Index 
Texts adopted
Thursday, 26 May 2016 - BrusselsFinal edition
Virtual currencies
 Mobilisation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund: application EGF/2015/010 FR/MoryGlobal
 Mobilisation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund: application EGF/2015/011 GR/Supermarket Larissa
 Request for waiver of the immunity of Gianluca Buonanno
 Provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Sweden *
 Transatlantic data flows
 Delivering a new deal for energy consumers
 Poverty: a gender perspective
 Non-tariff barriers in the Single Market
 The Single Market Strategy

Virtual currencies
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European Parliament resolution of 26 May 2016 on virtual currencies (2016/2007(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0228A8-0168/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Bank for International Settlements’ Paper on Digital Currencies of November 2015(1),

–  having regard to the Bank of England’s publication on the economics of digital currencies (Q3/2014)(2),

–  having regard to the European Banking Authority’s opinion on Virtual currencies of July 2014(3),

–  having regard to the European Central Bank’s analysis of Virtual currency schemes of February 2015(4),

–  having regard to the Commission’s Action Plan to strengthen the fight against the financing of terrorism of 2 February 2016(5),

–  having regard to the Commission’s study on the size of the VAT gap in the EU of May 2015(6),

–  having regard to the Commission’s Joint Research Centre study on the digital agenda of virtual currencies(7),

–  having regard to the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) Guidance for a Risk-Based Approach to Virtual Currencies as of June 2015,

–  having regard to the European Council conclusions on the fight against the financing of terrorism of 12 February 2016(8),

–  having regard to the Judgement of the European Court of Justice on the VAT Treatment of a Virtual Currency Exchange (C-264/14)(9), and the opinion of Advocate-General Kokott delivered on 16 July 2015(10),

–  having regard to ESMA’s consultation on Investment using virtual currencies or distributed ledger technology of July 2015(11),

–  having regard to its EPRS briefing on Bitcoin market, economics and regulation(12),

–  having regard to the Europol report ‘Changes in modus operandi of Islamic State terrorist attacks’ of 18 January 2016(13),

–  having regard to the FATF’s report on Virtual Currencies of June 2014(14),

–  having regard to the OECD study on ‘The Bitcoin Question – currency versus trust-less transfer technology’(15),

–  having regard to the IMF Staff Discussion Note on Virtual Currencies and Beyond of January 2016(16),

–  having regard to the UK Government Office for Science, Chief Scientific Adviser’s Report on ‘Distributed Ledger Technology: beyond block chain’, of 2016(17),

–  having regard to the hearing of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs on virtual currencies of 25 January 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 opinion of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (A8-0168/2016),

A.  whereas a universally applicable definition is not yet established, but virtual currencies (VCs) are sometimes referred to as digital cash, and the European Banking Authority (EBA) regards them as being a digital representation of value that is neither issued by a central bank or a public authority nor necessarily attached to a fiat currency, but is accepted by natural or legal persons as a means of payment, and can be transferred, stored or traded electronically; whereas VCs are most notably based on distributed ledger technology (DLT), the technological basis for more than 600 VC schemes(18), which facilitates ‘peer-to-peer’ exchange, the most prominent of which to date is Bitcoin; while it was launched in 2009 and currently holds a market share among DLT-based VCs of almost 90 %, with a market value of the outstanding Bitcoins of around EUR 5 billion(19), it has not yet reached systemic dimensions;

B.  whereas DLT includes databases with varying levels of trust and resilience, with the potential to process large numbers of transactions rapidly, and with transformational capacity not only in the area of VCs but also in fintech more broadly speaking, where clearing and settlement might be one obvious application, as well as others beyond finance, especially with regard to proof of identity and property;

C.  whereas investments in DLT are an integral part of the ongoing fintech innovation cycle and have totalled more than EUR 1 billion to date, from both venture capital funding and corporate investment(20);

Opportunities and risks of VCs and DLT in the rapidly evolving technological landscape of payments

1.  Stresses that VCs and DLT have the potential to contribute positively to citizens’ welfare and economic development, including in the financial sector, by means of:

   (a) lowering transaction and operational costs for payments and especially cross-border transfer of funds, quite possibly to well below 1 %, compared to the traditional 2 % – 4 % for online payment systems(21) –, and to more than 7 % on average for the cross-border transfer of remittances(22), hence, in an optimistic estimate, potentially reducing total global costs for remittances by up to EUR 20 billion;
   (b) more generally, reducing the cost of access to finance even without a traditional bank account, thereby potentially contributing to financial inclusion and the G20 and G8 ‘5x5 objective’(23);
   (c) enhancing the resilience and, depending on the architecture of the scheme, the speed of payment systems and trade in goods and services thanks to the inherently decentralised architecture of DLT, which might continue to operate reliably even if parts of its network were to malfunction or to be hacked;
   (d) enabling systems that combine ease of use, low transaction and operational costs and a high degree of privacy, but without full anonymity so that transactions are traceable to a certain extent in case of malfeasance and so that transparency for market participants in general can be increased;
   (e) using such systems to develop secure online micropayment solutions that respect individual privacy, which could conceivably replace some of the existing online business models that significantly challenge privacy;
   (f) potentially allowing different types of traditional and innovative payment mechanisms, from credit cards to mobile solutions, to merge into one secure and user-friendly application, which could advance certain aspects of e-commerce in Europe and deepen the Single Market;

2.  Notes that VCs and DLT schemes entail risks which need to be addressed appropriately so as to enhance their trustworthiness, including in the present circumstances, namely:

   (a) the absence of flexible, but resilient and reliable, governance structures or indeed a definition of such structures, especially in some DLT applications such as Bitcoin, which creates uncertainty and consumer or – more broadly – user protection problems, especially in the event of challenges unforeseen by the original software designers;
   (b) the high volatility of VCs and potential for speculative bubbles, and the absence of traditional forms of regulatory supervision, safeguards and protection, issues which are especially challenging for consumers;
   (c) the sometimes limited capacity of regulators in the area of new technology, which may make it difficult to define appropriate safeguards in a timely manner in order to ensure the proper and reliable functioning of DLT applications when or even before they grow so large as to become systemically relevant;
   (d) the legal uncertainty surrounding new applications of DLT;
   (e) the energy consumption of running certain VCs which, according to the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser’s report on DLT, in the case of Bitcoin has been estimated to be in excess of 1 GW, which would call for investments in research into, and promotion of. more efficient forms of transaction verification mechanisms;
   (f) the lack of sufficiently transparent and easily accessible technical documentation of the functioning of specific VCs and other DLT schemes;
   (g) potential sources of financial instability that might be associated with derivative products based on poorly understood characteristics of VCs;
   (h) the potential long-run future limitations on the effectiveness of monetary policy if private VC schemes were to be widely used as a substitute for official fiat currency;
   (i) the potential for ‘black market’ transactions, money laundering, terrorist financing(24), tax fraud and evasion and other criminal activities based on the ‘pseudonymity’ and ‘mixing services’ that some such services offer and the decentralised nature of some VCs, bearing in mind that the traceability of cash transactions tends to be much lower still;

3.  Suggests that addressing these risks will require enhanced regulatory capacity, including technical expertise, and the development of a sound legal framework that keeps up with innovation, ensuring a timely and proportionate response if and when the use of some DLT applications becomes systemically relevant;

4.  Points out, however, that if a regulation is adopted at a very early stage, it may not be adapted to a state of affairs which is still in flux and may convey a wrong message to the public about the advantages or security of virtual currencies;

Employing DLT beyond payments

5.  Notes that DLT’s potential to accelerate, decentralise, automate and standardise data-driven processes at lower cost has the potential to alter fundamentally the way in which assets are transferred and records are kept, with implications for both the private and the public sector, the latter being concerned in three dimensions: as a service provider, as a supervisor and as a legislator;

6.  Points out that clearing, settlement and other post-trade management processes currently cost the global financial industry well in excess of EUR 50 billion per year(25), and that this and bank reconciliation processes are areas where the use of DLT might turn out to be transformational in terms of efficiency, speed, and resilience, but would also raise new regulatory challenges;

7.  Highlights the fact that, in this regard, several initiatives have been put in place by private sector actors, and invites competent authorities, at both European and national level, to monitor such initiatives;

8.  Further notes that DLT could be used to increase data sharing, transparency and trust not only between government and citizens, but also between private sector actors and clients;

9.  Recognises the still unfolding potential of DLT well beyond the financial sector, including crypto-equity crowdfunding, dispute mediation services, in particular in the financial and juridical sectors, and the potential of smart contracts combined with digital signatures, applications allowing for heightened data security and synergies with the development of the Internet of Things;

10.  Underscores the dynamics that the block-chain technologies generate in the business environment as well as their potential for transformation in the real economy in the long run;

11.  Acknowledges the potential of DLT in assisting governments to reduce money laundering, fraud and corruption;

12.  Encourages government agencies to test DLT systems after conducting proper impact analyses in order to improve the provision of services to citizens and of e-government solutions, in compliance with EU data protection rules; encourages government agencies to avoid lock-in effects which may be associated with reliance on proprietary DLT schemes; specifically recognises the potential of DLT for improvements in land registry systems;

13.  Recommends that government agencies and competent authorities that are tasked with analysing large quantities of data explore the use of real-time DLT-based supervision and reporting tools as part of a RegTech agenda in the financial sector and beyond, including in order to at least reduce the sizeable VAT gap in the Union(26);

Smart regulation towards fostering innovation and safeguarding integrity

14.  Calls for a proportionate regulatory approach at EU level so as not to stifle innovation or add superfluous costs to it at this early stage, while taking seriously the regulatory challenges that the widespread use of VCs and DLT might pose;

15.  Highlights the similarities between Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), consisting in a set of nodes participating in a system and sharing a common database, and the World Wide Web, defined as a global set of resources logically interrelated by hyperlinks; notes that both the DLT and the WWW are based on the internet, a global system of interconnected mainframe, personal and wireless computer networks;

16.  Recalls that the internet, despite the attempts to promote a multi-stakeholder approach, is still governed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the United States Department of Commerce;

17.  Welcomes the creation of a Dynamic Coalition on Blockchain Technologies at the Internet Governance Forum, and invites the Commission to promote a shared and inclusive governance of the DLT, so as to avoid problems previously encountered in the development of the internet;

18.  Points out that key EU legislation, such as EMIR, CSDR, SFD, MiFID/MiFIR, UCITs and AIFMD, could provide a regulatory framework in line with the activities carried out, irrespective of the underlying technology, even as VCs and DLT-based applications expand into new markets and extend their activities; observes, however, that more tailor-made legislation might be needed;

19.  Welcomes the Commission’s suggestions for including VC exchange platforms in the Anti-Money-Laundering Directive (AMLD) in order to end the anonymity associated with such platforms; expects that any proposal in this regard will be targeted, justified by means of a full analysis of the risks associated with VCs, and based on a thorough impact assessment;

20.  Recommends that the Commission draw up a comprehensive analysis of VCs and, on the basis of this assessment, consider, if appropriate, revising the relevant EU legislation on payments, including the Payment Accounts Directive (PAD), the Payment Services Directive (PSD) and the Electronic Money Directive (EMD), in light of the new possibilities afforded by new technological developments including VCs and DLT, with a view to further enhancing competition and lowering transaction costs, including by means of enhanced interoperability and possibly also via the promotion of a universal and non-proprietary electronic wallet;

21.  Observes that several virtual local currencies have been created in Europe, not least as a response to the financial crises and the related credit crunch problems; urges particular caution when defining virtual currencies, in the context of any future legislative proposals, with a view to taking proper account of the existence of ‘local currencies’ of a not-for-profit nature, often having limited fungibility and providing significant social and environmental benefits, and to preventing disproportionate regulation in this area, as long as taxation is neither avoided nor circumvented;

22.  Calls for the creation of a horizontal Task Force DLT (TF DLT) led by the Commission, consisting of technical and regulatory experts, in order to:

   (i) provide the necessary technical and regulatory expertise across the various sectors of pertinent DLT applications, bring together stakeholders and support the relevant public actors at EU and Member State level in their efforts to monitor DLT use at the European level and globally;
   (ii) foster awareness and analyse the benefits and risks – including to end-users – of DLT applications in order to make best use of their potential, including by aiming to identify a core set of attributes of DLT schemes conducive to the general interest, such as non-proprietary open standards, and by identifying standards for best practice where such standards are emerging;
   (iii) support a timely, well-informed and proportionate response to the new opportunities and challenges arising with the introduction of significant DLT applications, including by means of a roadmap for future steps at EU and Member State level which would include an assessment of existing European regulation, with a view to updating it in response to significant and systemic DLT use where appropriate, also addressing consumer protection and systemic challenges;
   (iv) develop stress tests for all relevant aspects of VCs and other DLT schemes that reach a level of use that would make them systemically important for stability;

23.  Stresses the importance of consumer awareness, transparency and trust when using VCs; calls on the Commission to develop, in cooperation with the Member States and the VC industry, guidelines with the aim of guaranteeing that correct, clear and complete information is provided for existing and future VC users, to allow them to make a fully informed choice and thus enhance the transparency of VC schemes in terms of how they are organised and operated and how they distinguish themselves from regulated and supervised payment systems in terms of consumer protection;

o
o   o

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

(1) http://www.bis.org/cpmi/publ/d137.pdf
(2) http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Documents/quarterlybulletin/2014/qb14q3digitalcurrenciesBitcoin2.pdf
(3) https://www.eba.europa.eu/documents/10180/657547/EBA-Op-2014-08+Opinion+on+Virtual+Currencies.pdf
(4) https://www.ecb.europa.eu/pub/pdf/other/virtualcurrencyschemesen.pdf
(5) http://ec.europa.eu/justice/newsroom/criminal/news/160202_en.htm
(6) http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5592_en.htm
(7) http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC97043/the%20digital%20agenda%20of%20virtual%20currencies_final.pdf
(8) http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/02/12-conclusions-terrorism-financing/
(9) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1463564584935&uri=CELEX:62014CJ0264
(10) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A62014CC0264
(11) https://www.esma.europa.eu/sites/default/files/library/2015/11/2015-532_call_for_evidence_on_virtual_currency_investment.pdf
(12) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/bibliotheque/briefing/2014/140793/LDM_BRI(2014)140793_REV1_EN.pdf
(13) https://www.europol.europa.eu/sites/default/files/publications/changes_in_modus_operandi_of_is_in_terrorist_attacks.pdf
(14) http://www.fatf-gafi.org/media/fatf/documents/reports/virtual-currency-key-definitions-and-potential-aml-cft-risks.pdf
(15) http://www.oecd.org/daf/fin/financial-markets/The-Bitcoin-Question-2014.pdf
(16) https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2016/sdn1603.pdf
(17) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/492972/gs-16-1-distributed-ledger-technology.pdf
(18) http://www.bis.org/cpmi/publ/d137.pdf
(19) http://coinmarketcap.com/
(20) See, among others: http://www.coindesk.com/state-of-Bitcoin-blockchain-2016/
(21) https://www.eba.europa.eu/documents/10180/657547/EBA-Op-2014-08+Opinion+on+Virtual+Currencies.pdf
(22) https://remittanceprices.worldbank.org/sites/default/files/rpw_report_december_2015.pdf
(23) http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTFINANCIALSECTOR/0,,contentMDK:22383199~pagePK:210058~piPK:210062~theSitePK:282885,00.html
(24) While there is potential for use of VC for terrorist financing, Europol has recently (18 January 2016) pointed out that ‘despite third party reporting suggesting the use of anonymous currencies like Bitcoin by terrorists to finance their activities, this has not been confirmed by law enforcement’.
(25) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/492972/gs-16-1-distributed-ledger-technology.pdf
(26) http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5592_en.htm


Mobilisation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund: application EGF/2015/010 FR/MoryGlobal
PDF 334kWORD 39 39k
Resolution
Annex
European Parliament resolution of 26 May 2016 on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the mobilisation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (application from France – EGF/2015/010 FR/MoryGlobal) (COM(2016)0185 – C8-0136/2016 – 2016/2043(BUD))
P8_TA(2016)0229A8-0182/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to the European Parliament and the Council (COM(2016)0185 – C8‑0136/2016),

–  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 (A8-0182/2016),

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 France submitted application EGF/2015/010 FR/MoryGlobal for a financial contribution from the EGF, following redundancies in the economic sector classified under the NACE Revision 2 Division 49 (Land transport and transport via pipelines) and Division 52 (Warehousing and support activities for transportation) throughout mainland France, and whereas 2 132 redundant workers eligible for an EGF contribution are expected to participate in the measures; whereas the request follows the judicial liquidation of MoryGlobal and is a follow-up to the application EGF/2014/017 FR/Mory-Ducros;

E.  whereas the application was submitted under the intervention criteria of point (a) of Article 4(1) of the EGF Regulation, which requires at least 500 workers being made redundant over a reference period of four months in an enterprise in a Member State, including workers made redundant by suppliers and downstream producers and / or self-employed persons whose activity has ceased;

1.  Agrees with the Commission that the conditions set out in point (a) of Article 4(1) of the EGF Regulation are met and that, therefore, France is entitled to a financial contribution of EUR 5 146 800 under that Regulation, which represents 60 % of the total cost of EUR 8 528 000;

2.  Notes that the Commission respected the deadline of 12 weeks from the receipt of the application from the French authorities, on 19 November 2015, until the finalisation of its assessment on the compliance with the conditions for providing a financial contribution, on 7 April 2016 and notified its assessment to Parliament that day;

3.  Considers that the redundancies in MoryGlobal are linked to the general decline in physical output in Europe, which has led to a reduction in volumes to be transported and a price war in the road haulage sector, resulting in a steady deterioration in operating margins and a series of losses for the sector in France since 2007, followed by a wave of bankruptcies, including that of Mory-Ducros and later of MoryGlobal, which re-employed 2 107 of Mory-Ducros’ former workers;

4.  Points out that the EGF support for 2 513 former Mory-Ducros workers, approved in April 2015(4), amounts to EUR 6 052 200;

5.  Notes that, to date, the land transport and transport via pipelines sector has been the subject of two other EGF applications: EGF/2014/017 FR/Mory-Ducros and EGF/2011/001 AT/Nieder- und Oberoesterreich, both based on the global financial and economic crisis, relating to 2804 redundancies in that sector; notes that several measures in the two applications are similar;

6.  Notes the fact that the French authorities started providing the personalised services to the affected workers on 23 April 2015, ahead of the application on the granting of EGF support for the proposed coordinated package;

7.  Welcomes the fact that France put in place the social plan, in which MoryGlobal also participates financially, before obtaining the top up from EGF; appreciates that the assistance requested from EGF does not include measures under point (b) of Article 7(1) of the EGF Regulation, namely allowances, but is orientated towards measures with real added value for the future reintegration into the labour market of the workers made redundant;

8.  Notes that the EGF cofunded personalised services to be provided consist of advice and guidance provided by a team of expert consultants, which are additional to the social plan and the Contrat de Sécurisation Professionnelle funded by the French State to help the workers back into employment; notes that the three contractors operating the team of consultants are the ones providing services to the workers made redundant by Mory-Ducros; expects the Commission and the French authorities to strictly follow the principle according to which payments to the agencies are to be made on the basis of results achieved;

9.  Notes that the contractors (BPI, Sodie and AFPA Transitions) shall assist the redundant workers and help them find solutions to remain in the labour market and find new jobs, through personalised services such as collective and individual information sessions, job transition and accompaniment towards new jobs;

10.  Considers that workers in the 55-64 age group are at a higher risk of long-term unemployment and exclusion from the labour market with the possible effect of social exclusion; considers therefore that those workers, who make up over 19% of the beneficiaries expected to be targeted by the proposed actions, have specific needs when it comes to providing them with personalised approach in accordance with Article 7 of the EGF Regulation;

11.  Notes that France indicated that the coordinated package of personalised services was drawn up in consultation with the representatives of the targeted beneficiaries and the social partners;

12.  Reminds that, in line with Article 7 of the EGF Regulation, the design of the coordinated package of personalised services should anticipate future labour market perspectives and required skills and should be compatible with the shift towards a resource-efficient and sustainable economy; welcomes the fact that France has provided all necessary assurances that the proposed actions will be complementary to actions funded by the Structural Funds as a combined measure to adjust to global challenges in order to achieve sustainable economic growth as highlighted in the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund 2007-2014 European Implementation Assessment(5);

13.  Notes that the contractors operating the team of consultants are the same as those providing services to the workers made redundant by Mory-Ducros; calls on the Commission to provide an evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of the ongoing support for the redundant workers of Mory-Ducros, as the current application is a follow-up to the EGF/2014/017 FR/Mory-Ducros application, and the personalised services are provided by the same contractors;

14.  Takes into account the sensitivity of the specific labour market since France has the highest share of EU-28 value added within the land transport services sector;

15.  Notes that French authorities confirm that the proposed actions do not receive financial support from other Union funds or financial instruments and that they are complementary to actions funded by the Structural Funds;

16.  Reiterates that assistance from the EGF comes in addition to national measures and must not replace actions which are the responsibility of Member States or of companies;

17.  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;

18.  Recalls its appeal to the Commission to assure public access to all the documents related to EGF cases;

19.  Approves the decision annexed to this resolution;

20.  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;

21.  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 France – EGF/2015/010 FR/MoryGlobal)

(The text of this annex is not reproduced here since it corresponds to the final act, Decision (EU) 2016/989.)

(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.
(4) Decision (EU) 2015/738 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2015 on the mobilisation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (application EGF/2014/017 FR/Mory-Ducros, from France) (OJ L 117, 8.5.2015, p. 47).
(5) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/IDAN/2016/558763/EPRS_IDA(2016)558763_EN.pdf


Mobilisation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund: application EGF/2015/011 GR/Supermarket Larissa
PDF 142kWORD 39 39k
Resolution
Annex
European Parliament resolution of 26 May 2016 on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the mobilisation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (application from Greece – EGF/2015/011 GR/Supermarket Larissa) (COM(2016)0210 – C8-0149/2016 – 2016/2050(BUD))
P8_TA(2016)0230A8-0181/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to the European Parliament and the Council (COM(2016)0210 – C8‑0149/2016),

–  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 five previous EGF applications related to the retail sector,

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 April 2016 on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the mobilisation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF/2016/000 TA 2016 – Technical assistance at the initiative of the Commission)(4),

–  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 (A8-0181/2016),

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; whereas the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) benefits workers who have been dismissed from small and medium-sized enterprises and multinationals, regardless of the policies or interests which motivated the closure decision, in particular of the latter ones; whereas the EGF Regulation and Union trade policy should further focus on how to safeguard jobs, production and know-how within the Union;

B.  whereas the Union’s financial assistance to workers in need 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 EGF;

C.  whereas Greece submitted application EGF/2015/011 GR/Supermarket Larissa for a financial contribution from the EGF, following dismissals in the economic sector classified under the NACE Revision 2 Division 47 (retail trade, except of motor vehicles and motorcycles) in the NUTS level 2 regions of Central Macedonia (Κεντρική Μακεδονία) (EL12) and Thessalia (Θεσσαλία) (EL14), and whereas 557 dismissed workers, as well as 543 young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) under the age of 30 from the same regions are expected to participate in the measures; whereas the workers were dismissed following the bankruptcy and closure of Supermarket Larissa ABEE;

D.  whereas the application was submitted under the intervention criteria of point (a) of Article 4(1) of the EGF Regulation, which requires at least 500 workers being dismissed over a reference period of four months in an enterprise in a Member State, including workers dismissed by suppliers and downstream producers and/or self-employed persons whose activity has ceased;

1.  Agrees with the Commission that the conditions set out in point (a) of Article 4(1) of the EGF Regulation are met and that, therefore, Greece is entitled to a financial contribution of EUR 6 468 000 under that Regulation, which represents 60 % of the total cost of EUR 10 780 000;

2.  Notes that the financial contribution will target 557 workers made redundant, of which 194 are men and 363 are women;

3.  Recalls that another 543 young people under the age of 30 who are not in employment, education or training in the same region might be provided with personalised services such as occupational guidance under the Youth Employment Initiative;

4.  Notes that the Commission respected the deadline of 12 weeks from the receipt of the application from the Greek authorities, on 26 November 2015, until finalising its assessment on the compliance with the conditions for providing a financial contribution, on 14 April 2016 and notified it to Parliament on 15 April 2016;

5.  Notes that in addition to the 557 workers dismissed, 543 young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) under the age of 30 from the same regions are expected to participate in the measures and receive personalised services co-financed by the EGF; notes that the request of the Greek authorities to include NEETs in these measures is due to the lack of jobs in the region compared with the high number of job seekers, 73,5% of unemployed persons being unemployed for more than 12 months in Thessalia (Eurostat);

6.  Notes that, as a consequence of the deep recession of the Greek economy followed by a decline in household consumption and purchasing power, the volumes of retail trade of food, beverages and tobacco were more than 30 % lower in 2015 than the early-crisis volumes of 2008; notes that the sales of Supermarket Larissa followed the same downwards trend ;

7.  Notes, therefore, that Supermarket Larissa, a cooperative of small grocery stores founded in 1986, with 42 shops and 600 workers, could not overcome its losses and had to close its shops during the second quarter of 2014; points out that this was not prevented by the austerity measures, in particular wage cuts (-30 %), the renegotiation of leases and the putting off of the maturity date of bills; notes that this situation is also due to the drastic reduction in loans to enterprises, in a context where quantitative easing by the European Central Bank failed to kickstart loans; notes that this case is a dramatic result of the continuous pressure by creditors on Greece and of European austerity policy;

8.  Welcomes the fact that the Greek authorities started providing the personalised services to the affected workers on 26 February 2016, ahead of the decision on the granting of EGF support for the proposed coordinated package;

9.  Notes that the income-support measures will be strictly limited to a maximum amount of 35 % of the overall package of personalised measures, as set out in the EGF Regulation, and that those actions are conditional on the active participation of the targeted beneficiaries in job-search or training activities;

10.  Notes that although the cooperative applied some austerity measures such as wage cuts, renegotiation of the leases, putting off the maturity date of bills, proposing cheaper products and reducing operation costs it had to start closing its shops one after another;

11.  Notes that the measures planned by Greece for the dismissed workers and for the NEETs comprise the following categories: occupational guidance; training, retraining and vocational training; contribution to business start-up; participation allowance and training allowance; mobility allowance;

12.  Notes the rather high amount (EUR 15 000) to be received, as part of personalised services, by the workers or NEETs who will set up their own business; notes, at the same time, that a large number of the redundant workers have an entrepreneurial background which increases their chances of success in this sector;

13.  Notes the possibility that some of the new businesses will take the form of social cooperatives and welcomes, in this context, the efforts of the Greek authorities to enhance the social economy sector in Greece;

14.  Notes the importance of launching an information campaign in order to reach the NEETs who could be eligible under these measures; recalls its position on the need to help the NEETs in a permanent and sustainable way;

15.  Welcomes the fact that the coordinated package of personalised services was established through further consultations with representatives of the beneficiaries and social partners;

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

17.  Highlights the need to improve the employability of all workers by means of adapted training and expects that the training offered in the coordinated package will meet both needs of the workers and the business environment;

18.  Calls on the Commission to provide more details in future proposals on the sectors which have the potential to grow, and therefore to hire people, as well as to gather substantiated data on the impact of the EGF funding, including on the quality of jobs and the reintegration rate achieved through EGF;

19.  Notes that the Greek authorities confirm that the eligible actions do not receive assistance from other Union financial instruments;

20.  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;

21.  Recalls its appeal to the Commission to assure public access to all the documents related to EGF cases;

22.  Approves the decision annexed to this resolution;

23.  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;

24.  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 Greece – EGF/2015/011 GR/Supermarket Larissa)

(The text of this annex is not reproduced here since it corresponds to the final act, Decision (EU) 2016/990.)

(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.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0112.


Request for waiver of the immunity of Gianluca Buonanno
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European Parliament decision of 26 May 2016 on the request for waiver of the immunity of Gianluca Buonanno (2016/2003(IMM))
P8_TA(2016)0231A8-0180/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the request for authorisation to acquire data from telephone companies relating to telephone traffic of a number used by Gianluca Buonanno, forwarded on 20 November 2015 by the Deputy Public Prosecutor of the Ordinary Court of Vercelli, Italy, and announced in plenary on 14 December 2015, in connection with criminal proceedings initiated before the Ordinary Court of Vercelli on behalf of Gianluca Buonanno in relation to telephone threats he claims to have received from an unknown caller on his mobile telephone number on 14 April 2015 (Ref. No 2890/15 R.G.N.R. mod. 44),

–  having heard Gianluca Buonanno in accordance with Rule 9(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to Article 9 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union, and Article 6(2) of the Act of 20 September 1976 concerning the election of the members of the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage,

–  having regard to the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 12 May 1964, 10 July 1986, 15 and 21 October 2008, 19 March 2010, 6 September 2011 and 17 January 2013(1),

–  having regard to Article 68 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic,

–  having regard to Article 4 of Law No 140 of 20 June 2003 laying down provisions giving effect to Article 68 of the Constitution and concerning the prosecution of persons in high offices of state(2),

–  having regard to Rule 5(2), Rule 6(1) and Rule 9 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs (A8-0180/2016),

A.  whereas the Deputy Public Prosecutor of the Ordinary Court of Vercelli has forwarded a request for authorisation to acquire data from telephone companies relating to telephone records for a number used by a Member of the European Parliament elected with respect to Italy, Gianluca Buonanno, in connection with criminal proceedings initiated before the Ordinary Court of Vercelli on behalf of that Member in relation to telephone threats he claims to have received from an unknown caller on his mobile telephone number on 14 April 2015;

B.  whereas Article 9 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union states that Members of the European Parliament enjoy, on the territory of their own Member State, the immunities accorded to members of the Member State’s parliament;

C.  whereas Article 68 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic states that ‘in default of the authorisation of his House, no Member of Parliament may be submitted to personal or home search, nor may he be arrested or otherwise deprived of his personal freedom, nor held in detention, except when a final court sentence is enforced, or when the Member is apprehended in the act of committing an offence for which arrest flagrante delicto is mandatory. Such an authorisation shall also be required in order to monitor a Member of Parliament’s conversations or communications, or to seize that Member’s mail’;

D.  whereas Article 4 of Law No 140 of 20 June 2003 laying down provisions giving effect to Article 68 of the Constitution and concerning the prosecution of persons in high offices of state, inter alia, states that when it is required to acquire data concerning the telephone traffic of a Member of Parliament the competent authority should request authorisation from the chamber of which that person is a member;

E.  whereas the request for waiver of the immunity of Gianluca Buonanno concerns the access by the investigating authority to the phone call records of the Member’s mobile telephone number on the date on which he claims to have received threatening telephone calls;

F.  whereas in his request for waiver of immunity the Deputy Public Prosecutor of the Ordinary Court of Vercelli concedes that it is not clear whether this parliamentary privilege should also apply in cases in which the Member of Parliament is the alleged victim of a crime; whereas he concludes, notwithstanding this, that the best interpretation of the domestic legislation is that this privilege should apply to Members of Parliament regardless of their procedural position; whereas he does not, however, submit any domestic case-law in support of his conclusion;

G.  whereas it is not for the European Parliament to interpret the domestic rules on the privileges and immunities of Members of Parliament; whereas it seems appropriate, however, to recall that the objective of Article 9 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union is primarily to safeguard the independence of Members by ensuring that pressure, in the form of threats of arrest or legal proceedings, is not brought to bear on them during the sessions of the European Parliament; whereas in the present case it incontestably appears that no pressure has been brought to bear on the Member concerned, since the proceedings relate to alleged threats reported by the Member himself as the victim of threats made by telephone;

H.  whereas in the light of the above it would appear that it should not have been necessary for the Deputy Public Prosecutor of the Ordinary Court of Vercelli to request authorisation from the European Parliament to order the acquisition of the data concerning Gianluca Buonanno’s telephone traffic of 14 April 2015;

I.  whereas, notwithstanding the above, it seems appropriate for the sake of legal certainty to accede ad cautelam to the request for authorisation forwarded by the Deputy Public Prosecutor of the Ordinary Court of Vercelli;

1.  Decides to waive the immunity of Gianluca Buonanno;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the report of its committee responsible immediately to the Deputy Public Prosecutor of the Ordinary Court of Vercelli, Italy, and to Gianluca Buonanno.

(1) Judgment of the Court of Justice of 12 May 1964, Wagner v Fohrmann and Krier, 101/63, ECLI:EU:C:1964:28; judgment of the Court of Justice of 10 July 1986, Wybot v Faure and others, 149/85, ECLI:EU:C:1986:310; judgment of the General Court of 15 October 2008, Mote v Parliament, T-345/05, ECLI:EU:T:2008:440; judgment of the Court of Justice of 21 October 2008, Marra v De Gregorio and Clemente, C‑200/07 and C-201/07, ECLI:EU:C:2008:579; judgment of the General Court of 19 March 2010, Gollnisch v Parliament, T-42/06, ECLI:EU:T:2010:102; judgment of the Court of Justice of 6 September 2011, Patriciello, C‑163/10, ECLI: EU:C:2011:543; judgment of the General Court of 17 January 2013, Gollnisch v Parliament, T-346/11 and T-347/11, ECLI:EU:T:2013:23.
(2) Legge n. 140, disposizioni per l’attuazione dell’articolo 68 della Costituzione nonché in materia di processi penali nei confronti delle alte cariche dello Stato, of 20 June 2003 (GURI No 142, of 21 June 2003).


Provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Sweden *
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 26 May 2016 on the proposal for a Council decision establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Sweden in accordance with Article 9 of Council Decision (EU) 2015/1523 and Article 9 of Council Decision (EU) 2015/1601 establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece (COM(2015)0677 – C8-0017/2016 – 2015/0314(NLE))
P8_TA(2016)0232A8-0170/2016

(Consultation)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to the Council (COM(2015)0677),

–  having regard to Article 78(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C8‑0017/2016),

–  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 (A8-0170/2016),

1.  Approves the Commission proposal as amended;

2.  Calls on the Commission to alter its proposal accordingly, in accordance with Article 293(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;

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

4.  Asks the Council to consult Parliament again if it intends to substantially amend the Commission proposal;

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

Text proposed by the Commission   Amendment
Amendment 1
Proposal for a decision
Recital 5
(5)  Sweden faces an emergency situation characterised by a sudden inflow of nationals of third countries in its territory due to a sharp shift of migratory flows. On 8 December Sweden formally requested the suspension of its obligations under Council Decisions (EU) 2015/1523 and (EU) 2015/1601.
(5)  Sweden faces an emergency situation characterised by a sudden inflow of nationals of third countries in its territory due to a sharp shift of migratory flows. On 8 December 2015 Sweden formally requested the suspension of its obligations under Council Decisions (EU) 2015/1523 and (EU) 2015/1601, having to face both challenges of being a country of first arrival and final destination.
Amendment 2
Proposal for a decision
Recital 9
(9)  Sweden has in 2015 by far the highest number of applicants for international protection per capita in the EU (11 503 applicants per million inhabitants).
(9)  Sweden had in 2015 by far the highest number of applicants for international protection per capita in the EU (11 503 applicants per million inhabitants) and in March 2016 received a total of 170 104 applicants, of which 73 331 were children, including 36 181 unaccompanied minors.
Amendment 3
Proposal for a decision
Recital 10
(10)  Sweden is also facing a difficult situation because of the significant recent increase in the number of unaccompanied minors, with one out of four applicants claiming to be an unaccompanied minor.
(10)  Sweden is also facing a difficult situation because of the significant recent increase in the number of unaccompanied minors, with one out of four applicants claiming to be unaccompanied minors, who have special needs and require additional resources in order to provide access to health care, dignified accommodation and education according to Union asylum rules.

Transatlantic data flows
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European Parliament resolution of 26 May 2016 on transatlantic data flows (2016/2727(RSP))
P8_TA(2016)0233RC-B8-0623/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on European Union (TEU), the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Articles 6, 7, 8, 11, 16, 47 and 52 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data(1) (hereinafter ‘the Data Protection Directive’),

–  having regard to Council Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA of 27 November 2008 on the protection of personal data processed in the framework of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters(2),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation)(3), and to Directive (EU) 2016/680 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data by competent authorities for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Council Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA(4),

–  having regard to Commission Decision 2000/520/EC of 26 July 2000 (the Safe Harbour decision),

–  having regard to the Commission communication to the European Parliament and the Council of 27 November 2013 on rebuilding trust in EU-US data flows (COM(2013)0846),

–  having regard to the Commission communication to the European Parliament and the Council of 27 November 2013 on the functioning of the Safe Harbour from the perspective of EU citizens and companies established in the EU (COM(2013)0847) (the Safe Harbour communication),

–  having regard to the judgment of the European Court of Justice of 6 October 2015 in Case C-362/14 Maximillian Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner (EU:C:2015:650),

–  having regard to the Commission communication to the European Parliament and the Council of 6 November 2015 on the transfer of personal data from the EU to the United States of America under Directive 95/46/EC following the judgment by the Court of Justice in Case C-362/14 (Schrems) (COM(2015)0566),

–  having regard to the statement of the Article 29 Working Party on the consequences of the Schrems Judgment of 3 February 2016,

–  having regard to the Judicial Redress Act of 2015, which was signed into law by President Obama on 24 February 2016 (H.R.1428),

–  having regard to the USA Freedom Act of 2015(5),

–  having regard to the reforms of US signals intelligence activities laid down in Presidential Policy Directive 28 (PPD-28)(6),

–  having regard to the Commission communication to the European Parliament and the Council of 29 February 2016 entitled ‘Transatlantic data flows: Restoring trust through strong safeguards’ (COM(2016)0117),

–  having regard to Article 29 Working Party Opinion 01/2016 of 13 April 2016 on the EU-US Privacy Shield draft adequacy decision,

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 March 2014 on the US NSA surveillance programme, surveillance bodies in various Member States and their impact on EU citizens’ fundamental rights and on transatlantic cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs(7), and to its resolution of 29 October 2015 on the follow-up to the European Parliament resolution of 12 March 2014 on the electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens(8),

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

A.  whereas the European Court of Justice invalidated the Safe Harbour decision in its judgment of 6 October 2015 in Case C-362/14 Maximillian Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner and clarified that an adequate level of protection in a third country must be understood to be ‘essentially equivalent’ to the protection provided in the Union, prompting the need to conclude negotiations on the EU-US Privacy Shield so as to ensure legal certainty on how personal data should be transferred from the EU to the US;

B.  whereas ‘protecting data’ means protecting the people to whom the information being processed relates, and whereas such protection is one of the fundamental rights recognised by the Union (Article 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Article 16 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union);

C.  whereas the protection of personal data, respect for private life and communications, the right to security, the right to receive and impart information and the freedom to conduct a business are all fundamental rights to be upheld and balanced;

D.  whereas, when examining the level of protection afforded by a third country, the Commission is obliged to assess the content of the rules applicable in that country deriving from its domestic law or its international commitments, as well as the practice designed to ensure compliance with those rules, since it must, under Article 25(2) of the Data Protection Directive, take account of all the circumstances surrounding a transfer of personal data to a third country; whereas this assessment must not only refer to legislation and practices relating to the protection of personal data for commercial and private purposes, but must also cover all aspects of the framework applicable to that country or sector, in particular, but not only, law enforcement, national security and respect for fundamental rights;

E.  whereas small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent the fastest-growing sector of the EU’s economy, and are increasingly dependent upon the free flow of data; whereas SMEs accounted for 60 % of the companies relying on the Safe Harbour agreement, which allowed them to benefit from the streamlined and cost-effective compliance procedures;

F.  whereas the US and EU economies account for over 50 % of global GDP, 25 % of global exports and over 30 % of global imports; whereas the US-EU economic relationship is the highest valued in the world, with total transatlantic trade in 2014 valued at USD 1,09 trillion, compared with total US trade with Canada and China valued at USD 741 billion and USD 646 billion respectively;

G.  whereas cross-border data flows between the United States and Europe are the highest in the world – 50 % higher than data flows between the US and Asia and almost double the data flows between the US and Latin America – and whereas the transfer and exchange of personal data is an essential component underpinning the close links between the European Union and the United States in commercial activities and in the law enforcement sector;

H.  whereas in its Opinion 01/2016 the Article 29 Working Party welcomed the significant improvements brought about by the Privacy Shield compared with the Safe Harbour decision, and in particular the insertion of key definitions, the mechanisms set up to ensure the oversight of the Privacy Shield list and the now mandatory external and internal compliance reviews, and whereas the Working Party has also raised strong concerns about both the commercial aspects and access by public authorities to data transferred under the Privacy Shield;

I.  whereas so far the following countries/territories: Andorra, Argentina, Canada, the Faroe Islands, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Uruguay, Israel, Switzerland and New Zealand, have been recognised as providing adequate levels of data protection and were given privileged access to the EU market;

1.  Welcomes the efforts made by the Commission and the US Administration to achieve substantial improvements in the Privacy Shield compared to the Safe Harbour decision, in particular the insertion of key definitions such as ‘personal data’, ‘processing’ and ‘controller’, the mechanisms set up to ensure oversight of the Privacy Shield list and the now mandatory external and internal compliance reviews of compliance;

2.  Highlights the importance of the transatlantic relationships, which remain vital for both partners; emphasises that a comprehensive solution between the US and the EU should respect the right to data protection and the right to privacy; recalls that one of the fundamental objectives of the EU is the protection of personal data, including when transferred to its major international trading partner;

3.  Insists that the Privacy Shield arrangement must be compliant with EU primary and secondary law and the relevant judgments of both the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights;

4.  Notes that Annex VI (letter from Robert S. Litt, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)) clarifies that under Presidential Policy Directive 28 (hereinafter ‘PPD-28’), bulk collection of personal data and communications of non-US persons is still permitted in six cases; points out that such bulk collection only has to be ‘as tailored as feasible’ and ‘reasonable’, which does not meet the stricter criteria of necessity and proportionality as laid down in the Charter;

5.  Recalls that legal certainty, and in particular clear and uniform rules, are a key element in business development and growth, in particular for SMEs, so as to ensure that they do not face legal uncertainty and suffer serious impacts to their operations and to their ability to conduct business across the Atlantic;

6.  Welcomes the introduction of the redress mechanism for individuals under the Privacy Shield; calls on the Commission and the US Administration to address the current complexity in order to make the procedure user-friendly and effective;

7.  Calls on the Commission to seek clarification on the legal status of the ‘written assurances’ provided by the US;

8.  Welcomes the appointment of an Ombudsperson in the US Department of State, who will work together with independent authorities to provide a response to EU supervisory authorities channelling individual requests in relation to government surveillance; considers however that this new institution is not sufficiently independent and is not vested with adequate powers to effectively exercise and enforce its duty;

9.  Welcomes the prominent role given by the Privacy Shield framework to Member State data protection agencies in examining and investigating claims related to the protection of personal data under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and in suspending transfers of data, as well as the obligation placed on the US Department of Commerce to resolve such complaints;

10.  Recognises that the Privacy Shield is part of a broader dialogue between the EU and third countries, including the United States, in relation to data privacy, trade, security and related rights and objectives of shared interest; calls on all parties therefore to work together towards the creation and sustained improvement of workable, common international frameworks and domestic legislation that achieve those objectives;

11.  Insists that legal certainty for the transfer of personal data between the EU and US is an essential element for consumer trust, transatlantic business development and law enforcement cooperation, thus making it imperative for their effectiveness and long-term implementation that the instruments allowing for such transfers comply with both EU primary and secondary law;

12.  Calls on the Commission to implement fully the recommendations expressed by the Article 29 Working Party in its Opinion 01/2016 on the EU-US Privacy Shield draft adequacy decision;

13.  Calls on the Commission to fulfil its responsibility under the Privacy Shield framework to conduct periodic robust reviews of its adequacy finding and the legal justifications thereof, in particular in the light of the application of the new General Data Protection Regulation in two years’ time;

14.  Calls on the Commission to continue the dialogue with the US Administration in order to negotiate further improvements to the Privacy Shield arrangement in the light of its current deficiencies;

15.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, and the US Government and Congress.

(1) OJ L 281, 23.11.1995, p. 31.
(2) OJ L 350, 30.12.2008, p. 60.
(3) OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 89.
(5) https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ23/PLAW-114publ23.pdf
(6) https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/17/presidential-policy-directive-signals-intelligence-activities
(7) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0230.
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0388.


Delivering a new deal for energy consumers
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European Parliament resolution of 26 May 2016 on delivering a new deal for energy consumers (2015/2323(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0234A8-0161/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 15 July 2015 entitled ‘Delivering a New Deal for Energy Consumers’ (COM(2015)0339),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 15 July 2015 entitled ‘Launching the public consultation process on a new energy market design’ (COM(2015)0340),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 16 February 2016 entitled ‘An EU Strategy on Heating and Cooling’ (COM(2016)0051),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 25 February 2015 entitled ‘A Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy’ (COM(2015)0080),

–  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 15 November 2012 entitled ‘Making the internal energy market work’ (COM(2012)0663),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 8 March 2011 entitled ‘A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050’ (COM(2011)0112),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 15 December 2011 entitled ‘Energy Roadmap 2050’ (COM(2011)0885),

–  having regard to the Third Energy Package,

–  having regard to Directive 2012/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on energy efficiency, amending Directives 2009/125/EC and 2010/30/EU and repealing Directives 2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC,

–  having regard to Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC,

–  having regard to Directive 2010/31/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 on the energy performance of buildings,

–  having regard to Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of personal data,

–  having regard to Directive 2005/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2005 on unfair commercial practices,

–  having regard to Directive 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on consumer rights,

–   having regard to Commission Recommendation 2012/148/EU of 9 March 2012 on preparations for the roll-out of smart metering systems,

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 June 2008 entitled ‘Towards a European Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers’(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 10 September 2013 on making the internal energy market work(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 March 2013 on the Energy roadmap 2050, a future with energy(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 February 2014 on the local and regional consequences of the development of smart grids(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 April 2014 on consumer protection – protection of consumers in utilities services(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 December 2015 entitled ‘Towards a European Energy Union’(6),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and the opinion of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (A8-0161/2016),

1.  Welcomes the Commission’s communication entitled ‘Delivering a New Deal for Energy Consumers’;

2.  Underlines that this report is exclusively focussed on energy household consumers in the context of the energy transition; highlights that industrial consumers should be considered under a separate framework;

3.  Highlights that the ongoing energy transition is resulting in a move away from an energy system based on traditional centralised generation to one which is more decentralised, energy-efficient, flexible and largely renewables-based;

4.  Draws attention to the costs of the transition to a new market design in certain Member States; invites the Commission to take due consideration of these costs in terms of affordability and competitiveness;

5.  Recalls that the ultimate goal should be an economy based on making full use of the ‘energy efficiency first/first fuel’ principle and prioritising energy savings and demand side measures over the supply side in order to meet our climate goals in line with the Paris Agreement 1.5 scenario, energy security, competitiveness and especially lower consumer bills;

6.  Believes that, in this context, the Energy Union should have the interests of present and future generations of citizens at its core and should:

   (a) provide citizens with stable, affordable, efficient and sustainable energy, and high quality energy-efficient products, services and buildings;
   (b) empower citizens to produce, consume, store or trade their own renewable energy either individually or collectively, to take energy-saving measures, to become active participants in the energy market through consumer choice, and to allow them the possibility of safely and confidently participating in demand response; believes that, in this context, a practical common understanding of the definition of ‘prosumers’ should be agreed at EU level, through a participative process guided by the Commission;
   (c) contribute to eradicating energy poverty;
   (d) protect consumers from abusive, uncompetitive and unfair practices by market actors and enable them to fully exercise their rights;
   (e) create favourable conditions to ensure a well-functioning and competitive internal energy market providing choices and transparent and clear access to information for consumers;

7.  Considers that phasing out regulated energy prices for consumers should take into account the real level of market competition in the Energy Union Strategy context, which should ensure that consumers have access to safe energy prices;

8.  Believes that, as a general principle, the energy transition should result in a more efficient, transparent, sustainable, competitive, stable, decentralised and inclusive energy system which benefits society as a whole, increases the involvement of citizens and local and regional actors and communities, and empowers them to own or share in the ownership of the production, distribution and storage of renewable energy, while at the same time protecting the most vulnerable and ensuring that the benefits of energy efficiency measures and renewable energy are made available to them;

Towards a well-functioning energy market benefiting citizens

9.  Considers that, while some progress has been made, the aim of the Third Energy Package to provide a truly competitive, transparent and consumer-friendly retail energy market has not yet been fully realised in all EU Member States, as evidenced by persistent high levels of market concentration, the failure to reflect falling wholesale costs in retail prices and low levels of consumer switching and satisfaction;

10.  Believes, therefore, that further indicators for well-functioning, consumer-friendly energy markets need to be identified or developed by the Commission; underscores that such indicators should take into account, inter alia, the economic impact on energy consumers of switching energy suppliers, technical barriers to switching suppliers or plan, and levels of consumer awareness;

11.  Highlights that open, transparent and competitive well-regulated markets are important to keep prices down, drive innovation, improve customer service and remove barriers to innovative new business models which can offer good value for citizens, both empowering them and helping to prevent energy poverty;

12.  Recalls that customer choice is limited in distribution networks due to their nature as natural monopolies, i.e. that customers cannot switch their distribution system operator; stresses the need for adequate market monitoring of distribution network operators to protect customers from sudden increases in distribution bills;

13.  Considers that the Commission and Member States should take the necessary measures to ensure that the benefit of raising the interconnection level of the national networks is not transferred to DSOs, but is directly transformed into benefits for final consumers; considers furthermore that enhancing the interconnection level of the national networks must have a positive effect on the energy price for consumers and shifting the benefits only to DSOs must therefore be avoided;

14.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to rigorously ensure full implementation of the Third Energy Package, and calls for its revision in the form of a new Energy Market Design to take account of the following recommendations in relation to domestic consumers:

   (a) recommends improving the frequency of energy bills and the transparency and clarity of both bills and contracts in order to aid interpretability and comparison; insists that clear language must be used, avoiding technical terms; requests the Commission to identify minimum information requirements in this respect, including best practices; stresses that both fixed charges and taxes and levies should be clearly identified as such in the bills, allowing the customer to distinguish them easily from the variable, consumption-related cost; recalls existing requirements for suppliers to specify in or with bills the contribution of each energy source to the overall fuel mix of the supplier over the preceding year in a comprehensible and clearly comparable manner, including a reference to where information can be found on the environmental impact in terms of CO2 emissions and radioactive waste;
   (b) recommends creating a one-stop shop to provide all relevant information enabling consumers to make an informed decision;
   (c) recommends that distribution system operators, given that they have access to a household’s historical consumption, as well as operators of independent comparison tools, work together with energy regulators to examine how best they can proactively provide consumers with comparisons of offers in order to enable all consumers, even those without internet access or skills, to find out whether they could save money by switching;
   (d) recommends developing guidelines for price comparison tools to ensure that consumers can access independent, up-to-date and understandable comparison tools; believes Member States should consider developing accreditation schemes covering all price comparison tools, in line with CEER guidelines;
   (e) recommends the creation of new platforms to serve as independent Price Comparison Tools (PCTs) to provide greater clarity to consumers on billing; recommends that such independent platforms provide consumers with information on the percentage share of energy sources used and the different taxes, levies and add-ons contained in energy tariffs in a comparable way to empower the consumer to easily seek more suitable offers in terms of price, quality and sustainability; suggests that this role could be assumed by existing bodies such as national energy departments, regulators or consumer organisations; recommends the development of at least one such independent price comparison tool per Member State;
   (f) recommends, in order to enhance retail competition between suppliers, that guidelines be developed by Member States, in consultation with operators of price comparison tools and consumer groups, to ensure that the design by suppliers of different tariffs allows for simple comparisons, avoiding consumer confusion;
   (g) recommends that consumers should be notified in or alongside energy bills about the most suitable and advantageous tariff for them, based on historic consumption patterns, and that it should be possible for consumers to move to that tariff, if they so wish, in the simplest way possible; notes, given that switching rates are low in many Member States, that many households, especially the most vulnerable, are not engaged in the energy market and are stuck on inappropriate, outdated and expensive tariffs;
   (h) recommends investigating measures to enable retail prices to better reflect wholesale prices and thus reverse the trend of an increasing proportion of fixed elements in energy bills, in particular taxes and levies and in some cases network charges; highlights the discrepancy between levels of levies and taxes paid by household and industry consumers;

15.  Strongly believes that all energy providers’ websites and digital invoicing should be fully accessible to persons with disabilities and meet the relevant requirements of European Standard EN 301 549;

16.  Insists that the provisions on switching, as set out in the Third Energy Package, should be fully implemented by Member States, and that national legislation must guarantee consumers the right to change suppliers in a quick, easy and free-of-charge way, and that their ability to switch should not be hindered by termination fees or penalties; insists that enforcement of this right through market surveillance and effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties is essential and supports ACER’s ‘Bridge to 2025’ recommendations on switching;

17.  Believes that collective switching schemes and campaigns should be promoted in order to help consumers find a better deal, both in terms of price and quality; emphasises that such schemes must be independent, trustworthy, transparent, comprehensive and inclusive, also reaching those who are less engaged; suggests that local authorities, regulators and consumer organisations and other not-for-profit organisations are well placed to fulfil this role in order to avoid any abusive practices;

18.  Insists that the provisions of the directives on unfair commercial practices and consumer rights relating to doorstep selling, unfair terms or practices and aggressive marketing techniques be properly implemented and enforced by Member States so as to protect energy consumers, especially the most vulnerable; notes that complaints regarding doorstep selling have increased in several Member States;

19.  Welcomes the Commission’s intention to consider incorporating laws specifically concerning energy into the Annex to the Regulation on Consumer Protection Cooperation(7);

Ensuring an inclusive energy system by empowering citizens to take ownership of the energy transition, produce their own renewable energy and become energy-efficient

20.  Believes that, in the context of a well-functioning energy system, local authorities, communities, cooperatives, households and individuals have a key role to play, should contribute substantially to the energy transition and should be encouraged to become energy producers and suppliers if they choose to do so; points out that for this reason it is important that the European Union adopts a common operational definition of ‘prosumers’;

21.  Calls on Member States to introduce net metering schemes in order to support self-generation and cooperative energy production;

22.  Considers that significant behavioural change among citizens will be important to achieve an optimal energy transition; considers that incentives and access to quality information are key in this respect and asks the Commission to address this in upcoming proposals; suggests that education, training and information campaigns will be important factors in bringing about behavioural change;

23.  Considers that limited access to capital and financial know-how, significant upfront investment costs and extended repayment periods represent barriers to the take-up of self-generation and energy efficiency measures; encourages new business models, collective purchasing schemes and innovative financial instruments which incentivise self-generation, self-consumption and energy efficiency measures for all consumers; suggests that this should become an important objective for the EIB, EFSI, Horizon 2020 and the Structural Funds, of which public bodies and market actors should make full use; reiterates that projects should be funded on the basis of comparative cost-effectiveness, whilst keeping in mind national and European climate and energy goals and obligations;

24.  Calls for stable, sufficient and cost-effective remuneration schemes to guarantee investor certainty and increase the take-up of small and medium-scale renewable energy projects while minimising market distortions; calls, in this context, on Member States to make full use of de minimis exemptions foreseen by the 2014 state aid guidelines; believes that grid tariffs and other fees should be transparent and non-discriminatory and should fairly reflect the impact of the consumer on the grid, avoiding double-charging while guaranteeing sufficient funding for the maintenance and development of distribution grids; regrets the retroactive changes to renewable support schemes, as well as the introduction of unfair and punitive taxes or fees which hinder the continued expansion of self-generation; highlights the importance of well-designed and future-proof support schemes in order to increase investor certainty and value for money, and to avoid such changes in the future; stresses that prosumers providing the grid with storage capacities should be rewarded;

25.  Recommends reducing to an absolute minimum the administrative barriers to new self-generation capacity, in particular through removing market and grid access restrictions; suggests shortening and simplifying authorisation procedures, for example by moving to a simple notification requirement, whilst still respecting all legal requirements and ensuring DSOs are informed; suggests that the revision of the renewable energy directive could include specific provisions to remove barriers and promote community/cooperative energy schemes via ‘one-stop-shops’ dealing with project permits and providing financial and technical expertise, and/or specific information campaigns at local and community level, as well as by guaranteeing prosumers’ access to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms;

26.  Highlights the need to develop a favourable, stable and fair framework for tenants and those living in multi-dwelling buildings, in order to enable them to also benefit from co-ownership, self-generation and energy efficiency measures;

27.  Calls on the Commission to step up its support for the Covenant of Mayors, Smart Cities and Smart Communities and the 100 % RES communities so as to expand and further develop them as a tool to promote self-generation and energy efficiency measures, fight energy poverty, facilitate the exchange of best practices between all local authorities, regions and Member States, and ensure that all local authorities are aware of the financial support available to them;

Promoting the development of demand response management

28.  Stresses that to incentivise demand response, energy prices must vary between peak and off-peak periods, and therefore supports the development of dynamic pricing on an opt-in basis, subject to a thorough assessment of its impacts on all consumers; stresses the need to deploy technologies that give price signals which reward flexible consumption, thus making consumers more responsive; believes that tariffs must be transparent, comparable and clearly explained; recommends further analysis on how to establish and implement progressive and variable tariff systems, in order to incentivise energy savings, self-generation, demand-response and energy efficiency; reminds the Commission that when drafting the upcoming legislative proposals it should be guaranteed that the introduction of dynamic pricing is matched by increased information to consumers;

29.  Believes that consumers should have easy and timely access to their consumption data and related costs, to help them make informed decisions; notes that only 16 Member States have committed to a large-scale roll-out of smart meters by 2020; believes that where smart meters are rolled out Member States should ensure a solid legal framework to guarantee an end to unjustified back-billing and a rollout that is efficient and affordable for all consumers, particularly for energy-poor consumers; insists that the benefits from smart meters should be shared on a fair basis between grid operators and users;

30.  Emphasises that the development of smart technologies plays a key role in the energy transition and can help consumers reduce their energy costs and improve energy efficiency; calls for the rapid deployment of ICT, including mobile applications, online platforms and online billing; stresses however, that this development must not leave the most vulnerable or less engaged consumers behind, nor see their bills rise if they have not directly benefited; notes that special assistance should be given to these groups and that any lock-in effect which might impede consumers’ ability to freely choose between tariffs and suppliers should be avoided;

31.  Highlights the need to facilitate the development of smart grids and appliances which automate the management of energy demand in response to price signals; notes that smart appliances need to ensure high levels of data protection and be interoperable, designed for the benefit of the final consumer and equipped with functions enhancing energy savings and supporting the development of markets for energy services and demand management;

32.  Emphasises that consumers should have a free choice of aggregators and energy service companies (ESCOs) independent from suppliers;

33.  Underlines that the collection, processing and storage of citizens’ energy-related data should be managed by entities managing data access in a non-discriminatory manner and should comply with the existing EU privacy and data protection framework which lays down that consumers should always remain in control of their personal data and that these should only be provided to third parties with the consumers’ explicit consent; considers, in addition, that citizens should be able to exercise their rights to correct and erase personal data;

Addressing the causes of energy poverty

34.  Calls for enhanced coordination at EU level to combat energy poverty through the sharing of best practices among Member States and the development of a broad, common definition of energy poverty, focusing on the idea that access to affordable energy is a basic social right; ;

35.  Insists that better data availability and collection are essential in order to assess the situation and target assistance on energy-poor citizens, households and communities as effectively as possible;

36.  Stresses the importance of encouraging all synergies in this area – including those that may exist between local authorities and distribution system operators, which are able to provide the most information on levels of energy poverty and detect situations of risk – while fully respecting European and national data protection rules;

37.  Considers that the Energy Union governance framework should include objectives and reporting from Member States for energy poverty and that a toolbox of good practices should be developed;

38.  Considers that energy efficiency measures are central to any cost-effective strategy to address energy poverty and consumer vulnerability and are complementary to social security policies; calls for action to ensure that energy-efficient renovation of existing buildings focuses better on energy-poor citizens in the context of the review of the EPBD and of the EED, notably Article 7; suggests that an objective of reducing the number of energy-inefficient homes by 2030 should be considered, with a focus on rental properties and social housing; believes that buildings owned and occupied by public authorities should set an example in this field;

39.  Calls for EU funds for energy efficiency and support for self-generation to focus more on energy-poor, low-income consumers and address the issue of split incentives between tenants and owners;

40.  Believes that, while respecting the different practices in Member States, well-targeted social tariffs are vital for low-income, vulnerable citizens, and should therefore be promoted; considers that any such social tariffs should be fully transparent;

o
o   o

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

(1) OJ C 286 E, 27.11.2009, p. 24.
(2) OJ C 93, 9.3.2016, p. 8.
(3) OJ C 36, 29.1.2016, p. 62.
(4) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0065.
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0342.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0444.
(7) Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 October 2004 on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws (OJ L 364, 9.12.2004, p. 1).


Poverty: a gender perspective
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European Parliament resolution of 26 May 2016 on poverty: a gender perspective (2015/2228(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0235A8-0153/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 2 and 3(3) of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to Articles 8, 9, 151, 153 and 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and in particular its provisions on social rights and on equality between men and women,

–  having regard to the 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),

–  having regard to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention),

–  having regard to the EU’s growth strategy Europe 2020 and in particular to its objective of reducing the number of Europeans living below national poverty lines by 25 % by 2020, thereby lifting over 20 million people out of poverty, and to the need to fully deploy Member States’ social security and pensions systems in order to ensure adequate income support,

–  having regard to the Commission’s 2013 Social Investment Package (SIP),

–  having regard to the European Social Fund Gender Mainstreaming Community of Practice (GenderCop), and in particular the GenderCop working group on poverty and inclusion,

–  having regard to Article 7 of the Common Provisions Regulation for the Structural Funds 2014-2020,

–  having regard to the 2014 Annual Convention of the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion,

–  having regard to Directive 2006/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation,

–  having regard to Council Directive 2010/18/EU of 8 March 2010 on implementing the revised Framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME, CEEP and ETUC and repealing Directive 96/34/EC,

–  having regard to the Commission Roadmap of August 2015 on a new start to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families,

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 3 December 2015 entitled ‘Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019’ (SWD(2015)0278),

–  having regard to the results of the EU lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survey carried out by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and published on 17 May 2013,

–  having regard to its resolutions of 13 October 2005 on women and poverty in the European Union(1) and of 3 February 2009 on non-discrimination based on sex and intergenerational solidarity(2),

–  having regard to its position adopted at first reading on 20 October 2010(3) with a view to the adoption of Directive 2011/.../EU of the European Parliament and of the Council amending the Maternity Leave Directive,

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 March 2011 on the face of female poverty in the European Union(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 April 2011 on priorities and outline of a new EU policy framework to fight violence against women(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 September 2011 on the situation of women approaching retirement age(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2011 on the situation of single mothers(7),

–  having regard to its resolution of 24 May 2012 with recommendations to the Commission on application of the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 6 February 2013 on ‘The 57th session on UN CSW: Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls’(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 March 2013 on the impact of the economic crisis on gender equality and women’s rights(10),

–  having regard to its resolution of 10 March 2015 on progress on equality between women and men in the European Union in 2013(11),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 June 2015 on the EU Strategy for equality between women and men post 2015(12),

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 October 2015 on the application of Directive 2006/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation(13),

–  having regard to the study published in April 2014 and commissioned by the Commission entitled ‘Single parents and employment in Europe’,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs on meeting the anti-poverty targets in light of increasing household costs, and the attached opinion of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (A8-0040/2016),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality and the opinions of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the Committee on Culture and Education (A8-0153/2016),

A.  whereas the latest Eurostat data show that the number of women in poverty remains permanently higher than that of men, with currently some 64,6 million women as against 57,6 million men(14); whereas this shows that poverty has impacts differently on women and on men; whereas women were particularly affected by the risk of poverty in the EU-28 in 2014, with the rate standing at 46,6 % before social transfers and 17,7 % after such transfers; whereas poverty rates among women vary greatly between Member States; whereas regardless of how specific the groups at risk are, such as elderly women, single women, single mothers, lesbians, bisexual women, transgender women and women with disabilities, poverty rates among migrant women and women from ethnic minorities are the same throughout the EU; whereas 38,9 % of the population and 48,6 % of single women in the EU-28 are not in a position to cope with unexpected expenses; whereas the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reports that women form the majority of the world’s poorest people and that the number of women living in rural poverty has increased by 50 % since 1975, that women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours and produce half of the world’s food, yet they earn only 10 % of the world’s income and own less than 1 % of the world’s property;

B.  whereas gender equality in the labour market, achieved by increasing social and economic wellbeing, benefits not only women but the economy and society as a whole; whereas the objective of ensuring equality between men and women dates back to the 1957 Treaty of Rome;

C.  whereas governments have committed, in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to ensuring that all boys and girls complete a full primary education; whereas Parliament organised an event entitled ‘Empowering girls and women through education’ on International Women’s Day in May 2015; whereas education, both formal and informal, is instrumental in overcoming marginalisation and multiple forms of discrimination by creating dialogue, openness and understanding between communities, and by empowering marginalised communities;

D.  whereas in times of economic recession people who are already at risk of living in poverty – who are more likely to be women – are in a vulnerable position in labour markets and with regard to social security, especially members of groups facing multiple discrimination; whereas the EU LGBT Survey finds that lesbians and bisexual and transgender women face a disproportionate risk of discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, in employment (19 %), education (19 %), housing (13 %), healthcare (10 %) and access to social services (8 %); whereas this results in disproportionate risks to their economic and social wellbeing;

E.  whereas the austerity policies requested by the Commission and implemented by the Members States, in addition to the economic crisis of the past few years, have widened inequalities and affected women in particular, exacerbating poverty among women and increasingly excluding them from the labour market; whereas the network of public services and infrastructure providing care for children, the elderly and the sick, and the supply of high-quality, free public services of this kind have been reduced;

F.  whereas single-parent families are at greater risk of poverty or social exclusion (49,8 % compared with 25,2 % of average households with dependent children, although there are large differences between Member States)(15); whereas according to Eurostat women accounted for 56,6 % of single-parent households in the Union in 2014; whereas poverty has a strong impact on the personal development and education of children and the effects can last an entire lifetime; whereas the educational gap between children from different socio-economic backgrounds has increased (in 11 countries, the provision of early childhood education and care to children between the ages of 0 and 3 reaches no more than 15 % coverage); whereas there is a strong probability of transmission of poverty over several generations; whereas the lack of quality education is a factor that significantly increases the risks of child poverty and the social exclusion of children, and a variety of factors related to family life – such as lack of stability, violence or poor housing conditions – significantly exacerbate the risk of dropping out of school;

G.  whereas women who live in rural areas are particularly affected by poverty; whereas many women who live in rural areas are not even registered on the labour market or as unemployed; whereas the rate of unemployment among women in rural areas is extremely high, and those who are employed have very low incomes; whereas women in rural areas have limited access to education, early detection of cancer and healthcare in general;

H.  whereas living at risk of poverty results in social exclusion and lack of involvement in the life of society in terms of access to education, justice, lifelong learning, primary healthcare services, decent housing and nutrition, water and energy, access to and participation in culture and information, sport and public transport; whereas investing in policies to support women also improves their families’ living conditions, in particular those of their children;

I.  whereas the gender pay gap stands at 16,3 %, and whereas the atypical and uncertain forms of work contracts also affect women more than men;

J.  whereas, very often, women who intend to set up a business have difficulty in gaining access to credit because traditional financial intermediaries are reluctant to grant loans, as they consider women entrepreneurs to be more exposed to risk and less inclined to make their businesses grow and to make profitable investments;

K.  whereas women are often employed as domestic workers, in many cases outside the scope of national labour law; whereas undocumented women in particular run the risk of being forced to work and being exploited in this area;

L.  whereas women more often than men take the responsibility for the care of elderly, ill or dependent family members as well as for children, and put their careers on hold more regularly, resulting in lower participation and long periods of inactivity in the labour market; whereas the risk of impoverishment is reduced by the establishment of high-quality social services and facilities at affordable prices for early childhood education and care, or care for other dependent persons such as the elderly; whereas few Member States have achieved or surpassed the Barcelona objectives, which must be seen as essential for moving towards the equal sharing of caring responsibilities;

M.  whereas given the intergenerational dimensions of poverty, addressing the situation of girls and young women who are facing social exclusion and poverty is key to tackling the feminisation of poverty;

N.  whereas for the whole EU-27, 34 % of single mothers of active age are at risk of poverty, as opposed to 17 % in the case of other families of active age with children;

O.  whereas the pension entitlements gap averages 39 % as a result of the imbalances created by persistent inequalities in terms of wages and access to employment, discrimination, and the pay gap between men and women in the labour market; whereas this pension gap represents an obstacle to women’s economic independence and is one of the reasons why women find themselves falling below the poverty line as they grow older; whereas action is needed to secure equal access to decent pension schemes for women; whereas the pension gap decreased over the period 2006 -2012 in those Member States which implemented Directive 2006/54/EC(16);

P.  whereas the increasing risk of poverty is closely linked to budget cuts affecting education, social security systems and care services; whereas women and children have been hardest hit by the crisis and the austerity measures taken in several European countries;

Q.  whereas women are a key force for economic and social development, and a good education is one of the most effective strategies available for success in the job market and breaking out of the poverty cycle; whereas the considerable financial burden of non-free education, given the direct and indirect costs involved, is a significant barrier to people living in poverty becoming better qualified; whereas girls outperform boys in school but often encounter greater difficulties or are prevented from translating this educational success into professional accomplishment by familial and other pressures;

R.  whereas the stereotypes widely conveyed by society are rooted in patriarchy and leave women in a subordinate role in society, contributing to the feminisation of poverty; whereas these stereotypes are developed during childhood and are reflected in educational and training choices and on into the labour market; whereas women are still too often confined to ‘women-friendly’ tasks for which they are still not properly paid and remain under-represented in areas such as mathematics, science, business, ICT and engineering, as well as in positions of responsibility; whereas these stereotypes in combination with the male dominated sectors being normative in setting wages lead to gender-based discrimination;

S.  whereas the Europe 2020 strategy, which seeks to make the EU a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy, entails ambitious targets, such as a 75 % employment rate and a reduction of at least 20 million in the number of people affected by or at risk of poverty and social exclusion by 2020; whereas the strategy’s targets include a reduction in early school leaving rates to below 10 %;

T.  whereas one of the targets of the Europe 2020 strategy is to ensure that 40 % of 30- to 34-year-olds receive a university education, compared with the current average of 37,9 %; whereas the average figure for women has exceeded 42,3 %, compared with 33,6 % for men;

U.  whereas meeting the Europe 2020 anti-poverty target, as one of the strategy’s five measurable targets, requires significant new political impetus; whereas these targets cannot be met unless anti-poverty policy includes a strong gender dimension, with the adoption of national policies to protect women, in particular, from the risk of poverty;

V.  whereas poverty and social exclusion and women’s economic dependency can be exacerbating factors for victims of violence against women, as well as vice versa since violence has consequences for women’s health and frequently leads to losing jobs, homelessness, social exclusion and poverty; whereas this includes disproportionate vulnerability to trafficking and sexual exploitation; whereas, furthermore, many women suffering this form of violence continue to live with their abusers because they are economically dependent;

W.  whereas gender equality provides a tool for combating poverty among women, as it has a positive impact on productivity and economic growth and leads to greater participation of women in the labour market, which in turn has numerous social and economic benefits;

Poverty and work-life balance

1.  Underlines the crucial role of high-quality public services in combating poverty, especially female poverty, since women are more dependent on such services;

2.  Stresses the need for the encouragement and commitment of men in terms of promoting gender equality in all fields and at all levels of the labour market;

3.  Considers that Member States should prioritise the issue of reconciling private and professional life by introducing family-friendly working arrangements, such as adaptable working hours and the possibility of teleworking; notes that the lack of affordable high-quality childcare, care for dependent persons and the elderly, and in particular of crèches, nursery schools and long-term care facilities, contributes to social exclusion, the gender employment gap, the pay gap and the related pension gap; emphasises that equal access to free high-quality early childhood education and affordable care, to formal, informal, and non-formal education and to family support services is central to encouraging women to enter and stay on the labour market, securing equal opportunities and breaking poverty cycles, as this helps women acquire autonomy and the qualifications that serve to secure employment;

4.  Deplores the austerity policies which, together with the economic crisis, are helping to increase the rate of poverty, particularly among women;

5.  Calls on the Member States and the Commission to develop and use the available policy and financial instruments, including the Social Investment Package, in order to meet the Barcelona objectives; calls, in this context, for the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to be optimised, for priority to be given, in the use of social investments and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) regulation, to the establishment of public and private facilities for care of and assistance to children and other dependent persons; proposes that the Commission allocate specific resources, through a cofinancing mechanism, to promote incentives for specific areas where there is a shortage of ECEC facilities and where the female employment rate is extremely low;

6.  Calls on Member States to implement policies that will protect, upgrade and promote free, high-quality public services, above all in the areas of health, education, social security and justice; points out that it is crucial for public services to have the necessary financial and human resources to fulfil their objectives;

7.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to take the necessary measures to promote the reconciliation of work and private life, in order to enable women, particularly those most at risk of poverty, to pursue their careers on a full-time basis or, if they prefer, to have access to part-time work or work with flexible hours;

8.  Calls on the Commission, in close coordination with the Member States, to undertake a comprehensive legislative initiative with a view to meeting the needs of mothers and fathers concerning the different types of leave, namely maternity, paternity, parental and carers’ leave, in particular in order to help men play an active role as fathers, enabling a fairer distribution of family responsibilities and thus allowing women equal opportunities to participate in the labour market, which will in turn make them economically more independent; bears in mind that some Member States have already passed legislation on this issue that goes beyond the provisions of EU law; calls on the Member States to envisage legislation to safeguard or enhance maternity, paternity and parental rights; underlines the fact that in 2010 only 2,7 % of persons using their right of parental leave were men, which points up the need for concrete action to ensure parental leave rights;

9.  Reiterates its disappointment at the withdrawal of the maternity leave directive after years of effort aimed at unblocking the deadlock and thus ensuring better protection for European citizens; calls on the Commission to put forward a new proposal and a mandatory right to paid paternity leave; believes that specific measures need to be taken in all Member States to improve work-life balance for women; urges the Commission to incorporate both a more robust social dimension and workplace gender equality objectives into the European Semester;

10.  Welcomes the proposal to introduce carers’ leave, as foreseen in the Commission Roadmap on a new start to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families;

Poverty and work

11.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to implement policies to promote the employment of women and the integration into the labour market of socially marginalised groups of women, in the light of the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy, to strengthen and improve education, and to invest more in training and information campaigns, ensuring that qualification prevails in the subsequent integration of women into the labour market, with an emphasis on lifelong learning since it provides women with the necessary skills to access high-quality jobs, and gives women the opportunity to re-skill in the ever-changing labour market; calls for an increase in the promotion of STEM subjects aimed at young girls in order to address existing educational stereotypes early and combat long-term gaps in employment and pay; calls for the development of affordable and high-quality public care services, adaptable but not precarious working-time arrangements that benefit both women and men, and measures to combat the segregation of men and women by occupation and sector, including in the world of enterprise and in positions of responsibility;

12.  Emphasises that access to credit, financial services and advice is key to empowering women facing social exclusion in entrepreneurship, and to increasing their representation in the sector; calls on the Commission and the Member States to take effective measures to increase access to funding for women who want to start their own business or investment projects, and to promote female entrepreneurship since it contributes to general economic and social development, to facilitate access to credit, also through microcredit instruments, particularly with regard to vulnerable women facing multiple discrimination, and to develop and expand self-employment programmes in a non-precarious way; underlines the importance in this context of sharing and promoting best practices, mentorship, female role models and other forms of support for unemployed women;

13.  Stresses the crucial importance of: reforming macroeconomic, social and labour market policies by aligning these with gender equality policies in order to guarantee economic and social justice for women; reconsidering the methods used to determine the poverty rate and developing strategies to promote the fair distribution of wealth;

14.  Notes that women are more often employed in precarious and low-paid work and on non-standard employment contracts; notes that another facet of job precariousness is the extent of involuntary part-time work, which contributes to the risk of poverty and has increased from 16,7 % to 19,6 % of total employment; calls on the Member States to step up their efforts to combat undeclared work, precarious jobs and the abuse of atypical forms of contract, including zero-hour contracts in some Member States; highlights the high levels of undeclared work performed by women, which negatively impact on women’s income and social security coverage and protection and have an adverse effect on EU GDP; urges the Member States to consider implementing the International Labour Organisation (ILO) recommendations intended to reduce the scale of precarious work(17), such as analysing and restricting the circumstances in which precarious contracts can be used and limiting the length of time that workers can be employed on successive contracts of this kind, after which they should be given the option of a permanent contract;

15.  Calls on the Member States to monitor the rights of female workers, who increasingly work in low-paid jobs and are victims of discrimination;

16.  Points out that there are new categories of women in poverty, consisting of young professional women, and which therefore condemn a large proportion of young female graduates to a precarious working life and an income that rarely manages to rise above the poverty line (the ‘new poor’);

17.  Reiterates its call on the Commission to revise the existing legislation in order to close the gender pay gap and reduce the pension gap between men and women; notes that measures to increase wage transparency are fundamental to closing the gender pay gap, and calls on the Member States to implement the Commission’s recommendation of 7 March 2014 on strengthening the principle of equal pay between men and women through transparency, including reversal of the burden of proof when it comes to challenging gender discrimination in the workplace;

18.  Calls on the Commission to conduct a study of how procedures related to the official recognition of the gender reassignment of a person, or the absence of such procedures, affect transgender people’s position on the labour market, particularly their access to employment, level of remuneration, career development and pensions;

19.  Notes with concern that women often receive pensions that are worth barely more than the minimum subsistence level, there being various reasons for this such as their having taken a break in or stopped their working life to care for their family, the predominance of part-time contracts throughout their working life, or because they worked unpaid for their spouse, especially in commerce or in farming, and did not contribute to a social security scheme;

20.  Welcomes the fact that the Commission considers ‘equal pay for work of equal value’ to be one of the key areas for action in its new strategy for gender equality; calls on the Commission to adopt a Communication for a ‘New Strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights post 2015’, so that the objectives and policies included can be effectively implemented;

21.  Calls on the Member States to ensure that all persons who have temporarily interrupted their careers to bring up children or care for elderly persons can be reintegrated into the labour market and return to their former position and level of career advancement;

22.  Invites the Commission to carry out an impact assessment of minimum income schemes in the EU, and to consider further steps that would take into account the economic and social circumstances of each Member State as well as an assessment of whether those schemes enable households to meet basic personal needs; once again urges the Member States to introduce a minimum national pension which cannot be lower than the risk-of-poverty threshold;

23.  Notes that retired women are the most vulnerable group and often live in or are at risk of poverty; calls on the Member States to treat the issue of reducing the gender pension gap as an economic objective; calls on the Member States to reform pension systems with the aim of always ensuring adequate pensions for all with a view to closing the pension gap; considers that instruments to tackle the pension gap include the adjustment of pension systems to ensure equality between women and men, and adjustments to education, career planning, parental leave systems and other parenthood support services; calls on the Member States to consider providing shared pension rights in cases of divorce and legal separation, in line with the principle of subsidiarity; notes that occupational old-age pension schemes are increasingly run in accordance with insurance principles and that this might give rise to many gaps in terms of social protection(18); emphasises that the Court of Justice of the European Union has made it clear that occupational pension schemes are to be regarded as pay and that the principle of equal treatment therefore applies to these schemes as well;

Poverty: general recommendations

24.  Notes that people living in poverty often pay a higher unit cost compared to the better-off for the same goods and services that are essential to their social and economic survival, particularly with regard to telecommunications, energy, and water; calls on the Member States to work closely with suppliers and operators on the development of support schemes and social pricing for the most deprived in society, particularly in regard to water and power supplies, so as to eradicate energy poverty in households;

25.  Reiterates the role of education in combating gender stereotypes, empowering women and girls in the social, economic, cultural and political fields and in scientific careers, and in ending the cycle of poverty through women’s inclusion in sectors where they have been under-represented, such as science, technology, engineering, and entrepreneurship, and calls on the Commission to incorporate vocational training targets for women in the country-specific recommendations; emphasises the role of non-formal education; calls on Member States to include investment in the education of girls and women aimed at enhancing their potential as an integral part of their economies and recovery plans; encourages Member States to work to aid young women in the transition from formal education to the labour market; stresses the need for all educational institutions to impart democratic values with a view to encouraging tolerance, active citizenship, social responsibility and respect for differences related to gender, minorities, and ethnic and religious groups; points out the importance of sport and physical education in terms of overcoming prejudices and stereotypes and their potential value in helping socially vulnerable young people put their lives back on track;

26.  Expresses its concern that women with children are discriminated against in the workplace because they are mothers and not because their job performance is inferior to that of their peers; urges the Member States to actively promote a positive image of mothers as employees and to combat the phenomenon of the ‘motherhood penalty’ as identified by a number of research studies;

27.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the structural and investment funds, in particular the ESF, as well as the EFSI, are used to improve education and training with a view to improving labour market access and combating unemployment, poverty and social exclusion of women; highlights that the 20 % share of the ESF allocated to social inclusion measures and social innovation projects could be used more actively to support initiatives such as small-scale local projects aimed at empowering women experiencing poverty and social exclusion; urges the Member States to undertake more information campaigns on opportunities for participation in EU-funded projects;

28.  Calls for funding mechanisms which incentivise the achievement of equal representation in areas where there is a gender imbalance, and stresses the need for gender-disaggregated data in order to better understand the situation for girls, boys, men, and women, and therefore be able to provide more effective responses to imbalances; asks the Commission to provide a breakdown by gender and age regarding participation in European educational mobility programmes, such as Erasmus+, Creative Europe and Europe for Citizens;

29.  Recalls, in particular, the right of migrant and refugee children, both boys and girls, to have access to education, this being one of the priorities of European societies; stresses, therefore, that urgent measures in the field of migrant education should be taken both at EU and national levels in light of the persisting migrant crisis; emphasises that education is key to integration and employability, and that a failure of national education systems to meet this challenge may provoke further cultural segregation and deepen social divisions; points out that access to education, in both refugee camps and host municipalities, meeting the requisite quality standards and accompanied by linguistic and psychological support, must not be undermined by bureaucratic and administrative issues relating to recognition of refugee status;

30.  Stresses the contribution of voluntary organisations and the tertiary sector in this area, and urges the Member States to support their efforts; recalls the high level of participation by women in voluntary education and other activities, and in supporting and improving educational opportunities, for example for refugees and deprived children;

31.  Stresses that the effects of poverty and social exclusion on children can last a lifetime and result in the intergenerational transmission of poverty; stresses that in all Member States the risk of poverty and social exclusion among children is strongly linked to the level of education of their parents, in particular that of their mothers, and to their parents’ situation in the labour market, their social situation and the forms of family support provided by the Member States; recommends that Member States ensure that all young people have access to high-quality free public education at all ages, including early childhood; stresses the role of educational guidance for children aimed at allowing them to realise their full potential; stresses the need to support, with targeted programmes, the ongoing education of teenage mothers for whom leaving school early is a first step towards poverty; stresses the need to establish a comprehensive set of measures for tackling child poverty and promoting child wellbeing, to be based on three pillars: namely, access to adequate resources and reconciling work and family life; access to good quality services; and children’s participation in decisions that affect them as well as in cultural, leisure and sporting activities; reiterates the need to ensure ease of access to information on an equal basis, especially with regard to social security, adult education, healthcare and available economic support;

32.  Highlights that the lack of recognition of LGBTI families by many Member States results in lower incomes and higher living costs for LGBTI people, thus increasing the risk of poverty and social exclusion; believes that equal treatment legislation is a vital instrument to combat poverty resulting from marginalisation and discrimination affecting sexual and gender minorities; calls on the Council, in this regard, to adopt the 2008 proposal for a directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation; calls, furthermore, for the explicit inclusion in any future recast of the Gender Equality Directives of a ban on discrimination on grounds of gender identity; remains concerned that rights awareness and awareness of the existence of bodies and organisations offering support to victims of discrimination are low; calls on the Commission, in this regard, to closely monitor the effectiveness of national complaints bodies and procedures;

33.  Calls for full implementation of Directive 2006/54/EC on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation, and for it to be revised with a requirement for companies to draw up measures or plans relating to gender equality, including actions on desegregation, development of pay systems, and measures to support women’s careers;

34.  Reaffirms the importance of economic and financial education at a young age, since this has been shown to improve economic decision-making later in life, including in managing expenditure and income; recommends the exchange of best practice and the promotion of educational programmes targeting women and girls in vulnerable groups and marginalised communities facing poverty and social exclusion;

35.  Notes that the absence of a partner’s income may be a major contributing factor to the poverty trap and to the social exclusion of women; notes the often precarious situation of widows and of divorced women and single mothers to whom judges have granted custody of children, for whom an adequate level of maintenance needs to be defined; notes that non-payment of maintenance can plunge single mothers into poverty; underlines the fact that divorced women are prone to discrimination and poverty, and that this is evidence of women not yet being fully economically independent, thus pointing to the need for further actions in the field of the labour market and the closing of the gender pay gap;

36.  Stresses that the collection of data on household expenses and income must be complemented by individualised data in order to account for gender-based inequalities within households;

37.  Insists that macroeconomic policy must be compatible with social equality policy; reiterates that financial institutions such as the ECB and national central banks must take into account social impacts, when modelling and deciding on macroeconomic monetary policies or financial services policies;

38.  Reiterates its support for the initiative to formulate a guideline reference budget, and calls on the Commission to include gender-specific considerations when designing it, including the gender inequalities faced within households;

39.  Reasserts the need to undertake research into female homelessness and its causes and drivers, as the phenomenon is inadequately captured in current data; notes that gender-specific elements that ought to be taken into account include gender-based economic dependency, temporary housing, and avoidance of social services;

40.  Emphasises that violence against women continues to be a significant problem in the EU affecting its victims, and that there is an urgent need to involve the perpetrators thereof in measures to combat violence against women irrespective of their age, education, income level or social position, and that its impact on the risks of marginalisation, poverty and social exclusion is constantly growing; notes that women’s economic independence plays a crucial role in their ability to escape situations of gender-based violence by taking proactive measures; calls on the Member States and regional and local authorities to ensure social protection systems guaranteeing the social rights of women who are victims of violence in any form, be it domestic violence, trafficking, or prostitution, and to take action to reintegrate them into the labour market, also making use of instruments such as the ESF; underlines the need for an increase in availability of information when it comes to legal services for victims of violence;

41.  Stresses the need for determined efforts to combat domestic violence, particularly against women; notes that women’s economic independence plays a crucial role in their lives and their ability to extricate themselves from situations of domestic violence, and that women who have exhausted their paid leave are at risk of losing their jobs and economic independence; notes that the recent introduction of domestic violence leave in Australia and the US has provided many workers with employment protection when dealing with the impact of domestic violence, for example by allowing the people concerned the time to manage medical appointments, court appearances and other processes that must be addressed in such situations; calls on the Commission and the Member States to examine the feasibility and possible outcomes of introducing a system of paid special leave for victims and survivors of domestic violence where lack of paid leave is an obstacle to victims being able to maintain their employment while ensuring their privacy; also calls on the Commission and the Member States to introduce further measures to raise awareness of the problem of domestic violence and to help the victims of such violence, to promote better knowledge and defence of their rights, and to protect their economic independence;

42.  Reiterates its call for the EU and all Member States to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention, and asks for an urgent initiative in order to establish an EU directive on combating violence against women; calls once more on the Commission to present a European strategy against gender-based violence, and to establish a European Year for combating gender-based violence;

43.  Believes there is a need to work proactively to overcome violence against women by targeting norms which glorify violence; underlines that stereotypes and structures which are the foundation for men’s violence against women must be combated by proactive measures through campaigns and ongoing education on the issue of macho cultures at national level;

44.  Points out that new technologies should be regarded as a fundamental tool for creating new jobs and as an opportunity to bring women out of poverty;

45.  Encourages the Member States, in cooperation with regional and local authorities, to help improve the quality of life of women in rural areas in order to reduce the risk of poverty while providing quality educational programmes aimed at empowering rural women, as well as quality employment conditions and decent incomes for this group; encourages the Member States to provide quality municipal, social and public infrastructure in order to improve general living conditions in rural areas;

46.  Believes that many aspects of poverty, and especially female poverty, remain unrecognised, including for example the exclusion of women from access to culture and social participation, and therefore calls on the Member States to provide the support necessary to ensure that all women can enjoy culture, sport, and leisure, paying particular attention to women living in poverty, women with a disability, and migrant women; considers that the existing indicators of severe material deprivation exclude the factors of access to culture and social participation, and therefore provide only an incomplete understanding of poverty; calls for more indicators to be developed for assessing exclusion in terms of social, cultural, and political participation, and particularly its influence on the vicious cycle of poverty, as well as its intergenerational impacts;

47.  Notes that disabled women often suffer discrimination within the family environment and in education, that their employment opportunities are restricted and that the social benefits they receive are not sufficient to stop them falling into poverty; stresses in this respect that Member States and regional and local authorities should grant disabled women the specialist care they need in order to exercise their rights, and should propose actions to aid their integration into the labour market through additional support measures, in particular as regards education and training;

48.  Calls for more ambitious action to tackle energy poverty, which disproportionately affects single women and single-parent and female-headed households; urges the Commission and the Member States to establish a definition of energy poverty which takes into account gendered aspects of the phenomenon, and to include this in the future recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive; highlights the important role of community energy initiatives such as cooperatives in empowering vulnerable energy consumers, and particularly women who are facing poverty and social exclusion and marginalisation;

49.  Reasserts its call on the Commission to strive towards establishing a European Child Guarantee that will ensure that every European child at risk of poverty has access to free healthcare, free education, free childcare, decent housing and adequate nutrition; emphasises that such a policy must address the situation of women and girls, particularly in vulnerable and marginalised communities; notes that the Youth Guarantee Initiative must include a gender perspective;

50.  Encourages the Member States and the Commission to collect gender-disaggregated statistics and to introduce new individual indicators in respect of women and poverty, as a tool to monitor the impact of broader social, economic and employment policies on women and poverty in order to develop exchanges of best practice on legislative and budgetary instruments for combating poverty, with a focus on those groups at particular risk of poverty, and regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity;

51.  Highlights the role of social enterprises in empowering and including women facing poverty and social exclusion and multiple discrimination;

52.  Asks the Commission and the Member States to create stakeholder engagement processes that promote and facilitate the direct engagement of persons at risk of poverty and social inclusion, particularly women and girls, in policy-making on social inclusion at all levels;

53.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to implement gender budgeting as a tool for ensuring that budgetary decisions take into account the gender dimension and address differentiated impacts;

54.  Calls on the Member States to cooperate in the fight against poverty with NGOs which operate successfully in areas afflicted by extreme poverty and which have precious know-how in local communities; calls on the Member States to support effective cooperation at local level;

55.  Calls on the Member States and the Commission to involve social partners (trade unions and employers) and civil society, including gender equality bodies, in the realisation of gender equality, with a view to fostering equal treatment; stresses that social dialogue must include the monitoring and promotion of gender equality practices in the workplace, including flexible working arrangements, with the aim of facilitating the reconciliation of work and private life; stresses the importance of collective agreements in combating discrimination and promoting equality between women and men at work, as well as of other instruments such as codes of conduct, research, exchanges of experience and good practice in the area of gender equality;

o
o   o

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

(1) OJ C 233 E, 28.9.2006, p. 130.
(2) OJ C 67 E, 18.3.2010, p. 31.
(3) OJ C 70 E, 8.3.2012, p. 162.
(4) OJ C 199 E, 7.7.2012, p. 77.
(5) OJ C 296 E, 2.10.2012, p. 26.
(6) OJ C 51 E, 22.2.2013, p. 9.
(7) OJ C 131 E, 8.5.2013, p. 60.
(8) OJ C 264 E, 13.9.2013, p. 75.
(9) OJ C 24, 22.1.2016, p. 8.
(10) OJ C 36, 29.1.2016, p. 6.
(11) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0050.
(12) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0218.
(13) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0351.
(14) http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/refreshTableAction.do?tab=table&plugin=1&pcode=t2020_50&language=en
(15) Save the Children, ‘Child Poverty and Social Exclusion in Europe’, Brussels, 2014, p. 14.
(16) http:\\www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2015/547546/EPRS_STU(2015)547546_EN.pdf, p. 11.
(17) International Labour Organisation, Policies and regulations to combat precarious employment, 2011.
(18) http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/files/conference_sept_2011/dgjustice_oldagepensionspublication3march2011_en.pdf


Non-tariff barriers in the Single Market
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European Parliament resolution of 26 May 2016 on Non-Tariff Barriers in the Single Market (2015/2346(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0236A8-0160/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 28 October 2015 entitled ‘Upgrading the Single Market: more opportunities for people and business’ (COM(2015)0550),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 28 October 2015 entitled ‘A Single Market Strategy for Europe – Analysis and Evidence’ (SWD(2015)0202),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 28 October 2015 entitled ‘Report on Single Market Integration and Competitiveness in the EU and its Member States’ (SWD(2015)0203),

–  having regard to the European Parliamentary Research Service study of September 2014 entitled ‘The Cost of Non-Europe in the Single Market’,

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 September 2013 on the Internal Market for Services: State of Play and Next Steps(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 December 2013 on the European Retail Action Plan for the benefit of all actors(2),

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

–  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 (A8-0160/2016),

A.  whereas the European single market makes a significant contribution to European economies;

B.  whereas it is estimated that completing the single market for the free movement of goods, services, public procurement, the digital economy and the body of consumer law would entail economic gains ranging from EUR 651 billion to EUR 1,1 trillion per year, equivalent to between 5 % and 8,63 % of EU GDP;

C.  whereas, more than 20 years after the launch of the single market, unjustified non-tariff barriers (NTBs) continue to affect trade and free movement of goods and services between Member States; whereas these NTBs can be motivated by protectionism and can be accompanied by bureaucratic challenges that are very often disproportionate to their purpose;

D.  whereas it is estimated that the single market for services constitutes about 70 % of the European economy, but accounts for only about 20 % of intra-EU trade;

E.  whereas 25 % of regulated professions are regulated in only one Member State;

F.  whereas it is estimated that the potential gains from the functioning digital single market could be around EUR 415 billion per year and the GDP increase around 0,4 % by 2020, and whereas there are many gaps in EU legislation hampering its proper functioning;

G.  whereas only 2 % of new SMEs, microenterprises and start-ups have undertaken cross-border expansion through foreign direct investment;

H.  whereas for consumers, gaps in the single market, including the implementation of EU legislation in a way that is incomplete or at odds with the objectives of the single market, lead in many cases to sub-optimal product choice and to goods and services being more expensive;

I.  whereas for businesses the costs are manifest in more expensive supply chains, leading to their own products being more costly, or in reduced access to business services, which harms their competitiveness; whereas innovation is encouraged through a competitive market;

J.  whereas the complexity of the current VAT regime can also be considered an NTB;

K.  whereas anti-competitive tax deals between Member States and large multinational companies can be considered an unjustified NTB;

L.  whereas businesses and individuals are facing major obstacles in cross-border activities within the single market owing to lack of availability and quality of information, assistance services and online procedures, leading to high administrative burdens and significant compliance costs;

M.  whereas the monitoring of barriers and costs is piecemeal and unsystematic, and quantification and clear identification of barriers and costs is lacking, which makes prioritisation of policy actions difficult;

I.Context and policy objectives

1.  Realises that despite the removal of tariff barriers since 1 July 1968, the free movement of goods and services has continued to be hampered by NTBs such as unjustified national technical rules and regulatory and non-regulatory requirements governing products, service providers and terms of service provision, or bureaucracy; highlights that the strengthening of the single market requires urgent action at both Union and Member State levels to address such NTBs;

2.  Understands an NTB as being a disproportionate or discriminatory regulatory action which results in a burden or cost to be borne by a firm which seeks to enter a market, and which is not borne by firms already in the market, or a cost which accrues to non-national firms which is not borne by domestic firms, without prejudice to the Member States’ right to regulate and the pursuit of legitimate public policy objectives such as protection of the environment and consumer or employment rights;

3.  Recognises that national-level differences may emerge owing to multi-level governance; believes that the need for measures to be proportionate and in furtherance of legitimate public policy objectives should be well understood at all levels of regulatory decision-making; believes that consistency and coherence of policy and regulatory practice can contribute significantly to lowering NTBs;

4.  Believes that where such NTBs can be justified as proportionate, information on differing national regulatory requirements should be easily accessible and the related provision of notification information and completion of procedures as user-friendly as possible; considers that the implementation of the present system built around a diverse range of contact points, including Product Contact Points and Single Points of Contact, has been inconsistent across Member States and is overly complex; recalls the importance of strengthening and streamlining existing single market tools for SMEs in order to simplify their cross-border expansion; urges the Commission and the Member States to place greater emphasis on streamlining and improving these systems, in particular the need for rapid improvement of the Single Points of Contact, and calls on the Commission to report to Parliament on the progress and next steps by the end of 2016; highlights that by being more open and accessible as regards regulatory requirements the Member State in question becomes more attractive for inward investment;

5.  Welcomes the Single Digital Gateway initiative, announced in the Commission’s Digital Single Market communication, as a positive step; urges the Commission to create a single entry point for businesses and consumers to all single market related information, assistance and problem solving and to national and EU-wide procedures needed to operate cross-border in the EU;

6.  Considers that in order to eliminate NTBs it is important for the Commission and the Member States to work together to improve the functioning of SOLVIT, especially in geographical or industry areas where businesses do not use SOLVIT often and not all submitted cases are taken up by the competent authority;

7.  Underlines that for many companies, in particular SMEs, seeking to trade in another Member State, such an expansion will still from their perspective constitute ‘international trade’; highlights that SMEs, start-ups and innovative businesses, in particular sharing economy businesses, should be fully enabled to grow through cross-border trade;

8.  Believes that one of the tasks of the Union and its individual Member States should be the eventual abolition of NTBs where they cannot be justified or do not support the objectives listed in Article 3(3) of the Treaty on European Union, which states that Europe is based on a highly competitive social market economy;

9.  Reiterates that the Digital Single Market Strategy and the Single Market Strategy for Europe comprise initiatives that should be implemented swiftly and ambitiously in order to reduce single market NTBs; highlights that it is crucial for these initiatives to be based on better regulation principles and on the most efficient tools, such as harmonisation and mutual recognition;

II.Cross-cutting non-tariff barriers

10.  Believes that differences in the speed of transposition and the exact implementation of existing directives at national level create legal uncertainty for businesses and varying competition conditions in the internal market;

11.  Considers that where the Commission has repealed unnecessary EU legislation, Member States should act swiftly to repeal corresponding domestic provisions;

12.  Considers that extended non-compliance with Union law by Member States is detrimental for the single market and consumers; considers also that the slow transposition process leads to some Member States benefiting from an undue prolongation of the compliance deadline; calls for a compliance culture to be further promoted in cooperation between the Commission and the Member States, as foreseen in the Single Market Strategy; underlines the need to swiftly address the subject of non-compliance by Member States;

13.  Draws the attention of the Commission and the Member States to the issue of some national governments loading transposed directives with additional rules when implementing EU law, i.e. so-called ‘gold-plating’;

14.  Draws attention to the fact that the intensity and number of controls that have been recently imposed on foreign service providers are growing; calls on Member States to make sure that these controls are proportionate, justified and non-discriminatory;

15.  Highlights that inconsistent enforcement of existing correctly transposed rules by Member States causes the same harm to the single market as late transposition; considers that compliance and enforcement are made more challenging when commonly used definitions, for example ‘traceability’ or ‘placed on the market’, are given different meanings in different pieces of legislation;

16.  Believes that unequal application of the same rules in different Member States has the potential to create new unjustified NTBs; calls on the Commission to make every effort to minimise divergences at the earliest possible stage;

17.  Believes that the Commission should increase its use of guidelines with regard to the implementation of directives since this can be a useful tool to ensure a higher degree of uniform implementation;

18.  Notes the persistence of national-level differences in product market regulation with which businesses operating across borders still have to contend, in terms of both level of restriction and differences between Member States; considers that this unnecessarily forces businesses to adapt their products and services to comply with multiple standards and repeated testing, thus limiting intra-EU trade, reducing growth and hampering job creation;

19.  Believes that since economies of scale are reduced by the need to run different product lines, the burden falls, in many ways, be they legal, financial or otherwise, disproportionately on SMEs and microenterprises;

20.  Draws attention to the low levels of cross-border public procurement to date, with less than 20 % of all public procurement in the Union publicised on pan-European platforms and only 3,5 % of contracts being awarded to companies from other Member States; highlights the difficulties experienced, in particular by SMEs, in participating in cross-border public procurement; stresses in this context the importance of the new EU directives on public procurement and the award of concession contracts, which the Member States were required to transpose by April 2016; calls on the Member States to fully implement this legislation, including fully electronic public procurement processes;

21.  Highlights that the cost of compliance with VAT requirements is one of the biggest NTBs; calls for practical VAT simplification proposals;

22.  Recognises that different VAT regimes across the Union might be perceived as an NTB; underlines that the VAT Mini One-Stop Shop (VAT MOSS) is a good way of supporting the overcoming of this barrier and in particular of supporting SMEs in their cross-border activity; acknowledges that there are still some minor problematic issues with the VAT MOSS; calls on the Commission to further facilitate the payment of VAT obligations by companies across the EU;

23.  Believes that many national administrative practices also give rise to unjustified NTBs, including requirements for formalising of documents by national bodies or offices; urges Member States to use e-governance solutions, which includes prioritising interoperability and digital signatures, in order to modernise their public administrations, building on examples such as those in Estonia and Denmark, by providing more and better accessible digital services for citizens and businesses, and facilitate cross-border cooperation and the interoperability of public administrations, without affecting the protection of personal data; believes that the use of e-governance is an important tool for companies but that this should not exclude alternative ways of accessing information or disadvantage citizens who are unable to access digital services;

24.  Calls on the Commission to take a strong approach to enforcement in practice, making sure that single market rules are duly applied and implemented by the Member States; considers, in this regard, that the process of implementing transposed directives should be better coordinated, for example by means of transposition workshops organised by the Commission and exchange of best practices in order to minimise differences between Member States at an early stage;

III.Sector-specific non-tariff barriers

Single market for goods

25.  Underlines the importance of the principle of mutual recognition for ensuring market access to the single market for goods which are not harmonised at Union level, and in cases where Member States have national, very often different, rules on products, but with the same underlying objective;

26.  Highlights that many businesses are not aware of mutual recognition and believe that they have to comply with national requirements in the Member State of destination when trading in the single market;

27.  Calls on the Commission to act to improve the application of mutual recognition; anticipates, in this context, the Commission’s plans to increase awareness and revise the Mutual Recognition Regulation; believes that harmonisation is also an effective tool to ensure equal access for goods and services to the single market;

Single market for services

28.  Draws attention to the problems for service providers, especially in business services, the transport sector and construction, stemming from multiple and diverse unjustified or disproportionate requirements concerning authorisation, registration, prior notification or de facto establishment requirements; underlines that this might lead to discrimination against foreign service providers which would contradict the principle of free movement of services; calls, in this context, for a more developed e-administration and electronic registration system in order to simplify the process for service providers;

29.  Emphasises that, in particular, the lack of implementation and diverging application of the Services Directive is hampering the single market;

30.  Stresses the need for a clear and uniform regulatory environment which enables services to develop in a market that protects workers and consumers and ensures that existing and new operators on the EU single market do not face meaningless regulatory obstacles, whatever kind of business they are conducting;

31.  Draws attention also to the unjustified or disproportionate restrictions in some Member States as regards the legal form of service providers and their shareholding or management structure, and as regards restrictions on the joint exercise of the profession; stresses that some of these restrictions may be disproportionate or unjustified obstacles to cross-border service provision; emphasises the need to ensure consistent proportionality assessment of regulatory requirements and restrictions applicable to services;

32.  Emphasises that the notification obligation contained in the Services Directive could have been effective in reducing or eliminating unjustified NTBs, but has been neglected by Member States and the Commission; welcomes, therefore, the renewed focus on the notification procedure in the Single Market Strategy, as through early engagement, national measures can be revised to resolve issues before they occur; believes further that Member States should be required to provide more detailed justifications when introducing new regulatory measures; emphasises the positive experience with the notification procedure for products and suggests that this should be used as an example for improving the procedure for services;

33.  Points out that public services benefit from special protection in relation to internal market rules because of the general interest tasks they fulfil, and that therefore the rules set by the public authorities for their proper operation do not constitute NTBs; points out, in this regard, that social services and health services are not subject to the Services Directive;

34.  Points out that construction service providers are often confronted with certain requirements relating to their organisation in their home state, including with regard to organisational certification schemes, that make offering their services cross-border too complex, thereby discouraging the free movement of construction services and professionals;

35.  Calls on the Commission to address these barriers, including, where worthwhile, through improved mutual recognition and, if appropriate, legislative action; highlights that future actions, such as the proposed services passport, should not lead to additional administrative burdens but should tackle NTBs;

36.  Calls on the Commission to address the burdens related to the fractured banking sector in Europe which makes it difficult for non-residents, especially SMEs, to open a bank account in another Member State;

37.  Points out that some of the Member States’ regulations on the access and exercise of regulated professions can be disproportionate and can therefore create unnecessary regulatory obstacles hindering access to some professions and the mobility of service providers in regulated professions; acknowledges, nevertheless, the importance of guaranteeing fair competition, the quality of training and supporting successful qualification systems;

38.  Concurs with the Commission’s view that dual learning systems are to be recommended as examples of best practice within the European Union;

39.  Welcomes the mutual evaluation exercise carried out in the last two years; believes that peer review processes which are well-designed and encourage frank debate amongst Member States can be effective in encouraging change; encourages the Member States and the Commission to extend this practice, in particular to other areas of single market regulation;

40.  Calls on the Commission to address the reform priorities of Member States in the area of professional services in the context of the European Semester and country-specific recommendations on deregulating certain professions in the Member States;

Single market for retail

41.  Highlights the peer review on retail establishment carried out by the Commission in 2014-2015, which showed that retailers often face disproportionate and inappropriate establishment and operating conditions and procedures in the single market;

42.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to accelerate the process of unlocking the potential for a complete Digital Single Market and the implementation of the EU Digital Agenda;

43.  Points out that some Member States are introducing rules discriminating against economic activity in the retail or wholesale sectors on the basis of the surface area on which the activity is carried out, the size of the undertaking or the origin of the capital, which is inconsistent with the idea of the single market and the principles of free competition and restricts the development of the labour market;

44.  Points out that regulations which impose restrictions on retail and wholesale activities and which run counter to EU law and are disproportionate can create significant barriers to entry, leading to fewer new outlet openings, hampering competition and leading to higher prices for consumers; underlines in this regard that some measures, including fees and inspection charges, may function as NTBs if they are not justified by public policy objectives; believes that all operational restrictions placed on retail or wholesale activities should not unduly or disproportionately restrict these activities, and must not lead to de facto discrimination between market operators;

45.  Calls on the Commission to set out best practices on retail establishment to ensure free movement of products and services, whilst respecting the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity;

46.  Calls on the Commission to analyse operational restrictions on retail and wholesale in the single market, bringing forward reform proposals where necessary, and to report on this analysis in the spring of 2017;

47.  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;

IV.Conclusions

48.  Calls on the Commission to present in 2016 a comprehensive overview of NTBs in the single market and an analysis of the means for tackling them, making a clear distinction between an NTB and regulations for implementing a legitimate public policy objective of a Member State in a proportionate manner, including an ambitious proposal to eliminate these NTBs as soon as possible in order to unleash the still untapped potential of the single market;

49.  Calls on the Commission to initiate a timely consideration of EU policy and legislative action in emerging areas, with wide stakeholder consultation, in particular SMEs and civil society organisations;

50.  Calls on the Commission to first ensure that Member States respect the existing rules concerning the single market rather than creating new, additional pieces of legislation on matters already covered by the existing rules;

51.  Calls on the Commission to deepen its work on enforcement and the principles which underpin the single market; believes that early intervention with regard to national measures or implementation procedures which constitute unjustified NTBs may be effective and results more readily achieved than through infringement proceedings; underlines, nevertheless, that for serious or persistent failures or misapplication of Union law, the Commission must use all available measures, including prioritising infringement procedures, to ensure full implementation of EU legislation on the single market;

52.  Regrets that Parliament’s access to relevant information relating to pre-infringement and infringement procedures is still limited and calls for improved transparency in this regard, with due respect for confidentiality rules;

53.  Calls on the Member States to view the single market as a joint initiative which requires coordinated and collective maintenance and is a condition for making the EU economy competitive; believes that those who ultimately suffer the consequences of unjustified NTBs are consumers, who are denied access to new entrants to domestic markets, and face higher costs, inferior quality and reduced choice; considers that Member States should dedicate further time to horizontal single market concerns and to identifying areas requiring priority action by one or more Member States, in order to maintain and further the single market;

o
o   o

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

(1) OJ C 93, 9.3.2016, p. 84.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0580.


The Single Market Strategy
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European Parliament resolution of 26 May 2016 on the Single Market Strategy (2015/2354(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0237A8-0171/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Article 9 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Directive 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on consumer rights, amending Council Directive 93/13/EEC and Directive 1999/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Council Directive 85/577/EEC and Directive 97/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council(1),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 28 October 2015 entitled ‘Upgrading the Single Market: more opportunities for people and business’ (COM(2015)0550),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 28 October 2015 entitled ‘A Single Market Strategy for Europe – Analysis and Evidence’ (SWD(2015)0202),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 28 October 2015 entitled ‘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 entitled ‘A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe’ (COM(2015)0192),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 13 April 2011 entitled ‘Single Market Act  Twelve levers to boost growth and strengthen confidence  “Working together to create new growth”‘ (COM(2011)0206),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 3 October 2012 entitled ‘Single Market Act II  Together for new growth’ (COM(2012)0573),

–  having regard to the report of 9 May 2010 by Mario Monti to the President of the Commission entitled ‘A New Strategy for the Single Market  At the Service of Europe’s Economy and Society’,

–  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 11 December 2013 on the European Retail Action Plan for the benefit of all actors(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 January 2016 on Towards a Digital Single Market Act(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 January 2014 on effective labour inspections as a strategy to improve working conditions in Europe(5),

–  having regard to the study of September 2014 entitled ‘The Cost of Non-Europe in the Single Market’, commissioned by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection,

–  having regard to the study of September 2015 entitled ‘A strategy for completing the Single Market: “the trillion euro bonus”’, commissioned by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection,

–  having regard to the study of 20 November 2015 entitled ‘Ex-post evaluation of Late Payment Directive’, commissioned by the Commission,

–  having regard to the study of November 2014 entitled ‘The EU furniture market situation and a possible furniture products initiative’, commissioned by the Commission,

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

–  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 and the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (A8-0171/2016),

A.  whereas the single market has been, and remains, the cornerstone of EU integration and the engine of sustainable growth and jobs by facilitating trade across the EU while guaranteeing a highly competitive social market economy based on Article 3(3) of the TEU;

B.  whereas the deepening of the European internal market remains a key economic issue, especially in the context of the development of new technologies, where a market with critical mass is needed to promote the emergence of innovative and competitive players on the global scene;

C.  whereas the single market has undergone many positive developments in recent years, but could achieve more in almost all areas – in stimulating a digital-driven market, encouraging start-ups, integrating global supply chains, improving workers mobility and social rights, dealing with new business models and ensuring market facilitation, mutual recognition, standardisation and the licensing of professionals –if unjustified physical, legal and technical barriers are eliminated;

D.  whereas, according to Parliament’s own research, the anticipated gain from completing the single market stands at a trillion euros (corresponding to a potential efficiency gain of EUR 615 billion per year); whereas fragmentation of the single market is one of the major impediments to higher structural economic growth;

E.  whereas a genuinely strategic approach is called for the further integration of the single market, and whereas the response to the challenges faced should be political as much as technical in nature, particularly in the case of unjustified non-tariff barriers within the single market;

F.  whereas the EU should pursue a genuine single market and treat it as a common asset of all citizens, workers, economic operators and Member States, and whereas the single market will only reach its full potential if it has the full support of all Member States in collaboration with each other;

G.  whereas rules and actions at EU level should be incorporated into a uniform strategic vision and thus be consistent with each other and not contradictory; whereas Member States have to refrain from discriminatory measures, such as trade and tax laws that only affect certain sectors or business models and distort competition, making it difficult for businesses to establish themselves in a given Member State, which constitutes a clear breach of internal market principles;

H.  whereas the single market must not be seen in isolation from other horizontal policy areas, particularly the digital single market, health, social and consumer protection, labour law and mobility of citizens, the environment, sustainable development, energy, transport and external policies;

I.  whereas the completion of the single market in the product and services sector and the removal of barriers is a top priority which requires fast-track approach from Member States and the EU institutions;

J.  whereas barriers in the single market lead to less choice and more expensive products and services for consumers;

K.  whereas a low level of recognition is enjoyed by social economy enterprises at European level, and whereas most of these enterprises are not recognised by a European-level legal framework, but only at national level in some Member States, with different legal forms; whereas this lack of an EU legal framework hinders the capacity of such enterprises to operate cross-border within the internal market;

L.  whereas counterfeiting is a serious threat to public health and safety, and whereas the total value of counterfeit goods trafficking has increased significantly in recent years, exacerbating the devastating impact of counterfeiting on innovation, employment and the branding of European companies;

M.  whereas the creation of a single capital market would encourage greater cross-border risk-sharing and more liquid markets;

N.  whereas the summary report of the Commission consultation on geo-blocking reveals strong consumer support for legislative measures against geo-blocking;

O.  whereas the economic consequences of the financial crisis are still being felt and GDP remains below the 2008 level in several Member States;

P.  whereas the single market is characterised by persistently high unemployment rates; whereas since the financial crisis the number of unemployed has increased by over six million; whereas by the end of 2015 there were more than 22 million people in the Union without work;

Policy objectives

1.  Supports the overall objectives of the Commission’s Single Market Strategy for goods and services: ‘Upgrading the Single Market: more opportunities for people and business’, and appreciates its actions in key areas to unleash the full potential of the single market for the benefit of consumers, employees and businesses, in particular start-ups, to increase the number of sustainable jobs and to grow and develop SMEs; encourages the Commission to develop cross-cutting policies designed to achieve a fairer and more competitive single market in line with Title II of the TFEU on provisions having a general application;

2.  Notes that the establishment of the internal market in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured is an essential objective of the Union;

3.  Welcomes the fact that the strategy seeks to complement the efforts made in other areas; believes that, by improving the initiatives already being taken, the strategy has good potential to help ensure economic prosperity, increase the creation of sustainable jobs and growth, improve the wellbeing of Europeans by practical measures, make the European Union attractive for investments and develop the global competitiveness of European businesses; stresses, however, the need in the implementation of this strategy to avoid inconsistencies and overlaps between the different initiatives; underlines that proposals should be evidence-based and in line with better regulation principles;

4.  Underlines the urgent need to eliminate the unjustified barriers from the single market in order to achieve tangible and quick results in terms of competitiveness, sustainable growth, research, innovation, job creation, consumer choice and new business models; believes that in order to achieve these goals, we should strive towards more harmonisation of legislation, where necessary and appropriate, while preserving the highest possible level of consumer protection, and adopt appropriate actions to tackle unjustified barriers established by Member States;

5.  Is of the opinion that the mid-term review of the EU’s 2020 Strategy should set ambitious targets for reaching a highly competitive social market economy and sustainable growth by 2020; stresses that the single market should be central in achieving that goal;

6.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to be innovative in the implementation of the single market legislation; stresses the great potential of labour-intensive sectors such as retail and the hospitality industry for job creation, integration and tackling youth unemployment;

7.  Considers that the Monti report of 2010 entitled ‘A new strategy for the single market’ should be fully implemented and taken into account during the work on the Single Market Strategy;

8.  Stresses that the Single Market Strategy must not disregard the potential of the industrial sector in terms of sustainable growth and quality employment in Europe;

9.  Considers that internal demand – and especially improving purchasing power, the adoption of innovative measures and investment in the green economy – is essential for tapping the full potential of the single market and for promoting sustainable growth;

A modern and more innovative single market

10.  Welcomes the strategy’s focus on aspects aimed at helping businesses, in particular SMEs, micro-enterprises and start-ups, to scale up their activities, grow and stay in the single market, thus facilitating their innovation and job creation; underlines that all initiatives for SMEs and start-ups require immediate actions and should be treated as a priority, but recalls that these initiatives should not provide opportunities for dishonest businesses to circumvent existing rules, lower workers’ and consumer standards, or increase the risk of corporate fraud, criminal activities and letterbox companies;

11.  Takes the view that the strategy can offer fresh opportunities to SMEs which are the backbone of EU economies, and to micro-enterprises and innovative start-ups; believes that developing the right business environment by improving private venture capital frameworks for SMEs, facilitating access to finance, producing sound legislation and fully applying the ‘Think Small First’ principle across the single market is crucial and could support growth and job creation;

12.  Believes that the lowering of administrative burdens and compliance costs on businesses, especially SMEs, and repealing unnecessary legislation, while continuing to ensure high standards of consumer, employee, health and environmental protection is key to delivering the objectives of the strategy;

13.  Believes that it is necessary to consider a set of possible objective criteria and indicators for a definition of ‘innovative’ start-ups, SMEs and social economy enterprises that can be used as a point of reference for the adoption of related measures; calls on the Commission to propose such criteria and indicators;

14.  Stresses that there is a need to promote social economy enterprises within the internal market policies, bearing in mind that there are around 2 million social economy enterprises in the EU, accounting for approximately 10-12 % of all European businesses; stresses, moreover, that the social economy is rapidly growing, provides quality products and services, and creates high-quality jobs;

15.  Calls on the Commission to ask the REFIT platform to address barriers to innovation and put forward proposals, in addition to the proposal for the establishment of a European Innovation Council, for ways to reduce or remove them; stresses that this process must not lead to lower employment, consumer protection and environmental standards; believes that in order to ensure better regulation, existing legislation should be reviewed and, where necessary, simplified to make it fit for purpose, while all new legislation should be future-proof and digital by default and follow the ‘Think Small First’ principle;

16.  Notes that good regulation can benefit businesses and workers alike and help promote economic growth and quality employment in the single market; notes the Commission’s Better Regulation agenda including the strengthened stakeholder involvement by means of REFIT Platform for example and strengthened impact assessments; underlines the need to assess not only short-term effects but also the long-term value of legislation and the consequences of non-legislation; believes that better, more effective and simple legislation will reduce administrative burdens and boost growth and job creation while continuing to ensure high standards of consumer, employee, health and environmental protection;

17.  Considers that further development of the single market requires the elimination of barriers to trade between Member States; supports the European Declaration of Competitiveness of February 2016, in particular the commitment to regulatory simplification and burden reduction, to doing more to reduce the overall burden of EU regulation, especially on SMEs and microenterprises, and to establishing where possible burden reduction targets in specific sectors; recommends that work on establishing such burden reduction targets should commence immediately;

18.  Believes that in order to ensure the objectives of the single market and to generate growth and jobs, the EU must enhance competitiveness, along the lines set out in the Declaration of the European Council on competitiveness;

19.  Welcomes the Commission’s determination to address the lack of tax coordination within the EU, in particular the difficulties faced by SMEs as a result of the complexity of differing national VAT regulations; extends its full support to the Commission with regard to the VAT reform; calls on the Commission to consider how the new rules concerning place of supply for VAT on digital services can be amended so as to accommodate the specific needs of small and micro-businesses; calls on the Commission to assess the feasibility of further coordination and, in particular, to assess the possibility of a simplified VAT approach (for the same category of goods) in the e‑commerce sector;

20.  Supports the Commission’s efforts to ensure tax fairness in the European Union and combat aggressive tax planning and tax avoidance practices; calls on the Commission to focus on working towards a country-by-country reporting obligation for transnational corporations;

21.  Draws attention to the difficulties faced by businesses, and in particular SMEs and start-ups, in securing funding; points out that differences in external factors, such as ease of access to credit, taxation regimes and labour regulations, mean that SMEs find themselves at a disadvantage compared to others; calls on the Commission, while continuing the valuable support provided to those companies through the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and programmes such as Horizon 2020, COSME and the ESI funds, to explore ways of further facilitating access to these and other programmes and instruments, especially for micro-enterprises, for instance by reducing calls for applications to six-month periods and further simplifying the relevant procedures and increasing the visibility of European funding; welcomes the Commission’s intention to use funds from the COSME programme to fund information campaigns targeting innovative young SMEs; invites all regional and local authorities responsible for supporting companies, particularly those involved in the Enterprise Europe Network, to participate in these campaigns; considers simplification to be the key enabler in SME and start-up access to funding; calls on the Commission to make sure that crowdfunding can be done seamlessly across borders;

22.  Calls on the Commission to consider strengthening the SME Envoy Network by taking a series of actions – while avoiding further bureaucracy – to improve awareness of this tool, and its visibility, among SMEs, to strengthen the exchange between each national SME Envoy and the corresponding SME representatives, and to present the network’s activities to Parliament once a year;

23.  Points out that, despite the fact that the European Parliament adopted the directive on combating late payment in commercial transactions in February 2011, each year thousands of SMEs and start-ups across Europe go bankrupt while waiting for their invoices to be paid, including by national public administrations; calls on the Commission and the Member States to step up their efforts to facilitate the application and enforcement of the Late Payment Directive; calls, furthermore, on the Member States to consider, in the event of unsatisfactory implementation of the Late Payment Directive, forms of adequate compensation for companies owed money by a public administration, so that they are not forced to go bankrupt because of it;

24.  Appreciates the legislative initiative on business insolvency, including early restructuring and second chances, which will ensure that Member States provide a regulatory environment that accepts that failure sometimes happens and can encourage innovation, but points out that the costs and consequences of failing companies affects not only the company’s owner and shareholders, but also its creditors, its employees and taxpayers; calls on the Commission to ensure that this initiative will align insolvency proceedings across the EU and reduce the length and costs of proceedings;

25.  Regrets that the Commission did not emphasise enough the specific role of traditional manufacturing by Crafts and SMEs as an important contribution to both competitiveness and economic stability in Europe; encourages the Commission to exploit the full potential of digitalisation and innovation of the manufacturing industry, in particular for micro and small manufacturers and start-ups, as well as for less industrialised regions, in order to help reduce regional disparities and revitalise local economies; believes that stronger SMEs and Crafts policy must be put forward as one of the top priorities of all the European Institutions and Member States over the coming years;

26.  Welcomes the Commission’s Single Digital Gateway, which should build on existing Points of Single Contact (PCSs) set up under the Services Directive and connect PSCs to other similar single-market networks; calls on the Commission to explore all ways of making the best use of the Single Digital Gateway to help European start-ups to scale up across Europe and become more international in outlook by providing accurate and clear information in different languages on all procedures and formalities necessary to operate domestically or in another EU country; urges the Commission to create a single entry point for businesses and consumers to all single-market-related information, assistance and problem-solving and to the national and EU-wide procedures needed to operate cross-border in the EU; urges the Commission to ensure that they are swiftly implemented;

27.  Notes that companies, especially SMEs, are either not aware of the rules applicable in other Member States or experience difficulty in finding and understanding the information on the rules and procedures applicable to their business; calls on the Commission to interlink all the different portals, access points and information websites in a single gateway that will provide SMEs and start-ups with user-friendly information so that they can make well-informed decisions and save time and costs;

28.  Calls on the Commission to develop the Points of Single Contact from a regulatory portal into a system of fully fledged online business portals promoting regular exchange of information by and between business representatives and assisting national businesses and citizens to compete in other EU Member States;

29.  Recalls the importance of strengthening and streamlining existing single market tools for SMEs in order to simplify their cross-border expansion; urges the Commission and the Member States to place greater emphasis on streamlining and improving Product Contact Points and Points of Single Contact;

30.  Recalls the urgent need to provide consumers with an equivalent level of protection online and offline; stresses the need for all economic operators operating online and offline in the single market to take all reasonable and appropriate measures to fight counterfeiting, in order to ensure consumer protection and product safety;

31.  Emphasises that the sharing economy is growing fast and that, while changing the way that many services and assets are provided and consumed, it can steer innovation and has the potential to bring additional benefits and opportunities for companies and consumers in the single market; highlights the economic, societal and environmental benefits and challenges of the sharing economy; calls on the Commission to coordinate the efforts of Member States in finding short- or long-term legislative solutions vis-à-vis the sharing economy; calls on the Commission and the Member States to come forward with proposals to prevent abuse in the employment and taxation areas in the sharing economy;

32.  Welcomes the initiative announced by the Commission on the sharing economy, and its intention to look at businesses established in that sphere and to clarify, by means of guidance, the interaction between the provisions of existing EU law for the application and functioning of sharing economy business models; takes the view that regulatory intervention in this field should be characterised by flexibility, to enable the rules to be promptly adapted and enforced in a rapidly changing sector which calls for fast and effective adjustments; stresses that existing consumer protection standards must also be applied and enforced in the digital economy; calls on the Commission to ensure the best possible conditions for the sharing economy to develop and thrive;

33.  Stresses that the new security features the sharing economy provides, such as security of payments, geolocalisation and insurance, empower consumers and therefore call for an assessment of where ex-post remedies might be more effective than ex-ante regulations; calls on the Commission to further promote public-private cooperation in order to address the existing barriers in the sharing economy, in particular to the increased use of digital identity to build consumer trust in online transactions, to the development of digital solutions for the payment of taxes, to providing cross-border insurance schemes, and to the modernisation of employment legislation;

34.  Considers that, in the sharing economy, the development of new business models, innovative services and temporary use of assets should be encouraged, but based, where possible, on similar rules for similar services, with a view to safeguarding the high quality of services, independently of how their access and provision is organised and to ensuring a level playing field and consumer safety while avoiding fragmentation that would hamper the development of new business models; believes that only a single‑market approach can be taken with regard to the sharing economy, as fragmentation of the single market through local or national rules prevents European companies in the sharing economy from scaling up at European level;

35.  Draws attention to the important role of EU technical standards for innovation, competitiveness and progress in the single market; believes that timely action needs to be taken to develop high EU standards for quality, interoperability and safety in furtherance of EU industrial policy, and that those standards should also be promoted at international level; calls on the Commission to support and reinforce EU standards, as already provided for by Regulation (EU) No 1025/2012, and to make the framework for standardisation more efficient and fit for purpose, including by exploiting the opportunities offered by international trade negotiations; stresses that standards should be set in a market-driven, open, inclusive and competitive way in order to be easily implementable by SMEs, and to avoid the risk of closed value chains, while nonetheless avoiding delays in their publication;

36.  Underlines the important role played by the standardisation system in the free circulation of products and, increasingly, services; notes that the voluntary use of standards has contributed between 0,3 and 1 % to GDP in Europe, and positively benefits labour productivity;

37.  Recalls that the vast majority of standards are developed in response to an industry-identified need, following a bottom-up approach in order to ensure the market relevance of the standards; supports the commitment contained in the Single Market Strategy to ensuring that Europe remains at the forefront of standards development globally; encourages standardisation which is compatible with an international approach either through the development of global international standards or the recognition of equivalent international standards where appropriate; notes the intention to establish a framework and priorities for standardisation activities under a Joint Initiative for Standardisation; calls on the Commission to ensure that the Joint Initiative remains driven by such a bottom-up, industry-identified need and thus prioritises and delivers only those standards which respond to identified needs and demonstrate market relevance, and does not lead to unnecessary standards being pursued or requirements inconsistent with other related standards being established;

38.  Notes that the proposal for a Joint Initiative on European Standardisation will build on the Independent Review of the European Standardisation System, and supports its objective for the European standardisation community to develop actions that will improve the system as a whole, including recommendations regarding inclusiveness and support for the competitiveness of European business;

39.  Calls on the Commission in its engagement with European Standardisation Organisations (ESOs) to support ESOs and their national counterparts in their efforts to improve the involvement of SMEs in both the standard-setting process itself and the take-up of standards once set; further encourages the Commission to work closely with ESOs, National Standards Bodies and others to improve the transparency of the standards process, in implementation of commitments contained in the work programme for European standardisation for 2016 and the underlying Regulation;

40.  Considers that the Joint Initiatives should focus on continued improvements in working practices, in particular through the establishment of processes to review the composition of technical committees, and measures to promote an openness and inclusiveness that will allow a broad range of stakeholders to contribute to discussions in technical committees;

41.  Considers that a more transparent and accessible appeals mechanism would build trust and improve standard-setting processes; believes that where a standard has been requested by the Commission following the adoption of legislation by the European Union, Parliament’s relevant committee may be able to play a role in public scrutiny and debate as part of this process, in advance of a decision for formal objection if appropriate; emphasises that when determining standardisation requests to be given to standardisation bodies, principles of proportionality and a risk-based approach should be included;

42.  Believes that increasing public awareness of proposed standards in draft form prior to final approval may increase accountability and transparency and provide for a more robust process, in line with the existing best practices found among the European standardisation community;

43.  Invites the Commission to report to Parliament by the end of 2016 on its implementation of the Joint Initiative on European standardisation, and the progress that has been achieved in cooperation with the European standardisation community on the recommendations contained in the 2016 annual Union work programme;

44.  Calls on the Commission, being responsible for competition in the EU internal market, to ensure, in cooperation with national surveillance authorities, a level playing field among competitors operating on the market;

45.  Welcomes the recent initiatives for more efficient and transparent public procurement through better use of procurement data and greater voluntary assessment of procurement in certain large-scale infrastructure projects; calls on the Member States to cooperate with the Commission in implementing these initiatives;

46.  Hopes that the Commission will continue the process of reforming the public procurement system, which it began with the 2014 directives, moving towards an increasingly qualified demand in the area of procurement, with the aim of rewarding technological innovation and energy efficiency;

47.  Notes that the new 2014 public procurement regime is less cumbersome, and includes more flexible rules to better serve other public sector policies as well as Member States and local specialist businesses; points out that there are still significant inefficiencies in public procurement across Member States that limit cross-border expansion and growth in domestic markets;

48.  Welcomes, as a matter of principle, the initiatives announced by the Commission to increase transparency, efficiency and accountability in public procurement; stresses, however, that the implementation and application of new EU directives should take precedence over the introduction of new instruments such as the contract register; stresses in this connection that possible data analysis tools must not lead to new or additional reporting requirements; recalls that an ex-ante evaluation mechanism should be purely voluntary for large infrastructure projects;

49.  Underlines the need for a fully electronic public procurement system; highlights the need for fast and comprehensive implementation of the Public Procurement Directive in its entirety; highlights the need for wider use of e-procurement to open the markets for SMEs;

50.  Underlines the importance of the unitary patent; supports the Commission’s intention to eliminate uncertainties as to how the unitary patent will coexist with national and supplementary protection certificates (SPCs), as well as the possible creation of a unitary SPC, whilst keeping in mind public health and patients’ interests;

51.  Urges the Commission to introduce and implement before 2019 an SPC manufacturing waiver to boost the competitiveness of the European Generics and Biosimilar Industry in a global environment, as well as to maintain and create additional jobs and growth in the EU, without undermining the market exclusivity granted under the SPC regime in protected markets; believes that such provisions could have a positive impact on access to high-quality medicines in developing and least developed countries and help to avoid the outsourcing of production;

52.  Calls for measures to facilitate access to the patent system in Europe for all micro-enterprises and SMEs and start-ups that wish to use the European patent with unitary effect in innovating their products and processes, including by cutting application and renewal fees and providing translation assistance; emphasises the importance of both standard-essential patents (SEPs) and innovative open licensing solutions which sometimes are better suited to supporting innovation; stresses the importance of patent licensing agreements, within the restraints of EU competition law, based on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms in order to preserve R&D and standardisation incentives, foster innovation and ensure fair licensing conditions;

53.  Calls on the Commission to present without delay a legislative proposal for the establishment of a single European system for the protection of geographical indications for non-agricultural products in the EU, as already called for by Parliament, with the aim of establishing a single European system and thus putting an end to an inadequate and highly fragmented situation in Europe, and offering many and varied positive effects for citizens, consumers, producers and the whole European economic and social fabric; stresses that such an instrument would explicitly highlight the added value of many local products, with obvious benefits for the producers and regions concerned and in terms of consumer awareness;

54.  Notes that the full potential of public-private partnerships (PPP) has not yet been harnessed in the majority of EU Member States; calls for the harmonisation of Member State framework rules on PPP, the dissemination of best practices and the promotion of this model;

55.  Calls on Member States to set up structures to advise and assist cross-border workers with regard to the economic and social consequences of working in another Member State;

56.  Notes that the deepening of the single market and the digital single market can bring new opportunities and challenges and will raise questions in terms of skills, new forms of employment, financial structures, social protection, as well as health and safety at work, all of which will have to be addressed and must bring benefits to workers, businesses and consumers alike;

57.  Regrets that the strategy does not devote particular attention to skills mismatches, which remains a barrier to growth in the single market; notes with concern that between 40 %- 47 % of the population in the EU is insufficiently digitally skilled and that the demand for digitally skilled employees is growing by 4 % per year while public expenditure on education has seen a 3,2 % decrease since 2010, which poses a threat to the EU’s competitive position in the medium term and to the employability of its labour force; encourages Member States to invest in digital education and skills;

58.  Notes the aims of the labour mobility package to contribute to a deeper and fairer single market; stresses however the importance of ensuring that measures contained in this package are proportionate and take into account the consequences of large amounts of mobility to particular regions;

59.  Highlights the Commission’s support for dual education systems which in addition to facilitating personal development can help tailor the skills and qualifications of European workers more closely to the real needs of the labour market; stresses the importance of ensuring that the strategy does not in any way undermine dual education systems while ensuring the quality of apprenticeships and in particular employment protection; underlines the important role of social partners in the development of dual education systems; believes that while a dual education system used in one Member State cannot be simply copied by another Member State there should be a European focus on the strong correlation between dual education and youth employment;

60.  Supports measures in favour of closing the gaps in EU anti-discrimination legislation in employment especially with regard to people with disabilities; supports, in addition, the implementation without delay of Council Directive 2000/78/EC on equal treatment in employment and occupation;

61.  Welcomes the establishment of a platform for combating undeclared work and encourages Member States and social partners in particular to engage fully with that platform so that more effective action may be taken against undeclared work and bogus self-employment;

62.  Insists that in order to harness the opportunity arising from the digitalisation of jobs, there is a need to create secure flexible working time arrangements, stable working conditions, social protection and to facilitate ‘smart working’ to improve productivity and work-life balance; stresses the importance of rolling out digital infrastructure in rural areas in this regard in order to take advantage of the wide range of opportunities offered by the digital agenda, for example teleworking;

63.  Highlights the importance of strong and independent social partners and effective social dialogue; emphasises the need to involve the social partners where appropriate in discussions on possible national reforms of regulated professions;

64.  Stresses the importance of having a social dialogue about the opportunities and changes that a single market brings as regards employment;

A deeper single market

65.  Calls on the Commission to deepen its work on enforcements; points out that many measures have already been adopted but are not yet properly enforced, thus undermining the level playing field in the single market; points out, furthermore, that according to data provided by the Commission in mid-2015, around 1 090 infringement proceedings were pending in the area of the single market; calls on the Commission, with a view to improved transposition, application and enforcement of single market legislation, to ensure that administrative coordination, cooperation and enforcement are prioritised at all levels (EU, and between Member States and national, local and regional authorities) by taking well-targeted enforcement actions based on transparent, objective criteria, ensuring that the most economically significant cases of unjustified or disproportionate barriers are addressed; believes that with regard to national measures or implementation early intervention may be more effective and better results achieved than through infringement procedures; stresses, nevertheless, that if the early intervention procedure does not give results, the Commission must use all available measures, including infringement procedures, to ensure full implementation of legislation on the single market;

66.  Welcomes the intention in the strategy to create a compliance culture and continued zero tolerance of infringements of single market regulations; calls on the Commission and Members States to explore whether the Commission’s powers under the infringement procedures should not be aligned with those it has under competition policy;

67.  Calls on the Commission to further support the Member States in developing a strong culture of compliance and enforcement, including promoting and broadening the Internal Market Information System (IMI), developing implementation plans for new major legislation, organising compliance dialogues with Member States and training courses for national public servants in charge of enforcement, and fostering more effective coordination between national regulators; calls on the Member States to fully commit to implementing and enforcing EU legislation and applying the mutual recognition principle; stresses that correct enforcement and better regulation are essential, given the fragmentation of the single market, which restricts economic activity and consumer choice, and should cover all business sectors and apply to existing and future legislation;

68.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to analyse unnecessary restrictions within the single market that are not justified by overriding reasons relating to the public interest, to bring forward ideas on how to overcome these challenges where necessary and to report on this in 2017;

69.  Asks Member States to transpose internal market rules in a coherent and consistent way and to implement fully and correctly the internal market rules and legislation; stresses the fact that requirements for extra tests and registrations, the non-recognition of certificates and standards, territorial supply constraints and similar measures create extra costs for consumers and retailers, thereby depriving European citizens of the full benefits of the single market; calls also on the Commission, with the aim of ensuring better governance, to operate an adequate policy towards those Member States that fail to apply internal market rules properly and to do so, where appropriate, by means of infringement procedures and by speeding up those procedures using a fast-track approach;

70.  Notes that consistent uniform application and proper enforcement of EU rules combined with regular monitoring and evaluation on the basis of qualitative and quantitative indicators, benchmarking and sharing of best practices is urgently needed to achieve more homogeneous implementation of existing single market legislation; recalls, therefore, the need to fully and thoroughly transpose and implement European rules concerning the functioning of the single market in all Member States;

71.  Calls on the Commission to strengthen its efforts to identify possible infringements of EU law by Member States at a very early stage and to take a firm stance against any legislative measures, adopted or pending in national parliaments, that could increase the fragmentation of the single market;

72.  Stresses that the commitment and willingness of the Member States to properly implement and apply EU law is essential to making the single market successful; calls on the Member States to remove unjustified and disproportionate barriers to the single market and to refrain from discriminatory and protectionist measures to foster jobs, growth and competitiveness;

73.  Notes that Member States play a crucial role in the good governance and proper functioning of the single market, and that they therefore need to jointly exercise proactive ownership and management of the single market, generating a new political impetus through consolidated state-of-health reports on the single market, regular and thematic discussions at Competitiveness Council meetings, dedicated annual European Council meetings and the inclusion of the single market as a pillar of governance in the European Semester;

74.  Reiterates that the EU could create its own set of scientifically based, independent indicators on the degree of integration of the single market, to be published as part of the Annual Growth Survey, and calls for the adoption of a strategic paper by the presidents of certain EU bodies – a ‘Five-Presidents Report’ – to map the road to a genuine single market;

75.  Stresses that Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee must strengthen its ties with national parliaments in order to coordinate and address issues in relation to the transposition and implementation of single market rules;

76.  Emphasises that it is necessary to reinforce the SOLVIT network, particularly by extending the interaction between SOLVIT, CHAP, EU Pilot and Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) to streamline the broader framework of EU complaint procedures, and to raise awareness of the network amongst citizens and SMEs and of its practical role in solving interpretation problems relating to the single market; considers that data on issues raised through the SOLVIT network should be taken into account when the Commission considers how to identify priorities for enforcement action; calls on the Commission to strengthen its efforts to help Member States solve the most problematic cases; calls on the Member States to appropriately equip and adequately position their national SOLVIT centres in order for them to fulfil their role;

77.  Emphasises that transparency of national rules is a vital tool in enabling cross-border trade within the single market and helps identify non-tariff barriers; encourages the Member States to make their rules more easily available online and in more than one language, in the interests of increasing trade, which will be of benefit to all;

78.  Notes the importance of promoting mobility through training, apprenticeships, skills and employability via programmes such as Erasmus+ and EURES, which provide opportunities for millions of EU workers to gain useful experience;

79.  Regrets that the mutual recognition principle is not applied properly by many Member States; anticipates the Commission proposal from this point of view, as part of strengthening the single market in goods, as it will improve mutual recognition through action to increase awareness, as well as ensuring better application and enforcement of the mutual recognition principle through the revision of the Mutual Recognition Regulation, with a view, among other things, to improving instruments for resolving disputes in connection with inadequate implementation or application of the mutual recognition principle; emphasises that if the mutual recognition principle was applied properly by the competent authorities throughout the EU, businesses would be able to focus strictly on doing business and boosting the EU’s growth and not on striving to overcome various hurdles imposed by non-respect of mutual recognition by Member States;

80.  Considers also that the Commission should be more proactive in identifying sectors with high potential for cross-border trade and digitalisation where the mutual recognition principle could apply;

81.  Calls on the Commission to clarify how the proposed market information tools would work and the legal base for such tools;

82.  Reiterates its call for the rapid adoption of the Product Safety and Market Surveillance Package by the Council and calls on the Commission to fully engage in its role as a solution facilitator in this context; underlines the importance of providing relevant information on retail products, in particular the indication of country of origin, which is crucial to protecting consumers and strengthening the fight against counterfeiting;

83.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to tighten up the penalties for counterfeiting and to make sure that EU legislation in this area is fully enforced;

84.  Stresses that regulatory differences between Member States regarding differing labelling or quality requirements create unnecessary obstacles to the activities of suppliers of goods and to consumer protection; underlines the added value of eco‑labelling; calls on the Commission to assess which labels are essential and which are not essential for ensuring consumer information and to consider introducing a mandatory scheme for the provision of key information for hand-made and industrial products, as has been considered, for example, in the furniture sector at EU level in order to provide consumers with key information and ensure equal product quality in the different Member States; considers that such an initiative would be beneficial for consumers, industries and trade operators, ensuring transparency, adequate recognition of European products and harmonised rules for operators in the single market;

85.  Emphasises, in respect of the single market in services, that there is a clear need to improve the cross-border provision of services, while taking care not to encourage social dumping; urges the Member States to ensure proper and more effective application of the Services Directive, while avoiding the practice of gold-plating; welcomes the Commission proposal to improve notification under the Services Directive as the current procedure is inefficient and not transparent; believes that notification should occur earlier in the legislative process to allow for timely feedback from stakeholders and Member States and to minimise delays in the adoption of new legislation; agrees to extend the notification procedure provided for in Directive (EU) 2015/1535 to all the sectors not covered by that directive; rejects any suggestion that the scope of the Services Directive should be extended; calls on the Commission to address the burdens on the fractured banking sector in Europe, which create difficulties for non-residents, especially SMEs, in opening a bank account in another Member State;

86.  Calls on the Commission to work towards a simplified and standardised form in the procedure for the cross-border provision of services in order to integrate SMEs more effectively into the internal market;

87.  Points out that the requirements for proportionate regulation are clearly set out in Article 16, paragraph 1, of the Services Directive and the jurisprudence of the ECJ; recalls that the fact that one Member State imposes less strict rules than another does not mean that the latter’s rules are disproportionate and hence incompatible with European Union law; reiterates that rules that undermine, hinder or make unattractive cross-border services are only compatible with the requirements of the internal market if they serve overriding reasons of public interest and are really suitable for this purpose, and do not adversely affect the freedom to provide services more than is necessary to protect the public interest issue they are seeking to serve;

88.  Emphasises the need to ensure consistent proportionality assessment of regulatory requirements and restrictions applicable to services; notes the Commission proposal to introduce a services passport to facilitate, in key economic sectors such as business services, the development and mobility of companies across the single market; considers that this initiative should be aimed at simplifying administrative procedures for service providers wanting to operate cross-border and authorities, and at addressing obstacles of a regulatory nature that discourage these companies from entering a market in another Member State; calls for the possible services passport to takes its place among the series of horizontal tools aimed at supporting internal market legislation, such as the Internal Market Information System (IMI) or the Points of Single Contact, which have been provided for by the Services Directive as a single administrative interface for dealing with all the necessary administrative procedures surrounding cross‑border services activities; stresses that the introduction of a service passport must not lead to a situation in which the case-law developed by the ECJ on overriding reasons of public interest which can legitimise rules restricting the cross-border movement of services is weakened or repealed; underlines, however, that a services passport could be superfluous if the Services Directive were properly implemented and enforced; stresses that this must not be accompanied by the introduction of the country-of-origin principle;

89.  Welcomes the strong focus on the role of services in the single market and making sure that professionals and service companies, especially retailers, are not locked into their national markets; stresses that the further enlargement of the professional and services passports schemes will be central to avoiding the unnecessary red tape between Member States that holds back our citizens from working and trading across borders;

90.  Reiterates the importance of removing barriers (including language and administrative barriers and those relating to lack of information) which restrict the business potential of online cross-border trade and undermine consumers’ confidence in the single market; emphasises the importance of eliminating operational restrictions on the exercise of retail activity such as the regulation of shop opening hours, retail-specific and selective taxes and disproportionate requesting of information from companies;

91.  Acknowledges the competence of local authorities with regard to urban planning; stresses, however, that urban planning should not be used as a pretext to circumvent the right of free establishment; recalls, in this connection, the importance of proper enforcement of the Services Directive; urges the Member States to remove barriers to free movement and to open up their markets in order to stimulate competitiveness and promote diversity among shops, which is essential if shopping areas – in particular in town and city centres – are to remain attractive;

92.  Underlines that the retail and wholesale sector is the largest business sector in Europe; considers that reducing unnecessary regulatory administrative and practical barriers to retail businesses is a priority;

93.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to give the highest political prominence to the retail sector as a pillar of the single market, including the digital single market, and to lift regulatory, administrative and practical obstacles hampering the start-up of businesses, development and continuity and making it difficult for retailers to benefit fully from the internal market; considers that retail market legislation should be evidence-based, taking into account the needs of the sector;

94.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to analyse unnecessary restrictions on retail establishment in the single market that are not justified by overriding reasons relating to the public interest, to bring forward proposals to overcome these problems where necessary, and to report on that in spring 2017;

95.  Takes the view, in respect of the professional services sector, that different approaches to regulation do not per se constitute an obstacle to the deepening of the internal market; stresses that rules on access to, and the exercise of, professions may be necessary for the protection of public interest and consumer protection and that their evaluation makes sense only in the national context;

96.  Agrees with the Commission that many of the Member States’ regulations on access to, and exercise of, regulated professions are disproportionate to requirements and create barriers restricting access to those professions;

97.  Considers that cross-border provision of services on a temporary basis, including professional services, should be considered a key element for the internal market as they create jobs and provide high-quality products and services to EU citizens; therefore considers the periodic guidance to be a useful instrument for the Member States, taking into account the different economic, geographical and social backgrounds of the Member States;

98.  Welcomes the renewed focus, under the recent Single Market strategy, on regulated and liberal professions in Europe, which represent an important factor for growth and employment in the single market; calls on the Commission to propose specific measures to implement the recommendations of the Commission Working Group on ‘Action Lines for Bolstering the Business of Liberal Professions’;

99.  Welcomes the Commission’s legislative proposal to address regulatory barriers restricting access to certain professions as an important step in opening up the single market and fostering job growth;

100.  Supports the Commission’s initiative to review the regulated professions, but points out that any such exercise should maintain high quality standards for employment and services, sound qualifications and consumer safety;

101.  Believes that without competitive professional and business services across the EU businesses may struggle to remain competitive and maintain and create new jobs;

102.  Highlights the fact that inefficient delivery services, especially as regards final-mile delivery, constitute a major barrier to selling across borders in the EU; stresses that accessible, affordable, efficient and high-quality delivery services are an essential prerequisite for a thriving single market; calls on the Commission to come up with a comprehensive action plan for parcel delivery and to define the goals to be achieved in this market by the end of 2020; calls on the Commission to put more emphasis on dismantling the barriers operators encounter in cross-border delivery;

103.  Calls on the Commission to work with the Member States to simplify and speed up procedures for the recognition of professional qualifications, including by facilitating and encouraging the introduction of Common Training Frameworks while fully respecting the principle of subsidiarity; calls on the Commission and the Member States to boost ICT and STEM training and education in order to equip both the current and the future workforce with the relevant e-skills;

104.  Welcomes the fact that the strategy refers to the high level of unemployment across the EU, but regrets that it does not present specific steps and measures that can help people find employment, such as improving education and training standards, meeting lifelong learning targets, and tackling skills mismatches and qualifications of workers and professionals; considers that it is self-evident that the single market is changing rapidly as a result of digitalisation of the different industries and that the new jobs will require a different set of skills and qualifications;

105.  Disapproves of the fact that the Commission did not adopt any specific measures in the Single Market Strategy to address the needs of people and consumers with disabilities, elderly people and people living in rural and remote areas;

106.  Considers the principle of equal pay for equal work at the same place as advocated by Commission President Juncker to be an important tool with which to fight market distortions;

A fairer single market

107.  Emphasises that the genuine single market should provide benefits and protection for citizens, consumers and businesses in terms of better quality, greater variety, reasonable prices, and safety of goods and services; stresses that unjustified discrimination against service recipients (consumers and entrepreneurs) on the basis of nationality or place of residence that is not based on any objective and verifiable criteria, in both online and offline environments, is not acceptable within the single market; considers, however, that an obligation for companies to sell to the whole EU is not feasible;

108.  Calls on the Commission to press ahead with a legislative proposal to address unjustified geo-blocking and other unjustified forms of discrimination by market operators; calls on the Commission to lay down effective criteria for assessing the unjustified character of geo-blocking; stresses that any such proposal must respect the basic principle of freedom of trade; stresses also that the Commission’s proposal should take into account the principle of proportionality, in particular for small and micro businesses; notes that market operators sometimes need to engage in market selection in order to function within the market conditions set;

109.  Agrees that when purchasing goods and services in the single market, consumers need transparent information and a set of modern and solid rights to protect their interests; is of the opinion that any review, merger or consolidation of consumer law directives should provide for a truly high level of consumer protection and enforceable rights, recognising existing best practices from national legislation;

110.  Calls on the Commission to analyse the current legal uncertainties affecting consumers and if necessary to resolve them through clarification and supplements to the legal framework of consumers’ rights; reiterates its commitment to the principle of flexible harmonisation for any proposed EU legislation concerning consumers and that full harmonisation is only applied when it sets a very high level of consumer protection and provides clear benefits for consumers;

111.  Emphasises that social economy enterprises represent a diverse range of business models, which is key to a highly competitive and fairer single market; calls on the Commission to mainstream the social economy within its single market policies and to develop a European Action Plan for social economy enterprises in order to unlock the full potential for sustainable and inclusive growth;

Conclusions

112.  Calls on the Commission to submit the planned legislative proposals and initiatives to the legislators rapidly – taking into account the abovementioned proposals – following the appropriate stakeholder consultations and impact assessment, so as to ensure that they can be adopted in a timely manner;

o
o   o

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

(1) OJ L 304, 22.11.2011, p. 64.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0069.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0580.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0009.
(5) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0012.

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