Index 
Texts adopted
Thursday, 26 October 2017 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Implementation of the Environmental Liability Directive
 Framework for simple, transparent and standardised securitisation ***I
 Prudential requirements for credit institutions and investment firms ***I
 Combating sexual harassment and abuse in the EU
 Economic policies of the euro area
 Negotiating mandate for trade negotiations with Australia
 Negotiating mandate for trade negotiations with New Zealand
 Monitoring the application of EU law 2015

Implementation of the Environmental Liability Directive
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European Parliament resolution of 26 October 2017 on the application of Directive 2004/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage (the ‘ELD’) (2016/2251(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0414A8-0297/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Directive 2004/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage(1) (hereinafter the ‘ELD’),

–  having regard to the report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament under Article 18(2) of Directive 2004/35/EC on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage (COM(2016)0204),

–  having regard to Articles 4 and 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Article 37 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to Directive 2001/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 March 2001 on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms and repealing Council Directive 90/220/EEC(2),

–  having regard to the amendment of the ELD through Directive 2006/21/EC(3) on the management of waste from the extractive industries, Directive 2009/31/EC(4) on the geological storage of carbon dioxide and Directive 2013/30/EU(5) on safety of offshore oil and gas operations,

–  having regard to the Commission Staff Working Document – REFIT Evaluation of the Environmental Liability Directive (SWD(2016)0121), which accompanies the Commission report (COM(2016)0204),

–  having regard to the briefing of the European Parliamentary Research Service of 6 June 2016 entitled ‘The implementation of the Environmental Liability Directive: a survey of the assessment process carried out by the Commission’(6),

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure, as well as Article 1(1)(e) of, and Annex 3 to, the decision of the Conference of Presidents of 12 December 2002 on the procedure for granting authorisation to draw up own-initiative reports,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A8-0297/2017),

A.  whereas, according to Article 191(1) of the TFEU, Union policy on the environment must contribute to the pursuit of objectives, such as protecting the health of its citizens, protecting and improving the quality of the environment, promoting the prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources, and promoting measures at international level to address global or regional environmental problems;

B.  whereas Article 191(2) of the TFEU stipulates that Union policy on the environment must aim at a high level of protection and must be based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay;

C.  whereas Article 11 of the TFEU stipulates that environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the Union’s policies and activities, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development;

D.  whereas Article 192 of the TFEU entrusts to the European Parliament and the Council the task of identifying the measures to be taken in order to achieve the general objectives of the Union relating to the environment(7);

E.  whereas Article 37 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights requires that a high level of environmental protection and the improvement of the quality of the environment be integrated into the policies of the Union and ensured in accordance with the principle of sustainable development;

F.  whereas a coordinated environmental strategy across the Union is a way of encouraging cooperation and ensuring that Union policies are consistent with each other;

G.  whereas the current scope of the ELD concerns solely environmental damage to biodiversity (protected species and natural habitats), water and the land, caused by operators;

H.  whereas in order to cover liability for environmental damage, a financial security market has grown up spontaneously, which nevertheless might be insufficient to cover specific cases, such as SMEs or particular types of operations (offshore platforms, nuclear facilities, etc.);

I.  whereas the uneven implementation of the ELD is due primarily, among other issues, to difficulties in ascertaining if the damage to a natural resource has exceeded the set threshold, and to the fact that many Member States have no procedure for examining comments or criticism from environmental NGOs and other stakeholder bodies;

J.  whereas in many Member States large numbers of stakeholders (environmental NGOs, insurance companies, operators, and, above all, the authorities concerned) know little – or in some cases nothing – about the details of the ELD, a situation due not least to the fact that there are no guidance documents to help in transposing the legislation;

K.  whereas many Member States have made progress in effectively achieving the main objectives of preventing and remedying environmental damage; whereas, however, in a few Member States the enforcement of the ELD is still inadequate;

L.  whereas new scientific findings show that pollution from industrial activities can affect both the environment and humans in hitherto unsuspected ways and that this endangers human health, sustainability, and the balance of biological and bio-evolutionary processes;

1.  Acknowledges the importance of the Commission’s studies and reports regarding the assessment of the implementation of the ELD and its impact on the Member States as well as of its recommendations for the effective and coherent implementation of the directive by giving priority to harmonisation of national solutions and practices in a wider legal liability framework; welcomes in that context the development of the Multi-Annual ELD Work Programme (MAWP) for the period 2017-2020;

2.  Observes with concern that the findings of those reports give an alarming picture of the actual implementation of the ELD and notes that the directive has been transposed in a patchy and superficial way in many Member States;

State of play of the implementation of the ELD

3.  Notes that several Member States failed to comply with the deadline for transposing the ELD and that only by mid-2010 had it been transposed by all 27 Member States;

4.  Considers that, owing to the discretionary powers awarded in the ELD and to the significant lack of clarity and uniform application of key concepts as well as to underdeveloped capacities and expertise, the transposition of the ELD into national liability systems has not resulted in a level playing field and that, as confirmed in the Commission report, it is currently totally disparate in both legal and practical terms, with great variability in the amount of cases between Member States; is therefore of the opinion that additional efforts are required to enable regulatory standardisation to take place across the EU;

5.  Notes that this lack of uniformity is also due to the generic nature of the ELD, which was drawn up along the lines of the framework directive model;

6.  Regrets that, in spite of the action taken by the Commission concerning late transposition and issues relating to non-conformity, and that, in spite of the ELD’s extreme flexibility, seven Member States have yet to resolve a number of non-compliance issues;

7.  Notes that inconsistencies among Member States in how they report cases of environmental damage that triggered the application of the ELD(8) can be attributed to the application of their national legislation instead of the ELD;

Limits to the effectiveness of the ELD

8.  Observes that the effectiveness of the ELD varies significantly from Member State to Member State;

9.  Points out that the different interpretations and application of the ‘significance threshold’ for environmental damage are one of the main barriers to an effective and uniform application of the ELD, while precise data on administrative costs for public authorities, including data on the application of complementary and compensatory remediation, are limited, quite divergent, and for businesses, not available at all;

10.  Deplores the fact that under the ELD, incidents are defined as ‘serious’ only if they give rise to deaths or serious injuries, with no reference to the consequences for the environment; highlights therefore that even if it does not give rise to deaths or serious injuries, an incident may have a serious impact on the environment, by virtue of its scale or because it affects, for example, protected areas, protected species or particularly vulnerable habitats;

11.  Regrets that there are activities with potential negative impacts on biodiversity and the environment, such as the pipeline transport of dangerous substances, mining, and the introduction of invasive alien species, that are currently not covered by the requirement for strict liability; notes that in particular for biodiversity damage, the activities listed in Annex III do not sufficiently cover the sectors that could potentially give rise to damage;

12.  Considers that in Article 1 of the ELD the framework of environmental liability should be broadened to include environmental rehabilitation and ecological restoration to the baseline condition after occupational activities have ended, even when environmental damage is caused by activities or emissions expressly authorised by the competent authorities;

13.  Stresses that all stakeholders have reported problems in holding operators strictly liable for dangerous activities referred to in Annex III to the ELD, in relation to successors of liable parties(9);

14.  Recalls the experiences in the implementation of the current financial securities, which have shown to be lacking as regards ensuring that operators have effective cover for financial obligations where they are liable for environmental damage, and is concerned at the cases where operators have not been in a position to bear the costs of environmental remediation;

15.  Stresses that problems persist regarding the application of the directive to large-scale incidents, especially when it is not possible to identify the liable polluter and/or the polluter becomes insolvent or bankrupt;

16.  Notes that the cost of environmental damage for the operators responsible can be reduced through the use of financial security instruments (covering insurance and alternative instruments, such as bank guarantees, bonds, funds or securities); believes that demand is low within the ELD financial security market due to the small number of cases occurring in many Member States, the lack of clarity regarding certain concepts set out in the directive and the fact that in many Member States, depending on the level of maturity of the market for such instruments, insurance models are generally proving slow to emerge;

17.  Notes that the opportunity to improve the provision of financial guarantees is being hampered by the scarcity and contradictory nature of the data on ELD cases in the EU’s possession;

18.  Encourages the Member States to take measures to accelerate the development of financial security instruments and markets by the appropriate economic and financial operators, including financial mechanisms in case of insolvency, with the aim of enabling operators to use financial guarantees to cover their responsibilities;

19.  Draws attention to the Commission’s feasibility study on the concept of an EU-wide industrial disaster risk-sharing facility(10) and emphasises the need to carry out further analysis and a more in-depth feasibility study on the key legal and financial issues;

20.  Welcomes the fact that, as regards the application of the ELD in relation to protected species and natural habitats, half the Member States apply a broader scope (Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom);

21.  Takes the view that among the various causes of the insufficient harmonisation of the ELD is also the failure to provide for the application of a standard administrative procedure for notifying competent authorities of imminent threat of, or actual, environmental damage; regrets therefore that there is no obligation to publish such notifications or information about how the cases were dealt with; notes that some Member States have identified this limitation in their national legislation and thus set up databases about the notifications/incidents/cases; points out, however, that the practice varies broadly from Member State to Member State and is rather limited;

22.  Emphasises that compensatory regimes must be able to address transboundary claims effectively, rapidly, within a reasonable timeframe and without discrimination among claimants from different European Economic Area countries; recommends that they should cover both primary and secondary damage caused in all affected areas, given that such incidents affect wider areas and may have a long-term impact; stresses the need especially for neighbouring countries, which are not members of the European Economic Area, to respect international law regarding environmental protection and liability;

23.  Reiterates that according to Article 4(5) of the ELD, the directive only applies to environmental damage or to an imminent threat of such damage caused by pollution of a diffuse character, where it is possible to establish a causal link between the damage and the activities of individual operators; also reiterates that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had, in its 2013 report, already established a rigorous causal relationship between gas emissions and damage related to climate change and the environment(11);

Suggestions to improve harmonisation of the ELD

24.  Calls for the ELD to be reviewed as soon as possible and the definition of ‘environmental damage’ laid down in Article 2(1) of the directive, specifically with regard to the criteria relating to determining adverse effects on protected species and habitats (Annex I), and to risks of water damage and land damage, to be revised with a view to making it sufficiently effective, consistent and coherent to keep pace with the rapid evolution of pollutants from industrial activities;

25.  Calls on the Commission to clarify, define and set out in detail the concept of ‘significance threshold’ and to assess differentiated maximum liability thresholds for activities, in order to standardise the application of the ELD, making it uniform in all Member States;

26.  Calls on the Commission to provide a clear and coherent interpretation of the geographical scope of ELD ‘favourable conservation status’ (EU territory, national territory, natural landscape area); considers, in this respect, that a site-specific approach is necessary to ensure correct and effective implementation;

27.  Calls on the Commission to determine what rules are necessary to establish a clear and irrefutable distinction between those cases in which the ELD is applicable and those in which the national standard should apply, where this is more stringent;

28.  Notes that air pollution harms human health and the environment and according to Eurostat, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter pollution pose serious health risks; calls in that context for the inclusion of ‘ecosystems’ in the definitions of ‘environmental damage’ and ‘natural resource’ in Article 2; calls, furthermore, on the Commission to consider the possibility of extending the scope of the ELD and imposing liability for damage to human health and the environment, including damage to the air(12);

29.  Calls on the Commission to introduce mandatory financial security, e.g. a mandatory environmental liability insurance for operators and to develop a harmonised EU methodology for calculating the maximum liability thresholds, taking account of the characteristics of each activity and its surrounding area; calls, in addition, on the Commission to consider the possibility of establishing a European fund for the protection of the environment from damage caused by industrial activity governed by the ELD(13), without undermining the polluter-pays principle, for insolvency risks and only in cases where financial security markets fail; considers that the same should apply to cases of large-scale accidents, when it is impossible to trace the operator responsible for the damage;

30.  Calls for any operator benefiting from the carrying-out of activities to be also liable for any environmental damage or pollution caused by those activities;

31.  Is of the view that considering the relevance and potential impacts of industry-related disasters and the risks posed to human health, the natural environment and property, further safeguards need to be added in order to provide European citizens with a safe and sound disaster prevention and management system based on risk-sharing, stepped-up responsibility of industrial operators and the polluter-pays principle; calls for an assessment of whether it is necessary to include in the ELD a third-party liability regime for damage caused to human health and the environment(14);

32.  Calls for the adoption of a regime for the secondary liability of successors of liable parties;

33.  Recommends that the option of requiring subsidiary state liability be made mandatory in order to ensure effective and proactive implementation of the legislation;

34.  Calls furthermore for the removal of the options for granting permit defence and state-of-the art defence in order to create a level playing field, promote the polluter-pays principle and improve the effectiveness of the legislation;

35.  Calls on the Commission to come forward with a proposal for environmental inspections at the European level without further delay;

36.  Considers that in the context of a review of the ELD, it should be a priority to extend strict liability to non-Annex III activities for all environmental damage with adverse effects, so as to improve the effectiveness of the legislation in implementing the polluter-pays principle and to provide an incentive for operators to undertake proper risk management for their activities; calls in that context on the Commission to establish a register for operators who engage in dangerous activities and a financial monitoring scheme to ensure that operators are solvent;

37.  Calls on the Commission to ensure the application of the ELD to environmental damage caused by any occupational activity and to ensure strict producer liability;

38.  Calls for the establishment of a publicly available European database of cases of environmental damage governed by the ELD modelled on, for example, the Irish reporting system whereby cases of environmental damage can be notified online, in order to create greater trust in the ELD system and to ensure better implementation; considers that such a public database would enable stakeholders, operators and citizens to become more aware of the existence of the ELD regime and its enforcement and would thus contribute to better prevention and remediation of environmental damages;

39.  Recommends that, in order for public databases of ELD cases to be easily accessible and effective, they should be set up in accordance with the following criteria:

   they should be available online and additional information pertaining to the cases should be granted upon request,
   each country should have a centralised database rather than separate databases for every region,
   notifications about new incidents should be immediately published online,
   each case registered in the database should include information about the name of the polluter, nature and extent of the damage caused, prevention/remediation action measures taken or to be taken, proceedings carried out by/and or with the authorities;

40.  Calls for the categories of dangerous activities set out in Annex III to be expanded to include all activities that are potentially harmful to the environment and human health;

41.  Stresses the importance of a culture of environmental damage prevention, through a systematic information campaign in which Member States ensure that potential polluters and potential victims are informed of the risks to which they are exposed, of the availability of insurance or other financial and legal means that could protect them from those risks, and of the benefits they could gain from them;

42.  Considers that all cases of proven liability as well as the details of penalties imposed should be made public in order to make the true cost of environmental damage transparent to all;

43.  Proposes that a channel be set up to encourage environmentalist NGOs and other stakeholder bodies to put forward their comments and criticisms;

44.  Suggests that tax relief or other favourable arrangements be introduced for companies which successfully endeavour to prevent environmental damage;

45.  Recommends the establishment of specific independent authorities to be vested with management and monitoring powers as well as the power to impose penalties laid down in the ELD, including the possibility of requiring financial guarantees of potentially liable parties, taking into account the specific situation of the individual potential polluter, for example, with regard to environmental permits;

46.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the ELD adequately supports efforts to achieve the objectives of the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives; insists that the authorities responsible for environmental inspections must be involved in the implementation and enforcement of environmental liability law;

47.  Calls on the Commission to step up its training programme for the application of the ELD in the Member States and to set up helpdesks for practitioners providing information, assistance and assessment support for risk and damage evaluations; recommends in addition that guidance documents be adopted to help Member States transpose the legislation correctly;

48.  Reiterates that, in accordance with the ELD, persons adversely affected by environmental damage are entitled to ask the competent authorities to take action; also notes that Union law stipulates that European citizens should be guaranteed effective and timely access to justice (Article 9(3) of the Aarhus Convention, Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union and the relevant provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights) and that the costs of the environmental harm should be borne by the polluter (Article 191 of the TFEU); calls therefore on the Commission to come up with a legislative proposal on minimum standards for implementing the Aarhus Convention’s access to justice pillar; asks the Commission to assess the possibility of introducing collective redress mechanisms for breaches of the Union’s environmental law;

49.  Calls on the Commission, in the context of a review of the ELD, to consider whether it might impose an obligation on Member States to submit reports every two years on the application of the directive;

50.  Considers criminal sanctions to be another important deterrent against environmental damage, and notes with regret that Directive 2008/99/EC of 19 November 2008 on the protection of the environment through criminal law is not up to date; calls on the Commission to take action, without further delay, to review that directive’s scope so that it covers all applicable Union environmental legislation;

o
o   o

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

(1) OJ L 143, 30.4.2004, p. 56.
(2) OJ L 106, 17.4.2001, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 102, 11.4.2006, p. 15.
(4) OJ L 140, 5.6.2009, p. 114.
(5) OJ L 178, 28.6.2013, p. 66.
(6) PE 556.943.
(7) Judgment of the Court of Justice of 9 March 2010, ERG and Others, C-378/08, ECLI:EU:C:2010:126, paragraph 45; Judgment of the Court of Justice of 9 March 2010, ERG and Others, C-379/08 and C-380/08, ECLI:EU:C:2010:127, paragraph 38; Judgment of the Court of Justice of 9 March 2010, Buzzi Unicem SpA and Others, C‑478/08 and C‑479/08, ECLI:EU:C:2010:129, paragraph 35.
(8) According to the Commission report (COM(2016)0204), between April 2007 and April 2013, Member States reported around 1 245 confirmed cases of environmental damage which triggered the application of the ELD. Moreover, according to the same report, the number of cases varies considerably from one Member State to another. Two Member States account for over 86 % of all reported cases (Hungary: 563, Poland: 506 cases), most of the remaining cases having been reported by six Member States (60 by Germany, 40 by Greece, 17 by Italy and 8 by Latvia, Spain and the United Kingdom). 11 Member States reported no such incidents in 2007, possibly because they deal with them exclusively under their national system.
(9) Judgment of the Court of Justice of 4 March 2015, Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare and others v Fipa Group Srl and others, Case C-534/13, ECLI:EU:C:2015:140.
(10) Study to explore the feasibility of creating a fund to cover environmental liability and losses occurring from industrial accidents, Final Report, European Commission, DG ENV, 17 April 2013.
(11) IPCC, 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Stocker, T.F. et al. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp, doi:10.1017/CBO9781107415324).
(12) This option was considered in the Commission document of 19 February 2014 ‘Study on ELD Effectiveness: Scope and Exceptions’, p. 84.
(13) As regards this option please refer to the document published by the Commission on 17 April 2013 entitled ‘Study to explore the feasibility of creating a fund to cover environmental liability and losses occurring from industrial accidents’.
(14) As already provided for in Portugal and as assessed in the Commission study of 16 May 2013 entitled ‘Implementation challenges and obstacles of the Environmental Liability Directive (ELD)’, p. 75.


Framework for simple, transparent and standardised securitisation ***I
PDF 242kWORD 54k
Resolution
Text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 26 October 2017 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down common rules on securitisation and creating a European framework for simple, transparent and standardised securitisation and amending Directives 2009/65/EC, 2009/138/EC, 2011/61/EU and Regulations (EC) No 1060/2009 and (EU) No 648/2012 (COM(2015)0472 – C8-0288/2015 – 2015/0226(COD))
P8_TA(2017)0415A8-0387/2016

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2015)0472)),

–  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 (C8‑0288/2015),

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

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Central Bank of 11 March 2016(1),

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 20 January 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 28 June 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 Economic and Monetary Affairs (A8-0387/2016),

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 26 October 2017 with a view to the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2017/… of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down a general framework for securitisation and creating a specific framework for simple, transparent and standardised securitisation, and amending Directives 2009/65/EC, 2009/138/EC and 2011/61/EU and Regulations (EC) No 1060/2009 and (EU) No 648/2012

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Regulation (EU) 2017/2402.)

(1) OJ C 219, 17.6.2016, p. 2.
(2) OJ C 82, 3.3.2016, p. 1.


Prudential requirements for credit institutions and investment firms ***I
PDF 241kWORD 52k
Resolution
Text
European Parliament legislative resolution of 26 October 2017 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 575/2013 on prudential requirements for credit institutions and investment firms (COM(2015)0473 – C8-0289/2015 – 2015/0225(COD))
P8_TA(2017)0416A8-0388/2016

(Ordinary legislative procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council (COM(2015)0473),

–  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 (C8‑0289/2015),

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

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Central Bank of 11 March 2016(1),

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 20 January 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 28 June 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 Economic and Monetary Affairs (A8-0388/2016),

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 26 October 2017 with a view to the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2017/… of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 575/2013 on prudential requirements for credit institutions and investment firms

(As an agreement was reached between Parliament and Council, Parliament's position corresponds to the final legislative act, Regulation (EU) 2017/2401.)

(1) OJ C 219, 17.6.2016, p. 2.
(2) OJ C 82, 3.3.2016, p. 1.


Combating sexual harassment and abuse in the EU
PDF 195kWORD 55k
European Parliament resolution of 26 October 2017 on combating sexual harassment and abuse in the EU (2017/2897(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0417RC-B8-0576/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 2 and 3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Articles 8, 10, 19 and 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which entered into force with the Treaty of Lisbon in December 2009, and in particular Articles 20, 21, 23 and 31 thereof,

–  having regard to the 2014 report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) entitled ‘Violence against women’(1),

–  having regard to Directive 2006/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation(2),

–  having regard to Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004 implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services(3), which defines and condemns harassment and sexual harassment,

–  having regard to the Gender Equality Index Report of the European Institute for Gender Equality,

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

–  having regard to the EU Presidency Trio declaration of July 2017 by Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria on equality between women and men,

–  having regard to the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women,

–  having regard to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women on 15 September 1995, and to the subsequent outcome documents adopted at the United Nations Beijing +5 (2000), Beijing +10 (2005), Beijing +15 (2010) and Beijing +20 (2015) special sessions, and to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol,

–  having regard to Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA(4) (the Victims’ Rights Directive),

–  having regard to the Framework Agreement on Harassment and Violence at Work (2007) between ETUC/CES, BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME and CEEP,

–  having regard to the report of the European Network of Equality Bodies (EQUINET) entitled ‘The Persistence of Discrimination, Harassment and Inequality for Women. The work of equality bodies informing a new European Commission Strategy for Gender Equality’, published in 2015,

–  having regard to the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence(5), in particular Articles 2 and 40 thereof, and to its resolution of 12 September 2017 on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion, by the European Union, of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence(6),

–  having regard to its resolutions of 20 September 2001 on harassment at the workplace(7), of 26 November 2009 on the elimination of violence against women(8), of 5 April 2011 on priorities and outline of a new EU policy framework to fight violence against women(9), of 15 December 2011 on the mid-term review of the European strategy 2007-2012 on health and safety at work(10), of 25 February 2014 with recommendations to the Commission on combating violence against women(11) and the accompanying European Added Value Assessment of November 2013, and of 24 November 2016 on the EU accession to the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women(12),

–  having regard to its resolutions of 14 March 2017 on equality between women and men in the European Union in 2014-2015(13), of 10 March 2015 on progress on equality between women and men in the European Union in 2013(14), and of 24 October 2017 on legitimate measures to protect whistle-blowers acting in the public interest when disclosing the confidential information of companies and public bodies(15),

–  having regard to Article 12a of the Staff Regulations of Officials and the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants of the European Union,

–  having regard to the guide for Members of the European Parliament entitled ‘Zero Harassment at the Work Place’, issued in September 2017, and the action plan of Parliament’s administration on this crucial matter,

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

A.  whereas gender equality is a core value of the EU – as recognised in the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights – which the EU has committed to integrating into all its activities;

B.  whereas the EU is a community of values, based on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, enshrined in its core principles and objectives in the first articles of the TEU and in the criteria for Union membership;

C.  whereas sexual harassment is defined in EU law as ‘where any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature occurs, with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment’(16);

D.  whereas sexual harassment is a form of violence against women and girls and is the most extreme yet persistent form of gender-based discrimination; whereas some 90 % of victims of sexual harassment are female and approximately 10 % are male; whereas according to the EU-wide FRA study of 2014 entitled ‘Violence against women’ one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence during their adult lives; whereas up to 55 % of women have been sexually harassed in the EU; whereas 32 % of all victims in the EU said the perpetrator was a superior, colleague or customer; whereas 75 % of women in professions requiring qualifications or top management jobs have been sexually harassed; whereas 61 % of women employed in the service sector have been subjected to sexual harassment; whereas 20 % of young women (between the ages of 18 and 29) in the EU-28 have experienced cyber harassment; whereas one in ten women have been subjected to sexual harassment or stalking using new technology;

E.  whereas cases of sexual harassment and bullying are significantly underreported to the authorities due to a fairly persistent low social awareness of the issue, insufficient channels for victim support and the perception that it is a sensitive issue for society, despite the existence of formal procedures to tackle it in the workplace and in other spheres;

F.  whereas sexual violence and harassment in the workplace is a matter of health and safety and should be treated and prevented as such;

G.  whereas discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation is prohibited by EU law;

H.  whereas sexual violence and harassment are contrary to the principle of gender equality and equal treatment and constitute gender-based discrimination, and are therefore prohibited in employment, including with regard to access to employment, vocational training and promotion;

I.  whereas the persistence of gender stereotypes, sexism, sexual harassment and abuse is a structural and widespread problem throughout Europe and the world, and is a phenomenon that involves victims and perpetrators of all ages, educational backgrounds, incomes and social positions, and whereas this has physical, sexual, emotional and psychological consequences for the victim; whereas the unequal distribution of power between men and women, gender stereotypes and sexism, including sexist hate speech, offline and online, are root causes of all forms of violence against women and have led to men’s domination over women and discrimination against them and to women’s full advancement being prevented;

J.  whereas the Beijing Platform for Action’s definition of violence against women encompasses, but is not limited to, physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere(17);

K.  whereas the Victims’ Rights Directive defines gender-based violence as a form of discrimination and a violation of the fundamental freedoms of the victim and includes violence in close relationships, sexual violence (including rape, sexual assault and harassment), trafficking in human beings, slavery, and different forms of harmful practices, such as forced marriages, female genital mutilation and so-called ‘honour crimes’; whereas women victims of gender-based violence and their children often require special support and protection because of the high risk of secondary and repeat victimisation, of intimidation and of retaliation connected with such violence(18);

L.  whereas EU law requires that Member States must ensure that an equality body is in place to provide independent assistance to victims of harassment and sexual harassment, conduct independent surveys, publish independent reports and make recommendations in matters of employment and vocational training, in the access to and supply of goods and services, and for the self-employed;

M.  whereas sexual harassment and abuse, predominantly by men against women, is a structural and widespread problem throughout Europe and the world, and is a phenomenon that involves victims and perpetrators of all ages, educational backgrounds, incomes and social positions, and that is linked to the unequal distribution of power between women and men in our society;

N.  whereas gender equality is the responsibility of all individuals in society and requires the active contribution of both women and men; whereas the authorities should commit to the development of education and awareness campaigns directed at men and the younger generations, with the aim of involving men and boys as partners, gradually preventing and eliminating all forms of gender-based violence and promoting or empowering women;

O.  whereas women in the European Union are not equally protected against gender-based violence, sexual harassment and abuse owing to differing policies and legislation across the Member States; whereas judiciary systems do not provide sufficient support to women; whereas the perpetrators of gender-based violence are often already known to the victim and whereas in many cases the victim is in a position of dependence, which increases their fear of reporting the violence;

P.  whereas all Member States have signed the Istanbul Convention, but only 15 have ratified it; whereas the EU’s accession to the Convention does not exonerate Member States from ratification at national level; whereas Article 40 of the Istanbul Convention stipulates that ‘parties shall take the necessary legislative and other measures to ensure that any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, is subject to criminal or other legal sanction’;

Q.  whereas violence and harassment in political life is disproportionately targeted at women; whereas such violence constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the obligation to ensure that women can freely participate in political representation;

R.  whereas sexual harassment is defined in Article 12a of the Staff Regulations of Officials and the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants of the European Union;

S.  whereas sexual harassment or sexist behaviour is not harmless and whereas trivialising sexual harassment or sexual violence by using understated language reflects sexist attitudes towards women and communicates messages of control and power in the relationship between men and women, impacting on women’s dignity, autonomy and freedom;

T.  whereas Parliament has established specific structures and internal rules to address sexual harassment in the House, namely the Advisory Committee dealing with harassment complaints between Accredited Parliamentary Assistants (APAs) and Members of the European Parliament, while an Advisory Committee on harassment and its prevention in the workplace is dealing with other formal procedures related to staff members of Parliament’s administration and political groups in order to assess possible cases and to prevent sexual harassment and abuse;

U.  whereas politicians, as elected representatives of citizens, have a crucial responsibility to act as positive role models in preventing and combating sexual harassment in society;

Zero tolerance and the fight against sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the EU

1.  Strongly condemns all forms of sexual violence and physical or psychological harassment and deplores the fact that these acts are too easily tolerated, whereas in fact they constitute a systemic violation of fundamental rights and a serious crime that must be punished as such; stresses that impunity must end by ensuring that perpetrators are prosecuted;

2.  Insists on effective implementation of the existing legal framework addressing sexual harassment and abuse, encouraging at the same time the EU Member States, as well as public and private companies, to take further measures to effectively prevent and end sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere; stresses that the dedicated legal procedures established to address sexual harassment cases in the workplace should be followed;

3.  Welcomes initiatives such as the #MeToo movement that aim to report cases of sexual harassment and violence against women; strongly supports all the women and girls who have participated in the campaign, including those who denounced their perpetrators;

4.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to adequately monitor the correct implementation of the EU directives prohibiting harassment on the basis of gender and sexual harassment, and to ensure that the EU Member States strengthen the human resource capacity of equality bodies supervising discriminatory practices and make sure that these bodies are given a clear mandate and adequate resources to cover the three areas of employment, self-employment and access to goods and services;

5.  Calls on the Commission to assess, exchange and compare the existing best practices of combating sexual harassment in the workplace and to disseminate the results of this assessment as regards the effective measures that Member States could take to encourage companies, social partners and organisations involved in vocational training to prevent all forms of gender-based discrimination, in particular as regards harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace;

6.  Highlights the central role of all men in committing to change and to ending all forms of harassment and sexual violence, by combating circumstances and structures which enable, even passively, the behaviour that leads to this and challenging any misconduct or inappropriate behaviour; calls on the Member States to actively involve men in awareness-raising and prevention campaigns;

7.  Believes that key actions to combat sexual harassment include tackling the issues of under-reporting and social stigma, establishing procedures of workplace accountability, active engagement of men and boys in violence prevention, and action against emerging forms of violence, e.g. in cyberspace;

8.  Is alarmed that harassment of women online and especially on social media, ranging from unwanted contact, trolling and cyber-bullying to sexual harassment and threats of rape and death, is becoming widespread in our digital society, which also gives rise to new forms of violence against women and girls, such as cyber-bullying, cyber-harassment, the use of degrading images online and the distribution on social media of private photos and videos without the consent of the people involved;

9.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that funding mechanisms for programmes to combat violence against women can be used for awareness raising and to support civil society organisations addressing violence against women, including sexual harassment;

10.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to speed up the ratification of the Istanbul Convention; calls on the Member States to fully implement it, including by setting up a system of disaggregated data collection, which includes data broken down by the age and gender of the perpetrators and the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, and which includes sexual harassment;

11.  Calls on the Commission to submit a proposal for a directive against all forms of violence against women and girls and of gender-based violence; reiterates its call for the Commission to put forward a comprehensive EU strategy against all forms of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment and sexual abuse against women and girls;

12.  Calls on the Council to activate the passerelle clause by adopting a unanimous decision to identify violence against women and girls (and other forms of gender-based violence) as an area of crime under Article 83(1) TFEU;

13.  Calls for better inclusion of women in decision-making processes, in unions and in senior positions of organisations in the public and private sectors; calls on the Commission and the Member States, together with NGOs, social partners and equality bodies, to step up significant awareness-raising measures as regards the rights of the victims of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination; stresses the urgent need for Member States, employers’ organisations and trade unions to promote awareness of sexual harassment and to support and encourage women to report incidents immediately;

14.  Stresses the importance of dedicated training and awareness-raising campaigns regarding existing formal procedures on reporting sexual harassment in the workplace and victims’ rights, thus enforcing the principle of dignity at work and promoting a zero-tolerance approach as the norm;

Sexual harassment in parliaments, including the European Parliament

15.  Strongly condemns the cases of sexual harassment that have been revealed in the media and expresses its strong support towards the victims of sexual harassment and abuse; stresses that, in order to be taken seriously, it is crucial for the EU institutions to firmly stand against any form of gender discrimination or any action that hinders gender equality;

16.  Acknowledges the fact that, by a Bureau decision of 14 April 2014, the European Parliament adopted new rules which included the creation of dedicated bodies such as the Advisory Committee dealing with harassment complaints between Accredited Parliamentary Assistants and Members of the European Parliament and its prevention at the workplace and an earlier Advisory Committee dealing with harassment complaints and its prevention at the workplace for EP staff; notes with satisfaction the introduction of confidential reporting and the launch of an awareness-raising campaign aimed at combating sexual harassment within the House; notes the fact that other EU institutions have created similar bodies;

17.  Calls on the President of Parliament and Parliament’s administration:

   to urgently and thoroughly examine the recent media reports on sexual harassment and abuse in the European Parliament, while respecting the privacy of the victims, to share the findings with its Members and to propose adequate measures to prevent new cases;
   to evaluate and, if necessary, revise the composition of competent bodies so as to ensure independence and gender balance, and to further reinforce and promote the functioning of its Advisory Committee dealing with complaints of harassment between APAs and Members of Parliament as well as its Staff Advisory Committee for Parliament staff on harassment prevention, while acknowledging their important work;
   to revise its rules to also include trainees in all Advisory Committees on harassment prevention and to reinforce interest in strengthening their positive measures, and to avoid conflicts of interest regarding members of those important committee structures; to investigate formal cases, to maintain a confidential register of cases over time, and to adopt the best means to ensure zero tolerance at all levels in the institution;
   to set up a task force of independent experts to be convened with a mandate to examine the situation of sexual harassment and abuse in Parliament, which will carry out an evaluation of Parliament’s existing Advisory Committee dealing with complaints of sexual harassment between APAs and Members of Parliament and the Staff Advisory Committee for Parliament staff on harassment prevention, and propose adequate changes;
   to fully support victims in procedures within Parliament and/or with the local police; to activate emergency protection or safeguarding measures where necessary and to fully implement Article 12a of the Staff Regulations, ensuring that cases are fully investigated and disciplinary measures applied;
   to ensure the implementation of a strong and effective action plan against sexual harassment in the interest of prevention and support and mandatory training for all staff and Members on respect and dignity at work so as to ensure that a zero-tolerance approach becomes the norm; to fully engage in awareness-raising campaigns with all Members and services of the administration, with a special focus on groups in the most vulnerable positions, such as trainees, APAs and contract agents;
   to set up an institutional network of confidential counsellors tailored to Parliament’s structures to support, advise and speak on behalf of victims, when needed, as is the practice for the Commission staff;

18.  Calls on all colleagues to support and encourage victims to speak out and report cases of sexual harassment through improved formal procedures within Parliament’s administration and/or to the police;

19.  Resolves to adopt internal rules on whistle-blowing to safeguard the rights and interests of whistle-blowers and provide adequate remedies if they are not treated correctly and fairly in relation to their whistle-blowing;

20.  Is very concerned that, all too often, assistants of Members (APAs) are afraid to speak out in cases of sexual harassment, as the ‘loss of trust’ clause in the APA statute means they can be dismissed with very short notice; calls for the participation of independent experts in dismissal procedures alongside the representatives of the administration with a view to an unbiased decision being reached;

21.  Recommends that the European Ombudsman provide Parliament’s High Level Group on Gender Equality and Diversity with data once a year as regards complaints about maladministration relating to gender equality in Parliament, with due respect for the decision of the European Parliament on the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman’s duties;

22.  Calls on the Member States to examine the situation of sexual harassment and abuse in their national parliaments, to take active measures to combat it, and to implement and adequately enforce a policy of respect and dignity at work for elected members and staff; calls for the implementation of such a policy to be monitored;

23.  Calls on the Member States to provide protective support for parliamentarians engaging with the public, particularly those experiencing sexual abuse and threats of gender-based violence, including online;

24.  Calls for exchanges of best practice to be organised at all levels with other institutions and organisations such as UN Women, the Council of Europe, the EU institutions and stakeholders involved in promoting gender equality;

25.  Calls on all politicians to act as responsible role models in preventing and combating sexual harassment in parliaments and beyond;

o
o   o

26.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

(1) http://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2014/violence-against-women-eu-wide-survey-main-results-report
(2) OJ L 204, 26.7.2006, p. 23.
(3) OJ L 373, 21.12.2004, p. 37.
(4) OJ L 315, 14.11.2012, p. 57.
(5) https://rm.coe.int/168008482e
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0329.
(7) OJ C 77 E, 28.3.2002, p. 138.
(8) OJ C 285 E, 21.10.2010, p. 53.
(9) OJ C 296 E, 2.10.2012, p. 26.
(10) OJ C 168 E, 14.6.2013, p. 102.
(11) OJ C 285, 29.8.2017, p. 2.
(12) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0451.
(13) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0073.
(14) OJ C 316, 30.8.2016, p. 2.
(15) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0402.
(16) http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/files/your_rights/final_harassement_en.pdf
(17) http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/violence.htm
(18) See recital 17 of the Victims’ Rights Directive.


Economic policies of the euro area
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European Parliament resolution of 26 October 2017 on the economic policies of the euro area (2017/2114(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0418A8-0310/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), in particular Articles 121(2) and 136 thereof, and to Protocols No 1 and No 2,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 22 May 2017 on the 2017 country-specific recommendations (COM(2017)0500),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 February 2017 on the European Semester for economic policy coordination: Annual Growth Survey 2017(1),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 22 February 2017 entitled ‘2017 European Semester: Assessment of progress on structural reforms, prevention and correction of macroeconomic imbalances, and results of in-depth reviews under Regulation (EU) No 1176/2011’ (COM(2017)0090),

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘2017 Annual Growth Survey’ (COM(2016)0725), to the reports entitled ‘2017 Alert Mechanism Report’ (COM(2016)0728) and ‘2017 Draft Joint Employment Report from the Commission and the Council’ (COM(2016)0729), and to the Commission recommendation for a Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area (COM(2015)0692),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 16 November 2016 entitled ‘Towards a positive fiscal stance for the euro area’ (COM(2016)0727),

–  having regard to the report of the European Fiscal Board on ‘Assessment of the prospective fiscal stance appropriate for the euro area’ of 20 June 2017,

–  having regard to the Occasional Paper No 182 on a ‘Euro area fiscal stance’ by the European Central Bank of January 2017,

–  having regard to the Council recommendation of 21 March 2017 on the economic policy of the euro area(2),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 23 May 2017 on in-depth reviews and implementation of the 2016 country-specific recommendations,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 16 June 2017 on the closing of excessive deficit procedures for two Member States and on economic and fiscal policies,

–  having regard to the Commission European Economic Forecast – Spring 2017 of May 2017,

–  having regard to the Eurostat dataset details on real GDP per capita, growth rate and totals of 31 May 2017,

–  having regard to the OECD statistics on total tax revenue of 30 November 2016,

–  having regard to the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union,

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

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1175/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1466/97 on the strengthening of the surveillance of budgetary positions and the surveillance and coordination of economic policies(3),

–  having regard to Council Directive 2011/85/EU of 8 November 2011 on requirements for budgetary frameworks of the Member States(4),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1174/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011 on enforcement measures to correct excessive macroeconomic imbalances in the euro area(5),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU) No 1177/2011 of 8 November 2011 amending Regulation (EC) No 1467/97 on speeding up and clarifying the implementation of the excessive deficit procedure(6),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1176/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011 on the prevention and correction of macroeconomic imbalances(7),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1173/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 November 2011 on the effective enforcement of budgetary surveillance in the euro area(8),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 473/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on common provisions for monitoring and assessing draft budgetary plans and ensuring the correction of excessive deficit of the Member States in the euro area(9),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 472/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on the strengthening of economic and budgetary surveillance of Member States in the euro area experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability(10),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the Committee on Regional Development (A8-0310/2017),

A.  whereas according to the Commission’s forecasts, the GDP growth rate for the euro area was 1,8 % in 2016 and is set to remain steady at 1,7 % in 2017 and at 1,9 % in the EU overall, surpassing pre-crisis levels while still being insufficient with significant differences in growth rates across the EU; whereas private consumption has been the main growth driver over the past few years, while possibly moderating this year due to the temporary rise in consumer inflation, yet domestic demand is expected to drive the growth outlook over the medium term; whereas the growth in EU remains too low to create new jobs in Member States and much lower than the projected growth for the whole world;

B.  whereas the euro area and EU-28 unemployment rates were 9,3 % and 7,8 % respectively in April 2017, their lowest rates since March 2009 and December 2008; but still above the pre-crisis levels; whereas significant differences in unemployment rates remain across the EU ranging between 3,2 % and 23,2 %; whereas the euro area and EU-28 youth unemployment rates were still at high levels in April 2017, specifically 18,7 % and 16,7 %;

C.  whereas the general government deficit in the euro area is projected to stand at 1,4 % in 2017 and 1,3 % in 2018, while the performance of individual Member States is expected to be heterogeneous; whereas the general government debt-to-GDP ratio in the euro area is forecast to stand at 90,3 % in 2017 and 89,0 % in 2018;

D.  whereas global economic growth is still fragile and the euro area economy is facing increased uncertainty and important internal and external political challenges;

E.  whereas the EU’s excessively low productivity and global competitiveness calls for socially-balanced structural reforms, continued fiscal efforts and investment in Member States in order to bring about sustainable and inclusive growth and employment and achieve upward convergence with other global economies and within the EU;

F.  whereas the employment rate in the euro area grew by 1,4 % in 2016; whereas in March 2017 the unemployment rate stood at 9,5 %, down from 10,2 % in March 2016; whereas despite recent improvements, unemployment rates have not yet returned to pre-crisis levels;

G.  whereas the employment rate grew by 1,2 % in 2016 in the EU-28, and 234,2 million people were in employment in the first quarter of 2017, the highest number ever recorded(11); whereas, however, the considerable number of jobs created in relation to economic growth hides challenges, such as the incomplete recovery in hours worked and modest productivity growth; whereas if lasting, these factors may put additional pressure on long-run economic growth aspects and social cohesion in the EU(12);

H.  whereas employment rates are generally lower among women: in 2015, the employment rate for men aged 20-64 stood at 75,9 % in the EU-28, as compared with 64,3 % for women;

I.  whereas in March 2017 the youth unemployment rate in the euro area was 19,4 %, compared with 21,3 % in March 2016; whereas youth unemployment remains unacceptably high; whereas in 2015 the share of NEETs remained high and represented 14,8 % of 15-29 year olds, namely 14 million people; whereas NEETs are estimated to cost the Union EUR 153 billion (1,21 % of GDP) a year – in benefits and foregone earnings and taxes(13), while the total estimated cost of establishing Youth Guarantee schemes in the euro area is EUR 21 billion a year, or 0,22 % of GDP; whereas EUR 1 billion is currently allocated to the Youth Employment Initiative, a sum which is to be matched by EUR 1 billion from the European Social Fund for the period 2017-2020;

J.  whereas although long-term unemployment in the EU-28 decreased from 5 % in 2014 to 4 % in 2016, it remains a concern, accounting for almost half of total unemployment; notes with concern that the very long-term unemployment rate of 2,5 % in 2016 is still 1 % more than the 2008 figure; whereas wide disparities remain among the Member States;

K.  whereas in many Member States, the size of the working-age population and the labour force is continuing to shrink, notably as a result of low birth rates; whereas the employability of women, together with the ongoing arrival of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, are opportunities for Member States to deal with this issue and reinforce the workforce in the EU;

L.  whereas one of the five Europe 2020 targets aims to reduce by at least 20 million the number of people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion; whereas poverty is decreasing, with 4,8 million fewer people at risk of poverty and social exclusion in 2015 than in 2012; whereas this 2015 figure still exceeds the 2008 figure by 1,6 million; whereas 32,2 million persons with disabilities were at risk of poverty and social exclusion in the EU in 2012; whereas in 2013, 26,5 million children in the EU-28 were at risk of falling into poverty or social exclusion; whereas the at-risk-of-poverty or -exclusion rate is still unacceptably high at 23,7 %, with figures remaining very high in some Member States; whereas, moreover, energy poverty remains so high that for the 11 % of the EU population concerned, it leads to a cycle of economic disadvantage;

M.  whereas labour market conditions and performances show substantial differences across Member States, though these disparities are decreasing;

N.  whereas new forms of employment and labour are becoming more widespread with the digital revolution of the labour market;

1.  Welcomes the improved performance of the European economy, which is increasingly broadly based, supported by moderate GDP growth, surpassing the pre-crisis level, and decreasing, yet still high, unemployment rates; considers that the positive trend is due to the policies in the last few years; notes that the modest recovery, however, remains fragile and uneven across society and regions, while the development of GDP per capita is close to stagnation; regrets that economic developments remain burdened by the legacies of the crisis; notes that despite substantial progress debt levels in many Member States remain above the threshold as specified in the Stability and Growth Pact;

2.  Notes with concern that GDP and productivity growth rates remain below full potential and underlines that therefore there should be no complacency, and that this moderate recovery requires relentless efforts if it is to achieve greater resilience and medium to long-term sustainability through higher growth and employment;

3.  Notes that Europe harbours untapped economic potential as growth and employment are advancing unevenly; underlines that this is the result of the heterogeneous performance of the Member States’ economies; emphasises that the implementation of socially-balanced structural reforms and increased private and public investment both in the Member States and at the EU level could facilitate at least 1 % higher growth; recalls that economic and fiscal policy coordination in order to contribute to ensuring convergence and stability in the EU should remain a top priority of the European Semester;

4.  Takes the view that a greater degree of upward convergence and overall competitiveness would also be needed to sustain the recovery in the EU and the euro area in the longer term; considers that the existing economic and employment indicators are crucial to ensure sustainable and inclusive growth;

5.  Considers that for this to materialise the structural conditions for growth need to be improved; takes the view that the potential growth of all Member States should increase in the long term to at least 3 %; for this to happen, a stronger focus must be put on economic convergence, where establishing clear benchmarks on how to improve the potential growth of Member States could provide the necessary guidance for policy actions; points out that such a regular benchmarking exercise would have to take due account of individual structural strengths and weaknesses of Member States and pursue inclusive and sustainable growth; it should include areas such as the digital economy, the services sector, the energy market, but also the quality of public services, conditions for investment, the inclusiveness and preparedness of education systems;

6.  Emphasises that this would complement ongoing efforts on improving the quality and management of national budgets by addressing the triggers for growth in line with Union fiscal rules and with full respect of its existing flexibility clauses;

Structural policies

7.  Considers that the uneven growth and employment situation in the euro area requires better coordination of economic policies, in particular through improved and consistent national ownership and sound implementation of the country-specific recommendations (CSR), also with a view to promoting upward convergence, including through the better implementation and fulfilment of EU law; highlights that reforms need to take due account of the specific situation and challenges in each Member State; calls on the Commission to ensure the consistency between structural reforms and EU spending; recalls in this perspective also the importance of technical assistance in order to help Member States build capacity and converge a partnership-based approach could ensure greater accountability and ownership for the outcome of the implementation of CSRs;

8.   Notes that youth unemployment remains too high across the countries of the euro area and points out that an elevated, persistent youth unemployment represents a long-term structural risk; agrees that addressing the legacy of the crisis, from long-term unemployment, employment not making full use of skills and abilities, and ageing societies to high levels of private and public debt, remains an urgent priority, which calls for the implementation of sustainable and inclusive reforms;

9.  Is of the opinion that legacies from the crisis such as a high level of indebtedness and unemployment in some sectors of the economy still act as a drag on sustainable growth and pose potential downward risks; calls on Member States to reduce excessive levels of indebtedness; is concerned in this regard that the persistently high level of non-performing loans (NPLs) in some Member States could have significant spill-over effects from one Member State to another, and between banks and sovereigns presenting a risk to financial stability in Europe; notes that capital buffers in the financial sector have been strengthened, but challenges arise from low profitability, coupled with high levels of NPLs; is convinced that an EU strategy to tackle NPLs could provide for a more comprehensive solution combining a mix of complementing policy actions at national level and at European level where appropriate;

10.  Takes the view that reforms and initiatives to improve the business climate are needed to help boost productivity, price and non-price competitiveness, investment and employment in the euro area; believes additional efforts are required to boost access of SMEs to finance, which is a crucial factor for businesses to innovate and expand; underlines in this context the importance of future-oriented reforms that are adapted to the supply- and demand-sides;

11.  Considers that well-functioning and productive labour markets, combined with an adequate level of social protection and dialogue, help to increase employment and ensure sustainable growth; underlines the importance of maintaining the high employment rates where they have already been achieved; notes that skills shortage, ageing societies as well as a number of other challenges also put a strain on further employment growth and reduction of unemployment levels across the Member States;

12.  Stresses the importance of responsible and growth-friendly wage developments, providing a good standard of living, in line with productivity taking account of competitiveness; takes note of the fact that wage growth is forecast to be relatively moderate; considers that productivity growth ought to be a priority objective of structural reforms; agrees with the Commission that there is room for wage increases that could have related positive effects on aggregate consumption;

13.  Stresses that taxation levels should also support competitiveness, investments and job creation; calls for reforms in taxation with a view to improving tax collection, preventing tax avoidance, tax evasion and aggressive tax planning, as well as tackling the high tax burden on labour in Europe while ensuring the sustainability of social protection systems; believes that lowering the tax burden on labour would increase employment and foster growth; underlines that fiscal stimulus, where possible, including through lower taxes, can support domestic demand, social security, and supply of investments and labour;

Investment

14.  Agrees that the economic upswing needs to be supported by public and private investment, particularly in innovation, and notes that there is still an investment gap in the euro area; welcomes the fact that in some Member States investments already exceed the pre-crisis level, and regrets that in others Member States investment is still lagging behind or not picking up at the necessary speed; underlines that also further measures are needed to address the ‘investment gap’ accumulated since the outbreak of the crisis;

15.  Considers that reforms removing bottlenecks to private and public investment would allow for immediate support for economic activity and at the same time help to set the conditions for long-term sustainable growth; points out that investments in education, innovation, and R&D would allow to better adapt to the knowledge economy; stresses further that the completion of the Capital Markets Union is a crucial factor to attract and to increase investment, and improve the financing of growth and jobs;

16.  Considers research, technology and education to be of vital importance to the long-term economic development of the euro area; stresses the disparities between Member States in investment in these areas and points out that investment would contribute to the development of innovation and allow to better adapt to the knowledge economy, in line with the Europe 2020;

17.  Welcomes that the timely agreement on the revised European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) will help to improve the effectiveness of this instrument and to address shortcomings experienced in its implementation so far by facilitating the financing of more projects with strong potential, ensuring a strict enforcement of additionality, and to enhance geographical coverage and take-up, supporting investments that otherwise would not have been realized;

18.  Notes the different objectives of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIFs) compared to EFSI and therefore likewise the continued importance of ESIFs, including to support sustainable structural reforms;

19.  Stresses that a fully functioning Capital Markets Union can, in a longer perspective, provide new financing to SMEs, complementing that of the banking sector; Stresses that SMEs are the backbone of the European economy, and considers therefore that increasing their access to finance and by fighting the business uncertainty connected to their activities should be one of the key priorities, in order to improve competitiveness in the euro area; emphasises the need to reduce red tape, streamline government services and make them more efficient;

Fiscal policies

20.  Considers that prudent and foresighted fiscal policies play a fundamental role for the stability of the euro area and the Union as a whole; underlines that strong coordination of fiscal policies, the proper implementation and compliance with the Union rules, including the full respect of its existing flexibility clauses, in this area are a legal requirement and key to the proper functioning of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU);

21.  Welcomes in this regard the fact that public finances appear to be improving as government deficits in the euro area are projected to decline; however, efforts to reduce the debt burden need to continue while promoting economic growth in order to prevent Member States from being vulnerable to external shocks;

22.  Agrees with the Commission that the government debt remains high in some Member States and that there is a need to make public finances sustainable, while promoting economic growth and jobs; points out in this context that low interest rate payments, accommodative monetary policies, one-off measures and other factors alleviating the current debt burden are only temporary and highlights therefore that there is the need to make public finances sustainable, also take into account future liabilities and aim at long-term growth; points out that there is the possibility of rising costs of debt service; underlines importance of bringing down overall debt levels;

23.  Underlines that the fiscal stances at national and euro-area level must balance the long-term sustainability of public finances in full compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact, respecting its provisions made for flexibility, with short-term macroeconomic stabilisation;

24.  Points out that the current aggregate fiscal stance for the euro remained broadly neutral in 2016 and is set to remain so in 2017; reminds that the Commission called in its 2016 communication for a positive fiscal stance, while the Eurogroup after concluding that the broadly neutral fiscal stance in 2017 striked an appropriate balance agreed to underline the importance to strike an appropriate balance between the need to ensure sustainability and the need to support investment to strengthen the recovery thereby contributing to a more balanced policy mix; in this context, takes note of the first assessment of the prospective fiscal stance appropriate for the euro area by the independent European Fiscal Board (EFB) of 20 June 2017; calls on the Commission and Member States to envisage a fiscal stance appropriate to the respective circumstances;

25.  Emphasises, however, that the aggregate view should take into account the heterogeneous situation across Member States and the need to differentiate the fiscal policies required by each Member State; emphasises that the concept of an aggregate fiscal stance does not imply that surpluses and deficits in different Member States off-set each other;

Country-specific recommendations

26.  Notes that over time Member States have made at least ‘some progress’ with two thirds of the 2016 recommendations; takes however the view that the implementation of the CSRs is still lagging behind and thereby hindering the convergence process in the euro area; takes the view that the Member States bear the responsibility for the consequences of non-implementation of CSRs and expects therefore a greater commitment by Member States to take the necessary policy actions based on the agreed CSRs;

27.  Recognises that Member States have made progress in the implementation of CSRs in the area of fiscal policy and active labour market policies, while not enough progress was made in areas such as competition in services and the business environment; expects a greater commitment on the part of Member States to take the necessary policy actions based on the CSRs, whose implementation is crucial to addressing imbalances in the euro area;

28.  Welcomes the Commission’s recommendation to close the Excessive Deficit Procedures for several Member States; welcomes past and ongoing fiscal and reform efforts that have led those Member States to exiting the EDP, yet insists that these efforts will need to continue to ensure sustainable public finances also in the long term, while promoting growth and job creation; calls on the Commission to ensure the proper implementation the Stability and Growth Pact by applying its rules in a consistent manner;

29.  Notes that 12 Member States are experiencing macroeconomic imbalances of varying nature and severity, while excessive imbalances exist in six Member States; takes note of the Commission’s conclusion that there are currently no grounds for stepping up the macroeconomic imbalance procedure for any Member State;

30.  Highlights that the macroeconomic imbalance procedure (MIP) is aimed at preventing imbalances within Member States with a view to avoiding negative spill-over effects to other Member States;

31.  Considers it of essential therefore that all Member States take the necessary policy action to address macro-economic imbalances, in particular high levels of indebtedness, current account surpluses and competitiveness imbalances, and commit to socially-balanced and inclusive structural reforms ensuring the economic sustainability of each individual Member State, thereby ensuring the overall competitiveness and resilience of the European economy;

Sectorial contributions to the Report on Economic policies of the Euro area

Employment and Social Policies

32.  Takes the view that continuous efforts are needed to achieve a balance between the economic and social dimensions of the European Semester process and to promote socially and economically balanced structural reforms that reduce inequalities and promote decent jobs leading to quality employment, sustainable growth and social investment; supports using the Social Scoreboard within the framework of the European Semester; calls for a greater focus on structural imbalances on the labour market in the country-specific recommendations (CSRs);

33.  Reiterates the call for the three new headline employment indicators to be placed on an equal footing with existing economic indicators, thereby guaranteeing that internal imbalances are better assessed and making structural reforms more effective; proposes introducing a non-punitive social imbalances procedure in the design of the CSRs so as to prevent a race to the bottom in terms of social standards, building on an effective use of the social and employment indicators in macroeconomic surveillance; notes that inequality has intensified in around ten Member States and is one of the main socio-economic challenges in the EU(14);

34.  Highlights the fact that socially and economically responsible reforms must be based on solidarity, integration and social justice; stresses that reforms should also take into account sustained support for social and economic recovery, create quality employment, boost social and territorial cohesion, protect vulnerable groups and improve living standards for all citizens;

35.  Believes that the European Semester process should help to address not only existing but also emerging societal challenges in order to ensure greater economic efficiency coupled with a more socially cohesive European Union; acknowledges, in this respect, the need for an assessment of the social impact of EU policies;

36.  Calls on the Commission to secure adequate funding for fighting youth unemployment, which remains unacceptably high in the EU, and to continue the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) beyond the end of the current multiannual financial framework (MFF), while at the same time improving its functioning and implementation and taking into account the latest findings of the European Court of Auditors’ special report on youth employment and the use of the YEI; calls on the Member States to implement the recommendations of the European Court of Auditors and to ensure that the Youth Guarantee is fully accessible; regrets budget shifts out of the European Social Fund (ESF), including the YEI, towards the European Solidarity Corps, which should instead be financed by all financial means available under the existing MFF Regulation; stresses the need for a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the jobs created; stresses that EU funding should not be used to replace national social welfare payments;

37.  Underlines the fact that the implementation of the Youth Guarantee should be strengthened at national, regional and local level, and stresses its importance for school-to-work transitions; points out that special attention has to be paid to young women and girls, who could face gender-related barriers to obtaining a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship; emphasises the need to ensure that the Youth Guarantee reaches young people facing multiple exclusions and extreme poverty;

38.  Calls on the Member States to implement the proposals contained in the Council Recommendation of 15 February 2016 on the integration of the long-term unemployed into the labour market(15);

39.  Considers that the scope, efficiency and effectiveness of active and sustainable labour market policies should be increased with proper and adequate funding with a focus on environmental, employer, worker, health and consumer protection; takes the view that the phenomenon of in-work poverty must be addressed;

40.  Regrets the fact that the social economy has been overlooked by the Commission in its package of assessments/recommendations; points out that this sector encompasses 2 million businesses which employ more than 14 million people and contribute to the achievement of the 2020 targets; calls on the Commission and the Member States to give social economy enterprises greater recognition and a higher profile, through a European Action Plan for the social economy; considers that this lack of recognition makes it harder for them to access funding; calls on the Commission to come forward with a proposal for a European statute for associations, foundations and mutual societies;

41.  Recalls the need to support and enhance social dialogue, collective bargaining and the position of workers in wage-setting systems, which play a critical role in achieving high-level working conditions; emphasises that labour law and high social standards have a crucial role to play in the social market economy, supporting incomes and encouraging investment in capacity; stresses that EU law must respect trade union rights and freedoms, comply with collective agreements in line with Member States’ practices and uphold equal treatment in employment and occupation;

42.  Calls on the Commission to build on Parliament’s resolution by putting forward ambitious proposals for a strong European Pillar of Social Rights and by fully pursuing the social objectives of the Treaties in order to improve everyone’s living and working conditions and provide good opportunities for all;

43.  Warns of the declining wage share in the EU, the widening wage and income inequalities and the increase of in-work poverty; recalls that both the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ILO’s 1919 Constitution recognise the need for workers to earn a living wage, and that all human rights declarations agree that remuneration should be sufficient to support a family;

44.  Stresses that wages must enable workers to meet their needs and those of their families and that every worker in the European Union should receive a living wage that not only provides for the mere necessities of basic food, shelter and clothing, but that is also sufficient to cover healthcare, education, transportation, recreation and some savings to help provide for unforeseen events, such as illnesses and accidents; emphasises that this is the decent living standard that living wages should provide for workers and their families in the EU;

45.  Asks the Commission to study how to identify what a living wage could encompass and how it should be measured, with a view to establishing a reference tool for social partners and to help exchange best practices in this regard;

46.  Recalls that decent wages are important not only for social cohesion, but also for maintaining a strong economy and a productive labour force; calls on the Commission and the Member States to implement measures to improve job quality and reduce wage dispersion;

47.  Points to the continuous need for better coordination at European level of social security systems, for which the Member States are responsible; stresses the absolute priority of ensuring the sustainability and fairness of social security systems, these being central pillars of a European social model; highlights that adequate, sustainable pensions are a universal right; calls on the Member States to ensure adequate and sustainable pensions in the light of continued demographic change; underlines the fact that pension systems should ensure an adequate retirement income above the poverty threshold and allow pensioners to maintain a proper standard of living; believes that the best way to ensure sustainable, safe and adequate pensions for women and men is to increase the overall employment rate and the number of decent jobs available across all age groups, and to improve working and employment conditions; points out that gender pension gaps remain significant and have negative social and economic consequences; highlights, in this regard, the importance of women’s integration into the labour market and other adequate measures to combat the gender-pay gap and old-age poverty; believes that reforms of pension systems and the retirement age in particular should also reflect labour market trends, birth rates, health and wealth circumstances, working conditions and the economic dependency ratio;

48.  Considers that these reforms must also take account of the situation of millions of workers in Europe, particularly women, youngsters and the self-employed, suffering insecure employment, periods of involuntary unemployment and working-time reduction;

49.  Calls on the Commission to continue to pay particular attention to the improvement of childcare services and to flexible working time arrangements, to the needs of aging men and women and other dependent persons as regards long-term care;

50.  Highlights the fact that insufficient and inadequately focused investment in skills development and lifelong learning, particularly digital skills and programming and other skills needed in growing sectors, such as the green economy, may undermine the Union’s competitive position; calls on the Member States to ensure a better exchange of knowledge, best practices and cooperation at EU level, so as to help foster skills development through the updating of qualifications and corresponding education, training programmes and curricula; notes the importance of skills and competences acquired in non-formal and informal learning environments; stresses, therefore, the importance of creating a validation system for non-formal and informal forms of knowledge, especially those acquired via voluntary activities;

51.  Takes the view that better skills matching and improved mutual recognition of qualifications is necessary to address skills shortages and mismatches; highlights the role that vocational education and training (VET) and apprenticeships can play in this regard; calls on the Commission to develop a pan-European skills needs forecasting tool, including the skills needed in growing sectors; believes that in order to anticipate future skills needs, all labour market stakeholders must be strongly involved at all levels;

52.  Urges the Commission to put in place all suitable mechanisms for greater mobility among young people, apprenticeships included; calls on the Member States to support apprenticeships and to fully use the Erasmus+ funds available for apprentices in order to guarantee the quality and attractiveness of this kind of training; calls for better implementation of the EURES regulation; highlights that better collaboration of public administrations and stakeholders at local level and better synergies among levels of governments would increase the outreach and impact of the programmes;

53.  Takes the view that access to and quality of education should be improved; recalls that the role of the Member States is to ensure affordable access to quality education and training, notwithstanding the labour market needs across the EU; notes that increased efforts are required in many Member States to educate the workforce, including adult education and vocational training opportunities; places particular emphasis on life-long learning, including for women, as it provides the opportunity to re-skill in an ever-changing labour market; calls for further targeted promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects towards girls, in order to address existing education stereotypes and combat long-term gender employment, pay and pensions gaps;

54.  Stresses the need to invest in people as early as possible in the life cycle in order to reduce inequality and foster social inclusion at a young age; calls, therefore, for access to quality, inclusive and affordable early childhood education and care services for all children in all Member States; stresses, moreover, the need to fight against stereotypes from the youngest age at school by promoting gender equality at all levels of education; encourages the Commission and the Member States to fully implement the Recommendation on Investing in Children and to monitor its progress closely; calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop and introduce initiatives such as a Child Guarantee, placing children at the centre of existing poverty alleviation policies;

55.  Underlines the profound changes ushering in the labour market of the future following the emergence of artificial intelligence; calls on the Member States and the Commission to develop instruments and cooperative initiatives, involving the social partners, to enhance skills in this sector by means of preliminary, initial and ongoing training;

56.  Calls, to this end and as a means of achieving a work-life balance, for consideration to be given to flexicurity arrangements, including teleworking and flexitime, in consultation with the social partners;

57.  Highlights the importance of investment in human capital – a driving force behind development, competitiveness and growth;

58.  Emphasises that a better work-life balance and strengthened gender equality are essential for supporting the participation of women in the labour market; underlines the fact that the key to women’s economic empowerment is the transformation and adaptation of the labour market and welfare systems in order to take into account women’s life cycles;

59.  Welcomes the proposal for a directive on a work-life balance and regards it as a positive first step forward in ensuring reconciliation of work and private life for those men and women caring for their children and other dependents, as well as in increasing the participation of women in the labour market; insists that securing appropriate remuneration and strong social security and protection are key to achieving these goals;

60.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to develop transformative policies and invest in awareness-raising campaigns to overcome gender stereotypes and promote a more equal sharing of care and domestic work, and to focus, moreover, on the right of and need for men to take up care responsibilities without being stigmatised or penalised;

61.  Calls on the Member States to put in place proactive policies and appropriate investment tailored and designed to support women and men entering, returning to, and staying in the labour market, after periods of family and care-related types of leave, with sustainable and quality employment, in line with Article 27 of the European Social Charter;

62.  Calls on the Member States to step up protection against discrimination and unlawful dismissal relating to work-life balance; calls on the Commission and the Member States, in this context, to propose policies to improve the enforcement of anti-discrimination measures in the workplace, including by raising awareness of legal rights regarding equal treatment by conducting information campaigns, reversing the burden of proof and empowering national equality bodies to conduct, on their own initiative, formal investigations into equality issues and to help the potential victims of discrimination;

63.  Underlines the fact that the integration of long-term unemployed individuals through individually tailored measures is a key factor for fighting poverty and social exclusion and will ultimately contribute towards the sustainability of national social security systems; deems such integration necessary, in view of the social circumstances of these citizens and their needs in terms of sufficient incomes, adequate housing, public transport, health and childcare; stresses the need for better monitoring at European level of the policies implemented at the national level;

64.  Stresses the importance of understanding new forms of employment and work, and of collecting comparable data on this issue, in order to render labour market legislation more efficient and to ultimately increase employment and sustainable growth;

65.  Calls for an integrated anti-poverty strategy in order to achieve the Europe 2020 poverty target; underlines the role of Member States’ minimum income schemes in seeking to reduce poverty, especially when combined with social inclusion measures that involve the beneficiaries; requests that the Member States work towards the progressive establishment of minimum income schemes which are not only adequate but ensure sufficient coverage and take-up; considers adequate minimum income to mean an income that is indispensable for living a life in dignity and for fully participating in society throughout the entire lifespan; points out that in order for a minimum income to be adequate, it must be above the poverty line, so as to meet people’s fundamental needs, including non-monetary aspects, such as access to education and lifelong learning, decent housing, quality healthcare services, social activities and civic participation;

66.  Calls for more efficient, targeted and more carefully monitored use of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) by national, regional and local authorities in order to promote investment in quality social, health, education and employment services, and to tackle energy poverty, increasing living costs, social exclusion, housing deprivation, and the insufficient quality of housing stock;

67.  Calls on the Commission to support Member States in establishing specific investment programmes for their regions whose unemployment, youth unemployment and long-term unemployment rates exceed 30 %;

68.  Calls on the Commission to devote the next Spring Council to social investment in the sectors where there is strong evidence to suggest that it promotes social and economic returns (e.g. early childhood education and care, primary and secondary education, training and active labour market policies, affordable and social housing, and healthcare);

69.  Calls for an agenda that gives greater prominence to Parliament’s position and that takes it into account before a decision is reached; calls for the role of the EPSCO Council to be strengthened within the European Semester;

70.  Calls for additional joint efforts to improve the integration of migrants and people with a migrant background into the labour market;

Regional policies

71.  Welcomes the fact that cohesion policy funding represents EUR 454 billion at current prices for the 2014-2020 period; stresses, however, that EU cohesion policy is not merely an instrument, but a long-term structural policy that is aimed at reducing regional development disparities and promoting investment, employment, competitiveness, sustainable development and growth, and that it is the most important and comprehensive policy for strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion in all Member States, without any distinction between those inside and outside the euro area; recalls that the EU budget is 50 times smaller than total EU-28 government expenditure, amounting to approximately 1 % of EU-28 GDP; stresses, therefore, that synergies should be established between EU and Member State budgets, policy priorities, and actions and projects aimed at fulfilling EU targets, while keeping the economic and social dimensions of the EU policy framework balanced; points out that co-financing requirements under the ESI Funds are an important mechanism for establishing synergies; is of the opinion that the unity of the EU budget should be preserved; welcomes the measures introduced in the current programming period to better align cohesion policy with the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth;

o
o   o

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

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0038.
(2) OJ C 92, 24.3.2017, p. 1.
(3) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 12.
(4) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 41.
(5) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 8.
(6) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 33.
(7) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 25.
(8) OJ L 306, 23.11.2011, p. 1.
(9) OJ L 140, 27.5.2013, p. 11.
(10) OJ L 140, 27.5.2013, p. 1.
(11) Employment and Social Developments in Europe, Annual Review 2017, p. 11.
(12) Ibid., p. 46.
(13) Eurofound report on youth unemployment.
(14) Employment and Social Developments in Europe, Annual Review 2017, p. 47.
(15) OJ C 67, 20.2.2016, p. 1.


Negotiating mandate for trade negotiations with Australia
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European Parliament resolution of 26 October 2017 containing the Parliament’s recommendation to the Council on the proposed negotiating mandate for trade negotiations with Australia (2017/2192(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0419A8-0311/2017

The European Parliament,

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

–  having regard to the joint statement of 15 November 2015 by the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull,

–  having regard to the EU-Australia Partnership Framework of 29 October 2008 as well as to the EU-Australia Framework Agreement concluded on 5 March 2015,

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

–  having regard to the Commission’s Trade Package published on 14 September 2017 in which the Commission committed to making all future trade negotiating mandates public,

–  having regard to its earlier resolutions, in particular that of 25 February 2016 on the opening of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Australia and New Zealand(1), and its legislative resolution of 12 September 2012 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and Australia amending the Agreement on mutual recognition(2),

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

–  having regard to the joint declaration of 22 April 2015 by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Australian Foreign Minister entitled ‘Towards a closer EU-Australia Partnership’,

–  having regard to Opinion 2/15 of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) of 16 May 2017 on the Union competence to sign and conclude the Free Trade Agreement with Singapore(3),

–  having regard to the Commission’s study of 15 November 2016 on the cumulative effects of future trade agreements on EU agriculture,

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

–  having regard to Rule 108(3) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on International Trade and the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (A8-0311/2017),

A.  whereas the EU and Australia work together in tackling common challenges across a broad spectrum of issues and cooperate in a number of international fora, including on trade policy issues in the multilateral arena;

B.  whereas the EU is Australia’s third largest trading partner, with annual bilateral trade amounting to more than EUR 45,5 billion in 2015, with a positive trade balance of more than EUR 19 billion on the EU side;

C.  whereas in 2015 EU foreign direct investment stock in Australia amounted to EUR 145,8 billion;

D.  whereas Australia is in the process of acceding to the Agreement on Government Procurement;

E.  whereas the EU concluded negotiations on the EU-Australia Framework Agreement (FA) on 22 April 2015;

F.  whereas the European agricultural sector and certain agricultural products, such as beef, lamb, dairy products, cereals and sugar – including special sugars – are particularly sensitive issues in these negotiations;

G.  whereas Australia is the world’s third largest exporter of both beef and sugar, and is a major player in the global export market for dairy products and cereals;

H.  whereas the EU and Australia are engaged in plurilateral negotiations to liberalise further trade in green goods (Environmental Goods Agreement) and trade in services (Trade in Services Agreement);

I.  whereas Australia is a party to the concluded negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the future of which remains uncertain, and the ongoing negotiations on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in the Asia-Pacific region, uniting Australia’s most important trading partners; whereas Australia has had a free trade agreement in place with China since 2015;

J.  whereas Australia made significant commitments in TPP to promote the long-term conservation of certain species and to tackle illegal wildlife trafficking through enhanced conservation measures, and whereas it also laid down requirements for the effective enforcement of environmental protection and to engage in enhanced regional cooperation; whereas such commitments should serve as a benchmark for the EU-Australia FTA provisions;

K.  whereas Australia is among the EU’s oldest and closest partners, sharing common values and a commitment to promoting prosperity and security within a global rules-based system;

L.  whereas Australia has ratified and implemented the main international covenants on human, social and labour rights and on environmental protection and fully respects the rule of law;

M.  whereas Australia is one of only six WTO members which has no preferential access as yet to the EU market or negotiations in progress to that end;

N.  whereas, following the joint statement of 15 November 2015, a scoping exercise was launched to investigate the feasibility of and shared ambition towards launching negotiations for a free trade agreement between the EU and Australia; whereas the scoping exercise has been concluded;

O.  whereas Parliament will be required to decide whether to give its consent to the potential EU-Australia FTA;

The strategic, political and economic context

1.  Underlines the importance of deepening relations between the EU and the Asia-Pacific region, among other things, in order to foster economic growth within Europe and stresses that this is reflected in the EU’s trade policy; recognises that Australia is a key part of this strategy and that widening and deepening trade relations can help to meet this goal;

2.  Commends Australia for its strong and consistent commitment to the multilateral trade agenda;

3.  Considers that the full potential of the Union’s bilateral and regional cooperation strategies can only be realised by adhering to rules- and values-based trade and that concluding a high-quality, ambitious, balanced and fair FTA with Australia in a spirit of reciprocity and mutual benefit, while under no circumstances undermining the ambition to achieve progress multilaterally or the implementation of already concluded multilateral and bilateral agreements, is a crucial part of those strategies; believes that deeper bilateral cooperation can be a stepping stone for further multilateral and plurilateral cooperation;

4.  Believes that the negotiation of a modern, deep, ambitious, balanced, fair and comprehensive FTA is a suitable way of deepening the bilateral partnership and further reinforcing the existing, already mature bilateral trade and investment relationships; takes the view that these negotiations could serve as an example for a new generation of free trade agreements, stressing the importance of raising ambitions further, pushing the boundaries for what a modern FTA entails, considering Australia’s highly developed economy and regulatory environment;

The scoping exercise

5.  Notes the conclusion of the EU-Australia scoping exercise on 6 April 2017 to the mutual satisfaction of the Commission and the Government of Australia;

6.  Welcomes the Commission’s timely conclusion and publication of the impact assessment, with a view to being able to provide a comprehensive evaluation of possible gains and losses resulting from enhanced EU-Australia trade and investment relationships for the benefit of the population and businesses on both sides, including the outermost regions and the overseas countries and territories, while paying special attention to social and environmental impacts, including on the EU labour market and to anticipate and take into account the impact that Brexit might have on the trade and investment flows from Australia to the EU, in particular when preparing the exchange of offers and calculating quotas;

A mandate for negotiations

7.  Calls on the Council to authorise the Commission to start negotiations for a trade and investment agreement with Australia on the basis of the outcome of the scoping exercise, the recommendations set out in this resolution, the impact assessment and clear targets;

8.  Welcomes the Commission decision to emphasise that green box payments are not trade distortive and should not be targeted by anti-dumping or anti-subsidy measures;

9.  Calls on the Council to fully respect the distribution of competences between the EU and its Member States, as can be deduced from CJEU Opinion 2/15 of 16 May 2017, in its decision on the adoption of the negotiating directives;

10.  Calls on the Commission and the Council to put forward a proposal as soon as possible about the general future architecture of trade agreements taking into account CJEU Opinion 2/15 on the EU-Singapore FTA, and to clearly distinguish between a trade and liberalisation of foreign direct investment (FDI) agreement, containing only issues that fall within the EU’s exclusive competence, and a potential second agreement which covers subjects whose competences are shared with Member States; stresses that such a distinction would have implications for the parliamentary ratification process and that it is not intended to circumvent national democratic processes, but is a matter of democratic delegation of responsibilities based on the European treaties; calls for Parliament to be closely involved in all ongoing and future FTA negotiations at all stages of the process;

11.  Calls on the Commission, when presenting the finalised agreements for signature and conclusion, and on the Council, when deciding on signature and conclusion, to fully respect the distribution of competences between the EU and its Member States;

12.  Calls on the Commission to conduct negotiations as transparently as possible while not undermining the Union’s negotiating position, guaranteeing at least the level of transparency and public consultation implemented for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations with the USA through constant dialogue with social partners and civil society, and to fully respect best practice as established in other negotiations; welcomes the Commission’s initiative to publish all its recommendations for negotiating directives for trade agreements and considers this a positive precedent; urges the Council to follow suit and publish the negotiating directives immediately after their adoption;

13.  Stresses that an FTA must lead to improved market access and trade facilitation on the ground, create decent jobs, ensure gender equality for the benefit of the citizens on both sides, encourage sustainable development, uphold EU standards, safeguard services of general interest, and respect democratic procedures while boosting EU export opportunities;

14.  Emphasises that an ambitious agreement must address, in a meaningful way, investment, trade in goods and services (drawing on recent European Parliament recommendations as regards policy space reservations and sensitive sectors), customs and trade facilitation, digitalisation, e-commerce and data protection, technology research and support for innovation, public procurement, energy, state-owned enterprises, competition, sustainable development, regulatory issues, such as high-quality sanitary and phytosanitary standards and other norms in agricultural and food products without weakening the EU’s high standards, robust and enforceable commitments on labour and environmental standards, and the fight against tax avoidance and corruption while remaining within the scope of the Union’s exclusive competence, all while giving special consideration to the needs of micro-enterprises and SMEs;

15.  Calls on the Council to explicitly recognise the other party’s obligations towards indigenous peoples in the negotiating directives and to allow for reservations for domestic preference schemes in this regard; emphasises that the Agreement should reaffirm both parties’ commitment to ILO Convention 169 on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;

16.  Stresses that inadequate fisheries management and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing can have significant negative impacts on trade, development and the environment, and that the parties must undertake meaningful commitments to protect sharks, rays, turtles, and marine mammals and to prevent overfishing, overcapacity, and IUU fishing;

17.  Underlines that the principle of the Three Rs (3R), to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals for scientific purposes, is firmly anchored in EU legislation; stresses that it is vital that existing EU measures on animal testing and research are not dismantled or diminished, that future regulations on animal use are not restricted and that EU research establishments are not put at a competitive disadvantage; contends that the parties must seek the regulatory alignment of 3R best practice in order to increase testing efficiency, reduce costs and reduce the need for animal use;

18.  Insists on the need to include measures designed to eliminate the counterfeiting of agro-food products;

19.  Stresses that, for an FTA to be truly advantageous to the EU’s economy, the following aspects should be included in the negotiating directives:

   (a) liberalisation of trade in goods and services and real market access opportunities for both sides in each other’s goods and services market through the elimination of unnecessary regulatory barriers, while ensuring that nothing in the agreement prevents either side from regulating, in a proportionate manner, with a view to achieving legitimate policy objectives; this agreement must (i) not prevent the parties from defining, regulating, providing and supporting services in the general interest and must include explicit provisions thereon; (ii) neither require governments to privatise any service nor preclude governments from expanding the range of services they supply to the public; (iii) not prevent governments from bringing back under public control services that governments have previously chosen to privatise such as water, education, health and social services, or decrease the high health, food, consumer, environmental, labour and safety standards in the EU or limit public funding of the arts and culture, education, health and social services as has been the case with previous trade agreements; commitments should be made on the basis of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS); highlights in this respect that the standards required of European producers must be preserved;
   (b) as far as the agreement may include a domestic regulation chapter, the negotiators must not include necessity tests;
   (c) commitments on anti-dumping and countervailing measures that go beyond WTO rules in this area, possibly excluding their application where sufficient common competition standards and cooperation are in place;
   (d) reducing unnecessary non-tariff barriers and strengthening and extending regulatory cooperation dialogues on a voluntary basis wherever practicable and mutually beneficial, while not limiting the ability of each party to carry out its regulatory, legislative and policy activities, given that regulatory cooperation must aim to benefit the governance of the global economy through intensified convergence and cooperation on international standards and regulatory harmonisation, for example, through the adoption and implementation of the standards set by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), while guaranteeing the highest level of consumer (e.g. food safety), environmental (e.g. animal health and welfare, plant health), social and labour protection;
   (e) significant concessions on public procurement at all levels of government, including state-owned enterprises and undertakings with special or exclusive rights guaranteeing market access for European companies in strategic sectors and the same degree of openness as that of the EU’s public procurement markets, given that simplified procedures and transparency for bidders, including those from other countries, can also be effective tools for preventing corruption and fostering integrity in public administration while providing value for money to taxpayers, in terms of the quality of delivery, efficiency, effectiveness and accountability; guarantees that ecological and social criteria are applied in awarding public procurement contracts;
   (f) a separate chapter taking into account the needs and interests of micro-enterprises and SMEs with regard to market access facilitation issues including, but not limited to, increased compatibility of technical standards, and streamlined customs procedures with the aim of generating concrete business opportunities and fostering their internationalisation;
   (g) in view of CJEU Opinion 2/15 on the EU-Singapore FTA that trade and sustainable development fall within the EU’s exclusive competence and that sustainable development forms an integral part of the EU’s common commercial policy, a robust and ambitious sustainable development chapter is an indispensable part of any potential agreement; provisions for effective tools for dialogue, monitoring and cooperation, including binding and enforceable provisions which are subject to suitable and effective dispute settlement mechanisms, and consider, among various enforcement methods, a sanctions-based mechanism, while enabling social partners and civil society to participate appropriately, as well as close cooperation with experts from relevant multilateral organisations; provisions in the chapter covering the labour and environmental aspects of trade and the relevance of sustainable development in a trade and investment context, encompassing provisions that promote adherence to, and effective implementation of, relevant internationally agreed principles and rules, such as core labour standards, the four ILO priority governance conventions and multilateral environmental agreements, including those related to climate change;
   (h) the requirement that the parties must promote corporate social responsibility (CSR), including with regard to internationally recognised instruments, and the uptake of sectoral OECD guidelines and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights;
   (i) comprehensive provisions on investment liberalisation within the Union’s competence taking into account recent policy developments, for example, CJEU Opinion 2/15 on the EU-Singapore FTA of 16 May 2017;
   (j) strong and enforceable measures covering the recognition and protection of intellectual property rights, including geographical indications (GIs) for wines and spirits and other agricultural and foodstuff products, taking as a benchmark the EU-Australia agreement’s provisions on the wine sector, while striving to improve the existing legal framework and to ensure a high level of protection for all geographical indications; simplified customs procedures and simple and flexible rules of origin that are suitable for a complex world of global value chains (GVCs), including in terms of enhancing transparency and accountability within them, and applying wherever possible multilateral rules of origin or in other cases non-burdensome rules of origin such as a ‘change of tariff subheading’;
   (k) a balanced and ambitious outcome in the agriculture and fisheries chapters which can only boost competitiveness and be beneficial to both consumers and producers, if it gives due consideration to the interests of all European producers and consumers, respecting the fact that there are a number of sensitive agricultural products which should be given appropriate treatment, for example, through tariff-rate quotas or allocated adequate transition periods, taking into proper consideration the cumulative impact of trade agreements on agriculture and potentially excluding from the scope of the negotiations the most sensitive sectors; the inclusion of a usable, effective, suitable and quick bilateral safeguard clause enabling the temporary suspension of preferences, if, as a result of the entry into force of the trade agreement, a rise in imports causes or threatens to cause serious injuries to sensitive sectors;
   (l) ambitious provisions allowing for the full functioning of the digital ecosystem, and promoting cross-border data flows, including principles such as fair competition and ambitious rules for cross-border data transfers, in full compliance with, and without prejudice to, the EU’s current and future data protection and privacy rules, given that data flows are crucial drivers of the services economy and are an essential element of the GVC of traditional manufacturing companies, and therefore unjustified localisation requirements should be curbed as much as possible; data protection and privacy are not a trade barrier but fundamental rights, enshrined in Article 39 TEU and Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union;
   (m) specific, unambiguous provisions on the treatment accorded to overseas countries and territories (OCTs) and the outermost regions (ORs) so as to ensure that due account is paid to their particular interests in the negotiations;

The role of Parliament

20.  Stresses that following CJEU Opinion 2/15 on the EU-Singapore FTA, Parliament should see its role strengthened at every stage of the EU-FTA negotiations from the adoption of the mandate to the final conclusion of the agreement; looks forward to the launch of negotiations with Australia and to following them closely and contributing to their successful outcome; reminds the Commission of its obligation to inform Parliament immediately and fully at all stages of the negotiations (before and after the negotiating rounds); is committed to examining the legislative and regulatory issues that may arise in the context of the negotiations and the future agreement without prejudice to its prerogatives as a co-legislator; reiterates its fundamental responsibility to represent the citizens of the EU, and looks forward to facilitating inclusive and open discussions during the negotiating process;

21.  Recalls that Parliament will be asked to give its consent to the future agreement, as stipulated by the TFEU, and that its positions should therefore be duly taken into account at all stages; calls on the Commission and the Council to request the consent of the Parliament before its application, while also integrating this practice into the interinstitutional agreement;

22.  Recalls that Parliament will monitor the implementation of the future agreement;

o
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23.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and, for information, to the Commission and to the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the government and parliament of Australia.

(1) Texts adopted P8_TA(2016)0064.
(2) OJ C 353 E, 3.12.2013, p. 210.
(3) ECLI:EU:C:2017:376.


Negotiating mandate for trade negotiations with New Zealand
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European Parliament resolution of 26 October 2017 containing Parliament’s recommendation to the Council on the proposed negotiating mandate for trade negotiations with New Zealand (2017/2193(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0420A8-0312/2017

The European Parliament,

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

–  having regard to the joint statement of 29 October 2015 by the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key,

–  having regard to the EU-New Zealand Joint Declaration on Relations and Cooperation of 21 September 2007 and to the EU-New Zealand Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation (PARC) signed on 5 October 2016,

–  having regard to the Commission’s Trade Package published on 14 September 2017 in which the Commission committed to making all future trade negotiating mandates public,

–  having regard to the EU-New Zealand Agreement on Cooperation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters signed on 3 July 2017,

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

–  having regard to its previous resolutions, in particular that of 25 February 2016 on the opening of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with Australia and New Zealand(1), and its legislative resolution of 12 September 2012 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and New Zealand amending the Agreement on mutual recognition(2),

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

–  having regard to the joint declaration of 25 March 2014 by President Van Rompuy, President Barroso and Prime Minister Key on deepening the partnership between New Zealand and the European Union,

–  having regard to Opinion 2/15 of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) of 16 May 2017 on the Union competence to sign and conclude the Free Trade Agreement with Singapore(3),

–  having regard to the Commission’s study of 15 November 2016 on the cumulative effects of future trade agreements on EU agriculture published by the Commission,

–  having regard to the draft report of its Committee on International Trade on a digital trade strategy (2017/2065(INI)),

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

–  having regard to Rule 108(3) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on International Trade and the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (A8-0312/2017),

A.  whereas the EU and New Zealand work together in tackling common challenges across a broad spectrum of issues and cooperate in a number of international fora, including on trade policy issues in the multilateral arena;

B.  whereas in 2015, the EU was New Zealand’s second largest trading partner in goods after Australia, with trade in goods between the EU and New Zealand amounting to EUR 8,1 billion, and trade in services amounting to EUR 4,3 billion;

C.  whereas in 2015 EU foreign direct investment stock in New Zealand amounted to nearly EUR 10 billion;

D.  whereas New Zealand is a party to the Agreement on Government Procurement;

E.  whereas the EU concluded negotiations on the EU-New Zealand Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation (PARC) on 30 July 2014;

F.  whereas the European agricultural sector and certain agricultural products, such as beef, veal, sheep meat, dairy products, cereals and sugar – including special sugars – are particularly sensitive issues in these negotiations;

G.  whereas New Zealand is the world’s leading exporter of butter, the second largest exporter of powdered milk and is also a major player in the global export market for other dairy products as well as beef, veal and sheep meat;

H.  whereas the EU and New Zealand are engaged in plurilateral negotiations to liberalise trade further in green goods (Environmental Goods Agreement) and trade in services (Trade in Services Agreement);

I.  whereas the EU recognises the adequacy of personal data protection in New Zealand;

J.  whereas New Zealand is a party to the concluded negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the future of which remains uncertain, and the ongoing negotiations on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in East Asia, uniting its most important trading partners; whereas New Zealand has had a free trade agreement in place with China since 2008;

K.  whereas New Zealand made significant commitments in the TPP to promote the long-term conservation of certain species and to tackle illegal wildlife trafficking through enhanced conservation measures, and whereas it also laid down requirements for the effective enforcement of environmental protections and to engage in enhanced regional cooperation; whereas such commitments should serve as a benchmark for the EU-New Zealand FTA;

L.  whereas New Zealand is among the EU’s oldest and closest partners, sharing common values and a commitment to promoting prosperity and security within a global rules-based system;

M.  whereas New Zealand has ratified and implemented the main international covenants on human, social and labour rights and on environmental protection, and fully respects the rule of law;

N.  whereas New Zealand is one of only six WTO members which has no preferential access as yet to the EU market or negotiations in progress to that end;

O.  whereas, following the joint statement of 29 October 2015, scoping exercises were launched to investigate the feasibility of and shared ambition towards launching negotiations for a free trade agreement between the EU and New Zealand; whereas this scoping exercise has been concluded;

P.  whereas Parliament will be required to decide whether to give its consent to the potential EU-New Zealand FTA;

The strategic, political and economic context

1.  Underlines the importance of deepening relations between the EU and the Asia-Pacific region, among other things, in order to foster economic growth within Europe, and stresses that this is reflected in the EU’s trade policy; recognises that New Zealand is a key part of this strategy and that widening and deepening trade relations can help to meet this goal;

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

3.  Considers that the full potential of the Union’s bilateral and regional cooperation strategies can only be realised by adhering to rules- and values-based trade and that concluding a high-quality, ambitious, balanced and fair FTA with New Zealand in a spirit of reciprocity and mutual benefit, while under no circumstances undermining the ambition to achieve progress multilaterally or the implementation of already concluded multilateral and bilateral agreements, is a crucial part of those strategies; believes that deeper bilateral cooperation can be a stepping stone for further multilateral and plurilateral cooperation;

4.  Believes that the negotiation of a modern, deep, ambitious, balanced, fair and comprehensive FTA is a suitable way of deepening the bilateral partnership and further reinforcing the existing, already mature bilateral trade and investment relationships; takes the view that these negotiations could serve as an example for a new generation of free trade agreements, stressing the importance of raising ambitions further, pushing the boundaries for what a modern FTA entails, considering New Zealand’s highly developed economy and regulatory environment;

5.  Stresses that the EU and New Zealand are among the world’s front-runners in the field of sustainable environmental policies, and that in this respect they have the opportunity to negotiate and implement a highly ambitious sustainable development chapter;

6.  Warns against the danger of a serious imbalance in the agricultural provisions of the agreement to the detriment of the EU, and against the temptation to use agriculture as a bargaining chip to secure increased access to the New Zealand market for industrial products and services;

The scoping exercise

7.  Notes the conclusion of the EU-New Zealand scoping exercise on 7 March 2017 to the mutual satisfaction of the Commission and the Government of New Zealand;

8.  Welcomes the Commission’s timely conclusion and publication of the impact assessment, with a view to being able to provide a comprehensive evaluation of possible gains and losses resulting from enhanced EU-New Zealand trade and investment relationships for the benefit of the population and businesses on both sides, including the outermost regions and the overseas countries and territories, while paying special attention to social and environmental impacts, including on the EU labour market and to anticipate and take into account the impact Brexit might have on the trade and investment flows from New Zealand to the EU, in particular when preparing the exchange of offers and calculating quotas;

A mandate for negotiations

9.  Calls on the Council to authorise the Commission to start negotiations for a trade and investment agreement with New Zealand on the basis of the outcome of the scoping exercise, the recommendations set out in this resolution, the impact assessment and clear targets;

10.  Calls on the Council to fully respect the distribution of competences between the EU and its Member States, as can be deduced from CJEU Opinion 2/15 of 16 May 2017, in its decision on the adoption of the negotiating directives;

11.  Calls on the Commission and the Council to put forward a proposal as soon as possible about the general future architecture of trade agreements taking into account CJEU Opinion 2/15 on the EU-Singapore FTA, and to clearly distinguish between a trade and liberalisation of foreign direct investment (FDI) agreement containing only issues that fall within the EU’s exclusive competence, and a potential second agreement which covers subjects whose competences are shared with Member States; stresses that such a distinction would have implications for the parliamentary ratification process and that it is not intended to circumvent national democratic processes, but is a matter of democratic delegation of responsibilities based on the European treaties; calls for Parliament to be closely involved in all ongoing and future FTA negotiations at all stages of the process;

12.  Calls on the Commission, when presenting the finalised agreements for signature and conclusion, and on the Council, when deciding on signature and conclusion, to fully respect the distribution of competences between the EU and its Member States;

13.  Calls on the Commission to conduct negotiations as transparently as possible while not undermining the Union’s negotiating position, guaranteeing at least the level of transparency and public consultation implemented for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations with the USA through constant dialogue with social partners and civil society, and to fully respect best practice as established in other negotiations; welcomes the Commission’s initiative to publish all its recommendations for negotiating directives for trade agreements and considers this a positive precedent; urges the Council to follow suit and publish the negotiating directives immediately after their adoption;

14.  Stresses that an FTA must lead to improved market access and trade facilitation on the ground, create decent jobs, ensure gender equality for the benefit of the citizens on both sides, encourage sustainable development, uphold EU standards, safeguard services of general interest, and respect democratic procedures while boosting EU export opportunities;

15.  Emphasises that an ambitious agreement must address, in a meaningful way, investment, trade in goods and services (drawing on recent European Parliament recommendations as regards policy space reservations and sensitive sectors), customs and trade facilitation, digitalisation, e-commerce and data protection, technology research and support for innovation, public procurement, energy, state-owned enterprises, competition, sustainable development, regulatory issues such as high-quality sanitary and phytosanitary standards and other norms in agricultural and food products without weakening the EU’s high standards, robust and enforceable commitments on labour and environmental standards, and the fight against tax avoidance and corruption while remaining within the scope of the Union’s exclusive competence, all while giving special consideration to the needs of micro-enterprises and SMEs;

16.  Calls on the Council to explicitly recognise the other party’s obligations towards indigenous peoples;

17.  Underscores that the EU is a world leader in advancing animal welfare policy and given that the EU-New Zealand FTA will impact millions of farm animals, the Commission must ensure that the parties undertake robust commitments to improve the welfare and protection of farm animals;

18.  Emphasises that illicit wildlife trade has significant environmental, economic and social impacts, and that an ambitious agreement must promote the conservation of all wildlife species and their habitats, and strongly combat the illegal taking of, trade in, and transhipment of wildlife;

19.  Stresses that inadequate fisheries management and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing can have significant negative impacts on trade, development and the environment, and that the parties must undertake meaningful commitments to protect sharks, rays, turtles and marine mammals and to prevent overfishing, overcapacity, and IUU fishing;

20.  Stresses that, for an FTA to be truly advantageous to the EU’s economy, the following aspects should be included in the negotiating directives:

   (a) liberalisation of trade in goods and services and real market access opportunities for both sides in each other’s goods and services market through the elimination of unnecessary regulatory barriers, while ensuring that nothing in the agreement prevents either side from regulating, in a proportionate manner, with a view to achieving legitimate policy objectives; this agreement must (i) not prevent the parties from defining, regulating, providing and supporting services in the general interest and must include explicit provisions thereon; (ii) neither require governments to privatise any service nor preclude governments from expanding the range of services they supply to the public; (iii) not prevent governments from bringing back under public control services that governments have previously chosen to privatise such as water, education, health and social services, or decrease the high health, food, consumer, environmental, labour and safety standards in the EU or limit public funding of the arts and culture, education, health and social services as has been the case with previous trade agreements; commitments should be made on the basis of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS); highlights in this respect that the standards required of European producers must be preserved;
   (b) as far as the agreement may include a domestic regulation chapter, the negotiators must not include necessity tests;
   (c) commitments on anti-dumping and countervailing measures that go beyond WTO rules in this area, possibly excluding their application where sufficient common competition standards and cooperation are in place;
   (d) reducing unnecessary non-tariff barriers and strengthening and extending regulatory cooperation dialogues on a voluntary basis, wherever practicable and mutually beneficial, while not limiting the ability of each party to carry out its regulatory, legislative and policy activities, given that regulatory cooperation must aim to benefit the governance of the global economy through intensified convergence and cooperation on international standards and regulatory harmonisation, for example, through the adoption and implementation of the standards set by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), while guaranteeing the highest level of consumer (e.g. food safety), environmental (e.g. animal health and welfare, plant health), social and labour protection;
   (e) significant concessions on public procurement at all levels of government, including state-owned enterprises and undertakings with special or exclusive rights guaranteeing market access for European companies in strategic sectors and the same degree of openness as that of the EU’s public procurement markets, given that simplified procedures and transparency for bidders, including those from other countries, can also be effective tools for preventing corruption and fostering integrity in public administration while providing value for money to taxpayers, in terms of the quality of delivery, efficiency, effectiveness and accountability; guarantees that ecological and social criteria are applied in awarding public procurement contracts;
   (f) a separate chapter taking into account the needs and interests of micro-enterprises and SMEs with regard to market access facilitation issues including, but not limited to, increased compatibility of technical standards, and streamlined customs procedures with the aim of generating concrete business opportunities and fostering their internationalisation;
   (g) in view of CJEU Opinion 2/15 on the EU-Singapore FTA that trade and sustainable development fall within the EU’s exclusive competence and that sustainable development forms an integral part of the EU’s common commercial policy, a robust and ambitious sustainable development chapter is an indispensable part of any potential agreement; provisions for effective tools for dialogue, monitoring and cooperation, including binding and enforceable provisions which are subject to suitable and effective dispute settlement mechanisms, and consider, among various enforcement methods, a sanctions-based mechanism, while enabling social partners and civil society to participate appropriately, as well as close cooperation with experts from relevant multilateral organisations; provisions in the chapter covering the labour and environmental aspects of trade and the relevance of sustainable development in a trade and investment context, encompassing provisions that promote adherence to, and effective implementation of, relevant internationally agreed principles and rules, such as core labour standards, the four ILO priority governance conventions and multilateral environmental agreements, including those related to climate change;
   (h) the requirement that the parties must promote corporate social responsibility (CSR), including with regard to internationally recognised instruments, and the uptake of sectoral OECD guidelines and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights;
   (i) comprehensive provisions on investment liberalisation within the Union’s competence taking into account recent policy developments, for example, CJEU Opinion 2/15 on the EU-Singapore FTA of 16 May 2017;
   (j) strong and enforceable measures covering the recognition and protection of intellectual property rights, including geographical indications (GIs) for wines and spirits and other agricultural and foodstuff products; simplified customs procedures and simple and flexible rules of origin that are suitable for a complex world of global value chains (GVCs), including in terms of enhancing transparency and accountability within them, and applying wherever possible multilateral rules of origin or in other cases non-burdensome rules of origin such as a ‘change of tariff subheading’;
   (k) a balanced and ambitious outcome in the agriculture and fisheries chapters which can only boost competitiveness and be beneficial to both consumers and producers, if it gives due consideration to the interests of all European producers and consumers, respecting the fact that there are a number of sensitive agricultural products which should be given appropriate treatment, for example, through tariff-rate quotas or allocated adequate transition periods, taking into proper consideration the cumulative impact of trade agreements on agriculture and potentially excluding from the scope of the negotiations the most sensitive sectors; the inclusion of a usable, effective, suitable and quick bilateral safeguard clause enabling the temporary suspension of preferences, if, as a result of the entry into force of the trade agreement, a rise in imports causes or threatens to cause serious injuries to sensitive sectors;
   (l) ambitious provisions allowing for the full functioning of the digital ecosystem, and promoting cross-border data flows, including principles such as fair competition and ambitious rules for cross-border data transfers, in full compliance with, and without prejudice to, the EU’s current and future data protection and privacy rules, given that data flows are crucial drivers of the services economy and are an essential element of the GVC of traditional manufacturing companies, and therefore unjustified localisation requirements should be curbed as much as possible; data protection and privacy are not a trade barrier but fundamental rights, enshrined in Article 39 TEU and Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union;
   (m) specific, unambiguous provisions on the treatment accorded to overseas countries and territories (OCTs) and the outermost regions (ORs) so as to ensure that due account is paid to their particular interests in the negotiations;

21.  Calls on the Commission to secure, as an essential element of a balanced agreement, protection regarding the labelling, traceability and genuine origin of agricultural products, in order to avoid giving consumers a false or misleading impression;

22.  Highlights the difference in size between the European single market and the New Zealand market, which must be taken into account in a potential free trade agreement between the two countries;

The role of Parliament

23.  Stresses that following CJEU Opinion 2/15 on the EU-Singapore FTA, Parliament should see its role strengthened at every stage of the EU-FTA negotiations from the adoption of the mandate to the final conclusion of the agreement; looks forward to the launch of negotiations with New Zealand and to following them closely and contributing to their successful outcome; reminds the Commission of its obligation to inform Parliament immediately and fully at all stages of the negotiations (both before and after the negotiating rounds); is committed to examining the legislative and regulatory issues that may arise in the context of the negotiations and the future agreement without prejudice to its prerogatives as a co-legislator; reiterates its fundamental responsibility to represent the citizens of the EU, and looks forward to facilitating inclusive and open discussions during the negotiating process;

24.  Recalls that Parliament will be asked to give its consent to the future agreement, as stipulated by the TFEU, and that its positions should therefore be duly taken into account at all stages; calls on the Commission and the Council to request the consent of Parliament before its application, while also integrating this practice into the interinstitutional agreement;

25.  Recalls that Parliament will monitor the implementation of the future agreement;

o
o   o

26.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and, for information, to the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the government and parliament of New Zealand.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0064.
(2) OJ C 353 E, 3.12.2013, p. 210.
(3) ECLI:EU:C:2017:376.


Monitoring the application of EU law 2015
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European Parliament resolution of 26 October 2017 on monitoring the application of EU law 2015 (2017/2011(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0421A8-0265/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the 32nd Annual Report on monitoring the application of EU law (2014) (COM(2015)0329),

–  having regard to the 33rd Annual Report on monitoring the application of EU law (2015) (COM(2016)0463),

–  having regard to the report by the Commission entitled ‘EU Pilot Evaluation Report’ (COM(2010)0070),

–  having regard to its resolution of 6 October 2016 on ‘Monitoring the application of Union law: 2014 Annual Report’(1),

–  having regard to the report by the Commission entitled ‘Second Evaluation Report on EU Pilot’ (COM(2011)0930),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 20 March 2002 on relations with the complainant in respect of infringements of Community law (COM(2002)0141),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 2 April 2012 entitled ‘Updating the handling of relations with the complainant in respect of the application of Union law’ (COM(2012)0154),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 11 March 2014 entitled ‘A new EU Framework to strengthen the Rule of Law’ (COM(2014)0158),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 19 May 2015 entitled ‘Better regulation for better results – An EU agenda’ (COM(2015)0215),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 13 December 2016 entitled ‘EU law: Better results through better application’(2),

–  having regard to the Framework Agreement on Relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission(3),

–  having regard to Council Decision 2001/470/EC of 28 May 2001 establishing a European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters(4),

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 13 April 2016 between the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission on Better Law-Making(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 10 September 2015 on the 30th and 31st annual reports on monitoring the application of EU law (2012-2013)(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2016 with recommendations to the Commission on the establishment of an EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights(7),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 June 2016 for an open, efficient and independent European Union administration(8),

–  having regard to Articles 267 and 288 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Rules 52 and 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the opinions of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the Committee on Petitions (A8-0265/2017),

A.  whereas Article 17 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) defines the fundamental role of the Commission as ‘guardian of the Treaties’;

B.  whereas pursuant to Article 4(3) TEU and Articles 288(3) and 291(1) TFEU the Member States have the primary responsibility for transposing, applying and implementing EU law correctly and within the time limits set, and for providing sufficient remedies to ensure effective legal protection in the fields covered by EU law;

C.  whereas, according to settled case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the Member States must supply the Commission with clear and precise information on the way in which they transpose EU directives into national law(9);

D.  whereas, in accordance with the Joint Political Declaration of 28 September 2011 of Member States and the Commission on explanatory documents(10) and the Joint Political Declaration of 27 October 2011 of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on explanatory documents(11), Member States may, when notifying the Commission of national transposition measures, have an obligation, in justified cases, also to provide supporting information in the form of ‘explanatory documents’ setting out the way in which they have transposed the directives into their national legislation(12);

E.  whereas, according to Article 6(1) TEU, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFREU) has the same legal value as the Treaties, and is addressed to the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union and the Member States when they are implementing Union law (Article 51(1) CFREU);

F.  whereas the Union has a number of instruments and processes to ensure the full and correct application of the principles and values enshrined in the Treaties but in practice these instruments appear to be of limited scope, inadequate or ineffective;

G.  whereas it is therefore necessary to establish a new mechanism, providing a single and coherent framework, building on existing instruments and mechanisms, which should be applied in a uniform manner to all EU institutions and all Member States;

H.  whereas, according to Article 258(1) and (2) TFEU, the Commission shall deliver a reasoned opinion to a Member State when it considers that the latter has failed to fulfil an obligation under the Treaties, and may bring the matter before the CJEU if the Member State in question does not comply with the opinion within a deadline set by the Commission;

I.  whereas the Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission provides for sharing of information concerning all infringement procedures based on letters of formal notice, but does not cover the informal EU Pilot procedure which precedes the opening of formal infringement proceedings;

J.  whereas EU Pilot procedures are intended to make for closer and more coherent cooperation between the Commission and Member States so as to remedy breaches of EU law at an early stage through bilateral dialogue in order, wherever possible, to avert the need to resort to formal infringement proceedings;

K.  whereas in 2015, the Commission received 3 450 complaints reporting potential breaches of EU law, with Italy (637), Spain (342) and Germany (274) being the Member States against which the most complaints were filed;

L.  whereas Article 41 CFREU defines the right to good administration as the right of every person to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions, and whereas Article 298 TFEU stipulates that, in carrying out their missions, the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union shall have the support of an open, efficient and independent European administration;

1.  Welcomes the Commission’s 2015 annual report on the application of EU law, which focuses on the enforcement of the EU acquis, and notes that according to this report the three fields in which Member States were mostly subject to transposition infringement proceedings in 2015 were mobility and transport, energy and the environment; points out that these areas were also the subject of most of the investigations opened under the EU Pilot system in 2015, with the main Member States concerned being Italy, Portugal and Germany; calls on the Commission to outline the specific reasons for this in greater detail;

2.  Notes, in particular, that the Commission has tackled the problem of poor air quality in Europe by launching a number of infringement proceedings for breach of Directive 2008/50/EC, on account of continuous exceedances of the NO2 limit values; regrets, however, that in 2015 the Commission did not exercise the same powers of control to prevent the placing on the single market of pollutant, diesel-powered cars that contribute significantly to the release of NO2 into the atmosphere over these limits and that do not comply with EU rules on the type-approval and emissions of passenger and light commercial vehicles;

3.  Considers that the large number of infringement procedures in 2015 shows that ensuring the timely and correct application of EU legislation in the Member States remains a serious challenge and priority in the EU; maintains that EU citizens feel more confident about EU law when it is implemented in the Member States in an effective manner; calls on the Member States to increase their efforts for the effective and timely transposition and implementation of EU law;

4.  Notes that, at the end of 2015, 1 368 infringement cases remained open, which represents a slight increase from the previous year but is still below the 2011 level;

5.  Recognises that the primary responsibility for the correct implementation and application of EU law lies with the Member States, but points out that this does not absolve the EU institutions of their duty to respect primary EU law when they produce secondary EU law; emphasises, however, that the Commission makes available to the Member States a series of instruments designed to help them find joint solutions, such as handbooks, groups of experts and special internet sites, from dialogue concerning transposition plans to documents explaining how to recognise transposition problems early and address them; calls on the Member States to take all necessary measures to respect their commitments, as agreed in the Joint Political Declaration of 28 September 2011 of Member States and the Commission on explanatory documents, including by providing correlation tables containing clear and precise information on the national measures transposing directives in their domestic legal order;

6.  Calls on the Commission once again to bring together all the various portals, access points and information websites in a single gateway that will provide citizens with easy access to online complaint forms and user-friendly information on infringement procedures;

7.  Notes that the Commission insists that the Member States notify it should they decide, when transposing directives into national law, to add elements which make it clear to the public which provisions are the EU’s responsibility and which the Member State’s; points out, at the same time, that this is without prejudice to the right of Member States to lay down, for example, higher social and environmental standards at national level;

8.  Highlights the necessity for Parliament to be able to also monitor the Commission’s enforcement of regulations in the same way it does with directives; requests that the Commission ensure that the data on the implementation of regulations is provided in its future annual reports on the monitoring of the application of EU law; calls on the Member States to submit national legislation transposing or implementing regulations to the Commission with a view to ensuring its correct compliance and to specify which parts stem from EU legislation and which parts are national additions;

9.  Stresses that time limits for transposition must be enforced; urges the EU institutions to set realistic time limits for enforcement;

10.  Emphasises that the EU has been set up as a Union based on the rule of law and respect for human rights (Article 2 TEU); stresses that the values enshrined in Article 2 TEU are the cornerstone of the Union’s foundations and that the observance of these values by Member States should therefore be the subject of constant evaluation; reiterates that careful monitoring of Member States’ and EU institutions’ acts and omissions is of utmost importance, and expresses its concern at the number of petitions to Parliament and complaints to the Commission;

11.  Points out that whistle-blowers can usefully inform EU as well as national institutions about cases of misapplication of Union law; reiterates that they should be encouraged to do so, rather than obstructed;

12.  Acknowledges that petitions are an important source of first-hand information, not just about violations and deficiencies in the application of EU law in the Member States, but also about potential loopholes in EU legislation as well as citizens’ suggestions about new legislation that could be adopted, or possible improvements to the legislative texts in force; confirms that the effective treatment of petitions challenges and ultimately enhances the capacity of the Commission and Parliament to react to and resolve problems relating to transposition and misapplication; notes that the Commission considers the implementation of EU law a priority, so that citizens can benefit from it in their everyday lives; highlights the need to ensure that decision-making processes and administration are transparent, impartial and independent;

13.  Regrets the fact that no precise statistics concerning the number of petitions that led to the initiation of an EU Pilot or infringement procedure are provided; calls on the Commission, therefore, to send regular reports on cases relating to proceedings and/or procedures under way, in order to facilitate structured dialogue and reduce the time frame for settling disputes; calls on the Commission to discuss those reports with the Committee on Petitions, proactively involving the Vice-President responsible for the application of law and simplification; asks the Commission to involve petitioners in EU Pilot procedures initiated in relation to their petitions, with a view, inter alia, to facilitating dialogue between the petitioners and the national authorities concerned;

14.  Regrets the increasing delays in the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015, which are effectively preventing the launch of a new EU-wide strategy that is needed to ensure full and effective protection of animal welfare through an updated, exhaustive and clear legislative framework that fully complies with the requirements of Article 13 TFEU;

15.  Notes that the Committee on Petitions has received many petitions about child welfare cases, and hopes that the current review of the Brussels IIA Regulation will help to make good the regulation’s shortcomings and address failures to implement it;

16.  Points out that shortcomings have been identified in the application of measures to counter fraud and money laundering in recent years; asks the Commission to redouble its efforts to ensure that the relevant EU rules are applied rigorously;

17.  Notes that timely and correct transposition and implementation of EU law into national legislation, as well as a clear domestic legislative framework with full respect for the fundamental values, principles and rights enshrined in the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, should be a priority for the Member States, with a view to avoiding breaches of EU law, while delivering all the intended benefits made possible by the efficient and effective application of EU law; highlights in this context that acts or omissions of all EU institutions are bound by the EU Treaties and the CFREU(13);

18.  Calls on the Commission to urge the Member States to ensure the strict enforcement of EU rules on the free movement of persons, in particular by ensuring full protection of the related economic, social and cultural rights; recalls that, in addition to constituting one of the fundamental freedoms of the EU and forming an integral part of EU citizenship, the free movement of persons, in a context in which fundamental rights are fully safeguarded, is of great importance for EU citizens and their families, especially in terms of access to social security, and for their perceptions of the EU, and appears as a frequent subject of petitions;

19.  Recalls its resolution of 25 October 2016 and calls on the Commission to act on the recommendations in this resolution;

20.  Acknowledges that Parliament also has a crucial role to play by exercising political oversight of the Commission’s enforcement actions, scrutinising the annual reports on monitoring the implementation of EU law and adopting relevant parliamentary resolutions; suggests that Parliament could contribute further to the timely and accurate transposition of EU legislation by sharing its expertise in the legislative decision-making process through pre-established links with national parliaments;

21.  Underlines the important role of the social partners, civil society organisations, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and other stakeholders in creating legislation and in monitoring and reporting shortcomings in the transposition and application of EU law by the Member States; emphasises in this respect the principle of transparency as enshrined in the EU Treaties as well as the right of EU citizens to justice and good administration, as stipulated in Articles 41 and 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; recalls that those rights and principles, among others, should also be of paramount importance to the Member States when proposing draft acts implementing EU law;

22.  Welcomes the decrease of around 30 % from 2014 in the number of new EU Pilot files opened in 2015 (881 as against 1 208 in 2014); notes, however, that the average resolution rate remains stable in 2015, being exactly the same as in 2014 (75 %);

23.  Welcomes the fact that for the first time since 2011, the number of new complaints has decreased by around 9 % compared to 2014, with a total of 3 450 new complaints; notes with great concern, however, that the area of employment, social affairs and inclusion has the highest number of new complaints; notes that the areas of employment, social affairs and inclusion, the internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs, justice and consumers, taxation and customs union, and the environment together account for 72 % of all complaints submitted against the Member States in 2015;

24.  Regrets that, in 2015, Member States did not deliver in all cases on their commitment to provide explanatory documents together with the national measures transposing the directives into their legal order; takes the view that the Commission should offer the Member States more support in the process of drawing up these explanatory documents and correlation tables; encourages the Commission to continue to report to Parliament and the Council on explanatory documents in the annual reports on the application of EU law;

25.  Is of the opinion that financial penalties for non-compliance with EU law should be effective, proportionate and dissuasive, taking into account repeated failures in the same field, and that Member States’ legal rights must be respected;

26.  Highlights that all EU institutions are bound by the EU Treaties and the CFREU(14);

27.  Reiterates that the tasks allocated to the Commission or other EU institutions by the ESM Treaty (or other relevant treaties) oblige them, as provided in Article 13(3) and (4) thereof, to ensure that the Memoranda of Understanding concluded under the aforementioned treaties are consistent with EU law; stresses that as a result, EU institutions should refrain from signing a memorandum of understanding whose consistency with EU law they doubt(15);

28.  Stresses the importance of domestic transposition and practical implementation of EU-level asylum standards (for example regarding the implementation by Member States of the reception conditions directive (Directive 2013/33/EU(16)))(17); deplores the deficient implementation and use of the relocation mechanism proposed by the Commission to deal with the refugee crisis by Member States; calls, therefore, on the Commission to pay particular attention to the implementation of measures adopted in the area of asylum and migration so as to ensure that they comply with the principles enshrined in the CFREU, and to launch the necessary infringement proceedings if relevant;

29.  Notes with concern that certain Member States are disregarding their obligations in relation to asylum and migration; welcomes the firm stance taken by the Commission towards the Member States on the application of EU law in the area of asylum and migration; recalls that, on account of the migratory flows towards Europe, the EU is faced with an unparalleled legal, political and humanitarian challenge; calls on the Member States to take into account also international conventions on human rights when accepting and allocating refugees; expresses the hope that the Commission will systematically monitor the application of the European Agenda on Migration by the Member States; recalls that an effective EU migration policy needs to be based on a balance between responsibility and solidarity among the Member States;

30.  Regrets the fact that significant shortcomings in the implementation and enforcement of EU environmental legislation persist in some Member States; notes that this is particularly the case in waste management, wastewater treatment infrastructure and compliance with air quality limit values; considers, in this context, that the Commission should seek to identify the causes of this situation in the Member States;

31.  Encourages the EU institutions to assume at all times their duty to respect primary EU law when they create rules of secondary EU law, decide policies or sign agreements or treaties with institutions outside the EU, and also to assume their duty to assist EU Member States by all means available in their efforts to transpose EU legislation in all areas and to respect the values and principles of the Union, especially with respect to recent development in Member States;

32.  Regrets the fact that it does not yet receive transparent and timely information on the implementation of EU laws; recalls that, in the revised Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission, the Commission undertakes to ‘make available to Parliament summary information concerning all infringement procedures from the letter of formal notice, included, if so requested, [...] on the issues to which the infringement procedure relates’, and expects this clause to be applied in good faith in practice;

33.  Calls on the Commission to make compliance with EU law a real political priority, to be pursued in close collaboration with Parliament, which has a duty to keep the Commission accountable and, as co-legislator, to make sure that it is itself fully informed, with a view to constantly improving its legislative work; requests that the Commission therefore provide a follow-up to every European Parliament resolution on monitoring the implementation of EU law;

34.  Recalls that, in its resolutions of 15 January 2013(18) and 9 June 2016, Parliament called for the adoption of a regulation on an open, efficient and independent European Union administration under Article 298 TFEU, and asks the Commission to further consider the proposal for a regulation annexed to the latter resolution;

35.  Stresses that the lack of a coherent and comprehensive set of codified rules of good administration across the Union makes it difficult for citizens to easily and fully understand their administrative rights under Union law, and also contributes to a deterioration of their legal protection; emphasises, therefore, that codifying rules of good administration in the form of a regulation setting out the various aspects of the administrative procedure – including notifications, binding time limits, the right to be heard, and the right for every person to have access to his or her file – is tantamount to reinforcing citizens’ rights and transparency; clarifies that these rules would be supplementary to existing Union law, when legal gaps or interpretation problems arise, and would bring more accessibility; reiterates its call on the Commission, therefore, to come forward with a comprehensive legislative proposal on a European law of administrative procedure, taking into account all the steps already taken by Parliament in this field, as well as the contemporary developments in the Union and its Member States;

36.  Recalls that preliminary rulings help to clarify the manner in which the law of the European Union is to be applied; considers that recourse to this procedure allows a uniform interpretation and implementation of European legislation; encourages, therefore, national courts to refer questions to the CJEU in the event of doubt and thus prevent infringement proceedings;

37.  Believes that the key to delivering the benefit of EU policies to both individuals and businesses is the proper application of the EU’s acquis; calls, therefore, on the Commission to strengthen enforcement of EU law based on structured and systematic transposition and conformity checks of national legislation, in full compliance with the EU Treaties and the CFREU; points out that EU legislation is the result of a free and democratic process; welcomes the practice by the Commission of taking due account of the principles of better law-making when monitoring the application of EU law in the Member States;

38.  Stresses the importance of transparency in the drafting and application of law by the EU institutions and the Member States; points out that in the interest of both facilitating the implementation of EU law by the Member States and making it accessible to EU citizens, EU legislation needs to be clear, understandable, consistent and precise, while also taking into consideration the jurisprudence of the CJEU, which insists on the need for foreseeability and predictability in EU norms(19);

39.  Believes that the inclusion of national parliaments in dialogue on the content of legislative proposals, when relevant, will foster effective application of EU law; points out that closer scrutiny of national parliaments of their respective governments when the latter are involved in the law-making process will foster a more effective application of EU law as provided for in the Treaties; stresses, for that reason, the need for national parliaments to have a say at the early stages of the European legislative procedures, and urges the European institutions and the Member States to initiate a debate on Protocol No 1 on the role of national parliaments in the European Union and Protocol No 2 on subsidiarity and proportionality, possibly by looking into a revision of the so-called early warning system and thereby ensuring a better application of the yellow card procedure;

40.  Encourages closer cooperation and strengthening of the links between the European Parliament and national parliaments; recalls the scrutiny function of national parliaments regarding their governments’ involvement in the decision-making process in the Council of the European Union, and stresses the need for consultations and regular exchange of views between the European Parliament and national parliaments, especially in the initial stages of the law-making process;

41.  Recalls that national parliaments have an essential role to play in scrutiny of correct implementation of EU law by the Member States; calls on them to pursue that role proactively; points out the role of national parliaments in avoiding the practice of ‘gold-plating’ EU legislation at national level, thereby preventing over-regulation and unnecessary administrative burdens; expects Member States to clearly indicate and document national obligations where they are added to EU legislation in the implementation process; is worried that excessive national measures added to EU legislation unnecessarily increase euroscepticism;

42.  Notes that the system of exchange of information and cooperation between committees of national parliaments working with the EU can help in achieving efficient legislation and should also be used to support a more effective application of EU law by the Member States; promotes the use of the IPEX platform as a tool for mutual exchange of information between national parliaments and the European Parliament; encourages national parliaments to take an active part in regular Interparliamentary Committee Meetings organised by the European Parliament;

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

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0385.
(2) OJ C 18, 19.1.2017, p. 10.
(3) OJ L 304, 20.11.2010, p. 47.
(4) OJ L 174, 27.6.2001, p. 25.
(5) OJ L 123, 12.5.2016, p. 1.
(6) OJ C 316, 22.9.2017, p. 246.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0409.
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0279.
(9) Case C-427/07, Commission v Ireland, paragraph 107.
(10) OJ C 369, 17.12.2011, p. 14.
(11) OJ C 369, 17.12.2011, p. 15.
(12) In accordance with the Joint Political Declaration of 28 September 2011 of Member States and the Commission on explanatory documents, Member States have undertaken to accompany, in justified cases, the notification of transposition measures with one or more documents explaining the relationship between the components of a directive and the corresponding parts of national transposition instruments.
(13) See inter alia: CJEU judgment of 20 September 2016 – Ledra Advertising Ltd (C-8/15 P), Andreas Eleftheriou (C-9/15 P), Eleni Eleftheriou (C-9/15 P), Lilia Papachristofi (C-9/15 P), Christos Theophilou (C-10/15 P), Eleni Theophilou (C-10/15 P) v European Commission and European Central Bank (Joined Cases C-8/15 P to C-10/15 P), ECLI:EU:C:2016:701, paragraphs 67 ff.
(14) CJEU judgment of 20 September 2016, Joined Cases C-8/15 P to C-10/15 P, paragraphs 67 ff..
(15) Ibid., paragraphs 58 ff.; see, to that effect, judgment of 27 November 2012, Pringle, C‑370/12, paragraph 164.
(16) Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (OJ L 180, 29.6.2013, p. 96).
(17) See inter alia: S. Carrera, S. Blockmans, D. Gros, E. Guild, ‘The EU’s Response to the Refugee Crisis – Taking Stock and Setting Policy Priorities’, Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), essay No 20, 16 December 2015 – https://www.ceps.eu/system/files/EU%20Response%20to%20the%202015%20Refugee%20Crisis_0.pdf
(18) Resolution of 15 January 2013 with recommendations to the Commission on a Law of Administrative Procedure of the European Union (OJ C 440, 30.12.2015, p. 17).
(19) Judgment of the Court of Justice of 10 September 2009, Plantanol GmbH & Co. KG v Hauptzollamt Darmstadt, C-201/08, ECLI:EU:C:2009:539, paragraph 46.

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