High Level conference: Towards a renewed partnership with Africa

Written by Eric Pichon,

High Level conference: Towards a renewed partnership with Africa

Today, the European Parliament’s President, Antonio Tajani, convenes a high level conference on Africa, bringing together officials, experts and stakeholders from Africa and Europe. In the run-up to the Africa-EU Summit that will take place in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) next week, the Parliament is once again demonstrating its commitment to this relationship.

More than ever, Africa’s and Europe’s fates are bound together. Of course, migration issues repeatedly hit the headlines, and the EU’s most visible action is its endeavour to stop people making dangerous journeys and to return migrants with irregular status to their countries of origin, with the cooperation of African countries. But there is a longer-term dimension that Africa and the EU have also taken into consideration: illegal migration will be reduced only if people are safe at home and able to make a living. Africa, the world’s youngest continent, is also a land of opportunities. For these opportunities to be grabbed, the EU and Africa have, for ten years now, been implementing a joint strategy. The Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES), reviewed in 2014, takes a five-pronged approach: peace and security; democracy, good governance and human rights; human development; sustainable and inclusive development and growth; and continental integration, global and emerging issues.

Parliament’s high-level conference and the AU-EU summit will be the opportunity to assess the results of the JAES 2014-2017 implementation plan, and set new priorities for future cooperation. The discussions might also help to streamline the JAES with the ACP-EU partnership (for Sub-Saharan Africa) – as the Cotonou Agreement with the ACP countries needs to be revised before it expires in 2020 – and with the EU Neighbourhood policy (for North Africa).

Sustainable development of African countries in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals is a key priority for both partners. The EU has created new financing instruments aimed at leveraging Member States’ and private investment to attain this objective: the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, and the European Fund for Sustainable Development. Harnessing Africa’s growth – through developing its industry and empowering youth – is a key priority among the shared objectives of the EU and AU. Regional integration is seen as one way to achieve this aim. However, facilitating doing business is not possible where unstable governments, lack of transparency and violence are the common lot of millions. The African Union often now takes the lead in condemning unconstitutional change of governments and trying to restore peace in conflict-affected areas. The EU is one of the main supporters of these actions, and has developed its own strategies to tackle instability in sensitive regions, such as the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.

The European Parliament champions the Africa-EU partnership and would like stronger actions, such as reinforced political dialogue, with a greater parliamentary dimension, to be adopted. As President Tajani puts it: ‘Cooperation should not be only political and institutional, but fully involve economic actors and civil society’. Whatever the objectives, the European Parliament has often recalled that migration and security objectives should not cast a shadow over development aims and the core values of democracy, human rights and good governance that are at the heart of the EU Treaties.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/11/22/high-level-conference-towards-a-renewed-partnership-with-africa/

Disinformation, ‘fake news’ and the EU’s response

Written by Naja Bentzen,

Fake news word tag cloud. 3D rendering, blue variant.

© ommbeu / Fotolia

The impact of the online spread of mis- and disinformation – including false news posing as factual stories – became increasingly visible in the context of the crisis in Ukraine, and gained notoriety as a global challenge during the 2016 United States presidential election campaign. Ahead of the European elections in 2019, the EU is now stepping up its efforts to tackle ‘fake news’.

A global phenomenon with growing presence and impact

The phenomenon of false, misleading news stories is at least as old as the printing press. However, social media and their personalisation tools have accelerated the spread of rumours, and the phenomenon gained global visibility during the 2016 US presidential election, when viral ‘fake news’ (or ‘junk news‘, as some researchers prefer to call it) across the political spectrum received more engagement on Facebook than real news. The Australian Macquarie Dictionary chose ‘fake news’ as its word of the year for 2016, defining it as ‘disinformation and hoaxes published on websites for political purposes or to drive web traffic’. The dictionary argued that the term ‘captures an interesting evolution in the creation of deceptive content as a way of herding people in a specific direction’. According to the Collins Dictionary, which chose ‘fake news’ as its word of the year for 2017, the term saw an unprecedented increase in usage, of 365 % since 2016.

Disinformation as an information warfare tool

A growing number of EU citizens (46 % on average in 2016) follow news on social media; six out of ten news items shared are passed on without being read first; and US research has shown that most young, digital-savvy students have difficulties in identifying ‘fake news’. False news headlines seem tailored to trick users into sharing the stories, making them spread fast and far among like-minded users. When designed to deceive users for political purposes, digital gossip falls under ‘disinformation‘ – the dissemination of deliberately false information which non-state and state actors can use as a strategic tool to undermine adversaries.

The Kremlin continues to use influence operations in its ongoing hybrid war against Ukraine and is said to apply them in its ‘holistic‘ information warfare against the EU and the West. Pro-Kremlin information campaigns boost Moscow’s narrative of a West in decline, including a ‘morally decayed EU’ on the brink of collapse. A declassified US intelligence assessment published in January 2017 said that the Kremlin used professional ‘trolls’ (internet warriors) and state media ‘as part of its influence efforts’. In August 2017, the USA imposed fresh sanctions on Russia over Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election, among other things. Whereas US tech giants had previously played down the volume of content purchased by Russian actors during the 2016 US presidential election campaign, Facebook, Google and Twitter told US lawmakers on 1 November 2017 that pro-Kremlin actors bought and published divisive ads aimed at influencing both liberals and conservatives. According to Facebook, Russia-backed posts reached up to 126 million Americans during and after the 2016 presidential election, whereas Twitter disclosed that it had found 2 752 accounts linked to Russian actors. Reports on Russian state investments in these firms have increased the focus on their societal and political role. EU Member States such as Spain and the UK have openly accused Russia of launching divisive influence campaigns. There is also concern that the 2019 European elections could be targeted.

So far, the Kremlin has dismissed allegations of interference in the US election campaign and in the UK referendum on EU membership. However, in February 2017 the Russian Defence Minister, Sergey Shoigu, acknowledged that a dedicated information warfare force had been established in 2013 within the Ministry of Defence. He added that Moscow’s ‘propaganda needs to be clever, smart and efficient’. Security analysts say that Shoigu’s announcement indicates that Moscow can no longer deny propaganda activities.

The Kremlin acknowledges its information warfare capabilities and intentions

Pro-Kremlin information campaigns boost Moscow’s narrative of a West in decline, including a ‘weak and morally decayed EU’ about to collapse. So far, the Kremlin has denied all allegations of interference in the US election. However, on 22 February 2017, Russian Defence Minister, Sergey Shoigu, announced that ‘information operations forces have been established that are expected to be a far more effective tool than all we used before’, arguing that Moscow’s ‘propaganda needs to be clever, smart and efficient’. Security analysts say that Shoigu’s announcement indicates that Moscow can no longer deny propaganda activities. At the same time, Russia’s foreign ministry itself began to publish ‘materials that contain false information about Russia’ on its website. There is also concern that the 2019 European elections could be targeted.

Growing European focus and pressure on social media companies

Although social media platforms have resisted being labelled as publishers, both Facebook and Google have launched fact-checking features, and on 26 October 2017, Twitter banned ads from Russian state media companies RT and Sputnik, citing their attempts to interfere with the US election ‘on behalf of the Russian government’. Meanwhile, there is growing pressure, not only in the USA but also in Europe, on social media companies to assume greater responsibility for the content they spread. In June 2017, the German Parliament passed the Act to Improve Enforcement of the Law in Social Networks. It enables authorities to issue fines of up to €50 million on social media companies who fail to remove hate speech, incitements to violence and defamation within 24 hours. A UK House of Commons inquiry was launched in January 2017, aiming to examine the role of social media, among other things, in the spread of ‘fake news’.

EU steps up anti-fake news efforts to protect democracy

In a June 2017 resolution on online platforms and the digital single market (2016/2276(INI)), MEPs stressed the ‘importance of taking action against the dissemination of fake news’, calling on online platforms to provide users with tools to denounce fake news, while at the same time highlighting the fundamental role of the free exchange of opinions, as well as the value of the free press as regards providing citizens with reliable information. On 13 November 2017, the Commission launched a public consultation on ‘fake news and online disinformation’ and set up a high-level expert group representing academics, online platforms, news media and civil society organisations. It is planning to publish a communication on fake news and disinformation in spring 2018. Speaking on 13 November, Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner responsible for Digital Economy and Society, stated that, in the face of fake news as ‘a direct threat to the very foundations of our democratic society’, the main goal was to defend citizens’ right to quality information. Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, acknowledged the need to strike a balance between the freedom of expression, media pluralism and citizens’ right to access diverse and reliable information, arguing that online platforms and news media should ‘play a part in the solution’. The public consultation runs until February 2018 and addresses content that is not per se illegal and therefore not covered by existing EU or national legislation. All stakeholders (including citizens, social media platforms, news organisations, researchers and public authorities) can contribute with views on the scope of the problem, assessments of already existing measures and ideas on possible future action. In addition to these steps, some Member States such as Italy and Sweden are introducing digital competence courses in schools to push back against ‘fake news’ and propaganda.

Continued calls to boost EU ‘myth-busting’ team

In 2015, the European Council asked the EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, to submit an action plan on strategic communication to address Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns. As a result, the East StratCom task force was set up in September 2015 under the European External Action Service (EEAS). Since then, the team (now 14 strong) has been working without its own budget, drawing on the existing EU strategic communication budget and seconded staff. It relies on a network of volunteers to collect the disinformation stories (more than 3 300 examples in 18 languages since 2015), which it analyses, debunks and publishes in its weekly newsletters. The team also explains and promotes the European Union’s policies, not least in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood.

The European Parliament, in its 23 November 2016 resolution on EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda, called for the East StratCom task force to be reinforced, including through ‘proper staffing and adequate budgetary resources’. Parliament’s proposed amendments to the draft EU budget for 2018 include the pilot project ‘StratCom Plus’, aiming to increase capacity to fact-check disinformation in and beyond the EU.

In a March 2017 open letter, a number of prominent European security experts, historians and lawmakers (including European Parliament Members) criticised Mogherini’s allegedly ‘irresponsibly weak’ stance on Russia’s ‘brutally aggressive disinformation campaign’. The signatories called for a single figure budget in millions of euros for the EEAS StratCom team. On 20 October, in an open letter to Mogherini, eight Member States (the Czech Republic, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Sweden and the UK) urged the EEAS to ‘further enhance the EU’s StratCom capabilities’.

At a foreign ministers’ meeting on 13 November, Mogherini called for additional resources for the StratCom team, not least to boost its capacities regarding the Western Balkans, which is being heavily targeted by Kremlin-backed influence campaigns. The 17 Member States that addressed the issue at the foreign ministers’ meeting, ‘generally concurred that strategic communication is very important’ and ‘agreed on the need for more [human and financial] resources’. However, there still no consensus in all EU Member States about the approach to take.


This is a further updated version of an ‘at a glance’ note published in April 2017: PE 599.384.

Read this At a glance on ‘Disinformation, ‘fake news’ and the EU’s response‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/11/20/disinformation-fake-news-and-the-eus-response/

Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, November I 2017

Written by Katarzyna Sochacka and Clare Ferguson,

Lux Prize Family Picture

© European Union 2017 – Source : EP

The key focal points of the November I plenary session included debates on the rule of law in Malta and Poland and on the ‘Paradise papers’ revelations. Members adopted, inter alia, their positions ahead of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference and the Eastern Partnership Summit. They also adopted resolutions on the new EU-Africa strategy and on the Ombudsman’s activities in 2016. Parliament heard a formal address from Andrej Kiska, President of Slovakia, and finally, the 2017 LUX Prize was awarded at a ceremony held on Wednesday.

Paradise papers

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ recent revelations, known as the ‘Paradise papers,’ were the subject of Council and Commission statements. Parliament’s Inquiry Committee into Money Laundering, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance (PANA) is due to report on its work following the ICIJ’s previous, ‘Panama papers’, exposé during the December session. The ‘Paradise papers’ are certain to lead to redoubled EU efforts to clamp down on practices involving offshore interests and tax evasion and avoidance.

Multilateral negotiations in view of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference

With the WTO Ministerial Conference to convene in Buenos Aires from 10-13 December 2017, Members adopted a resolution on multilateral negotiations in view of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, confirming Parliament’s commitment to multilateralism. Some of the main priorities for discussion at the ministerial conference are fisheries subsidies, agriculture negotiations, and domestic regulation of service providers.

Rule of law in Malta and Poland

The Parliament debated the situation of the rule of law in Malta after the Council and Commission made statements. In the resolution (adopted by 466 votes to 49, with 167 abstentions) Members called upon the Commission to begin dialogue on the rule of law with Malta, and to look at its application of the existing rules to tackle money laundering.

Following a debate with the Council and Commission, Members adopted (by 438 votes to 152, with 71 abstentions) a resolution calling on the Polish government to comply with the European Commission’s recommendations on respect for the rule of law. The EU could launch the Article 7 TEU procedure should the Polish government fail to respect these recommendations.

Recognition of professional qualifications in inland navigation

Members largely supported the proposed directive on the recognition of professional qualifications for inland waterways. The complicated system of national professional qualifications is thought to deter young people from working in the sector. The text agreed in trilogue on rules on the recognition of qualifications in inland navigation seeks to harmonise the rules, to attract more young people to take up jobs in the sector.

Listen to podcast ‘Professional qualifications in inland navigation.

Cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws

The European Parliament approved, by a large majority, the agreement reached in trilogue on 22 June on the proposed regulation to update and reinforce cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws. The EU wants to strengthen the current system of alerts and mutual assistance to deal with problems encountered in cross-border shopping online. The rules approved will give national authorities more powers to investigate and enforce the law.

Protection against dumped and subsidised imports from non-EU countries

Protection against dumped and subsidised imports from China and other third countries is vital for many EU industries. When China’s WTO Accession Protocol expired in 2016, the EU moved to ensure protection against dumped and subsidised imports from countries not members of the EU, using trade defence instruments to address problems such as over-capacity. Consequently, the EU institutions reached agreement on a revised Anti-Dumping Regulation to protect EU businesses from these unfair trading practices. Members discussed and adopted the text agreed with the Council in trilogue, with a large majority.

Relations with New Zealand

The EU-New Zealand Partnership Agreement signed on 5 October 2016 was referred to the Parliament for consent. Following a debate, Parliament, consented to the conclusion of the Agreement, and also adopted a resolution focusing on the common values shared by the EU and New Zealand, their strong and longstanding economic and cultural ties and their reliable cooperation, both bilateral and within international fora.

Eastern Partnership: November 2017 Summit

Parliament adopted its position in advance of the Eastern Partnership Summit, scheduled for 24 November 2017. The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is the eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy, launched in 2009, and encompassing the EU, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. In their resolution, Members insist on giving new dynamism to the EaP, differentiating between partners depending on their willingness for greater EU cooperation, assisting civil society, implementing the Association Agreements in place, visa liberalisation, and the new ‘EaP+’ model.

Activities of the European Ombudsman in 2016

Parliament held a debate on the report on the European Ombudsman’s activities during 2016. The Ombudsman conducts inquiries into cases of maladministration by EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. The resolution underlines that complaints against the EU institutions fell slightly in 2016, with transparency-related issues and access to information and documents the top subject matter for complaints.

The EU-Africa Strategy: a boost for development

Given the dynamic demographic growth in Africa, young people will be the focus of the next summit of EU and African Heads of State or Government, which takes place at the end of November in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire). The Parliament adopted a resolution defining its position on a new relationship to replace the ten-year old Africa-EU Joint Strategy. The new priorities for EU-Africa cooperation include a focus on human development, particularly for employment and education for the young, good governance, and human rights

Listen to podcast ‘New priorities for EU–Africa cooperation‘.

Opening of trilogue negotiations

The Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs Committee decision to enter into trilogue negotiations on the proposal regarding criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person was approved, following a vote in plenary. Negotiating mandates adopted by the LIBE committee on three further proposals were confirmed unopposed.

LUX Prize 2017

On 14 November, the LUX Film Prize for 2017 was awarded to the film Sami Blood, a story about a Sami girl from the north of Sweden, who overcomes prejudice against her people in her quest to become a teacher.

This ‘at a glance’ note is intended to review some of the highlights of the plenary part-session, and notably to follow up on key dossiers identified by EPRS. It does not aim to be exhaustive. For more detailed information on specific files, please see other EPRS products, notably our ‘EU legislation in progress’ briefings, and the plenary minutes.


Read this At a glance on ‘Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, November I 2017‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/11/20/plenary-round-up-strasbourg-november-i-2017/

Universal Children’s Day

Written by Kristina Grosek,

Group of school children jumpng isolated in white20 November is an important date for children’s rights – the day on which the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted two cornerstone documents regarding children, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989.

20 November is also the day recognised as Universal Children’s Day and celebrated annually to promote understanding among children and their welfare worldwide. The UN General Assembly established the Universal Day in 1954, recommending all countries to observe it as the day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children.

Universal Children’s Day is an opportunity to promote and celebrate children’s rights, but also to take a brief look at the regulatory framework put in place to ensure children’s wellbeing in Europe.

Background

The CRC, adopted in 1989, and swiftly ratified by 196 countries, including all the EU Member States, represents a crucial international instrument stipulating civil, social, economic, and political standards for safeguarding children’s rights. It requires governments to ensure that the best interest of the child is their primary consideration in all actions concerning children. Although the EU is not a party to the Convention, and there is no legal obligation binding EU institutions to apply its provisions, the CRC nevertheless plays an important role in developing EU legislation on children’s rights.

At EU level, protecting children’s rights became legally enforceable through two instruments: the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Charter).

With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, protecting the rights of the child was officially recognised (Article 3 TEU) as one of the European Union’s goals, both internally and externally, and the Charter became legally binding. Article 24 of the Charter makes children independent holders of their rights and recognises the necessity for their protection.

Although concrete measures to protect children’s rights are in the hands of individual Member States, the EU provides the policy framework and an Agenda for the Rights of the Child with 11 specific actions contributing to children’s well-being and safety.

Recent EU action

Child poverty and social exclusion.

In 2013, the European Commission published the recommendation ‘Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage‘, calling on Member States to address child poverty, strengthen children’s rights and improve their wellbeing. In 2017, the Commission took stock of its implementation, and concluded that the recession that began with the financial crisis in 2008 has led to a marked deterioration in child poverty and well-being indicators in many EU Member States. The main policy challenges ahead will therefore include maintaining the focus on supporting parents, to ensure that they have access to decent paid work, child benefits and high quality services. Another focus must be on ensuring that particularly disadvantaged children (i.e., children with disabilities, children in alternative care, children with a migration background and Roma children) also benefit equally from the investments in children’s futures. These measures to improve children’s rights are included as priorities in the Commission’s proposal for the European Pillar of Social Rights. Violence against children.

Violence against children can take numerous forms (physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or neglect) and the EU has addressed different forms of violence in legislation (sexual abuse and exploitation, human trafficking, protection in criminal proceedings) and initiatives (better internet for children) and has supported its eradication through EU funding.

Children in migration and armed conflict.

In its communication of April 2017, the Commission outlines the urgent action to be taken to ensure a comprehensive approach to the protection of children in migration. The communication follows up on the European Agenda on Migration and Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors (2010-2014). The 11th European Forum on the rights of the child held on 6-7 November 2017 focused on children deprived of their liberty and alternatives to detention.


Children make up one third of migrant arrivals since 2015, according to the latest FRA study. As various Member States are attempting to make returns of unsuccessful asylum applicants and irregular migrants more efficient, the use of detention, including detaining children, is likely to increase. Although there are no comparable and complete data on the number of children detained for immigration related purposes, reports state that, on 1 September 2016, 821 children were detained in 21 Member States, while no data were available for the remaining 7 Member States.


The European Parliament, as a co-legislator, plays a crucial role in the adoption of legislation concerning protection of children’s rights. It has also voiced its concerns and called for action on numerous occasions on issues including child poverty, detention for children, ending child marriage, education of children in emergency situations and online sexual abuse. Parliament has also strongly emphasised the need to protect child migrants and unaccompanied minors. Although Parliament does not have a committee dedicated entirely to children’s rights, it has formed a cross-party and cross-national Intergroup of Members of Parliament aiming to promote children’s rights. More than 100 members have pledged to become child rights champions in the Parliament through signing the Child Rights Manifesto.

To mark Universal Children’s Day this year, the European Parliament is hosting a high level event – The Europe we want – on 20 November 2017, at which Members of the European Parliament will listen and respond to children’s questions regarding their vision of Europe.

Recent EPRS publications on children’s rights

EPRS at a glance (2017) United Nations Universal Children’s Day and the protection of children’s rights by the EU, Joanna Apap

EPRS study (2017) Combating sexual abuse of children Directive 2011/93/EU, Amandine Scherrer, Wouter van Ballegooij

EPRS briefing (2016) Arbitrary detention of women and children for immigration purposes, Joanna Apap

EPRS briefing (2016) Vulnerability of unaccompanied and separated child migrants, Joanna Apap

EPRS keysource (2016) Unaccompanied children in the EU, Anna Dimitrova Stull, Irene Penas Dendariena and Ulla Jurviste

EPRS keysource (2016) Child-friendly justice in the EU, Anna Dimitrova Stull, Irene Penas Dendariena and Ulla Jurviste

EPRS briefing (2016) Child poverty in the European Union: The crisis and its aftermath, Marie Lecerf

EPRS study (2014) Violence towards children in the EU : current situation, Anna Dimitrova Stull

EPRS at a glance (2017) United Nations Universal Children’s Day and the protection of children’s rights by the EU, Joanna Apap

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/11/20/universal-childrens-day/

The EU’s beekeeping sector

Written by Rachele Rossi,

Apiary - woman beekeeper with bees

© Jaroslav Moravcik / Fotolia

Every year, the EU’s 600 000 beekeepers and their 16 million beehives produce 200 000 tonnes of honey. This is not however sufficient to cover demand on the EU market, and the shortfall is made up by imports, above all from China. Threats to bee health and market competition make the economic viability of apiculture a critical matter. EU policies aim therefore to address these issues and promote beekeeping, an activity that is of vital importance to the environment.

EU beekeeping in numbers

Beekeepers and hives in the EU

The EU numbers approximately 600 000 beekeepers and 16 million hives according to 2016 data reported by the Member States. Only 4 % of EU beekeepers have over 150 hives, commonly considered the minimum for professional producers. However, this figure gives only an average indication of the number of hives that could provide a viable revenue, as the boundary between professionals and amateurs can vary across countries depending for example on differing profitability or income levels. Beekeepers are present in all EU countries, with big differences in terms of numbers and size (see Table 1). Germany accounts for about one in every six EU beekeepers, while there are only a few hundred in Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta. In Italy, beekeepers with more than 150 hives manage 60 % of all bee colonies. While 72 % of EU apiculturists are members of a beekeepers’ association, differences across the EU show fewer affiliates in France, Italy, Poland and Spain. National figures show a drop in the number of beekeepers but an overall stable number of beehives over recent years. EU farm statistics confirm this trend as regards farms with beehives.

EU honey production and trade

Honey is the best-known product of beekeeping, although other apiculture products (royal jelly, propolis, pollen and beeswax) and services (e.g. renting out bees for pollination) can represent a source of income for beekeepers. EU beekeepers produce an average of 200 000 tonnes of honey a year, which makes the EU the second world producer after China, with respectively 12 % and 28 % of world production. However, the EU is not self-sufficient and China is the main source of EU honey imports. EU beekeepers have relatively high production costs compared with world competitors, and the limited EU exports of honey are priced higher than imports to the EU.

Main challenges facing beekeepers

Profitability is crucial for the sustainability of the apiculture sector. Like other agricultural producers, beekeepers must cope with production and market challenges. When it comes to production, various factors can affect productivity in a beekeeping enterprise. Outbreaks of animal diseases, exposure to chemicals, losses in plant diversity, adverse climatic conditions or the deterioration of bees’ natural habitats owing to natural or human factors can all threaten the productive capacity of beehives. These factors can also be among the causes of the bee health problems and high bee mortality rates registered in recent decades. Not only do bee colony losses affect the economic viability of apiculture, but threats to bee health are a source of much wider concern, well beyond beekeepers, given bees’ role in the natural pollination of cultivated crops and wild plants and therefore in the preservation of the environment and the production of food.

As for the market, world competitors with lower production costs and cheaper prices represent a threat to EU producers’ market share. Furthermore, a ‘control plan‘ organised recently by the European Commission has highlighted illicit practices (e.g. adulteration of honey with sugar) carried out both in and outside the EU. Non-compliance with EU rules on production standards, labelling, etc. affects beekeeper income and has triggered a call from producers for broader checks to secure fair competition on the EU market.

EU policies addressing apiculture issues

Agricultural market

Agricultural policy measures always impact on beekeeping, whether directly or indirectly. Indirectly, they can help to improve the impact of farming practices on the environment (and thus on bees), for example by promoting the maintenance of permanent grassland or the adoption of environmentally friendly techniques. As for direct measures, apiculture products are part of the EU’s agricultural markets and, in this context, EU funds are available to support bee health, hive management, technical assistance, analysis and research, market monitoring and product quality. To benefit from these funds, which cover up to 50 % of total expenses, EU Member States draw up three-year national apiculture programmes in cooperation with beekeeping organisations (Article 55 of Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013). Every Member State has a programme in place, for an overall 2017‑2019 budget of €216 million (half from the EU budget) allocated according to the number of beehives in each country. Previous programmes used over 90 % of available EU funds. In defining measures to promote beekeeping, the European Commission can consult stakeholders in the civil dialogue group on animal products, whose strategic agenda seeks to promote beekeeping needs in EU agricultural policy making.

Promotion and quality

Beekeeping products can also benefit from promotion measures co-financed by the EU with a budget of over €100 million a year (Regulation (EU) No 1144/2014). Honey is included in several multi-product promotion campaigns in and outside the EU, while a Slovenian campaign is aimed at increasing public and beekeeper awareness of EU quality schemes. In this respect, more than 30 types of honey produced across the EU have received EU quality labels denoting protected designation of origin (PDO) or protected geographical indication (PGI), which can help to increase their economic potential.

Plant health, food security, research and innovation

EU policies covering areas other than agriculture can also help to address apiculture-related issues. On the plant protection side, for instance, decisions as to whether or not to authorise the use of a particular substance can have a significant impact on apiculture, as research has provided scientific evidence of the effects of certain pesticides on bees. On the food security side, the recently adopted Regulation (EU) 2017/625 on checks and penalties related to marketing rules in the EU food industry could benefit apiculture given the differences in production practices across the world and the high quantity of imported honey in the EU. This legislation contains measures that could help to fight honey adulteration fraud by producers both in and outside the EU. Various EU-funded research projects have studied bee health, honeybee colony losses, beehive management, etc. A recent €9 million project financed by the EU research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 is investigating hazard identification for bees, focusing on exposure to chemicals, the presence of pathogens, and bee nutrition. The European Food Safety Authority is, meanwhile, setting up an EU Bee Partnership (expected to be up and running in 2018), a platform for sharing data on bee health.

European Parliament

In its role as co-legislator, Parliament has adopted a number of measures promoting EU beekeeping. The 2013 reform of the CAP addressed concerns expressed in a number of Parliament resolutions on bee health and the situation of beekeeping (20 November 2008, 25 November 2010, 15 November 2011), while an own-initiative report (2017/2115(INI)) tabled by the rapporteur Norbert Erdös (EPP, Hungary) on prospects and challenges for EU beekeeping is currently under deliberation. Alongside its legislative contribution, Parliament recently hosted a hearing on the apiculture sector, while the sixth annual edition of Beeweek took place earlier this year. Stakeholders used these opportunities to share their views on the challenges facing beekeeping and the need to support its vital role for the environment, agriculture and rural areas, and have put forward a position paper on the future of EU agricultural policy, calling for concrete action to promote bee-friendly farming.


Read this At a glance on ‘The EU’s beekeeping sector‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Number of beekeepers in selected EU countries

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/24/the-eus-beekeeping-sector/

EU-Australia free trade agreement – Moving towards the launch of talks [International Agreements in Progress]

Written by Krisztina Binder,

Graphics: Giulio Sabbati and Samy Chahri,

Australia flag combined with european union flag

© Argus / Fotolia

The prospective EU-Australia free trade agreement (FTA) will complement the economic dimension of the current longstanding and evolving relationship with a new element. In addition to opening up new bilateral commercial opportunities, the FTA would also both facilitate the creation of new ties with global production and commercial networks and help to advance the trade policy interests of the EU in the Asia-Pacific region.

The economic cooperation already in place includes a number of bilateral agreements that provide a good basis for the future negotiations. However, given that Australia is a major agricultural and agri-food exporter globally, it is expected that, in the course of the negotiations, certain sensitive issues may be raised. The EU is committed to taking European agricultural sensitivities fully into consideration in its negotiating strategy, seeking to protect vulnerable sectors through specific provisions.

On 13 September 2017, the European Commission presented the draft negotiating directives for the FTA with Australia. This draft mandate, in line with the EU Court of Justice’s recent opinion on the EU-Singapore FTA, covers only those areas falling under the EU’s exclusive competence. Therefore, the prospective agreement could be concluded by the EU on its own and could be ratified at EU level only. The Commission aims to finalise the negotiations before the end of its mandate in late 2019.

 

International Agreements in Progress


Read the complete briefing on ‘EU-Australia free trade agreement – Moving towards the launch of talks‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/24/eu-australia-free-trade-agreement-moving-towards-the-launch-of-talks-international-agreements-in-progress/

EU-New Zealand free trade agreement – All set for the launch of negotiations [International Agreements in Progress]

Written by Krisztina Binder,

Graphics: Giulio Sabbati and Samy Chahri,

New zealand flag with european union flag, 3D rendering

© Argus / Fotolia

New Zealand already enjoys a number of bilateral trade cooperation agreements with the EU. These agreements pave the way for negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and New Zealand. However, both sides are expected to raise several sensitive issues during negotiations, not least because New Zealand is a major and competitive producer and exporter of agricultural goods. The EU is committed to taking European agricultural sensitivities fully into consideration in its negotiating strategy, seeking to protect vulnerable sectors through specific provisions.

In addition to facilitating trade and investment flows between the parties, the FTA would create a level playing field for the EU with other trading partners that have already concluded FTAs with New Zealand. The FTA would also strengthen the EU’s position in Asia-Pacific value chains, and help to advance the trade policy interests of the EU in the region.

On 13 September 2017, the European Commission presented draft negotiating directives for an FTA with New Zealand. This draft mandate, in line with the EU Court of Justice’s recent opinion on the EU-Singapore FTA, covers only areas falling under the EU’s exclusive competence. Therefore, the prospective agreement could be concluded by the EU on its own and could be ratified at EU level only. The Commission aims to finalise negotiations before the end of its mandate in late 2019.

International Agreements in Progress


Read the complete briefing on ‘EU-New Zealand free trade agreement – All set for the launch of negotiations‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.


Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/24/eu-new-zealand-free-trade-agreement-all-set-for-the-launch-of-negotiations-international-agreements-in-progress/

US decertification of the Iran nuclear deal

Written by Elena Lazarou,

On 13 October, US President Donald Trump announced his decision not to certify Iran’s compliance with the international nuclear agreement of 2015. This will likely result in a vote on the deal in Congress. The EU and the rest of the international community intend to keep to the agreement.

President Trump’s announcement

During his electoral campaign, Donald Trump had stated that he would pursue a much tougher stance on Iran compared with his predecessor. On 13 October, he laid out his strategy and stated that he would not certify Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Legal basis

Iran after the nuclear deal: Implications for the region and the EU

© Guillaume Le Bloas / Fotolia

Under the US Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), the US president must certify Iranian compliance with the deal every 90 days to avoid triggering provisions enabling Congress to commence procedures for re-imposing sanctions. While the JCPOA itself does not stipulate or require certification, the act was put in place in May 2015 to give Congress oversight of the agreement, largely on account of the scepticism of a number of its members. INARA requires the president to publicly certify every 90 days that Iran is in technical compliance with the deal and, more broadly, that ‘suspension of sanctions [is] appropriate and proportionate to the specific and verifiable measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear programme’.

More specifically, the president must certify to Congress the following five elements:

  • Iran is ‘transparently, verifiably, and fully’ implementing its nuclear obligations;
  • there is no Iranian ‘material breach’ of the nuclear agreement;
  • Iran has not acted, covertly or not, to ‘significantly advance’ its nuclear programme;
  • US sanctions relief is ‘appropriate and proportionate’ to Iran’s nuclear obligations; and
  • the agreement is ‘vital’ to US national security interests.

The latest deadline for certification was 15 October. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran remains technically compliant. The IAEA has verified Iran’s compliance eight times, most recently on 31 August 2017. Since the implementation of the JCPOA, the USA has imposed additional sanctions on Iran relating to non-nuclear issues, such as terrorism, the ballistic missile programme, and human rights violations.

What happens next?

As decertification does not automatically re-impose sanctions, it does not violate the JCPOA, or signify immediate US withdrawal. Rather, it shifts responsibility as to whether to withdraw onto Congress. Congress will now have a 60-day window in which to decide whether to re-impose the sanctions on Iran that were suspended by the 2015 deal. The decision will be taken through an expedited process, which requires a simple majority in both Houses. A decision to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions would violate the deal, and lead to a US withdrawal from the agreement. However, Congress may opt for more moderate measures, such as holding hearings, passing more symbolic sanctions than the pre-2016 ones, or even not imposing any sanctions at all. The de-certification comes at a time when Senators Corker and Cotton are working on legislation to amend INARA, so that sanctions would be automatically re-imposed if Iran came within a year of obtaining a nuclear weapon. The proposed legislation would change the certification requirement to every six months.

The JCPOA

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed in July 2015 between Iran and the E3/EU+3 – France, Germany, the UK, the EU, China, Russia and the USA. It aims to normalise Iran’s relationship with the rest of the international community and was endorsed by the UN Security Council on 20 July 2015. The main objective of the JCPOA is to ensure the purely peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. In exchange, the other parties agreed to gradually lift restrictive measures on Iran. Iran and the E3/EU+3 envisaged that the implementation of the JCPOA would allow Iran to move forward with ‘an exclusively peaceful, indigenous nuclear programme’ and the rest of the international community to progressively ‘gain confidence’ in Iran’s intentions. In addition, Iran agreed that it would not seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons. The deal provides for extensive monitoring by the IAEA and an inquiry into evidence of past work on nuclear warhead design. Full implementation of the JCPOA is expected to generate a more positive climate for cooperation with Iran in the long term.

KEY STIPULATIONS OF THE JCPOA

Reactions

Reactions to President Trump’s decision were immediate and predominantly critical. All parties to the agreement have asked the US not to withdraw from it. In a joint statement, the British, French and German leaders noted that the JCPOA had been ‘unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2231’ and that the IAEA had ‘repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA through its long-term verification and monitoring programme’. The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission (HR/VP), Federica Mogherini, emphasised that no one country could terminate the deal, which is quintessentially multilateral and which ‘the international community, and the EU with it, has clearly indicated is, and will, continue to be in place’. On 16 October, the EU Foreign Affairs Council unanimously endorsed a statement that considers President Trump’s decision not to certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA as being made ‘in the context of an internal US process’. The statement encouraged the USA ‘to maintain its commitment to the JCPOA and to consider the implications for the security of the United States, its partners and the region before taking further steps’. The HR/VP has announced that she will be travelling to Washington DC to address the issue with the US administration and Congress.

Russia has warned the US of the dangerous implications of a potential US withdrawal from the agreement and reaffirmed its own commitment to the pact. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stated that Iran will continue to honour its commitment to the deal as long as it serves its interests. China has also called on the USA to preserve the JCPOA, not least since Iran holds a pivotal position in its ‘belt and road’ initiative.

Experts

The majority of experts agree that the Iran deal should be maintained, a position that is also held by Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. A US withdrawal from the deal would raise questions for Iran as to whether it is still bound by the deal and destabilise the ongoing process of normalising relations, potentially even leading to Iran leaving the NPT and thereby disregarding any legal constraint against building nuclear weapons. In addition, it would create tensions between the USA and the other parties to the agreement, including key EU and NATO allies. The American think tank Brookings has assessed the decision to de-certify as risky for the President’s credibility and for American global leadership. Various analyses point to the potential increase of Russian and Chinese influence should the USA decide to withdraw from the agreement. Last but not least, the dismantling of the JCPOA would have dire repercussions for the Iranian economy and would likely weaken support for President Rouhani’s reform efforts. For all the above reasons, the majority of analyses predict that Congress will not be reinstating sanctions on Iran.


Read this At a glance on ‘US decertification of the Iran nuclear deal‘ in PDF.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/20/us-decertification-of-the-iran-nuclear-deal/

EU enlargement, Western Balkans and Turkey [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski,

European Flag on a Blue Sky

© alfexe / Fotolia

In his State of the Union speech in September 2017, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for keeping a credible European Union membership perspective for Western Balkan countries, while ruling out the possibility of Turkey joining the EU in “the foreseeable future” due to violations to the rule of law and fundamental rights.

According to the Commission’s assessment, the forecasts for economic growth in the Western Balkans are good, although progress on reform has been slow, the rule of law has been weak, and corruption is persistent. From the Western Balkans, only Croatia joined the EU, in 2013. Accession talks continue with Montenegro and Serbia. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania are official candidates. Bosnia and Herzegovina formally applied for EU membership in 2016, and remains a potential candidate country, along with Kosovo.

Relations between Turkey, an official candidate country, and the EU have been strained for some time due to what many politicians and analysts perceive as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic style.

This note offers links to a series of recent studies and comments from major international think tanks and research institutes on EU enlargement, Western Balkans and Turkey. More reports on the EU enlargement process can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are thinking’ published in March 2017. More reports on Turkey are available in another edition of the series, also published in March.

Enlargement and Western Balkans

The obsolescence of the European Neighbourhood Policy
Centre for European Policy Studies, Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies, October 2017

Balkan enlargement and the politics of civic pressure: The case of the public administration reform sector
European Policy Centre, October 2017

What Europe can do for the Western Balkans
European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2017

EU enlargement: Door half open or door half shut?
Centre for European Reform, October 2017

Balkan Enlargement and the politics of civic pressure
European Policy Centre, Belgrade, October 2017

Possible date for EU accession and the years ahead
European Policy Centre, Belgrade, October 2017

Quality of the response of judiciary in BiH to corruption: Preliminary results
Analitika, October 2017

Serbia’s pursuit of interest in the EU
European Policy Centre, Belgrade, September 2017

The ‘Berlin Process‘ for the Western Balkans: Is it delivering?
Centre for European Policy Studies, July 2017

The Balkans, the Black Sea region and China
Clingendael, July 2017

The Western Balkans in the European Union: Perspectives of a region in Europe
Instituto Affari Internazionali, July 2017

Is the EU on the move again? The development of the CSDP and “multi-speed” EU
European Policy Centre, Belgrade, July 2017

Fostering resilience in the Western Balkans
European Union Institute for Security Studies, June 2017

Kosovo’s EU candidate status: A goal within reach?
European Policy Centre, June 2017

Towards a smart staff retention policy for the sustainable EU integration of Serbia
European Policy Centre, Belgrade, June 2017

EU Enlargement: A six percent target for the Western Balkans
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, June 2017

EU and the Western Balkans: Addressing together challenges and using opportunities
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, June 2017

The Western Balkans in the European Union: Enlargement to what, accession to what?
Instituto Affari Internazionali, May 2017

What price do Serbia and Macedonia have to pay to save the EU?
Europeum, May 2017

Does the EU really care about the Western Balkans?
Carnegie Europe, May 2017

The Macedonian crisis: A failure of EU conflict management?
Centre for European Policy Studies, May 2017

The six countries of the Western Balkans need the EU’s full attention
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, March 2017

Balkan Barometer 2017. Business Opinion Survey,
Regional Cooperation Council, October 2017

Political Trends & Dynamics: Emerging Leadership in Southeast Europe
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, September 2017

The Crisis of Democracy in the Western Balkans: Authoritarianism and EU stabilitocracy
BiEPAG, March 2017

Turkey

Turkey and the EU: No end to the drift
Centre for European Reform, October 2017

The EU should not turn its back on Turkey
European Policy Centre, October 2017

Turkey’s relations with Germany and the EU: Breaking the vicious circle
European Policy Centre, October 2017

Is Turkey Weakening NATO?
Carnegie Europe, September 2017

Turkey and EU at a crossroads: How to fix a wrecked relationship
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, July 2017

Turkey and the EU: Perpetual crisis or restricted cooperation?
German Marshall Fund, June 2017

Four steps to an EU-Turkey reset
Carnegie Europe, June 2017

European Union-Turkey: From an illusory membership to a “privileged partnership”
Fondation Robert Schuman, June 2017

Turkey, the EU and the Mediterranean: Perceptions, policies and prospects
Istituto Affari Internazionali, June 2017

Turkey’s evolving array of diplomatic challenges
Carnegie Europe, June 2017

The axiology of EU cultural diplomacy in Muslim majority countries: The paradox of Turkey
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Institute for European Studies, June 2017

The EU-Turkey refugee deal and the not quite closed Balkan route
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, June 2017

The “new Turkey” in the making: What should the EU’s strategy be?
Polish Institute of International Affairs, June 2017

The Turkish economy is struggling with political volatility
Chatham House, June 2017

“Hang them in Taksim”: Europe, Turkey and the future of the death penalty
European Stability Initiative, May 2017

The Chapter Illusion: For honesty and clarity in EU-Turkey relations
European Stability Initiative, May 2017

Why the EU should terminate accession negotiations with Turkey
Centre for European Policy Studies, April 2017

Turkish referendum: Erdogan home but not yet dry
European Council on Foreign Relations, April 2017

Making the EU-Turkey refugee deal work
Bruegel, April 2017

Turkey’s constitutional referendum: What you need to know
European Council on Foreign Relations, April 2017

Negotiating Brexit: The prospect of a UK-Turkey partnership
Carnegie Europe, March 2017

Energy and climate strategies, interests and priorities of the EU and Turkey
Istituto Affari Internazionali, March 2017


Read this briefing on ‘EU enlargement, Western Balkans and Turkey‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/20/eu-enlargement-western-balkans-and-turkey-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

Radio frequency identification tags: a new technology which could change our lives [Science and Technology Podcast]

By Lieve Van Woensel and Andrés Garcia, University Castilla La Mancha, Spain (guest contributor), with James Tarlton

Radio frequency identification tags

© Andreynikolaev / Shutterstock.com

The Internet of Things is slated to transform our way of life – while radio frequency identification tags, and other short-range communication devices, are already with us – how might this technology change our way of life?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is replacing barcodes on a massive scale, as a way of tagging consumer goods. In the light of recent food scandals, this could facilitate the traceability of food and beverages in a more efficient and exhaustive way than what is feasible with barcodes.

RFID is also the technology behind the tags that are now common on some clothes, books or other products, easily distinguished thanks to a kind of coil, or piece of foil, that acts as an antenna. With this technology, gates containing the required reader detect products as they pass through. While this is similar to some older anti-theft systems, now it is also possible to identify specific products uniquely for other purposes, such as billing or to consult a product’s characteristics. This is possible because the tag contains an ID number that is longer than those used in barcodes, and is structured in such a way that it can be used to automatically access databases with additional information on the internet.

This capability of the reader to not only identify the product, but also to access a plethora of related information, has given rise to ideas such as smart objects or the Internet of Things (IoT). A smart object is an object that enhances its interaction not only with people but also with other smart objects. The Internet of Things is the integration of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.

New applications of these ideas are constantly appearing, and research in this area is thriving. RFID tags could be useful throughout the product life cycle, from the gathering of the required parts or raw materials, all along the manufacturing and supply chains, including at the point of sale, and up to the processes of recycling and waste management. This could shorten queues at supermarkets, as all products in the trolley are read instantaneously. Users could also benefit by taking advantage of the capability of the objects themselves to provide access to related information, such as usage instructions, that appliances can automatically access. For example, a bag of food could update the freezer on the required temperature for adequate preservation, or warn it about upcoming expiration dates, or inform the microwave oven about the required cooking temperature and time.

However, the concept of tracking objects raises some concerns. Whereas a smartphone is likely to remain a relatively conspicuous device, the somewhat hidden tag in an object that can mysteriously give access to so much information can be seen as a threat.


Listen to podcast ‘Radio frequency identification tags [Scientific and Foresight Podcast]


Potential impacts and developments

It is important to note that, for reasons of efficiency and price, basic RFID tags used for tracking consumer goods work in the ultra-high frequency (UHF) range and are passive (i.e. do not have batteries). This is noteworthy because it defines the properties and capabilities of the tag. Using UHF means that the reading ranges may be relatively long under certain conditions but, on the other hand, not having batteries means that they are required to use the power coming from the carrier signal provided by the antennas connected to the reader. In addition, UHF is prone to malfunction in the presence of liquids (that absorb the energy) or metals (that reflect the signal creating interference). All of this results in readers being necessarily quite costly and conspicuous (e.g. as a reading arch in a shop) even if tags are not.

Another implication of the requirement for such simple tags (to use very little energy), is that the communication protocols implemented in them are rather basic. This means that they are not secure, as they do not include encryption or any other measures of protection. Further research is currently underway in these areas, but for the moment, it is possible to tamper with the information in several ways (counterfeiting, eavesdropping, cloning, spoofing, jamming etc.).

As well as basic UHF RFID tags, other tags are also very common and even simpler, as is the case for those using near field communication (NFC) technology. NFC uses lower frequencies; meaning tags are only read at very short distances (usually by a hand-held device) and one at a time. The advantage is that they require only a cheap and simple reader. On the other hand, many other types of tags with improved capabilities also exist, as by adding a battery (to make ‘active tags’); they may become sufficiently complex for many different applications. Active tags can include sensors, actuators and a large memory, and make extended communication ranges possible. All of these capabilities again contribute to public concern regarding the applications of this technology.

Anticipatory policy-making

It is important to note that, at present, any small tags hidden in everyday objects are always simple, passive devices; with quite limited capabilities, (versions that are more powerful are usually bigger and far more conspicuous). Therefore, it is always difficult to read a tag, and even more so in the EU, where the power of readers is limited to two watts by law (while four watts are allowed in the USA). This means that reading ranges are usually limited to about two metres. Furthermore, the authorities can easily detect and control the readers, as they work in a similar way to radar. However, it is important to keep in mind that these tags are designed for simple consumer goods. Therefore, even if the possibilities associated with their use are rather broad, it is unlikely that any hypothetical ‘Big Brother’ will use the tags.

On the other hand, there is a real concern on the part of the developers about the safety of this technology when used for certain applications. To begin with, it would be important to ascertain a realistic limit to the power used by the readers, as this creates a serious limitation. While two watts seem to have very little effect on the human body, it is important to take into account that UHF uses the same wavelengths as microwave ovens. Therefore, there is a concern regarding the possibility of ‘hot spots’ appearing in certain locations that may affect biological products. For example, hospitals use UHF RFID tags to track bags of blood, but there does not seem to be any specific research on the effects that the readers may have on the preservation of these products.

There are still many possible improvements around RFID, but the technology is already available, and the possible applications are many. It is true that there is no complete guarantee that the technology is fault-free and tamper-proof, but we cannot compare the simple tags designed to identify consumer goods with the devices that could be used to track a person, such as smartphones. Nevertheless, the use of this interesting technology can certainly help solve the many problems that appear along supply chains, affecting consumers. It may be preferable to accept the remote possibility of the authorities knowing what you are eating, rather than risk food poisoning.


This post is part of a series based on the EPRS publication ‘Ten more technologies which could change our lives‘, which draws attention to ten specific technologies and promotes further reflection about other innovations, in a follow-up to the 2015 ground-breaking publication ‘Ten technologies which could change our lives – potential impacts and policy implications‘. The publications explore the promises and potential negative consequences of these new technologies, and the role that the European Parliament as co-legislator could, and should, play in shaping these developments. The publications feed into the work and priorities of the Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) Panel and parliamentary committees.

Tell us what other important technological developments you see that might have a significant impact on the way we live in the future, and that would require European policy-makers’ attention, by leaving a comment below or completing our feedback questionnaire.

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Source Article from https://epthinktank.eu/2017/10/20/radio-frequency-identification-tags-a-new-technology-which-could-change-our-lives/