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European Parliament approves more transparency and efficiency in its internal rules

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Parliament adopted changes to its internal rules on Thursday to operate more efficiently and in a more transparent way.

The key changes to the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure adopted on Thursday relate to Members’ standards of conduct (including transparency rules and measures to prevent psychological or sexual harassment), parliamentary questions to the Council of Ministers and the European Commission. The amended rulebook was approved by 496 votes to 114, with 33 abstentions.

Increased transparency

The key actors of the legislative process – MEPs steering legislation through parliament, known as rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs and committee chairs – will be required to publish online all scheduled meetings with interest representatives named on the Transparency Register. Other MEPs are nevertheless also encouraged to publish online any meetings they hold with interest representatives. Parliament’s website will have to be technically adapted in order to allow Members to publish information on their use of the General Expenditure Allowance.

Standards of conduct

The new rules provide that Members must refrain from “improper behaviour” (for example from displaying banners at plenary sittings), “offensive language” (for example defamation, ‘hate speech’ or inciting discrimination) and psychological or sexual harassment. Parliament’s Code of Conduct will now be annexed to the Rules of Procedure and MEPs must commit to respect this code in a written declaration. Refusing to sign such a declaration could lead to an MEP being barred from holding a senior office, being appointed as rapporteur or representing the Parliament in a trilogue or an official delegation. A serious breach of these rules by a Member may entail penalties.

European political parties and foundations

According to the treaties, “political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union”. An organisation has to comply with specific conditions to qualify as a European political party or European foundation. According to the new rules, a group of at least 50 citizens can request that the European Parliament asks the Authority for European political parties and foundations to verify whether a given European political party or foundation fulfils these requirements.

The reform also includes measures on parliamentary questions, in particular interpellations to the Council and the European Commission, Committees’ consultations on confidential information, rules on standing Committees, voting on amendments and the rule on parliamentary Intergroups.

“This set of revisions to Parliament’s rulebook continues the step-by-step process of making parliament more effective, efficient and transparent. It has grown out of the first experience of the general revision of the rules adopted in December 2016.” – said the rapporteur Richard Corbett (S&D, UK).

Next steps

The approved changes will enter into force on the first day of the next part-session following their adoption, i.e. on 11 February 2019, except for some provisions referring to the MEPs’ conduct, standing committees, and committee office holders that will enter into force at the opening of the next parliamentary term on 2 July 2019.

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Investment Plan for Europe exceeds €500 billion investment target ahead of time

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The European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group have delivered on their pledge to mobilise €500 billion in investment under the Investment Plan for Europe. Some 1,400 operations have been approved under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), using a budget guarantee from the European Union and own resources from the EIB Group. They are expected to trigger close to €514 billion in additional investment across EU countries and to benefit some 1.4 million small and mid-sized companies. In 2017, when the Council and the Parliament agreed to broaden the EFSI’s scope and size, the goal was to mobilise €500 billion by the end of 2020. The money was intended to address the investment gap left as a result of the 2007/8 financial and economic crisis.

Over the past years and especially after the coronavirus outbreak the focus of the EFSI shifted: it has inspired InvestEU, the Commission’s new investment programme for the years 2021-2027, and already now it contributes to the Corona Response Investment Initiative. EFSI will also play a key role in the NextGenerationEU package of measures to rebuild the European economy after the coronavirus shock. It will do this via a top-up for a Solvency Support Instrument, which aims to prevent insolvencies in European businesses.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: “The Investment Plan for Europe is a success. Over the past five years, it has enabled the financing of hundreds of thousands of businesses and projects, delivering on our ambitions of making Europe more green, innovative and fair. We will continue this through NextGenerationEU.”

European Investment Bank Group President Werner Hoyer said: “EFSI can serve as a blueprint for action during the coronavirus response. Knowing that we exceeded the headline figure of €500 billion of investment ahead of time is proof of the power of partnership. Implementing the financial pillar of the Commission’s Investment Plan for Europe has been an honour and a challenge for the EIB. We lived up to it not least thanks to the excellent cooperation between the Bank and European and national institutions. The success of this initiative shows what Europe can achieve with the right tools: our continent has become more social, green, innovative and competitive. We can and we should build on our experience to overcome the current crisis. It will help us to shape a Europe all of us can be proud of.”

What has the European Fund for Strategic Investments financed?

The EFSI allows the EIB Group to finance operations that are riskier than its average investments. Often, EFSI-backed projects are highly innovative, undertaken by small companies without a credit history, or they pool smaller infrastructure needs by sector and geography. Supporting such projects required the EIB Group to develop new financing products, for example venture debt with equity features or investment platforms. This changed the DNA of the Bank and revolutionised the way Europe finances its priorities.

Importantly, the EFSI also enables the EIB to approve a greater number of projects than would be possible without the EU budget guarantee’s backing, as well as to reach out to new clients: three out of four receiving EFSI backing are new to the bank. This proves the added value of EFSI operations.

Thanks to EFSI support, the EIB and its subsidiary for financing small businesses, the European Investment Fund (EIF), have provided financing for hundreds of thousands of SMEs across a wide range of sectors and in all EU countries. Examples range from sustainable agriculture in Belgium, to innovative medical technology in Spain, to an energy efficiency company in Lithuania.

Economic impact: jobs and growth

The impact of the initiative is sizable. Based on results from December 2019, the EIB’s Economics Department and the Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) estimate that EFSI operations have supported around 1.4 million jobs with the figure set to rise to 1.8 million jobs by 2022 compared to the baseline scenario. In addition, calculations show that the initiative has increased EU GDP by 1.3% and it is set to increase EU GDP by 1.9% by 2022. As of the beginning of this year, 60% of the capital raised came from private resources, meaning that EFSI has also met its objective of mobilising private investment. 

Measured against the size of the economy the biggest impact is in countries that were hard hit by the 2007/8 crisis, i.e. Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. While the direct investment impact is particularly high in those countries, the calculations found that cohesion regions (mostly Eastern European countries) are likely to benefit more from a long-term effect. These calculations correspond with the actual financing activities under EFSI: top countries ranked by EFSI-triggered investment relative to GDP are Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal, Estonia, and Spain.

How has the Investment Plan for Europe benefited citizens?

The EIB’s EFSI report 2019 lists a number of concrete outcomes of the initiative. Thanks to the EFSI:

  • Some 20 million additional households can access high-speed broadband
  • Around 540,000 social and affordable housing units have been built or renovated
  • 22 million Europeans benefit from improved healthcare services
  • Some 400 million passenger trips/year will benefit from new or improved transport infrastructure
  • 13.4 million households were supplied with renewable energy.

Background

The Commission and the EIB Group launched the Investment Plan for Europe in November 2014 to reverse the downward trend of investment and put Europe on the path to economic recovery. Its financial pillar, the European Fund for Strategic Investments, was initially tasked to mobilise €315 billion in additional investment by 2018. Given its success, the European Parliament and Member States agreed to enhance the EFSI and extend the investment target to €500 billion by end 2020.

An independent evaluation of the EFSI published in June 2018 concluded that the EU guarantee is an efficient way of increasing the volume of riskier operations by the EIB, as it uses fewer budgetary resources compared to European grant programmes and financial instruments. It underlines that EIB support is key to EFSI beneficiaries: it provides a “stamp of approval” to the market, thus helping to facilitate future fund-raising. EFSI’s success is based not least on its efficient governance structure, which is responsive to constant changes of the markets. An independent group of experts decides if a project qualifies for backing by the EU guarantee. The goal: de-risking private investment into projects needed for a more sustainable Europe and adding value to what would have happened without public assistance.

In May 2020, the European Commission presented its revised proposal for the successor to the Investment Plan for Europe under the next Multiannual Financial Framework starting in 2021: the InvestEU Programme.

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“Together for Europe’s recovery”: Germany takes over Council presidency

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While the corona pandemic continues, Germany took over the six-month presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 July. We asked German MEPs for their expectations.

The coronavirus represents a significant challenge for the EU and immediate management of the pandemic and recovery are at the heart of the German programme for the presidency.

The aim is to reach a swift agreement on the recovery fund and the EU’s budget 2021-2027. Germany intends to make progress on climate protection, through the European Green Deal, and economic and social digitalisation. With a focus on Africa and relations with China, it also wants Europe to take more global responsibility and strengthen its role in the world. Another priority will be future EU-UK-relations.

German priorities for the presidency 

  • Overcoming Covid-19 pandemic; economic and social recovery 
  • A stronger and more innovative Europe 
  • A fair Europe 
  • A sustainable Europe 
  • A Europe of security and common values 
  • A strong Europe in the world 

We asked German MEPs what they expect from the German presidency.

Daniel Caspary (EPP): “The EU multi-annual budget for 2021-2027 and the recovery fund will determine whether the EU emerges stronger from the corona crisis. The German presidency of the Council and Chancellor Angela Merkel can bring experience and expertise on European issues, a positive sign for the controversial and hard discussions.” Berlin can also provide an “important impulse” for the success of the negotiations on the EU-UK agreement, he said.

Jens Geier (S&D) sees potential for change in the Covid-19 crisis: “The federal government’s strong proposal for a recovery fund is an opportunity to make Europe fairer, more social and sustainable. In line with the European Green Deal, the recovery fund should promote sustainable investments in renewable energy and digitalisation. The fact that regions in need should also receive grants rather than just loans for reconstruction is a major step towards a strong Europe.”

“Europe now needs the courage to rebuild,” said Nicola Beer (Renew Europe): “Germany will be measured, among other things, by whether it can quickly kick-start the economic recovery, relying on innovation and small and medium-sized enterprises.“ On Brexit, she said there was a need ”not to slide into a no-deal scenario”. The EU should also “finally live up to its geopolitical aspirations, externally with a strong common voice for peace, disarmament, human rights and trade, internally by releasing the blockage in asylum and migration policies”.

German interests should not come second, said Jörg Meuthen (ID). “It is already the debt presidency,” he said. Germany should “reduce the EU to its core tasks and the budget to the minimum necessary, prevent EU taxing competence and instead include, as a sign of genuine solidarity, the per capita wealth of member states in the calculation of financial redistribution”.

For Sven Giegold (Greens/EFA), climate protection remains a priority: “The climate crisis is not taking a corona break. The German presidency of the Council must therefore become a climate presidency in corona times. During the German presidency, we need to conclude the negotiations for an EU climate law with improved greenhouse gas reduction targets.”

Helmut Geuking (ECR) hopes that the German presidency of the Council will “finally fulfil the Child Guarantee and launch a European child benefit”. “Only with strong families can a strong and social Europe emerge that can hold its own in the globalised world in the future.”

The presidency could “lay the foundations for a solidarity-based EU,” said Martin Schirdewan (GUE/NGL). “Everyone should contribute their fair share to the social and economic recovery and revival of society. This means the introduction of a digital tax, a comprehensive financial transaction tax and a one-off wealth tax for the super-rich.”

Germany will work closely with Portugal and Slovenia, which take over the presidency on 1 January and 1 July 2021 respectively. This is the 13th time Germany has held the Council presidency. The last time was in 2007.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will present and discuss her country’s programme in the European Parliament in Brussels at the next plenary session on 8 July. You can watch it live on our website.

German ministers will discuss the presidency programme with parliamentary committees at the beginning of July.

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Ursula von der Leyen: Next six months crucial for the EU

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© European Union 2019 – EP

The College of Commissioners met today via videoconference the Government of Germany for the beginning of the German Presidency of the Council of the EU. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that the start of the German Presidency came at a crucial point in time as the next six months would, to a large extent, determine the future of the EU.

“Not only must we overcome the crisis, but rather we want to and we must also continue courageously along the path of modernisation within the European Union”, she said at the press conference following the meeting. “Europe’s most significant challenges before the crisis will remain the same once this crisis is over: climate change, digitalisation, and Europe’s position in the world.”

She reminded of the urgency of the task to forge an agreement on the NextGenerationEU and the long-term EU budget in the European Council, saying it was the crisis that ‘sets the pace’. “Every day we lose, we will be seeing people losing their jobs, companies going bust, and the weakening of our economies.”

In a statement issued earlier today, President von der Leyen invited David Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament, Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, in her capacity as rotating Presidency of the Council, and Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, to a meeting on 8 July to take stock of progress and prepare the intensive political negotiations that lie ahead.

Von der Leyen also noted that the priorities of the German Presidency and the priority projects the Commission adopted were fully aligned – from climate change to digitalisation to resilience. She said the Commission would also be closely working with the German Presidency during the ‘decisive phase’ of the Brexit negotiations, as well as on external relations.

She stressed that the two sides working together can help Europe navigate its way through this crisis with strength and unity, as well as make NextGenerationEU a catalyst for modernisation in Europe.

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