Index 
Texts adopted
Tuesday, 13 September 2016 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Cohesion Policy and Research and Innovation Strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3)
 European territorial cooperation – best practices and innovative measures
 Inquiry into emission measurements in the automotive sector
 Request for the waiver of immunity of István Ujhelyi
 Request for the defence of the privileges and immunities of Rosario Crocetta
 Request for the waiver of immunity of Sotirios Zarianopoulos
 EU-China Agreement relating to the accession of Croatia ***
 EU-Uruguay Agreement relating to the accession of Croatia ***
 Nomination of a Member of the Court of Auditors – Lazaros Stavrou Lazarou
 Nomination of a Member of the Court of Auditors – João Alexandre Tavares Gonçalves de Figueiredo
 Nomination of a Member of the Court of Auditors – Leo Brincat
 Statistics relating to external trade with non-member countries (delegated and implementing powers) ***II
 Statistics on natural gas and electricity prices ***I
 Towards a New Energy Market Design
 EU strategy on heating and cooling
 Enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs
 EU strategy for the Alpine region
 EU Trust Fund for Africa: implications for development and humanitarian aid
 Creating labour market conditions favourable for work-life balance

Cohesion Policy and Research and Innovation Strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3)
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European Parliament resolution of 13 September 2016 on Cohesion Policy and Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) (2015/2278(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0320A8-0159/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and in particular Articles 4, 162 and 174-178 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006(1) (hereinafter ‘the Common Provisions Regulation’),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1301/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the European Regional Development Fund and on specific provisions concerning the Investment for growth and jobs goal and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006(2),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1304/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the European Social Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1081/2006(3),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1299/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on specific provisions for the support from the European Regional Development Fund to the European territorial cooperation goal(4),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1302/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 amending Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006 on a European grouping of territorial cooperation (EGTC) as regards the clarification, simplification and improvement of the establishment and functioning of such groupings(5),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1300/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the Cohesion Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1084/2006(6),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005(7),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 January 2014 on smart specialisation: networking excellence for a sound Cohesion Policy(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 September 2015 on ‘Investment for jobs and growth: promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Union’(9),

–  having regard to the Commission brochure of 22 February 2016 entitled ‘Investment Plan for Europe: new guidelines on combining European Structural and Investment Funds with the EFSI’,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 10 June 2014 entitled ‘Research and innovation as sources of renewed growth’ (COM(2014)0339),

–  having regard to the Commission’s sixth report on economic, social and territorial cohesion, entitled ‘Investment for jobs and growth’, of 23 July 2014,

–  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 14 December 2015 entitled ‘Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds’ (COM(2015)0639),

–  having regard to the guide published by the Commission in 2014 entitled ‘Enabling synergies between European Structural and Investment Funds, Horizon 2020 and other research, innovation and competitiveness-related Union programmes’,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 6 October 2010 entitled ‘Regional Policy contributing to smart growth in Europe 2020’ (COM(2010)0553),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 13 September 2013 entitled ‘Measuring innovation output in Europe: towards a new indicator’ (COM(2013)0624),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 4 May 2012 entitled ‘Active ageing: innovation – smart health – better lives’(10),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 30 May 2013 entitled ‘Closing the Innovation Divide’(11),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 7 October 2014 entitled ‘Measures to support the creation of high-tech start-up ecosystems’(12),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document published in 2014 containing guidance for policy-makers and implementing bodies on ‘Enabling synergies between European Structural and Investment Funds, Horizon 2020 and other research, innovation and competitiveness-related Union programmes’ (SWD(2014)0205),

–  having regard to the pilot project ‘Cohesion Policy and the synergies with the research and development funds: the stairway to excellence’,

–  having regard to the European Parliament Preparatory Action in the Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (REMTh),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development (A8-0159/2016),

A.  whereas in these times of economic, financial and social crisis the EU must step up its efforts to create smart, sustainable and inclusive economic growth;

B.  whereas strengthening research, technological development and innovation (R&D&I) is one of the investment priorities under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for 2014-2020; whereas support for innovation varies widely across the EU and within Member States, especially for the exploitation of knowledge and technology in promoting innovation;

C.  whereas for the 2014-2020 programming period, Member States are required, for the first time, to develop national and/or regional smart specialisation strategies by involving national and regional managing authorities and stakeholders, such as higher education institutions, industry and social partners, in an entrepreneurial discovery process;

D.  whereas smart specialisation combines and brings together different policies, including those for entrepreneurship, education and innovation, in order for regions to identify and select priority areas for their development and related investments by focusing on their strengths and comparative advantages;

E.  whereas RIS3 should help make the European economy more competitive, develop European added value in innovation, create more and better high-quality jobs, and take on board a wide range of new experiences; whereas they should contribute to the dissemination of good practices and to the development of a new entrepreneurial spirit, combined with a functioning digital single market and smart specialisation that could lead to new skills, knowledge, innovation and employment in order to better exploit research results and take advantage of all forms of innovation;

F.  whereas the development of a RIS3 strategy involves a process of developing multi-stakeholder governance mechanisms identifying the place-based areas of greatest strategic potential, setting strategic priorities and designing efficient support service for enterprises in order to maximise the knowledge-based development potential of a region;

G.   whereas RIS3 contribute to the efficient use of EU funds, affect all Member States and regions of the Union, and unlock the potential of all regions, thus helping the EU to fight its innovation gaps both internally and externally in order to become more competitive at the global level;

H.   whereas the timely and successful development of RIS3 in the Member States is to an important degree dependent on their increasing administrative capacity for programming, budgeting, implementation and evaluation within the policy framework with the aim of enhancing private investment in R&D&I; whereas this development has to take account of the fact that the initial assessments of smart specialisation strategies have delivered a mixed picture, notably regarding the choice of priorities, which is often seen as too generic or insufficiently connected to regional economic and innovation structures, meaning that smart specialisation strategies need to improve in this regard;

I.  whereas the RIS3 platform assists bottom-up and peer-to-peer exchanges and transfers of knowledge among participating regions; whereas this process needs to be prioritised with respect to the future design and practice of smart specialisation initiatives;

The central role of RIS3 in the contribution of cohesion policy to the Europe 2020 goals

1.  Underlines that smart specialisation strategies support thematic concentration and strategic programming of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) and lead to increased performance orientation on the ground, thus contributing to the achievement of the Europe 2020 objectives; emphasises that the aim of these strategies is to create knowledge-based, sustainable growth, balanced development and high quality jobs in all regions, not only in well-developed areas but also in regions in transition as well as in less developed, rural and island regions;

2.  Requests that the new ex ante conditionality provisions for the attribution of ESI Funds be fully respected in order to make smart specialisation strategies work;

3.  Calls on all actors involved to develop RIS3 on the basis of analyses of each region’s existing capabilities, assets and competences, and to focus on entrepreneurial discovery in order to detect emerging niches or comparative advantages for smart specialisation, avoid forced and artificial overspecialisation, and enhance a stronger partnership between public and private sectors while always avoiding possible conflicts of interest between the private and public sectors;

4.  Supports a broad definition of innovation as signifying the transformation of an idea into a new or improved product or service introduced on the market, into a new or improved operational process used in industry and commerce, or into a new approach to a social service;

5.   Asks regions to design schemes for innovative support services aimed at complementing or replacing existing support services, in order to allow a given region to achieve its full competitive potential, help enterprises absorb new knowledge and technology in order to remain competitive, and ensure that research and innovation resources achieve critical mass;

6.  Asks the Commission to align the general block exemption regulation in order to allow the Seal of Excellence conditions to be offered by the ESI Funds;

7.  Asks national authorities to invest in regional intelligence and big data mining so that they are enabled both to demonstrate their unique competitive advantage and to understand trends relating to regional enterprises in the global value chain;

8.  Is of the opinion that the S3 platform, established by the Commission’s DG REGIO and located at the JRC in Seville, plays a key role in advising regions and setting benchmarks on their innovation strategies, helping lagging regions and enhancing multi-level governance and synergies between regions, by providing information, methodologies, expertise and advice to national and regional policymakers; stresses that this platform should make a continuous effort to update its database, taking into account the local needs, specificities and priorities of regions and cities;

9.  Takes the view that the S3 platform in Seville should pay particular attention to lagging regions and, in particular, should help them to shape and direct their strategies;

10.  Believes that smaller regions have more problems in developing and implementing strategies, and calls for the development of proposals to increase support for such regions in order to enhance the implementation of the S3 strategies and the exchange of best practices;

11.  Welcomes the Commission's latest focus on lagging regions in the form of a recent pilot project relating to the European Parliament Preparatory Action in the Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, scaled up to regions from eight Member States until the end of 2017;

12.  Welcomes the continuation of the Regional Innovation Monitor Plus platform (RIM Plus), established by the Commission’s DG Growth, the creation of a Research Innovation Observatory (RIO), established by DG RTD, and the different policy-related Knowledge Centres at DG JRC (EC), providing comprehensive data, indicators and guidelines to national and regional S3 stakeholders;

13.  Looks forward to future details regarding the European Innovation Council (EIC), aimed at creating a 'one-stop shop' for innovators and, therefore, a bridge between the achievements of science and the needs of businesses and public authorities in Europe;

14.  Recalls that public funding remains a powerful engine for innovation; calls on the authorities concerned to exercise caution as regards putting a stronger focus on financial instruments, since innovation should not only be focused on grants but should also be able to identify alternative means of finance such as loans and guarantees and to strike a balance between grants and alternative means of funding (public and private financing);

Multi-level governance and its capacity

15.  Regrets that some Member States have decided to opt for national RIS3 without giving local and regional authorities a chance to develop their own views, thus undermining the bottom-up entrepreneurial discovery process that RIS3 should enshrine; underlines the importance of a regional approach, as the implementation of RIS3 can only be successful if based on local and regional assets; calls on the Member States concerned to reconsider replacing the national RIS3 by regional ones in order not to miss out on growth opportunities, and calls for a better coordination between national and regional S3 strategies wherever appropriate, in order to adapt them if necessary to future needs and requirements for sustainable development, in particular in the food and energy sectors; regrets that the partnership principle enshrined in Article 5 of the CPR has not always been respected; calls on Member States to respect the partnership principle at all stages of the preparation and implementation of the Partnership Agreement and Operational Programmes;

16.  Believes that the quality of cooperation between government and the relevant actors in the regions will have a decisive influence on the RIS3 strategy, and will markedly reduce the risk of wrong priority choices being made; underscores, in this connection, the importance of consulting with businesses, and with SMEs in particular, since a ‘vision of innovation’ will only be successful if businesses have the appropriate potential to put it into practice;

17.  Highlights the importance of better coordination between all levels of governance in order to foster a bottom-up vision of the regional strategies, including all smart specialisation authorities and stakeholders, as well as experts, civil society and end-users, in order to break down ‘silo mentalities’; points out that the failure to adapt relevant Member State regulations is creating barriers to the implementation of investments in research and innovation;

18.  Points out the limited role that civil society has played in RIS3 strategies, and calls for the enhancement of its participation through platforms and collaborative partnerships, as this can help better shape strategies, enhance cooperation with society and lead to better governance;

19.  Highlights the importance of close coordination throughout the whole implementation phase between the operational programmes and the RIS3;

20.  Calls for closer dialogue and cooperation between EU institutions (the EP and the Council) as well as at executive level (the Commission and the national implementing authorities), in order to achieve a favourable framework for innovation and research and a reinforcement of the RIS 3 implementation in the context of the upcoming review of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014;

21.  Calls on the Commission and the other bodies concerned to provide additional assistance to those Member States in need of it for the implementation of the RIS3 strategy;

22.  Calls for continued efforts to encourage a change of mentality and to promote innovative policy approaches to boost intra-regional, inter-regional, extra-regional, cross-border and transnational collaboration, including through macro-regions, by means of existing tools such as INTERREG, in order to continue boosting European added value in the strategies;

23.  Recalls the importance of stressing social innovation, since it can help establish new business models and cultures, thus creating an appropriate environment for the implementation of the circular economy;

24.  Calls on the Commission to come forward with an integrated communication on the added value of the RIS3 strategies and their implementation in the operational programmes, to be followed by proposals for further action in the 7th Cohesion report;

25.  Regrets the lack of interregional cooperation on the basis of the smart specialisation theme; notes that the Common Strategic Framework offers the possibility of using up to 15 % of the funds under the Common Provisions Regulation (the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund) for such cooperation outside one’s own region; emphasises that the Article 16.3 report 'Investing in jobs and growth - maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds' shows that these possibilities have been under-used until now; calls on Member States and regional authorities to make increased use of the possibilities offered;

26.  Calls for the development of flexibility and coordination mechanisms to link the results of the RIS3 process to the implementation of Horizon 2020 and other programmes; encourages regions to engage in forms of transnational cooperation such as the Vanguard Initiative, the Seal of Excellence, the Knowledge Exchange Platform (KEP), the S3 platforms, the Stairway to Excellence, and the regional innovation schemes for the co-location centres of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT); calls for facilitation of the development of strategic cluster partnerships, with a view to boosting investment, enhancing coordination, creating synergies and promoting exchanges of views in order to avoid duplication and inefficient spending of public resources;

27.  Encourages national and European institutions to continue monitoring the ‘innovation divide’, not only among EU Member States and across NUTS 2 regions, but, also and increasingly, within Member States;

28.  Believes that procedures should be simplified and bottlenecks in the administrative process of the strategies should be reduced;

29.  Calls on the relevant authorities at all levels to simplify procedures and reduce bottlenecks in the administrative process of the strategies; encourages investment in human capital, including via EU interregional partnerships, with a view to boosting administrative capacities and managing, implementing and monitoring the RIS3 process successfully while avoiding creating additional layers of administration; encourages authorities to give priority to research and innovation in regions that have the corresponding potential but where investment in this area is sparse;

30.  Urges regions and Member States to intensify the use of the budget available for technical assistance to ensure effective and efficient implementation of the RIS3;

31.  Recalls that smart specialisation strategies should also be a powerful instrument for tackling social, environmental, climate and energy challenges and promoting knowledge spillover and technological diversification;

Better synergies for growth and job creation

32.  Criticises the lack of synergies across ESI Funds and other EU financing instruments, which hinders coordination, coherence and integration in EU funding, as well as reducing its results and impact; calls for more attention to and research into how to achieve an improved strategic approach to synergies and take account of the combination, complementarity and potential of funding instruments in such a way as to ensure full use of EU guarantees to finance investment platforms;

33.  Emphasises the need to continue and deepen the triple and quadruple helix approaches to smart specialisation at the regional level, involving public administrations, businesses, universities and citizens; stresses that the role of the latter two sets of participants (i.e. higher education/research institutions and citizens’ organisations) should be reinforced in terms of the new EU programming and types of financing;

34.  Calls for increased support for SMEs and start-ups, as the vast majority of these are at the forefront of disruptive innovation, as well as contributing significantly to identifying local talent in a variety of fields and employing young people;

35.  Encourages continuous attempts to seek reliable indicators for monitoring innovation performance at all levels of governance, by better mobilising and coordinating the resources of Eurostat and other relevant Commission DGs, also taking account of the achievements of the OECD, ESPON and other players in this field such as national statistical offices;

36.  Underlines that the coordinated and complementary use of ESI Funds together with Horizon 2020 and EFSI funds, in accordance with the guidelines on complementarities between EFSI and the European Fund for Strategic Investment issued by the Commission in February 2016, provides excellent options for boosting innovation at regional, national and EU levels by enhancing the attractiveness of investment in research and innovation in order to attract private capital to complement public funding; calls on local and regional authorities to make the most of the possibilities for combining these tools;

37.  Calls for action to obtain the necessary information for achieving synergies between the various policies and instruments available in the RIS3, such as the cohesion policy for 2014-2020, the smart specialisation platform, the European Cluster Observatory, the European Innovation Partnership, the European Strategy Forum, the Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) and the research infrastructures;

38.  Encourages regions, when implementing their RIS3, to strengthen the open innovation mentality and ecosystem collaboration on the basis of the quadruple helix model;

39.  Stresses the importance of tailoring education and research to the real needs of the market, in an effort to ensure that new innovations meet demand and lead to economic growth;

Smart cities as catalysts for RIS3

40.  Reiterates the key role that EU urban areas have to play in the economic and social development of the Union by acting as hubs for various actors and sectors, combining the challenges and opportunities of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, and serving as frontrunners in the integrated and place-based policy approach; emphasises the importance of urban areas in catalysing human resources, infrastructure and investment potential for the development of innovation clusters;

41.  Calls on the Commission to take into account RIS3 and other programmes of innovation, with special regard to the Integrated Territorial Investments, when developing the European Urban Agenda in order to create synergies and strong links for an efficient use of resources;

42.  Underlines the importance of facilitating innovative cross-sectoral, triple helix and cross-border cooperation related to European challenges in order to make regions and cities smarter, greener and more enjoyable places to live and work in;

43.  Stresses the need for the further development and extension throughout Europe of the concept of 'smart and connected cities'; welcomes the intention of the Dutch EU Presidency to create a bottom-up approach empowering cities in coordination with regional authorities, to develop the EU Urban Agenda, and to evolve from smart to excellent cities; supports, in this context, the preparation of the Pact of Amsterdam, with its focus on sustainable growth and job creation, on fostering connections between all parties, citizens and social organisations, and on promoting sustainable and socially inclusive development;

44.  Draws attention to the promotion of different city-to-city cooperation and knowledge exchange schemes in the field of smart specialisation and innovation, such as the ‘Open and Agile Smart Cities’ scheme supported by the Commission;

45.  Supports the initiatives on the part of the Commission and the Council in favour of the EU Urban Agenda in the context of the Pact of Amsterdam; calls on the Commission to foster coherence between urban and regional policies; asks the Commission to come forward with proposals to align the initiatives and methodology of ‘Smart Cities’ and RIS3 in the 7th Cohesion report;

Monitoring and evaluation

46.  Notes that, although most regions have adopted a RIS3, a considerable number of them still need to work on complying with the ex ante conditionality requirements, the main challenges being the monitoring mechanism, the budgetary framework and the measures to stimulate private-sector research and innovation investments;

47.  Reminds local and regional decision-makers of the importance of their commitment to use the RIS3 as an economic transformation instrument within their own region, thus also influencing EU policy;

48.  Welcomes the focus of these regional strategies on energy, health, information and communications technologies, advanced materials, food, services, tourism, sustainable innovation and transport, the bio-based economy, manufacturing systems, and cultural and creative industries, as well as other specialisations and particularly competitive sectors of a given region; regrets, however, a lack of granularity in many of the strategies, and calls for the refinement of the prioritisation process, thus avoiding the risk of focusing all strategies on the same topics; calls for the development of strategies not only in high technology but also in low technology and social innovation, and encourages all stakeholders to seek crossovers between sectors, since such crossovers can foster innovation;

49.  Believes that the promotion of national observatories for smart specialisation strategies can help build stronger indicator systems for monitoring RIS3, especially regarding methodology and training;

50.  Observes that some RIS3 are poorly documented when it comes to demonstrating the unique competitive advantages of the region concerned, while others do not provide evidence regarding the capacity of stakeholders to support enterprises in innovation or of researchers to supply applied research or find commercial applications for results; notes also that some regions have wide strategies and simplistic monitoring indicators; urges, therefore, an increase in the capacity of public authorities to collect and assess the relevant information received, as well as boosting a coordinated effort by regions and central authorities to identify and standardise existing databases and make them accessible to stakeholders;

51.  Calls on the EU and the Member States to use existing tools such as the Community Innovation Survey (CIS) to carry out periodic (annual and mid-term) monitoring – both quantitative and qualitative – of the implementation of the strategies, and to involve all stakeholders, including civil society, in the process; notes that both regions and Member States face similar problems in terms of evaluation of monitoring, and calls on the regions to publish regular reports on the achievement of their objectives, in order to better analyse the impact of RIS3 and guarantee transparency and public access to monitoring information; is, however, aware that strategies will take many years to bear fruit and that early monitoring should thus be tailored to reasonable expectations;

52.  Encourages regions and Member States to be proactive with the timely implementation of the action plans, in view of the target date of December 2016 for compliance with the ex ante conditionality; asks them to set and implement their monitoring mechanism in a continuous review of the RIS3, focused on specifying investment niches where the regional innovation actors can gain or sustain a competitive advantage;

53.  Is of the opinion that joint participation in the monitoring and evaluation of relevant instruments under the RIS3, as well as an alignment of monitoring and evaluation for reporting of different instruments, can help considerably in this field; calls, therefore, on all stakeholders and decision-makers to create synergies and develop arrangements that collect and synthesise data from policies and instruments included in specific RIS3;

54.  Recalls that a good ‘paper strategy’ will not generate the expected results without the implementation of support services for enterprises;

Main lessons and the future of RIS3

55.  Regrets that RIS3 often recognise the need to help enterprises exploit all forms of innovation, but then only support innovation based on technological knowledge; suggest in this regard that the RIS3 should also consider innovation in other areas, such as services and the creative sector, and recalls the importance of all kinds of innovation systems and institutions regardless of their size, as well as of their linkage to local and regional clusters;

56.  Points out that RIS3 have to be well implemented if they are to tackle the innovation gap and boost jobs and growth in Europe; stresses that, to this end, it is essential to promote bottom-up strategies and to enhance scrutiny regarding the potential of RIS3 at all governance levels; considers, in this regard, that Member States should involve their national statistical office(s) in order to help the regions develop their evaluation and monitoring mechanisms;

57.  Believes that the participatory approach in the strategies has to be included in all processes, including the monitoring and evaluation process, as this will increase the scope for cooperation in achieving RIS3 objectives;

58.  Urges the EU and the Member States not to forget that this instrument must be viable, operational and efficient so as to avoid burdening beneficiaries with bureaucracy;

59.  Calls on the Commission to push for a review of the strategies in 2017 in order to boost their efficiency and effectiveness, and to provide information on their contribution to both future cohesion and research and innovation policies after 2020, taking into account the experience acquired from the first years of their implementation; calls on the Commission to launch a public consultation and to organise a Europe-wide conference prior to the 7th Cohesion Report, with Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and other stakeholders;

60.  Recognises that smart specialisation strategies could be powerful instruments for tackling energy challenges, resource efficiency and energy security;

61.  Calls on the Commission to continue to support the role of the S3 platform, to help increase the granularity of the strategies, and to remain focused on the importance of leverage of private investments;

62.  Asks DG REGIO and the S3 platform to draft, and widely disseminate, a short policy paper on the past RIS3 experience, focused on the following areas: (1) a SWOT analysis of the experience; (2) lessons learned by regions and main pitfalls observed for each of the six steps described in the RIS3 guide; (3) recommendations and standardised templates for a continuous improvement of the RIS3 with a view to better designing the strategies after 2020; and (4) human capacity needed to successfully design and implement an RIS3; considers that regional networks concerned with research and innovation should be encouraged and supported in actions to promote the successes and the lessons learned, in order to embed the relevant thinking in the regions at all levels;

o
o   o

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

(1) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 320.
(2) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 289.
(3) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 470.
(4) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 259.
(5) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 303.
(6) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 281.
(7) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 487.
(8) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0002.
(9) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0308.
(10) OJ C 225, 27.7.2012, p. 46.
(11) OJ C 218, 30.7.2013, p. 12.
(12) OJ C 415, 20.11.2014, p. 5.


European territorial cooperation – best practices and innovative measures
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European Parliament resolution of 13 September 2016 on European Territorial Cooperation – best practices and innovative measures (2015/2280(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0321A8-0202/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular Title XVIII thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006(1) (hereinafter ‘the Common Provisions Regulation’),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1301/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the European Regional Development Fund and on specific provisions concerning the Investment for growth and jobs goal and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006(2),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1299/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on specific provisions for the support from the European Regional Development Fund to the European territorial cooperation goal(3),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1302/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 amending Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006 on a European grouping of territorial cooperation (EGTC) as regards the clarification, simplification and improvement of the establishment and functioning of such groupings(4),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 236/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 laying down common rules and procedures for the implementation of the Union’s instruments for financing external action(5),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 231/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing an Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II)(6),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 232/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2014 establishing a European Neighbourhood Instrument(7),

–  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(8),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(9),

–  having regard to the ‘Territorial Agenda of the European Union 2020: Towards an Inclusive, Smart and Sustainable Europe of Diverse Regions’, agreed on at the Informal Ministerial Meeting of Ministers responsible for Spatial Planning and Territorial Development meeting in Gödöllő, Hungary on 19 May 2011,

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 January 2014 on EU Member States preparedness to an effective and timely start of the new Cohesion Policy Programming period(10),

–  having regard to its resolution of 27 November 2014 on delays in the start-up of cohesion policy for 2014-2020(11),

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

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

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 September 2015 on ‘Investment for jobs and growth: promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Union’(12),

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

–  having regard to its resolution of 28 October 2015 on cohesion policy and the review of the Europe 2020 strategy(13),

–  having regard to its resolution of 26 November 2015 entitled ‘Towards simplification and performance orientation in cohesion policy 2014-2020’(14),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2015/1017 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 June 2015 on the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the European Investment Advisory Hub and the European Investment Project Portal and amending Regulations (EU) No 1291/2013 and (EU) No 1316/2013 – the European Fund for Strategic Investments(15),

–  having regard to the report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions concerning the added value of macro-regional strategies (COM(2013)0468), and to the relevant Council conclusions of 22 October 2013,

–  having regard to the study by its Directorate-General for Internal Policies (Department B – Structural and Cohesion Policies) of January 2015 entitled ‘New Role of Macro-Regions in European Territorial Cooperation’,

–  having regard to the study by its Directorate-General for Internal Policies (Department B – Structural and Cohesion Policies) of July 2015 entitled ‘European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation as an instrument for promotion and improvement of territorial cooperation in Europe’,

–  having regard to the Commission brochure of 22 February 2016 entitled ‘An Investment Plan for Europe: new guidelines on combining European Structural and Investment Funds with the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI)’,

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions issued in May 2015 entitled ‘Financial Instruments in support of territorial development’,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 14 December 2015 entitled ‘Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of ESI Funds’ (COM(2015)0639),

–  having regard to the declaration of the Committee of the Regions of 2 September 2015 entitled ‘25 years of Interreg: new impetus for cross-border cooperation’,

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions issued in December 2015 entitled ‘Territorial Vision 2050: what future?’,

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 17 December 2015 entitled ‘Strengthening Cross-border Cooperation: the need for a better regulatory framework’,

–  having regard to the background document prepared by the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council, ‘Looking back on 25 years of Interreg and preparing the future of territorial cooperation’,

–  having regard to the Council’s conclusions on ‘25 years of Interreg: its contribution to Cohesion Policy goals’,

–  having regard to the initiative of the Luxembourg Presidency on specific legal provisions for border regions with a view to responding to the needs and challenges in these areas, entitled ‘A tool for the attribution and application of specific provisions for the improvement of cross-border cooperation’(16),

–  having regard to the Commission’s EU-wide public consultation on remaining obstacles to cross-border cooperation, launched on 21 September 2015 on the occasion of the European Cooperation Day(17),

–  having regard to the results of the first-ever Eurobarometer survey conducted by the Commission in 2015 to identify and map attitudes of citizens living in the border areas with a view to arriving at more targeted EU interventions(18),

–  having regard to the OECD report of 2013 entitled ‘Regions and Innovation: collaborating across borders’,

–  having regard to the report by the Committee of the Regions entitled ‘EGTC monitoring report for 2014 – Implementing the Strategy Europe 2020’(19),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development (A8-0202/2016),

A.  whereas around 38 % of Europe’s population lives in border regions and whereas the EU is confronted with a major economic, financial and social crisis that particularly handicaps women on all fronts; whereas the EU must include gender equality as a main element in all policies and practices relating to European Territorial Cooperation (ETC);

B.  whereas the overarching objective of ETC is to lessen the influence of national borders in order to reduce disparities between regions, removing the remaining obstacles to investment and cooperative working across borders, reinforce cohesion, and promote the harmonious economic, social, cultural and territorial development of the Union as a whole;

C.  whereas ETC is an integral part of cohesion policy, as it strengthens the territorial cohesion of the Union;

D.  whereas Member States have the possibility of making use of ETC in order to respond to challenges arising from the migration crisis;

E.  whereas there is still only a low number of European citizens using the full potential of the EU internal market and freedom of movement;

F.  whereas following the principles of shared management, multi-level governance and partnership, ETC programmes have been developed through a collective process bringing together a wide range of European, national, regional and local actors to tackle common challenges across borders and facilitate the exchange of good practice;

G.  whereas there is a need for a joint reflection on the structure of ETC post-2020;

European Added Value of ETC, best practices and contribution to the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy

1.  Notes that ETC has become one of the two equally important goals of cohesion policy for 2014-2020, with its own regulation; underlines, however, that the ETC budget of EUR 10,1 billion represents 2,8 % of the cohesion policy budget, does not match the great challenges that ETC has to meet, and does not reflect the high level of its European added value; recalls, in this connection, Parliament’s disappointment at the outcome of the negotiations on the MFF 2014-2020 regarding the cut in appropriations for ETC; believes that an increased budget for ETC in the next programming period will boost the added value of cohesion policy; calls for greater respect for Article 174 TFEU on territorial cohesion, in particular as regards rural areas and areas affected by industrial transition, and regions that suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps, such as outermost regions, northernmost regions with low population density, and island, cross-border and mountain regions; asks the Commission and the Member States to pay particular attention to the most geographically and demographically disadvantaged areas when implementing cohesion policy;

2.  Notes that, in line with the Europe 2020 targets, ETC has been reshaped with a view to achieving a greater impact through focusing on thematic concentration and results orientation, without any prejudice to a territorially sensitive approach allowing for regional priorities to be continued; believes that further attention to the specificities of ETC is needed; calls, therefore, for better evaluation of ETC programmes in order to demonstrate their impacts and added value;

3.  Acknowledges that cross-border cooperation (CBC) is a key tool for the development of border regions, which are considered true laboratories of European integration; underlines that during the periods 2000-2006 and 2007-2013 CBC was marked by a clear orientation to more strategically focused priorities, and achieved best practices in the fields of better connectivity and accessibility, knowledge and innovation transfer, strengthening regional identity, tackling environmental challenges, enhancing institutional capacity, healthcare, education, employment and labour mobility, as well as civil protection, creating new partnerships and consolidating existing ones;

4.  Acknowledges that transnational cooperation has helped in terms of supporting research, innovation and the knowledge economy, adapting to climate change, and promoting sustainable transport and mobility through transnational approaches, and has contributed to enhancing institutional capacity; stresses that an integrated territorial approach and transnational cooperation are particularly important for the protection of the environment, especially in the areas of water, biodiversity and energy;

5.  Acknowledges that interregional cooperation has allowed cities and regions to cooperate on a variety of issues and themes, involving exchange of experience and good practices, and that this has improved the effectiveness of many regional and local policies; considers that the significant development gaps between rural and urban areas and the problems of metropolitan regions should be addressed;

6.  Believes that efficient cross-border and transnational cooperation makes a geographical area more attractive for trading companies, by using local, regional and cross-border potential, as well as human capital, as effectively as possible in order to better address the needs and expectations of trading companies, but also to avoid company relocation to third countries, depopulation of EU regions and increased unemployment;

7.  Is convinced that ETC offers significant European added value, contributing to peace, stability and regional integration, including in the framework of enlargement and neighbourhood policy, as well as across the world by dissemination of best practices; believes that cross-border cooperation can bring added value to the management of the migration crisis;

8.  Points out that for 2014-2020 about 41 % of the ETC ERDF budget(20) will be invested in measures to improve the environment, while 27 % will be invested in strengthening smart growth, including research and innovation, and 13 % will go to promote inclusive growth through activities linked to employment, education and training, while 33 programmes will be aimed at improving general connectivity across borders; further notes that EUR 790 million will be allocated to enhancing institutional capacity through setting up or strengthening cooperation structures and improving the efficiency of public services;

9.  Underlines that the concept of results orientation requires that Interreg programmes ensure high-quality project-level cooperation and adopt a new type of evaluation, taking into account the specific nature of each programme and contributing to reducing the administrative burden for recipients and managing authorities; calls on the Commission, the Member States and the managing authorities to work together and exchange information and good practices in order to undertake assessments and issue guidelines as to how results orientation can be adapted to ETC specificities; acknowledges that the full added value of ETC programmes cannot be only evaluated by quantitative indicators, and calls on the Commission to establish more qualitative indicators in order to better reflect the results achieved by territorial cooperation;

10.  Notes with concern the late adoption of Interreg programmes, and urges the Commission and the Member States to mobilise their efforts for their efficient and successful implementation and for the removal of barriers to cross-border cooperation, in order to avoid the critical issues already highlighted in the 2007-2013 programming period; calls on the Commission to take all necessary measures in order to accelerate the implementation of ETC programmes;

11.  Deplores the lack of reliable cross-border data and evidence on the effectiveness of cross-border cooperation with regard to reporting on performance framework; calls, accordingly, on the Commission, Eurostat and the managing authorities to cooperate to set up common evaluation criteria and to jointly coordinate a single database and set out methodologies for the provision and use and exchange of reliable data across borders; notes the existing challenges to the implementation of integrated territorial approaches stemming from the highly variable degree of empowerment of Member States' regional and local authorities;

12.  Calls on the Commission, the Member States and the managing authorities to set up appropriately structured monitoring systems and evaluation plans in order to better evaluate the achievements of the results in terms of the Europe 2020 goals and territorial integration;

Contribution to territorial cohesion

13.  Highlights that ETC makes a significant contribution to strengthening the EU’s objective of territorial cohesion through integrating diverse sectoral policies on a territorial scale; welcomes the study by the European Observation Network for Territorial Development and Cohesion (ESPON) entitled ‘ET2050: Territorial Scenarios and Visions for Europe’, which can function as a reference framework for further discussions on cohesion policy preparation post-2020;

14.  Recalls the importance of Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) and Community-Led Local Development (CLLD), which are not implemented widely enough in the Interreg programmes for 2014-2020, and encourages Member States to make greater use of them, stressing that this will require stronger participation of regional and local bodies; calls on the Commission and the Member States to propose information and training programmes for the beneficiaries;

15.  Is of the opinion that the new territorial development instruments, such as ITI and CLLD, can translate into investments in social, health and education infrastructure, the regeneration of deprived urban areas, job creation, and other measures aimed at reducing migrants’ isolation and supporting their inclusion;

16.  Recommends that special focus be placed on projects that strive to adapt localities and regions to the new demographic situation and counteract the inequalities resulting from it, namely through: (1) the adaptation of social and mobility infrastructure to demographic change and migratory flows; (2) the creation of specific goods and services aimed at an ageing population; (3) support for job opportunities for older people, women and migrants that contribute to social inclusion; (4) enhanced digital connections and the creation of platforms that enable and foster the participation of the citizens of more isolated regions and their interaction with the various administrative, social and political services of authorities at all levels (local, regional, national and European);

17.  Points out the role of ETC in island regions, outermost regions, sparsely populated regions and mountain and rural areas, as an important tool for strengthening their regional cooperation and integration; calls on the Commission and the Member States to pay particular attention to the use of the Funds in these regions, including those bordering on third countries, with a view to improving the implementation of cross-border projects funded by ETC;

18.  Points out the complementary nature of ETC and macro-regional strategies in addressing common challenges in larger functional areas, as well as the positive role that macro-regional strategies can play in helping to address common challenges faced by macro-regions;

19.  Considers that better coordination, synergy and complementarity should be sought between cross-border and transnational strands with a view to improving cooperation and integration over wider strategic territories; calls for better coordination between managing authorities and macro-regional strategies’ actors; urges the Commission to enhance the cooperation, as well as to reinforce the links and consistency of the ETC programmes with national and regional programmes at the development stage, with the aim of boosting complementarity and avoiding overlaps;

20.  Notes that some regions face serious migration challenges, and encourages the use of Interreg programmes and their urgent implementation in order to respond to, among other things, the challenges of tackling the refugee crisis and the exchange of good practices between local and regional authorities in border areas, including third countries in particular through macro-regional strategies;

Support for research and innovation

21.  Highlights the achievements in the field of research and innovation, such as joint research projects, cooperation between research institutes and companies, establishment of international border universities, cross-border research centres and cross-border training institutes, creation of cross-border clusters and networks of companies, cross-border incubators and advisory services for SMEs, high-tech branding to attract foreign investors, etc.; notes the important role that Interreg programmes play in enhancing the competitiveness and innovation potential of regions, by fostering synergies between smart specialisation strategies, collaboration between clusters and development of innovation networks; asks the Commission to come forward with a comprehensive overview of territorial cooperation in the ERDF and ESF on the basis of the Common Strategic Framework (Annex I to the Common Provisions Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013));

22.  Is aware that investments for strengthening smart growth, including research and innovation, represent 27 % of ERDF allocation to CBC programmes for 2014-2020(21); notes also that 35 % of the budget of the transnational programmes goes to support smart growth by strengthening research and innovation;

23.  Stresses the need to create cross-border innovation policy approaches, such as joint research and mobility programmes, joint research infrastructures, partnerships and cooperation networks; draws attention to the fact that differing legislation across Member States is hampering joint efforts to extend research and innovation across borders;

24.  Urges that synergies and complementarity between programmes and funds including the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI), Horizon 2020, the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), etc., and other EU funds need to aim at maximising the quantity, quality and impact of research and innovation investments; recommends that local and regional authorities take full advantage of the possibilities of combining those funds to support SMEs and research and innovation projects, including cross-border projects, where appropriate; calls on SMEs to make full use of the opportunities offered by those funds to contribute to the implementation of those ETC programmes;

25.  Urges the adoption of cross-border innovation strategies while establishing complementarities with already existing Smart Specialisation Strategies, as well as with other existing programmes and strategies; encourages assessing the potential for cross-border synergies and mobilising different sources of funding;

26.  Considers that financial instruments need to be an integral part of ETC programmes through complementing grants with a view to supporting SMEs’ access to financing, research and innovation; considers that increased use of financial instruments could attract more investment to the Interreg projects, creating new jobs and allowing better results to be achieved; recalls the fundamental importance of technical support and adapted training initiatives for reaping the full benefit of the use of financial instruments, even in less developed regions;

Governance and policy coordination

27.  Recalls that the Sixth Cohesion Report has paid insufficient attention to ETC, given that it has been a fully-fledged cohesion policy objective since the 2007-2013 programming period; recalls the potential of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), not only as an instrument supporting and promoting European territorial cooperation and managing cross-border projects, but also as a vehicle contributing to a comprehensive integrated territorial development and a flexible platform for multilevel governance;

28.  Welcomes the simplified EGTC Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 1302/2013), and calls on Member States to intensify their efforts to facilitate the creation of EGTCs; points out, however, that this regulation is not sufficient to overcome all existing legal obstacles to cross-border cooperation; welcomes, therefore, the initiative of the Luxembourg Presidency, which proposed a specific legal tool for border regions, giving Member States the opportunity to agree on specific legal provisions; welcomes the Commission’s initiative of carrying out, by the end of 2016, an analysis of the barriers to cross-border cooperation that will look at solutions and examples of good practices; asks the Commission to include a study on border regions’ needs in this analysis; awaits with interest the results of the Commission’s EU-wide public consultation on the remaining obstacles to cross-border cooperation, launched on 21 September 2015; asks the Commission to take into account in its analysis the recommendations of Parliament and the results of the public consultation;

29.  Considers that Interreg programmes should, while respecting agreed programme priorities and agreed intervention logic and in complementarity with other appropriate funding, support responses in matters of migration and asylum and foster effective integration policies; calls for advantage to be taken of the Commission's openness to quickly examine and approve changes to the 2014-2020 operational programmes, where they are requested by the Member States concerned and only with the objective of dealing with the imperatives of the refugees crises;

30.  Considers the broader use of financial instruments (FIs) as flexible mechanisms to be used alongside grants; highlights that financial instruments, if implemented effectively, can significantly increase the impact of financing; stresses, in this regard, the need for clear, consistent and focused rules on FIs to help simplify the preparation and implementation process for fund managers and recipients; draws attention to the opportunity to benefit from specific expertise and know-how through financial engineering and technical assistance instruments from the EIB;

31.  Underlines that during the programming period 2007-2013 the possible complementarities between the Interreg programmes and other EU-funded programmes were not sufficiently assessed; calls for the setting-up of appropriate coordination mechanisms to ensure effective coordination, complementarity and synergy between the ESI Funds and other Community and national funding instruments, such as Horizon 2020, as well as with the EFSI and the EIB;

32.  Encourages the inclusion in the evaluation plans of the managing authorities of ongoing evaluations focusing on specific assessment of the effectiveness of the synergies between programmes;

33.  Stresses the ever increasing importance of cross-border labour markets with huge dynamics for wealth and job creation; calls on the Commission and the Member States to make full use of the opportunities provided by the Interreg programmes to facilitate cross-border labour mobility, including by promoting the principle of equal opportunities, by adjusting, if necessary, the administrative and social regulatory framework, as well as by reinforcing the dialogue between all governance levels;

34.  Considers it crucial to increase synergies and complementarity between ETC programmes and EURES services, since these have a particularly important role to play in cross-border regions with significant levels of cross-border commuting; calls on the Member States and regions to fully exploit the opportunities offered by EURES services for employment and job mobility across the EU;

35.  Is convinced that the multi-level governance principle, the partnership principle and the actual implementation of the European code of conduct are particularly significant for the development of Interreg programmes;

Simplification

36.  Stresses that, irrespective of the existence of a separate regulation for ETC, the implementation of territorial cooperation programmes should be further simplified, and calls on the High Level Group on Simplification to consider measures for simplification and reducing the administrative burden on beneficiaries prior to the ETC legislative proposal and the programming of the Interreg programmes for the period after 2020;

37.  Calls on the Commission to propose specific actions to simplify the rules on reporting, auditing and state aid and to harmonise procedures; urges drawing up standard requirements for all Interreg programmes on a strand-by-strand basis;

38.  Calls on the Member States to simplify their national provisions and to avoid ‘gold-plating’; urges the implementation of e-cohesion and streamlining of administrative procedures;

39.  Stresses that the arrangements for involving civil society and private stakeholders must be broadened and simplified, always taking into account the need for transparency and accountability; recommends that the establishment of public-private partnerships could offer a number of potential benefits but entails a risk of conflict of interests that should be adequately addressed by both hard-law and soft-law tools; calls on the Commission to provide timely, consistent and clear guidance on the application of financial instruments in ETC programmes;

40.  Stresses that all simplifications of growth and jobs programmes must also apply to Interreg programmes;

41.  Stresses the importance of creating mechanisms for monitoring beneficiaries within the scope of the simplification measures;

42.  Considers that priority should be given to joining forces on the ground and fostering mutual trust among the actors across the borders, and that financial instruments can provide valuable assistance to these efforts;

Future recommendations

43.  Considers that ETC has proved its effectiveness and that its potential should be further developed; highlights its potential beyond regional policy, in areas such as the single market, the digital agenda, employment, mobility, energy, research, education, culture, health and the environment, and therefore calls on the Commission and the Member States to consider preserving ETC as an important instrument, allocating it a more distinct role within cohesion policy post-2020 and significantly increasing its budget;

44.  Considers that the basic cooperation philosophy and current structure of ETC should be maintained, including compliance with the lead beneficiary principle, as well as the emphasis on the cross-border component; calls on the Commission to analyse the possible development of a set of harmonised criteria, drawing on the experience of its 25-year history, on the basis not only of population size but also of socio-economic and territorial specificities;

45.  Stresses the importance of cross-border cooperation at the external borders of the EU under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance and the European Neighbourhood Instrument; calls on the Member States to ensure that good practices that allow the administrative burden for beneficiaries of Interreg programmes to be reduced can also be applied to programmes implemented at the external borders of the EU;

46.  Recalls the potential for grassroots cooperation among citizens offered by the so-called ‘small projects fund’, in relation to amounts for small and micro projects for the promotion of civil engagement, paying particular attention to small cross-border cooperation projects between neighbouring border areas; calls for the funding of such projects to be encouraged, recalling that this will require additional efforts in terms of simplification and flexibility;

47.  Encourages the joint establishment of strategies for border areas in order to boost integrated and sustainable territorial development, including implementation and dissemination of integrated approaches and harmonisation of administrative procedures and legal provisions across borders; notes the importance of promoting balanced territorial development within regions;

48.  Takes the view that greater attention should be paid to promoting cross-border cooperation between mountainous border areas, with rural areas prioritised;

49.  Stresses that cultural cooperation should be one of the objectives of European territorial cooperation; considers, therefore, that greater encouragement should be given to cultural and educational cooperation between cross-border areas that share a single cultural and linguistic heritage;

50.  Calls for regional and local bodies to play a greater and more significant role in proposing, managing and evaluating ETC, especially as regards cross-border cooperation, taking into account that some regions already have such powers;

51.  Calls on the Commission to consider the role of financial instruments in complementing grants; considers it essential to work more closely with the EIB in supporting SMEs and mobilising the financial and technical expertise of both the Commission and the EIB as a catalyst for investments; calls on the Commission and the EIB to make the financial instruments more coherent with the objectives of territorial cooperation;

52.  Calls on the Commission, the Member States and the managing authorities to consider the proposal by the Luxembourg Presidency for the creation of a new legal instrument for cohesion policy post-2020, following the results of the ex post evaluations, the implementation of the 2014-2020 programmes and an appropriate impact assessment;

53.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to initiate in 2016 a structured multi-stakeholder debate at EU level on the future of ETC post-2020, with a view to preparing the post-2020 cohesion policy; stresses that the debate should, first and foremost, cover matters related to the structure of ETC and the procedure for the allocation of programme budgets, and also work on new mechanisms to ensure wider application of the concept of results orientation; urges the Commission to work alongside the Committee of the Regions and relevant civil society and regional stakeholders;

54.  Calls for a territorial vision of the EU based on the Green Paper on territorial cohesion (COM(2008)0616), and notes that the future White Paper on territorial cohesion could also be important for the next programming period after 2020;

Raising public awareness and visibility

55.  Deplores the low public awareness with regard to ETC programmes and their insufficient visibility, and calls for more effective communication of their objectives, the possibilities they offer and the channels through which projects can be undertaken and, a posteriori, of the achievements of completed projects; calls on the Commission, the Member States and the managing authorities to establish mechanisms and broad institutionalised platforms for cooperation in order to ensure better visibility and awareness-raising; calls on the Commission to map and widely disseminate the achievements of the ETC programmes and projects so far;

56.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote the role that the EGTC can play as a tool for greater efficiency in meeting local needs in cross-border regions;

57.  Recognises the important role played by actors on the ground and support for project preparation, and encourages managing authorities to reinforce existing promotional instruments such as regional contact points;

58.  Notes that good cooperation between the Commission, the EIB and local and regional authorities is essential to ensure the successful use of financial instruments for territorial development and for the entire cohesion policy; stresses, in this context, the need to intensify the exchange of experience and knowledge between the EC and the EIB, on the one hand, and local and regional authorities, on the other;

59.  Acknowledges the importance of the role played by territorial (field) animation, information dissemination, awareness-raising at local level and project support, and therefore encourages managing authorities to reinforce useful tools such as territorial contact points;

60.  Calls for better coordination between the Commission, managing authorities and all stakeholders with a view to providing a critical analysis of projects’ thematic achievements, highlighting both success stories and gaps and making recommendations for post-2020, while at the same time ensuring transparency and closeness to the citizens;

o
o   o

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

(1) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 320.
(2) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 289.
(3) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 259.
(4) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 303.
(5) OJ L 77, 15.3.2014, p. 95.
(6) OJ L 77, 15.3.2014, p. 11.
(7) OJ L 77, 15.3.2014, p. 27.
(8) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884.
(9) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(10) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0015.
(11) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0068.
(12) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0308.
(13) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0384.
(14) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0419.
(15) OJ L 169, 1.7.2015, p. 1.
(16) http://www.dat.public.lu/eu-presidency/Events/Informal-Ministerial-Meetings-on-Territorial-Cohesion-and-Urban-Policy-_26-27-November-2015_-Luxembourg-City_/Material/IMM-Territorial-_LU-Presidency_---Input-Paper-Action-3.pdf
(17) Commission press release IP/15/5686.
(18) Flash Eurobarometer 422 – Cross-border cooperation in the EU.
(19) http://cor.europa.eu/en/documentation/studies/Documents/EGTC_MonitoringReport_2014.pdf
(20) Annex I (European Territorial Cooperation/Interreg) to the Commission communication ‘Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of ESI Funds’.
(21) Annex I (European Territorial Cooperation/Interreg) to the Commission communication ‘Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of ESI Funds’.


Inquiry into emission measurements in the automotive sector
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European Parliament resolution of 13 September 2016 on the inquiry into emission measurements in the automotive sector (2016/2090(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0322A8-0246/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 226 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Decision 95/167/EC, Euratom, ECSC of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission of 19 April 1995 on the detailed provisions governing the exercise of the European Parliament’s right of inquiry(1),

–  having regard to its decision (EU) 2016/34 of 17 December 2015 on setting up a Committee of Inquiry into emission measurements in the automotive sector, its powers, numerical strength and term of office(2),

–  having regard to Rule 198 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the interim report of the Committee of Inquiry into Emission Measurements in the Automotive Sector (A8-0246/2016),

A.  whereas Article 226 of the TFEU provides a legal basis for the establishment by the European Parliament of a temporary Committee of Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions or maladministration in the implementation of Union law, without prejudice to the jurisdiction of national or Union courts, and whereas this constitutes an important element of the Parliament’s supervisory powers;

B.  whereas, on the basis of a proposal by the Conference of Presidents, Parliament decided on 17 December 2015 to set up a Committee of Inquiry to investigate the alleged failures in the application of Union law in relation to emission measurements in the automotive sector, and that the Committee would make any recommendations that it deemed necessary in that matter;

C.  whereas the Committee of Inquiry operates according to a working plan, which includes:

   a programme of hearings of invited witnesses and experts with a view to gathering relevant oral evidence;
   requests for written evidence from witnesses and experts invited to hearings;
   requests for documents with a view to gathering relevant written evidence from the Commission, Members State authorities and other relevant actors;
   two missions to gather on-site information;
   briefings and studies commissioned under its expertise budget;
   a formal written opinion from Parliament’s Legal Service as regards inviting guests who may be subject to legal proceedings to testify;

D.  whereas the Committee of Inquiry has sent various questionnaires to Member States, Union institutions and other bodies, and has opened a public call for evidence on its website;

E.  whereas the results of the ongoing investigation could bring added value to the Union’s type-approval framework;

F.  whereas in its decision of 17 December 2015 Parliament required the Committee of Inquiry to present an interim report within six months of starting its work;

G.  whereas the nature of a Committee of Inquiry prevents it from putting forward any final conclusions arising out of its investigations before it considers that its mandate has been fulfilled; whereas, therefore, it is premature for the Committee to submit any observations on the various aspects of its mandate in this interim report;

H.  whereas the oral and written evidence submitted to and examined by the Committee to date confirms the need to investigate further all the points contained in its mandate;

1.  Encourages the Committee of Inquiry to pursue its work and to implement fully the mandate given by Parliament in its decision of 17 December 2015, and supports all the actions and initiatives leading to the accomplishment of the mandate;

2.  Asks the Conference of Presidents and the Bureau to support all measures needed to enable the Committee of Inquiry to fulfil its mandate, in particular regarding the authorisation of hearings and extraordinary meetings, the reimbursement of experts’ and witnesses’ expenses, missions and any other technical means which are duly justified;

3.  Asks the Commission to ensure prompt support and full transparency in assisting the work of the Committee of Inquiry, with full respect for the principle of loyal cooperation, providing all the technical and political support possible, in particular through swifter submission of requested documentation; expects full cooperation from the relevant current Commissioners and Directorate-Generals as well as from those who were in charge during past terms; asks the Member States, with full respect for the principle of loyal cooperation, to provide the Committee of Inquiry with the necessary technical and political support, in particular by enabling the Commission to submit documents that are requested more swiftly and, if the submission of documents requires the Member States’ consent, by accelerating their internal proceedings for the granting of such consent;

4.  Requires that the governments, parliaments and competent authorities of Member States assist the Committee of Inquiry in its tasks with full respect for the principle of loyal cooperation established in Union law;

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

(1) OJ L 113, 19.5.1995, p. 2.
(2) OJ L 10, 15.1.2016, p. 13.


Request for the waiver of immunity of István Ujhelyi
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European Parliament decision of 13 September 2016 on the request for waiver of the immunity of István Ujhelyi (2015/2237(IMM))
P8_TA(2016)0323A8-0229/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the request for waiver of the immunity of István Ujhelyi, by ruling of 26 November 2014 by the Central District Court of Pest (Hungary) in connection with criminal proceedings pending before that court, which was forwarded by the Hungarian Permanent Representative on 15 July 2015, and announced in plenary on 7 September 2015,

–  having heard István Ujhelyi on 28 January 2016 in accordance with Rule 9(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to Articles 8 and 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 4(2) of the Fundamental Law of Hungary,

–  having regard to Article 10(2) of the Hungarian Act LVII of 2004 on the Status of the Hungarian Members of the European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 74(3) and 79(2) of the Hungarian Act XXXVI of 2012 on the National Assembly,

–  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 (A8-0229/2016),

A.  whereas the Central District Court of Pest has requested the waiver of the parliamentary immunity of a Member of the European Parliament, István Ujhelyi, in connection with proceedings before it;

B.  whereas the request by the court relates to criminal proceedings relating to the crime of defamation in connection with statements made by István Ujhelyi on 25 April 2014 concerning an individual in Hungary;

C.  whereas pursuant to Article 8 of Protocol No 7, Members of the European Parliament shall not be subject to any form of inquiry, detention or legal proceedings in respect of opinions expressed or votes cast by them in the performance of their duties;

D.  whereas pursuant to Article 9 of Protocol No 7, during the sessions of the European Parliament, its Members shall enjoy, in the territory of their own State, the immunities accorded to members of their parliament;

E.  whereas pursuant to Article 4(2) of the Fundamental Law of Hungary, Members of Parliament shall be entitled to immunity and remuneration to promote their independence;

F.  whereas pursuant to Article 10(1) of the Hungarian Act LVII of 2004 on the Status of the Hungarian Members of the European Parliament, such a Member shall be granted the same degree of immunity as is enjoyed by a Member of the Hungarian Parliament;

G.  whereas pursuant to Article 74(3) of the Hungarian Act XXXVI of 2012 on the National Assembly, a motion to waive immunity shall be submitted to the speaker by the chief prosecutor before the submission of the indictment or by the court after the presentation of the indictment;

H.  whereas pursuant to Article 79(2) of the Hungarian Act XXXVI of 2012 on the National Assembly, a person registered as a candidate in the election of Members shall enjoy the same immunity, so therefore the statements expressed on 25 April 2014 should be covered by the absolute immunity of the Hungarian Parliament, except that any waiver of immunity shall be determined by the National Electoral Committee and any motion for a waiver of immunity shall be submitted to the Chair of the National Electoral Committee;

I.  whereas the statements in question were made on 25 April 2014, at a time when István Ujhelyi was not a Member of the European Parliament, but a Member of the National Parliament;

J.  whereas the charges against István Ujhelyi do not relate to an opinion expressed or vote cast by him in the performance of his duties as a Member of the European Parliament and whereas the absolute immunity in accordance with Article 8 of Protocol No 7 is therefore not applicable;

1.  Decides to waive the immunity of István Ujhelyi;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the report of its committee responsible immediately to the appropriate authorities in Hungary.

(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.


Request for the defence of the privileges and immunities of Rosario Crocetta
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European Parliament decision of 13 September 2016 on the request for defence of the privileges and immunities of Rosario Crocetta (2016/2015(IMM))
P8_TA(2016)0324A8-0230/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the request by Rosario Crocetta of 7 January 2016, announced in plenary on 21 January 2016, for the defence of his privileges and immunities in connection with criminal proceedings pending before the third Criminal Chamber of the Court of Palermo, Italy (RGNR No 20445/2012),

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

–  having regard to Articles 8 and 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 595 of the Italian Criminal Code,

–  having regard to Rule 5(2) and Rules 7 and 9 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs (A8-0230/2016),

A.  whereas a former Member of the European Parliament, Rosario Crocetta, has requested the defence of his parliamentary immunity in connection with criminal proceedings pending before the third Criminal Chamber of the Court of Palermo; whereas, according to the notice served by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Mr Crocetta is alleged to have made defamatory statements, which behaviour is punishable under Article 595 of the Italian Criminal Code;

B.  whereas, according to Article 8 of Protocol No 7, Members of the European Parliament may not be subject to any form of inquiry, detention or legal proceedings in respect of opinions expressed or votes cast by them in the performance of their duties; whereas such immunity must, to the extent that it seeks to protect the freedom of expression and independence of Members of the European Parliament, be considered as an absolute immunity barring any judicial proceedings in respect of an opinion expressed or a vote cast in the exercise of parliamentary duties(2);

C.  whereas the Court of Justice has held, that, in order to enjoy immunity, an opinion must be expressed by a Member of the European Parliament in the performance of his duties, thus entailing the requirement of a link between the opinion expressed and the parliamentary duties; whereas such link must be direct and obvious(3);

D.  whereas Rosario Crocetta was a Member of the European Parliament when he made the statements in question;

E.  whereas Mr Crocetta’s parliamentary record shows that he had always been very active in the fight against organised crime and its impact on the Union and its Member States; whereas he also focused on the influence of systematic corruption on politics and the economy, especially as regards public procurement in the field of environmental policy;

F.  whereas the facts of the case, as manifested in the documents provided to the Committee on Legal Affairs and in the hearing before the latter, indicate that Mr Crocetta’s statements have a direct and obvious connection with his parliamentary duties;

G.  whereas Rosario Crocetta can therefore be deemed to have been acting in the performance of his duties as a Member of the European Parliament;

1.  Decides to defend the privileges and immunities of Rosario Crocetta;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the report of its competent committee immediately to the appropriate authorities of the Italian Republic and to Rosario Crocetta.

(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) Joined Cases C-200/07 and C-201/07 Marra, cited above, paragraph 27.
(3) Case C-163/10 Patriciello, cited above, paragraphs 33 and 35.


Request for the waiver of immunity of Sotirios Zarianopoulos
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European Parliament decision of 13 September 2016 on the request for waiver of the immunity of Sotirios Zarianopoulos (2016/2083(IMM))
P8_TA(2016)0325A8-0233/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the request for waiver of the immunity of Sotirios Zarianopoulos, forwarded on 28 March 2016 by the public prosecutor at the Greek Supreme Court in connection with proceedings proposed by the Thessaloniki public prosecutor for misdemeanours (file ref.: ABM A2015/1606) and announced in plenary on 27 April 2016,

–  having regard to the fact that Sotirios Zarianopoulos waived his right to a hearing, in accordance with Rule 9(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to Articles 8 and 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 62 of the Constitution of Greece,

–  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 (A8-0233/2016),

A.  whereas the public prosecutor at the Greek Supreme Court has requested the waiver of the immunity of Sotirios Zarianopoulos MEP in connection with proceedings relating to an alleged offence;

B.  whereas, pursuant to Article 9 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union, Members of the European Parliament enjoy, in the territory of their own state, the immunities accorded to members of the parliament of that state;

C.  whereas, pursuant to Article 62 of the Constitution of Greece, during the parliamentary term, no Member of Parliament may be prosecuted, arrested, imprisoned or otherwise confined without prior leave granted by Parliament;

D.  whereas the Greek authorities are proposing to prosecute Sotirios Zarianopoulos for failing to comply with legal obligations jointly with others;

E.  whereas the proposed proceedings concern the issuing in 2011 by Thessaloniki City Council of allegedly illegal permits to use public property for the purpose of setting up outside seating areas on pavements, and whereas Sotirios Zarianopoulos is to be prosecuted in his capacity as a former member of that city council;

F.  whereas the proposed proceedings are clearly unrelated to Sotirios Zarianopoulos’s status as a Member of the European Parliament, but are related to his former mandate as a member of Thessaloniki City Council;

G.  whereas the proposed proceedings do not concern opinions expressed or votes cast in the performance of the duties of the Member of the European Parliament in question within the meaning of Article 8 of Protocol No 7 on the Privileges and Immunities of the European Union;

H.  whereas there is no reason to suspect that the intention underlying the proposed proceedings is to cause political damage to the MEP concerned (fumus persecutionis), especially given that the proceedings involve all those who were members of the city council at the time;

1.  Decides to waive the immunity of Sotirios Zarianopoulos;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision and the report of its committee responsible immediately to the Greek authorities.

(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.


EU-China Agreement relating to the accession of Croatia ***
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 13 September 2016 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement in the form of an Exchange of Letters between the European Union and the People's Republic of China pursuant to Article XXIV: 6 and Article XXVIII of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994 relating to the modification of concessions in the schedule of the Republic of Croatia in the course of its accession to the European Union (15561/2015 – C8-0158/2016 – 2015/0298(NLE))
P8_TA(2016)0326A8-0231/2016

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (15561/2015),

–  having regard to Agreement in the form of an Exchange of Letters between the European Union and the People's Republic of China pursuant to Article XXIV: 6 and Article XXVIII of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994 relating to the modification of concessions in the schedules of the Republic of Croatia in the course of their accession to the European Union (15562/2015),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 207(4), first paragraph, and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(v), of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8‑0158/2016),

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

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on International Trade (A8-0231/2016),

1.  Gives its consent to conclusion of the agreement;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of the People's Republic of China


EU-Uruguay Agreement relating to the accession of Croatia ***
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 13 September 2016 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement in the form of an Exchange of Letters between the European Union and the Eastern Republic of Uruguay pursuant to Article XXIV:6 and Article XXVIII of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994 relating to the modification of concessions in the schedule of the Republic of Croatia in the course of its accession to the European Union (06870/2016 – C8-0235/2016 – 2016/0058(NLE))
P8_TA(2016)0327A8-0241/2016

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (06870/2016),

–  having regard to the draft Agreement in the form of an Exchange of Letters between the European Union and the Eastern Republic of Uruguay pursuant to Article XXIV:6 and Article XXVIII of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994 relating to the modification of concessions in the schedule of the Republic of Croatia in the course of its accession to the European Union (06871/2016),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with the first subparagraph of Article 207(4) and point (a)(v) of the second subparagraph of Article 218(6) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8‑0235/2016),

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

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on International Trade (A8-0241/2016),

1.  Gives its consent to conclusion of the agreement;

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


Nomination of a Member of the Court of Auditors – Lazaros Stavrou Lazarou
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European Parliament decision of 13 September 2016 on the nomination of Lazaros Stavrou Lazarou as a Member of the Court of Auditors (C8-0190/2016 – 2016/0807(NLE))
P8_TA(2016)0328A8-0258/2016

(Consultation)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 286(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C8‑0190/2016),

–  having regard to Rule 121 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0258/2016),

A.  whereas Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control proceeded to evaluate the credentials of the nominee, in particular in view of the requirements laid down in Article 286(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;

B.  whereas at its meeting of 5 September 2016 the Committee on Budgetary Control heard the Council’s nominee for membership of the Court of Auditors;

1.  Delivers a favourable opinion on the Council’s nomination of Lazaros Stavrou Lazarou as a Member of the Court of Auditors;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Council and, for information, the Court of Auditors, the other institutions of the European Union and the audit institutions of the Member States.


Nomination of a Member of the Court of Auditors – João Alexandre Tavares Gonçalves de Figueiredo
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European Parliament decision of 13 September 2016 on the nomination of João Alexandre Tavares Gonçalves de Figueiredo as a Member of the Court of Auditors (C8-0260/2016 – 2016/0809(NLE))
P8_TA(2016)0329A8-0259/2016

(Consultation)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 286(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C8‑0260/2016),

–  having regard to Rule 121 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0259/2016),

A.  whereas Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control proceeded to evaluate the credentials of the nominee, in particular in view of the requirements laid down in Article 286(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;

B.  whereas at its meeting of 5 September 2016 the Committee on Budgetary Control heard the Council’s nominee for membership of the Court of Auditors;

1.  Delivers a favourable opinion on the Council’s nomination of João Alexandre Tavares Gonçalves de Figueiredo as a Member of the Court of Auditors;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Council and, for information, the Court of Auditors, the other institutions of the European Union and the audit institutions of the Member States.


Nomination of a Member of the Court of Auditors – Leo Brincat
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European Parliament decision of 13 September 2016 on the nomination of Leo Brincat as a Member of the Court of Auditors (C8-0185/2016 – 2016/0806(NLE))
P8_TA(2016)0330A8-0257/2016

(Consultation)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 286(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C8‑0185/2016),

–  having regard to Rule 121 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0257/2016),

A.  whereas Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control proceeded to evaluate the credentials of the nominee, in particular in view of the requirements laid down in Article 286(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;

B.  whereas at its meeting of 5 September 2016 the Committee on Budgetary Control heard the Council’s nominee for membership of the Court of Auditors;

1.  Delivers a negative opinion on the Council’s nomination of Leo Brincat as a Member of the Court of Auditors and calls on the Council to withdraw its nomination and submit a new one to Parliament;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Council and, for information, the Court of Auditors, the other institutions of the European Union and the audit institutions of the Member States.


Statistics relating to external trade with non-member countries (delegated and implementing powers) ***II
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 13 September 2016 on the Council position at first reading with a view to the adoption of a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 471/2009 on Community statistics relating to external trade with non-member countries as regards the conferral of delegated and implementing powers on the Commission for the adoption of certain measures (08536/1/2016 – C8-0226/2016 – 2013/0279(COD))
P8_TA(2016)0331A8-0240/2016

(Ordinary legislative procedure: second reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Council position at first reading (08536/1/2016 – C8‑0226/2016),

–  having regard to its position at first reading(1)on the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2013)0579),

–  having regard to Article 294(7) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Rule 76 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the recommendation for second reading of the Committee on International Trade (A8-0240/2016),

1.  Approves the Council position at first reading;

2.  Notes that the act is adopted in accordance with the Council position;

3.  Instructs its President to sign the act with the President of the Council, in accordance with Article 297(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;

4.  Instructs its Secretary-General to sign the act, once it has been verified that all the procedures have been duly completed, and, in agreement with the Secretary-General of the Council, to arrange for its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union;

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

(1) Texts adopted of 12.3.2014, P7_TA(2014)0226.


Statistics on natural gas and electricity prices ***I
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Resolution
Text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 13 September 2016 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on European statistics on natural gas and electricity prices and repealing Directive 2008/92/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning a Community procedure to improve the transparency of gas and electricity prices charged to industrial end-users (COM(2015)0496 – C8-0357/2015 – 2015/0239(COD))
P8_TA(2016)0332A8-0184/2016

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2015)0496),

–  having regard to Article 294(2) and Article 338(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C8‑0357/2015),

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

–  having regard to the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 22 June 2016 to approve Parliament’s position, in accordance with Article 294(4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (A8-0184/2016),

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

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

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

Position of the European Parliament adopted at first reading on 13 September 2016 with a view to the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2016/... of the European Parliament and of the Council on European statistics on natural gas and electricity prices and repealing Directive 2008/92/EC

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Regulation (EU) 2016/1952.)


Towards a New Energy Market Design
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European Parliament resolution of 13 September 2016 on Towards a New Energy Market Design (2015/2322(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0333A8-0214/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and in particular Articles 114 and 194 thereof,

–   having regard to the Paris Agreement of December 2015 concluded at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,

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

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 5 November 2013 entitled ‘Delivering the internal electricity market and making the most of public intervention’ (C(2013)7243) and the Commission staff working document entitled ‘Generation Adequacy in the internal electricity market – guidance on public interventions’ (SWD(2013)0438),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 9 April 2014 entitled ‘Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy 2014-2020’(1),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 16 December 2014 entitled ‘Commission Work Programme 2015 – A New Start’ (COM(2014)0910),

–   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 25 February 2015 entitled ‘Energy Union Package – 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 25 February 2015 entitled ‘Achieving the 10 % electricity interconnection target – Making Europe’s electricity grid fit for 2020’ (COM(2015)0082),

–  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 Council conclusions of 23 and 24 October 2014 on the 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 19 March 2015 on the Energy Union,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 26 November 2015 on the governance system of the Energy Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 713/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 establishing an Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators(2),

–   having regard to Regulation (EC) No 714/2009 of the European Parliament and the Council of 13 July 2009 on conditions for access to the network for cross-border exchanges in electricity and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1228/2003(3),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 347/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2013 on guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure and repealing Decision No 1364/2006/EC and amending Regulations (EC) No 713/2009, (EC) No 714/2009 and (EC) No 715/2009(4),

–  having regard to Directive 2005/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2005 concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market and amending Council Directive 84/450/EEC, Directives 97/7/EC, 98/27/EC and 2002/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council (‘Unfair Commercial Practices Directive’)(5),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 256/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 concerning the notification to the Commission of investment projects in energy infrastructure within the European Union, replacing Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 617/2010 and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 736/96(6),

–  having regard to Directive 2005/89/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 January 2006 concerning measures to safeguard security of electricity supply and infrastructure investment(7),

–  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(8),

–  having regard to the Third Energy Package,

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 June 2008 on Towards a European Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 March 2013 on the Energy roadmap 2050, a future with energy(10),

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 February 2014 on the local and regional consequences of the development of smart grids(11),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 October 2015 on Towards a new international climate agreement in Paris(12),

–  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(13),

–  having regard to Directive 2009/72/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 concerning common rules for the internal market in electricity and repealing Directive 2003/54/EC(14),

–  having regard to its resolution of 10 September 2013 on making the internal energy market work(15),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 December 2015 on Towards a European Energy Union(16),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 December 2015 on achieving the 10 % electricity interconnection target – Making Europe’s electricity grid fit for 2020(17),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (A8-0214/2016),

A.  whereas the Commission’s plans with regard to the electricity market must lead to real market transformation, contribute to efficiency, security of supply, development of renewables and interconnectors, and ensure the completion of the European internal energy market;

B.  whereas the integration of energy markets, coupled with the integration of all market players, including prosumers, will contribute to achieving the Treaty goal of secure, affordable, efficient and sustainable energy;

C.  whereas, in order to achieve the climate and energy targets, the energy system of the future will need more flexibility, which requires investment in all four flexibility solutions – flexible production, network development, demand flexibility and storage;

D.  whereas more than half of all the electricity in the EU is generated without producing greenhouse gases;

E.  whereas the integration of electricity markets must comply with Article 194 TFEU, according to which European energy policy shall ensure the functioning of the energy market and the security of energy supply, and promote energy efficiency savings, the development of renewable energy and the interconnection of energy networks; whereas defining the Member States’ energy mix and the conditions governing the use of their energy resources remains a national competence;

F.  whereas positive experiences of multilateral cooperation serve as models for greater regional market responsibility (e.g. regional security coordination initiatives (RSCIs) such as Coreso and the Transmission System Operator Security Cooperation (TSC), the Pentalateral Energy Forum, the High Level Group for South-West Europe on interconnections, the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP), the common multinational Nordic reserve and balancing markets, and market coupling in central and eastern Europe); whereas their design includes rules to ensure that capacity is allocated sufficiently in advance to provide investment signals in respect of less polluting plants;

G.  whereas a number of Member States anticipate inadequate generation capacity, which will pose a threat of blackouts in the near future unless the necessary back-up mechanisms are put in place;

H.  whereas national capacity markets make it harder to integrate electricity markets and run contrary to the objectives of the common energy policy, and should only be used as a last resort once all other options have been considered, including increased interconnection with neighbouring countries, demand-side response measures and other forms of regional market integration;

I.  whereas Europe is committed to successfully achieving the energy transition and especially to facilitating the integration of renewable energy sources, which implies new needs for flexibility and the implementation of market schemes dedicated to security of supply;

J.  whereas the objective of energy security defined by the Treaties will be essential for the consolidation of the Energy Union, and whereas instruments adequate to ensure it must therefore be preserved and/or implemented;

K.  whereas in order to make public investment as efficient as possible by taking the necessary measures to create a secure, sustainable and competitive energy market, it is vital to combine the European Fund for Strategic Investments with other specific sources of energy funding, such as the Connecting Europe Facility;

L.  whereas increased cooperation at regional level is indispensable, and should serve as a catalyst for deeper market integration at the European level;

M.  whereas energy taxes, high taxation costs, indiscriminate price regulation, high market concentration, administrative burden, subsidies, a lack of cross-border cooperation and interconnectors in some regions, and under-exploited demand-side management are preventing a functioning internal market in electricity and thus delaying the full market integration of renewable energy sources;

N.  whereas all market participants should contribute to system balancing in order to ensure maximum security of electricity supply at a reasonable cost for society and the economy;

O.  whereas a medium-term increase in the degree of interconnection between certain Member States – to 15 % subject to cost-benefit analysis – which addresses existing bottlenecks in a targeted way could improve security of supply and end energy islands; stresses that, in addition to the quantitative target, open access and the availability of interconnectors are also imperative if the remaining barriers to the functioning of the European electricity market are to be overcome;

P.  whereas the growing share of variable renewable energy sources in the electricity mix requires stable backup from flexible and sustainable energy sources, and flexible technologies such as storage and demand-response;

Q.  whereas energy storage is a key tool for bringing greater flexibility and efficiency to energy markets, but whereas there is still no regulatory mechanism in place making it possible to take advantage of an efficient storage system;

R.  whereas the International Energy Agency (IEA) recently came forward with meaningful recommendations in its ‘Re-Powering Markets’ study(18);

S.  whereas a European energy market, if well designed and properly implemented, holds the potential to substantially boost European energy security and independence, in particular vis-à-vis major suppliers on which the Union is dependent;

T.  whereas the EU’s remaining energy islands need to be eliminated as a matter of urgency if a genuine energy market is to be created;

1.  Welcomes the aforementioned Commission communication of 15 July 2015 on a new energy market design, and endorses the view that the transformed electricity market, coupled with the implementation of existing legislation, should enhance regional cooperation on all dimensions of energy supply and demand, and should focus on improved, more decentralised and more flexible markets, in order to ensure a well‑regulated, market‑based system which is capable of delivering on all of the EU’s established energy and climate goals for 2030;

2.  Considers that the innovative elements which have necessitated a redesign of the energy market are:

   the increased presence of renewables with market-driven remuneration;
   stronger integration of national markets through the development of interconnections;
   the development of smart grids and new decentralised generation technologies, which will allow consumers to play a more active role as both consumer and producer, and will foster better demand-side management;

3.  Welcomes the fact that the new Energy Union strategy is designed to make the EU a leader in renewable energies, and notes that achieving this objective will require a fundamental shift in Europe’s electricity system;

4.  Welcomes the fact that the new Energy Union strategy brings fresh benefits for energy consumers, offers them a much wider range of options for participating in energy markets and ensures better consumer protection;

5.  Calls for the existing regulatory framework for European markets to be adjusted in order to allow a growing share of renewable energy sources and to close existing cross‑border regulatory gaps; stresses that a new market design for electricity as part of an increasingly decentralised energy system must be based on market principles, which would stimulate investment, ensure that SMEs have access to the energy market and unlock a sustainable and efficient electricity supply through a stable, integrated and smart energy system; considers that this framework should promote and reward flexible storage solutions, demand-side response technologies, flexible generation, increased interconnections and further market integration, which will help to promote a growing share of renewable energy sources and integrate them into the market; stresses that security of supply and decarbonisation will require a combination of liquid short-term (day-ahead and intraday) markets and long-term price signals;

6.  Considers the full implementation of the Third Energy Package in all Member States to be one of the most important steps towards a European energy market; urges the Commission, therefore, to secure the implementation of the current regulatory framework;

7.  Calls for the new electricity market design to embrace a holistic, future-oriented approach by recognising the increasing importance of so-called prosumers in the decentralised production of electricity through renewables; calls on the Commission, in this context, to guide a participative process aimed at reaching a common practical understanding of the definition of prosumers at the EU level; asks the Commission to include a new chapter on prosumers in the revised Renewable Energy Directive in order to address the main barriers and boost investment in self-generation and self‑consumption of renewables;

8.  Believes that the best way to move towards an integrated EU-wide electricity market is to determine strategically the necessary level of integration which should be achieved, to restore confidence among market players and, especially, to ensure proper implementation of existing legislation;

9.  Calls on the Member States to be more proactively involved in designing a flexible and decentralised European internal market in electricity in order to enhance coordination between national transition strategies and avoid undermining the objectives of Articles 114 and 194 TFEU by means of permanent capacity markets and mechanisms;

10.  Believes that a strengthened European internal market in electricity is possible, on the basis of stronger price signals on the wholesale market through prices that reflect actual scarcity and surplus of supplies, including price spikes, which, along with other measures, play the role of investment signals for new capacity and flexibility services; recalls that the transition to scarcity pricing implies improved mobilisation of demand response and storage, along with effective market monitoring and controls to address the risk of market power abuse, in particular to protect consumers; believes that consumer engagement is one of the most important objectives in the pursuit of energy efficiency, and that whether prices that reflect the actual scarcity of supply in fact lead to adequate investment in electricity production capacity should be evaluated on a regular basis;

11.  Emphasises that the internal EU electricity market is also influenced by imports from third countries with fundamentally different legal and regulatory systems, including as regards nuclear safety and security and environmental and climate change requirements; calls on the Commission to take this into due account in working on new energy market design, so as to ensure a level playing field between power producers in EU and non-EU countries and to provide European consumers with secure, sustainable and affordable energy;

12.  Considers that investments in the field of energy require a stable and predictable long‑term framework, and that the challenge EU has to face will be that of instilling confidence in the outcome of the new rules;

13.  Calls for appropriate transition periods, with detailed cost-benefit analyses, for all the proposals under discussion;

14.  Stresses the importance of a common analysis of system adequacy at regional level, facilitated by the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) and the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E), and calls for the transmission system operators (TSOs) of neighbouring markets to devise a common methodology, approved by the Commission, to that end; highlights the enormous potential of strengthened regional cooperation;

15.  Stresses the importance of coordinated long-term planning for the efficient development of transmission infrastructure and electricity markets in Europe; highlights, in this connection, the need for better regional cooperation and notes the success of existing regional market approaches such as Nord Pool;

16.  Stresses the right of Member States to determine the conditions governing the use of their energy resources in their national energy mix, subject to the Treaty provisions stipulating that European energy policy shall ensure the functioning of the energy market, ensure security of energy supply, promote energy efficiency and savings and the development of renewable forms of energy and promote the interconnection of energy networks; emphasises that regional cooperation would allow cost savings and benefits for the European energy system and should be based on a standard, transparent regional system methodology for assessing their long-term adequacy needs, and for agreeing on the action to be taken in the event of an electricity crisis, in particular when such a crisis has cross-border effects; calls on the Commission, therefore, to propose a revised framework to that end; also calls on the Commission to reflect this in its legislative proposal;

17.  Recalls that those Member States which choose to use nuclear energy should do so in compliance with EU safety standards, internal energy market regulations and State aid rules;

18.  Notes that energy efficiency savings, demand-side responsiveness, energy storage capacity and network expansion, in particular through smart grids, efficient use of interconnections and the further expansion and development of national networks, are indispensable with a view to completing the internal market in electricity with a growing share of renewables, and recalls the ‘efficiency first’ principle, whereby consideration must first be given to demand-side investment before network and supply investment; considers it regrettable that there are still large gaps in the interconnections within and between some Member States, leading to network bottlenecks and significantly impairing operational security and cross-border energy trading; regrets the practice of limiting transmission capacity in order to balance national production and as a means of dealing with internal bottlenecks; calls for electricity interconnection objectives to be differentiated by region, reflecting real market flows, to be subject to relevant cost-benefit analysis and to be based on the ENTSO-E 10-year network plan, as long as the minimum objectives set for the EU are fulfilled; considers that, to this end, it is also very important to counteract uncoordinated loop flows, especially in the central and eastern Europe region; stresses that, once built, the availability of cross-border capacity is equally important, given the increasing levels of capacity curtailment by Member States;

19.  Notes that new approaches should be developed with a view to overcoming bottlenecks and achieving a smart distribution grid that allows the smooth integration and provision of services by decentralised generators, prosumers and consumers;

20.  Reiterates its support for EU regional interoperability targets; recognises, however, that suboptimal use of existing infrastructure threatens the vitality of such targets; stresses that optimal use of existing infrastructure is crucial for a European energy market, and asks the Commission, therefore, to address this issue in any upcoming proposal for legislation;

21.  Calls for optimised implementation and enforcement of the legislative framework for the internal electricity market, and for the Commission and ACER to further address issues in the wholesale markets where current practices are not consistent with Regulation (EC) No 714/2009; calls on ACER to increase regulatory oversight of the restraint of existing interconnector capacity;

22.  Notes that a targeted and ambitious network upgrade and the removal of structural network bottlenecks are important preconditions for realising the internal market in energy and thereby stepping up competition; takes the view that a configuration of price zones should be discussed, with the participation of all relevant stakeholders and taking into account ACER competences as well as the ENTSO-E bidding zone review; stresses that the splitting of bidding zones as a last resort could be a sensible market economy approach with a view to reflecting actual electricity shortages in certain regions; takes the view that in closely integrated electricity networks the allocation of price zones should be decided in conjunction with all the neighbouring countries concerned, in order to prevent both the inefficient use of networks and the reduction of cross-border capacity, which is incompatible with the internal market;

23.  Understands that, because of the low price of energy on the wholesale markets and its impact on investment, and the need to develop mechanisms for adapting production capacity to the flexibility required to respond to the demand side, several Member States, in the absence of a European approach and on account of specific components of their consumption market, have had to develop capacity mechanisms;

24.  Is sceptical of purely national and non-market-based capacity mechanisms and markets, which are incompatible with the principles of an internal energy market and which lead to market distortions, indirect subsidies for mature technologies and high costs for end‑consumers; stresses, therefore, that any capacity mechanism in the EU must be designed from the perspective of cross-border cooperation following the completion of thorough studies on its necessity, and must comply with EU rules on competition and State aid; believes that better integration of national energy production into the EU energy system and the reinforcement of interconnections could reduce the need for, and cost of, capacity mechanisms;

25.  Calls for cross-border capacity mechanisms to be authorised only when the following criteria, inter alia, are met:

   (a) the need for them is confirmed by a detailed regional adequacy analysis of the production and supply situation, including interconnections, storage, demand‑side response and cross-border generation resources, on the basis of a homogeneous, standardised and transparent EU-wide methodology which identifies a clear risk to uninterrupted supply;
   (b) there is no possible alternative measure that is less costly and less market-intrusive, such as full regional market integration without restriction of cross-border exchanges, combined with targeted network/strategic reserves;
   (c) their design is market-based and is such that they are non‑discriminatory in respect of the use of electricity storage technologies, aggregated demand-side response, stable sources of renewable energy and participation by undertakings in other Member States, so that there is no cross‑border cross-subsidisation or discrimination against industry or other customers, and it is ensured that they only remunerate the capacity strictly necessary for security of supply;
   (d) their design includes rules to ensure that capacity is allocated sufficiently in advance to provide adequate investment signals in respect of less polluting plants;
   (e) sustainability and air quality rules are incorporated in order to eliminate the most polluting technologies (consideration could be given to an emissions performance standard in this connection);

26.  Stresses that, in addition to the new energy market design, the upcoming reviews of the Renewable Energy Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive are key to unlocking the opportunities offered by energy storage;

27.  Believes that developing new and existing electricity storage solutions will be an indispensable element of the energy transition, and that new market design rules should help to put in place a supportive framework for the various technologies involved;

28.  Considers that energy storage has numerous benefits, not least enabling demand-side response, assisting in balancing the grid and providing a means to store excess renewable power generation; calls for the revision of the existing regulatory framework to promote the deployment of energy storage systems and other flexibility options, which allow a larger share of intermittent renewable energy sources (RES), whether centralised or distributed, with lower marginal costs to be fed into the energy system; stresses the need to establish a separate asset category for electricity or energy storage systems in the existing regulatory framework, given the dual nature – generation and demand – of energy storage systems;

29.  Calls, therefore, for a new market design to address technical barriers and discriminatory practices in network codes for energy storage, and for fees and taxes to be applied fairly, avoiding double costs for the charging and discharging of energy and resulting in a market which rewards fast-reacting, flexible sources; suggests that if and when storage options become more abundant and affordable, the rationale for capacity markets will quickly disappear;

30.  Stresses the need to promote the deployment of energy storage systems and to create a level playing field on which energy storage can compete with other flexibility options, on the basis of a technology-neutral design of the energy market;

31.  Calls, therefore, for a technology-neutral design of the energy market to give various renewable-based energy storage solutions, such as lithium-ion batteries, heat pumps and hydrogen fuel cells, a chance to complement RES generation capacity; calls, also, for the establishment of clearly defined mechanisms in order to take advantage of excess production and of curtailment;

32.  Calls on the Commission to clarify the position of storage in different steps of the electricity chain, and to allow transmission and distribution operators to invest in, use and exploit energy storage services for the purpose of grid balancing and other ancillary services;

33.  Notes the increasing range of energy and ancillary services that energy storage may provide in the future; calls, therefore, for a definition of electricity storage that would cover its dual nature (electricity uptake and release), and for the removal of regulatory barriers to electricity storage;

34.  Calls for the current regulatory framework to be revised in order to promote the use of energy storage systems and other flexibility options with the aim of feeding into the energy system, on a centralised or decentralised basis, a larger share of renewable intermittent energy sources with low marginal costs;

35.  Calls for a definition of an electricity-system energy storage device to be incorporated into the regulatory framework;

36.  Calls for a separate category for electricity storage systems to be created in the current regulatory framework alongside generation, grid operation and consumption;

37.  Stresses that gas interconnections and the coordination of national emergency measures represent methods through which Member States can cooperate in the event of severe gas supply disruptions;

38.  Notes that cross-border competition could bring benefits for consumers through the presence of several energy suppliers in a decentralised market, leading to the emergence of innovative new energy service companies;

39.  Calls for the further development of the energy-only market, with costs and benefits to be shared fairly by all energy users and producers, on the basis of the consistent application of existing legislation, the targeted upgrade of transmission and distribution infrastructure, greater regional cooperation, better interconnection, energy efficiency, demand-response schemes and storage, which can send the right long-term signals to maintain the electricity system securely and develop renewable energy sources, while taking into account the particular features of the electricity markets of regions that are isolated from the national electricity system, and thus promoting energy diversification and encouraging greater competition in order to increase security of supply;

40.  Stresses that energy efficiency is a core principle of the Energy Union strategy, since this is an effective way of reducing emissions, generating savings for consumers and reducing the EU’s dependency on fossil fuel imports;

41.  Recognises that energy flexibility and capacity are currently essential and should be properly evaluated as part of a future-proof market design, given that they are complementary elements;

42.  Stresses that a European electricity market must be market-driven; emphasises, in this connection, that dynamic price formation has a signal and guidance function and is doubtless an important factor in efficiency, and therefore in ensuring a well-functioning electricity market;

43.  Points out that time-varying electricity prices can trigger demand-side flexibility, which can help balance demand and supply and smooth out variable renewable production patterns; stresses the importance, in this connection, of electricity prices reflecting actual electricity costs;

44.  Notes that the expectation of future price surges can create incentives for producers and investors to invest in flexible solutions such as energy storage, energy efficiency, demand-side management, renewable production capacity, high-efficiency modern gas‑fired power stations and pumped-storage power stations; urges that restraint be shown as regards intervention in the wholesale market, even in the event of large price surges; calls for any planned phasing-out of regulated consumer prices which are below the cost of production to take into account the needs of vulnerable consumers at risk of energy poverty;

45.  Stresses that full integration of renewables into the electricity market is essential; calls for efforts to encourage and maximise their participation in balancing services, and considers that shortening gate closure times, aligning trading intervals with the imbalance settlement period and allowing the submission of aggregated bids from generators located in different Member States would contribute significantly to achieving this aim;

46.  Calls for the completion of the integration of internal market and balancing and reserve services by fostering liquidity and cross-border trading in all market timeframes; urges that efforts to achieve the ambitious goals of the Target Model regarding intraday and balancing markets be speeded up, starting with the harmonisation of gate closure times and the balancing of energy products;

47.  Calls on the Commission to submit proposals to allow instruments to mitigate the revenue risk over 20 to 30 years, so that investments in new low-carbon generation are actually driven by the market, such as co-investments with contractual sharing of risks between large consumers and electricity producers, or a market for long-term contracts based on average cost pricing;

48.  Calls for power supply and ancillary services contracts to be awarded on a free-market basis; states that such open tendering, whether organised nationally or on a cross-border basis, should be technology-neutral and also make it possible for energy storage operators to take part;

49.  Supports the increasing share of renewables in the EU; stresses the importance of stable and cost-effective renewable support schemes for long-term investment that remain responsive and adaptable in the short term and are tailored to national needs and circumstances, allowing the gradual phasing-out of subsidies for mature renewable technologies; welcomes the fact that a number of renewable energy technologies are rapidly becoming cost-competitive with conventional forms of generation; notes that care should be taken to ensure that support schemes are well designed and that any impact on energy-intensive industries at risk of carbon leakage is kept to a minimum;

50.  Stresses the importance of digital technologies in sending price signals that allow demand-response to work as a source of flexibility; calls, therefore, for an ambitious strategy with regard to digitisation in the energy sector, from the deployment of smart grids and smart meters to the development of mobile applications, online platforms and data hubs;

51.  Notes that under the 2020 framework the Member States must meet specific quantitative objectives for the share of renewables in final energy consumption, irrespective of the market situation, and stresses, therefore, the importance of promoting renewables through policies that focus on competition and cost efficiency, while recognising that there are many different renewable technologies, which are at different stages of maturity and have different characteristics and therefore cannot be subject to a one-size-fits-all approach; recalls the important role of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) in this connection, and regards the promotion of investment as being more compatible with the market than fixed feed-in tariffs and general preferential treatment;

52.  Insists that, with the increasing technical maturity and widespread use of renewable energy sources, subsidy rules must be geared to market conditions, such as feed-in premiums, in order to keep costs for energy consumers within reasonable bounds;

53.  Warns against mixing energy supply objectives with climate policy objectives; calls for the ETS to be consistently reinforced and the market to be redesigned with a view to greater flexibility, so that in future CO2 and fuel prices can give more support to the expansion of renewables;

54.  Recalls that, as from 2016, the 2014 State aid guidelines require large RES generators to take on balancing responsibilities, which are defined as an obligation on producers to compensate for short-term deviations from their previous delivery commitments in cases where a liquid intraday market exists; stresses that, in the event of departure from the schedule announced by the operator, an appropriate compensatory energy price should be charged; recalls the existing provisions of the Renewable Energy Directive, which grant priority access and dispatch for renewables; suggests that these provisions should be evaluated and revised once a redesigned electricity market has been implemented which ensures a more level playing field and takes greater account of the characteristics of renewable energy generation;

55.  Calls, bearing in mind the subsidiarity principle, for coordinated action by the Member States, starting at regional level, in connection with the further expansion of renewables, in order to boost the economic efficiency of the energy market with a view to attaining the common European objectives and strengthening the stability of the grid; considers that a Member State should not take a unilateral decision which has a substantial impact on neighbouring states without broader discussion and cooperation at the regional or EU level; recalls that renewable energy sources have most of the time a strong local component; calls on the Commission to work towards a more convergent European framework for the promotion of renewables;

56.  Recommends that Member States give consideration to the regulatory framework encouraging end-users to turn to self-production and local energy storage;

57.  Is convinced that, alongside renewables, all safe and sustainable energy sources which serve the objective of gradual decarbonisation in line with the recent COP 21 global agreement will continue to have a role to play in electricity generation;

58.  Draws attention to the importance of coordination at EU level in defining concession regimes for the use of hydroelectric power and opening up the sector to competition, in order to avoid market distortions and promote the efficient use of resources;

59.  Notes that reorganising the electricity market will respond to consumer expectations by providing real benefits arising from the use of new technologies, in particular as regards renewable energy with low carbon dioxide emissions, resulting in interdependence among Member States in relation to energy security;

60.  Emphasises that, in the absence of a fully interconnected electric grid system with adequate storage possibilities, conventional baseload generation remains essential for maintaining security of supply;

61.  Stresses that greater consideration must be given to distribution system operators’ local and regional responsibility for the Energy Union, given that the energy landscape is becoming more and more decentralised, 90 % of renewables are connected to the distribution grid and distribution system operators (DSOs) are locally embedded; recalls the importance of all Member States implementing the requirements of the Third Energy Package with regard to the unbundling of transmission and distribution systems, especially in light of the increased role of DSOs in data access and management; stresses that greater consideration must be given to the TSO-DSO interface; considers that the implementation of appropriate business models, dedicated infrastructure and harmonised support could foster an effective kick-start of demand-side response in each Member State and across borders;

62.  Urges the Member States to establish the judicial and administrative mechanisms needed to spur the involvement of local communities in electricity generation by making them stakeholders in small-scale renewable electricity generation projects;

63.  Stresses that in most cases renewables are fed in at distribution system level, close to the level of consumption, and therefore calls for DSOs to play a greater role as facilitators and to be more closely involved in the design of European regulatory framework and in the relevant bodies when it comes to drawing up guidelines on issues of concern to them, such as demand-side management, flexibility and storage, and for closer cooperation between DSOs and TSOs at the European level;

64.  Calls for measures to incentivise the necessary investment in smart grid technologies and in distribution systems, with a view to better integrating growing quantities of renewables and being better prepared for digitisation; considers, in this connection, that DSOs must be given a greater role in collecting and sharing data, and that data protection must be guaranteed in all circumstances, bearing in mind the experience gained in countries with full roll-out of smart meters;

65.  Stresses the importance of the regional approach in building the missing electricity infrastructure that is crucial for the security of sustainable electricity supply, with a view to eliminating the bottleneck in the (power) network and completing the internal energy market;

66.  Regards DSOs as neutral market facilitators that receive data from various sources, which they can then make available in a non-discriminatory manner to authorised third parties with the consent of the consumer, thus ensuring that consumers remain in control of their data; considers that DSOs foster the development of the market and play an increasingly important role as active system managers, technological enablers, data managers and innovators; considers that clear rules are required to ensure that DSOs act as neutral market facilitators; points out that DSOs, among other market participants, can also support local authorities by providing them with data to enable energy transition within their territory;

67.  Stresses the need to speed up permit issuing for energy infrastructure projects at all decision-making levels;

68.  Takes the view that it makes sense to step up cooperation within and between regions under the coordination of ACER and with the cooperation of ENTSO-E, particularly as regards evaluating cross-border impacts, but without the Member States abandoning their responsibility for security of supply; stresses that cross-border cooperation and interconnectors are key to ensuring security of supply;

69.  Welcomes the work of ACER and calls for the agency to be provided with sufficient financial and human resources to carry out its current and future tasks and duties and to be able to plan strategically within a reliable mid-term horizon;

70.  Notes the importance of effective, impartial and ongoing market monitoring of European energy markets as a key tool to ensure a true internal energy market characterised by free competition, proper price signals and supply security; underlines the importance of ACER in this connection, and looks forward to the Commission’s position on new and strengthened powers for ACER on cross-border issues;

71.  Calls for ACER to support and coordinate efforts towards increased regional cooperation regarding system security and adequacy; takes the view that the transfer of competences for security-of-supply issues to supranational bodies should take place only if it allows clear gains for the whole electricity system and is accompanied by sufficient accountability;

72.  Calls for ACER to be given decision-making power as regards the coordination of increased regional cooperation in respect of cross-border and interregional issues, in particular in the context of RSCIs, with a view to optimising energy resource management, for such coordination to accommodate national specificities, to be cost‑based and to apply market criteria, and for the development of adequate tools to monitor the energy market effectively with a view to creating the Energy Union without necessitating the creation of a massive new authority;

73.  Notes that the Commission proposals for a new energy market design are confined to the power sector; calls on the Commission to analyse the opportunity to review the design of the natural gas market in order to address challenges in the gas sector (e.g. changing EU gas demand, stranded assets, pricing systems, further market integration and the respective roles of ACER and the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSO-G);

74.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the Member States.

(1) OJ C 200, 28.6.2014, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 211, 14.8.2009, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 211, 14.8.2009, p. 15.
(4) OJ L 115, 25.4.2013, p. 39.
(5) OJ L 149, 11.6.2005, p. 22.
(6) OJ L 84, 20.3.2014, p. 61.
(7) OJ L 33, 4.2.2006, p. 22.
(8) OJ L 304, 22.11.2011, p. 64.
(9) OJ C 286 E, 27.11.2009, p. 24.
(10) OJ C 36, 29.1.2016, p. 62.
(11) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0065.
(12) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0359.
(13) OJ L 140, 5.6.2009, p. 16.
(14) OJ L 211, 14.8.2009, p. 55.
(15) OJ C 93, 9.3.2016, p. 8.
(16) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0444.
(17) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0445.
(18) http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/REPOWERINGMARKETS.pdf


EU strategy on heating and cooling
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European Parliament resolution of 13 September 2016 on an EU Strategy on Heating and Cooling (2016/2058(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0334A8-0232/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular Article 194 thereof,

–  having regard to the Paris Agreement made in December 2015 at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,

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

–  having regard to the Commission communication 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 Council conclusions of 23 and 24 October 2014 on the 2030 Climate and Energy Policy Framework,

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

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 February 2014 on a 2030 framework for climate and energy policies(1),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1291/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing Horizon 2020 – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020) and repealing Decision No 1982/2006/EC(2),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 July 2015 on resource efficiency: moving towards a circular economy(3),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 December 2015 entitled ‘Towards a European Energy Union’(4),

–  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 Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A8-0232/2016),

A.  whereas almost 50 % of the EU’s final energy demand is used for heating and cooling, of which 80 % is used in buildings; whereas the heating and cooling sector should reflect the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change (COP 21); whereas a heating and cooling sector compatible with the EU´s energy and climate goals needs to be based on 100 % renewables by 2050 at the latest, which can only be achieved through reducing our energy consumption and making full use of the “energy efficiency first/first fuel” principle;

B.  whereas every 1 % increase in energy savings reduces gas imports by 2,6 %(5);

C.  whereas more must be done both to reduce heating demands from buildings and to switch remaining demands away from burning imported fossil fuels in individual boilers towards sustainable heating and cooling options in line with EU 2050 objectives;

D.  whereas buildings represent a huge share of the total final energy consumption, and whereas a higher energy efficiency in buildings and demand-response programmes can play a crucial role in balancing energy demand and topping off peak demand, leading to reduced overcapacity and a lowering of generation, operational and transport costs;

E.  whereas the share of renewables has slowly been increasing (accounting for 18 % of primary energy supply in 2012), but there is still huge potential at all levels, and the share of renewables, and of recovered heat energy in heating and cooling, in the Member States should be further increased;

F.  whereas the EU heating and cooling market is fragmented as a result of its local nature, and of the different technologies and economic players involved; whereas the local and regional dimension are essential in setting the right policies for heating and cooling, in planning and implementing heating and cooling infrastructure and in consulting consumers in order to remove obstacles and make heating and cooling more efficient and sustainable;

G.  whereas biomass represents 89 % of total EU renewable heat consumption, and 15 % of total EU heat consumption, and has great potential to deliver further significant and cost-effective solutions to a growing heat demand;

H.  whereas heating and cooling is a prime example of the need for a holistic, integrated systems-based approach to energy solutions, encompassing horizontal approaches to energy system design and the wider economy;

I.  whereas the share of primary energy from fossil fuels in heating and cooling remains very high at 75 % and presents a major barrier to decarbonisation, thereby accelerating climate change and causing significant harm to the environment; whereas the heating and cooling sector should contribute fully to the EU’s climate and energy objectives, and subsidies for the use of fossil fuels in this sector should gradually be phased out, in line with the European Council conclusions of 22 May 2013, in accordance with local conditions;

J.  whereas it is estimated that the amount of heat produced from industrial and other commercial processes that is then wasted into the atmosphere or water (rather than utilised in some productive way) is enough to cover the EU’s entire heating needs in residential and tertiary buildings;

K.  whereas the buildings sector emits around 13 % of all CO2 emissions in the EU;

L.  whereas the use of progressive, efficient heating or cooling systems in buildings must go hand in hand with a thorough process of thermal insulation in a homogenous way, thereby reducing energy demand and costs for consumers and contributing to alleviating energy poverty as well as creating qualified local jobs;

M.  whereas measures for developing a comprehensive and integrated strategy for heating and cooling within the Energy Union, if implemented correctly, offer significant opportunities for both businesses and consumers in the EU, in terms of reducing overall energy costs for industry, boosting competitiveness and delivering cost savings to consumers;

N.  whereas EU regulatory frameworks serve to underline broad objectives, but true progress in transforming heating and cooling as part of a wider energy-system overhaul is essential;

O.  whereas the aim of optimising the role of renewables, particularly electricity, into the overall energy grid through better integration with heating and cooling applications and transport, contributes to decarbonising the energy system, reducing energy import dependency, lowering energy bills for households and boosting competitiveness of EU industry;

P.  whereas the most effective way of delivering on these joint objectives is to empower and support local and regional authorities, in conjunction with all relevant stakeholders, to apply a fully integrated systems-based approach to urban planning, infrastructure development, building and renovation of housing stock, and new industrial development, in order to maximise potential cross-overs, efficiencies and other mutual benefits;

Q.  whereas the energy efficiency of buildings also depends on the use of adequate energy systems; whereas the ‘energy efficiency first’ and ‘energy efficiency as the first fuel’ principles should be respected in the heating and cooling sector;

R.  whereas ambitious goals for deep renovation of the existing building stock would create millions of European jobs, especially in SMEs, increase energy efficiency and play a vital role in ensuring that energy consumption for heating and cooling is minimised;

S.  whereas architecture, urban planning, density of heat streams demand and the diversity of European climate zones and types of building must be taken into account in the planning of energy-efficient, low-emission public and residential buildings;

T.  whereas there is huge untapped potential for the use of waste heat and district heating systems, given that the excess heat available in Europe exceeds the total heat demand in all European buildings, and the fact that 50 % of the total EU heat demand can be supplied via district heating;

U.  whereas a significant proportion of Europe’s population lives in areas, especially cities, where exceedances of air quality standards occur;

V.  whereas heating and cooling are expected to remain the biggest sources of energy demand in Europe, whereas natural gas and LPG are widely used to meet this demand and its use could be optimised through highly efficient energy storage; whereas continued reliance on fossil fuels runs counter to the EU’s climate and energy obligations and decarbonisation goals;

W.  whereas there are currently major differences in annual expenditure on energy for heating purposes between the various climate zones in Europe, with an average of 60 to 90 kWh/m2 in southern European countries and 175 to 235 kWh/m2 in central and northern Europe;

X.  whereas the deployment of effective heating and cooling solutions has significant potential to stimulate the development of Europe’s industrial and service sectors, particularly in the renewable energy sector, and the creation of higher value added in remote and rural regions;

Y.  whereas energy has become a social asset, access to which must be guaranteed; whereas, however, not all citizens can gain access to energy, there being more than 25 million people in Europe who have serious difficulties in doing so;

Z.  whereas energy efficiency policies should focus on the most cost-effective ways to improve buildings performance by reducing heat demands and/or connecting buildings to high-efficiency alternatives;

AA.  whereas the low level of awareness among consumers concerning the lack of efficiency of heating systems is one of the factors having the greatest impact on energy bills;

AB.  whereas homes that have good thermal insulation are of benefit both to the environment and to the user, who enjoys lower energy bills;

AC.  whereas 72 % of the heating and cooling demand of single-family houses is consumed in rural and intermediate areas;

AD.  whereas nature-based solutions, such as well-designed street vegetation, green roofs and walls providing insulation and shade to buildings, reduce energy demand by limiting the need for heating and cooling;

AE.  whereas 85 % of the energy consumed in buildings is used for space heating and hot water production, and 45 % of the heating and cooling in the EU is used in the residential sector;

AF.  whereas industry, in cooperation with local authorities, has an important role to play in the better use of wasted heat and cool;

AG.  whereas, on average, Europeans spend 6 % of their consumption expenditure on heating and cooling, and 11 % cannot afford to keep their homes warm enough in winter;

AH.  whereas the cooling sector still needs to be analysed in a more thorough way, and to be taken more into account, in the Commission strategy and in Member State policies;

AI.  whereas it is important to promote studies on energy saving in historic buildings in order to optimise energy performance where possible, while ensuring that the cultural heritage is protected and preserved;

1.  Welcomes the Commission communication “an EU Strategy on Heating and Cooling” as an important step in providing a holistic approach to transforming heating and cooling in the European Union, and identifying priority areas of action; fully endorses the Commission’s ambition of recognising and exploiting the synergies between the electricity and heating sectors, with the aim of achieving an efficient sector that increases energy security and facilitates cost-effective achievement of the EU’s climate and energy goals; calls on the Commission to consider heating and cooling sectors as part of European energy market design;

2.  Points out the necessity to take along specific measures for heating and cooling when revising the Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU), the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2010/31/EU);

3.  Considers that the strategy on heating and cooling must allow for both of these necessities in equal measure, taking into account that Europe has different climate zones and that needs, in terms of energy use, differ accordingly;

4.  Underlines that the strategy on heating and cooling should prioritise sustainable and cost-efficient solutions enabling the Member States to reach EU climate and energy policy goals; notes that the Member States’ heating and cooling sectors are very diverse owing to different energy mixes, climatic conditions, grades of efficiency of the building stock and industry intensity, and stresses, therefore, that flexibility in choosing adequate strategy solutions should be ensured;

5.  Calls for specific sustainable heating and cooling strategies to be developed at national level, giving special attention to combined heat and power, cogeneration, district heating and cooling, preferably based on renewables, as is stated in Article 14 of the Energy Efficiency Directive;

6.  Notes that high energy efficiency, high-performance thermal insulation and the use of renewable energy sources and recovered heat are fundamental priorities for the EU’s heating and cooling strategy; considers, therefore, that the ‘energy efficiency first’ principle should be respected, as energy efficiency offers one of the highest and fastest rates of financial return available and is a key part of the strategy for achieving a successful transition towards a secure, resilient and smart heating and cooling sector;

7.  Notes that a more decentralised and flexible energy system, with power and heat sources placed closer to the point of consumption, can facilitate decentralised energy generation, thereby empowering consumers and communities to be more involved in the energy market, and to control their own energy use, as well as allowing them to become active participants in a demand-side response; takes the view that the shorter the chain by which primary energy is converted into other forms to generate usable heat, the higher the energy efficiency of the energy system overall; recognises, moreover, that such an approach diminishes transmission and distribution losses, improves the resilience of energy infrastructure and simultaneously provides local business opportunities for SMEs;

8.  Underlines the complementarities between eco-design and energy labelling legislation, on the one hand, and the Energy Efficiency and Performance of Buildings directives, on the other, in reducing heating and cooling consumption; considers that domestic appliances (washing machines, dishwashers, etc.) should be as efficient as possible and designed in such a way that they can use the hot water supply at the place where they are installed; believes, therefore, that eco-design requirements and energy-labelling policies should be reviewed and improved on a regular basis, in order to achieve additional energy savings, and improve competitiveness, through more innovative products and reduced energy costs;

9.  Recalls that heating and cooling constitute the largest share of the EU’s energy demand; emphasises the importance of respecting the technology-neutral principle between the currently available renewable sources and market- and state-based incentives in the transition to a low-carbon and secure energy supply to the heating and cooling sector;

10.  Stresses the need for a favourable framework for tenants and those living in multi-dwelling buildings, to enable them as well to benefit from the self-generation and consumption of renewable heating and cooling, and energy efficiency measures, thereby tackling the challenges of split incentives and, on occasion, impeding tenancy rules;

11.  Highlights the fundamental role of renewable energy technologies, including the use of sustainable biomass, of aerothermal, geothermal and solar energy, and of photovoltaic cells in combination with electric batteries, to heat water and provide heating and cooling in buildings, in conjunction with thermal storage facilities that can be used for daily or seasonal balancing; calls on the Member States to provide incentives for the promotion and take-up of such technologies; calls on the Member States to implement fully the current Energy Efficiency and Performance of Buildings directives, including the ‘Nearly Zero Energy Buildings’ (nZEB) requirements and long-term renovation strategies, taking into account the need to mobilise sufficient investment for the modernisation of their building stocks; asks the Commission to present an EU-wide vision of an nZEB stock by 2050;

12.  Considers that issues surrounding energy security in the EU largely concern the security of heat supply; considers, therefore, the diversification of sources for heating to be of utmost importance, and calls on the Commission to explore ways to further support and accelerate the increased deployment of renewable heat technologies;

13.  Considers that the use of mapping resources for heating purposes, appropriate architectural solutions, facility management best practices and urban design principles, including urban level network solutions such as district heating and cooling, in the planning of whole residential and commercial areas should be the basis for energy-efficient and low-emission construction in the various climate zones in Europe; underlines that a properly insulated building fabric has a high thermal storage capacity, resulting in significant heating and cooling savings;

14.  Stresses that energy demand in the building sector is responsible for about 40 % of energy consumption in the EU, and a third of the natural gas use, and could be reduced by up to three quarters if the renovation of buildings is speeded up; highlights that 85 % of this energy consumption is used for heating and domestic hot water, and that, as such, modernisation of old and inefficient heating systems, increased utilisation of electricity from renewables, better use of “waste heat” through highly efficient district heating systems, and deep renovation of buildings with improved thermal insulation, remain key to delivering a more secure and sustainable approach to heat supply; recommends the continuation of increasing energy efficiency standards for buildings, taking account of and encouraging technical innovation, particularly as regards ensuring homogeneity of insulation; further recommends continued support for the construction of nZEBs;

15.  Encourages the Member States to develop long-term heating and cooling strategies based on an integrated approach, harmonised mapping and the assessment made following Article 14 of the Energy Efficiency Directive; stresses that the strategy should identify priority areas for intervention and enable optimised urban energy planning; calls on the Commission to assist the Member States in this exercise by elaborating general guidance for national heating and cooling strategies;

16.  Draws attention to the economic effect of renovating and insulating buildings, often resulting in up to 50 % lower heating and cooling costs, and calls on the Commission to provide adequate co-financing for initiatives aimed at renovating public housing and apartment blocks with low levels of energy efficiency;

17.  Welcomes the Commission’s intention to develop a toolbox of measures to facilitate the renovation in multi-apartment buildings; considers that a harmonised and comprehensive toolbox should also be developed for the energy planning of cities, to enable the mapping of local heating and cooling potential, optimised and integrated building renovation, and heating and cooling infrastructure development;

18.  Reiterates the importance of developing EU schemes that provide incentives for energy-efficient retrofits of public buildings, dwellings and social housing, and for the construction of ecological new buildings, that go beyond the minimum legal requirements;

19.  Points out the local character and potential of heating and cooling; calls on local and regional authorities to facilitate further thermo-modernisation through the renovation of existing public, commercial and residential buildings with low energy performance; highlights the importance of movements such as the Covenant of Mayors, which allow a sharing of knowledge and best practices;

20.  Stresses the need to carry out mapping of local heating and cooling potentials throughout Europe, so that cities are better able to identify locally available resources, allowing them to contribute to increasing the EU’s energy independence, boost growth and competitiveness through the creation of local, non-outsourceable jobs, and provide clean and affordable energy to consumers;

21.  Calls on local authorities to assess existing heating and cooling potential, as well as future heating and cooling needs, in their areas, taking into account the potential of locally available renewable energy sources, thermal energy from cogeneration and district heating volumes;

22.  Believes that an attractive financing system should be set up for households located outside areas with centralised heating and cooling systems, to promote new technologies for heating households using renewable energy sources;

23.  Calls on local authorities to address the specific problems of rural buildings, which tend to be older, less energy efficient and less beneficial to health, and which tend to provide lower thermal comfort;

24.  Considers that the shorter the chain by which primary energy is converted into other forms to generate usable heat, the higher the energy efficiency, and, noting the wide range of climatic and other conditions in the Union, calls on the Commission to promote technology-neutral instruments enabling each community to develop cost-efficient solutions to reduce the carbon intensity of the heating and cooling sector;

25.  Notes that while EU regulatory frameworks serve to underline broad objectives, true progress in revolutionising heating and cooling, as part of a wider energy system overhaul, is essential;

26.  Highlights that EU policy tools and capacities are not yet sufficiently developed to drive the transformation of the heating and cooling sector, to maximise the use of potentials or to deploy solutions for demand reduction and decarbonisation at the required scale and pace;

27.  Stresses the importance of district energy networks that offer an alternative to more polluting systems for individual heating, given that it is a particularly efficient and cost-effective means of delivering sustainable heating and cooling, integrating renewable energy sources, recovered heat and cold, and storing surplus electricity at times of low consumption, thereby offering flexibility to the grid; highlights the need to integrate a greater share of renewable energy sources, taking into account that over 20 % of district heating and cooling is already generated from renewable energy, in line with Article 14 of the Energy Efficiency Directive, which requires comprehensive assessments of the potential for efficient district heating and cooling; calls for the modernisation and extension of existing district heating systems to shift to high-efficiency and renewable alternatives; encourages the Member States to put in place fiscal and financial mechanisms to encourage the development and use of district heating and cooling, and to tackle regulatory barriers;

28.  Calls on the Commission to assess seriously the Member States’ comprehensive assessments of the potential for cogeneration and district heating in accordance with Article 14 of Energy Efficiency Directive, so that these plans reflect the true economic potential of these solutions and provide a sound basis for policies in line with EU objectives;

29.  Stresses that in dense urban agglomerations it is imperative that the use of inefficient and unsustainable individual or district heating/cooling systems gradually be replaced with efficient district heating/cooling systems or are modernised with state-of-the-art heating/cooling technologies, shift to high-efficiency local cogeneration systems and renewable alternatives;

30.  Calls on the Commission to propose, in its initiatives on the Renewable Energy Directive and market design, measures that contribute to a more efficient and flexible energy system by further integrating electricity, heating and cooling systems;

31.  Calls on the Commission to establish a common European framework to promote and provide legal certainty for self-generation, in particular by encouraging and supporting neighbourhood cooperatives that make use of renewable sources;

32.  Calls for the development of a heating and cooling energy demand indicator for buildings at a national level;

33.  Calls for a strategic approach to reduce the CO2 emissions of industrial heating and cooling demands, by improving efficiency of the processes, substituting fossil fuels by sustainable sources and integrating industries in the surrounding thermal energy environment;

34.  Highlights the huge potential of clustering energy and resource flows to save primary energy use, especially in industrial environments, where, according to the cascading system, excess heat or cold from one process can be re-used in another one that demands less extreme temperatures, and, where possible, in heating and cooling buildings via district heating systems;

35.  Notes that outdated heating plants with low energy efficiency should urgently be replaced with the best available alternatives that are fully compatible with the EU’s energy and climate objectives, such as more environmentally friendly cogeneration plants making use of sustainable fuels in accordance with sustainability criteria for biomass;

36.  Notes that heating and cooling is a very local sector, since availability and infrastructure, as well as the demand for heat, depends essentially on local circumstances;

37.  Agrees with the Commission that, as stated in the heating and cooling strategy, the economic potential of cogeneration is not exploited, and calls on the Commission and the Member States to further promote high-efficiency cogeneration and district heating, in line with the Commission’s communication on the state of the Energy Union (COM(2015)0572);

38.  Takes the view that a system-level approach on cooling is required, including for the built environment and other activities, such as transport refrigeration;

39.  Expresses the view that, in Europe’s temperate climate zone, reverse systems for heating and cooling using efficient heat pumps could become very important under certain conditions, given their flexibility; highlights that hybrid heating systems, which provide heat from two or more energy sources, can facilitate a growing role for renewable heating, in particular for existing buildings where they can be introduced with limited refurbishment needs; calls on the Commission and the Member States to provide, with regard to heat pumps, adequate aligned calculation methods, and to promote the sharing of best practices for support mechanisms in order to support efficient, sustainable and low-carbon solutions to various thermal needs;

40.  Encourages the Commission to closely monitor compliance with EU legislation on fluorinated greenhouse gases with a view to reducing the emission of such gases in the atmosphere; asks the Commission to ensure that the use of alternative refrigerants is safe, cost-effective and in line with other EU objectives with regard to the environment, climate change and energy efficiency;

41.  Takes the view that the Member States should explore the possibility of using heat from geothermal waters, from energy recovered directly from industrial processes and from other lower-temperature heat sources, such as heat contained in deep-sea mines for heating (cooling), which could, with the help of huge heat pumps, heat whole towns through existing and new district heating networks, not just individual buildings, if suitable district heating infrastructure is available or developed;

42.  Stresses the role of technologies capable of reducing both thermal energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions, such as the use of low-enthalpy geothermal energy, renewable-based heating/cooling districts, small-scale tri- or co-generating power plants burning natural gas and/or biomethane, or combinations of these;

43.  Expresses the view that heat storage facilities that use electric resistance during off-peak demand hours (i.e. by storing energy in the form of heat), thereby improving the quality of electricity supply by facilitating the integration of variable renewable sources, could play a very important role in heating and help balance the grid and lower energy production, imports and prices;

44.  Takes the view that waste heat and cold obtained through industrial processes and cogeneration, in the production of electric energy in conventional power plants, from well-insulated residential buildings using recuperative methods, and from micro-generation, should play a much greater role in heating and cooling than they have in the past; stresses that harnessing industrial waste heat and cold should be recognised and encouraged through research, as it presents a great opportunity for investment and innovation; stresses that industries and nearby residential or service buildings should be encouraged to cooperate and share their energy production and needs;

45.  Stresses that public funding or public ownership of district heating infrastructure should not contribute to a costly lock-in of high-carbon infrastructure; calls on national, regional and local authorities to scrutinise public financial support for district heating infrastructure in the light of the EU’s objective of 80-95 % greenhouse gas reductions by 2050 compared to 1990 levels and an orderly transition of the energy economy;

46.  Takes the view that integrating the production, consumption and reuse of waste cold creates environmental and economic benefits and reduces the primary energy demand for cold;

47.  Emphasises that waste-to-energy will continue to play a significant role in heating since the alternative is often landfill and the use of fossil fuels, recalling that there is a need to increase recycling;

48.  Calls on the Member States to use legal and economic means to accelerate the gradual phasing-out of outdated solid-fuel furnaces with an energy efficiency level of less than 80 %, and to replace them, where possible, with efficient, sustainable heating systems at local level (such as district heating systems) or micro level (such as geothermal and solar systems);

49.  Points out that the introduction of smart heating systems can help consumers understand their energy consumption better and help renew inefficient heating systems, promoting energy savings;

50.  Reminds the Commission and the Member States that 75 % of the existing European building stock is energy inefficient, and that estimates show that 90 % of these buildings will still be in use by 2050; highlights, therefore, the urgent need to specifically target these buildings for deep renovation;

51.  Calls on the Commission to draw up a plan, as part of the ‘waste to energy’ programme, to promote and exploit the potential contribution of the sustainable use of organic waste to heating and cooling connected to district heating and cooling systems;

52.  Stresses that biogas represents an important sustainable source for heating and cooling systems, and that, for this reason it is necessary to set up a clear target for organic recycling in order to incentivise investments in the collection and treatment of bio-waste;

53.  Calls on the Member States to phase out the use in urban areas of outdated furnaces for heating purposes that generate ‘low height’ emissions – releasing into the atmosphere natural pyrolytic gases from incomplete combustion, NOx, soot, particulate matter and fly ash dispersed by convection – in the heating of agglomerations, and to promote, through incentives, the use of sustainable – including renewable – alternatives;

54.  Calls on the Member States to take measures to phase out energy-inefficient furnaces and boilers using heating oil and coal that currently fuel over half of the building stock in the countryside; takes the view that energy provision should stem from lower carbon and renewable sources;

55.  Stresses that renewable-based district heating prevents the spread of more polluting individual heating systems, which increase air pollution in residential areas and are much more difficult to control than widespread district heating systems; emphasises, however, that infrastructure and climate conditions vary within the Union and that these systems often need modernising in order to enhance their efficiency; calls, therefore, for an analysis of the need to support district heating infrastructure, and of taxation practices as regards renewable energy sources and district heating;

56.  Takes the view that the Member States should, as a matter of urgency, take steps towards phasing out low-temperature furnaces used for the combustion of solid fossil fuels and organic waste, which, during the combustion process, release into the atmosphere a variety of harmful substances; takes the view that the Member States should, where possible, encourage the phasing out of old and inefficient wood-burning fireplaces in densely built towns and cities, and facilitate their replacement with modern efficient, environmentally and health-friendly alternatives, in conjunction with initiatives to raise awareness about potential health risks and best practices regarding wood fires;

57.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to close the regulatory gap stemming from the Ecodesign Directive and the Medium Combustion Plants Directive, which results in emissions leakage of installations below 1 MW that fall outside of the scope of the Directives;

58.  Takes the view that the increasing need for cooling requires further consideration of this issue, including an integrated approach to the entire cooling chain – from demand for industrial cooling from high temperatures to cooling for households and cooling requirements in the food industry;

59.  Notes that the availability of quality data is a precondition if consumers and authorities are to be able to make rational choices about energy efficiency and heating solutions; highlights the importance of extending the possibilities offered by digitalisation to the heating and cooling sector; calls on the Commission to develop a definition of, and methodology for calculating, renewable cooling;

60.  Considers that water-efficient heat exchangers can play a vital role in cooling in industrial processes by transferring heat to natural bodies of water close to the sites at which products are stored, the temperature of which does not exceed 6 °C throughout the year (free cooling);

61.  Takes the view that high-power stationary fuel cells could, in the very near future, be an environmentally friendly alternative to coal as a solid fuel;

62.  Considers that power-to-gas has great future potential as a way of storing and transmitting renewable energy and using it for the purpose of central and local heat generation; observes that the use of power-to-gas is an efficient way of using renewable energy for heat generation, particularly in conurbations, thanks to the possibility of using existing infrastructure; calls, therefore, on the Commission and the Member States to promote research and pilot projects relating to power-to-gas;

63.  Believes that the European Union’s strategy for innovative heating and cooling requires intensive research, providing a basis for the creation of industries making environmentally-friendly equipment to serve this purpose;

64.  Stresses the benefits of research and technological innovation for European industry, strengthening its competitive advantage and commercial viability, as well as contributing to the EU’s energy and climate goals; highlights, in this context, the need for increased research, development and innovation in the field of energy efficiency and renewable heating and cooling (RHC) technologies, with a view to reducing costs, enhancing performance and increasing deployment and integration into the energy system; calls on the Commission to work with sector stakeholders to maintain updated technology roadmaps on RHC to coordinate, track and identify gaps in RHC technology development;

65.  Takes the view that, given the urgent need to achieve quick and effective results in the thermo-modernisation process of the EU’s thermal sector, the EU should focus on research to increase the deployment of the currently best available technologies;

66.  Takes the view that research under the Horizon 2020 framework programme should cover the development of sustainable heating and cooling solutions, waste heat and waste cold valorisation technologies, new materials with maximum thermal conductivity (heat exchangers), minimum conductivity – i.e. maximum thermal resistance (thermal insulation), and maximum heat accumulation rates (heat stores);

67.  Takes the view that progress should be made under the Horizon 2020 framework programme in R&D relating to sustainable and efficient heating and cooling systems and materials, such as small-scale renewable generation and storage solutions, district heating and cooling systems, cogeneration and insulation materials, as well as innovative materials such as structural window glass that lets in high levels of short-wave radiation (sunlight) from outside and lets out only a minimum of the long-wave thermal radiation that would otherwise escape to the outside;

68.  Emphasises the importance of extensive scientific research into the development of innovative technological solutions designed to deliver appliances and entire heating and cooling systems that are energy efficient and based on renewables;

69.  Calls for a review of existing legislation focused on safeguarding technology neutrality and cost efficiency so as to ensure that it does not promote or discredit one technology over another – renewable energy produced on-site, such as by means of residential solar panels, or near a building should, for instance, be accounted for when calculating the building’s energy performance, regardless of the source;

70.  Highlights the importance of combining the most advanced technologies with smart energy management, for example through home automation and smart heating control systems, especially in a connected world where the appliance can easily adapt to weather conditions and electricity price signals and contribute to the stabilisation of the grid by shifting demand; calls on the Commission to integrate smart technologies in the relevant Energy Union initiatives in a better way, in order to ensure real interconnectivity of smart appliances, connected homes and smart buildings with smart grids; takes the view that such solutions should be promoted when renovating the existing building stock as they help consumers understand their consumption patterns better, and adjust the operation of their heating system accordingly;

71.  Stresses that the building sector has a high potential in reducing energy demand and CO2 emissions; underlines that further efforts are needed to increase the building renovation rate; notes that attractive financial incentives, the availability of highly competent experts at various levels, and the exchange and promotion of best practices are necessary to achieve this;

72.  Calls on the Commission to identify and remove remaining barriers to energy efficiency measures, particularly domestic renovations by households, and to develop a genuine market in energy efficiency in order to foster the transfer of best practices and ensure the availability of products and solutions throughout the EU, with the aim of building a true single market in energy efficiency products and services; underlines the job creation and economic growth potential not only of initial roll out of such products and services, but also in the on-going maintenance and day-to-day running of an integrated energy system encompassing heating and cooling;

73.  Believes that industry needs clear signals from policy makers in order to make the necessary investments in achieving the EUs energy objectives; highlights the need for ambitious binding targets and a regulatory framework that promotes innovation, without creating unnecessary administrative burdens, in order to best promote cost-effective and environmentally sustainable heating and cooling solutions;

74.  Believes that investment in energy efficiency in buildings should go hand in hand with investment in renewable heating and cooling (RHC); considers the synergies that are found between energy efficiency in buildings and RHC to present a significant opportunity in the move towards a low-carbon economy; welcomes efforts at national level to increase the number of nZEBs;

75.  Recommends that individual thermal renovation systems be designed for architectural landmarks, with a dual focus on investments on the building’s shell, combined with the optimisation of building control and automation systems and the supply of efficient heating and cooling, while taking care not to compromise the unique architectural style of the buildings concerned;

76.  Notes that the architectural design of intelligent buildings should take a holistic approach to ensuring thermal comfort (cooling) through the shape and mass of buildings, the adaptation of space and the adjustment of parameters such as the amount of daylight and ventilation and recuperation intensity, while at the same time having low running costs;

77.  Underlines the importance of standardised thermal energy audits, and the cost-effectiveness of remediating problems with industrial insulation to save energy and reduce emissions; points out that industrial energy costs could be further reduced with investments in existing and proven sustainable technologies;

78.  Underlines that the European Structural and Investment Funds are an important tool for modernising the energy system; takes the view that the restrictions that have been in place thus far on ERDF funding for the low carbon transition priority have not been effective; considers that, for the post-2020 programming period, the budget percentage earmarked for this priority should be increased;

79.  Underlines the importance of ensuring access to finance, both short- and long-term, for investments in projects of all sizes related to the modernisation of the heating and cooling sector, including for district heating and cooling, the upgrading of relevant grid infrastructure, the modernisation of heating systems, including a shift to renewable sources, and an acceleration in the rate of building renovation; calls, in this regard, on the Commission to develop a robust innovative and long-term financial mechanism; highlights the role that the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and other applicable European funds, such as those available from the European Investment Bank (EIB) or through the EU emissions trading system (ETS), could play in terms of finance and technical assistance, ensuring that projects are attractive to investors by offering stable regulatory conditions, particularly by minimising bureaucracy and encompassing an expedient application and approval process; calls on the Commission to strengthen the current provisions on heating and cooling in the post-2020 programming period for all applicable European funds, and for the elimination of barriers that hinder local authorities in allocating useful resources to renovating public buildings; supports the ‘smart finance for smart buildings’ initiative, promoting a greater uptake of energy efficiency in combination with renewables in the building sector; believes that the modernisation and thermal insulation of buildings should take priority over other measures in terms of access to funding in light of their enormous job-creation potential;

80.  Reiterates the need to use Structural Funds for a wider range of building and building system upgrades, especially in the form of preferential loans to private building owners, which would facilitate a much stronger drive towards a greatly-needed upgrade on existing buildings, especially in the lesser-developed parts of the EU;

81.  Underlines that to stimulate improvements in the heating and cooling sector, the Commission should fully use the ‘ex ante conditionalities’ foreseen by Article 19 of Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013, and ensure that existing EU legislation with relevant measures on heating and cooling is adequately transposed and implemented;

82.  Considers that the State Aid Guidelines for efficient technologies – which are indispensable for the decarbonisation path of the heating and cooling sector, especially as community-based solutions – should take into account the need of adequate public support;

83.  Is of the view that initiatives such as the European Local ENergy Assistance (ELENA) facility, Smart Cities and Communities, and the new integrated Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy could support local and regional operators in the renovation of energy systems in buildings;

84.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that the EU budget is used in accordance with the decarbonisation and energy efficiency goals;

85.  Calls on the Member States to take targeted measures to strongly incentivise energy efficiency improvements and a broader use of renewable energy support (RES) in low-income and vulnerable households; calls on the Commission to allocate a much higher share of EU funds to energy efficiency and RES programmes for vulnerable, energy-poor households and to provide guidance to the Members States on specific energy poverty measures;

86.  Considers that citizens should be provided with better information about the energy consumption of their respective households, and the possible energy savings and benefits of renewable-based upgrades of their heating systems, including the possibility of producing and consuming their own renewable energy for heating and cooling;

87.  Takes the view that the Member States must make sure – through, inter alia, information campaigns, one-stop shops, collective purchasing schemes (helping consumers club together to make purchases at reduced prices) and the clustering of individual projects (bringing several small projects into one larger cluster to enable them to find investments at better rates) – that consumers are fully aware of, and have access to, the technological and economic benefits of more sustainable heating and cooling systems, and energy efficiency improvements, so as to enable them to make the best possible choices according to their individual circumstances, and to benefit from the economic, health and quality of life improvements available; notes that households in remote and isolated locations may require particular attention and unique solutions; highlights the potential of ‘prosumers’ in establishing energy systems providing renewable heating and cooling; emphasises the importance of ongoing education, training, certification and supervision of installers and architects, given that they are the first point of contact for household consumers;

88.  Considers the continuing training of experts assessing the thermal condition of buildings, and the efficiency of the way in which they are heated (cooled), to be essential; believes that optimally located service groups that are accessible to end users are becoming a necessity;

89.  Emphasises the importance of giving consumers the freedom to choose from a variety of high-efficiency and renewable heating technologies that best meets their personal heating needs;

90.  Underlines that it is therefore necessary to enable consumers, through information and incentives, to accelerate the modernisation of their old and inefficient heating systems in order to deliver high energy-efficiency gains, which are already attainable through the use of existing technologies, including renewable heating systems; points out the lack of awareness among consumers about the often low performance of their installed heating systems; calls on the Commission to bring forward proposals to help raise awareness about, and increase the modernisation rate of, existing heating and cooling systems as part of the forthcoming revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive; and consider introducing an energy labelling system for installed heating systems;

91.  Emphasises the active role that consumers can play in the path to a sustainable European heating and cooling system; takes the view that an efficient outcome of the new regulation on “energy labelling”, whereby the scales of the new labels are forward-looking, allowing the differences in terms of energy efficiency of different products to be highlighted, can make it easier for consumers to address their choices in terms of energy savings, and to reduce their bills;

92.  Urges the Commission and the Member States to come up with specific strategies to tackle the ever-growing problem of energy poverty in order to help all consumers, especially the most vulnerable, to ameliorate their housing, heating and cooling conditions, on an individual or collective basis, whether they are home owners or tenants;

93.  Stresses the need to achieve a high level of energy independence through the priority use of local resources;

94.  Calls for waste heat from existing industrial concerns to be used for domestic heating;

95.  Takes the view that the key to combating energy poverty is to cut overall heating costs for individual households by ensuring that there is a significant increase in energy efficiency at the three main stages of energy use: during conversion from primary energy to useful energy, during further transport of that energy and, in particular, during use by the end user; calls on the Member States to make energy-efficiency measures and the switch to renewable heating and cooling a true priority;

96.  Considers it important to ensure that a share of energy efficiency funding is dedicated to improvements for energy-poor households, or for those living in the most deprived areas, by, for example, helping them invest in more energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment;

97.  Believes that under the Energy Efficiency Directive, the Member States should establish state building renovation plans with a view to making buildings energy efficient, not least by offering incentives for the renovation of buildings owned by private individuals, and that such plans should also encompass specific measures for the most vulnerable groups to help combat energy poverty;

98.  Calls on the Commission, when implementing the Energy Efficiency Directive, to develop training for practitioners in the fields of energy efficiency auditing and planning, and to help private individuals, and the most vulnerable groups in particular, to carry out activities of this kind;

99.  Underlines that while a large proportion of European buildings today suffer from the wasting of energy because of their poor insulation quality and their old and inefficient heating systems, energy poverty affects nearly 11 % of the EU population;

100.  Calls on the Commission, the Member States and local authorities, in light of the risk of possible future gas supply crises, to fully integrate the production of biogas from manure processing in the implementation of the circular economy;

101.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission.

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0094.
(2) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 104.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0266.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0444.
(5) European Commission (2014), ‘Communication Energy Efficiency and its contribution to energy security and the 2030 Framework for climate and energy policy’ (COM(2014)0520).


Enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs
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European Parliament resolution of 13 September 2016 on implementation of the thematic objective ‘enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs’ – Article 9(3) of the Common Provisions Regulation (2015/2282(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0335A8-0162/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Common Provisions Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013, Article 9(3) on the thematic objective of enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs,

–  having regard to Common Provisions Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013, Article 37 on financial instruments supported by ESI Funds,

–  having regard to its position of 15 April 2014 on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the participation of the Union in a Research and Development Programme jointly undertaken by several Member States aimed at supporting research performing small and medium-sized enterprises(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 February 2013 on improving access to finance for SMEs(2),

–  having regard to Directive 2011/7/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011 on combating late payment in commercial transactions,

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 May 2015 on green growth opportunities for SMEs(3),

–  having regard to the COSME programme for small and medium-sized enterprises,

–  having regard to the Eurobarometer survey on SMEs, resource efficiency and green markets (Flash Eurobarometer 381), and the Eurobarometer survey on the role of public support in the commercialisation of innovations (Flash Barometer 394),

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 December 2008 on steps towards improving the environment for SMEs in Europe – Small Business Act(4),

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 25 June 2008 entitled ‘‘Think Small First’ – A ‘Small Business Act’ for Europe’ (COM(2008)0394),

–  having regard to the European Charter for Small Enterprises, adopted by the European Council at its meeting in Feira on 19 and 20 June 2000,

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2011 on practical aspects regarding the revision of EU instruments to support SME finance in the next programming period(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 23 October 2012 on Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs): competitiveness and business opportunities(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 January 2014 on smart specialisation: networking excellence for a sound Cohesion Policy(7),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 September 2015 on ‘Investment for jobs and growth: promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Union’(8),

–  having regard to Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC of 6 May 2003 concerning the definition of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)(9),

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 10 June 2014 entitled ‘Research and innovation as sources of renewed growth’ (COM(2014)0339),

–  having regard to the Commission’s sixth report on economic, social and territorial cohesion of 23 July 2014, entitled ‘Investment for jobs and growth’,

–  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 14 October 2011 entitled ‘Industrial Policy: Reinforcing Competitiveness’ (COM(2011)0642),

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 9 November 2011 entitled ‘Small Business, Big World – a new partnership to help SMEs seize global opportunities’ (COM(2011)0702),

–  having regard to the Commission Report of 23 November 2011 entitled ‘Minimising regulatory burden for SMEs – Adapting EU regulation to the needs of micro-enterprises’ (COM(2011)0803),

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 23 February 2011 entitled ‘Review of the ‘Small Business Act’ for Europe’ (COM(2011)0078),

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 6 October 2010 entitled ‘Regional Policy contributing to smart growth in Europe 2020’ (COM(2010)0553),

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

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 14 December 2015 entitled ‘Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds’ (COM(2015)0639),

–  having regard to the Opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 30 May 2013 entitled ‘Closing the Innovation Divide’(10),

–  having regard to the Opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 7 October 2014 entitled ‘Measures to support the creation of high-tech start-up ecosystems’(11),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development (A8-0162/2016),

A.  whereas cohesion policy represents the main tool for investment in growth and jobs in the EU, with a budget of over EUR 350 billion until 2020; whereas the tangible results of cohesion policy investment can help shape the current and future growth of regions within Member States;

B.  whereas, as a consequence of the economic and financial crisis, levels of poverty and social exclusion have increased in many Member States, as have long-term unemployment, youth unemployment and social inequalities, and SMEs can therefore play a relevant and important role in Europe’s recovery;

C.  whereas the 23 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EU, which account for around 99 % of all businesses, make a fundamental contribution to economic growth, social cohesion, innovation and high-quality job creation, providing over 100 million jobs which generate 2 out of every 3 private sector jobs, and maintaining double the employment growth rate of larger enterprises; whereas only 13 % of European SMEs are engaged in commercial activities and investments in the global markets;

D.  whereas European SMEs are very diverse and include a vast number of microenterprises based at local level, which often operate in traditional sectors, and a growing number of new start-ups and fast-growing innovative enterprises, as well as social economy enterprises focused on specific targets and groups; whereas these business models have different problems and, therefore, different needs; whereas the simplification of European, national and regional legislation is pivotal in facilitating access to credit for SMEs;

E.  whereas SMEs are highly adaptable to change and well able to keep step with technological progress;

F.  whereas microcredit, which mostly targets microentrepreneurs and disadvantaged people who wish to enter into self-employment, is pivotal in overcoming obstacles in accessing traditional banking services and whereas JASMINE (Joint Action to Support Microfinance Institutions) and the Microfinance and Social Entrepreneurship axis of EaSI can provide valid support for improving access to finance, including for social enterprises;

G.  whereas Cohesion Policy in the 2007-2013 programming period provided EUR 70 billion of support to SMEs, creating more than 263 000 SME jobs, and helped SMEs modernise through increased use of ICT, access skills, innovation or the modernisation of working practices;

H.  whereas Cohesion Policy in the 2014-2020 programming period will further support SMEs by doubling the 2007-2013 support to EUR 140 billion;

I.  whereas the thematic objective entitled ‘enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs’ (TO 3) is one of the thematic objectives with the highest percentage of overall funding (13,9 %) and is of primary importance in order to achieve the objectives of cohesion policy and the Europe 2020 strategy;

J.  whereas the SMEs which would be eligible for ESI Funds, in that they operate in a competitive environment and have to deal with a wide range of constraints, including cash-flow constraints, are being hit particularly hard by the complexity and instability of the rules and by the red tape involved, in particular the fact that the administrative costs are out of all proportion to the funding allocated, the time taken to process funding applications and the need to advance funds;

K.  whereas the introduction of thematic concentration into cohesion policy programming for 2014-2020 provided an effective tool for the design of operational programmes with a better focus on investment priorities in order to have sufficient resources to make real impacts;

L.  whereas the partnership agreements and operational programmes provided for in Articles 14, 16 and 29 of the Common Provisions Regulation are strategic tools to guide investments in Member States and regions;

M.  whereas SMEs will ensure that industrial production represents a share of at least 20 % of Member States’ GDP by 2020;

N.  whereas only a small percentage of European SMEs are currently able to identify and exploit the opportunities offered by international trade, trade agreements and the global value chains, and only 13 % of European SMEs have been active at international level outside the EU over the past three years;

O.  whereas the process of internationalisation of SMEs should rely on corporate social responsibility, on respect for human and workers’ rights and on the highest possible protection of the environment, in order to ensure fair competition and an increase in quality jobs;

1.  Notes that, through thematic concentration, operational programmes have been better targeted towards a limited number of strategic goals, in particular in terms of growth enhancement and high-quality job creation potential for SMEs, including microenterprises; considers that SMEs are the driving forces behind the European economy and are key to the success of Cohesion Policy, but that they often face multiple challenges owing to their size; recommends, therefore, further enhancing the support from ESI Funds directed towards SMEs;

2.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to take into account the added value of SME projects for the development and innovation of traditional sectors, as this will not only stimulate job creation, but also maintain local and regional business specificities, whilst respecting the principles of sustainability; highlights the need to also take into account the context of such sectors and to not disrupt the delicate balance between traditional knowledge-based production techniques and innovation; points out that SMEs play an important role in the services sector, which is undergoing a significant change as a result of digitalisation, and considers, therefore, that the skills gap with regard to ICT skills should be dealt with by placing more emphasis on relevant training and education;

3.  Highlights that there is an overall need for mechanisms that help to simplify the business environment and speed up the process of setting up new businesses with REFIT to support SME competitiveness and absorption of ESI Funds; stresses also the need for fulfilment of ex ante conditionalities;

4.  Asks the Commission to take into consideration the principles of the circular economy package in the implementation of TO 3, in order to foster more sustainable economic growth and generate new high-quality jobs for SMEs, with special attention being paid to promoting green jobs; believes, in this respect, that it is important to continue efforts to promote the green competitiveness of SMEs by improving access to finance, providing more information, simplifying legislation, cutting red tape, promoting e-cohesion and strengthening a green business culture; points out, moreover, that a greener value chain, which involves remanufacturing, repair, maintenance, recycling and eco-design, could provide considerable business opportunities for many SMEs, provided that economic behaviour changes and that legislative, institutional and technical barriers are removed or reduced;

5.  Points out that the problems being experienced by SMEs are partly caused by the fact that the austerity policies implemented by Member States have stifled demand;

6.  Encourages the Member States and regional authorities to consider the use of the financial instrument opportunities; emphasises the need to ensure the transparency, accountability and scrutiny of such financial instruments and of the SME Initiative Programme aimed at financially supporting SMEs; highlights that financial instruments should always be used consistently with the goals of cohesion policy, and that proper technical and administrative support should be provided;

7.  Calls for simplified and less regulated access to credit, taking into account the particular characteristics of microenterprises and start-ups and the regions in which they operate; regrets that investors and banks are often reluctant to finance businesses in their start-up and early expansion phases and that many SMEs, especially small start-ups, have found it hard to gain access to external funding; asks the Commission, the Member States and regional authorities, therefore, to pay particular attention to improving access to finance for microenterprises and start-ups that want to scale-up; points out the need to equalise interest rates for financing of SMEs with interest rates for larger companies;

8.  Considers that European small businesses tend to lean on financing sources such as banks, and are not fully aware of the existence of additional funding sources, or of their financial options; notes that the Commission, taking into account the fragmentation of the markets, has proposed a series of initiatives, such as the Capital Markets Union, aimed at diversifying the financing sources, facilitating free movement of capital and improving access to finance, in particular with regard to SMEs;

9.  Notes the lack of evidence on the outcomes and results achieved by financial instruments and the loose link between those financial instruments and the overarching objectives and priorities of the EU; calls on the Commission to further improve the provision of grants instead of primarily promoting the use of financial instruments;

10.  Notes that in the 2007-2013 programming period several obstacles, such as the effects of the economic crisis, the complex management of structural funds and administrative burdens, as well as limited access to financing for SMEs and complexity of implementation of support schemes, led to an insufficient absorption of such funds by SMEs; warns that the underlying reasons for the low absorption rate need to be addressed in order to avoid any recurrence of the same problems in the 2014-2020 programming period, and that excessive bureaucracy prevented some SMEs from applying for the available funds; regrets the too general and incomplete nature of the existing studies on the efficiency and real impact of the ESI Funds on SMEs and asks the Commission to rapidly prepare an assessment of this issue, in cooperation with the Member States, and submit it to Parliament; stresses that poor administrative capacity may hinder the successful and timely implementation of TO 3;

11.  Takes note that the Commission is paying increased attention to good governance and high-quality public services; recalls the importance for SMEs to have a transparent, consistent and innovative public procurement set-up; urges, therefore, that obstacles faced by SMEs in bidding for contracts be removed as far as possible, eliminating unnecessary administrative burdens, avoiding the creation of additional requirements at national level and implementing the existing legislative framework provisions with a view to resolving public purchasing disputes as rapidly as possible; welcomes Directive 2014/24/EU and the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD), which should considerably reduce the administrative burden for companies, in particular SMEs; stresses the need to continue with the strict application of anti-error and anti-fraud measures without adding to the administrative burden, and to simplify administrative procedures in order to prevent errors; calls on contracting authorities wishing to group contracts together to take care not to exclude SMEs from the process by the sheer scale of the final lot, since larger contracts could involve more cumbersome criteria;

12.  Reiterates its calls to enhance transparency and the participation of all relevant regional and local authorities, civil society stakeholders, entrepreneurs and other interested parties, especially in the process of defining the requirements in calls for project proposals in order to better target final beneficiaries’ needs; underlines, therefore, the need for actual implementation and respect of the partnership principle also at the drafting, preparation and implementation stages of partnership agreements and operational programmes, as detailed in the Common Provisions Regulation and the Code of Conduct on Partnership; notes with concern that many SME organisations in the Member States are not really involved and are often only informed without being adequately consulted; encourages organisations representing future-oriented, sustainable and eco-innovative sectors of the economy to get involved in the partnership and calls on the Commission and the Member States to empower them by making use of technical assistance and capacity building;

13.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure enhanced coordination and consistency among all EU investment policies targeted at SMEs; notes that enhancing the synergy between ESI funding and other policies and financial instruments targeted at SMEs will maximise the impact of investments; welcomes the plan to ease access to ESI Funds through the introduction of a ‘seal of excellence’ for projects which have been evaluated as ‘excellent’ but are not financed by Horizon 2020; urges the Member States, in partnership with relevant social and economic stakeholders, to create either a one-stop shop at regional level, thus promoting the already existing ones, or a consolidated platform for the various EU financing instruments aimed at SMEs, as well for administrative support for preparation and implementation of projects;

14.  Highlights the role that Integrated Territorial Investments (ITI), Community-Led Local Development (CLLD), macro-regional strategies and European territorial cooperation in general could play in the successful implementation of TO 3 objectives, given that some projects may involve cross-border areas, including several regions and countries, and are able to develop place-based innovative practices;

15.  Notes that according to the first evaluation released by the Commission the amounts allocated to support for SMEs have increased substantially as compared with the previous programming periods; highlights that the ESI Funds, and notably operational programmes aimed at supporting research and development, could help SMEs increase their capacity to submit patent applications to the European Patent Office by providing viable and user-friendly financing schemes;

16.  Regrets the delays in implementing cohesion policy during the current programming period; points out the urgent nature of access to finance by SMEs and that, although all operational programmes have now been approved, implementation itself is still at a very early stage; notes that delays create gaps in the implementation of cohesion policy and urges the Commission to develop measures for accelerated elimination of such delays;

17.  Urges the Commission to monitor and encourage the acceleration of implementation of cohesion policy, in particular the setting up of projects with sustainable growth and quality job creation potential, also focusing on projects launched in rural areas in order to create new services and avoid rural depopulation; calls on the Commission, in determining eligibility criteria, to consider the added value in economic and social terms and the environmental impact of projects;

18.  Emphasises Parliament’s role in the supervision of results-oriented implementation of cohesion policy; calls on the Commission to identify and reduce, at the earliest possible stage, obstacles preventing the efficient use of funds for SMEs and start-ups, to identify potential synergies among ESI Funds and between ESI Funds and other SME-relevant funds, and to provide specific recommendations for action and guidance aimed at further simplifying, monitoring and assessing the use of such financial instruments; notes that there are increased difficulties in this sector, especially in outermost regions and in those areas where the poor quality of key infrastructure leads to low amounts of private investment;

19.  Stresses the need for structured dialogue between the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund in order to improve and facilitate the access of SMEs to diversified funding sources;

20.  Highlights that the main obstacles preventing SMEs from broadly accessing ESI Funds include administrative burden, a large number of aid schemes, complexity of rules and procedures, delays in introducing executive acts and the risk of gold-plating; asks the High Level Group on Simplification, therefore, to deliver concrete proposals, also bearing in mind the Better Regulation Strategy, to reduce the administrative burden and simplify procedures in the management of ESI Funds by SMEs, with special emphasis on the requirements relating to the audit, management flexibility, risk and interim assessment, control system and coherence with competition rules and other EU policies; requests that such simplification measures respect the Small Business Act (SBA) rules of ‘Only once’ and ‘Think small first’, and be conceived and implemented at different levels in cooperation with representatives of different categories of SMEs; calls on the High Level Group (HLG) to communicate the results of its activities to Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development on an ongoing basis and calls on the Commission to consult the representatives of the Member States on the issues being dealt with by the HLG;

21.  Calls on the Commission to establish conditions for State aid at national and regional level which will not discriminate against SMEs and which should be in line with Cohesion Policy support for enterprises, and to make full use of aid schemes based on the general block exemption regulation, so as to reduce the administrative burden for administrations and beneficiaries and increase the take-up of ESI Funds, while clarifying the link between the rules on ESI Funds for SMEs and the rules on State aid;

22.  Asks the Commission to encourage the Member States to exchange data, knowledge and best practices in this respect, ensuring appropriate reporting and motivating them to support projects with high job creation potential;

23.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to urgently find a lasting solution to the backlog of payments related to regional policy and to properly apply the Late Payment Directive (2011/7/EU), so as to ensure that SMEs, as project partners, will not be deterred from taking part in support programmes and projects during the current programming period on account of payment delays; also points out that more thorough compliance with this directive, requiring, inter alia, that public authorities make payments within 30 days for the goods and services that they procure, would contribute to creating the conditions for stabilisation and growth of SMEs;

24.  Stresses that smart specialisation strategies, although not formally required as ex ante conditionalities in TO 3, are a crucial tool in guaranteeing innovation and the adaptability of thematic objectives, and underlines, at the same time, that these strategies should target not only science and technology-led innovation but also non-science based innovation; asks the Commission to report to Parliament on the results of smart specialisation strategies devoted to SMEs at national and/or regional level; highlights the coherence of smart specialisation strategies adopted by every single region with the related territorial economy, and the challenge of implementing smart specialisation in non-urban areas which may not have sufficient supporting infrastructure; welcomes the ex ante conditionality relating to the SBA in TO 3 and calls on the Member States to undertake the necessary action and speed up achievement of the targets set in the SBA; supports the European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) Award, aimed at identifying and rewarding EU regions with outstanding, future-oriented entrepreneurial strategies applying ten principles of the SBA;

25.  Asks the managing authorities to take into consideration the characteristics and specific competences of individual territories, with a focus on those suffering from underdevelopment, depopulation and high unemployment rates, in order to promote both traditional and innovative economic sectors; calls on the Commission to draw up specific programmes which embody all relevant sustainable, smart and inclusive growth elements for SMEs; recalls the existence of the gender gap, as also identified in the SBA, and expresses its concern about the ongoing low participation of women in starting up and running a business; calls on the Commission and the Member States to encourage the implementation of specific strategies to support youth and female entrepreneurship in the context of green growth, as a way to reconcile economic and employment growth, social inclusion and professionalism with environmental sustainability;

26.  Asks the Commission to establish a participatory platform within existing budgets for the dissemination of SME project results, including examples of good practice also carried out under the ERDF during the 2000-2006 and 2007-2013 programming periods;

27.  Notes that the ‘smart guide to innovation services’ drawn up by the Commission stresses the importance of public support strategies, developed in consultation with social and economic stakeholders at regional level, in providing SMEs with a favourable environment and helping them maintain a competitive position in global value chains;

28.  Underlines the challenges and opportunities facing SMEs in adapting and complying with the recent decisions taken at the COP21 conference;

29.  Considers that suitable support and incentives for the action of SMEs can deliver innovative opportunities for the integration of refugees and migrants;

30.  Emphasises that as SMEs are the main source of employment in the EU, the setting up of enterprises should be facilitated by the promotion of entrepreneurial skills and the introduction of entrepreneurship in school curricula, as identified in the SBA, and that, especially in microcredit schemes, adequate training and business support is crucial and special training is needed to prepare young people for the green economy;

31.  Calls on the Commission, in cooperation with the Member States and managing authorities, to stimulate the creation of an ecosystem composed of universities, research centres, social and economic stakeholders and public institutions to foster entrepreneurial skills, while encouraging managing authorities to engage the available funds intended for technical assistance, including the innovative uses of ICT by SMEs; notes also, in this regard, that the technical assistance provided for in thematic objective 11 must benefit all the partners referred to in Article 5 of the Common Provisions Regulation on partnership; calls, therefore, for access by the territorial SME organisations to the provisions of TO 11 and to capacity building measures to be ensured;

32.  Highlights that only about 25 % of EU-based SMEs carry out export activities in the EU and that internationalisation of SMEs is a process that needs support also at local level; calls, therefore, on the Commission to make greater use of ESI Funds to help SMEs to seize the opportunities offered, and address the challenges posed, by international trade, while supporting them in addressing adjustment costs and the negative impacts of increased international competition;

33.  Calls on the Commission, when preparing cohesion policy for the post-2020 period, to increase funding for the strengthening of the competitiveness of SMEs;

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

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0364.
(2) OJ C 24, 22.1.2016, p. 2.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0198.
(4) OJ C 21 E, 28.1.2010, p. 1.
(5) OJ C 188 E, 28.6.2012, p. 7.
(6) OJ C 68 E, 7.3.2014, p. 40.
(7) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0002.
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0308.
(9) OJ L 124, 20.5.2003, p. 36.
(10) OJ C 218, 30.7.2013, p. 12.
(11) OJ C 415, 20.11.2014, p. 5.


EU strategy for the Alpine region
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European Parliament resolution of 13 September 2016 on an EU Strategy for the Alpine region (2015/2324(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0336A8-0226/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 192, 265(5) and 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 28 July 2015 concerning the European Union Strategy for the Alpine Region (COM(2015)0366) and the accompanying action plan and supporting analytical document (SWD(2015)0147),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006(1) (the Common Provisions Regulation or CPR),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1299/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on specific provisions for the support from the European Regional Development Fund to the European territorial cooperation goal(2),

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1302/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 amending Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006 on a European grouping of territorial cooperation (EGTC) as regards the clarification, simplification and improvement of the establishment and functioning of such groupings(3),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 19 and 20 December 2013 on the European Union Strategy for the Alpine Region,

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 8 October 2015 on the Commission communication concerning a European Union strategy for the Alpine Region(4),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 3 December 2014 on an Alpine macro-regional strategy for the European Union(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 3 July 2012 on the evolution of EU macro-regional strategies: present practice and future prospects, especially in the Mediterranean(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 23 May 2013 on a macro-regional strategy for the Alps(7),

–  having regard to the report of 20 May 2014 from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions concerning the governance of macro-regional strategies (COM(2014)0284),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 26 January 2011 entitled ‘Regional policy contributing to sustainable growth in Europe 2020’ (COM(2011)0017),

–  having regard to Directive 2014/52/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 amending Directive 2011/92/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment,

–  having regard to Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2001 on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment,

–  having regard to Council Decision 2005/370/EC of 17 February 2005 on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters (Aarhus Convention),

–  having regard to the launch conference on the European Union Strategy for the Alpine Region held in Brdo (Slovenia) on 25 and 26 January 2016,

–   having regard to the stakeholder conference on the European Union Strategy for the Alpine Region, held in Innsbruck on 17 September 2014,

–  having regard to the stakeholder conference on the European Union Strategy for the Alpine Region, held in Milan on 1 and 2 December 2014,

–  having regard to Council decision 96/191/EC of 26 February 1996 concerning the conclusion of the Convention on the Protection of the Alps (Alpine Convention),

–  having regard to the Commission’s summary report on the public consultation on the European Union Strategy for the Alpine Region,

–  having regard to the expression of stakeholder views contained in the ‘Political Resolution towards a European Strategy for the Alpine Region’ adopted in Grenoble on 18 October 2013,

–  having regard to the study entitled ‘New Role of Macro-Regions in European Territorial Cooperation’, published in January 2015 by the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies (Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies),

–  having regard to the Commission white paper of 1 April 2009 entitled ‘Adapting to climate change: Towards a European framework for action’ (COM(2009)0147),

–  having regard to the Commission’s Innovation Union Scoreboard for 2015,

–  having regard to the communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled ‘Green Infrastructure (GI) – Enhancing Europe’s Natural Capital’ (COM(2013)0249),

–  having regard to the Commission guidance document of 2014 entitled ‘Enabling synergies between European Structural and Investment Funds, Horizon 2020 and other research, innovation, and competitiveness-related Union programmes’,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 26 November 2014 to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Central Bank, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the European Investment Bank entitled ‘An Investment Plan for Europe’ (COM(2014)0903),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development and the opinions of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the Committee on Transport and Tourism and the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (A8-0226/2016),

A.  whereas in order to promote an overall harmonious development, economic, social and territorial cohesion across the EU needs to be strengthened;

B.  whereas macro-regional strategies are the current fundamental tool for contributing to the objective of economic, social and territorial cohesion; whereas these strategies are supported under the principle of the ‘three no’s’, i.e. no new legislation, no new funding and no new institutions;

C.  whereas the macro-regional strategy for the Alps could help to reverse the economic decline through investment in research, innovation and business support, taking into account the region’s unique characteristics and assets;

D.  whereas the objective of macro-regional strategies should be to better achieve common goals of different regions by a voluntary and coordinated approach without entailing the creation of additional regulation;

E.  whereas climate change is happening at a faster rate in the Alpine region than the global average and is leading increasingly to natural disasters such as avalanches and floods;

F.  whereas the macro-regional strategy seeks to identify resources and exploit the regions’ shared development potential;

G.  whereas macro-regional strategies represent a model of multi-level governance in which the involvement of stakeholders representing local, regional and national levels is essential for the success of the strategies; whereas mutual cooperation between different macro-regions should be encouraged in order to improve their policy coherence in line with European goals;

H.  whereas macro-regional strategies can contribute to the development of cross-border strategies and international projects for the creation of cooperation networks benefiting the region as a whole;

I.  whereas the regional identities and the cultural heritage, notably the popular cultures and the customs, of the Alpine region deserve special protection;

J.  whereas the strong bottom-up approach adopted by the regions of the Alpine area has led to the development of the European Union Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP), aimed at effectively addressing challenges that are common to the entire Alpine region;

K.  whereas the Alpine region plays an important role for the economic development of Member States and provides numerous ecosystem services for the urban and peri-urban areas adjoining it;

L.  whereas the macro-strategy for the Alpine region will affect 80 million people living in 48 regions in seven countries, of which five are EU Member States (Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia) and two are non-EU countries (Liechtenstein and Switzerland);

M.  whereas the EU Strategy for the Alpine region must reconcile environmental sustainability and economic development, in a natural environment area which is also a major tourist destination;

N.  whereas depopulation is the main problem of some Alpine areas and most inhabitants of the Alpine region cannot survive solely on Alpine tourism, and therefore need to further develop agriculture, forestry and other environment-friendly industries and services;

O.  whereas considerable differences exist between regions included in the strategy, and therefore coordination of policies and sectors is required between different regions (horizontally) as well as within individual regions (vertically);

P.  whereas the Alpine region possesses unique geographical and natural features, and constitutes an interconnected macro-region and transit region which has substantial potential for development; whereas, however, specific responses are needed to challenges arising from environmental, demographic, transport, tourism and energy-related issues, seasonality and multi-activity, and coordinated territorial planning could produce better results and added value for territorial cohesion in Alpine and peri-Alpine areas;

Q.  whereas the Alpine region is Europe’s ‘water tower’ and the Alps supply enough water to provide up to 90 % of the needs of the foothill areas in summer; whereas water is important for hydroelectricity, the irrigation of agricultural land, the sustainable management of forests, preserving biodiversity and the landscape and providing drinking water; whereas it is essential to preserve the quality of waters and the low water levels of rivers in the Alps and to find a fair balance between the interests of local populations and the needs of the environment;

R.  whereas the Alpine region is criss-crossed by borders, and tackling these barriers is a prerequisite for cooperation in this area, for the free movement of people, services, goods and capital and thus for economic, social and environmental interaction; whereas the Alpine strategy also provides an opportunity to strengthen cross-border cooperation, create links and networks connecting people and economic activities, and thus dismantle the borders and the barriers they create;

S.  whereas in its communication on the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region the Commission points both to the need to reduce the impact of transport across the Alps, so as to preserve the Alpine environmental heritage, and to the importance of implementing a strategy to deliver a healthier and better preserved living environment for local people;

T.  whereas the free movement of people is a fundamental right and a prerequisite – particularly in border areas – for achieving the goals of economic, social, territorial and environmental cohesion, strong and sustainable competitiveness and equitable access to employment;

U.  whereas the EUSALP territory comprises the mountain areas at its heart and the peri-Alpine areas, including metropolitan areas, which are linked together by close interactions and functional relationships, all of which influence economic, social and environmental development;

V.  whereas this region with preserved ecosystems and its services can provide a basis for many economic activities, with the emphasis on farming, forestry, tourism and energy, taking into account the cultural and natural heritage of the region;

W.  whereas the European Union Strategy for the Alpine Region, as the first macro-regional strategy relating to a mountain area, can be a model and an inspiration for other mountain areas in the EU;

X.  whereas earlier EU macro-regional strategies have proved the success of a cooperation arrangement of this type and have provided useful experience for drawing up new macro-regional strategies;

General considerations and governance

1.  Welcomes the communication from the Commission concerning the European Union Strategy for the Alpine Region and the accompanying Action Plan; believes this is a step forward for the development of the region in line with the Europe 2020 objective of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth; notes that the Strategy and the Action Plan can play a significant role in efforts to counter the depopulation of the region, especially the outflow of young people;

2.  Highlights the valuable experience gained in the implementation of the Alpine Convention, which balances out economic, social and environmental interests; calls on the participating countries to respect the agreements reached and to maintain a high level of commitment for the sustainable development and protection of the Alps;

3.  Welcomes the fact that the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIFs) offer potentially significant resources and a wide range of tools and options for the Strategy; calls for greater synergies to promote coordination and complementarities between the ESIF and other funds and instruments relevant to the Strategy pillars, notably Horizon 2020, the Connecting Europe Facility, the LIFE programme, the COSME programme for SMEs, the Interreg Alpine Space Programme and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), for which the Commission should investigate the possible added value of specific calls focused on the particular challenges of the Alpine region;

4.   Calls on the Commission and on the national, regional and local bodies which are responsible for the preparation, management and implementation of ESIF programmes to stress the importance of macro-regional projects and actions; expects an increased coactivity through the coordination of those EU policies, programmes and strategies that play a role in the Alps, and invites the Commission to scrutinise the practical application of the programmes in question in order to avoid overlap and maximise complementarity and added value; calls on the Commission, in addition, to ensure ease of access to the relevant documents, both for European citizens and Member States’ institutions, with a view to providing full transparency concerning the procedure to be followed;

5.  Reiterates the importance of the ‘three No’s’ principle, given that macro-regions are frameworks that build on the added value of cooperation initiatives and synergies between different EU funding instruments;

6.  Calls on the Member States’ competent authorities and the participating regions to align their national and regional policies and funding arrangements, wherever possible, to the EUSALP actions and objectives, and to adapt their adopted operational programmes in order to ensure that future projects under the EUSALP strategy are promptly implemented and that managing authorities take due account of EUSALP priorities when implementing the operational programmes (e.g. by way of dedicated calls, bonus points or budget earmarking); calls for the enhancing of the macro-regional approach, ahead of the post-2020 reform of cohesion policy, and underlines the importance of integrated macro-regional projects and measures;

7.  Calls on the EIB, in cooperation with the Commission, to examine the possibility of setting up an investment platform for the Alpine region that would enable mobilisation of funding from public and private sources; calls for the creation of a project pipeline for the region which would attract investors; in this context, encourages the Commission, the EIB and the participating countries to fully exploit the possibilities available under the EFSI so as to finance projects in the region with a view to bringing about sustainable development and economic growth and stimulating employment at macro-regional level;

8.   Stresses the need for appropriate information campaigns regarding the EU strategy for Alpine region, and encourages the Member States to ensure that the strategy has a sufficiently high profile and that its aims and outcomes are adequately communicated at all levels, including cross-border and international levels; calls for the promotion of coordination and exchanges of best practices in the implementation of EU macro-regional strategies, especially in the field of managing natural and cultural heritage with the intention of creating sustainable tourist opportunities;

9.  Calls for the setting-up at macro-regional level of a supporting implementation structure for the governing bodies of EUSALP, in cooperation and agreement with the Commission, Member States and regions; furthermore welcomes Parliament’s representation on its governing bodies, and believes that Parliament should be involved in the monitoring of the strategy’s implementation;

10.  Calls for an active role for the Commission in the implementation phase of EUSALP; believes that it should be involved alongside the Member States and regions, on a shared management basis and in accordance with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, at all stages in the planning and implementation of projects coming under the strategy, not least in order to ensure the effective participation of local and regional stakeholders from public authorities, economic and social partners and organisations representing civil society concerning the macro-region and proper coordination with other EU-supported strategies and funding arrangements;

11.  Calls for the implementation of EUSALP to be evaluated by the Commission, with objective criteria and measurable indicators;

12.  Supports strategic planning among both urban and rural areas of the Alpine region, with a view to promoting networking and common targets in a coherent, coordinated and integrated policy framework (e.g. with reference to renewable energies, welfare, logistics, and business and social innovation); encourages the pooling of best practice on, e.g., sustainable tourism among regions, as well as with other existing macro-regional strategies;

13.  Insists that for the decision-making procedures local and regional authorities, in partnership with local and regional civil society, should have a leading role in the managing bodies and in the operational, technical and implementing bodies of the Strategy, in full respect of the principles of subsidiarity and multi-level governance;

14.  Considers that investment should be channelled towards equal and effective access to healthcare and to first aid units and emergency assistance for the whole population of the region, especially in rural areas, so as to prevent depopulation;

15.  Calls on the Commission to submit, every two years, a report on the implementation of EUSALP to the Parliament and the Council, based on objective criteria and measurable indicators, in order to assess its functioning and its added value in terms of growth and jobs, reduction of disparities and sustainable development;

16.  Calls on the participating countries to continue their efforts to diversify energy supply sources, taking account of the environment; underlines the need for sustainability, competitiveness and modernisation in respect of the existing hydropower infrastructure, which was developed at a very early stage, while taking into account the impact that hydropower infrastructures can have on the environment and on geology, as well as promoting small (mini, micro and pico) ones; stresses that the integrated management and protection of water resources is one of the keys to sustainable development of the Alps and that, therefore, the local population should be able to commit to hydropower and use the added value it generates; calls on the participating countries to contribute to well-functioning networks in the macro-region, in order to ensure security of supply and set up structures for the exchange of best practices on cross-border cooperation;

17.  Stresses the need to strengthen further the social dimension, in order to ensure the pursuit of a growth model that can secure sustainable growth, social inclusion and social protection for all, in particular in border areas; in this context, underlines the importance of setting priorities and taking measures against any form of discrimination;

18.   Recalls the principle of universal access to public services, to be guaranteed in all territories of the EU, in particular in the areas of education, healthcare, social services and mobility and paying particular attention to the needs of people with disabilities; stresses the need for the participating countries to encourage alternative and innovative solutions for the Alpine region in the provision of public services, including tailor-made solutions adapted to local and regional needs; in this context, calls on the participating countries to elaborate incentives for the development of public-private partnerships; recalls, however, the principles of affordability and accessibility of quality public services for all;

19.   Is concerned at the degradation of ecosystems and the risk of natural disasters in certain parts of the Alpine region; stresses the need to apply full natural disaster risk management and climate change adaptation strategies; underlines the need to develop and implement common contingency plans in in response to cross-border pollution; calls for the establishment of joint rapid response teams for tourist areas affected by natural disasters such as mudslides, landslides and flooding; in this context, points to the need to better promote the EU Civil Protection Mechanism;

Jobs, economic growth and innovation

20.  Acknowledges that the Alpine regions have an environmental heritage which needs to be preserved, with their vast reserve of natural landscapes, as well as having an extraordinary variety of ecosystems, ranging from upland to lowland and even to the Mediterranean coasts, thus enabling an economic area and biosphere based on coexistence between nature and humans; highlights, therefore, the need for active synergistic cooperation between farming and other economic activities in protected areas (Natura 2000 sites, national parks, etc.), in order to develop integrated tourism products, as well as the importance of preserving and protecting the unique habitats of mountain regions;

21.  Highlights the opportunities opened up by the strategy for the development of its labour market,which has/sees different important levels of cross-border commuting; considers that increasing the qualifications of the workforce and creating new jobs in the green economy should be part of the investment priorities of the Alpine strategy; underlines however that SMEs – very often family businesses, such as small farmholdings and small processing enterprises – in agriculture, tourism, commerce, crafts and manufacturing form the core of economic activity in an integrated and sustainable way in the Alpine region, and thus constitute the backbone of the living, cultural and natural environment in the Alps and an important source of employment; underlines the need for further diversification of economic activities and employment opportunities in the Alpine region;

22.  Highlights the need to prioritise investment in digital infrastructures and the importance of ensuring quick and efficient access to high-speed internet, and, thereby, to digital and online services, such as e-commerce and the use of digital market channels and teleworking, as well as other opportunities for people living in areas remote from large urban centres, while promoting where possible alternatives to physical travel;

23.  Considers that innovation and the use of new technologies in key areas of the economy, driven by smart specialisation strategies and financed by existing EU funding sources (e.g. the ERDF, the ESF, COSME, Horizon 2020 or Erasmus +), could help generate quality jobs in strategic sectors, such as life sciences, the bioeconomy, energy, organic products, new materials or e-services; recalls the importance of ensuring strong backing for SMEs, which could help reverse the current depopulation trend observed in certain areas and territories of the Alpine region;

24.  Calls on the competent authorities of the Alpine Member States and regions to come together with the Commission to look into the feasibility of carrying out during the next programming period a joint programme (based on Article 185 TFEU) to foster the integration of research and innovation activities in the Alpine area, in the context of cogent European value chains incorporated into smart specialisation strategies;

25.  Encourages clustering and cooperation between public and private enterprises, universities, research institutes and other relevant stakeholders with the aim of promoting innovation and making it possible to benefit from synergies between Alpine and peri-Alpine areas; considers that envisaged actions should build on the national and regional Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Regional Specialisation with a view to securing more efficient and effective investment;

26.  Recognises how important it is to the success of the EUSALP strategy to develop projects for associations, institutions, micro-enterprises and SMEs working in the cultural and creative sectors, because of the influence they have on investment, growth, innovation and employment and also because of the key role they play in preserving and promoting cultural and linguistic diversity;

27.  Emphasises that a macro-regional strategy for the Alps should not only provide opportunities to preserve, sustain, and adapt where necessary, forms of traditional economic activity, such as agriculture and forestry and craft-based economic activities, as well as fostering innovation and the development of new initiatives in this field, e.g. through the EU’s InnovFin instrument; points to the need for small and medium-sized enterprises to be given easier access to support and financing, bearing in mind their role in creating jobs;

28.  Underlines that cooperation between regions, above all cross-border cooperation, is essential for the further development of tourism in the wider region; encourages the formulation of tourism strategies based on existing natural and cultural heritage, sustainability and innovation; stresses the social, cultural and economic dimension of the various Alpine traditions and customs, which should be encouraged and sustained in their diversity;

29.  Notes that the management and reintroduction of birds of prey and carnivores in the Alpine regions is carried out at national and local level, while these species do not recognise administrative borders, and that migration is a cross-border phenomenon by nature; however, in order avoid clashes linked to this reintroduction, calls on the Member States to improve coordination between the various authorities while exchange of information, and that best practices need to be enhanced in order to improve the management and protection of farm and grazing animals as part of the Alpine strategy, in relation to the Large Carnivores, Wild Ungulates and Society Platform of the Alpine Convention;

30.  Supports diversification of tourism supply via the development of new tourism opportunities adapted to regional needs and exploiting regional resources, such as for example tourist theme parks and routes, food and wine tourism, cultural, health and educational tourism and sporting tourism, in order to prolong the tourist season, while easing pressure on the infrastructure and achieving year-round employment in the tourist cycle, as well as agri-tourism aimed at attracting visitors to rural and wildlife activities in hotels outside the mainstream, and enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of tourist destinations; supports the promotion of new tourist activities that are better adapted to climate change and environmental protection; stresses also the need to support and to enhance the coordination of mountain rescue ervices;

31.  Supports measures to help ease pressure on transport infrastructure by staggering school holidays and related holiday periods, smart road toll design, and the provision of incentives by tourism providers during peak travel times and rush hours;

32.  Recalls the economic importance of promoting the development of soft and sustainable touristic activities for the entire Alpine region, including in lake and spa towns; also encourages Member States to make use of cycling in combination with rail travel or intermodal transport services; points, on the basis of best practice, to tourism platforms created as part-EU-funded projects;

33.  Notes that the same person is often required to carry out different activities over the course of a year’s cycle, sometimes on a cross-border basis; calls on the Commission, the Member States and regional and local authorities to encourage cooperation between bodies providing initial and in-service professional training; stresses the benefits which an Erasmus+ programme devoted to cross-border apprenticeships could bring;

Mobility and connectivity

34.  Stresses the importance of improving transport and energy connectivity among the participating countries, including local, regional and cross-border transport and intermodal connections with the hinterland (including large conurbations), also on in order to boost the development of the region, enhance the quality of life of its inhabitants and attract new residents, while at the same time assessing whether existing networks can be renovated and/or expanded with the overall goal of better implementation of the TEN-T networks; stresses the importance of building a ‘smart’ infrastructure; believes that newly-built infrastructures should become proper ‘technological corridors’ within which to build all the separate infrastructure, namely electrical power lines, telephone lines, broadband and ultra-wideband lines, gas pipelines, fibre optic networks, water pipes, etc.;

35.  Calls for a holistic approach to the future design and implementation of Alpine transport and environment policy; in this context, underlines the need to prioritise modal transfers with a view to achieving a shift from road to rail, in particular for freight, and asks the Commission to support this transition; also in this context, calls for the revenues generated from road transport to be used to boost the implementation and the development of efficient and environment-friendly passenger and freight rail transport and for reducing noise and environmental pollution, and notes potential projects in fields such as traffic management, technological innovation, interoperability, etc.; calls in addition for an extension of the existing infrastructure, including intermodal and interoperable systems of quality, in the Alpine region; stresses the importance of ensuring connectivity and accessibility for all inhabitants of the region;

36.  Underlines the importance of connecting transport routes with other parts of Europe and the relevance of interconnections with TEN-T corridors, while making optimum use of existing infrastructure; points out that mountainous terrain is still an obstacle to rapprochement between EU citizens and that the EU has pledged to increase funding for cross-border transport infrastructure; calls, therefore, on the participating countries also to focus their efforts on implementing and planning complementary projects that are sustainable and inclusive, while linking and developing the current TEN-T network;

37.  Draws attention to the lack of effective, non-polluting connections within mountain areas and between mountain and peri-mountain areas; urges the Commission and the Member States to facilitate clean, low carbon and better connections, notably for rail networks, at regional and local level in order to enhance cohesion and quality of life in these areas; encourages and promotes settling in the Alpine region;

38.  Calls on the countries participating in the macro-regional strategy to take into account the specific conditions of cross-border workers and to develop cross-border worker agreements for the Alpine macro-region;

39.  Supports the development of innovative forms of local transport on demand, including smart transport information, traffic management and telematics and multimodality, also considering the potential of the inter-regional sharing of activities in this field;

40.  Stresses the lack of effective digital connections within mountain areas; urges the Commission and the Member States to facilitate better connections at regional and local level in order to enhance the quality of life and promote the development of new activities and the creation of job opportunities in these areas, and to encourage resettlement;

41.  Stresses the importance of public investment in mountain areas in order to tackle the failure of the market to provide digital connectivity in these areas; emphasises the importance of complete and universal coverage with broadband internet, including in mountain regions, in order to ensure the long-term viability of remote settlements and economic areas; calls on the Commission to propose concrete solutions for this issue;

The environment, biodiversity, climate change and energy

42.  Underlines the importance of protecting and enhancing biodiversity in the Alpine region; calls for joint efforts to introduce innovative measures for preserving and maintaining it, while calling for a thorough examination of the role of large predators and the possible introduction of adjustment measures, and also fully complying with the Union acquis on the protection of the environment and biodiversity, soil and water; stresses the importance of ensuring that all possible measures are taken to avoid duplication of already existing legislative initiatives;

43.   Points out that the Alpine macro-region offers great opportunities in terms of innovative solutions that could make it into a unique testing laboratory for the circular economy; will table, in the 2017 budgetary procedure, a pilot project to explore the potential of this area for developing specific strategies related to the circular economy, for example in the areas of production, consumption and waste management;

44.   Stresses the importance of promoting the self-generation of energy, improving energy efficiency and supporting the development of the most efficient renewable energy sources in the region, from hydro to solar, wind and geothermal, and also of promoting the development of forms of renewable energy specific to the Alps; notes the impact on air quality arising from the use of different types of combustion in the heating sector; supports the sustainable use of forest wood without reducing the existing forest area, which is important for the balance within the mountain ecosystem and for protection against avalanches, landslides and flooding;

45.  Underlines the urgent need to develop new strategies to combat air pollution, which is raising public health concerns, as well as climate change, particularly in the more industrialised and populated areas of the macro region, while also identifying existing sources of pollution and closely monitoring pollution emissions; calls, accordingly, on the Member States to introduce sustainable transport policies in line with the Paris COP21 targets, and to support the preservation and maintenance of ecosystem services throughout the entire Alpine macro-region;

46.   Stresses the importance of energy transport infrastructure, and supports smart energy distribution, storage and transmission systems, as well as investment in energy infrastructure for both the production and the transport of electricity and gas, in line with the TEN-E network and in implementation of the concrete projects mentioned in the list of Projects of Energy Community Interest (PECIs); stresses the importance of exploiting local, especially renewable, energy sources in order to reduce dependence on imports; calls for the promotion of decentralised/self-generated energy production, and for the improvement of energy efficiency in all sectors;

47.  Urges the participating countries to make joint efforts to implement spatial planning and integrated territorial management, involving multiple stakeholders (national, regional and local authorities, the research community, NGOs, etc.) from the region;

48.  Calls for the further strengthening of the collaboration and work done in the framework of the World Glacier Monitoring Service, in view of the recent decisions of the COP21 conference in Paris and the strategy to be followed thereafter;

49.  Is concerned that climate change and rising temperatures are a serious threat to the survival of species living at high altitudes, and the melting of glaciers is a further cause of concern as it has a major impact on groundwater resources; calls for a wide-ranging transnational plan to combat the melting of glaciers and to respond to climate change throughout the Alps;

50.  Calls on the participating countries to continue their efforts to diversify energy supply sources, and to develop the renewable sources available, such as solar and wind energy, within the energy production mix; underlines the sustainability and competitiveness of hydropower plants; calls on the participating countries to contribute to the setting-up of well-functioning electricity infrastructure networks in the macro-region;

51.  Stresses that diversifying energy supply sources will not only improve the energy security of the macro-region, but will also bring more competition, with important benefits for the economic development of the region;

o
o   o

52.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, and the governments and national and regional parliaments of the EUSALP participating countries (France, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany and Slovenia).

(1) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 320.
(2) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 259.
(3) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 303.
(4) OJ C 32, 28.1.2016, p. 12.
(5) OJ C 19, 21.1.2015, p. 32.
(6) OJ C 349 E, 29.11.2013, p. 1.
(7) OJ C 55, 12.2.2016, p. 117.


EU Trust Fund for Africa: implications for development and humanitarian aid
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European Parliament resolution of 13 September 2016 on the EU Trust Fund for Africa: the implications for development and humanitarian aid (2015/2341(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0337A8-0221/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 41(2) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to Article 208 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the EU Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displacement of persons in Africa (EU Trust Fund for Africa), established at the Valletta Summit on Migration held on 11 and 12 November 2015,

–  having regard to the Joint Action Plan adopted at the Valletta summit,

–  having regard to the Partnership Agreement between the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States of the other part, signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000(1), to its successive revisions and to Annex IC thereto (Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2014 -2020), corresponding to the 11th European Development Fund (EDF),

–  having regard to the Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2014-2020, constituting the EU budget, and to budget heading 4 contained therein (‘Global Europe’),

–  having regard to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit held in New York in 2015,

–  having regard to the Joint Staff Working Document on ‘Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women through EU External Relations 2016-2020’ (SWD(2015)0182) and to the Council conclusions of 26 October 2015 in which the corresponding Gender Action Plan 2016-2020 is endorsed,

–  having regard to the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) (1994) and to the outcomes of their review conferences,

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Development and the opinion of the Committee on Budgets (A8-0221/2016),

A.  whereas the main goal of the EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), signed by the President of the Commission along with 25 EU Member States, as well as Norway and Switzerland, and launched at the Valletta Summit on Migration on 12 November 2015 by the European and African partners, is to help foster stability in the regions and contribute to better migration management; whereas, more specifically, the EUTF aims to address the root causes of destabilisation, forced displacement and irregular migration by promoting resilience, economic opportunities, equal opportunities, security and development;

B.  whereas the European Consensus on Development remains the doctrinal framework for EU development policy, and the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid reaffirms the fundamental principles of humanitarian aid; whereas peace has been recognised as crucial for development in the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 on peace and justice that has been introduced; whereas the EU and its partners in the humanitarian field must be able to ensure assistance and protection based on needs and on respect for the principles of neutrality, impartiality, humanity and independence of humanitarian action, as enshrined in international law and in particular in international humanitarian law;

C.  whereas Africa continues to experience very high rates of population growth and only a slow decline in fertility rates, a situation which will lead in the near future to a sharp rise in the young working-age population, bringing great potential social and economic benefits; whereas equipping young people with the education and skills they need to realise their potential and creating employment opportunities are essential to foster stability, sustainable economic growth, social cohesion and development in the region;

D.  whereas the EUTF is intended to be a development tool that pools resources from different donors in order to enable a quick, flexible, complementary, transparent and collective response by the EU to the different dimensions of an emergency situation;

E.  whereas 1,5 billion people live in fragile and conflict-affected regions worldwide and fragile states and ungoverned spaces are spreading, leaving many in poverty, lawlessness, thriving corruption and violence; whereas the EUTF has been conceived in order to assist 23 countries across three African regions (the Horn of Africa; the Sahel and Lake Chad basin; and North Africa) that contain some of the most fragile African countries, are affected by migration as countries of origin, transit or destination if not all three, and will draw the greatest benefit from this form of EU financial assistance; whereas the eligible countries’ African neighbours may also benefit, on a case-by-case basis, from EUTF projects having a regional dimension with a view to addressing regional migration flows and related cross-border challenges;

F.  whereas the EUTF aims to tackle the root causes of irregular migration and displacement in countries of origin, transit and destination, through five priority sectors, namely: (1) development benefit of migration; (2) legal migration and mobility; (3) protection and asylum; (4) prevention of and fight against irregular migration; and (5) return, readmission and reintegration;

G.  whereas the EU’s contribution amounts to EUR 1.8 billion, while the Commission can also draw on additional funds from EU Member States and other donors for an equivalent amount; whereas the EUTF serves to complement the existing EU aid to the regions covered to the sum of over EUR 10 billion up to 2020, with the objective of supporting inclusive and sustainable economic growth;

H.  whereas two EUTFs were created in 2014, namely the Bekou Trust Fund focusing on the stabilisation and reconstruction of the Central African Republic, which has shown positive results, and the Madad Fund dealing with the response to the Syrian crisis;

I.  whereas the report of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) ‘ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report’, published on 12 February 2014, stresses that the protection of women and adolescents affected by violence must be a priority on the international development agenda;

J.  whereas trust funds are part of an ad hoc response – thus laying bare the scarcity of recourses and limited flexibility characterising the EU’s financial framework – but are vital for ensuring a rapid and comprehensive response to humanitarian crises, including long-term crises;

K.  whereas the EU will continue to pursue efforts to effectively implement UN Security Council resolution 1325 and the subsequent UN resolutions on women, peace and security;

Financial allocation and budgetary aspects

1.  Recalls that financial allocation is characterised by three main phases: promise, commitment and action/payment; points out, however, that lessons need to be learnt from previous EUTFs; regrets the fact that to date Member States’ contributions have remained too low, amounting only to a small fraction of the Union contribution and are thus far from reaching the official commitment, totalling only EUR 81,71 million in April 2016 (or 4,5 % of the projected EUR 1,8 billion); insists that promises and commitments must translate into action; reminds the Council and Commission that effective aid is characterised by timely and predictable funding, and calls for disbursement of this funding to be expedited;

2.  Welcomes the intention to disburse funds more quickly and flexibly in an emergency situation, and to bring together various sources of funding in order to address the migration and refugee crisis in its multiple dimensions; criticises the fact that the Commission has diverted appropriations from the objectives and principles of the basic acts to channel them through the EUTF, as this is in breach of the financial rules, and furthermore jeopardises the success of long-term Union policies; calls, therefore, for fresh appropriations to be used wherever possible and for full transparency to be ensured as to the origin and destination of funds;

3.  Observes that in the field of external action, EUTFs are mainly designed to enable a swift response to a specific emergency or post-emergency crisis by leveraging the contribution of EU Member States and other donors while increasing the global visibility of European efforts; stresses, however, that Member States should not overlook their commitment as regards achieving the target of 0,7 % of Gross National Income (GNI) for official development assistance (ODA); calls on the Member States accordingly to respect their commitments as regards both the ODA 0,7 % target and their contribution to the EUTF for Africa;

4.  Stresses the volatility of voluntary contributions and urges the Member States to honour their pledges and to rapidly and effectively match the Union contribution, in order to allow the EUTF to develop its full potential rather than provide the minimum required to obtain voting rights on the Strategic Board;

5.  Deplores the fact that the trust funds result in bypassing the budgetary authority and undermining the unity of the budget; notes that the fact that this ad hoc instrument has been set up is an acknowledgement that the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF is undersized; points out that Member State contributions make up 85 % of the Union budget; considers that setting up the EUTF is de facto tantamount to revising the ceilings for the current MFF by increasing Member State contributions; stresses, therefore, that the creation of funding instruments outside the EU budget must remain exceptional; deplores the fact that Parliament is not represented on the Strategic Board, despite the fact that substantial funds come from the Union budget; calls for the budgetary authority to be invited to participate in the Strategic Board;

6.  Notes that the EU’s financial allocation for the EUTF for Africa currently comes mainly from the 11th EDF; stresses that the EUTF was established because the EU budget and the MFF lack the resources and the flexibility needed to address the different dimensions of such crises promptly and comprehensively; calls for the EU to agree to find a more holistic solution for emergency funding in the framework of this year’s revision of the 2014-2020 MFF and the revision of the external financing instruments in 2016, with a view to increasing the effectiveness and reactivity of humanitarian and development assistance available under the EU budget;

7.  Calls, in particular, for an adequate revision of the ceiling to allow for the inclusion of the crisis mechanisms in the MFF in order to restore the unity of the budget; considers that revision of the MFF would provide greater budgetary, democratic and legal certainty; stresses, moreover, the need to review the financial rules with a view to facilitating the management of EU budget funds and to achieving, as part of an integrated approach, greater synergies between the Union budget, the EDF and bilateral cooperation so as to increase the impact of development funding and pave the way for the budgetisation of the EDF, while maintaining the level of resources as foreseen as of 2021; urges the Commission to take immediate steps to improve the involvement of the budgetary authority and to better align the trust funds and other mechanisms with the budgetary norm, notably by making them appear in the Union budget;

8.  Observes that Parliament has demonstrated responsibility, as one arm of the budgetary authority, by agreeing to release emergency funds; deplores the fact, however, that, as a result of the proliferation of emergency instruments, the Community method is being abandoned; gives an assurance of its intention to safeguard the fundamental principles of the Union budget, notably budget unity and codecision; considers that a rethink of the Union’s ability to respond to large-scale crises, in particular as regards their budgetary implications, is what is genuinely imperative; makes its agreement to future proposals for crisis instruments subject to incorporation of those implications into the mid-term review of the MFF, which is scheduled to take place before the end of 2016;

9.  Observes that further funding has been drawn from other financial instruments under the EU budget, such as the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), for EUR 125 million, the Instrument for Humanitarian Aid, for EUR 50 million, and the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), for EUR 200 million;

10.  Notes that of the total EU contribution of EUR 1,8 billion, only the EUR 1 billion from the EDF reserve is an additional resource; is concerned that financing of the EUTF may be implemented to the detriment of other development objectives; recalls that the EUTF tool should be complementary to already existing instruments, and calls on the Commission to ensure transparency and accountability over the use and amount of current budget lines contributing to the EUTF;

11.  Strongly underlines that funds from EDF and ODA sources must be devoted to the economic, human and social development of the host country, with particular focus on the development challenges identified in the Trust Fund decision; emphasises that development is not possible without security; condemns any use of EDF and ODA funds for migration management and control of any other actions without development objectives;

Funding least developed countries

12.  Stresses that the use of the EDF to finance the EUTF for Africa may have an impact on the aid recipient African countries which are not covered by the Trust Fund, and in particular the least developed countries (LDCs);

13.  Deeply regrets the fact that, despite the continued importance of ODA for LDCs, the already low levels of development assistance to LDCs declined for the second year in a row in 2014, and that the proportion of aid allocated to those countries is at its lowest for ten years; calls on the Commission and the Member States, accordingly, to make sure that aid is not diverted away from the poorest countries to cover the cost of the current crises;

The role of civil society, NGOs, local authorities and international organisations

14.  Considers that the EUTF for Africa should contribute to development in countries of transit and origin of migrants, the strengthening and improvement of local public services (social services, health, education, nutrition, culture), of political participation and of governance, especially through community-based projects; considers that the Fund should contribute to the development of employment in local sectors, while respecting human rights and the environment; believes, in this framework, that local government authorities must be consulted as full partners as long as there are full guarantees of efficiency and good governance in accordance with the principles of aid effectiveness, and that they should also be the main actors in charge of public services delivered at the local level; believes that civil society, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), international organisations and diaspora communities should play a complementary and pivotal role in addressing the root causes of migration and improving local services;

15.  Recalls that regional and local authorities, civil society organisations and NGOs are natural partners for an effective development policy, and that a constant dialogue with national authorities and local communities is essential in order to define common strategies and priorities and allow an evidence-based approach in the implementation of the Fund, particularly in states demonstrating insufficient guarantees of good governance and transparency; calls for respect for the principle of subsidiarity and ownership also in this field of action; stresses that local government bodies, local civil society, NGOs and international organisations should be strongly involved in the planning, implementation and evaluation phases of the EUTF; calls on the Commission to clarify and formalise the consultation procedures with these stakeholders so as to ensure their effective participation in the discussions taking place in the Operational Committees, with clear and transparent eligibility criteria;

16.  Stresses the importance of ensuring a better balance of funding for recipient country governments and especially for reliable civil society actors, who tend to be more aware of societal deficiencies which are in need of support;

17.  Recalls the importance of a people- and community-centred approach to resilience, and strongly believes that the EUTF should focus not only on economic development but also on grassroots projects specifically aimed at improving quality, equity and universal accessibility of basic services as well as training to develop local competences as well as to responding to the needs of vulnerable communities, including minorities;

Transparency and clarity for better achievement of goals

18.  Acknowledges the complexity and the multidimensional nature of the current refugee crisis; warns, however, against the serious risk of misuse of EU development aid, in particular in conflict-affected countries where security, migration and development issues are closely interconnected; emphasises that the projects covered by the EUTF, which have been created using sources mainly devoted in principle to development purposes, must have development objectives; stresses that projects aimed at reinforcing security capacity in particular countries must be designed in such a way that their final outcomes are focused on poverty reduction, as well as the stability of the recipient countries;

19.  Reminds the Commission and the authorities directly entrusted with the managing of the Trust Fund that the resources coming from the EDF or other development funding must be used exclusively for actions directly devoted to development assistance; asks the Commission to provide express assurance as regards such use and to ensure regular and comprehensive reporting of the use of these funds;

20.  Emphasises that the EU budget cannot be used to directly finance military or defence operations (Article 41(2) TEU), but that there is no explicit exclusion of peacekeeping operations with development objectives; recalls furthermore that Articles 209 and 212 TFEU do not explicitly exclude the financing of capacity-building in the security sector;

21.  Calls on the Commission, the Strategic Board and the Operational Committee to focus primarily on capacity-building, stability and peace, resilience, wellbeing and empowerment of local populations, promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights, and creation of work opportunities and training, particularly for women and young people;

22.  Emphasises strongly that the ultimate purpose of EU development policy, as enshrined in Article 208 TFEU, must be the reduction and eradication of poverty; in this regard, deplores the fact that while the EU contribution to the EUTF will be made mostly using ODA resources, this financing mechanism will not be focused exclusively on development-oriented objectives; stresses that a clear, transparent, and communicable distinction must be made within the EUTF between the funding envelopes for development activities on the one hand, and those for activities related to migration management, border controls and all other activities on the other; stresses that diluting ODA so that less funds are used to fight extreme poverty would undermine the significant progress made in international development and threaten the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);

EU policy coherence and commitment on human rights

23.  Calls for the EU to show greater coherence when acting in the field of international cooperation for development, from a twofold point of view: the EU and the Member States should, on the one hand, act according to their commitments and, on the other, exhibit overall coherence in their external policies and instruments for the African region, with particular regard to the co-management spirit of the ACP-EU Cotonou Agreement; from the latter perspective, considers that the EUTF should reflect the principles of policy coherence for sustainable development and complementarity between all development stakeholders, and should avoid any contradiction between development aims and security, humanitarian and migration policies; hopes that the Better Regulation package will contribute to furthering policy coherence for sustainable development by taking into account development and human rights in all its impact assessments;

24.  Recalls that the rules and criteria that govern development aid for projects financed by the EUTF must be set according to shared values and common interests, in particular as to the respect and promotion of human rights; in this regard, underlines that EU policy regarding cooperation on security, migration management and human trafficking and smuggling should include specific provisions aimed at ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law, with particular attention to women’s rights, the rights of LGBTI persons, sexual and reproductive health and rights, children’s rights, and the rights of minorities and other particularly vulnerable groups; points out that the EU must encourage efforts to combat discrimination on grounds of religion or personal beliefs, sex, race or ethnic origin, disability and sexual orientation;

25.  Points out that trust funds must contribute to achieving the long-term objectives of ensuring peace and strengthening governance in recipient countries; stresses the need to carefully and systematically evaluate the impact of the actions funded under the EUTF for Africa on the delivery of humanitarian aid; underlines that the EUTF should not undermine the long-term development cooperation of the EU; stresses that ownership and complementarity of long-term and short-term projects must be ensured, safeguarded and aligned with the EU’s existing regional and country strategies for the Sahel, the Gulf of Guinea, the Horn of Africa and North Africa; stresses that a comprehensive country and sector diagnosis is required for a good allocation of funds, as well as in terms of developing close partnerships with a wide range of civil society actors; welcomes the research component integrated in the EUTF as a potential opportunity to create development opportunities and synergies between the EU and the countries concerned;

Objectives and follow-up

26.  Calls on the Commission to systematically monitor how the EUTF funds are employed and how they are allocated, and to increase Parliament’s scrutiny powers over the EUTF; in particular, calls on the Council and the Commission to regularly communicate on the specific actions undertaken by both the EU and the African states when employing these funds and the results achieved;

27.  Is concerned at the lack of coordination among all the actors involved in managing the EUTF (and in particular between the Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) and its Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO)), and at the lack of clear guidelines as to how funding can be secured; deplores the lack of clarity and transparency regarding the funding criteria and the volume of funds available for civil society under the EUTF; recalls the need for better communication between the Commission, the Member States and Parliament in programming and implementing actions of the EUTF in general, in the interests of the further planning of potential additional Trust Funds; recalls that the Commission must take particular care to ensure that its actions are consistent and coordinated with the Regional Development Programmes (RDPs), in order to avoid duplication of effort and ensure that the main focus is on development, and not on border control and security to the detriment of migrants; calls on the Commission, for the same reason as well as in order to maximise the impact and effectiveness of global aid, to maintain a strong dialogue with the UN in the context of the EUTF; also calls on the Commission to strengthen its efforts with a view to the more systematic impact assessment of its policies and funding, including the EUTF, especially with regard to their effects on sustainable development, human rights and gender equality, and to integrate the results of these assessments into its policies and programming;

28.  Underlines the lack of involvement of Parliament thus far in the establishment of the EUTF, and insists on the need to guarantee, through detailed and regular reporting by the Commission, Parliament’s scrutiny as to how the Fund is being implemented;

29.  Believes that, given the extraordinary flexibility and rapidity proper to a Trust Fund, periodical reporting to Parliament should be undertaken at least once every six months; strongly underlines the need for transparent performance monitoring, evaluation and accountability;

30.  Believes that transparency, communication and visibility in relation to projects developed in the framework of the EUTF are of the utmost importance with a view to disseminating the results and involving and sensitising European private actors, local and regional authorities, NGOs and civil society, in order to create the conditions for broader involvement and facilitate participation by Member States;

31.  Underlines the need for thorough monitoring of the implementation of the provisions on redistribution, replacement in countries of origin, and Member States’ financial commitments, paying particular attention to human rights;

32.  Recalls that EU migration policies should primarily focus on addressing the root causes of migration; stresses that EU migration policies should work to help create peace and stability and foster economic development, in line with goals 3, 4 and 5, target 7 of goal 10, and goal 16 of the SDGs Agenda 2030 by working more closely with third countries to improve cooperation on incentives for return to and reintegration in the countries of origin of migrants, including high-skilled migrants, voluntary return and readmission, in a way that enhances their opportunities;

33.  Stresses that instability and physical insecurity are prominent causes of forced displacement, and therefore supports a conflict-sensitive approach to implementation of the Fund that would prioritise conflict prevention, state-building, good governance and the promotion of the rule of law; believes that the EUTF is a great opportunity for the EU, enabling it to reinforce its cooperation and political dialogue with its African partners, in particular concerning the effective implementation of return and readmission agreements, and to build up on common strategies for the management of migration flows; points to the need for sharing of responsibilities between the EU and its African partners, in line with the conclusions of the Valletta summit of November 2015; considers, however, that development aid should not be used to stem the flows of migrants and asylum seekers, and that the projects covered by the EUTF should not serve as a pretext for preventing departure or tightening borders between countries while ignoring the factors that drive people from their homes; expresses grave concern at the impact which the EUTF may have on human rights, if containing migratory flows involves cooperating with countries which commit systematic and/or serious violations of fundamental rights; asks the Commission to make sure that the Fund serves its purposes, directly helping those in need and not financing governments responsible for human rights violations; calls for respect for migrants’ human rights to be improved in EU-financed projects;

34.  Emphasises that it is important to understand the causes and consequences of international migration from a gender perspective, including the process of decision-making involved and the mechanisms leading to migration; recalls that women and girls, as refugees and migrants, are particularly vulnerable when they find themselves in situations where their safety cannot be ensured and where they may be subject to sexual violence or exploitation; stresses that the EUTF needs to contribute to the protection, support and/or assistance of vulnerable migrants, refugees and victims of trafficking, and that special attention should be given to women and children;

35.  Notes that the EUTF for Africa was created following the Valletta summit of African and European Heads of State and Government held on migration issues; calls on the Commission to provide Parliament with an overview of the concrete actions that followed this summit, notably in the field of development, the fight against smugglers and the signature of return, readmission and reintegration agreements; calls on the Council to provide the Commission with the necessary mandates to conclude such agreements with the countries concerned by the EUTF;

o
o   o

36.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the President of the European Council, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the parliaments of the Member States, the Co-Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and the President of the Pan-African Parliament.

(1) OJ L 317, 15.12.2000, p. 3.


Creating labour market conditions favourable for work-life balance
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European Parliament resolution of 13 September 2016 on creating labour market conditions favourable for work-life balance (2016/2017(INI))
P8_TA(2016)0338A8-0253/2016

The European Parliament,

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

—  having regard to Articles 6(a), 8, 10, 153(1), 153(2) and 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

—  having regard to Articles 7, 9, 23, 24 and 33 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

—  having regard to the European Social Charter of 3 May 1996, in particular Part I and Part II, Articles 2, 4, 16 and 27, on the right of workers with family responsibilities to equal opportunities and equal treatment,

—  having regard to Council Directive 92/85/EEC of 19 October 1992 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding(1) (the Maternity Leave Directive),

—  having regard to the Commission proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending the Maternity Leave Directive (COM(2008)0637),

—  having regard to its position adopted at first reading on 20 October 2010 with a view to the adoption of Directive 2011/.../EU of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Directive 92/85/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health at work of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding and on the introduction of measures to support workers in balancing work and family life(2), asking – among other things – for a two-week period of paternity leave,

—  having regard to Council Directive 2010/18/EU of 8 March 2010 implementing the revised Framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME, CEEP and ETUC and repealing Directive 96/34/EC(3),

—  having regard to Council Directive 2013/62/EU of 17 December 2013 amending Directive 2010/18/EU implementing the revised Framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME, CEEP and ETUC, following the amendment of the status of Mayotte with regard to the European Union(4),

–  having regard to Directive 2010/41/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 July 2010 on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacity and repealing Council Directive 86/613/EEC(5),

–  having regard to Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation(6),

–  having regard to Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time(7),

–  having regard to Council Directive 97/81/EC of 15 December 1997 concerning the Framework Agreement on part-time work concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC(8),

—  having regard to its resolution of 25 February 2016 on European Semester for economic policy coordination: Employment and Social Aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2016(9),

—  having regard to its resolution of 20 May 2015 on maternity leave(10),

—  having regard to its resolution of 12 September 2013 on the application of the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value(11),

—  having regard to its resolution of 12 March 2013 on eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU(12),

—  having regard to its resolution of 10 March 2015 on progress on equality between women and men in the European Union in 2013(13),

—  having regard to its resolution of 9 June 2015 on the EU Strategy for equality between women and men post-2015(14),

—  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(15),

—  having regard to its resolution of 3 February 2016 on the new Strategy for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Europe post-2015(16),

—  having regard to its resolution of 12 May 2016 on the application of Council Directive 2010/18/EU of 8 March 2010 implementing the revised Framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME, CEEP and ETUC and repealing Directive 96/34/EC(17),

—  having regard to the Council conclusions of 15 June 2011 on early childhood education and care: providing all our children with the best start for the world of tomorrow(18),

—  having regard to the Council conclusions of 19 June 2015 on equal income opportunities for women and men: Closing the gender gap in pensions,

—  having regard to the European Pact for gender equality for the period 2011-2020 adopted by the Council conclusions of 7 March 2011(19),

—  having regard to the Presidency conclusions of the Barcelona European Council of 15 and 16 March 2002,

—  having regard to the EU Presidency Trio declaration on gender equality of 7 December 2015 by the Netherlands, Slovakia and Malta,

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

—  having regard to the Commission’s initiative ‘Roadmap: A new start to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families’ (December 2015), as well as to the public and stakeholder consultation,

—  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Commission Work Programme 2016: No time for business as usual’ (COM(2015)0610),

—  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Launching a consultation on a European Pillar of Social Rights’ (COM(2016)0127),

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Towards Social Investment for Growth and Cohesion – including implementing the European Social Fund 2014-2020’ (COM(2013)0083) and its Recommendation 2013/112/EU of 20 February 2013 on ‘Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage’,

—  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘A better work-life balance: stronger support for reconciling professional, private and family life’, (COM(2008)0635),

—  having regard to the Commission communication of 17 February 2011 on Early Childhood Education and Care: Providing all our children with the best start for the world of tomorrow (COM(2011)0066),

—  having regard to the Commission progress report on the Barcelona objectives of 29 May 2013 entitled ‘The development of childcare facilities for young children in Europe with a view to sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2013)0322),

—  having regard to the Commission’s staff working document ‘The Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019’, in particular its Chapter 3.1 ‘Increasing female labour-market participation and the equal economic independence of women and men’,

—  having regard to the Commission’s 2015 report on equality between women and men in the European Union (SWD(2016)0054), in particular to the chapter on equal economic independence,

—  having regard to the Commission staff working document ‘Employment and Social Developments in Europe 2015’ of 21 January 2016, in particular its Chapter III.2 on social protection,

—  having regard to the studies of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) entitled ‘Working time and work-life balance in a life course perspective’ (2013), ‘Caring for children and dependants: Effect on careers of young workers’ (2013), and ‘Working and caring: Reconciliation measures in times of demographic change’ (2015) and to the Sixth European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) (2016),

–  having regard to the study of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions on ‘Working time development in the 21st century’ of 2015,

—  having regard to the study of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions entitled ‘Promoting parental and paternity leave among fathers’,

—  having regard to the report of the European Network of Equality Bodies, Equinet, entitled ‘Equality bodies promoting a better work-life balance for all’ of 8 July 2014,

—  having regard to the European Institute for Gender Equality’s 2015 Gender Equality Index and its 2015 report entitled ‘Reconciliation of work, family and private life in the European Union: Policy review’,

—  having regard to the European Parliamentary Research Service study of May 2015 entitled ‘Gender equality in employment and occupation – Directive 2006/54/EC, European Implementation Assessment’,

—  having regard to the study by Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union entitled ‘Maternity, paternity and parental leave: Data related to duration and compensation rates in the European Union’,

—  having regard to the study by Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union entitled ‘Costs and benefits of maternity and paternity leave’,

—  having regard to the study by Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union entitled ‘Discrimination Generated by the Intersection of Gender and Disability’,

—  having regard to the study by Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union, of March 2016, entitled ‘Differences in Men’s and Women’s Work, Care and Leisure Time’,

—  having regard to the 2014 Eurocarers Carers’ Strategy, ‘Enabling Carers to Care’,

—  having regard to the European Pact for mental health and well-being of 2008 and its priority ‘Mental health in workplace settings’,

—  having regard to ILO Convention 156 Concerning Family Responsibilities (1981) and ILO Recommendation 165 Concerning Workers with Family Responsibilities (1981),

—  having regard to ILO Part-Time Work Convention 1994, ILO Home Work Convention 1996, ILO Maternity Protection Convention 2000 and ILO Domestic Workers Convention 2011,

—  having regard to the ILO report ‘Maternity and paternity at work: law and practice across the world’ (2014),

—  having regard to the Agreed Conclusions of 24 March 2016 of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, 60th session, in particular points (e) to (g),

—  having regard to the Joint ILO/UNICEF Working Paper of 8 July 2013 ‘Supporting workers with family responsibilities: connecting child development and the decent work agenda’,

—  having regard to the OECD Better Life Index 2015,

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

–  having regard to the joint deliberations of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality under Rule 55 of the Rules of Procedure,

—  having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (A8-0253/2016),

A.  whereas according to the latest Eurostat data, the birth rate in the EU has fallen in recent decades and the EU faces unprecedented demographic challenges(20) to which the Member States should respond; whereas family-friendly policies are important in order to trigger positive demographic trends, because job insecurity and difficult working conditions may have a negative impact on family planning;

B.  whereas in 2014, 5,1 million children were born in the EU-28, corresponding to a crude birth rate of 10,1; whereas, in comparison, this rate was 10,6 in 2000, 12,8 in 1985 and 16,4 in 1970; whereas the EU faces a serious demographic challenge owing to the ever decreasing birth rates in most Member States, which are gradually transforming the Union into a gerontocratic society and posing a direct threat to social and economic growth and development;

C.  whereas the traditional concept of women’s and men’s roles and of the nuclear family is further challenged, as the number of single-parent families, families based on same-sex unions, adolescent mothers, etc. are on the rise in the EU; whereas a failure to acknowledge this diversity amounts to further discrimination and negatively affects people living in the EU and their families;

D.  whereas equality between men and women is a fundamental principle of the European Union, and Articles 21 and 23 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union prohibit any discrimination on grounds of sex and require equality between men and women to be ensured in all areas, including in the achievement of a work-life balance;

E.  whereas the roadmap presented by the Commission is a starting point; whereas this opportunity must open a process of reorganisation of the work-life balance situation of women and men in Europe and must contribute significantly to achieving higher levels of gender equality;

F.  whereas well designed and implemented reconciliation policies are to be considered as an essential improvement of the working environment, enabling good working conditions and social and professional well-being; whereas at the same time a good work-life balance promotes economic growth, competitiveness, overall labour market participation, gender equality, reduction of the risk of poverty, and intergenerational solidarity, addresses the challenges of an aging society and positively influences birth rates in the EU; whereas the policies to be implemented to attain these objectives must be modern, concentrate on improving women’s access to the labour market and equal sharing of domestic and care tasks between women and men, and be based on the establishment of a coherent policy framework supported by collective bargaining and collective agreements to allow for a better balancing of caring, professional and private life;

G.  whereas reconciling work and private life largely depends on the working time arrangements at the workplace; whereas doubts have been raised as to whether more and longer working hours are beneficial to the economy in terms of increased productivity; whereas a significant proportion of workers in the EU has atypical working hours, including working at weekends and on public holidays and doing shift and night work, and almost half of workers worked in their free time in 2015; whereas current findings indicate that working time arrangements change regularly for 31 % of employees, often at short notice(21); whereas this might raise health and safety concerns, with an increased risk of accidents at work and poorer health in the long term, and make it difficult for workers to reconcile work with duties towards children and other dependants; whereas some sectors are more severely affected, such as the retail services sector where most of those employed are women;

H.  whereas the Commission and the Member States should launch specific measures to foster adaptable and effective job performance models, in both the public and private sectors, which would enable workers to achieve a work-life balance;

I.  whereas in 2015, the employment rate for men stood at 75,9 % in the EU-28, as compared with 64,3 % for women(22), despite the fact that women are better educated; whereas the number of women in the workforce is even lower when considering employment rates in full-time equivalents, since the share of part-time employment among women is very high in some Member States; whereas in 2013 men spent 47 hours per week on paid work, compared to 34 hours for women; whereas when combining the working hours of paid work and unpaid work at home, young women on average worked 64 hours, compared to 53 hours worked by young men(23); whereas GDP per capita losses attributable to gender gaps in the labour market have been estimated at up to 10 % in Europe;

J.  whereas in the current context of EU employment, socio-economic and equality policies, the Europe 2020 strategy and the goals previously set are far from being reached; whereas without proactive policies designed and implemented to help women enter the job market, especially policies that promote a better work-life balance, any target set at EU level cannot actually be reached;

K.  whereas European labour markets are gender segregated(24); whereas the Commission also acknowledged this in its communication of 8 March 2016 on the European Pillar of Social Rights (COM(2016)0127, Annex I), stating that ‘women continue to be underrepresented in employment, overrepresented in part-time work and low-paid sectors, and receive lower hourly wages also when performing equivalent work and even though they have surpassed men in educational attainment’;

L.  whereas poverty and widening inequalities have worsened with the macroeconomic policies implemented by the EU and the austerity measures imposed in response to the economic crisis;

M.  whereas the struggle to reconcile family and working life is particularly difficult for single parents, the majority of whom are women; whereas in the 28 EU Member States no less than 34 % of single mothers are at risk of poverty, and children from those families are at a disproportionately greater risk of intergenerational transmission of poverty;

N.  whereas the harmful repercussions of the feminisation of poverty have the greatest impact on children raised by single mothers who are experiencing serious difficulties in reconciling the role of sole provider with their parenting responsibilities;

O.  whereas gender equality in the labour market benefits not only women but the economy and society as a whole, being a key economic asset to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth and the reduction of occupational inequality, as well as labour market efficiency and fluidity; whereas women entering and re-entering working life leads to an increase in family income, consumption, social security contributions and the volume of taxes collected; whereas women still face discrimination in accessing and staying in employment, as well as a denial of labour rights owing, in particular, to pregnancy and maternity;

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

Q.  whereas inequality in the labour market has lifelong consequences and impacts on women’s rights, such as pensions, as the 39 % EU gender pension gap testifies, representing more than double the gender pay gap of 16 %;

R.  whereas among the various occupational categories, the self-employed and businesswomen in particular are having great difficulty in achieving a work-life balance; whereas, very often, women who wish to set up a business have difficulty in gaining access to credit, because financial intermediaries are reluctant to grant loans as they consider women entrepreneurs to be more exposed to risk and less likely to make their businesses grow;

S.  whereas stereotypes widely conveyed by society leave women in a subordinate role; whereas these stereotypes start to develop during childhood and are reflected in educational and training choices and continue into the labour market; whereas women are still too often confined to ‘women-friendly’ jobs and are often poorly paid; whereas these labour market divisions reproduce stereotypes that impose an overwhelming amount of care to be provided mainly by women, leading to women spending two to ten times longer on unpaid care than men(25); whereas gender stereotypes and gender-based discrimination have negative implications for women’s personal, social and economic independence and prospects, and lead to a higher concentration of women in part-time work, career interruptions and a higher risk of poverty and social exclusion, in particular for single mothers, therefore affecting women’s autonomy;

T.  whereas family-related types of leave still happen to be grounds for discrimination and stigmatisation for both women and men, despite the existing policy framework and legislation at EU and national level, and this particularly affects women as main carers using family-related leave;

U.  whereas the differences in men’s and women’s uptake of parental leave shows gender-based discrimination; whereas fathers’ participation rate in parental leave in the Member States remains low, with only 10 % of fathers taking at least one day of leave, and 97 % of women use the parental leave that is available for both parents; whereas available data confirms that unpaid or poorly paid family-related types of leave result in low participation rates; whereas entirely or partially non-transferable, properly paid parental leave supports a more balanced take-up by both parents and helps to reduce discrimination against women in the labour market; whereas only a few Member States encourage fathers to make the most of paternity or parental leave, leading to men being deprived of the opportunity to participate equally in taking care of and spending time with their children;

V.  whereas it is vital to introduce measures to promote fathers’ access to leave, particularly as fathers who take family leave build a better relationship with their children and are more likely to take an active role in future childcare tasks;

W.  whereas Eurofound studies have illustrated aspects that influence fathers’ take-up rates of parental leave, namely: the level of compensation, the flexibility of the leave system, the availability of information, the availability and flexibility of childcare facilities and fear of exclusion from the labour market due to taking leave;

X.  whereas availability of and access to affordable, adequate and quality early childhood education and care (ECEC), care for other dependent persons and high-quality social services is one of the main factors influencing the participation of women in the labour market; whereas there is a lack of sufficient infrastructure offering quality and accessible childcare for all income levels; whereas for 27 % of Europeans the poor quality of childcare makes it difficult to access these services(26); whereas achieving quality services means investing in childcare workforce training(27); whereas only 11 Member States have met the first Barcelona target (childcare available for at least 90 % of children between the ages of 3 and the mandatory school age) and only 10 Member States have achieved the second target (at least 33 % of children under three years)(28);

Y.  whereas early childhood education and care and children’s experiences from the ages of 0-3 have a decisive impact on their cognitive development, given that they develop essential capacities in the first five years;

Z.  whereas work-life balance policies should also enable parents to fulfil their responsibilities towards their children, ensuring the financial means, time and support necessary for both mothers and fathers;

AA.  whereas Europe is the continent with the highest number of older citizens and an ageing process that will continue in the coming decades; whereas many Member States lack sufficient long-term care facilities to address the increase in care needs and the stagnation or reduction of the healthy life years indicator; whereas most of the jobs created in formal home care for older relatives are poorly paid and require a low level of qualifications(29);

AB.  whereas 80 % of care needs are provided by informal carers in the EU; whereas about 3,3 million Europeans aged between 15 and 34 have had to give up full-time work because they lack care facilities for dependent children or older relatives;

AC.  whereas ICT and emerging technologies have changed work and employment environments, organisational cultures and structures across sectors; whereas policy-making must stay up to date with technological developments, in order to ensure that social standards and gender equality advance rather than regress in these new circumstances;

AD.  whereas the combination of care and paid work has an important impact on the sustainability of work and employment rates, in particular for women, who might face at some stage in their life care responsibilities for grandchildren and/or elderly parents(30);

AE.  whereas some legal systems in the EU maintain non-individualisation of tax and social security systems, with women granted only derived rights through their relationship to men, including for access to health and pension services; whereas Member States that impose dependency of the wife/mother are imposing direct discrimination against women and denying full citizenship rights to women through the selective way state services are delivered;

AF.  whereas targeted labour market and work-life balance policies are required in order to take into account intersectional obstacles faced by vulnerable women in terms of work-life balance and job security, such as women with disabilities, young women, migrant and refugee women, women from ethnic minority backgrounds and LGBTI women;

AG.  whereas allowing workers time off for personal and training development in the context of life-long learning without being discriminated against benefits their well-being as well as their contribution to the economy with more skills and higher productivity(31);

AH.  whereas the implementation of work-life balance policies will not in itself produce benefits for workers unless it is accompanied by policies to improve living conditions, alongside policies to foster and promote cultural, recreational and sporting activities, among others;

General principles

1.  Points out that reconciliation of professional, private and family life is a wide-ranging concept that embraces all overarching policies of a legislative and non-legislative nature aimed at promoting appropriate and proportionate balance between the various aspects of people’s lives; considers that achieving a genuine work-life balance requires robust, cross-cutting, structural, coherent and comprehensive policies, including incentives and efficient measures for reconciling work, caring for and spending time with family and friends and time for leisure and personal development; points out that above all a cultural shift in society is needed, tackling gender stereotypes so that work and care are more evenly shared between men and women;

2.  Stresses that reconciliation of professional, private and family life needs to be guaranteed as a fundamental right for all people, in the spirit of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, with measures being available for everyone, going beyond young mothers, fathers or carers; calls for the introduction of a framework to ensure this right as a basic aim of social systems and calls on the EU and the Member States to promote, in both the public and private sectors, business welfare models respecting the right to a work-life balance; considers that this right should be mainstreamed throughout EU activities that might have a direct or indirect impact on this issue;

3.  Points out that the EU is facing unprecedented demographic changes – rising life expectancy, lower birth rates, changing family structures with new forms of relation-building and (co)habitation, late parenthood and migration, which pose new challenges for the EU; is concerned that the economic and financial crisis has had a negative impact on public finances needed for work-life balance policies and for guaranteeing the availability of and access to quality and affordable services of general interest; calls, therefore, on the Commission and the Member States to put in place positive policies and incentives to support demographic renewal, preserve social security systems and promote the well-being and development of people and of society as a whole;

4.  Stresses that the falling birth rate in the EU has been exacerbated by the crisis, given that unemployment, precarious job opportunities, uncertainty about the future and discrimination in the labour market are making young people, in particular young professional women, put off having children for the purpose of remaining active in an increasingly competitive labour market; in this context, calls on the Member States and social partners to promote family-friendly working environments, reconciliation plans, return-to-work programmes, communication channels between employees and employers, and incentives for businesses and self-employed workers, in particular to ensure that people are not economically penalised for having children and that legitimate career aspirations are not opposed to family plans; highlights further that maternity, paternity and parental leave can only be effectively applied with benefits for society and the economy if other policy instruments are applied alongside, including the provision of quality and affordable childcare;

5.  Welcomes the Commission’s approach to work-life balance policies as key in addressing socio-economic challenges; calls on the European Social Partners to come forward with an agreement on a comprehensive package of legislative and non-legislative measures regarding the reconciliation of professional, private and family life; calls on the Commission, while respecting the principle of subsidiarity, to put forward a proposal for such a package as part of the Commission Work Programme 2017 in the context of the announced European pillar of social rights, should it not be possible for an agreement between the social partners to be reached; stresses that legislative proposals should include equality between men and women as a legal basis; calls on the Commission to work in cooperation with social stakeholders towards a pillar of social rights, leading to true social investment that primarily emphasises investment in people;

6.  Welcomes the Commission’s launch of a public consultation on the European Pillar of Social Rights to gather views and feedback on a number of essential principles to support well-functioning and fair labour markets and welfare systems within the euro area;

7.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure relevant policies and measures take account of the increasing diversity of family relationships, including civil partnerships and parenting and grandparenting arrangements, as well as the diversity of society as a whole, in particular to guarantee that a child is not discriminated against because of its parents’ marital status or family constitution; calls on the Member States to mutually recognise legal documents with a view to guaranteeing free movement without discrimination;

8.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop and implement policies and provide measures that support those who are most disadvantaged or currently excluded from existing legislation and policies, such as single parents, unmarried couples, same-sex couples, migrants, self-employed people or so-called ‘assisting spouses’, and families in which one or more members have a disability;

9.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that legislation and policies on work-life balance take into account the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Concluding Observations of the 2015 UN CRPD Committee to the EU;

10.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the well-being and best interests of children are one of the primary considerations in the development, monitoring and implementation of work-life balance policies; calls on the Commission and the Member States to fully implement the Recommendation on Investing in Children(32) and closely monitor its progress; calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop and introduce initiatives, such as a Child Guarantee, which would place children at the centre of existing poverty alleviation policies so that every child could have access to free healthcare, free education, childcare, decent housing and adequate nutrition, as part of a European integrated plan to combat child poverty;

11.  Considers that child poverty is linked to parents’ poverty, and therefore calls on the Member States to implement the Recommendation on Child Poverty and Well-being and to use the indicator-based monitoring framework therein;

12.  Stresses the importance of incorporating a lifecycle approach in work-life balance policies and corporate strategies in order to ensure that everyone is supported at different times throughout their life and can actively participate in the labour market with labour rights and in society as a whole;

13.  Emphasises that a better work-life balance and strengthened gender equality is essential for supporting the participation of women in the labour market, in particular women carers and single mothers, and for achieving the goal of women’s empowerment; underlines that the key to women’s economic empowerment is the transformation and adaptation of the labour market and welfare systems in order to take into account women’s life cycles;

14.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop transformative policies and to invest in awareness-raising campaigns to overcome gender stereotypes and to promote a more equal sharing of care and domestic work, focusing also on the right and need for men to take up care responsibilities without being stigmatised or penalised; considers that businesses should be targeted and supported in their efforts to foster work-life balance and to combat discrimination;

15.  Calls on the Member States to step up protection against discrimination and unlawful dismissal related to work-life balance, which particularly affect female workers, and to ensure access to justice and legal action, including by increasing the amount of information on offer about workers’ rights and legal assistance, if required; calls in this context on the Commission and the Member States to propose policies to improve enforcement of anti-discrimination measures in the workplace, including increasing the awareness of legal rights regarding equal treatment by conducting information campaigns, reversal of the burden of proof(33) and empowering national equality bodies to conduct formal investigations on their own initiative of equality issues and help potential victims of discrimination;

16.  Highlights that the lack of comparable, comprehensive, reliable and regularly updated equality data makes it more difficult to prove the existence of discrimination, particularly indirect discrimination; calls on the Member States to collect equality data in a systematic way and to make them available, with the involvement of national equality bodies and courts, including with a view to analysing and monitoring these data for the Country-Specific Recommendations; calls on the Commission to take initiatives to further promote such data collection by means of a Recommendation to Member States, and by tasking Eurostat with the development of consultations aiming at mainstreaming data disaggregation on all discrimination grounds in European Social Survey indicators; calls on the Commission to continue to cooperate with the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) to improve the quantity and quality of sex-disaggregated data in a systematic way;

17.  Calls on the Commission to regularly review the progress achieved in critical areas of concern as identified in the Beijing Platform for Action, for which indicators have already been developed by the EIGE, and to take the outcomes of these reviews into account in its assessment of gender equality in the EU;

18.  Notes the important role of the national equality bodies in the implementation of the Employment Equality Directive 2000/78/EC, contributing to awareness raising and data collection, staying in touch with social partners and other stakeholders, addressing underreporting and making complaint processes more accessible; calls on the Member States to strengthen the role, capacities and independence of the equality bodies, including Equinet, inter alia through the provision of adequate funding; calls in particular for strengthening of the organisations provided for in the Equal Treatment Directive 2006/54/EC, guaranteeing access to justice and legal action;

19.  Considers it necessary that adequate training on non-discrimination legislation in employment and case law be provided for employees of national, regional and local authorities and law enforcement bodies, and for labour inspectors; believes that such training is also of critical importance for judges, prosecutors, lawyers and the police force;

20.  Calls on the Member States, together with the Commission, to guarantee that rights to social entitlements assigned by public policies are equally accessible for women and men, in order to ensure that everyone can enjoy their rights and to enable them to achieve a better work-life balance;

Women and men as equal earners and equal carers

21.  Stresses the need to eliminate gender inequalities in paid and unpaid work and to promote equal sharing of responsibilities, costs and care for children and for dependants between women and men, but also within society as a whole, including by ensuring universal access to services of general interest; points in this respect to the need for specific proposals making for better work-life balance;

22.  Deplores the persistence of the gender pay gap, which constitutes an infringement of the fundamental principle of equal pay for equal work for female and male workers enshrined in Article 157 TFEU and in particular affects women having and raising children; calls on the EU and the Member States, in cooperation with the social partners and gender equality organisations, to set out and implement policies to close the gender pay gap; calls on the Member States to carry out wage-mapping on a regular basis as a complement to these efforts;

23.  Calls on the Commission, in line with the Council conclusions of 16 June 2016 on gender equality, to enhance the status of its strategic engagement on gender equality and to integrate a gender perspective into the Europe 2020 strategy in order to ensure that work on gender equality is not made less of a priority; urges the Commission, therefore, to adopt a post-2015 Gender Equality Strategy in line with the recommendations of the European Pact for gender equality for the period 2011-2020;

24.  Calls on the Member States to put in place proactive policies and appropriate investment aimed and designed to support women and men entering, returning to, staying and advancing in the labour market, after periods of family and care-related types of leave, with sustainable and quality employment, in line with Article 27 of the European Social Charter; stresses in particular the need to guarantee reinstatement to the same post or to an equivalent or similar post, protection against dismissal and less favourable treatment as a result of pregnancy, applying for or taking family leave, and a protection period after their return so that they can readjust to their job;

25.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to involve the social partners and civil society in gender equality policies; stresses the importance of adequate funding for such policies, of collective agreements and collective bargaining in combating discrimination and promoting gender equality at work, and of research and exchanges of good practices;

26.  Considers that promoting women’s participation in the labour market and their economic independence is crucial for meeting the Europe 2020 target of a 75 % overall employment rate and would boost GDP; calls, therefore, on the Commission and the Member States to strengthen policies and increase investment supporting female employment in quality jobs, particularly in sectors and positions where women are under-represented, such as the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and green economy sectors, or senior management positions across all sectors;

Family- and care-related types of leave

27.  Notes that the Commission has withdrawn the revision of the Maternity Leave Directive and calls for it to put forward an ambitious proposal with high-level standards, in close cooperation with the social partners and consultation with civil society, in order to ensure a better work-life balance; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that women are paid and covered by social protection for the duration of maternity leave in order to support families and combat inequalities, strengthen women’s social and economic independence and avoid them being financially penalised for having children; stresses that maternity leave must be accompanied by effective measures protecting the rights of pregnant women and new, breastfeeding and single mothers, reflecting the recommendations of the International Labour Organisation and the World Health Organisation;

28.  Calls for improved coordination of different types of leave at EU and Member State level in cooperation with the social partners; points out that better access to different types of leave provides people with life-cycle leave perspectives and increases employment participation, overall efficiency and job satisfaction; notes that where there are no provisions for leave, or where the existing ones are considered to be insufficient, the social partners could have a role to play in establishing new provisions or updating current ones for maternity, paternity and parental leave;

29.  Calls on the Member States to provide adequate income replacement and social protection during any type of family- or care-related leave, in particular to ensure that low-income workers can benefit from leave measures on an equal footing with others;

30.  Calls on the Commission to publish an implementation report on the Parental Leave Directive and calls on the Commission and the social partners to consider offering an appropriate extension of the minimum duration of parental leave with adequate income replacement and social protection from four to at least six months and to increase the age of the child for which parental leave can be taken; stresses that parents should be given flexibility to use the leave in fractions or all together; calls on the Member States and the social partners to reconsider their systems of financial compensation for parental leave with a view to reaching an adequate level of income replacement that acts as an incentive and also encourages men to take parental leave beyond the minimum time period guaranteed by the directive; reiterates that parental leave should be equally shared between parents and that a significant part of the leave should remain non-transferable(34); underlines that both parents must be treated in the same way in terms of rights to income and the duration of leave;

31.  Notes the increased vulnerability of working parents of children with disabilities; calls, therefore, on the Commission to improve and strengthen the provisions of Directive 2010/18/EU regarding the conditions of eligibility and detailed rules for granting parental leave to those who have children with a disability or serious or long-term incapacitating illness; calls on the Member States in this respect to extend the possibility of parental leave for these parents beyond the statutory age of the child provided for in the directive and to grant them additional maternity, paternity (where it exists) and parental leave;

32.  Believes that promoting the individualisation of the right to leave arrangements, as well as the role of fathers in bringing up their children by taking up leave, is essential to achieving a gender-balanced reconciliation of work and private life and the Europe 2020 employment target for women and men;

33.  Calls on the Commission, in order to allow parents with children or people with dependants to achieve a better work-life balance, to bring forward well-grounded and coherent initiatives on:

   (1) a paternity leave directive with a minimum of a compulsory two-week fully paid leave,
   (2) a carers’ leave directive which supplements the provision of professional care, enables workers to care for dependants and offers the carer adequate remuneration and social protection; calls for employee-driven flexibility and sufficient incentives for men to take up carers’ leave,
   (3) minimum standards applicable in all Member States to address the specific needs of adoptive parents and children and to establish the same rights as for natural parents,

while acknowledging that some Member States have already taken proactive measures on paternity leave and carers’ leave;

34.  Calls on the Member States to introduce ‘care credits’ through labour and social security legislation for both women and men as equivalent periods for building up pension rights in order to protect those taking a break from employment to provide informal, unpaid care to a dependant or a family member and to recognise the value of the work of these carers for society as a whole; encourages the Member States to exchange best practices in this area;

Care for dependants

35.  Calls on the Member States to effectively implement the Barcelona targets by 2020 and to endorse the 2014 quality framework on early childhood education and care;

36.  Recalls that investing in social services, including infrastructure, generates considerable employment effects, also leading to significant additional income for the public sector in employment taxes and social security contributions; asks the Member States to invest in high-quality early childhood education and care and elderly and dependant care services; calls on them to ensure the availability, affordability and universal access to such services by considering, for example, increasing public expenditure on care services, including independent living schemes, and by making better use of the EU funds; calls for the MFF revision to be used also to step up investment in social services and infrastructure, in particular with the help of the ESF, the ERDF and the EFSI; calls on the Member States to consider granting free access to care services for families living in poverty and social exclusion; also notes the disproportionate impact that insufficient investment in public care structures and services has on single parents, the vast majority of whom are women;

37.  Stresses the need to recognise the work done by people who devote their time and skills to caring for elderly and dependent persons;

38.  Highlights that the care of children with disabilities presents a particular challenge for working parents, which should be recognised by society and supported by public policies and collective bargaining; calls on the Member States, in providing pre-school childcare, to place emphasis not only on accessibility, but also on the quality of that care, in particular for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and children with disabilities;

39.  Calls on the Member States to support fiscal policies as a powerful lever enhancing work-life balance and to foster employment of women;

40.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to introduce targets on care for elderly persons, persons with disabilities and other dependants, similar to the Barcelona targets, with monitoring tools which should measure quality, accessibility and affordability; calls on Eurostat, Eurofound and the EIGE (for its Gender Index), to collect relevant data and to carry out studies to support this work;

41.  Calls on the Member States to strengthen the network of specialised services providing care to elderly persons and specifically to build up home service networks; in this sense, also stresses the need for policies on care for elderly persons to be tailored to individual needs and, if possible, for emphasis to be placed on their preferred place of care;

42.  Calls on the Commission to work towards European qualitative standards for all care services, including on their availability, accessibility and affordability, which would support Member States in raising care standards; recalls the existing frameworks such as the European Quality Framework for Long-term Care Services, from which inspiration should be drawn; calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop policies to enable and accommodate deinstitutionalisation of long-term care, where possible and with the support of community-based care;

43.  Points out that an important element in achieving quality services is investing in the workforce(35); calls, therefore, on the Member States and the social partners to promote decent working conditions and quality employment for care workers, including through decent pay, recognition of care workers’ status and the development of high-quality vocational training pathways for care workers;

Quality employment

44.  Points out the high levels of working poor throughout Europe, with some people having to work more and longer, even combining several jobs, in order to earn a living wage; calls on the Member States and the social partners to develop a wage policy framework with effective measures combating wage discrimination and ensuring adequate wages for all workers, for example through the introduction of minimum wages at national level that guarantee a life in dignity, in line with national practices; calls on the Member States to support collective bargaining as an important factor in developing wage policies;

45.  Points out that work-life balance must be based on workers’ rights and security on the labour market, and on the right to take time off without it being curtailed by increased mobility and flexibility requirements; stresses the fact that increased flexibility can result in an intensification of the labour market discrimination currently experienced by women – in the shape of lower wages, non-standard forms of employment and disproportionate responsibility for unpaid household tasks – if a clear gender mainstreaming approach is not taken beforehand;

46.  Calls on Eurofound to further develop its activities in monitoring employment quality through its European Working Conditions Survey, based on its concept of job quality as comprising: earning, prospects, working time quality, skill use and discretion, social environment, physical risk and work intensity; calls on Eurofound, furthermore, to develop its research on policies, social partner agreements and companies’ practices which are supportive of job quality(36); calls on Eurofound to keep monitoring the incidence of working time arrangements and to provide analyses of public policies and social partner agreements in this field, including an assessment of how these are negotiated and support work-life balance; calls on Eurofound to develop research on how dual worker households manage their working time arrangements together and how best to support them;

47.  Stresses that, on the one hand, work-life balance must be based on workers’ rights and security on the labour market, and on the right to take time off without it being curtailed by increased mobility and flexibility requirements; points out, on the other hand, the differences in the personal and family situation of every worker and therefore considers that employees should be given the possibility to make use of flexible working arrangements in order to adapt these to their specific circumstances along the life cycle; considers that such employee-oriented flexibility can promote higher employment rates among women; stresses that employees and employers have a shared responsibility to design and agree on the most appropriate arrangements; calls on the Commission to map the situation in the Member States of a ‘Right to request flexible working arrangements’;

48.  Supports ‘smart working’ as an approach to organising work through a combination of flexibility, autonomy and collaboration, which does not necessarily require the worker to be present in the workplace or in any pre-defined place and enables them to manage their own working hours, while nevertheless ensuring consistency with the maximum daily and weekly working hours laid down by law and collective agreements; underlines, therefore, the potential of smart working for a better work-life balance, in particular for parents returning to or entering the labour market after maternity or parental leave; rejects, however, a shift from a culture of presence to a culture of permanent availability; calls on the Commission, the Member States and the social partners, when developing smart working policies, to ensure that these do not impose an additional burden on the worker, but rather reinforce a healthy work-life balance and increase workers’ well-being; stresses the need to focus on achieving job outcomes to prevent abuse of these new forms of work; calls on the Member States to promote the potential of technology such as digital data, high-speed internet, audio and video technology for smart (tele)working arrangements;

49.  Highlights that alternative business models such as cooperatives and mutuals have enormous potential to advance gender equality and a healthy work-life balance, particularly in the emerging ‘smart working’ digital environment, given the higher levels of employee participation in decision-making; calls on the Commission and the Member States to research the impact of cooperatives and alternative business models on gender equality and work-life balance, especially in technology sectors, and set out policies to promote and share best practice models;

50.  Is concerned about the increased amount of involuntary part-time work, particularly among women with caring responsibilities, which increases their risk of in-work poverty; stresses that when a worker chooses part-time work, the quality of their employment and non-discrimination against them as compared to full-time workers must be guaranteed in line with the Part-time Workers Directive(37), and calls on the Commission to follow up on the application of this directive; asks the Member States to ensure that part-time workers, workers facing job discontinuity and workers with career gaps or with periods where fewer hours were worked have the right to access a decent pension scheme without any form of discrimination;

51.  Is concerned about the abuse of zero hour contracts in some Member States and use of exploitative contracts, involuntary temporary contracts, irregular, unpredictable and excessive working hours and low-quality internships, which make a healthy work-life balance impossible in the long run; calls, therefore, on the Member States and social partners to urgently tackle the situation of precarious employment, faced in particular by young people and women;

52.  Points out that excessive and irregular working hours and insufficient rest periods, job insecurity and the disproportionate output required, are major factors in increased levels of stress, poor physical and mental health and occupational accidents and diseases; points out that flexitime and predictable working hours positively influence the work-life balance(38); calls on the Member States and the social partners to secure working hours and to ensure a weekly rest period through the implementation of all relevant legislation; recalls the Commission’s obligation to follow up on the implementation of the Working Time Directive and to consider initiating infringement proceedings against Member States who are failing to comply with it;

53.  Calls further on the Commission and the Member States, the social partners and stakeholders to focus on innovative organisation in the workplace and to balance both the work-life needs of women and men and business productivity/profitability; notes that the positive link between increasing women’s employment, work-life balance and business competitiveness, in terms of reducing absenteeism, output gap, turnover, talent attractiveness, loyalty, resources reallocation for developing welfare plans, increasing living standards and time freeing, has been widely proven by the best practices in Europe in a number of large enterprises and SME networks;

54.  Highlights that women and LGBTI persons face specific gender-based obstacles and sources of stress at work, including harassment, exclusion, discrimination or gender stereotypes, which negatively impact their well-being at work and threaten their mental health and their ability to progress in their career; calls on the Commission and the Member States to take further steps to tackle these adverse conditions by ensuring proper implementation of relevant anti-discrimination legislation, as well as gender-sensitive life-long learning programmes, and work with trade unions and civil society organisations;

55.  Calls on the Member States to build up and strengthen national labour inspection bodies by providing them with the financial conditions and financial and human resources to give them an effective presence on the ground and thereby enable them to combat job insecurity, unregulated work, and labour and wage discrimination, particularly from the point of view of equality between men and women;

56.  Calls on the Member States to fully implement the Equal Treatment Directive 2006/54/EC and on the Commission to revise the directive, and to promote among companies the implementation of plans on gender equality, including actions on desegregation, the development of pay systems and measures to support women’s careers; stresses the importance of the role of equality bodies in assisting victims of discrimination and addressing gender stereotypes; calls on the Member States to put in place legislative measures ensuring the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of women and men at work;

57.  Reiterates its call to the Council to swiftly adopt the proposal for a Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation;

58.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to guarantee social security, social protection and remuneration in the case of sick leave in order to enable a genuine work-life balance;

Quality of life

59.  Points out that ‘quality of life’ is a broader concept than ‘living conditions’ and refers to the overall well-being of individuals in a society, identifying a number of dimensions of human existence as essential for a rounded human life(39);

60.  Underlines that leisure inequality and unequal sharing of responsibilities between women and men can have an impact on women’s personal development, learning of new skills and languages and participation in social, political, cultural and community life, and especially on women’s economic situation;

61.  Stresses that any form of discrimination against women, including gender segregation, pay and pension gaps, gender stereotypes and high levels of stress in managing professional and private life are reflected in women’s high physical inactivity rate and have a huge impact on their physical and mental health(40); reiterates the importance of combating stereotypes by promoting and defending gender equality during all stages of education, from primary school onwards; calls on the Member States and social partners to conduct and support awareness-raising and information campaigns as well as programmes that promote gender equality and combat stereotypes;

62.  Underlines the importance of lifelong learning for the self-development of workers, including staying up to date with ever-changing working conditions; encourages the Commission and the Member States to promote lifelong learning; calls on the Commission, the Member States and the social partners to develop and put in place policies that provide for educational and training leave, as well as in-work vocational training and life-long learning, including in Member States other than their own; calls on them to make learning inside and outside work, including paid study opportunities, accessible to all workers and in particular to those in disadvantaged situations, and with an emphasis on women employees in sectors where women are structurally underrepresented;

63.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to combat social and economic inequalities; calls on the Member States to promote measures aiming to put in place adequate minimum income schemes, in line with national practices and traditions, to enable all people to live a life in dignity, to support their full participation in society and to ensure independence throughout the life cycle;

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

(1) OJ L 348, 28.11.1992, p. 1.
(2) OJ C 70 E, 8.3.2012, p. 163.
(3) OJ L 68, 18.3.2010, p. 13.
(4) OJ L 353, 28.12.2013, p. 7.
(5) OJ L 180, 15.7.2010, p. 1.
(6) OJ L 303, 2.12.2000, p. 16.
(7) OJ L 299, 18.11.2003, p. 9.
(8) OJ L 14, 20.1.1998, p. 9.
(9) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0059.
(10) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0207.
(11) OJ C 93, 9.3.2016, p. 110.
(12) OJ C 36, 29.1.2016, p. 18.
(13) OJ C 316, 30.8.2016, p. 2.
(14) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0218.
(15) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0351.
(16) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0042.
(17) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0226.
(18) OJ C 175, 15.6.2011, p. 8.
(19) 3073rd Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council meeting, Brussels, 7 March 2011.
(20) Eurostat 2015 Demography Report.
(21) Eurofound (2015): First findings: Sixth European Working Conditions Survey.
(22) http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/submitViewTableAction.do
(23) Eurofound (2013): Caring for children and dependants: Effect on careers of young workers.
(24) Eurofound (2015): First findings: Sixth European Working Conditions Survey.
(25) Eurostat data for 2010, Commission’s 2015 report on equality between women and men in the European Union (SWD(2016)0054).
(26) Eurofound European Quality of Life Survey 2012.
(27) Eurofound (2015), Early childhood care: working conditions, training and quality of services – A systematic review.
(28) Progress report on the Barcelona objectives of 29 May 2013 entitled ‘The development of childcare facilities for young children in Europe with a view to sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2013)0322).
(29) Eurofound (2013), Caring for children and dependants: Effect on careers of young workers.
(30) Eurofound report, Sustainable work over the life course: Concept paper (2015).
(31) CEDEFOP Research Paper: Training leave. Policies and practices in Europe, 2010.
(32) Commission Recommendation 2013/112/EU.
(33) European Parliament resolution of 8 October 2015 on the application of Directive 2006/54/EC (P8_TA(2015)0351).
(34) European Parliament resolution of 12 May 2016 on the application of Council Directive 2010/18/EU (P8_TA(2016)0226).
(35) Eurofound (2015), Early childhood care: working conditions, training and quality of services – A systematic review.
(36) Eurofound report on ‘Trends in job quality in Europe’ (2012) and Eurofound report on ‘Convergence and divergence of job quality in Europe 1995-2010’ (2015).
(37) Council Directive 97/81/EC.
(38) Eurofound European Working Conditions Survey.
(39) Eurofound 3rd European Quality of Life Survey.
(40) Study by Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies of the Union, of March 2016, entitled ‘Differences in Men’s and Women’s Work, Care and Leisure Time’.

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