Index 
Texts adopted
Thursday, 25 February 2016 - BrusselsFinal edition
Authorisation for Austria to sign and ratify, and Malta to accede to, the Hague Convention of 15 November 1965 ***
 EU-San Marino agreement on the automatic exchange of financial account information*
 Accession of Croatia to the Convention on the protection of the financial interests of the Union *
 European network of Employment Services, workers' access to mobility services and the further integration of labour markets ***I
 Introduction of emergency autonomous trade measures for Tunisia ***I
 Mobilisation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund: application EGF/2015/007 BE/Hainaut-Namur Glass
 European Semester for economic policy coordination: Annual Growth Survey 2016
 European Semester for economic policy coordination: employment and social aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2016
 Single Market governance within the European Semester 2016
 Opening of negotiations for an EU-Tunisia Free Trade Agreement
 Activities of the European Ombudsman in 2014
 European Central Bank annual report for 2014
 Opening of FTA negotiations with Australia and New Zealand
 Introduction of compatible systems for the registration of pet animals across Member States
 Humanitarian situation in Yemen

Authorisation for Austria to sign and ratify, and Malta to accede to, the Hague Convention of 15 November 1965 ***
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 25 February 2016 on the draft Council decision authorising the Republic of Austria to sign and ratify, and Malta to accede to, the Hague Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, in the interest of the European Union (13777/2015 – C8-0401/2015 – 2013/0177(NLE))
P8_TA(2016)0052A8-0018/2016

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (13777/2015),

–  having regard to the Hague Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (13777/15/ADD1),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 81(2) and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(v), of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8‑0401/2015),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Court of Justice of 14 October 2014(1),

–  having regard to Rule 99(1), first and third subparagraphs, Rule 99(2), and Rule 108(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on Legal Affairs (A8-0018/2016),

1.  Gives its consent to the draft Council decision authorising the Republic of Austria to sign and ratify, and Malta to accede to, the Hague Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, in the interest of the European Union;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and to the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

(1) Opinion of the Court of Justice of 14 October 2014, 1/13, ECLI:EU:C:2014:2303.


EU-San Marino agreement on the automatic exchange of financial account information*
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 25 February 2016 on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Union, of the Amending Protocol to the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of San Marino providing for measures equivalent to those laid down in Council Directive 2003/48/EC on taxation of savings income in the form of interest payments (COM(2015)0518 – C8-0370/2015 – 2015/0244(NLE))
P8_TA(2016)0053A8-0025/2016

(Consultation)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the proposal for a Council decision (COM(2015)0518),

–  having regard to the draft Amending Protocol to the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of San Marino providing for measures equivalent to those laid down in Council Directive 2003/48/EC on taxation of savings income in the form of interest payments (13448/2015),

–  having regard to Article 115 and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (b), and paragraph (8), second subparagraph, of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C8‑0370/2015),

–  having regard to Rules 59, 108(7) and 50(1) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (A8-0025/2016),

1.  Approves conclusion of the Amending Protocol to the Agreement;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of the Republic of San Marino.


Accession of Croatia to the Convention on the protection of the financial interests of the Union *
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 25 February 2016 on the recommendation for a Council decision concerning the accession of Croatia to the Convention of 26 July 1995, drawn up on the basis of Article K.3 of the Treaty on European Union, on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests, the Protocol of 27 September 1996, drawn up on the basis of Article K.3 of the Treaty on European Union, to the Convention on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests, the Protocol of 29 November 1996, drawn up on the basis of Article K.3 of the Treaty on European Union, on the interpretation, by way of preliminary rulings, by the Court of Justice of the European Communities of the Convention on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests and the Second Protocol of 19 June 1997, drawn up on the basis of Article K.3 of the Treaty on European Union, to the Convention on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests (COM(2015)0458 – C8-0296/2015 – 2015/0210(NLE))
P8_TA(2016)0054A8-0019/2016

(Consultation)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission recommendation to the Council (COM(2015)0458),

–  having regard to Article 3(4) and (5) of the Act of Accession of Croatia, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C8‑0296/2015),

–  having regard to Rule 59 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A8-0019/2016),

1.  Approves the Commission recommendation;

2.  Calls on the Council to notify Parliament if it intends to depart from the text approved by Parliament;

3.  Asks the Council to consult Parliament again if it intends to substantially amend the text approved by Parliament;

4.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council and the Commission.


European network of Employment Services, workers' access to mobility services and the further integration of labour markets ***I
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Resolution
Text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 25 February 2016 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a European network of Employment Services, workers' access to mobility services and the further integration of labour markets (COM(2014)0006 – C7-0015/2014 – 2014/0002(COD))
P8_TA(2016)0055A8-0224/2015

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2014)0006),

–  having regard to Article 294(2) and Article 46 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C7‑0015/2014),

–  having regard to Article 294(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 4 June 2014(1),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 25 June 2014(2),

–  having regard to the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 2 December 2015 to approve Parliament’s position, in accordance with Article 294(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Rule 59 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development (A8-0224/2015),

1.  Adopts its position at first reading hereinafter set out;

2.  Calls on the Commission to refer the matter to Parliament again if it intends to amend its proposal substantially or replace it with another text;

3.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the national parliaments.

Position of the European Parliament adopted at first reading on 25 February 2016 with a view to the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2016/… of the European Parliament and of the Council on a European network of employment services (EURES), workers' access to mobility services and the further integration of labour markets, and amending Regulations (EU) No 492/2011 and (EU) No 1296/2013

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Regulation (EU) 2016/589.)

(1) OJ C 424, 26.11.2014, p. 27.
(2) OJ C 271, 19.8.2014, p. 70.


Introduction of emergency autonomous trade measures for Tunisia ***I
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Text
Consolidated text
Amendments adopted by the European Parliament on 25 February 2016 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the introduction of emergency autonomous trade measures for the Republic of Tunisia (COM(2015)0460 – C8-0273/2015 – 2015/0218(COD))(1)
P8_TA(2016)0056A8-0013/2016

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

AMENDMENTS BY THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT Amendments: new or amended text is highlighted in bold italics; deletions are indicated by the symbol ▌.

to the Commission proposal
P8_TA(2016)0056A8-0013/2016
---------------------------------------------------------
P8_TA(2016)0056A8-0013/2016

REGULATION (EU) 2016/…
OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL
on the introduction of emergency autonomous trade measures for the Republic of Tunisia
[Amendments 1-4, unless otherwise indicated].

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

Having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular Article 207(2) thereof,

Having regard to the proposal from the European Commission,

After transmission of the draft legislative act to the national parliaments,

Acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure,

Whereas:

(1)  The Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Tunisia, of the other part(2) (‘the Agreement’) constitutes the basis of the relationship between the Union and Tunisia.

(2)  Following the terrorist attack of 26 June 2015 near Sousse, Tunisia, the Council, in its conclusions of 20 July 2015, stated that the Union, in consultation with its Member States, would explore the option of taking exceptional and temporary measures to support the Tunisian economy.

(3)  Olive oil is Tunisia’s main agricultural export product to the Union and the olive oil industry is an important part of the country’s economy, as it is for some regions of certain Member States.

(4)  The Union can best support Tunisia’s economy, in accordance with the objectives set out in the European Neighbourhood Policy and in the Agreement, by providing an attractive and reliable market for Tunisia’s exports of olive oil. The provision of such a market requires the introduction of autonomous trade measures allowing for the import of that product into the Union on the basis of a duty free tariff quota.

(5)  In order to prevent fraud and to ensure that the envisioned autonomous trade measures will really benefit the Tunisian economy, those measures should be subject to compliance by Tunisia with the rules provided for in the Agreement regarding the origin of products and the procedures related thereto, as well as to Tunisia’s effective administrative cooperation with the Union.

(6)  The preservation of the stability of the olive oil market in the Union requires that the additional volume generated by the autonomous trade measures is only made available after the exhaustion of the volume of the annual untreated olive oil duty free tariff quota laid down in Article 3(1) of Protocol No 1 to the Agreement.

(7)  Article 184 of Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council(3) lays down the rules on the administration of tariff quotas. Those rules should also apply to the autonomous trade measures provided for in this Regulation.

(8)  In order to ensure uniform conditions for the implementation of this Regulation, implementing powers should be conferred on the Commission enabling it to temporarily suspend the preferential arrangements established by this Regulation and to introduce corrective measures in cases where the Union market is affected by this Regulation. Those powers should be exercised in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council(4).

(9)  The emergency autonomous trade measures established by this Regulation are intended to alleviate the difficult economic situation, which Tunisia is currently facing, due to the terrorist attacks. Those measures should therefore be limited in time and be without prejudice to negotiations between the Union and Tunisia on the establishment of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). ▌[Ams 11 and 15]

(10)  In view of the severe damage done to Tunisia's economy, in particular to its tourism sector, by the terrorist attack near Sousse on 26 June 2015, and the need to take emergency autonomous trade measures to alleviate Tunisia's economic situation in the short term, it was considered to be appropriate to provide for an exception to the eight-week period referred to in Article 4 of Protocol No 1 on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union, annexed to the Treaty on European Union, to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and to the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community,

HAVE ADOPTED THIS REGULATION:

Article 1

Preferential arrangements

An annual duty free import tariff quota of 35 000 tons ("the annual import tariff quota") for calendar years 2016 and 2017 is opened for imports into the Union of untreated olive oil originating in Tunisia and falling within CN codes 1509 10 10 and 1509 10 90 where such virgin olive oil is wholly obtained in Tunisia and transported directly from Tunisia to the Union. [Ams 5 and 12]

Article 2

Conditions for entitlement to the annual import tariff quota

Entitlement to the annual import tariff quota shall be subject to compliance by Tunisia with the rules regarding the origin of products and with the procedures related thereto, provided for in Protocol No 4 to the Agreement.

Article 3

Access to the annual import tariff quota

The annual import tariff quota shall be made available only after the exhaustion of the volume of the annual untreated olive oil duty free tariff quota provided for in Article 3(1) of Protocol No 1 to the Agreement.

Article 4

Administration of the annual import tariff quota

The Commission shall administer the annual import tariff quota in accordance with Article 184 of Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013.

Article 5

Temporary suspension

Where the Commission finds that there is sufficient evidence of a failure by Tunisia to comply with the conditions set out in Article 2, it may adopt an implementing act suspending temporarily in whole or in part the preferential arrangements provided for in Article 1. That implementing act shall be adopted in accordance with the examination procedure referred to in Article 7(2).

Article 6

Mid-term review

1.  The Commission shall conduct an assessment of the impact of this Regulation on the Union olive oil market at mid-term following its entry into force and present the conclusions of that assessment to the European Parliament and to the Council.

2.  If it is found that the Union olive oil market is affected by the provisions of this Regulation, the Commission shall be empowered to adopt an implementing act in order to introduce corrective measures aiming to restore the situation on that market. That implementing act shall be adopted in accordance with the examination procedure referred to in Article 7(2).

Article 7

Committee procedure

1.  The Commission shall be assisted by the Committee for the Common Organisation of the Agricultural Markets established by Article 229 of Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013. That Committee shall be a committee within the meaning of Regulation (EU) No 182/2011.

2.  Where reference is made to this paragraph, Article 5 of Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 shall apply.

Article 8

Entry into force and application

This Regulation shall enter into force on the day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

It shall apply until 31 December 2017.

This Regulation shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States.

Done at …,

For the European Parliament For the Council

The President The President

(1) The matter was referred back to the committee responsible for reconsideration pursuant to Rule 61(2), second subparagraph (A8-0013/2016).
(2)OJ L 97, 30.3.1998, p. 2.
(3)Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products and repealing Council Regulations (EEC) No 922/72, (EEC) No 234/79, (EC) No 1037/2001 and (EC) No 1234/2007 (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 671).
(4)Regulation (EU) No 182/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011 laying down the rules and general principles concerning mechanisms for control by Member States of the Commission’s exercise of implementing powers (OJ L 55, 28.2.2011, p. 13).


Mobilisation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund: application EGF/2015/007 BE/Hainaut-Namur Glass
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Resolution
Annex
European Parliament resolution of 25 February 2016 on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on mobilisation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, in accordance with point 13 of the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management (application EGF/2015/007 - BE/Hainaut-Namur Glass, submitted by Belgium) (COM(2016)0001 – C8-0013/2016 – 2016/2013(BUD))
P8_TA(2016)0057A8-0029/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to the European Parliament and the Council (COM(2016)0001 – C8‑0013/2016),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1309/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (2014-2020) and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1927/2006(1) (EGF Regulation),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 of 2 December 2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020(2), and in particular Article 12 thereof,

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management(3) (IIA of 2 December 2013), and in particular point 13 thereof,

–  having regard to the trilogue procedure provided for in point 13 of the IIA of 2 December 2013,

–  having regard to the letter of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs,

–  having regard to the letter of the Committee on Regional Development,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgets (A8-0029/2016),

A.  whereas the Union has set up legislative and budgetary instruments to provide additional support to workers who are suffering from the consequences of major structural changes in world trade patterns or of the global financial and economic crisis and to assist their reintegration into the labour market;

B.  whereas the Union’s financial assistance to workers made redundant should be dynamic and made available as quickly and efficiently as possible, in accordance with the Joint Declaration of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission adopted during the conciliation meeting on 17 July 2008, and having due regard to the IIA of 2 December 2013 in respect of the adoption of decisions to mobilise the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF);

C.  whereas the adoption of the EGF Regulation reflects the agreement reached between the Parliament and the Council to reintroduce the crisis mobilisation criterion, to set the Union financial contribution to 60 % of the total estimated cost of proposed measures, to increase efficiency for the treatment of EGF applications in the Commission and by the Parliament and the Council by shortening the time for assessment and approval, to widen eligible actions and beneficiaries by introducing self-employed persons and young people and to finance incentives for setting up own businesses;

D.  whereas Belgium submitted application EGF/2015/007 BE/Hainaut-Namur Glass for a financial contribution from the EGF, following redundancies in the economic sector classified under the NACE Revision 2 Division 23 (Manufacture of other non-metallic mineral products) in the NUTS level 2 regions of Hainaut (BE32) and Namur (BE35) in Belgium, and whereas 412 redundant workers, as well as 100 young people from the Hainaut Region not in employment, education or training (NEETs) under the age of 25, are expected to participate in the measures; whereas 144 of these workers were made redundant following the closure of the production plant in Roux (Hainaut), owned by AGC Europe SA, and 268 following the closure of the production plant in Auvelais (Namur Region), owned by Saint-Gobain Glass Benelux;

E.  whereas although the application does not fulfil the eligibility criteria set down in Article 4(1) of the EGF Regulation, it was submitted under the intervention criteria, which allow for derogation under exceptional circumstances, notably Article 4(2) of the EGF Regulation in the case of the redundant workers, and Article 6(2) of the EGF Regulation in the case of the NEETs;

1.  Agrees with the Commission that the conditions set out in Article 4(2) of the EGF Regulation are met and that, therefore, Belgium is entitled to a financial contribution of EUR 1 095 544 under that Regulation, which represents 60 % of the total cost of EUR 1 825 907;

2.  Notes that the Belgian authorities submitted the application for a financial contribution from the EGF on 19 August 2015, and that its assessment was finalised by the Commission on 20 January 2016 and notified to Parliament that day;

3.  Notes that in recent years the Union trade in glass products has undergone serious disruptions and underlines that, between 2000 and 2010, employment in the glass sector as a whole in Europe decreased by 32 %; points out that in Wallonia, which has a strong tradition of glass-making, several of large enterprises have faced difficulties in the recent years, with the number of jobs in the glass sector in the regions of Namur and Hainaut decreasing by 19 % between 2007 and 2012 and 1 236 job losses in 2013 and 1 878 in 2014 in Wallonia;

4.  Points out that Hainaut, in particular, is facing a difficult labour market situation with an employment rate 9,2 % lower than the national average; notes that the labour markets of the two regions are furthermore characterised by high proportion of underqualified labour (around 50 % of the job seekers in both regions lack upper secondary qualifications);

5.  Notes that Saint-Gobain Group was in 2013 forced to close another production plant in a deindustrialised zone in Wallonia which was subject of the EGF/2013/011 BE/Saint-Gobain Sekurit application relating to 257 redundancies in the same sector; notes that several measures in the two applications are similar;

6.  Welcomes the fact that the Belgian authorities started providing the personalised services to the affected workers on 10 September 2014, well ahead of the decision on the granting of EGF support for the proposed coordinated package;

7.  Notes that the derogation from Article 4(1)(a) of the EGF Regulation in this case relates to the number of redundancies which is not significantly lower than the threshold of 500 redundancies; welcomes that the application aims to support a further 100 NEETs;

8.  Notes that Belgium is planning seven types of measures for redundant workers covered by this application: (i) support/guidance/integration, (ii) facilitating job-search, (iii) integrated training, (iv) transfer of experiences, (v) support for enterprise creation, (vi) support for collective projects, and (vii) job-search and training allowances;

9.  Welcomes the support for collective projects; calls on the Commission to assess the results of this type of measure in other applications in order to determine its benefits to the participants;

10.  Welcomes that the application contains measures specifically aimed to provide assistance to NEETs; notes that the personalised services provided to NEETs shall include: (i) mobilisation and guidance either for further education/training or to follow induction sessions, (ii) training, (iii) personalised upskilling, and (iv) job-search and training allowances;

11.  Appreciates that the allowances and incentives to be provided as part of the proposed measures are limited to 5,52 % of the total estimated costs;

12.  Notes that the coordinated package of personalised services has been drawn up in consultation with social partners, enterprises and the public employment services;

13.  Recalls that, in line with Article 7 of the EGF Regulation, the design of the coordinated package of personalised services supported by the EGF should anticipate future labour market perspectives and required skills and should be compatible with the shift towards a resource-efficient and sustainable economy;

14.  Recalls the importance of improving the employability of all workers by means of adapted training and the recognition of skills and competences gained throughout a worker's professional career; expects the training on offer in the coordinated package to be adapted not only to the needs of the dismissed workers, but also to the actual business environment;

15.  Underlines that in the case of successive applications from the same geographical region the Commission should collect and analyse the experiences from previous applications and ensure that, in the case of new applications, any conclusion of that analysis is taken into due account;

16.  Asks the Commission to further detail, in future proposals, the sectors in which the workers are likely to find employment and whether the training on offer is aligned to the future economic prospects and labour market needs in the regions concerned by the dismissals;

17.  Notes that the Belgian authorities confirm that the eligible actions do not receive assistance from other Union financial instruments; reiterates its call to the Commission to present a comparative evaluation of those data in its annual reports in order to ensure full respect for existing regulations and that no duplication of Union-funded services can occur;

18.  Reiterates that assistance from the EGF must not replace actions which are the responsibility of companies by virtue of national law or collective agreements nor measures for restructuring companies or sectors;

19.  Appreciates the improved procedure put in place by the Commission, following the Parliament's request for the accelerated release of grants; notes the time pressure that the new timetable implies and the potential impact on the effectiveness of case instruction;

20.  Asks the Commission to assure public access to all the documents related to EGF cases;

21.  Approves the decision annexed to this resolution;

22.  Instructs its President to sign the decision with the President of the Council and arrange for its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union;

23.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution, including its Annex, to the Council and the Commission.

ANNEX

DECISION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL

on the mobilisation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (application from Belgium EGF/2015/007 - BE/Hainaut-Namur Glass)

(The text of this annex is not reproduced here since it corresponds to the final act, Decision (EU) 2016/407.)

(1) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 855.
(2) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884.
(3) OJ C 373, 20.12.2013, p. 1.


European Semester for economic policy coordination: Annual Growth Survey 2016
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European Parliament resolution of 25 February 2016 on the European Semester for economic policy coordination: Annual Growth Survey 2016 (2015/2285(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0058A8-0030/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and in particular Articles 121(2), 136 and 148 thereof,

–  having regard to Article 9 TFEU (horizontal social clause),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1175/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1466/97 on the strengthening of the surveillance of budgetary positions and the surveillance and coordination of economic policies(1),

–  having regard to Council Directive 2011/85/EU of 8 November 2011 on requirements for budgetary frameworks of the Member States(2),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1174/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011 on enforcement measures to correct excessive macroeconomic imbalances in the euro area(3),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU) No 1177/2011 of 8 November 2011 amending Regulation (EC) No 1467/97 on speeding up and clarifying the implementation of the excessive deficit procedure(4),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1176/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011 on the prevention and correction of macroeconomic imbalances(5),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1173/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011 on the effective enforcement of budgetary surveillance in the euro area(6),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 473/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on common provisions for monitoring and assessing draft budgetary plans and ensuring the correction of excessive deficit of the Member States in the euro area(7),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 472/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on the strengthening of economic and budgetary surveillance of Member States in the euro area experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability(8),

–  having regard to the conclusions of the European Council of 25-26 March 2010 and 17 June 2010, as well as to the Commission communication of 3 March 2010 entitled ‘Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2010)2020),

–  having regard to Council Recommendation (EU) 2015/1184 of 14 July 2015 on broad guidelines for the economic policies of the Member States and of the European Union(9),

–  having regard to Council Decision (EU) 2015/1848 of 5 October 2015 on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States for 2015(10),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2015/1017 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 June 2015 on the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the European Investment Advisory Hub and the European Investment Project Portal and amending Regulations (EU) No 1291/2013 and (EU) No 1316/2013 – the European Fund for Strategic Investments(11),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 13 January 2015 on making the best use of the flexibility within the existing rules of the stability and growth pact (COM(2015)0012),

–  having regard to its resolution of 24 June 2015 on the review of the economic governance framework: stocktaking and challenges(12),

–  having regard to the Report on completing Europe’s economic and monetary union (‘Five Presidents’ Report’),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 21 October 2015 on steps towards Completing Economic and Monetary Union (COM(2015)0600),

–  having regard to the G20 Leaders’ communiqué from the Antalya Summit of 15-16 November 2015,

–  having regard to the International Monetary Fund’s Update of Staff Sustainability Assessments for the G-20 Mutual Assessment Process on Imbalances and Growth (October 2015),

–  having regard to the COP 21 agreement adopted at the Paris Climate Conference on 12 December 2015,

–  having regard to the Commission’s European Economic Forecast of Autumn 2015,

–  having regard to the studies and in-depth analyses on economic policy coordination in the euro area under the European Semester prepared for the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (November 2015),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 26 November 2015 on the Annual Growth Survey 2016 (COM(2015)0690), the Alert Mechanism Report 2016 (COM(2015)0691) and the draft Joint Employment Report (COM(2015)0700),

–  having regard to the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of the Structural Reform Support Programme for the period 2017 to 2020 and amending Regulations (EU) No 1303/2013 and (EU) No 1305/2013 (COM(2015)0701),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 November 2015 on tax rulings and other measures similar in nature or effect(13),

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 December 2015 on completing Europe’s economic and monetary union(14),

–  having regard to the Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area,

–  having regard to the debate with representatives of national parliaments on the priorities of the 2016 European Semester,

–  having regard to the Commission’s report of 14 December 2015 on Public Finances in the EMU 2015 (Institutional Paper 014),

–  having regard to the debate with the Commission in the European Parliament on the European Semester package – Annual Growth Survey 2016,

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Budgets, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Committee on Regional Development (A8-0030/2016),

A.  whereas economic recovery in the European Union is under way, but recovery remains weak and uneven between and within Member States and is partly driven by temporary and external factors, including low oil prices;

B.  whereas some Member States face the persistent problem of very low growth rates;

C.  whereas global economic growth is slowing down amid economic and financial turmoil in several emerging economies, resulting in new strategic challenges to which the European Union needs to adjust appropriately;

D.  whereas Europe still faces an important investment gap, which significantly weakens the EU’s longer-term growth potential, while the euro area’s current account surplus is rising; whereas public and private debt remains high in many countries even though current account deficits have been reduced; whereas several Member States should step up efforts to implement meaningful structural reforms;

E.  whereas despite several Member States having experienced significant reductions in their current account deficits and the reduction in unit labour costs, net external debt in percentage of GDP has not decreased in most Member States;

F.  whereas the employment rate is improving but is still insufficient to significantly curb unemployment, particularly youth and long-term unemployment, as well as poverty;

G.  whereas Europe is the economic area that is the most dependent on imported resources, compared with its competitors; whereas building a truly circular economy in Europe is thus a prerequisite for future economic growth;

H.  whereas the 2008 crisis was not only cyclical, but also structural, in nature, which explains its lasting effects;

I.  whereas the free movement of people, goods, services and capital is the cornerstone of sustainable economic growth in the European Union’s Single Market;

J.  whereas tax avoidance, tax evasion and aggressive tax planning have caused billions of losses in potential revenues for the public finances of several Member States, to the benefit of large corporations, undermining the basis for solidarity between countries and fair competition between enterprises;

Policy mix

1.  Welcomes the 2016 Annual Growth Survey package and the proposed policy mix of investment, structural reform and fiscal responsibility, aiming to further promote higher growth levels and strengthen European recovery and upward convergence; underlines that major national efforts in terms of effective implementation of structural reforms, as well as stronger European coordination, are needed to achieve a more robust economic recovery and sustainable, widely shared prosperity;

2.  Welcomes the improvements in public finances, in particular the gradually declining debt/GDP ratios for the EU and euro area and falling headline budget deficits; notes, however, that public debt ratios continue to rise in several Member States with low nominal GDP growth and low inflation, and that the Excessive Deficit Procedure is still ongoing for nine Member States; points out that many Member States have limited fiscal space to cope with possible new economic shocks and that stronger European coordination should therefore be considered in order to support fiscal consolidation without hindering growth;

3.  Notes that the European Union’s global competitiveness remains an important objective and points to the importance of structural reforms, investment in R&D, resource efficiency, productivity-enhancing innovation and a reduction of macroeconomic imbalances; at the same time considers that the worsening global outlook also calls for domestic demand to be strengthened in order to make Europe’s economy more resilient; is concerned notably by a possible slow-down in global demand;

4.  Considers that macroeconomic imbalances should be addressed through a coordinated effort involving all the Member States, building on relevant reforms and investments; stresses that each Member State must deliver on its individual responsibilities in this context; notes that high current account surpluses imply the possibility of greater domestic demand; stresses that high public and private debt levels represent a significant vulnerability and that responsible fiscal policies and higher growth are needed to reduce them faster;

5.  Calls for further efforts to support recovery and foster convergence towards the best performers and correct macroeconomic imbalances, including by increasing productivity and boosting investment;

6.  Is encouraged by mild improvements in labour market indicators, while recognising that divergence between Member States remains wide, and unemployment still remains unacceptably high; notes the need to build on recent improvements by also increasing the quality of jobs created and their productivity; calls for a greater effort to step up investment in skills, make labour markets more inclusive, create quality employment and reduce poverty, social exclusion and growing inequalities in income and wealth while maintaining budgetary discipline; stresses that employment indicators should be given the same status as existing indicators, allowing an in-depth analysis to be triggered, in order to avoid a two-class approach, and that they should be properly taken into account in EU policy and guidance to the Member States;

7.  Welcomes the renewal of the Europe 2020 Integrated Guidelines, and calls for a strengthening of the role of the Europe 2020 Strategy in guiding the European Semester, in line with Treaty objectives and applicable legislation, and preventing the recurrence of a sovereign debt crisis; highlights the importance of ambitious policies and instruments to ensure that Europe makes the best out of the energy and digital transitions, also thanks to adequate investment in R&D&I and skills, reducing Europe’s gap vis-à-vis its main global competitors in terms of total factor productivity; considers it crucial to tackle economic inequalities which act as an obstacle to long-lasting economic growth; calls on the Commission to address environmental fiscal reforms in country-specific recommendations, also in the context of fiscal responsibility; calls for consistent and holistic monitoring of convergence towards best performers on the targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy;

Investment

8.  Calls for the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) to be used to maximum effect to support strategic projects not otherwise financed, in line with its mandate; calls on Member States and the EFSI vehicle to closely involve local and regional authorities in developing project pipelines and investment platforms, with the help of the European Investment Advisory Hub and the European Investment Project Portal; stresses also the importance of achieving synergies between EFSI and European Structural and Investment Funds;

9.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to use the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to their full potential and in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy in order to strengthen cohesion and mitigate divergence in the Single Market by enabling all regions to develop their competitive advantages and facilitating additional private investment; considers that these investments should serve a consistent industrial policy and should involve a particular focus on quality job creation, especially for young people; underlines the need for adequate administrative capacity, an active role for the regions and better coordination at all levels of government and among them; calls for consideration of further possible policy action to reduce the investment gap in the EU;

10.  Is aware of the ongoing deleveraging process in the private sector; stresses that Europe’s investment rate is well below the pre-crisis period; points in this context to the importance of rapidly implementing the banking union and bank structural reform, as well as the importance of boosting equity investments in SMEs thanks to a Capital Markets Union; calls for maximum use of the EFSI and the COSME in order to improve SMEs’ access to finance; considers that greater regulatory predictability in the Single Market would improve investors' confidence;

11.  Highlights the need for greater investment in human capital, notably education and innovation, also in the context of labour market reforms; stresses the need to improve national education, vocational training and lifelong learning systems and to adapt them to the new skill and knowledge demands of the EU labour market; underlines that all this will enable innovation as a key driver of growth, productivity and competitiveness; calls on the Member States, in this context, to improve the productivity of public investments;

12.  Welcomes the country-specific investment profiles identifying some of the main challenges to investment in individual Member States; invites the Commission and the Member States to involve all levels of government and relevant stakeholders in the identification of obstacles to investments, focusing in particular on the internal market, subdued domestic demand and structural reforms, as well as on making available adequate instruments bringing together public and private financing; points to the importance of high levels of productive investment for a sustained economic catch-up process between Member States; notes that an appropriate balance between current expenditure, long-term sustainability of public finances and investment in economic growth potential needs to be found in each country, and that the Single Market and European instruments such as EFSI and ESIF have an important role to play in supporting a healthy level of investment; stresses that low public investment in research and innovation in several countries might further anchor them within a middle-income trap;

Structural reforms

13.  Considers that, after a long period of macroeconomic adjustment, focus should be put on delivering structural reforms and investments with the aim of strengthening growth potential based on quality jobs and productivity, of promoting fair, robust, efficient and fiscally sustainable welfare systems, and of fostering a sustainable transition of Member States’ economies towards greater resource efficiency;

14.  Calls for sustainable reforms in the product, services and labour markets, as well as in connection with pension schemes, and for better regulation, which promotes innovation, job creation and welfare-enhancing, fair competition without watering down consumer protection;

15.  Highlights the importance of greater resource and energy efficiency, including through the development of the circular economy; underlines the importance of developing further a true Energy Union based on solidarity, efficiency and diversity while not ignoring indigenous energy sources, including renewable energy; calls on the Commission to include these concerns in country-specific recommendations where they are most relevant for competitiveness and sustainable growth;

16.  Urges that further steps be taken towards stimulating quality job creation and creating resilient labour markets with reduced segmentation; stresses the importance of sustainable and effective welfare systems; recalls that an important factor for maintaining the sustainability of pension systems is to ensure a high employment rate;

17.  Emphasises the need for modern, efficient, democratic and citizen-friendly public administration at all levels of government, as well as for efficient and transparent public procurement rules; stresses the importance of taking further steps towards a true e‑administration in and among the Member States; asks the Commission and the Member States to identify and correct deficiencies in their respective administrations, which can prove detrimental in crisis situations;

18.  Calls for a greater shift of taxation away from labour, to be decided at national level, while ensuring the sustainability of social protection systems;

19.  Takes note of the proposal for a Structural Reform Support Programme, designed to strengthen the implementation of growth-friendly reforms in the Member States, which is to be decided under the ordinary legislative procedure; reiterates that it is the Member States that are responsible for the implementation of structural reforms;

Fiscal responsibility

20.  Reiterates the need for responsible, growth-friendly fiscal policies, ensuring debt sustainability and taking account of the economic cycle and investment gaps, while at the same time respecting citizens’ social rights; recalls that the very high indebtedness of some Member States constitutes a substantial risk in the event of possible future shocks within the euro area; emphasises that efforts to increase the resilience of public finances and boost growth will need to be stepped up in countries with high debt/GDP ratios in order to place them on a sustainable downward path;

21.  Insists on implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact, while making full use of its existing flexibility clauses, in line with the Commission communication of 13 January 2015 (COM(2015)0012), inter alia to support greater investment and structural reforms, as well as to deal with security threats and refugee inflows;

22.  Emphasises the need for improving tax collection, combating tax fraud and evasion, enforcing action against aggressive tax planning and tax havens, as well as for improved tax policy coordination within the EU; calls for tax systems that are effective and transparent in order to increase tax collection, prevent tax avoidance and fight organised crime; takes the view, therefore, that the tax and customs authorities should be provided with sufficient human, material and financial resources;

23.  Supports rational and country-specific efforts towards improving the quality, efficiency and growth-friendly character of public expenditure, especially by shifting unproductive expenses towards growth-enhancing investments, but without jeopardising essential provision of public and social services;

Specific focus on the euro area

24.  Welcomes the recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area, proposed by the Commission six months before country-specific recommendations, as a step towards deepening policy coordination in the follow-up to the Five Presidents’ Report and relevant resolutions of the European Parliament;

25.  Emphasises that, given its high level of interdependence and the singleness of its monetary policy, the euro area is an economic entity where convergence towards best performers must be promoted and supported by stronger coordination of national policies; emphasises the importance of enhanced action by all national governments to implement inside their Member States the economic reforms and investments needed to reduce macroeconomic imbalances and to prevent negative spillover effects of national policies into other Member States; calls therefore for an in-depth assessment of these macroeconomic imbalances and spillovers to complement the assessment of each country’s specific vulnerabilities and the Macroeconomic Dialogue; insists on full coherence between the euro area recommendation and country-specific recommendations;

26.  Welcomes increased attention to the euro area’s aggregate fiscal stance, which does not divert attention away from individual Member States’ responsibilities; recalls that a fiscal deficit in one Member State cannot be offset by a fiscal surplus in another as far as the Excessive Deficit Procedure is concerned; calls for regular monitoring of whether the aggregate fiscal stance is appropriate in view of the existing investment gap;

27.  Supports the recommendation to differentiate fiscal effort by individual Member States, taking into account their respective positions vis-à-vis Stability and Growth Pact requirements and stabilisation needs, as well as spillover effects; notes that for many Member States this implies pursuing growth-friendly fiscal consolidation; notes on the other hand that some countries have increasing fiscal space vis-à-vis the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact, which could be used at the present juncture to help to support the domestic economy;

28.  Notes that while the euro area’s high current account surplus is a welcome sign of the euro area’s external competitiveness, its current level also reflects lack of internal investment, with adverse effects on growth and employment; considers that stronger domestic demand would be better for the euro area's sustainable growth, as well as from a global viewpoint; is aware that some Member States’ current account surplus goes together with positive spillover effects across the value chain, which can benefit some other Member States in various ways; acknowledges also the role of the single currency in helping more competitive countries to maintain high surpluses vis-à-vis the rest of the world; welcomes the finding in the Commission's 2016 winter forecast that economic growth in some Member States in 2015 has been driven mainly by domestic demand; considers it important that Member States with higher current account surpluses continue to expand their domestic demand for their own and general benefit; at the same time calls on less competitive Member States to implement effectively structural reforms and high-quality investments in order to modernise their economies and establish a sustainable business environment for long-term investment in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy; considers this to be the best way to reduce macroeconomic imbalances inside Member States rather than internal devaluation, which weakens demand and slows down economic growth across the euro area;

29.  Emphasises the need to foster real economic and social convergence driven by improvements in productivity and non-cost factors; underlines the importance of all Member States effectively implementing structural reforms, improving the quality of public expenditure and having sufficient investment capacity, in order to enable balanced and sustainable growth, which is crucial also to reducing debt/GDP ratios; acknowledges that high public and private debt significantly reduce the capacity to invest and thus slow down growth;

30.  Recalls that wage-setting is a matter of autonomous collective bargaining, and calls on relevant actors to ensure both responsible and growth-friendly wage developments that should reflect increases in productivity; in particular, calls on relevant actors in countries with current account deficits or near-balance to continue efforts at strengthening productivity and maintaining competitiveness; at the same time calls on relevant actors in high-surplus countries to use excess savings to support domestic demand and investment;

31.  Calls for measures preventing a race to the bottom in terms of taxation and social standards, which leads to an increase in inequalities; recalls the need to maintain international competitiveness based on productivity and upward convergence; welcomes the increased attention to three employment-related indicators in the macroeconomic imbalances scoreboard and asks the Commission to put them on an equal footing with the others; also considers that analysis of the existing scoreboard of key employment and social indicators and relevant indicators of resource efficiency should be properly taken into account in policy guidance;

32.  Notes the December 2015 European Council conclusions on Economic and Monetary Union and calls on the Commission to start preparing the longer-term measures as soon as possible;

More effective European Semester with stronger democratic accountability

33.  Deplores the poor implementation of country-specific recommendations and believes that, in order to improve implementation, there is a need to better identify clearly articulated priorities at European level as well as to increase genuine public debate, political willingness and commitment at national level, leading to greater relevance and national ownership; welcomes in this respect the visits made by members of the Commission to Member States in order to discuss the European Semester process and its documents;

34.  Calls for the right balance to be struck between making country-specific recommendations focused on key priorities and ensuring that they address all key challenges, including the need to prevent a recurrence of a sovereign debt crisis, as well as the need to increase competitiveness, growth and employment, taking into account Europe 2020 Strategy targets;

35.  Welcomes the plenary debate with the Presidents of the Commission and of the Eurogroup on the draft euro area recommendation on 15 December 2015, and requests that such plenary debates become a regular feature of the European Semester; considers that such debates strengthen and complement existing democratic dialogue, notably the economic dialogue, helping to increase the accountability of the executive;

36.  Underlines that the spring European Council should remain the central moment where policy priorities are defined; welcomes the discussion with the Commission in plenary on the Annual Growth Survey priorities before and after its adoption; recalls that the setting of the economic policy following the recommendation by the Council to the Member States is an executive act which needs to be subjected to democratic scrutiny and debate by the European Parliament; calls therefore on the Council to adopt the euro area recommendations and conclusions on the Annual Growth Survey package after Parliament has been able to express its views on them; affirms its resolve to consider these documents swiftly and to take a position well before the Spring European Council; welcomes the invitation extended to the European Parliament to have its President convey its position to the Spring European Council; points out, furthermore, that the Treaty requires the European Parliament to be informed after the Council has adopted recommendations, as well as on the results of the multilateral surveillance;

37.  Highlights the importance of national parliaments debating country reports and country-specific recommendations and voting on national reform programmes, as well as national convergence or stability programmes; calls on the Member States to involve the social partners, local and regional authorities and other relevant stakeholders in a structured manner, taking advantage of the early publication of country reports; highlights the irreplaceable role of the social partners in wage-setting and the vital role they should play in wider economic discussions, particularly when it comes to promoting productivity; calls, furthermore, for stronger cooperation by national parliaments with the European Parliament;

38.  Urges the Commission to launch negotiations on an interinstitutional agreement on economic governance; insists that this IIA should ensure that, within the framework of the Treaties, the structure of the European Semester allows for meaningful and regular parliamentary scrutiny of the process, in particular as regards the Annual Growth Survey priorities and the euro area recommendations;

Budgetary policies

39.  Deplores the fact that there is no satisfactory lever available, given the modest scale of the EU budget, while it is impossible to modify the own-resources system, and economic forecasts, economic policy priorities, and the annual and multiannual budget-making process do not stand in any form of coherent relationship;

40.  Points out that the EU budget helps directly to achieve two out of the three objectives charted in the Annual Growth Survey 2016 (relaunching investment, pursuing structural reforms, and implementing responsible and honest fiscal policies that are commensurate with stated political commitments); welcomes the Commission’s proposal to channel EU funding into technical assistance to support structural reforms;

41.  Considers that the EU budget could help relieve the strain on national budgets and bolster fiscal consolidation efforts by providing own resources as well as rationalising expenditure; firmly believes that wider-ranging forms of management of public money at EU level would make it possible to achieve economies of scale and hence cut spending, for example in the diplomatic and military fields, while not calling into question the principle of shared management, particularly for the Structural Funds;

42.  Stresses that it is illegal for the EU budget to be in deficit; notes that the Member States are making the EU budget an adjustment variable of national budgets;

43.  Stresses that greater integration within the euro area is indispensable in order to complete economic and monetary union (EMU), and that budgetary union is a cornerstone of the proper operation of the euro;

44.  Calls, as regards Parliament’s position on the euro area and its budget capacity, for account to be taken of the conclusions of the own-initiative report on the budgetary capacity of the euro area, which will be prepared in the course of 2016;

45.  Calls on the Commission to carry out the review of the multiannual financial framework (MFF) provided for in the political agreement concluded between Parliament, the Commission and the Council in June 2013; points out that the financial and humanitarian crises that hit the EU between 2009 and 2014 highlighted the inadequacy of the current MFF; stresses, furthermore, the need for a far-reaching reform of EU financial programming that will take proper account of the objectives, funding and duration of the instruments available;

Environment, Public Health and Food Safety policies

46.  Stresses that if the reform of waste legislation and the action plan on the circular economy are to advance the transition of the European economy into a circular model, it is essential to integrate recommendations to this effect into the European Semester process to boost competitiveness, create jobs and generate sustainable growth; recommends that the principles of the circular economy should be integrated into country-specific recommendations;

47.  Reiterates the need for a fiscal framework that rewards development of sustainable policies and is in accordance with the ‘polluter pays’ principle, providing the right signals for investment in resource efficiency, the modernisation of production processes and the manufacturing of more reparable and durable products; reiterates the need to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies, including fossil fuels, and to shift taxes away from labour to environmental pollution;

48.  Considers it important to assess the performance and sustainability of healthcare systems in the framework of the European Semester and supports a shift to an outcome-based approach as well as the focus on disease prevention and health promotion; calls on the Commission to develop tools, together with all stakeholders, to monitor health outcomes, measure access to high-quality healthcare and encourage transparency of medical research costs with the aim of reducing social divergences and health inequalities between and within Member States; calls on the Commission to take into account in country-specific recommendations the long-term health and fiscal impacts of measures targeting prevention programmes;

49.  Stresses the importance of the sustainability of the healthcare sector, which plays an important role in the overall economy as it accounts for 8 % of the total European workforce and 10 % of GDP in the EU, and of being able to provide equal access to healthcare services for all citizens, as health is an essential factor for stability, sustainability and further development of Member States and their economies;

Regional policies

50.  Notes the significance of EU investment for less developed regions and the importance of ensuring its capacity to attract further investment, thus promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion;

51.  Notes the links between the objectives of the European Semester process and the programming of the ESI Funds for 2014-2020, reflected in the Partnership Agreements; considers therefore that, following the 2014-2020 reform, cohesion policy instruments could play a very important role in the implementation of the relevant CSRs, thus supporting structural reforms and contributing to the fulfilment of the EU’s strategic goals and the effective implementation of the Partnership Agreements; underlines nevertheless the multiannual and long-term nature of programmes and objectives under the ESI Funds in contrast to the annual cycle of the European Semester, and the need for coordination between the European Union’s priorities, national needs, regional needs and local needs;

o
o   o

52.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, and to the governments of the Member States, the national parliaments and the European Central Bank.

(1) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 12.
(2) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 41.
(3) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 8.
(4) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 33.
(5) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 25.
(6) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 1.
(7) OJ L 140, 27.5.2013, p. 11.
(8) OJ L 140, 27.5.2013, p. 1.
(9) OJ L 192, 18.7.2015, p. 27.
(10) OJ L 268, 15.10.2015, p. 28.
(11) OJ L 169, 1.7.2015, p. 1.
(12) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0238.
(13) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0408.
(14) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0469.


European Semester for economic policy coordination: employment and social aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2016
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European Parliament resolution of 25 February 2016 on European Semester for economic policy coordination: Employment and Social Aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2016 (2015/2330(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0059A8-0031/2016

The European Parliament,

—  having regard to Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union and to Article 9 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

—  having regard to Articles 145, 148, 152 and 153(5) TFEU,

–  having regard to Article 174 TFEU,

—  having regard to Article 349 TFEU, which defines a specific status for the outermost regions,

—  having regard to Council Directive 1999/70/EC of 28 June 1999 concerning the framework agreement on fixed-term work concluded by ETUC, UNICE and CEEP,

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and in particular to its Title IV (Solidarity),

—  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 26 November 2015 entitled ‘Annual Growth Survey 2016 – Strengthening the recovery and fostering convergence’ (COM(2015)0690),

–  having regard to the Commission report of 26 November 2015 entitled ‘Alert Mechanism Report 2016’ (COM(2015)0691),

–  having regard to the Commission recommendation of 26 November 2015 for a Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area (COM(2015)0692),

–  having regard to the draft Joint Employment Report from the Commission and the Council of 26 November 2015 accompanying the communication from the Commission on the Annual Growth Survey 2016 (COM(2015)0700),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 21 October 2015 on steps towards completing Economic and Monetary Union (COM(2015)0600),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal for a Council decision of 2 March 2015 on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States (COM(2015)0098), and to Parliament’s position of 8 July 2015 thereon(1),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 13 January 2015 entitled ‘Making the best use of the flexibility within the existing rules of the Stability and Growth Pact’ (COM(2015)0012),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 26 November 2014 entitled ‘An Investment Plan for Europe’ (COM(2014)0903),

—  having regard to the Commission communication of 4 April 2014 on Effective, Accessible and Resilient Health Systems (COM(2014)0215),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 2 October 2013 entitled ‘Strengthening the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union’ (COM(2013)0690),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 20 February 2013 entitled ‘Towards Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion – including implementing the European Social Fund 2014-2020’ (COM(2013)0083),

—  having regard to the Commission recommendation of 20 February 2013 entitled ‘Investing in Children: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage’ (C(2013)0778),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 18 April 2012 entitled ‘Towards a job-rich recovery’ (COM(2012)0173),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 20 December 2011 entitled ‘Youth Opportunities Initiative’ (COM(2011)0933),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 16 December 2010 entitled ‘The European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion: A European framework for social and territorial cohesion’ (COM(2010)0758), and to Parliament’s resolution of 15 November 2011 thereon(2),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 3 March 2010 entitled ‘Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2010)2020),

—  having regard to the Communication Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015 and the subsequent Strategic engagement for equality between women and men 2016-2019, which specifically refer to women’s employment and economic independence,

—  having regard to Commission’s Recommendation 2008/867/EC of 3 October 2008 on the active inclusion of people excluded from the labour market,

—  having regard to the Five Presidents’ Report of 22 June 2015 on ‘Completing the Economic and Monetary Union’,

—  having regard to the Council conclusions on the promotion of the social economy as a key driver of economic and social development in Europe (13414/15),

—  having regard to the 2014 report of the Social Protection Committee entitled ‘Adequate social protection for long-term care needs in an ageing society’,

–  having regard to its resolution of 24 November 2015 on reducing inequalities with a special focus on child poverty(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 28 October 2015 on cohesion policy and the review of the Europe 2020 strategy(4),

–  having regard to question for oral answer O-000121/2015 – B8-1102/2015 to the Council and to its related resolution of 29 October 2015 on a Council recommendation on the integration of the long-term unemployed into the labour market(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 10 September 2015 on ‘Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation in combating unemployment’(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 March 2015 entitled ‘European Semester for economic policy coordination: Employment and Social Aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2015’(7),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 November 2014 on employment and social aspects of the Europe 2020 strategy(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 July 2014 on youth employment(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 April 2014 entitled ‘How can the European Union contribute to creating a hospitable environment for enterprises, businesses and start-ups to create jobs?’(10),

—  having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2014 on an EU Homelessness Strategy(11),

—  having regard to its resolution of 19 February 2009 on Social Economy(12),

—  having regard to its legislative resolution of 2 February 2016 on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing a European Platform to enhance cooperation in the prevention and deterrence of undeclared work(13),

—  having regard to the concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the initial report of the European Union (September 2015),

—  having regard to the European Court of Auditors’ Special Report No 3/2015 on ‘The EU Youth Guarantee: first steps taken but implementation risks ahead’(14),

—  having regard to the Eurostat publication of April 2015 on unemployment in the European Union’s regions,

—  having regard to the European Employment and Social situation quarterly review of March 2015(15),

—  having regard to the OECD working paper of 9 December 2014 on ‘Trends in Income Inequality and its Impact on Economic Growth’,

—  having regard to the fifth and sixth editions of the European Working Conditions Survey (2010 and 2015)(16),

—  having regard to the Eurofound report of 16 February 2016 on the role of social partners in the European Semester,

—  having regard to the Eurofound report of 17 June 2014 on ‘Changes to wage-setting mechanisms in the context of the crisis and the EU’s new economic governance regime’,

—  having regard to the debate with representatives of national parliaments on the priorities of the 2016 European Semester,

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (A8-0031/2016),

A.  whereas the unemployment rate has been slowly diminishing since the second half of 2013, but not significantly enough to curb unemployment and poverty, despite some supportive macroeconomic policies and structural reforms; whereas it nevertheless remains too high in many Member States, currently affecting 9,9 % of active citizens, i.e. 23 million Europeans, about half of them being long-term unemployed, with a figure over 10 % in the euro area, all this still being above the figures of 2008; whereas this highlights that it is essential to take into account specific microeconomic circumstances and the need for further socially just structural reforms, whose social impact should be assessed before they enter into force;

B.  whereas the economic recovery has now entered its third year, with a growth forecast for the EU28 of 2 % in 2016 and of 1,8 % in the euro area, but remains uneven between and within Member States and is partly driven by temporary factors, such as the continued fall in energy prices, which contribute to the increase in spending power, in cases where it has an impact on the real economy; whereas this demonstrates that the EU can do more to boost the economic and social recovery so as to make it more sustainable in the medium term, especially in the current situation of uncertainty in the global economy;

C.  whereas fiscal consolidation in the EU28 is improving, with the general budget deficit decreasing from 4,5 % in 2011 to 2,5 % in 2015;

D.  whereas, as stated by the European Commission(17), employment and social divergences within and between Member States persists and social developments continue to point to further divergence across the EU, hindering growth, employment and cohesion; whereas societies which are characterised by a high level of equality and investment in people do better in terms of growth and employment resilience;

E.  whereas the youth unemployment rate at EU level stands at 22,6 %, and in 2014 the proportion of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) stood at 12,3 %, with this group being at risk of exclusion from the labour market, resulting in loss of skills and human capital; whereas this contributes to a lack of individual autonomy and jeopardises social integration; whereas the primary responsibility for tackling youth unemployment rests with the Member States in terms of developing and implementing labour market regulatory frameworks, education and training systems and active labour market policies;

F.  whereas in 2014 the employment rate in the EU28 rose by 0,8 % while that in the euro area rose by 0,4 %, while there are considerable differences in the performances of Member States, with five having reduced their employment rates by at least five percentage points between 2009 and 2014; whereas in 2014 the number of self-employed increased at about the same pace as employment and from 2013 the increase in overall employment has been mainly driven by an increase in temporary contracts, although this varies greatly between Member States; whereas the level of unemployment and its social consequences differ between European countries; whereas many young people either enrol for additional graduate studies in an effort to escape unemployment or leave their home country in search of employment in other Member States; whereas these two cases are not included in national statistics on youth unemployment;

G.  whereas the employment rate of women (63,5 % in May 2015) remains far below the Europe 2020 headline target of 75 %, and women’s part-time employment rate remains high, at 32,2 % compared to a rate for men of 8,8 %, even if one takes account of individual free choices and needs; whereas enhancing women’s labour market participation can help reduce these gaps and address women’s increased risk of poverty and social exclusion;

H.  whereas the loss of human capital due to unemployment is huge, and the total cost of youth unemployment has been estimated at EUR 153 billion per annum(18); whereas, in addition to its financial and social effects, unemployment, youth unemployment and long-term unemployment negatively affect social convergence and ultimately hamper sustainable economic growth;

I.  whereas in 2014 about 5 % of the labour force in the EU28 had been unemployed for more than a year and 3,1 % for more than two years; whereas only one half of workers aged between 55 and 65 are in employment and long-term unemployment is particularly prevalent among younger and older age groups; whereas discrimination against long-term unemployed jobseekers is unfortunately very common; whereas such practices are based on the psychological stigma associated with unemployment, and employers may perceive older jobless applicants as being less competent and less hireable than employed individuals; whereas there is a need for employers to train human resource managers to overcome possible biases against unemployed workers and older workers and to focus on qualifications and experience rather than the current employment status;

J.  whereas about 20 % of active citizens in the EU have only basic skills and 40 % of the EU’s population can be considered insufficiently digitally skilled; whereas despite the difficulties faced by many people, including young people, in entering the labour market, there are approximately 2 million unfilled vacancies in the EU, of which almost 900 000 are in the digital sector, and 39 % of companies still have difficulties in finding staff with the required skills, although research shows that the companies which are unable to find workers with the required skills are often those unwilling to offer long-term contracts; whereas in 2012 one in three Europeans were neither over- or under-qualified for their job; whereas low educational levels and the mismatch between education and the labour market needs are among the key causes of young people becoming NEETs, negatively affecting growth; whereas it is essential to identify the root causes of early school leaving and advises Member States to recover the education spending at levels which will make it possible to achieve the Europe 2020 goals;

K.  whereas undeclared work deprives workers of their social and labour rights, fosters social dumping, and has serious budgetary implications as it leads to loss of tax revenue and social security contributions, producing negative effects for employment, productivity and quality of work, skills development and lifelong learning, as well as going against an efficient and effective system of pension rights, inter alia by widening the pension gap, also affecting access to healthcare in some Member States; whereas there is a need for more efforts to turn undeclared work into declared work;

L.  whereas although atypical or non-standard forms of employment do not in themselves constitute precarious work, it is more likely to be found where contracts of this nature apply, albeit such contracts account for a minority of existing employment relationships(19); whereas insecurity is another element of precariousness, encompassing work uncertainty, income insufficiency, lack of protection against dismissal, and unknown length of employment; whereas there has been a worrying increase in contracts of this type in some Member States; whereas in order to avoid inappropriate use of such contracts, an efficient and effective labour inspection mechanism must be implemented at national level; whereas it is important to stimulate quality employment which provide adequate income and economic security for families;

M.  whereas one of the five Europe 2020 targets aims at reducing by at least 20 million the number of people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion; whereas almost 123 million people in the EU are in this situation; whereas in 2013 26,5 million children in the EU28 were at risk of falling into poverty or social exclusion; whereas the numbers of Europeans at risk of poverty rose in the period 2009-2012, but the situation has stabilised considering the numbers in 2013 and 2014; whereas homelessness has increased in many EU Member States; whereas 32,2 million persons with disabilities over the age of 16 in 2012 were at risk of falling into poverty and social exclusion; whereas the Europe 2020 targets have not yet been reached, and an immediate review of the strategy is therefore needed;

N.  whereas the proportion of the EU’s population aged 65 or above relative to those aged between 15 and 64 is projected to increase from 27,8 % to 50,1 % by 2060, while the total economic dependency ratio(20) is expected to stabilise at over 120 % up to the middle of the next decade and then to rise above 140 % by 2060; whereas these factors, as well as other demographic changes, such as an ageing population, population density or population dispersal, highlight the need for public authorities to introduce comprehensive and socially responsible policies with the objectives of increasing the birth rate, facilitating high rates of quality employment, and promoting sufficiency in social security systems and active ageing, as well as introducing socially responsible reforms in the labour market and in retirement systems and guaranteeing the sufficiency and adequacy of the first pension pillar in the short, medium and long term;

O.  whereas the EU gender pension gap remains substantial at 40 %, reflecting differences between women and men in relation to full-time and part-time work, as well as the gender pay gap and shorter careers of women;

P.  whereas the growing number of dependent older people has and will have an increasing impact on health and long-term care systems and the need for both formal and informal care resources; whereas current social security systems do not take sufficient account of the situation of informal carers, who constitute a huge resource for society;

Q.  whereas public and private debt remain too high in many Member States, hampering the strength of the EU economies; whereas low interest rates in the euro area can be used to enlarge the margins of action of Member States; whereas it is necessary to hold a thorough debate on the handling of the debt in the EU;

R.  whereas, given the current trend, in the next 10 to 15 years 90 % of the world’s growth will come from outside the EU; believes, therefore, that it is necessary to continue to develop and promote real growth and job creation strategies in the Member States; whereas it is essential to implement innovative industrial and market policies in order to increase intra-EU and global competitiveness and thus help deliver sustainable and socially inclusive employment opportunities;

S.  whereas 20 % of European Social Fund expenditure should be used to address poverty and social exclusion in the Member States;

T.  whereas the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) has already approved 69 projects in 18 countries and signed 56 operations (with total financing under this fund accounting for around EUR 1,4 billion), and this is expected to result in over EUR 22 billion’s worth of investment and to involve some 71 000 SMEs; whereas more effort is needed to ensure that funding is provided for social infrastructure such as childcare, with a view to meeting the long standing Barcelona commitments; whereas the current projects involve mostly large infrastructure schemes, while SMEs and micro-enterprises are usually excluded by these funds in spite of their importance as being the backbone of the European economy and a generator of quality employment;

U.  whereas social economy enterprises comprise 2 million businesses (10 % of the EU total) which employ over 14 million people, representing around 6,5 % of workers in the EU;

V.  whereas the outermost regions are facing huge difficulties related to their specific characteristics that limit their potential for growth; whereas unemployment rates in those regions vary between 15 % and 32,4 %;

W.  whereas 6,9 million EU citizens are currently exercising their fundamental right to free movement and to live and work in another Member State; whereas there are over 1,1 million cross-border or frontier workers; whereas the free movement of people is fundamental for enhancing convergence between European countries;

X.  whereas the increasing number of refugees in Europe calls for solidarity and more balanced and enhanced efforts by Member States and regional and local authorities in terms of integration measures, such as social assistance in line with the relevant EU asylum legislation and medium to long-term actions and strategies for receiving and integrating refugees into society;

Investing in people

1.  Stresses that the need to invest in social developments is not just a means of guaranteeing that sustainable and inclusive economic development and convergence can be achieved, but must also be a specific target in itself; highlights, therefore, the importance of quality of employment, poverty and inequality indicators; welcomes the Commission’s call for investment in services such as housing support, healthcare, childcare and rehabilitation services; underlines that economic and social cohesion should remain the primary objective of all EU policies and that more efforts should be made to carry out a more complex and objective evaluation based on the Member States’ diversity and characteristics;

2.  Welcomes the fact that the Commission’s Annual Growth Survey (AGS) underlines the need to pay more attention to social fairness in the context of the new national stability and reform programmes, adding three employment indicators (activity rate, youth unemployment and long-term unemployment) in for the macroeconomic imbalance procedure; urges that these indicators be put on a genuinely equal footing with the existing indicators, allowing them to trigger in-depth analyses in the relevant Member States and guarantee that their internal imbalances are further assessed, with economic and social reforms being proposed and monitored;

3.  Welcomes the Commission’s action in the context of the AGS in placing social fairness at the heart of European economic recovery; stresses the EU’s convergence achievements by creating an EMU and calls on the Commission and the Member States to take action to boost upward social convergence in the Union; calls on the Commission to define and quantify its concept of social fairness, taking into account both employment and social policies, to be achieved through the 2016 AGS and the European Semester;

4.  Recalls that quality and inclusive employment constitutes an essential pillar for social fairness, promoting human dignity for all; believes that in this sense creating quality employment and generating growth must be placed at the centre of Member State and EU policies, especially for youth and for the ‘Generation 55+’, as a means of constructing more sustainable social economies in the EU; urges Member States to implement and further develop policies for youth employment by matching those policies with the actual needs of the labour market;

5.  Calls on the Commission to foster, at Member State level, forms of cooperation involving governments, enterprises, including social economy enterprises, educational institutions, individualised services, civil society and social partners, on the basis of exchange of best practices and with a view to better matching Member States’ education and training systems to combat skills mismatches, meet the needs of the labour market, and support access to and retention of employment in the open labour market for all people in Europe, in particular through dual training; encourages the Member States to carefully design and evaluate ex ante all structural reforms in national education systems, in cooperation with social partners, in order to guarantee that education provides the proper tools to citizens; calls on the Member States to include the culture of entrepreneurship and the social economy principles in their education and training programmes; calls on the Commission to promote, at Member State level, a broader investment strategy for the full cycle of education and training, encompassing all sectors of lifelong learning, work-based and workplace learning and formal and non-formal learning;

6.  Notes that educational efforts are primarily focused on the younger part of the workforce but that many Member States need a broader focus on educating the workforce, including adult education and vocational training opportunities; underlines that insufficient investment in education, especially in digital skills, poses a threat to Europe’s competitive position and to the employability of its workforce; encourages the Member States, therefore, to prioritise broad education in digital skills; calls on the Commission to promote, at Member State level, a broader investment strategy for the full cycle of education and training, encompassing all sectors of lifelong learning, work-based and workplace learning, dual learning and formal and non-formal learning taking account of the need to improve adult education in order to respond to demographic change in such a way as to better adapt Member States’ education and training systems to the needs of the labour market; calls on the Member States to support apprenticeship and to fully use the Erasmus+ funds available for apprentices in order to guarantee the quality and attractiveness of this kind of training;

7.  Stresses the need to invest in people as early as possible in the life cycle in order to reduce inequality and foster social inclusion at a young age; calls, therefore, for access to quality, inclusive and affordable early childhood education and care (ECEC) services for all children in all Member States;

8.  Recalls the importance of skills and competences acquired in non-formal and informal learning environments in terms of improving the employability of young people and people having spent time out of the labour market to take on caring responsibilities; stresses, therefore, the importance of creating a validation system for non-formal and informal forms of knowledge and experience, especially those acquired via voluntary activities; takes the view that coherent certification and mutual recognition of qualifications will contribute to bridge the gap between the skills shortages on the European labour market and young jobseekers; insists on the implementation of the lifelong learning framework approach towards a flexible education path recognising formal, but also non-formal and informal learning, in order to foster equity and social cohesion and allow employment opportunities for more vulnerable groups;

9.  Welcomes the Commission’s proposal to enhance the Youth Guarantee at national, regional and local level, and stresses its importance for school-to-work transitions; regrets, however, the fact that the Youth Guarantee has not been effectively implemented in many Member States; stresses the need to guarantee suitable forms of collaboration between public and private employment services at local, national and European level and social support services, both mainstream and individualised support services; emphasises the need to ensure that the Youth Guarantee reach young people facing multiple exclusions and extreme poverty; with a view to this, calls on the Commission to consider a targeted review of the Youth Guarantee and its financing instruments, including the Youth Employment Initiative; believes that the Commission can play a role in focusing Member States’ attention on the need for action and facilitating the exchange of best practices on how best to combat youth unemployment;

10.  Welcomes the Commission’s initiative for an individualised approach for the long-term unemployed, but is worried about the plight of the more than 12 million long-term unemployed in Europe; considers that such an approach will require an increased effort in terms of human resources, calling for participants with the educational level needed to be able to orientate the unemployed on how to overcome possible gaps in education or training; calls for adequate support to jobseekers in the form of integrated service provision and access to high-quality education and training in order to overcome possible gaps; stresses that professional requalification processes require adequate financial resources that need to be channelled to unemployed individuals of all ages, and that for active employment policies to be efficient they must include requirements for the competent national authorities and employers as well as for the long-term unemployed;

11.  Recalls that the integration of long-term unemployed individuals is crucial for their self-confidence, wellbeing and future development, and is key to fighting poverty and social exclusion and will contribute to guarantee the sustainability of national social security systems; considers that it is necessary to take into account the social situation of these citizens and their needs; underlines, however, that 12,7 % of working age people are suffering from in-work poverty (on 2014 figures, increased from 11 % in 2009), so that an integrated active inclusion and social investment approach is needed; calls on the Commission to engage Member States in strategies and actions to reduce poverty and social exclusion in line with the Europe 2020 strategy; calls on the Commission to support efforts to create inclusive lifelong learning opportunities for workers and jobseekers at all ages and to take measures as soon as possible to improve access to EU funding and mobilise additional resources where possible, as was done in the case of the Youth Employment Initiative;

12.  Emphasises the urgent need to ensure that the EU’s efforts to fight poverty and social exclusion actively address the growing numbers of homeless people, who are currently not captured by the indicators used to measure the EU poverty target but who represent an alarming social reality affecting at least 4 million people every year(21);

13.  Stresses the need for a quick and effective response to the needs of unemployed people aged 55+; calls on both the Commission and the Member States to support flexible employment solutions for this group (including part-time and temporary jobs) that meet their specific needs, thus ensuring that they do not leave the world of work prematurely; underlines the important role of older workers in the workplace in passing on their knowledge and experience to younger workers, e.g. by involving them in workplace training processes, thus ensuring that workers aged 55+ do not end up unemployed;

Structural reforms in a social and responsible way

14.  Notes that the EU as a whole and many of its Member States continue to suffer from structural problems that need to be addressed urgently; is concerned at the social impact of those fiscal adjustment policies which focus on cutting expenditure, and stresses that economic policies should guarantee compliance with Article 9 TFEU; points out the need to continue prioritising public and private investment and socially and economically balanced structural reforms that reduce inequalities, and to promote sustainable growth and responsible fiscal consolidation (taking into account debt sustainability, the economic cycle and the investment gap), including revenue policies by fighting tax fraud and tax avoidance, thus reinforcing the path towards greater cohesion and upward social convergence; considers that these policies promote a favourable environment for business and public services with a view to creating quality employment and social progress and fostering investment that delivers both social and economic returns; stresses that those priorities will only be achieved if adequate investment in human capital and lifelong learning is prioritised as a common strategy; insists on involving social partners regarding structural reforms and labour market policies;

15.  Highlights that socially responsible reforms must be based on solidarity, integration, social justice and a fair distribution of wealth – a model that ensures equality and social protection, protects vulnerable groups and improves living standards for all citizens;

16.  Stresses the need to promote and protect the social market economy, which provides a framework within which competitiveness and high social standards contribute to social justice and social justice stimulates competitiveness; stresses, in addition, the need to find a balance between economic considerations and the need to ensure efficient fiscal consolidation, a sustainable economy, real social cohesion and increased social protection; calls on the Commission to extend its approach to insolvency and business failure(22) and to improve debt-restructuring and second chance schemes;

17.  Stresses that the AGS should assess in a more consistent manner the evolution of inequality in Europe through economic indicators, such as the Gini and Palma indexes;

18.  Calls on the Member States to actively participate in the Undeclared Work Platform and to follow up their exchange of best practices with concrete actions in order to tackle undeclared work, letterbox companies and bogus self-employment, since these jeopardise both the quality of work and workers’ access to social protection systems and national public finances, leading to unfair competition between European enterprises; calls on the Member States to increase their efforts to turn undeclared work into declared work and to adequately equip labour inspections, as well as to reinforce labour inspection mechanisms and design measures to enable workers to move from the grey to the formal economy, in order to have access to employment protection regimes; encourages Member States to implement rates of taxation related to the degree of stability and the quality of the diverse forms of employment relationship, as one of the incentives for stable contracts;

19.  Considers that wage dispersion increases inequalities and damages the productivity and competitiveness of companies; calls on the Commission and the Member States to implement measures to improve job quality in order to reduce labour market segmentation, combined with measures raising minimum wages to an adequate level in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity and strengthening collective bargaining and workers’ position in wage-setting systems in order to reduce wage dispersion; believes all this should be done with a view to supporting aggregate demand and economic recovery, reducing wage inequalities and fighting in-work poverty;

20.  Considers that carefully considered flexicurity contributes to avoiding labour fragmentation and promoting the maintenance of sustainable quality employment but is concerned that flexicurity has not been applied adequately in a range of Member states; calls on the Member States and the Commission, where appropriate, to ensure that labour rights and social security standards are ensured when applying the flexicurity model; calls on the Member States to modernise their employment protection legislation in order to promote more stability in employment and security in transitions between jobs and also through more and better cooperation between public and private employment services where applicable, as well as employees’ access to social security and welfare rights; Several Member States have pursued reforms, with positive effects visible for instance in increasing employment rates, but regrets that in certain cases the labour reforms have favoured flexibility at the expense of security, resulting in precariousness and a lack of employment protection; calls on the Commission to step up monitoring of the abusive practice of successive fixed-term contracts as well as other successive atypical contacts, in both private and public sectors;

21.  Calls on the Member States to take into consideration the overall evolution of public service workers’ incomes as well as of minimum incomes where applicable, without prejudice to productivity growth and in a sustainable and stable manner that does not jeopardise their own competences;

22.  Welcomes the Commission´s initiative on investment in human capital with a view to restoring employment levels and sustainable growth, but is extremely worried at the fact that public expenditure on education has recorded a 3,2 %(23) fall since 2010, with decreases in eleven Member States in the most recent year for which figures are available (2013);

23.  Stresses the importance of active labour market policies in the current context; calls on the Member States to increase the coverage and effectiveness of active labour market policies;

24.  Notes the need to embrace the shift towards the digital economy in the context of upskilling and training as well as new forms of employment;

25.  Calls on the Member States to gradually shift the tax burden from labour to other sources in a way that hampers neither the most vulnerable groups in society, especially low-paid workers, nor overall competitiveness, while also ensuring the long‑term sustainability of public pension systems and the adequate financing of social security and social protection systems; also calls on the Member States to implement tax rules that foster incentives to entrepreneurship and employment creation, especially for young people and also for the ‘Generation 55+’, in order to utilise those workers’ professional experience and secure the transfer of their know-how and to boost research and innovation projects within European enterprises; urges the Member States to cut administrative burdens in order to promote youth entrepreneurship;

26.  Calls on the European Semester and the AGS to assess the importance of incomes policies, including pensions, revenue indicators and fiscal policy, in order to guarantee social cohesion and reverse inequality trends;

27.  Calls on the Member States to assess and increase investment in their current social protection systems, in order to guarantee their performance in tackling and preventing poverty and inequality while also ensuring their sustainability in the face of expected demographic, economic and new social challenges, and to improve the resilience of Member States’ economies in times of crisis; stresses that high-quality welfare systems and social investment are of great importance if Europe wants to maintain its main competitive advantage in terms of highly-skilled workers and productive companies;

28.  In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, Member States should retain full responsibility for the organisation of their pension systems as well as for decisions on the role of each of the three pillars of the retirement system in individual Member States; considers that pension schemes should provide guarantees against old age poverty and that for this reason it is necessary to implement policies to guarantee a strong, sustainable and adequate first pension pillar;

29.  Encourages the Member States to strengthen efforts to eradicate the gender pay gap and to take more active measures to strengthen women’s participation in the labour market; calls on the Member States and the Commission, where appropriate in line with the principle of subsidiarity with the help of social partners, to promote family-friendly policies that enhance the care of other dependents as well as parents’ capacity such as, adequate maternity and paternity leave provisions and access to affordable childcare to ensure children’s wellbeing, enabling those with caring responsibilities to have equal access to the labour market in order to achieve a better work-life balance, which is of particular importance for the inclusion of women in the labour market; encourages the Member States to examine the persistence of low birth rates in the EU and to consider applying more favourable fiscal differentiation in line with the number of children in a household; calls on the Member States to provide families with assistance not only by means of financial support but also in the form of services;

30.  Notes that low population density or a highly dispersed population result in a significantly higher cost of providing public services such as healthcare or education; calls on the Commission and the Member States to take account of their causes and consequences while analysing the effects of demographic change and its impact on the sustainability of public finances;

31.  Stresses the fact that, in order to be effective, EFSI investments must be focused on creating new investments in areas where investor appetite is subdued rather than on substituting investments that would have been produced elsewhere or focusing on highly profitable investments that would have occurred in any case; reiterates its call on the importance of investments in human capital and other social investments, such as healthcare, childcare or affordable housing and on the need of the effective implementation of the Social Investment Package;

32.  Invites the Commission and the Member States to involve all levels of government and relevant stakeholders in the identification of obstacles to investments, focusing on the regions and sectors most in need as well as on making available adequate instruments bringing together public and private financing;

Boosting sustainable growth by relaunching investment

33.  Underlines the need to promote sustainable and inclusive growth leading to the creation of more and better jobs and tangible prospects for all, including for young people, in order to respond to the internal and external challenges facing the EU; notes that more attention should be paid to adapting existing employment, including that of vulnerable groups, to the fast-changing labour market and emerging new sectors, in view of ensuring its sustainability;

34.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to focus on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, as a fundamental key for sustainable and inclusive development and job creation, and to level off the differences in self-employment rates between women and men; urges the Member States to implement tax schemes linked to sustainable business models that favour innovative start-ups and the facilitation of job creation by SMEs, to monitor the impact of tax incentives on sustainable development, and to develop mechanisms that might impel such enterprises to achieve or operationalise in an international dimension; underlines, therefore, the need to implement comprehensive policies at EU level in order to enable Member States to face the challenges posed by their non-EU competitors;

35.  Calls on the Commission, in close cooperation with Member States, to take steps to provide better information on all European funds and programmes that have the potential to boost entrepreneurship, investment and access to financing, such as Erasmus for Entrepreneurs, the European Employment Services (EURES), the programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME), the programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI); recalls the importance of the partnership principle, of a bottom-up approach and of adequate resource allocation;

36.  Calls on the Commission to evaluate all the above programmes in a holistic way, in order to prevent conflicts between targets and demands, and to cut red tape; considers that such a revision should include an analysis of each Member State’s implementation, thus ensuring greater equity in terms of access to the funds;

37.  The European Social Fund should devote more resources to funding the participation of unemployed workers in training programmes in the EU Member States as well as in programmes in their country of origin, thus facilitating their integration in the European labour market chosen by them and enhancing European citizenship;

38.  Calls on the Member States to develop policies which boost entrepreneurship among young people from an early age, by providing opportunities for internships and company visits;

39.  Calls on the Member States, in order to boost entrepreneurship among young people, to support associations and initiatives which help young entrepreneurs in the development of innovative projects by providing them administrative, legal or organisational support;

40.  Points out that social economy enterprises, including those providing social services, encounter even more difficulties than traditional enterprises in obtaining public or private financing, owing to, among other factors, lack of knowledge of the actual situation on the part of financial intermediary managers; underlines the need to give such enterprises more support, especially as regards access to the different forms of financing, including European funds; further underlines the need to reduce administrative burdens in order to support social enterprises; stresses the need to give them a legal framework, by means of, for example, a European Statute for cooperative societies, associations, foundations and mutuals, recognising their action in the EU and avoiding unfair competition; calls on the Commission to support investment in the social economy, and welcomes the fact that part of the funding for the EaSI programme is earmarked to help provide access to finance for social and solidarity-based economy enterprises;

41.  Underlines the high societal and economic value of investment in social protection, including social services;

Better use of European funds to foster social, economic and territorial cohesion

42.  Welcomes the establishment of the EFSI in the first year of its implementation and its role of supporting the best projects at European level; calls on the Commission to ensure that the EFSI enables a better social and economic convergence of Member States and their regions within the EU and that all Member States make use of the possibility of accessing this fund in line with the objectives of cohesion policy; calls on the Commission to monitor and control investments under the EFSI; believes that a report should be published to audit and measure the economic and social impact of the investment concerned in real terms;

43.  Points out that investment priorities must be oriented towards infrastructure projects where they are clearly needed in order to ensure greater cohesion, social fairness or human capital development or to enhance sustainable inclusive growth; calls on the Commission to require both a prior presentation of the expected social and economic outcomes of any EU-funded investment project and to include subsequent monitoring and evaluation; highlights the need to avoid the negative impact on the environment which these projects may cause;

44.  Stresses, taking into account Member States’ difficulties in fully using European funds, that the EU must guarantee proper and better use of its investments, which need to be matched to its priorities and fundamental values as set out in the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as the efficient management of its resources, and must cut the administrative burdens and reduce barriers with regard to access, implementation and evaluation; underlines the need to ensure that all enterprises have equal opportunities to access funding; calls on the Commission to ensure close monitoring of the use of EU funds;

45.  Welcomes the Commission’s call on Member States to increase their social investment in order to boost European economic, territorial and social cohesion, especially in (formal and informal) healthcare and long-term care as well as social services, childcare, housing support and rehabilitation services; calls on enterprises and all other eligible beneficiaries to make better use of the investment mechanisms provided by European funds and projects having direct application; calls, furthermore, on the Commission to monitor whether EU recommendations are being properly implemented by Member States;

46.  Points out that formal and, especially, informal carers represent an important pillar for mastering the rapidly growing demands related to the future of care systems in Europe; underlines the need to improve social protection for caring family members, who often have to cut back on their paid employment in order to provide unpaid care, losing social security entitlements as a result;

47.  Recognises the Commission’s efforts for enhancing the use of the European Structural and Investment Funds in support of the implementation of the country-specific recommendations (CSRs), and notes the Commission´s proposal to the Member States on funding for technical assistance; underlines that these funds should not be used solely to implement the CSRs, since this could potentially lead to other important investment areas being left out;

48.  Agrees on the need to develop a process of upward economic and social convergence in order to foster social, economic and territorial cohesion within and between Member States and their regions, but points out that this must be viewed as a goal of a common project in which social dialogue and the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders play a key role; points out that social policy forms part of the shared competences between the EU and the Member States and that the role of the EU in this area is limited to supporting and complementing the activities of the Member States in accordance with Article 153 TFEU and in line with the subsidiarity principle;

49.  Calls for the tackling of economic inequalities which act as an obstacle to long-lasting economic growth; stresses that the divisions between the poorest regions and the rest of the EU are deepening, and calls for urgent targeted efforts at both European and national level for promoting cohesion and growth in those regions; calls on the Commission and the Member States, accordingly, to boost strategic investments in order to increase competiveness with respect to Article 174 TFEU, in particular in those regions that suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps;

50.  Calls on the Commission to enhance the application of Article 349 TFEU in order to make the outermost regions more integrated in the Europe of Regions, differentiating EU policies in order to guarantee equity between regions and promote upward convergence; underlines that it is necessary to maintain the special attention given to outermost regions, not only in terms of allocation of funds but also in the light of the impact that European policies can have on their social situation and levels of employment; calls on the Commission to ensure that European decisions and funding allocations are accompanied by proper monitoring, reproducing significant improvement in the wellbeing of the outermost regions’ citizens;

51.  Calls on the Commission, in the framework of the mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), to study the possibility of increasing funding for the ESF in order to ensure the adequacy of its objectives and take account of the new challenges that have been incorporated, such as long-term unemployment or the integration of refugees; also calls for the establishment of a specific programme, within the MFF as agreed, for those EU subregions whose unemployment rates exceed 30 %;

Social inclusion as an opportunity for society

52.  Welcomes the renewal of the Europe 2020 integrated guidelines; stresses that the pertinence of the Europe 2020 strategy has increased since its creation, and calls on the Member States to reinforce its implementation on the ground; asks the Commission and Council to undertake closer monitoring of its global and national implementation; considers it necessary to start projecting a post-Europe 2020 scenario linked to the Sustainable Development Goals;

53.  Is concerned at the fact that a job is no longer, by itself, a guarantee out of poverty or the best tool for ensuring social inclusion, with 12,7 % of working-age people suffering in-work poverty in 2014, an increase on 11 % in 2009; calls on the Commission to propose an integrated anti-poverty strategy for the EU, in order to tackle the multidimensionality of poverty for all groups, especially the most vulnerable ones, and promote integrated active inclusion, underpinned by the right to proper social protection; in this sense, reiterates its call on the Commission to propose an initiative to promote the introduction of minimum incomes in the Member States without breaching the principle of subsidiarity;

54.  Calls on the Member States to implement and monitor more effective, efficient and inclusive forms of social protection systems and income support, in order to ensure that these systems offer an adequate standard of living for the unemployed and those at risk of poverty and social exclusion, while guaranteeing that such mechanisms do not perpetuate social dependency and ensure access to education, training and opportunities to enter the labour market; calls on the Commission and the Member States to exchange best practices on the efficiency of a minimum income in terms of reducing inequality and social exclusion in Europe;

55.  Encourages the Member States to implement the necessary measures for the social inclusion of refugees, migrants legally residing in the EU and asylum seekers, in line with the relevant asylum legislation; points out. however, that such measures can be effective only if shared and implemented by all Member States; considers that such an approach will require an adequate allocation of funds and in the current fragile situation cannot be provided solely by Member States; calls on the Commission to provide the funding required to develop such a holistic approach to migration, as part of the mid-term review of the MFF; calls on the Commission and the Member States to take adequate measures to help refugees settle and integrate, as well as ensuring that public services are sufficiently resourced and that there is early anticipation of requirements so as to facilitate refugees’ smooth transition to the labour market, including mechanisms for the recognition of skills and competences; local authorities and social partners should play a key role in facilitating the proper integration of migrants in the labour market and the prevention of labour abuse;

56.  Urges the Member States to fully transpose into national legislation and to implement all the provisions included in the updated European Agenda on Migration; deplores the fact that the Commission has had to adopt 40 infringement decisions against different Member States, including Letters of Formal Notice served on 19 Member States for not having taken the necessary measures to transpose the Reception Conditions Directive; supports the Commission in its efforts to strengthen the European Agenda on Migration;

57.  Points out to the Member States, in view of the ageing of Europe’s citizens and the high unemployment rates among young people in some parts of the EU, the social risk implied in not being able to guarantee the sustainability, safety, adequacy and effectiveness of social security systems over the coming decades; therefore encourages the Member States to develop strategies which ensure that more people can remain active within society;

58.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to work together on removing the obstacles to fair labour mobility, since free movement is a fundamental right in the EU, and to act on the one hand to increase the employment rate and on the other hand to ensure that EU mobile workers are treated equally as national workers and are not abused or discriminated against, and that their employment and social rights are guaranteed;

59.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to support intra-EU labour mobility throughout the Union, as a means of creating opportunities for both workers and companies; calls on the Member States to use and promote the European tools available to facilitate this labour mobility, especially the European jobs network EURES; in the case of cross-border regions where labour mobility is really high, encourages Member States to develop EURES cross-border partnerships in order to help workers in their mobility plans;

60.  Calls on the Commission to develop a concrete plan on how the European Semester will be used to implement the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;

61.  States that social dialogue is a key instrument for improving working conditions, and that in order to ensure the best conditions possible for the dialogue between social partners, the necessary preconditions in this context are the existence of strong trade unions, the participation of employees in company affairs and the strengthening of collective agreements; calls on the Commission and the Member States to boost the quality of social dialogue also at the European level, ensuring timely and meaningful social partner consultations and allowing for the necessary analysis and integration of proposals in decision-making processes;

62.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to reinforce their efforts to tackle social and wage dumping in the EU, which causes significant harm to the workers affected and to Member State welfare systems; calls, furthermore, for the social partners to be included at all levels in these efforts;

Better coordination of the European Semester

63.  Welcomes the Commission recommendation on the euro area, which consolidates the joint analysis and definition of strategies of the social and economic dimensions of Member States under EMU, stressing the need for these criteria to be reconciled; however, warns about the possibility of development of a two-tier EU;

64.  Believes that the euro area recommendation needs to be the starting point to strengthen the social dimension in the sense of:

   (a) enhanced democratic accountability mechanisms at both EU and national levels, including an interinstitutional agreement with the European Parliament and ensuring that all euro area national parliaments have the conditions to follow each step of the European Semester process;
   (b) a social dimension aimed at preserving Europe’s social market economy, envisaging better wage floors in the form of, where applicable and in compliance with the subsidiarity principle, minimum wages set at adequate levels and with the involvement of social partners;
   (c) joint meetings between the EPSCO Council and ECOFIN, to be held with a view to promoting coordinated socio-economic policies geared towards strengthening competitiveness in Europe and giving growth and quality jobs a sustainable boost;
   (d) meetings of the euro area Labour and Social Ministers so as to better integrate its social dimension and properly address social imbalances;

65.  Calls on the Commission to present, as soon as possible, a proposal for establishing a Pillar on social rights capable of ensuring a level playing field across the EU, as part of the efforts towards a fair and truly pan-European labour market as well as being a means to foster upward economic and social convergence in order to tackle the economic and social disparities existing within and between Member States;

66.  Calls on the Commission to provide adequate monitoring and follow-up of the implementation of the CSRs and to ensure that there is an adequate focus on employment and social inclusion issues;

67.  Calls for a stronger role for the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, inclusive and sustainable growth and for its targets, particularly the social targets, to be reflected equally in all the Semester instruments, including the CSRs;

68.  Welcomes the fact that the Commission has clearly distinguished a European and a national phase with regard to the European Semester; stresses the need for closer coordination between the European institutions in the design, implementation and evaluation of the European strategy for sustainable and inclusive growth; calls on the Commission to establish a clear agenda in this respect, also involving the social partners, the national parliaments and other relevant stakeholders from civil society, and ensuring that the Spring European Council remains the main timeframe for the definition of policy priorities on the basis of the input from the Commission, Parliament and the Council; believes that the Commission could undertake monitoring and reporting as regards whether the suggestions for implementing certain CSRs on a basis of ‘consultation with the social partners’ were taken up;

69.  Believes that, in order to match European and national policies on growth and guarantee their suitability on the ground, it is crucial to strengthen the role of the social partners at both European and national level; stresses that, in order to progress with upward convergence and balance competitiveness and fairness, social dialogue must be pursued in all the phases of the Semester; in this sense, welcomes the Commission’s efforts to relaunch social dialogue and the streamlined approach introduced by the AGS for 2015; points out, however, that in many Member States the situation remains weak at national level;

70.  Believes the Commission could strengthen the role of the European Semester Officers by better defining their objectives and functions;

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

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0261.
(2) OJ C 153 E, 31.5.2013, p. 57.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0401.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0384.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0389.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0320.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0068.
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0060.
(9) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0010.
(10) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0394.
(11) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0043.
(12) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2009)0062.
(13) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0033.
(14) http://www.eca.europa.eu/Lists/ECADocuments/SR15_03/SR15_03_EN.pdf
(15) http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=89⟨Id=en≠wsId=2193&furtherNews=yes
(16) http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/european-working-conditions-surveys-ewcs
(17) Joint employment report 2016, p. 2.
(18) http://www.eca.europa.eu/Lists/ECADocuments/SR15_03/SR15_03_EN.pdf
(19) Study on Precarious Work and Social Rights (VT/2010/084), p. 164-170.
(20) Total inactive population relative to employed people aged between 20 and 64.
(21) http://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=9770&langId=en
(22) Expressed in Commission recommendation of 12 March 2014 (C(2014)1500).
(23) Joint Employment Report 2016, p. 19.


Single Market governance within the European Semester 2016
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European Parliament resolution of 25 February 2016 on the Single Market governance within the European Semester 2016 (2015/2256(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0060A8-0017/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 March 2015 on the European Semester for economic policy coordination: Annual Growth Survey 2015(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 March 2015 on Single Market governance within the European Semester 2015(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 February 2014 on Single Market governance within the European Semester 2014(3), and to the Commission’s follow-up thereon adopted on 28 May 2014,

–  having regard to its resolution of 22 October 2014 on the European Semester for economic policy coordination: implementation of 2014 priorities(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 7 February 2013 with recommendations to the Commission on the governance of the Single Market(5), and to the Commission’s follow-up thereon adopted on 8 May 2013,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 26 November 2014 on an Investment Plan for Europe (COM(2014)0903),

–  having regard to the report of the Five Presidents of 22 June 2015 on Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 21 October 2015 on steps towards Completing Economic and Monetary Union (COM(2015)0600),

–  having regard to the Commission recommendation of 21 October 2015 for a Council recommendation on the establishment of National Competitiveness Boards within the Euro Area (COM(2015)0601),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 26 November 2015 on the Annual Growth Survey 2016 – Strengthening the recovery and fostering convergence (COM(2015)0690),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document on Member States Investment Challenges (SWD(2015)0400),

–  having regard to the Bruegel policy paper on the Limitations of Policy Coordination in the Euro Area under the European Semester, November 2015,

–  having regard to the Quarterly Report on the Euro Area (QREA), Vol. 14, No 2,

–  having regard to the EPRS study on the Cost of non-Europe in the Single Market, September 2014,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 28 October 2015 on Upgrading the Single Market: more opportunities for people and business (COM(2015)0550) and the report on Single Market Integration and Competitiveness in the EU and its Member States (SWD(2015)0203),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 6 May 2015 on A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe (COM(2015)0192),

–  having regard to the 2015 edition of the online Internal Market Scoreboard,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 8 June 2012 on the implementation of the Services Directive (COM(2012)0261), as updated in October 2015,

–  having regard to the European Council conclusions of 27-28 June 2013,

–  having regard to the European Council conclusions of 24-25 October 2013,

–  having regard to the European Council conclusions of 19-20 December 2013,

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (A8-0017/2016),

A.  whereas the EU faces diverse challenges at both global and domestic level, such as sluggish growth, high levels of unemployment and, in particular, intense international competition;

B.  whereas the European Semester aims to increase coordination of economic and fiscal policies across the EU 28 in order to enhance stability, promote growth and employment and strengthen competitiveness;

C.  whereas it is imperative to mobilise all potential avenues to boost the EU economy and competitiveness;

D.  whereas the Single Market is one of the cornerstones of the EU and one of its major achievements; whereas for the European Semester to successfully foster economic growth and stabilise economies it must equally encompass the Single Market and policies aimed at its completion;

E.  whereas an inclusive Single Market, with enhanced governance which favours better regulation and competition, is a crucial instrument to improve growth, employment and competitiveness and to preserve the confidence of the business sector and consumers;

F.  whereas ongoing technological, societal and behavioural changes significantly impact business and consumer behaviour, creating many economic opportunities and challenges which the Single Market framework must address;

G.  whereas, above all, it is compliance with existing rules within the European Semester and the Single Market that will provide real insight into the suitability or shortcomings of current rules;

The Single Market as an important tool in boosting EU competitiveness and delivering jobs and growth

1.  Reiterates that the Single Market is one of the foundations of the EU; stresses that for the European Semester to successfully foster economic growth and stabilise Member States’ economies it must equally encompass the Single Market and policies aimed at its completion;

2.  Underlines that the Single Market (SM) is the backbone of Member States’ economies and the European integration project as a whole; highlights the economic benefits of the SM, such as product standardisation and market integration, economies of scale and stronger competition, and a level playing field for 500 million consumers across the 28 Member States, providing, in particular, a greater choice of high-quality products and services and lower prices for consumers;

3.  Emphasises the importance of advancing the SM to achieve structural and sustainable economic growth in order to attract and foster investment, in the context of transparency and efficiency rules, which will help to create jobs and promote well-being among the citizens of the Member States; urges the Commission to carry out systematic monitoring of implementation and enforcement of the Single Market rules through the country-specific recommendations (CSRs), in particular where those rules make a significant contribution to structural reforms;

4.  Believes that it is necessary to facilitate an adequate environment for economic initiative and business development, encouraging competitiveness and cooperation among SMEs, thus tapping into the industrial potential of innovation, research and technology;

5.  Notes the recent work of Commission services on identifying and mapping challenges to investment and elaborating country-specific investment profiles;

6.  Is concerned that the level of implementation of European Semester recommendations for 2011-2014 was lower than expected; calls, therefore, on the Commission to propose a mechanism to encourage countries to implement CSRs;

7.  Welcomes the fact that the new European Semester process was streamlined by the Commission and understands that the number of CSRs declined in order to propose recommendations more focused on countries’ priorities; notes that the Annual Growth Survey pays more attention to the Single Market issues than the CSRs;

8.  Reiterates a call for inclusion of the Single Market pillar in the European Semester, with a system for regular monitoring, identification of the country-specific barriers to the Single Market and evaluation of SM integration and competitiveness, focused on a set of priorities where action would generate the most impact in growth and jobs, including sustainable development of businesses – which would encompass also SMEs; considers that the system should comprise a robust information database, a set of quantitative and qualitative indicators aimed at measuring, inter alia, the economic effects of application of the Single Market rules, benchmarking, peer review and exchange of best practices;

9.  Welcomes the 2015 Report on Single Market Integration and Competitiveness in the EU and its Member States; notes that this report, which replaces both the Single Market Integration Report previously annexed to the Annual Growth Survey and the Report on European Industrial Performance, has been published as a document accompanying the Single Market Strategy communication instead of being annexed to the Annual Growth Survey as was previously the case; requests that the report be further developed and that it become part of the SM Governance pillar and the basis for annual assessment of progress of the Single Market; considers that the report should feed into the specific SM section in the Annual Growth Survey, in CSRs and in regular structured Single Market compliance dialogue with the Member States;

10.  Welcomes the Commission’s intention to further analyse the identified country-specific challenges to investment in the framework of the European Semester, particularly in Country Reports and through thematic discussions in the Council;

11.  Draws attention to the fact that many of the identified challenges to investment relate to the functioning of the Single Market and transposition and implementation of Single Market law; asks the Commission to rigorously monitor Member States’ follow-up on the identified challenges and barriers to investment, engage in regular structured compliance dialogue with Member States and use its powers and take action where appropriate in order to remove unjustified and disproportionate barriers to the Single Market;

12.  Stresses that any review process of the European Semester must allow for proper involvement of the European Parliament, national and regional parliaments and all relevant stakeholders, including employer organisations and trade unions, not only to increase the ownership of the European Semester but also to increase the level of implementation of the CSRs;

13.  Underlines the importance of an all inclusive, transparent process leading to relevant and necessary reforms through the European Semester;

Untapped potential of the Single Market

14.  Recalls the need to carry out appropriate and fair economic and social reforms and to tackle red tape and protectionism, in order to improve productivity and the competitiveness of the European economy;

15.  Stresses that despite the lack of straightforward tariff barriers in the Single Market, a vast number of various non-tariff barriers do exist; encourages the EU institutions, the Member States and all relevant stakeholders to launch a constructive debate on this issue in order to overcome the non-tariff obstacles within the EU;

16.  Regrets that in several Member States there are significant deficiencies as regards the implementation of the Services Directive, covering activities representing more than 45 % of the EU’s GDP and employment, inter alia because of a substantial number of national rules and regulations, which are not always in the public interest; regrets also that the notification procedure is not always complied with;

17.  Welcomes the modernisation of the Professional Qualifications Directive, proposing a smoother system of recognition of qualifications supporting labour mobility; notes that the regulation of regulated professions varies between Member States, as do reserves of activities;

18.  Welcomes the Commission’s intention to consider an initiative for a services passport and a harmonised notification form, with the proviso that this initiative leads to greater transparency as regards the extent of the powers of cross-border service providers and a reduction in red tape and administrative burden; emphasises that any such initiative should not lead to the introduction of the country of origin principle; however, it would be appropriate to provide more detail on the outlines of this proposal; considers the services passport as a temporary solution intended for use during the transition to a fully integrated Single Market;

19.  Stresses that the public procurement market accounts for a substantial portion of the Single Market as a whole and contributes significantly to Member States’ and business growth, job creation and competitiveness; asks the Commission to support transparency of public procurement in the public sector, cross-border competition and better use of public resources, including social and environmental standards;

20.  Recalls that in 2014, the EU adopted a major overhaul of the EU procurement framework, simplifying procedures, making the rules more flexible and adapting them to better serve other public sector policies;

21.  Points out that there are still significant inefficiencies in public procurement across Member States that limit cross-border expansion and growth in domestic markets; stresses the need for proper and timely transposition and implementation of public procurement and concessions legislation by Member States; believes correct implementation of the 2007 remedies procedure would ensure that public procurement is more efficient, effective and transparent;

22.  Welcomes the second Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations programme (ISA²), which started on 1 January 2016 and will support the development of interoperable digital solutions, available free of charge to all interested public administrations, businesses and citizens in Europe;

23.  Emphasises that the development and widespread use of e-administration in the Member States will serve as a vital tool making it easier for entrepreneurs to do business in the Single Market and for consumers to exercise their rights; in connection with the above, calls on the Commission to commit to the development of e-administration as a key and urgent priority;

24.  Highlights that the private sector is a crucial driver for sustainable growth and job creation; points out that individual national regulations and practices, coupled with an inadequate implementation of the mutual recognition principle, can result in unnecessary and harmful barriers and burdens for entrepreneurs and consumers; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure proper application and better enforcement of the mutual recognition principle and for cost-efficient instruments for dispute settlement;

25.  Invites the Commission to consult stakeholders in order to identify sectors and markets where the application of the mutual recognition principle is insufficient or problematic;

26.  Advises that a strengthened role for the existing Product Contact Points as single access points for SM issues for economic operators will help raise awareness and understanding of the applicable legislation;

27.  Highlights that better conditions for the emergence of start-ups and SMEs can result in more active innovation and job creation and generate sustainable growth; recalls that many barriers, some of which are bureaucratic, hinder the development of SMEs domestically and internationally; calls for the identification and elimination of the barriers that prevent domestic and international growth;

28.  Highlights that the intensity of tangible and intangible capital accumulation in the EU has been lower post-financial crisis when compared to competitors, which is detrimental to economic and social development; stresses that investment, including in the area of ICT, is of the utmost importance in order to restore productivity and long-term growth in the EU; is of the view that in order to reverse this negative trend, the Single Market must be enhanced and barriers to investment reduced; demands that investment be focused on financing the real economy and that sustained measures continue to be taken to achieve that goal;

29.  Calls for an immediate abolition of unjustified territorial restrictions known as geo-blocking, in particular by means of fully implementing Article 20 of the Services Directive, thus ending unjustified discrimination in access to goods and services as well as price discrimination based on geographical location or nationality;

30.  Calls for upgrading of the European Standardisation System to commence as soon as possible in order to support EU policies in digital innovation, increased cyber security and improved interoperability;

31.  Urges Member States to implement properly and in a timely fashion, and to enforce, the rules of the Single Market; highlights the importance of implementation of CSRs – including reforms of national products and services markets – in unlocking Member States’ growth potential;

32.  Believes that Member States must step up their efforts to modernise their public administrations by providing more, and better accessible, digital services for citizens and businesses, and to facilitate cross-border cooperation and interoperability of public administrations;

The Single Market in the 21st century

33.  Emphasises that the notion of the modern economy is rapidly changing owing to digital and technological advances, more intense international competition and changes in the behavioural patterns of economic agents and consumers;

34.  Points to the blurring of lines between products and services; highlights the growing importance of business-related services and systems with integrated products and services; believes that SM regulatory frameworks need to embrace these transformative developments;

35.  Welcomes new sharing economy business models and recognises their enormous potential for innovation, which should be realised in compliance with existing legal and consumer protection standards and with equal conditions for competition; highlights the importance of ensuring the best possible conditions for the collaborative economy to develop and thrive; calls on the Commission to take a strategic approach to enable sharing economy businesses to compete with traditional businesses in a fair environment;

36.  Points out that investment patterns by businesses have seen a remarkable change, with expenditure in intangible assets growing in size and importance in comparison to investment in tangibles; stresses that in relation to intangible assets, only 17 % of firm investment goes towards scientific R&D; calls on policymakers to work on removing regulatory barriers that impede the realisation of the full potential of this new innovation lever;

37.  Welcomes the Single Market Strategy, outlining how various Commission actions (Capital Markets Union, Digital Single Market, Energy Union, etc.) are focused on a main goal – tapping the potential of the EU’s Single Market; underlines that the Single Market Strategy communication finds that the Single Market should be addressed more in the European Semester process;

38.  Welcomes the Digital Single Market Strategy as the right approach to make the EU fit for the digital age; calls for a speedy delivery and implementation of this strategy to ensure the EU regains lost ground in relation to the previously slow adoption and use of digital technologies; considers that this requires an allocation of national and EU funds in order to provide the required infrastructure, in particular for rural areas; notes that it is also important to support digital innovation and improved interoperability, and that particularly close attention should be paid to cyber security issues;

39.  Stresses that accessible, affordable, efficient and high-quality parcel delivery is an essential prerequisite for a thriving cross-border e-commerce for the benefit of SMEs and consumers in particular;

40.  Recalls that the integration of the Single Market in goods and services is almost always powered by data, with interoperability being the ‘glue’ improving connection along the supply chain and ensuring effective communication between digital components; calls on the Commission to commence the updating of the European Interoperability Framework as soon as possible, coupled with an integrated standardisation plan identifying and defining key priorities;

41.  Emphasises that private and public investments in fast and ultra-fast communication networks are a requirement for any digital progress, and must be incentivised by a stable EU regulatory framework enabling all players to make investments, including in rural and remote areas;

42.  Highlights the importance of successful implementation of the European Fund for Strategic Investments in order to maximise investments and support innovative companies at different funding stages of their development; stresses, where there is market failure, the importance of fully exploiting the public funds already available for digital investments, and of enabling synergies between EU programmes such as Horizon 2020, the Connecting Europe Facility, other relevant structural funds and other instruments;

43.  Calls on the Commission to evaluate whether the current broadband strategy for mobile and fixed networks, including targets, is future-proofed and meets the conditions for high connectivity for all, in order to avoid the digital divide and for the needs of the data-driven economy and the rapid deployment of 5G;

44.  Highlights that the EU should build its competitive advantage by creating the perfect breeding ground for innovative companies – this would require a modern industrial policy and better-integrated infrastructure which puts technology adoption and an innovation- and entrepreneur-friendly regulatory environment at the forefront; calls for any future digital framework proposed to be inclusive and accessible, guaranteeing consumers a high level of protection;

Governance of the Single Market

45.  Underlines that, in order to achieve stronger SM governance and ownership at all levels, a clarification of division of tasks between those levels and frameworks providing better incentives and clear accountability for the implementation and enforcement of SM laws are needed to give new impetus to the SM;

46.  Notes that the multilevel ownership of effective SM governance could be successfully achieved by means of better regulation on the one hand and a broader culture of regulatory enforcement on the other; calls for the development of human capital, inter alia on the basis of more accessible information and appropriate training to raise levels of knowledge and awareness;

47.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that Single Market rules are consistently enforced by the Member States by using all available information, data and instruments at its disposal and imposing the consequences provided for by the Treaties in cases where Member States fail to comply with EU policies and laws;

48.  Points to the importance of monitoring and data collection and the need for a robust and integrated system; is concerned that information on public consultations is only available in one language in most cases, which does not allow all interested parties to comment on the important issues and proposals; considers that data and evidence should be taken into account when making strategic decisions vital for achieving the Single Market, reducing gaps between Member States and enhancing SM governance, such as when setting priorities for action and enforcement, when evaluating SM integration and competitiveness, and also within structured Single Market compliance dialogue with Member States;

49.  Calls on the Commission to issue an annual report on the Single Market barriers in various Member States and the EU as a whole and to issue recommendations focused on removing these barriers in the CSRs; stresses that the Single Market should play a more important role in the CSRs;

50.  Calls on the Commission to use all available measures, including infringement procedures, when necessary, to ensure full implementation of SM legislation; is concerned that the infringement procedure redress takes a long time when a violation of SM rules is being addressed and remedied, and is concerned about the high number of outstanding cases;

51.  Notes the benefits of SOLVIT; requests that SOLVIT be strengthened and better connected to Commission services, and well integrated with existing projects and databases such as CHAP and EU Pilot in order to create information synergies and share best practices; requests that the Commission follow up consistently on unresolved cases; urges the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the necessary support and expertise are provided for SOLVIT so that the cases received can be efficiently dealt with;

52.  Is of the view that market surveillance authorities within the Single Market need to be strengthened, better connected and appropriately staffed in order to meet today’s challenges, in particular those regarding global competition; urges national market surveillance authorities to cooperate more closely and to exchange information and best practices to effectively tackle various forms of unfair competition in the Single Market, inter alia the high number of illegal and non-compliant products incurring high costs for complying businesses and posing a high risk for consumers, particularly the most vulnerable; is concerned by the length of time being taken by the Council of the European Union to adopt the Product Safety and Market Surveillance Package, which is jeopardising the safety of products in the EU; calls on the Council to adopt it immediately;

53.  Welcomes the Commission initiative to create a Single Digital Gateway as an accessible umbrella portal that will streamline and simplify access to information and promote existing dedicated users’ platforms; stresses the role of national and regional governments in promoting such platforms, making them accessible and educating their users; calls on the Commission to further strengthen and streamline online Single Market tools;

54.  Recognises the importance of better regulation principles and the REFIT initiative, and the need for regulatory security and predictability, when designing new legislative initiatives; underlines that the better lawmaking principle should not prejudice the right of the EU and the Member States to legislate in areas crucial to the public interest, such as health and the environment;

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

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0067.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0069.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0130.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0038.
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0054.


Opening of negotiations for an EU-Tunisia Free Trade Agreement
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European Parliament resolution of 25 February 2016 on the opening of negotiations for an EU-Tunisia Free Trade Agreement (2015/2791(RSP))
P8_TA(2016)0061B8-0255/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the opening on 13 October 2015 of negotiations on an EU-Tunisia Free Trade Agreement,

–  having regard to Article 21 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) and Articles 3, 207 and 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the statements made by Commissioner Malmström on 13 October 2015 in Tunis at the opening of the negotiations on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Tunisia,

–  having regard to the decision of 9 October 2015 to award the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize to the National Dialogue Quartet representing Tunisian civil society,

–  having regard to the EU Council conclusions of 20 July 2015 on Tunisia(1),

–  having regard to Recommendation No 1/2015 of the EU-Tunisia Association Council of 17 March 2015 on the implementation of the EU-Tunisia Action Plan (2013-2017) implementing the privileged partnership within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy(2),

–  having regard to Decision No 534/2014/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 providing macro-financial assistance to Tunisia(3), and to the making available of a first instalment on 26 April 2015,

–  having regard to the trade sustainability impact assessments carried out by Ecorys in support of negotiations on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) between the European Union and Tunisia(4),

–  having regard to the sustainability impact assessment on the Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area, Final Report of the SIA-EMFTA Project, Consultation Draft September 2007, carried out by the Impact Assessment Research Centre Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester(5),

–  having regard to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Tunisia, of the other part(6),

–  having regard to the Joint Communication of the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of 18 November 2015 entitled ‘Review of the European Neighbourhood Policy’,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the Union for the Mediterranean and the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood, and in particular that of 10 May 2012 on ‘Trade for Change: the EU trade and investment strategy for the Southern Mediterranean following the Arab Spring revolutions’(7),

–  having regard to the motion for a resolution by the Committee on International Trade,

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

A.  whereas Euro-Tunisian relations are close and date back a very long time, whereas the EU is Tunisia’s largest trading partner, and whereas Tunisia is the EU’s 34th largest trading partner;

B.  whereas the first trade cooperation agreement between the two partners was concluded in 1969, and whereas in 1995 Tunisia was the first of the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean to sign an association agreement with the European Union;

C.  whereas on 13 October 2015 the EU and Tunisia opened negotiations on an ambitious free trade agreement on the basis of the mandate unanimously adopted on 14 December 2011 by the EU Member States, and whereas the first round took place from 19 to 22 October 2015;

D.  whereas the preliminary discussions between the European Union and Tunisia on the DCFTA lasted four years, and whereas Tunisia set up a national commission to identify its priorities;

E.  whereas the deepening of EU-Tunisia trade relations through the conclusion of an ambitious trade partnership represents an opportunity for growth and closer ties between the economies of Tunisia and the EU; whereas this partnership must contribute to the political and democratic stabilisation of Tunisia;

F.  whereas the trade partnership is part of the wider framework of neighbourhood relations between the EU and Tunisia governed by the 1995 Mediterranean Association Agreement, which provides for the establishment of a free trade area and contains provisions on agriculture and services; whereas on 17 March 2015 the EU-Tunisia Association Council adopted a new action plan implementing the privileged partnership, with a view to achieving a significant measure of economic integration; whereas the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy must promote the EU’s and Tunisia’s common values and interests and seek to support inclusive social and economic development, bring about job creation for young people and lead to economic stabilisation;

G.  whereas Tunisia, the birthplace of the events known as the ‘Arab Spring’, is the only country in the Middle East/North Africa region to have implemented a process of democratic and political transition and, as such, represents an example for the entire region;

H.  whereas political stability and economic development go hand in hand, and whereas this trade agreement must seek to offer real prospects for the economies of Tunisia and the EU;

I.  whereas, in parallel with these negotiations, the EU must continue and increase its aid to Tunisia and provide the country with appropriate financial and technical assistance, during the negotiations and, subsequently, during the implementation of the agreement’s provisions, by developing a genuine partnership in which the interests of people on both shores of the Mediterranean can be taken into account;

J.  whereas Tunisia and the EU have every interest in promoting and strengthening ‘South-South’ regional integration processes between Tunisia and its neighbours, in particular through the Agadir Agreement, and whereas the EU-Tunisia free trade negotiations must complement those efforts;

K.  whereas Tunisia’s democratic transition remains an example for other countries in the region; whereas on 26 January 2014 the National Constituent Assembly adopted a new Constitution for Tunisia; whereas that Constitution provides exemplary protection of rights and freedoms; and whereas on 21 December 2014 Mohamed Beji Caid Essebsi was elected President of the Republic of Tunisia in a free, pluralist and transparent election;

L.  whereas Tunisian civil society, through its dynamism and level of education, has played a vital role in the country’s transition to democracy; whereas it should continue to be closely involved in the process of political decision-making, including in the DCFTA negotiations;

M.  whereas the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet represents an acknowledgement of the efforts made to consolidate democracy, and an incentive to continue on that path; whereas it is vital that an exemplary agreement should be concluded in order to allay the concerns voiced by civil society;

The economic, political and social situation in Tunisia

1.  Condemns in strong terms the terrorist attacks committed in Tunisia in recent months, which have claimed many lives; considers that Tunisia faces a very serious terrorist threat, and notes that the attack carried out on the presidential guard bus on 24 November 2015 and the terrorist attacks of 26 June 2015 in Sousse and of 18 March 2015 at the Bardo Museum caused a collapse in the tourism prospects for the summer of 2015 when tourism and related sectors account for 15 % of the country’s GNP; expresses its full solidarity with Tunisia and reaffirms its support for the efforts of the Tunisian authorities in their fight against terrorism, in compliance with human rights standards and the rule of law;

2.  Notes that the Tunisian economy faces major difficulties, that GDP grew by 2,3 % in 2014, that the unemployment rate in 2015 was 15 % of the active population, that 28,6 % of graduates have no jobs and that unemployment among young Tunisians is rising;

3.  Notes that there is a clear demographic and economic imbalance between the European Union and Tunisia, and that this justifies an asymmetric and progressive approach in the negotiations;

4.  Notes that in Tunisia there are significant regional disparities between the capital, Tunis, and other parts of the country, with very significant development gaps between the coast and the central areas of the country, in particular with regard to the unemployment rate and access to healthcare and education, and that these disparities could be worsened by climate change;

5.  Notes the employment gap in Tunisia today between the various sectors covered by the trade agreement, and points out that if this is not corrected, it will lead to over-employment in the agricultural sector, while other sectors important to the diversification of Tunisia’s economy, such as manufacturing and mining, will disappear;

6.  Notes that Tunisia’s democratic transition process is the most successful in the region and that the country has opted for a political and economic development model which is unique among the countries of the southern shore of the Mediterranean, and calls on the Commission to take account of these facts in the negotiations; considers it essential that the EU should take all possible measures to support Tunisia’s democratic transition to a stable pluralist society;

7.  Notes that Tunisia faces a very unstable regional environment, particularly as a result of the conflict in Libya and the sporadic violence in Algeria, both of which are neighbouring countries;

8.  Notes that Tunisia has taken in more than 1,8 million Libyan refugees, which is equivalent to 16 % of the total population of Tunisia;

Criteria for a successful trade agreement between the EU and Tunisia

9.  Welcomes the opening of negotiations in the autumn of 2015 with a view to the conclusion of a free trade agreement between the EU and Tunisia, on the basis of the mandate adopted by the Council in 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring; notes that since 2011 Tunisia has consolidated its democratic transition, with the proclamation of the new Constitution on 26 January 2014 and with parliamentary and presidential elections held on 26 October and 23 November 2014 respectively;

10.  Considers that this agreement has more than just a trade dimension, and that it should seek to contribute to the stability of Tunisia, to the consolidation of its democracy and to the reinvigoration of its economy by having a positive impact on consumer prices, employment and the wages of skilled and unskilled workers and by reducing inequalities; urges that no agreement which does not address these issues should be concluded;

11.  Urges the negotiators to conclude a progressive and asymmetrical agreement which takes account of the significant economic disparities between the parties, to demonstrate flexibility, responsiveness, openness to innovation, transparency and adaptability in the negotiations, and to bear in mind that the agreement must benefit the economies and societies of Tunisia and the EU, while taking proper account of the specific differences and sensibilities, and socioeconomic and cultural contexts, of both parties and without distorting Tunisia’s intra-regional trade;

12.  Welcomes the presentation by the Tunisian Government of a five-year plan (2015-2020) of economic reforms designed to reduce unemployment and regional disparities in the country and to diversify the economy; believes that the free trade agreement must be consistent with the objectives of this plan;

13.  Points out that this is the first trade negotiation of this magnitude for Tunisia, and that it is important, therefore, that the various sectors of the country’s economy should be opened up gradually and asymmetrically, that transitional periods should be provided for sensitive sectors and that certain products which the parties deem sensitive should be excluded from the negotiations;

14.  Considers it essential that Tunisia should receive substantial financial and technical assistance from the EU so that it can properly implement the provisions of the free trade agreement; calls for the financial aid to be granted in a transparent manner and for steps to be taken to ensure that it actually benefits its recipients;

15.  Welcomes the support provided by the European Investment Bank to numerous projects in Tunisia; stresses that this support is contributing to Tunisia’s economic diversification and helping to create jobs, particularly for young people;

16.  Welcomes the fact that the EU has made Tunisia one of the priority countries in its neighbourhood policy vis-à-vis the countries of the southern Mediterranean, and that it has granted Tunisia a loan of EUR 300 million in the form of macro-financial aid to carry out economic reforms;

17.  Calls, nevertheless, on the EU, as well as the Member States, the EIB and the EBRD, to continue to stand alongside the Tunisians and to step up aid and assistance programmes, including through the introduction of exceptional autonomous trade measures, to help Tunisia consolidate its democratic process; welcomes the establishment by some Member States of ‘partnerships for the transformation’ of Tunisia; calls on the EU to continue its programme to reduce regional inequalities in access to basic medical care in Tunisia;

18.  Calls on the EU to take account of Tunisia’s specific situation in these negotiations, in particular as regards the fragile nature of the democratic transition and the difference in economic development between the EU and Tunisia, always bearing in mind that solutions that benefit both partners are best;

19.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that the negotiations quickly produce tangible gains for the EU and Tunisian economies in key sectors and for all stakeholders, including SMEs and VSEs;

20.  Emphasises that this agreement must contribute to the development and diversification of the Tunisian economy, which is currently heavily dependent on agriculture, and to a reduction in regional disparities, and must provide tangible benefits for all Tunisians and Europeans;

21.  Welcomes the fact that Tunisia has launched significant social and economic reforms; insists that these reforms continue even during the negotiation period so that the country can draw maximum benefit from the future agreement;

22.  Considers that the agreement should contribute to the deepening of economic cooperation between the EU and Tunisia, which is already well advanced thanks to the abolition of tariffs on industrial goods in accordance with the association agreement; proposes, therefore, the new name of ‘economic partnership between the EU and Tunisia’;

23.  Strongly encourages the Commission and the Tunisian Government to implement a clear and detailed process for involving Tunisian and European civil society throughout the negotiations, and to take an innovative approach to this issue; in that connection, declares itself satisfied with the role played by Tunisian civil society in the first round of negotiations, and calls for the consultation process to be open and transparent and to take greater account of the diversity of Tunisian civil society, drawing on best practices employed in similar negotiations;

24.  Welcomes, in that connection, the setting-up by the Ministry of Trade and Crafts of a website to provide information about the DCFTA to the public and the willingness of the negotiators to publish a trilingual version of the final text; considers that Tunisian civil society could also be involved in the negotiations through an impact assessment supervisory committee;

25.  Urges the Council to make public the negotiating mandate unanimously adopted by the Member States on 14 December 2011;

26.  Hopes for regular dialogue to be established between Tunisian and European parliamentarians and to continue throughout the negotiations; with that aim in view, welcomes the setting-up of an EU-Tunisia Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), which will play a central role and enable European and Tunisian parliamentarians to meet regularly and monitor effectively the negotiations on the free trade agreement;

27.  Hopes that this dialogue will make it possible to assess more effectively the expectations and concerns of both parties, and thus to improve the terms of the agreement;

28.  Points out that the Union for the Mediterranean supports the development of practical projects in the region and can therefore provide expertise during the negotiation of the agreement;

29.  Calls for impact assessments and sectoral evaluations to be carried out, on both sides, including by the European Parliament working with Tunisian experts, of the impact of the agreement in various areas, including services, public procurement, SME competitiveness, employment, agriculture, the environment or any other priority sector; notes Tunisia’s wish to involve its own experts from the outset in order to ensure that the impact assessment figures are credible in Tunisia itself;

30.  Calls for these impact assessments and sectoral evaluations to be funded by the European Union and, as requested by a number of Tunisian civil society organisations, for them possibly to be preceded by an ex-post evaluation of the socio-economic impact of the 1995 Association Agreement;

31.  Urges the Commission to determine as soon as possible whether the agreement is to be mixed or exclusive, and calls on it to involve the Member States’ national parliaments in the debate from the start of the discussions;

32.  Emphasises that environmental conditions in the Mediterranean basin, in particular the shortage of water, which makes farming more difficult, must be taken into account in the negotiations and that an economic model must be promoted which is environmentally sustainable and makes for sustainable management of natural resources;

33.  Stresses that the trade negotiations with Tunisia form part of the wider context of Euro-Mediterranean trade relations; insists that the 10th Conference of Trade Ministers of the Union for the Mediterranean, postponed indefinitely since 2013, take place soon in order to reconsider trade issues in the region and the work priorities to be established for the next few years;

Sectoral approach to the negotiations

34.  Calls for the agreement to accord proper importance to the services sector, which offers significant growth potential for the Tunisian economy and which should attract strategic investments; considers, in light of the fact that this is the first trade negotiation of this magnitude for Tunisia, that negotiations on the services chapter should be based on a positive-list approach for both market access and national treatment;

35.  Notes that the public sector is of fundamental importance for Tunisia and is the biggest provider of skilled employment in the country;

36.  Notes that Tunisia has many start-ups, micro-enterprises and highly dynamic SMEs in high-tech fields, and calls for the agreement to promote their capacity to develop and internationalise; notes the call made by the Tunisians that the agreement should incorporate ambitious and balanced provisions concerning online trade;

37.  Calls on both parties to boost employment levels, including through joint initiatives, as this is essential to Tunisia’s economic recovery and political stability;

38.  Believes that the agreement should be beneficial to small-scale producers and entrepreneurs in Tunisia, who are vital to the country’s economy; calls for regular dialogue to be developed between entrepreneurs, professional organisations and training bodies, so that good practices can be promoted and the difficulties and expectations of each side better understood;

39.  Believes that it is important to take a cautious, progressive and flexible approach to the negotiations on the competition chapter, given the strategic significance of State aid for Tunisia’s economic development;

40.  Draws attention to the importance of setting up bilateral chambers of commerce to provide permanent forums in which the stakeholders can establish partnerships and develop their economic and commercial activities;

41.  Calls on the Commission to facilitate the granting of short-term visas for performing ‘Move IV’-type services requiring the movement of natural persons for a limited period of time in accordance with precise conditions stipulated by contract and by domestic legislation; emphasises that nothing in the agreement should prevent the EU and its Member States from applying measures to regulate the entry of natural persons into, or their temporary stay on, its territory, including those measures required to ensure the orderly movement of natural persons beyond its borders, such as admission conditions;

42.  Hopes that the agreement will help permanently establish in Tunisia a favourable climate which acts as an incentive to long-term investments in key and dynamic economic sectors, such as tourism, energy, including renewable energy sources, high-tech services, the digital economy and data exchange; urges the Commission to include a chapter on investment, with a view to facilitating direct foreign investment between the EU and Tunisia, and to speed up the implementation of the Euro-Mediterranean trade and investment facilitation mechanism, which will make it possible for relevant data to be collected, strengthen trade partnerships and benefit Tunisia in particular;

43.  Takes the view that the agreement should incorporate provisions on public procurement which reflect a cautious approach to the opening-up of markets on both the European and the Tunisian side and which take account of the structure of and specific conditions in the Tunisian economy;

44.  Believes that the EU and Tunisia have everything to gain from better reciprocal access to their agricultural markets and that the agreement should help to reduce customs tariffs, eliminate non-tariff barriers and improve export procedures;

45.  Notes that Tunisia has focused on developing organic farming, and stresses that the agreement should provide opportunities for Tunisian organic farming products to gain access to new markets;

46.  Urges that the negotiations should not harm the economy of either of the parties; Calls on the EU and Tunisia to take into account the fact that there are several sensitive agricultural products on both sides of the Mediterranean, for which exhaustive lists will have to be agreed upon in the negotiation process, and to provide for transitional periods and appropriate quotas for these sensitive products, or even for their exclusion from the negotiations;

47.  Encourages the Commission to negotiate the establishment of rigorous, stringent standards in the fields of health and plant health and the resolution of veterinary problems and problems relating to checks on meat and fruit and vegetables in Tunisia; calls on the Commission to include in the agreement specific technical assistance provisions to help Tunisian producers meet the EU’s stricter health and plant health standards;

48.  Believes that the agreement should help to define stringent standards in the area of sustainable development, particularly with regard to social standards;

49.  Looks to the Tunisian Government and the EU institutions to establish suitable provisions on the identification of the origin and provenance and on the traceability of Tunisian products, providing greater transparency for producers, middlemen and consumers;

50.  Hopes that the agreement will include an ambitious chapter on intellectual property rights, including the recognition and enhanced protection of geographical indications, ensuring full recognition of the geographical indications of the EU and Tunisia, traceability of the products concerned and the protection of manufacturers’ know-how;

51.  Calls on the Commission to extend the protection of geographical indications to non-agricultural products, including for this agreement, given that, for its part, Tunisia recognises them;

52.  Hopes that the agreement will enable Tunisian industry to modernise and gain expertise, so that it can cover more of the supply chain for manufactured goods and therefore make use of higher skill levels and employ better qualified staff locally;

53.  Urges the Commission to include in the agreement an ambitious chapter on energy and raw materials, so that research and cooperation can be stepped up in the electricity, gas, wind, solar and other renewables sectors;

54.  Hopes that the agreement will contain provisions to help strengthen scientific cooperation, particularly between universities and research centres in Europe and Tunisia, in the areas of research, innovation, the development of new technologies and, more generally, culture and education, and that these initiatives may also play a part in supporting the Tunisian labour market;

55.  Welcomes the fact that Tunisia has been included in the Horizon 2020 European research programme, and urges the Commission and the Tunisian Government to include in the agreement an ambitious chapter on sustainable development, promoting high social and labour standards in accordance with International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions and the environmental standards laid down in the relevant multilateral agreements;

56.  Points out that Tunisia has ratified all the ILO conventions, but that, according to an independent monitoring body, it must step up its efforts to promote high labour standards; hopes that the DCFTA will help Tunisia develop more protective social and labour standards, particularly as regards trade union rights; expects the DCFTA, in the Tunisian context of democratic transition and terrorist threat, to encourage a strengthening of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of association, expression and information;

57.  Calls on the Commission to include in the agreement the human rights clause, on the strength of which the EU may suspend the agreement unilaterally should the other contracting party commit any breach of human rights;

58.  Calls on the parties to consider introducing a tax good governance clause, based on the work of the Commission’s Platform for Tax Good Governance, to rule out any instance of double non-taxation;

59.  Welcomes the shared interest in deepening the Mobility Partnership established on 3 March 2014, and hopes that a visa facilitation agreement and a readmission agreement will be finalised;

60.  Calls on the EU institutions to introduce appropriate compensation measures in the event that actual or possible damage is done to one or more of the trade sectors covered by the agreement;

o
o   o

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

(1) Conclusions 11076/15 RELEX 626 of the Council of the European Union of 20 July 2015.
(2) OJ L 151, 18.6.2015, p. 25.
(3) OJ L 151, 21.5.2014, p. 9.
(4) http://www.trade-sia.com/tunisia/the-study/?lang=fr.
(5) http://www.sia-trade.org/emfta.
(6) OJ L 97, 30.3.1998, p. 2.
(7) OJ C 261 E, 10.9.2013, p. 21.


Activities of the European Ombudsman in 2014
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European Parliament resolution of 25 February 2016 on the annual report on the activities of the European Ombudsman in 2014 (2015/2231(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0062A8-0020/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the annual report on the activities of the European Ombudsman in 2014,

–  having regard to Article 228 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Articles 11, 19, 41, 42 and 43 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to Decision 94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom of the European Parliament of 9 March 1994 on the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman’s duties(1),

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the European Ombudsman’s activities,

–  having regard to Rule 220(2), second and third sentences, of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Petitions (A8-0020/2016),

A.  whereas the annual report on the European Ombudsman’s activities in 2014 was formally submitted to the President of Parliament on 26 May 2015 and the Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, presented the report to the Committee on Petitions in Brussels on 23 June 2015;

B.  whereas Emily O’Reilly was re-elected European Ombudsman by Parliament at its plenary session in Strasbourg on 16 December 2014;

C.  whereas the main priority of the European Ombudsman is to ensure that citizens’ rights are fully respected and the right to good administration reflects the highest standards as expected of the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union; whereas the Ombudsman plays a vital role in helping EU institutions become more open, effective and citizen-friendly with the aim of strengthening citizens’ confidence in the Union;

D.  whereas according to the Eurobarometer survey of May 2015, 40 % of citizens trust the European Union and 46 % do not; whereas the institutions’ ability to monitor one another is essential to improving the level of satisfaction among European citizens;

E.  whereas Article 24 of the TFEU lays down that ‘every citizen of the Union may apply to the Ombudsman established in accordance with Article 228’;

F.  whereas Article 228 of the TFEU empowers the European Ombudsman to conduct inquiries into maladministration in the activities of the Union institutions, bodies, offices, and agencies, with the exception of the Court of Justice of the European Union acting in its judicial role; whereas Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights states that ‘Every person has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions and bodies of the Union’;

G.  whereas Article 43 of the Charter states: ‘Any citizen of the Union and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State has the right to refer to the Ombudsman cases of maladministration in the activities of the institutions, bodies, offices or agencies of the Union, with the exception of the Court of Justice of the European Union acting in its judicial role’;

H.  whereas according to the first European Ombudsman ‘maladministration occurs when a public body fails to act in accordance with a rule or principle which is binding upon it’(2); whereas this requires the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union not only to respect their legal obligations but also to be service-minded and to ensure that members of the public are properly treated and fully enjoy their rights; whereas the notion of good administration should be understood as an on-going continuous improvement process;

I.  whereas 23 072 citizens called on the Ombudsman’s services for help in 2014; whereas 19 170 were given advice through the interactive guide on her website; whereas in 2014 the Ombudsman registered 2 079 complaints, while she received 1 823 requests for information;

J.  whereas of the total number of 2 163 complaints processed by the Ombudsman, 736 were inside and 1 427 were outside her mandate;

K.  whereas of the 2 163 complaints processed, in 1 217 cases the Ombudsman provided the complainant with advice or transferred the case, in 621 cases the complainant was informed that no further advice could be given, and in 325 cases an inquiry was opened;

L.  whereas the Ombudsman opened 342 inquiries, of which 325 were complaint-based and 17 were own-initiative inquiries; whereas she closed 400 inquiries, of which 13 were own-initiative inquiries; whereas of the inquiries closed, 335 were submitted by individual citizens and 52 by companies, associations and other legal entities;

M.  whereas the Ombudsman transferred 772 complaints to members of the European Network of Ombudsmen, including 86 complaints transferred to the Committee on Petitions, 144 to the Commission and 524 to other institutions and bodies; whereas most inquiries concerned the Commission (59,6 %), followed by the EU agencies (13,7 %), EPSO (9,4 %), other institutions (8,5 %), the EEAS (3,8 %), Parliament (3,5 %) and OLAF (3,2 %);

N.  whereas of the inquiries closed by the Ombudsman 21,5 % concerned requests for information and access to documents, 19,3 % the Commission’s role as guardian of the Treaties, 19,3 % competition and selection procedures and 16 % institutional and policy matters, 11,3 % administration and staff regulations, 8,3 % award of tenders or grants and 6 % execution of contracts;

O.  whereas of the inquiries closed, 133 cases were settled by the institution or closed after a friendly solution was agreed, and in 163 cases the Ombudsman considered that no further inquiries were justified;

P.  whereas in 76 cases no maladministration was found; whereas in 39 cases maladministration was found, and in 13 cases another way to close the case was used; whereas in the cases where maladministration was found the Ombudsman issued critical remarks in 27 instances and draft recommendations in 12 instances;

Q.  whereas the length of most of the inquiries closed in 2014 was between 3 and 18 months; whereas the average time for closing an inquiry was 11 months;

R.  whereas the institutions have been complying with 80 % of the Ombudsman’s proposals; whereas there still remain 20 % of proposals that have been submitted and need to be complied with;

S.  whereas the Committee on Petitions, which received 2 714 petitions in 2014 alone, is an important cog in the institutional workings of the European Union, bringing Parliament closer to citizens; whereas a close relationship between the Ombudsman and the Committee on Petitions would improve the level of democratic oversight of the activity of the European institutions;

1.  Approves the annual report for 2014 presented by the European Ombudsman;

2.  Congratulates Emily O’Reilly on her re-election as European Ombudsman and on her excellent work; supports her objective of assisting the EU institutions in their drive to provide the best possible service to the citizens and residents of Europe; considers the Ombudsman’s focus on transparency as a guarantee of good administration to have been crucial;

3.  Welcomes and fully supports the fact that the Ombudsman is making greater use of the power to open strategic investigations on her own initiative; welcomes the appointment, in her office, of an Own-Initiative Investigation Co-ordinator and the introduction of new internal rules on whistleblowing; commends the Ombudsman on the efforts she has made in reorganising her office, which has already created significant efficiency gains; welcomes and supports the Ombudsman’s forward-looking approach and the adoption of the new five-year strategy ‘Towards 2019’, which introduces a more strategic approach to tackling systemic issues and promoting good administration;

4.  Welcomes the inquiries initiated by the Ombudsman in 2014, in which the following key topics may be identified: transparency within the EU institutions, transparency in lobbying and clinical trials, fundamental rights, ethical issues, participation of citizens in EU decision-making, EU-funded projects and programmes, and EU competition policy;

5.  Recalls that, over the years, 20-30 % of complaints have concerned transparency and that the most common transparency issues raised are the institutions’ refusal to grant access to documents and/or information; considers that openness and access to documents, in compliance with Article 15 TFEU and Article 42 of the Charter, are an essential part of the system of institutional checks and balances; supports any initiative by the Commission and the other EU institutions to ensure fair, swift and simple access for all to EU documentation; notes with appreciation the enhanced transparency resulting from the online Public Register of documents; calls on the Ombudsman to investigate on the transparency issues regarding Parliament’s timely access to the Commission’s relevant documents on infringements and EU Pilot procedures, especially when these are related to existing petitions; considers that appropriate mechanisms need to be identified and put into place in order to ensure a faithful inter-institutional dialogue;

6.  Warns that not all the provisions related to the Aarhus Convention and its related regulations ((EC) No 1367/2006 and (EC) No 1049/2001) are duly complied with effectively yet; considers that there is still much room for improvement in the field of transparency on the part of the Commission, particularly concerning the availability, in terms of quantity and quality, of the information provided to individual citizens and civil society organisations upon their request to access to documents; invites the Ombudsman to conduct an investigation on the basis of the extensive petition 0134/2012 on these matters, in view of identifying and redressing any possible maladministration concerning the implementation of these regulations by the EU institutions concerned;

7.  Welcomes the Ombudsman’s investigations into “revolving door” cases concerning high-ranking EU officials; notes that the Ombudsman has investigated complaints from five NGOs and looked into 54 Commission files; encourages the Ombudsman to help develop, and to introduce, clear and detailed criteria and enforcement mechanisms in order to identify, investigate and, where possible, prevent conflicts of interest at any level of the EU’s institutions, bodies and agencies;

8.  Considers that the notion of conflict of interests goes beyond a simple matter of transparency, and that ensuring a European public administration free of such conflicts is a primary concern when attempting to build a true European democracy and to safeguard the trust of European citizens, among public servants and across institutions; recommends the Ombudsman, in her investigations, to take account of the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the OECD Guidelines for Managing Conflict of Interest in the Public Service, and Transparency International’s specific recommendations;

9.  Notes that, as a result of the Ombudsman’s inquiries, the Commission has published documents on Greece’s entry into the eurozone, that the European Central Bank has disclosed a letter to the Irish Government on the financial crisis, and that the Commission has followed the Ombudsman’s recommendation to release documents on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, albeit after an agreement on the reform had been reached;

10.  Welcomes the progress in openness in the ongoing TTIP negotiations following the Ombudsman’s inquiries into transparency in these talks; notes that the Council has since published the directives the EU is using to negotiate the TTIP and that the Commission has announced plans to increase transparency in lobbying and broaden access to TTIP documents; notes the concerns of the citizens about transparency in the TTIP negotiations;

11.  Recalls that its Committee on Petitions receives many anonymous complaints from groups and citizens concerning the lack of transparency in the TTIP negotiations, showing the profound public concern on this issue at European level;

12.  Wonders whether the long delays in the decision-making of some legislative initiatives in the Council, such as the horizontal anti-discrimination directive, which has been frozen for over six years, or the ratification of the Marrakech Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities, do not fall within the category of maladministration, since they create a lot of frustration on the concerned citizens towards the EU institutions; urges the Council, and particularly the blocking minorities therein, to take the steps necessary to address these unbearable situations; suggests that the Ombudsman explore this issue within the scope of its competences;

13.  Welcomes the Ombudsman’s increased and necessary focus on transparency in lobbying activities, and her work towards a mandatory Transparency Register, to ensure that citizens may know who is trying to influence EU decision makers; welcomes her inquiry into the composition and transparency of expert groups at the Commission, in particular those advising on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), on which the EU spends more than a third of its budget; supports her approach with regard to these groups, and encourages her to continue monitoring transparency in the composition of them, in order to guarantee a balanced representation, and a gender balance, in a wide range of economic and non-economic interest groups in all policy areas;

14.  Notes that more than 7000 institutions have voluntarily registered in the Transparency Register, reflecting the variety of public and private stakeholders that the European institutions are working with; approves of the Ombudsman’s support for Vice-President Timmermans’ plan to make the Register mandatory; welcomes the Commission’s decision of 1 December 2014 obliging all members of the Commission, and its senior staff, to publish all contacts and meetings with stakeholders and lobbyists; welcomes that the Register should include information on the human and financial resources available to lobby organisations, in greater compliance with existing rules and provisions on openness and good governance in the EU institutions;

15.  Encourages the Ombudsman to remain vigilant and determined, and to continue urging the Commission to deliver full transparency on the members and meetings of all expert groups, technology platforms and agencies; recalls the conditions it set in 2012 when lifting the freeze on experts groups’ budgets;

16.  Notes that the Ombudsman in 2014 played a key role in the area of clinical trials data transparency by helping to shape the proactive transparency policy of the European Medicines Agency (EMA); notes that the EMA in October 2014 decided to publish proactively its clinical study reports; encourages the Ombudsman to continue monitoring how the EMA makes clinical trials data available, and to ensure that it meets the highest standards of transparency;

17.  Calls on the Member States to be more diligent in their mandatory collaboration with the Ombudsman;

18.  Urges the Ombudsman to continue promoting greater transparency in clinical trials, especially in the quality assessment of results by the European Medicines Agency; recalls that this assessment should be based on the added value of innovative drugs and the real cost of research in order to facilitate Member States’ pricing and financing models;

19.  Calls on the Ombudsman to continue to support the drive for greater transparency in R&D, with a view to ensuring access to health care, within the scope of the powers of her office;

20.  Welcomes the new EU Clinical Trials Regulation, which requires that information on clinical trials be made available; notes that the Ombudsman’s “International Right to Know Day” 2014 was dedicated to clinical trials data transparency;

21.  Welcomes the Ombudsman’s investigation into the protection of fundamental rights in all cases of implementation of the EU’s cohesion policy, which was set up to create growth and jobs, to tackle climate change and energy dependence, and to reduce poverty and social exclusion;

22.  Notes that Horizon 2020 is the third most important package of budget investments after the CAP and Structural Funds, with a budget of nearly EUR 80 000 million, and that it is key to the economic and social development of the future; calls on the Ombudsman to continue guaranteeing transparency in the whole process of analysis and awarding of projects under Horizon 2020;

23.  Calls on Frontex to ensure respect for the welfare of returnees during return flights, and correct implementation of its Code of Conduct for Joint Return Operations; welcomes the Ombudsman’s call on Frontex to establish an individual complaints mechanism for potential fundamental rights infringements; invites her to investigate this matter further in light of the current situation of increasing numbers of refugees at the borders of the EU;

24.  Welcomes the Ombudsman’s investigation into whether the EU institutions are living up to their obligation of introducing internal whistleblowing rules; reminds the nine EU institutions addressed by the Ombudsman, including the Commission, Parliament and the Council, to inform her about the rules they have in place or intend to introduce;

25.  Commends the Ombudsman on her investigations into the citizens’ right to participate in the EU decision-making process, and in particular into the functioning of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI); notes that in 2014 she invited ECI organisers, civil society organisations and other interested parties to provide feedback on the ECI with a view to improving it; notes with concern that representatives of petitioning organisations ask for better harmonisation and for the administrative methods for collecting and recording signatures to be improved; expects further suggestions for improvement, in particular concerning the existing technical and data protection-related constraints in the signature collection process; invites the Ombudsman to share her experiences and to contribute to the revision of the ECI Regulation;

26.  Welcomes the EU institutions’ 80 % compliance rate with regard to the Ombudsman’s suggestions; is concerned at the persisting 20 % non-compliance; is aware that the Ombudsman’s suggestions are not legally binding; urges the institutions, bodies and agencies to react promptly, effectively and responsibly to the Ombudsman’s critical remarks and draft recommendations; supports the Ombudsman in future inquiries within her remit to identify possible transparency loopholes in the execution of the EU budget, cooperating when necessary with the Court of Auditors, OLAF and Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control;

27.  Recalls that the Ombudsman also has the capacity, and therefore the duty, to scrutinise Parliament within the scope of pursuing good administration for EU citizens;

28.  Commends the Ombudsman on her initiative, taken in the run-up to the European elections, to host an interactive event, “Your wish list for Europe”, in an effort to put citizens at the heart of decision-making;

29.  Encourages the Ombudsman to continue to promote the European Network of Ombudsmen with a view to informing EU citizens in a better way about the allocation of responsibilities between the European Ombudsman, national and regional ombudsmen and Parliament’s Committee on Petitions; recognises the important contribution of the Network in fostering the exchange of best practices and information about its members’ remits and competences; notes that 59,3 % of complaints processed in 2014 fell within the competence of a member of the Network; calls on its Committee on Petitions to be a more active member of the Network and to reinforce its collaboration with the Network on common policies which fall within the field of activities of the European Union; notes that in 2014 the Ombudsman transferred 86 complaints to this committee;

30.  Encourages the Ombudsman to investigate, in coordination with the European Court of Auditors, the programmes and projects financed by the European Union, with particular regard to the financing of projects intended to reduce development disparities;

31.  Agrees with the Ombudsman that the EU institutions should ensure that their services are accessible to persons with disabilities and that such persons have access to information and means of communication; urges the institutions to ensure that work environments are open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities so that they can participate effectively and fully in political and public life;

32.  Calls for the annual budget of the Office of the Ombudsman to be increased;

33.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution and this report to the Council, the Commission, the European Ombudsman, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, and to their ombudsmen or similar competent bodies.

(1) OJ L 113, 4.5.1994, p. 15.
(2) ‘The European Ombudsman – Annual Report 1999’ (OJ C 260, 11.9.2000, p. 1).


European Central Bank annual report for 2014
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European Parliament resolution of 25 February 2016 on the European Central Bank Annual Report for 2014 (2015/2115(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0063A8-0012/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the European Central Bank’s Annual Report for 2014,

–  having regard to Article 284(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the ECJ judgment in Case C-62/14 of 16 June 2015,

–  having regard to the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the European Central Bank, in particular Article 15 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 132(1) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (A8-0012/2016),

A.  whereas, according to the Commission’s latest autumn forecast, economic recovery in the euro area is expected to expand, with real GDP predicted to rise by 1,4 % in 2015, 1,7 % in 2016 and 1,8 % in 2017; whereas the foundations for growth are fragile; whereas strong political commitment to the implementation of sustainable and socially balanced structural reforms is key to enhancing economic growth;

B.  whereas, according to the same forecast, unemployment in the euro area is expected to record a slow decrease, from 11,6 % at the end of 2014 to 10,5 % at the end of 2016; whereas there are major disparities between the unemployment rates in different Member States, with figures ranging from 6,4 % in Germany to 26,6 % in Greece; whereas unemployment rates remain at alarming levels in many Member States, hitting in particular the young and the long-term unemployed;

C.  whereas, again according to the same forecast, the fiscal outlook in the euro area should exhibit an improvement, with decreases expected in the public deficit (from 2,4 % in 2014 to 1,7 % in 2016) and the public debt (from 94 % at the end of 2014 to 92,5 % at the end of 2016);

D.  whereas low energy prices, while having a negative impact on inflation expectations, could potentially help the economic recovery;

E.  whereas these processes are mainly supported by private consumption, exports and external factors such as low energy prices, particularly for crude oil, while private and public investment in the euro area is only gradually picking up and remains at levels significantly below those registered before the start of the crisis and the relative share of investment in GDP has been declining steadily over several decades;

F.  whereas, according to the ECB projection of September 2015, the average inflation rate in the euro area, after remaining close to zero in the first half of 2015, is expected to pick up, rising to 1,1% in 2016 and 1,7% in 2017;

G.  whereas Article 127(2) TFEU requires the European System of Central Banks to ‘promote the smooth operation of payment systems’;

H.  whereas in 2014 the ECB lowered its key refinancing rates to the effective lower bound and reduced its deposit facility rate to -0,20 %; whereas lower real rates have not significantly translated into credit for either households or businesses, especially SMEs, and this has contributed to setting the ECB on the path to unconventional monetary policy measures;

I.  whereas hitherto, when performing its supervisory role, the ECB has not always taken sufficient account of the proportionality principle;

J.  whereas SMEs are the backbone of the European economy and the banking system is instrumental in ensuring their competitiveness and growth; whereas facilitating credit flow to Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) is fundamental as they represent 99 % of all businesses and account for 80 % of jobs in the Union, thus having a key role in generating economic growth, creating jobs and narrowing social disparities; whereas bank lending volumes are slowly increasing;

K.  whereas in 2014 the ECB implemented a series of targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTROs) and purchase programmes for selected private-sector assets aiming at supporting lending to the real economy;

L.  whereas on 22 January 2015 the ECB launched an expanded asset purchase programme (APP) amounting to EUR 1,1 trillion and scheduled to run until September 2016, and at all events until there is a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation;

M.  whereas by engaging in its programme of bond purchasing the ECB has loaded a substantial level of risk on to its balance sheet;

N.  whereas the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), the first pillar of the Banking Union, became fully operational on 4 November 2014 with the transfer to the ECB of direct supervision of the 122 biggest banks of the euro area; whereas, in parallel, a comprehensive assessment, consisting of an asset quality review and stress test, of these significant banks was carried out and finalised on 26 October 2014; whereas the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM), the second pillar of the Banking Union, came into force at the beginning of 2015, while its third pillar, the Single Deposit Guarantee Scheme, has not yet been established;

1.  Recalls that the geographically uneven and modest recovery expected for the coming years in the euro area will need to strengthen and potential economic growth will need to increase in order to reduce the high unemployment rates recorded in many euro area Member States and decrease the debt burden; stresses that many Member States are faced with macroeconomic challenges of a similar nature; stresses the need to improve the conditions for both public and private investment aimed at boosting growth and job creation, and calls for further efforts to ensure the financing of the real economy; believes that Member States have to deliver on the implementation of sustainable and socially balanced structural reforms;

2.  Deplores the existing, albeit gradually decreasing, gaps between the financing rates granted to SMEs and those granted to bigger companies, between lending rates on small and large loans, and between credit conditions for SMEs located in different euro area countries, but recognises the limits of what monetary policy can achieve in this respect; notes, in this connection, the role of savings, cooperative and mutual banks, and stresses that the regulatory framework should accommodate their particular operating principles and respect their specific mission, and that the supervisory authorities should be aware of these aspects and take them into account in their practices and approaches;

3.  Stresses that, despite the ECB pursuing its actions in order to maintain favourable financing conditions, private and public investment in the euro area remains significantly below the levels prior to the current crisis; welcomes, in this respect, the setting-up of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), as well as the Commission's plan to establish a genuine Capital Markets Union (CMU), which should diversify sources of financing in the EU economy, boost cross-border investment and increase access to financing for businesses, particularly SMEs;

4.  Notes that, in reaction to a complex environment of sovereign debt crisis, falling inflation, credit contraction and sluggish economic growth, and with its interest rates close to the zero lower bound, the ECB has resorted to non-conventional monetary policy instruments;

5.  Notes the positive yet modest impact of the Asset Purchase Programme (APP) on money and credit dynamics, with loans to enterprises still weak but benefiting from a gradual easing of credit standards, a continued easing of the terms and conditions for new loans, a fall in rejected applications, an increase in demand for loans and a gradual picking-up of private investment in the first three quarters of 2015, while significant differences across euro area economies remain; notes furthermore that since the launch of the APP, medium-term inflation expectations have begun to rise, gradually converging towards the target of 2 %, while the risks of a deflation trap may have decreased; asks the ECB, where possible, to apply the APP to all Member States without discrimination while respecting the rules the ECB is bound by;

6.  Expects the ECB to contribute to the general economic policies in the Union and to the achievement of their objectives, pursuant to Article 282 TFEU, provided its main task of price stability is not put in jeopardy;

7.  Stresses that the ECB's contribution includes efforts aimed at increasing low-cost lending to the real economy and facilitating economic recovery in the direction of jobs, growth and stability;

8.  Is concerned at the possible unintended consequences and long-term effects of the ECB's non-conventional monetary policy instruments; is aware that exiting from these measures will be a complex matter which will have to be carefully planned in order to prevent unintended market disruptions, especially as regards the proper, prudent and timely management of the exit; asks the ECB to carefully monitor the risks associated with its purchase programmes; insists that monetary policy cannot resolve the fiscal and economic problems that exist in many Member States, and cannot be a substitute for the necessary sustainable and socially balanced structural reforms, fiscal consolidation and targeted investment;

9.  Is cautious regarding the potential risks to financial stability posed by protracted low interest rates in certain Member States, which might have an adverse effect on life insurance and pension plans; recognises that long-term interest rates are a reflection of underlying macroeconomic conditions and monetary policy choices;

10.  Asks the Commission to come forward with proposals to improve macroprudential oversight and the policy tools available for risk mitigation in shadow banking, in the light of the ECB’s warning in its annual report that, given the steady expansion over the last decade – to EUR 22 trillion in assets – of non-bank credit intermediation, further initiatives are needed to monitor and assess vulnerabilities in the growing shadow banking sector;

11.  Welcomes the ECB’s categorical pledge of August 2012 to ‘do everything possible’ to defend the euro;

12.  Concludes that the programme for purchasing public and private debt securities in secondary markets could be more effective;

13.  Points out the concerns expressed the ECJ judgment of 16 June 2015 in Case C-62/14, which states that when the ECB purchases government bonds on secondary markets it is possibly exposed to a significant risk of losses as well as to the risk of a debt cut; notes that the same judgment clarifies that this does not alter the conclusion that the ECB is allowed to purchase government bonds on secondary markets and that such purchases do not contravene the prohibition of monetary financing of Member States;

14.  Stresses that the high and divergent levels of public and private indebtedness in some Member States, in addition to the as yet resolved structural weaknesses in the banking sector, are obstacles to the correct transmission of monetary policy, and that the non-conventional monetary policy implemented by the ECB is not, by itself alone, capable of changing this situation;

15.  Urges those euro area Member States which are subject to a macroeconomic adjustment programme to act, pursuant to Article 7(9) of Regulation (EU) No 472/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 in order to carry out a comprehensive audit of their public finances so as, inter alia, to assess the reasons that led to the build-up of excessive levels of debt, as well as to track any possible irregularities; stresses that the aim of this audit should be to achieve a better understanding of past mistakes, and not to start an ad hoc debt restructuring process that could reignite the debt crisis in some Member States;

16.  Underlines that the rules of the existing economic governance framework should be properly respected and enforced, without differentiation between large and small Member States; reiterates that adherence to the medium-term objective of budgetary positions that are close to balance or in surplus in cyclically adjusted terms and net of one-off and temporary measures will allow Member States to deal with normal cyclical fluctuations while keeping government deficit within the 3 % of GDP reference value; considers that all existing tools within the enhanced SGP should be applied in order to better sustain stability and growth;

17.  Affirms its commitment to respecting the ECB’s independence in the conduct of monetary policy, as enshrined in the Treaties; considers that central bank independence is crucial for achieving the objective of maintaining price stability; stresses that all governments and national public authorities should therefore refrain from asking the ECB to take specific actions;

18.  Recalls that Article 127 TFEU states that the ECB, without prejudice to its primary objective of maintaining price stability, shall support the general economic policies in the Union, and that this is further specified in Article 282 TFEU;

19.  Draws attention to Article 123 TFEU, Article 21 of the Statute of the European System of Central Banks, and Article 7 of Council Regulation (EC) No 3603/93 of 13 December 1993, which prohibit the direct purchase by the national central banks or the ECB of debt instruments issued by EU or national public authorities or bodies; recalls, however, that such purchases are allowed in secondary markets;

20.  Welcomes the ECB’s attempt to boost inflation to under but close to 2 %, since this can also contribute to the success of other EU policies and enhance competitiveness, economic growth and jobs in Europe, if implemented together with targeted investment, ambitious and socially balanced structural reforms and fiscal consolidation;

21.  Welcomes the step forward taken by the ECB in publishing the summary minutes of its meetings, and looks forward to the announcement of further steps to improve the transparency of its communication channels; considers that further progress could still be made, especially with regard to the SSM;

22.  Welcomes the now generalised tendency of major central banks to publicly explain monetary decisions immediately after they are taken, a practice that was spearheaded by the ECB; further welcomes the publication of clearer and more transparent emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) procedures for solvent financial institutions (mostly national banks) facing temporary liquidity problems;

23.  Recalls its request that the annual ECB report should include feedback on the inputs provided in the annual report of Parliament; considers that it would be useful if, alongside its assessment of monetary and financial conditions, the ECB could provide, in its statement following the monthly meeting of its Council of Governors, its assessment of the extent of output gaps across the euro area;

24.  Recalls that the quarterly monetary dialogue is important to ensure the transparency of monetary policy, vis-à-vis Parliament and the wider public; welcomes the practice by which ECB representatives give precise and detailed replies to questions by MEPs; also welcomes the ECB’s practice of providing additional information in writing where answers given during the discussions are not fully satisfactory and/or comprehensive;

25.  Stresses that the ECB’s supervisory role and its monetary policy function must be clearly distinguished, and that the combination of both functions should not generate any conflict of interest for the ECB; recalls in this respect the guiding principle that the instrument used for policymaking, whether monetary or supervisory, should be chosen depending on the objective pursued and the issue in question;

26.  Underlines the need for democratic accountability in view of the new responsibilities conferred on the ECB regarding supervisory tasks, as well as its advisory role in Troika and Quadriga programmes;

27.  Stresses the importance of the organisational independence of the European Systemic Risk Board, and calls on the ECB to consider ways of enhancing this board’s independence;

28.  Calls on the ECB to completely rework the proposal to set up a comprehensive Analytical Credit Dataset (Anacredit), taking particular account of the proportionality principle, and in doing so to focus on setting appropriate thresholds in an effort to minimise the administrative costs for smaller financial institutions in particular;

29.  Welcomes the willingness expressed by Mario Draghi at the monetary dialogue of 23 September 2015 to ‘inform the European Parliament of the positions taken by the ECB’ within bodies such as the Financial Stability Board or the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision;

30.  Recalls that the role of the ECB includes the protection of financial stability, and thus the need to ensure enough liquidity to avoid public bank runs on solvent banks connected to the Eurosystem network;

31.  Recalls that the ECB's role in the Troika and Quadriga was codified in the ‘two-pack’ (Article 7 of Regulation (EU) No 472/2013); takes note of the ECJ judgment of 16 June 2015 in Case C-62/14, and calls on the ECB to take it into consideration in its actions; urges the ECB to reassess and, if necessary, reinforce its independence from political decisions;

32.  Calls for a thorough assessment of the Troika’s modus operandi and of the ECB’s involvement in the Troika and Quadriga frameworks, with a view to clarifying the scope of responsibilities and ensuring greater democratic accountability in the adoption and implementation of bailout programmes;

33.  Recalls the report of Parliament of 28 February 2014 on the inquiry into the role and operations of the Troika, which calls on the next Parliament to build on the work of this report, develop its key findings and investigate further;

34.  Calls on the Member States, the Council and the ECB to make every effort to ensure gender balance within the ECB's decision-making bodies and to pay close attention to this factor when renewing the membership of those bodies, in particular of the Governing Council and of the Executive Board;

35.  Notes that on 24 November 2015 the Commission proposed a euro area-wide deposit insurance scheme (EDIS) for bank deposits;

36.  Welcomes the CMU project and its potential to rebalance funding channels, not by diminishing means of funding or keeping them at their current levels, but rather by increasing and diversifying them, thus contributing to reducing excessive dependence of euro area economies on the banking system and creating a crucial shock absorber for the Monetary Union; warns, however, that the CMU should not discourage real economy-focused relationship banking, since this is the most appropriate form of financing for smaller firms;

37.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the European Central Bank.


Opening of FTA negotiations with Australia and New Zealand
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European Parliament resolution of 25 February 2016 on the opening of FTA negotiations with Australia and New Zealand (2015/2932(RSP))
P8_TA(2016)0064B8-0250/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 14 October 2015 entitled ‘Trade for All – Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’ (COM(2015)0497),

–  having regard to the joint statements by the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, of 29 October 2015, and with the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, of 15 November 2015,

–  having regard to the EU-Australia Partnership Framework of 29 October 2008 and the EU-New Zealand Joint Declaration on Relations and Cooperation of 21 September 2007,

–  having regard to other EU-Australia bilateral agreements, in particular the Agreement on mutual recognition in relation to conformity assessment, certificates and markings and the Agreement on trade in wine,

–  having regard to other EU-New Zealand bilateral agreements, in particular the Agreement on sanitary measures applicable to trade in live animals and animal products and the Agreement on mutual recognition in relation to conformity assessment,

–  having regard to its earlier resolutions, and in particular its positions of 12 September 2012 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and Australia amending the Agreement on mutual recognition(1) and of 12 September 2012 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and New Zealand amending the Agreement on mutual recognition(2),

–  having regard to the communiqué issued following the G20 meeting of Heads of State and Government held in Brisbane on 15-16 November 2014,

–  having regard to the joint declaration of 22 April 2015 by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Australian Foreign Minister entitled ‘Towards a closer EU-Australia Partnership’ and to the joint declaration of 25 March 2014 by President Van Rompuy, President Barroso and Prime Minister Key on deepening the partnership between New Zealand and the European Union,

–  having regard to the sensitive nature of certain agricultural sectors in these negotiations,

–  having regard to the already significant number of agreements being negotiated between the EU and its main trading partners,

–  having regard to Articles 207(3) and 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the question to the Commission on the opening of FTA negotiations with Australia and New Zealand (O-000154/2015 – B8‑0101/2016),

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

A.  whereas Australia and New Zealand are among the EU’s oldest and closest partners, sharing common values and committed to promoting prosperity and security within a rules-based system globally;

B.  whereas the EU, Australia and New Zealand work together in tackling common challenges across a broad spectrum of issues and cooperate in a number of international fora;

C.  whereas the EU and New Zealand are parties to, and Australia is in the process of acceding to, the Agreement on Government Procurement;

D.  whereas the EU, Australia and New Zealand are engaged in plurilateral negotiations to further liberalise trade in green goods (Environmental Goods Agreement) and trade in services (TiSA);

E.  whereas Australia and New Zealand are both parties to the recently concluded negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the ongoing negotiations on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in East Asia, uniting Australia’s and New Zealand’s most important trading partners;

F.  whereas Australia and New Zealand are two of only six WTO members for which there is still no preferential access to the EU market or negotiations in progress to that end;

G.  whereas Australia and New Zealand are two countries which are fully characterised by the rule of law and which currently offer strong protection for the environment and for human, social and labour rights;

H.  whereas the conclusion of the EU-Australia and EU-New Zealand free trade agreements will deepen the trade and investment relationship and whereas it could not be contemplated if the agreements adversely affected the ability of the parties to introduce, maintain or enhance their social, environmental or labour standards;

I.  whereas the EU concluded negotiations on the EU-New Zealand Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation (PARC) on 30 July 2014 and on the EU-Australia Framework Agreement (FA) on 22 April 2015;

J.  whereas the EU is the third most important trading partner for both Australia and New Zealand, which are respectively the EU’s twenty first and fifty-first largest trading partners (2014);

K.  whereas New Zealand is one of the few countries to be recognised by the Commission as having an adequate level of private data protection;

L.  whereas the conclusion of modern, ambitious, balanced and comprehensive agreements would bring economic relations up to a new level;

M.  whereas Parliament will be required to decide whether to give its consent to the potential EU-Australia and EU-New Zealand FTAs;

1.  Underlines the importance of deepening relations between the EU and the Asia-Pacific region for economic growth within Europe and stresses that this is reflected in the European Union’s trade policy; recognises that Australia and New Zealand are a key part of this strategy and that widening and deepening trade with these partners can help to meet this goal;

2.  Commends both Australia and New Zealand for their strong and consistent commitment to the multilateral trade agenda;

3.  Considers that the full potential of the Union’s bilateral and regional cooperation strategies can only be realised by concluding high-quality FTAs with both Australia and New Zealand in a spirit of reciprocity and mutual benefit while under no circumstances undermining or diverting resources and attention away from the ambition to achieve progress multilaterally or the implementation of already concluded multilateral and bilateral agreements;

4.  Believes that the negotiation of two separate, modern, ambitious, balanced and comprehensive FTAs with Australia and New Zealand in accordance with the specific features of those economies is a pragmatic way of deepening the bilateral partnerships and further reinforcing the existing, already mature bilateral trade and investment relationships, and would help mitigate the potential diversionary effects of the recently concluded TPP; envisages that the outcome of the negotiations can act as a template for future free trade agreements;

5.  Calls on the Commission to study in depth all additional market access opportunities for European economic operators, especially SMEs, offered by the possible FTAs with Australia and New Zealand during the scoping exercise and to weigh these against any possible defensive interests, given that both Australia and New Zealand have already comparatively open markets and very low tariffs in international comparison;

6.  Stresses that ambitious agreements between the three advanced economies must address, in a meaningful way, investment, trade in goods and services (drawing on recent European Parliament recommendations as regards policy space reservations and sensitive sectors), e-commerce, public procurement, energy, state-owned enterprises, competition, anti-corruption, regulatory issues such as sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, technology research and, especially, the needs of SMEs, and can benefit governance of the global economy through intensified convergence and cooperation on international standards without lowering any consumer (e.g. food safety), environmental (e.g. animal health and welfare, plant health) or social and labour protection levels;

7.  Emphasises that the possible agreements should fully take into account, in a separate chapter, the needs and interests of SMEs with regard to market access facilitation issues in order to generate concrete business opportunities;

8.  Considers that a robust and ambitious sustainable development chapter, covering, among other things, core labour standards, the four ILO priority governance conventions and multilateral environmental agreements, is an indispensable part of any potential free trade agreement; considers that the agreement should also include the establishment of a joint civil society forum that monitors and comments on its implementation and how the parties respect their commitments and obligations on human rights, labour standards and environmental protection;

9.  Notes that agriculture is a very sensitive sector and that a final, balanced outcome in the agriculture and fisheries chapters must give due consideration to the interests of all European producers, e.g. meat, dairy, sugar, cereal and, textile producers and those in the outermost regions, for instance by introducing transitional periods or appropriate quotas or not making any commitments in the most sensitive sectors; considers that only then can it boost competitiveness and be beneficial to both consumers and producers; calls for the inclusion of effective bilateral safeguard measures to prevent a surge in imports that would cause, or threaten to cause, serious injury to European producers in sensitive sectors and for the implementation of specific measures to protect sensitive products from the outermost regions, in particular the exclusion of special sugars;

10.  Stresses that the negotiations must result in strong and enforceable provisions covering the recognition and protection of intellectual property rights, including geographical indications (GIs);

11.  Calls on the Commission to conduct as soon as possible comprehensive sustainability impact assessments of the potential agreements with a view to being able to thoroughly evaluate possible gains and losses from the enhancement of the EU-Australia and EU-New Zealand trade and investment relationships for the benefit of the population and businesses on both sides, including the outermost regions and the overseas countries and territories;

12.  Calls on the Commission to make the launch of negotiations with Australia and New Zealand conditional on all parties committing at the outset to conduct negotiations as transparently as possible and fully respecting best practice as established in other negotiations and through constant dialogue with the social partners and civil society, and to include the expected level of ambition in this regard in the scoping exercise;

13.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the governments and parliaments of Australia and New Zealand.

(1) OJ C 353 E, 3.12.2013, p. 210.
(2) OJ C 353 E, 3.12.2013, p. 210.


Introduction of compatible systems for the registration of pet animals across Member States
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European Parliament resolution of 25 February 2016 on the introduction of compatible systems for the registration of pet animals across Member States (2016/2540(RSP))
P8_TA(2016)0065RC-B8-0251/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission statement of 4 February 2016 on the introduction of compatible systems for the registration of pet animals across Member States,

–  having regard to Article 43 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) on the functioning of the Common Agricultural Policy,

–  having regard to Article 114 TFEU on the establishment and functioning of the single market,

–  having regard to Article 168(4)(b) TFEU on measures in the veterinary and phytosanitary fields,

–  having regard to Article 169 TFEU on consumer protection measures,

–  having regard to Article 13 TFEU, which stipulates that, in formulating and implementing the Union’s policies, the Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 576/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 June 2013 on the non-commercial movement of pet animals, and Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 577/2013 of 28 June 2013 on the model identification documents for the non-commercial movement of dogs, cats and ferrets, the establishment of lists of territories and third countries and the format, layout and language requirements of the declarations attesting compliance with certain conditions provided for in Regulation (EU) No 576/2013,

–  having regard to Council Directive 92/65/EEC of 13 July 1992 laying down animal health requirements governing trade in and imports into the Community of animals, semen, ova and embryos not subject to animal health requirements laid down in specific Community rules referred to in Annex A (I) to Directive 90/425/EEC,

–  having regard to its position of 15 April 2014 on the proposal for a regulation on animal health(1),

–  having regard to the conclusions of the 3 050th Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting of 29 November 2010 on the welfare of dogs and cats,

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 of 9 December 1996 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein,

–  having regard to Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 792/2012 of 23 August 2012 laying down rules for the design of permits, certificates and other documents provided for in Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating the trade therein and amending Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006,

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 May 2015 on safer healthcare in Europe: improving patient safety and fighting antimicrobial resistance(2),

–  having regard to the study conclusions from the Companion Animals Multisectorial Interprofessional and Interdisciplinary Strategic Think Tank on Zoonoses (CALLISTO),

–  having regard to the first outcome of the EU study on dogs and cats involved in commercial practices conducted in 12 Member States, pursuant to the Commission statement attached to Regulation (EU) No 576/2013,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the Commission has funded a study on the welfare of dogs and cats involved in commercial practices;

B.  whereas non-governmental organisations, law enforcement agencies, competent authorities and veterinarians have shown evidence of a growing illegal trade in pet animals, with widespread abuse of the Pet Travel Scheme, evasion of controls and document falsification;

C.  whereas the illegal trade in pets, including wild and exotic animals, is linked to serious and organised crime according to non-governmental organisations, law enforcement agencies and competent authorities;

D.  whereas, despite recent improvements, major concerns still remain in terms of the information provided in Pet Passports, particularly as regards how the age given for an individual animal can be proved to be accurate;

E.  whereas pet animals that are traded illegally are often badly bred, poorly socialised and at increased risk of disease, and whereas 70 % of the new diseases that have emerged in humans over recent decades are of animal origin, and animals commonly kept as pets are carrier hosts of many zoonoses, including rabies;

F.  whereas the majority of Member States already have some level of requirements for the registration and/or identification of pet animals; whereas most of these databases are not yet compatible and there is limited traceability when pets are moved throughout the EU;

G.  whereas compatible requirements for the identification and registration of pet animals would be a significant step forward in the protection of animal welfare and public and animal health, and would provide for effective intra-Union traceability of pet animals;

H.  whereas some Member States (the Netherlands and Belgium) already have positive lists for the keeping and/or selling of pet animals;

1.  Underlines the positive contribution that pet animals make to the lives of millions of individual owners and families across the EU, and reaffirms that owners should be able to travel with their pets in a safe, controlled manner throughout the Union;

2.  Welcomes the improvements to the Pet Travel Scheme introduced by Regulation (EU) No 576/2013, including the added security features contained in the Pet Passport, and the further improvements which will follow from the Animal Health Law once adopted by the co-legislators;

3.  Notes with concern the evidence from non-governmental organisations, law enforcement agencies, competent authorities and veterinarians that clearly demonstrates the growing illegal abuse of the Pet Travel Scheme, which is being exploited for commercial purposes;

4.  Notes that the lack of vaccination, appropriate antiviral treatment and veterinary and sanitary care among illegally traded pets often results in the need to treat them with antibiotics; underlines that this increases the risk of antimicrobial resistance;

5.  Notes with concern the growing trade, both legal and illegal, in wild animals commonly kept as pets; notes that keeping wild animals as pets significantly compromises individual animal welfare and puts human health and safety at risk; notes that the trade has serious conservation implications for the species subject to wild capture to supply the trade; calls on the Commission to adopt robust and effective measures to tackle the illegal trade in pets, including wild animals kept as pets;

6.  Notes that while many Member States have mandatory systems for the identification and registration of pet animals, there are discrepancies as regards the type of information held, the animals covered by the identification and registration requirements, and the level of governance over the information held;

7.  Notes that compatible systems of identification and registration requirements for dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and cats (Felis silvestris catus) would reduce the scope for document falsification and illegal trading, thus improving animal welfare, protecting public and animal health and providing for effective intra-Union traceability;

8.  Calls on the Commission, upon the entry into force of the Regulation on Transmissible Animal Diseases (Animal Health Law), to adopt a delegated act forthwith, laying down rules pursuant to Articles 109 and 118 of the regulation concerning detailed, compatible systems for the means and methods of identification and registration of dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and cats (Felis silvestris catus); underlines that the personal data of owners and sellers of pet animals should be respected in line with the relevant EU legal standards on personal data protection;

9.  Calls on the Commission, upon the entry into force of the Regulation on Transmissible Animal Diseases, to consider adopting delegated acts laying down rules pursuant to Articles 109 and 118 of the regulation concerning detailed, compatible systems for the means and methods of identification and registration of pet animals, as defined by Annex 1 of the same regulation;

10.  Urges the Commission to publish without delay the conclusions of the study on the welfare of dogs and cats involved in commercial practices;

11.  Believes that a compatible system for the identification and registration of pets across the EU will have wider benefits than just tackling illegal trade alone; believes that these benefits include tracing the source of disease outbreaks and addressing animal abuse and other animal welfare concerns;

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

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0381.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0197.


Humanitarian situation in Yemen
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European Parliament resolution of 25 February 2016 on the humanitarian situation in Yemen (2016/2515(RSP))
P8_TA(2016)0066RC-B8-0151/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Yemen, in particular that of 9 July 2015 on the situation in Yemen(1),

–  ‎having regard to the joint statement of 10 January 2016 by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), Federica Mogherini, and the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, on the attack on a Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) (MSF) health centre in Yemen,

–  having regard to the statement of 15 December 2015 by the European External Action Service (EEAS) spokesperson on the resumption of UN-facilitated talks on Yemen, and to the joint statement of 2 October 2015 by the VP/HR, Federica Mogherini, and the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, on Yemen,

–  having regard to the Foreign Affairs Council conclusions on Yemen, in particular those of 20 April 2015,

–  having regard to the UN Security Council resolutions on Yemen, in particular resolutions 2216 (2015), 2201 (2015) and 2140 (2014),

–  having regard to the statements of 10 January 2016 and 8 January 2016 attributable to the spokesman for the UN Secretary-General on Yemen,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the current crisis in Yemen is the result of a failure by successive governments to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people for democracy, economic and social development, stability and security; whereas this failure has created the conditions for an outbreak of violent conflict by failing to establish an inclusive government and fair power‑sharing, and systematically ignoring the country’s many tribal tensions, widespread insecurity and economic paralysis;

B.  whereas the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, requested by Yemen’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, including the use of internationally banned cluster bombs, has led to a disastrous humanitarian situation that affects the population across the country, has serious implications for the region and constitutes a threat to international peace and security; whereas members of Yemen’s civilian population, already affected by dire living conditions, are the first victims of the current military escalation;

C.  whereas Houthi rebels have laid siege to the town of Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city, obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid; whereas, according to Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, some 200 000 civilians trapped there were in dire need of drinking water, food, medical treatment and other life-saving assistance and protection;

D.  whereas since the start of the conflict at least 5 979 people have been killed, almost half of them civilians, and 28 208 injured; whereas there are hundreds of women and children among the victims; whereas the humanitarian impact on the civilian population of the ongoing fighting between various militias, bombardments and the disruption of essential services is reaching alarming proportions;

E.  whereas, according to the 2016 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) released in November 2015, 21,2 million people (82 % of the population) are now in need of some form of humanitarian assistance; whereas, similarly, nearly 2,1 million people are currently estimated to be malnourished, including more than 1,3 million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition;

F.  whereas the EU provided for EUR 52 million in new humanitarian aid for the crisis in Yemen and its impact in the Horn of Africa in 2015; whereas the EU will provide up to EUR 2 million for the establishment of the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) for commercial shipping to Yemen, thus facilitating the unimpeded flow of commercial items and humanitarian aid to Yemen;

G.  whereas there are multiple reports that airstrikes by the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen have hit civilian targets, including hospitals, schools, markets, grain warehouses, ports and a camp for displaced persons, severely damaging essential infrastructure for the delivery of aid and contributing to the severe food and fuel shortages in the country; whereas a hospital in northern Yemen supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) (MSF) was bombed on 10 January 2016, resulting in at least six people being killed, a dozen being injured, including MSF staff, and severe damage to medical facilities; whereas this is the latest in a series of attacks on health facilities; whereas many historic monuments and archaeological sites have also been irreparably damaged or destroyed, including parts of the Old City of Sana’a, a UNESCO World Heritage site;

H.  whereas, owing to reduced port capacity and the congestion resulting from damaged infrastructure and facilities, only 15 % of the pre-crisis volume of fuel imports is getting through to the country; whereas, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), eight governorates are currently classified at emergency level for food security, namely Sa’ada, Hajjah, Hodeida, Taiz, Al‑Dhale, Lahj, Abyan and Hadramaut;

I.  whereas, according to Save the Children, hospitals in at least 18 of the country’s 22 governorates have been closed as a result of, or severely affected by, the fighting or the lack of fuel; whereas, in particular, 153 health centres that previously supplied nutrition to more than 450 000 at-risk children have closed down, together with 158 outpatient clinics responsible for providing basic healthcare to nearly half a million children under the age of five;

J.  whereas, according to UNICEF, the conflict in Yemen has also had a severe impact on children’s access to education, which has come to a standstill for nearly 2 million children, with 3 584 schools – or one in four – having been shut down; whereas 860 of these schools are damaged or sheltering the displaced;

K.  whereas a nationwide ceasefire was declared on 15 December 2015 but has subsequently been widely violated; whereas peace talks held by the warring parties in Switzerland in mid‑December 2015 failed to produce any major breakthrough with a view to ending the conflict; whereas the resumption of the UN-led peace talks under the auspices of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, which was scheduled for 14 January 2016, has been temporarily postponed amid continued violence;

L.  whereas the situation in Yemen carries grave risks for the stability of the region, in particular that of the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea and the wider Middle East; whereas Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been able to benefit from the deterioration of the political and security situation in Yemen, expanding its presence and augmenting the number and scale of its terrorist attacks; whereas the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) / Daesh has established its presence in Yemen and carried out terrorist attacks against Shiite mosques, killing hundreds of people;

M.  whereas a stable, secure Yemen with a properly functioning government is critical to international efforts to combat extremism and violence in the region and beyond, as well as to peace and stability within Yemen itself;

N.  whereas some EU Member States have continued to authorise transfers of weapons and related items to Saudi Arabia since the war started; whereas such transfers are in violation of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP on arms export control, which explicitly rules out the authorising of arms licences by Member States if there is a clear risk that the military technology or equipment to be exported might be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law and to undermine regional peace, security and stability;

1.  Expresses grave concern at the alarming deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Yemen, which is characterised by widespread food insecurity and severe malnutrition, indiscriminate attacks against civilians and medical and aid workers, the destruction of civilian and medical infrastructure as a result of the pre-existing domestic conflict, the intensification of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, ground fighting and shelling, despite repeated calls for a renewed cessation of hostilities; deeply regrets the loss of life caused by the conflict and the suffering of those caught up in the fighting, and expresses its condolences to the families of the victims; reaffirms its commitment to continuing to support Yemen and the Yemeni people;

2.  Expresses grave concern at the airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition and the naval blockade it has imposed on Yemen, which have led to thousands of deaths, have further destabilised Yemen, are destroying the country’s physical infrastructure, have created instability which has been exploited by terrorist and extremist organisations such as ISIS/Daesh and AQAP, and have exacerbated an already critical humanitarian situation; strongly condemns, also, the destabilising and violent actions taken by the Houthis, who are supported by Iran, including the siege of the city of Taiz, which has also had disastrous humanitarian consequences for its inhabitants;

3.  Stresses the need for coordinated humanitarian action under UN leadership, and urges all countries to contribute to addressing humanitarian needs; urges all parties to allow the entry and delivery of urgently needed food, medicine, fuel and other necessary assistance through UN and international humanitarian channels in order to address the urgent needs of civilians affected by the crisis, in accordance with the principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence; calls for a humanitarian pause to allow life-saving assistance to reach the Yemeni people as a matter of urgency; recalls that it is therefore essential that commercial shipping access to Yemen be further eased;

4.  Calls on all sides to comply with international humanitarian law and international human rights law, to ensure the protection of civilians and to refrain from directly targeting civilian infrastructure, in particular medical facilities and water systems; demands an independent investigation into all allegations of abuse, torture, targeted killing of civilians and other violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law;

5.  Reminds all parties that hospitals and medical personnel are explicitly protected under international humanitarian law and that the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure amounts to a war crime; calls for an impartial and independent investigation into all alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including the latest attacks targeting humanitarian infrastructure and personnel; calls on all parties to respect the human rights and freedoms of all Yemeni citizens, and stresses the importance of improving the security of all those working on peace and humanitarian missions in the country, including aid workers, doctors and journalists;

6.  Calls for the EU to effectively promote compliance with international humanitarian law, as provided for in the relevant EU guidelines; stresses, in particular, the need for the EU to raise, in its political dialogue with Saudi Arabia, the necessity of complying with international humanitarian law, and, in the event that such dialogue yields no results, to consider other measures in accordance with the EU Guidelines on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law;

7.  Calls on the VP/HR to launch an initiative aimed at imposing an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, given the serious allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia in Yemen and the fact that the continued licensing of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia would therefore be in breach of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP of 8 December 2008;

8.  Believes that Saudi Arabia and Iran are instrumental in resolving the crisis, and urges both sides to work pragmatically and in good faith to end the fighting in Yemen;

9.  Stresses that only a political, inclusive and negotiated solution to the conflict can restore peace and preserve the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen; urges all parties to engage, in good faith and without preconditions, in a new round of UN‑led peace negotiations as soon as possible, including by resolving their differences through dialogue and consultations, rejecting acts of violence in pursuit of political goals, and refraining from provocation and all unilateral actions to undermine the political solution; supports the efforts of the UN Special Envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to hold UN‑facilitated peace talks in accordance with the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, in particular resolutions 2140 (2014) and 2216 (2015);

10.  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 Secretary‑General of the United Nations, the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, and the Government of Yemen.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0270.

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