The European Union: A year of hope [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

3d illustration of blue graph over EU flag background with rising arrow

© Maxim_Kazmin / Fotolia

The self-confidence of the European Union improved markedly during this last year after the ‘annus horibilis’ of 2016 when the EU faced a ‘poly-crisis’ of a shaky euro-zone economy, the Brexit vote, the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President, migration pressures, growing Russian assertiveness and apparent foreign-policy drift.

The euro-area economy has since entered onto a clear recovery path, popular support for the EU has increased in many countries, Eurosceptic political parties have made smaller than expected gains in several elections, Brexit negotiations have made progress and, according to some analysts and politicians, EU foreign and security has developed a global strategy backed by moves towards an integrated defence. ‘The wind is back in the European sails,’ said Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, in September. 2017, the year when the EU marked the 60th anniversary of the European Union’s founding Treaty of Rome, generated much creative thinking on how to re-launch or strengthen both the EU-27 and the eurozone.

This note offers links to recent selected commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on the state of the EU in 2017 and its outlook in several important areas.

Eurozone recovery and reform

The euro-zone medley: A collection of recent papers on the future of euro-area governance
Bruegel, December 2017

Comprehensive EMU reform or tinkering at the margins?
Centre for European Policy Studies, December 2017

Looking for the silver bullet: A comprehensive guide to the debate on ESM reform
Institute Jacques Delors Berlin, Bertelsmann Stiftung, December 2017

A new deal for the Eurozone: Remedy or placebo?
Centre for European Reform, November 2017

The EMU does not have any flaws: A critique of the European Commission’s reflection paper on the deepening of the EMU
Clingendael, November 2017

Zone euro: La reprise économique peut-elle être menacée?
Confrontations Europe, October 2017

Economic government: What kind of coordination for the Eurozone?
Jacques Delors Institute Berlin, November 2017

Capital market integration and macroeconomic stability
Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, November 2017

Strengthening the EMU’s internal cohesion: A comprehensive strategy
Fondation Robert Schuman, October 2017

The euro’s difficult future:  Competitiveness imbalances and the Eurozone’s North-South divide
Atlantic Council, September 2017

Is the euro zone really out of the woods?
Centre for European Reform, September 2017

The Eurozone’s hidden strengths
Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2017

Managing deep debt crises in the Euro Area: Towards a feasible regime
Peterson Institute for International Economics, May 2017

Ideas for the future of Europe

Re-energising Europe: A package deal for the EU27
European Policy Centre, December 2017

New impetus for a strong and sustainable European Union
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, October 2017 

L’Europe qui protège: Conceiving the next European Union
European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2017 

Europe must seize this moment of opportunity
Bruegel, August 2017 

The Future of Europe: Comparing public and elite attitudes
Chatham House, June 2017

The EU’s choice: Perspectives on deepening and differentiation
Finnish Institute for International Affairs, May 2017

The case for a federal Europe
American Enterprise Institute, May 2017

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

What future for Europe at its anniversary?
German Marshall Fund, March 2017

60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome: What now for the EU?
Bertelsmann Stiftung, March 2017

Differentiated integration: A way forward for Europe
Instituto Affari Internazionali, March 2017

European spring: Trust in the EU and democracy is recovering
Bruegel, March 2017

More Union in European Union
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Centre for European Policy Studies, February 2017

Brexit talks

Finding a sensible Brexit
Chatham House, December 2017

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

Brexit breakthrough: Into ever-deeper fog over both the Northern Irish border and the Channel
Centre for European Policy Studies, December 2017

Brexit deal kicks can down the road, not towards a soft Brexit
Scottish Centre on European Relations, December 2017

Brexit: Launching satellite Britain
European Policy Centre, December 2017

It’s a deal: on Brexit phase one
Institute for Government, December 2017

Brexit: Towards a deep and comprehensive partnership?
European Policy Centre, December 2017

Perspectives on the Irish Border and Brexit negotiations
Policy Exchange, December 2017

What next after sufficient progress?
Open Europe, December 2017

Brexit: UK defers the hard choices
Carnegie Europe, December 2017

Half time in the Brexit negotiations: The voter’s scorecard
The UK in a Changing Europe, December 2017

After Brexit: Alternate forms of Brexit and their implications for the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States
Rand Corporation, December 2017

Ireland: The final barrier to a December Brexit deal
European Council on Foreign Relations, December 2017

The populist challenge

Democratic crises in the EU: Towards “New Frontiers”
Notre Europe, December 2017

How the EU can defeat populism
Friends of Europe, November 2017

Austria is a curious case of populism
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2017

Politicizing Europe, Europeanizing politics
La Vie des Idées, October 2017

Macron a game changer for Europe?
Centre for European Policy Studies, August 2017

Réconcilier l’Europe avec ses citoyens
Confrontations Europe, August  2017

Public support for European: Not an EU problem
Clingendael, July 2017

Time to stop the Polish danse macabre
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2017

Comment combattre le populisme en Europe?
Terra nova, June 2017

Is right the new left? Right wing voters in France and in the EU and how they differ
Bertelsmann Stiftung, May 2017

Right-wing populism and authoritarian nationalism in the U.S. and Europe
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, May 2017

Radical right and radical left Euroscepticism : A dynamic phenomenon
Jacques Delors Institute Berlin, April 2017

The Wilders effect on European mainstream policies
Clingendael, March 2017

Foreign policy, security and defence

The EU and its Neighbourhood: How to stabilise the ring of fire?
Notre Europe, December 2017

Eastern voices: Is the West listening?
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, November 2017

Can the Africa-EU Partnership be revived?
Istituto Affari Internazionali, November 2017

A paradigm shift in the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy: From transformation to resilience
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, October 2017

Can France and Germany make PESCO work as a process toward EU defence?
German Marshall Fund, October 2017

NATO’s Eastern flank and its future relationship with Russia
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2017

The coming clash: Why Iran will divide Europe from the United States
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2017

EU climate policies: Friend, foe or bystander to forest restoration and carbon sinks?
Ecologic Institute, October 2017

The ties that bind
Atlantic Council, September 2017

Towards EU-MENA shared prosperity
Bruegel, OCP Policy Center, August 2017

What if … Conceivable crises: Unpredictable in 2017, unmanageable in 2020?
European Union Institute for Security Studies, June 2017

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

After the EU Global Strategy: Building resilience
European Union Institute for Security Studies, May 2017.

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Have your say on an EU administrative law

Written by Elodie Thirion with Clare Ferguson,

EU Administrative LawEU law establishes citizens’ rights to an open, independent and efficient EU administration (Article 298 of the Lisbon Treaty). Everyone has the right to expect that the EU administration will act impartially, fairly, and within a reasonable time. To help the European Parliament to understand how individuals, industries, consumers, civil society organisations, and public administrations experience their interaction with European Union administrations, the EU, through the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs, launches a public consultation on 15 December 2017.

The consultation, which lasts 12 weeks, seeks to determine what the public expects with regard to their relations with EU administration. The responses will contribute to defining what the EU should do in future – including possibly revising or introducing new legislation (any new initiative proposed will naturally be the subject of a more in-depth consultation process, as well as political validation, however).

The EU currently has a range of administrative measures in place to cover its diverse and highly specialised activities. Codes of good administrative practices, and provisions in relation to specific procedures (such as case-handling in competition or complaints), already exist. These rules, principles and practices already aim at ensuring open, efficient and independent interaction with EU citizens and organisations. Nevertheless, the European Parliament has long recommended gathering the fundamental principles of good administration into one instrument, regulating procedures the EU administration should follow when handling individual cases.

However, to date, the European Commission has not submitted a proposal. While Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans agreed in May 2016 that existing EU administrative rules and practices must be visible, clear and fit for purpose, the European Commission remains unconvinced that there is added-value in proposing legislation. Insisting on the need for comprehensive procedures, the European Parliament adopted a further resolution in June 2016, calling for an open, efficient and independent European Union administration (rapporteur: Heidi Hautala, Greens/EFA, Finland), and invited the European Commission to make a proposal for an Administrative Procedure Regulation.

The results of the public consultation will be analysed and published in May 2018, in time for a Public Hearing on the subject, organised by the Legal Affairs Committee.

The responses to the consultation will also feed into the European Parliamentary Research Service study on the potential impacts of the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council for an open, efficient and independent European administration. The study will evaluate the actual implementation of existing EU administrative rules and procedures, and identify any gaps and inconsistencies.

How do you take part in the consultation? By completing the online questionnaire.

For questions related to the public consultation please contact:

For more information, please consult the Public Consultation on the JURI Committee website.

In the interest of transparency, organisations responding to the questionnaire are invited to provide the public with relevant information about themselves by registering in the Transparency Register and subscribing to its Code of Conduct.

Survey in official EU languages


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What is the EU doing for people with disabilities?

A silhouette of a woman in a wheelchair and a man with a prosthetic leg standing to support each other. The concept of people with disabilities

Prazis / Fotolia

Citizens turn to the European Parliament to request information about the rights of persons with disabilities and what measures are in place to help them to enjoy full rights.

On 6 December 2017, the European Parliament hosted the 4th European Parliament of persons with disabilities event, bringing together delegates from organisations that represent persons with disabilities from across Europe, Members of the European Parliament and representatives of other EU institutions.

The event is an opportunity for European citizens with disabilities to meet their elected representatives and speak up for their rights. The event can be watched on EPTV on the European Parliament’s website.

In its resolution of 30 November 2017 on the implementation of the European Disability Strategy, MEPs urged the EU and its Member States to speed up their efforts to put the European disability strategy commitments fully into practice and, among other things, ‘to ensure that accessibility is a high priority and that it is better integrated into all disability policy areas’. Further information is available in the EP press release of 30 November 2017.

In a further resolution on the application of the ‘Employment Equality Directive’, adopted on 15 September 2016, the Parliament encouraged ‘the Member States to interpret EU law in such a way as to provide a basis for a concept of disability in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)’.

Legal basis

The rights of persons with disabilities are enshrined in the European treaties. Article 10 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), sets out that ‘in defining and implementing its policies and activities, the Union shall aim to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation’. Article 19 also underlines that the Council may take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on, disability, among other things.

Article 26 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union is dedicated to the social integration of persons with disabilities.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol were adopted on 13 December 2006. The convention is the first international legally binding instrument which sets minimum standards for rights for people with disabilities and the first human rights convention to which the EU became a party.

On 26 November 2009, the Council adopted its decision concerning the conclusion of the convention, which entered into force on 22 January 2011 for the European Union. Further information is available in the European Commission press release of 5 January 2011.

The core elements of the UN Convention are reflected in the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020.

European Disability Strategy 2010-2020

On 15 November 2010, the European Commission adopted the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, which aims at breaking down the barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from participating in society on an equal basis. The strategy is structured in eight areas for joint action between the EU and the Member States. i.e., accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education and training, social protection, health, and external action.

The European Commission’s working document presents the specific objectives identified in the strategy and the actions envisaged to achieve them. Further information is available on the European Commission website.

Other European Parliament actions

Disability is a recurrent topic of questions posed by Members of the European Parliament to the European Commission.

The Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament, an informal grouping of MEPs, promotes disability policy in their work at the European Parliament as well as in the national contexts.

Further information

Information on disability is available in various publications by the European Parliament’s Think Tank, as well as in the European Parliament Research Service’s topical digest of December 2017. Further details concerning people with disabilities are available on the webpage of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and on the Your Europe website.

Do you have any questions on this issue or another EP-related concern? Please use our web form. You write, we answer.

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Euro Summits: Role and expectations ahead of the meeting of 15 December 2017

Written by Silvia Polidori,

Euro symbols painted in the flag colors of each of the countries that have adopted the Euro currency, all rounded up

© Mihai Dud / shutterstock

Since 2008, Euro Summits have brought together the Heads of State or Government of those countries whose currency is the euro, providing policy guidance to assure the smooth functioning of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the euro area. Donald Tusk, who chairs the Euro Summit as well as being President of the European Council, has convened a Euro Summit for 15 December 2017. This will be the first such meeting since those dedicated to the Greek crises in 2015.


The Euro Summit is an informal gathering of the Heads of State or Government of the (currently 19) EU countries that have introduced the euro as their currency, together with the President of the Euro Summit, appointed by euro-area leaders for two and a half years, as well as the President of the European Commission. The President of the European Central Bank is also invited to attend its meetings; the President of the Eurogroup may be invited to attend and the President of the European Parliament may be invited to speak. Non-euro-area countries that have ratified the TSCG are also invited take part in Euro Summit meetings for specific discussions (see below).


The purpose of a Euro Summit is to provide strategic guidance on euro-area economic policy. Its members discuss questions relating to the specific responsibilities on the single currency shared by the euro-area countries, as well as other issues concerning the governance of the euro area, and strategic orientations for the implementation of economic policies to boost convergence. Euro Summits thus seek to encourage euro-area countries to take greater account of the specific responsibilities of euro-area membership in their national policy-making. However, in practice, Euro Summits have, since their creation, mainly served as a crisis management tool to break deadlocks, such as on the 2015 Greek crisis, where no solution could be found at the level of the Eurogroup.

Origin and formalisation of Euro Summit meetings

The first Euro Summit meeting took place on 12 October 2008, following a proposal by the then French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to organise regular meetings of euro-area Member State leaders to discuss specific issues. A further seven meetings took place to define a coordinated response to the financial and sovereign debt crisis and ensure the stability of the euro area. At the European Council meeting of 1-2 March 2012, 25 EU leaders signed the intergovernmental Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the EMU (TSG), which entered into force on 1 January 2013. Its Title V, on the governance of the euro area, defines rules applicable only to the euro-area countries, and formalises Euro Summits. Also known as the ‘Fiscal Compact Treaty’, after its Title III on fiscal rules, the TSCG was aimed at strengthening fiscal discipline to restore market confidence through enhanced economic policy coordination and convergence, stricter fiscal rules and better governance of the euro area. Of the EU Member States, Croatia, the Czech Republic and the UK are not currently signatories to the TSCG.

Organisation of Euro Summit meetings

According to the TSCG and the rules for the organisation of the proceedings of Euro Summits, adopted at the meeting of 14 March 2013, Euro Summit meetings should take place when necessary, but at least twice a year. Since 2015, however, no Euro Summit meeting has taken place. Ordinary meetings should, whenever possible, take place after European Council meetings in Brussels, and are not public. The President of the Euro Summit ensures the preparation and continuity of meetings, and is also responsible for drafting any statement by the Euro Summit, in close cooperation with the President of the European Commission and the President of the Eurogroup. The President of the Euro Summit reports to the European Parliament after each meeting and informs all non-euro-area Member States that have ratified the TSCG about the preparation and outcome.

Addressing the sovereign debt crisis

From the outset, Euro Summit meetings have been primarily convened to find a common approach to emergency economic situations, triggering ad hoc solutions to the specific problems at stake, but without leading to reforms to the architecture of the euro area. Following their formalisation by the TSCG in 2012, seven meetings have taken placeall aimed at defining coordinated action to address the sovereign debt crisis and at stabilising the euro area. On 22 June 2015, an extraordinary Euro Summit on Greece was convened to address one of the most severe crises within the euro area, which was putting the integrity of EMU at risk. As months of negotiations in the Eurogroup had not enabled an agreement, the issue was brought to the level of the Euro Summit to attempt to break the deadlock. Two more meetings were needed to bring a final breakthrough, reached on 12 July 2015.

Euro Summits: Role and expectations ahead of the meeting of 15 December 2017

Since then, Eurogroup members have agreed on new loans with Greece in exchange for reforms, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) has disbursed them, the Eurogroup has agreed on a package of potential debt-relief measures following the first programme review, and both the ESM and the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) have approved short-term debt relief measures for Greece.

Euro Summit meeting of 15 December 2017

In his letter to the EU Heads of State or Government of 21 September 2017, Donald Tusk, the President of the Euro Summit as well as of the European Council, convened a Euro Summit in December in an inclusive format. This format is set by the TSCG, which provides that leaders of those non-euro-area countries which have ratified that Treaty take part in the Euro Summit, for discussions relating to competitiveness, modification of the global architecture of the euro area, and the fundamental rules that will apply to it in the future. Considering the importance of the issues to be discussed, the Heads of State or Government of the Czech Republic and Croatia, which are not party to the TSCG, have also been invited as observers. Both Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, President of the Eurogroup, have also been invited to attend.

Towards gradual completion of EMU

Donald Tusk has called for decisions to be taken on the further development of the euro and gradual completion of the EMU. As a priority, completing the Banking Union through bank risk reduction and risk-sharing, notably including the establishment of a European deposit insurance scheme is intended to structurally reinforce the euro area. On 6 December 2017, the European Commission set out a Roadmap for deepening the EMU, including specific steps for the next 18 months. It has also proposed a package of four main initiatives: i) a proposal to establish a European Monetary Fund (EMF) as a development of the ESM, to strengthen the EU’s capacity to rescue countries in financial difficulty; ii) a proposal to integrate the substance of the TSCG into the Union legal framework; iii) a communication on new budgetary instruments for a stable euro area within the Union framework; iv) a communication on the possible functions of a European Minister of Economy and Finance, who could serve as Vice-President of the Commission and chair the Eurogroup. The discussions are designed to prepare specific decisions that President Tusk has called for by June 2018, with possible further decisions envisaged by the Leaders’ Agenda for March 2019.

Read this At a glance on ‘Euro Summits: Role and expectations ahead of the meeting of 15 December 2017‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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How the EU budget is spent: Development Cooperation Instrument

Written by Matthew Parry,

Teamwork design over white background, vector illustration

© djvstock / Fotolia

The Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) is the main financial instrument in the EU budget for funding aid to developing countries. The DCI’s primary objective is to alleviate poverty, but it also contributes to other international priorities of the EU such as the UN’s post-2015 Development Agenda; sustainable economic, social and environmental development; and the promotion of democracy, the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights. The DCI’s financial envelope within the EU’s 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is €19 661.64 million in commitments (about 1.81 % of the 2014-2020 MFF).

The DCI is not the EU’s largest development funding instrument – that is the European Development Fund, with a 2014-2020 budget of €30.5 billion – but the DCI is the biggest in the EU budget (the EDF is managed by the Commission but is intergovernmental in nature, standing outside the EU budget). Moreover, the EDF is aimed mainly at the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) and the overseas countries and territories (OCTs) of the EU, while the DCI funds assistance to other developing countries.

The DCI’s 2014-2020 financial envelope is subdivided between three different types of programme: geographical programmes, which have been allocated €11.8 billion over the MFF’s seven years (60 % of the total envelope); thematic programmes, for which €7 billion (36 %) has been budgeted; and a pan-African programme, which has a budget of €845 million (4 %).

DCI budget for 2014-20 by programme typeGeographical programmes are aimed at supporting bilateral and regional cooperation in areas such as human rights, democracy, good governance, inclusive and sustainable growth for human development, migration and asylum, conflict prevention, and disaster risk reduction. They support cooperation with 47 countries in the following regions: Latin America (with an indicative geographical programme allocation of €2 500 million for 2014-2020); South Asia (€3 813 million); North and South-East Asia (€2 870 million); Central Asia (€1 072 million); the Middle East (€545 million); and ‘other countries’ (€251 million). At least 15 % of the geographical programme funds must be spent on human rights, democracy and good governance; while at least 45 % must go to ‘inclusive and sustainable growth for human development’.

Thematic programmes complement the geographical programmes. Within this pillar of the DCI, there are two categories: Global Public Goods and Challenges (GPGC), for which the indicative 2014-2020 allocation is €5 101 million; and Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities (CSO-LA), for which the indicative allocation is €1 907 million. Between January 2017 and January 2021, GPGC is financing a project aimed at strengthening the ability of non-state actors in Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to carry out forest law enforcement, improve governance and trade, and reduce deforestation and degradation (DCI contribution: €3 million).

The Pan-African programme supports the strategic partnership between Africa and the EU. This programme complements other financing instruments that are used in Africa, such as the EDF and the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI). For 2016, the Commission identified two objectives under the programme: first, increase the availability of high-level professional manpower in Africa, by supporting the intra-African mobility of students and staff and improving the quality of higher education; second, support the transformation of the African livestock sector with a view to environmentally sustainable, climate-resilient socio-economic development, and equitable growth. The 2017 action document includes an initiative to improve broadband access in Africa, co-financed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) (DCI contribution: €7.5 million).

The DCI is one of six EU budgetary instruments for financing external action that are governed by Regulation (EU) No 236/2014 laying down common rules and procedures for the implementation of the Union’s instruments for financing external action. The other five are: the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR); the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI); the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP); the Partnership Instrument (PI); and the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II).

The EU foreign policy instruments- financial envelopes for the 2014-2020 MFFA June 2017 mid-MFF evaluation of the DCI requested by the Commission noted that the DCI was achieving genuine results, and argued that the DCI allows the EU to add value through its unique expertise in regional economic and political integration. However, the evaluation also recommended that the Commission work to align the instrument more closely with recipient countries’ priorities and to reduce fragmentation of thematic programmes, and warned against compartmentalisation between the DCI and the other EFIs that undermined complementarity.

A December 2015 review by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) of the risks involved in the EU taking a results-oriented approach to development and cooperation acknowledged that the Commission had correctly identified most of the nine key risk areas cited in the review: consistency of terminology; clarity of results chain; complexity arising from cross-cutting issues; harmonisation of instruments between development partners; reporting and evaluation; data consolidation; data quality; and focus on budgetary out-turn; and changes in the context of EU actions. However, the review recommended that the Commission improve guidelines for deciding terminology, objectives and indicators; clearly link actions and results; improve reporting; ensure data availability and quality; and routinely assess the risks of implementation before committing financial resources.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Development Cooperation Instrument‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


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Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders on 14-15 December 2017

Written by Ralf Drachenberg and Silvia Polidori,

Jean-Claude Juncker

copyright European Union

On 14 and 15 December 2017, EU leaders will convene in four different settings with varying compositions and levels of formality: a regular summit of the European Council, a Leaders’ meeting on migration, a European Council (Article 50) meeting, and an enlarged Euro Summit. The agenda of the formal European Council concentrates on defence, social policy, and education and culture, whilst the informal Leaders’ meeting will focus exclusively on migration, and notably on the reform of the Common European Asylum System. At the European Council (Article 50) meeting, EU leaders will consider the Commission’s recommendation that ‘sufficient progress’ has been made in the negotiations with the United Kingdom, and decide whether to move to the next phase. The enlarged Euro Summit will discuss further developments in the euro area, the banking union and the gradual completion of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

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

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

Table 1: Commitments relating to the agenda of the European Council meeting of 14-15 December 2017

2. European Council meeting

a. Defence

As called for in previous conclusions, the European Council will welcome the launch of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), a Treaty-based mechanism to deepen defence cooperation amongst EU Member States (see box), decided upon at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 11 December 2017. EU leaders will assess progress made on commitments undertaken at their December 2016 meeting and subsequent meetings held on defence in March, June and October 2017.

PESCO – Permanent Structured Cooperation

PESCO is an enhanced cooperation mechanism in the field of Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon (Articles 42(6) and 46 TEU, and Protocol No 10).

Scope: PESCO is designed to allow increased defence cooperation between those Member States which possess the necessary military capabilities and have made binding commitments to one another in the areas identified in Protocol 10, notably defence investment, capability development and operational readiness. PESCO would thus act as an umbrella for flexible cooperation among smaller sets of PESCO members.

Set-up process: Following the presentation of a list of common commitments in September 2017, 23 Member States wishing to establish PESCO made a notification to the Council and the High Representative (HR/VP) on 13 November 2017. The decision to establish PESCO was adopted by the Council, by qualified majority voting (QMV), at its meeting of 11 December, following the submission by each of the participants of a national Implementation Plan (NIP) outlining their ability to meet the binding commitments. The decision sets out a list of more binding commitments, including ‘regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms’.

Participants: All EU countries except Denmark, Ireland, Malta, Portugal and the UK signed the notification of 13 November. Ireland and Portugal have subsequently notified their decision to join.

Decision-making: Decisions are taken by the participating Member States – meeting in a Foreign Affairs/Defence Ministers Council format – by unanimity for overall policy direction, the selection of projects and the assessment mechanism, and by QMV on new membership of, or suspension from, PESCO.

Projects: Participating Member States also adopted a declaration identifying an initial list of 17 projects to be undertaken under PESCO, which the Council is expected to formally adopt in early 2018. One interesting example is the project on ‘Military Mobility’, which aims at simplifying and standardising cross-border military transport procedures, on which the Netherlands leads. Each project will be managed by the Member States contributing to it; others can decide to join.

Governance: PESCO will include an overarching layer maintaining the coherence and ambition of PESCO, and a second layer on the governance of projects. The HR/VP will manage the annual assessment called for by the European Council, and a strategic review at the end of each PESCO development phase (2018-2021; 2021-2025). On capability development aspects and operational aspects, the European Defence Agency and the European External Action Service respectively will act as the secretariat of PESCO.

The December 2016 European Council assessed progress along three lines of action: 1) an implementation plan on security and defence (IPSD); 2) a common set of guidelines for EU-NATO cooperation, including 42 proposals based on the Warsaw Joint Declaration; and 3) a proposal by the European Commission to establish a European Defence Action Plan (EDAP). EU leaders also set a clear timetable for a number of specific actions to be taken throughout 2017 – of those, some have been completed, such as, for instance the establishment of a European Defence Fund (EDF) – and the first trial run of a Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD). Throughout 2017, more specific deadlines were agreed upon as progress was made, such as the agreement on the launch of PESCO by December 2017. Concerning EU-NATO cooperation, a first progress report on the implementation of the 42 proposals was released in June 2017. NATO foreign ministers met on 5-6 December 2017 to explore means of expanding cooperation between NATO and the EU, among other issues.

b. Social policy, education and culture

Social policy

EU leaders are expected to adopt conclusions on social policy, following up on the Gothenburg Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth. The Social Summit, held on 17 November 2017, gathered together Heads of State or Government, social partners and other key players to work towards a social Europe and to promote fair jobs and growth. On that occasion, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission jointly proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights. Aimed at strengthening the social acquis, it contains a set of 20 key principles and rights to support fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems. The next steps will involve, inter alia, implementation of the Pillar’s principles and rights, progressing on pending social files at EU level as well as examining new Commission initiatives as set out in its 2018 Work Programme.

Education and culture

Heads of State or Government will also discuss education and culture, following up on a discussion EU leaders held in the margins of the Social Summit. Prior to the November meeting, the European Council President, Donald Tusk, presented a Leaders’ ‘decision note, which suggested a number of possible initiatives in the field of education and culture. Whilst support was expressed on certain possible initiatives, notably stepping up of the Erasmus Plus programme for European students and apprentices, and even young professionals, other suggestions such as the alignment of secondary school curricula were seen less favourably. The results of this discussion will feed into the conclusions of the December 2017 European Council.

c. Other items

Mid-term review of the strategic guidelines in the area of freedom, security and justice

Heads of State or Government will also discuss the mid-term review of the strategic guidelines in the area of freedom, security and justice, which were adopted by the European Council in June 2014. The discussion by EU leaders would be the last step in the review process, after an exchange of views in the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 12 October 2017 and an informal seminar on 8 November, which included Member States, Schengen Associated Countries, EU institutions, bodies and agencies, and academia and civil society organisations. EU leaders are expected to stress the substantial change of context since June 2014, with the internal security situation and migration pressures notably presenting significant challenges. They will most likely conclude that, despite significant progress, proper implementation, cooperation and consistency are still required to increase the effectiveness of the policies agreed.

3. Leaders’ meeting on Migration on 14 December

The Members of the European Council will also discuss migration, but in an informal setting and with no written conclusions. The result of these informal discussions will provide the basis for the formal conclusions on migration at a subsequent meeting of the European Council, most likely June 2019. This approach reflects the recent change in the working methods of the European Council, including a more ’political approach’ to its discussions, enabling more direct engagement on politically sensitive issues, more ‘rigorous follow-up’ of European Council meetings and decisions, and an increase in the frequency of meetings.

EU leaders are expected to hold a thematic debate on the way forward on the external and internal dimension of migration policy. The right balance between responsibility and solidarity is likely to constitute a core element of the discussion, notably in connection with the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). However, the recent proposal by the Estonian Presidency, suggesting that the relocation aspect of the asylum system could be made voluntary rather than automatic, as requested by the European Parliament, will probably not be raised. This issue of relocation has long been a major obstacle in agreeing on the new CEAS, with the Visegrad countries (i.e. Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) in particular calling for a voluntary system, while others stress the need for mandatory relocation quotas. On 7 December 2017, the European Commission decided to refer the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU for non-compliance with their legal obligations on relocation. On the same day, it published its contribution to the EU Leaders’ discussion on migration, where it recommends that leaders ensure swift progress on the reform of the EU’s Common European Asylum System, the further strengthening of partnerships with third countries, the continued to opening of legal pathways to Europe and the securing of adequate funding for the future. The Commission also encourages EU leaders to agree on the right balance between responsibility and solidarity at their meeting in Sofia in May 2018, which should then lead to political agreement on the overall reform of the CEAS at the June 2018 European Council meeting.

4. Euro Summit

On 21 September 2017, Donald Tusk convened a Euro Summit, in an inclusive format of 27 Member States, for 15 December, including, in addition to the 19 countries which have adopted the euro, those which do not belong to the euro area but have ratified the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the EMU (TSCG). This format is provided for in the TSCG, for discussions relating to competitiveness, modification of the global architecture of the euro area, and the fundamental rules that will apply to it in the future. The Heads of State or Government of the Czech Republic and Croatia, which are not party to the TSCG, have also been invited as observers, considering the importance of the issues to be discussed.

Both Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, President of the Eurogroup, have been invited to attend this Euro Summit. The former will outline the challenges ahead for the European economy, while Dijsselbloem, who will hand over the presidency of the Eurogroup to Mário Centeno on 13 January 2018, will present the work of the Eurogroup.

The Euro Summit will discuss the further development of the euro and gradual completion of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), including the completion of the Banking Union through bank risk reduction and risksharing. It will consider the development of the ESM into a European Monetary Fund, and proposals on governance and budgetary resources specific to the euro area. Ahead of the Euro Summit meeting, on 6 December 2017, the European Commission put forward a package of initiatives on the future of EMU. These include a roadmap for deepening EMU, setting out concrete steps to be taken over the next 18 months, and a series of initiatives aimed, inter alia, at 1) establishing a European Monetary Fund, 2) integrating the substance of the TSCG into the EU legal framework, 3) setting up new budgetary instruments for a stable euro area, and 4) defining possible functions of a European Minister of Economy and Finance, who could serve as both Commission Vice-President and Chair of the Eurogroup. Discussions at the Euro Summit are to prepare concrete decisions to be adopted by June 2018 (with more decisions envisaged for March 2019).

5. European Council (Article 50) meeting on 15 December

At the European Council (Article 50) meeting on 15 December 2017, EU Heads of State or Government are expected to conclude, following the recommendation of the European Commission, that ‘sufficient progress’ has been achieved in the negotiations with the United Kingdom, and issue guidelines on the opening of the second phase of negotiations concerning, in the first instance, transitional arrangements. Leaders of the EU-27 will be briefed by the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, on recent developments and the outcome of the sixth round of Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom. The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, will report from their respective meetings during the previous week with the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, and outline the main elements of the agreement reached in negotiations. The latter covers all three key areas in the negotiations: citizens’ rights, finances and the border issue in Ireland. Concerning EU citizen’s rights, the agreement guarantees that ‘the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens in the EU-27 will remain the same after the UK has left the EU’. Regarding finances, Theresa May, reiterated her previous statement, outlined in her speech on 22 September in Florence, that the UK is a country that ‘honours its obligations’. The agreement confirms that ‘commitments taken by the EU-28 will be honoured by the EU-28, including the UK’ and specifies the methodology for the financial settlement. Concerning Northern Ireland, the text includes numerous commitments to avoid a hard border, protect the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and also preserve the integrity of the UK. It envisages that the relationship between Northern Ireland and Ireland should be governed by the future overall EU-UK relationship.

The draft guidelines circulated by Donald Tusk propose that the next steps should be negotiating a transition period and seeking clarification of the British vision of its future relationship with the EU. The draft proposes that, during the transition period, the UK would respect the whole body of EU law, including new law, budgetary commitments, judicial oversight and all related obligations. However, during the transition period following the UK’s withdrawal, the UK would no longer participate in EU decision-making among the remaining 27 Member States. The policy areas currently under consideration for the future close partnership between the UK and the EU are trade, the fight against terrorism and international crime, and security, defence and foreign policy. The European Council will adopt guidelines on the framework for future relations in 2018. The European Parliament is expected to adopt a resolution following a plenary debate on 13 December 2017.

Read this Briefing on ‘Outlook for the meetings of EU leaders on 14-15 December 2017‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Tax transparency for intermediaries [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Cécile Remeur (1st edition),

© Argus / Fotolia

The situations highlighted by the ‘Panama papers’ leak in April 2016 show how certain intermediaries and other providers of tax advice appear to have facilitated companies and individuals in avoiding taxation, often through complex cross-border schemes involving routing assets to, or through, offshore entities. Among the tools to fight tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning are established mechanisms for disclosure of tax information and publication of tax-relevant information by companies.

In June 2017, the Commission adopted a proposal aimed at ensuring early information on such situations, by setting an obligation to report cross-border arrangements designed by tax intermediaries or taxpayers and by including the information collected in the automatic exchange of information between tax authorities within the European Union. The proposal responds to calls made by both the European Parliament and the Council.



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US recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel

Written by Beatrix Immenkamp,

Modern Jerusalem panorama photo, contemporary architecture of the Middle East cities

© MaxterDesign / Fotolia

On 6 December 2017, US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, mirroring the official Israeli position on the status of the city. In doing so, the US has become the first country to officially endorse the Israeli position on a hotly disputed issue that lies at the very heart of the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), potentially weakening the role of the US in that process as an impartial mediator and tilting the odds further in Israel’s favour. The move has been widely condemned as a violation of international law and a political provocation. However, it leaves open the possibility to address the status of the city as part of a comprehensive peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

President Trump’s announcement

On 6 December 2017, President Trump announced in a speech at the White House that the United States will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and gave instructions to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In doing so, the President is acting on a policy embodied in US federal law since 1995, and fulfilling an election campaign promise to relocate the US Embassy, strengthening his appeal to core supporters. The Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed by a large majority in Congress and the Senate in 1995, declares it to be US policy that Jerusalem be ‘recognized as the capital of the State of Israel’, and that ‘the U.S. Embassy in Israel be established in Jerusalem’. The bill authorises the President to suspend the application of the law for a renewable six-month period, ‘to protect the national security interests of the United States’. For the past two decades, US Presidents have routinely issued waivers to delay the opening of a US Embassy in Jerusalem. In doing so, they repeatedly thwarted the attempt launched by Congress in 1995 to forestall the outcome of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the first direct agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. On 6 December, even though he signed another waiver to prevent a cut in State Department funding stipulated by the Act, President Trump de facto broke with this tradition, overturning 70 years of US foreign policy on the Middle East.

The importance of Jerusalem to the MEPP

jerusalem mapThere have been many attempts to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians since the Middle East war of June 1967, in which Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Golan Heights and parts of Sinai. UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed on 22 November 1967, embodies the principle that has guided most of the peace negotiations ─ the exchange of land for peace. Clause 1 of Resolution 242 called for Israel to withdraw from the ‘territories’ conquered in 1967. Efforts to resolve the dispute between Palestinians and Israelis still centre on the principle of a ‘two-state solution’ to the conflict, with an independent Palestinian state created alongside the state of Israel. One of the most intractable issues in peace talks has been Jerusalem. The 1980 Basic Law on Jerusalem declared Jerusalem to be the ‘complete and united’ capital of Israel. Israel officially rejects any division of the city, the seat of the Israeli government, and has built extensive settlements in East Jerusalem; however, in successive peace negotiations, various plans for the division of Jerusalem have been discussed. Palestinians, for their part, seek to establish the capital of their future Palestinian state in East Jerusalem. The international consensus has so far been that Jerusalem would have to be the capital of both states, in a manner to be agreed between the two sides to the conflict during ‘final status’ negotiations. In his speech, President Trump explicitly said that he was not stipulating how much of Jerusalem should be considered Israel’s capital, and did not rule out a future division of the city, or a two-state solution. This leaves open the possibility of establishing the capital of a future Palestinian state in the eastern part of the city. He also acknowledged in his speech that the status quo of the Holy Places must be preserved. In April 2017, Russia was the first country to officially recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state.

The importance of Jerusalem to Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Jerusalem is a holy place central to three world religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, adding a religious dimension to the question of who controls the city and its most important religious sites. For Jews, Jerusalem is the site of the two Temples that were the centre of worship and national identity in ancient Israel. The second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Jews still come to pray at the Western Wall, a remnant of the retaining wall of the mount on which the Temple once stood. For Christians, the city is central to the story of Jesus, his death, crucifixion and resurrection. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a significant focus for Christians around the world. For Muslims, Jerusalem is their third holiest city, after Mecca and Medina. The temple mount, site of the former Jewish temple, is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, al-Haram al-sharif. The site is dominated by two structures to mark a sacred location referred to in the Quran. In accordance with the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty, Jordan is custodian of the Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem.

International reactions and implications

With the exception of opinions in Israel, which welcomed the decision, political and religious leaders from around the world have condemned President Trump’s announcement as a dangerous move that will ‘destroy the peace process, strengthen extremists and weaken the US’s standing in the world’. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the recognition as undermining any attempt to achieve a two-state solution, violating international law, encouraging the occupation and construction of Israeli settlements, and ending the US role as a diplomatic sponsor and mediator of peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Other senior Palestinians declared the two-state solution ‘over‘, saying it was time to move to a ‘one state’ approach, ‘with equal rights for everyone living in historic Palestine’. Violence has erupted in cities across the West Bank, and the Islamist movement Hamas has threatened a new intifada. US allies including Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have spoken out strongly against the announcement. The Arab League has called it a ‘dangerous violation of international law’, and has called on the US to ‘abandon the announcement’. Russia has called the change in policy alarming, as it risks further complicating Palestinian-Israeli relations and destabilising the region. Republicans in the US Congress have overwhelmingly supported President Trump’s announcement, while Democrats were split. The chiefs of the State and Defence Departments and the CIA opposed it. In recent decades, the US has been a key facilitator of efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The US has been a member of the ‘Middle East Quartet’ ─ with the EU, the UN and Russia ─ which in 2002 launched a ‘road map for peace’ aimed at resolving the conflict. The new US position on Jerusalem arguably weakens the role of the US in the Quartet or in any future peace negotiations. The announcement is likely to strain the ‘Riyadh-led tacit Sunni alliance with Israel’ that the Trump administration has been trying to build up to confront Iran, and play into the hands of Tehran, which has warned Arab governments against building closer ties with Israel, and urged their Muslim populations to oppose what it sees as the betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

European Union and European Parliament positions on Jerusalem

The EU’s objective for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ‘a two-state solution with an independent, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with the State of Israel’, with Jerusalem as the capital of both the state of Israel and the state of Palestine. On 7 December 2017, the High Representative confirmed that the EU and its 28 Member States will continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem, until the final status of the Holy City is resolved through direct negotiations between the parties. She announced that the EU will renew efforts to work with regional and international partners, including the Middle East Quartet and Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to re-launch direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative. The European Parliament, in its resolution of 18 May 2017 on achieving the two-state solution in the Middle East, reiterated its strong support for the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. This follows Parliament’s resolution of 17 December 2014 on recognition of Palestine statehood.

Read this At a glance on ‘US recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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Revision of the Eurovignette Directive [EU Legislation in Progress]

Written by Ariane Debyser (1st edition),

Lastwagen auf der Autobahn. Transport auf der Straße für Güter.

© Gina Sanders / Fotolia

The Commission adopted a legislative proposal for a directive amending Directive 1999/62/EC on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures (known as the Eurovignette Directive) in May 2017. The initiative is linked to two wider strategies, the energy union strategy, which inter alia envisaged a road transport package, including more efficient infrastructure pricing, and the Commission’s strategy for low-emission mobility.

The proposal was presented within the context of the Commission’s ‘Europe on the move’ package that seeks to modernise mobility and transport and includes several legislative proposals. The objective of the Eurovignette proposal, which substantially amends the existing legislation by extending the scope of vehicles covered, is to make progress in the application of the ‘polluter pays’ and ‘user pays’ principles.

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One Planet Summit in Paris to accelerate climate action

Written by Gregor Erbach,

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

© Roman Sigaev / Fotolia

Two years after the Paris Agreement on climate change was concluded, world and business leaders gather in Paris today for the One Planet Summit, an initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron together with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Partners include the European Commission, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the OECD and the Global Covenant of Mayors as well as regions, cities and companies. A main focus of the event will be on innovation in public and private finance to support and accelerate efforts to fight climate change.

The agenda includes panel discussions on the scaling-up of finance for climate action, greening finance for sustainable business, accelerating local and regional climate action, and strengthening policies for ecological and inclusive transition. The event aims at encouraging public and private actors to develop new and tangible actions and ideas (ClimActs) to innovate, to roll out solutions, and to support communities vulnerable to climate change.

The summit was preceded by a climate finance day to take stock of climate action in the financial industry and showcase recent climate initiatives and innovations in this sector.

Today’s summit follows the COP23 climate change conference in Bonn (6-17 November) and a high-level conference on financing low-carbon energy in the European Parliament (7 November). All these events send a clear signal that nations, regions, cities, companies, and civil society remain committed to climate action, despite the intention of the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.


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