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European elections: Abuse of data to be penalised

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EU Parliament wants to protect democratic debate in the European elections by introducing financial penalties for EU parties and foundations abusing data in political campaigns.

More than two thirds (67%) of internet users in the EU are concerned that online personal data is used to target the political messages they see, undermining the free and fair competition between all political parties.

The EU has launched several measures to protect our data and is working to make sure that the European elections are not distorted by the misuse of European voters’ personal data.

Ahead of the European elections on 23 – 26 May, MEPs are considering new rules to dissuade and penalise European political parties whose members deliberately infringe data protection to influence the outcome of elections.

Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee approved a report on this on 6 December 2018 and all MEPs will have a chance to vote on it on 12 March.

Sending a very clear message

The MEPs responsible for steering the proposal through Parliament hailed the legislation as an important step forward.

“Especially after the data protection scandal around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, people are more aware of the usage of personal data,” said German EPP member Rainer Wieland, one of the report authors. “This regulation is an important step in restoring citizens’ faith in the EU and democratic participation as a whole.”.

Italian S&D member Mercedes Bresso, one of the other report authors, said: “I don’t think that any party or foundation will risk misusing personal data from European citizens for their own profit. However, it is our responsibility to reinforce the procedures around infringement and sanctions in order to send a very clear message to the very few individuals or groupings that could be tempted to not play by the rules.”

How the new rules would work

National data protection supervisory authorities are in charge of monitoring elections at national level. European political parties organise complementary campaigns at European level including those for the lead candidate, which are also sometimes referrred to with the German term spitzenkandidat.

If a national supervisory authority decides that an infringement has occurred, it would have to notify the Authority for European political parties and foundations, which then decides on the penalty.

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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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Humanitarian Aid: Over €152 million for Africa’s Sahel region

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As countries in the Sahel continue to suffer from armed conflicts, climate change, and a food and nutrition crisis, the EU is providing €152.05 million to bring relief to people in need in the region. Combined with last year’s funding, humanitarian assistance to the Sahel has been supported with over €423 million in EU aid, making the EU a leading donor in the region.

Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis management, said, “The EU’s vital work in the Sahel continues to help the most vulnerable, in one of the poorest and most fragile regions in the world, where humanitarian needs are worryingly on the rise. Our new aid package will provide food assistance, emergency health care, clean water, shelter, protection and education for children. To ensure aid saves lives, it is essential that humanitarian workers have full access to do their job.”

EU funding from this aid package provides humanitarian assistance in the following seven countries: Burkina Faso (€15.7 million), Cameroon (€17.8 million), Chad (€27.2 million), Mali (23.55 million), Mauritania (€11.15 million), Niger (€23.15 million) and Nigeria (€28 million). An additional €5.5 million is allocated to a regional project that fights malnutrition in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.

How EU aid helps:

Food security: Lack of sufficient rainfall, scarce vegetation, and high food prices persist in some areas of the Sahel. EU humanitarian aid continues to go towards giving food assistance, health care and water to vulnerable households, especially in the most critical months of the year in-between harvests, where food reserves are severely depleted.

Healthcare: In a region where nearly 3 million children under the age of five are at risk of severe acute malnutrition, another priority of EU humanitarian support is the prevention and treatment of this life-threatening condition. EU funding also helps awareness-raising about early diagnosis, support to the health system, and the supply of therapeutic foods and essential medicines for undernourished children.

Preparedness: EU support also strengthens communities’ preparedness and quick response in risk-prone areas, especially as concerns food crises, people displacement, natural disasters and epidemics. By linking humanitarian and development support, the EU is also contributing to measures aimed at building long-term community resilience.

Background

The Sahel region is marked by extreme vulnerability and poverty. Regional and inter-community armed conflicts trigger mass displacements of people. Violence makes it impossible for people to access their fields or go to markets. It also disrupts the functioning and access to basic social services. At the same time, a succession of droughts have stifled communities’ ability to recover from food shortages. 4.4 million people in the region are in forced displacement, while 10.45 million people are estimated to be in need of emergency food assistance in 2019. 

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