International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Written by Nicole Scholz,

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Each year, 3 December marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The day was proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) in 1992 to promote awareness and mobilise support. The 2016 theme, ‘achieving 17 goals for the future we want‘, highlights the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and their role in creating a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities. Adopted in 2015, the SGDs aim, among other things: to foster good health and well-being; ensure inclusive and quality education; promote employment and decent work; reduce inequalities; and make cities and communities inclusive, safe and sustainable.

The observance of this year’s international day of persons with disabilities coincides with the 10-year anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), a binding international human rights instrument that recognises accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities as fundamental rights.

European Commission conference to celebrate the international day of persons with disabilities

Every year, the Commission holds a conference to mark the international day of persons with disabilities. This year’s edition, on 29-30 November 2016, jointly organised with the European Disability Forum (EDF), will specifically celebrate the 10th anniversary of the CRPD.

What does ‘disability’ mean?

‘Disability’ is an umbrella term that covers impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. ‘Persons with disabilities’ are defined in the CRPD as those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments that, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Cartoon people with disabilities

© Robert Kneschke / Fotolia

Over 1 billion people – about 15% of the world’s population – have some form of disability. More than 100 million disabled persons are children.

Barriers to participation

Barriers that prevent people with disabilities participating in society equally can take a variety of forms. They can be connected to the physical environment, such as inaccessible transport and public buildings; linked with legislation and policy that is either non-existent or hinders the participation of all people; or relate to societal attitudes and discrimination, including stigma.

  • People with disabilities generally have poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.
  • Both adults and children with disabilities are at a much higher risk of violence.
  • Women and girls with disabilities are multiply disadvantaged, experiencing discrimination because of their gender and their disability.

EU action on disability

The European disability strategy (2010-2020) builds on the CRPD. It highlights eight areas for action: accessibility; participation; equality; employment; education and training; social protection; health; and external action. A 2014 Commission staff working document specifies the convention’s implementation by the EU in more detail.

Since 2013, the EU has a framework in place to promote, protect and monitor the implementation of the CRPD in areas falling within EU competence. These include EU legislation and policy (such as non-discrimination and passengers’ rights) and EU public administration (such as personnel selection and access to documents). The EU framework is composed of the European Parliament (EP), the European Ombudsman, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the EDF.

The EP’s role in the EU framework:

  • The EP promotes the rights of persons with disabilities through public debates, hearings, conferences and other events. Moreover, it set up an inter-committee network, chaired by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) and made up of members from various other committees. Its task is to promote both the public debate on disability and the EP’s political role in the implementation of the CPRD, primarily by scrutinising documents for their compliance with the convention.
  • Parliament protects the rights of persons with disabilities through petitions. These are a means for citizens to communicate with the EP and bring any infringement of EU legislation to its attention.
  • The EP monitors the application of EU law through, inter alia, implementation reports, oral questions, studies and implementation assessments.

European Parliament Disability Intergroup

The Disability Intergroup, established in 1980, is an informal grouping of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who are interested in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. Its co-presidents are Ádám Kósa (EPP, Hungary), Helga Stevens (ECR, Belgium) and Pablo Echenique-Robba (GUE/NGL, Spain). The group’s recent activities include a conference on the European Accessibility Act of 8 November 2016, jointly organised with EDF.

Selected EPRS resources on the topic

A new vision for global health, Briefing, 2016

The obligations of the EU public administration under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: European Implementation Assessment, In-depth analysis, 2016

The protection of vulnerable adults, Study, 2016

Vulnerable social groups: Before and after the crisis, Briefing, 2016

Assistive technologies to support people with disabilities, Briefing, 2015

The European Accessibility Act, Plenary at a glance, 2015


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Towards a space-enabled future for Europe

Written by Nera Kuljanic with James Tarlton,

STOA annual lecture on the future of EU space policy

STOA annual lecture on the future of EU space policy

As well as being a symbol of human curiosity, Outer Space is hugely important for technologies that we use every day, such as mobile phones, live TV broadcasting and weather forecasting. The number of space-faring nations and the amount of space commercialisation are increasing, and, as space research and exploration push the boundaries of science and engineering and drive innovation, there is great potential for further advances that could significantly influence our lives.

For these reasons, space was the theme chosen by the STOA (Science and Technology Options Assessment) Panel for its traditional annual lecture, held on 16 November 2016. The event, jointly organised with the European Space Agency (ESA), featured many high-level speakers, including the ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet who left our planet the following day for a 6-month-long mission aboard the International Space Station.

‘Space exploration, with its blend of intellectual challenge, aesthetic appeal and practical applications, is uniquely placed to inspire European citizens and attract young people to pursue careers in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] disciplines’, said Paul Rübig, STOA Chair, who opened the event. Mairead McGuinness, EP Vice-President responsible for STOA, Eva Kaili, First STOA Vice-Chair, as well as STOA Panel members Clare Moody and Georgi Pirinski also featured on the programme.

Common European vision

With all these possibilities, it is important to have a concrete goal and the way to achieve it in mind. The European Commission has recently announced the Space Strategy for Europe, which responds to growing global competition, increasing private sector involvement and major technological shifts in this sector, explained Apostolia Karamali, from the Commission’s DG GROW. ESA is the EU’s partner in working towards using space as an enabler of knowledge, jobs and growth, strengthening security and fostering prosperity –  ‘Space 4.0 for a United Space in Europe’, as described by Jan Woerner, ESA Director General.

Making Space more affordable

A pioneer in the miniaturisation of satellites, Sir Martin Sweeting, from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd and the Surrey Space Centre, focused on ‘micro-satellites’ as a case study of space technology development. These satellites range in size from that of a loaf of bread to that of a pick-up truck, and have been instrumental in enabling small countries and companies to utilise space, due to the relatively low launch cost. Sir Martin noted that this technology has been developed thanks to synergy between academic research and commercial involvement, as well as advances in terrestrial technologies that have been used in the space sector.

Ariane Cornell of Blue Origin presented their work on developing reusable rockets. Traditionally, rockets used to launch satellites and other payloads simply burn up on re-entry to earth. This means that a new rocket needs to be built for each launch, which is one of the main costs of the launch. Blue Origin is developing rockets that return to earth intact, and land without incurring significant damage. They first achieved this feat in 2015 with a sub-orbital rocket that was used five times in total, and they are now working on doing the same with orbital rockets.

Johannes von Thadden of Airbus Defence and Space discussed their work on developing the Ariane 6 rocket, the successor to Ariane 5, the rocket currently used by ESA. Ariane  is planned to have half the cost per kilogram of payload launched into space, again addressing the issue of affordability. Von Thadden also discussed their involvement in providing global wireless internet access via a network of hundreds of micro-satellites, and in developing the first reprogrammable satellite.

What next for space?

The speakers touched on possible opportunities and challenges in the next few years and decades. Sir Martin pointed out that a major limitation in the development of satellites and spacecraft is the need to survive the rigours of launch, and if assembly could take place in orbit then the design requirements would be much less constrained. He also talked about the potential need for space traffic control, as well as debris mitigation, recounting his own experience with space debris causing damage to satellites. He also predicted that space may become dominated by non-state players.

Reinhold Ewald, an ESA astronaut, gave an inspiring message about what is needed for our exploration of space to continue to flourish. He discussed important examples of projects that have taken decades to reach fruition: Rosetta, a spacecraft to investigate what comets are made of; Voyager, a mission to explore what lies inside, but also beyond the solar system; and the International Space Station, which has allowed astronauts to carry out important scientific experiments in zero gravity, for 16 years now. These projects were ‘brought along by stamina, by ambition, and by long planning’. If we are to make further achievements of the same magnitude, then we will need to display these same attributes in the future.

If you missed the event, you can watch it on this link. Click here for the short video interview with the speakers.

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2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF): Mid-term revision [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Alessandro D’Alfonso (1st edition),

A road sign - 2020

© Thomas Reimer / Fotolia

The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) sets the maximum level of resources (‘ceiling’) for each major category of EU spending for the years 2014-2020. Based on the compulsory mid-term review of the MFF, the European Commission proposes to modify the flexibility provisions and special instruments of the MFF Regulation. The aim is to increase the capacity of the EU budget to address unforeseen events and new priorities, against a backdrop of persistent challenges inside and outside the EU. The proposal is part of a broader package that seeks to allocate an extra €6.33 billion to job creation, growth, migration and security challenges, without modifying the MFF ceilings. The Parliament has long pushed for MFF revision. The Council reached broad consensus on a compromise on 15 November, but one Member State was unable to lift its reservation on the text at that point.


Stage: National Parliaments

MFF review proposals – Financial envelopes

MFF review proposals – Financial envelopes


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Copyright in the digital single market [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Tambiama Madiega (1st edition),

copyright symbol on a hand

© natali_mis / Fotolia

On 14 September 2016, the European Commission presented a legislative package for the modernisation of the EU copyright rules, including a new directive on copyright in the digital single market. The proposal aims at further harmonising the EU copyright framework taking into account the increasing digital and cross-border uses of protected content.

More specifically, it lays down rules on exceptions and limitations to copyright protection, on the facilitation of licences as well as rules aimed at ensuring a well-functioning marketplace for the exploitation of copyright-protected works.

Stakeholders and commentators are strongly divided on the proposal. Much of the debate focuses on the creation of a new neighbouring right for press publishers, the measures imposed on platforms storing and giving access to user-uploaded content, and the scope of the new text- and data-mining exception.



Stage: Commission proposal

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World AIDS Day 2016 – Hands up for #HIVprevention

Written by Nicole Scholz,

An official campaign poster by for the 2016 World Aids Day.

An official campaign poster by for the 2016 World Aids Day.

Every year, 1 December marks World AIDS Day, proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) in 1988, aiming mainly at raising awareness. This year’s specific theme is ‘Hands up for #HIVprevention‘. In the global campaign timeline leading up to World AIDS Day 2016, nine weekly topics were highlighted:

  • use of condoms as a means to prevent infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), as well as other sexually transmitted infections, which has averted an estimated 45 million HIV infections globally since 1990;
  • harm reduction for people who inject drugs, one of the populations most at risk for HIV, e.g. through needle-syringe programmes (the provision of sterile injecting equipment and its safe disposal) and opioid-substitution treatment (replacing injected, illicit drugs with non-injected medications);
  • voluntary medical male circumcision, an intervention that affords lifelong partial protection against HIV transmission from women to men;
  • eliminating new HIV infections among children by providing antiretroviral therapy (an anti-HIV treatment that does not cure HIV, but that can keep the virus under control, allowing the immune system to stay strong) to pregnant or breastfeeding women living with HIV;
  • pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a new HIV prevention strategy that involves people who are HIV-negative but at a high risk of becoming infected, taking HIV medicines on a regular basis to effectively protect them from the virus;
  • empowerment of young women and girls, given that young women aged 15-24 years are at particularly high risk of HIV infection globally, and that gender inequalities, including gender-based violence, increase young women’s and girls’ vulnerability, especially in sub-Saharan Africa;
  • testing viral suppression so that people living with HIV know their HIV status (‘viral load’), people who know their HIV status are accessing treatment, and people on treatment have suppressed viral loads, which greatly reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others;
  • HIV prevention among key populations (including sex workers, people injecting drugs, transgender people, prisoners, gay men and other men who have sex with men, and their sexual partners), who, in many countries, remain among the most vulnerable to HIV, with extremely high infection rates, as well as being confronted with stigma and discrimination;
  • investing in HIV prevention to close the prevention gap, since ‘strengthened global political commitment to HIV prevention must be followed by strengthened financial commitment’: in June 2016, UN Member States committed to ensuring that financial resources for prevention are adequate (‘no less than a quarter of AIDS spending globally on average’) and targeted to evidence-based measures reflecting the specific nature of each country’s epidemic.

Global fight: positive trend continues

World Aids Day ribbon

© vik_y / Fotolia

Ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030 counts among the targets under Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the UN in September 2015. Although the SDGs are not legally binding, governments are expected to set up a national framework for achieving them. According to data from 2015 by UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS), 36.7 million people live with HIV. New HIV infections have decreased by 6 % overall since 2010 and by as much as 50 % among children. Some 17 million people living with HIV are now receiving antiretroviral therapy. AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 45 % since 2005. Moreover, the number of deaths from tuberculosis (TB) has decreased by 32 % since 2004: TB is one of the most common, life-threatening ‘co-infections’ (concurrent infections by separate pathogens) of HIV and a leading cause of death among people living with HIV/AIDS – a person with HIV is at high risk of developing TB, and when a person has both HIV and TB, each disease speeds up the progress of the other.

HIV still a major public health concern in Europe

Despite the encouraging worldwide trend, HIV transmission remains a problem in Europe and neighbouring countries (i.e. the WHO European Region spanning Europe and central Asia), especially in the eastern part of the region. In its HIV/AIDS surveillance report 2014, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) concludes that, despite widely varying trends and patterns across Europe, HIV transmission is continuing in most of the countries. According to the report, over 142 000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2014 – 77 % in the eastern part of the region. The number of infections there has mainly increased among people infected heterosexually, notably women, and among people who inject drugs and their sexual partners.

EU is maintaining momentum to curb HIV/AIDS

Two bodies set up by the European Commission – the HIV/AIDS Think Tank and the HIV/AIDS Civil Society Forum – aim to strengthen cooperation between the EU and its neighbourhood, and to foster the involvement of NGOs and other stakeholders in the development of policies. The Commission’s current action plan on HIV/AIDS in the EU and neighbouring countries 2014-2016 prolongs the previous action plan with an increased focus on areas such as HIV treatment as prevention, particularly in heterosexual transmission, and on HIV co-infections such as TB and viral hepatitis. According to the action plan, access to integrated prevention and treatment needs to be increased, particularly in Eastern European countries. This includes measures such as harm-reduction and antiretroviral treatment, especially in prisons. Moreover, in January this year, a three-year joint action on HIV and co-infections (HA-REACT) was launched with funding from the EU health programme. This addresses gaps in the prevention of HIV and co-infections (especially TB and viral hepatitis), among drug users. The EU is also financing HIV/AIDS projects in the framework of the EU’s programme for research and innovation, Horizon 2020. At international level, the EU supports the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector as well as people affected by these diseases.

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Ratification of international agreements by EU Member States

Written by Kristina Grosek and Giulio Sabbati,

International agreements play a crucial role in defining international relations, and are a source of conventional international law. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties defines a treaty as ‘an international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation’.

Ratification of international agreements (IAs) means the concluding party formally consents to be bound by the agreement or treaty. Ratification procedures follow certain principles but differ from one country to another depending on constitutional and legal requirements and the type of agreement. In EU Member States, the national and regional parliaments’ involvement varies, as does the possibility of holding referendums. For ‘mixed’ agreements between the EU with third countries where Member States need also to ratify, they each apply their own domestic procedures.

Procedure for concluding international agreements

Ratification of international agreements in Member States

Ratification of international agreements in Member States

The executive branch has near exclusive competence in the process of concluding IAs, although may be subject to a mandate voted in parliament. In general, the government negotiates an agreement, agrees on the text and subsequently the state representative, endowed with full powers, and signs it. A clear distinction should be made between definitive signature of an IA and a signature subject to ratification, acceptance or approval. A definitive signature does not require further ratification in order for the agreement to enter into force.

Conversely, a signature subject to ratification, accept­ance or approval does not establish the party’s consent to be bound. Such an agree­ment cannot enter into force unless it passes through a domestic ratification procedure. Depending on the specific state’s constitution, approval of ratification involves either the executive or parliament. Agreements requiring parliamentary approval are in most cases those of greater political or financial importance, or otherwise significant.

The role of EU national parliaments

Bicameral Parliaments - the role of the upper chamber

Bicameral Parliaments – the role of the upper chamber

In accordance with the constitutions and legislation of each Member State, or if stipulated in the agreement itself, certain IAs require approval of national parliaments in order to be ratified and enter into force. In most cases, domestic legislation defines the types of IAs requiring parliamentary approval or, in some cases, exceptions for which approval is not necessary. Parliamentary approval normally involves the procedure for the adoption of an act, or in some cases (e.g. UK), parliament need only not object. In the EU, all unicameral parliaments and the lower chambers of bicameral parliaments are always involved. In the 13 Member States with bicameral parliaments, the upper chamber’s role varies. The Belgian Senate is not involved in ratifications, while the Slovenian National Council has only limited competence in adoption of legislation. In Germany and Austria, the involvement of the upper chamber depends on the treaty type and its relevance for the regions (represented in those chambers). In the remaining Member States (Czech Republic, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and the UK) both chambers are involved.

Involvement of EU regions and their parliaments or assemblies

Regional Parliaments in the Member States

Regional Parliaments in the Member States

With the exception of Belgium, regional parliaments do not play a major role in the ratification procedure of IAs, other than through their seats in second chambers. In Belgium, an agreement needs to be approved by all parliaments concerned. That means that, for Belgium, when all levels are concerned, the agreement needs to be approved by eight parliaments. In other Member States with regional parliaments, their approval is not needed for the ratification of IAs and involvement of regions is limited mainly to negotiations (e.g. Portugal and Spain). Belgian regions and communities can conclude their own treaties in fields within their competences. In Germany and Austria, regions (Länder) can conclude IAs on their own, with the federal government’s approval. Similarly, in Spain and Italy, in areas falling within their responsibility, regions can enter into IAs with foreign states. In the UK, regional parliaments have no role in IAs.

Referendums and international agreements

Possibility of referendum on the ratification of international agreements

Possibility of referendum on the ratification of international agreements

Referendums for ratification of IAs are possible in the majority of Member States. Which countries allow for that possibility in a specific case depends on the type of IA. Some Member States exclude the possibility of a referendum for ratification of an IA but allow/require referendums in case of constitutional change, transfer of sovereign powers or EU membership (Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Poland and Slovenia). The possibility of a referendum for IA ratification is rarely mentioned expressly in national constitutions or applicable legislation (e.g. France and the Netherlands which specifically allow for referendums on ratification of IAs), but on the other hand a referendum for ratification is not excluded under existing legislative provisions. In Denmark and Hungary there is no possibility of a referendum on the obligations arising from existing IAs. The Czech Republic provides for a referendum only in the case of transferring sovereign powers. Belgium and Germany do not allow referendums for ratification of an IA. Belgium provides for referendums only at regional level, while in Germany, a referendum is possible only in connection with a revision of the country’s existing territorial division. Cyprus does not have provisions on referendums in the constitution, but has adopted a law providing for the possibility.

National ratification of EU international agreements – mixed agreements

The European Union, having legal personality (Article 47 TEU), is a subject of international law and can negotiate and conclude international agreements within the scope of its competences (Article 5 TEU, Articles 2-4 TFEU).

At EU level, the procedure for concluding IAs is set out in Article 218 TFEU; other articles may have specific provisions on the conclusion of IAs (e.g. Article 207 TFEU on the common commercial policy). Depending on the competences involved (EU exclusive competences or shared competences), the conclusion of EU IAs may or may not require ratification by Member States according to their national procedures. If an agreement falls under exclusive EU competence, the EU has the authority to negotiate and conclude the agreement, without any process of national ratification in Member States. When an agreement falls under shared or concurrent competences, the agreement is then considered ‘mixed‘ and needs to go through a two-stage ratification process: the EU and the Member States both need to ratify the agreement, with each Member State following its own national procedures. This two-stage ratification of mixed agreements gives more say to Member States, and even certain regions within them, but also makes the ratification process longer.

Download the PDF version of this briefing on ‘Ratification of international agreements by EU Member States‘ with additional explanations.


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The new European electronic communications code [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Marcin Szczepański (1st edition),

The new European electronic communications code

© xiaoliangge / Fotolia

On 14 September 2016, the Commission proposed a new European electronic communications code which overhauls the existing legislative framework for telecommunications. The code has been designed to take into account changes in markets, consumer trends and technology, all of which have significantly changed since 2009 when the framework was last amended.

The code’s provisions include measures to stimulate investment in and take-up of very high capacity networks in the European Union, new spectrum rules for mobile connectivity and 5G, as well as changes to governance, the universal service regime, end-user protection rules, and numbering and emergency communication rules.

This proposal comes within the framework of the digital single market strategy, and is one of the legislative proposals under the initiative ‘Connectivity for a European gigabit society’.



Stage: Commission proposal

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WIFI4EU – Promotion of internet connectivity in local communities [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Christian Scheinert (1st edition),

Businesswoman using a tablet

© Minerva Studio / Fotolia

On 14 September 2016, the Commission published a proposal for the promotion of very fast wireless internet access in local communities.

This service would be provided free of charge to the public at large. The areas covered would encompass public administrations, libraries and hospitals, as well as outdoor spaces accessible to all. The aim is to increase accessibility to high-performance mobile internet, and to raise awareness of the benefits of such connectivity. It is planned to simplify administrative procedures and to use EU funds to provide financial support to the establishment of such networks.

This action comes within the framework of the digital single market, and is one of several legislative proposals announced by the Commission with its communication, ‘Connectivity for a competitive digital single market – Towards a European gigabit society’.


Stage: Commission proposal


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All about the money: EU Budget, Data Protection, Tunisia – November II Plenary Session

Written by Clare Ferguson,

May digest

© European Union 2014 – European Parliament

The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have spent three weeks negotiating a provisional agreement on the Commission’s proposed 2017 EU budget, which comes before Parliament’s November plenary session for a vote in plenary on Wednesday. The proposals use the flexibility of the multi-year spending programme, the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), to increase spending on youth, jobs, growth and dealing with the migration crisis. Budget commitments scheduled in the proposals total €157.86 billion, with payments amounting to €134.49 billion in funding for EU priorities. However, the recent crises, which challenged the EU’s capacity to act quickly, have highlighted the need for even greater flexibility. Without modifying the ceilings which the MFF imposes on EU spending categories for the 2014-2020 period, the Commission and the Parliament support an increase in budgetary flexibility  to spend money where it is most urgently needed.


A recent example of an urgent requirement for funding is the recent earthquakes in Italy, as well as increased occurrences of flooding through the EU. Members will consider an assessment of the EU Solidarity Fund on Wednesday evening, as well as making decisions on two requests for financial assistance. The fund is destined to support EU regions hit by major natural disasters, and to date has allocated almost €4 billion to mitigate the effects of 70 different disasters in 24 European countries. However, the speed with which the funds are disbursed and the lengthy procedures involved have come under sharp criticism.


Turning to citizens’ finances, the European Order for Payment Procedure allows a company or individual in another country to claim for amounts owed by someone in another Member State. However, on Thursday, the Parliament is due to consider a Legal Affairs Committee call to reject the Commission’s implementation report on the procedure and require the preparation of a fresh one. The difficulty hinges on the fact that the Commission assessment was submitted late, and somewhat complacently concluded that no revision of the procedure was necessary – supposed to simplify and speed up the cost of claiming money across borders – when in fact it appears that the benefits of the procedure are little-known to European citizens.


Shielding citizens from a different type of threat is behind Parliament’s determination to ensure that all individuals benefit from a high level of data protection according to European standards when their data is transferred outside the EU, including to the USA. On Wednesday evening, MEPs will thus consider whether to consent to the Council’s conclusion of the EU-US Umbrella Agreement, aimed at complementing specific EU legislation on data protection with stronger safeguards on the protection of personal data exchanged between law enforcement authorities on both sides of the Atlantic. This agreement is a parallel measure to the ‘Privacy Shield’  arrangements, intended to protect data transferred by the private sector.


On Thursday, the President of the Republic of Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi, will address a formal sitting of the Parliament. Tunisia has a science and technology agreement with the EU since 2004, and is a Horizon 2020 associated country since January 2016. Tunisia is also one of the 16 European Neighbourhood Policy ‘partner countries’ targeted by the European Neighbourhood Instrument, which funds EU cooperation in promoting development in 16 countries to the south and east, with a view to encouraging reform, more prosperous economies and greater stability in the region. In 2014, Tunisia received €186.8 million towards improving education and training, modernising its security sector. The EU is by far Tunisia’s largest export market . Currently, Tunisia is the subject of proposed associated country status to a new public-public Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA), which seeks to support research to enhance stable access to resources such as food and water in the region.


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Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Cemal Karakas (1st edition),

Telecommunication Isometric Flowchart

© macrovector / Fotolia

On 14 September 2016, the European Commission proposed an updated regulation on the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) as part of its wider telecoms package. The new proposal aims at transforming BEREC into a single fully fledged agency. The Commission proposes allocating new tasks to BEREC and granting it legally binding powers. New tasks include providing guidelines for national regulatory authorities (NRAs) on geographical surveys, developing common approaches to meet end-user interests, but also developing common approaches to deliver peer-reviewed opinions on draft national measures (e.g. radio spectrum assignments) and on cross-border disputes.

Stakeholders have been divided over the Commission’s review as regards the effectiveness and powers of BEREC. While the role of NRAs is widely acknowledged, some stakeholders stressed that the institutional set-up at EU and BEREC levels should be adjusted (e.g. a clearer division of powers, accountability issues, transparency in decision-making). In the European Parliament, the proposal has been referred to the ITRE Committee.


Stage: Commission proposal

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