The European Council: What makes it to the agenda and why?

Written by Izabela Bacian,

EPRS Roundtable: ' The European Council: What makes the agenda and why? 'The Leaders’ Agenda presented by European Council President Donald Tusk in October 2017 sets priorities for action at the European level for the coming two years. Interestingly, the Leaders’ Agenda is based on the Bratislava and Rome declarations informally adopted by the EU27 leaders, and not on the substance of the conclusions of their meetings at 28. The declarations at 27 have therefore become the agenda for the European Council, and for the Union as a whole.

Against this background, the EPRS European Council Oversight and Scrutiny (ECOS) Unit organised an event on 10 October 2017 to ask: What makes it to the European Council agenda and why?

In his opening remarks, Wolfgang Hiller, Director for Impact Assessment and European Added Value at EPRS, highlighted that although the formal role of the European Council is to define the Union’s general political directions and priorities, its involvement in EU policy-making goes far beyond the letter of the Treaties. A collateral effect of the June 2016 referendum in the United Kingdom is that today, in parallel to EU28 meetings dealing with the normal agenda of the Union, EU leaders increasingly meet in other formats, including at 27, without the UK. While the Lisbon Treaty sets a legal framework for the European Council as an institution, including regarding its President’s reporting obligations to the Parliament, no such framework exists for informal meetings of the EU27. Their actions must therefore be carefully scrutinised by Parliament.

EPRS Roundtable: ' The European Council: What makes the agenda and why? 'Astrid Worum, ECOS’Acting Head of Unit and moderator of the event, provided the background for the discussion in presenting the EPRS study on Agenda-setting in the European Council, December 2014-June 2017. Its author establishes a ranking of policy areas according to their prominence on the agenda, with migration and governance issues having commanded the largest share of the agenda. Foreign policy and economics also appeared frequently, while issues of internal and external security, as well as external trade have risen moderately. A wide variety of other topics received scarce attention, or were not discussed at all. These include agriculture, civil rights, employment, energy, environment, and regional policy. Topics such as health, social policy and education were also hardly ever mentioned.

  1. According to Article 15 TEU, the European Council is master of its own agenda, and free to focus on any topic it recognises as salient. Nevertheless, certain observations can be made as to the place of policies on the agenda:
  2. Policies where the EU has only a coordinating or supplementary role, or matters of exclusive national competence, might have a limited imprint on the body’s agenda.
  3. Policy areas where national involvement is essential to achieve EU level agreements, such as foreign affairs, or economic and employment policies, will enjoy a larger share of attention.
  4. Certain policies, such as agriculture and regional policies, are generally dealt with at the European Council level in the context of budgetary negotiations.
  5. The high levels of attention paid to the migration crisis and the United Kingdom referendum on EU membership has impacted the choice of issues on the agenda. Indeed, since 2009, agenda-setting in the European Council has been strongly crisis-driven.

Dr Yann-Sven Rittelmeyer, Policy Analyst with the European Policy Centre and holder of a PhD on the institutionalisation of the European Council, argued that the European Council has fulfilled various roles in the EU political system over the years. It has functioned as an agenda-setter, a constitutional architect, a foreign policy actor and a crisis manager, but also – more contentiously – as an arbitrator (instance d’arbitrage), and has sometimes fulfilled legislative tasks. Rittelmeyer observed that the European Council’s role as a crisis manager was facilitated by its leadership capability, the power of its members, and its flexibility to meet more and more often in order to react rapidly to potentially destabilising events.

We observe a similar context at the European Council’s creation in 1974, when several crises were unfolding on the international scene and strong leadership was needed at the highest level. Crises have also offered opportunities to the European Council. The global financial crisis, for instance, led to the birth of Euro summits which became progressively formalised, first through a declaration and then later through inclusion in the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union. We are currently witnessing a similar phenomenon, with informal meetings held by EU leaders at 27.

MIHAYLOVA, Iskra

MIHAYLOVA, Iskra

Iskra Mihaylova, (ALDE, Bulgaria), Chair of the Committee on Regional Development and former Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Public Works in Bulgaria, expressed concern at the absence of regional policy on the European Council agenda. Regional policy is supported by one third of the EU budget and, through its Structural and Investment Funds, is expected to provide support to 1.1 million SMEs, create 420 000 new jobs and help more than 7.4 million unemployed people find jobs in the 2014-2020 period. Given the challenges brought about by the migration crisis, it is precisely at this time that the European Council should discuss how EU funding could be used to assist with the social and professional integration of migrants in the EU, as well as with the defence of our borders.

Monika Kiss, a Policy Analyst with the EPRS, pointed out that the absence of social policy on the agenda contrasts with the 2009-2014 period, when it featured twice as often on the agenda. This may reflect a change in citizens’ priorities, as in 2014 citizens were concerned with unemployment and the economic situation, while in 2017, migration and terrorism have grown in importance, according to the Eurobarometer survey. Moreover, social and employment policies are national competences and deep divisions persist among Member States in these areas, such as on the issue of the posting of workers. Certain topics may instead be discussed during Tripartite Social Summits and at specific Council meetings. As to possible future topics on the agenda, EU leaders may address issues such as equality on the labour market and labour mobility, social fragmentation and dumping as well as the European Pillar of Social Rights.

Laura Puccio, also an EPRS Policy Analyst, argued that although trade is a technical topic it appears on the agenda at specific moments in time due to its importance as a political instrument in EU foreign policy. Current challenges in trade policy and protectionist tendencies abroad, as well as citizens’ concerns, have made trade more salient since late 2016. Issues with the ratification of agreements have also been solved with the support of the European Council, as was the case with the Association Agreement with Ukraine. Moreover, the institution can be credited with stimulating the ending of stalemates on certain issues, such as trade defence instruments. Finally, in the event of a fundamental change in policy direction, for instance a new type of trade agreement with the USA, this kind of decision would be taken at European Council level. As to possible future topics on the agenda, EU leaders may address trade relations with the UK and USA, EU investment policy, international procurement instrument, and finally trade adjustment costs – in other words, distributing trade gains more fairly.


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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/18/the-european-council-what-makes-it-to-the-agenda-and-why/

Outlook for the European Council meeting on 19-20 October 2017 and the European Council (Article 50) meeting on 20 October 2017

Written by Ralf Drachenberg and Susanna Tenhunen,

Plenary session Week 40 2017 in Strasbourg - State of play of negotiations with the United Kingdom

EU negotiator Michel Barnier presents the state of play of the Brexit negotiations in plenary. © European Union 2017 – Source : EP

At their meeting on 19-20 October 2017, EU leaders will focus on migration, in particular assessing the progress made in stemming illegal flows on all migration routes, and digital Europe, following up on the Digital Summit held in Tallinn on 29 September. Heads of State or Government will also discuss defence, in particular the preparations for permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) as well as external relations, including relations with Turkey. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, is expected to present the new ‘Leaders’ Agenda 2017-2018′, outlining the decisions that need to be taken at the level of the European Council in the coming year. Finally, EU-27 leaders will meet on 20 October in a separate formal European Council (Article 50), without the United Kingdom, to discuss the latest developments in the latter’s withdrawal negotiations. It is expected that the European Council (Article 50) will postpone the decision on starting the second phase of negotiations on the EU’s future relations with the UK until the December 2017 European Council, due to insufficient progress having been made to date


Three new publications from EPRS aim to inform MEPs about the broader context of this European Council meeting:


1. Implementation – follow-up on previous European Council commitments

According to commitments made in its previous conclusions, the European Council should return to migration and external security and defence issues (Table 1) at the October meeting. Both feature prominently on the annotated draft agenda.

Table 1: Commitments relating to the agenda of the European Council meeting of 19-20 October 2017

2. Migration

On migration, the European Council is expected to assess progress on the measures taken to stem illegal flows on all migration routes and to decide on additional measures as required, in particular to support those directly affected or involved.

EU Heads of State or Government will also consider stronger cooperation with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as well as with countries of origin and transit, in particular Libya. On 28 August 2017, the leaders of France, Germany, Spain and Italy and Chad, Niger and Libya issued a joint statement agreeing to step up the fight against smugglers’ networks, building upon existing EU instruments, and to promote development prospects in the African countries of origin and transit.

EU leaders will also call for further progress towards a balanced agreement on the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), bridging the gap between those Member States which favour ‘relocation‘ and others which insist on ‘effective solidarity‘. In this respect, the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice, dismissing the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary against the mandatory relocation of asylum-seekers, is likely to shape discussions on the reform of the CEAS.

3. Digital Europe

EU leaders will address digitalisation of the European economy and society, with the aim of speeding up the discussion on a digital vision for Europe, not least because this is one of the key priorities of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU (second half of 2017). The European Council will assess progress in the implementation of the Digital Single Market and is likely to call upon the co-legislators to rapidly examine pending legislative initiatives, such as those on the free flow of data, audiovisual media services and geo-blocking. In this context, it will probably also urge Member States to implement existing legislation effectively, in order to better address the opportunities and challenges of the digital transformation.

In June 2017, EU leaders welcomed the European Commission’s intention to review the EU’s cybersecurity strategy. A cybersecurity package was published on 13 September 2017, alongside the 2017 State of the Union speech. At that same European Council meeting, Heads of State or Government underlined the importance of a holistic approach to the potential benefits and risks of the digital age. The discussion continued at the Digital Summit of Heads of State or Government in Tallinn on 29 September 2017, the outcome of which will contribute to the preparation of the October European Council.

4. Defence

The European Council will address the deepening of EU defence cooperation, primarily focussing on permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) (TEU Articles 42(6) and 46, and Protocol 10). The Heads of State or Government are expected to review progress and give further guidance regarding the establishment of PESCO. Both Federica Mogherini, the High Representative/Vice President, and Donald Tusk, have envisaged that the launch of PESCO could take place before the end of 2017.

In their conclusions of December 2016 and March 2017, EU leaders welcomed the development of PESCO. In their most recent meeting in June 2017, EU leaders agreed to launch an inclusive and ambitious PESCO and called for the Member States to define within three months a common list of criteria and binding commitments, including a list of projects, a timetable and assessment mechanisms. The launch of PESCO was one of the key elements in European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s 2017 State of the Union speech. It also featured prominently in the ‘Initiative for Europe’ speech of French President Emmanuel Macron. During the European Parliament’s plenary discussion on the preparation of this European Council meeting, the Commission expressed its support for further EU cooperation in the area of defence, in line with previous European Council conclusions. It also called for rapid agreement of the co-legislators on the European defence industrial development programme. The purpose of this proposal is to strengthen the competitiveness and innovative capacity of the EU defence industry, including in cyber-defence, as well as to support better exploitation of the results of defence research, and to enhance cooperation between undertakings in the development phase of defence products and technologies.

5. External relations

EU Heads of State or Government are expected to discuss the political situation in Turkey, as well as developments in the wider region. Following the attempted military coup in July 2016 and the subsequent repressive measures taken by Turkey, the European Parliament called in November 2016 to freeze Turkey’s accession process. Furthermore, constitutional reforms were proposed in 2017 which gave extended powers to the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Some of these constitutional changes have already been implemented. The Parliament reiterated its position on Turkey in July 2017.

The accession process is expected to continue, as stated in September 2017 by High Representative/Vice President, Federica Mogherini, however, the opening of new negotiating chapters will not be considered under the current circumstances. On 7 September, Sigmar Gabriel and Sebastian Kurz, the then foreign ministers of Germany and Austria, respectively, called for the suspension of EU accession negotiations with Turkey, whereas other ministers have insisted on continuing the process. In its recently presented programme the incoming Dutch coalition government stated that the current situation of human rights and rule of law in Turkey meant that the country had ‘no perspective’ of joining the EU. In his State of the Union speech, Jean-Claude Junker declared that accession countries had to respect the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights which ‘rules out EU membership for Turkey for the foreseeable future’.

EU leaders might also discuss the agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme and the 13 October decision of US President Donald Trump not to certify it. Federica Mogherini stated, shortly after his announcement, that no single country can terminate the agreement, as it is a multilateral agreement unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council. Finally, EU leaders might also discuss the situation in the Korean peninsula, in view of recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Foreign Affairs Council of 16 October 2017 discussed both issues, and adopted additional measures to complement and reinforce UN Security Council sanctions against the DPRK.

6. Other items

  • Future of Europe

While not part of the annotated draft agenda, EU leaders are expected to discuss the future of Europe. Heads of State or Government, the European Commission President, the European Council President and European Parliament President held an informal discussion on 29 September 2017 in Tallinn[1] on the situation of Europe and on future work in the European Council. Subsequently, Donald Tusk announced that, at the 19-20 October meeting, he would present the ‘Leaders’ Agenda 2017-2018′, a refined version of the programme he outlined prior to the meeting in Tallinn. It will include, inter alia, the launch of permanent defence cooperation (PESCO) by the end of 2017, a Euro Summit in December to further deepen Economic and Monetary Union with a special focus on the completion of the Banking Union and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), and a Western Balkans summit during the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council. President Tusk indicated that concrete decisions on these issues should take place in the European Council by June next year at the latest. This discussion should also be seen in the context of the 2017 State of the Union address by Jean-Claude Juncker, as well as Emmanuel Macron’s September speech. Both set out their views on the future of Europe, showing not only convergence between the two, but also with many of the views previously expressed by the European Parliament.

Recent events seem to indicate that Heads of State or Government will meet more frequently over the coming months to discuss topics relevant for the future of Europe, be it as part of formal and informal European Council meetings and Euro summits, or wider formats such as the Social Summit in Gothenburg on 17 November 2017. At their informal meeting in Tallinn, the Romanian President, Klaus Iohannis, formally invited all the EU-27 leaders to attend an informal European Council meeting in Sibiu on 30 March 2019.

[1] All EU-28 Heads of State or Government were present except the Slovenian Prime Minister, Miro Cerar, and the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy.

7. European Council (Article 50) meeting on 20 October 2017

The EU-27 leaders will meet again in the formal setting of the European Council (Article 50) on 20 October 2017 to take stock of the latest developments in negotiations with the United Kingdom. In line with the procedural arrangements for Article 50 negotiations as agreed by the Heads of State or Government of the EU-27 on 15 December 2016, EU leaders will be briefed by the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, on the outcome of the fourth and fifth negotiation rounds (see Table 2). Both rounds took place after the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, outlined her views on the future EU-UK relationship on 22 September in Florence. Mrs May proposed an ‘implementation’ period after the UK leaves the EU, and pledged that the ‘UK will honour commitments made during the period of our membership’. In the opinion of the EU’s chief negotiator, the latest negotiation rounds were more ‘constructive’ but still fell short of ‘achieving sufficient progress’. This view was also expressed by President Tusk after his meeting with Mrs May on 26 September and by President Juncker when speaking in the European Parliament’s plenary debate on 3 October.

While welcoming the progress achieved so far, it is expected that the European Council (Article 50) will not recommend the opening of the second phase of negotiations on the EU’s future relations with the UK, due to insufficient progress being made on the three priorities: ensuring citizens’ rights, agreeing on a financial settlement, and the safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement.[1] At the special European Council (Article 50) meeting of 29 April 2017, EU-27 Heads of State or Government adopted guidelines which set out a ‘phased approach’, stipulating that ‘before starting the negotiations on the EU’s future relations with the UK, sufficient progress needs to be achieved on citizens’ rights, finances and the border issue in Ireland’. The European Parliament, in its resolution earlier this month, stressed that ‘in the fourth round of negotiations sufficient progress has not yet been made’. It called on the European Council ‘to decide at its October meeting to postpone its assessment’ – ‘unless there is a major breakthrough in all three areas during the fifth negotiation round.’ The European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani, and the Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, have already indicated in early September the possible need ‘for the European Council to postpone this point to its December meeting.’

It is likely that EU-27 leaders will invite EU officials to begin ‘internal preparatory discussions’ to be ready for the second phase of Brexit talks on the UK’s future relationship, which could start after the 14-15 December European Council meeting, when EU-27 leaders will reassess the state of progress in the negotiations in order to decide whether sufficient progress has been achieved. Donald Tusk recently reiterated his hope that ‘”sufficient progress” will be possible by December’.

In the margins of the European Council (Article 50) meeting, Jüri Ratas, Estonian Prime Minister and President-in-office of the Council, will inform EU-27 leaders on the discussion regarding the decision-making process for the relocation of the two UK-based EU agencies, the European Banking Authority (EBA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA). The Commission has published its assessment of the offers to host these agencies based on the criteria endorsed by the 22 June 2017 European Council (Article 50).

Table 2: EU-UK Article 50 negotiation rounds

 

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/18/outlook-for-the-european-council-meeting-on-19-20-october-2017-and-the-european-council-article-50-meeting-on-20-october-2017/

EU labour markets [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

Arbeiten in Europa

© Fotomanufaktur JL / Fotolia

Economic recovery has reduced the unemployment rate in the euro area and the wider European Union, but there are still significant challenges for EU labour markets. These include increasing inequalities, the effect of the digital revolution and globalisation on jobs, the impact of the posting of workers abroad within the EU, persistently high youth and long-term unemployment, and integration of migrants. The European Commission is pushing ahead with its European Pillar of Social Rights package to strengthen the social dimension of Economic and Monetary Union.

This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports by major international think tanks and research institutes on the state and possible reforms of EU labour markets as well as social policies. More reports on social policies can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are Thinking’ published in May 2017.

La révision de la directive sur le détachement des travailleurs: Comment aller plus loin?
Fondation Robert Schuman, October 2017

Integration of immigrants in European labour markets
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2017

Remaking Europe: The new manufacturing as an engine for growth
Bruegel, September 2017

Is Juncker’s enthusiasm for a common labour authority premature?
Centre for European Policy Studies, September 2017

Employment in Europe and the US: The EU’s remarkable strength
Bruegel, September 2017

The platform economy and industrial relations: Applying the old framework to the new reality
Centre for European Policy Studies, August 2017

EU posted workers: Separating fact and fiction
Bruegel, August 2017

Impact of digitalisation and the on-demand economy on labour markets and the consequences for employment and industrial relations
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2017

Marché du travail: Pour la réforme!
Fondation pour l’innovation politique, July 2017

The great recession’s biggest losers: The euro area’s jobless
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2017

Government responses to the platform economy: Where do we stand?
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2017

Reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe
European Trade Union Institute, July 2017

Trade unions and right-wing extremism in Europe
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, June 2017

Working to rule: The damaging economics of UK employment regulation
Institute of Economic Affairs, June 2017

Is Greece’s labour market bouncing back?
Bruegel, June 2017

Migrant crop pickers in Italy and Spain
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, June 2017

The dynamic and distributional aspects of import tariffs
Institut für Weltwirtschaft Kiel, May 2017

Beyond organizational scale: How social entrepreneurs create systems change
World Economic Forum, May 2017

Natura 2000 and jobs
Institute for European Environmental Policy, May 2017

Dynamics of overqualification: Evidence from the early career of graduates
Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung, April 2017

Wie zukunftsfähig sind unsere Sozialstaaten? Deutsch-französische Dialoge zum sozialen Europa
Bertelsmann Stiftung, April 2017

Beyond basic income: Overcoming the crisis of social democracy?
Foundation for European Progressive Studies, April 2017

The inbetweeners: The new role of internships in the graduate labour market
Institute for Public Policy Research, April 2017

Making inclusion work: How work-based learning can bring excluded groups closer to the workplace
Institute for Public Policy Research, April 2017

Unemployment Insurance in America: A model for Europe?
Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2017

Income inequality and growth in Europe: key role for national policies
Bruegel, May 2017

Macron’s social agenda
Clingendael, May 2017

Do we understand the impact of artificial intelligence on employment?
Bruegel, April 2017

A coordinated mix of public investment and incomes policies for sustainable development in Europe
Foundation for European Progressive Studies, April 2017

The global decline in the labour income share: Is capital the answer to Germany’s current account surplus?
Bruegel, April 2017

Saving the French social model at the expense of the EU?
Clingendael, April 2017

What drives wage gaps in Europe?
European Trade Union Institute, April 2017

The European labour market still faces big challenges
Foundation for European Progressive Studies, April 2017

Vers la providence 4.0? L’entrée dans le numérique de l’Etat-providence, dans les domaines du travail, de la santé et de l’innovation comparatif européen
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, March 2017

We must tackle long-term job insecurity, not just the excesses of the ‘gig economy’
Friends of Europe, March 2017

Social harmonization and labor market performance in Europe
Center for Social and Economic Research, March 2017

Social investment first! A precondition for a modern social Europe
European Policy Centre, March 2017

Closing routes to retirement: How do people respond?
Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, March 2017

The role of aggregate preferences for labor supply: Evidence from low-paid employment
Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, March 2017

Feasibility and added value of a European unemployment benefits scheme
Centre for European Policy Studies, February 2017

Design of a European Unemployment Benefit Scheme
Centre for European Policy Studies, February 2017

Stabilising the European Economic and Monetary Union: What to expect from a common unemployment benefits scheme?
Centre for European Policy Studies, February 2017

British business strategy, EU social and employment policy and the emerging politics of Brexit
Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute, February 2017

Europe’s new social reality: The case against universal basic income
Policy Network, February 2017

Ambiguities of Social Europe: Political agenda setting among trade unionists from Central and Eastern Europe and Western Europe
Max-Planck-Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung, February 2017

Un capital emploi formation pour tous: Contribution pour une véritable sécurisation des parcours professionnels
Institut Montaigne, January 2017

The performance of immigrants in the German labor market
Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, January 2017

Towards a European pillar of social rights: Upgrading the EU social acquis
College of Europe, January 2017

Why central and eastern Europe needs a pay rise
European Trade Union Institute, January 2017


Read this briefing on ‘EU labour markets‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/17/eu-labour-markets-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

Will artificial intelligence really improve our lives?

Written by Philip Boucher,

Should we fear the future? 

Should we fear the future ?Humans are, on the whole, living longer and healthier lives than ever before. For many, these basic measures are enough to conclude that the world is becoming a better place. However, when we look at the headlines, it is clear that there remains a great deal of human suffering. Indeed, if we consider the growing threats of climate change, rising sea levels and mass extinction, as well as nuclear threats and political instability, some would find few reasons to be cheerful. Depending upon which variables we prioritise (equality, biodiversity, violence, poverty, CO2 levels, conflict, ozone layer depletion), and how we measure them, we can make rational arguments for optimistic or pessimistic views on the future of humanity.

Is it rational to be optimistic about artificial intelligence? 

The picture is equally mixed when we consider new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), which are predicted to have a huge impact on the future of humanity, for better or worse. For example, AI could bring substantial benefits to several aspects of our lives, from weather predictions to cancer diagnostics. At the same time, concerns have been raised that it could threaten many jobs and take over important decision-making processes without transparency.

Well-known figures have joined both sides of the debate. For example, Elon Musk shared concerns that AI posed an existential threat to the human race, while Bill Gates countered that the technology will make us more productive and creative. Beyond the headlines, however, both Gates and Musk recognise the opportunities and challenges of AI and call for reflection on how we can manage its development in a way that maximises its benefits without exposing us to danger.

Debating rational optimism and artificial intelligence at the European Parliament

The STOA workshop ‘Should we fear the future? Is it rational to be optimistic about artificial intelligence?’, chaired by Lead STOA Panel Member María Teresa Giménez Barbat (ALDE, Spain), presents an opportunity to learn more about these questions and participate in a debate with key experts in the subject.

The workshop will take place on 19 October 2017 at the European Parliament premises in Brussels, and will open with a keynote lecture from Steven Pinker (Harvard University), author of ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’ (2011, Viking Books), which argues that violence in the world is declining in the short- and long-term, and explores how we can maintain this trend into the future. He will introduce the subject of rational optimism and answer the question: ‘Should we fear the future?’

This will be followed by a panel of four speakers who will explore AI technologies within this context, responding to the broad question of whether it is rational to be optimistic about AI. The panel will include presentations from Peter J. Bentley (University College London), Miles Brundage (University of Oxford), Olle Häggström (Chalmers University) and Thomas Metzinger (Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz), and will be followed by a Q&A session and a debate with all participants.

Interested in joining the debate? Register to attend or watch the live webstream on the STOA event page.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/16/will-artificial-intelligence-really-improve-our-lives/

Fish labelling for consumers

Written by Jean Weissenberger,

Granada, Spain, juli 1, 2017: Fresh fish displayed at stall on local market of San Agustin

© ivoderooij / Fotolia

Since the end of 2014, consumers in the European Union (EU) have had access to better information when buying fishery and aquaculture products. Mandatory labels or markings for retail sale of seafood (including some types of processed seafood) must, in particular, include information on both the commercial and the scientific names of the species, whether it has been fished or farmed, the catch area or country of production, and the fishing gear used.

Food information to consumers

Information for EU consumers when purchasing fishery and aquaculture food products is governed, as with other food types, by Regulation No 1169/2011 on the Provision of Food Information to Consumers (the ‘FIC’ Regulation’). In force since December 2014, this regulation has established measures for the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs. It has set additional requirements for providing nutrition information, applicable since December 2016. Aimed at improving legibility of mandatory information to be given to consumers, particularly for processed and pre-packed food, it also addresses the need for increased protection (e.g. information on allergens) and awareness of citizens when making their choice. While indication of origin was already mandatory for beef and beef products, the FIC Regulation requires provision of indications on the origin of meat from other land-farmed species, i.e. pigs, sheep, goats and poultry.

Seafood: specific additional mandatory information

In 2013, when reforming the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and notably its common market organisation (CMO), the European Parliament and Council decided to set some additional obligations for information on fishery and aquaculture products (often referred to under the generic term of ‘seafood’, even though it may include products from inland freshwaters). These additional information requirements for seafood also apply since December 2014. According to the CMO Regulation (Regulation 1379/2013), consumers and mass caterers must be given more information, to better inform their choice: unprocessed and some forms of processed food from fishery and aquaculture products must be labelled or marked with indications on:

  • the exact species used,
  • how this species has been produced, and
  • where it originates from.

The CMO Regulation establishes that mandatory indications must also include – as already provided under the general FIC rules – the date of minimum durability (‘use by’ or ‘best before’) and whether the product has been defrosted (with some exceptions, e.g. products previously frozen for food safety purposes, or defrosted before smoking, salting, pickling, drying…).

These requirements apply to a large range of seafood, whether of vegetal (all algae and seaweeds) or animal source. Concerning the latter, the additional information obligation covers fish, crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic invertebrates, notably when sold alive, fresh, chilled or frozen, as whole animals or in the form of fillets or other pieces of meat (minced or not). Some processed products, such as smoked, dried or salted fish fillets, out-of-shell molluscs and cooked crustaceans are also covered.

In practical terms, both the commercial designation and the scientific name must be displayed when these types of seafood are offered for retail sale. However, one designation may be commonly in use for different fish species, and a fish species may have several common names in a given language. Each Member State must therefore establish and publish its national list of accepted commercial designations by species or group of species on its territory, including region-specific names in some cases.

When the product originates from capture fishing at sea, the consumer must know that it has been ‘caught‘, and in which fishing area. For seas bordering the EU (North-East Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea), the fishing zone must be indicated more precisely using the partitioning system of sub-areas and divisions established by the FAO. As this system is not necessarily well known, the indication must be accompanied with the name of the zone in terms understandable to consumers (or replaced by a map or pictogram). Indication of the catch area in other oceans can be given at a larger scale (based on FAO major fishing areas).

When the fishery product has been fished in rivers or lakes, its marking or labelling must include the mandatory indication ‘caught in fresh water‘, accompanied by a reference to the body of water of origin in the Member State or third country of provenance of the product.

Concerning the production method for fishery products, the consumer must also be provided with an indication on the type of fishing gear used, among seven defined main categories of nets: seines, trawls, gillnets and similar nets, surrounding nets and lift nets, hooks and lines, dredges, and, lastly, pots and traps.

For products originating from aquaculture, the mandatory indication for consumers and mass caterers must refer to both the production method (using the word ‘farmed’) and the country of farming. The country of farming corresponds to the Member State or third country in which the farmed aquatic organism actually underwent a large part of the cultivation or rearing process (namely in which it reached more than half of its final weight or in which it underwent more than half of the rearing period; for farmed shellfish, the farming country is that in which a final rearing stage of at least six months took place).

For non-pre-packed seafood, these mandatory indications for retail sale can be provided in different forms (e.g. posters and billboards) and must be easily visible and legible. For pre-packed products, indications must appear directly on the package or on a label attached thereto, so as to ensure visibility and readability.

The CMO Regulation furthermore defines which of the mandatory information described above must be displayed in cases of retail sale of mixed products (e.g. same fish species but different production methods or different catch areas or farming countries). Other processed forms of food, such as products containing seafood as an ingredient, are generally subject to the FIC rules only, although some specific marketing standards have long been established for canned tuna and bonito (Regulation 1536/92), and for preserved sardines and sardine-like products (Regulation 2136/89).

Voluntary labels

Provided the information is clear, unambiguous and verifiable, retail sellers of fishery and aquaculture products may choose to provide the consumer with more indications on production techniques and practices. This voluntary labelling or marking may refer in particular to more detailed data on the gear used, indication on the flag state of the vessel that caught the product, the port or the date of landing, the date of catch of a fishery product or the date of harvesting for an aquaculture product.

Voluntary labels or marking can also be provided concerning nutritional content (while respecting EU rules on nutrition and health claims) and concerning information of an ethical, social or environmental nature.

Notwithstanding the fact that some producers may want to use one or other of the private labels developed in these domains, fishery and aquaculture products can also benefit from voluntary labelling possibilities among EU-regulated logos and corresponding standards. A number of fish and shellfish products, of wild or farmed origin, already benefit from EU quality logos for food (‘protected designation of origin’ (PDO), ‘protected geographical indication’ (PGI) and ‘traditional speciality guaranteed’ (TSG)). Regarding environmental performance in particular, aquaculture products may also claim the EU label on organic farming. In a report based on different options, the European Commission considers that the aim of driving for sustainability by developing a voluntary eco-label in seafood on EU-defined criteria may not only be of limited need, but even not consistent with the EU commitment to improving environmental sustainability and delivering on sustainable fisheries through the common fisheries policy.

Overview

The labelling of seafood is governed under general EU consumer protection policy and complemented by additional provisions under the EU common fisheries policy. Rules for mandatory and voluntary information of fishery and aquaculture products vary depending on their nature, their level of processing and their presentation or packaging for sale. The European Commission has also published a pocket guide to contribute to increasing knowledge and facilitating the understanding of consumers and stakeholders on these issues.


Read this At a glance on ‘Fish labelling for consumers‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/13/fish-labelling-for-consumers/

Parliament rejects criteria for endocrine disruptors

Written by Nicole Scholz,

weisses 3d Männchen mit Haken

© fotomek / Fotolia

On 4 October 2017, the European Parliament voted to object to the European Commission’s draft regulation setting out criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors in the area of plant protection products (PPPs). The vote followed the Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) backing a motion for resolution to reject the criteria. The Commission says it needs now to reflect on the next steps to take.

Background

Endocrine disruptors, or endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), are substances that impact on the functioning of hormones, with potentially harmful effects on health. On 15 June 2016, the Commission presented its long-awaited proposal on criteria for the identification of EDCs, including a draft implementing act applying to chemical substances falling under the Plant Protection Products Regulation (PPPR) and a draft delegated act applicable to the Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR). Each draft act needs to be adopted according to separate procedures. On 4 July 2017, the Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SC PAFF), made up of experts from the EU Member States, voted on the draft regulation on PPP criteria. The agreed text was sent to Parliament and Council, which had three months to examine it.

Parliament’s objection to the proposed criteria

Currently, under the PPPR, an active substance is only to be approved if it is not considered to have endocrine-disrupting properties that may cause adverse effects on species other than those targeted. The PPP criteria proposed in the draft regulation provide for an exemption, or derogation, from the scope of the criteria for identifying EDCs, for substances that have an ‘intended endocrine mode of action’ (i.e. are deliberately designed to attack an organism’s endocrine system). On 28 September, the ENVI Committee voted a motion for resolution to oppose the draft regulation. The motion, tabled by Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, the Netherlands) and Jytte Guteland (S&D, Sweden), argues that the Commission exceeded its implementing powers by modifying an essential element of the PPPR. It calls on the Commission to withdraw the draft regulation and submit a new one without delay, as well as to modify the draft by deleting its last paragraph. The motion was adopted in plenary (as an objection pursuant to Rule 106) with 389 votes for, 235 against and 70 abstentions. The Council had decided on 22 September not to oppose adoption.

Reactions to Parliament’s vote

The Commission regretted Parliament’s vote, reportedly stating that the derogation had been essential in getting a qualified majority among Member States to support the criteria. The Health and Environmental Alliance (HEAL) applauded the decision to veto a proposal that ‘would fail to protect human health and the environment’. ClientEarth welcomed this as a strong signal to the Commission, which ‘essentially attempted to illegally rewrite’ the PPPR. On the pesticides industry side, the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) is reported to have stated that the criteria would have been ‘unworkable, impractical and would have impacted negatively on the competitiveness of European farming’, while acknowledging that ‘a further protracted debate on this issue does nothing to build confidence or trust in industry or the institutions’.

Next steps

Parliament’s vote on the PPP criteria means that the Commission cannot adopt the draft. It may: (i) withdraw the draft regulation, modify it and submit an amended version to the relevant committee (SC PAFF); (ii) withdraw the draft regulation without further action; or (iii) withdraw the draft regulation and submit a new one to the co-legislators. In the meantime, the interim criteria continue to apply. Parliament’s vote on the delegated act on BP criteria is still pending, but any objection needs to be made by 4 November. Council intends not to raise objections.


Read this At a glance on ‘Parliament rejects criteria for endocrine disruptors‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/13/parliament-rejects-criteria-for-endocrine-disruptors/

Road transport: Driving, breaks, rest times and tachographs [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Damiano Scordamaglia (1st edition),

Red Semi Truck. Caucasian Truck Driver Preparing For the Next Destination.

© Tomasz Zajda / Fotolia

Road haulage is important for the EU transport economy: in 2015, it accounted for almost 50 % of freight transport. The EU has developed a range of social and market rules to contribute to the setting up of a fair, well-functioning, safe and socially sustainable road transport sector. The Driving Time and Tachograph regulations were adopted to improve drivers’ working conditions and road safety, as well as to enhance compliance with the rules and competition between road operators. In the context of the European Commission’s 2017 ‘Europe on the move’ package, the current proposal aims to remedy shortcomings of the Driving Time and Tachograph regulations, on which a broad consensus among stakeholders, EU institutions and experts has emerged: lack of clarity, non-uniform implementation, insufficient enforcement and need for strengthened cooperation between Member States and authorities.

Versions

  • Stage: National parliaments

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/12/road-transport-driving-breaks-rest-times-and-tachographs-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Rules for EU institutions’ processing of personal data [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Shara Monteleone (1st edition),

Row of EU European Union flags flying in front of administrative building at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium

© lazyllama / Fotolia

In January 2017, the Commission tabled a proposal for a ‘regulation on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies and the free movement of such data’. The aim is to reform the existing Regulation No 45/2001 and to align it to the 2016 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

In the European Parliament, the rapporteur presented her draft report to the Civil Liberties Committee in June 2017, and the Committee is due to vote on it in October. In the Council meanwhile, a general approach was agreed in June, opening the way to trilogue negotiations once Parliament has approved its mandate.

Versions

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/12/rules-for-eu-institutions-processing-of-personal-data-eu-legislation-in-progress/

Empowering through knowledge: EPRS organises workshop at EWRC masterclass

Written by Christiaan Van Lierop,

EuropeanWeek regions and CitiesThe European Parliamentary Service is associated with this year’s European Week of Regions and Cities, the world’s largest annual event on local and regional development. As in previous years, the EPRS has published a special compendium of briefings to tie in with the event, which explores some of the main themes covered by the 2017 EWRC. But our participation in the 2017 European Week of Regions and Cities doesn’t end there. Our motto is ‘Empowering through knowledge’, which is why – for a second year – we are organising a special workshop as part of the EWRC’s masterclass on EU cohesion policy, a week-long series of seminars and events for PhD students and early career regional policy researchers.

Today’s workshop will discuss how the European Parliament uses research on cohesion and regional policy in its work and in the policy-making process, giving students the opportunity to interact directly with EP experts in the field of cohesion policy. Indeed, one of the highlights of the workshop will be a series of group discussions on how research can contribute to the debate in three areas of interest linked directly to the themes of the 2017 masterclass.

In addition, to help you successfully prepare for this week’s events, the EPRS has matched some of our key publications to a selection of today’s workshops, providing you with all the information you need. To find out more, just click on the links below!

If you are planning to attend the workshop on The contribution of social enterprises to cohesion and resilience in cities and regions, be sure to consult our briefing on EU support for social entrepreneurs. A must-read for participants at the workshop on What role for EUSALP in future?, The EU strategy for the Alpine Region offers a comprehensive guide to one of the EU’s four macro-regional strategies, with the topic of macro-regional strategies continued in Implementation of macro-regional strategies, which provides a good introduction to the themes of the workshop on The potential role of EU macro-regional strategies post-2020. Short food supply chains and local food systems in the EU, meanwhile, represents a useful source of information for the event on Go local! Best practices on sustainable food policy at local level. The issues up for discussion at the workshop on Delivering results through a collaboration between Arctic EU programmes are covered by the EPRS publication on EU regional policy in the Arctic with our briefing on Sustainability and EU cohesion policy recommended reading for the workshop on Green sustainability in Cohesion Policy: Urban and regional perspective. To understand the context behind the workshop on: A regional start-up and scale-up initiative – learning from iEER regions, turn to Helping European SMEs to grow: Start-up and scale-up initiatives for business ventures in the EU; while participants at the session on Cohesion policy and Europe’s strategic investments are invited to read Economic and budgetary outlook for the European Union 2017. Finally, our briefing on European Social Fund provides valuable background reading for the workshop on ESF for social inclusion: lessons learnt and the way forward.

Read also the Topical Digest on ‘European Week of Regions and Cities‘.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/11/empowering-through-knowledge-eprs-organises-workshop-at-ewrc-masterclass/

EPRS: helping you prepare for the EWRC

Written by Christiaan Van Lierop,

EuropeanWeek regions and CitiesAs the world’s largest annual get-together of local and regional experts, the 2017 European Week of Regions and Cities is without a doubt ‘the place to be’ for the EU’s regional movers and shakers. And with a programme packed full of discovery and debate, this year’s event looks set to be bigger and better than ever before – which is why the European Parliamentary Research Service is delighted to be part of the action once again.

One of the highlights of today’s proceedings will undoubtedly be the European Committee of the Regions President Lambertz’s much awaited speech on the State of the Union: the View of Regions and Cities. Indeed, while yesterday saw the official launch of this year’s event, today is the day that participants will really get down to business. Good preparation is without a doubt the key to successful participation at this week’s events – and the EPRS is on hand to help. We have matched some of our key publications to a selection of today’s workshops, providing you with all the information you need in a clear and easy to read format. So; if you are looking for information about the key issues covered by today’s workshops – keep on reading!

Recommended reading for the workshop on How to shape the future cohesion policy after 2020, Challenges for EU cohesion policy provides a good overview of the key issues at stake. While our briefing on Moving cycling forward contains useful information for the event on European cities – providing leadership for health and wellbeing, Regional competitiveness in the EU is your go-to document if you are planning to attend the workshop on Improving regional governance and competitiveness. A briefing on a key EU initiative, Delivering the Urban Agenda for the EU provides useful reading material for the Circular Cities event with Harnessing globalisation for LRAs, meanwhile, a valuable source of information for participants at the workshops on Regional and Urban Leadership in an era of globalisation and de-globalisation and Investment for industry modernisation in European regions. If you are planning to attend the workshop on Boosting digital skills for youth employment, be sure to read our briefing on Digital skills in the EU labour market: participants at the Communities as change agents event, meanwhile, should consult our publication on Rural poverty in the European Union. Our briefing on Financial instruments in cohesion policy offers a good introduction to the issues up for discussion at Financial instruments as a delivery mechanism for ESIF post 2020, while our in-depth analysis on Access to culture in the European Union provides good background reading for the workshop on European Capitals of Culture: Cities and regions as change agents. Lastly, for an overview of Smarter Europe – smarter funding, turn to our Guide to EU Funding 2014-2020.

Read also the Topical Digest on ‘European Week of Regions and Cities‘.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/10/eprs-helping-you-prepare-for-the-ewrc/