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ALDE: Serbia needs to reverse negative trends and restore basic democratic standards

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The Liberal and Democrat Group in the European Parliament today hosted a roundtable on Serbia’s European integration process focusing on the alarming political climate, rule of law and media freedom in the country. One of the guests invited to speak in this event was Dragan Djilas, Co-Founder of Alliance for Serbia and Former Mayor of Belgrade. Vuk Jeremic, leader of the Peoples’ Party, former foreign Minister of Serbia and former President of the UN General Assembly together with Maja Vasic-Nikolic from Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia were also among the speakers.

ALDE MEP, Ivo Vajgl (DeSUS, Slovenia), who took the initiative of this debate, says Serbia needs to find its democratic path, which will eventually lead the country into the European Union.

“Serbia is an important partner of the European Union in the region and will remain so. ALDE have always been supportive of the EU enlargement process and reform efforts implemented by Serbian governments ever since Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic’s short tenure. I strongly believe that Europe won’t be complete and stable until all the countries of the Western Balkans join the Union.

Alarmingly, political developments in the past years have fundamentally undermined Serbia’s chance to become a stable and economically prosperous country due to the increasingly authoritarian approach of its government and a crackdown on the freedom of media and opposition forces. Recent protests in Belgrade and throughout Serbia are an indication that it is high time to put an end to these negative trends. Basic democratic standards and the rule of law must be restored as quickly as possible and duly respected.

I am deeply concerned with negative trends concerning the state of media freedoms, the rule of law and rampant corruption. The first and most important condition for any progress is the implementation of OSCE/ODiHR recommendations so that the next elections will be genuinely free and fair. I am certain that civil society must play a pivotal role in this process.”

ALDE MEP, Jasenko Selimović (Liberalerna, Sweden), who co-hosted today’s debate, added: “EU enlargement is of the utmost importance for the Western Balkans and the EU. Both will benefit considerably from it. Serbia is an important political and economic factor in the region and its reforms, often painful and difficult, are needed in order to secure a European future, stronger rule of law, greater freedom of expression and of the media and enhanced cooperation with the civil society.

I am convinced that Serbia has the will and the courage to take the necessary steps and implement reforms, in order to solve problems and further improve neighbourhood relations, thus continuing its commitment to the EU accession path.”

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EU Politics

EU responses to climate change

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Fighting climate change is a priority for the Parliament. Below you will find details of the solutions the EU and the Parliament are working on.

Limiting global warming: a matter of 2°C increase

Average global temperatures have risen significantly since the industrial revolution and the last decade (2008–2017) was the warmest decade on record. Of the 17 warmest years, 16 have occurred since 2000.

Data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service shows that 2018 was also one of the three warmest years on record for Europe. The majority of evidence indicates that this is due to the rise of greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activity.

The average global temperature is today 0.85°C higher than at the end of the 19th century. Scientists consider an increase of 2°C compared to pre-industrialised levels as a threshold with dangerous and catastrophic consequences for climate and the environment.

This is why the international community agrees that global warming needs to stay well below a 2°C increase.

Why is an EU response important?

According to the European Environment Agency, the EU is the world’s third biggest greenhouse gases emitter after China and the US. The energy sector was responsible for 78% of EU greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. Common mitigation efforts are key as climate change affects all EU countries, even if not in the same way.

The Mediterranean region can expect more heat extremes and less rain, while countries in the continental region face higher risk of river floods and forest fires.

EU efforts are paying off. In 2008, the EU set the target to cut emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels by 2020. It is well on track to reach this goal: in 2015 the level of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU represented a decrease of 22% compared with 1990 levels.

The EU and international climate policy

The EU is a key player in UN climate negotiations. In 2015, it ratified the Paris Agreement, the first universal agreement to combat climate change. Its goal is to mitigate climate change by maintaining the increase in global temperature at 1.5°C compared to pre-industrialised times.

Under the Paris Agreement, the EU committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. It has put several measures in place to reach this target.

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions

The EU has put in place different types of mechanisms depending on the sector.

To cut emissions from power stations and industry, the EU has put into place the first major carbon market. With the Emissions Trading System (ETS), companies have to buy permits to emit CO2, so the less they pollute, the less they pay. This system covers 45% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions.

For other sectors such as construction or agriculture, reductions will be achieved through agreed national emissions targets, which are calculated, based on countries’ gross domestic product per capita.

Regarding road transport, in early 2019, the European Parliament backed legislations to reduce CO2 emissions by 37.5% for new cars, 31% for vans and 30% for new trucks by 2030

The EU also wants to use the CO2 absorption power of forests to fight climate change. In 2017 MEPs voted in favour of a regulation to prevent emissions resulting from deforestation and change of land use.

Addressing the energy challenge

The EU also fights climate change with a new clean energy policy adopted by the Parliament in 2018. The focus is on increasing the share of renewable energy consumed to 32% by 2030 and creating the possibility for people to produce their own green energy.

In addition the EU wants to improve energy efficiency 32.5% by 2030 and adopted legislation on buildings and household appliances.

EU funding for climate

Climate mitigation and adaptation goals are integrated into the EU’s main spending programmes. The EU agreed to make at least 20% of EU expenditure climate-related in 2014-2020, including the €3.4 billion LIFE environment and action programme.

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GDPR one year on: 73% of Europeans have heard of at least one of their rights

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Today, at the occasion of a stock-taking event to mark the first year of application of the EU General Data Protection Regulation, the European Commission is publishing the results of a special Eurobarometer survey on data protection. The results show that Europeans are relatively well aware of the new data protection rules, their rights and the existence of national data protection authorities, to whom they can turn for help when their rights are violated.

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market said: “European citizens have become more aware of their digital rights and this is encouraging news. However, only three in ten Europeans have heard of all their new data rights. For companies, their customers’ trust is hard currency and this trust starts with the customers’ understanding of, and confidence in, privacy settings. Being aware is a precondition to being able to exercise your rights. Both sides can only win from clearer and simpler application of data protection rules.”

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality added: “Helping Europeans regain control over their personal data is one of our biggest priorities. But, of the 60% Europeans who read their privacy statements, only 13% read them fully. This is because the statements are too long or too difficult to understand. I once again urge all online companies to provide privacy statements that are concise, transparent and easily understandable by all users. I also encourage all Europeans to use their data protection rights and to optimise their privacy settings”.

Based on the views of 27,000 Europeans, the Eurobarometer results show that 73% of respondents have heard of at least one of the six tested rights guaranteed by the General Data Protection Regulation. The highest levels of awareness among citizens are recorded for the right to access their own data (65%), the right to correct the data if they are wrong (61%), the right to object to receiving direct marketing (59%) and the right to have their own data deleted (57%).

In addition, 67% of respondents know about the General Data Protection Regulation and 57% of respondents know about their national data protection authorities. The results also show that data protection is a concern, as 62% of respondents are concerned that they do not have complete control over the personal data provided online.

Also today, the European Commission organises an event bringing together national and EU authorities and businesses to mark the first year of implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation, in the presence of Commissioner Jourová.

Next steps

The Commission is launching today an awareness raising campaign to encourage citizens to read privacy statements and to optimise their privacy settings so that they only share the data they are willing to share.

The Commission will also report on the application of General Data Protection Regulation in 2020.

Background

The General Data Protection Regulation is a single set of rules with a common EU approach to the protection of personal data, directly applicable in the Member States. It reinforces trust by putting individuals back in control of their personal data and at the same time guarantees the free flow of personal data between EU Member States. The protection of personal data is a fundamental right in the European Union.

The GDPR has been applicable since 25 May 2018. Since then, nearly all Member States have adapted their national laws in the light of GDPR. The national Data Protection Authorities are in charge of enforcing the new rules and are better coordinating their actions thanks to the new cooperation mechanisms and the European Data Protection Board. They are issuing guidelines on key aspects of the GDPR to support the implementation of the new rules.

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Deepening Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union

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Ahead of the Euro Summit on 21 June 2019, the European Commission today takes stock of the progress made to deepen Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union since the Five Presidents’ Report and calls on Member States to take further concrete steps.

In the four years since the publication of the report, marked progress has been made to strengthen the single currency area and make Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union more robust than ever. Many of the gaps revealed by the post-2007 economic, financial and social crisis have been addressed. Yet, important steps still need to be taken. The single currency and the coordination of economic policy-making are means to an end: more jobs, growth, investment, social fairness and macroeconomic stability for the members of the euro area as well as the EU as a whole. 

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “This Commission has fought hard for the completion of the Economic and Monetary Union: a lot has been achieved but a lot remains to be done. This is about creating jobs, growth and social fairness for our citizens. It is about preserving the stability and resilience of our economies and it is about Europe’s capacity to take its future into its own hands.”

Ahead of the Euro Summit of 21 June, the Commission invites EU leaders:

To reach an agreement on the main features of the Budgetary Instrument for Convergence and Competitiveness with a view to supporting a swift adoption by the European Parliament and the Council. To agree on its size in the context of the Multiannual Financial Framework.

To finalise the changes to the Treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism with a view to a swift ratification by the euro-area Member States, including an operational and effective common backstop, the provision of liquidity in resolution and active and effective precautionary instruments. To preserve a clear delineation of responsibilities between actors and the possibility to adjust the EU Single Rulebook for banks according to the Community method. To integrate the European Stability Mechanism into EU law over time.

To make a renewed effort to complete the Banking Union starting with political negotiations on the European Deposit Insurance Scheme.

To accelerate progress on the Capital Markets Union and step up work to strengthen the international role of the euro.

The Commission also reviews the main progress of recent years beyond the deliverables expected at the Euro Summit of June 2019 and maps out the way forward for the coming years.

Since the Euro Summit of December 2018, discussions have proceeded on the future Budgetary Instrument for Convergence and Competitiveness for the euro area, building on the Commission’s proposal for a Reform Support Programme; a compromise is within reach and should be taken forward with determination.

Discussions have also taken place on the reform of the European Stability Mechanism, in particular to provide for a backstop to the Single Resolution Fund in the form of a credit line. The backstop is expected to serve as a last resort to support effective and credible bank crises management within the Single Resolution Mechanism. It will be repaid via contributions from the European banking sector.

The completion of the Banking Union and Capital Markets Union (CMU) is also essential when it comes to bolstering the resilience and stability of the euro.

Significant progress has been made in further reducing risk in the Banking Union. The Commission’s latest progress report shows that the ratio of non-performing loans for all EU banks continues to decline and is down to 3.3% in the third-quarter of 2018, continuing its downward trajectory towards pre-crisis levels. Looking ahead, it is essential to progress with a common deposit insurance scheme for the euro area.

The CMU will foster further market integration and help ensure that Europe’s capital markets can withstand major internal or external challenges to the stability of the Economic and Monetary Union.

Encouraged by Leaders in December to continue its work on the file, the Commission also takes stock of the ongoing work towards developing the international use of the euro. The euro is twenty years young and is the world’s second currency, which remained strong even at the height of the financial and debt crisis. To understand better how to boost the global use of the euro – and to identify any obstacles to this – the Commission in recent months actively consulted market participants in different sectors (foreign exchange, energy, raw materials, agricultural commodities and transport).

These consultations showed that:

there is broad support for reducing dependence on a single dominant global currency;

the euro is the only currency with all of the necessary attributes that market participants seek to use as an alternative to the US dollar;

the energy sector will remain a key currency driver of use of the euro, with scope to further increase its use, such as in the gas sector;

there is recognition that the EU, through the euro, can reinforce its economic sovereignty and play a more important global role to benefit EU business and consumers.

The Commission, together with the European Central Bank, will continue to work with Member States, market participants and other stakeholders, and calls upon the European Parliament, the Council and all interested parties to support the efforts increase the international role of the euro.

Background

Almost exactly four years ago, President Jean-Claude Juncker, together with the President of the Euro Summit, Donald Tusk, the then-President of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, and the then-President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, published an ambitious plan on how to deepen Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) by latest 2025.

Building on the vision of the Five Presidents’ Report, the Commission followed up with the White Paper on the Future of Europe of March 2017, the thematic Reflection Papers on the Deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union and the Future of EU Finances in May 2017. In December 2017, the Juncker Commission set out a roadmap and adopted a number of concrete proposals with the overall aim of enhancing the unity, efficiency and democratic accountability of Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union by 2025.

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