Outcome of European Council video-conference of 26 March 2020

Written by Ralf Drachenberg with Emily Phillips,

© Quatrox Production / Adobe Stock

On 26 March, EU Heads of State or Government continued their joint coordination efforts to address the COVID-19 outbreak and held a six hour-long video-conference meeting on this subject. They followed up on the priorities defined at the previous video-conferences on 10 and 17 March 2020, and outlined additional coordinated measures aimed at overcoming the crisis in a joint statement.

While EU leaders claimed ‘to do everything necessary to meet this challenge in a spirit of solidarity’, at this stage they could not agree on appropriate financing instruments to help countries in fiscal difficulty due to the crisis, with some countries pleading for the introduction of joint ‘corona bonds’, whilst others preferred the use of existing EU instruments, notably the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, participated for the first time at the start of a video-conference meeting. As at ordinary European Council meetings, he gave an opening statement, and subsequently underlined that he ‘expected a stronger assumption of responsibility from national leaders’.

Looking beyond the immediate priorities, EU leaders asked the President of the Commission and the President of the European Council to start working on a roadmap, accompanied by an action plan, to prepare an exit strategy and a comprehensive recovery plan, including unprecedented investment. Additionally, EU Heads of State or Government also used the meeting to address EU enlargement, the earthquake in Croatia and the situation at the EU’s external borders.

1. Discussions on the COVID-19 outbreak

Limiting the spread of the virus

EU Heads of State or Government discussed their joint and national actions to contain and slow the spread of the virus. Concerning the reinforcement of EU external border controls following the European Council’s agreement on 17 March to apply a coordinated temporary restriction of non-essential travel to the EU for a period of 30 days, EU leaders decided to ‘evaluate the situation in due time and decide whether or not to prolong these measures’.

Regarding temporary internal border controls, EU leaders agreed to ‘ensure smooth border management for persons and goods and preserve the functioning of the Single Market’. Concerning EU citizens blocked at internal EU borders and prevented from returning to their homes, as well as ensuring the supply of goods and essential services, EU leaders pledged to address the remaining problems urgently, with the assistance of the Commission. The latter was asked to report on the situation before the European Council’s next video-conference meeting.

Differing from previous crises (see The European Council as COVID-19 crisis manager), the COVID‑19 outbreak is accompanied by an increased spread of disinformation. EU leaders aim at fighting this phenomenon with transparent, timely and fact-based communication, with the full involvement of the Commission and the High Representative/Vice-President, who will report on the joint efforts to the Council. Moreover, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the Commission structures active in the cybersecurity field will reinforce their activities to fight disinformation.

Providing medical equipment

Member States were invited to coordinate and provide reliable data to the Commission on the provision of medical equipment throughout the EU. The Commission, in cooperation with industry, is to monitor the available stocks and take action to improve supply. It will continue to pursue joint procurement initiatives for protective equipment as well as ventilators and testing supplies, whilst seeking to speed up procedures in this respect.

On 19 March 2020, the Commission announced the creation of a stockpile of medical equipment, including for intensive care, vaccines and therapeutics, under the rescEU initiative, which is part of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. In this respect, EU leaders have underlined the need to increase, as necessary, the budget allocated for the rescEU stockpile. In light of World Health Organization recommendations, the European Council stressed that testing capacity in Member States must be increased as a matter of urgency, inviting Member States to report to the Commission accordingly.

Promoting research

The European Council highlighted its commitment to do everything possible to support research efforts within the European scientific and research community. The development of a vaccine in the shortest time possible, available to all, is an absolute priority, as underlined by the EU leaders. Some 17 research projects, involving 136 teams worldwide, have already been shortlisted following the Commission call launched on 30 January 2020. EU leaders welcomed the initiatives taken by the Commission, the European Innovation Council and the European Investment Bank Group to provide financial support for the clinical and public health response to COVID-19.

Tackling socio-economic consequences

In their statement, EU Heads of State and Government acknowledged the developments achieved by the Eurogroup and called upon the latter to suggest proposals within two weeks, which should consider the exceptional challenges posed by the COVID-19 shock. On 24 March, EU finance ministers agreed to coordinate their actions as a means of providing stimulus packages and protecting citizens and companies across the EU. Subsequently, Eurogroup President Mario Centeno stated that there was ‘broad support to consider a pandemic crisis support safeguard based on an existing ESM precautionary instrument, such as the Enhanced Conditions Credit Line’. President Centeno further stressed the latter proposal in a letter addressed to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, praising leaders for their efforts to establish a Pandemic Crisis Support Instrument and to set the ESM to finance fiscal spending equal to 2 % of Member States’ GDP.

Regarding the European Central Bank’s fiscal response to the economic consequences of the coronavirus within the euro area, EU Heads of State and Government unanimously welcomed the launch of the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) of public and private-sector securities, unveiled on 18 March; an ambitious policy measure that includes an overall envelope of €750 billion. On 19 March, the European Commission presented the Temporary Framework for State Aid to help companies and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) facing economic difficulties in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was commended as ‘a major step forward’ by the European Council. EU leaders also voiced support for other significant tools made available by the Commission, such as the general escape clause under the Stability and Growth Pact. Concerning the European Investment Bank’s reaction to the pandemic, leaders endorsed the decision to deploy loans and liquidity lines to banks in support of SMEs.

Despite wide agreement in adopting the above-mentioned measures, disagreement persists amongst Member States on a long-term response, and in particular on the most appropriate financial instruments to help countries facing fiscal difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Some countries have expressed their preference for the use of existing EU instruments, notably the ESM, whilst others, including France, Italy and Spain, called for special eurobonds or ‘corona bonds’ to be issued, with the aim of facilitating ‘the transmission of euro-area monetary policy and boost[ing] efficiency in the bond market and in the broader euro-area financial system’. Subsequently, nine EU Heads of State or Government[i] wrote a joint letter urging the establishment of a common European debt instrument against the economic threat posed by the coronavirus outbreak. At their video-conference on 26 March, EU leaders failed to reach agreement on the way forward, with, as only outcome, the commitment to return to the debate in two weeks’ time on the basis of proposals from the Eurogroup. In this context, Charles Michel nonetheless offered reassurance that the European Council ‘will continue all its efforts and will do everything it takes to find the right solution’, whilst Commission President von der Leyen stressed that ‘the room is still open to discuss other possibilities that might be on the table’. The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, strongly criticised the results of the European Council and ‘the short-sightedness and selfishness of some governments’, stressing that Europe is ‘more than just national governments. Countries must be able to spend all they need to spend. To do this we need a common tool to guarantee debt’.

Citizens stranded in third countries

EU leaders reaffirmed their commitment to coordinate the repatriation of EU citizens from third countries through the Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism. The High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell, and the newly established Consular Task Force in the European External Action Service (EEAS) will continue to support these efforts and cooperate closely with the Commission, including its specialised agencies, and the Member States. To ensure rapid and swift repatriation of EU citizens, Borrell stepped up contacts with his counterparts from both Asian and Latin American countries. As an intra-EU measure facilitating the return of EU citizens, the Commission is expected to put ‘forward an addendum to the border management guidelines to facilitate transit arrangements’.

Cooperation with the international community

EU leaders pledged to cooperate with the international community and the EU’s external partners in combating the global pandemic. Just prior to the video-conference of the members of the European Council, G20 leaders held an extraordinary video-conference to coordinate their macroeconomic policies to mitigate the economic downturn, support workers and the companies most affected. At the G20 video-conference, Presidents Michel and von der Leyen underlined that ‘the European Union is committed to international cooperation in tackling this pandemic and will continue to assist vulnerable countries and communities around the world, especially in Africa’. They used the occasion to recall the need also to ‘keep trade flows and supply chains open’.

2. Exit strategy and lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis

While the priorities outlined above aim at fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and its immediate consequences, EU Heads of State or Government agreed on the need to start preparing a coordinated exit strategy. This includes ‘the measures necessary to get back to a normal functioning of our societies and economies and to sustainable growth, integrating inter alia the green transition and the digital transformation, and drawing all lessons from the crisis’. Moreover, they agreed on the need for a comprehensive recovery plan and unprecedented investment.

To that end, the European Council invited the President of the Commission and the President of the European Council, in consultation with other institutions, especially the European Central Bank, to start work on a roadmap accompanied by an action plan for that purpose. Following the video-conference, Ursula von der Leyen specified that the Commission would now develop an exit strategy, built on a science-based protocol, which would propose when and how to move away from containment measures, such as social distancing.

EU leaders agreed that they had to draw lessons from the COVID-19 crisis and called for ‘a more ambitious and wide-ranging crisis management system within the EU’, inviting the Commission to make proposals in that respect.

3. Other topics

EU leaders used the opportunity of the video-conference meeting to discuss other pressing issues.


EU leaders endorsed the 25 March 2020 General Affairs Council conclusions on enlargement and stabilisation and association agreements, confirming the Council’s decision to open accession negotiations, under stricter conditionality rules, in line with the accession methodology presented by the Commission in February, with both Albania and North Macedonia. President Michel spoke of ‘an important step for both countries which sends a strong signal to the whole region in these times’.

Earthquake in Croatia

EU Heads of State or Government expressed their fullest sympathy with the Croatian Presidency and people, and declared that they ‘stand ready to assist them in coping with the effects of the recent earthquake’.

Situation at the EU’s external borders

The European Council stated its concerns over the situation at the Greek-Turkish border and affirmed its full solidarity with Greece, as well as with Bulgaria and Cyprus and other Member States affected in their efforts to manage the EU’s external borders.

Multiannual financial framework

While not included in the Joint Statement, President von der Leyen, addressed the negotiations on the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework during the press conference following the video-conference meeting. In her view, the COVID-19 crisis shows the importance of an EU budget that can deal with complex crises. An ambitious new EU budget is thus needed, helping the EU economy to recover and to rebound as soon as possible. EU leaders will have to come back to this issue in the next weeks. On 28 March, she announced that the Commission will shortly put forward an amended MFF proposal, including a stimulus package for the recovery.

Read this briefing on ‘Outcome of European Council video-conference of 26 March 2020‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/04/01/outcome-of-european-council-video-conference-of-26-march-2020/

Reply to the campaign on the situation at the EU’s external borders with Turkey, following a large attempted migrant influx

© oxinoxi / Adobe Stock

The President of the European Parliament sometimes receives large numbers of identical messages on a given topic. The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (AskEP) is asked to reply to these campaign messages. Replies to campaigns are also published on the EPRS blog.

The President of the European Parliament has received a large number of messages calling on the EU to adopt a clear and humane migration and external border policy.

See below for the reply sent to citizens who wrote to the President of the European Parliament on this matter (in English, German, Greek, Spanish, French and Italian).

Reply in English

The Presidents of the EU institutions (European Parliament, European Council and European Commission) immediately accepted the invitation of the Bulgarian and Greek Prime Ministers to visit the borders and to see the situation for themselves. This visit took place on Tuesday, 3 March 2020.

The Presidents of the EU institutions made statements of support to the Bulgarian and Greek citizens and authorities which are available here: statement of Mr Sassoli, statement of Mr Charles Michel, President of the European Council, statement of Ms Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

After the visit, Mr Sassoli stated: ‘We urgently call on the Turkish authorities to respect the agreement with the European Union and we remain open for dialogue.’ He also called upon ‘European leaders to work constructively with us in order to find a solution for the fair redistribution of people in need. This is the only way to live up to our values and make Europe a global leader in the defence of human rights.’

On Wednesday 4 March 2020, Mr Michel and Mr Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, met with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, Turkey. A press release on this meeting is available here.

On the same day, the EU Ministers of Home Affairs took part in an extraordinary meeting in Brussels at which they agreed, inter alia, that: ‘All Member States, the European Commission and EU Agencies stand ready to strengthen their support to areas under pressure, including through the deployment of FRONTEX’s rapid border intervention and additional technical assistance. Member States will swiftly provide the support necessary to ensure the immediate deployment of the relevant teams and assets. The Commission will play an active role in coordinating Member States’ support.’

The European Parliament held a debate on the situation during its session in Brussels on Tuesday 10 March 2020.

Reply in German

Die Präsidenten der EU-Organe (Europäisches Parlament, Europäischer Rat und Europäische Kommission) nahmen sogleich die Einladung des bulgarischen und des griechischen Premierministers an, die Grenzen zu besuchen und sich selbst ein Bild von der Lage vor Ort zu machen. Dieser Besuch fand am Dienstag, den 3. März 2020, statt.

Die Präsidenten der drei EU-Organe gaben bei der Gelegenheit Erklärungen zur Unterstützung der Bürger und Behörden von Bulgarien und Griechenland ab, die hier (in englischer Sprache) abgerufen werden können: Erklärung von David Sassoli, Erklärung von Charles Michel, Präsident des Europäischen Rates, Erklärung von Ursula von der Leyen, Präsidentin der Europäischen Kommission.

Nach dem Treffen sagte David Sassoli: „Wir fordern die türkischen Behörden nachdrücklich auf, das Abkommen mit der Europäischen Union einzuhalten, und wir bleiben offen für den Dialog.“ Er forderte außerdem die europäischen Staats- und Regierungschefs auf, „konstruktiv mit uns zusammenzuarbeiten, um eine Lösung für die gerechte Umverteilung von Menschen in Not zu finden. Nur so können wir unseren Werten gerecht werden und Europa weltweit zu einer führenden Kraft bei der Verteidigung der Menschenrechte machen“.

Am Mittwoch, den 4. März 2020, trafen sich Charles Michel und Josep Borrell, Hoher Vertreter für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik und Vizepräsident der Europäischen Kommission, mit dem türkischen Präsidenten Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in der türkischen Hauptstadt Ankara. Eine Pressemitteilung zu diesem Treffen ist (in englischer Sprache) hier verfügbar.

Am selben Tag nahmen die Innenminister der EU an einer außerordentlichen Sitzung in Brüssel teil, bei der sie unter anderem folgendes vereinbarten: „Alle Mitgliedstaaten, die Europäische Kommission und die EU-Agenturen sind bereit, ihre Unterstützung für Gebiete, die einem besonderen Druck ausgesetzt sind, zu verstärken, und zwar unter anderem durch den Soforteinsatz zu Grenzsicherungszwecken von Frontex und durch zusätzliche technische Hilfe. Die Mitgliedstaaten werden rasch die erforderliche Unterstützung leisten, um die sofortige Entsendung der entsprechenden Teams und die Bereitstellung der Mittel zu gewährleisten. Die Kommission wird eine aktive Rolle bei der Koordinierung der Unterstützungsmaßnahmen der Mitgliedstaaten einnehmen.“

Das Europäische Parlament hat während seiner Tagung in Brüssel am Dienstag, den 10. März 2020, eine Debatte über die Lage an den EU-Außengrenzen mit der Türkei geführt.

Reply in Greek

Οι Πρόεδροι των θεσμικών οργάνων της ΕΕ (Ευρωπαϊκό Κοινοβούλιο, Ευρωπαϊκό Συμβούλιο και Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή) αποδέχθηκαν αμέσως την πρόσκληση των πρωθυπουργών της Βουλγαρίας και της Ελλάδας να επισκεφθούν τα σύνορα και να δουν την κατάσταση οι ίδιοι. Η επίσκεψη πραγματοποιήθηκε την Τρίτη 3 Μαρτίου 2020.

Οι Πρόεδροι των θεσμικών οργάνων της ΕΕ προέβησαν σε δηλώσεις υποστήριξης προς τους πολίτες και τις αρχές της Βουλγαρίας και της Ελλάδας, δηλώσεις οι οποίες είναι διαθέσιμες εδώ: Δήλωση του κ. Sassoli , δήλωση του κ. Charles Michel, Προέδρου του Ευρωπαϊκού Συμβουλίου , δήλωση της κ. Ursula von der Leyen, Προέδρου της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής .

Μετά την επίσκεψη, ο κ. Sassoli δήλωσε: «Καλούμε επειγόντως τις τουρκικές αρχές να σεβαστούν τη συμφωνία με την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση και να παραμείνουν ανοικτές στον διάλογο». Κάλεσε επίσης τους «Ευρωπαίους ηγέτες να εργαστούν εποικοδομητικά μαζί μας προκειμένου να εξευρεθεί λύση για τη δίκαιη ανακατανομή των ανθρώπων που έχουν ανάγκη. Αυτός είναι ο μόνος τρόπος να ανταποκριθούμε στις αξίες μας και να αναδείξουμε την Ευρώπη σε παγκόσμια ηγέτιδα δύναμη στον τομέα της υπεράσπισης των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων.»

Την Τετάρτη 4 Μαρτίου 2020, ο κ. Michel και ο κ. Josep Borrell, Ύπατος Εκπρόσωπος για θέματα εξωτερικής πολιτικής και πολιτικής ασφαλείας/Αντιπρόεδρος της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής, συναντήθηκαν με τον Πρόεδρο κ. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan στην Άγκυρα της Τουρκίας. Δελτίο τύπου για τη συνάντηση αυτή είναι διαθέσιμο εδώ.

Την ίδια ημέρα, οι υπουργοί Εσωτερικών της ΕΕ συμμετείχαν σε έκτακτη συνεδρίαση στις Βρυξέλλες, στην οποία συμφώνησαν, μεταξύ άλλων, ότι: «Όλα τα κράτη μέλη, η Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή και οι οργανισμοί της ΕΕ είναι έτοιμα να ενισχύσουν τη στήριξή τους στις περιοχές που δέχονται πίεση, μεταξύ άλλων μέσω της ανάπτυξης της ταχείας επέμβασης του FRONTEX και της πρόσθετης τεχνικής βοήθειας. Τα κράτη μέλη θα προσφέρουν ταχέως την αναγκαία υποστήριξη για να εξασφαλιστεί η άμεση ανάπτυξη των σχετικών ομάδων και πόρων. Η Επιτροπή θα διαδραματίσει ενεργό ρόλο στον συντονισμό της στήριξης των κρατών μελών».

Το Ευρωπαϊκό Κοινοβούλιο πραγματοποίησε συζήτηση σχετικά με την κατάσταση κατά τη σύνοδό του στις Βρυξέλλες την Τρίτη 10 Μαρτίου 2020.

Reply in Spanish

Los Presidentes de las instituciones de la UE (Parlamento Europeo, Consejo Europeo y Comisión Europea) aceptaron inmediatamente la invitación de los Primeros Ministros búlgaro y griego a que visitaran las fronteras y vieran la situación por sí mismos. Esta visita tuvo lugar el martes 3 de marzo de 2020.

Los Presidentes de las instituciones de la UE hicieron declaraciones de apoyo a los ciudadanos y a las autoridades de Bulgaria y Grecia. Puede consultar estas declaraciones siguiendo los siguientes enlaces: declaración de David Maria Sassoli; declaración de Charles Michel, Presidente del Consejo Europeo; declaración Ursula von der Leyen, Presidenta de la Comisión Europea.

Después de la visita, el Presidente David Maria Sassoli declaró: «Pedimos urgentemente a las autoridades turcas que respeten el acuerdo con la Unión Europea y seguimos abiertos al diálogo». También pidió a los dirigentes europeos que «trabajen con nosotros de modo constructivo para encontrar una solución encaminada a una redistribución equitativa de las personas que lo necesitan, ya que es la única forma de estar a la altura de nuestros valores y de poner a Europa a la vanguardia de la defensa de los derechos humanos».

El miércoles 4 de marzo, Charles Michel y Josep Borrell, Alto Representante de la Unión para Asuntos Exteriores y Política de Seguridad y Vicepresidente de la Comisión Europea, se reunieron con el Presidente Recep Tayyip Erdoğan en Ankara (Turquía). A través de este enlace puede consultar el comunicado de prensa relativo a dicha reunión.

Ese mismo día, los Ministros de Interior de la UE participaron en una reunión extraordinaria celebrada en Bruselas en la que acordaron, entre otras cosas, lo siguiente: «Todos los Estados miembros, la Comisión Europea y las agencias de la UE están dispuestos a reforzar su apoyo a las zonas sometidas a presión, en particular mediante el despliegue de la intervención rápida en las fronteras de Frontex y asistencia técnica adicional. Los Estados miembros facilitarán diligentemente el apoyo necesario para garantizar el despliegue inmediato de los equipos y medios pertinentes. La Comisión desempeñará un papel activo en la coordinación del apoyo de los Estados miembros».

El Parlamento Europeo celebró un debate sobre esta situación en su sesión del martes 10 de marzo de 2020 en Bruselas.

Reply in French

Les présidents des institutions de l’Union européenne (Parlement européen, Conseil européen et Commission européenne) ont immédiatement accepté l’invitation des premiers ministres bulgare et grec à se rendre sur les frontières et à juger par eux-mêmes de la situation. Cette visite a eu lieu le mardi 3 mars 2020.

Les présidents des institutions de l’Union européenne ont fait des déclarations dans lesquelles ils apportaient leur soutien aux citoyens et autorités bulgares et grecs. Elles se trouvent aux adresses suivantes: déclaration de M. Sassoli, déclaration de M. Charles Michel, Président du Conseil européen, déclaration de Mme Ursula von der Leyen, Présidente de la Commission européenne.

Après la visite, M. Sassoli a fait la déclaration suivante: «Nous demandons instamment aux autorités turques de respecter l’accord conclu avec l’Union européenne et nous restons ouverts au dialogue». Il a également invité les responsables européens à «travailler de manière constructive avec nous afin de trouver une solution pour la répartition équitable des personnes qui sont dans le besoin. C’est la seule manière d’être fidèles à nos valeurs et de faire de l’Europe un chef de file mondial dans la défense des droits de l’homme».

Le mercredi 4 mars 2020, M. Michel et M. Josep Borrell, Haut Représentant pour les affaires étrangères et la politique de sécurité / Vice-Président de la Commission européenne, ont rencontré le Président Recep Tayyip Erdogan à Ankara (Turquie). Un communiqué de presse relatif à cette rencontre est disponible ici.

Le même jour, les ministres de l’intérieur de l’Union européenne ont participé à une réunion extraordinaire à Bruxelles au cours de laquelle ils ont convenu, entre autres, que: «L’ensemble des États membres, la Commission européenne et les agences de l’UE sont prêts à renforcer leur soutien aux régions sous pression, y compris par le déploiement de l’intervention rapide de Frontex aux frontières et une assistance technique supplémentaire. Les États membres fourniront rapidement le soutien nécessaire pour assurer le déploiement immédiat des équipes et des moyens d’intervention concernés. La Commission jouera un rôle actif dans la coordination du soutien apporté par les États membres.

Le Parlement européen a organisé un débat sur la situation pendant sa période de session à Bruxelles le mardi 10 mars 2020.

Reply in Italian

I presidenti delle istituzioni dell’UE (Parlamento europeo, Consiglio europeo e Commissione europea) hanno immediatamente accettato l’invito dei primi ministri bulgaro e greco a visitare le frontiere e a verificare di persona la situazione. La visita si è svolta martedì 3 marzo 2020.

I presidenti delle istituzioni dell’UE hanno rilasciato dichiarazioni di sostegno ai cittadini e alle autorità bulgare e greche che sono disponibili al seguente indirizzo: dichiarazione dellꞌon. Sassoli, dichiarazione di Charles Michel, Presidente del Consiglio europeo, dichiarazione di Ursula von der Leyen, Presidente della Commissione europea.

Dopo la visita, l’on. Sassoli ha dichiarato: “Chiediamo urgentemente alle autorità turche di rispettare l’accordo con l’Unione europea e restiamo aperti al dialogo.” Ha altresì invitato “i leader europei a lavorare in modo costruttivo con noi affinché si trovi una soluzione per unꞌequa ridistribuzione delle persone bisognose. Questo è lꞌunico modo per essere all’altezza dei nostri valori e rendere lꞌEuropa un leader globale nella difesa dei diritti umani”.

Mercoledì 4 marzo 2020 Charles Michel e Josep Borrell, alto rappresentante per la politica estera e di sicurezza/vicepresidente della Commissione europea, hanno incontrato il Presidente Recep Tayyip Erdogan ad Ankara, Turchia. Un comunicato stampa relativo a questo incontro è disponibile qui.

Lo stesso giorno i ministri dell’Interno dell’UE hanno partecipato a una riunione straordinaria a Bruxelles in cui hanno convenuto, tra l’altro, che: “Tutti gli Stati membri, la Commissione europea e le agenzie dell’UE sono pronti a rafforzare il loro sostegno alle zone sotto pressione, anche attraverso lo spiegamento del rapido intervento di Frontex alle frontiere e un’ulteriore assistenza tecnica. Gli Stati membri forniranno rapidamente il sostegno necessario per assicurare l’invio immediato delle squadre e delle risorse pertinenti. La Commissione svolgerà un ruolo attivo nel coordinare il sostegno degli Stati membri”.

Il Parlamento europeo ha tenuto una discussione sulla situazione durante la sua tornata a Bruxelles martedì 10 marzo 2020.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/04/01/reply-to-the-campaign-on-the-situation-at-the-eus-external-borders-with-turkey-following-a-large-attempted-migrant-influx/

The European Council as COVID-19 crisis manager: A comparison with previous crises

Written by Suzana Anghel and Ralf Drachenberg,

© Kheng Guan Toh / Adobe Stock

The COVID-19 outbreak confronts the European Union with a severe crisis, affecting both individual EU citizens’ lives and society as a whole. Due to its role and centrality in the EU’s institutional framework, the European Council is once again called upon to exercise its crisis-management role. Similarities can be drawn with past crises as regards both short and long-term responses. The main difference to previous crises, for instance, in the economy or on migration, which impacted a limited number of EU policies, is that the COVID-19 crisis touches the entire spectrum of policies at both European and national level, making a common response more challenging, as competences are divided between the different strata of the EU’s multi-level governance system. Ultimately, this crisis has the potential to reshape EU policies, leading to increased cross-policy cooperation and possibly a centrally coordinated response mechanism.

European Council’s crisis-management role

The European Council’s crisis-management role developed over time, outside the Treaty framework, as a result of successive EU crises in the past decade. Although not Treaty-based, both academics and practitioners consider crisis management as the European Council’s main role. Between 2009 and 2016, the European Council has had to respond to several severe crises – economic, migration or foreign policy related – and has been operating de facto in a ‘permanent state of crisis’. Sometimes, as in the case of the migration and Ukrainian crises, it has had to address multiple crises simultaneously. These various emergencies are diverse in both their cause and impact on the EU’s development. Jointly however, they have resulted in the consolidation of the centrality of the European Council at the heart of the EU institutional system. They have also shown that there are cases, such as the economic governance and Ukraine crises, when only the Heads of State or Government can swiftly and efficiently reach political agreement on highly sensitive matters.

European Council response to the COVID-19 outbreak

A disease first reported in China in December 2019, COVID-19 presents the European Council with a crisis on a far larger scale than ever before. Its rapid worldwide spread, causing mild to severe respiratory distress, led the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise the contamination risk to ‘very high’ on 28 February 2020, characterise the outbreak as a pandemic from 11 March 2020, and encourage governments worldwide to step up their individual and collective response.

However, the European Council only returned to crisis mode to discuss COVID-19 on 10 March 2020, when the situation in Italy was already extremely difficult and other Member States, including Spain and France, faced rising infection rates. This tardy reaction shows the nature of the crisis and its impact on the EU as a whole has been under-estimated. It also illustrates the failure to anticipate the size of the crisis and its implications at individual, societal, healthcare system and economy levels.

Read the complete briefing on ‘The European Council as COVID-19 crisis manager: A comparison with previous crises‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/31/the-european-council-as-covid-19-crisis-manager-a-comparison-with-previous-crises/

EU Budget 2021-2027: Challenges and opportunities

Written by Alessandro D’Alfonso and Velina Lilyanova,

© European Union 2020, EPRS

The European Council of 20-21 February 2020 failed to reach agreement on the EU’s next multiannual financial framework (MFF) at the level of EU Heads of State or Government. Although the date of the next European Council meeting devoted to the topic has not yet been decided, with the ongoing coronavirus crisis occupying leaders’ attention, the shape and function of the post-2020 MFF is still an urgent issue, since the current framework comes to an end in December. Many points remain open for discussion. As a contribution to the ongoing debate, EPRS has published three papers on the EU budget and the related negotiations, drafted by external specialists for an EPRS expert seminar organised ahead of the February European Council meeting.

As highlighted by Anthony Teasdale, Director General of EPRS, the expert seminar ‘EU Budget 2021-2027: challenges and opportunities’ aimed to facilitate and stimulate an open discussion on the next MFF as an important milestone for the future of the EU. At this event, EPRS and the Budgetary Policies Unit of the Members’ Research Service had the privilege to host the European Parliament’s entire MFF negotiating team, namely: Johan Van Overtveldt (ECR, Belgium), Chair of the Committee on Budgets; Jan Olbrycht (EPP, Poland), MFF co-rapporteur; Margarida Marques (S&D, Portugal), vice-chair of the BUDG Committee and MFF co-rapporteur; José Manuel Fernandes (EPP, Portugal), Own Resources co-rapporteur; Valérie Hayer (Renew, France), Own Resources co-rapporteur; and Rasmus Andresen (Greens/EFA, Germany). Each Member of the negotiating team provided insightful assessments of the key issues at stake both on the expenditure and revenue sides of the EU budget. Held under the Chatham House rule, the seminar triggered a very engaged and lively discussion, which kept the room full for the entire duration of the event.

Three well-known experts in the budgetary field participated as external speakers: Giacomo Benedetto, Jean Monnet Chair in EU Politics at Royal Holloway, University of London; Jorge Núñez Ferrer, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS); and Eulalia Rubio, Senior Research Fellow at Jacques Delors Institute in Paris. Giacomo Benedetto focused on a possible new package for finance and expenditure in the EU budget, analysing the challenges that the net-balances logic poses to reform. Jorge Núñez Ferrer examined how the EU budget can allow Member States to save at national level, but stressed the need for a broader perspective since the benefits of the EU budget are not limited to savings. Looking at the usefulness of flexibility in the budgetary framework, Eulalia Rubio explored ways of enhancing it in the next MFF, while not neglecting the possible costs and implications. Their three papers are available at the end of this blog post.

In addition, the debate, moderated by Sidonia Mazur, EPRS policy analyst, also benefited from internal expertise. Richard Crowe, from Parliament’s Legal Service, analysed the legal challenges related to the process of negotiating the MFF and shared insights on several aspects, including the steps needed in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario. Alessandro D’Alfonso, EPRS policy analyst, examined the major role that climate action might have in defining the next MFF, including through its mainstreaming across the EU budget, which he examined in a recent paper. Magdalena Sapala, also an EPRS policy analyst, delved into flexibility, presenting her recent paper on such instruments in the MFF. She underlined in particular how flexibility is crucial for ensuring efficiency.

In brief, the expert seminar showed that the EU finds itself at a turning point, where many things have to be defined at the start of a new institutional cycle, and identified key issues at stake. Far from being an accounting exercise, the decision on the next MFF is highly political and will be crucial in determining the level of ambition of the EU as regards jointly tackling common challenges and objectives. Parliament’s negotiators made it clear that the European Parliament is united and resolved to secure a good MFF that benefits all EU citizens. In addition, they recalled that Parliament’s consent to the MFF will be conditional on a satisfactory reform of own resources. Following the February European Council and disappointed with its failure, Parliament’s negotiating team reiterated this position, stressing the need for a political vision and calling for an ambitious compromise based on agreed common objectives for a stronger Europe.

In a debate on the MFF in the March I plenary session, Members of the European Parliament strongly criticised the cuts envisaged in the compromise put forward by the European Council President in February 2020, including in view of the current coronavirus crisis and of recent tensions at the Greek-Turkish border. Against the background of the delay in finding an agreement, they again urged the Commission to present a contingency plan to protect beneficiaries of EU funding, and demanded that the next MFF be endowed with an appropriate level of resources.

Read the papers:

External contributions

EPRS in-depth analyses

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/31/eu-budget-2021-2027-challenges-and-opportunities/

The European Council, health policy and pandemics

Written by Izabela Cristina Bacian,

© Blue Planet Studio / Adobe Stock

The European Council (of EU Heads of State or Government) has been active in its response to the coronavirus crisis. So far it has held three video-conference calls of national leaders on the subject, with a view to seeking to develop a coordinated response both among the Member States and collectively at EU level. This note sketches the context, describes some of the instruments available to the Union, and compares responses to the outbreak s of Ebola in the past and COVID-19 today.

EU competence on health policy

The European Union (EU) has limited competence in the area of health, as set out in Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Article 168 states, inter alia, that a high level of human health protection is to be ensured in the definition and implementation of all EU-level policies and activities. The Article further provides that action at EU level is to complement national policies, including through monitoring, early warning of and combatting serious cross-border threats to health. Member States are, in liaison with the European Commission, to coordinate their policies and programmes in the areas covered by EU-level action within the domain of public health. The main responsibility lies with the Member States when it comes to defining their health policy; organising, managing and delivering health services and medical care; and allocating the resources assigned to them. In addition, following several rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the EU can pursue public health objectives through the integration of the internal market, having Article 114 (TFEU) as its legal basis.

Tackling cross-border threats to health

The EU relies on a number of EU agencies and mechanisms to launch and coordinate an EU wide response.
Decis ion 1082/2013/EU of the Parliament and Council provides the framework for dealing with serious cross-border threats to health in the EU. Following the adoption of that decision, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) put in place an Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) and a Health Security Committee (HSC), the latter composed of Member States’ representatives. An alert through the EWRS leads to the preparation of a risk assessment by ECDC or other competent agencies, depending on the nature of the threat. Members States then consult each other within the HSC and with the Commission, in order to coordinate their responses.

Moreover, Council Implementing Decis io n 2018/1993 established the EU Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) Arrangements. The ICPR mechanism supports the Council presidency, Coreper and the Council, by providing tools and creating a platform for sharing information and coordinating crisis responses at political level. These include: 1) roundtable discussions with key players, including the Commission, the European External Action Service, the office of the European Council President, EU agencies, affected Member States and experts; 2) analytical reports; 3) a web platform; and 4) a 24/7 contact point ensuring contact among the key players. Article 13 of Decision 2018/1993 provides for a specific role for the European Council: notably, staff of the President of the European Council can be invited to participate fully in the IPCR from the moment of its activation and on preparedness activities.

Decision 1313/2013/EU of the Parliament and Council established the Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM), which enhances cooperation between Member States/participating states, with a view to improving prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. The UCPM was strengthened in 2019.

Health policy discussions in the European Council

Whilst health policy issues are not generally addressed at European Council meetings, Heads of State or Government did meet in 2014 to coordinate the EU response to the Ebola virus outbreak in west Africa, and are currently doing so to steer management of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. On both occasions, the Heads of State or Government intervened following the designation of the virus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization. While the Ebola outbreak was limited to the African continent, the WHO stated on 11 March that the COVID-19 outbreak is a pandemic. The approach of the European Council to these two health crises has consequently been different. The Ebola crisis affected a number of countries in Africa, in particular Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea; whilst it was the worst outbreak since the discovery of the Ebola virus (1976), very few cases were detected in the EU, in just two countries, Spain and the UK. The COVID-19 outbreak, on the contrary, currently covers more than 150 countries with an increasing number of infections in all EU Member States.

The European Council met on two occasions to discuss the Ebola outbreak, on 30 August 2014, in a special meeting to discuss a range of issues, such as the conflict in Ukraine and high-level appointments; and in a regular meetin on 23-24 October 2014. Regarding the overall coordination of that crisis, the European Council invited the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Commission to develop a package of measures addressing the wider political, security and economic implications of the Ebola crisis in west Africa. The European Council furthermore appointed an EU Ebola Response Coordinator to bring together the Member States, the EU institutions and all international partners concerned. The objective was to boost the countries’ capacity to address the crisis, which included deployment of medical staff, equipment and medical evacuation of health workers through the Union Civil Protection Mechanism. The EU and its Member States provided more than €1 billion to fight the epidemic. The development of a vaccine was also launched at the time, and it was supported by two projects from the Innovative Medicines Initiative funded by the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. On 11 November 2019, the Commission granted the first-ever marketing authorisation to the company Merck Sharp & Dohme B.V. for a vaccine against Ebola.

Regarding the current COVID-19 outbreak, following the detection of the first cases of infection in the EU on 24 January 2020, the Croatian Council Presidency activated the IPCR in information-sharing mode four days later, and escalated it to full mode on 2 March. Three video-conference calls have taken place to date – on 10 March, 17 March and 26 March, with the 27 Heads of State or Government, the High Representative, and the presidents of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the Eurogroup. EU leaders identified five priorities: 1) limiting the spread of the virus; 2) ensuring the provision of medical equipment; 3) promoting research, including the development of a vaccine; 4) tackling the socio-economic consequences; and 5) coordinating the orderly repatriation of EU citizens stranded in third countries.

On 13 March, the Commission set out a coordinated EU-level response, envisaging: a more flexible application of EU State aid rules to help businesses facing economic difficulties; the use of specific clauses in the Stability and Growth Pact to allow for exceptional expenditure; the redirection of €1 billion from the EU budget as guarantee for the European Investment Fund to incentivise banks to provide businesses with liquidity; and action to alleviate the impact on employment by accelerating the procedure on the proposal for a European unemployment reinsurance scheme. The Commission is to release €37 billion in liquidity under a Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, with two urgent legislative proposals approved by the European Parliament on 26 March.

Following the introduction of border controls by some Member States, EU leaders agreed on the need to ‘ensure the passage of medicines, food and goods’ and to enable citizens to travel to their home countries.
Moreover, to limit the spread of the virus, they also approved a temporary 30-day ban on non-essential travel to the EU, as announced  by the Commission on 16 March 2020. With over 100 000 EU citizens stranded in third countries, the High Representative has announced that the EEAS would help Member States to coordinate consular assistance for their repatriation.

The supply of protective equipment is also being ensured by means of placing a requirement that exports of such equipment outside the EU are subject to prior authorisation. Furthermore, the development of a vaccine is currently under way, with up to €80 million of financial support being granted to CureVac, an innovative vaccine developer. EU Heads of State or Government have also supported the Commission’s efforts to engage with industry, run joint public procurement to provide sufficient protective equipment, and purchase protective equipment through the civil protection framework. The Commission has been asked to speed up the procedures in that respect and to increase, as needed, the initial budget for the strategic rescEU stock pile of medical equipment. EU leaders have called on Member States to increase testing as a matter of urgency. The European Council has called for a ‘coordinated exit strategy, a comprehensive recovery plan and unprecedented investment’ to fight the pandemic.

Read this ‘At a glance’ on ‘The European Council, health policy and pandemics‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/31/the-european-council-health-policy-and-pandemics/

Reply to the campaign against the EP resolution on fundamental rights of people of African descent in Europe

© sharafmaksumov / Adobe Stock

The President of the European Parliament sometimes receives large numbers of identical messages on a given topic. The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (AskEP) is asked to reply to these campaign messages. Replies to campaigns are also published on the EPRS blog.

The President of the European Parliament has received a large number of messages calling on the Parliament to revoke its resolution on the fundamental rights of people of African descent in Europe.

See below for the reply sent to citizens who wrote to the President of the European Parliament on this matter (in English and German).

Reply in English

The European Parliament adopted the resolution on fundamental rights of people of African descent in Europe  on 26 March 2019. You can find the video recording of the relevant debate here.

The resolution was adopted by 535 votes to 80 with 44 abstentions (p. 11 of the annex ‘Results of votes‘). You will find the result of the roll-call vote under item 31 of the relevant annex, B8-0212/2019 – Resolution, pp. 68-69.

As you can see from the procedure file, the motion for a resolution was tabled on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

Reply in German

Das Europäische Parlament hat die Entschließung zu den Grundrechten von Menschen afrikanischer Abstammung in Europa am 26. März 2019 angenommen. Die Videoaufnahme der diesbezüglichen Debatte können Sie hier finden.

Die Entschließung wurde mit 535 Stimmen dafür, 80 Stimmen dagegen und 44 Enthaltungen angenommen (S. 12 der Anlage „Ergebnisse der Abstimmungen“). Die Ergebnisse der namentlichen Abstimmung finden Sie in dem entsprechenden Protokoll, unter Punkt 31. B8-0212/2019 – Entschließung, S. 68-69.

Wie Sie dem Verfahrensmerkblatt entnehmen können, wurde der Entschließungsantrag im Namen des Ausschusses für bürgerliche Freiheiten, Justiz und Inneres (LIBE) eingereicht.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/30/reply-to-the-campaign-against-the-ep-resolution-on-fundamental-rights-of-people-of-african-descent-in-europe/

Reply to the ‘Stop Extremism’ campaign

© stanciuc / Adobe Stock

The President of the European Parliament sometimes receives large numbers of identical messages on a given topic. The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (AskEP) is asked to reply to these campaign messages. Replies to campaigns are also published on the EPRS blog.

The President of the European Parliament has received a large number of messages calling on the Parliament to reject, if submitted for a vote, an ‘Anti-Extremism Directive’.

See below for the reply sent to citizens who wrote to the President of the European Parliament on this matter (in English, German and Italian).

Reply in English

As regards your reference to the European Citizens’ Initiative Stop Extremism, we would like to draw your attention to the relevant European Commission website. There you will find information about the progress the initiative has made.

We would also like to draw your attention to the fact that the ‘draft act’ (‘Rechtsaktentwurf‘) mentioned on the website referred to by the European Parliament can in no way be regarded as an official European Commission proposal for a directive.

In overall terms, a citizens’ initiative puts a topic on the political agenda in a way that commits the Commission to address citizens’ concerns properly, although the Commission is not obliged to follow the initiative. If it decides not to act, however, it will give clear reasons.

Should the Commission decide to adopt a legislative proposal on a citizens’ initiative, that proposal will be dealt with under the ordinary legislative procedure and must therefore be considered and, if appropriate, adopted by the co-legislators (in general by the European Parliament and the Council; in some cases only by the Council).

The relevant deliberations and decisions in the parliamentary procedure are to be held by the Members of the European Parliament in the exercise of their independent mandate (Rule 2 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament).

Reply in German

Insoweit Sie sich auf die Europäische Bürgerinitiative Stop Extremism beziehen, möchten wir Sie auf die einschlägige Website der Europäischen Kommission aufmerksam machen. Dort finden Sie Informationen zum aktuellen Bearbeitungsstand dieser Bürgerinitiative.

Ergänzend weisen wir darauf hin, dass es sich bei dem auf der erwähnten Website angeführten „Rechtsaktentwurf“ keineswegs um einen dem Europäischen Parlament vorliegenden offiziellen Richtlinienvorschlag der Europäischen Kommission handelt.

Insgesamt ist festzuhalten, dass mit einer Bürgerinitiative ein Thema auf die politische Tagesordnung gebracht wird, das die Kommission dazu verpflichtet, sich ernsthaft mit den Anliegen der Bürgerinnen und Bürger auseinanderzusetzen, aber sie ist nicht dazu verpflichtet, der Initiative Folge zu leisten. Allerdings wird die Kommission in einem solchen Fall ihre Gründe für die Ablehnung klar und eindeutig darlegen.

Sollte die Kommission allerdings beschließen, auf eine Bürgerinitiative hin einen Vorschlag für eine Rechtsvorschrift anzunehmen, so durchläuft dieser das übliche Gesetzgebungsverfahren und muss daher von den gesetzgebenden Organen (im Allgemeinen dem Europäischen Parlament und dem Rat oder in einigen Fällen nur vom Rat) geprüft und gegebenenfalls angenommen werden.

Die entsprechenden Beratungen und Beschlussfassungen im parlamentarischen Verfahren sind von den Mitgliedern des Europäischen Parlaments im Rahmen ihres freien Mandates (Artikel 2 der Geschäftsordnung des Europäischen Parlaments) durchzuführen.

Reply in Italian

Per quanto riguarda l’iniziativa dei cittadini europei Stop Extremism, richiamiamo la vostra attenzione sul pertinente sito web della Commissione europea. Vi troverete non solo informazioni sullo stato attuale di tale iniziativa, ma anche sulle prossime fasi procedurali previste.

A titolo integrativo, vi facciamo presente che il “progetto di atto giuridico” citato nella pagina web menzionata non costituisce assolutamente una proposta ufficiale di direttiva della Commissione europea presentata al Parlamento europeo.

In generale va chiarito che un’iniziativa dei cittadini inserisce nell’agenda politica un tema che impegna la Commissione ad occuparsi seriamente dell’interesse delle cittadine e dei cittadini, senza obbligarla per questo a dar seguito all’iniziativa. In questo caso, comunque, la Commissione deve illustrare in termini chiari e univoci i motivi del rifiuto.

Qualora la Commissione dovesse invece decidere di adottare un progetto di atto giuridico sulla base di un’iniziativa dei cittadini, esso è sottoposto alla procedura legislativa usuale e deve quindi essere esaminato ed eventualmente adottato dagli organi legislativi (in generale il Parlamento europeo e il Consiglio o in alcuni casi solo il Consiglio).

Le pertinenti deliberazioni e decisioni nel quadro della procedura parlamentare dovranno essere adottate dai deputati al Parlamento europeo nell’esercizio del loro libero mandato (articolo 2 del Regolamento del Parlamento europeo).

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/30/reply-to-the-stop-extremism-campaign/

The impact of coronavirus on Schengen borders

Written by Costica Dumbrava and Giulio Sabbati,

The Schengen Area

The Schengen Area consists of 26 countries that have agreed to remove regular checks at their internal borders in order to facilitate the free and unrestricted movement of people: 22 EU Member States (Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden), and 4 associated countries (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein). The Schengen Borders Code lays down the common rules governing the management of internal and external EU borders, including rules and procedures concerning the exceptional introduction of border checks at internal borders. According to the Code, Member States can introduce temporary border checks at their internal borders in cases of a foreseeable threat (e.g. a special event), an immediate threat or in the situation of persistent serious deficiencies relating to external borders.

In March 2020, the coronavirus outbreak has pushed many Member States to reintroduce border controls at internal borders on the grounds of an immediate threat to public policy. According to Article 28 of the Code, the duration of such exceptional measure must be limited to no more than ten days, with the possibility to extend them by renewable periods of 20 days, up to a maximum of two months. Member States must notify the Commission and the other Member States before taking action, specifying the reasons, scope and duration of the measures. This information must be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council too. The Commission is supposed to issue an opinion after consulting the other Member States.

In order to ensure the free circulation of goods and services in the single market during the ongoing health crisis, the European Commission put forward guidelines for border management measures. On 17 March, the members of the European Council accepted the Commission’s proposal to introduce a coordinated restriction of non-essential travel into the EU for a period of 30 days. The travel restriction provides for exemptions for nationals of all EU Member States and Schengen Associated States (UK nationals will be treated in the same way as EU citizens due to the current transition period), for the purposes of returning to their homes and for travellers with an essential function or need. As of 24 March, all Member States except Ireland (due to its common travel area with the UK) have implemented the temporary restriction.

The European Parliament has consistently defended the Schengen Area and condemned the unjustified reintroduction of internal borders. On 16 March, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, the Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE), called for a coordinated approach and urged Member States to take measures that fully respect the Schengen rules and the principles of proportionality, solidarity among Member States, and non-discrimination.

Read the complete briefing on ‘The impact of coronavirus on Schengen borders‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/30/the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-schengen-borders/

Plenary round-up – Brussels, March II 2020

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson,

Extraordinary EP Plenary session - European coordinated response to the COVID-19 outbreak - First remote plenary session of EP history

© European Union 2020 – Source: EP / Philippe BUISSIN

The need to observe strict sanitary measures, in view of the COVID-19 contagion, requires a flexible response from everyone. Consequently, the European Parliament organised and conducted its March II plenary session with new precautionary measures, allowing it to act rapidly to carry out its essential legislative function during the crisis. Parliament’s Bureau put in place an alternative voting procedure for the 26 March extraordinary plenary session. The new procedure meant that all Members – with most unable to be present in Brussels – could vote from a distance, sending their voting papers to Parliament’s Secretariat by e-mail. Parliament has adjusted its calendar, replacing the regular plenary part-sessions with shortened sessions until the summer. The temporary voting procedure will be available until 31 July 2020, unless extended by Bureau decision. Moreover, the Secretariat is working to put in place a more advanced remote voting system, which would enable more complex votes to be held among Members, in both committee and plenary, thus ensuring Parliament can carry out its essential budgetary and legislative functions throughout the ongoing public health crisis.

The session focused on three urgent legislative proposals responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Parliament adopted its positions on temporary suspension of EU rules on airport slots, creation of a Corona Response Investment Initiative and extension of the EU Solidarity Fund, almost unanimously, less than two weeks after the European Commission tabled its proposals. With the Council also agreed on the three texts, the measures can now be adopted in the coming days. Members also heard from the Commission and Council on the coordination of the European response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Allocation of slots at airports in the EU: Common rules

The Parliament adopted a proposal seeking to amend the common rules on allocation of slots at EU airports. The Commission proposed to temporarily suspend rules obliging airlines to use their slots. The suspension until October 2020, with retroactive effect from 1 March 2020, will ensure legal certainty for air carriers, given the grounding of aircraft due to the drop in demand for flights and widespread travel restrictions. It will also end unnecessary emissions from near-empty (‘ghost’) flights that carriers might have been tempted to operate to maintain their rights. Under the current regime, known as the ‘use it or lose it’ rule, airlines must use their slots at least 80 % of the time during the period for which they are allocated, or see the slots, which are a valuable resource, allocated to others.

Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative

Parliament adopted an initiative introducing specific measures mobilising a total of €37 billion of cohesion fund investment in Member States’ healthcare systems, as well as initiatives to provide support to SMEs in the form of working capital, and to specific mutual funds supporting fishermen. The Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative will reallocate unused cash reserves available under the European structural and investment funds. The Commission will now use unspent 2019 advance payments to Member States to release €8 billion of investment liquidity to kick-start the initiative, with expenditure on crisis-response capacity eligible for funding retrospectively from 1 February 2020.

Extension of the EU Solidarity Fund

Members adopted the proposal extending the scope of financial assistance already available to Member States and accession candidate countries under the EU Solidarity Fund. The Fund intervenes to help countries hit by major natural disasters. The Parliament agreed that EU-level intervention under the Fund is also justified in the case of a major public health emergency, such as the COVID-19 outbreak, including medical assistance, as well as measures to prevent, monitor or control the spread of diseases. Disbursement will now be speeded up, and advance payments raised to 25 % of the expected EUSF contribution (limited to €100 million) for countries seriously affected by the crisis.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Plenary round-up – Brussels, March II 2020‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/27/plenary-round-up-brussels-march-ii-2020/

Reply to the campaign about the European Commission’s proposal to amend the rules concerning lead concentration in PVC

© Maxx-Studio / Shutterstock

The President of the European Parliament sometimes receives large numbers of identical messages on a given topic. The Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (AskEP) is asked to reply to these campaign messages. Replies to campaigns are also published on the EPRS blog.

The President of the European Parliament has received a large number of messages calling for the European Parliament to reject a Commission proposal to amend the rules concerning lead concentration in PVC.

You can find below, in English, Italian, German and French, the reply sent to citizens who wrote to the President of the European Parliament on this matter.

Reply in English

We would inform you that on 12 February 2020, the European Parliament rejected the Commission proposal to amend the rules concerning lead concentration in PVC. The resolution was adopted by 394 votes to 241, with 13 abstentions.

As a result, the draft measure will not be adopted by the Commission. It may however either submit an amended draft or present a new one.

Further information is available in the press release.

Parliament has long held the position that recycling PVC must not perpetuate the problem of heavy metals. Lead in PVC has been phased out in the EU since 2015, thanks to the EU PVC industry’s voluntary commitment, however lead in PVC can continue to enter the EU via imported PVC products.

Further information on PVC in the EU is available on the Commission’s dedicated webpage.

Additional material on chemicals and EU policies is available from the EP Think Tank, for instance a briefing on Chemicals and the circular economy.

Reply in Italian

La informiamo che il 12 febbraio 2020 il Parlamento europeo ha respinto la proposta della Commissione volta a modificare le norme relative alla concentrazione di piombo nel PVC. La risoluzione è stata adottata con 394 voti favorevoli, 241 contrari e 13 astensioni.

Di conseguenza, il progetto di misura non sarà adottato dalla Commissione. Potrà tuttavia presentare una bozza modificata o presentare una nuova proposta.

Ulteriori informazioni sono disponibili nel comunicato stampa.

Il Parlamento sostiene da tempo che il riciclaggio del PVC non deve perpetuare il problema dei metalli pesanti. Il piombo nel PVC è stato gradualmente eliminato nell’UE dal 2015 grazie all’impegno volontario dell’industria del PVC nell’UE, ma il piombo nel PVC può continuare a entrare nell’UE attraverso i prodotti in PVC importati.

Ulteriori informazioni sul PVC nell’UE sono disponibili sulla pagina web dedicata della Commissione.

È disponibile materiale supplementare sulle sostanze chimiche e le politiche dell’UE presso il gruppo di riflessione del PE, ad esempio il briefing sulle sostanze chimiche e dell’economia circolare.

Reply in German

Wir möchten Ihnen hiermit mitteilen, dass das Europäische Parlament am 12. Februar 2020 den Vorschlag der Kommission zur Änderung der Vorschriften über den Bleigehalt in PVC abgelehnt hat. Die Entschließung wurde mit 394 Ja-Stimmen bei 241 Nein-Stimmen und 13 Enthaltungen angenommen.

Die Kommission wird diesen Entwurf einer Maßnahme dementsprechend nicht annehmen. Sie kann allerdings einen geänderten oder einen neuen Entwurf vorlegen.

Weitere Informationen finden Sie in der entsprechenden Pressemitteilung.

Das Parlament ist seit langem der Ansicht, dass das Recycling von PVC nicht zu einem Stillstand beim Problem der Schwermetalle führen darf. Die PVC-Industrie in der EU verzichtet seit 2015 freiwillig auf die Verwendung von Blei in PVC, aber es dürfen nach wie vor PVC-Erzeugnisse mit Bleigehalt in die EU eingeführt werden.

Auf der Website der Kommission sind weitere Informationen über PVC in der EU verfügbar.

Weiteres Material über Chemikalien und politische Maßnahmen der EU sind beim Think Tank des EP verfügbar, beispielsweise ein Briefing über Chemikalien im Zusammenhang mit der Kreislaufwirtschaft.

Reply in French

Nous souhaitons vous informer que le 12 février 2020, le Parlement européen a rejeté la proposition de la Commission visant à modifier les règles concernant la concentration de plomb dans le PVC. La résolution en question a été adoptée par 394 voix pour, 241 contre et 13 abstentions.

Il s’ensuit que ce projet de mesure ne sera pas adopté par la Commission. Cette dernière peut néanmoins présenter un projet modifié ou un nouveau projet.

D’autres informations sont disponibles dans le communiqué de presse.

Le Parlement estime depuis longtemps que le recyclage du PVC ne doit pas perpétuer le problème des métaux lourds. Depuis 2015, le plomb présent dans le PVC est éliminé progressivement grâce à un engagement volontaire de l’industrie européenne du PVC, mais il peut continuer d’entrer dans l’Union via des produits en PVC importés.

Pour de plus amples informations sur le PVC dans l’Union, veuillez consulter la page web de la Commission consacrée à ce thème.

D’autres documents sur les produits chimiques et les politiques de l’Union en la matière sont disponibles sur le Think Tank du Parlement européen, comme la note d’information intitulée «Chemicals and the circular economy» (les produits chimiques et l’économie circulaire).

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2020/03/27/reply-to-the-campaign-about-the-european-commissions-proposal-to-amend-the-rules-concerning-lead-concentration-in-pvc/