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Commission makes recommendations for the EU’s next strategic agenda 2019-2024

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Ahead of the meeting of EU27 leaders in Sibiu, Romania, on 9 May 2019, the European Commission is today setting out a number of policy recommendations for how Europe can shape its future in an increasingly multipolar and uncertain world.

With the European Parliament elections on 23-26 May 2019 and the change of political leadership of the EU institutions that will follow, the time has come for new policy orientations and new priorities. As both the priorities we set and the way we explain and engage with Europeans will be decisive in strengthening our Union, the Commission is also making suggestions on how to better communicate our collective decisions. Together, these form the Commission’s contribution to the next strategic agenda for 2019-2024.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “The duty of every generation is to change the destinies of Europeans, present and future, for the better. To make good on our enduring promise of peace, progress and prosperity. The challenges we Europeans collectively face are multiplying by the day. For Europe to thrive, the EU’s Member States must act together. I remain convinced that it is only in unity that we will find the strength needed to preserve our European way of life, sustain our planet, and reinforce our global influence.

The Sibiu summit was called for by President Juncker in his 2017 State of the Union address, when he unveiled a roadmap for a more united, stronger and more democratic Union.

A strong track record

In a decade of unabated change and challenge, Europe has shown that it is able to deliver on its promise of peace, prosperity and progress for citizens (see Annex). By summer 2018, the Juncker Commission had tabled all of the legislative proposals it committed to at the start of its mandate and stepped up enforcement of existing rules. In total, the Commission made 471 new legislative proposals and carried over an additional 44 presented by previous Commissions. Of these, 348 proposals have been adopted or agreed by the European Parliament and the Council during the current mandate. Remarkably, in around 90% of the cases, the final compromise was approved by consensus in the Council of Ministers, and thus supported by all 28 Member States. The European Commission is today listing 20 key achievements, as well as 10 key proposals which remain ‘unfinished business’, as they are still pending in Parliament and Council.

The EU’s next strategic agenda

Building on the progress our Union has made in recent years, listening to citizens’ views in nearly 1,600 citizens’ dialogues and in the light of the outcome of the European Parliament election, the EU’s strategic agenda for 2019-2024 is the right moment to address the challenges and opportunities Europe faces today. Future action should, in the Commission’s view, focus on 5 dimensions:

Protective Europe: We should pursue our efforts to build an effective and genuine European Security Union and move towards a genuine European Defence Union to make defence cooperation within the EU the norm rather than the exception. We also need to be more proactive in managing migration. This requires comprehensive action at every level and a genuine EU approach built on the sharing of responsibility and on solidarity between Member States.

Competitive Europe: We need to upgrade, modernise and fully implement the single market in all its aspects. We need to focus research and innovation on the ecological, social and economic transitions and related societal challenges. We need to invest in key European digital capacities and work together to boost Europe-made and human-centric artificial intelligence. We need to continue to foster growth and ensure sustainable prosperity by deepening the Economic and Monetary Union. And we need to continue to support the transformation of the European labour market whilst ensuring its fairness.

Fair Europe: We must continue to deliver on the European Pillar of Social Rights. We also need to work with Member States to achieve social inclusion and equality, including by addressing regional disparities, minorities’ needs, gender issues and the challenge of an ageing population. We need to firmly uphold and promote the shared values on which the European Union is founded, such as the rule of law. We need a fair and modern taxation policy as well as high-quality, affordable and accessible health care and access to quality, energy-efficient affordable housing for all in Europe.

Sustainable Europe: We need to modernise our economy to embrace sustainable consumption and production patterns. We need to reinforce our efforts to fight climate change and reverse environmental degradation. We must transition towards a more resource-efficient circular economy by promoting green growth, bioeconomy and sustainable innovations. And we need to maximise the Energy Union’s potential by addressing major remaining challenges including energy security, energy costs for households and businesses, and the impact on climate change.

Influential Europe: Europe needs to lead in the world through consistent and strong support for a multilateral, rules-based global order, with the United Nations at its core. The EU should also make it a priority to develop strong relations with close neighbours, based on a clear balance of rights and obligations. A strengthened international role of the euro would also increase Europe’s economic and monetary sovereignty.

Both the priorities we set and the way we explain and engage with Europeans will be decisive in making our Union more united, stronger and more democratic. Over the course of its mandate, the EU institutions, and notably the Juncker Commission, have sought to communicate in both a more political and more strategic way. The lessons gleaned from this experience point to it being time to move past the tendency to nationalise success and Europeanise failure and instead better explain jointly our common decisions and policies.

Background

Five years ago, the European Council defined a broad strategic agendafor the Union in times of change. This took further shape in the form of President Jean-Claude Juncker’s 10 political priorities, developed during his electoral campaign and in dialogue with Member States and the European Parliament. The Juncker Commission has since shown a strong track record of delivering on its strategic agenda.

The EU now needs new, ambitious, realistic and focused goals for the next political cycle.

In March 2017, ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, the Commission published its White Paper on the Future of Europe. It outlined five possible scenarios for the EU’s future at 27. This was the starting point for a wide-ranging debate on the future of Europe, which now can inspire the main policy priorities of the next strategic agenda. Having engaged with citizens in nearly 1,600 citizens’ dialogues and citizens’ consultations, the European Commission has today published a report, which confirms that most citizens see Europe as essential to tackling global challenges but expect it to become more efficient and more transparent.

In his 2017 State of the Union address, President Juncker unveiled a roadmap detailing the main steps towards a more united, stronger and more democratic Union. Building on this, national leaders met in Tallinn, Estonia, and agreed on a Leaders’ Agenda – a list of the most pressing issues and challenges for which solutions should be found, ahead of the European elections in 2019.

On 9 May 2019, EU leaders will meet in Sibiu, Romania, and are expected to mark the culmination of this process with a renewed commitment to an EU that delivers on the issues that really matter to people. They will reflect on our Union’s political aspirations and prepare the strategic agenda for the next five years.

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70% of the EU adult population fully vaccinated

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Today, the EU has reached a crucial milestone with 70% of the adult population now fully vaccinated. In total, over 256 million adults in the EU have now received a full vaccine course. Seven weeks ago already, the Commission’s delivery target was met, ahead of time: to provide Member States, by the end of July, with enough vaccine doses to fully vaccinate 70% of the adult EU population.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said:  “The full vaccination of 70% of adults in the EU already in August is a great achievement. The EU’s strategy of moving forward together is paying off and putting Europe at the vanguard of the global fight against COVID-19.  But the pandemic is not over. We need more. I call on everyone who can to get vaccinated. And we need to help the rest of the world vaccinate, too. Europe will continue to support its partners in this effort, in particular the low and middle income countries.”

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said:  “I am very pleased that as of today we have reached our goal to vaccinate 70% of EU adults before the end of the summer. This is a collective achievement of the EU and its Member States that shows what is possible when we work together with solidarity and in coordination. Our efforts to further increase vaccinations across the EU will continue unabated. We will continue to support in particular those Member States that are continuing to face challenges. We need to close the immunity gap and the door for new variants and to do so, vaccinations must win the race over variants.”

Global cooperation and solidarity

The rapid, full vaccination of all targeted populations – in Europe and globally – is key to controlling the impact of the pandemic. The EU has been leading the multilateral response. The EU has exported about half of the vaccines produced in Europe to other countries in the world, as much as it has delivered for its citizens.  Team Europe has contributed close to €3 billion for the COVAX Facility to help secure at least 1.8 billion doses for 92 low and lower middle-income countries. Currently, over 200 million doses have been delivered by COVAX to 138 countries.

In addition, Team Europe aims to share at least 200 million more doses of vaccines secured under the EU’s advance purchase agreements to low and middle-income countries until the end of 2021, in particular through COVAX, as part of the EU sharing efforts

Preparing for new variants

Given the threat of new variants, it is important to continue ensuring the availability of sufficient vaccines, including adapted vaccines, also in the coming years. That is why the Commission signed a new contract with BioNTech-Pfizer on 20 May, which foresees the delivery of 1.8 billion doses of vaccines between the end of the year and 2023. For the same purpose, the Commission has also exercised the option of 150 million doses of the second Moderna contract. Member States have the possibility to resell or donate doses to countries in need outside the EU or through the COVAX Facility, contributing to a global and fair access to vaccines across the world. Other contracts may follow. This is the EU’s common insurance policy against any future waves of COVID-19.

Background

A safe and effective vaccine is our best chance to beat coronavirus and return to our normal lives. The European Commission has been working tirelessly to secure doses of potential vaccines that can be shared with all.

The European Commission has secured up to 4.6 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far and negotiations are underway for additional doses. The Commission is also working with industry to step up vaccine manufacturing capacity.

At the same time, the Commission has started work to tackle new variants, aiming to rapidly develop and produce effective vaccines against these variants on a large scale. The HERA Incubator helps in responding to this threat.

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EU’s defence measures against unfair trade practices remained effective in 2020

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The system for protecting EU businesses from dumped and subsidised imports continued to function well in 2020 thanks to the EU’s robust and innovative ways of using trade defence instruments (TDI), despite the practical challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is part of the European Commission’s new trade strategy, whereby the EU takes a more assertive stance in defending its interests against unfair trade practices.

Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said: “The EU needs effective tools to defend ourselves when we face unfair trade practices. This is a key pillar of our new strategy for an open, sustainable and assertive trade policy. We have continued to use our trade defence instruments effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic, improved their monitoring and enforcement, and tackled new ways of giving subsidies by third countries.  We will not tolerate the misuse of trade defence instruments by our trading partners and we will continue to support our exporters caught up in such cases. It is crucial that our companies and their workers can continue to rely on robust trade defence instruments that protect them against unfair trade practices.”

At the end of 2020, the EU had 150 trade defence measures in force, in line with previous years’ activity levels with an increase in the number of cases lodged towards the end of 2020. In addition, for the first time, the Commission addressed a new type of subsidy given by third countries in the form of cross-border financial support that was a serious challenge for EU companies.

The following are the main trade-defence highlights of 2020:

Continued high level of EU trade defence activity

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission had to swiftly introduce temporary changes to its work practices, especially concerning on-the-spot verification visits. This allowed the Commission to continue applying the instruments at the highest standards without a drop in the levels of activity. At the end of 2020, the 150 trade defence measures that the EU had in place – 10 more than at the end of 2019 – included 128 anti-dumping, 19 anti-subsidy and 3 safeguard measures.

In 2020, the Commission launched:

  • 15 investigations, compared to 16 in 2019, and imposed 17 provisional and definitive measures, compared to 15 in 2019;
  • 28 reviews, compared to 23 the previous year.

The highest number of EU trade defence measures concerns imports from:

  • China (99 measures);
  • Russia (9 measures);
  • India (7 measures);
  • The United States (6 measures).

Tackling new types of subsidies

In 2020, the Commission strengthened its action against subsidies granted by third countries. In particular, the Commission imposed countervailing duties on cross-border financial support given by China to Chinese-owned companies manufacturing glass fibre fabrics and continuous filament glass fibre products based in Egypt for export to the EU.

This means that, for the first time, the Commission addressed cross-border subsidies given by a country to enterprises located in another country for exports to the EU.

Support to, and defence of, EU exporters facing trade defence investigations in export markets

The importance of monitoring trade defence action taken by third countries was again evident in 2020. The number of trade defence measures in force by third countries affecting EU exporters reached its highest level since the Commission started this monitoring activity, with 178 measures in place. In addition, the number of cases initiated also increased in 2020, with 43 compared to 37 the previous year.

The report outlines the Commission’s activities to ensure that WTO rules are correctly applied and procedural errors and legal inconsistencies are addressed in order to avoid any misuse of trade defence instruments by third countries. The Commission’s interventions yielded success in some cases where measures were not ultimately imposed, affecting important EU export products such as ceramic tiles and fertilisers.  

Strong focus on monitoring and enforcement

There was a renewed focus on the monitoring of measures in place in 2020, including changes to surveillance practices to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of the trade defence instruments. This also involved customs authorities, EU industry, and in certain instances, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). Continuing its efforts to address instances where exporters tried to avoid measures, the Commission initiated three anti-circumvention investigations in 2020 and completed five such investigations during the year, where measures were extended in four cases to also address imports from third countries where transhipment was found to have taken place.

The report also recalls the findings of the European Court of Auditors from July 2020, which confirmed the successful enforcement of the EU’s trade defence instruments by the Commission. The report made a number of recommendations to further strengthen the Commission’s response to the challenges posed by unfairly traded imports that the Commission has started to implement in 2020, such as improving monitoring to ensure the effectiveness of measures. 

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Fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea for 2022: improving long-term sustainability of stocks

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The Commission today adopted its proposal for fishing opportunities for 2022 for the Baltic Sea. Based on this proposal, EU countries will determine how much fish can be caught in the sea basin, for what concerns the most important commercial species.

The Commission proposes to increase fishing opportunities for herring in the Gulf of Riga, whilst maintaining the current levels for sprat, plaice and by-catches of eastern cod. The Commission proposes to decrease fishing opportunities for the remaining stocks covered by the proposal, in order to improve the sustainability of those stocks and to help other stocks such as cod and herring recovering.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said: “The poor environmental status of the Baltic Sea is heavily affecting our local fishermen and women, who rely on healthy fish stocks for their livelihoods. This is why the Commission is doing its utmost to restore those stocks, and today’s proposal is a reflection of that ambition. However, the state of the Baltic Sea is not only related to fishing, so everyone must do their part to build the long-term sustainability of this precious sea basin.”

Over the past decade, EU’s fishermen and women, industry and public authorities have made major efforts to rebuild fish stocks in the Baltic Sea. Where complete scientific advice was available, fishing opportunities had already been set in line with the principle of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) for seven out of eight stocks, covering 95% of fish landings in volume. However, in 2019 scientists discovered that the situation was worse than previously estimated. Decisive action is still necessary to restore all stocks and ensure that they grow to or remain at sustainable levels.

The proposed total allowable catches (TACs) are based on the best available peer-reviewed scientific advice from the International Council on the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) and follow the Baltic multiannual management plan adopted in 2016 by the European Parliament and the Council. As regards western Baltic cod, western Baltic herring and salmon, the Commission will update its proposal once the relevant scientific advice will be available (expected by mid-September).

Cod

For eastern Baltic cod, the Commission proposes to maintain the TAC level and all the accompanying measures from the 2021 fishing opportunities. Despite the measures taken since 2019, when scientists first alarmed about the very poor status of the stock, the situation has not yet improved.

For western Baltic cod the scientific advice from the International Council on the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) is postponed to mid-September, and the Commission will update its proposal accordingly. However, since it seems unlikely that the stock has developed favourably, the Commission proposes already now to maintain the spawning closure. It also proposes to maintain all accompanying measures in the eastern part of the catch area, given the predominance of eastern Baltic cod in that area.

Herring

The stock size of western Baltic herring remains below safe biological limits and scientists advise for the fourth year in a row to stop catching western herring. The Commission, therefore, proposes to close the directed fishery and set a TAC limited to unavoidable by-catches, whose level the Commission will propose at a later stage, as ICES is currently not in a position to provide sufficient scientific data.

For central Baltic herring, the Commission proposes a reduction of 54% in line with the ICES advice, because the stock size has dropped very close to the limit below which the stock is not sustainable. In line with the ICES advice, the Commission proposes to decrease the TAC level for herring in the Gulf of Bothnia by 5%, while the situation for Riga herring allows for an increase of the TAC by 21%.

Plaice

While the ICES advice would allow for an increase, the Commission remains cautious, mainly to protect cod – which is an unavoidable by-catch in plaice fisheries as currently conducted. It therefore proposes to maintain the TAC level unchanged.

Sprat

Similarly to plaice, the ICES advice for sprat would allow for an increase. The Commission however advises prudence and proposes to maintain the TAC level unchanged. This is because sprat and herring are caught in mixed fisheries and the TAC for central Baltic herring has to be reduced again significantly. Moreover, sprat is a prey species for cod, which is not in a good condition.

Salmon

ICES has postponed its scientific advice for salmon to mid-September. The Commission will update its proposal accordingly. A special advice from ICES of April 2020 already provides information about the issues affecting these stocks, pointing to the fact  that the MSY objective cannot be achieved for all salmon river stocks if the commercial and recreational mixed-stock sea fisheries are continued at current levels.

Next steps

The Council will examine the Commission’s proposal in view of adopting it during a Ministerial meeting on 11-12 October.

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