is at the core of our society. It is the mindset of every society, even social-democratic ones. It is at the foundation of human nature. It is not bad in and of itself, but when idolized and cultivated to an extreme, it becomes nocuous. This is where we stand now on every level—personal, social, national, and international. We’re living in the Me, Me, Me, era, a culture of narcissism. But every therapist will tell you that narcissists don’t see reality for what it is. When the whole of the Western civilization is approaching that state, it is very dangerous indeed.

The cure, therefore, has to include steps toward reversing that trend and establishing a more cohesive society, where solidarity and mutual responsibility are deemed greater than self-promotion. I do subscribe to Corbett’s words that “The best way to fight the negativity of narrow-minded nationalism is to present an alternative, positive story which shows the myths up for the nonsense they are.” And I believe that if we build an education program that gives people a personal experience of social cohesion, we won’t have to worry about narrow-minded nationalism, or any other narrow-minded self-centered approach.

At the ARI institute, we offer such a method, called Integral Education (IE), where people learn to communicate and relate to one another in a completely new way, and on a completely new level. We have implemented it all over the world, from the US to Europe, to the Middle East, and more often than not, in conflict weary societies. The results have been outstanding. Using a few simple rules of discussion, people discover, then cultivate, a new sense of kinship, and wish to preserve it.

The logic behind IE is simple: the world is interconnected and interdependent. Our values, on the other hand, are the complete opposite: self-indulgence, brutal competition, and alienation. By learning the new method of connection among us, we align ourselves with the reality of our lives. This eliminates the conflict between our need to feel superior (due to our ego-prone education) and the interdependent reality of life. When that happens, the “positive story which shows the myths up for the nonsense they are,” as Corbett so nicely put it, emerges by itself, effortlessly.

I encourage you to visit my site, where you will find more information about IE, and please contact me for further discussion about promoting Europe toward a better, more united future.

May 2015 be a year of positive shifts for all of us.

 

What was important in 2014?

Posted by on 16/12/14
From a European viewpoint… 2014 delivered on its promise of a full and exciting year at the European level: parliamentary elections in May, and the new Commission which took office this fall. This new beginning has come not only with new members in these institutions, but with a desire to increase the legitimacy and effectiveness [...]

Reforming rules on in-work benefits doesn’t require treaty change

Posted by on 11/12/14
Following David Cameron's speech on immigration, much has been made of his comments that the package of measures he proposed to reform EU free movement would require treaty change.

In some cases, the speech was ambiguous about what exactly was being proposed. For example, did Cameron really say EU migrants will need a job offer before coming to the UK? This is important because it has legal implications regarding whether some, all, or none of the proposals require treaty change, changes to secondary EU legislation or simply changes to domestic law. Although, politics will of course also play a major part.

In addition, some have questioned whether the proposal, outlined by Professor Damian Chalmers and our Research Director Stephen Booth and adopted by Cameron, to limit EU migrants' access to in-work benefits for a certain period of years could be achieved without treaty change, as the authors claim.

Today we have published  Chalmers' and Booth's assessment of the legal implications of the measures proposed in the Prime Minister's speech and a restatement of the case for why access to in-work benefits can be restricted via amendments to EU legislation rather than a treaty change.

Safe to say much of this is legally complex, but below is a summary of a summary of a longer legal note by Professor Damian Chalmers, which you can read in full here.

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David Cameron's speech can be divided into four broad types of demand:

1. Four-year restriction on EU migrants’ access to in-work and child benefits

David Cameron mentioned two proposed reforms:

a) “once they are in work, they won’t get benefits or social housing from Britain unless they have been here for at least four years.”

This could be achieved via amendments to EU legislation: This is the most legally complex of the proposals but we argue that it does not require Treaty change for two reasons. Firstly, access to in-work benefits is currently granted in EU law by virtue of a piece of secondary legislation, rather than by the Treaty article on free movement of workers. Secondly, the Treaties grant considerable discretion to the EU legislature (the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament) to place restrictions on access to such benefits provided that the legislation facilitates free movement more generally (which the relevant Directive would continue to do), the restrictions are based on objective criteria and are not disproportionate to the objectives they pursue.

b) “If their child is living abroad, then there should be no child benefit or child tax credit at all no matter how long they have worked in the UK and no matter how much tax they have paid.”

Depending on what is sought this could be achieved under domestic law or amendments to EU legislation but if the objective is a hard and fast residence requirement this could be achieved via amendments to EU legislation rather than Treaty change.

2. Tighter restrictions on EU jobseekers

David Cameron mentioned two proposed reforms:

a) “We want EU jobseekers to have a job offer before they come here and to stop UK taxpayers having to support them if they don't.”

This depends on exactly what is proposed. If he meant that any EU citizen must have a job offer before they can come into the UK, this would certainly require Treaty change.

However, read in combination with the pledge to “stop UK taxpayers having to support them”, the proposal is better interpreted as suggesting that no social benefits will be granted to jobseekers. EU law already establishes that jobseekers are not entitled to social assistance and therefore such a reform would not require changes to EU legislation.

b) “We also want to restrict the time that jobseekers can legally stay in this country. So if an EU jobseeker has not found work within six months, they will be required to leave.”

In principle, the UK can already do this under its domestic law. EU law only grants a right of residence for more than three months to those who are employed, self-employed, and economically self-sufficient as well as their family members.

However, the ECJ has ruled that individuals cannot be expelled as long as they “can provide evidence that they are continuing to seek employment and that they have a genuine chance of being engaged”. While the onus is on the individual to prove this, clarifying what this condition means could be achieved by amending EU legislation. A hard and fast six month deadline would likely require Treaty change.

3. Abuse of free movement

David Cameron mentioned two proposed reforms:

a) “stronger powers to deport criminals and stop them coming back…and tougher and longer re-entry bans for all those who abuse free movement including beggars, rough sleepers, fraudsters and people who collude in sham marriages.”

Those deported at the time of conviction can be refused re-entry under existing EU law. Indeed, the German government has said it will use its domestic law to impose re-entry bans of five years for those who commit benefit fraud. The potential difficulty is for those EU citizens with family in the UK, who may be able to appeal deportation under the rights to family life guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

In the case of significant criminal offences where the individual has served a long prison term, the deportation may be several years after the offence, and it is open to the individual to argue that they are a reformed character. This poses difficulties as the individual threat to public policy must be a present threat. Albeit this requirement is currently imposed by an EU Directive, we believe that, if the provision were repealed, there is a strong chance that the ECJ would reinstate it as a Treaty requirement.

b) “We must also deal with the extraordinary situation where it's easier for an EU citizen to bring a non-EU spouse to Britain, than it is for a British citizen to do the same. At the moment, if a British citizen wants to bring, say, a South American partner to the UK, then we ask for proof that they meet an income threshold and can speak English. But EU law means we cannot apply these tests to EU migrants.”

This would likely require Treaty change: There are a number of judgments where the ECJ has stated that refusing to grant a non-EU national family member residence would violate the Treaty because it would discourage the EU citizen from exercising their rights to free movement.

Alternatively, it would be possible for new EU legislation to harmonise requirements on family reunification between EU citizens and non-EU nationals, so that the latter could only join the EU citizen in another member state if they meet certain requirements. However, this would entail harmonisation in an area (non-EU migration) where successive UK Governments have sought to limit the EU’s influence. Concern to prevent marriages to citizens from other member states being used as a vehicle for marriages of convenience can be addressed through tightening up existing EU legislation.

4. Tighter restrictions on migration from new EU member states

David Cameron proposed:

“So we will insist that when new countries are admitted to the EU in the future, free movement will not apply to those new members until their economies have converged much more closely with existing Member States.”

The UK could use its existing veto over new countries joining the EU to insist on these terms.




40 days and 40 nights of Jean-Claude Juncker

Posted by on 10/12/14
By Andrew Duff Juncker’s first forty days of his five year mandate have been anything but uneventful. But Juncker and his team will need lots of good luck to avoid real trouble ahead.

Prepare for the second wave of digital transformation

Posted by on 09/12/14

By John Higgins, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE

A second wave of digital transformation is coming.  The first one revolutionized the way we order information and spans technological advances from the advent of the mainframe computer to the arrival of Internet search. This second wave will reinvent how we make things and solve problems. Broadly it can be summed up in two words: Big Data.

The expression ‘Big Data’ is used to describe the ability to collect very large quantities of data from a growing number of devices connected through the Internet.

Thanks to vast storage capacity and easy access to supercomputing power – both often provided in the cloud – and rapid progress in analytical capabilities, massive datasets can be stored, combined and analysed.

In the next five years Big Data will help make breakthroughs in medical research in the fight against terminal illnesses. Per capita energy consumption will decline sharply thanks to smart metering – another application of Big Data.  Traffic jams will be rarer, managing extreme weather conditions will become more science, less guesswork. Makers of consumer goods of all kinds will be able to reduce waste by tailoring production to actual demand.

This new ‘data economy’ will be fertile ground that will allow many new European SMEs to flourish.

Broad adoption of such Big Data applications can only happen if the data is allowed to flow freely, and if it can be gathered, shared and analyzed by trusted sources. Size definitely does matter. The bigger the dataset, the more insights we can glean from it, so it’s important that the data can flow as widely as possible.

Some elements of Big Data might involve personal data. People need to be confident these are protected by laws and agreements (such as  safe harbour). All actors in the data economy must work hard to ensure that data is as secure as possible against theft and fraud.

The European Commission has taken an important first step in outlining possible elements of an EU action plan for advancing towards the data-driven economy and addressing Europe’s future societal challenges.

To complement this initiative DIGITALEUROPE has drafted a paper (click here to check it out) outlining what we see as the policy focus in relation to Big Data. We have identified eight priorities:

•    Adopt a harmonised, risk-based and modern EU framework for personal data protection that creates trust while at the same time enabling societally beneficial innovations in the data economy

•    Encourage the protection of Big Data applications from cyber-attacks, focusing regulatory efforts on truly critical infrastructures

  • Support the development of global, voluntary, market-driven and technology-neutral standards to ensure interoperability of datasets

•    Clarify the application of EU copyright rules so to facilitate text and data mining

•    Boost the deployment of Open Data by transposing the Public Sector Information Directive into national law by June 2015 at the latest (EU Member States)

•    Create trust in cross-border data flows by supporting the implementation of the Trusted Cloud Europe recommendations

•    Continue addressing the data skills gap by supporting initiatives like the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs

•    Continue encouraging private investment in broadband infrastructure and HPC technologies with public funding

DIGITALEUROPE is ready to engage constructively with the European Commission, Parliament and Council to help them formulate a European action plan for the data economy.

It is essential to get this policy framework right., but it is also important to move fast. While Europe is preparing the ground for widespread adoption of the new digital age, the rest of the world is not standing still.

Click here to check our DIGITALEUROPE position paper: Making Europe fit for the Data Economy article

 

Le commissaire Avramopoulos tient sa parole

Posted by on 09/12/14

Le commissaire Avramopoulos poursuit le dialogue régulier et étroit avec la commission parlementaire liberté sécurité et justice du Parlement Européen, faisant le point sur les activités menées jusqu’à maintenant et les projets pour l’avenir. Voici le contenu des débats du 3 décembre 2014.

Actuellement, la Commission Européenne est engagée dans un processus de réunions importantes pour fixer le programme du travail futur, notamment en matière de migration, affaires intérieures et citoyenneté. La stratégie définitive sera communiquée prochainement dans le dossier « programme de travail de la Commission ». Cependant, des résultats politiques ont été déjà atteints, grâce aux échanges fructueux et constructifs avec la Présidence italienne du Conseil, comme le confirment les Conclusions JAI du mois d’octobre (Voir en savoir plus). Ces dernières présentent un tableau des priorités communes : migration légale, lutte contre les entrées irrégulières, coopération avec les pays tiers, lutte contre la traite et le trafic d’êtres humains, mise en œuvre du système européen commun d’asile, respect des droits fondamentaux, surtout à l’égard des plus vulnérables.

Néanmoins, la Commission a joué un rôle proactif au-delà de Bruxelles, à l’occasion des conférences à différents niveaux des mois derniers : la Fundamental Rights Conference 2014, exclusivement dédiée à la migration vers l’UE, organisée par l’Agence de l’UE pour les Droits Fondamentaux (FRA), le 10 et 11 novembre 2014 ; les processus de Khartoum et de Rabat, qui a donné jour aux déclarations de Rome du 27 et 28 novembre 2014 ; et le Forum à haut-niveau politique sur la migration de Paris, le 1 et 2 décembre 2014. Un contexte très favorable à la promotion de l’approche européenne holistique, globale, intégrée et cohérente, humaine et humanitaire.

Migration et coopération au développement.

‘Comment pouvons-nous nous féliciter des dialogues à Khartoum, pays qui a fait l’objet d’une saisine de la Cour Pénale Internationale ? Quel signe donne l’Union Européenne? À quoi sert dialoguer avec ces pays corrompus, eux-mêmes aux racines de la criminalité organisée ?’ a lancé de façon un peu provocatoire , Mme. Vergiat, députée de la GUE, soutenue par Ana Gomes, S&D, et Judith Sargentini, des Verts. Les gouvernements européens sont eux-mêmes impliqués dans les réseaux de criminalité organisée, comment pouvons-nous faire confiance aux homologues africains, où il y a encore moins de garanties?

Le commissaire Avramopoulos, par contre, confirme son plein soutien aux résultats des discussions euro-africaines de la semaine passée. ‘Il faut se concentrer sur le fond des dialogues,’ dit-il, ‘les partenaires africains et les gouvernements européens ont démontré la volonté politique à coopérer : cela est déjà un bon résultat ’ ; et il ajoute ‘nous seront très attentifs aux critères à respecter, car des fonds ont été investis’.

D’ailleurs, l’approche holistique entrepris par la Commission trouve le soutien de la coordinatrice PPE Roberta Metsola : ‘La migration,’ d’après elle, ‘est une question qu’il faut aborder par une stratégie globale, notamment vers la Libye, pays à l’origine des drames de la Méditerranée.’ Et elle ajoute : ‘Il y a des réseaux criminels qui exploitent les personnes vulnérables, il faut les démanteler.’

Avramopoulos confirme : le programme pour 2015 est cohérent à cette ligne politique, et met fin aux interprétations divergentes et fragmentées des années précédentes.

L’immigration légale.

La création des voie légales et sures vers l’Europe est un des piliers de la nouvelle Commission Juncker, cheval de bataille d’Avramopoulos. Il rappelle : ‘Il faut garder à l’esprit que les gens viennent pour d’autres raisons que la criminalité : premièrement pour rejoindre leur famille, mais aussi grâce à des visa humanitaires. De surcroit, une large partie, a des compétences qui peuvent contribuer à la croissance de l’Union.’ Par conséquence, le Commissaire à la migration a insisté sur la nécessité de renforcer les liens entre migrants et marché de l’emploi, ‘premier pas vers leur intégration dans la société.’ A ce propos, affirme-t-il, ‘il faut travailler avec les entreprises et les syndicats, incluant les parties du Sud, même si les dialogues seront difficiles.’

Par ailleurs, d’après le Commissaire Avramopoulos, au niveau européen, à présent, il faut agir à partir des instruments législatifs en vigueur. Premièrement, il faut mettre en place une politique attrayante et efficace pour l’immigration légale, améliorant le dispositif de la Carte Bleu. De même, la Commission relance la refonte des directives ‘Chercheurs’ et ‘étudiants’. ‘Il s’agit de propositions ambitieuses,’ reconnait Dimitris Avramopoulos, ‘qui, par conséquence, nécessitent le ferme soutien du Parlement tout au long des négociations.’ Toutefois, Judith Sargentini (Verts) pointe le doigt sur l’insuffisance des propositions avancées : ‘C’est le moment de se pencher sur le travail non rémunéreéet moins qualifié, où le migrants subissent constamment des abus.’

Frontex et respect des droits fondamentaux.

‘Il n’y aura pas d’Europe forteresse,’ rebondit Dimitris Avramopoulos, en réponse aux inquiétudes des députés à cause de la fin de l’opération Mare Nostrum italien. ‘Triton,’ continue-t-il, ‘est la forme renforcée de ce qu’il y avait avant et, jusqu’à maintenant, il est déjà intervenu dans 27 cas de sauvetage.’

Par ailleurs, à la demande de Fernando Aguilar (S&D), à propos du respect des droits fondamentaux lors des actions opérationnelles aux frontières, il garantit : ‘Nous seront attentifs au respect du règlement Frontex, je suis disponible à une discussion plus approfondie si nécessaire.’

Le Régime Européen d’Asile Commun et le règlement de Dublin.

Kirkhope (ECR) lance de fortes critiques au système actuel : les procédures de traitement des demandes d’asile sont trop divergentes. Les conditions d’accueil diffèrent énormément parmi les pays, au détriment des droits des plus vulnérables.

La coordinatrice de la GUE, accompagnée, plus tard, par la voix de Sylvie Guillaume, de S&D, demande si la Commission a l’intention de garder le système actuel ou prévoit la révision du règlement de Dublin. Cecilia Wikström, coordinatrice ALDE, précise la question en insistant sur le respect de l’article 8 du règlement Dublin, concernant les mineurs non accompagnés, conformément à l’arrêt de la CJUE.

Le Commissaire n’a pas donné une réponse très précise, ni éclatante à l’ensemble de ces questions, alors que le 2 décembre le Régime Européen d’Asile Commun et le règlement de Dublin ont fait l’objet d’un échange bilatéral avec le ministre allemand Thomas de Maizière. Lors de l’entretien de Berlin, tous les deux ont déclaré leur faveur à un système de quota de réfugiés. Comme reporté par la presse européenne, le Commissaire Avramopoulos a reconnu publiquement les dysfonctionnements et les déséquilibres du système de partage, ainsi que les manquements de certains États membres, notamment de l’Italie. (Voir en savoir plus)

La députée Barbara Spinelli (GUE) lance son accusation directe : ‘Des centaines de syriens font grève de la faim au place Syntagma, pour réclamer de meilleures conditions d’accueil en Grèce, qui n’est pas en mesure de garantir leur protection.’ (Voir en savoir plus). Il en va de même pour l’Italie où, en plus, la procédure d’identification des migrants, selon une circulaire interne du gouvernement italien, n’exclue pas le recours à la force, si nécessaire. Le document a été dénoncé par Spinelli, qui a lancé une pétition afin de solliciter la Commission à intervenir. ‘Quelle serait, donc, sa réponse ?’La députée de la GUE demande la mise en oeuvre de la directive protection temporaire de 2001 ? Ou bien la refonte du règlement de Dublin 3 ?

Le Commissaire confirme d’être au courant des évènements récents et admet qu’on est en présence d’un vide juridique. Toutefois, depuis 2010 la Grèce dispose d’un programme d’asile spécifique pour les Syriens ; de même, des sources officielles d’informations, assurent que les réfugiés de place Syntagma ont été dument accueillis. Néanmoins, la question sera abordée à Genève mardi 9 décembre, lors de la conférence interministérielle de l’UNHCR, sur les réfugiés syriens.

Sécurité : dossiers PNR, rétention des données, combattants étrangers et Frontières Intelligentes. Quelles garanties pour la protection des données ?

Au-delà de la question migratoire, le Commissaire a abordé les points clé du programme sécuritaire, à partir du dossier PNR., à son avis le plus urgent. D’après la Commission, l’arrêt de la Cour de Justice à propos des accords PNR EU-Canada n’a aucun impact sur le fond de la directive PNR, même s’il faudra attendre son avis. Il faut, donc, accélérer : ‘L’Union a besoin d’un PNR européen, pour améliorer la sécurité en Europe et lutter contre le terrorisme, tout en garantissant la protection données.’ Avramopoulos, conscient des incertitudes de certains députés, s’est dit prêt à organiser un briefing spécifique pour expliquer en détail la valeur ajouté d’un PNR européen, car ‘il faut agir le plus rapidement possible.’

La coordinatrice PPE, Metsola, soutient son avis: ‘L’arrêt de la CJUE, PNR Canada-UE, n’a pas d’incidence sur le fond des négociations. La directive renforcera la sécurité et le système de contrôle au bénéfice de tous les citoyens.’ Par contre, Cecilia Wikström (ALDE), rejointe par la collègue néerlandaise Sofie in ’t Veld, soulève une question d’actualité qui démontre l’aspect hautement critique du sujet: le Parlement néerlandais a voté contre un projet PNR national. Par conséquent, ‘s’il n’y a pas de soutien par les États, comment peut-on défendre un PNR européen ?’. Une question qui, toutefois, ne trouve pas de réponse.

Par ailleurs, d’autres critiques, notamment avancées par la GUE, s’opposent à la pression faite par le commissaire Avramopoulos, pour avoir une adoption du paquet PNR au plus vite. Ce qui porterait atteinte aux garanties du respect des Droits fondamentaux des citoyens européens.

De sa part, la Commission reconnait qu’il faudra améliorer le système et introduire des changements pour mieux préserver les Droits fondamentaux, entre autres celui à l’information. Il faudra aussi prévoir un Agent à la protection des données et le personnel devra recevoir une formation aux Droits fondamentaux. En ce moment, les négociations avancent entre Commission et Conseil ; en même temps, le Parlement est encouragé à proposer ses amendements, afin de s’accorder sur une proposition plus solide.

Cependant, ‘il ne faut pas retarder le travail,’ car il y a des évolutions qui sont en cours dans les États membres, il faut rester attentif. Le commissaire Avramopoulos insiste : ‘Une différenciation interne entre les législations nationales offre moins de garanties à l’égard des Droits fondamentaux des citoyens ; il est important, donc, que l’Union intervienne en harmonisant le système.’ Birgit Sippel, coordinatrice du S&D, confirme ce risque : ‘Il n’est pas admissible que des systèmes nationaux différents permettent des déséquilibres dans les garanties, notamment en matière de protection des données. Il faut plus de clarté en ce domaine.’

À ce propos, le commissaire a annoncé une réunion qui aura lieu en Janvier 2015, entre les experts des PNR nationaux, incluant les représentants des défenseurs des Droits liés à la protection des données. Néanmoins, le commissaire recommande la prudence : ‘Il faut prendre des décisions réalistes qui tiennent compte de la volonté législative.’

Une autre question abordée pendant les échanges des vues entre le Commissaire et les eurodéputés LIBE, a porté sur la rétention des données, fondamentale dans la lutte contre le terrorisme et la cybercriminalité, ainsi qu’en matière de télécommunication. Le Commissaire a affirmé : ‘Il faudra garantir la protection des données et le bon fonctionnement du marché intérieur. A ce propos, l’arrêt de la Cour de Justice inspirera la marche à suivre.’

La Commission s’est aussi penchée sur la problématique des ‘combattant étrangers’. D’après les déclarations d’Avramopoulos, elle envisage une surveillance plus attentive par les garde-frontières, des mesures d’intervention rapide menées par les Etats membre, notamment grâce à l’accès au Schengen Information System (SIS). En outre, l’échange d’informations entre agences et autorités, européennes et nationales, permettra d’accélérer l’activation des mécanismes d’alerte.

Enfin, avec l’accord du Parlement Européen, la Commission retirera le paquet ‘Frontières intelligentes’ du 2013. Une nouvelle proposition est envisagée entre la fin du 2015, début 2016, afin d’améliorer la relation coût-avantages. Elle sera formulée en coopération étroite entre les institutions européennes, et notamment avec les deux rapporteurs en charge du dossier, Tanja Fajon et Agustín Diaz de Mera. Un Trilogue est prévu dans les jours à venir et les députés seront tenus au courant des pourparlers, avant le Coreper, par le Commissaire. Après le lancement de l’initiative, il y aura une deuxième phase, où la Commission et le Conseil travailleront en coopération avec les autorités de protection des données.

A ce propos, Tania Fejon demande plus de clarté quant aux changements qui seront apporté sà la proposition précédente : ‘Dans quelle mesure l’Union a besoin d’un système de frontières intelligentes, alors qu’il comporte des coûts considérables? Seront-ils ’proportionnels aux objectifs envisagés? Quelles autorités auront accès aux données?’

Citoyenneté. Des réponses très vagues.

Au-delà du portefeuille du Commissaire, les députés n’oublient pas ses compétences en matière de citoyenneté : ‘Quel sera l’avenir de l’Initiative citoyenne européenne, alors que le Rapport Timmermans fait référence à une réponse politique ? Quel est l’avis du Commissaire, à la lumière des discours de Cameron sur l’immigration intra-UE ?’, demandent-ils de concert.

Le Commissaire, par contre, reste très vague : ‘Les États membres n’ont pas encore exprimé leur position conjointe sur la migration intra-UE.’ D’ailleurs, il n’est pas en mesure de répondre sur le futur de l’initiative citoyenneté européenne, même s’il promet une coopération étroite avec le commissaire Timmermans, chef de file pour ce dossier . Enfin, il manifeste sa disponibilité à dialoguer de manière constructive avec le premier ministre britannique.

En conclusion, les députés ont confirmé leur intérêt et sensibilité aux questions migratoires et sécuritaires, élevant leur voix au nom des Droits fondamentaux.

Elena Sbarai

En savoir plus

- .EU-Logos, Conseil de l’Union Européenne Justice et Affaires Intérieures : premier test d’engagement et de solidarité des Etats Membres. Quels sont les résultats ? 17 Octobre 2014 europe-liberte-securite-justice.org

-. EU-Logos, Le Processus de Khartoum est lancé : de grandes ambitions pour la migration! Ne seront-elles que des promesses en l’air?, du 5 décembre 2014http://europe-liberte-securite-justice.org

-. EU-Logos, Immigration Europe-Afrique : un tournant politique ! 4ème Conférence Interministérielle Euro-Africaine sur la migration et le développement. 2 décembre 2014 http://europe-liberte-securite-justice.org

-. Libération, ‘Grèce: des Syriens campent devant le Parlement pour de meilleurs conditions d’accueil’, AFP du 23 Novembre 2014 http://www.liberation.fr

-. EurActiv, La Commission va proposer aux Etats membres de répartir les migrants par quotas FR http://www.euractiv.fr EN http://www.euractiv.com

-. EU-Logos, Les accords PNR entre l’UE et le Canada continuent à poser problème au sein du Parlement Européen divisé, 18 novembre 2014 http://europe-liberte-securite-justice.org

-. EU-Logos, Editorial: Initiative Citoyenne Européenne (ICE) en question? un gadget voué à l’échec? 11 juin 2014 http://europe-liberte-securite-justice.org

 


Classé dans:DIGNITE HUMAINE, Droit à la liberté et à la sûreté, DROITS FONDAMENTAUX, IMMIGRATION, Lutte contre la criminalit_é, Politique d'intégration, Protection des données personnelles

TTIP’s ‘Mission:Transparency’

Posted by on 08/12/14

Don’t- air your dirty cloths publically: TTIP, mission transparency

 

It took roughly more than a year and 7 rounds of negotiations to persuade the Institutions that it had mainly been the lack of transparency the magnet of the harsh critics to the whole TTIP affair.

So far, the answer was to declassify the negotiation mandate, which has been allowed the European Commission (EC) to discuss terms and range of TTIP clauses since its inception 17th June 2013. Yet, the text was online earlier than the official decision operated by the Council to undisclosed the mandate the last October, due to the relentless work of leaking made by the Green MEPs Giegold, Harms and Keller (1). An open secret, some may argue, but the path ahead is still windy before leading to a text being in the practice more transparent, balanced, fair and able to encompass civil society. Allotted as priority, both in the 10-points grocery-list styled Junkers’ plan as for the Italian presidency, the TTIP has been depicted under countless lights. Its main achievements are thought to be the augment the load of trade and investment between the EU and the US freeing the potential of the entente in terms of growth, setting of new global standards and access to market.

Broadly speaking, the audience was already well acquainted with the objectives expressed in the 17-pages long document declassified in early October 2014. The mission “transparency” has still to be accomplished. Commissioner Cecilia Malmstöm seemed to be on the right track since her appointment to the post showing the commitment of the new Commission to translate into real actions the intention to unveil the mysticism lingering over the Treaty (2). During the works of the Plenary she set a sort of 4-steps roadmap to nail the transparency aim pointing first the need to empower and include all the MEPs properly into the debate. At present, documents are funnelled through the Parliament Commission for International Trade –INTA– by the EC to be handed only in lectures room for the MPEs non-member of the abovementioned committee. De facto, the EC shall communicate to the EP the same information it shares with the Council according to the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty and the Framework Agreement between the EC and EP, included confidential documents. A second step in direction of more transparency for the forthcoming phases of the on-going negotiations echoes these legal background disposals. Namely, to publically issue the texts of the negotiations already shared with the EP and the Member States.

In the ultimate attempt to make the EU decision-making process more open and uncurbed from the red-tape bridles, Ms Malmström has suggested equally to reduce the number of documents classified as “restricted”, as third step. Eventually, the forth and conclusive phase would be to commute into a healthy and stable practice to diffuse a public list of documents related to the TTIP before and after the next coming round of negotiations.

A significant voice in this whole affair belongs to MPE Lange –S&D, Germany – serving as Chairperson of the INTA committee for the 8th Parliamentary term. In the wake of the plenary session held in Strasbourg on the 25th of November he clearly stated that the EP may deliberate properly on the TTIP only if appropriately informed on the issue, reason why he underlined as well the unrelenting involvement of the MEPs in monitoring the negotiations phases.

At its early stage, the EP eagerly backed the opening of the negotiations, expressing the demand to cooperate with the other European Institutions and handle with care the tricky points at stake, such as the introduction of genetically modified organisms – GMOs – or other goods perceived as toxic into the EU’s market, and so on. The watchdog role of the EP has been till now hindered, in the practice, as long as its Members do not have full access to document, either the power to impact on the setting of the agenda and of the priorities of the debate. Cutting the EP out of the debate on the scope and range of the TTIP negotiations, it downgrades the role of the MEPs by squeezing it between the “yes, if” and “no, unless”. Noticeably, the prominent level of talks and the willingness to set global standards will produce side-effects on third Countries economies (3), implement future negotiations practices, divert significant bulk of goods and investment flows featuring actual world economic exchange and also, impact on the dialogue within the family-like structure of the European Institutions. Being part of the same chain, these elements amplify the perception that a certain level of discretion is reasonable to avoid hampering the outcome of the TTIP, but the EU must not be at the mercy of the US mediators, who push for more secrecy of the negotiations.

What ended on under the spotlight catching the critics for the poor transparency of the affair are i.e. the vagueness of the mandate wording, besides the biased composition of the panel of experts called to express their advices as for the limited number of NGOs and Trade Union having access to the information. The withheld information appears to be more disruptive and irritating than if they were restricted for the purpose of the negotiation.

The hope is that the crave to set new practices will also inject the transparency serum in all the agreement negotiated by EC on the behalf of the Member States and EU institutions, whatever it takes, except for lowering the existing ones in terms of quality.

In the past, the two Transatlantic partners worked to seize the deregulation of the market and actively promote the practice of deregulation, but the opposition of the so-called World South and the hyper-activism of the globalised civil society blocked partially the goal to be scored. The TTIP itself, being a sort of spin-off of reviving that dream, needs to be declined under the most pressing issues animating the public opinion, namely seek after a holistic approach trying to clinch together low politics and economics above of egoistic particular interests.

 

The EU and its dynamic civil society, they are such stuff as the “dream” is made on…

 

Why transparency? Of course, it is a logic assumption that everyone would benefit from more information so not to be afraid to be on the brink of taking a leap into the unknown or mere subjects of greater powers. If something is missed or hidden, automatically the whole packet of issues included in the negotiation turns to be suspicious and more exposed to critics.

Within the civil society ranks, the academics, professionals and highly-educated individuals led the wave of protests leveraging and raising awareness on the potential threats for individuals’ everyday lives. Meanwhile, the message from those involved in the negotiations is vague and does not persuade entirely with the pros that an embedded FTA regime between the UE and US may bring about. Statisticians’ remark noted that graduates and academic personnel are the most engaged and aware of the TTIP affair, or at least those able to draw up eminent conclusions – negotiators apart, obviously. Snatching defeat from this alleged jaw of victory called TTIP, these actors claim dark clouds over the field of culture, education, environment and all the other prime-class public services which the EU public is used to.

The lack of transparency undermines one of the cornerstones of EU mission, properly citizens’ control and influence on the decision-making process, shaping the policies that –may– affect them.

A civil society’s victory or simply the effect of the change of balance occurred within the “Eurobubble” with the new commissions’ elections and the midterm elections within the “Beltway” with the new majority at the Congress.

Accordingly to Commissioner Malmström, the TTIP is the most transparent agreement being negotiated by the EC by now. But, as mentioned beforehand, it needs to be more transparent and democratic in its practices, since the head over heels engaged civil society in Europe just cannot get enough of transparency when health, welfare and jobs are at stake. Thanks to their campaigns against the TTIP and petitions, civil society’s involvement has attempted to avoid leaving a blank check in the US negotiators’ hands. Mainly, international trade is no longer perceived as an exclusive domain for businessmen and negotiators since the scope of negotiations has broadened from the mere exchange of goods, services and regulations. Indeed under the GATT, the first wave of FTA included only tariff reduction for trade in goods not covering copyright or state-investors’ dispute settlement (ISDS). Besides, the globalisation and technologic progress has allowed the information society to wear the cloths of protestors as well as contributors, coming up with new ideas and suggestions. Moreover, the EU building gave instruments to its civil society to access to the information, to build up opinion and strengthen the bottom-up communication with the institutions (4). Under this lens, a significant actor in the TTIP – civil society relation has been played by Ms Emily O’Reilly, European Ombudsman in office, who received questions and channelled those to the involved institutions. After her investigation opened in July, she addressed the EC with her conclusions asking to publish documents requested by the public, establish a register of TTIP documents and to make public the list of stakeholders’ working with the EC to fix points of the TTIP. Further, she invited the business groups to disclose non-confidential versions of the documents submitted to the EC (5). Civil society may be empowered and understand procedures affecting directly their everyday life, so far to lead a real solid debate trigging their reactions and reactivate a bottom-up dialogue that in this TTIP-affair seems to be getting looser and looser every day. It was since 1999 during the protests in Seattle against the WTO that the world had not experienced such a massive mobilisation, dislocated in the main EU cities and online, against a trade and investment agreement. A precedent in the EU history of massive involvement peaked on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – ACTA – in 2012. Rejected by the EP also for the lack of transparency that had marked the negotiations, the discussion on the ACTA lead forward a more structured and concrete reflection on background aspects related to trade and investment agreements. This time, apparently, the ACTA case set a precedent and has been a lesson learnt in time giving the EC belated decision to declassify some documents on the TTIP. Bearing in mind the enormous bulk of affairs TTIP – related, but not limited, to economic sphere, the rejection of this latter may trigger a boomerang effect on the Transatlantic relations (6). By the time, the mobilisation of the pro and cons parts has shown a more deeply concerned civil society than the involved parts regarding the effects of the partnership. Is a more “smoke than fire” affair?

 

(Anita Nappo)

 

 Further suggested readings:


Classé dans:Actualités, BREVES, Droit à l'information, DROITS FONDAMENTAUX

Russia is a strategic ally of the EU

Posted by on 08/12/14

It is only about commerce or energy, Ukraine or Georgia, or even the perception of Putin’s authoritative leadership by the Westerners that are lately put under scrutiny. To the contrary, it is something more than that that has kept Western Europe-Russia ties so close all along the previous centuries. And these are the historical and political ties, the joint alliance and fights against the common threats. From the mid-19th century onwards Western Europe has developed a strong relationship with Saint Petersburg against the Ottoman expansion in the Balkans and the Nazis in Germany. The Cold War came to imbalance this relationship, but even after that the new era in Russia and the post-communist steps helped towards overcoming these burdens and distrust first appeared in the 1960s. And the story goes on.

Different centres of influence, different interests

The problem with the current conditions of this partnership with reference to the economic sanctions lies on the fact that many political leaders in the European Union have missed to invest time to learn and understand how the Russians work and behave. The cultural and political heritage of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and now Russia is built around the notion of dominium nourished over the centuries. Driven from the daily life, the education, the cultural and political tradition, the religion, and the relationship with the other ethnic groups, Russians have developed different lenses from those of the Westerners, Europeans or Americans. The history and development of Europe is in that sense completely different from the Russian one. In this respect, there are many intra-EU groups of member-states that perceive their relationship with Russia from different ways, but not through a single encompassing approach.

The first group consists of the member-states that have religious and historical ties with Russia, such as Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, and the Baltic States. Within this group, we have an additional scaling that evolves into different levels of Russian influence in terms of soft power. Greece and Russia build more on historical and religious tradition, Bulgaria and Russia on the common communist past and the language, the Baltic States and Russia on the cultural exchanges of proximity. We missed to quote Finland in this group -as we should- because it is a more complex story with feelings of animosity and rapprochement shifting over the centuries and developing a literally delicate relationship.

The second group consists of the founding member-states of the European Community, namely France, Germany, Italy, and Benelux. All six had -and still have- strong commercial relations with Russia, but they simply miss to interpret Kremlin’s decision-making in many cases, as for instance in Ukraine (see my analysis here). The reaction of the EU was indeed problematic for another reason: the EU has not developed a mandatory body of decision-making in foreign affairs, even though it has an established, yet with restricted executive powers, portfolio covered by the High Representative in Foreign Affairs. This “gap” makes things even harder while complicating the process of building a unanimous approach in every issue or crisis that comes into surface.

The third group consists of member-states that have no special or advanced relationship with Russia, a fact that lowers their voice and involvement in such circumstances.

Things are simpler than they look like

All member-state groups need to realize that the continuous tension with Russia is detrimental for the EU, and for Russia, but to a lesser extent. Russia asks a simple thing: do not interfere to our politics, whether these might be domestic or regional. This is what we do and this is what we expect from you to do. This is the most important “red line” for the Kremlin and this is exactly the line that the EU has crossed. Doing business with Russia means leaving aside all issues of non-EU concern. And this seems fair, whatever the “democratic reflexes” of EU in the case of Ukraine might be.

From a similar prism, the insistence of the EU in squeezing Russia is going beyond rational choice. Despite the sanctions policy, Russia has come to deal with EU and Ukraine over the provision of natural gas for 2015. Now it is time for the EU to compensate and bring back the Russians in the negotiation table and thaw this nonsense deadlock.

European travel sector slammed by abominable Package Travel legislation

Posted by on 08/12/14
By Christoph Klenner, ETTSA At a time when Europe desperately needs to promote a proper functioning marketplace, European legislators have demonstrated how out of touch they can be with the reality of doing business.

Reforming European corporate income taxation

Posted by on 07/12/14

The recent revelations about complex financial transactions of some 300 major companies profiting from differentials between corporate income tax bases and rates among member states and specific tax deals reducing their tax bill raise questions about the compatibility of national company taxation regimes with an economic and monetary union.

After several fruitless efforts during the past the moment may have come for a leap forward.

Ideally, the EU should introduce an EU-wide corporate income tax for financing the EU budget.

In 2014, the average corporate income tax rate of the 28 member states was 23%, varying between only 10%-15% for Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland and Luxembourg and rates exceeding 30 per in seven member states (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain).

This diversity allows companies to find ways and means for having their profits taxed in low-tax countries like Luxembourg or Ireland and for governments to use low corporate income taxes and specific tax arrangements to allure companies establish their legal headquarters kin their countries, though the bulk of the business may take place in other parts of the EU.

This what Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Cyprus have practised. The approach is perfectly legal, as member states continue to be full masters of their income tax systems. But it constitutes an unfriendly act towards their neighbours whom they deprive of tax revenue of billions of Euro.

The minimum answer to these dubious fiscal practises would be a harmonisation of the corporate tax bases and rates within the EU and full transparency of tax deals with companies.

The most ambitious response would be for the EU to place the corporate income tax under EU jurisdiction, which is the case in federal federal states like USA, Germany and Brazil.

The combined revenues from the corporate income tax in the EU account for 2.6% of GDP, more than twice the amount of EU budget. The simplest way would be for the EU to introduce a corporate income tax with a rate of some 12%, enough to finance EU expenditures.

Member states would be free to maintain a corporate income tax of their own, provided they apply the EU-wide tax base. National tax deals with companies would lose their attractiveness because of lower rates throughout the EU.

This system would greatly simplify the financing of the EU budget, which would be based on the corporate income tax, import duties/levies and penalties.

The opposition to an EU corporate income tax would be immense and come from three quarters: member countries critical of any additional transfer of competences to the EU; those with low-tax regimes and those which may feel better off with the present way of financing the EU budget.

For the EU to survive in the future it will need much more solidarity among member countries. The use of low corporate income tax rates and fiscal manipulations by mostly small and wealthy member states will no longer be tolerated when billions of Euro profits go untaxed because of fiscal paradises in certain parts of the EU.

Europe has to take the courage and  tackle these fiscal anomalies that have far too long escaped a political debate. The best way to do so is for the Commission to produce a white paper on profit taxation in Europe as a first step towards legislative proposals

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 25/11/2014

Why the young are the new poor

Posted by on 04/12/14

Head of PR Chris Rogers highlights a new Joseph Roundtree Foundation report suggesting increasing levels of poverty amongst young people.

To read Chris’ article, please click here.

The Whitehouse Consultancy is one of Europe’s leading public affairs and communications agencies.

6 arguments Cameron can make to help his EU free movement reform

Posted by on 03/12/14
Polish Europe Minister Rafał Trzaskowski's comments on Monday's Newsnight, where he said David Cameron’s plans to stop EU migrants from claiming benefits for the first four years after they arrive in Britain would be a "red line" for Warsaw, were widely cited in the UK media, much like Polish Ambassador Witold Sobkow's response to our initial report which heavily influenced Cameron's immigration speech.

As expected all along, Poland will be the biggest single obstacle to the changes.

Some of the reluctance is understandable. Following Poland's accession into the EU after having spent too long on the wrong side of Europe's historic dividing lines, Poles understandably do not want to accept anything that smacks of 'second class' status within the EU. While many Poles may privately think the proposals are reasonable, they also expect their government to stand up for the interests of Poles abroad, and any Polish government will find this hard to sell domestically, including a Law and Justice-led one (the issue has already lead to interesting discussions within the ECR group).

So how should Cameron deal with this? Here are six arguments he can make:

1. These reforms are the best way to let free movement stand: Cameron defended the principle of free movement in his speech and he did not pledge to impose an 'emergency brake' or quotas despite substantial domestic pressure, as to his credit Trzaskowski recognised. This reform package will allow the UK to stay signed up to free movement rules - a key Polish objective.

2. The UK cannot become a contribution-based system overnight: We hear this argument a lot out of Warsaw: "If the UK is concerned that its welfare model is too open, it can re-design it to bring it into line with those on the continent - tomorrow if it so wished. It can be done unilaterally and has nothing to do with the EU."

There are several problems with this position. Re-organising the UK's entire welfare system would be an absolutely massive undertaking - politically, economically and administratively. It would basically involve re-writing the UK's entire postwar settlement. This may or may not be desirable, but it simply won't happen any time soon, especially as a result of EU pressure. For one, the UK public won't have it.

Cameron could even bat the ball back in Warsaw's court by arguing that "It would be super-easy for you to adopt more ambitious emissions reductions. You just need to replace your dependence on coal with renewable energy, and you're in line with the rest of the EU. It can be done unilaterally and has nothing to do with the EU."

3. The UK shouldn't have to choose between keeping its welfare model and staying in the EU: The logical extension of the argument above is that only a French or Germany style insurance system is compatible with EU membership. Clearly, giving the EU an effective veto over such a sensitive area is not politically sustainable - in addition to being awfully discriminatory against the UK. Changing the rules around in-work benefits on the other hand is a pragmatic way to in effect bring the UK into line with continental systems without challenging the country's entire political order.

4. Poles and other EU migrants in the UK could be worse off under such a system: Ironically, if the UK were to adopt a continental model and scrap in-work benefits and tax credits for low-wage earners entirely, it would hit EU migrants in the UK much harder than the introduction of a temporary qualification period as it would permanently reduce their income. Is this really a more desirable outcome from the perspective of the Polish government and other opponents of Cameron's proposals?

5. Workers on low wages do not contribute significantly to the welfare pot: While the vast majority of EU migrants come to the UK to work and make a positive contribution to the UK economy, as our research showed, workers on low-wages pay very little in income tax and national contributions due to the UK's generous tax free allowance (£10,000 per year and rising) and national insurance contributions threshold (£153 per week). This means that far from funding their own benefits, these workers, especially if they have dependent children, can actually be a net burden on the public purse. Furthermore, despite their misleading name, tax credits in the UK are a cash benefit funded via general public spending and are not correlated to individuals' tax payments.

6. The principle enjoys widespread public support across the EU: The basic principle of establishing a link between contributions and right to access benefits enjoys wide-spread support in other EU member states as the YouGov polling below demonstrates:


Finally, tone is also vital. Cameron made a big mistake by singling out Poles earlier this year leading to the deterioration in relations as revealed in the leaked Wprost tapes, a mistake which he avoided making again in his immigration speech last week. The rules will apply to everyone from the rest of the EU and not one particular group or country. 

Motion de censure au Parlement européen : l’alliance des europhobes fait un flop

Posted by on 01/12/14
By EU-Logos La motion de censure déposée le 18 novembre par les europhobes (dont le Front National et les élus 5 étoiles de Beppe Grillo) au Parlement européen pour faire tomber Jean-Claude Juncker a été rejetée par 461 voix contre 101 et 88 abstentions. Soit un résultat opposé au but initial : le président de la Commission est conforté.

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