Index 
Texts adopted
Thursday, 18 May 2017 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Zambia, particularly the case of Hakainde Hichilema
 Ethiopia, notably the case of Dr Merera Gudina
 South Sudan
 Agreement between the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway on an EEA Financial Mechanism 2014-2021 ***
 The right funding mix for Europe’s regions: balancing financial instruments and grants in EU cohesion policy
 Future perspectives for technical assistance in Cohesion Policy
 Cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market ***I
 Implementation of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement
 Achieving the two-state solution in the Middle East
 EU Strategy on Syria
 Road transport in the European Union
 Dadaab refugee camp
 Making relocation happen
 Implementation of the Council’s LGBTI Guidelines, particularly in relation to the persecution of (perceived) homosexual men in Chechnya, Russia

Zambia, particularly the case of Hakainde Hichilema
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European Parliament resolution of 18 May 2017 on Zambia, particularly the case of Hakainde Hichilema (2017/2681(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0218RC-B8-0361/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Zambia,

–  having regard to the statement of 16 April 2017 by the European External Action Service spokesperson on political tensions in Zambia,

–  having regard to the report of the EU Electoral Observation Mission on the 2016 elections in Zambia,

–  having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

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

–  having regard to the Zambian Constitution,

–  having regard to the Cotonou Agreement,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

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

A.  whereas Zambia has been a longstanding example of democracy, with a 25-year record of peaceful transitions; whereas unfortunately the run-up to the 2016 elections was marred by violent clashes between supporters of the two leading parties, the Patriotic Front and the United Party for National Development (UPND, the opposition party);

B.  whereas 11 May 2017 marked one month since the incarceration of the UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, who was arrested together with five of his employees by heavily armed police officers in a raid on his house on 11 April;

C.  whereas Hichilema was accused of endangering the President’s life by allegedly obstructing the presidential motorcade in Mongu on 9 April 2017, and was immediately charged with treason, a non-bailable offence in Zambia, as well as with disobeying statutory duty, disobeying lawful orders and using insulting language; whereas he rejected all these allegations;

D.  whereas despite the fact that Zambia is a de facto abolitionist country where the last execution carried out was in 1997, the maximum sentence for treason remains the death penalty;

E.  whereas Hichilema’s lawyers called the case baseless and requested that the Lusaka Magistrate Court drop the charges; whereas the Court upheld the charges on the ground that only the High Court was competent for treason cases;

F.  whereas Hichilema is currently held at the Lusaka Central Correctional Facility, where access to private media, lawyers, supporters and friends is limited; whereas acts of degrading treatment under detention have been reported by Hichilema and his lawyers;

G.  whereas the UPND has considered the charges to be politically motivated and whereas Hichilema’s arrest has caused a wave of protests, violent clashes and increasing political tensions in the country;

H.  whereas human rights organisations have called on Zambia’s authorities to drop the charges, claiming they were designed to harass and intimidate Hichilema and deter him from doing his political work; whereas President Lungu declared on 14 April 2017 that he would not interfere in the Hichilema case;

I.  whereas the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Zambia has criticised the brutal arrest of the country’s main opposition leaders and decried the use of the national police to apparently prevent the organisation and general functioning of the political opposition;

J.  whereas after the presidential election in August 2016 in which Hichilema was narrowly defeated by President Lungu, the UPND contested the legitimacy of the election results and the independence of the judiciary, but the complaint was dismissed without being heard in court;

K.  whereas on 18 April 2017 Hichilema was served with an additional charge of treason, along with another five UPND members, for allegedly trying to overthrow the government between 5 and 8 April;

L.  whereas on 13 November 2016 the EU Election Observation Mission delivered its final report, stating that the 2016 general elections were prepared in a largely professional manner but that both major political parties made statements that inflamed tensions during the campaign, leading to several serious incidents of violence;

M.  whereas both the EU and the United States have expressed concern at the incarceration of the opposition leader and have called for a peaceful dialogue between the government and the UPND to ease the tensions that have grown between the two parties;

N.  whereas on 20 April 2017 the Zambian President threatened to impose a state of emergency after a series of arson attacks on shops and police stations attributed to the UPND; whereas this is likely to exacerbate current tensions and a political solution should be favoured;

O.  whereas the Hichilema case is taking place in a context of increased political tension following the contested elections of last year; whereas human rights observers have reported acts of repression against political activists and opposition parties, excessive use of force to disperse peaceful protests, and crackdowns on media and independent journalists;

P.  whereas the government has expressed its willingness to engage in dialogue subject to acceptance by all opposition parties of the outcome of the 2016 election;

Q.  whereas Zambia is a signatory to the Cotonou Agreement, whose Article 9 states that the Parties undertake to promote and protect all fundamental freedoms and human rights, including political rights;

R.  whereas on 27 March 2017 the Zambian Government began public consultations on the country’s membership of the International Criminal Court;

1.  Expresses its concern at the arrest and incarceration of Hakainde Hichilema and insists on the need to ensure fairness, diligence and transparency at all times in the application of the law and all along the justice process; notes with concern reports of political motivation in relation to the charges, and therefore reminds the Zambian Government of its obligation to guarantee fundamental rights and the rule of law, including access to justice and the right to a fair trial, as provided for in the African Charter and in other international and regional human rights instruments;

2.  Is deeply concerned at the reports of increasing restrictions on the freedoms of expression and association; calls on the government to continue its efforts to restore full media freedom; insists on the government’s responsibility to avoid any deepening of the current political tensions and to respect, protect and promote the civil and political rights of its citizens;

3.  Calls on the Zambian authorities to conduct a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation into the alleged ill-treatment suffered by Hichilema during his detention and to hold those responsible to account;

4.  Encourages all relevant political stakeholders to make use of constitutional and legal remedies, in line with international norms and standards, for the resolution of any dispute or differences related to the election results, and to do their utmost to safeguard peace and the security of civil society;

5.  Calls for the EU to continue to closely monitor the overall situation in Zambia and to make use of available political means, including through dialogue at the highest level, to ensure that the conditions for the rule of law and democracy, an open political space, free institutions and respect for human rights are maintained;

6.  Strongly encourages the Zambian Government to take into consideration the final recommendations of the EU Electoral Observation Mission on the 2016 elections, with particular reference to the need to remove the restrictive limitations on freedom of assembly in the Public Order Act, to guarantee the freedom and independence of the media, and to take all appropriate measures to prevent political violence;

7.  Insists on the urgent need for a peaceful and constructive dialogue between the Patriotic Front and the UPND in order to restore political trust and stability; points out the responsibility of both parties to refrain from inciting and provoking violence and to create an environment conducive to an open democratic debate; welcomes the engagement and mediation role of international and regional partners in this regard, as well as the UN Human Rights Commission’s call for a dialogue to tackle political violence;

8.  Supports the initiative of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Zambia and other civil society groups in calling for a peaceful dialogue between opposing parties;

9.  Reiterates its strong opposition to the use of the death penalty in all cases and under all circumstances; welcomes the fact that no execution has been carried out in the country since 1997; invites Zambia to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights with a view to the abolition of the death penalty;

10.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Co-Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, the African Union Commission and the Pan-African Parliament, the Zambian Government and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.


Ethiopia, notably the case of Dr Merera Gudina
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European Parliament resolution of 18 May 2017 on Ethiopia, notably the case of Dr Merera Gudina (2017/2682(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0219RC-B8-0369/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the situation in Ethiopia,

–  having regard to the most recent Universal Periodic Review on Ethiopia carried out prior to the UN Human Rights Council 2015,

–  having regard to the European External Action Service (EEAS) press release following the visit of Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the European Commission / High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), to the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in Addis Ababa on 17 March 2017,

–  having regard to the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia adopted on 8 December 1994, and in particular the provisions of Chapter III on fundamental rights and freedoms, human rights and democratic rights,

–  having regard to the oral report of 18 April 2017 by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to the Ethiopian Parliament,

–  having regard to the statement of 10 April 2017 by the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis on his visit to Ethiopia to launch the Strategic Engagement on human rights and governance,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Ethiopia in 1993,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to the EEAS statement of 23 December 2015 on recent clashes in Ethiopia,

–  having regard to the statement of 10 October 2016 by the VP/HR Spokesperson on Ethiopia’s announcement of a state of emergency,

–  having regard to the EU-Ethiopia Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility, signed on 11 November 2015,

–  having regard to the statement of 18 December 2015 by the US Department of State on clashes in Oromia, Ethiopia,

–  having regard to the EU-Ethiopia Strategic Engagement,

–  having regard to the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights,

–  having regard to the Cotonou Agreement,

–  having regard to the visit to Ethiopia of UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, which concluded on 4 May 2017,

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

A.  whereas Ethiopia plays a key role in the region and enjoys political support from Western donors and most of its regional neighbours, owing to its role as host of the African Union (AU) and its contribution to UN peacekeeping, security and aid partnerships with Western countries as a supporter of international efforts to bring stability to Somalia and fight terrorist groups in the region; whereas Ethiopia is also heavily involved in relations between Sudan and South Sudan and has been organising peace talks under the IGAD umbrella;

B.  whereas, with a population of 100 million, Ethiopia is reportedly one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, attracting significant foreign investments, including in agriculture, construction and manufacturing, large-scale development projects, such as hydroelectric dam-building and plantations, and widespread land-leasing, often to foreign companies, and has seen an average growth rate of 10 % in the past decade; whereas it nevertheless remains one of the poorest economies, with a GNI per capita of USD 632; whereas it ranked 173rd out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index for 2014;

C.  whereas the current humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa affecting the Ogaden region and other areas of Ethiopia has brought with it cholera and food shortages, which have already caused the deaths of many people and put thousands at risk, particularly since the beginning of March 2017; whereas the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched its largest appeal for USD 96,4 million to assist 1,19 million refugees and former refugees in Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic; whereas in January 2017, Ethiopia declared a drought emergency in its eastern provinces which has left 5,6 million people in urgent need of assistance, and is appealing for assistance from the international community; whereas in 2016, drought left 10 million people hungry and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of livestock;

D.  whereas the EU-Ethiopia Strategic Engagement Agreement was signed on 14 June 2016; whereas it acknowledges the crucial role played by Ethiopia in Africa and the international community, as well as its significant economic growth and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals; whereas the EU supports Ethiopia’s constructive role in peace and security in the Horn of Africa;

E.  whereas Ethiopia is faced with permanent influxes and outflows of migrants and hosts approximately 800 000 refugees, mainly from South Sudan and Eritrea but also from Somalia; whereas on 11 November 2015, a Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM) was signed by the EU and Ethiopia to reinforce cooperation and dialogue between both parties in the field of migration;

F.  whereas Ethiopia is a signatory to the Cotonou Agreement, Article 96 of which stipulates that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is an essential element of ACP-EU cooperation;

G.  whereas the Ethiopian authorities have repeatedly used excessive force against peaceful demonstrators and committed human rights abuses against members of the Oromo community and other ethnic groups, including acts of persecution, arbitrary arrests and killings, owing to their perceived opposition to the government; whereas Ethiopia’s government regularly accuses those who criticise government policy of association with terrorism; whereas journalists, bloggers, protesters, and activists have been prosecuted under the country’s tough 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation;

H.  whereas the situation deteriorated in mid-April 2014, when the government announced the implementation of the Addis Ababa Integrated Regional Development Plan, which proposes the expansion of facilities to areas outside the city belonging to the National Regional State of Oromia, the largest Ethiopian region surrounding Addis Ababa;

I.  whereas on 14 January 2016, the government decided to cancel the disputed large-scale urban development plan; whereas the enlargement of Addis Ababa has already displaced many of Oromo farmers and trapped them in poverty;

J.  whereas in 2015 and 2016, Oromia saw mass protests over the extension of the municipal boundary into the land of Oromo farmers, which is home to two million people, since the expropriations were seen as a land grab; whereas the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, mandated to carry out investigations into the disturbances, reported on 19 April 2017 that between June and October 2016, 462 civilians and 33 security forces died and 338 civilians and 126 members of security forces were injured;

K.  whereas a state of emergency, provided for under the Ethiopian Constitution, was declared on 9 October 2016 by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn; whereas the state of emergency authorises the military to enforce security nationwide and imposes further restrictions on freedom of speech and access to information; whereas on 15 March 2017, the government announced that many state of emergency restrictions had been lifted, stating that the command post would no longer be able to arbitrarily arrest people or conduct property searches without warrants, and that curfews and some restrictions on media reporting would be lifted; whereas on 29 March 2017, the Ethiopian Parliament agreed unanimously to prolong the state of emergency for four months;

L.  whereas on 30 November 2016, Ethiopian security forces arrested Dr Merera Gudina, the Chairman of the Ethiopian Oromo Federalist Congress opposition party in Addis Ababa, following his visit to the European Parliament on 9 November 2016, where he shared a panel with other opposition leaders and allegedly violated the law implementing the state of emergency by ‘creating pressure against the government’, ‘threatening society through the means of violence’ and attempting to ‘disrupt constitutional order’; whereas his bail request has been denied and he is still being held in custody awaiting the verdict; whereas on 24 February 2017, Dr Gudina and two co-defendants, Berhanu Nega and Jawar Mohammed were charged with four separate counts of non-compliance with the Ethiopian criminal code;

M.  whereas other activists, journalists and human rights defenders, including Getachew Shiferaw (Editor-in-Chief of Negere Ethiopia), Fikadu Mirkana (of the Oromia Radio and TV Organisation), Eskinder Nega (a prominent journalist), Bekele Gerba (an Oromo peace activist), and Andargachew Tsige (an opposition leader) have also been arrested or are being held in custody; whereas online activist Yonathan Tesfaye has been convicted under anti-terrorism legislation for comments he made on Facebook, and faces between 10 to 20 years in prison;

N.  whereas the Swedish-Ethiopian cardiologist Dr Fikru Maru was running Ethiopia’s first heart hospital in Addis Ababa; whereas he has been imprisoned in Ethiopia since 2013 on highly dubious charges; whereas he has spent several years in prison without trial; whereas he has now been charged with additional counts of ‘terrorism’ just before the end of his prison sentence;

O.  whereas Ethiopia recently hosted senior human rights officials, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and EU Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis, to mark the launch of the sectorial dialogue on human rights and governance under the EU-Ethiopia Strategic Engagement; whereas slow progress has been made on improving Ethiopia’s human rights situation, including with regard to the imprisonment of political figures, the continuing use of the anti-terrorism law/CSO law and the extension of the state of emergency;

P.  whereas on 5 May 2017, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, declared that the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the anti-terrorism and mass media laws in Ethiopia ‘do not appear aligned with relevant international legal norms, and should be reformed’;

1.  Calls on the Ethiopian Government to immediately release on bail and drop all charges against Dr Merera Gudina, Dr Fikru Maru and all other political prisoners, and drop the cases against Berhanu Nega and Jawar Mohammed, who were charged in absentia and are currently in exile; stresses that for any dialogue with the opposition to be seen as credible, leading opposition politicians, such as Dr Merera Gudina, have to be released; calls on the EU High Representative to mobilise EU Member States to urgently pursue the establishment of a UN-led international inquiry for a credible, transparent and independent investigation into the killings of protesters and to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to grant its consent;

2.  Urges the Ethiopian Government to continue lifting restrictions and end the state of emergency, recognising that it is preventing free expression and severely limiting diverse and legitimate views on Ethiopian society, which are much needed to address Ethiopia’s crisis; stresses that this lack of discussion is putting Ethiopia’s stability at risk;

3.  Requests the Ethiopian authorities to stop using anti-terrorism legislation (Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No 652/2009) to supress legitimate peaceful protest or dissent; calls also on the Ethiopian Government to review its anti-terrorism law;

4.  Considers that there is a need in Ethiopia for greater ethnically diverse democratic participation and more equal access to political, economic, social and cultural opportunities among the different ethnic and religious groups;

5.  Urges the Ethiopian Government to fully respect freedom of expression, association and of the press as provided for in the Ethiopian Constitution and to release unjustly detained journalists and bloggers; firmly believes that peaceful protest is part of a democratic process and that responding with excessive force should be avoided under all circumstances; urges the government to duly implement the recommendations of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on the recent violent protests, in particular with a view to bringing to justice the members of the various security forces responsible for the violence, preventing targeted attacks against specific nationalities and defending the right of citizens to justice;

6.  Reminds the Ethiopian Government of its obligations to guarantee fundamental rights, including access to justice and the right to a fair trial, as provided for in the African Charter and other international and regional human rights instruments, including the Cotonou Agreement and specifically Articles 8 and 96 thereof;

7.  Calls on the Ethiopian Government to give human rights organisations and NGOs unimpeded access to all parts of the country, particularly those areas where there is conflict and protest;

8.  Expresses its concern regarding legislation that severely restricts the right to freedom of expression, the press, information, association and peaceful assembly, and human rights monitoring;

9.  Recalls that Ethiopia is an important country of destination, transit and origin for migrants and that it hosts the largest refugee population in Africa; notes the adoption of a Common Agenda on Migration between the EU and Ethiopia encompassing the issues of refugees, border control and the fight against human trafficking; calls also on the European Commission to closely monitor all projects recently initiated within the framework of the EU Trust Fund for Africa; recalls that Ethiopia is the second most populated country in Africa and one of its fastest-growing economies, but is nevertheless still one of the poorest; recalls that with 5 328 km of borders, Ethiopia is faced with the fragility of its neighbours and permanent influxes of migrants, hosting approximately 800 000 refugees;

10.  Notes the major role that Ethiopia plays in the region, and in particular its support for the stabilisation of Somalia, the fight against terrorism, the peace process between Sudan and that within South Sudan itself; believes that it is essential for the European Union to conduct a political dialogue with this key country;

11.  Expresses deep concern about the current drought in Ethiopia which has led to the worsening of the humanitarian situation in the country; welcomes the additional EUR 165 million in assistance to the region for the South Sudan crisis and neighbouring countries, as well as the drought in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya;

12.  Commends Ethiopia for the progress it has made in improving the conditions of its rapidly growing population, including refugees from conflicts in neighbouring states, and is grateful for the leadership it is showing in the region and in the African Union;

13.  Takes the view that the EU’s future cooperation with Ethiopia should take into account achieving substantive progress on human rights benchmarks;

14.  Calls on the Ethiopian authorities to prevent ethnic discrimination and take steps to develop a peaceful and constructive dialogue between different communities;

15.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the European External Action Service, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission, the parliaments and governments of the Member States, the Co-Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, the African Union Commission and the Pan-African Parliament, and the Government of Ethiopia.


South Sudan
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European Parliament resolution of 18 May 2017 on South Sudan (2017/2683(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0220RC-B8-0358/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Sudan and South Sudan,

–  having regard to the statement of 8 May 2017 issued by the Troika (the US, UK and Norway) and the EU on the security situation in South Sudan,

–  having regard to the statement of 29 April 2017 issued by the spokesperson of the UN Secretary-General on South Sudan,

–  having regard to the final report of 13 April 2017 of the UN Security Council Panel of Experts on South Sudan,

–  having regard to the communiqué of 25 March 2017 of the 30th extraordinary summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on South Sudan,

–  having regard to the outcome of the 34th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, of 27 February to 24 March 2017,

–  having regard to the statement of 23 March 2017 issued by the President of the UN Security Council on South Sudan,

–  having regard to the Commission statement to the European Parliament of 1 February 2017,

–  having regard to UN Security Council resolution 2327 (2016) of 16 December 2016,

–  having regard to the European Council conclusions on South Sudan of 12 December 2016,

–  having regard to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs humanitarian report of 9 May 2017,

–  having regard to the IGAD Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) of 17 August 2015,

–  having regard to the Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005,

–  having regard to the revised Cotonou Agreement,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

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

–  having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

–  having regard to the Arms Trade Treaty,

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

A.  whereas South Sudan has been embroiled in a civil war for over three years, which erupted after Salva Kiir, the country’s president and a member of the Dinka ethnic group, accused his sacked vice-president, Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer, of plotting a coup d’état against him; whereas Riek Machar has denied attempting a coup;

B.  whereas despite the signing of the ARCSS in August 2015, there continues to be a total disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law and a lack of accountability for violations and abuses committed in the conflict;

C.  whereas the country is facing famine and economic collapse as a result of the civil war, with over 3,6 million people forced to flee their homes and an estimated 4,9 million people being made food insecure; whereas humanitarian needs have continued to escalate to alarming levels, with an estimated 7,5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and more than one million people currently receiving shelter on UN premises; whereas UN agencies have increased their appeal for humanitarian aid, saying they needed at least USD 1,4 billion to help alleviate ‘unimaginable’ levels of suffering; whereas just 14 % of this call has been funded to date;

D.  whereas, at current rates, by the end of 2017 half of the country’s population will have perished or been displaced; whereas it is unknown how many people have been killed as a result of the violence;

E.  whereas, according to the most recent UN panel of experts report, the Government of South Sudan has been found to be one of the biggest perpetrators of violence and human rights abuses in the country, with the famine being considered ‘man-made’ and the South Sudanese Government’s squandering of money on arms being considered one of the main causes;

F.  whereas in recent weeks large government offensives in Yuai, Waat, Tonga and Kodok have resulted in tragic humanitarian consequences, including the displacement of 50 000-100 000 individuals; whereas this follows the killing of numerous civilians on 8 April 2017 in the western town of Wau as an act of collective punishment on grounds of ethnicity and political views; whereas government forces are continuing to target civilians, in violation of the law of armed conflict, and have blocked the UN mission from protecting civilians;

G.  whereas hospitals and clinics have been destroyed by the government, which constitutes a war crime; whereas equipment from hospitals and clinics has been stolen, which has led to the closure of premises and people not being able to receive lifesaving medical care;

H.  whereas nearly one in every three schools in South Sudan has been destroyed, damaged, occupied or closed, impacting on the education of an entire generation of children; whereas more than 600 000 children under the age of five are estimated to be acutely malnourished;

I.  whereas approximately two million children have fled the country, constituting 62 % of the refugees who have left South Sudan, with the conflict causing them unbearable trauma, stress and emotional upheaval; whereas an estimated 17 000 children, mostly boys, have been recruited or used as soldiers by armed forces and groups in the country; whereas thousands of children have been killed, raped, displaced or orphaned;

J.  whereas women and girls are systematically raped and abducted as a weapon of war, with a UN survey finding that 70 % of women living in camps for internally displaced persons in Juba had been raped, the vast majority by police or soldiers;

K.  whereas owing to instability in neighbouring countries, South Sudan is also hosting approximately 270 000 refugees from Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia and the Central African Republic (CAR);

L.  whereas in June 2016 the World Health Organisation declared a cholera outbreak, which has already affected thousands and has reportedly spread further in recent weeks; whereas many deaths from cholera, malaria, measles, diarrhoea and acute respiratory illnesses are the result of extreme poverty and deplorable living conditions and many deaths could have been prevented if only those people had had access to health care;

M.  whereas the ARCSS stipulates that the mandate of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGNU) should end following elections in August 2018;

N.  whereas, according to UN and other credible reports, brokers based in EU Member States and numerous third countries have transferred helicopters and machine guns to armed factions in South Sudan and provided military logistical assistance; whereas the protracted nature of the conflict has allowed the emergence of new armed groups and the militarisation of society;

O.  whereas the number of attacks against humanitarian convoys and personnel is extremely worrisome; whereas at least 79 aid workers have been killed since December 2013; whereas, most recently, in March 2017, six aid workers and their drivers were killed in what was the deadliest attack against humanitarian aid workers so far;

P.  whereas on 21 February 2017 the Commission announced an emergency aid package worth EUR 82 million following the outbreak of famine; whereas the EU is one of the biggest donors to the country, providing more than 40 % of all humanitarian financing to support life-saving programmes in 2016 and some EUR 381 million in humanitarian assistance since the beginning of the conflict in 2013;

1.  Expresses its deep concern about the ongoing conflict in South Sudan; calls for an immediate end to all military operations and once again reminds President Salva Kiir, as well as the former Vice-President, Riek Machar, of their obligations under the ARCSS; calls on President Kiir to implement immediately his commitment to a unilateral ceasefire as conveyed to the IGAD heads of state on 25 March 2017;

2.  Calls for the immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians, especially against women and girls; recalls that rape as a weapon of war constitutes a war crime punishable under international law; calls on the Government of South Sudan to afford protection to all vulnerable groups, to bring perpetrators to justice and to end impunity among the police and military;

3.  Denounces all attacks against civilians and humanitarian aid workers, attacks against the latter disrupting lifesaving aid and supplies; underlines that there can be no military solution to the conflict and that the Government of South Sudan must ensure that there is a meaningful ceasefire which shows a genuine commitment to peace and stability; believes that a commitment to peace must go beyond a simple cessation of hostilities and must include withdrawing troops, disbanding ethnic militias, allowing unhindered humanitarian assistance and releasing political detainees;

4.  Expresses its deepest concern about the grave humanitarian situation throughout the country, which is continuing to deteriorate; calls therefore once again for the EU and its Member States to increase humanitarian aid in order to relieve the famine, and to press the Government of South Sudan to ensure that humanitarian aid supply routes remain open;

5.  Deplores the recruitment of children into armed conflict by all sides in South Sudan; underlines that recruitment of children by parties to a conflict is a war crime, for which commanders must be held criminally responsible; warns that an entire generation of young people are now at risk of experiencing severe trauma, severe emotional upheaval and receiving no education; calls for EU humanitarian and development programming to assist in providing basic education and long-term rehabilitation and counselling; strongly condemns the use of education facilities for military operations;

6.  Calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) to use all available resources to involve the UN, the African Union (AU) and IGAD in launching a new political process to achieve a sustained ceasefire and full implementation of the security and governance chapters of the peace agreement;

7.  Takes the view that the AU, supported by the EU and its Member States, must take an active role in mediating a political solution to achieve lasting peace in South Sudan, including by devoting more resources to the AU’s envoy to South Sudan, Alpha Oumar Konare; supports calls for an international conference to be organised by the AU Commission, with the participation of the UN and IGAD, with a view to unifying and reconciling international efforts to end the war in South Sudan;

8.  Reiterates its full support for the work of the UN Special Representative for South Sudan and for the mandate of the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and its Regional Protection Force, which are tasked with protecting civilians and deterring violence against them, and creating the conditions necessary for delivery of humanitarian aid; calls on all parties to facilitate the rapid deployment of an active Regional Protection Force mandated by the UN Security Council, which is intended to reinforce an active UNMISS presence, and calls on the Member States and the VP/HR to urgently and significantly strengthen UNMISS with European capacities;

9.  Underlines, as a matter of urgency, the need to establish a hybrid court for South Sudan, involving the adoption of legal statutes by the AU and assistance with resources from the UN and EU; recalls that this is part of the 2016 peace agreement and should therefore not be open to renegotiation;

10.  Insists that, in order to be meaningful and inclusive, the process of national dialogue should meet clear benchmarks, including neutral leadership and the inclusion of opposition groups and South Sudanese citizens living outside the country, and that it must also include representatives from all parties to the conflict and other South Sudanese stakeholders, including women’s representatives, to be legitimate and effective;

11.  Condemns all attempts to restrict freedom of expression, which is a basic human right and part of genuine political debate; deplores the killing of humanitarian aid workers, civil society representatives and journalists, and demands that the perpetrators of such crimes be brought to justice; calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners;

12.  Condemns all attacks on educational and public buildings and the use of schools for military purposes; calls on the parties to respect the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict;

13.  Regrets the UN Security Council’s failure to adopt a resolution on 23 December 2016 that would have imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan and placed a travel ban and asset freeze on three senior South Sudanese leaders; calls for the EU to pursue an international arms embargo against South Sudan, and for it to be enforced effectively; is alarmed by reports of arms transfers to South Sudan, in violation of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP, facilitated by brokers based in EU Member States; urges the Member States and the VP/HR to enforce compliance with the EU arms control regime and to formally engage with any third country proved to be exporting arms and military logistical assistance to South Sudan;

14.  Calls on the authorities to ensure that any return or relocation of internally displaced persons is conducted in a safe and dignified manner; calls for the use of targeted sanctions against any key political or military figure in the government or opposition who perpetuates the conflict or commits human rights abuses, as part of an EU strategy to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid, the preservation of a ceasefire and the delivery of a renewed political process to implement the peace agreement;

15.  Believes that, owing to the recurring conflict, insecurity and mass displacement of people, credible and peaceful elections cannot be held in the current political environment; recalls that the mandate of the Transitional Government of National Unity runs until June 2018; underlines the importance of giving South Sudanese women a full role in the peace-talks and in governing the country; calls for the EU to support women at grassroots level, who make a measurable difference in the quality of peace negotiations by turning the tide of suspicion and who build trust and promote reconciliation;

16.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Government of South Sudan, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the Human Rights Commissioner of South Sudan, the National Legislative Assembly of South Sudan, the African Union’s institutions, the Co-Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and the UN Secretary-General.


Agreement between the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway on an EEA Financial Mechanism 2014-2021 ***
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European Parliament legislative resolution of 18 May 2017 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union, Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein and the Kingdom of Norway on an EEA Financial Mechanism 2014-2021, the Agreement between the Kingdom of Norway and the European Union on a Norwegian Financial Mechanism for the period 2014-2021, the Additional Protocol to the Agreement between the European Economic Community and the Kingdom of Norway, and the Additional Protocol to the Agreement between the European Economic Community and Iceland (06679/2016 – C8-0175/2016 – 2016/0052(NLE))
P8_TA(2017)0221A8-0072/2017

(Consent)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the draft Council decision (06679/2016),

–  having regard to the draft Agreement between the European Union, Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein and the Kingdom of Norway on an EEA Financial Mechanism 2014-2021 (06956/16),

–  having regard to the draft Agreement between the Kingdom of Norway and the European Union on a Norwegian Financial Mechanism for the period 2014-2021 (06957/16),

–  having regard to the draft Additional Protocol to the Agreement between the European Economic Community and the Kingdom of Norway (06960/16),

–  having regard to the draft Additional Protocol to the Agreement between the European Economic Community and Iceland (06959/16),

–  having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 217 and Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a)(v) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8-0175/2016),

–  having regard to Rule 99(1) and (4) and Rule 108(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on International Trade (A8-0072/2017),

1.  Gives its consent to conclusion of the agreements and protocols;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and of the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein and the Kingdom of Norway.


The right funding mix for Europe’s regions: balancing financial instruments and grants in EU cohesion policy
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European Parliament resolution of 18 May 2017 on the right funding mix for Europe’s regions: balancing financial instruments and grants in EU cohesion policy (2016/2302(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0222A8-0139/2017

The European Parliament,

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

–  having regard to Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006(1) (CPR), and the delegated and implementing acts linked to the relevant articles of this 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 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(4),

–  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(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 September 2016 on European Territorial Cooperation – best practices and innovative measures(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 28 October 2015 on cohesion policy and the review of the Europe 2020 strategy(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 the opinion of its Committee on Regional Development contained in the report of its Committee on Budgetary Control entitled ‘European Investment Bank (EIB) – Annual Report 2014’ (A8-0050/2016),

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

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 22 January 2014 entitled ‘Guidelines on State aid to promote risk finance investments’(9),

–  having regard to the Commission’s Sixth Report on economic, social and territorial cohesion of 23 July 2014 entitled ‘Investment for jobs and growth.’ (COM(2014)0473),

–  having regard to the Commission’s synthesis report of August 2016 entitled ‘Ex post evaluation of Cohesion Policy programmes 2007-2013, focusing on the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF)’,

–  having regard to the Commission’s report of 30 October 2014 entitled ‘Financial instruments supported by the general budget according to Article 140(8) of the Financial Regulation as at 31 December 2013’ (COM(2014)0686),

–  having regard to the Commission’s Guidance of 26 November 2015 for Member States on Article 42(1)(d) CPR – Eligible management costs and fees,

–  having regard to the Commission’s Guidance of 10 August 2015 for Member States on Article 37(7) (8) (9) CPR – Combination of support from a financial instrument with other forms of support,

–  having regard to the Commission’s Guidance of 27 March 2015 for Member States on Article 37(2) CPR – Ex-ante assessment,

–  having regard to the Commission’s reference guide for Managing Authorities of 2 July 2014, entitled ‘Financial instruments in ESIF programmes 2014-2020’,

–  having regard to the Commission’s summary report of November 2016 entitled ‘Financial instruments under the European Structural and Investment Funds. Summaries of the data on the progress made in financing and implementing the financial instruments for the programming period 2014-2020 in accordance with Article 46 of Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council’,

–  having regard to the Commission’s summary report of December 2015 entitled ‘Summary of data on the progress made in financing and implementing financial engineering instruments for the programming period 2014-2020 in accordance with Article 46 of Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council’,

–  having regard to the Commission’s summary report of September 2014 entitled ‘Summary of data on the progress made in financing and implementing financial engineering instruments reported by the managing authorities in accordance with Article 67(2)(j) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006’,

–  having regard to the Commission Staff Working Document of 13 November 2015 entitled ‘Activities relating to financial instruments’ (accompanying the document: Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on financial instruments supported by the general budget according to Article 140(8) of the Financial Regulation as at 31 December 2014) (SWD(2015)0206),

–  having regard to the European Court of Auditors’ Special Report No 19/2016, entitled ‘Implementing the EU budget through financial instruments – lessons to be learnt from the 2007-2013 programme period’,

–  having regard to the European Court of Auditors’ Special Report No 5/2015, entitled ‘Are financial instruments a successful and promising tool in the rural development area?’,

–  having regard to the European Court of Auditors’ Special Report No 16/2014, entitled ‘The effectiveness of blending regional investment facility grants with financial institution loans to support EU external policies’,

–  having regard to the European Court of Auditors’ Special Report No 2/2012 entitled ‘Financial instruments for SMEs co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund’,

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 14 October 2015 entitled ‘Financial instruments in support of territorial development’,

–  having regard to the European Investment Bank’s final report of March 2013, entitled ‘Financial Instruments: A Stock-taking Exercise in Preparation for the 2014-2020 Programming Period’,

–  having regard to the study entitled ‘Financial instruments in the 2014-2020 programming period: first experiences of Member States’, commissioned by Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies, Policy Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies, October 2016,

–  having regard to the study entitled ‘Review of the Role of the EIB Group in European Cohesion Policy’, commissioned by Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies, Policy Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies, March 2016,

–  having regard to the briefing entitled ‘Challenges for EU cohesion policy: Issues in the forthcoming post-2020 reform’, European Parliamentary Research Service, May 2016,

–  having regard to the fact sheet entitled ‘Cohesion Policy implementation in the EU28’, European Parliamentary Research Service, September 2015,

–  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 Budgets and the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (A8-0139/2017),

A.  whereas the review/revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and the fact that the 2014-2020 programming period is approaching mid-term have given rise to the discussion on the mix of grants and financial instruments to be invested through the EU budget during the post-2020 period;

B.  whereas the Omnibus Proposal (COM(2016)0605) represents the only opportunity for a range of mid-term improvements to the system that governs the current programming period;

C.  whereas the term ‘financial instruments’ covers a variety of instruments, and the assessment and decisions on their use require constant detailed analysis on a case-by-case basis, linked to an assessment of the specific needs of local and regional economies or of a particular target group;

2007-2013 period – reliable investment through grants and financial instruments

1.  Recognises that, although the financial instruments were designed before the financial and economic crisis and were not the most suitable for an economic context of crisis, the Commission’s reporting exercise provides strong evidence that European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds investment through grants and financial instruments resulted in solid impact and visible results by investments in EU regions, which amounted to EUR 347,6 billion, excluding national co-financing and additionally leveraged resources;

2.  Welcomes the existing European Investment Bank (EIB) Cohesion Policy operations visible in annual reports and sector reports, revealing the impact on SMEs and mid-caps, infrastructure, research and innovation, the environment, energy and agriculture; concludes that EIB lending in support of Cohesion Policy for the period 2007-2013 is estimated at EUR 147 billion, which represents roughly 38 % of all lending in the EU;

2014-2020 period – a new page in investment through the ESI Funds

3.  Welcomes the fact that in 2014-2020 the EU is expected to invest EUR 454 billion through ESI Funds, and with national co-financing for the investment in the form of grants and financial instruments the sum is expected to rise to EUR 637 billion;

4.  Acknowledges that both the volume and the quality of financial instruments (in the form of microcredit, loans, guarantees, equity and venture capital) under Cohesion Policy’s shared management increased; highlights the two main reasons for this trend – the 2007-2013 period provided valuable experience and lessons regarding ESI Funds implementation through grants and financial instruments, while the 2014-2020 MFF reflects the post-crisis need for more financial instruments owing to fiscal limitations;

5.  Notes that, according to estimations, allocations in FIs from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Cohesion Fund (CF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) would almost double between 2007-2013, when they amounted to EUR 11,7 billion, and 2014-2020, when they would amount to EUR 20,9 billion; notes that the FIs would therefore represent 6 % of the overall cohesion policy allocation in 2014-2020 of EUR 351,8 billion, compared with 3,4 % of the EUR 347 billion allocated in 2007-2013;

6.  Notes that the allocations from the CF amount to approximately EUR 75 billion, representing 11,8 % of the total FI’s allocations in the 2014-2020 period; welcomes the allocation increase from EUR 70 billion in the 2007-2013 period to EUR 75 billion in the 2014-2020 period; highlights the fact that allocation to the CF should not be diminished, taking into consideration that approximately 34 % of the EU’s population live in regions that receive aid from the CF;

7.  Takes note of the total volume of EUR 5 571,63 million of operational programme contributions committed to FIs by 21 Member States by 31 December 2015 in the current MFF, EUR 5 005,25 million of which are from the ERDF and the CF;

8.  Welcomes the fact that crucial regulatory changes in programming, implementation and management of financial instruments, such as direct links to all 11 thematic objectives, appropriate compulsory ex-ante assessment that enables market failures to be identified, the creation of tailor-made and simplified off-the-shelf financial instruments and reporting mechanisms, can have a critical positive impact on the attractiveness and speed of the implementation of Cohesion Policy, by addressing legal uncertainties that arose during the 2007-2013 period; calls, however, for efforts to be made to ensure that the changes in question do not affect the attractiveness and implementation speed of financial instruments;

Grants and financial instruments – intervention logic defines the mix

9.  Emphasises that although they are supporting the same Cohesion Policy objectives, ESI Funds’ grants and financial instruments, which are not an end in themselves, under shared management have different intervention logic and application addressing territorial development needs, sectoral needs or market needs;

10.  Recognises that, depending on the type of the project, grants have various strengths as compared to financial instruments: supporting projects that do not necessarily generate revenue, providing funding to projects that for various reasons cannot attract private or public funding, targeting specific beneficiaries, issues and regional priorities, and lower complexity of use owing to existing experience and capacity; acknowledges that in some cases grants are bound to limitations: difficulties in achieving project quality and sustainability, risk of substituting public funding in the long-run and a crowding-out effect for potential private investment even when projects may have a revolving nature and a capacity to generate revenues to repay loan-based financing;

11.   Recognises that financial instruments offer advantages, such as leverage and revolving effects, the attraction of private capital and coverage of specific investment gaps through high-quality bankable projects, thereby maximising the efficiency and effectiveness of the implementation of regional policy; acknowledges that financial instruments come with certain disadvantages, which could cause them to come into conflict with more attractive national or regional instruments, such as: slower implementation in some regions, higher complexity, lower than expected leverage of ESI Fund-supported financial instruments as well as, in some cases, higher implementation costs and management fees; notes that grants represent preferable investments in some policy areas such as certain types of public infrastructure, social services, research and innovation policy or, in general, projects that do not generate revenue;

12.  Highlights that intervention logic is not a dividing line but a meeting point for establishing a level playing field of grants and financial instruments so that Cohesion Policy can ensure better coverage of beneficiaries and investment gaps through a variety of measures; points out that intervention logic is a bottom-up approach in ESI Funds programming and that all Member States and regions should continue to take into consideration the most appropriate option when freely setting the share of financial instruments or grants as delivery tools to contribute to the selected priorities in their respective operational programmes, bearing in mind that local and regional authorities are involved and have a crucial role to play; recalls that management authorities are the ones that must voluntarily decide about the type of financial instrument most appropriate for implementation;

Financial instruments’ performance – challenges

13.  Recognises the importance of using financial instruments in Cohesion Policy operations; welcomes the fact that reporting on the implementation of financial instruments in 2015 has revealed progress, despite the late start of the current programming period; notes, however, that progress on the implementation of ESI Funds financial instruments is highly divergent not just between one Member State and another but also within individual Member States; recalls that the positive experience and impact of using financial instruments in the 2007-2013 programming period was accompanied by a number of performance issues: late start of operations, inaccurate market assessment, diverging regional uptake, overall low disbursement rates, low leverage effect, problematic revolving, high management costs and fees and inadequately large endowments; recalls that by 2015, after the Commission extended specific implementation deadlines for the financial instruments, a number of the observed shortcomings were mitigated through targeted measures;

14.   Notes that implementation delays to ESI Funds may affect disbursement rates, revolving and leverage, the latter of which should be based on a definition and on methodologies used by international organisations such as the OECD, with a clear distinction being made between public and private contributions and an indication provided of the precise degree of leverage possible under each of the financial instruments, broken down by country and region; recalls the fact that delays in the 2007-2013 period contributed irreversibly to sub-optimal performance of ERDF and ESF financial instruments; emphasises that implementation delays, which can be attributed to the late start of the programming period, may harm the performance of ESI Funds financial instruments, which could lead to inaccurate evaluation conclusions at the end of the period; calls, therefore, for all the necessary steps to be taken by the Member States to mitigate the negative effects of delayed implementation, especially regarding the risk of limited use and impact of financial instruments;

15.  Is seriously concerned about the strong possibility of a repetition of the accumulated backlog of unpaid invoices in the second half of the current MFF, as this could seriously impact other EU-funded policies;

16.  Notes the significant differences across the EU regarding the penetration of financial instruments, including ESI Funds and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the initial results of these funds and the expected leverage of additional resources, as well as other EU-funded financial instruments in the Union’s top-performing economies, which are serving to undermine the objectives of Cohesion Policy; emphasises that the overall success of such instruments depends on how easy they are to use and the ability of the Member States to manage investments through them, for which precise and differentiated indicators, which would enable their real impact on cohesion policy to be assessed, are required;

Simplification, synergies and technical assistance – solutions

17.  Welcomes the Commission’s actions in optimising regulation and reducing red tape; emphasises that despite the improvements, complexity still exists and issues such as the long set-up time and administrative burden for recipients are disincentives to use financial instruments; calls on the Commission to work closely with the EIB, the EIF and managing authorities to combine much more easily ESI Funds microcredit, loans, guarantees, equity and venture capital, while ensuring the same level of transparency, democratic scrutiny, reporting and control;

18.   Notes that specific provisions limit flexibility in operations with financial instruments; points out that state aid rules appear to be particularly burdensome, especially when combining grants with financial instruments; calls on the Commission to ensure an adequate state aid framework and to explore further options to simplify state aid compliance on all three levels – managing authorities, the fund of funds and financial intermediaries; calls for a level playing field in state aid rules concerning all financial instruments in order to avoid preferential treatment of certain sources of funding over others, especially in the field of SME support;

19.  Highlights the importance of financial instrument performance auditing, including auditing of the EIB Group’s operations on Cohesion Policy; notes that auditing activities include access to the entire ESI Funds cycle; calls on the Commission and national authorities to identify opportunities for simplification and synergies through the auditing process; calls on the Commission, therefore, to focus on a comparative analysis of grants and financial instruments as well as on further capacity-building, audit methodology and guidelines for audit processes, which should not increase the financial and administrative burden on beneficiaries;

20.  Points out that combining grants and financial instruments has unexplored potential; emphasises that alongside guidance to authorities, further simplification and harmonisation is needed for the rules that concern combining different ESI Funds, as well as for the rules that concern combining the ESI Funds with instruments such as Horizon 2020 and EFSI; calls for better regulation in the form of clear, consistent and focused rules as regards easing the regulatory burden by facilitating the above-mentioned combining of allocations from more than one programme to the same financial instrument, as well as enabling combinations of microfinance instruments in ESF operations and further simplifying public procurement in the selection of financial intermediaries and for public-private partnerships; calls for better coherence between different strategies; stresses that combining ESI Funds grants and financial instruments with other funding sources can make the funding structure more attractive to beneficiaries and public and private sector investors due to improved risk sharing and project performance, and thus help the instruments to provide long-term growth potential;

21.  Notes that take-up of financial instruments can be improved through investment partnerships, and that public-private partnerships improve synergies between funding sources and maintain the necessary balance between private and public interests; stresses that the use of financial instruments in the context of the community-led local development (CLLD) and integrated territorial investment (ITI) initiatives should also be encouraged;

22.  Welcomes the existing technical assistance practices provided by the Commission and by the EIB Group through the fi-compass platform; regrets that the on-the-ground support services to authorities and especially to recipients of financial instruments, including EFSI, are limited, while many local and regional authorities have encountered technical difficulties and a lack of capacity and know-how to utilise financial instruments effectively; calls for technical assistance, which should be directed primarily at local or regional stakeholders, as well as at all partners involved, but which should not be used to finance the activities of national authorities; calls, in addition, for a joint technical assistance plan by the Commission and the EIB comprising financial and non-financial advisory activities, especially for major projects, as well as capacity-building, training, support and the exchange of knowledge and experience; further calls for a combination of expertise (including legal advice) on the cohesion policy regulations, financial products, state aid and public procurement, targeted at national authorities, fund managers and beneficiaries, while highlighting the importance of avoiding the duplication of structures;

23.   Calls on the Commission to raise the profile of ESI Funds’ investments and to make it clearer that EU funding is involved; further calls for adequate and comprehensive information and communication on EU funding opportunities, which would encourage the use of such opportunities for the public and private sector and would target potential beneficiaries and young people in particular;

Towards the right funding mix for the post-2020 period and the future of Cohesion Policy

24.  Recognises that challenges such as migration and security or ongoing and future political developments in the EU should not negatively affect the investments through Cohesion Policy or its goals and expected results, especially after the current programming period;

25.   Recognises that both grants and financial instruments have their specific roles in Cohesion Policy but that they share the same focus pursued by the 11 thematic objectives, on the way to achieving the five headline targets of the Europe 2020 strategy towards smart, sustainable and inclusive growth; emphasises the need to ensure that financial instruments do not replace grants as the principal tool of cohesion policy, while also stressing the need to maintain the renewable nature of the funds to be made available for reinvestment on the basis of the sectors and actions they can support;

26.   Highlights that financial instruments perform better in well-developed regions and metropolitan areas, where financial markets are better developed, whereas outermost regions and regions with high harmonised unemployment rates and low population density encounter difficulties in attracting investment, while grants, for their part, address regional structural issues and regional balanced financing; notes that the success of financial instruments depends on a number of factors and no general conclusions can be drawn on the basis of one criterion; notes that binding targets for the use of financial instruments in post-2020 cohesion policy cannot be considered a viable option; notes that increasing the share of financial instruments should not influence the non-refundable financial contributions as this would hinder the balance; emphasises that in a number of public policies grants have to dominate, while financial instruments can play complementary roles in full compliance with appropriate ex-ante assessment and market analysis; calls for the further promotion of financial instruments in Interreg programmes with a view to making them more consistent with the objectives of European Territorial Cooperation;

27.  Recalls that existing experience in delivery of ESI Funds indicates that the funding mix of grants and financial instruments addresses country-specific realities as well as the gaps in social, economic and territorial cohesion; emphasises that the funding mix cannot result in a one-size-fits-all solution owing to a number of factors: geographic region, policy area, beneficiary type and size, administrative capacity, market conditions, the existence of competing instruments, business environment and fiscal and economic stance;

o
o   o

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

(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. 281.
(5) OJ L 169, 1.7.2015, p. 1.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0321.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0384.
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0308.
(9) OJ C 19, 22.1.2014, p. 4.


Future perspectives for technical assistance in Cohesion Policy
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European Parliament resolution of 18 May 2017 on future perspectives for Technical Assistance in Cohesion Policy (2016/2303(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0223A8-0180/2017

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 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 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(3),

–  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(4),

–  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(5),

–  having regard to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 240/2014 of 7 January 2014 on the European code of conduct on partnership in the framework of the European Structural and Investment Funds(6),

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

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2017 on investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds: an evaluation of the report under Article 16(3) of the CPR(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 its resolution of 10 May 2016 on new territorial development tools in cohesion policy 2014-2020: Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) and Community-Led Local Development (CLLD)(9),

–  having regard to the special report of the Court of Auditors of 16 February 2016 entitled ‘More attention to results needed to improve the delivery of technical assistance to Greece’,

–  having regard to the in-depth analysis entitled ‘Technical assistance at the initiative of the Commission’ published by its Directorate-General for Internal Policies (Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies) in September 2016,

–  having regard to the letter from the Committee on Budgets,

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development (A8-0180/2017),

A.  whereas technical assistance, whether at the initiative of the Commission or of the Member States, plays an important role in all phases of implementation of cohesion policy and is an important instrument for attracting and retaining high-quality employees in administration, creating a stable system for the management and use of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds), and resolving bottlenecks in implementation and in assisting users to develop quality projects; whereas options for use of technical assistance in the preparation phase of programmes should be explored;

B.  whereas local, regional and national authorities often lack the necessary capacity to efficiently and effectively implement the ESI Funds and organise a partnership with other public authorities including urban authorities, economic and social partners and civil society representatives in accordance with Article 5 of the CPR; whereas administrative capacity varies greatly across Member States and regions;

C.  whereas partners involved in the preparation and implementation of cohesion policy should also be targeted by technical assistance measures, in particular in the field of capacity building, networking and communicating on cohesion policy;

D.  whereas the national, local and regional authorities have difficulties in retaining qualified personnel, who tend to leave for better-paid jobs in the private sector or for more lucrative posts within the national authorities; whereas this is an important hindrance for the capacity of the public authorities to successfully implement the ESI Funds and to achieve the goals of cohesion;

E.  whereas there is space for improving the monitoring and evaluation of technical assistance despite the emphasis on more result orientation in the 2014-2020 programming period and the fact that almost half of this period has elapsed;

F.  whereas there is a need to optimise the link between technical assistance on the Commission’s initiative and technical assistance measures carried out at national and regional level;

Technical assistance at the initiative of the Commission (Article 58 of the CPR)

1.  Notes that the resources available for technical assistance at the initiative of the Commission were increased by comparison with the previous programming period, to 0,35 % of the annual allocation of the ERDF, ESF and CF, after deductions for the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD);

2.  Welcomes the Commission’s activities funded by technical assistance, in particular its work on the TAIEX REGIO PEER 2 PEER instrument, the Competency Framework and Self-Assessment Tool, the Integrity Pacts, the Guide for practitioners on how to avoid the 25 most common errors on public procurement and the Study on stocktaking administrative capacity on public procurement in all Member States; calls on the Member States to make use of such initiatives; stresses that such instruments should have a greater role in the post-2020 cohesion policy and accordingly urges the Commission to raise awareness at local and regional level, including at island level, regarding their use; recommends that the scope of the TAIEX REGIO PEER 2 PEER instrument be extended to all partners in accordance with Article 5 of the CPR in order to ensure the broad exchange of experience, to contribute to capacity building, and to facilitate capitalising on good practices;

3.  Considers it necessary that the Commission initiate an assessment on the effectiveness and added value of the implementation of the ‘Integrity Pacts – Civil Control Mechanism for Safeguarding EU Funds’;

4.  Notes the work of the Task Force for Greece and the Support Group for Cyprus on the implementation of the ESI Funds in those two countries, and in particular on absorption rates, while bearing in mind that this is only one of the indicators for a positive assessment of cohesion policy; notes, however, that according to the European Court of Auditors’ special report entitled 'More attention to results needed to improve the delivery of technical assistance to Greece', there have been mixed results in achieving effective and sustainable reform; calls therefore on the Commission to report on results achieved by the Structural Reform Support Service’s operations in Greece; stresses the need to continue and improve the work of the Task Force for Better Implementation, based on the experiences of the 2007-2013 programming period, in order to support other Member States which are experiencing difficulties in implementing cohesion policy;

5.  Takes note of the establishment of the Structural Reform Support Programme (SRSP), and recognises a number of potential benefits for cohesion policy, as well as for other areas; calls for it to be made coherent and consistent with the country-specific recommendations in the area of cohesion policy; considers, however, that any possible prolongation of the programme should not detract from cohesion policy thematic objectives and that resources should not be taken away from ESI Funds technical assistance; calls on the Commission, in cooperation with the Member States, to ensure maximum coordination and complementarities between the actions financed by the SRSP and the technical assistance provided under the ESI Funds so as to concentrate its efforts on achieving cohesion policy objectives as effectively as possible;

6.  Takes note of the technical assistance strategy prepared by the Commission’s DG for Regional and Urban Policy; suggests the development of a broader technical assistance strategy to ensure more effective coordination covering all DGs that deal with the ESI Funds, as well as the activities of the Structural Reform Support Service related to cohesion policy, in order to streamline the support provided, avoid duplication and maximise synergies and complementarities;

7.  Highlights the importance of technical assistance in the domain of financial instruments, the use of which is exponentially increasing while they are rather complex by their nature; welcomes, in this respect, the partnership between the Commission and the European Investment Bank on the establishment of the fi-compass platform; calls on the Commission to better streamline the technical assistance in order to cover areas where managing authorities and beneficiaries encounter most challenges; welcomes the technical enhancements of the European Investment Advisory Hub for the combination of ESI Funds with the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI); stresses, however, that a sign of greater capacity and simplification in this specific area should ultimately be less need for technical assistance in the domain of financial instruments; stresses, furthermore, the need for complementarity with technical assistance measures carried out downstream at national and regional level;

8.  Welcomes the support provided to Member States under the Joint Assistance to Support Projects in European Regions (JASPERS) technical assistance facility, which provides expertise to Member States to help them prepare major projects cofinanced by the ERDF and CF; is looking forward to the special report of the European Court of Auditors foreseen for 2017, which will aim to check whether JASPERS has improved the development of assisted major projects cofinanced by the EU and thus contributed to higher project quality as well as to increasing Member States’ administrative capacity; stresses in this regard the need for a careful analysis of how JASPERS activity for the period 2007-2013 providing independent quality review (IQR) has improved project quality and cut the time taken for approval of major projects by the Commission;

9.  Notes that since technical assistance was first used in the area of cohesion policy no global analysis has been carried out to establish the actual contribution it makes; points out that it is therefore difficult to make a detailed assessment of how important it is and of the contribution it makes in terms of administrative capacity-building and institutional strengthening with a view to ensuring that ESI Funds are managed in an effective way; calls, therefore, for an increase in information and transparency with regard to technical assistance activities, for Parliament to play a more significant role in monitoring and follow-up, and for a thoroughgoing, comprehensive study to be carried out on its contribution to the area of cohesion policy;

10.  Recalls the importance of adequate and targeted indicators fit for measuring the results and impacts of ESI Funds spending and the availability of technical assistance for respective monitoring; considers that the introduction of common indicators was a first step in this direction, but was accompanied by a number of deficiencies, such as the excessive focus on output, the lack of a long-term perspective, and the mismatch of tailor-made information needs; calls urgently on the Commission to invest in improving the reporting and evaluation system by developing more appropriate indicators ready for use in the next programming period;

11.  Calls on the Commission to prepare measures and resources to set up technical assistance for the implementation of EU macro-regional strategies, having taken into account the varied experiences and rates of success of implementing such strategies, as well as the fact that the strategies' participants include non-Member States and countries with limited funds and insufficient human resources; considers that this would be more effective in helping to prepare major projects at the macro-regional level that could receive funding under cohesion policy;

12.  Stresses the importance of implementing specific technical assistance measures to promote re-industrialisation in depressed areas so as to attract industrial investments in high-tech and innovative sectors with a low environmental impact;

13.  Calls on the Commission to establish technical assistance, namely Member States Working Groups, in order to prevent delays in developing the bodies and operational programmes that will be needed under cohesion policy in the Member States after 2020;

Technical assistance at the initiative of the Member States (Article 59 of the CPR)

14.  Stresses that the available EU cofinancing for technical assistance at the disposal of the Member States under the five ESI Funds in the 2014-2020 programming period amounts to around EUR 13,4 billion;

15.  Emphasises that technical assistance is in essence different from other actions financed by the ESI Funds and that it is a particularly difficult and complicated task to measure its results; considers, however, that, given its necessity, the level of resources available under it and its potential, there is a strong need for an approach that is strategic, transparent, coordinated at the various levels of governance and for flexibility to meet needs identified by managing authorities in the Member States;

16.  Highlights that the 2019 performance review will shed light on the results of the use of technical assistance in the 2014-2020 programming period and ensure that these do not come too late for the discussions on the post 2020-period; calls, therefore, for a wider debate and analysis at an intermediate stage on the efficiency and results of technical assistance;

17.  Is concerned that in certain Member States technical assistance does not sufficiently and effectively reach the local and regional authorities, which usually have the lowest administrative capacity; highlights that it is crucial to establish sound and transparent communication channels between the different levels of governance in order to successfully implement the ESI Funds and achieve cohesion policy goals, while restoring trust in the effective functioning of the EU and its policies; considers that all partners in cohesion policy play an important role to this end and proposes that the Commission directly engage in the empowerment of partners in the next financial programming period; calls on the Member States to significantly step up their efforts to simplify the implementation of cohesion policy regulations, including in particular the technical assistance provisions; welcomes, therefore, the example of a multi-layered system of implementing cohesion policy in Poland (3 pillars of technical assistance) which enables a more result-oriented, coordinated strategic and transparent approach and generates greater added value; asks for stricter control of the results of the activities of private firms providing technical assistance to public administrations, in order to prevent potential conflicts of interests;

18.  Stresses that technical assistance focused on developing human potential must be used in the service of needs that were previously identified in employee development plans and specialised staff training;

19.  Emphasises that the capacity of the lower levels of governance is also essential for the success of the new territorial development tools, such as Community-led Local Development (CLLD) and the Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI); calls for the continued decentralisation of the implementation of CLLD; notes that while it may be difficult to measure the effects of technical assistance, it is by no means impossible, particularly when looking at the benefit-cost ratio; emphasises that in some Member States technical assistance provided for the establishment of a complete system for the implementation of the ERDF and the establishment of a system for the implementation of ITIs is showing a negative benefit-cost ratio; notes, however, that high costs could partly be explained by specific circumstances requiring higher efforts, such as the setting-up of a new scheme; calls, accordingly, for clear control mechanisms to be put in place, in particular as regards non-transparent negotiations on technical assistance; recalls the important role of Local Action Groups, in particular for implementation of CLLD, and considers that technical assistance should be made available by Member States to support their valuable contribution to sustainable local development in the Union;

20.  Draws attention to the need for technical assistance activities to include support for technically and economically feasible projects, enabling Member States to put forward strategies eligible for cohesion policy funding;

21.  Notes with concern that in the implementation of integrated actions for sustainable urban development, while tasks are delegated to urban authorities which act as intermediate bodies, they often do not receive the necessary technical assistance for building up their capacity; considers in this context that technical assistance should be enhanced at the level of urban areas, taking into consideration the role played by urban authorities in cohesion policy and the need to create strong capacity for further implementation of the European Urban Agenda and the Pact of Amsterdam;

22.  Notes that the 2014-2020 programming period provides for greater involvement of local authorities; stresses that this implies greater technical and administrative skills; asks the Commission to study initiatives and mechanisms enabling local operators to fully exploit the programming opportunities provided by ESI Fund regulations;

23.  Draws attention to the European code of conduct on partnership, which defines the need to help the relevant partners strengthen their institutional capacity with a view to the preparation and implementation of programmes; stresses that many Member States are not applying the European code of conduct on partnership; considers, moreover, that the main principles and good practices enshrined in Article 5 of the aforementioned code of conduct and concerning the involvement of relevant partners in the preparation of the Partnership Agreement and programmes should actually be implemented, with particular focus on the issue of timely disclosure and easy access to relevant information; stresses the need for clear EU guidelines to increase consistency and eliminate regulatory uncertainty;

24.  Highlights the need to entrust technical assistance, with funding, to qualified nationals able to provide ongoing support; stresses, however, that this funding should not under any circumstances act as a substitute for national financing in this area, and that there should be a gradual strategic shift towards activities which generate greater added value for cohesion policy in general, such as capacity-building, communication or experience-sharing;

25.  Stresses the importance of including institutions that are not part of the management system but which have a direct impact on the implementation of cohesion policy; recalls that these institutions must be offered assistance to expand and improve their administrative capacities and standards through education, knowledge exchange, capacity-building, networking and establishing the IT systems that are needed to manage the projects; highlights that increased communication on and the visibility of the results and successes achieved with the support of ESI Funds can contribute to regaining citizens' confidence and trust in the European project; calls, therefore, for the creation of a separate envelope for communication within the technical assistance at the initiative of the Member State; calls on the Commission to promote the fungibility of technical assistance measures to allow for economies of scale to be made and for the financing of measures common to various ESI Funds;

26.  Stresses that, to reduce excessive procedural complications, technical assistance in the future should be increasingly focused on the beneficiary/project level regardless of whether it relates to the public, private or civil society sector, in order to ensure the supply of innovative and well-designed projects fitting in with already existing strategies and avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach; calls on the Member States to develop mechanisms to involve ESI Funds beneficiaries in the implementation and monitoring of technical assistance; recommends that the Member States establish a network of info-points to enable potential beneficiaries to learn about available sources of funding, operational programmes and open calls, as well as to learn how to fill in application forms and implement projects;

27.  Points out that technical assistance must be seen as a simple, flexible instrument that can be adjusted to suit changing circumstances; takes the view that technical assistance must contribute to the sustainability of projects, i.e. the amount of time they last, focusing on key areas of cohesion policy and favouring long-term outcomes, for example projects that create lasting employment; highlights, in that regard, that technical assistance may be used for testing innovative solutions pilot projects;

28.  Calls for better reporting by Member States in the post-2020 programming period of the types of actions financed by technical assistance, as well as the results achieved; stresses that greater transparency is needed in order to increase the visibility of technical assistance and track how and where it is spent, with the aim of achieving better accountability, including a clear audit path; considers that regularly updated and publicly available databases of actions planned and undertaken by the Member States should be considered in this respect, drawing on the experience of the Commission's Open Data Portal for the ESI Funds;

29.  Notes that, in the current programming period, Member States had a choice of including technical assistance as a priority axis within an operational programme or having a specific operational programme dedicated to technical assistance; calls on the Commission to analyse which option has achieved greater results and enabled better monitoring and evaluation, taking account of the different institutional set-ups of the Member States;

30.  Calls for increased use of technical assistance in the area of European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) and related programmes, and especially in the field of cross-border cooperation, as those areas have their own specificities and require support in all phases of implementation, with a view to enhancing that cooperation and increasing the stability of the programmes concerned;

31.  Asks the Commission to consider all these elements in the context of the preparation of the legislative proposals for post-2020 cohesion policy, i.e. experience from the current and previous programming period;

32.  Calls on the Commission to implement an ex-post evaluation of both centrally managed technical assistance and technical assistance under shared management;

o
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33.  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. 259.
(3) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 281.
(4) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 289.
(5) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 470.
(6) OJ L 74, 14.3.2014, p. 1.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0053.
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0308.
(9) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0211.


Cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market ***I
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Resolution
Text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 18 May 2017 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on ensuring the cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market (COM(2015)0627 – C8-0392/2015 – 2015/0284(COD))
P8_TA(2017)0224A8-0378/2016

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2015)0627),

–  having regard to Article 294(2) and Article 114 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C8-0392/2015),

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

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 27 April 2016(1),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 8 April 2016(2),

–  having regard to the provisional agreement approved by the committee responsible under Rule 69f(4) of its Rules of Procedure and the undertaking given by the Council representative by letter of 15 February 2017 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 Legal Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, the Committee on Culture and Education and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (A8-0378/2016),

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

2.  Calls on the Commission to refer the matter to Parliament again if it replaces, substantially amends or intends to substantially amend its proposal;

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 18 May 2017 with a view to the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2017/... of the European Parliament and of the Council on cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Regulation (EU) 2017/1128.)

(1) OJ C 264, 20.7.2016, p. 86.
(2) OJ C 240, 1.7.2016, p. 72.


Implementation of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement
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European Parliament resolution of 18 May 2017 on the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Korea (2015/2059(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0225A8-0123/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Free Trade Agreement of 6 October 2010 between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Korea, of the other part(1),

–  having regard to the Framework Agreement for Trade and Cooperation of 28 October 1996 between the European Community and its Member States, on the one hand, and the Republic of Korea, on the other hand(2), and Council decision 2001/248/EC of 19 March 2001(3) on the conclusion thereof,

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

–  having regard to its resolution of 7 July 2015 on the external impact of EU trade and investment policy on public-private initiatives in countries outside the EU(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 27 September 2011 on a New Trade Policy for Europe under the Europe 2020 Strategy(5),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 511/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2011 on implementing the bilateral safeguard clause of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and its Member States and the Republic of Korea(6),

–  having regard to the Council decision of 16 September 2010 on the signing, on behalf of the European Union, and provisional application of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Korea, of the other part(7),

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 February 2011 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Korea, of the other part(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 November 2010 on international trade policy in the context of climate change imperatives(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 November 2010 on human rights and social and environmental standards in international trade agreements(10),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 November 2010 on corporate social responsibility in international trade agreements(11),

–  having regard to the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation,

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2016 on a new forward-looking and innovative future strategy for trade and investment(12),

–  having regard to Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to Articles 207, 208 and 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on International Trade and the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (A8-0123/2017),

A.  whereas the fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and its Member States and the Republic of Korea (hereinafter ‘Korea’) fell on 1 July 2016;

B.  whereas the Commission’s new trade strategy ‘Trade for all’ emphasises the importance of ensuring the effective implementation of EU free trade agreements, including through the use of the dispute settlement mechanism therein;

C.  whereas the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement (hereinafter the ‘Agreement’) formally entered into force after being ratified by the EU Member States on 13 December 2015;

D.   whereas the Agreement is the first of a new generation of free trade agreements concluded by the EU with an Asian partner, which, in addition to removing tariffs, also contains rules on eliminating non-tariff barriers, thereby creating new market access opportunities for services and investments, as well as in the areas of intellectual property, public procurement and competition policy, and will thus serve as an example for future free trade agreements;

E.  whereas during the period of validity of the Agreement:

   the EU’s trade deficit, which amounted to EUR 7,6 billion in the 12-month period preceding the Agreement’s validity, turned into a trade surplus of EUR 2,5 billion in the fifth year of the Agreement’s validity;
   EU exports to Korea grew by 47 %, from EUR 30,6 billion in the 12-month period preceding the Agreement’s validity, to EUR 44,9 billion in the fifth year of the Agreement’s validity, including EU exports to Korea of products that were fully or partially liberalised by the Agreement, which rose by 57 % and 71 % respectively, and EU exports to Korea of products subject to a zero-duty rate under the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause, which rose by 25 % (EUR 1,9 billion);
   imports to the EU from Korea in the fifth year of validity of the Agreement amounted to EUR 42,3 billion and had grown by 11 % in comparison with the 12-month period preceding the validity of the Agreement, including Korean exports to the EU of products that were fully or partially liberalised by the Agreement, which rose by 35 % and 64 % respectively (by EUR 5,0 billion and EUR 0,5 billion respectively), and Korean exports to the EU of products subject to a zero-duty rate under the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause, which rose by 29 % (EUR 5,8 billion);
   the EU’s share in total Korean imports grew from 9 % before the Agreement’s entry into force to 13 % in the fourth year of its validity; at the same time, the EU’s share in total Korean exports fell from 11 % to just below 9 %;
   EU exports of passenger vehicles to Korea grew by 246 %, from EUR 2,0 billion in the 12-month period preceding the validity of the Agreement to EUR 6,9 billion in the fifth year of its validity;
   EU imports of passenger vehicles from Korea grew by 71 %, from EUR 2,6 billion in the 12-month period preceding the validity of the Agreement to EUR 4,5 billion in the fifth year of its validity;
   EU exports of services amounted to EUR 11,9 billion in 2014, growing by 11 % in comparison with the previous year, and leading to an EU trade surplus with Korea in the services sector amounting to EUR 6,0 billion in 2014; at the same time, imports to the EU of services from Korea amounted to EUR 6,0 billion, marking a 4 % increase in comparison with 2013;
   the EU’s foreign direct investment (FDI) in Korea in 2014 reached EUR 43,7 billion, making the EU the largest investor in Korea; FDI from Korea in the EU in turn reached EUR 20,3 billion, marking an increase of 35 % in relation to the previous year;
   the EU preference utilisation rate on the Korean market grew to 68,5 %, while the Korean preference utilisation rate amounted to approximately 85 %;
   seven special committees, seven working groups and a dialogue on intellectual property were established;
   the Trade and Sustainable Development Committee – which is a specialised body focusing on the implementation of the chapter on trade and sustainable development of the EU-Korea Agreement – is operating;

1.  Recalls that the Agreement is a process and not a one-off transaction, and its activities should therefore, pursuant to the provisions of the Agreement, continue in practice to be subject to periodic analyses and evaluations regarding trade impact on specific economic sectors of the EU and of every EU Member State respectively; emphasises, in that connection, the importance of ensuring that the Agreement is properly implemented and that its provisions are observed;

2.  Welcomes the fact that the Agreement has led to a significant growth in trade between the EU and Korea; urges the Commission and the Member States to further examine the consequences and the direct impact of the Agreement on consumer welfare, entrepreneurs and the European economy and to more effectively inform the public about these impacts;

3.  Stresses that the conclusion of the Agreement was unprecedented, both in terms of the Agreement’s scope and in terms of the swiftness with which trade barriers were to be removed – for instance, five years after the Agreement entered into force practically all import duties had been removed on both sides;

4.  Points out that the Agreement, like other agreements on free trade, services and investments, has a positive impact on the socio-economic development of the parties to the Agreement, on economic integration, on sustainable development, and on bringing countries and their citizens closer together;

5.  Notes the efforts of the Civil Society Forum and of the domestic advisory groups set up in accordance with the provisions set out in the chapter on Trade and Sustainable Development, which is an integral part of the overall package of the Free Trade Agreement; recalls that both parties have committed under Article 13.4 of the Agreement to respect, promote and realise in their laws and practices the principles following on from their obligations deriving from membership of the ILO and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, notably of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining; emphasises, however, that progress made by Korea on the objectives enshrined in the Trade and Sustainable Development chapter is not satisfactory and that there are still cases of violation of freedom of association, including troubling examples’ of imprisonment of trade union leaders, and interference in negotiations, which should rest within the autonomy of the bargaining partners; in this respect, urges the Commission to take up formal consultations with the Korean Government in accordance with Article 13.14 of the Agreement and, if such consultations should fail, calls on the panel of experts referred to in Article 13.15 of the Agreement to take action and to continue the dialogue with regard to the failure of the Korean Government to comply with some of its commitments, and in particular to make continued and sustained efforts, in line with the obligations enshrined in the Agreement, towards ensuring the ratification by Korea of the fundamental ILO Conventions which this country has not ratified yet;

6.  Stresses that there are significant differences in the level of utilisation of preferences between EU Member States, ranging from 16 % to 92 %; points out that increased utilisation of the preferences in force could bring EU exporters further benefits amounting to more than EUR 900 million; suggests that the utilisation of the preferences in this and other trade agreements should be analysed in order to maximise the utilisation of the trade benefits;

7.  Acknowledges that, while the Agreement meets the expectations of the parties in terms of increased bilateral trade and a deeper commercial partnership, the following issues, under the Agreement and as part of a dialogue with Korea, should be analysed, appropriately enforced and implemented within the spirit of the Agreement, and should be revised to remedy existing problems:

   (a) technical barriers to trade, such as: the direct transport clause, which prevents companies from optimising economically their container shipments, the clause on repaired goods, the inclusion of truck-tractors in the scope of the Agreement, and – equally importantly – the issue of the rules and procedures governing certificates for machines exported to Korea;
   (b) barriers in the area of sanitary and phytosanitary measures, including: barriers restricting exports of EU beef and pork, as well as dairy products;
   (c) intellectual property rights, such as: recognition and protection of geographic designations and commercial rights to the public performance of musical works, phonograms and performances protected by copyright or related rights;
   (d) the chapter on trade and sustainable development: ratification and implementation by the Korean party of the fundamental Conventions of the International Labour Organisation;
   (e) the wording of the rules on origin and their effect on the preference utilisation rate;
   (f) customs-related matters including origin verification procedures;

8.   Notes that recently there have been cases of creation of new non-tariff barriers, such as previously non-existing technical norms for machines, equipment or vehicles; stresses that an especially unacceptable phenomenon is the withdrawal of the vehicle type homologation for various European car manufacturers on unsubstantiated grounds; calls on the Commission to engage in bilateral talks to eliminate this negative phenomenon;

9.  Points out that many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not aware of the opportunities that the Agreement brings; calls, therefore, on the Commission and the EU Member States to study the preference utilisation rate of SMEs in particular and to take effective steps to raise awareness among SMEs regarding the opportunities that the Agreement has created;

10.  Supports the further deepening of trade and investment relations between the EU and Korea, in particular the Agreement’s Investment Chapter; expects the difficulties concerning the Trade and Sustainable Development chapter to be resolved prior to the negotiations on the Investment Chapter; supports the involvement of the parties to the Agreement in creating further economic growth and sustainable development for the benefit of EU and Korean citizens; calls on the Commission and the Government of the Republic of Korea not to use the old ISDS method in the event of negotiations on an investment chapter, but to build instead on a new Investment Court System proposed by the Commission, and calls on the Commission in the long term to develop a multilateral investment court system that would potentially replace all investment dispute resolution mechanisms in current and future free trade agreements;

11.  Stresses the importance of further enhancing international cooperation in the multilateral, plurilateral and regional international framework, in the context of the WTO, such as in relation to negotiations on the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA);

12.  Stresses that the strategic values of the Agreement extend beyond the sphere of trade as it lays a solid foundation for a deeper relationship with long-term engagement and contributes to the establishment of a strategic partnership between the EU and Korea;

13.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the EU Member States and the Government and National Assembly of the Republic of Korea.

(1) OJ L 127, 14.5.2011, p. 6.
(2) OJ L 90, 30.3.2001, p. 46.
(3) OJ L 90, 30.3.2001, p. 45.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0250.
(5) OJ C 56 E, 26.2.2013, p. 87.
(6) OJ L 145, 31.5.2011, p. 19.
(7) OJ L 127, 14.5.2011, p. 1.
(8) OJ C 188 E, 28.6.2012, p. 113.
(9) OJ C 99 E, 3.4.2012, p. 94.
(10) OJ C 99 E, 3.4.2012, p. 31.
(11) OJ C 99 E, 3.4.2012, p. 101.
(12) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0299.


Achieving the two-state solution in the Middle East
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European Parliament resolution of 18 May 2017 on achieving the two-state solution in the Middle East (2016/2998(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0226RC-B8-0345/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the Middle East Peace Process,

–  having regard to previous UN resolutions,

–  having regard to the UN human rights conventions to which Israel and Palestine are States Parties,

–  having regard to the report of 1 July 2016 and the statement of 23 September 2016 by the Middle East Quartet,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process, in particular those of 18 January 2016 and 20 June 2016,

–  having regard to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the State of Israel, of the other part,

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

A.  whereas achieving peace in the Middle East remains a key priority for the international community and an indispensable element for regional and global stability and security;

B.  whereas the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (the ‘High Representative’) has on several occasions expressed her commitment to renewing and intensifying the Union’s role in the peace process; whereas in April 2015 the High Representative appointed a new EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process (the ‘EU Special Representative’); whereas the Special Representative has yet to deliver;

C.  whereas the Quartet and regional partners such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, have an important role, in seeking the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict;

D.  whereas continuing violence, terrorist attacks against civilians, and incitement to violence are greatly exacerbating mistrust and are fundamentally incompatible with a peaceful resolution;

E.  whereas the UN Security Council, in its resolution 2334 (2016):

   (a) reaffirmed that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity and constituted a flagrant violation of international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution;
   (b) called upon the parties to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967;
   (c) recalled the obligation under the Quartet roadmap for the Palestinian Authority Security Forces to maintain effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantling terrorist capabilities, including the confiscation of illegal weapons;

F.  whereas according to the Office of the EU Representative in Palestine, there was a high rate of demolitions of Palestinian structures during the past months;

G.  whereas there are numerous reports of human right violations in the Gaza Strip;

H.  whereas there is concern regarding the situation of prisoners on both sides, especially as regards the ongoing hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners; whereas both parties should live up to international obligations in respecting prisoners’ rights;

I.  whereas all parties should support dialogue and practical collaboration, particularly in the areas of security, access to water, sanitation and energy resources, and in promoting growth in the Palestinian economy, thereby offering a vision of hope, peace and reconciliation which the region so greatly needs;

J.  whereas relations between the EU and both sides should be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of these relations;

1.  Reiterates its strong support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security, on the basis of the right of self-determination and full respect for international law;

2.  Underlines the importance of the parties resuming substantive negotiations as soon as possible with a view to reaching a just, lasting and comprehensive peace; calls on both parties to avoid steps which could spark further escalation, including unilateral measures which could prejudge the outcome of negotiations, threaten the viability of the two-state solution and generate further mistrust; calls on both parties to restate their commitment to the two-state solution, thus disassociating themselves from voices that reject this solution;

3.  Strongly opposes all actions that undermine the viability of the two-state solution and urges both sides to demonstrate, through policies and actions, a genuine commitment to a two-state solution in order to rebuild trust; welcomes the commitment expressed during the recent visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the United States to work together for peace;

4.  Stresses that protecting and preserving the viability of the two-state solution must be the immediate priority in European Union policies and action with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Middle East peace process;

5.  Condemns all acts of violence, acts of terrorism against Israelis, and incitement to violence which are fundamentally incompatible with advancing a peaceful two-state solution; notes that all parties should act effectively against violence, terrorism, hate speech and incitement, as this is critical to rebuilding confidence and to avoiding escalation that will further undermine the prospects for peace;

6.  Stresses, recalling that settlements are illegal under international law, that the recent decisions to establish a new settlement deep inside the West Bank, to issue tenders for almost 2 000 settlement units and to declare further land deep inside the West Bank as ‘state land’ further undermine prospects for a viable two-state solution; condemns the continuation of, and calls on the Israeli authorities to immediately halt and reverse, the settlement policy; regrets, in particular, the approval by the Knesset on 6 February 2017 of the ‘regularisation law’, which allows retroactive legalisation of settlements built on Palestinian properties without the consent of the legitimate private owners; awaits the Supreme Court decision regarding this new legislation;

7.  Takes positive note of paragraph 8 of the Council conclusions of 18 January 2016 on the commitment by the EU and its Member States to ensure the full implementation of existing EU legislation and EU-Israel bilateral arrangements;

8.  Calls for an end to the demolition of Palestinian homes and EU-funded structures and projects, the forced displacement of Palestinian families and the confiscation of Palestinian property in the West Bank, in accordance with the Quartet report; stresses the responsibility of relevant EU authorities in continuing to ensure that no EU funding can be directly or indirectly diverted to terrorist organisations or activities that incite these acts;

9.  Recalls that compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law by states and non-state actors, including accountability for their actions, is a cornerstone of peace and security in the region;

10.  Stresses that intra-Palestinian reconciliation is an important element for reaching the two-state solution and deplores continued Palestinian disunity; supports the EU’s call on the Palestinian factions to make reconciliation and the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Gaza Strip a top priority; urges Palestinian forces to resume efforts towards reconciliation without delay, notably through the holding of the long-overdue presidential and legislative elections; emphasises that the Palestinian Authority must assume its government function in the Gaza Strip, including in the fields of security and civil administration and through its presence at the crossing points;

11.  Stresses that militant activity and the illicit arms build-up feed instability and ultimately impede efforts to achieve a negotiated solution; calls on the Palestinian Authority Security Forces to conduct fully effective and timely operations to counteract the activities of these militant groups, such as firing rockets at Israel; stresses the imperative need to prevent the arming of terrorist groups and their smuggling of weapons, manufacturing of rockets and building of tunnels;

12.  Reiterates its call for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip and for the urgent reconstruction and rehabilitation of this area;

13.  Reminds Member States of the Venice Declaration of June 1980 whereby EU Member States assumed their responsibility in the peace process; calls for a new EU Declaration to be adopted in June this year; asks the High Representative to use this new declaration to engage in setting up a bold and comprehensive European peace initiative in the region;

14.  Calls for this European Union peace initiative to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the aim of achieving tangible results within a set timeframe, in the framework of the two-state solution, and with an international monitoring and implementation mechanism; stresses the importance of engaging with other international actors in this regard, in the framework of the Middle East Quartet and with regard to the Arab peace initiative in particular; calls for the effective use of existing European Union leverage and instruments in dealings with both parties in order to facilitate peace efforts, as coordinated EU action can deliver results;

15.  Underlines that, in order to support a genuine European peace initiative, it is the primary duty of the Member States to contribute actively to the shaping of a united European position and to refrain from unilateral initiatives that weaken European action; underlines that European Heads of State and Government cannot ask the Union to be proactive in the region if their diverging positions prevent the Union from speaking with one voice through the High Representative;

16.  Notes the potential of the Palestinian Arab community in Israel to play an important role in achieving a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and the importance of its involvement in and contribution to the peace process; calls for equal rights for all citizens of Israel, which is a basic precondition for fulfilling this role;

17.  Calls for European Union support and protection to civil society actors, including human rights organisations, that contribute to peace efforts and confidence-building between Israelis and Palestinians on both sides, and welcomes the civil society contribution to the peace process through innovative new ideas and initiatives;

18.  Suggests that a ‘Parliamentarians for Peace’ initiative be launched aimed at bringing together European, Israeli and Palestinian parliamentarians in order to help advance an agenda for peace and complement EU diplomatic efforts;

19.  Underlines the need for the EU to foster initiatives that can contribute to rebuilding trust between political, non-state, and economic actors and establishing a pattern of cooperation on concrete issues; stresses, in this regard, the importance of policy areas where cooperation is imperative for the daily lives of citizens, in particular the areas of security, access to water, sanitation, energy resources and the growth of the Palestinian economy;

20.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Quartet Representative, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, the Knesset and the Government of Israel, the President of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Legislative Council.


EU Strategy on Syria
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European Parliament resolution of 18 May 2017 on the EU strategy on Syria (2017/2654(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0227RC-B8-0331/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Syria,

–  having regard to the Joint Communication of the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to the European Parliament and the Council of 14 March 2017 entitled ‘Elements for an EU Strategy for Syria’ (JOIN(2017)0011) and to the Council conclusions on Syria of 3 April 2017, which together make up the new EU strategy on Syria,

–  having regard to the Co-Chairs Declaration of 5 April 2017 on the Conference on ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the region’,

–  having regard to the Statements by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) of 30 December 2016 on the announcement of a cessation of hostilities in Syria and of 23 March 2017 on Syria, and to the Declaration by the VP/HR on behalf of the EU of 9 December 2016 on the situation in Aleppo,

–  having regard to the Declarations by the VP/HR of 6 April 2017 on the alleged chemical attack in Idlib, Syria, and of 7 April 2017 on the US strike in Syria,

–  having regard to the Council decisions on EU restrictive measures against those responsible for violent repression in Syria, including those of 14 November 2016 and of 20 March 2017,

–  having regard to the reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, established by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), and to the UNHRC resolutions on the Syrian Arab Republic,

–  having regard to the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on ISIL/Da’esh and the Al-Nusra Front and to relevant UNSC resolutions on the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, in particular resolutions 2218 (2013), 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2199 (2015), 2254 (2015), 2258 (2015), 2268 (2016), 2328 (2016), 2332 (2016), and 2336 (2016),

–  having regard to UNSC resolution 1325 (2000) of 31 October 2000 on women and peace and security,

–  having regard to UN General Assembly resolution A/71/L.48 of 19 December 2016 setting up an International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011,

–  having regard to the Geneva Communiqué of 2012,

–  having regard to the Charter of the United Nations and to all the UN conventions to which Syria is a State Party,

–  having regard to the Rome Statute and the ICJ founding documents,

–  having regard to ad hoc tribunals, including the ICTY, ICTR and STL,

–  having regard to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the additional protocols thereto,

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

A.  whereas the war in Syria has become one of the worst humanitarian crises the world has faced since World War II and continues to have devastating and tragic consequences for its people; whereas scores of civilians, including children, have been targeted and continue to suffer in this brutal civil war and over 400 000 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in 2011; whereas over 13,5 million people in Syria, almost three quarters of the remaining population, are in urgent need of emergency assistance such as medical and food assistance, water and shelter; whereas 6,3 million people are internally displaced, 4,7 million live in hard-to-reach and besieged areas and five million are living as refugees in neighbouring countries and the wider region; whereas the crisis in Syria has an increasingly destabilising impact on the wider region;

B.  whereas since the outbreak of the war in 2011, the EU, together with its Member States, has, as of January 2017, collectively mobilised more than EUR 9,4 billion in response to the Syrian crisis both within Syria and in the region, making it the largest donor; whereas the EU has also substantially supported the neighbouring refugee host countries;

C.  whereas the violations committed during the Syrian conflict include targeted and indiscriminate attacks on civilians, extrajudicial killings, torture and ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, mass and arbitrary arrests, collective punishment, attacks against medical personnel and denial of food and water; whereas the Assad regime is reportedly responsible for hangings, acts of torture and extrajudicial killings on a massive scale in its detention facilities; whereas the Syrian Government has wilfully cut civilians off from essential goods and services, including food and water supply as well as medical assistance; whereas the attacks, and the starvation of civilians through the besiegement of populated areas as a war tactic, constitute clear breaches of international humanitarian law; whereas these crimes have so far gone unpunished;

D.  whereas ISIS/Da’esh and other jihadist groups have committed cruel atrocities, including the use of brutal executions and unspoken sexual violence, abductions, torture, forced conversions and slavery of women and girls; whereas children have been recruited and used in terrorist attacks; whereas there are serious concerns about the welfare of the population currently under ISIS/Da’esh control and their possible use as human shields during the liberation campaign; whereas these crimes may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide;

E.  whereas the ceasefire that came into force on 30 December 2016 is not being respected with several violations reported throughout Syria and major incidents taking place, such as the chemical attack in Khan Sheyhoun presumably committed by the regime and the bomb attack against buses carrying evacuees out of the besieged towns of Foah and Kefraya to government-controlled areas; whereas dozens of people, including children, have been killed and many more injured;

F.  whereas several investigations have found that Assad’s forces have used chemical agents intended to harm and kill civilians, in violation of a 2013 deal to eliminate them; whereas the latest case of the use of weapons of mass destruction against civilians took place on 4 April 2017 in Khan Sheyhoun in Idlib province, where at least 70 civilians, many of them children, were killed and hundreds more injured; whereas on 12 April 2017 Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have condemned the reported use of prohibited chemical weapons in Syria and would have called on the Syrian Government to cooperate with an investigation into the incident; whereas the US informed the EU that, based on its assessment that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons, it launched a strike on the Al-Shayrat military airbase in Homs Governorate, Syria, with the intention of preventing and deterring the spread and use of chemical weapons;

G.  whereas in March 2017 the EU added four high-ranking Syrian military officials to the sanctions list for their role in the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population, in line with the EU’s policy to fight the proliferation and use of chemical weapons;

H.  whereas Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker mentioned the need for a EU strategy for Syria in his state of the union address of September 2016; whereas, in October, Parliament called on VP/HR Federica Mogherini to ensure that a new strategy on Syria is aimed at facilitating a political settlement in Syria, including monitoring and enforcement tools to strengthen compliance with commitments made within the International Syria Support Group (ISSG);

I.  whereas the aim of the EU strategy on Syria is to outline how the EU can play a more visible and effective role in contributing to the lasting political solution in Syria, within the existing UN-agreed framework, and support post-agreement reconstruction once a credible transition is underway; whereas this strategy outlines six key areas of focus, namely: an end to the war through a genuine political transition; the promotion of a meaningful and inclusive transition; addressing the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable Syrians; promoting democracy and human rights; promoting accountability for war crimes; and supporting the resilience of the Syrian population and society;

J.  whereas on 5 April 2017 the EU co-chaired a conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region which brought together representatives from over 70 countries and international organisations and international and Syrian civil society; whereas the Brussels Conference agreed on a holistic approach to handling the Syrian crisis, with additional financial assistance to respond to the humanitarian situation of EUR 3,47 billion for 2018-2020, including EUR 1,3 billion from the EU, the largest donor to the crisis; whereas, in addition, some international financial institutions and donors have announced around EUR 27,9 billion in loans; whereas the costs of rebuilding Syria are estimated to be around USD 200 billion;

K.  whereas the EU recognises the efforts made by, and supports, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, Syria’s neighbouring countries hosting the largest number of refugees;

L.  whereas on 4 May 2017 an agreement establishing four de-escalation zones was reached by Russia, Iran and Turkey in Astana (Kazakhstan); whereas the three signatory countries are to act as guarantors of the six-month renewable truce, including through armed monitors on the ground; whereas this deal calls for an end to all flights by the Assad regime over these zones and unhindered humanitarian access to rebel-held zones; whereas a new round of UN-led talks is resuming this week in Geneva and another round of Russian-led talks is planned for mid-July in Kazakhstan;

M.  whereas the EU has repeatedly stated that there can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict and that only a Syrian-led, inclusive transition can put an end to the unacceptable suffering of the Syrian people; whereas, while being clear that reconstruction can only begin after a political agreement, reconciliation efforts should start as soon as possible and be supported by the EU with the aim of securing long-term stability; whereas establishing the truth, promoting accountability and transitional justice, as well as amnesty are all essential in this context;

1.  Welcomes the EU Strategy for Syria, including the EU’s strategic goals on Syria and the EU’s objectives for Syria and the outcome of the Brussels Conference that ensured multiannual pledges; urges all participants and international donors to fully honour their commitments and to maintain their support in the future;

2.  Condemns, once again and in the strongest terms, the atrocities and widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by all parties in the conflict, and in particular the forces of the Assad regime with the support of its allies Russia and Iran, as well as by non-state armed groups, in particular ISIS/Da’esh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham; stresses its position that all those responsible for breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law must be held accountable; encourages all states to apply the principle of universal jurisdiction in tackling impunity and welcomes steps taken by a number of EU Member States to this end, including the recent decision by Spain’s National Court to hear a criminal complaint against nine Syrian intelligence officials for torture and other human rights violations; reiterates its call for the EU and its Member States to explore, in close coordination with like-minded countries, the creation of a Syria war crimes tribunal, pending a successful referral to the International Criminal Court; stresses that those committing crimes against religious and ethnic minorities and other groups should also be brought to justice; remains convinced that there can be neither effective conflict resolution nor sustainable peace in Syria without accountability for the crimes committed;

3.  Condemns in the strongest terms the horrific chemical air strike on the town of Khan Sheyhoun in Idlib province on 4 April 2017 which caused the death of at least 70 civilians, including children and relief workers, with many victims displaying symptoms of gas poisoning; notes that the allegation of the use of chemical weapons is credible according to the preliminary assessment conducted by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding mission; stresses Syria’s obligation to comply with the recommendations of the OPCW fact-finding mission and the OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism, by providing immediate and unfettered access and recognising the right to inspect each and every site; stresses that those responsible for such attacks will be held accountable in a court of law; deplores Russia’s repeated vetoes in the Security Council, including to a UNSC resolution condemning the most recent chemical attack and calling for an international investigation;

4.  Welcomes the creation of an International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Those Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011; deplores the fact that this mechanism is still not fully funded; calls on all Member States to fulfil their pledges in this regard;

5.  Remains committed to the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Syria and supports a strong ‘Whole of Syria’ approach and a democratic future for the Syrian people; insists that a Syrian-led political process which will lead to free and fair elections, facilitated and monitored by the United Nations and held on the basis of a new constitution, is the only way to pacify the country; reiterates to all parties that a nationwide inclusive ceasefire and peaceful mutually acceptable solution to the Syrian crisis can be achieved under UN auspices and, as provided for in the 2012 Geneva Communiqué and UNSC resolution 2254 (2015), with the support of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and key international and regional actors;

6.  Notes the recent memorandum on setting up de-escalation zones in Syria and supports the intent to reinforce the ceasefire, halt the regime’s air force flying over the de-escalation areas, and create conditions for humanitarian access, medical assistance, the return of displaced civilians to their homes and the restoration of damaged infrastructure; highlights, however, the concerns expressed by the opposition that the deal could lead to the establishment of zones of influence and to the division of Syria; calls on all parties to implement the Astana agreements, and on the three guarantors to ensure that the ceasefire is respected; highlights the importance of eliminating any ambiguity with respect to groups not covered by the ceasefire and calls on all parties, including Turkey, to ensure that the memorandum does not facilitate the targeting of forces allied to the moderate opposition or those fighting on the side of the international coalition against ISIS/Da’esh; underscores that international monitoring of implementation must be ensured and supports a robust UN involvement;

7.  Urges the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran to use their influence on the Syrian regime to accept and actively pursue a reasonable compromise that will put an end to the civil war and pave the way for an inclusive and genuine transition; calls on the EU and its Member States to continue supporting the moderate opposition, identifying and isolating radicalised elements and promoting reconciliation; encourages the members of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) to continue engaging in the UN-brokered talks in Geneva;

8.  Firmly believes that the EU needs to engage more actively and to leverage its important post-conflict financial contribution in order to play a significant role in the negotiating efforts under the existing UN-agreed framework and to ensure the political transition, developing a distinctive policy that aims at bringing the parties closer together and intensifying its efforts on areas in which the Union can have an added value; supports the on-going efforts of the VP/HR to reach out to the key actors in the region with a view to ensuring political transition, post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction; urges the VP/HR to start developing a concrete plan for EU involvement in the reconstruction of Syria and aim at inclusive, joint efforts with key international organisations and financial institutions, as well as regional and local actors; highlights, however, the importance of ownership of the post-conflict reconstruction process by the Syrians themselves;

9.  Underlines the critical importance of the work of local and international civil society organisations and NGOs in documenting evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations, including the destruction of cultural heritage; calls for the EU and its Member States to provide further and complete assistance to these actors; calls for the EU and its Member States to adequately fund organisations that work on open source investigation and digital collection of evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity, in order to ensure accountability and bring the perpetrators to justice;

10.  Welcomes the emphasis put on supporting the resilience of the Syrian population and Syrian society in the EU Strategy for Syria; calls on the EU and the Member States to redouble their efforts aimed at building the capacities of the people and civil society of Syria, including with and through actors that promote human rights, equality (including gender equality and minority rights), democracy and empowerment, where possible in Syria, as well as for Syrian refugees living in exile in the region or in Europe; stresses that such capacity-building should support Syrians in steering the transition (in areas such as media regulation, decentralisation, administration of municipalities and constitution drafting), while paying due consideration to the needs and role of women;

11.  Expresses satisfaction that the role of civil society, including women’s organisations, was recognised as a key part of a lasting solution; recalls the fact that the EU must promote and facilitate adequate involvement or consultation of civil society and women in the peace process, in line with the Comprehensive Approach to EU Implementation of UNSC resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008) on women, peace, and security; insists that women’s human rights need to be reflected in the new constitution of Syria;

12.  While reaffirming its support for the efforts of the Global Coalition against ISIS/Da’esh, believes that the EU strategy should have also reviewed aspects concerning the fight against ISIS/Da’esh and other UN-listed terrorist organisations, highlighting and focusing on the political and socio-economic root causes that have facilitated the spread of terrorism and identifying concrete actions to tackle them; considers, furthermore, that ways for contributing to the preservation of the multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-confessional character of Syrian society should have been elaborated;

13.  Stresses the importance of protecting ethnic and religious minorities in Syria and strongly believes that any political process should be inclusive and aimed at restoring Syria as a multiconfessional and tolerant state;

14.  Recalls that the early establishment of confidence-building measures (CBMs), including fully unhindered humanitarian access throughout Syria, the delivery of basic public services (electricity, water, health care), the end of all city sieges, and the release of prisoners and hostages, is of crucial importance; welcomes the agreement among the Syrian Government and rebel groups to allow the evacuation of four besieged towns; urges all parties to support and facilitate the adoption of a comprehensive agreement on CBMs;

15.  Notes with regret that the devastating civil conflict has set the country back decades in terms of social and economic development, forcing millions of people into unemployment and poverty and entailing considerable destruction of health and education services, and large-scale displacement of Syrians and brain drain; points out, therefore, the importance of increasing the non-humanitarian assistance aimed at strengthening the resilience of people within Syria and restarting the economy; calls, furthermore, on the EU Member States to show a stronger commitment to responsibility-sharing, allowing refugees fleeing the Syrian war zones to find protection beyond the immediate neighbouring region, including through resettlement and humanitarian admission schemes; considers, however, that as soon as the conflict is over, incentives for skilled Syrian refugees to return and contribute to the reconstruction efforts should be provided;

16.  Welcomes the new partnership priorities concluded by the EU with Jordan and Lebanon, as well as the easing of EU rules of origin for exports from Jordan; regrets that large numbers of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey still live in precarious social and economic conditions and are often unable to find (legal) employment; calls on the VP/HR to insist that the authorities in Jordan and Lebanon work towards removing the remaining (informal) barriers, to support expanded opportunities for self-employment, and to deliver commitments on job creation for women and youth;

17.  Fully supports the target of ensuring a ‘No lost generation of children’ initiative in Syria and in the region, and calls for additional efforts to reach the goal of getting all refugee children and vulnerable children in host communities into quality education with equal access for girls and boys; highlights the need to recognise the often informal education in refugee camps and to support the psychological rehabilitation of these traumatised children;

18.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the EU Member States, the United Nations, the members of the International Syria Support Group and all the parties involved in the conflict, and to ensure translation of this text into Arabic.


Road transport in the European Union
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European Parliament resolution of 18 May 2017 on road transport in the European Union (2017/2545(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0228B8-0290/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 91 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Directive 1999/62/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 1999 on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures(1),

–  having regard to Directive 2002/15/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2002 on the organisation of the working time of persons performing mobile road transport activities(2),

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the harmonisation of certain social legislation relating to road transport(3),

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 1071/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 establishing common rules concerning the conditions to be complied with to pursue the occupation of road transport operator(4),

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 1072/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 on common rules for access to the international road haulage market(5),

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 1073/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 on common rules for access to the international market for coach and bus services(6),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 165/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 February 2014 on tachographs in road transport(7),

–  having regard to the Commission White Paper entitled ‘Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system’ (COM(2011)0144),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 September 2015 on the implementation of the 2011 White Paper on Transport: taking stock and the way forward towards sustainable mobility(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 January 2017 on logistics in the EU and multimodal transport in the new TEN-T corridors(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 24 November 2016 on new opportunities for small transport businesses, including collaborative business models(10),

–  having regard to the report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the State of the Union Road Transport Market (COM(2014)0222),

–  having regard to Directive (EU) 2015/413 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2015 facilitating cross-border exchange of information on road-safety-related traffic offences(11),

–  having regard to the Commission Communication entitled ‘European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility’ (COM(2016)0501) and to the Commission Communication entitled ‘Transport and CO2’ (COM(1998)0204),

–  having regard to the Paris Agreement and its commitment to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1,5 degrees Celsius,

–  having regard to the Declaration of Amsterdam of 14 April 2016 on cooperation in the field of connected and automated driving –– Navigating to connected and automated vehicles on European roads,

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 September 2016 on social dumping in the European Union(12)

–  having regard to the Commission Communication entitled ‘A European strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems, a milestone towards cooperative, connected and automated mobility’ (COM(2016)0766),

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

A.  whereas the Commission should put forward, as a matter of urgency, legislative proposals concerning the road haulage market (hereinafter ‘road initiatives’), with the aim of identifying and addressing the challenges that the sector is facing;

B.  whereas the road transport economy in the EU accounts for 5 million direct jobs and contributes close to 2 % of the EU’s GDP, with 344 000 road passenger transport companies and over 560 000 road freight transport companies(13);

C.  whereas, in 2013, passenger transport activities by road in the EU amounted to 5 323 billion passenger kilometres, of which passenger cars accounted for 72,3 % and buses and coaches for 8,1 % of the total passenger transport activities in the EU-28(14);

D.  whereas road safety remains a topical issue for the EU, with 135 000 seriously injured victims and 26 100 fatalities in 2015;

E.  whereas road transport is a driving force of the EU’s economy and should remain a frontrunner in generating further economic growth and job creation, and in promoting competitiveness and territorial cohesion, and whereas it is necessary, at the same time, that the sector becomes more sustainable and respects decent working conditions and social rights;

F.  whereas road transport is a sector where Europe is a world leader, in both manufacturing and transport operations, and whereas it is crucial that European road transport continues to develop, invest and renew itself in a sustainable and ecological manner, in order to maintain its technological leadership at global level within a global economy ever more characterised by the emergence of powerful new players and new business models;

G.  whereas road transport is continuing to phase out fossil fuels, given the urgent need to improve the energy efficiency and sustainability of this sector in particular via alternative fuels, alternative powertrains and digitalisation, in a cost-efficient manner without sacrificing its competitiveness;

H.  whereas transport plays a significant role in climate change, accounting for some 23,2 % of total EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and whereas road transport accounted for 72,8 % of the EU’s GHG emissions from transport in 2014;

I.  whereas road congestion is estimated to cost the EU’s economy the equivalent of 1 % of its GDP in time losses, additional fuel consumption and pollution;

J.  whereas international road haulage transport is facing an increasing number of regulatory barriers established by Member States;

K.  whereas multimodal networks and the integration of different transport modes and services are potentially beneficial for improving passenger and freight transport connections and efficiency, thus helping to reduce carbon and other harmful emissions;

L.  whereas there is a lack of enforcement by Member States of EU legislation on cabotage;

M.  whereas there are huge differences across the Union in the enforcement of existing legislation on working conditions, social rights and road safety;

Improving competitiveness and innovation in the road sector

1.  Considers that the road initiatives should provide a much-needed boost for a more sustainable, safe, innovative and competitive European road sector, further develop European road infrastructure to improve the efficiency of road transport and logistics, ensure a level playing field for operators in the global market as well as the completion and improved operation of the internal market for the transport by road of passengers and freight, and set out a long-term strategy for Europe’s road sector;

2.  Considers also that the road initiatives should foster technological development of vehicles, promote alternative fuels, increase interoperability of transport systems and modes and ensure access to the market for transport SMEs;

3.  Calls on the Commission to take into account Parliament’s resolution of 9 September 2015 on the implementation of the 2011 White Paper on Transport when drafting the road initiatives; underlines that road transport must be considered within a holistic and long-term approach under the EU intermodal and sustainable transport policy;

4.  Calls on the Commission, when drafting the ‘Road Mobility Initiative Package’, to equally take into account Parliament’s resolution of 14 September 2016 on social dumping in the European Union;

5.  Emphasises that the road sector is a major contributor to EU jobs and growth and that the state of the economy is closely linked to competitiveness in the EU road sector; asks therefore for proactive policies aimed at supporting and developing a sustainable road sector with fair competition, especially for SMEs, notably in view of the future digital, technological and environmental developments in this sector, while encouraging the upskilling of the workforce;

6.  Invites the European road sector to embrace the opportunities afforded by digitalisation; calls on the Commission to develop communications infrastructure both ‘vehicle to vehicle’ and ‘vehicle to infrastructure’ to improve road safety, efficiency and to prepare the future of road mobility; underlines the need to develop technology transfer for vehicles, to increase their logistical support and to draw up the appropriate definitions and rules on this matter; calls on the Commission to provide for a suitable regulatory framework for connected and automated driving as well as for new collaborative business models;

7.  Urges the Commission to increase harmonisation in passenger transport and transport of goods, and in particular for electronic tolling systems in the EU, as the current lack of harmonisation imposes additional costs on transport; encourages, in this regard, the use of digital technologies (paperless and standardised documents, e-CMR smart tachograph, etc.) in order to guarantee a fully functioning internal market;

Facilitating cross-border mobility on road

8.  Urges the Member States to implement relevant EU rules more thoroughly and the Commission to monitor such implementation more closely, including with regard to cross-border cooperation, interpretation and proper and non-discriminatory enforcement of the existing legislation, and to tackle harmonisation of national legislations; believes that, wherever legitimate, the Commission should open infringement procedures against laws and measures distorting the market;

9.  Urges the Member States to cooperate more closely with the Euro Contrôle Route and the European Traffic Police Network (TISPOL) in order to improve the enforcement of road transport legislation in Europe and to build up a strong mechanism to ensure equal and appropriate implementation of the existing acquis, i.e. by supporting Member States with certification, standardisation, technical expertise, data collection, training and inspection tasks and by managing platforms for information exchange between national experts and authorities;

10.  Asks the Member States to step up checks, particularly in relation to compliance with driving and rest times and cabotage rules, and to use effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions; urges the Commission to speed up the mandatory use of digital devices on board such as smart tachographs and the use of electronic consignment notes (e-CMR) to improve the monitoring of compliance with relevant EU rules, while reducing administrative costs;

11.  Urges the Commission to further harmonise existing rules for mandatory safety equipment in light and heavy duty vehicles such as warning triangles, reflective jackets, spare lamps or breathalysers;

12.  Calls on the Commission to examine possibilities to reduce the bureaucratic and financial burdens of different national legislations in order to facilitate the freedom to provide transport services across the EU;

13.  Stresses that a coherent, fair, transparent, non-discriminating and non-bureaucratic road charging system implemented in the EU and proportionate to the use of the road and to the external costs generated by lorries, buses and cars (the ‘user pays’ and ‘polluter pays’ principles), would have a positive effect in tackling the deteriorating state of the road infrastructure, congestion and pollution; calls on the Commission to create a framework which will ensure non-discrimination and avoid fragmented charging schemes for passengers’ cars across the EU;

14.  Calls on the Commission to propose a revision of the European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) Directive, which should include an external cost element based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, be fully interoperable with the aim of contributing to the emergence of harmonised technical EU standards of collecting tolls, be based on transparency, better development and integration of the different ITS equipment installed in the vehicles as well as greater clarification of the legislation in order to better define and protect the rights of EETS providers and make their obligations less burdensome;

15.  Considers that Member States on the periphery and countries with no real alternative to road transport have more difficulties in reaching the core of the EU’s internal market; calls on the Commission to include in its road initiatives a mechanism to alleviate the charges supported by road transport operations from the periphery;

16.  Underlines that hired vehicles are usually the newest and cleanest on the market, contributing to the efficiency of the road transport sector; calls therefore on the Commission to review the current rules on hired vehicles, which currently allow the Member States to prohibit the use of such vehicles for international transport operations;

17.  Is concerned about the lack of enforcement by national authorities in relation to fraud concerning tachographs and cabotage operations, and calls therefore on the Commission to address these problems inter alia through the use of new technologies, simplification and clarification of the cabotage provisions and improved exchange of information between authorities with a view to better enforcement of the rules across the EU and better monitoring of the cabotage operations;

18.  Takes the view that legislative requirements should be proportionate to the nature of the business and the size of the company; raises, however, concerns about whether there continue to be grounds for exempting light commercial vehicles (LCVs) from application of a number of European rules, given the increasing use of LCVs in the international transport of goods, and asks the Commission to present a diagnostic report on the consequent economic, environmental and safety impact of this increasing use;

19.  Stresses that cross-border mobility on roads concerning the neighbouring accession countries should be facilitated by better harmonisation of standards on road infrastructure, signalling and electronic systems, thus ensuring the elimination of bottlenecks, especially on the TEN-T core network;

Improving social conditions and safety rules

20.  Underlines that the freedom to provide transport services across the EU should not justify any violation of the fundamental rights of workers or weaken the existing legislation regarding working conditions, such as rest periods, working patterns, periods away from the home base, access to skills, improvement training and career development, health and safety, care and social assistance, and minimum rates of pay;

21.  Considers it of the utmost importance to remind the Commission of its own commitments made in the proposal for a European Pillar of Social Rights, in particular as regards:

   secure and adaptable employment, principle 5d: ‘Employment relationships that lead to precarious working conditions shall be prevented, including by prohibiting abuse of atypical contracts. Any probation period should be of reasonable duration’;
   fair wages, principle 6a: ‘Workers have the right to fair wages that provide for a decent standard of living’;

recalls that any initiative made by the Commission as regards road transport must not go against this principle nor endanger workers’ rights in this sector;

22.  Is concerned about socially problematic business practices that also present a risk in terms of road safety, related mainly to cabotage rules and to the so-called ‘letterbox’ companies (in particular issues concerning disguised self-employment and deliberately abusive practices or circumvention of existing European and national legislation enabling the development of unfair competition by unlawfully minimising labour and operation costs and leading to the violation of workers’ rights, which arise as a consequence of a lack of clarity of European rules and varying interpretations and enforcement practices at national level);

23.  Calls on the Commission to review the requirements on the right of establishment in order to eradicate ‘letterbox’ companies in the road transport sector;

24.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States, as a matter of urgency, to address issues relating to driver fatigue, including ensuring that any investment in road infrastructure includes improving facilities for drivers, especially long-haul drivers and that legislation on rest breaks is fully respected;

25.  Calls on the Commission to clarify the rules on cabotage and the rules governing access to road transport occupation, and to improve their implementation, in order to effectively tackle fraud and abuse;

26.  Rejects any further liberalisation of cabotage, in particular unlimited cabotage operations within a certain number of days;

27.  Calls on the Commission to clarify the application of the provisions of the Posting of Workers Directive in the road transport sector and to improve their implementation and enforcement;

28.  Stresses that Europe is facing a shortage of professional drivers resulting from the increase in demand for transport services, the fast development of international trade and the demographic situation; calls, therefore, on the Commission to facilitate the access of young men and women to the profession and to address the problem of poor working conditions for drivers as well as the lack of quality roadside infrastructure;

29.  Highlights that the different national legislations regarding social conditions and rights in the road transport sector in the Union generate considerable and disproportionate administrative barriers for the operators, especially SMEs, increase the complexity of the legal framework and undermine the establishment of an internal market in the road transport sector in the Union and lead to obstacles to the free movement of services and goods;

30.  Calls on the Commission to draw up proposals for the upcoming road initiatives which allow for a more effective distinction between the freedom to provide services and the freedom of establishment, with the aim of ensuring that business activities are of a temporary nature in a Member State in which a company is not established and to ensure that employees fall under the legislation of the country in which they have their habitual working place or carry out most of their professional activity;

31.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to address the quality of work in the road transport sector, with respect in particular to training, certification, working conditions and career development, with a view to creating quality jobs, developing the necessary skills and strengthening the competitiveness of EU road transport operators in order to make it more attractive for young people while also focusing on ensuring proper work-life balance for drivers;

32.  Calls on the Commission to revise the Combined Transport Directive 92/106/EEC with a view to increasing multimodal transport and eliminating unfair practices and ensuring compliance with the social legislation relating to combined transport;

33.  Calls on the Commission to assess the creation of an ‘electronic and integrated operator file’ for all operators operating under the Community licence, with the aim of gathering all relevant carrier, vehicle and driver data collected during roadside checks;

34.  Underlines that the system of rest facilities in the EU is insufficient and inadequate; calls, therefore, on the Member States in consultation with the Commission to set up a plan for constructing/providing capacity and user-friendly, safe and secure rest areas with a sufficient number of parking spaces, sanitary facilities and transit hotels, especially in strategic points/hubs where high volumes of traffic may be observed;

35.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to address the current issues of impracticality relating to driving and rest times, i.e. situations in which drivers are forced to rest for a number of hours even though they are only a few kilometres away from either their home base or residence place are common; calls on the Commission to take this into account when revising Regulation (EC) No 561/2006 on the harmonisation of certain social legislation relating to road transport;

36.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to adopt an EU-wide target for reducing serious road injuries;

37.  Calls on the Commission to run an EU-wide scientific study on the effects of driver fatigue in bus and coach transport and freight transport by van as well as by truck;

38.  Calls on the Commission to initiate without delay the revision of General Safety Regulation (EC) No 661/2009 and to take into account the role of new technologies and standards, including emergency data recorders, direct vision standards, intelligent seed assistance and tyre pressure monitoring at the very least;

39.  Stresses the need to improve safety on EU roads and to achieve the objective of halving the number of deaths and serious injuries by 2020; supports the impact assessment employed by the Commission in a review of the legislative framework for road infrastructure safety management;

Promoting low-emission road transport

40.  States that there is a need to improve the resource efficiency of road transport and its role in a modern synchromodal transport network, with a view to a more efficient use of existing capacities, improving the occupancy rate of vehicles, promoting the use of smaller and lighter vehicles, passenger car-sharing and car-pooling, as well as reducing from four wheels to two; considers digitalisation as a key element for reaching the goal of improved resource efficiency;

41.  Stresses that in order to comply with the objectives of the Paris Agreement of 2015 (COP21) on climate change, the decarbonisation of the transport sector and improvement in air quality should be achieved through the promotion of electro-mobility, fuel cells and other advanced propulsion systems, in particular those in which Europe has a major technological advantage;

42.  Calls on the Commission to come up with ambitious proposals for CO2 standards for trucks and buses in order to reduce GHG emissions from the road sector; asks the Commission to further study the opportunities to accelerate the shift towards low-emission transport by introducing the incentive for retrofitting;

43.  Calls for concrete measures to ensure the implementation of the ‘user pays’ and ‘polluter pays’ principles in road transport, including guidelines and best practices, and for a fair level playing field to be ensured across all EU regions;

44.  Underlines that the revision of the European Electronic Toll Service (EETS) Directive could contribute to the promotion of cleaner vehicles and shared vehicles;

45.  Stresses the great importance of an appropriate infrastructure for the use of alternative fuels in road transport, and therefore calls on the Commission and the Member States to create incentive models to complete the supply network for alternative fuels;

46.  Calls for effective national policy frameworks to stimulate the wider uptake of vehicles using alternative fuels (e.g. electricity, hybrid, hydrogen, compressed natural gas), and calls for the rapid deployment of the necessary refuelling/recharging infrastructure;

47.  Recognises that innovative and low-emission road transport vehicles and infrastructure will assist in facilitating interchanges and links between roads, rail and ports, thereby encouraging an overall shift to more environmentally friendly forms of transport for individuals, passengers and freight;

48.  Believes that car-pooling and car-sharing constitute a major resource for the sustainable development of connections, inter alia in outermost, mountainous and rural regions; calls on the Commission, the Member States and local authorities to facilitate the emergence of collaborative business models in this field;

49.  Asks the Commission to look into the introduction in several Member States of low-emission zones, and to examine the possibility of setting common criteria/rules for the introduction/functioning of these zones;

50.  Notes that intelligent transport systems (ITS) such as cooperative intelligent transport systems (C-ITS) and innovations such as e-highway (electrified trucks with trolley technology) and platooning could play an important role in enhancing the efficiency, safety and environmental performance of transport system; calls therefore on the Commission to stimulate the development and use of ITS and promote innovations;

51.  Notes that levels of empty running remain high in road transport activities, which has a negative impact on the environment; recalls that, in 2012, almost a quarter (23,2 %) of all vehicle-km of heavy goods vehicles in the EU involved an empty vehicle, and that the high level of empty running is caused by the current restrictions on cabotage operations that are limiting hauliers in further increasing the cargo loads and hence their environmental effectiveness; stresses, therefore, the positive impact of market opening on the environmental efficiency of road transport;

52.  Urges the Commission and the Member States, with a view to decarbonising the road transport sector, to speed up the transition away from traditional fossil-fuel-powered road vehicles to sustainable electric-powered vehicles, such as those using hydrogen fuel cells;

53.  Encourages the Commission to update its manual on external costs from transport, including new data on real driving emissions as well as economic and social damage from climate change;

54.  Highlights the fact that the goals set for making the transition to alternative and renewable energies for road transport should be achieved using an energy mix and existing methods for saving energy; points out that this transition requires corresponding incentives and that the reduction goals should be formulated in a technology-neutral manner;

55.  Notes that alternative fuels, including, but not limited to, compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas and second generation biofuels can be used to facilitate the transition;

o
o   o

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

(1) OJ L 187, 20.7.1999, p. 42.
(2) OJ L 80, 23.3.2002, p. 35.
(3) OJ L 102, 11.4.2006, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 300, 14.11.2009, p. 51.
(5) OJ L 300, 14.11.2009, p. 72.
(6) OJ L 300, 14.11.2009, p. 88.
(7) OJ L 60, 28.2.2014, p. 1.
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0310.
(9) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0009.
(10) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0455.
(11) OJ L 68, 13.3.2015, p. 9.
(12) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0346.
(13) Source: EU Transport in Figures 2016, based on Eurostat.
(14) Source: EU Transport in Figures 2016, based on Eurostat.


Dadaab refugee camp
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European Parliament resolution of 18 May 2017 on the Dadaab refugee camp (2017/2687(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0229RC-B8-0300/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Nairobi declaration of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development for East Africa (IGAD) of 25 March 2017 on durable solutions for Somali refugees and the reintegration of returnees to Somalia,

–  having regard to the UN New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted on 19 September 2016,

–  having regard to the joint communiqué of the Ministerial Tripartite Commission for the Voluntary Repatriation of Somali Refugees living in Kenya issued on 25 June 2016,

–  having regard to the outcome of the EU Valletta summit on migration of 11-12 November 2015,

–  having regard to the Declaration of the Ministerial Conference of the Khartoum Process (The EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative), made in Rome on 28 November 2014,

–  having regard to the Tripartite Agreement on voluntary repatriations signed on 10 November 2013 by the Governments of Somalia and Kenya and the UNHCR,

–  having regard to the decision by the High Court of Kenya of 9 February 2017 ruling against the closure of Dadaab refugee camp,

–  having regard to the decision of the Kenyan Government to appeal the High Court decision of 9 February 2017,

–  having regard to the statement by the spokespersons of Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica and EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Christos Stylianides on the Kenyan Government’s decision to close the Dadaab refugee camps of 20 May 2016,

–  having regard to the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa,

–  having regard to the UN Global Compact on responsibility-sharing for refugees,

–  having regard to the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) National Indicative Programme of Somalia and East Africa,

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

A.  whereas the Horn of Africa region, with nearly 250 million inhabitants and a rapidly growing population, hosts the largest number of internally displaced persons and refugees in Africa and the world; whereas the region faces challenges of irregular migration, forced displacement, trafficking in human beings, people smuggling, terrorism and violent conflict;

B.  whereas the challenges have numerous drivers which vary according to local contexts, but which are commonly rooted in a lack of good governance, socio-economic opportunities, extreme poverty, instability and climate change;

C.  whereas the Dadaab refugee complex was established in 1991 as a temporary solution to those seeking shelter and fleeing persecution, violence and instability in the East Africa region, and most notably to those fleeing the civil war in Somalia; whereas the complex currently comprises five different camps of different peoples and covers an area of 50 square kilometres, with the Hagadera, Dagahaley and Ifo camps being the oldest and most densely populated;

D.  whereas although Dadaab was intended to host around 90 000 people, according to UN estimates the complex currently has a population of approximately 260 000, of which 95 % originate from Somalia and 60 % are under the age of 18; whereas in May 2016 Kenya disbanded its department for refugee affairs, which was responsible for registration, meaning that tens of thousands of people have not been registered, which could in fact increase these numbers further;

E.  whereas refugees at the camp are at risk of violence, while women and children are particularly vulnerable;

F.  whereas for over two decades, Somalia has been affected by severe instability and the absence of state structures, the impact of which has been compounded by recurrent natural hazards linked to climate change; whereas these issues have challenged the resilience and the ability of Somalia’s most vulnerable communities to cope, and have become major drivers of displacement within Somalia and towards neighbouring countries.

G.  whereas after three decades the Somali refugee situation is among the most protracted in the world, with a third generation of refugees being born in exile; whereas nearly one million Somalis are displaced in the region, and a further 1,1 million are displaced within Somalia itself;

H.  whereas Somalia has been among the top five refugee-producing countries globally over the last 15 years, with 1,1 million refugees currently registered, of whom more than 80 % are hosted within the Horn of Africa and Yemen region; whereas the Somali administration has repeatedly expressed a willingness to receive its nationals; whereas Kenya currently plays host to some 500 000 refugees, with numbers continuing to rise on account of growing insecurity in the region, notably in South Sudan;

I.  whereas the security situation in Somalia remains dangerous and unpredictable and attacks by al-Shabaab and other armed and terrorist groups continue; whereas on 6 April 2017 President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ Mohamed declared Somalia a war zone and offered amnesty to members of Islamist militant group al-Shabaab, including training, employment and education, if they laid down their arms within 60 days;

J.  whereas the entire East Africa region is experiencing a major drought, with famine having been declared in parts of South Sudan, threatening up to a million people; whereas a pre-famine alert has been issued for Somalia, which is facing its third famine in 25 years, with the government reporting that 6,2 million people are in need of emergency food assistance; whereas the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, has declared the country’s drought a national disaster with 2,7 million people facing severe hunger; whereas it is anticipated that the situation is likely to deteriorate in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen, which could lead to widespread famine;

K.  whereas according to the United Nations, the drought in Somalia has created additional internal displacement and more than 683 000 people have been forced to leave their homes since November 2016; whereas some 250 000 people died during the last famine in 2011;

L.  whereas on 6 May 2016, the Kenyan Government announced its decision to close Dadaab ‘with the briefest of delays’, citing security concerns and the need to end the protracted refugee situation in the region; whereas, however, on 30 November 2016 the Kenyan Government announced the closure of the Dadaab camp by May 2017; whereas since the IGAD summit of 25 March 2017, all efforts are now focused on the importance of finding a regional and sustainable solution for Somali refugees;

M.  whereas the international community, including the EU, has expressed understanding of the Kenyan Government’s concerns and reasons for closing the camp, but has also highlighted that returns to Somalia have to be conducted in line with international standards, in that they must be voluntary and informed, with returnees having access to objective, neutral and pertinent information, that they must be done in safety, with dignity, and in a sustainable manner, and that returnees must be aware of what will happen should they decide not to volunteer;

N.  whereas on 9 February 2017 the Kenyan High Court ruled, in response to a petition by two Kenyan human rights organisations – the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and Kituo Cha Sheria – that the Kenyan Government’s orders to close the Dadaab refugee camp were discriminatory and amounted to a collective punishment, as well as being excessive, arbitrary and disproportionate;

O.  whereas the debate surrounding the closure of Dadaab has put the spotlight on the slow pace of implementation of the Tripartite Agreement which was signed by the UNHCR and the Governments of Kenya and Somalia in 2013 and aimed at carrying out voluntary returns of Somalis into stable areas of Somalia, an issue that has been openly criticised by the Kenyan Government and other stakeholders;

P.  whereas since the UNHCR started supporting voluntary returns of Somali refugees in 2014, approximately 65 000 people have returned, but the aim to increase the rate of sustainable returns will depend on the situation in Somalia;

Q.  whereas in late August 2016, Somali authorities in Jubaland suspended repatriations to the regional capital, Kismaayo, having been faced with an influx of refugees; whereas, according to the UNHCR, almost 70 % of returnees are children;

R.  whereas the closure of Dadaab will have repercussions in other neighbouring countries, such as Ethiopia, which currently hosts some 245 000 Somali refugees, possibly giving rise to a new influx; whereas this situation shows the interconnected nature of issues relating to refugees, border management and stability, and highlights the need for enhanced regional cooperation in order to address these issues, let alone in the light of the decision to close Dadaab;

S.  whereas for many refugees, especially those from rural areas, the prospect of a return is contingent on their ability to reclaim their land in a country where the land tenure system is weak and forced evictions are common;

T.  whereas the host community of the wider Dadaab region has displayed great humanity, generosity and tolerance given the presence of the camp, but faces enormous economic, development and environmental challenges;

U.  whereas donors have had to shift their attention to other conflicts and reduce their spending given the protracted nature of the situation in Dadaab, meaning refugees in the camp face challenges;

V.  whereas climate change in particular is having a devastating effect on the pastoralist, nomadic lifestyle, which accounts for the livelihoods of a large number of people in the region, who are also facing growing threats brought about by drought, disease, war and dwindling livestock, among other problems;

W.  whereas the EU has allocated EUR 286 million through the European Development Fund (EDF) for the period 2014-2020, focusing on the implementation of the ‘Compact’ and on state and peace building, food security, resilience and education in particular; whereas the EU Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) for Africa was signed at the Valletta Summit on 12 November 2015 and was designed to address the root causes of destabilisation, forced displacement and irregular migration by promoting resilience, economic opportunities, equal opportunities, security and development; whereas the EU is responding to the lifesaving basic needs of refugees hosted in Kenyan refugee camps;

X.  whereas the EU is committed to supporting the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) through the provision of funding to provide security and reduce the threat posed by al-Shabaab and other armed opposition groups; whereas on 23 March 2017 the African Union Commission convened a high-level consultation, in the presence of the EU and the UN, on the future of AMISOM and support for security sector institutions and reform in Somalia; whereas on 11 May 2017 the EU announced new support for Somalia worth EUR 200 million at the London Conference on Somalia;

Y.  whereas following the Executive Order of US President Trump of 27 January 2017, approximately 3 000 refugees, who were due to be resettled in the US from Kenya in 2017, the majority from Dadaab, and with most having already been rigorously screened by US and UN officials and having waited for up to 10 years for their resettlement to be approved, face uncertain futures;

Z.  whereas the EU resettlement efforts should be increased to match the efforts of non-EU countries such as Australia and Canada, in order to meet what the UNHCR considers to be necessary to ensure a fair distribution of refugees worldwide;

AA.  whereas the Nairobi global action plan adopted during the IGAD summit on 25 March 2017 highlighted drought and armed conflict in particular as the reasons for the displacement of people in the region;

AB.  whereas following the deployment of an EU election evaluation mission to Kenya, it was recommended that an EU election observation mission for the general election in August 2017 would be useful and effective;

1.  Commends Kenya and the local region of Dadaab for the role it has played in hosting an unprecedented number of refugees over such a long period; underlines the fact, however, that the current situation in the region is unsustainable and requires an efficient, coordinated response by governments of the region and the international community as a whole, including the EU, in order to bring about a sustainable solution to the Somali refugee question, alongside efforts to increase security and establish long-term socio-economic development in the region;

2.  Takes note of the IGAD Nairobi declaration on durable solutions for Somali refugees and the reintegration of returnees in Somalia; welcomes the commitment to achieve a comprehensive regional approach, while also maintaining protection and promoting self-reliance in the countries of asylum, which is to be undertaken with the support of the international community and consistent with international responsibility-sharing as outlined in the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) of the New York Declaration;

3.  Regrets the very low-key role played by the EU Member States when it comes to efforts to resettle refugees from Dadaab and calls for the EU to live up to its responsibility in ensuring fair burden-sharing;

4.  Points out that as long as instability continues in the wider region and with a renewed risk of famine, refugees will no longer be able to return home; calls for the EU, therefore, to maintain long-term development as its primary objective and to re-double its efforts to engage and play a mediating role in the region in order to solve the underlying economic, political, environmental and security problems, which are the root causes of extreme poverty, criminal activity, radicalisation and terrorism and are ultimately causing the refugee situation;

5.  Underlines the fact that ultimately a regional response will be required to provide continued protection to 260 000 Somali refugees; recalls that the sustainable reintegration of returnees requires a holistic, community-based approach in order to improve absorption capacity and deliver better access to services for returnees, internally displaced persons and local communities in Somalia;

6.  Welcomes the adoption of the Nairobi global and regional action plan, which provides for a progressive closure of the camps to allow refugees to access employment and services in their host country and to be able to move freely; regrets, however, the absence of concrete action on Dadaab; supports the creation of a regional fund for donors;

7.  Considers that given the current circumstances of ongoing security problems in Somalia and a high risk of famine, in any scenario, returns should always be voluntary; calls for a greater sharing of responsibilities when it comes to hosting refugees and establishing additional methods to help refugees to access third countries, including the EU;

8.  Reiterates its support for the aims of the EUTF for Africa in addressing the root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in the East Africa region; demands that the Member States honour their commitments to the fund; calls for the Commission, however, to step up consultation efforts with actors in the region, including the local populations, regional government and NGOs, with a view to focusing on locally identified problems and needs and fostering a conducive climate and increasing the capacity for the return of refugees to their home countries; underlines the fact that Dadaab has created around 10 000 jobs, which are mainly linked to humanitarian activities;

9.  Underlines the importance of a people- and community-centred approach to effectuating EUTF resources for the purposes of assisting with Dadaab returns and establishing development and resilience measures in the region; strongly believes that the EUTF should focus not only on economic development but also on grassroots projects in the region, aimed specifically at improving the quality, equity and universal accessibility of basic services and training for the development of local competences, as well as at responding to the needs of vulnerable communities, including minorities;

10.  Believes that the EUTF should place greater focus on boosting sustainable development in the region, by strengthening economic and employment opportunities and by strengthening resilience; calls for these funds to be put to use in fostering sustainable development and for further expansion of the use of solar power as a source of energy, for example for pumping fresh water, which has proved a successful project in some parts of the Dadaab camp;

11.  Points out that women and children make up over 60 % of the total population of the refugee camp and are perceived as the most vulnerable and marginalised groups within the camp; calls on the Kenyan Government, the regional institutions, the international aid organisations and the international community, including the EU, to adopt a specific approach to assistance measures that addresses the factors influencing the vulnerability of women and children in the camp, such as persecution based on sex and gender, violence against women, sexual abuse and exploitation, extreme poverty and exclusion;

12.  Commends the Somali authorities for progress made in recent months, including with the organisation of elections; underlines the fact, however, that security and socio-economic conditions in many parts of Somalia remain extremely challenging for large-scale returns; calls for the EU and its Member States, therefore, to work alongside the Somali authorities to step up efforts to bring stability to the country before conducting large-scale repatriations;

13.  Calls for the EU and international partners to fulfil commitments to Somalia, namely by undertaking efforts to establish food security in order to avoid the impending famine, to foster security and the reconciliation of communal grievances, to improve the management of public finances and to assist with the completion of the constitutional review, in order to achieve long-term stability;

14.  Calls for the EU to ensure that relocation programmes in the region take particular care that vulnerable groups of people are relocated to safe regions in a responsible manner, and that the rights of the refugees are upheld; calls for the EU and international partners to assist in building up infrastructures across the country so that returning refugees can be re-integrated safely and permanently into Somali society, free from threats by terrorist elements such as al-Shabaab;

15.  Underlines the need to better manage the borders between Somalia and its neighbouring countries, which are considered a playing field for networks engaged in the trafficking and smuggling of people, arms, drugs and other illicit goods, hence providing financing for criminal and terrorist activities; expects the EU Training Mission to Somalia to work closely with AMISOM and the Somali authorities to share best practice on improved border management in order to apprehend traffickers and smugglers;

16.  Recognises that there can be no development without improved security in the region; strongly underlines the fact, however, that funds from EDF and ODA sources must be devoted to economic, human and social development in the region with a particular focus on the development challenges identified by the Trust Fund decision; recalls that EDF and ODA funds should be used exclusively for development objectives which address the root causes of migration;

17.  Points out the need to strengthen the resilience and boost the development of the impacted host communities in the Dadaab region of Kenya, paying attention that livelihoods are not negatively affected by the gradual reduction of Dadaab and public services provided in the town, and the economic shock that this may cause to the population; underlines the fact that the population hosted in Dadaab has put great environmental strain on the region, affecting the local population’s access to natural resources; underlines the fact that this issue should be jointly addressed by the Kenyan Government and through the EU National Indicative Programme for Kenya; expects the Kenyan Government and the EU to recognise the specific needs of this fragile region;

18.  Regrets the US Government’s decision to cut its contribution to the UN agencies by USD 640 million; expresses its concern about the direct impact that this decision will have on the region; insists that the EU’s voluntary contributions to the UN’s funds and agencies, which amount to half of their total budget, are crucial for maintaining global peace and security;

19.  Stresses that the shortfall in the budget of UN agencies such as UNHCR, who provide protection, shelter and humanitarian assistance under difficult and complex circumstances, will only contribute to increased security challenges in the region;

20.  Notes with great concern the serious effects of climate change on the region, which serve as a stark reminder to the EU, its Member States and the international community as a whole of the need to implement the terms of the Paris Agreement, while noting the direct effect such actions have on war and famine in the region;

21.  Instructs its president to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Government of Kenya, the Governor of the Garissa region, the speaker of the Kenyan Parliament, the Government of Somalia, the speaker of the Somali parliament, IGAD, the governments of the IGAD Member States, the UN Secretary-General and the UN High Commissioner for refugees.


Making relocation happen
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European Parliament resolution of 18 May 2017 on making relocation happen (2017/2685(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0230B8-0340/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Council Decision (EU) 2015/1523 of 14 September 2015 establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and of Greece(1),

–  having regard to Council Decision (EU) 2015/1601 of 22 September 2015 establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece(2),

–  having regard to Council Decision (EU) 2016/1754 of 29 September 2016 amending Decision (EU) 2015/1601 establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece(3),

–  having regard to its position of 9 September 2015 on the proposal for a Council decision establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece(4),

–  having regard to its position of 17 September 2015 on the proposal for a Council decision establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy, Greece and Hungary(5),

–  having regard to its position of 15 September 2016 on the proposal for a Council decision amending Council Decision (EU) 2015/1601 of 22 September 2015 establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece(6),

–  having regard to the eleven Commission reports on relocation and resettlement,

–  having regard to the statements by the Council and the Commission of 16 May 2017 on making relocation happen,

–  having regard to the study carried out for its Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, ‘Implementation of the 2015 Council Decisions establishing provisional measures in the area of international protection for the benefit of Italy and of Greece’, published in March 2017,

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

A.  whereas, following the consultation procedure laid down in Article 78(3) of the TFEU, Parliament adopted its position in support of the relocation decisions by a large majority;

B.  whereas the relocation decisions were adopted as an urgent solidarity measure in the absence of a European asylum system based on responsibility-sharing which is still not in place;

C.  whereas Member States have committed to relocating 160 000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece; whereas under Council Decision (EU) 2016/1754 54 000 of those places can be used for the admission of Syrian refugees from Turkey;

D.  whereas the UK has chosen not to opt into this mechanism, while Ireland has opted in; whereas Denmark has chosen not to participate on a voluntary basis, while three associated states chose to take part;

E.  whereas as of 27 April 2017 only 17 903 asylum seekers had been relocated, 12 490 from Greece and 5 413 from Italy; whereas this amounts to just 11 % of the total obligation;

F.  whereas the number of people eligible for relocation present in Italy and Greece is currently below what is foreseen in the Council decisions; whereas so far 26 997 eligible applicants have been registered in Greece while Member States have formally pledged 19 603 relocation places; whereas so far 8 000 eligible applicants have been registered in Italy while Member States have formally pledged 10 659 places; whereas the number of pledges is generally significantly higher than the number of people actually relocated;

G.  whereas only asylum seekers who were already present in Greece before 20 March 2016 are in fact regarded as eligible for relocation; whereas the relocation decisions do not include such a cut-off date for eligibility and were not amended to that effect;

H.  whereas only asylum seekers belonging to a nationality for which the average recognition rate is 75 % or higher, according to the latest available quarterly Eurostat data, are eligible for relocation; whereas Iraqis are no longer eligible for relocation, as their average recognition rate has dropped below 75 %; whereas the European Parliament, in its position of 15 September 2016 on a proposal by the Commission for amending Council Decision (EU) 2015/1601, demanded that Afghans should also be available for relocation; whereas Afghans were the second largest group of asylum seekers which the Union had to deal with in 2016; whereas 56,7 % of them were granted asylum; whereas by far the greatest number of Afghans arrive in Greece; whereas many of them are unaccompanied minors;

I.  whereas 62 300 asylum seekers and migrants are still present in Greece;

J.  whereas Italy marked a new record in terms of arrivals in 2016, with 181 436 (18 % more than in 2015), of whom 14 % were unaccompanied minors; whereas 20 700 Eritreans who are eligible for relocation arrived in 2016, but so far Italy has registered only about a quarter of them for relocation;

K.  whereas in Italy in 2016 the limited number of asylum applicants relocated to other Member States was significantly lower than the number of asylum seekers transferred by Member States to Italy under the Dublin Regulation;

L.  whereas the Commission, in its 8th report on relocation and resettlement, set a monthly relocation target, repeated in the subsequent reports, of 3 000 asylum seekers from Greece and 1 500 from Italy (as of 1 April 2017), in order to facilitate and accelerate relocation in an effective and smooth manner within the timeframe of the Council decisions;

M.  whereas the European Council, at its meeting of 15 December 2016, endorsed the joint action plan on the implementation of the EU-Turkey statement, which included the relocation target for Greece; whereas the European Council also reiterated its call for the further intensification of efforts to accelerate relocation, in particular for unaccompanied minors;

N.  whereas the preconditions and operational infrastructure to make relocation happen are fully in place;

O.  whereas, despite some progress, only two Member States, Finland and Malta, are fully on track to fulfil their relocation obligations; whereas most Member States still lag far behind; whereas four Member States have been relocating on an extremely limited level; whereas two Member States are still not participating at all;

P.  whereas only Finland is systematically taking unaccompanied minors; whereas in Italy around 5 000 relocation places are needed for them, while only one single unaccompanied minor has been relocated so far; whereas in Greece 163 further places are needed as of 12 April 2017;

Q.  whereas some Member States are using highly restrictive and discriminatory preferences, such as granting relocation only to single mothers, or excluding applicants of specific nationalities, such as Eritreans, and apply very extensive security checks; whereas in Greece 961 persons had been rejected as of 7 May 2017 for relocation by Member States;

R.  whereas Council Decision (EU) 2015/1523 clearly stipulates that relocation measures do not absolve Member States from applying in full the provisions of Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 (Dublin) relating to family reunification, special protection of unaccompanied minors, and the discretionary clause concerning humanitarian grounds;

1.  Acknowledges that some progress has been made, but expresses its disappointment regarding the unfulfilled commitments of Member States to solidarity and responsibility sharing;

2.  Welcomes the setting-up of an automated preference matching system by the European Asylum Support Office; calls on Member States not to resort to arbitrary decisions as to whether to accept a relocation request; urges Member States to base rejections solely on the specific grounds established in the Council decisions on relocation;

3.  Urges Member States to fulfil their obligations under the Council decisions and to systematically relocate asylum seekers from Greece and Italy, including those who arrived after 20 March 2016, until all those eligible have been relocated in an effective and smooth manner within the timeframe of the Council decisions; calls on Member States to pledge and transfer on a stable monthly basis;

4.  Calls on the Member States to give priority to the relocation of unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable applicants;

5.  Welcomes the Commission’s announcement in its tenth report on relocation and resettlement of 2 March 2017 that it will not hesitate to make use of its powers under the Treaties if Member States do not increase their relocations soon; understands that this would include infringement proceedings;

6.  Insists that the legal obligations of Member States do not end after 26 September 2017 and that after that date they still have to relocate all eligible applicants who arrived up to that date;

7.  Highlights the fact that the Council has committed itself to the target of 160 000 relocations; notes that the number of persons eligible for relocation differs from this number; calls on the Commission to propose extending relocation measures until the adoption of the recast Dublin Regulation, in line with the terms of its proposal of 4 May 2016 (COM(2016)0270);

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

(1) OJ L 239, 15.9.2015, p. 146.
(2) OJ L 248, 24.9.2015, p. 80.
(3) OJ L 268, 1.10.2016, p. 82.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0306.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0324.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0354.


Implementation of the Council’s LGBTI Guidelines, particularly in relation to the persecution of (perceived) homosexual men in Chechnya, Russia
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European Parliament resolution of 18 May 2017 on the implementation of the Council’s LGBTI Guidelines, particularly in relation to the persecution of (perceived) homosexual men in Chechnya, Russia (2017/2688(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0231RC-B8-0349/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Russia,

–  having regard to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,

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

–  having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Protocols thereto,

–  having regard to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, in particular Chapter 2 on the Rights and Freedoms of Man and Citizen,

–  having regard to the EU Council guidelines of 24 June 2013 to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons,

–  having regard to the EU Council’s conclusions on LGBTI equality of 16 June 2016,

–  having regard to the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, on Torture and Ill-Treatment, and on Human Rights Defenders,

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 February 2014 on the EU Roadmap against homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity(1),

–  having regard to the statement of 13 April 2017 issued by UN human rights experts on the abuse and detention of gay men in Chechnya,

–  having regard to the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019,

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 December 2016 on the Annual Report on human rights and democracy in the world and the European Union’s policy on the matter 2015(2),

–  having regard to the statement of 6 April 2017 issued by the Spokesperson for the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, on the human rights abuses of gay men in Chechnya,

–  having regard to the EU local statement on the human rights abuses of gay men in Chechnya of 19 April 2017,

–  having regard to the EU statement on the continued reports of arrests and murders of gay men by the Chechen Government at the OSCE Permanent Council of 27 April 2017,

–  having regard to the statement issued by the Spokesperson of the US Department of State on 7 April 2017,

–  having regard to the statement issued by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Director on 13 April 2017,

–  having regard to the joint press conference between Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on 24 April 2017,

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

A.  whereas on 1 April 2017 an article was published in the Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reporting that over one hundred men, gay or believed and perceived to be gay, had been abducted and detained in the autonomous republic of Chechnya in the Russian Federation, as part of a coordinated campaign allegedly organised by the republic’s authorities and security forces on the direct orders of the President of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov;

B.  whereas Novaya Gazeta reported that the abducted victims had been mistreated, tortured and forced to disclose the identity of other LGBTI individuals; whereas it was also reported that at least three men had been killed, two as the result of treatment in custody and one by his family in a so-called ‘honour killing’;

C.  whereas the initial reports have been separately confirmed by Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group, both of which cite on-the-ground sources that confirm that men perceived as gay have been targeted for detention by the police and security forces;

D.  whereas the authorities in Chechnya reportedly dismissed these allegations and demonstrated an unwillingness to investigate and prosecute them;

E.  whereas victims largely refrain from seeking justice, as they fear retaliation by local authorities; whereas gay and lesbian people and those perceived to be gay or lesbian are particularly vulnerable owing to strong societal homophobia and risk falling victim to honour killings by their relatives;

F.  whereas after years of threats and repression and a dramatic deterioration in the human rights situation in the North Caucasus, almost no independent journalists or human rights activists are able to work in the region; whereas journalists working for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which exposed the crackdown, have reportedly received death threats over their work; whereas the Chechen authorities have denied all the allegations and demanded that journalists name the interviewed victims;

G.  whereas police in St Petersburg and Moscow detained LGBTI activists attempting to raise awareness of, and demanding an investigation into, the persecution of gay men in Chechnya;

H.  whereas the Russian Federation is a signatory to several international human rights treaties and, as a member of the Council of Europe, to the European Convention on Human Rights, and thus has the duty to ensure the safety of all people who may be at risk, including on account of their sexual orientation; whereas Russia has the obligation and means to investigate the crimes carried out by the Chechen authorities; whereas homosexuality was decriminalised in the Russian Federation in 1993;

I.  whereas President Putin has tasked the Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson, Tatyana Moskalkova, with forming a working group to investigate the allegations;

J.  whereas LGBTI individuals are protected under existing international human rights law and under Russian domestic legislation; whereas, however, specific action is often required to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by LGBTI people, as sexual orientation and gender identity can bring additional risks of discrimination, bullying and prosecution, in schools, workplaces and the wider society, but also within families; whereas it is the task and responsibility of the police, judiciary and authorities to combat these forms of discrimination and counter negative social attitudes;

K.  whereas the EU Council’s LGBTI Guidelines prescribe a proactive attitude on the part of EU delegations and Member State embassies regarding the promotion of LGBTI rights; whereas these Guidelines stipulate that combating LGBTI-phobic violence and supporting LGBTI human rights defenders are priority areas;

L.  whereas on 7 March 2017 Russia adopted legislation decriminalising domestic violence, reducing ‘battery within the family’ from a criminal to an administrative offence, with weaker sanctions for offenders; whereas the European Parliament debated this issue in its Strasbourg part-session of 13-16 March 2017;

1.  Expresses its deep concern at the reports of arbitrary detention and torture of men perceived to be gay in the Republic of Chechnya in the Russian Federation; calls on the authorities to end this campaign of persecution, to immediately release those who are still illegally detained, to ensure legal and physical protection for victims and the human rights defenders and journalists who have worked on this case, and to allow international human rights organisations to conduct a credible investigation into the alleged crimes;

2.  Condemns all statements by the Chechen authorities that condone and incite violence against LGBTI people, including the statement by the Chechen Government spokesperson denying the existence of homosexuals in Chechnya and discrediting the report as ‘lies and absolute disinformation’; deplores the unwillingness of local authorities to investigate and prosecute the serious violations directed specifically at individuals based on their sexual orientation, and reminds the authorities that the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression are universal rights and apply to all; calls for the immediate release of those who are still illegally detained; urges the Russian authorities to provide legal and physical protection for the victims, as well as for the human rights defenders and journalists who have worked on this case;

3.  Notes that President Putin has instructed the Russian Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Prosecutor to investigate the events in Chechnya, and calls on the Commission, the Member States and the Council of Europe to offer material and advisory support to the Russian authorities in this investigation;

4.  Calls on the Chechen authorities and those of the Russian Federation to abide by domestic legislation and international commitments, to uphold the rule of law and universal human rights standards and to promote equality and non-discrimination, including for LGBTI people, supported by measures such as awareness-raising campaigns to promote a culture of tolerance, respect and inclusion based on equality and non-discrimination; calls for immediate protection measures to be taken for vulnerable individuals who could become victims, and for the full rehabilitation of all victims of torture;

5.  Deplores the region’s widespread human rights violations and climate of impunity which enables these acts to take place, and calls for the development of legal and other measures to prevent such violence and monitor and effectively prosecute the perpetrators in cooperation with civil society; underlines that Russia and its government carry the ultimate responsibility for investigating these acts, bringing perpetrators to justice and protecting all Russian citizens from unlawful abuse;

6.  Calls, as a matter of urgency, for immediate, independent, objective and thorough investigations into the acts of imprisonment, torture and murder, in order to bring their intellectual and material authors to justice and to put an end to impunity; welcomes, in this regard, the setting-up of a working group under the lead of the Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson, who is investigating the issue; calls on the Russian authorities to instruct the Prosecutor General’s office to provide genuine anonymity and other protections for victims and witnesses of the Chechen anti-gay purge and their families so that they may participate in the investigation; calls on the EU delegation and the Member States’ embassies and consulates in Russia to actively monitor the investigation, and to further step up efforts to engage with victims, LGBTI people, journalists and human rights defenders currently in danger;

7.  Calls on the Commission to engage with international human rights organisations and Russian civil society, to assist those who have fled Chechnya and to bring this campaign of abuse into the open; furthermore, calls on the Member States to facilitate asylum request procedures for such victims, journalists and human rights defenders in accordance with European and national law;

8.  Welcomes and acknowledges the efforts made by many heads of EU delegations and their staff and Member States’ ambassadors and their staff to support LGBTI human rights defenders and advocate non-discrimination and equal rights; invites heads of EU delegations and other European External Action Service (EEAS) staff to consult with Parliament and the relevant MEPs whenever they have queries or want to provide Parliament with information, including during the annual Ambassadors’ Conference in September; underlines the importance of knowledge and implementation of the LGBTI Guidelines on the part of EU delegations and Member States’ representations; calls, in this connection, on the EEAS and the Commission to push for a more strategic and systematic implementation of the Guidelines, including through awareness raising and training of EU staff in third countries, in order to effectively raise the issue of LGBTI rights in political and human rights dialogues with third countries and in multilateral fora, and to support efforts by civil society;

9.  Firmly underlines the importance of a continuous assessment of the implementation of the Guidelines by using clear benchmarks; urges the Commission to conduct and publish a thorough evaluation of the implementation of the Guidelines by EU delegations and Member States’ diplomatic representations in all third countries with a view to detecting possible differences and gaps in implementation and remedying them;

10.  Deeply regrets that the Russian Federation voted against the June 2016 resolution in the UN Human Rights Council on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity;

11.  Reminds the Russian and Chechen authorities that regional, cultural and religious value systems should not be used as an excuse to condone or engage in the discrimination, violence, torture, and/or detention of individuals or groups, including on the grounds of sexuality or gender identity;

12.  Notes with concern, and as a step backwards, Russia’s adoption of new legislation on domestic violence, including that against children; underlines that legislation which tolerates violence within the family risks severe consequences both for the victims and for society as a whole; calls on the Commission and the EEAS to continue to promote the eradication of all forms of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, to protect those who are vulnerable, and to support the victims, both inside and outside Europe;

13.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council and Commission, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Government and Parliament of the Russian Federation, and the Chechen authorities.

(1) OJ C 93, 24.3.2017, p. 21.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0502.

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