Texts adopted
Thursday, 26 November 2015 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Afghanistan, in particular the killings in the province of Zabul
 Freedom of expression in Bangladesh
 The state of play of the Doha Development Agenda in advance of the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference
 Accession of Ecuador to the EU-Peru and Colombia trade agreement
 A new animal welfare strategy for 2016-2020
 Education for children in emergency situations and protracted crises
 Towards simplification and performance orientation in cohesion policy for 2014-2020

Afghanistan, in particular the killings in the province of Zabul
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European Parliament resolution of 26 November 2015 on Afghanistan, in particular the killings in the province of Zabul (2015/2968(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 December 2011 on the situation of women in Afghanistan and Pakistan(1), and its resolution of 13 June 2013 on the negotiations on an EU-Afghanistan cooperation agreement on partnership and development(2),

–  having regard to the EU Local Strategy for Human Rights Defenders in Afghanistan in 2014,

–  having regard to United Nations Security Council resolution 2210 (2015) and to the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on Afghanistan of 20 July 2015,

–  having regard to the Conference on the Implementation and Support of the National Action Plan (UNSCR 1325) on Women, Peace and Security on 20 September 2015,

–  having regard to the UNAMA OHCHR midyear report of August 2015 on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Afghanistan for 2015,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on Afghanistan of 26 October 2015,

–  having regard to the 11 November 2015 statement by the UN mission condemning the ‘senseless murder’ of seven civilian hostages in Zabul,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas there are rising concerns about ethnic and sectarian persecution in Afghanistan, as the incidents of kidnappings and attacks that have been occurring for months target the Hazara which is considered to be the country’s third-largest ethnic group and the only one that is predominantly Shiite;

B.  whereas seven civilians were abducted in October 2015 and executed between 6 and 8 November 2015 in the Arghandab district, and armed clashes have been reported there between two rival groups of anti-government elements;

C.  whereas the mostly Shia Hazara people are one of the ethnic minorities recognised by the new Constitution of Afghanistan;

D.  whereas on 21 November 2015 a group of up to 30 Hazaras was attacked at gunpoint while travelling on a southern highway; whereas at least five other Hazaras traveling on a bus bound for Kabul were saved by other travellers who helped hide their identities after the bus was stopped by militants;

E.  whereas the killings in Zabul highlight the particular dangers faced by Hazaras; whereas Hazara bus passengers have been separated from other passengers, abducted and, in some cases, killed in a number of incidents over the last two years;

F.  whereas the killings highlight the continuing terrorist threat posed to civilians by the Taliban and its splinter groups, some of which have reportedly pledged their allegiance to Da’esh/ISIL;

G.  whereas the European Union has been an ongoing supporter of the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan since 2002 and is committed to a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan;

H.  whereas the EUPOL mission launched in 2007 to support the training of Afghan police forces helps to establish a penal/judiciary system under Afghan administration; whereas the Council decided in December 2014 to extend the mission until 31 December 2016;

I.  whereas, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission was completed at the end of 2014; whereas the new ‘Resolute Support Mission’ was launched in January 2015 to provide further training, advice and assistance for the Afghan security forces and institutions;

J.  whereas the murders of civilians, as well as the taking of civilian hostages, are serious violations of international humanitarian law, which all parties to the armed conflict – including all anti-government elements – are required to uphold;

K.  whereas security throughout Afghanistan continues to be a matter of serious concern on account of terrorist activities by the Taliban;

L.  whereas collateral damage continues to take place and results in dramatic numbers of casualties among innocent civilians, humanitarian personnel and even troops on peace-keeping missions;

M.  whereas the recent call by al Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri on ISIL fighters to wage war against the international coalition is a further threat to NATO forces present in Afghanistan and to the country’s security;

1.  Strongly condemns the barbaric murder and beheading of seven Hazari people (two women, four men and a little girl) in the south-eastern Afghan province of Zabul on the border with Pakistan;

2.  Condemns the attacks by the Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIL and other terrorist groups against Afghan civilians, the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, democratic institutions and civil society, which are causing record numbers of casualties; stresses that protection of the Hazara community, as a group particularly vulnerable to Taliban and Da’esh/ISIL terrorist violence, should be a priority for the Afghan Government;

3.  Extends its condolences to the bereaved families, particularly of the recent victims of horrific killings in the Hazara community;

4.  Calls for support for the Afghan authorities to take swift and appropriate action to ensure that the killers of innocent civilians are brought to justice and to reaffirm the rule of law in the country;

5.  Calls on the Afghan authorities to ensure that security force personnel implicated in serious human rights violations, including those having command responsibility over forces committing abuses, are credibly and impartially investigated and disciplined or prosecuted as appropriate;

6.  Believes that murders of civilian hostages, including women and children, must be treated as war crimes; emphasises that the killing of innocent civilians is prohibited by International Humanitarian Law; reiterates that this law must be obeyed by all parties to the conflict, including splinter groups;

7.  Expresses deep concern regarding the serious security situation, the constant increase in violence, the terrorist acts leading to a spike in casualties and the constant threats to a population forced to live in a growing climate of fear and intimidation;

8.  Considers that national security is an essential basis for social and economic development, political stability and the future of Afghanistan;

9.  Calls on the Government of Afghanistan to intensify cooperation with the Government of Pakistan; emphasises that closer collaboration on security and governance matters would be of mutual advantage and would contribute to the promotion of peace and stability in the region;

10.  Calls on the Member States and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to remain fully engaged and to support the Afghan Government in the fight against the insurgency;

11.  Renews its commitment to all efforts to rid Afghanistan of terrorism and extremism and believes such endeavours are vital for regional and global security in order to build an inclusive, stable, democratic and more prosperous country;

12.  Remains committed to supporting the Afghan Government in its efforts to undertake key reforms, to further improve governance and the rule of law, to promote the respect of human rights, including women’s rights, to fight corruption, to counter narcotics, to improve fiscal sustainability and to foster inclusive economic growth; notes President Ashraf Ghani’s intention to make the fight against corruption one of his priorities;

13.  Reaffirms its support for the Afghan Government and its people in this critical phase; draws attention to the casualties suffered by the Afghan Defence and Security Forces since the end of the ISAF mission at the end of 2014; encourages the government to continue its efforts to step up the efficiency and operational effectiveness of the defence and security forces in order to provide the population at large with security and stability;

14.  Remains deeply concerned at the deteriorating human rights and security situation in Afghanistan, and in particular the implications this could have for women’s rights, religious and ethnic minorities, human rights defenders and journalists;

15.  Recalls the landmark Elimination of Violence against Women Law of 2009 and appeals to the authorities to focus more attention and funds on the protection of human rights defenders under threat or attack;

16.  Calls on the Government of Afghanistan to adopt an implementation plan for Afghanistan’s 1325 National Action Plan that includes a requirement for women to be full participants in all stages of peace negotiations;

17.  Recalls the commitments made by the Afghan Government to the international community with regard to the rights and protection of ethnic, linguistic, religious and other minorities;

18.  Strongly condemns recent Taliban attacks in Kunduz and the casualties inflicted on the civilian population and the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces; supports an independent investigation into the attack on the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, and calls for the neutrality of hospitals and medical facilities to be respected;

19.  Reiterates that it is of the utmost urgency that the Afghan Government and all partners in the region engage credibly to end the conflict and ensure a stable environment; reiterates that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process remains the prerequisite for any sustainable and long-lasting solution;

20.  Welcomes the decision to hold the comprehensive Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan in Brussels in 2016 as evidence of the international community’s ongoing commitment to the stabilisation and development of the country; expects the Conference to set out the framework for the Government of Afghanistan and donors until 2020, underpinned by concrete commitments by the Government of Afghanistan and the international community alike;

21.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the Governments and Parliaments of the Member States, and the Government and the Parliament of Afghanistan.

(1) OJ C 168 E, 14.6.2013, p. 119.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0282.

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European Parliament resolution of 26 November 2015 on the political situation in Cambodia (2015/2969(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Cambodia,

–  having regard to the EU local statement of 27 October 2015 on the situation in Cambodia,

–  having regard to the statement attributable to the spokesman for the UN Secretary-General on Cambodia of 17 November 2015,

–  having regard to the press statement issued on 30 October 2015 by the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani,

–  having regard to the statements made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Professor Rhona Smith, on 23 November 2015 and 24 September 2015,

–  having regard to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia of 20 August 2015,

–  having regard to the UN Human Rights Council resolution of 2 October 2015 on Cambodia,

–  having regard to the statement issued by the EEAS spokesperson on 15 July 2015 on the Law on Associations and NGOs in Cambodia,

–  having regard to the statement issued on 22 June 2015 by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association,

–  having regard to the UN Human Rights Committee’s concluding observations of 27 April 2015 on the second periodic report of Cambodia,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966,

–  having regard to the 2008 EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders,

–  having regard to the 1997 Cooperation Agreement between the European Community and the Kingdom of Cambodia,

–  having regard to Article 35 of the Cambodian Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of association and the freedom to participate actively in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas on 13 November 2015 the Cambodian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Sam Rainsy, leader of the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who is currently abroad, and whereas on 16 November 2015 the National Assembly of Cambodia withdrew his membership, stripping him of parliamentary immunity and making him liable to arrest when he returns to the country, in connection with a seven-year-old defamation case;

B.  whereas on 20 November 2015 Sam Rainsy was summoned by a court to appear for questioning on 4 December 2015 in relation to a post published on his public Facebook page by an opposition senator, Hong Sok Hour, who has been under arrest since August 2015 on charges of forgery and incitement after posting on Sam Rainsy’s Facebook page a video containing an allegedly false document relating to the 1979 border treaty with Vietnam;

C.  whereas on 26 October 2015 a group of pro-government protesters in Phnom Penh brutally assaulted two MPs of the opposition (CNRP), Nhay Chamrouen and Kong Sakphea, and threatened the safety of the private residence of the National Assembly’s First Vice-President; whereas reports suggested that police and other state security forces looked on while the attacks took place;

D.  whereas on 30 October 2015 opposition party deputy leader Kem Sokha was removed from his position as First Vice-President of the National Assembly by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) during a session boycotted by the CNRP; whereas granting the CNRP the post of Vice-President was one of the key concessions which the governing CPP granted the CNRP in July 2014 to end its one-year boycott of parliament after the 2013 elections;

E.  whereas Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power for over 30 years while his security forces are enjoying impunity for serious human rights abuses;

F.  whereas 11 opposition activists have been serving prison sentences of between seven and 20 years for participating in or leading an ‘insurrection’;

G.  whereas the two political parties CPP and CNRP had reached a political truce in 2014, which had raised hopes for the beginning of a new phase in settling political differences constructively; whereas, despite the agreement, the political climate in Cambodia remains tense;

H.  whereas the right to freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 41 of the Cambodian Constitution, and the right of political participation in Article 35 thereof;

I.  whereas despite widespread criticism from civil society and the international community the recent promulgation of the Law on Associations and NGOs (LANGO) has given state authorities arbitrary powers to shut down and block the creation of human rights-defending organisations and has already begun deterring human rights defence work in Cambodia and impeding civil society action;

J.  whereas the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association has stated that civil society in Cambodia has been excluded from the LANGO drafting process;

K.  whereas the Government of Cambodia approved the draft Law on Trade Unions on 13 November 2015;

L.  whereas the EU is Cambodia’s largest partner in terms of development assistance, with a new allocation for the 2014-2020 period of EUR 410 million; whereas the EU supports a wide range of human rights initiatives carried out by Cambodian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other civil society organisations; whereas Cambodia is highly dependent on development assistance;

1.  Expresses its deep concerns about the worsening climate for opposition politicians and activists, and human rights, social and environmental activists in Cambodia, and condemns all acts of violence and politically motivated charges, sentences and convictions against opposition politicians, activists and human rights defenders in Cambodia;

2.  Urges the Cambodian authorities to revoke the arrest warrant and drop all charges issued against opposition leader Sam Rainsy and CNRP members of the National Assembly and Senate, including Senator Hong Sok Hour and CNRP activists and organisers, to allow them to work freely without fear of arrest or persecution, and to end political use of the courts to prosecute people on politically-motivated and trumped-up charges;

3.  Calls on the National Assembly to reinstate Sam Rainsy immediately and to restore his parliamentary immunity;

4.  Urges the Government of Cambodia to recognise the legitimate and useful role played by civil society, trade unions and the political opposition in contributing to Cambodia’s overall economic and political development;

5.  Encourages the government to work towards strengthening democracy and the rule of law and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, which includes fully complying with the constitutional provisions concerning pluralism and freedom of association and expression;

6.  Recalls that a non-threatening environment of democratic dialogue is essential for political stability, democracy and a peaceful society in the country and urges the government to take all the necessary measures to ensure the security of all democratically elected representatives of Cambodia, irrespective of their political affiliation;

7.  Notes that the ‘culture of dialogue’ between the leaders of the CPP and CNRP brought hope that Cambodia’s democracy was on a positive trajectory; calls on the Government of Cambodia and the opposition to engage in a serious and meaningful dialogue;

8.  Calls on the government to ensure full and impartial investigations with United Nations participation, leading to prosecution of all those responsible for the recent brutal attack on the two CNRP members of the National Assembly by members of the armed forces and for military and police use of excessive force to suppress demonstrations, strikes and social unrest;

9.  Urges the government to abrogate the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations, the recent promulgation of which has given state authorities arbitrary powers to shut down and block the creation of human rights organisations and has already begun deterring human rights defence work in Cambodia;

10.  Urges the government and parliament to ensure genuine and serious consultation with all those affected by draft legislation such as the Trade Union, Cybercrime and Telecommunications Laws and to ensure that the texts are in line with Cambodia’s human rights obligations and commitments under domestic and international law;

11.  Calls on the Cambodian Government to end arbitrary detentions and suspicious disappearances and allow voluntary and human rights organisations to operate freely; calls on the Cambodian Government to seriously investigate the disappearance of Khem Sapath;

12.  Calls on the relevant government authorities to drop the prosecution of human rights defenders under other laws in force which are being used to persecute them for their human rights work, and to immediately and unconditionally release all those jailed on politically motivated and trumped up charges;

13.  Calls on the Member States, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the European External Action Service and the Commission, in line with the EU’s Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy, to immediately raise the above concerns and recommendations with the Cambodian authorities;

14.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the Secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the UN Human Rights Council, and the Government and National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Freedom of expression in Bangladesh
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European Parliament resolution of 26 November 2015 on freedom of expression in Bangladesh (2015/2970(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Bangladesh, in particular those of 21 November 2013 on Bangladesh: human rights and forthcoming elections(1), of 18 September 2014 on human rights violations in Bangladesh(2) and of 16 January 2014 on recent elections in Bangladesh(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 December 2012 on a digital freedom strategy in EU foreign policy(4) and to its resolution of 13 June 2013 on the freedom of press and media in the world(5),

–  having regard to the Cooperation Agreement between the European Community and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh on Partnership and Development of 2001,

–  having regard to the statements of 1 April 2015 and 9 August 2015 by the European External Action Service spokesperson on the murder of bloggers in Bangladesh,

–  having regard to the statement of 7 August 2015 by UN experts condemning the killing of blogger Niloy Neel,

–  having regard to the statement of 5 November 2015 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, calling for the state to offer better protection to writers, publishers and other people threatened by extremists in Bangladesh,

–  having regard to the statement of 11 February 2015 by the EU Delegation to Bangladesh,

–  having regard to the statement of 9 April 2015 by the European External Action Service Spokesperson on the imminent execution of Mr Muhammad Kamaruzzaman in Bangladesh,

–  having regard to the statement of 29 October 2014 by the EU Delegation to Bangladesh on capital punishment in the country,

–  having regard to the preliminary findings of 9 September 2015 of the country visit to Bangladesh by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,

–  having regard to the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy of 20 July 2015,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, to which Bangladesh is a party, in particular Article 19 thereof,

–  having regard to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on freedom of expression online and offline of 12 May 2014,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief of 24 June 2013,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, freedom of expression – including freedom of the press and media – is an indispensable pillar of a democratic, pluralistic and open society;

B.  whereas promoting and protecting freedom of religion or belief is one of the key priorities of the EU’s human rights policy, including the full endorsement of the principle of non-discrimination and equal protection for people holding non-theistic or atheistic beliefs;

C.  whereas Bangladesh has made significant progress in recent years, in particular towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals; whereas the EU has good, long-standing relations with Bangladesh, including through the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development;

D.  whereas the Bangladesh Constitution adopted in 2014 enshrines fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression;

E.  whereas violations of fundamental freedoms and human rights – including violence, incitement, hate speech, harassment, intimidation and censorship against journalists and bloggers – continue to be widespread in Bangladesh; whereas Bangladesh ranks 146th out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index;

F.  whereas tensions between secular and religious forces have risen and violence against dissenting voices has increased; whereas for years fundamentalist, domestic Islamist extremist groups – in particular the Ansarullah Bangla Team – have published a ‘hit list’ of people deemed to be critics of Islam, including Sakharov Prize winner Taslima Nasreen, and have called for the execution of secular bloggers and writers, while conducting brutal murders with relative impunity;

G.  whereas on 31 October 2015 Faisal Arefin Dipan, a publisher at the Jagriti Prokashoni publishing house, was brutally murdered with machetes inside his office in Dhaka; whereas the same day another publisher and two writers were attacked and injured, and whereas others are still facing threats;

H.  whereas at least five secular bloggers and journalists were murdered in the country this year (Niladri Chatterjee, alias Niloy Neel, Faisal Arefin Dipan, Ananta Bijoy Das, Washiqur Rahman Babu and Abhijit Roy) for having used their fundamental right to free speech on political, social and religious issues; whereas Islamist extremist groups have claimed responsibility for several killings;

I.  whereas prominent blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was murdered in 2013, and university teacher A.K.M. Shafiul Islam in 2014; whereas many other bloggers have received death threats on social media – hit lists have been published on Facebook targeting secular writers – or survived assassination attempts, and several have stopped writing or fled the country;

J.  whereas Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has condemned the killing and expressed her government’s commitment to combating terrorism and violent extremism; whereas she has announced a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ towards any violation of human rights by the enforcement agencies and has passed a Police Reform Act providing for a code of conduct; whereas, in spite of this, she has also supported her government’s arrest of secular bloggers and the establishment of an intelligence panel to scan social media for potentially blasphemous content;

K.  whereas in August 2014 the Bangladesh Government introduced a new media policy, which continues to raise concerns about freedom of expression; whereas parts of this policy impose limits on media freedom, such as in the case of banning speech that is ‘anti-state’, ‘ridicules the national ideology’ or ‘is inconsistent with Bangladesh’s culture’ and restricting the reporting of ‘anarchy, rebellion, or violence’; whereas the Bangladesh Government has intensified its clampdown on social media, with the temporary or complete shutdown of the entire internet, Facebook, WhatsApp,Viber and Messenger;

L.  whereas in recent months several journalists have been arrested and charged with violating the Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT Act), which criminalises defamatory and ‘anti-state’ publications;

M.  whereas harassment has increased alarmingly since the unwarranted introduction of laws in 2014; whereas 13 people working in the media sector have faced contempt proceedings, contributing to an overall environment of fear and intimidation and leading to self-censorship;

N.  whereas on 16 August 2015 Probir Sikdar, a journalist and owner of the online newspaper Uttaradhikar Ekattor News, was arrested for allegedly defaming a government minister on Facebook; whereas on 18 August 2015 Shaukat Mahmud, President of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, was arrested for allegedly committing an arson attack on a bus on 23 January 2015 and charged in three cases in connection with the alleged attack;

O.  whereas some members of the opposition parties have disappeared under unclear circumstances in recent years;

P.  whereas the EU is opposed to the use of capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances, and has consistently called for its universal abolition;

Q.  whereas on 21 November 2015 two senior Bangladeshi opposition leaders were executed for war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence war with Pakistan after their last-ditch pleas for clemency were rejected;

R.  whereas on 18 November 2015 Piero Arolari, an Italian priest and doctor, was shot, while on 28 September 2015 an Italian aid worker, Cesare Tavella, and on 3 October 2015 a Japanese social worker, Hoshi Kunio, were murdered, and Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility, as they have for the bomb blasts during the Ashura procession at the main Shia Muslim shrine in Dhaka on 24 October 2015, killing one teenaged boy and wounding dozens of others;

S.  whereas the government has put forward the draft Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act, designed to regulate operations and funding for any group receiving foreign grants;

1.  Condemns the increasing attacks of Islamist extremists against secularist writers, bloggers, religious minorities and foreign aid workers; deplores the loss of life and offers its sincere condolences to the victims and their families;

2.  Calls on the Bangladesh authorities to further condemn the ongoing horrendous acts against freedom of expression and to act to bring an immediate end to all acts of violence, harassment, intimidation and censorship against journalists, bloggers and civil society;

3.  Expresses its deepest concern at the deteriorating climate regarding the right to freedom of expression which has accompanied the rise of religious fundamentalism, intolerance and extremist violence in Bangladesh; calls on the Bangladesh authorities to strengthen their efforts to improve the protection provided to activists and journalists by the authorities; calls on all political parties and their leaders to unequivocally and unreservedly condemn the extremist violence and to support the right to freedom of expression;

4.  Reminds the competent Bangladesh authorities of their national and international legal obligations, including their responsibility to ensure the security and safety of all citizens, irrespective of their political or religious views, and to guarantee that the freedoms of expression and the press can be exercised without arbitrary limitations and censorship in the country;

5.  Call on the Bangladesh authorities to ensure that independent investigations are carried out and explanations are given with respect to the disappearance of members of opposition parties over the last few years, particularly in the months leading up to and subsequent to the January 2014 elections;

6.  Urges the Bangladesh authorities to prevent impunity and to do everything possible to identify all attackers and bring them to justice, by launching independent, credible and transparent investigations and ensuring fair trials, without recourse to the death penalty;

7.  Notes the efforts being made to make arrests in connection with the murder of Abhijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman Babu and Niladri Chatterjee; welcomes the progress being made in the criminal investigations into the deaths of Italian national Cesare Tavella and Japanese national Konio Hoshi;

8.  Urges the Bangladesh Government to take the necessary measures to prevent more killings by taking effective measures to protect writers, publishers and other people who have received threats, not only by providing special physical protection to those who are potential targets of violence, but also by opening public debates that challenge extremist views of all kinds;

9.  Calls on the Bangladesh authorities to restore the full independence of the media, to drop all charges against publishers and journalists who have published content critical of the government, to allow the immediate re-opening of all media houses which were closed, and to restore immediately full and unhindered access to all forms of publications, including electronic ones;

10.  Calls on the Bangladesh authorities to urgently fulfil its commitments and apply the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity endorsed in 2013;

11.  Calls on the Bangladesh authorities to ensure the independence and impartiality of the court system and to amend the Information and Communication Technology Act and the Cyber-Security Act of 2015 in order to bring it into line with international free speech standards, dropping the criminalisation of ‘anti-state’ publications;

12.  Is very concerned at the recurring cases of ethnic and religiously motivated violence, specifically gender-based violence against women and LGBTI people; urges the Bangladesh Government and religious organisations and their leaders to embark on a process of reconciliation; urges the Bangladesh Government to work towards bringing to justice the perpetrators of this kind of violence; urges the Bangladesh Government furthermore to offer sufficient protection and guarantees to minorities such as Shia Muslims, Ahmadiyya, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians, but also Biharis;

13.  Notes that the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act of 2014 has led in some cases to legitimate civil society organisations being subject to arbitrary control by the government; calls on the Bangladesh authorities to review this legislation to prevent this;

14.  Calls on the Bangladesh authorities to urgently fulfil its commitments and apply the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity endorsed in 2013;

15.  Asks the Bangladesh Government to allow international NGOs in the country to undertake their missions and to ensure that all human rights and civil society groups are able to work in a climate free of fear and repression;

16.  Calls on the European External Action Service, the EU Delegation to Bangladesh and the Member States’ delegations to monitor closely the human rights and political situation in Bangladesh and to use all available instruments, including the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights;

17.  Calls for the EU, in line with its Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy, to raise immediately the above concerns and recommendations with the Bangladeshi authorities;

18.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Government and Parliament of Bangladesh.

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0516.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0024.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0045.
(4) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0470.
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0274.

The state of play of the Doha Development Agenda in advance of the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference
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European Parliament resolution of 26 November 2015 on the state of play of the Doha Development Agenda in advance of the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference (2015/2632(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Doha Ministerial Declaration of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) of 14 November 2001(1),

–  having regard to the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration of the WTO of 18 December 2005(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 April 2006 on the assessment of the Doha Round following the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 24 April 2008 entitled ‘Towards a reform of the World Trade Organisation’(4),

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), in particular those of 9 October 2008(5), 16 December 2009(6), 14 September 2011(7) and of 21 November 2013(8),

–  having regard to the results of the 9th Ministerial conference in Bali in December 2013 and in particular the agreement on trade facilitation(9),

–  having regard to the Outcome Document adopted by consensus on 17 February 2015 at the Annual Session of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO in Geneva(10),

–  having regard to the statements made at the WTO heads of delegation meeting on 17 June 2015,

–  having regard to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals(11),

–  having regard to the Fifth Global Review of Aid for Trade, which took place in Geneva from 30 June to 2 July 2015(12),

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the Doha Round was launched in 2001 with the objectives of creating new trading opportunities, strengthening multilateral trade rules and addressing current imbalances in the trading system by placing the needs and interests of developing countries, and especially of the least developed countries (LDCs), at the heart of the negotiations; whereas these objectives stem from the conviction that a multilateral system based on more just and equitable rules can contribute to fair and free trade at the service of the economic development of all continents and the alleviation of poverty;

B.  whereas the EU has consistently advocated for a strong multilateral rules-based approach to trade, whilst recognising that complementary approaches such as bilateral, regional and plurilateral agreements may also foster trade opening and economic development, especially by unlocking liberalisation and upgrading rules and disciplines in policy areas tackled less thoroughly in the WTO, and may support the multilateral system, provided such agreements are WTO-compatible, are based on shared rules and create the conditions for possible future multilateralisation;

C.  whereas although the WTO and the rules enshrined in the WTO-covered agreements have been essential in avoiding fully fledged and widespread protectionism as a response to the most serious financial and economic crisis since the 1930s, a WTO report from November 2014 states that of the 1 244 restrictive measures recorded since the onset of the crisis in 2008, only 282 have been removed, increasing the need for more action against such measures; whereas failure to upgrade rules may lead to new and innovative ways of protecting domestic markets and producers;

D.  whereas open and fair multilateral trade is being constrained more by various non-tariff barriers (NTBs) than by trade tariffs, which are being waived substantially as globalisation progresses;

E.  whereas it is nonetheless important to take into account the sensitivity of some sectors, and of the agricultural sector in particular, as regards opening up the market;

F.  whereas reform of the Common Agricultural Policy constitutes the European Union’s contribution to the expectations of the Doha Round;

G.  whereas the results of the Ninth Ministerial Conference in 2013 are of systemic importance for the organisation, and in particular the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) which was agreed there and which is the first time since the WTO was founded in 1995 that a multilateral agreement was reached; whereas the European Union ratified the TFA on 5 October 2015;

H.  whereas recent discussions on how to advance on the DDA have clearly shown that a review of the level of ambition is needed in order to realistically achieve outcomes across all pillars of negotiations, and that this review needs to take full account of the reality of today’s trading environment;

I.  whereas the Tenth Ministerial WTO Conference (MC10) that will take place in Kenya from 15 to 18 December 2015 will be the first time a WTO Ministerial Conference is held in an African country; whereas the EU remains firmly committed to the DDA and acknowledges that reaching a political deal on advancing the DDA will be of importance for ensuring that the WTO’s negotiating function remains central to the further liberalisation of trade on a global scale;

1.  Reiterates its full commitment to the enduring value of multilateralism and calls for a trade agenda based on free and fair trade for the benefit of all, which should have development at the centre of the process;

2.  Stresses the importance of taking full account in the negotiations of the special needs and interests of low-income developing countries and LDCs; considers a clear definition of low-income developing countries and emerging economies to be necessary; reiterates the need to ensure that the principle of special and differential treatment (S&DT) constitutes an integral part of the negotiations, reflecting the varying economic development levels of WTO members as set out in paragraph 44 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration; considers that meaningful S&DT provisions must be made more precise, subject to periodic reviews and targeted to respond to the need of those developing countries and LDCs which are most in need; commends the example of the Trade Facilitation Agreement in operationalising the S&DT principle for implementation phases which could set a useful example in the reviewing and targeting of S&DT provisions;

3.  Supports a structural reform of the WTO, in order to better guarantee an open, fair and non-discriminatory trading system based on shared and applied rules, which takes greater account of the role and interests of a variety of economic operators, such as SMEs, micro-enterprises and innovative start-ups;

4.  Emphasises the importance of building on the decisions agreed at the Ninth Ministerial Conference with a view to making substantive progress at MC10 in Nairobi in December 2015 to enable a quick conclusion of the Doha Round;

5.  Believes that trade liberalisation is an important tool to ensure sustainable economic growth and development, but that it needs to be accompanied by appropriate flanking policies encompassing macro- and micro-economic measures, including budget transparency, fiscal policies and tax equity, administrative simplification, education and training, institutional reforms and social policies, so as to maximise and distribute better the benefits of trade reforms and effectively counterbalance any negative effects;

6.  Draws attention to the Fifth Aid for Trade Review Conference held in July 2015 in Geneva, entitled ‘reducing trade costs for inclusive, sustainable growth’ and which focused in particular on the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement;

7.  Calls upon all WTO members for speedy ratification and implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement so that it can enter into force in time for MC10; considers that this agreement will bring significant benefits to all WTO members, and in particular to developing countries and to relevant economic operators, by enhancing transparency and legal certainty and reducing the administrative costs and the length of customs procedures, which would in turn enable them to benefit fully from the opportunities provided by the growing prevalence of regional and global supply chains and enable SMEs to take advantage of more open markets; points out that capacity building and technical assistance should continue to be made available to developing and least developed countries, and ought to focus on one-stop shops and the simplification of electronic documentation in order to enable them to increase their production capacities so that they can benefit from a bigger share of the value added in global value chains;

8.  Encourages the WTO membership to proactively support the WTO’s efforts in establishing effective and efficient working links and deeper cooperation with other international organisations whose work has a bearing on world trade talks, in particular the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation, and the UN and its agencies and bodies, such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UN Environment Programme, the UN Development Programme and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as the IMF, the World Bank and the OECD, in order to ensure mutual support and synergies between trade and non-trade concerns; supports efforts aiming for the adoption of international standards and regulatory cooperation;

9.  Calls for thorough consideration of the issue of how better to address non-trade concerns under WTO rules, in order to allow its members to pursue legitimate policy objectives while not hindering market access; stresses, in this connection, that efforts for the adoption of international standards should be strongly supported, and the necessary aid granted to developing countries to enable them to meet such standards;

10.  Is convinced that the failure to take into account sufficiently the widely varying economic development levels and specific needs between developing countries, could be an obstacle to adopting effective measures to benefit these countries in accordance with the stated objective of the Doha Round and is to the detriment of those developing countries that are most in need; urges advanced developing countries to take their share of responsibility already during the current round and to make contributions commensurate with their level of development and sectoral competitiveness; stresses, moreover, the importance of using effective criteria to differentiate, by not only taking into account GNP growth, but also indicators such as the economic vulnerability index and the trade and development index;

11.  Believes that it is vital to conclude the longstanding Doha Round with its development mandate fulfilled; urges all WTO members, therefore, to explore all possible options with that end-goal in mind in order to achieve an ambitious, global, balanced and realistic result;

12.  Welcomes the progress made to date on plurilateral initiatives such as the Environmental Goods Agreement and the Information Technology Agreement and on initiatives such as the Trade in Services Agreement; believes that plurilateral agreements can complement and promote the multilateral approach with the ultimate objective being to bring in a critical mass of members and multilateralise them;

13.  Insists that the EU should continue to play a leading role in promoting tangible progress in the ongoing WTO negotiations with a view to the full conclusion of the Doha Development Round in the early future, as well as in facilitating the full participation of LDCs in global trade by acting as a bridge between the various positions of the WTO members;

14.  Stresses the crucial importance of the WTO for regulations-based world trade and as regards implementing and enforcing binding commitments and settling trade disputes, as well as its unique contribution in promoting greater transparency and peer review, notably through the trade policy review mechanism (TPRM);

15.  Calls on the Commission and the Council to ensure that Parliament continues to be closely involved in the preparation of MC10, is promptly updated and, if necessary, is consulted during the Ministerial Conference; calls on the Commission to continue to make the case to other WTO Members for increasing the importance of the parliamentary dimension of the WTO;

16.  Calls on WTO members to ensure democratic legitimacy and transparency by strengthening the parliamentary dimension of the WTO; stresses, in this connection, the need to ensure that parliamentarians have better access to trade negotiations and are involved in the formulation and implementation of WTO decisions, and that trade policies are properly scrutinised in the interests of their citizens;

17.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Director-General of the WTO.

(1) Doha WTO Ministerial 2001: Ministerial declaration WT/MIN(01)/DEC/1 of 20 November 2001
(2) The Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration WT/MIN(05)/DEC, adopted on 18 December 2005
(3) OJ C 293 E, 2.12.2006, p. 155.
(4) OJ C 259 E, 29.10.2009, p. 77.
(5) OJ C 9 E, 15.1.2010, p. 31.
(6) OJ C 286 E, 22.10.2010, p. 1.
(7) OJ C 51 E, 22.2.2013, p. 84.
(8) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0511.
(9) The Bali Ministerial Declaration (WT/MIN(13)/DEC), adopted on 7 December 2013

Accession of Ecuador to the EU-Peru and Colombia trade agreement
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European Parliament resolution of 26 November 2015 on the accession of Ecuador to the Trade Agreement concluded between the EU and its Member States and Colombia and Peru (2015/2656(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the conclusion of negotiations between the EU and Ecuador for its accession to the Trade Agreement concluded between the EU and Colombia/Peru on 17 July 2014,

–  having regard to the initialling of the protocol that will allow Ecuador to join its neighbours, Colombia and Peru, in a preferential trade relationship with the EU on 12 December 2014,

–  having regard to its position at first reading of 17 December 2014 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the tariff treatment for goods originating from Ecuador(1),

–  having regard to its legislative resolution of 11 December 2012 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Trade Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and Colombia and Peru, of the other part(2),

–  having regard to its position at first reading of 11 December 2012 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council implementing the bilateral safeguard clause and the stabilisation mechanism for bananas of the Trade Agreement between the European Union and Colombia and Peru(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 June 2012 on the EU trade agreement with Colombia and Peru(4),

–  having regard to its resolutions of 5 May 2010 on the EU strategy for relations with Latin America(5) and of 21 October 2010 on the EU’s trade relations with Latin America(6),

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the accession of Ecuador to the Trade Agreement with Colombia and Peru is another decisive step forward in the alliance with important, like-minded and fast-growing countries in a region that is turning more and more to Asia and the Pacific;

B.  whereas the text of the Protocol of Accession by Ecuador to the Trade Agreement with Colombia and Peru matches the ambitions of both the EU and Ecuador by taking into consideration the asymmetrical relationship in market access offers in favour of Ecuador and aligning it to the content of the Agreement, but fully including the specific adaptations as requested by Ecuador;

C.  whereas the Ecuadorian Government has invested USD 40,8 billion in the social sector – access to education, healthcare and social security – over the past eight years, with specific programmes in favour of the most vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and the disabled;

1.  Welcomes the conclusion of the negotiations with Ecuador on the protocol for its accession to the Trade Agreement between the EU, Colombia and Peru, recognising the important benefits that this will bring for Ecuador’s exports to the EU, particularly in view of the fact that it no longer benefits from the EU’s unilateral Generalised Scheme of Preferences; encourages the quick and complete entry into force and implementation of this agreement, which will ensure the protection of citizens and the environment at the highest level; considers that this agreement will boost and diversify trade and investment on both sides, act as an important driver for economic and social development and contribute to alleviating poverty and reducing inequality;

2.  Recalls that, before giving its consent to the Trade Agreement on 11 December 2012, Parliament called on the Andean countries, in its aforementioned resolution of 13 June 2012, to ensure the establishment of a transparent and binding road map on human, environmental and labour rights, and that the Colombian and Peruvian Governments submitted action plans on sustainable development prior to Parliament giving its consent; urges all partners to work towards the effective implementation of the submitted action plans on human, environmental and labour rights;

3.  Underlines the importance of Ecuador ensuring that its policies are consistent with its WTO and trade agreement commitments and providing for full transparency and broad consultation with stakeholders before their adoption; calls on Ecuador, therefore, to address the remaining identified market access obstacles without further delay;

4.  Reminds the Commission and the EEAS of the role they must play to ensure the effective application of the action plans; reminds the Commission that it should inform Parliament in an appropriate manner about the application of those action plans and the measures they have taken to ensure their implementation;

5.  Asks the Commission and the EEAS to submit to Parliament a comprehensive report focusing on the measures taken by the Commission through cooperation programmes, in particular in connection with education, training, regulatory cooperation and the creation of socioeconomic opportunities for the most deprived sections of society and with fostering progress on democracy, upholding human and workers’ rights and protecting the environment; urges the Commission to make full use of the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) in this connection;

6.  Urges the Government of Ecuador to take note of the action plans submitted by Colombia and Peru and to take similar measures as this is an opportunity to improve the general condition of their citizens’ lives, including human and labour rights and the environment;

7.  Stresses that human rights and democracy are essential elements of the overall relationship between the EU and the Andean countries; calls, therefore, on all partners to promote all the rights and freedoms enshrined in international law and to ensure that they are fully and universally guaranteed;

8.  Stresses that Ecuador’s economy achieved robust economic growth in the last few years and recognises that economic growth has been inclusive; points out that it has directly reduced poverty, particularly extreme poverty, and inequality levels and increased the middle class; welcomes the fact that, according to the latest World Bank figures, poverty in Ecuador decreased from 37,6 % to 22,5 % between 2006 and 2014, while extreme poverty fell from 16,9 % to 7,7 %;

9.  Commends the Ecuadorian Government for having invested over USD 40 billion in the social sector over the past eight years; encourages Ecuador to continue with its successful progressive social and sustainable development policies;

10.  Notes the major investments made by Ecuador over recent years; reaffirms its support for all legislative and non-legislative action taken by the government and local authorities in Ecuador to combat poverty, inequality, all forms of violence, impunity, corruption and organised crime, in particular drug trafficking, and for their action to ensure that workers’ rights and the rights of vulnerable persons and groups, such as children, women, minorities and indigenous peoples, are properly protected, with a view to achieving sustainable and inclusive social and economic development; urges Ecuador, in connection with children’s rights, to continue and to step up its efforts to provide access to education and combat child labour;

11.  Calls on the Commission to analyse compatibility problems arising from divergent provisions regarding rules of origin, and regarding sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) in relation to trade between the Andean region and the EU, and trade between the Andean region and MERCOSUR; calls on the Commission to offer, if necessary, technical assistance to cope with divergent requirements in order to prevent an unwanted disturbance of regional integration processes in South America;

12.  Draws attention to the EU objective of including a binding trade and sustainable development chapter in all trade agreements concluded with both industrialised and non-industrialised partners; supports, in this connection, the inclusion in the trade agreement between the EU and Ecuador of a sustainable development chapter reflecting the partners’ common commitment to promote respect for, compliance with and full and proper enforcement of international human rights agreements, ILO conventions and key multilateral environmental agreements such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES);

13.  Welcomes the recent letter from the Ecuadorian Ministry for Foreign Trade which assesses the gender situation in Ecuador; calls for a specific assessment of the effects of free trade policies on women, especially in the poorer areas; calls for more comprehensive respect for women’s rights, especially where they are influenced by or related to trade policies and their effects;

14.  Notes that the scope of the dispute settlement chapter in the trade agreement does not include the provisions foreseen under the sustainable development chapter;

15.  Welcomes the fact that Ecuador has ratified all eight fundamental ILO conventions; insists on the importance of swift ratification and effective implementation of all ILO conventions by Ecuador and all the EU Member States; regrets that Ecuador has not yet ratified ILO Convention 129, and calls on the Commission to support the efforts of Ecuador to progress in the effective application thereof; calls on the Ecuadorian Government to follow the recommendations of the ILO’s Committee of Experts for effective application of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 and emphasises the importance of the possibility for workers to be able to change or establish new trade unions, for reasons of independence, effectiveness and ideological affinity, and recalls in particular that the ILO has requested that the Ecuadorian Government take the legislative action necessary to comply with the provisions of Article 2 of the Convention;

16.  Welcomes the fact that the parties confirm their commitment to conserve and sustainably use biological diversity in accordance with the legally binding Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and other relevant international agreements to which the parties are party;

17.  Notes that Ecuador is one of the world’s 17 mega-diverse countries and is home to the greatest concentration of species (between 5 % and 10 % of the world’s biodiversity);

18.  Recalls that the Ecuadorian constitution explicitly recognises the development of fair trade as a key objective of the country’s trade policy; calls on the Commission to engage with the Ecuadorian Government to promote common projects in the area of fair trade;

19.  Acknowledges the major efforts made by Ecuador on environmental issues, which have also been recognised by the UN; is concerned at the fact that, despite the efforts made by the country on environmental issues, Ecuador and its neighbouring countries are facing intensive deforestation, a significant loss of biodiversity, soil and water pollution and erosion; urges the Commission to promote and support relevant international, regional and local strategies and programmes and to foster the necessary synergies and the responsible involvement of all public and private stakeholders;

20.  Calls for a cooperation agreement between Ecuador and the EU in support of specific environmental programmes and welcomes the interest already expressed by the Ecuadorian Government in a cooperation agreement with the EU in support of programmes relating to deforestation; supports the view that deforestation is an issue involving the responsibility of the international community as a whole;

21.  Recalls that the EU-Andean Sustainability Impact Assessment (2009) predicted that deforestation and reduced biodiversity would result from the projected expansion of the agriculture and timber industries, as well as social conflict from the expansion of mining, hydrocarbon extraction and logging activities in rural areas;

22.  Calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Commission to pay close attention to environmental sustainability in the design and implementation of all Commission-funded cooperation activities and calls on all the parties to promote best business practices relating to corporate social responsibility (CSR) in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines on CSR and the Commission communication of 25 October 2011 on ‘a renewed EU strategy 2011-14 for Corporate Social Responsibility’ (COM(2011)0681);

23.  Encourages Ecuadorian municipalities to use the opportunities offered by the new trade framework to cooperate directly with municipalities in the EU in order to promote fair trade and to establish new fair trade networks;

24.  Welcomes and supports the decision of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to establish an intergovernmental working group (IGWG) on transnational corporations and human rights, as proposed by Ecuador and South Africa and supported by many other countries; instructs the Commission to engage positively and constructively in the ongoing negotiations in Geneva;

25.  Calls on the EEAS and the Commission to support the Ecuadorian Government in its efforts to develop and sustain effective environmental management, both generally and in sensitive areas such as the Amazon and the Galápagos Islands as safeguarding the future of our planet is a common responsibility;

26.  Recalls that Yasuni, which is part of the Amazon, is home to several indigenous tribes, hundreds of native tree species and dozens of endangered fauna; recalls its significance to mankind and the world natural heritage, including for future generations;

27.  Regrets that the concept of supporting environmental protection by compensating for the loss in potential trade revenues and to cofinance the establishment of the Yasuni Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini (ITT) Trust Fund under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as proposed by the Ecuadorian Government, which was intended to compensate the Ecuadorian people for refraining from extracting oil from the fields located in the Yasuni National Park, failed owing to unsatisfactory economic results;

28.  Acknowledges the efforts made by Ecuador to afford better protection to indigenous communities and urges the Ecuadorian Government to make sure that its policies – in particular its mining strategy – do not have an adverse impact on the rights of indigenous communities;

29.  Highlights the importance of preserving and maintaining indigenous and local communities which embody traditional lifestyles, and stresses their relevance to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in the Andean countries;

30.  Welcomes the fact that Ecuador has ratified ILO Convention No 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples, but notes that the trade agreement does not make any reference to the convention;

31.  Calls on the Ecuadorian Government to further improve the existing domestic mechanisms and dialogue with civil society within the monitoring framework of the Civil Society Mechanism, including a substantial information and advertising campaign to maximise the participation of the groups concerned in the Civil Society Mechanism; recalls that the trade agreement requires Ecuador to establish such mechanisms no later than one year after the entry into force of the agreement;

32.  Calls on the parties involved to take measures in order to improve the work of the domestic advisory groups; takes the view that all domestic advisory groups must be fully independent;

33.  Asks the EU domestic advisory group to produce a regular report to be submitted to and assessed by Parliament;

34.  Highlights the importance of having sufficient participation of civil society organisations at the annual session with civil society organisations as provided for in the agreement, and the public at large as provided for in the agreement;

35.  Welcomes the initiatives taken by the Ecuadorian Government such as the establishment of Ecuador’s Council for Civil Participation and Social Accountability (CPCCS) as a means of integration, aimed at strengthening and incentivising the participation of civil society, promoting transparency and eradicating corruption practices; recalls the importance of establishing effective dialogue mechanisms where they do not exist, in order to guarantee the right of citizens and social agents to organise, take part in decision making and monitor implementation on an individual or collective basis;

36.  Underlines the importance of the joint Subcommittee on Trade and Sustainable Development as it is the only mechanism provided for in the trade agreement to monitor the implementation of the sustainable development obligations both for the states parties and for companies;

37.  Asks the Commission to submit to Parliament all the agendas and minutes of the subcommittee meetings;

38.  Notes the introduction of the Balance of Payment Safeguard by Ecuador; calls on Ecuador to address promptly the concerns identified during the consultations by other WTO members in the Balance of Payment Committee in Geneva;

39.  Notes that, alongside Colombia and Peru, Ecuador is one of the world’s top producers of bananas; calls therefore on the Commission to ensure that the trigger import volumes laid down in the stabilisation mechanism for bananas are fairly respected; asks the Commission to regularly inform Parliament without delay, and in any event when the trend in banana imports is such that it could cause the trigger import volumes to be reached, and to provide details of the direct and indirect impact of banana imports from those countries; calls on the Commission also to suspend the duty exemption on bananas imported from those countries if imports are increasing in a disproportionate manner, causing or threatening to cause serious harm to the economies of the EU producing regions, such as job losses;

40.  Calls on the parties to ensure that all provisions of the agreement are effectively implemented as soon as the agreement enters into force;

41.  Expresses its conviction that safeguard clauses should be established simultaneously by both sides in order to protect national production against import surges that may cause serious harm;

42.  Asks both DG Trade and the Ecuadorian Government to provide convincing answers to the questions and concerns raised, before Parliament votes on Ecuador’s accession to the trade agreement;

43.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0087.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0481.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0480.
(4) OJ C 332 E, 15.11.2013, p. 52.
(5) OJ C 81 E, 15.3.2011, p. 54.
(6) OJ C 70 E, 8.3.2012, p. 79.

A new animal welfare strategy for 2016-2020
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European Parliament resolution of 26 November 2015 on a new animal welfare strategy for 2016-2020 (2015/2957(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Article 43 of the TFEU on the functioning of the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 15 February 2012 on the European Union Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015 (COM(2012)0006),

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 July 2012 on the European Union Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015(1),

–  having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas EU legislation in the field of animal welfare contributes to a level playing field within the Union and thereby to a well-functioning internal market;

B.  whereas European citizens have a strong interest in animal welfare and wish to be able to make more informed choices as consumers;

C.  whereas national rules on animal welfare must not be contrary to the principles of the EU single market;

D.  whereas animal welfare is interrelated with animal and public health;

E.  whereas, owing to their complexity and differing interpretations, EU and national rules on animal welfare create legal uncertainty and can put producers in certain Member States at a serious competitive disadvantage;

F.  whereas the level of animal welfare in the Union is one of the highest in the world;

G.  whereas animal welfare should be further improved on the basis of prevailing scientific findings and with due regard for the efficiency and competitiveness of agricultural livestock husbandry; whereas coherent animal welfare standards across the EU would benefit from a definition of good animal husbandry;

H.  whereas a high level of animal welfare is important to ensure sustainability, although it entails investments and additional operating costs that are not distributed proportionately throughout the food chain;

1.  Urges the Commission to implement, without delay, the points outstanding from the European Union Strategy on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015;

2.  Urges the Commission to evaluate the existing strategy and to draw up a new and ambitious strategy for the protection and welfare of animals for the 2016-2020 period in order to build on the work of the previous strategy and ensure the continuation of a framework for delivering high animal welfare standards across the Member States;

3.  Calls on the Commission to ensure an updated, comprehensive and clear legislative framework which fully implements the requirements of Article 13 of the TFEU; reiterates, however, that under no circumstances must animal welfare levels be lowered on account of administrative simplification; stresses that these objectives are not mutually exclusive;

4.  Stresses that Article 13 of the TFEU is of general application and horizontal, and as such is as important as the provisions on agriculture, the environment or consumer protection;

5.  Recalls that Parliament is engaged in ongoing negotiations, and has adopted pieces of legislation addressing issues related to animal welfare, such as animal health, zootechnical conditions, organic production and official controls;

6.  Recognises the efforts already made by farmers on animal welfare in the various Member States;

7.  Urges the Commission, where there is clear scientific evidence demonstrating animal welfare problems, to adapt policy instruments or introduce new ones to resolve these problems; asks the Commission to monitor closely the implementation in the Member States of the EU legislation relating to animal welfare;

8.  Expresses its concern about the effective implementation and enforcement of current EU legislation relating to the welfare of animals, given the complexity and large number of relevant legislative acts; stresses that improving the enforcement of, and compliance with, existing legislation should be the key goal of all animal health and welfare rules;

9.  Urges the Commission, at the same time, to be more ambitious in including and prioritising reciprocity of animal welfare standards as a non-trade concern in its trade policy and when negotiating international trade agreements, and to promote animal welfare in third countries by requiring equivalent welfare standards for imported animals and products, accompanied by strict controls;

10.  Underlines the importance of funding for the common agricultural policy which is adequate and compatible with the level of our ambitions, in order to prevent the relocation of production and trade to countries and continents with lower animal welfare standards;

11.  Calls on the Commission to develop, exchange and disseminate scientifically based best practices and to support innovation and research on the development of new animal welfare techniques and technologies;

12.  Recalls that there are imbalances in the food chain that place the primary producer at a disadvantage, and that this situation limits the scope for animal welfare investments at farm level;

13.  Recalls that producers are overburdened with administrative requirements and that, in the continued search for administrative simplification, this European strategy should not further increase the existing burden; stresses the need to ensure stability and predictability of investments in the sector, while ensuring fair competition internationally;

14.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ C 349 E, 29.11.2013, p. 62.

Education for children in emergency situations and protracted crises
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European Parliament resolution of 26 November 2015 on education for children in emergency situations and protracted crises (2015/2977(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of 20 November 1989 and the Optional Protocols thereto on the involvement of children in armed conflict of May 2000, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography of January 2002, and on a communications procedure of December 2011,

–  having regard to the UN Principles and Guidelines on Children associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups (the Paris Principles) of February 2007,

–  having regard to General Comment No 14 (2013) of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on the right of the child to have his or her best interests taken as a primary consideration,

–  having regard to the UN action plan entitled ‘A World Fit for Children’,

–  having regard to Article 208 of the Lisbon Treaty establishing the principle of Policy Coherence for Development, requiring that the objectives of development cooperation be taken into account in policies that are likely to affect developing countries,

–  having regard to the Joint Statement by the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission: ‘The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid’, of 30 January 2008,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 5 February 2008 entitled ‘A special place for children in EU external action’ (COM(2008)0055),

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict (updated in 2008),

–  having regard to Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (recast),

–  having regard to the Nobel Peace Prize received on 10 December 2012 by the European Union and the subsequent reception of the prize money committed to the EU Children of Peace initiative,

–  having regard to UN General Assembly Resolution 64/290 of 9 July 2010 on the right to education in emergency situations and to the relevant guidelines, including those by UNICEF and UNESCO,

–  having regard to the ‘The Dakar Framework for Action’ adopted by the World Education Forum of 26-28 April 2000 and to the UN Millennium Declaration of 8 September 2000,

–  having regard to the ‘Incheon Declaration. Education 2030’ adopted by the World Education Forum of 19-22 May 2015,

–  having regard to the ‘Oslo Declaration’ adopted at the Oslo Summit on Education for Development of 6-7 July 2015,

–  having regard to the Oral Question to the Commission on education for children in emergency situations and protracted crises (O-000147/2015 – B8‑1108/2015),

–  having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas according to UN estimates one billion children live in conflict-affected areas, of whom 250 million are under the age of five and are denied their fundamental right to education; whereas an estimated 65 million children aged 3 to 15 are most affected by emergencies and protracted crises, with the risk of disruption to their education, and approximately 37 million children of primary and lower secondary age are out of school in crisis-affected countries; whereas around half of the world’s out-of-school children live in conflict-affected areas; whereas 87 % of out-of-school children in the Arab States are affected by conflict, and an estimated 175 million children are likely to be affected by natural disasters every year; whereas certain groups, such as poor children, girls and children with disabilities, see their already low prospects decline even further in conflict-affected areas or fragile contexts;

B.  whereas almost 10 million children are refugees and an estimated 19 million children around the globe have been displaced in their country as a result of conflict;

C.  whereas every child is first and foremost a child whose rights should be respected without discrimination, regardless of their or their parents’ ethnic origin, nationality or social, migration or residence status;

D.  whereas education is a fundamental human right and the right of every child; whereas education is vital in order to be able to enjoy in full all other social, economic, cultural and political rights;

E.  whereas education forms the basis of responsible citizenship, can transform a society and contribute to social, economic, political and gender equality and is vital to the emancipation of girls and women socially, culturally and professionally and the prevention of violence against women and girls;

F.  whereas education is essential for the integration and improvement of living conditions of children with disabilities and/or special educational needs;

G.  whereas free primary schooling for all children is a fundamental right which governments pledged to respect under the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; whereas the target for 2015 is to ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling; whereas despite some progress in the developing world, this goal is far from being achieved;

H.  whereas the Dakar Framework and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have mobilised the international community in favour of universal access to primary education, gender equality and quality education, yet none of these goals will be met by the target date of 2015;

I.  whereas in at least 30 countries globally there are attacks on education by state security forces and non-state armed groups; whereas protecting schools from attack and military use by state and non-state armed groups is in line with the Safe Schools Declaration and the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict;

J.  whereas children, adolescents and young people face increasing threats and are disproportionally affected, especially in fragile states; whereas out-of-school children and adolescents face a higher risk of early marriage and pregnancy, recruitment into armed forces or groups, being trafficked and labour exploitation; whereas in war zones humanitarian aid is often the only way children are able to continue their studies and improve their future prospects, which in turn helps to protect them from abuse and exploitation;

K.  whereas the provision of quality education in emergencies does not form part of every humanitarian response, is focused predominantly on primary education and is still viewed as secondary to the provision of food, water, medical assistance and shelter, and whereas, as a result, children affected by conflict or natural disasters miss out on education;

L.  whereas humanitarian aid for education is low, and more generous development aid arrives late or not at all; whereas delivery systems are poorly coordinated, with high transaction costs, and there is a lack of partners with adequate response capacities;

M.  whereas quality in refugee education programming tends to be low, with pupil-teacher ratio averages at 70:1 and a high proportion of unqualified teachers;

N.  whereas the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and associated targets set out a holistic, ambitious new agenda for education to be achieved by 2030;

O.  whereas universal access to high-quality public education, not only basic education but also – and with equal importance – secondary and higher education, is key to overcoming inequalities and achieving the SDGs;

P.  whereas the EU will invest EUR 4,7 billion in education in developing countries in 2014-2020, an increase on the EUR 4,4 billion invested in 2007-2013;

Q.  whereas the Incheon Declaration notes with concern that conflicts, natural disasters and other crises continue to disrupt education and development, commits to developing ‘more inclusive, responsive and resilient education systems’ and highlights the need for education ‘to be delivered in safe, supportive and secure learning environments free from violence’;

R.  whereas the EU Children of Peace initiative provides around 1,5 million children in conflicts and emergencies in 26 countries with access to schools, where they can learn in a safe environment and receive psychological support;

S.  whereas innovative, inclusive and holistic approaches to education in emergencies have been developed by several EU partners such as the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) with a view to ensuring access to quality education for refugee children affected by ongoing conflicts; whereas this approach combines children’s short-term humanitarian and long-term development needs and includes the development of interactive self-learning materials, psycho-social support, safe learning and recreational spaces, safety and security awareness-raising and capacity-building activities;

T.  whereas an estimated USD 8 billion per year is needed to provide educational support to children affected by emergencies, and whereas the domestic contributions of affected governments leave a global finance gap of USD 4,8 billion for education in emergencies;

U.  whereas an increase in development and humanitarian finance is needed to close this gap, as well as higher public spending on education by fragile states; whereas education as a share of government expenditure in fragile states has declined in recent years and remains far from the internationally recommended 20 % benchmark;

V.  whereas the Oslo Declaration notes the importance of examining the global aid architecture in seeking to bridge the gap between humanitarian responses and longer-term development interventions in the field of education, and proposes setting up a new platform to this end, as well as creating a dedicated fund or new modality for education in emergencies in time for the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016;

1.  Stresses the importance of universal high-quality public education as a catalyst for development, which improves the prospects of other interventions in the areas of health, sanitation, disaster risk reduction, job creation, poverty reduction and economic development; highlights education’s role as a powerful tool that is necessary in order to give a sense of normality, to raise awareness of rights and to help children, adolescents, and young people overcome trauma, reintegrate themselves into society in the aftermath of conflicts, and acquire the skills needed to rebuild their societies and promote peace-building and reconciliation;

2.  Underlines that, over the longer term, quality education can be a critical ingredient in the reconstruction of post-conflict societies, as it can increase children’s earning potential, enable them to keep their families healthier and improve their ability to break out of the poverty cycle;

3.  Stresses that girls and other disadvantaged children, including disabled children, should never be discriminated against in terms of access to good education in emergency situations;

4.  Emphasises the positive role education plays in children’s development and well-being, and stresses the importance of ensuring uninterrupted, lifelong learning for young adolescents; believes this will also limit the possibilities for them to become involved with armed groups or engaged in extremism;

5.  Recognises the progress made since the adoption of the MDGs, but deplores the fact that the targets set out will not be met in 2015; calls for the EU and its Member States to make these goals the top priority in their internal policies and their relations with third countries; stresses that these goals – especially poverty eradication, universal access to education and gender equality – will only be achieved through the development of public services that are accessible to all; welcomes the new education agenda set out in the SDGs, and continues to stress the importance of equitable access to quality education for the most vulnerable populations;

6.  Notes with concern that progress in education has been slowest or non-existent in conflict-affected countries and in fragile and conflict-affected states, and highlights the importance of strengthening the resilience of education systems in these countries and of ensuring uninterrupted learning when crises strike; stresses, therefore, the need for greater commitment on the part of the EU, the Member States and all other stakeholders involved at various levels, in order to provide instruments to ensure development and widespread education in such crisis-stricken countries;

7.  Highlights the fact that millions of children have been forced to become refugees, and stresses that access to education for refugee children is of paramount importance; calls on hosting countries to ensure that refugee children are given full access to education, and to promote as far as possible their integration and inclusion in the national education systems; calls also on the humanitarian and development communities to pay more attention to the education and training of teachers from both the displaced and the host communities, and on international donors to prioritise education when responding to refugee crises, through programmes aimed at involving and psychologically supporting migrant children, as well as promoting learning of the host country’s language in order to ensure a higher, more appropriate level of integration of refugee children;

8.  Stresses the need to focus on secondary education and vocational training as well as on basic primary education; highlights the fact that young people aged between 12 and 20 have very limited opportunities within refugee communities, while at the same time being primarily targeted for military service and other forms of engagement in armed conflict; cites the example of Afghanistan, where, according to the World Bank, despite its huge working population, only around 30 % of people aged 15 and over are literate and where decades of war have resulted in a critical shortage of skilled labour;

9.  Calls on the Member States to develop specific reception schemes for unaccompanied children and single mothers with children;

10.  Reminds the Member States that the protection of children and prevention of abuse and trafficking is contingent upon their inclusion in schools and educational programmes, and that provision should be made for well-defined standards for reception, inclusion and linguistic support, as laid down in Directive 2013/33/EU;

11.  Urges the Commission and the Member States to support refugee students in transit, also by cooperating with various international organisations;

12.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to establish ‘education corridors’ to ensure that students from countries in conflict, in particular Syria, Iraq and Eritrea, are accepted in universities;

13.  Calls for the EU and its humanitarian agencies to systematically include education and protection of children in the whole emergency response cycle and to ensure flexible multi-year funds for protracted crises;

14.  Welcomes the establishment of the Bekou Trust Fund, the Madad Trust Fund and the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa as effective tools for addressing the divide between humanitarian and development funding in complex and protracted emergencies where political, economic and humanitarian issues are interlinked; calls for the EU and the Member States to include education for children as a priority in allocating resources from EU Trust Funds;

15.  Acknowledges the worrying gaps in the education response to emergencies, in particular given that early engagement not only benefits affected children but can also improve the effectiveness of the broader humanitarian response; reiterates its support for keeping schools as safe spaces for children, and stresses in this context the importance of protecting education from attack; calls for the EU and its Member States to commit to supporting the principles of the Comprehensive School Safety Framework and to protecting education from attack and military use in line with the Safe Schools Declaration and the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict;

16.  Calls for the EU to work with partner countries, other donors, the private sector and civil society to improve educational opportunities for young people in conflict situations and other emergencies, given the crucial role that young people can play in post‑conflict stability through their potentially acquired skills for rebuilding infrastructure, basic services, healthcare facilities and educational systems, at the same time reducing the risk of a young, out-of-work population causing social upheaval or slipping back into a vicious cycle of violence;

17.  Praises the EU Children of Peace initiative, which seeks to fund humanitarian education projects in emergency situations, and calls on the Commission to scale up this initiative; welcomes the No Lost Generation initiative, launched by a number of donors and humanitarian and development entities, including the EU, with a view to providing access to education for millions of children in Syria and neighbouring countries;

18.  Deplores the fact that despite the important role of education in emergencies this policy area received less than 2 % of all humanitarian funds in 2014; hopes therefore that, under the new programme to restructure the distribution of EU funds, funding for child education programmes, including in third countries affected by wars or general emergencies, can be supplemented and increased;

19.  Calls on all humanitarian actors, given the protracted nature of contemporary crises, to include education as an integral part of their humanitarian response and to increase their commitment to education by mobilising the education cluster in the early stages of an emergency and by ensuring that sufficient funds are dedicated to it; invites them to give particular attention to vulnerable groups such as girls, people with disabilities and the poor, to take into account displaced children and young people given refuge by host communities and to give appropriate consideration to secondary education in order not to exclude adolescents from education;

20.  Welcomes the growing international attention paid to the subject of education in emergencies and in particular the announcement by the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management of his objective of dedicating 4 % of the EU humanitarian aid budget to education for children in emergency situations by 2019;

21.  Calls on the EU Member States to support the Commission’s objective of increasing the share of humanitarian funds devoted to education in emergencies to 4 % of the EU humanitarian aid budget as a minimum investment for ensuring access to quality education for children in emergencies and protracted crises; calls on them also to increase the attention and funding provided to education in their own humanitarian actions, while stressing that this should not be done at the expense of other primary needs; calls for the EU to promote among relevant countries best practices in terms of preparedness and response strategies for supporting education in the event of crises and to assist in related capacity-building, e.g. through budget support programmes;

22.  Stresses that new information and communication technologies (ICT) have taken on an increasingly important role in the education sector in emergency situations and can improve the work of operators in such situations, including through e-learning and e-teaching platforms;

23.  Stresses that, while an increase in humanitarian funding is necessary, this will not be enough to address the financing gap; calls for the EU and other donors to increase the profile of education in development cooperation in fragile states in order to increase the resilience of national education systems; calls on the Commission and the Member States, as well as other humanitarian actors, to contribute to the reinforcement of universal public education, including secondary and higher education, as a way of coordinating emergency response programming with long-term programming for sustainable development;

24.  Calls for the EU to support third-country government commitments to developing national legal frameworks for resilience, prevention and disaster and risk management on the basis of the International Disaster Response Laws, Rules and Principles programme and to ensuring that capacity in risk management exists across government departments, industry sectors and civil society in order to ensure the return of children to schools;

25.  Stresses the importance of the private sector as a potential source of innovative financing for education, in order to bridge the potential gap between the educational services and vocational training provided and prospective job market demands; calls for new alliances and new ways of partnering with the private sector in education processes, which can constitute viable sources of innovation and technological flexibility and can take numerous forms, from the provision of building facilities and electronic devices to e-learning programmes and teacher transport and accommodation;

26.  Highlights the fact that education in emergencies and fragile contexts is a concrete area in which humanitarian and development actors need to work together towards linking relief, rehabilitation and development (LRRD); calls on the Commission to develop mechanisms to respond effectively to this in its own activities and those of its partners, and to be involved in the international platform that will create dedicated instruments for education in emergencies for the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016; supports the coordination of existing funds and the establishment of a global financing mechanism for education in emergencies;

27.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to promote the issue of education for children in emergencies and protracted crises at the World Humanitarian Summit, ensuring that this theme has an adequate place in the outcome document; calls for them also to promote common standards for a learning framework and the dissemination of best practices on alternative learning modalities, such as self- and long-distance learning materials; stresses that mechanisms, tools and capacities should be developed in order to align education plans and budgets across humanitarian response, recovery/transition and development;

28.  Underlines that, in light of the growing number of humanitarian crises and the highest number of displaced people since World War II, the international community should consider education to be a central element of its humanitarian response, as education is a catalyst which can make the overall response more effective and contribute also to the medium- and longer-term development of affected populations;

29.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

Towards simplification and performance orientation in cohesion policy for 2014-2020
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European Parliament resolution of 26 November 2015 on Towards simplification and performance orientation in cohesion policy 2014-2020 (2015/2772(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 174 and 175 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 (CPR),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002, and to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1268/2012 of 29 October 2012 on the rules of application of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union,

–  having regard to the Sixth Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion (COM(2014)0473),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors 2014 Annual Report,

–  having regard to the Oral Question to the Commission on Towards simplification and performance orientation in cohesion policy 2014-2020 (O-000127/2015 – B8‑1103/2015),

–  having regard to the motion for a resolution by its Committee on Regional Development,

–  having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas Parliament recognises the importance of significant steps undertaken by the EU institutions towards simplification, such as the simplification agenda for the multiannual financial framework 2014-2020, a designated Commission Vice-President responsible for better regulation, the setting up of a High-Level Group of Independent Experts on Monitoring Simplification for Beneficiaries of the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds within the Commission, the overhauled Financial Regulation and the Common Provision Regulation (CPR);

B.  whereas despite the reformed cohesion policy for the 2014-2020 programming period, in which simplification methods are addressed, application, management, reporting and control with respect to the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) are still cumbersome for both beneficiaries and managing authorities, in particular those with fewer administrative and financial capacities;

C.  whereas existing gold-plating, including in the process of transposition of rules into national legislation, causes ‘drag’ and leads to longer time-out-of-market and indirect costs for potential beneficiaries seeking EU funding, thus reducing the investment impact of EU funding and creating obstacles for beneficiaries, citizens and companies in the EU, in particular small and medium-sized businesses;

D.  whereas complicated procedures can place a significant burden on beneficiaries, in particular small and medium-sized businesses, NGOs and municipalities, which are in need of EU funding, and whereas, in general, these entities do not have the financial and human resources, nor the expertise, to successfully apply for and manage EU grants; whereas the Commission and the Member States are invited to continue their efforts to make the ARACHNE risk-scoring tool operational and easier to use for the managing authorities and control systems of operational programmes, which need to ensure a proper balance between simplification on the one hand, and the detection and prevention of irregularities, including fraud, on the other;

E.  whereas duplication of audits and differences in auditing approaches and methodologies call for the implementation of the ‘single audit principle’ and a stronger focus on performance auditing, which could better assess the efficiency and effectiveness of operations and lead to proposals for simplification;

1.  Considers that the Commission should introduce detailed guidelines on simplification in order to make the Member States and their regions aware of their task of eliminating, or at least significantly reducing, the administrative burden and gold-plating arising at national and local levels in the processes of procurement, project proposal selection and monitoring and control activities, including avoiding frequent changes in rules, simplifying language and standardising procedures, as well as focusing the EU budget on tangible results; states furthermore that an integrated EU regional funding package delivered via a single interface or ‘one-stop shop’ could be an option, thus moving towards common processes and procedures wherever possible;

2.  Asks the Commission to provide the Member States and their regions with a roadmap for streamlining and simplifying control, monitoring and reporting activities, including for beneficiaries, in order to do away with the current bottlenecks;

3.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to note the target date of 31 December 2015, as provided for in Article 122(3) of the Common Provision Regulation (CPR), for switching to e-cohesion as a precondition for significantly cutting the application-to-grant time;

4.  Invites the Commission to establish and implement, in coordination with the Member States and in line with the principle of proportionality, a light-touch approach to data and information requirements for beneficiaries in the process of application and reporting related to EU funding under shared management, and to encourage the sharing of good practices;

5.  Urges the Commission and the Member States to promote simplification of the rules governing financial instruments within ESI Funds with a view to aligning them more closely to beneficiaries’ needs and ultimately improving their use;

6.  Asks the Commission and the Member States to increase the use of the multi-fund approach, taking into consideration the needs of beneficiaries;

7.  Invites the Commission to enter into a structured and permanent dialogue with Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and other stakeholders on all aspects of this simplification process;

8.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Member States and their regions.

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