Setting European Priorities: The cohesion policy perspective

Written by Vasileios Margaras,

EPRS: ' Setting European priorities: The cohesion policy perspective '

European Parliament Vice-President Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso (EPP, Spain) opened an EPRS roundtable discussion on ‘Setting European Priorities: The cohesion policy perspective’ on 20 June in the EP Library reading room. An audience of representatives from local and regional offices, as well as MEP offices and officials, demonstrated the growing interest in the future of cohesion policy. Providing an overview of the cohesion policy contribution to the lives of European citizens – and the current challenges – the Vice-President referred to the Treaties that established the European Union, which underpin European integration.

Cohesion policy contributes positively to job creation, sustainable development and entrepreneurial competitiveness in the EU. Vice-President Valcárcel Siso applauded the indisputable progress achieved with the use of European Structural and Investment Funds. There is no substitute for cohesion policy – which covers Europe’s basic needs – and should continue to do so. The EU should not leave behind those who need help. As negotiations begin for the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework, the time is now right for a proper debate on cohesion policy.

However – although Brexit constitutes a major issue for the EU budget – it should not monopolise the discussion on the future of cohesion policy. Questions to address include what form of financial support for regions are most suitable: grants – or financial instruments? In this respect, the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI, known as the Juncker investment plan), should contribute added value to cohesion policy, rather than being seen a substitute. The discussion also highlighted the issues of governance, rural-urban connections and the urban dimension of the EU, as themes of major importance. Linking cohesion policy to the priorities of EU economic governance is a further crucial, albeit divisive issue, which underlines tensions between contributing and receiving countries.

EPRS: ' Setting European priorities: The cohesion policy perspective 'Lambert van Nistelrooij (EPP, The Netherlands) highlighted the importance of European territorial cooperation and smart specialisation. The latter is vital to Europe’s prosperity, as it boosts production and exports in a global era. It is important to further explore solutions to improve communication of cohesion policy, particularly as, for citizens, even the benefits of completed projects may take years to materialise. There is a need for a real code of conduct on partnership, so that the involvement of local and regional actors in the shaping of cohesion policy continues.

Focusing on the difficulties that bureaucratic overload causes local and regional authorities when dealing with the ESI Funds, Petr Osvald, Member of the Committee of Regions, made the case for simplification. Indeed, this was a common priority for all the panel speakers. Greater flexibility would make cohesion policy programmes easier to implement. Osvald also mentioned the recently established Alliance on the future of cohesion policy, created with Committee of the Regions support, and the participation of many other regional lobbies.

Professor Simona Piattoni (EUI/University of Trento) focused on structural adjustment and macroeconomic management – providing a multilevel governance perspective. Piattoni mentioned that the many different targets and priorities have overloaded cohesion policy. Better indicators, differentiated instruments, and special task forces may make it more efficient. Piattoni also discussed uneven capacity for governance, as well as underperforming regions, and made suggestions as to how to tackle the problems.

The session concluded with a lively discussion, which touched upon many of the issues raised by the panellists. The debate will certainly continue until the next MFF priorities emerge.

For a deeper understanding of the issues, try the following EPRS publications:

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How the EU budget is spent: Macro-financial assistance

Written by Ana Claudia Alfieri,

Macro-financial assistance

© Comugnero Silvana / Fotolia

One important European Union (EU) objective is to achieve macroeconomic and political stability in its neighbourhood by ‘developing a zone of shared stability, security, and prosperity’ through a set of policies that help to bring candidate, potential candidate, and neighbourhood countries closer to the EU. One of these policies is macro-financial assistance: an instrument the EU uses exceptionally to help countries that ‘play a determining role in regional stability, are of strategic importance for the Union, and are politically, economically and geographically close to the Union’ to overcome acute balance-of-payments crises.

The Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) instrument was created in 1990 as a way to provide macroeconomic support to countries in Eastern Europe with external financing problems and to facilitate their transition to a market economy. The first beneficiary of this instrument was Hungary, which received a loan of €870 million that year. Between 1990 and 1999, eight countries (that would subsequently join the EU: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia) benefited from loans. Hungary received the largest amount (€1 050 million), with Romania (€780 million) and Bulgaria (€750 million) also major beneficiaries.

When a country needs assistance, it makes an official request to the European Commission, which carries out an ex-ante evaluation of the country’s financial needs and writes a proposal for the provision of MFA to that country. The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union take the decision to launch an MFA operation using the ordinary legislative procedure. The operation can take the form of loans or grants; loans are financed by borrowing in the international financial markets, while grants come directly from the EU budget. Grants are given only to countries classified by the World Bank as low or lower-middle income, and which have high poverty rates and debt sustainability problems.

Macro-Financial Assistance can only be an exceptional and temporary measure, and is based on strict political and economic conditions:

  • The eligible country must respect effective democratic mechanisms, including a multi-party parliamentary system and the rule of law, and guarantee respect for human rights.
  • An MFA operation must be paired with and complement an International Monetary Fund (IMF) adjustment programme, which means a previous agreement on a credit arrangement to alleviate short-term balance of payment difficulties and implement adjustment measures between the eligible country or territory and the IMF has to be in place.
  • There is a significant and residual external financing gap over and above the resources provided by the IMF and other multilateral institutions, despite the implementation of strong economic stabilisation and reform programmes by the relevant country or territory.
  • The assistance has to be exceptional and complementary to the resources provided by the IMF and other multilateral financial institutions, and there has to be fair burden-sharing between the Union and other donors.

The countries outside the EU that have been granted assistance since 1990 are Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, the Kyrgyz Republic, Lebanon, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Montenegro, Serbia, Tajikistan, Tunisia and Ukraine.

Read the full publication on ‘Macro-financial assistance’.

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Start of Brexit negotiations [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

Negotiation of Great Britain and European Union (Brexit). Statesman or politicians with clasped hands.

© vchalup / Fotolia

Formal negotiations on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union under Article 50 TEU got under way on 19 June, as both sides agreed in principle how to organise the talks and underlined their mutual goodwill. The talks began nearly a year after the U.K. referendum to leave the EU (on 23 June 2016) and less than two weeks after a general election that left the ruling Conservative Party without a majority in the House of Commons.

This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports published by major international think tanks on the UK’s plans to leave the EU and the wider implications of Brexit. More studies on issues raised by the vote can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are thinking’ from April 2017.

Brexit: Next steps of UK’s withdrawal from the EU
Library of the House of Commons, June 2017

How should the EU react to Britain’s general election?
Centre for European Reform, June 2017

What’s next after Theresa May’s spectacular own goal?
Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2017

What now? Options for Brexit: And a cry for help
European Policy Centre, June 2017

There is nothing to back expectations of a softer Brexit
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2017

Scottish and UK immigration policy after Brexit
Scottish Centre on European Relations, June 2017

Brexit and the future of the Irish border
Bruegel, June 2017

As the Labour Party’s influence grows, it must clarify its Brexit strategy
Open Europe, June 2017

UK election result may lead to a more democratic and accountable Brexit
Chatham House, June 2017

Vers un déclin de l’hégémonie anglo-saxonne?
Fondation Robert Schuman, June 2017

The existential challenges looming for the EU
Centre for Policy Studies, June 2017

EU citizens’ rights after Brexit: The EU’s demands for extra-territorial jurisdiction by the CJEU and reverse discrimination
Policy Exchange, June 2017

The politics of fantasy: Immigration policy in the UK after Brexit
Civitas, June 2017

Zeitplan für den Brexit
Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, June 2017

What does the election result mean for Brexit?
Centre for European Reform, June 2017

Bringing Brexit back to reality
Carnegie Europe, June 2017

The Brexit timetable: Key questions and challenges for the UK and Scotland
Scottish Centre on European Relations, June 2017

May’s humiliation could make Brexit easier
Atlantic Council, June 2017

Britain’s postelection future
Carnegie Europe, June 2017

Everyone loses in UK election
Brookings Institution, June 2017

Is Britain lost?
Carnegie Europe, June 2017

Social Market Foundation: Immigration briefing
Social Market Foundation, June 2017

¿Habrá Brexit?
Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, June 2017

Brexit and the Challenge of Citizenship: British passports for EU citizens living in the UK?
Centre for European Policy Studies, May 2017

Uncertainty in the UK
European Policy Centre, May 2017

Why no deal would be much worse than a bad deal
Centre for European Reform, May 2017

The liberation of Europe
European Council on Foreign Relations, May 2017

Blaupause für die Brexit-Verhandlungen: ein Signal der Geschlossenheit der EU-27
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, May 2017

UK economic performance post-Brexit
Bruegel, May 2017

Five takeaways from analysing Brexit
Jacques Delors Institute, May 2017

Scotland: What strategy as Brexit talks get under way?
Scottish Centre on European Relations, May 2017

The British and their exceptionalism
Centre for European Reform, May 2017

How much will Brexit cost?
Chatham House, May 2017

Taking back control of trade policy
Institute for Government, May 2017

Pharmaceutical industry at risk from Brexit
Bruegel, May 2017

The European Union is exaggerating in its demands for Brexit
Egmont, May 2017

International arbitration is the way to settle the UK’s Brexit bill
Bruegel, May 2017

Planning for post-Brexit Britain’s place on the global stage
Chatham House, May 2017

Brexit: Now for the hard part
Centre on Foreign Relations, May 2017

Implementing Brexit: Immigration
Institute for Government, May 2017

Striking the right deal: UK–EU migration and the Brexit negotiations
Institute for Public Policy Research, April 2017

A new UK-EU relationship in financial services: A bilateral regulatory partnership
Legatum Institute, April 2017

Brexiting Swiss-style: The best possible UK-EU trade deal
Centre for European Reform, April 2017

Hard Brexit in retreat?
Scottish Centre on European Relations, April 2017

Read this briefing on ‘Start of Brexit negotiations‘ in PDF.

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The Brexit negotiations: Issues for the first phase

Written by  Alessandro D’Alfonso, Eva-Maria Poptcheva, James McEldowney and Laura Tilindyte,

The Brexit negotiations: Issues for the first phase

© European Union, 2017 – Source: European Commission, Audiovisual Service / Mauro Bottaro

Negotiations on the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union started on 19 June 2017. The European Commission is negotiating on behalf of the EU, on the basis of the European Council’s guidelines and the subsequent mandate from the Council. The European Parliament, for its part, has also laid down key principles and conditions for its approval of a possible UK withdrawal agreement. Three key priorities are set to dominate the first phase of the negotiations (with the future relationship between the EU and the UK left to a second phase). These are: citizens’ rights, settlement of the UK’s financial obligations, and ensuring the Northern Ireland peace process is not jeopardised.

The EU position on citizens’ rights is set out in the Council negotiating directives, accompanied by a Commission working paper listing the essential principles to be safeguarded through the negotiations. These documents aim at securing, post-Brexit, the same level of protection that EU-27 citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU-27, enjoy under EU law prior to the withdrawal date. This includes rights the enjoyment of which will ‘intervene at a later date’ (for example, rights related to old-age pensions) and rights which are ‘in the process of being obtained’ (such as the right to permanent residence). Such rights should be protected ‘for life’, including the right of current and future family members to join (Union) citizens ‘at any point in time’ before and after the withdrawal. The two documents also call for simple administrative procedures to obtain national residence documents, and for the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice to continue for the above matters.

Furthermore, the negotiation documents highlight the equal treatment principle as a condition for the effective exercise of all Union citizenship rights. They stipulate that EU-27 citizens in the UK should be treated equally to UK citizens, and that equal treatment among EU-27 citizens be guaranteed in all matters covered by the with­drawal agreement. Under this principle, EU citizens are granted access to employment on an equal basis with host-country citizens, with no priority for the latter, and without the possibility of the host state introducing quotas for the employment of EU citizens. Moreover, EU social security coordination ensures that EU citizens working in another Member State suffer no disadvantage. To this end, periods spent – and contributions paid – in different Member States are aggregated, pensions can be exported to another Member State, and access equal to that of nationals is granted to social security benefits such as sickness, unemployment, maternity and old-age benefits.

A second challenge in the first phase of the negotiations concerns the financial implications of obligations undertaken by the UK during its EU membership. The EU has presented its negotiating position on how to disentangle UK rights and obligations from those of the other EU Member States, including the method to calculate the related financial settlement. The UK government has not yet detailed its position on the matter. While there are no official figures on the possible amount of the financial settlement, analysts have produced a range of estimates, which differ significantly depending on the assumptions and data used. A number argue that, while the financial settlement is not the most significant economic issue in the UK withdrawal, it has the potential to represent a major difficulty in the negotiations due to its sensitivity.

The negotiation guidelines and mandate also address the possibility of a post-Brexit hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, stating that nothing in the UK withdrawal agreement should undermine the objectives and commitments in the Good Friday Agreement.

Read the complete in-depth analysis on ‘The Brexit negotiations: Issues for the first phase‘ in PDF.

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Trade flows: animated infographic

Written by Krisztina Binder, Laura Puccio, Giulio Sabbati, Odile Maisse.

Animated Infographic: Map‘Every man lives by exchanging’, said philosopher and economist Adam Smith in the late 18th century. Indeed, trade has historically played a significant role in a country’s economy. In today’s globalised world, trade is a major tool in state policies to ensure economic growth and more jobs. A country’s success in trade generally also leads to better allocation of resources, higher innovation and competitiveness, higher productivity and, consequently, lower prices for both consumers and producers. Trade agreements aimed at facilitating trade and economic relations also deepen cooperation between partners in various other areas, thereby helping to encourage, among other things, the enhancement of social and environmental standards.

EU trade policy, known as the common commercial policy, is the EU’s main external policy. EU trade has flourished, thanks to the establishment of a single market, a single external border and a single trade policy. Currently, the EU is the main global player in trade, responsible for 16.1 % of trade in goods, services, and FDI flows in the world. It is a key partner in world trade in goods, has a leading position in global trade in services, and is also a major source and destination of world investments. The EU has been negotiating trade agreements with third countries since the 1970s. Originally focusing on European, Mediterranean, as well as African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) trade partners, the EU now negotiates with partners on every continent. The EU is also a main actor in the multilateral trading system.

See this animated infographic on Trade Flows.

Animated Infographic: Goods from CanadaBut what does this mean in practice? What do we know about the share of EU internal versus EU external trade in goods? Which has increased fastest over the past ten years, trade in goods or trade in services? Which Member States trade most between each other? What products does the EU import from the USA and from Canada? Is it common knowledge that EU Member States trade more with other Member States than with countries outside the EU?

Some of these questions have already been answered in the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) publications on EU trade relations with individual countries. This ‘animated infographic‘ serves to complete and cluster this information in a common web-based tool, providing a user-friendly and engaging way to access a full range of information about EU trade.

The infographic illustrates EU trade, firstly from a generic point of view, and secondly in greater detail, considering goods, services and foreign direct investment (FDI). It looks at EU trade both in terms of intra-EU (trade between Member States) and extra-EU (trade between Member States as a whole and the rest of the world). Four sections cover overall trade, intra-EU trade, extra-EU trade, and trade with non-EU partners.

The first section ‘EU trade flows’, includes EU trade data – goods, services and FDI – for the last eleven years (from 2005 onwards), for extra- and intra-EU trade. Each of the subsections includes a graph showing EU trade divided by intra and extra-EU, as well as by import and export.

The second section, ‘Trade between EU Member States’, analyses intra-EU trade in goods. One graph shows the extent to which each Member State trades with other Member States, and with countries outside the EU, including the percentage of intra-EU and extra-EU trade for each Member State. A second graph shows how each Member State trades with the other 27. A map allows the user to choose the Member State in which they are interested, and adapt the two graphs to show data regarding the Member State selected only.

Animated Infographic: SlovakiaThe third section, ‘EU trade flows with the rest of the world’ is divided in three subsections: trade in goods, services and EU FDI as a whole with the rest of the world. The section begins with a historical graph that shows the development of EU trade from 2005 onwards; a second graph ranks EU trade partners, to show which partners are more important for the EU; it also visualises how the Member States trade with the rest of the world; and which Member States are most important in terms of import and export. Charts at the end of each subsection illustrate the main products, services and activities that the EU imports and exports from/to the rest of the world.

The last section, ‘Trade information between EU and non-EU partner countries’, includes an interactive map that allows the user to select a partner from the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Tunisia and the USA. This section demonstrates how the EU trades with each country individually; how trade has evolved in the last ten years; which Member States trade the most; and what the EU mainly imports and exports. In addition, to better understand how important the EU is as a trading partner with a selected country, a graph shows each country’s main trade partners. All of this information is available for the three types of trade – goods, services, and FDI.

Navigation from one section to another or within each section to get more detailed information is easy, thanks to interactive maps and to the infographic’s simple layout.

The infographic also includes short overviews of EU trade strategy; the agreements the EU is currently negotiating with third countries; and agreements that have already been concluded; as well as links to EPRS publications.

Animated Infographic: Bubble

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Outlook for the European Council meeting on 22-23 June 2017 and the European Council (Article 50) meeting on 22 June 2017

Written by Susanna Tenhunen and Suzana Anghel,

Outlook for the European Council meeting on 22-23 June 2017 and the European Council (Article 50) meeting on 22 June 2017


At their meeting on 22-23 June 2017, EU leaders will focus on internal security, including, most probably, the fight against terrorism, as well as external security, when they will assess progress made in European defence cooperation. They will also review progress on deepening and modernising the Single Market, and endorse the country-specific recommendations under the European Semester process. In addition, migration, external relations and the Paris Agreement on climate change are to be discussed. Although not on the draft agenda, EU leaders will probably address current issues related to trade. Finally, EU-27 leaders will meet in a separate formal European Council (Article 50) without the United Kingdom, to discuss the latest developments following the UK’s formal notification of its withdrawal from the EU.

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

According to commitments made in previous conclusions, the European Council should address a number of items (Table 1) at its June meeting. All of these feature prominently on the annotated draft agenda.

Table 1: Commitments relating to agenda of European Council meeting of 22-23 June 2017

II. Security and defence

The European Council will hold a session dedicated to security, concentrating on both internal and external dimensions. As part of the internal security debate, the European Council is likely to review progress made on the Entry-Exit System (EES) and European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) since March 2017. EU Heads of State or Government have already called on the co-legislators (Council and Parliament) to agree by June 2017 on the European Commission’s April 2016 proposal to establish an EU Entry-Exit System. Their proposal reached the trilogue phase in May 2017. They also called on the co-legislators to agree on ETIAS in 2017, based on a European Commission proposal from November 2016. On 9 June 2017, Interior Ministers agreed on a Council negotiating position; meanwhile, the proposal is awaiting a vote in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee of the European Parliament. ETIAS is expected to be operational by 2020.

With several EU Member States having faced terrorist attacks in recent months, both Interior Ministers and Ministers of Foreign Affairs discussed counter-terrorism at their June 2017 meetings. In May 2017, the G7 leaders, meeting in Taormina, Italy, signed a joint declaration on combatting terrorism, in which they committed themselves to countering the use of the internet for terrorist purposes. On 13 June, the new President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, reiterated their commitment to the principles of the Taormina declaration and announced a joint action plan on combatting terrorism open to all EU partners.

With respect to external security, the European Council will assess progress made since December 2016 and March 2017 on strengthening EU cooperation on security and defence, and give strategic guidelines for further work. The implementation of the security and defence component of the EU Global Strategy is generally on track, with progress noted at the March, May, and June 2017 Foreign Affairs Councils.

EU leaders will most likely focus on two outstanding issues, namely Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in the field of security and defence and EU Battlegroups. The former requires the Member States to reach consensus on the governance of the mechanism, on participation criteria and on the types of projects. The EU Battlegroups discussion serves as an indicator of the EU’s commitment to meet the level of ambition displayed in the EU Global Strategy. An endorsement of the review principles outlined by the May 2017 Foreign Affairs Council could increase the flexibility and the modularity of EU Battlegroups. It will nonetheless remain entirely up to Member States to decide whether to use this mechanism in the future.

As in December 2016, the highlight of the summit will probably be the Commission’s European Defence Action Plan (EDAP) and, in particular, the recently launched European Defence Fund (EDF). The EDF will allow for EU funding of up to €90 million between 2017 and 2019 under the ‘research window’ for cooperative research projects in the areas of metamaterials, electronics and encrypted software. The amount is expected to rise to €500 million per year under the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), pending the budgetary authority’s approval. From 2020 onwards, the ‘capability window’ is expected to lead to the European Commission administering up to €1 billion of national funding for development and acquisition on behalf of the Member States, with an expected multiplier factor of five per year.

The Heads of State or Government will probably also welcome the progress made so far in implementing the Joint Declaration with NATO. EU-NATO cooperation remains central to European security and defence, and was considered at the May 2017 NATO summit.

III. Jobs, growth and competitiveness

  • Single Market

In June 2016, the European Council called for the completion and implementation of the Single Market strategies by 2018, and invited the Council to report on progress achieved each June. This objective was repeated at the autumn 2016 and spring 2017 European Councils, with an emphasis on actions in the fields of fostering digitalisation, reducing barriers to cross-border activities, and encouraging the free movement of capital. In terms of deepening and modernising the Single Market, EU leaders have also underlined the importance of implementing and effectively enforcing measures already taken, and progressing on legislative proposals in line with the EU institutions’ Joint Declaration on legislative priorities for 2017.

The European Council will review the state of play and identify areas for priority action in this field. The Competitiveness Council of 30 May 2017 examined the progress made on implementation of the Digital Single Market (DSM) and the Single Market strategies, with a focus on the Commission’s mid-term review of the DSM. Moreover, the Ecofin Council of 16 June addressed the Commission’s recently published mid-term review of the Capital Markets Union.

  • European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI)

The European Council has closely monitored the establishment and performance of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). In October and December 2016, EU leaders endorsed the proposal to extend EFSI, and invited the co-legislators to advance rapidly on the legislative procedure, calling for its adoption ‘during the first half of 2017’. Consequently, the European Council might address developments in this area.

  • External Trade

In March 2017, EU leaders reiterated their call for rapid adoption of the proposals on trade defence instruments. Interinstitutional negotiations are ongoing on the Commission’s April 2013 proposal, which seeks to strengthen anti-dumping and anti-subsidy instruments in tackling the unfair trade practices of certain third countries. A second proposal, from November 2016, would introduce a new methodology to calculate anti-dumping duties on imports from countries where ‘significant market distortions‘ have been identified. The Council adopted its position in May 2017, while the Parliament’s Committee for International Trade voted on it at its 19-20 June 2017 meeting.

EU leaders may possibly examine the issue of screening foreign investments in strategic sectors. In the Commission’s reflection paper on harnessing globalisation, concerns have been raised in relation to ‘foreign investors, notably state-owned enterprises, taking over European companies with key technologies for strategic reasons’. In a letter, accompanied by a joint paper, sent to EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, in February 2017, Germany, France and Italy called for the issue to be addressed at EU level. EU leaders may also refer to negotiations on free trade agreements with key trade partners, including Japan, Mercosur and Mexico.

  • European Semester

In accordance with the 2017 European Semester, the European Council is set to endorse the latest set of country-specific recommendations (CSRs), paving the way for their final adoption by the Council in July.

IV. Migration

With respect to the external dimension of migration, based on the Valetta Action Plan, the Partnership Framework and the Malta Declaration of February 2017, EU leaders will consider progress made in implementing measures to stem illegal migration flows on the Central Mediterranean route. Analysts noted that the Malta Declaration focused ‘almost exclusively’ on the situation in Libya, and confirmed the country’s importance to countering illegal migration flows in the Central Mediterranean. The declaration prioritises stabilisation efforts, capacity-building (coast-guard training and equipment in particular) and ensuring adequate reception capacities and conditions in Libya for migrants, in partnership with UNHCR and IOM. In addition, the Maltese Prime Minister and current President of the Council, Joseph Muscat, is expected to present the progress since March 2017, when EU leaders last discussed the topic.

On the internal dimension of migration, EU leaders will discuss the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) with a focus on the principles of responsibility and solidarity. Following the 8-9 June 2017 Justice and Home Affairs Council, Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos declared that the EU needs a ‘crisis-resistant system, which is both effective and fair’, and stated that ‘solidarity cannot be a one-way street or à la carte’. Several Member States, including Italy and Greece, are supportive of continuing work on the two above-mentioned principles, and are keen to see a package deal reached as soon as possible on the seven dossiers which make up the CEAS.

V. The Paris Agreement on climate change

The European Council will discuss the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change for the first time since the announcement of the United States’ withdrawal. The EU has highlighted on several occasions its willingness to lead the global transition towards a low-carbon and sustainable economy, recently underlining the need to reinforce existing partnerships and seek new ones. In line with the communiqué of the G7 Environment Ministers on 13 June 2017 and the UNFCCC statement of 1 June 2017, EU leaders are expected to express their determination to implement the Paris Agreement, including its financial aspects, and highlight that it is not open for renegotiation.

VI. External relations

The European Council will also address foreign policy items. The spring of 2017 was defined by an intense diplomatic agenda, including inter alia the 26-27 May G7 Summit in Taormina, where questions linked to countering terrorism, instability in the EU’s neighbourhood, growth, international trade, and reducing inequality were discussed; and the EU-China Summit. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, may inform EU leaders of the outcome of these discussions. He may also give an overview of discussions held in Brussels in May 2017 with the US President, Donald Trump, and with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The Heads of State or Government could possibly also examine the status of the implementation of the Minsk agreements in the context of the further deterioration of the situation in eastern Ukraine (Donbas area). Related to this, in a meeting on 9 June with the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, the President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, mentioned that ‘there are no conditions to remove the sanctions’, given the current situation on the ground. On 19 June 2017, the Foreign Affairs Council extended by one year sanctions set on Russia following the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol.

VII. Other items

In March 2017, EU leaders highlighted the importance of continued attention to the digital agenda, and hence this issue might come up again at the meeting, since building a connected digital Europe features prominently in the Joint Declaration on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2017. It is also at the heart of the main priorities of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU, which starts on 1 July 2017. In this context, EU leaders will gather in Tallinn on 29 September 2017 to discuss the digital future of Europe.

According to the annotated draft agenda, the European Council might discuss the priorities of the forthcoming G20 Summit, which will take place in Hamburg on 7-8 July 2017. Under the 2017 German Presidency and building on the established working process, the G20 meeting will discuss a variety of global challenges, focusing on three main priorities: ‘building resilience’, ‘improving sustainability’ and ‘assuming responsibility’ – the overarching theme being ‘shaping an interconnected world’.

VIII. European Council (Article 50) meeting on 22 June 2017

A first formal meeting of the European Council (Article 50) without the UK was held on 29 April 2017, one month after the UK’s formal notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU. The EU-27 leaders adopted guidelines for the Article 50 TEU negotiations, which set out their united position on overall principles and priorities, while also agreeing on proceeding with a phased sequencing of the negotiations. The EU-27 leaders meet again in the formal setting of the European Council (Article 50) on 22 June, after the working dinner, to take stock of latest developments.

In line with the guidelines of the European Council (Article 50) and building on the Commission recommendations, the General Affairs Council (GAC) (Article 50) of 22 May authorised the start of negotiations and appointed the Commission as the EU negotiator. It also adopted a set of negotiating directives for the first phase. The ministers also agreed on guiding principles for transparency and on the establishment of a specific working party to assist Coreper and the Council on Brexit matters. On 12 June, the EU published position papers on two of the three priority questions for the first phase, namely citizens’ rights and a settlement of financial obligations.

In accordance with the joint statement by the UK Department for Exiting the European Union and the European Commission, the first meeting of the Brexit negotiations took place on Monday 19 June. Based on the provisional schedule set out by the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, a first report to the European Council (Article 50) is envisaged for the 22-23 June 2017 meeting.

In the margins of the European Council (Article 50) meeting, EU-27 leaders are expected to endorse a decision-making procedure for the relocation of the two UK-based EU agencies, the European Banking Authority (EBA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA). Prior to that, their relocation was on the agenda of the General Affairs Council (Article 50) on 20 June. In the European Council (Article 50) of 29 April, President Tusk informed the EU-27 leaders of the intention to set out this procedure.

Read this briefing on ‘Outlook for the European Council meeting on 22-23 June 2017 and the European Council (Article 50) meeting on 22 June 2017‘ in PDF.

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Revision of the Fourth Anti-Money-Laundering Directive [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Angelos Delivorias (1st edition),

Revision of the Fourth Anti-Money-Laundering Directive

© M. Schuppich / Fotolia

Directive (EU) 2015/849, which forms part of the EU regulatory framework to combat financial crime, has shown gaps in the light of recent terrorist attacks and the ‘Panama papers’ revelations. In this context, the European Commission proposed to amend the directive, along with Directive 2009/101/EC, to broaden their scope, lower thresholds benefiting from exemptions and provide for the creation of automated centralised mechanisms (e.g. central electronic data retrieval systems). The European Parliament and Council have each put forward substantial modifications to the Commission proposal. These include: the obligation for Member States to provide data on trusts and legal arrangements to the Commission; specific professional secrecy obligations for staff working, or having worked for, competent authorities supervising credit and financial institutions; cooperation between competent authorities; and the creation of an independent authority to supervise and coordinate anti-money-laundering activities carried out by national competent authorities and law enforcement bodies.


EU Legislation in progress

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‘Erasmus+’: the Union programme for education, training, youth and sport

Young people want to know more about Erasmus+ and are asking for information on mobility opportunities so that they can enhance their skills and improve their job prospects. They frequently pose questions to the European Parliament to find out what support the EU provides for youth training and education.

Legal framework

Articles 165 and 166 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union are the basis for EU action in education, vocational training, youth and sport.  The role of the EU in these areas is to support and complement the actions of the Member States, while fully respecting their responsibility for the content and organisation of their own national systems.

Under Article 14 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, ‘Everyone has the right to education and to have access to vocational and continuing training’.

From several programmes to a single umbrella programme, Erasmus +

Yellow road sign with text vocational education.

putilov_denis / Fotolia

Regulation (EU) No 1288/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council, adopted on 11 December 2013, established ‘Erasmus+’: the Union programme for education, training, youth and sport.

Launched on 1 January 2014, the programme runs until 31 December 2020. It combines and integrates all the previous financing mechanisms, implemented by the EU up to 2013: the Lifelong Learning Programme, Comenius (school education), Erasmus (higher education), Leonardo da Vinci (education and vocational training), Grundtvig (adult education); the Youth in Action Programme; five international cooperation programmes (Erasmus Mundus, Tempus, Alfa, Edulink and the bilateral cooperation programme with industrialised countries); the Jean Monnet sub-programme, which now becomes Jean Monnet Activities, and also includes support for sport for the first time.

The European Parliament resolution, adopted on 2 February 2017, on the implementation of Regulation (EU) No 1288/2013, stresses, inter alia, that ‘while the first two and a half years of programme implementation were difficult and challenging, improvements have been made in the meantime, although simplifications introduced through the one-size-fits-all approach have in many cases had an adverse effect’. The report also points out that the previous programme names should continue to be used alongside that of Erasmus+, to make things clearer for applicants.

Opportunities for everyone

Erasmus+ offers opportunities to everyone: students, staff, trainees, teachers, volunteers, and others. It is also not just available to Europe and Europeans: the programme offers these opportunities to participants from all over the world.

More information is available, in the Individuals section of the European Commission website, about the opportunities for people of all ages to develop and share knowledge and experience in institutions and organisations in various countries. The Organisations section provides assistance for organisations, which, if they intend to participate in the programme, are required to engage in a series of development and networking activities.

As part of the new integrated approach, for organisations wishing to take part in the programme, Erasmus+ is divided into three key actions: (1) Learning mobility for individuals, (2) Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices, and (3) Support for policy reform. A further two special activities are included: Jean Monnet and Sport activities, which are not part of the key actions.

30th anniversary of the Erasmus programme

On 13 June 2017, in plenary session in Strasbourg, the European Parliament held a 30th anniversary celebration for the Erasmus programme, including an award ceremony, at which Parliament’s President, Antonio Tajani, and European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, welcomed 33 Erasmus participants from each country taking part in the programme. The celebrations included an exhibition on Erasmus+, as well as debates on the future of the programme. To mark the 30 years of Erasmus, the Commission also launched a Mobile App, which facilitates administrative procedures and integration of beneficiaries throughout their Erasmus+ stay.

Parliamentary questions

MEPs’ questions to the European Commission on the subject of Erasmus include: E‑001234-2017 (Erasmus for apprentices); P-002639-2017 (Erasmus+ schools funding); E‑002073-2017 (Erasmus+ programme for overseas students); E-002363-2017 (Need to include journalists and the media as part of information and awareness-raising on the EU); E‑002842-2016 (Traineeship mobility in Europe); E-005667-2016 (Legal protection for Erasmus students).

Further information

A number of European Parliament publications on Erasmus+ are available on the Think Tank website of the European Parliament. General information is available in the European Parliament’s fact sheets on youth.


The Education and Youth section of the Your Europe website and the European Youth Portal website provide further information on EU youth programmes.

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World Refugee Day: making child-sensitive asylum and refugee policy

Written by Joanna Apap and Anita Orav.

An unprecedented mass movement to the EU of asylum-seekers and migrants of all ages began in 2014, reached a peak in 2015, and subsequently continued into 2016 and 2017. On 5 April 2017, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on addressing refugee and migrant movements: the role of EU external action, which calls for a coordinated and effective protection response, which has both a gender and a child-sensitive dimension.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) estimates that in 2015, there were globally no fewer than 100 000 unaccompanied migrant and refugee children. Europol has stated that at least 10 000 unaccompanied child refugees have gone missing following their arrival in Europe. There are various reasons why a child may be unaccompanied or separated, including persecution of the child or the parents; international conflict and civil war; human trafficking and smuggling, including sale by parents; accidental separation from the parents over the course of their journey; and pursuit of better economic opportunities.

Regional statistics (absolute numbers) for migrant children, 2015

Regional statistics (absolute numbers) for migrant children, 2015

The mixed migratory flows include a large number of refugees, as evidenced by the previously unseen numbers of asylum applications. According to Eurostat, the number of asylum applications in the EU reached 1.3 and 1.2 million in 2015 and 2016 respectively. More than half of the applicants came from war-torn regions – Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Around 30 % of them in 2015-2016 were children, an alarming number of whom were travelling alone. Children are particularly vulnerable to physical and psychological violence in migration detention, which is why human rights organisations argue that children should not be detained at all. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has identified a number of protection gaps in the treatment of these children, including that unaccompanied and separated children face greater risks of, inter alia, sexual exploitation and abuse, military recruitment, child labour (including for foster families), and detention.

Children on the Move Globally in 2015 (absolute numbers)

Children on the Move Globally in 2015 (absolute numbers)

In the last six months, the Maltese EU Presidency has placed the protection of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children high on its agenda. In the context of an increasing number of migrant children arriving in Europe, and on the basis of reports identifying the ensuing challenges, the European Commission presented a communication on the protection of children in migration on 12 April 2017. The communication states that protecting children means upholding European values in favour of human rights, dignity and solidarity, while enforcing EU and international law on human rights and the rights of the child. A comprehensive child rights-based approach, in full compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, is vital to ensure the ‘best interests of the child’ are upheld in Europe.

Read also our at a glance note on:
World Refugee Day: Focus on migrant children ‘.

In its motion for a resolution of 15 May 2017 on making relocation happen, the Parliament noted that, out of 28 Member States, only Finland was systematically relocating unaccompanied minors, and called on all Member States to give priority to the relocation of unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable applicants.

For more information read our At a Glance on World Refugee Day: focus on migrant children. European Parliamentary Research Service briefings on the vulnerability of unaccompanied and separated child migrants and arbitrary detention of women and children for immigration-related purposes further explain the plight of women and children in their search for refuge, as well as the legal framework, process and conditions in which they are received.

For an overview of how children in Europe are faring in some of the key areas covered in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and what the European Union is doing to protect their rights, please refer to our At a Glance note on Universal Children’s Day.

Finally, explore this interactive infographic for further information.

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The EU and China [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski.

China - EU joint maps

© Weissblick / Fotolia

The European Union and China made limited progress towards improving bilateral ties at their summit in early June, and they remain at odds over a number of controversial trade issues. However, analysts say the EU and China look poised to strengthen cooperation on fighting climate change, especially after the new US President, Donald Trump, withdrew from the Paris deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. China is also eager to push ahead with its Belt and Road Initiative – a strategic plan to boost transport, trade, connectivity and cooperation between China and Europe.

This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on relations between China and the EU, as well as on other issues related to the country. More studies on the topic can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are thinking’.

EU-China relations

Other than climate change, can anything else unite Europe and China against Trump?
Bruegel, June 2017

China-EU leadership in globalisation: Ambition and capacity
Centre for European Policy Studies, May 2017

EU-China co-operation in global governance: Going beyond the conceptual gap
Egmont, May 2017

China’s inroads into Central, Eastern, and South Eastern Europe: Implications for Germany and the EU
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, May 2017

China cannot finance the Belt and Road alone
Bruegel, May 2017

What are China’s global economic intentions?
Bruegel, April 2017

EU-China leadership in trade policy: Feasible? Desirable?
Centre for European Policy Studies, March 2017

The EU-China energy cooperation: An institutional analysis
European Institute for Asian Studies, February 2017

China as an investment power in Europe
College of Europe, December 2016

Climate policy in China, the European Union and the United States: main drivers and prospects for the future
Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, Bruegel, December 2016

Europe, China and Africa: New thinking for a secure century
Friends of Europe, November 2016

Emissions trading and climate diplomacy between Europe and China
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, November 2016

What consequences would a post-Brexit China-UK trade deal have for the EU?
Bruegel, October 2016

Granting market economy status to China in the EU: An economic impact assessment
Bruegel, September 2016

China and Brexit: What’s in it for us?
European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2016

EU-China relations: New directions, new priorities
Friends of Europe, July 2016

Economic diplomacy in EU–China relations: Why Europe needs its own ‘OBOR’
Clingendael, June 2016

The European Union and the China-led transformation of global economic governance
Egmont, June 2016

China’s market economy status and the European interest
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2016

Belt and Road Initiative

Beijing’s silk road goes digital
Council on Foreign Relations, June 2017

Europe’s mixed views on China’s One Belt, One Road initiative
Brookings Institution, May 2017

The EU in the AIIB: Taming China’s influence from within
Egmont, May 2017

China’s soft power offensive, one belt one road, and the limitations of Beijing’s soft power
Council on Foreign Relations, May 2017

The EU, the Eurasian Economic Union and One Belt, One Road: Can they work together?
Centre for European Reform, March 2017

The Silk Road Economic Belt: Considering security implications and EU–China cooperation prospects
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, February 2017

Europe and China’s new Silk Roads
Clingendael, January 2017

The ‘Belt and Road’ initiative and the London market: The next steps in renminbi internationalization. Part 3: framework for policy discussion
Chatham House, January 2017

The ‘Belt and Road’ initiative and the London market: The next steps in renminbi internationalization. Part 1: the view from Beijing
Chatham House, January 2017

The ‘Belt and Road’ initiative and the London market: The next steps in renminbi internationalization. Part 2: the view from London
Chatham House, January 2017

Europe and China’s new silk roads
European Think-tank Network on China, December 2016

The geopolitical relevance of Piraeus and China’s New Silk Road
Clingendael, December 2016

China’s belt and road: Destination Europe
Carnegie Europe, November 2016

China’s road: Into Eastern Europe
European Union Institute for Security Studies, February 2017

China’s Belt and Road initiative: Can Europe expect trade gains?
Bruegel, September 2016

One belt, one road: The Chinese dream and its impact on Europe
Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, May 2016

The silk road, XXI century: One belt, one road
Institute of International and European Affairs, May 2016

Xi Jinping’s long road to China’s OBOR initiative and how Europe should respond
European Centre for International Political Economy, May 2016

Other studies

US-China cooperation in a changing global economy
Peterson Institute for International Economics, June 2017

A few words on China’s ‘new’ exchange rate regime
Council on Foreign Relations, May 2017

China’s big bet on soft power
Council on Foreign Relations, May 2017

Transatlantic divergences in globalisation and the China factor
Centre for European Policy Studies, May 2017

China’s rising leverage is a growing risk
Bruegel, May 2017

China’s confusing trade and current account numbers
Council on Foreign Relations, April 2017

Is China’s innovation strategy a threat?
Bruegel, April 2017

Global competition and the rise of China
Peterson Institute for International Economics, February 2017

China and Russia: An Eastern partnership in the making?
European Union Institute for Security Studies, February 2017

China 4.0. Reaktionen in Partei und Gesellschaft auf die digitale Transformation
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, January 2017

Chinas Kommunistische Partei vor Xi Jinpings zweiter Amtsperiode als Vorsitzender Im Spannungsfeld individueller Machtkonsolidierung und kollektiver Parteitraditionen
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, January 2017

China’s foreign policy in Northeast Asia: Implications for the Korean peninsula
Istituto Affari Internazionali, January 2017

Will engaging China promote good governance?
Brookings Institution, January 2017

China’s G20 Year and the new paradigm: Emphasis on global governance pointing the way to 2017 and beyond
Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, January 2017

China’s overseas investment in critical infrastructure: Nuclear power and telecommunications
Danish Institute of International Studies, December 2016

Should the United States recognize China as a market economy?
Peterson Institute for International Economics, December 2016

China’s path to high-tech leadership
Mercator Institute for China Studies, December 2016

China’s regional forum diplomacy
European Union Institute for Security Studies, November 2016

China’s military deployments in the Gulf of Aden: Anti-piracy and beyond
Institut français des relations internationales, November 2016

China’s global rise: Can the EU and US pursue a coordinated strategy?
Brookings Institution, October 2016

Chinese public sees more powerful role in world, names US as top threat. Domestic challenges persist: corruption, consumer safety, pollution
Pew Research Center, October 2016

Financial regulation: The G20’s missing Chinese dream
Bruegel, October 2016

‘Silk globalisation’: China’s vision of international order
Centre for Eastern Studies, October 2016

China’s growth challenges
Institut für Weltwirtschaft Kiel, September 2016

China’s relations with sub-Saharan Africa
Istituto Affari Internazionali, September 2016

China’s new economic frontier: Overcoming obstacles to continued growth
Peterson Institute for International Economics, August 2016

A hundred think tanks bloom in China
European Council on Foreign Relations, August 2016

China’s advance in Latin America: Geostrategic implications for Europe, the US, and the region itself
Finnish Institute of International Affairs, August 2016

China’s market economy status: A political issue
Institute of International and European Affairs, August 2016

The China-Russia trade relationship and its impact on Europe
Bruegel, July 2016

China in the Eastern Mediterranean
Clingendael, July 2016

Engaging China at a time of transition: Capitalising on a new era of Chinese Global investment and Foreign Policy Initiatives
European Political Strategy Centre, July 2016

China dream: Still coming true?
Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale, July 2016

China in the Middle East: Not just about oil
European Union Institute for Security Studies, July 2016

Time’s up: China’s coming battle for market economy status
European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2016

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