EU right to be forgotten

Written by Tambiama Madiega with Anna Meriel Nichols,


Privacy policy word cloud concept

© ibreakstock / Fotolia

The ‘right to be forgotten’ (or ‘dereferencing‘) refers to the fact that residents in the European Union (EU) can request that information about them, which appears when searching for their name on the internet, be delisted and therefore made inaccessible.

In the EU, the ‘right to be forgotten’ was first articulated in the 2014 Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos case brought before the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). Article 17 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), applicable since 25 May 2018, enshrines a ‘right to erasure’ in EU law, which encompasses the ‘right to be forgotten’. On this basis, people living in the EU now routinely ask search engines like Google to take down links to their personal information.

However, the implementation of the ‘right to be forgotten’ has proven difficult and the territorial scope of this right has been challenged before the CJEU.

In Case 507/17 Google v CNIL, decided in September 2019, the CJEU provided some guidance on the implementation of the ‘right to be forgotten’. The Court held that, as matter of principle, search engine operators are not required to carry out a worldwide dereferencing order (i.e. on all versions of its search engine), but should implement an EU-wide dereferencing order (i.e. on all EU versions of its search engine), to ensure a consistent and high level of data protection throughout the EU. The Court also recalls that a balance must be struck between data protection and privacy rights and the right to freedom of information when making a dereferencing order, in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. Search engine operators must also implement geo-blocking measures to prevent, or at least seriously discourage, internet users in Member States from gaining access to dereferenced links within the EU.

The Google v CNIL decision has provoked significant reaction from stakeholders, civil society advocacy groups and academics. As the CJEU did not completely rule out worldwide dereferencing orders, questions as to the extraterritorial application of the ‘right to be forgotten’ and the potential conflict of rules and jurisdictions have been raised, while an increasing number of countries outside the EU are embedding such a right in their national legislation. In addition, the CJEU decision has sparked debates about the use of geoblocking techniques, the need for international standards, and how to strike a balance between privacy and protection of personal data and the right to freedom of information.

This Keysource gathers key documents, analyses and stakeholders’ views to throw a light on the issues at stake. It is the bibliographic companion to the EPRS At a glance publication: European Court of Justice limits the territorial scope of the ‘right to be forgotten’ (October 2019), which outlines the legal framework and CJEU decisions on the right to be forgotten in detail.

1. General sources of information

This survey intends to compile citizen awareness of the GDPR and more general opinions and behaviours relating to data sharing and data protection.

This factsheet, which was published following the Google Spain ruling, provides some guidelines on the implementation of the right to be forgotten.

The Article 29 Working Party (now the European Data Protection Board), an EU advisory body on data protection, issued guidelines on the implementation of the Google Spain judgment.

2. Analysis

Territorial scope and extraterritorial application of EU law

This article examines the implications of the judgment for EU residents and comments on the significance of the decision as a means for testing how far the EU can expand its data protection standards beyond its territory. It also discusses how setting a ‘floor, not a ceiling’ for dereferencing obligations preserves Member State abilities to impose global dereferencing orders and the EU’s ability to position itself as the standard-bearer for data protection regulations.

This article compares the ‘diverging’ approaches to territorial scope in the CNIL case and Case C-18/18 Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook Ireland. In particular, it asks ‘to what extent is there a coherent approach to issues arising from the internet across the various legal measures that intersect with it?’

In this post, the author compares the outcome of the final decision with the non-binding Opinion of Advocate General Szpunar, and outlines how he sees the CJEU’s approach aligning with that of the United States Supreme Court on similar cases.

This article provides a commentary on the ‘general implications’ of the case, in particular the jurisdiction of delisting orders, and compares to the CJEU approach to the legal framework for the territorial scope of a right to be forgotten to the approach in the USA.

This article outlines why the outcome of the CNIL case was a ‘win’ for Google, simultaneously leaving ‘the door wide open … for future extraterritorial regulations of the internet’.

This piece argues that the CNIL judgment de facto approves geoblocking and gives rise to potential fragmentation of data protection enforcement.

This article examines ‘whether and how the right to be forgotten may apply to user-generated content hosts like Twitter or Facebook’.

While this article was published before the CNIL judgment was issued, it explains the arguments on both sides regarding territoriality and the enforcement of the right to be forgotten in the case, and provides a background summary of the key points from the Google Spain decision.

This link provides the reader with an overview of the relevant GDPR provisions and CJEU case law pertaining to a right to be forgotten in the EU.

Balancing rights

This article outlines the positive and negative effects of the decision for the right to freedom of information, including the protection of access to knowledge and the matter of delisting by geography rather than language.

This book extract examines how the right to be forgotten’s ability to protect the privacy of individuals may change in significance over time. It also sets out how unpredictable societal change will compel organisations to realise that ‘knowing there is a RtBF provision in the GDPR is enough on its own’.

3. Stakeholder views

The EFF is an advocacy group focusing on the protection of access to developing technology, and a third party to the hearings in the CNIL case. Their comments following the judgment provide an insight into the US orientation towards the protection of free speech online. A copy of the EFF’s intervention to the case can be accessed here.

Article 19 is an advocacy group for freedom of expression rights, which intervened in the CJEU hearings on behalf of a coalition of free speech organisations. The group has applauded the outcome of the case, stating that ‘Courts or data regulators in the United Kingdom, France or Germany should not be able to determine the search results that internet users in America, India or Argentina get to see’.

The CCIA advocates internationally for ‘enhancing society’s access to information and communications.’ In this press release it stresses its satisfaction with the balance the court struck between freedom of information and the rights of citizens outside the EU.

The Multistakeholder Expert Group was ‘established to assist the Commission in identifying the potential challenges in the application of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from the perspective of different stakeholders, and to advise the Commission on how to address them.’ The group shares its opinions of Article 17 GDPR on pp.7-9.

EDRi is an international advocacy group for digital rights. In this piece, they outline their response to the Advocate General’s opinion in the Google v CNIL case, and include links to their previous opinions on the right to be forgotten.

Walker, general counsel for Google, published this post when the CJEU decision on the Google CNIL fine was pending, and provides some insight into Google’s perspective on dereferencing order litigation.

4. International outlook

Doctrinal sources

The Judgment That Will be Forgotten, Oskar Gstrein, Verfassungsblog, 25 September 2019.

Part of this article argues that ‘the right to be forgotten is not a European concept‘, and that the CNIL judgment failed to consider how other countries have approached these cases. It compares the extent of developments in right to be forgotten jurisprudence in the EU to several other countries, and notes that ‘more than 25 percent of the nations on earth have already seen considerable legal developments in the area of a right to be forgotten, including regulation and court judgments.’

Article 8, the Right to be Forgotten and the Media, Hugh Tomlinson QC and Aidan Wills, International Forum for Responsible Media Blog, July 2018.

This review of the M.L. and W.W. v Germany case provides an overview of the criteria used to decide on delisting questions at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). It comments on the parallels between the ECtHR and the approach in the Google Spain case, and outlines why a dereferencing request may be more ‘powerful’ against search engine operators or internet platforms than primary publishers such as news publications.

The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Online within G20 Statutory Data Protection Frameworks, David Erdos and Krzysztof Gartska, University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No 31/2019, September 2019.

This paper argues that the ‘basic underpinnings [of a right to be forgotten] are present in the great majority of G20 statutory frameworks. Whilst China, India, Saudi Arabia and the United States remain exceptional cases, fifteen out of nineteen (almost 80 %) of G20 countries now have fully-fledged statutory data protection laws. By default, almost all of these laws empower individuals to challenge the continued dissemination of personal data, not only when such data may be inaccurate but also on wider legitimacy grounds.’

National legislation


The Right to Be Forgotten, Michael Kelly and David Satola, Illinois Law Review, January 2017.

The most prominent right to be forgotten case in Argentina arose in 2009, in the Virginia da Cunha case. This article gives an overview of the case and its ramifications from pp.28-31.


Data and Digital Rights: Recent Australian Developments, Goggin et al, Internet Policy Review, March 2019.

This paper explores proposals relating to data privacy rights from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)’s Digital Platforms, and from a government-mandated creation of a Consumer Data Right.


Non-Compliance with Judicial Requests for Content Removal, Bloqueios, January 2007.

Questions on the enforceability of dereferencing orders arose in Brazil in 2007, when one of the country’s largest fixed-line telephone operators responded to a judicial order to remove a video of model Daniela Cicarelli from Youtube, which resulted in Youtube being blocked in large parts of the country. The link above provides an overview of and analysis of the materials in English relating to the case.


Draft OPC Position on Online Reputation, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, 26 January 2018.

The Privacy Commissioner lists ‘Reputation and Privacy’ as one of its strategic priorities for 2015-2020. Its draft position includes sections dedicated to De-Indexing, Source Amendment / Takedown and Legislative Solutions.


Right to be Forgotten: A New Privacy Right in the Era of Internet, Yuriko Haga, September 2017.

This chapter outlines the history and current situation regarding a potential right to be forgotten in Japan (section 5), including the appearance of cases against search engines since 2008, and the influence of the Google Spain judgment on more recent cases.

Other countries

The Right to be Forgotten – the EU and Asia Pacific Experience (Australia, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore), Zeller et al, European Human Rights Law Review 2019 volume 1, p.23, UNSW Law Research Paper No 19-2, 23 January 2019.

The following articles and reports include further examples of countries where reference to a right to be forgotten has appeared in court judgments, statutes, or draft legislation:


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Mercosur: Economic indicators and trade with EU

Written by Giulio Sabbati,
In cooperation with Olga Griaznova (from GlobalStat | EUI),

Mercosur, the ‘southern common market’, was founded in 1991 when Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay signed the Treaty of Asunción. In 2012, Venezuela formally joined Mercosur as a fifth member, but in December 2016 the country was suspended temporarily for failure to transpose Mercosur rules into Venezuelan law. In August 2017, the suspension was prolonged indefinitely. This paper presents economic indicators for the four members, for example showing their GDP and labour market situations, and it also shows those countries’ relative positions on several indexes that assess the situation in terms of doing business, corruption and human development. Finally, it looks at trade between the EU and Mercosur – of both goods and services – highlighting the main trading partners, and the main products and services that the EU exports to and imports from the four Mercosur members.

Download this infographic on ‘Mercosur: Economic indicators and trade with EU‘ in PDF.

GlobalStat, a project of the EUI’s Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and the Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation aims to offer the best available gateway to statistical data. It is easily accessible, intuitive to use, and free of charge. In just three clicks it offers data from 1960 onwards for 193 UN countries, five continents and 12 political and regional entities – including the European Union – gathered from over 80 international sources. The project, presents data as diverse as income distribution, water resources, housing, migration, land use, food production, nutrition, or life expectancy, which contributes to a better understanding of the interrelations between human living conditions and globalisation trends.

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2019 Sakharov Prize laureate: Ilham Tohti

Written by Gisela Grieger,

© Andy Wong / APImages

© Andy Wong / APImages

Space for freedom of thought is shrinking dramatically across the globe, as the geo-political and geo-economic clout of authoritarian regimes expands. The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is therefore more important than ever: it enables the European Parliament to draw attention to the plight of those who stand up against the repression of human rights and fundamental freedoms, principles on which the EU is based and which it promotes in its external relations, in line with Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union. The 2019 Sakharov Prize laureate is renowned Uyghur economics professor Ilham Tohti, a moderate advocate of the rights of the Uyghur minority and of dialogue with the Han majority in China. In 2014, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on separatism-related charges, against the backdrop of China’s hardening policy of countering religious extremism, ethnic separatism and terrorism – one that now frames Uyghur identity as a major national security threat. The Sakharov Prize is a €50 000 award, which will be presented at a ceremony in the European Parliament during the December plenary session in Strasbourg, in the presence of the other finalists.

Significance of the Sakharov Prize

Every year, since 1988, the European Parliament has awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to individuals or organisations for outstanding achievements in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms – notably the right to freedom of expression; safeguarding the rights of minorities; upholding international law; developing democracy; or implementing the rule of law. The prize was initiated by a 1985 parliamentary resolution adopted in memory of Andrei Sakharov, the eminent Soviet-Russian nuclear physicist, 1975 Nobel Peace Prize winner, dissident and human rights activist. The prize symbolises Sakharov’s courageous defence of human rights, notably the freedom of thought and expression, and personal freedom, that were at times denied him during his professional career.

Award procedure and the 2019 Sakharov Prize finalists and laureate

Candidates for the Sakharov Prize can be nominated by a political group, or at least 40 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). From the list of nominees, three finalists are then shortlisted by MEPs in a joint vote of the Committees on Foreign Affairs and Development. For the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought the finalists were: 1) Ilham Tohti; 2) murdered Brazilian political activist and human rights defender, Marielle Franco, native Brazilian leader and environmentalist, Chief Raoni, and Brazilian environmentalist and human rights defender, Claudelice Silva dos Santos; and 3) The Restorers, a group of five students from Kenya – Stacy Owino, Cynthia Otieno, Purity Achieng, Mascrine Atieno and Ivy Akinyi – who have developed i-Cut, an app to help girls affected by female genital mutilation.

On 24 October 2019, Parliament’s Conference of Presidents decided to honour Ilham Tohti with the 2019 Sakharov Prize. When announcing the decision, Parliament’s President, David Sassoli, stressed that Ilham Tohti had been ‘a voice of moderation and reconciliation’. He added that by ‘awarding this prize, we strongly urge the Chinese government to release Tohti and we call for the respect of minority rights in China’. Ilham Tohti, a liberal Uyghur intellectual, who was previously nominated in 2016, is the third Chinese winner, and the first-ever Uyghur to receive the prize. Wei Jingsheng, who in 1978 called for ‘The Fifth Modernisation: democracy‘, as China launched its economic reform and opening up policy, was awarded the prize in 1996, a year before he was released from prison to his US exile. Hu Jia, a dissident and democracy activist, was awarded the prize in 2008, three years before he was released from prison. Commenting on the 2019 award, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry reportedly said: ‘I hope that Europe can respect China’s internal affairs and judicial sovereignty, and avoid celebrating a terrorist’. The 42nd EU-China Inter-parliamentary meeting, scheduled for 12 November 2019, and the related programme, were cancelled owing to the unavailability of the Chinese delegation.

Ilham Tohti – a voice for the entire Uyghur people

Ilham Tohti was born in 1969 in China’s north-western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) which is home to about 10 million Turkic-speaking Uyghurs (about 45 % of the XUAR population) who practise a moderate form of Sunni Islam and enjoy close ethnic and cultural ties with Central Asian countries. Professor Tothi lectured at the Beijing-based Minzu University for ethnic minority studies, and published critical analyses on the impact of the Chinese government’s assimilation policies on the cultural, social, economic, political and religious life of Uyghurs. In 2006, he set up the Chinese language website ‘‘ as a platform for inter-ethnic exchange between Han Chinese and Uyghurs. The website was shut down when Ilham Tothi was accused of having contributed through his website to the 2009 violent attacks perpetrated by Uyghur militants in the XUAR cities of Urumqi and Kashgar. Despite being outspoken in his advocacy of regional autonomy laws, Tohti was opposed to radical separatist movements, standing rather for dialogue and reconciliation with the Han majority. In 2014, after he had reportedly challenged the Chinese government’s version of violent incidents involving Uyghurs, he was detained and, after a two-day show trial, sentenced to life in prison allegedly for ‘separatism‘. As researcher Darren Byler put it: ‘Now, like Ilham, they [both Uyghur students and public intellectuals] realised that all of them could be accused of ‘separatism’. There was no space to publicly suggest ways to oppose the elimination of Uyghur culture’.

Since his sentencing in 2014, Ilham Tohti has been awarded the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, the 2016 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, and the 2017 Liberal International Prize for Freedom. In October 2019, he won the Council of Europe’s Václav Havel Human Rights Prize.

China’s approach to counter-terrorism, de-radicalisation and de-extremification

Since Xinjiang became part of China in 1949, successive Chinese governments have sought to integrate the predominantly rural Uyghurs economically and culturally, first with soft approaches, boosting economic development and respecting ethnic differences, but mainly benefiting incoming urban Han Chinese migrants. Later, government launched ‘strike hard’ campaigns, as deepening inter-ethnic socio-economic cleavages bred violence from Uyghur militants. The appearance of Uyghur foreign fighters in Syria in 2014 highlighted the interlinkages between the internal and external dimensions of the three interconnected threats to China’s concept of stability – religious extremism, ethnic separatism and terrorism. China has stepped up the security element of its strategy for countering these ‘three evils’, and has linked them to the distinctiveness of Uyghur identity. As a result, the XUAR’s public security budget has ballooned, leading to a pervasive and intrusive policing system reliant on ubiquitous cutting-edge surveillance cameras, ethnicity-sensitive facial recognition systems and an algorithm-based big-data analysis platform to identify politically ‘untrustworthy’ people. Since 2017, China has built a well-documented grid of ‘de-extremification’ mass internment camps whose existence it at first denied and then called ‘vocational re-education and training centres’ on the basis of 2018 XUAR legislation. The camps host an estimated one to two million Uyghurs, and other Muslim minorities, who are politically indoctrinated and have the cultural and religious features of their identity systematically eradicated, as China associates them with ‘extremist’ behaviour. China has justified the camps as successful preventive de-radicalisation measures that it appears keen to export.

Global responses to China’s extra-judicial detention camps and high-tech illiberalism

In recent years, Parliament has systematically denounced massive violations of the Uyghur minority’s human rights, in resolutions adopted in 2016, 2018 and 2019. The case of Ilham Tohti was raised during the 2019 EU-China Human Rights Dialogue. Western governments have criticised China’s Uyghur policy in the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council and in the UN Third Committee in 2019, prompting a group of other countries, including Muslim countries, to release joint statements defending China. The US Congress has adopted the Uighur Intervention and Global Humanitarian Unified Response Act of 2019. The US has banned the import of products made by firms in Xinjiang over their use of forced labour. It has also issued visa restrictions on key Chinese officials, and blacklisted 28 Chinese firms, including Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, the Chinese government’s main supplier of surveillance gear. The firm enjoys close ties with the Chinese government, and has come under scrutiny in some EU countries for its involvement in the repression of Uyghurs in China. The leaked ‘China Cables‘/’Xinjiang papers’ give clear evidence of the repression that China has staunchly denied, and may prompt more actors to actually ‘walk the talk’.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘2019 Sakharov Prize laureate: Ilham Tohti‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders on 12-13 December 2019

Written by Ralf Drachenberg and Suzana Anghel,

© glen photo /

© glen photo /

At the meeting of EU Heads of State or Government in December 2019, the first to be presided over by Charles Michel, EU leaders will meet in three different formats: a regular European Council, a European Council (Article 50) meeting, and an inclusive Euro Summit. The main issues on the agenda of the European Council are climate change, with EU leaders expected to endorse the objective of climate-neutrality for the Union by 2050, and the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), with a discussion, for the first time, on the basis of figures proposed by the Finnish Presidency of the Council, as well as on the procedure for reaching agreement. They will also address the idea of a Conference on the Future of Europe, with the aim of developing a joint position of Member States on the initiative. The European Council (Article 50) meeting is expected to discuss the result of the general election in the UK (taking place on 12 December) and the likely consequences for the Brexit process, as well as preparations for the negotiations on future EU-UK relations. The Euro Summit will concentrate on the revision of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty, the budgetary instrument for convergence and competitiveness (BICC), and technical work on the strengthening of the banking union.

1. Implementation: Follow-up to previous European Council commitments

As announced in the October 2019 European Council conclusions, EU leaders will return to the issues of the MFF for the 2021-27 period, and climate change, as reflected in the annotated draft agenda.

At the start of the European Council meeting, the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, will address the Heads of State or Government. Sanna Marin, newly appointed Prime Minister of Finland, which currently holds the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of Ministers, will provide an overview of progress made in implementing previous European Council conclusions. This meeting will also be the first European Council to be presided over by Charles Michel, previously Prime Minister of Belgium, who took over as President of the European Council on 1 December.

2. European Council meeting

Climate change

The ‘objective of achieving a climate-neutral EU by 2050’ will be the main and most sensitive issue for the European Council to consider. For the moment, Member States are still seeking agreement on this objective, which is a prerequisite for the successful implementation of the European Green Deal announced by the new European Commission. Building consensus for the effective ‘endorsement’ of the objective of climate-neutrality by 2050 will be Charles Michel’s first major challenge as new European Council President. He has called the European Green Deal a ‘peace treaty with nature’, and committed to ‘work to “convince” all Member States to agree’ on this objective. Earlier attempts to achieve consensus were not fully successful, therefore resulting in the inclusion of a footnote in the June 2019 European Council conclusions, which acknowledged that ‘for a large majority of Member States, climate neutrality must be achieved by 2050’.

Climate is increasingly a horizontal issue, mainstreamed in all EU policies. Its funding is a key element for the EU’s credibility. EU leaders are expected to agree that a ‘significant percentage’ of the next MFF should be allocated to climate change. The Heads of State or Government will probably also discuss investment to support a ‘just and socially balanced transition’. Several Member States, which fear a negative impact of the green transition on their regions, notably Poland, consider that the acceptance of the principle of a socially balanced transition is needed as a guarantee for their support for the climate-neutrality objective. The forthcoming Just Transition Fund announced by the new Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, would support those regions be most affected by the green transition. In the absence of an agreement on climate targets, the Just Transition Fund, although mentioned in earlier drafts of the October 2019 European Council conclusions, was removed from the final version.

Global CO2 emissions have risen by four per cent compared to pre-Paris Agreement levels, with the EU at risk of being unable to meet its 2020 climate targets. In the context of its 2030 targets, it is urgent for Member States to finalise their national long-term greenhouse-gas emissions strategies, and to communicate them to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in the first quarter of 2020, in compliance with the Paris Agreement. The European Parliament has called on Member States ‘to consider aviation and shipping’ in their national plans and to double their contributions to the UN Green Climate Fund. At its March 2019 meeting, the European Council called for ‘the timely finalisation of the national-long term strategies’. At that point, only four Member States (Czechia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom) had submitted their contributions. In the meantime, the number has increased to five with the submission of the Portuguese contribution.

The European Council will most probably concentrate on several other items as part of its climate debate. These include, inter alia, the mooted carbon border tax and energy security, as well as means to counter climate-related aspects of distortions to the internal market generated by foreign subsidies to foreign-owned companies in the EU. The European Council has already stressed that there is a need to address the ‘distortive effects’ of such subsidies. Furthermore, ahead of the European Council, the European Commission is expected to present proposals for the first ever ‘European Climate Law’.

The European Council could also consider the external dimension of climate action by stressing the EU’s climate diplomacy role in fulfilling the 2019-24 Strategic Agenda objective to globally lead ‘the way forward in the fight against climate change’.

Multiannual Financial Framework

The European Council is expected to hold a substantive discussion on the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). On 2 December, the Finnish Presidency of the Council presented a negotiating box with figures. The Finnish proposal envisages a budget of 1.06 % of the EU’s gross national income (GNI) for 2021-2027, which is significantly lower than the proposals of the European Commission (1.114 %) and Parliament (1.3 %). Nevertheless, some Member States call for the MFF to be set at 1.0 %. The proposal from the Finnish Presidency also makes reference to the introduction of a general regime of conditionality ‘to tackle identified instances of general deficiencies as regards the rule of law in Member States’.

Concerning own resources, the Finnish proposal considers the possible introduction of national contributions for non-recycled plastic packaging, as well as a share of the revenues of the Emissions Trading System. Here again, the proposals of the Commission (e.g. call rate applied to the new Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base) and the Parliament’s requests (e.g. digital services taxation, a financial transaction tax, income from the emissions trading scheme, and a carbon border adjustment mechanism) go beyond what the Council currently seems willing to agree on.

Members of the European Council are not expected to reach an agreement on the substance of the MFF at this meeting, but to agree a methodology for reaching consensus. An extraordinary European Council meeting is being considered for early in the New Year, with a view to a possible agreement at the scheduled March 2020 meeting.

On 10 October 2019, the new European Parliament adopted a resolution on the MFF, reiterating that ‘Parliament will not rubber-stamp a fait accompli from the European Council’, and calling on the latter institution to ‘refrain from adopting detailed and purportedly binding conclusions based on the MFF negotiating box, as this would amount to direct interference in the legislative sphere’.

External relations

The European Council is expected to discuss external relations issues. EU leaders could take stock of the evolution of the situation in Ukraine, including the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, and green-light the renewal of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia following the illegal annexation of Crimea. Following the 9 December 2019 Foreign Affairs Council, the EU leaders might call, once again, to strengthen the EU-Africa partnership and to speed up work on the forthcoming comprehensive strategy on Africa announced by the new European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen.

Other items

Conference on the Future of Europe

The European Council is also expected to discuss the proposal for a Conference on the Future of Europe. The idea was first suggested by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, in March 2019, and was subsequently supported by the new Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, before her election by the Parliament. She indicated that she would also consider Treaty change if the outcome of the conference were to require such a step. The notion of Treaty change elicited little enthusiasm from EU Heads of State or Government when presenting their views on the Future of Europe in the European Parliament in 2018-2019. Recently, France and Germany have made a joint proposal outlining their views. For more information, please see the EPRS Briefing, Preparing the Conference on the Future of Europe.

As there is currently no agreed position between the Member States, the European Council is expected to invite the incoming Council Presidency (Croatia) to work towards defining a Council position on the content, scope, composition and functioning of such a conference. This position is likely to emphasise that the conference should as a matter of priority focus on the development of the EU’s policies in the medium and long term, building on the recent citizens’ dialogues. The European Council is likely to underline the need for an inclusive process and shared ownership by European institutions and Member States. In this context, the European Council is also expected to recall the importance of implementing the Strategic Agenda 2019-24.

3. European Council (Article 50) meeting

On 13 December, EU-27 leaders will discuss preparations for the negotiations on future EU-UK relations, notably a negotiating mandate for future trade talks. The result of the UK general election, to be held the previous day, on 12 December, will likely play an important role in the next stage of the withdrawal process, as well as in the shape of the future relationship.

According to Article 50(3) TEU, the Treaties cease to apply to the withdrawing country from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification, unless the European Council, in agreement with the withdrawing country, unanimously decides to extend this period. Following unsuccessful attempts by the UK to ratify the withdrawal agreement and two extensions of the period under Article 50(3), the European Council, on 29 October 2019, approved a third extension to allow for more time for the ratification of the revised withdrawal agreement, until 31 January 2020, at the latest.

4. Euro Summit

On Friday 13 December, EU-27 leaders will meet for a Euro Summit to follow-up on the discussion last June on the deepening of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

The Euro Summit will take stock of progress made since the June statement and consider in particular the revision of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty, the budgetary instrument for convergence and competitiveness (BICC), and technical work on strengthening the banking union. The Eurogroup, which reports directly to the EU leaders, met to prepare these topics on 4 December.

Ahead of the Euro Summit meeting, President Charles Michel met with the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Central Bank, and the President of the Eurogroup to discuss recent economic developments. They reflected on seven consecutive years of growth and record high employment levels in Europe. According to Michel, uncertainties in the international context are the main reason for risks to the economic outlook. In his opinion, it is essential to deepen EMU and strengthen the banking union, so as to ensure that sustainable economic growth and more jobs can be created. The President of the European Council plans to hold similar meetings ahead of every Euro Summit.

Read this briefing on ‘Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders on 12-13 December 2019‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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European Youth Event

European Youth Event 2018 - #EYE2018- Yo!Fest Village

© European Union – EP, 2019

The European Parliament regularly receives questions from citizens about the European Youth Event. Are you interested too? Find out how you can take part!

The European Youth Event (also known as EYE) is a two-day event bringing thousands of young Europeans together in the European Parliament’s Strasbourg headquarters.

The EYE gives young people an opportunity to take part in political debates, workshops and other activities, and to interact with leading EU figures and decision-makers. Each event is also a venue for young people to voice their ideas on how to improve Europe and the world.

The event is organised by the European Parliament in cooperation with the European Youth Forum and other organisations.

Practical arrangements for EYE2020

The next edition of the European Youth Event will take place at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 29-30 May 2020.

Groups of at least 10 people aged 16 to 30 – from the European Union and beyond – can sign up to the event. Registration opens in January 2020 on the European Parliament website.

Attending the EYE is free of charge. However, participants have to cover their own transport and accommodation costs and pay for their own meals.

The languages used at the event are English, French and German.

If you cannot attend the event in person, you will be able to follow some of the activities online and participate via social media.

Previous editions

The first edition of the European Youth Event (EYE2014) was held from 9-11 May 2014. It served as a platform for participants to share their ideas and opinions on issues such as youth unemployment, the digital revolution, the future of the EU, sustainability and European values.

EYE2016, held on 20 and 21 May 2016, gave over 7 500 young Europeans the opportunity to discuss a variety of themes under the event’s slogan: ‘Together we can make a change’.

At the latest edition of the event, EYE2018, held in Strasbourg on 1-2 June 2018, close to 9 000 young Europeans got together to discuss issues and came up with 100 ideas on how to improve Europe.


Keep sending your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP)! We reply in the EU language that you use to write to us.

Further information

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European Green Deal

Written by Gregor Erbach,

© Waraporn Wattanakul / Shutterstock

The European Green Deal is a programme outlined in the political guidelines of the incoming President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. It aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, while boosting the competitiveness of European industry and ensuring a just transition for the regions and workers affected. Preserving Europe’s natural environment and biodiversity, a ‘farm to fork’ strategy for sustainable food, and a new circular economy action plan are other key elements. Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans will be in charge of leading and coordinating the work on the European Green Deal. A Commission communication on the matter is expected on 11 December, ahead of the next European Council meeting, starting the following day. The European Parliament has scheduled a debate on the European Green Deal in an extraordinary plenary session on 11 December 2019.


The EU is committed to taking action to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement. In November 2018, the Commission adopted the ‘clean planet for all‘ strategy, aiming for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate-neutral economy by 2050. It analyses scenarios for long-term decarbonisation, as a basis for a debate on the move towards an emission-neutral economy. Following up on the Commission’s clean planet strategy, the EU will develop its long-term low-carbon strategy under the Paris Agreement. The European Council intends to finalise its guidance before the end of the year, with a view to the adoption and submission of the EU’s long-term strategy to the United Nations climate change secretariat in early 2020. This is also a priority for the current Finnish Presidency of the Council. In line with the previous European Parliament’s position, a large majority of Member States favour climate neutrality in the EU by 2050, but the June 2019 European Council could not reach a unanimous conclusion on the date.

Main issues

According to von der Leyen’s political guidelines, making Europe the first climate-neutral continent is the ‘greatest challenge and opportunity of our times’. Von der Leyen aims to put forward the proposals for the European Green Deal within the first 100 days of the new Commission’s mandate. This will include a new ‘European Climate Law’ that sets a climate-neutrality target for 2050. Pricing of carbon emissions is mentioned as a key element to ensure the contribution of every person and every sector. The Emissions Trading System (ETS) would be extended to the maritime sector, and the free allowances allocated to airlines would be reduced over time. A further extension to cover traffic and construction is envisaged.

A new European Climate Pact should bring together regional and local authorities, civil society, industry and schools to agree on commitments to change behaviour. Tax policies should be reformed in line with climate ambitions, which includes work on a carbon border tax and a review of the Energy Taxation Directive.

The European Green Deal would be aligned with a new industrial strategy to make the EU a world leader in the circular economy and clean technologies, and to decarbonise energy-intensive industries. The people and regions most affected by the low-carbon transition would be supported through a just transition mechanism that cuts across different funds and instruments and also attracts private investment, as announced in von der Leyen’s speech in the European Parliament on 27 November 2019.

According to the guidelines, record amounts of public funds should be invested in advanced research and innovation, complemented by a strategy for green financing and a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan that would support €1 trillion of public and private investment over the next decade across the EU. Parts of the European Investment Bank should become Europe’s climate bank.

The von der Leyen Commission also aims for more ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets, both in the EU and internationally. The new Commission President wants the EU to lead international negotiations to raise the ambition of other major emitters by 2021, and has pledged to put forward a comprehensive, responsible plan to increase the European Union’s emissions reduction target for 2030, from 40 % towards 55 %. The plan should ensure a level playing field and stimulate innovation, competitiveness and jobs, based on social, economic and environmental impact assessments.

A new Circular Economy Action Plan would promote sustainable use of resources, especially in resource-intensive sectors with high environmental impact, such as textiles and construction. Europe should lead on the issue of single-use plastics, and extend the fight against plastic waste to micro-plastics.

Another objective is mainstreaming biodiversity across all policy areas and a Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. Europe should lead the world at the 2020 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Further elements of the European Green Deal include the EU’s zero-pollution ambition to safeguard citizens’ health, and a new ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy for sustainable food.

The mission letter of Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans tasks him with setting the strategic direction and chairing the Commissioners’ Group on the European Green Deal. In addition to the points mentioned in the political guidelines, he is to work on reducing the carbon footprint of the transport sector, and on ensuring that the blue economy contributes to climate objectives.

In his hearing before the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) on 8 October 2019, Timmermans promised a hydrogen strategy and a strategy for reforestation, and pledged to work towards a system to reassure consumers that imported products are not linked to deforestation. On the topic of transport, he wants Europe to have the best transportation system in the world. This would include emission-free cars and clean public transport. He advocated third-generation biofuels and investment in railways. In connection with farming, he promised to work to improve animal welfare.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘European Green Deal‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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3 Key Questions on Data Protection

Do you go on-line to share your views, or to like your friends’ photos? Or do you use a digital assistant for directions? Of course – so do many of us! We all use digital technology in our daily lives. But in doing so, we leave traces, and the more we do it, the more traces we leave. These traces are data, and when it is all brought together it can be used to predict or even influence our behaviour.
So, how can we protect our personal data?

Listen to Shara Monteleone, an EPRS policy analyst, explaining the issues in 3 key questions on Data Protection.


Or read more in our publications:

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Preparing the Conference on the Future of Europe

Written by Silvia Kotanidis,

© iQoncept /

After the many debates and declarations of principles on the future of Europe of recent years, the time for a more structured reflection on the future of Europe’s development has arrived. The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen has pledged to establish a Conference on the Future of Europe, in an effort to give new impulse to European construction and bring Europe closer to citizens. At this stage, details of this initiative are still up for discussion. For Dubravka Šuica, the Commissioner who will take charge of the process, the inclusion of all citizens’ voices will be an essential characteristic of the Conference. However, how to ensure that European citizens are properly represented remains to be clarified.

Preparation of the Conference, in von der Leyen’s approach, will follow three steps: first, the elaboration of the concept, structure, timing and scope with Parliament and Council; then, design of a means to ensure that citizens participate as much as possible, including by fostering online participation for younger people; and last, making sure that appropriate follow-up is provided to the actions agreed by the Conference.

The Parliament has created a working group to contribute to the design of the Conference, in particular in respect of its structure, with a view to a vote in plenary. Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) has also launched discussions, confirming the eagerness of Parliament and its political bodies to play an active part from the beginning of this process.

The Conference on the Future of Europe should be an excellent opportunity to engage in more structured debate, with the intention to find concrete proposals to improve the way in which the EU works not only in terms of institutional dynamics, but also of its policies. Some have however cautioned that the initiative needs to be carried out with the utmost care, in particular on the follow-up to be given to its outcomes, so that it can remain a meaningful endeavour.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Preparing the Conference on the Future of Europe‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Euro area deepening and reform [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

© weyo / Fotolia

Countries sharing the euro have made little to change the functioning of the single currency area since French President Emmanuel Macron called for its major overhaul in 2017. Many analysts and politicians have attributed the lack of significant reforms in this area to Germany’s – and some other countries’ – cautious approach, although also underlining that the currency area is now much stronger and more resilient than in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008. The single currency area’s most immediate challenge is to cope with the economic slow-down which is partly a consequence of global trade disputes. A smooth transition in leadership at the European Central Bank will also be very important.

This note brings together commentaries, analyses and studies by major international think tanks and research institutes on challenges facing the euro area and related issues. Earlier publications on the topic can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are Thinking’ published in February 2019.

A major step toward combating money laundering in Europe
Bruegel, November 2019

Scholz’s improved plan to complete the banking union
Bruegel, November 2019

The euro zone’s 2% fixation
Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2019

With or without you: Are central European countries ready for the euro?
Bruegel, October 2019

November 1: Christine Lagarde, President of the ECB with various resistances
Fondation Robert Schuman, October 2019

New beginnings: A new approach to euro zone reform
Notre Europe, September 2019

The ECBs half-baked supervision mandate or, how to get serious about shadow banking again
Foundation for European Progressive Studies, September 2019

Challenges ahead for the European Central Bank: Navigating in the dark?
Bruegel, September 2019

Local public finance in Europe: Country reports
Bertelsmann Stiftung, September 2019

The ECB’s deflation obsession
Centre for European Policy Studies, September 2019

Completing banking union
Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe, September 2019

Economic polarisation in Europe: Causes and options for action
Wiener Institut für Internationale Wirtschaftsvergleiche, September 2019

Holding together what belongs together: A strategy to counteract economic polarisation in Europe
Wiener Institut für Internationale Wirtschaftsvergleiche, September 2019

Should the euro zone be less intergovernmental?
Luiss School of European Political Economy, August 2019

Public investment a key prerequisite for private sector activity
Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, August 2019

Preparing for uncertainty: Memo to the president of the European Central Bank
Bruegel, August 2019

Wirtschaftliche Polarisierung in Europa
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, July 2019

Divergence and diversity in the euro area: The case of Germany, France and Italy
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, June 2019

Redefining Europe’s economic sovereignty
Bruegel, June 2019

Rebranding capital markets union: A market finance action plan
Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2019

20 years of common European monetary policy: Reasons to celebrate
Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, May 2019

Equilibrium real interest rates and the financial cycle: Empirical evidence for euro area member countries
Centre for European Policy Studies, May 2019

The euro zone 20 years from now: Utopia or dystopia?
Österreichische Gesellschaft für Europapolitik, May 2019

Vom ESM zum EWF: Klare Regeln bei der Weiterentwicklung vom Krisen- zum Vorsorgemechanismus für eine stabile Euro-Zone
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, May 2019

A second-class funeral: Political dynamics of the euro zone reforms
Observer Research Foundation, May 2019

Public debt and the risk premium: A dangerous doom loop
Centre for European Policy Studies, May 2019

Monetary policy and bank profitability in a low interest rate environment
Barcelona School of Economics May 2019

Ceci n’est pas un PEPP
European Capital Market Institute, May 2019

European Economic and Monetary Union: Who is afraid of treaty reforms?
Österreichische Gesellschaft für Europapolitik, April 2019

Understanding the limitations of Maastricht
Centre for European Policy Studies, April 2019

Taking stock of the Single Resolution Board: Banking Union scrutiny
Bruegel, April 2019

A missed opportunity: Five reasons why ESM reform will fail to deliver
Bertelsmann Stiftung, Jacques Delors Institute, April 2019

The Economic and Monetary Union: Past, present and future
Centre for Social and Economic Research, March 2019

Heterogeneity within the euro area: New insights into an old story
Centre d’études prospectives et d’informations internationales, March 2019

For a geopolitics of the euro
Fondation Robert Schuman, March 2019

Revisiting the euro’s trade cost and welfare effects
Institut für Weltwirtschaft Kiel, March 2019

The design of a sovereign debt restructuring mechanism for the euro area: Choices and trade-offs
Centre d’études prospectives et d’informations internationales, March 2019

How to redesign the fiscal regime of the euro zone: An alternative take on lessons from US and euro zone experiences
European Trade Union Institute, February 2019

Finding common ground: A pragmatic budgetary instrument for the euro area
Jacques Delors Institute, Bertelsmann Stiftung, February 2019

20 Jahre Euro: Verlierer und Gewinner
Centrum für Europäische Politik, February 2019

Réforme de l’Union économique et monétaire: Quelle dimension sociale?
Notre Europe, February 2019

Read this briefing on ‘Euro area deepening and reform‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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World Aids Day 2019

Written by Nicole Scholz.

Every year, 1 December marks World AIDS Day, proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) in 1988 and aimed mainly at raising awareness. This year’s specific theme, ‘Communities make a difference’, draws attention to the crucial role of community health workers and communities of people living with HIV, highlighting their contribution to ending the epidemic. World AIDS Day also offers an opportunity to take stock of progress, globally and in the EU.

HIV/AIDS: Background

Infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes a person’s immune system to deteriorate, making them vulnerable to often life-threatening opportunistic infections. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. Although HIV/AIDS does not yet have a cure, it is treatable and preventable. HIV medicines (antiretroviral therapy) can slow progression of the virus in the body to a near halt and reduce the risk of transmission. Measures such as practising safer sex or using sterile needles help to avoid HIV infection and prevent AIDS. As an additional prevention method, HIV-negative people at a high risk of infection can use pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which involves taking a specific combination of HIV medicines daily. PrEP effectively prevents infection and has the potential to help reverse the increase in new HIV infections. HIV has claimed more than 32 million lives since the beginning of the epidemic some 35 years ago, and continues to be a major global public health issue. Considerable advances have been made, however, and HIV infection has become a manageable chronic health condition. People living with HIV can expect to live a normal lifespan.

Facts and figures from Europe

Despite the progress made – the number of AIDS cases and AIDS-related deaths has declined steadily in Europe since the 1990s – HIV transmission remains a problem in the EU and its neighbouring countries (i.e. the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region, spanning Europe and central Asia). According to the 2018 joint report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the WHO Regional Office for Europe, the rates and overall numbers of people diagnosed with HIV are highest in the east of the region, lower in the west and in the EU/European Economic Area (EEA), and lowest in the centre.

Estimated new HIV infections and reported new HIV diagnoses in the EU/EEA and WHO European Region, 2008-2017, and target for 2020

Estimated new HIV infections and reported new HIV diagnoses in the EU/EEA and WHO European Region, 2008-2017, and target for 2020

The report’s data show that in 2017, 25 353 people were diagnosed with HIV, in 30 of the 31 EU/EEA countries. The rate of new HIV diagnoses was higher among men than women. Sex between men remained the predominant mode of HIV transmission, accounting for 38 % of all new diagnoses. Heterosexual contact was the second most common transmission mode among people newly diagnosed (33 %, equally divided between men and women). Transmission due to injecting drug use accounted for 4 % of HIV diagnoses. 41 % of people diagnosed in the EU/EEA were migrants. The overall EU/EEA trend in reported HIV diagnoses appeared to have declined slightly over the last decade, but contrasting trends were seen at national level: while some countries reported a decline in HIV diagnoses, rates had more than doubled in others.

United Nations-led global efforts to end AIDS

Ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 counts among the targets under Goal 3 (target 3) of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), adopted by the UN in September 2015. UNAIDS, the joint UN programme on HIV/AIDS, is leading global efforts. Recent UNAIDS statistics show that there were an estimated 37.9 million people living with HIV in 2018. Of those, 23.3 million were accessing antiretroviral therapy, up from 7.7 million in 2010. Around 1.7 million were newly infected with HIV, compared with 2.9 million in 1997 – a 40 % decrease. In 2018, around 700 000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses worldwide, compared with 1.7 million in 2004. With increasing access to HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care, AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by more than 56 % since the peak in 2004. As the WHO points out, although the coverage of services has been steadily increasing, not everyone is able to access HIV testing, treatment and care. Some key populations (men who have sex with men; people who inject drugs; prisoners; sex workers and their clients; and transgender people) are more at risk of HIV, but have less access to care (the ‘PrEP gap‘). In 2018, these population groups accounted for an estimated 54 % of new HIV infections globally (and 88 % in western and central Europe).

On World AIDS Day 2019, the WHO’s five main messages to global decision-makers are:

  1. Today, four out of five people with HIV get tested and two out of three get treatment – HIV-affected communities have played a major role in achieving this success.
  2. Countries should adopt community-based HIV testing, prevention, treatment and care as a core strategy.
  3. Community-based HIV treatment and monitoring saves money and reduces workloads for healthcare professionals.
  4. Expanding the role of communities and community-based healthcare will help countries meet global HIV and universal healthcare targets.
  5. Community and civil society engagement must remain a key strategy to boost primary healthcare.

EU action on HIV/AIDS

Whereas the Member States have the main responsibility for health, the EU complements national action. EU HIV/AIDS policy focuses on prevention and on supporting people living with the disease. The 2009 Commission communication on combating HIV/AIDS identified policies to help reduce the number of new infections and to improve quality of life for those living with the disease. An action plan on HIV/AIDS in the EU and neighbouring countries, introduced in 2014 to support the implementation of the communication, ended in 2016 and has not been renewed. The Commission’s 2018 staff working document on combatting HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis (TB) in the EU and neighbouring countries gives an overview of policy initiatives to help Member States achieve SDG 3. The EU has invested significantly in HIV/AIDS research over the years, and is financing projects under Horizon 2020. One example is EHVA, a platform for the development of prophylactic and therapeutic HIV vaccines. HIV/AIDS-related projects funded under the EU health programme (2014-2020) include the joint action on integrating prevention, testing and linkage to care strategies for HIV, viral hepatitis, TB and sexually transmitted diseases in Europe (INTEGRATE). At the August 2019 G7 summit in Biarritz, the Commission pledged €550 million to The Global Fund against AIDS, TB and malaria, which new Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides intends to translate into action. At her hearing, she committed to ensure access to innovation and medicines for people with TB, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

The European Parliament, in its 2017 resolution on HIV/AIDS, TB and viral hepatitis, urges the Commission and Member States to develop a comprehensive EU policy framework to address the three diseases. It advocates for the EU to play a strong role in dialogue with neighbouring countries in eastern Europe and central Asia. On HIV/AIDS, in particular, it calls on the Commission and the Member States to facilitate treatment, including for the most vulnerable groups, and to work on combating the stigma associated with HIV infection.

Download this At a glance note on ‘World Aids Day 2019’ in PDF.

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