Friday 19 December 2014

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When people in Brussels look out to the 27 EU countries, they tend to forget that hardly anyone looks back. Polls and election turnouts confirm that for vast parts of the EU population, the national perspective prevails a long time before the European one. What lessons for the European Union to be learnt?

 

“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.

More Romanian EU specialists in Brussels? A first list of urgent priorities

Posted by on 14/12/14
Anchoring European countries in the community structure requires a lot of specialists, active both in Brussels and in the capitals. The European construction has mainly an institutional dimension, but civil society and particularly the business sector are actively involved in recent developments. Experts say there is a very pronounced corporate lobby in Brussels, as well [...]

La présidence italienne fait le bilan de son mandat

Posted by on 14/12/14

La présidence italienne est intervenue à un moment difficile pour l’Europe. Début juillet 2014, la transition de la Commission européenne en voie de renouvellement et la période post-électorale du Parlement européen, accompagnées par la grave montée des eurosceptiques, ont limité la stabilité du contexte institutionnel et politique. Néanmoins, Andrea Orlando, ministre de la justice italien, et Angelino Alfano, ministre des affaires intérieures, présentent un bilan positif à la commission LIBE du Parlement européen, lors de la réunion de jeudi 11 décembre 2014.

 

Part I Justice. Intervention de Andrea Orlando.

Protection des données. Un thème majeur pour les mois à venir .Il s’agit d’engagements généraux, souples et partiels, mais il ne faut pas sous-estimer les résultats déjà atteints en matière de protection des données. Notamment, il fallait trouver une solution au déficit juridique européen qui ne prévoit pas de normes pour le traitement des données dans le secteur public. En même temps, il fallait qu’elles soient flexibles, afin de surmonter les craintes nationales d’un système trop strict.

Autre point décisif a été le chapitre 4 de la même directive, protection des données, concernant les autorités responsables de leur traitement. Sur ce point la présidence est intervenue afin de trouver un point d’équilibre entre le renforcement des garanties à l’égard des individus, et le respect des intérêts des responsables économiques et des administrations privées.

En ce qui concerne le contrôle du respect des normes en cette matière, la présidence italienne a soutenu le principe de ‘one-stop-shop’, qui prévoit une autorité unique de surveillance du traitement des données, de manière à garantir l’efficacité.

Toutefois, comme souligné par Michał Boni (PPE), le représentant de l’Italie en chef au Conseil a été trop optimiste. En effet le système ‘one stop shop’, (« guichet unique »)ne fournisse pas de garanties suffisantes quant à la protection des données des individus. Les Conclusions du dernier Conseil JAI le reconnaissent elles-mêmes : il faudra renforcer la proximité entre les autorités de contrôle et les citoyens. En outre, la solution du compromis est trop complexe, ‘il y aura surement des problèmes au moment de son application’, souligne Boni, reprenant les indications avancées par le Service juridique du Conseil en décembre 2013. Par conséquence, il faut être plus réaliste quant aux dates fixées pour l’accord final, ainsi qu’à la mise en œuvre, une fois qu’il sera conclu de manière définitive.

En réponse, le ministre Orlando reconnait les limites du compromis atteint au Conseil. Néanmoins il tient à mettre l’accent sur le fait que le point de départ des négociations était négatif, car les positions des différents États membres étaient très polarisées. Cela aurait pu provoquer des pas en arrière et, donc, un règlement beaucoup plus lourd pour les entreprises. En revanche, la présidence italienne se félicite d’avoir empêché un blocage complet du dossier.

Un processus a été entamé depuis le début du mandat présidentiel italien, portant sur la coopération administrative entre les forces de police, à travers l’approbation des nouvelles règles communes. Andrea Orlando est honnête : il reste des point de désaccords, mais il tient également à souligner que chaque réunion du Conseil a comporté des avancées, même si ponctuelles. Il est, donc, convaincu que les négociations aboutirons bientôt à un accord global.

Quant aux partenaires outre atlantique, entre l’UE et les Etats-Unis, la présidence italienne s’est engagée pour la création d’un rapprochement des garanties en matière de protection des données, notamment au droit de recours pour ceux qui ne sont pas américains. Toutefois, elle a dû faire face à d’importantes difficultés, à cause des changements d’ interlocuteurs suite aux élections américaines à mi-mandat, maintenant, regrette Mr. Orlando, ‘on a des inconnus’.

Coopération judiciaire pénale. Autre question au cœur de l’action italienne au Conseil : la création du procureur européen (EPPO) avec des pouvoirs de supervision et enquête. A ce propos il y a eu un ‘débat d’orientation’ entre les ministres, qui a abouti aux Conclusions de début décembre. Nombre d’obstacles se sont interposés, et d’autres questions restent ouvertes, mais la présidence italienne, déclare Orlando, a réussi à garder l’idée d’une figure autonome, une entité embryonnaire mais européenne, qui ne doit pas être une simple émanation des procureurs nationaux.

D’ailleurs la question de l’EPPO fera objet d’une proposition nouvelle de la part de la Commission, selon ce qu’atteste le document de la dernière réunion du Conseil. Pour l’instant, les États sont d’accord sur la protection des intérêts financiers de l’Union mais restent réticents quant à d’autres compétences qui lui seraient attribuées. En outre, la base légale choisie prévoit l’unanimité du Conseil, le Parlement, en revanche, sera uniquement consulté. Il lui sera, toutefois, possible devant des obstacles persistants de mettre en place une coopération renforcée entre un group d’au moins 9 EM.

D’autres avancées ont été faites en faveur des droits des suspects et de l’aide juridictionnelle, mais même ici il faudra beaucoup travailler dans l’avenir. Par ailleurs, la députée Ferrara (EDF) demande plus d’éclaircissements quant à la protection des détenus. Sur ce point, rapporte le ministre Orlando, des réunions techniques ont eu lieu, sans malheureusement obtenir aucun succès ; et il admet : ‘ je suis préoccupé, il faut plus d’élan, on risque de revenir en arrière’.

La présidence italienne a aussi insisté pour une formation adéquate des autorités judiciaires, grâce aussi aux échanges entre personnel judiciaire, notamment afin de renforcer la reconnaissance mutuelle des décisions judiciaires.

En ce qui concerne la lutte contre la criminalité, Andrea Orlando considère qu’il faut des nouvelles règles et des priorités. D’après lui, les thèmes fondamentaux sont la criminalité organisée en lien avec la finance et les mafias, ainsi que le saisi de leurs biens et de leur patrimoine.

En ce qui concerne les combattants étrangers, selon le ministre italien de la justice, il s’agit d’un thème compliqué qui nécessite des réponses plus adéquates, incluant le système de sécurité de l’ONU et réservant une attention particulière au respect des Droits fondamentaux. Néanmoins, rappelle Orlando, le domaine de la justice couvre seulement les aspects de prévention et de sanction. Les ministres de la justice, donc, sont intervenus, car ceux des affaires intérieures avaient relevé des lacunes qu’empêchaient une action prompte et efficace sur le phénomène.

Malgré l’absence de changements législatifs en matière de lutte contre la criminalité, déclare Andrea Orlando, il y a eu une prise de conscience collective certaine et la création d’un langage commun. Lors de la réflexion, la question a été plutôt de savoir comment agir en commun de manière légitime, afin d’éliminer les écarts juridiques où les criminels peuvent s’introduire à leur avantage.

D’autres questions ont été abordées pendant le mandat présidentiel italien, notamment en matière de coopération judiciaire civile. Un accord a été conclu à propos des procédures d’insolvabilité et un autre portant sur les régimes patrimoniaux des couples mariées et des partenariats enregistrés.

D’autres sujets difficiles ont été abordés comme la Directive égalité de traitement et le quota des femmes dans les conseils d’administration.

Concernant la Directive égalité de traitement, la présidence italienne a exprimé sa combattivité sur ce point mais aussi une certaine inquiétude qui devait se vérifier lors du Conseil emploi et affaires sociales. L’échange de vues a certes montré que des avancées ont été réalisées, notamment sous l’impulsion de la présidence italienne, mais un consensus sur ce dossier reste encore éloigné malgré six ans de débats. La proposition de directive relative à la mise en œuvre du principe de « légalité de traitement entre les personnes, sans distinction de religion ou de conviction, de handicap, d’âge ou d’orientation sexuelle » devient avec le temps comme un squelette dans un placard d’où le présidence italienne a tenté de le sortir, mettant ainsi en valeur malgré elle les énormes difficultés à mener à bon port (jusqu’aux transpositions) un entreprise d’une telle taille.

Concernant le quota de 40% de femmes dans les conseils d’administration des grandes entreprises européennes, la présidence italienne n’a pas réussi à rassembler les délégations autour d’un compromis pourtant très souple ; alors que le Parlement européen a déjà validé le texte.

En conclusion, début juillet 2014, date du début mandat de la présidence italienne, la situation était préoccupante . D’après le ministre italien de la justice Andrea Orlando, ‘cela a été un succès du seul fait d’avoir évité un retour en arrière. Pour cela, on a dû insister sur la collégialité plus que proposer des modifications législatives nationales.’ C’est ici qu’on trouve l’explication des résultats partiels et généraux du Conseil, sous présidence italienne, qui apprête à passer le flambeau à la Lettonie puis au Luxembourg.

Elena Sbarai

 

En savoir plus

 

     -. Data protection: Council supports “one-stop-shop” principle, du 7 October 2013  http://www.consilium.europa.eu

     -. Council meeting JHA, 4-5 December 2014  http://www.consilium.europa.eu

     -. Site official de la présidence italienne au Conseil de l’UE  http://italia2014.eu/it/

     -. EU-Logos, priorités de la présidence italienne dans le domaine de la justice et des affaires intérieures, 28 juillet 2014  http://europe-liberte-securite-justice.org

 


Classé dans:Actualités, BREVES

10 years of decentralized EU competition law enforcement: success or failure?

Posted by on 10/12/14

Notes from the Fourth ACELG Annual Conference (November 14, 2014)

This year’s ACELG conference was dedicated to assessing one of the last decade’s most significant developments in EU competition law, namely the decentralization of its enforcement system. The conference offered unique benchmarks for evaluating the success of this reform by examining its various institutional and constitutional outcomes and their implications on the EU’s and its Member States’ legal orders.

By Or Brook

Ten years ago, Regulation 1/2003 decentralized the enforcement of EU competition law. The Regulation abolished the Commission’s previous monopoly on applying many of the EU competition rules and aimed to share the enforcement activities and responsibilities with the Member States’ national competition authorities (‘NCAs’) and national courts.

The shift from a supranational to a transnational and multiple-layered EU enforcement setting raised significant challenges relating to the new multi-level governance and the national actors’ administrative capacities. Nevertheless, Regulation 1/2003 contains very little guidance in this regard, and allows the Member States to choose the institutional embedding and accountability of their NCAs and national courts.

Against this background, the Fourth Annual ACELG conference offered unique perspectives for evaluating the new enforcement system’s success: while previous assessments primarily compared Regulation 1/2003’s outcomes to the Commission’s goals for decentralization (namely, enhancing the Commission’s possibility to set its enforcement priorities, ensuring effective supervision, and ensuring a uniform and coherent application of the competition rules), the conference offered three alternative institutional and constitutional benchmarks to guide the assessment, as described below.

 

The lack of extraterritorial enforcement of Article 101: an indication of Regulation 1/2003’s failure?

The first benchmark for assessing Regulation 1/2003 was proposed by Prof. Giorgio Monti (European University Institute) who presented his draft article titled “A Plea for ‘Extraterritorial’ Antitrust Enforcement by National Competition Authorities“. Based on the French administrative law distinction, Monti argued that Regulation 1/2003 has not resulted in a true “decentralization” (“décentralisation”) of enforcement in which the NCAs have become independent from the Commission in shaping and applying EU competition law. Rather, the Regulation has given rise to “de-concentration” (“déconcentration”) where the NCAs function as mere extensions of the Commission’s central administration and remain subject to its hierarchical power. Monti supported his claim by demonstrating the lack of a systematic extraterritorial enforcement of Article 101 by NCAs (i.e., NCAs do not pursue infringements whose effects extend beyond their jurisdictions). Monti maintained that since Regulation 1/2003 is intended to stimulate the application of EU competition law across borders, its incremental value under the current “déconcentration” application remains unclear.

Dr. Pieter van Cleynenbreugel (Leiden University) offered some interesting comments on Monti’s presentation. He noted that while Regulation 1/2003 has confirmed the Commission’s central role in the enforcement system, it has not precisely defined the NCAs’ role. Currently, the “National” component of the “National Competition Authorities” represents each Member State’s mandate to shape its NCA’s administrative constitutional framework. Van Cleynenbreugel noted that Monti’s proposal changes this approach by giving the NCAs more substantive discretion; according to Monti’s interpretation, and given that Regulation 1/2003 does not preclude the NCAs from setting their national priorities, each NCA could independently choose to specialize in the enforcement of a specific area of competition law and apply it in an extraterritorial manner across the EU.

The benchmark advocated by Monti and Van Cleynenbreugel for evaluating Regulation 1/2003 indicates that there is still much to be done to transform the NCAs into independent European agencies, which apply EU competition law separately from the Commission. However, the NCAs could achieve this goal be reinterpreting the current rules, without the Commission’s involvement or changes to the Treaties.

 

The indirect effects of decentralization on the NCAs’ institutional frameworks: an indication of Regulation 1/2003’s success?

The second benchmark offered by the conference focused on Regulation 1/2003’s indirect impact on the Member States’ national institutional frameworks. This benchmark was discussed by a roundtable of representatives from the Commission and NCAs, which emphasized that although Regulation 1/2003 has not referred to the capacity of the national actors, it has resulted in significant institutional implications:

Jeroen Capiau (EU Commission, DG Comp) explained that the Commission regards the decentralization as a success. Regulation 1/2003 has increased the competition law enforcement, and the work of the ECN has ensured a high degree of consistency in the Commission’s and the various NCAs’ practices.

Šarūnas Keserauskas (chairman of the Competition Council of Lithuania) and Mariana Tavares (Head of Cabinet of the President, Portuguese Competition Authority) discussed the importance of safeguarding the NCAs’ independence from their national governments. For instance, Keserauskas illustrated that the Lithuanian NCA’s independence has been vital to enforce against competition law infringements by the state, which in fact comprises most of the Lithuanian NCA’s enforcement activities.

Prof. Jacques Steenbergen (President of the Belgian Competition Authority) noted that Regulation 1/2003 was not only important for increasing the magnitude of the competition law enforcement, but also for stimulating a coordination and mutual learning network among NCAs. Unfortunately, no similar network was developed between national courts and judges. In addition, Steenbergen argued that it is unfortunate that the Commission does not provide reasoning for its positive decisions (i.e., decisions finding that no infringement occurred), and that the NCAs are not competent to issue such positive decisions.

This roundtable’s assessment of Regulation 1/2003 demonstrates that the Regulation, albeit indirectly, has promoted the NCAs’ independence and facilitated cooperation among the various NCAs and the Commission.

 

Interactions between competition law and the decentralized enforcement of EU economic regulation by national authorities in other areas: a call for special attention

The third benchmark proposed by the conference relates to the effects of the decentralized enforcement of EU economic regulation by Member States’ authorities in other areas beside competition law. Similarly to the NCAs in competition law, independent national regulatory authorities (NRAs) play a key role in the decentralized enforcement of other EU economic regulations, such as energy and telecommunications. This leads to interesting questions concerning the institutional and constitutional settings of the NRAs and the interactions between the various economic regulations.

Prof. Cosmo Graham (University of Leicester) presented a prominent example of the tension between EU competition law and other sector regulations. Graham examined the UK concurrent powers model, in which EU competition law is enforced by various national sector regulators. Until recently, this system resulted in insufficient competition law enforcement since the sector regulators made little use of their enforcement powers. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act of 2013 was designed to resolve this problem, inter alia, by establishing the Competition and Markets Authority and obliging the sector regulators to consider using competition rules prior to the use of other sector regulations.

Prof. Saskia Lavrijssen (University of Amsterdam) discussed the role of national courts and NRAs in safeguarding the effective legal protection of EU rights. She emphasized that due to the procedural autonomy principle, the manner of awarding such protection varies significantly among different institutions. Lavrijssen examined the case law of the highest administrative court for energy cases in the Netherlands and demonstrated that it has not fully and consistently complied with the effective legal protection requirements.

Winfred Knibbeler (Freshfields, Bruckhaus, Deringer LLP Amsterdam) presented the conflicts between the judgments of the Dutch national courts and the Commission’s recommendations on remedies in the telecommunications sector. He explained that the NRAs may be placed in a problematic position, caught between conflicting national court judgments and the Commission’s recommendations.

The discussion of this third benchmark demonstrated that the decentralized enforcement of other EU economic regulations has created further institutional and constitutional challenges. In particular, the Member States’ procedural autonomy in shaping their NRAs requires special attention to ensure that it does not infringe on the enforcement of EU competition law.

 

Conclusions: the future of the decentralized enforcement of EU competition law

Generally, Regulation 1/2003 is deemed successful when it is evaluated against its original goals: the Regulation has allowed the Commission to concentrate its enforcement efforts on serious violations of competition law, and the NCAs and national courts have arguably enforced the competition rules in a relatively consistent manner.

Yet, the conference showed that the decentralization cannot be assessed only with regard to Regulation 1/2003’s original aims: while the Regulation contains procedural enforcement rules, it has significant constitutional implications on the role of competition law and other sector regulations both in the EU’s and its Member States’ legal orders. In particular, the Regulation has increased the NCAs’ discretionary and policy-making powers and, in turn, has motivated the Member States to ensure the NCAs’ independence.

In light of the above it seems that the next ten years of decentralized enforcement would move the debate from measuring the levels of enforcement and the consistency of application to focusing on the impact and roles of the national actors. As underscored by the conference sessions, this development is particularly thought-provoking as the decentralization has presented the Member States and NCAs with new opportunities for shaping their institutions and the substantive rules of their enforcement systems.

Or Brook is a PhD researcher at the Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance. Her personal page can be accessed here.

 

Was Greece right to call a snap Presidential election?

Posted by on 09/12/14
Open Europe's Raoul Ruparel asks this question over on his Forbes blog, concluding it was probably the correct political choice but that plenty of risks remain in the process. Full post below:
The news out of Greece has been improving slightly in the past few months in a welcome change from the trend of bleak economic and political news out of the struggling Eurozone state. However, the next few months could see the country reverting to trend somewhat.

Eurozone finance ministers agreed yesterday to allow Greece a technical extension of 2 months to its bailout which is due to finish at the end of this year. This is to allow the final quarterly review of the bailout to be completed – a necessary step to ensure the reforms are in place which in turn will allow for release of the final cash payment from the Eurozone.

Following the agreement, the Greek government announced that it will hold the first round of its Presidential election on 17 December, moving it up from February.

Together these announcements have crystallised some long standing economic and political risks for Greece going into the New Year. However, there are some key questions which spawn from these decisions and also some further risks which remain unanswered, I outline them below.


How does the Presidential election work and what is the likely outcome?
  • The President (a largely ceremonial role) is elected by the Greek parliament. In the first or second round the candidate must gain 200 out of 300 votes from MPs. If this is not done then he needs 180 in the third round. If no candidate is found after three rounds, snap general elections are called (these would be around the end of January if they did happen).
  • Currently the New Democracy and Pasok coalition holds 155 seats, while the opposition Syriza party has refused to back a joint candidate (a compromise often used in the past) since it is leading in the polls and wants snap elections.
  • The government today announced former European Commissioner and Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas as its candidate. 
  • There is a chance that the government can gain the 180 seats – many of the smaller parties and independent candidates would lose seats to Syriza in a new election and therefore want to avoid having one. Currently, Greek officials put the chance of success at around 50:50 (not exactly inspiring but better than some had expected previously).
What questions still need to be answered?
  • It remains unclear exactly how the extension of the bailout will play out. It is assumed the two sides will reach an agreement as before, with Greece eventually pushing through tough reforms. This is probable again but not guaranteed – the room for manoeuvre for the government is limited by the threat of elections. There is only so much they can do without harming their vote share further. Furthermore, the coalition partner Pasok is almost wiped out as a political force and therefore is scrambling for some way to boost its presence. This could lead to radical choices with an election looming.
  • There has also been little progress on exactly how Greece will fund itself for next year. The Eurozone has said it is supportive of granting Greece an precautionary credit line – but this is complicated by a number of factors, not least that it is not very precautionary since it seems almost guaranteed that Greece will need to tap it.
  • Furthermore, the involvement of the IMF remains unclear. Greece harbours significant resentment towards the IMF and wants to move away from their funding, even though they are still due to pay out another €9bn in 2015 and 2016. If they stay, they will need guarantees that Greece will be able to fund itself for 12 months, and if they leave their funding stream will need to be replaced.
Was the government right to move up the vote?
  • It is a risky play, but I think it was probably the correct decision (at least from a political perspective). The key reason is that the uncertainty around what comes after the current bailout (which now ends in February) takes some power away from Syriza. The government has proven it can negotiate with the EU/IMF/ECB Troika and has a track record of managing crises. Syriza does not. As we have seen in Greece over the past few years, fear of uncertainty and possible increasing the chance of Grexit once again can be an important factor in peoples’ voting and thinking.
  • Furthermore, the ideal position for Syriza is that a follow on programme would have been negotiated before the vote on the President and potential elections. This would have provided certainty and a platform which Syriza could try to negotiate a new bailout programme and a restructuring of Greece’s debt.
  • One key question which remains unanswered is, what would happen if elections take place and Syriza win? While Syriza claim to support euro membership they want a fundamental change in the way Greece approaches European issues. Notably they want a debt restructuring and a complete overhaul of the programme for reforms and consolidation in Greece which accompanies the bailout (or presumably which would tie into a restructuring). This seems very unlikely to materialise, but it is not clear if they would push for a Greek exit from the euro if their demands are not met or if they would temper their position.
  • All that being said, if this doesn’t pan out, then Greece will face elections early next year, in a climate of serious uncertainty with no clear plan to exit the bailout. Then again, this was always the risk and may always have materialised.
Overall, risks are coalescing in Greece once again. The fundamental questions over how to fund Greece in the medium term (as it economy tries to recover) or how it will continue to deal with incorrect interest rates and a too strong currency have never been answered. The government’s plan to move up the election is a risky one but politically probably the correct option. Ultimately, the next few months will be a bumpy ride for Greece, but the wider Eurozone should not be too affected since it has plenty of buffers in place to deal with such a crisis.

Romanian resources in EU policy: “The 2015-2019 Project”

Posted by on 03/12/14
Anchoring European countries in the community structure requires a lot of specialists, active both in Brussels and in the capitals. The European construction has mainly an institutional dimension, but civil society and particularly the business sector are actively involved in recent developments. Countries that are part of the European Union have understood that European commitment [...]

Clear budget norm for defence necessary

Posted by on 01/12/14

After the Second World War it became clear that several European countries had failed to meet their defence tasks in the years before this war unfolded. In the Netherlands a broad consensus emerged that it was necessary to increase the level of defence spending. In the beginning of the fifties the share of defence in terms of GDP raised from around 4% to almost 5% GDP. However, in the late 1950s this share dropped to 3% GDP. In the thirty years of the Cold War the relative share of defence remained stable around the 3% GDP. After the fall of the Berlin Wall this share dropped sharply. Nowadays, Dutch defence expenditure is scarcely more than 1% GDP (1.1% GDP in 2013). As a consequence Dutch defence is weak, and it remains to be seen whether we can contribute significantly to the necessary fight against the Islamic State (IS) or deliver a reasonable share for a new fast NATO force protecting the eastern border of Europe. And there is no room for other challenges that might occur in the (near) future.
However, except the USA, the Dutch situation of decreasing defence expenditures since the war is no exception. In figure 1 the share of defence expenditure as a percentage of GDP is shown for several NATO states as the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, France, USA and UK.

Figure 1: Defence Expenditure level (% GDP) in NATO countries
[For this figure see http://martenscentre.eu/blog/clear-budge...]

It should be noticed that the defence expenditure share of Germany, Belgium and Spain are somewhat lower than the Netherlands. But also the level of France and UK, which have been important defence-powers, have been decreased significantly. Nevertheless, both countries can still meet the NATO obligation to spend at least 2% GDP on defence. However, this is not case for the Netherlands (and Belgium, Germany and Spain also). For the USA the large shares of Korean-war (13%) and the Cold-War (6%) are already history. Due to the war against terrorism the shares have been raised at the beginning of the 21st century. Nevertheless, the Obama administration changed this policy and the level declined again, though remains well above the NATO norm. Recently, Obama delicately points out the imbalance within NATO. He stressed that Europe should do more to acquire its own safety guarantee. This also in the knowledge that many countries in Europe have further reduced their defence expenditures since the euro crisis.

In the Netherlands, recently, a policy change has been made. In 2015 the defence budget will raise with 100 million euro. However, this is hardly more than the estimated GDP increase of the current expenditure level, so that the Dutch share at most slightly increases. This is of course not sufficient at all. Therefore, I would suggest a clear budget norm for defence for the coming years not only for the Netherlands but for other EU countries as well. Also because the danger is considerable that when the current tension in the world will decrease or there will be a new budgetary crisis our territory protection will be placed at the bottom of the priority list again. In my view, the trend rate of the defence spending should exceed GDP growth significantly because only on this condition the Netherlands (and others) will meet the NATO standard of 2% of GDP in due term. If we really want to give priority to international peace and security, a significant impulse towards defence is necessary and also a clear budget norm to achieve it.

Sarkozy wins back party leadership, but road to French presidential election remains very long

Posted by on 01/12/14
Nicolas Sarkozy took a further step on the road to his political comeback over the weekend, as he won back the leadership of France’s centre-right UMP party. The former French President secured 64.5% of votes in an online survey of UMP members, finishing well ahead of former Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire (29.2%) and outsider Hervé Mariton (6.3%).

Sarkozy was always going to win, but the outcome is most certainly below what he was hoping for. In 2004, he had sailed through the leadership election with over 85% of the vote. Still, he holds again the reins of his “political family” – to use his own words – and has already made at least two interesting announcements:
  • The UMP will change name before the next round of local elections in March 2015. 
  • He will set up a committee of former UMP prime ministers to help him manage the party – although the idea has reportedly not gone down particularly well with François Fillon, one of the former prime ministers supposed to sit on this committee. 
On this blog, we have noted how Sarkozy’s political comeback has the potential to really spice up the French debate over Europe. The former French President has this year repeatedly spoken of returning half of the EU’s powers to national governments. He also wants to scrap the EU’s passport-free Schengen travel area in its current form and replace it with a more selective ‘Schengen II’, which could only be joined by countries adopting the same immigration policies.

Sarkozy’s political strategy looks pretty clear: take a tougher, more ‘realist’ stance on Europe and immigration to stop the UMP losing voters to Marine Le Pen’s Front National. What is far from clear at this stage, though, is whether the new line will draw unanimous support from the rest of Sarkozy’s party.

Another important point to keep in mind is that the victory in Saturday’s party leadership poll does not automatically make Sarkozy the centre-right candidate for the 2017 French presidential election. A separate ‘primary election’ is due in 2016, when Sarkozy is going to face at least one much tougher rival: former French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé.

How that duel will end is anyone’s guess, but recent opinion polls suggest that Juppé would have a better chance of victory in case of an ‘open primary’ – where members of smaller centrist parties can vote alongside with UMP members to elect a single centre-right presidential candidate. Sarkozy has so far spoken in favour of an ‘open primary’, although he looks reluctant to involve the Democratic Movement (MoDem) in the exercise. The centrist party led by François Bayrou actually endorsed François Hollande in the run-off of the 2012 presidential election against Sarkozy, and Bayrou has made no secret of his support for Juppé as the centre-right candidate in 2017.

Finally, Sarkozy remains (directly or indirectly) involved in a series of pending legal cases that may well dog his campaign.

The road to 2017 is still very long. 

l’Union européenne doit agir contre « les renvois à chaud » en Espagne

Posted by on 29/11/14

Très inquiètes des expulsions sommaires et du projet de leur légalisation par le gouvernement espagnol qui autorise les ‘renvois à chaud’ à Ceuta et Melilla, des députés de la commission parlementaire LIBE interrogent la Commission. Lors de la plénière du Parlement Européen du mardi 25 novembre 2014, ils ont fait pression, puisqu’elle réagisse face à la gravité des faits.

Il n’y a rien de nouveau….. Depuis des années les autorités espagnoles à la frontière marocaine, notamment à Ceuta et Melilla, renvoient des centaines des migrants qui fuient leur pays, pas seulement du Maroc, espérant être accueilli en Europe. Oui. L’Europe est prête à les accueillir. A coups de bâtons et avec des pistolets. Une enquête est en cours en Espagne à propos des évènements du 6 février 2014, où ‘au moins 15 migrants ont trouvé la mort au large de Ceuta après avoir été la cible de tirs de balles en caoutchouc et de gaz lacrymogène de la part des gardes civils espagnols’ et 23 personnes ont fait objet d’un retour sommaire.

Nombre d’ONG et d’organisations internationales impliquées et très actives sur le terrain en offrent les preuves incontestables. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles et l’UNHCR, parmi d’autres, dénoncent les expulsions sommaires de migrants et l’usage excessif de la force par les services répressifs espagnols à l’encontre de migrants qui tentent d’entrer en Europe par les villes de Ceuta et Melilla, en Afrique du Nord.

Le gouvernement espagnol reconnaît avoir eu recours à du matériel antiémeutes, mais il justifie les mesures prises contre l’immigration illégale qui menace la sécurité de l’Espagne et de ses citoyens. En conséquence, il considère nécessaire d’intervenir : ‘Il faut faire face aux assauts massifs et empêcher que les migrants franchissent la frontière’.

En conséquence, le ‘Grupo Parlamentario Popular’ a proposé un amendement à la loi sur la Sécurité Publique, qui risque d’être approuvé: “Additional Disposition 10. Special regime for Ceuta and Melilla Foreigners detected on the boundary line of the demarcation of Ceuta and Melilla attempting an unauthorized crossing of the border in a clandestine, flagrant or violent way, shall be rejected in order to prevent their illegal entry into Spain”. (Voir en savoir plus)

Quel réel danger ? Il ne s’agit pas de garder la sécurité intérieure alors que les droits fondamentaux priment au-delà de toute nationalité. Les Conventions internationales parlent claire. La Convention de Genève du 1951, relative au statut des réfugiés, contraint les parties au respect du principe de non refoulement. La Convention Européenne des Droits de l’Homme et les arrêts de la Cour de Justice qui veille et garantie de sa correcte application, oblige tout État partie, dont l’Espagne, à respecter le Droit à la vie, le Droit à un recours effectif. De plus, elle interdit les traitements inhumains et dégradants et toute expulsion massive. De surcroît, la Charte des Droits Fondamentaux de l’Union Européenne, droit fondamental de l’Union autant que les Traités, impose aux États membres le respect du Droit d’asile (article 18) et à la protection contre les expulsions collectives et principe du « non-refoulement » (article 19). La Constitution espagnole, enfin, à l’article 13 (étrangers, asile, expulsion) précise l’ensemble de ces droits sur le plan national. D’autres garanties juridiques sont prévues par la Loi organique 4/2000 à l’article 22 (qui interdit les déclarations sommaires et garantit aux migrants en situation irrégulière le droit à un avocat et à un interprète pendant la procédure d’expulsion, y compris les refus d’entrée, et les expulsions qui ont lieu à la frontière après une entrée irrégulière). Ainsi que par la loi 12/2009, à article 16.1, sur le droit d’asile et à la protection, garantit le droit de toutes les personnes présentes sur le territoire espagnol de demander une protection internationale.

En conclusion, le renvoi automatique et immédiat, tel que prévu par l’amendement en question, empêcherait l’accès effectif à la protection internationale, partant du principe que tout migrant franchissant la frontière soit a priori un clandestin illégal. De surcroit, la disposition légalise les renvois forcés et les violences perpétuées par la police espagnole et marocaine à la frontière, comme dénonce le Commissaire du Conseil de l’Europe pour les Droits de l’Homme, Nils Muižnieks, nous sommes en pleine violation des Droits fondamentaux.

En effet, il n’y a aucune indication quant à la procédure à suivre. Malgré cela, ‘les principes d’opportunité, de nécessité, de congruence et de proportionnalité seront respectés ; les agents seront tenus à faire appel aux services d’assistance sanitaire lorsqu’un clandestin est blessé,’ (ANSA, voir en savoir plus). Toutefois, quelle est la crédibilité à la lumière des rapports et des dénonciations des ONG précités ?

Les députés de la commission LIBE font pression : l’Union doit agir contre les ‘renvois à chaud’ en Espagne!On peut ainsi résumer les questions qui ont été posées à la Commission : ‘Estime-t-elle que ces pratiques sont conformes aussi bien à la lettre qu’à l’esprit du droit de l’Union, y compris de sa charte des droits fondamentaux, et/ou aux valeurs européennes communes? Quelles mesures envisage-t-elle de prendre afin de réagir aux abus qui ont déjà eu lieu et d’éviter que de tels abus ne se reproduisent à l’avenir?’

Lors de la plénière au Parlement, les députés ont relevé les menaces graves et les violations lourdes des lois et des droits fondamentaux, tels que prévus par les conventions internationales, les Traité, les règlements et les directives de l’Union et la Constitution de l’Espagne, elle-même.

Birgit Sippel (S&D) a rappelé que l’ancienne commissaire aux affaires intérieures, Cecilia Malström, avait déjà exprimé de fortes critiques adressées à la loi espagnole qui permettrait l’expulsion immédiate, niant tout droit à la personne concernée. Cecilia Wikström (ALDE) et Ska Keller (Verts) ont souligné que ces pratiques illégales ont déjà lieu depuis longtemps, comme il a été démontré par les photos montrées par Marina Albiol Guzmán (GUE) et par les témoignages lus par la députée Teresa Rodriguez-Rubio (GUE) qui dénonce : ‘Les transferts forcés et les traitements inhumains ont lieu depuis dix ans. Les migrants sont jetés dehors comme des ordures.’

Jordi Sebastià (Verts) invite le commissaire Avramopoulos à se rendre directement à Ceuta et Melilla. Il devra y discuter avec les agents de la ‘coalition des forces de l’ordre espagnol-marocaines’, pour ‘savoir mais surtout pour voir ce qu’elles font.’

Le Parti Populaire espagnol lève sa voix .Son représentant, Agustín Díaz De Mera (PPE) démontre le vrai défi à surmonter. Il s’oppose à ‘l’interprétation partielle et lacunaire d’un projet qui propose une solution.’ D’après lui, l’Espagne respecte le Droit et garantit la protection internationale à tout réfugié. Mais, ‘seulement 1,5% des migrants sont des véritables demandeurs d’asile’, donnant ainsi lui-même la preuve d’une manque d’accès effectif à la protection internationale ! Ernest Urtasun (Verts) le souligne lors du débat : ‘si les personnes sont expulsées automatiquement, il n’est pas possible d’entamer la procédure à laquelle ils ont droit.’

Plus nuancée, même si éloignée du choeur humaniste, la position de Lara Comi (PPE) met plutôt l’accent sur la différence fondamentale entre demandeur d’asile et migrant irrégulier : ‘Il faut une action rapide pour déterminer si les migrants sont des clandestins, et, dans ce cas, ils doivent être renvoyés pour sauvegarder la sécurité nationale et l’ordre public,’ et ajoute, ‘il faut avoir une tolérance zéro contre les clandestins.’

Le droit de l’Union en péril ! D’un tout autre avis, le député Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D): il s’agit d’une ‘discrimination qui dégrade la personne victime mais aussi ceux qui en sont promoteurs’. Et, faisant appel au commissaire Avramopoulos, il lui demande de ‘reprendre le flambeau’ et de s’opposer à ces pratiques qui violent toute forme de Droit, par le biais d’un instrument légale ; c’est un ‘abus qui met à mal le droit européen.’ Sur ce point, Ernest Urtasun (Verts) mais en alerte la Commission qui risque de créer un ‘précédant pour les prochaines violations , grâce au vide juridique où le droit européen ne serait pas d’application.’

La réponse de la Commission. Le commissaire Avramopoulos a remercié d’avoir soulevé la question, car la situation est très grave. La Commission a l’intention de suivre de près la situation et soutien le gouvernement espagnol qui doit faire face aux afflux massifs des migrants. Des discussions ont commencées, il y a 15 jours, avec le premier ministre espagnol et le ministre de l’intérieur. D’après les déclarations du commissaire, ils sont prêts à prendre des engagements. Le dialogue est en cours, afin de connaître quelles procédures seront prévues, ainsi que leurs conséquences sur les migrants. Il faut comprendre en quoi consiste la ‘légalisation du renvoi à chaud’ et les intentions de cet amendement. ‘Toute mesure de surveillance devra être proportionnelle aux objectifs recherchés,’ a affirmé Mr. Avramopoulos, notamment ‘la bonne gestion des frontières extérieures’.

La Commission, en tant que gardienne des Traités, poursuit les dialogues afin d’évaluer s’il y a effectivement des violations des lois et des droits fondamentaux.

Elena Sbarai

En savoir plus :

     -. Question orale du 17 novembre 2014, (FR)  www.europarl.europa.eu ( EN ) www.europarl.europa.eu

     -. Texte originale de l’amendement proposé  www.hrw.org   

     -. Joint Letter on Spain to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, du 30 October 2014 www.hrw.org

     -. ECRE Weekly Bulletin, Spain’s attempt to give legal cover to push back policy in Ceuta and Melilla under fire, October 2014 www.ecre.org

     -. AnsaMed, Immigrazione: governo Spagna modifica legge per rimpatri, 23 Ottobre  www.ansamed.info

 

 


Classé dans:conditions d'accueil des réfugié_s, DROITS FONDAMENTAUX, IMMIGRATION, Protection temporaire en cas d'afflux massif de personnes déplacées

Who leaked the Luxleaks?

Posted by on 28/11/14

Yesterday a Ukrainian television asked me who leaked the Luxleaks. Not that they thought I knew. Their basic question was “Quid prodest”, who benefits from Luxleaks? They had in mind their country, which badly needs a strong Europe, rather than a weak one. The assumption is that by weakening Juncker, Europe is weakened. So who was pulling the strings?

Short question, short answer.

I said two things. First, I have no doubts that the Luxleaks, the famous Luxembourg tax files, were given to journalists by an intelligence service. We journalists are not equipped to get such files ourselves.
Secondly, the respective intelligence service has obviously been tasked to weaken Juncker. And indirectly, to weaken the EU.

I said I could think of two leaders who want to weaken the EU – David Cameron and Vladimir Putin. Cameron was against the appointment of Juncker in the first place, and according to my information, the Luxleaks were given to the journalistic consortium in May. That’s when Juncker won the European elections as “spitzenkandidat”.
Also, now that Luxembourg is under the spotlight, the London City can breathe.
But on the other hand, Luxleaks is now pushing the EU toward tax harmonisation, something London doesn’t want.

Putin too would like to weaken the EU, I said, and didn’t elaborate, as I was speaking to a Ukrainian audience.

Journalists protect their sources. That’s good; our profession is based on this trust. Journalists have also the duty not to be manipulated. Should they have refused to run the files? It’s a tough choice, because the Luxleaks are very valuable material.

Debate: Reunification of two Romanian states

Posted by on 27/11/14

Wednesday 25 November 2014 a debate organized by the Romanian Centre for Studies and Strategies regarding the “reunification of the two Romanian states in the context of the presidential elections in Romania and parliamentary ones in the Republic of Moldova” was held in the Parliament of Romania. Opinion leaders, politicians and analysts from both states participated at the event.
The German analyst Anneli Ute Gabany expressed its optimism regarding the capacity of the newly-elected president of Romania, Klaus Johannis, to enhance the dialog and improve Germany’s perception on the reunification of the two Romanian states.
The general Constantin Degeratu expressed his concern regarding the West lack of reaction to the military aggressions of Russia and his conviction that Moscow would not stop until we gave them a Roland for their Oliver. In addition, he underlined some deficiencies of the alliance such as the weaknesses of Hungary in relation to Russia. Degeratu also stated it might be possible to assist to some provocations after the parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova.
His point of view was also backed by the sociologist Dan Nicu who asserted that the pro-Russian forces in the Republic of Moldova had already proved their incapacity call for people to gather on the streets in the last 25 years. Moreover, from his point of view any violent manifestation that would follow after the elections could only be labeled as artificial and would made with people outside the republic. He also mentioned that tens of Russians citizens had been retained in the last months being considered a threat to the security of the Republic of Moldova as they were thought to attempt to destabilize the country on the Ukrainian model.
George Simion, the leader of the unionist platform Actiunea 2012 asserted that nobody believed in the Europeanism of the governing alliance in the Republic of Moldova. Through their actions they proved their lack of consistency after they had declared one thing in Bruxelles, other thing in Moscow and behaved completely different in Chisinau. George Simion highlighted that some strategic shares (Banca de Economii, International Airport in Chisinau) were sold to some Russian companies. In addition, the authorities of the republic refused to buy cheaper gas from Romania because the distribution network belongs to an external subsidiary of Gazprom.
Nevertheless, the analyst Lulea Marius believes that the elections in Chisinau are externally oriented, and voting for the ruling alliance represents the lesser evil that can maintain the Republic of Moldova on its European pro-Romanian path.
Dinu Plangau the leader of the organization Tinerii Moldovei, actively involved in the census campaign, stated that there will be great surprises at the display of results because in localities where only 2% would declare themselves Romanians in the past, now more than 60% have registered as such. This aspect should determine a change in the foreign policy of Romania and of Republic of Moldova.
The video recording of debate can be watched here:
 https://www.privesc.eu/Arhiva/55225/Conf…

25 years into transformation – what’s next?

Posted by on 26/11/14

A conference commemorating 25 years of Poland’s political transformation was held at the Warsaw School of Economics on November 19th 2014. Interested in what conclusions can be drawn from past events and how these can be used to shape the future, I decided to participate. The programme of the conference was a particular attraction, featuring speeches by such reformers as Leszek Balcerowicz, Jacob Frenkel (Chairman of JPMorgan Chase International) and Stanisław Gomułka, who were advisers to Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s administration 25 years ago, as well as Lajos Bokros, who stood behind Hungary’s reforms, and Oleh Havrylyshyn, a lecturer at the University of Toronto and Ukraine’s former deputy minister of finance. Further stoking my interest, the conference was held under the patronage of President Bronisław Komorowski, rectors of Katowice, Kraków, Poznań and Wrocław Universities of Economics and of the Warsaw School of Economics. In Poland, the economic discourse on evaluating the transformation is dominated by the critics of the shock therapy, whereas other nations tend to regard the achievement with undisguised admiration. Jacob Frenkel summed it up wonderfully, quoting Mark Twain, who – asked how he liked Wagner’s music – said: “it’s better than it sounds.” Lajos Bokros argued that being able to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the transformation, and under official government patronage at that, is an extraordinary privilege few countries that followed Poland on the path to transformation can enjoy. Sadly, Hungary is not among them.

Stanisław Gomułka delivered an interesting lecture in which he matched the lessons of the transformation with Poland’s current challenges of sustaining economic growth. He argued that the biggest threat to maintaining a high growth rate is the middle income trap, which can be avoided by expanding Poland’s innovation capacities. This coincides with my view of the matter, which I have presented on this blog. Professor Gomułka believed that the Czech Republic and Hungary have already fallen into the trap, but Poland may yet avert it. His arguments, which represent a strong message to economic policy makers, were the following:

‘A long-term economic growth rate per capita depends nearly entirely on the rate of qualitative changes, such as technological and institutional innovations as well as employees’ skills. In well developed countries these changes result primarily from the innovativeness of the entire world sector of R&D (research and development) and the national level of education. In less developed countries, that is the group of so-called catching-up countries to which Poland belongs, their own innovative activity is marginal and will be insignificant for yet a number of years , while the access to the latest innovation will continue to be strongly limited. Technological changes in economy within this group depend nearly entirely on the absorption of foreign innovations, primarily those easily accessible. This absorption occurs mainly through the channel of investment activity. In the case of high investment in relation to GDP, technological changes in the catching-up countries, in percentages terms, may be for a certain period of time even several times bigger than in the most developed countries. In Poland, as a result of transformation, the access to the world resources of knowledge and technology of older generations as well as the absorption capacity of the economy have considerably increased. This explains the paradox of a high innovativeness of the Polish economy and a low innovativeness of the Polish R&D. However, with the GDP per capita at a level of 50-70% of the most developed countries, further fast technological progress of a catching-up country is becoming more difficult, as access to technologies of newer generations in necessary. At this level of development the process of catching-up may be stopped. Economists speak about the so-called middle-development trap or middle-income trap. Further progress in gap bridging is possible, but the pace of catching up as a rule becomes slower. This pace may be sustained or the pace of the growth slowdown may be reduced in two ways. One way is to strongly raise the country’s own innovation and absorption capacity, especially directly by companies. The other is to care more about the factors which increase the attractiveness of the country for investors from the most developed countries. These factors include for example a good quality infrastructure, high quality vocational and university education, stable and entrepreneur-friendly legal and financial system, low political and exchange rate risk, low interest rates and low inflation.’ For a complete text, see: http://25yearsoftransformation.pl/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Gomulka_Transformacja_EN.pdf.

In future entries, I will talk about how we can successfully bolster the Polish economy’s capacity for innovation.

 

What EU funded low-carbon energy solutions in Polish regions?

Posted by on 24/11/14

The low-carbon energy ambitions of Polish regions for future EU funding are very diverse with only a few promising cases as an analysis of the Operational Programmes of Polish regions shows.

by Julia Krzyszkowska, cross-posted from the Bankwatch blog

Poland is currently in the final stages of planning how European funds under EU Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020 will be invested. Yet, beyond the national level, also Poland’s 16 regions (voivodeships) are about to conclude negotiations with the European Commission about the final shape of the Regional Operational Programmes (ROPs).

The results will show whether Poland’s regions are on the path to take full advantage of the potential of EU funds’ for the country’s sustainable development – a potential that is not to be underestimated. More than half of the EUR 9 billion that are earmarked for the low-carbon economy in Poland will be allocated and managed by the regional authorities. (For comparison, the total allocations of Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 for Bulgaria is EUR 7.59 billion, for Croatia EUR 8.61 billion.)

Bankwatch and Polish Green Network analysed the final drafts of the ROPs as they were presented to the European Commission. The analysis shows how ambitious (or not) the Polish regions are to invest in a low-carbon economy, in particularly when it comes to renewable energy and energy efficiency in residential buildings.

Report: Recommendations for the last state of programming of EU Regional Funds 2014-2020 for energy projects (pdf)

An important indicator is whether ordinary Polish households will be able to benefit from EU funds, for example through lower energy bills and greater security of energy supply. For smaller, localised investments, such as improving the energy standard in residential buildings or the production of citizen-owned energy from small renewables installations, the decisions made by the regional authorities will be essential.


Map: Allocation of funds for the thematic objective 4 on low-carbon economy as percentage of the total allocation of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – Click image for full size

As the map above shows the level of ambition shown by Polish regions varies significantly.

While Śląskie in the South of Poland plans to spend almost 30 per cent of its European Regional Development Plan funds for low-carbon economy measures, there are many regions who keep the allocations close to the minimum 15 per cent, prescribed by the Polish Partnership Agreement.

While indicating the overall importance placed on the low-carbon economy objective by different regions, the map does not show their spending priorities within this area.

Energy efficiency in residential buildings

Going into more detail, one of the key elements we evaluated [1] was the availability of funding for energy efficiency in housing. The residential housing sector in Poland consumes over 30 per cent of all energy used in the country. The generally very poor energy standard of buildings resembles that of the 1970s in Western Europe and means a huge waste of energy and heat.

These losses could be avoided thanks to investments in deep retrofitting, estimated to result in up to 70 per cent energy savings.

Graph: Funds for energy retrofit of residential buildings (in euros and as a percentage of all ERDF funds in a region)

Looking at the Regional Operational Programmes, the allocations for improving energy efficiency in residential buildings are alarmingly low in relation to the entire amount of funds intended to support a low-carbon economy, and even more so in relation to the total ERDF allocation in a given region (see graph).

According to our analysis, the public sector seems to have priority in the regional spending plans with more than twice as much funds allocated to improving energy efficiency in state and municipality-owned buildings than in residential houses.

Yet, it is especially in residential buildings where energy efficiency measures should get priority funding given that such investments are more difficult to undertake for private households who — in contrast to public institutions — do not have sufficient financial resources or access to subsidies and preferential loans.

Investments in retrofitting multifamily houses could significantly alleviate the financial burden faced by many Polish families and improve their quality of life. Research by the Polish Institute for Sustainable Development and the Warsaw Institute for Economic Studies shows that Polish households spend on average around 15 per cent of their disposable incomes on energy bills. According to another research paper (pdf) on energy poverty in the EU, more than 20 per cent are unable to afford comfortable temperature levels at home during the winter.

What’s next?

Once negotiations with the European Commission are finalised, it will be up to the regions themselves to prepare the more detailed implementation documents that outline exactly who will be able to apply for funding from the EU budget, for what kind of project and on what terms.

Our report “Green Energy for All: Six recommendations for the last stage of programming of EU regional funds 2014-2020 for energy projects” contains some key demands for the last, crucial stage of the EU funds programming, and recommendations on how to make them reality.

These recommendations regard:

  • allowing for deep retrofitting of residential buildings,
  • supporting RES microinstallations and prosumer energy,
  • investing in renewables to improve air quality in Polish cities,
  • financing environmental education and information campaigns,
  • ensuring high biodiversity protection standards in energy-related projects,
  • providing support for community energy and partnerships.

We call on Polish voivodeships to show ambition, go for quality and to invest rather than just spend.


Notes

1. The other elements are prosumer renewable energy, air quality, environmental education, biodiversity protection and communities and partnerships in the energy sector.

UK looking down and out on banker’s bonus cap challenge

Posted by on 23/11/14
It’s a bad start to what looks as if it could be a very challenging day for the UK government with UKIP looking likely to win the by-election in Rochester and Strood.

This morning the European Court of Justice (ECJ) Advocate General Niilo Jaaskinen issued his opinion on the UK’s challenge against the EU’s banker’s bonus cap and it does not make good reading for the UK. Jaaskinen suggested that “all the UK’s pleas should be rejected and that the Court of Justice dismiss the action”. The key points of his reasoning are:
  • The legal basis of the legislation cannot be challenged since remuneration in this sector “impacts directly on the risk profile of financial institutions”, since these operate freely across the EU this can have impacts on markets across the EU.
  • Jaaskinen “accepts that the determination of the level of pay is unquestionably a matter for the Member States”, but since the law is just a stipulation of the ratio and not a direct cap on pay, there is still flexibility to set pay levels.
  • The delegation of power to the European Banking Authority (EBA) is “valid” since it is “merely empowered to elaborate non-binding draft measures” – i.e. create technical standards.
  • There has been sufficient notice of the legislation to allow firms time to adjust to the new rules.
A fairly comprehensive rejection, but there are a few points which we believe have been overlooked or under discussed, laid out below.
  • One of the UK’s main arguments is that this law will result in higher fixed pay which makes remuneration less flexible and raises fixed costs for banks, thereby undermining any attempt to improve financial stability. This issue is not addressed at all in the opinion. Furthermore, while the opinion addresses the issues of remuneration impacting risk and the fact that fixed pay can still vary it does not look at how the two can interact. It is clear that as a result of this fixed pay will increase substantially but there is no question of how this impacts stability. This may be more an economic/financial point but given the issues are discussed separately their interaction should also be examined.
  • The ruling could also have interesting implications for EU jurisdiction when it comes to the rate of pay. Variable pay is very loosely defined. For example, standard overtime paid at double the hourly rate could theoretically fall under EU jurisdiction by the definition used here. This highlights the importance of this ruling as a step into an area which the EU has previously largely steered clear of and the potential precedence it creates. This could develop in many unknown ways in the future.
  • There is no mention of the UK’s claim that this violates international law or is extraterritorial since it applies to all employees of EU banks no matter where they are based. We noted this may not be entirely a legal issue for the ECJ but it deserves some attention. Related to this, it remains unclear whether third countries firms operating in the EU will be forced to institute similar caps if there are to be deemed ‘equivalent’ under rules coming in under MiFID II in 2016.
  • One of the weakest points seems to be on the powers transferred to the EBA. Control over technical standards, particularly here, should not be dismissed lightly. The regulation deals in very broad strokes and leaves significant interpretation for the technical rules – including the exact level of the cap and who it will apply to. This power is being borne out right now with the EBA passing judgement on the way in which the rules are being implemented and whether ‘allowances’ count as variable pay. The EBA retains significant power to judge how the rules are being implemented and adjust the technical standards if it think the spirit of the rule is not being followed.
  • In general, the combination of the ECJ and EBA seem overly focused on the UK (accepted the UK has been pushing the issue as well). But looking at the legislation which Germany has passed on this issue, there are serious questions over how it has implemented the rules. Germany has exempted anyone covered by collective bargaining from all the remuneration requirements of CRD IV, including the bonus cap. This is because collective bargaining is a constitutional right in Germany and cannot be overridden. While it’s not clear how many people this applies to, the principle is concerning and it is a significant exemption. Why this does not merit examination while the use of allowances as a de facto exemption does is not clear.
What happens now?
  • The full ECJ ruling will come early next year and is likely to be in line with the opinion – although the ECJ did previously ignore Jääskinen’s opinion on short selling where to leant towards siding with the UK.
  • The EBA will publish updated guidelines and technical standards in the new year which will incorporate its concerns about allowances. At this point the UK will likely find itself squeezed by both the EBA and ECJ and could face punishment if it is not seen to be implementing the rules properly. The UK could of course refuse, but given the high profile nature of the issue it could escalate the situation. One option for the UK would be to point to other infringements such as the German example above.
  • In terms of the bigger picture, though not a huge issue on its own, this will be another ruling which plays into the hands of those who wish to see the UK exit the EU. It also continues to add to concerns over the role of the ECJ and its ability to be an impartial arbiter, particularly on financial services – an aspect which will likely be crucial if the UK is to remain an EU member both in the short and long term.

Sécurité nationale : un concept flou, insaisissable, fuyant?

Posted by on 23/11/14

Le 27 août 2014 la députée Sophie in’t Veld (ALDE) avait soumis à la Commission la question suivante : ‘Can the Commission clarify its definition of ‘national security’ when applied in relation to adopted or proposed EU legislation as a reason for the application of specific measures and provisions?’. Pour toute réponse José Manuel. Barroso déclarait : ‘Since Article 4 (2) TEU provides that safeguarding national security remains the sole responsibility of each Member State, the Commission, when preparing legislation, carefully scrutinises that the envisaged measures fall within the competence of the Union.’

Toutefois, n’ayant pas respecté les délais obligatoires de réponse prévus par le règlement, la Commission et le Conseil ont été interrogés de nouveau lors de la dernière réunion LIBE.

Mais faisons un pas en arrière..

En effet, il ne s’agit pas d’un caprice parlementaire. La controverse entre sécurité nationale et sécurité intérieure, de l’Union Européenne, fait l’objet de débats depuis longtemps, notamment après l’entrée en vigueur du traité de Lisbonne.

En effet, l’article 4 §2 (TUE), repris par M. Barroso, affirme :

(L’Union) respecte les fonctions essentielles de l’État, notamment celles qui ont pour objet d’assurer son intégrité territoriale, de maintenir l’ordre public et de sauvegarder la sécurité nationale. En particulier, la sécurité nationale reste de la seule responsabilité de chaque État membre.

Le Traité insiste deux fois sur le concept, afin d’exclure complètement toute intervention de l’Union en ce domaine. En outre, l’article 40 impose clairement le respect ‘des procédures et l’étendue respective des attributions des institutions prévues par les traités pour l’exercice des compétences de l’Union’, lors de la mise en oeuvre de la politique de sécurité commune.

Sécurité nationale et sécurité commune semblent, au moins du point de vue formel, couvrir des aspects différents. Toutefois, le Traité n’explique pas très clairement les matières concernées. Le thème est encore davantage ambrouillée à cause de la sensibilité du sujet, qui touche directement la souveraineté nationale de l’État. Enfin, alors que la sécurité nationale relève exclusivement de la compétence étatique, celle commune est partagée entre l’Union et ses membres.

Du point de vue général les matières couvertes par la sécurité commune comprennent la coopération judiciaire et policière, l’application de la loi, la sécurité publique. Mais lorsque l’Union intervient en ce domaine il y a toujours des implications dans la sécurité nationale, à laquelle les actes mêmes font référence.

Le Rapport Borsellino du février 2011, a réfléchi sur les aspects substantiels de ces questions, mettant en évidence les points critiques. À cause de la globalisation, certaines préoccupations liées à la sécurité concernent l’ensemble des États membres de l’Union. Face à ces défis communs, ils ont progressivement transféré des compétences au niveau supranational, comme démontré par la création de plateformes des données (SIS), d’agences opérationnelles (Frontex), ou encore de Codes législatifs (Schengen et Visa). Toutefois, ce passage implique certaines complications : le principe de primauté du droit européen, sur le droit national, ainsi que l’effet direct des règlements ; aux yeux des États, ce sont autant d’éléments perçus comme une mise en danger de leur souveraineté. En plus, la ‘sécurité’ du citoyen est définie de manière très divergente entre les pays. Pour cette raison, les actes législatifs qui visent la sécurité commune, souvent renvoient à celle nationale. Dans la pratique, donc, les termes sont très liés et interdépendants. La confusion le dispute au désordre.

De tout cela il en résulte que les principes de proportionnalité et de subsidiarité sont cruciaux en matière de sécurité. Il est, donc, fondamental de clarifier les deux concepts afin d’éviter tout conflit et toute incertitude législative et judiciaire. Cependant, bien que le Parlement européen ait soulevé la question à plusieurs reprises, ce vide juridique persiste.

Un exemple des implications pratiques qui renforcent la nécessité de plus de précision de la part de l’Union : la protection des données et leur transfert aux tiers. Comme le relève le rapport du Parlement du mars 2014 (voir « pour en savoir plus) sécurité nationale, sécurité intérieure et sécurité de l’Union Européenne sont très liées ; de surcroît, comme l’affirme une récente décision de la Cour de justice (Arrêt du 4 juin 2013 dans l’affaire C-300/11, ZZ contre Secretary of State for the Home Department) : « bien qu’il appartient aux États membres d’arrêter les mesures propres à assurer leur sécurité intérieure et extérieure, le seul fait qu’une décision concerne la sûreté de l’État ne saurait entraîner l’inapplicabilité du droit de l’Union ». En outre, lorsque sécurité nationale et commune sont également concernées, il n’est pas clair qui est responsables des éventuels violations, notamment à l’égard des droits fondamentaux des individus.

Mais revenons maintenant au débat en commission

En réunion de la Commission LIBE Sophie In’t Veld a beaucoup insisté sur la nécessité d’une définition juridique de ‘sécurité nationale’, qui soit propre à l’Union Européenne. Elle s’est dite choquée que la Commission emploie ce terme dans beaucoup de ses propositions, laissant à chaque pays membre la liberté d’en apprécier l’interprétation. D’après elle, il est nécessaire de définir le champ d’application du concept, car d’autres mesures qui concernent la sécurité intérieure de l’Union, comme dans le cas de la protection des frontières externes, reprennent ce terme controversé.

Le président Claude Moraes est intervenu soulignant l’importance de la question qui ‘est loin d’être abstraite’ ; au contraire, elle est ‘un fil rouge dans les débats au sein de la commission LIBE’ qui a besoin d’une clarification précise.

Le représentant de la Commission, interrogé, a repris la réponse de l’ancien Président Barroso, regrettant les retards : ‘Il s’agit d’un terme autonome, inscrit à l’article 4 § 2 du Traité de Lisbonne (TUE)’. Toutefois, d’après la Commission, il ne serait pas possible de donner une définition plus précise, car la compétence de l’Union est limitée en matière de sécurité. L’Union doit respecter la sécurité nationale, qui relève exclusivement de la responsabilité des États. En conséquence, il appartient à la Cour de Justice de l’UE de dégager une interprétation autonome du terme, vu que le Droit de l’Union appartient à un ordre juridique propre. Si la commission LIBE souhaite avoir des réponses plus précises, elle devra poser des questions plus ciblées, visant des cas bien précis et faisant référence à un acte spécifique de droit secondaire.

La réaction de Mme in t’ Veld ne s’est pas fait attendre : ‘Ce débat ne rend pas justice à la portée de la question’, dénonce-t-elle. ‘Souvent la ‘sécurité nationale’ justifie des exceptions au droit européen, il faut connaître ce qu’il prévoit, pour éviter toute mise en danger des droits fondamentaux.’ La députée rappelle qu’il y a des implications concrètes, comme c’est le cas des procédures Safe Harbor pour la protection des données dans les transferts transatlantiques, concernés par le rapport du février 2014 du Parlement sur le programme de surveillance de la NSA (voir en savoir plus).

L’importance du sujet a été soulignée par d’autres députés. Parmi eux, Jan Philipp Albrecht (Verts)a fait remarquer que quand le Parlement doit discuter d’un texte il y a toujours des incertitudes et l’application du concept peut aller très loin, s’il n’est pas encadré.

D’autre part, souligne un autre député, il faut reconnaître les difficultés d’établir une définition univoque : la sécurité nationale est trop liée aux perceptions des menaces concrètes et potentielles, qui varient énormément entre les pays et dans le temps. Néanmoins, la plupart des membres de LIBE sont d’accord : une interprétation ponctuelle du concept augmente les possibilités d’exception. Par conséquence, elle n’est pas suffisante pour garantir le respect des droits fondamentaux des citoyens européens. De même il faut éliminer toute incertitude législative et juridique.

En conclusion, la députée Sophia in’t Veld (ALDE) lance une ferme accusation: ‘la Commission fait des propositions sans savoir de quoi elle parle’ ; en même temps, elle précise, ‘je ne conteste pas le principe mais l’absence d’une définition claire et détaillée.’ Pour l’instant, la commission LIBE envisage de s’adresser au Service Juridique du Parlement afin d’aller jusqu’au au fond de la question.

Il serait donc impossible de définir ce que recouvre le concept de sécurité nationale ? Certainement il faut exclure l’hypothèse d’une rédaction d’une liste exhaustive des cas, mais, d’autre part, une appréciation au cas par cas, selon les actes spécifiques ou par l’intervention de la CJUE, ne résout pas la question essentielle. Il faudrait, plutôt, définir un cadre de compréhension globale, des principes communs, afin d’éviter tout abus de la part des autorités nationales qui mettent en danger les droits fondamentaux et la sécurité juridique au nom de la sécurité. Il en va de l’image de la Commission qui, pour l’instant, semble proposer des lois sans savoir à quoi elle fait référence.

 

Elena Sbarai

 

En savoir plus:

 

-. Working document, Rapport de Rita Borsellino du 14 fevrier 2011 http://www.statewatch.org

-. Rapport de Rita Borsellino sur la Stratégie de Sécurité Intérieure de l’Union européenne, du 24 avril 2012 ((2010)2308 (INI)) FR http://www.europarl.europa.eu EN http://www.europarl.europa.eu

-. Rapport du Parlement européen du 12 mars 2014 sur le programme de surveillance de la NSA, les organismes de surveillance dans divers États membres et les incidences sur les droits fondamentaux des citoyens européens et sur la coopération transatlantique en matière de justice et d’affaires intérieures, (2013/2188(INI)) FR http://www.europarl.europa.eu EN http://www.europarl.europa.eu

 


Classé dans:COOPERATION INTERNATIONALE, DROIT INTERNATIONAL, Questions institutionnelles, Traité de LISBONNE

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