Index 
Texts adopted
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 - StrasbourgFinal edition
Non-objection to a delegated act: Regulatory technical standards on the trading obligation for certain derivatives
 State of play of negotiations with the United Kingdom
 Recommendation following the inquiry on money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion
 Annual report on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy
 Annual report on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy
 Annual report on human rights and democracy in the world 2016 and the EU policy on the matter
 Hong Kong, 20 years after handover

Non-objection to a delegated act: Regulatory technical standards on the trading obligation for certain derivatives
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European Parliament decision to raise no objections to the Commission delegated regulation of 17 November 2017 supplementing Regulation (EU) No 600/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council on markets in financial instruments with regard to regulatory technical standards on the trading obligation for certain derivatives (C(2017)07684 – 2017/2979(DEA))
P8_TA(2017)0489B8-0667/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission delegated regulation (C(2017)07684),

–  having regard to the Commission’s letter of 29 November 2017 asking Parliament to declare that it will raise no objections to the delegated regulation,

–  having regard to the letter from the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs to the Chair of the Conference of Committee Chairs of 4 December 2017,

–  having regard to Article 290 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 600/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 on markets in financial instruments and amending Regulation (EU) No 648/2012(1) (MiFIR), and in particular Articles 32(1) and 50(5) thereof,

–  having regard to Articles 10(1) and 13 of Regulation (EU) No 1095/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 establishing a European Supervisory Authority (European Securities and Markets Authority), amending Decision No 716/2009/EC and repealing Commission Decision 2009/77/EC(2),

–  having regard to the draft regulatory technical standards on the trading obligation for derivatives under MiFIR submitted by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) on 28 September 2017 pursuant to Article 32(1) of MiFIR,

–  having regard to the accompanying letter from ESMA to the Commission of 28 September 2017 on ESMA’s draft regulatory technical standards on the trading obligation under MiFIR,

–  having regard to the recommendation for a decision by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs,

–  having regard to Rule 105(6) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the fact that no objections have been raised within the period laid down in the third and fourth indents of Rule 105(6) of its Rules of Procedure, which expired on 12 December 2017,

A.  whereas the delegated regulation sets out in its Annex the classes of derivatives that should be subject to the trading obligation introduced by Article 28 of MiFIR; whereas derivatives subject to this trading obligation may only be traded on a regulated market, on a multilateral trading facility, organised trading facility or third-country trading venue deemed to be equivalent by the Commission;

B.  whereas ESMA submitted the draft regulatory technical standard (RTS) on 28 September 2017 with an accompanying letter to the Commission, asking all parties involved to commit to shortening their deadlines to ensure that the political objective for the trading obligation to apply as of 3 January 2018 is achieved; whereas ESMA notes, furthermore, that a significant number of equivalence determinations still need to be completed before the trading obligation takes effect;

C.  whereas Parliament considers that the RTS adopted is not the same as the draft RTS submitted by ESMA due to the Commission’s amendments to the text, and whereas Parliament considers that it has three months to object to the RTS (‘scrutiny period’);

D.  whereas the delegated regulation should apply from 3 January 2018, the date of application of Directive 2014/65/EU (‘MiFID II’) and MiFIR, and a full use of the three-month scrutiny period available to Parliament would go beyond the date on which the rules on the trading obligation take effect;

E.  whereas the trading obligation for derivatives is an important element of the commitments agreed upon by G20 leaders in Pittsburgh in 2009;

F.  whereas a swift publication of the delegated regulation in the Official Journal would allow for timely implementation and legal certainty concerning the provisions applicable to the trading obligation for derivatives;

G.  whereas Parliament underlines the importance of the Commission finalising the appropriate equivalence decisions before the trading obligation comes into effect;

H.  whereas Parliament notes that the RTS does not contain any specific provisions regarding package transactions and that further guidance might be needed by the Commission and ESMA on the treatment of packages; whereas Parliament considers that this guidance should be in line with the provisions laid down in the MiFID II ‘Quick Fix’;

1.  Declares that it has no objections to the delegated regulation;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 173, 12.6.2014, p. 84.
(2) OJ L 331, 15.12.2010, p. 84.


State of play of negotiations with the United Kingdom
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European Parliament resolution of 13 December 2017 on the state of play of negotiations with the United Kingdom (2017/2964(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0490B8-0677/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its resolutions of 5 April 2017 on negotiations with the United Kingdom following its notification that it intends to withdraw from the European Union(1) and of 3 October 2017 on the state of play of negotiations with the United Kingdom(2),

–  having regard to the European Council (Article 50) guidelines of 29 April 2017 following the United Kingdom’s notification under Article 50 TEU and to the Annex to the Council Decision of 22 May 2017 which lays down the directives for the negotiation of an agreement with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal from the European Union,

–  having regard to the Joint Report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government of 8 December 2017 on progress during phase 1 of negotiations under Article 50 TEU on the United Kingdom’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union,

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

A.  whereas the purpose of the negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) being undertaken pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) is to provide for an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU, taking into account the framework for the UK’s future relationship with the Union once it is no longer a Member State;

B.  whereas achieving an orderly withdrawal requires that negotiations be strictly sequenced such that separation issues arising from the UK’s impending withdrawal are dealt with in a first phase before negotiations can move on to a second phase;

C.  whereas the three most important separation issues by far concern the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK and UK citizens resident in the EU-27, the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and the unique and special circumstances confronting the island of Ireland, and the settlement of the UK’s financial obligations to the EU;

D.  whereas sufficient progress must be made on all three of these separation issues before negotiations can proceed to the second phase, and whereas this must be achieved as quickly as possible in order for there to be enough time for the second phase of the negotiations;

E.  whereas the Joint Report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom Government indicates that sufficient progress has been achieved;

F.  whereas with regard to citizens’ rights, the UK has:

   accepted that all EU citizens legally residing in the UK and UK nationals legally residing in an EU-27 Member State, and their respective family members at the time of withdrawal, will enjoy the full set of rights as established in EU law and interpreted by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), based on protections which will be set out in the Withdrawal Agreement,
   accepted, in addition, that citizens’ core family members and persons in a durable relationship with them currently residing outside the host state will be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement and that this will also be the case for children born in the future and outside the host state,
   accepted that the continuation of citizens’ rights will be guaranteed for a lifetime through a proportionate procedure, which will be subject to proper safeguards, in accordance with EU law concepts. This procedure and these safeguards will be set out in the Withdrawal Agreement,
   accepted that administrative procedures will be transparent, smooth and streamlined, that forms will be short, simple and user-friendly, and that applications made by members of a family at the same time will be considered together,
   accepted that all relevant rights based on EU law will be safeguarded and will be set out in detail in the Withdrawal Agreement,
   accepted that all social security rights under EU law will be maintained. This includes the export of all exportable benefits,
   accepted that the citizens’ rights’ provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement will be incorporated into a specific UK legal act so that these rights will have direct effect;

G.  whereas with regard to Ireland / Northern Ireland, the UK has made the requisite commitments to ensure that there is no hardening of the border, by means of regulatory alignment, including:

   if necessary, specific solutions for Northern Ireland,
   commitment to protecting the 1998 Agreement in all its parts,
   ensuring that there is no diminution of rights for people in Northern Ireland;

H.  whereas with regard to the financial settlement, the UK has clarified adequately what financial obligations it will honour as a departing Member State;

I.  whereas this does not mean that all outstanding issues have been resolved, nor does it indicate what position Parliament will take when it comes to the consent procedure on a final withdrawal agreement;

J.  whereas the second phase of negotiations should, on the basis of sound and unambiguous principles, be dedicated to finalising the arrangements for the orderly withdrawal of the UK from the Union, including possible transitional arrangements needed for the UK’s withdrawal; whereas in this context an overall understanding on the framework for the future relationship should be identified;

K.  whereas the UK and the EU will remain close neighbours and will continue to have many interests in common even though the UK will no longer be a Member State;

L.  whereas such a close relationship in the form of an association agreement between the EU and the UK could be considered an appropriate framework by which these common interests can be protected and promoted, including a new trade relationship;

M.  whereas the advantage of an association agreement is that it is a flexible instrument allowing for cooperation across a wide variety of policy areas;

N.  whereas transitional arrangements will be necessary to avoid a cliff-edge scenario when the UK leaves the EU, and to give the EU and UK negotiators the possibility to negotiate a future relationship agreement;

O.  whereas, whatever the outcome of the negotiations on the future relationship, there cannot be any trade-off between internal and external security, including defence cooperation, on the one hand, and the future economic relationship on the other hand;

P.  whereas comments such as those made by David Davis, calling the outcome of phase 1 of the negotiations a mere ‘statement of intent’, risk undermining the good faith that has been built during the negotiations;

1.  Welcomes the joint progress report presented by the EU and UK negotiators, which concludes that sufficient progress has been achieved in negotiations for the Withdrawal Agreement, and congratulates the Union’s negotiator on the conduct of the negotiations so far;

2.  Is of the opinion that the report allows for the negotiations to move on to the second phase and recommends that the European Council decide accordingly, but believes that negotiations must be conducted in good faith and is of the opinion that negotiations can only progress during the second phase if the UK Government also fully respects the commitments it made in the Joint Report and if these commitments are fully translated into the draft Withdrawal Agreement;

3.  Points out, however, that there are still outstanding issues with respect to providing for an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU, which must be resolved before the Withdrawal Agreement can be finalised, and notes that, once finalised, the Withdrawal Agreement needs to be set out in a clear and unambiguous legal text; points out that these outstanding issues concern:

   extending coverage of citizens’ rights to future partners,
   ensuring that the administrative procedure is light-touch, declaratory in nature and free of charge, placing the burden of proof on the UK authorities to challenge the declaration, and enabling families to initiate the procedure by means of a single form,
   providing for the binding character of the CJEU decisions in relation to the interpretation of citizens’ rights provisions, as well as for the role of the future independent national authority (ombudsman) created to act on citizens’ complaints,
   guaranteeing future free movement rights across the whole EU for UK citizens currently resident in an EU-27 Member State,
   ensuring that the commitments made with respect to Northern Ireland / Ireland are fully enforceable;

4.  Reserves, therefore, all its rights with respect to the final Withdrawal Agreement, to which it will need, in line with Article 50(2) of the TEU, to give its consent if that Agreement is to come into effect;

Framework for a future EU-UK relationship

5.  Recalls that Article 50(2) of the TEU provides for the framework for the EU’s future relationship with the departing Member State to be taken into account by the Union when negotiating and concluding a withdrawal agreement;

6.  Proposes that, should an overall understanding on this framework for the future relationship be agreed between the EU and the UK, this should take the form of a political declaration annexed to the Withdrawal Agreement;

7.  Notes that the agreement setting out the new relationship between the EU and the UK, and based on the above framework, can only be formally negotiated once the UK has left the EU and is a third country;

8.  Underlines that it will accept a framework for the future EU-UK relationship as part of the Withdrawal Agreement only if it is in strict concordance with the following principles:

   a third country that does not live up to the same obligations as a Member State cannot enjoy the same benefits as a Member State of the European Union or an EEA member,
   protection of the integrity of the internal market and the four freedoms, without allowing for a sector-by-sector approach,
   autonomy of the EU’s decision-making,
   safeguarding the EU legal order and the role of the CJEU,
   the UK’s adherence to the standards provided by international obligations, including fundamental rights, and the Union’s legislation and policies in the fields of the environment, climate change, consumer protection, the fight against tax evasion and avoidance, fair competition, data protection and privacy, trade, and social and workers’ rights, especially safeguards against social dumping, with a clear enforcement mechanism to ensure compliance,
   safeguarding of EU agreements with third countries and organisations, including the EEA Agreement,
   safeguarding of the financial stability of the EU and compliance with its regulatory and supervisory regime and standards and their application,
   a correct balance of rights and obligations, including commensurate financial contributions;

9.  Calls for the framework for the future relationship, while remaining consistent with the above principles, to provide for as close a relationship as possible between the EU and the UK;

10.  Reiterates that an association agreement negotiated and agreed between the EU and the UK post-UK withdrawal, pursuant to Article 217 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), could provide an appropriate framework for the future relationship; proposes that such an agreement, in addition to its governance framework which should include a robust and independent dispute resolution mechanism, should cover the following four pillars:

   trade and economic relations,
   thematic cooperation,
   internal security,
   foreign policy and security cooperation;

11.  Recalls that many citizens of the UK have expressed strong opposition to losing the rights they currently enjoy pursuant to Article 20 of the TFEU; proposes that the EU-27 should examine how to mitigate this within the limits of Union primary law while fully complying with the principles of reciprocity, equity, symmetry and non-discrimination;

Transitional arrangements

12.  Reiterates that transitional arrangements ensuring legal certainty and continuity can only be agreed if they contain the right balance of rights and obligations, are limited in time, not exceeding three years, and consist of the prolongation of the EU acquis, including rights of citizens, thereby requiring that the existing EU regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judicial and enforcement instruments and structures continue to apply to the UK; notes that the UK will no longer be part of the EU institutions and bodies;

13.  Affirms that any changes to the EU acquis which take effect during the transitional period must apply automatically to the UK in accordance with the transitional arrangements agreed between the EU and the UK;

14.  Insists that any future trade agreements that the UK negotiates post-withdrawal with third countries may only come into force at the end of the period during which transitional arrangements apply;

15.  Points out that a transitional period as agreed as part of the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK can only start once that agreement is in place;

o
o   o

16.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the national parliaments and the Government of the United Kingdom.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0102.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0361.


Recommendation following the inquiry on money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion
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European Parliament recommendation of 13 December 2017 to the Council and the Commission following the inquiry into money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion (2016/3044(RSP))
P8_TA(2017)0491B8-0660/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 116 and 226 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

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

–  having regard to its decision of 8 June 2016 on setting up a Committee of Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion, its powers, numerical strength and term of office(2),

–   having regard to its resolutions of 25 November 2015(3) and of 6 July 2016(4) on tax rulings and other measures similar in nature or effect,

–   having regard to its resolution of 16 December 2015 with recommendations to the Commission on bringing transparency, coordination and convergence to corporate tax policies in the Union(5),

–  having regard to the Commission report of 26 June 2017 on the assessment of the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing affecting the internal market and relating to cross-border activities (COM(2017)0340),

–   having regard to the Platform of the Financial Intelligence Units of the European Union (EU FIUs’ Platform) mapping exercise and gap analysis on EU FIUs’ powers and obstacles in obtaining and exchanging information, of 15 December 2016,

–  having regard to the draft recommendation of the Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion,

–  having regard to the final report of the Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion (A8-0357/2017),

–  having regard to Rule 198(12) of its Rules of Procedure,

1.General

1.  Notes with concern that the Panama Papers have shaken citizens’ trust in our financial and tax systems; stresses how crucial it is to restore public confidence and ensure fair and transparent tax systems and tax and social justice; calls, to this end, for the European Union and its Member States to properly implement and reinforce their legal tools to shift from secrecy to transparency, mutual cooperation and exchange of information, and to counter money laundering more effectively, and for Member States to simplify their tax systems, in order to ensure fairer taxation and to invest in the real economy;

2.  Emphasises the urgent need to redefine the European taxation model in order to limit unfair competition between the Member States;

3.  Deplores the number of cases of maladministration that Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion has uncovered in relation to the implementation of EU legislation, and underlines its serious concerns about breaches of the Anti‑Money Laundering Directive III (AMLD III)(6) related to cooperation by Financial Intelligence Units’ (FIUs); urges both the Commission and the Member States to step up their efforts, commitments, cooperation, and investments in financial and human resources to improve supervision and enforcement, not only with a view to preventing and fighting against illegal practices, such as money laundering, tax evasion and tax fraud, more effectively, but also in order to prevent and combat tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning, which may be legal, but are contrary to the spirit of the law; recalls the principle of predictability of charges being brought; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that any breach of law is duly punished; insists on the cost-effectiveness of efforts to this effect;

4.  Calls on the Member States to take action on reported cases of money laundering and suspicious transaction reports with a view to conducting proper investigations as soon as the authorities are made aware of the information;

5.  Recalls the EU framework for suspicious transaction reports, and stresses the need for closer international cooperation among EU and non-EU Financial Intelligence Units; also requests greater investigatory powers for European bodies, in particular Europol and Eurojust, in cases of money laundering;

6.  Recalls that the proper verification of ultimate beneficial owners is essential to avoid shell companies being used to launder money (as was shown by the Azerbaijan Laundromat case); also calls for effective implementation and enforcement of the European anti-money laundering directive;

7.  Calls on the Member States to refrain from pursuing supply-side aggressive tax planning through the advertising and offering of tax rulings and advantages or ad hoc rules;

8.  Calls on all jurisdictions which have transposed or will transpose the OECD’s anti-BEPS recommendations into national law to comply not only with the letter but also with the spirit of the recommendations; recalls that transparency is an important instrument for tackling tax evasion, and in particular aggressive tax planning;

9.  Considers it regrettable that many loopholes still exist in the current legislation on tax evasion and anti-money laundering at both EU and national level, and considers that thorough implementation and further strengthening of the existing legislation is urgently needed; welcomes the increased efforts and progress made since the publication of the Panama Papers in putting forward new legislative proposals aimed at introducing inclusive strategies, but regrets the lack of political will among some Member States to make progress with reforms and enforcement that would bring effective change;

10.  Considers it regrettable that tax policy issues at Council level are often blocked by individual Member States; reiterates warnings made by the TAXE1 Committee according to which granting each Member State a veto right in tax matters means that the unanimity rule within the Council reduces the incentive to move from the status quo towards a more cooperative solution; reiterates its call on the Commission to use the procedure laid down in Article 116 TFEU which makes it possible to change the unanimity requirement in cases where the Commission finds that a difference between the provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States is distorting the conditions of competition in the internal market;

11.  Notes that tax avoidance, tax evasion and money laundering continue to be global phenomena and therefore require a comprehensive, clear and coherent response based on mutual support and increased cooperation at EU and global level; urges the Commission to take a leading role in the global fight against tax avoidance, tax evasion and money laundering;

12.  Notes with concern the lack of ambitious and concrete measures to fight against tax havens; draws attention, in this connection, to the fact that increasing transparency alone will not be sufficient to deal with this problem; stresses, therefore, that it is a matter of urgency to push for international cooperation and a multilateral approach in which developed and developing countries must be involved;

13.  Calls on the Member States and the EU institutions to support and promote an intergovernmental summit at UN level with a view to defining a road map and Joint Action Plan to put an end to tax havens;

14.  Stresses that it is necessary to define a concept of digital business establishments in order to take the digitalisation of the business environment fully into account and ensure that companies which raise revenues in one Member State without having a physical establishment in that Member State are treated the same way as companies with a physical business establishment; calls on the Commission, therefore, to include digital businesses in all European anti-tax avoidance and tax-related measures;

15.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to be proactive and not wait for media revelations before addressing these issues as a matter of priority; recalls that transparency cannot be merely sectoral;

16.  Stresses that there is a need to be vigilant to ensure that Brexit would neither favour tax competition between the 27 remaining Member States to attract certain industries and services currently located in the United Kingdom, nor lead to a relaxation of efforts in fighting tax evasion on the UK’s side, including its overseas and related territories; draws the Commission’s attention to the fact that this dimension should be duly taken into account during the second phase of Brexit while negotiating any partnership or trade agreement with the United Kingdom;

17.  Deplores the decision by the Commission to end its commitment to a biennial anti-corruption report on all Member States; notes that anti-corruption monitoring by the Commission will be pursued through the European Semester process; takes the view that anti-corruption might be overshadowed by other economic and financial matters in this process; calls on the Commission to lead by example, resuming the publication of the report and committing to a much more credible and comprehensive anti-corruption strategy;

18.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to carry out an impact assessment on the possibility of obligatory registration or prohibition of ownership, including beneficial ownership, of financial accounts and of shell companies by EU nationals and by EU companies in countries included in the EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions and the EU list of countries with strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT regimes, in order to prevent tax evasion and tax fraud;

2.Tax evasion and tax avoidance

2.1.Offshore structures

19.  Stresses the urgent need for a common international definition of what constitutes an offshore financial centre (OFC), a tax haven, a secrecy jurisdiction, a non-cooperative tax jurisdiction and a high-risk country in terms of money laundering; calls for these definitions to be internationally agreed without prejudice to the immediate publication of the EU common blacklist; stresses that these definitions presuppose the establishment of clear and objective criteria;

20.  Reminds Member States of the importance of the GAAR principle in tax policy, and encourages tax authorities to use this principle consistently in order to avoid structures being created for tax fraud and tax evasion;

21.  Believes, in seeking to promote greater international cooperation, that it is also crucial to retain the legal objectivity of these definitions and their enforcement, since some jurisdictions could sign up to internationally agreed standards without applying them in practice; stresses that these definitions should not be subject to political bias, and should motivate listed jurisdictions to adopt measures leading to their removal from the list;

22.  Recalls that formal commitment to internationally agreed standards is the first step, but that only the proper implementation of these standards and real and genuine effort will mitigate risk factors and lead to a successful fight against money laundering, tax fraud and tax evasion;

23.  Recalls that free zones and freeports must not be abused with the aim of achieving the same effects as tax havens or of circumventing international transparency rules in order to launder money; calls on the Commission to tackle the issue of freeports in the European Union;

24.  Calls on the Commission to present a legislative proposal to ensure that offshore structures with beneficial owner(s) in the Member States are subject to similar auditing and account disclosure requirements as apply in the European jurisdiction where the beneficial owner is located;

25.  Considers that the EU should make it illegal to maintain commercial relations with legal structures established in tax havens if the ultimate beneficiary cannot be identified;

26.  Calls on the Commission to publish an annual public report on the use of EU funds as well as European Investment Bank (EIB) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) money transfers to offshore structures, including the number and nature of projects blocked, explanatory comments on the rationale for blocking projects and follow-up actions taken to ensure that no EU funds directly or indirectly contribute to tax avoidance and tax fraud;

2.1.1.A common EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions

27.  Welcomes the leading role of the Commission in drawing up criteria for a common EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions; regrets the excessive amount of time taken up by this process; calls on the Council not to dilute, but rather to increase the level of ambition in relation to the criteria of the aforementioned list; insists that all of the criteria proposed by the Commission be taken into consideration including, but not limited to, the absence of corporate tax or a close‑to‑zero corporate tax rate, and stresses their importance for the list to be effective and non-arbitrary; considers that the transparency criteria should be fully applied and that the criteria should also adequately take into consideration implementation and enforcement; calls on the Council, in order for this list to be effective and credible, to put in place strong, proportionate and deterrent common sanctions against listed countries, and underlines that the assessments of individual countries should be carried out in a transparent manner; calls on the Council and the Commission to put in place a transparent and objective review mechanism, including the involvement of Parliament, to update the list in the future; recalls that the goal of such a list is to change the behaviour of such a jurisdiction with respect to money laundering and the facilitation of tax fraud;

28.  Regrets that the EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions approved and published by the Council focuses only on jurisdictions outside the EU, omitting countries within the EU that have played a systematic role in promoting and enabling harmful tax practices and that do not meet the fair taxation criterion; emphasises that at least four Member States would be included on the list if screened according to the same EU criteria, as demonstrated in a simulation carried out by Oxfam; is concerned that the a priori exclusion of EU countries from scrutiny affects the legitimacy, credibility and effectiveness of the entire process;

29.  Takes the view that once the EU list, of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions is in place, the Commission should propose accompanying legislation determining harmonised obligations for the tax authorities in every Member State to annually disclose data containing the total value and destination of the money transfers from each Member State to each jurisdiction on the list;

30.  Calls for sanctions also to be applied to companies, banks, accountancy and law firms, and tax advisers proven to have been involved in illegal, harmful or wrongful activities with non-cooperative jurisdictions or proven to have facilitated illegal, harmful or wrongful corporate tax arrangements involving legal vehicles in those jurisdictions;

31.  Regrets that several EU citizens, entities and politically exposed persons (PEPs) featured in the Panama Papers; encourages the Member States to clarify whether such mentions have been duly investigated and, if so, whether they constituted breaches of national law; underlines that, unfortunately, along similar lines, many citizens, entities, and PEPs, when they were requested to cooperate with this Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion, refused to provide information that would have been useful in terms of the committee’s objectives;

32.  Notes that, according to the most recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data on foreign direct investment, Luxembourg and the Netherlands combined have more inward investment than the US, the vast majority of which is in special-purpose entities with no substantial economic activity, and Ireland has more inward investment than either Germany or France; points out that, according to its National Statistics Office, foreign investment in Malta amounts to 1 474 % of the size of its economy; notes that, according to research carried out by the University of Amsterdam, 23 % of all corporate investments that ended up in tax havens passed through the Netherlands; believes that these data are a clear indication that some Member States are facilitating excessive profit-shifting activities at the expense of other Member States;

33.  Calls on the Commission to present, by the end of 2018, a report assessing the tax regimes of Member States and their dependent jurisdictions, regions or other administrative structures that facilitate tax evasion and tax fraud and have a potentially harmful impact on the single market;

2.1.2.An EU anti-money laundering list of high‑risk third countries

34.  Deplores the fact that that the Commission has to date not carried out its own independent assessment identifying high‑risk third countries with strategic deficiencies as provided for by the AMLD provisions, but has relied solely on the list produced by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), of which the Commission is a member; deplores the fact that the Commission did not respond satisfactorily to Parliament’s demands in this regard;

35.  Urges the Commission to speed up work on its own list and to report to Parliament on the implementation of its roadmap and, in particular, its commitment to increase all the resources needed by the taskforce on preventing financial crimes;

36.  Believes that it is of primary importance that the EU goals be more ambitious than those of the FATF on this issue; highlights, in this regard, the need for more investment in human and financial resources or for their allocation to be optimised within the Commission in order to strengthen the screening procedure;

37.  Believes that the aim of this list is to encourage a change in behaviour on the part of jurisdictions in relation to money laundering and the financing of terrorism and to discourage other states from implementing similar, potentially harmful policies;

38.  Calls on the Commission to be the central institution for both the anti-money laundering list of high-risk third countries and the review of the European list of tax havens to ensure consistency and complementarity;

2.2.Other tax legislation

39.  Welcomes the new legislation adopted in the past two years as a reaction to LuxLeaks; welcomes the EU’s dedication to the OECD BEPS project; calls on the Member States to swiftly transpose EU legislation into their respective legal systems and ensure its enforcement;

40.  Calls for ambitious public country-by-country reporting (CbCR) in order to enhance tax transparency and the public scrutiny of multinational enterprises (MNEs) as this would allow the wider public to have access to information about the profits made, subsidies received and the taxes paid by MNEs in the jurisdictions where they operate; urges the Council to reach a common agreement on the proposal to enter into negotiations with the other EU institutions in order to adopt a public CbCR, one of the key measures for achieving greater transparency in relation to companies’ tax information for all citizens;

41.  Underscores that public CbCR will allow investors and shareholders to take companies’ tax policies into account when intervening in shareholders’ meetings and taking investment decisions;

42.  Recalls that tax information should become an essential component of financial reporting from corporations;

43.  Urges the Council to reach a rapid and ambitious agreement on both steps of the common corporate consolidated tax base (CCCTB); recalls that, in addition to cost reductions for both firms and the tax administrations of Member States, it would solve the issue of transfer pricing and ensure fairer competition within the single market; stresses that the harmonisation of tax bases is the best solution with a view to putting an end to tax optimisation and aggressive tax planning by legal means; recalls that a new binding definition of ‘permanent establishment’ is needed to ensure that taxation occurs where economic activity takes place and value is created; stresses that this should be accompanied by minimum binding criteria to determine whether economic activity has sufficient substance to be taxed in a Member State in order to avoid the problem of ‘letterbox companies’, in particular in connection with the challenges posed by the digital economy;

44.  Encourages the Commission and the Member States to move towards far more ambitious reforms in the field of taxation;

45.  Stresses that, for unitary taxation to work as a means to end profit-shifting, it needs to be global, and that implementing the CCCTB at EU level runs the risk of creating a situation in which current losses from Member States to the rest of world could be locked in, as could the exploitation of the rest of the world by some Member States; notes that an EU-only approach could eliminate the incentives to shift profit within the EU, but open the door to further incentives and opportunities to shift profit out of the EU;

46.  Recalls its recommendations to ensure that the automatic exchange of information on tax rulings is extended to all rulings and that the Commission get access to all relevant information, in order to ensure respect for European competition rules(7);

47.  Calls on the Commission to present a legislative proposal to revise the Directive on Administrative Cooperation (DAC)(8) as soon as possible in order to further enhance tax cooperation between Member States through an obligation to answer group requests on tax matters so that one European country can provide all the information necessary for the others to prosecute cross-border tax evaders; recalls its proposal to amend the DAC to improve Member States’ coordination on tax audits(9);

48.  Regrets that under EU state aid rules, unpaid taxes recovered from beneficiaries of illegal tax aid belong to the country that granted the aid, rather than to the countries that have suffered an erosion of their tax bases as a result of distortive tax schemes; calls on the Commission, to this end, to develop appropriate methodologies for quantifying the revenue loss for the Member States affected and adequate recovery procedures for ensuring that unpaid taxes are distributed to the Member States in which the economic activity actually took place;

49.  Takes the view that tax reforms must always enable scrutiny on the part of citizens and provide civil society access, information and training to allow them to productively engage in the framing of these policies, which is not current practice;

50.  Stresses, in addition, that tax legislation, be it at national or EU level, must be simplified and drafted in such a way as to make it accessible to any citizen in order to avoid the complexity that serves the tax-dodging industry;

51.  Calls on the Commission to put forward a revision of Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on public procurement(10), which includes measures to prevent public administrations from working with companies that use tax havens;

52.  Calls on the Commission to initiate a comprehensive evaluation of the 19 years of work of the Code of Conduct Group on Business Taxation, focusing on the results achieved in the prevention of cross-border harmful corporate tax regimes, in the form of a public report; calls for a reform of the Code of Conduct Group, based on the findings and leading to greater transparency and efficiency in their work, given that the group must play the central role in EU efforts to make improvements in this area; calls for Parliament to acquire powers of scrutiny and accountability over the group;

53.  Calls on the Commission to compile a list of the harmful regimes on which the Code of Conduct Group has not been able to agree to take action to date and to publish this list; calls on the Commission to assess, by 2020, the impact of the nexus approach for compliant patent box regimes and to quantify, if possible, their impact on innovation and loss of tax collection;

54.  Regrets that several EU Member States featured in the Panama Papers; calls on the Commission, in cooperation with tax authorities, to launch a broad evaluation of potentially harmful tax measures in the Member States that distort competition and of the countermeasures in place, as well as of the spill‑over effects of these measures on other jurisdictions; calls for an effective scrutiny mechanism to be established to monitor Member States in respect of the possible new harmful tax measures they might introduce;

55.  Calls on the Commission to present a legislative proposal to address the issue of cross-border conversions and transfers of seats and to provide clear rules on the transfer of a company’s headquarters within the EU, including rules to counteract letterbox companies;

56.  Urges the Commission and all the Member States to ensure an end to the practice of corporate tax inversion, whereby a multinational corporation is acquired by a smaller company located in a tax haven and adopts the latter’s legal domicile, so as to ‘relocate’ its headquarters and reduce the combined firm’s overall tax burden, a process that is followed by ‘earnings stripping’ through tax-deductible payments to the tax haven (in the form of loans, royalties and services, for example) that have as an objective the avoidance of taxes on the domestic profits of that multinational corporation;

57.  Underscores the need to provide special attention to harmful tax practices ever more widely used, such the abuse of patent boxes, derivatives, swaps, etc. deployed for the purpose of tax avoidance;

58.  Welcomes the Commission’s state aid findings of August 2016 to the effect that Ireland illegally granted EUR 13 billion in undue tax relief to Apple; questions the Irish Government’s decision to appeal against this decision in an attempt to not collect the owed sum;

59.  Calls on the Member States to identify and stop all use of any form of tax amnesties that could lead to money laundering and tax evasion or that could prevent national authorities from using the data provided to pursue financial crime investigations;

60.  Expresses its concern regarding the United States (US) administration’s intentions to promote tax breaks for large corporations and financial deregulation; calls on the Commission to closely monitor the proposed tax reform in the US known as Blueprint, and the possibility of the implementation in the US of a tax amnesty in order to allow the repatriation of profits by large technological companies at a very low tax rate;

61.  Calls on the Member States to reinforce their tax administrations with adequate staffing capacity in order to ensure the effective collection of tax revenues and to address harmful tax practices, given that a lack of resources and staff cuts, in addition to the lack of adequate training, technical tools and investigative powers, have seriously hampered tax administrations in some Member States;

62.  Notes one example of a tax avoidance scheme in the EU, the so-called Double Irish structure which will be phased out by 2020; calls on all Member States to monitor their double taxation treaties (DTTs) to ensure that tax avoidance schemes are not exploited through tax mismatches;

63.  Deplores the lack of reliable and unbiased statistics on the magnitude of tax avoidance and tax evasion; stresses the importance of developing appropriate and transparent methodologies to quantify the scale of these phenomena, as well as their impact on countries’ public finances, economic activities and public investments;

64.  Calls on the Commission to issue guidance to draw a clear distinction between what is illegal and what is legal, even if it runs counter to the spirit of the law, in the framework of tax evasion and tax avoidance practices, in order to ensure legal certainty for all parties concerned; calls on the Member States and third countries to ensure that the fines and pecuniary sanctions imposed on tax evaders and intermediaries are not tax-base deductible;

65.  Stresses that pursuing a responsible tax strategy is to be considered a pillar of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and that tax evasion, tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning practices are incompatible with CSR; reiterates its call on the Commission to include this element in an updated EU strategy on CSR;

66.  Calls on companies to make the complete fulfilment of tax obligations without any kind of tax avoidance an integral part of their CSR;

67.  Reiterates the call from the TAXE2 Committee for the creation of a new Union Tax Policy Coherence and Coordination Centre (TPCCC) within the structure of the Commission that can assess and monitor Member States’ tax policies at Union level and ensure that no new harmful tax measures are implemented by Member States; suggests that such a TPCCC should be able to monitor Member States’ compliance with the common Union list of uncooperative jurisdictions in addition to ensuring and fostering cooperation between national tax administrations (e.g. in relation to training and the exchange of best practices);

68.  Reiterates Parliament’s recommendations(11) for the creation of a catalogue of counter-measures that the Union and Member States should apply as shareholders and financers of public bodies, banks and funding programmes, to be applied to companies which use tax havens in order to put in place aggressive tax planning schemes and therefore do not comply with Union tax good governance standards;

69.  Reiterates its call to the Commission to amend European legislation, including the provisions concerning the European Investment Bank (EIB) Statute, the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) Regulation, the four common agricultural policy (CAP) regulations, and the five European Structural and Investment funds (European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund, Cohesion Fund, European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, European Maritime and Fisheries Fund) to prohibit EU funding going to ultimate beneficiaries or financial intermediaries proven to be involved in tax evasion or aggressive tax planning;

70.  Calls on the Commission and the Council to create a mandatory standardised public European Business Register in order to obtain up-to-date and trustworthy information on companies and to achieve transparency via cross-border access to comparable and reliable information on companies in the EU;

71.  Suggests that the Commission evaluate the impact of footballers’ cross-border transfers on revenue collection by Member States and present any measure deemed relevant to address significant losses of revenues, including measures related to intermediaries facilitating such transfers;

72.  Calls on the Commission to refrain from concluding trade agreements with jurisdictions defined by the EU as tax havens;

2.3.Exchange of information

73.  Considers it regrettable that the provisions of the Directive on Administrative Cooperation (DAC), which were in force during the time covered by the Panama Papers revelations, were not implemented effectively and that the amount of information and rulings exchanged was low; recalls that the automatic exchange of information between tax authorities is key for the Member States in ensuring mutual assistance in collecting tax revenues and creating a level playing field; calls on the Commission to put forward proposals to further enhance tax cooperation between Member States through an obligation to answer group requests on tax matters so that one European country can provide all the information necessary for the others to prosecute cross-border tax evaders;

74.  Is very concerned that the number of tax rulings granted by Member States to multinationals has increased in recent years, notwithstanding the social alarm created by the LuxLeaks scandal;

75.  Insists that the Commission should have access, in accordance with data protection rules, to all the information exchanged under the DAC in order to properly monitor and enforce the implementation thereof; stresses that this information should be stored in a central registry managed by the Commission, given its exclusive competence in the field of competition;

76.  Calls for a more effective exchange, treatment and use of information globally and urges that the provisions on common reporting standards (CRS) be implemented efficiently and consistently, moving from the name and shame policy under the peer review system to a sanctions regime; draws attention to the need for reciprocity in the exchange of information between the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and participating signatory states; calls on the Member States to support participating developing countries in the implementation of these standards; underlines the need for countries not only to commit to CRS, but also to implement the system and assure the high quality of data provided; points out that the current CRS has weaknesses and welcomes the fact that the OECD is working on refining the standard to make it more effective; calls on the Commission to contribute to closing identified loopholes;

77.  Calls for enhanced public commercial and public beneficial ownership registries and public country-by-country reporting, in order to overcome the limitations imposed by the exchange of information under the OECD’s ‘Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent BEPS’ of June 2017, which gives countries the choice of selecting partners, permitting, in practice, bilateralism;

78.  Stresses that the mandatory automatic exchange of information in relation to potentially aggressive tax planning arrangements with a cross-border dimension (DAC6) should be accessible not only for tax authorities;

79.  Calls on the Commission to ensure reciprocity in the exchange of information between the EU and third countries which have not signed up to internationally agreed standards; underlines the need for effective sanctions against financial institutions with European clients and which failed to comply with automatic information exchange standards; considers that a dispute resolution mechanism should be included in such a proposal in order to solve potential conflicts between the EU and third countries; recalls its recommendation to introduce a withholding tax, or measures with similar effect, to avoid profits leaving the EU untaxed;

80.  Considers that the entities obliged to provide information to the tax authorities must be the same as those listed in the Anti-Money Laundering Directive, and more particularly:

   (1) credit institutions;
   (2) financial institutions;
   (3) the following legal or natural persons, in the performance of their professional activities:
   (a) auditors, external accountants and tax advisers;
   (b) notaries and other independent legal professionals, where they participate, whether acting on behalf of and for their client in any financial or property transaction, or assisting in the planning or execution of transactions for their client concerning:
   (i) the purchase and sale of property or business entities;
   (ii) the management of funds, securities or other assets belonging to the client;
   (iii) the opening or managing of bank, savings or securities accounts;
   (iv) the organisation of the contributions needed to create, operate or manage undertakings;
   (v) the creation, operation or management of trusts, companies, foundations, or similar structures;
   (c) providers of trust and corporate services not already covered under points (a) or (b);
   (d) real estate agents;
   (e) other persons trading in goods, only to the extent that payments are made or received in cash and for amounts of EUR 10 000 or more, whether in a single transaction or in a series of apparently linked transactions;
   (f) providers of gaming services;

3.Money laundering

3.1.Anti-money laundering legislation

81.  Stresses that all AMLD provisions should be effectively and consistently implemented by the Member States; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure proper law enforcement; calls on the Commission to enhance and provide adequate resources for existing monitoring systems; calls on the Commission to allocate more resources to its taskforce to prevent financial crimes;

82.  Stresses that the 4AMLD legal framework fully bans anonymous bearer shares that, unless duly registered, have proven to be a useful tool for creating international schemes for money laundering; calls on the Member States to properly implement and enforce the 4AMLD that entered into force on 26 June 2017; calls on the Commission to monitor the proper transposition and implementation of the Directive;

83.  Calls on the Commission to start infringement procedures against Member States for non-compliance with Union law revealed by the Panama Papers and other leaks;

84.  Stresses the need for regularly updated, standardised, interconnected and publicly accessible beneficial ownership registers of companies, foundations, trusts and similar legal arrangements to prevent the anonymity of ultimate beneficial owners (UBOs); calls for a lowering of the current threshold for shareholding in the definition of beneficial ownership; takes the view that the EU and its Member States must take the lead in promoting UBO standards of transparency in international forums;

85.  Underlines the call made by the representatives of the French FIU in Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry to investigate alleged contraventions and maladministration in the application of Union law in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion according to which, in keeping with the GAFI 26 recommendation on financial supervision, it should be expressly provided at EU level that the application of the supervision by the competent supervisory authority can go back as far as the parent entity of the group;

86.  Calls on the Commission to supervise the creation of publicly accessible land registers;

87.  Calls for an identification of beneficial ownership that includes all natural persons who ultimately own or control a legal entity, other than a company listed on a regulated market that is subject to disclosure requirements consistent with Union law or subject to equivalent international standards which ensure adequate transparency of ownership information, through direct or indirect ownership of at least one share or equivalent minimum unit of interest in that entity, including through bearer shareholdings, or through control via other means;

88.  Observes that the illicit money deposited through the redemption of these transactions is transformed into legitimate funds deriving from legitimate transactions; urges the need therefore for extending the anti-money laundering rules to the real estate market with the goal of preventing new illicit phenomena;

89.  Underlines the need to improve the enforcement of customer due diligence (CDD) checks to make sure that a proper assessment of the risks linked to the client profile is carried out; stresses that, even when outsourced, the CDD obligation should always fall under the responsibility of the obliged entities; calls for this responsibility to be clear and for provision to be made for penalties in the event of negligence or conflicts of interest in cases of outsourcing; believes, furthermore, that the scope for obliged entities should be extended to, among others, real estate agents to ensure that CDD provisions apply equally to regulated and currently non-regulated actors; calls for the harmonisation of CDD at EU level, providing an appropriate shape to these procedures in order to guarantee their compliance;

90.  Believes that sanctions for money laundering, tax evasion and tax fraud should be more severe and deterrent and that Member States should employ the risk-based approach when directing resources towards combating these illegal practices; welcomes, in this connection, the Commission proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on countering money laundering by criminal law (COM(2016)0826); calls on the Member States to consider the desirability of banning settlement without charges in very serious tax fraud cases; notes, however, that, in parallel, the EU and its Member States should develop incentives for each category of obliged entities to discourage them from engaging in such activities and make it unprofitable for them to do so; calls on the Member States to review prescription periods for money laundering so as to avoid time-bars as a consequence of competent authorities’ failure to act;

91.  Calls for an effective monitoring mechanism to be implemented at European level with outreach into connected jurisdictions, since the FATF peer reviews and regular mutual evaluations can easily be frustrated by political or other forms of connivance;

92.  Stresses the need to agree on a common understanding and definition at EU level of a PEP;

93.  Calls for a harmonised definition of tax crimes at EU level and the creation of a distinct criminal law instrument to be adopted under Article 83(2) TFEU or, ultimately, under Article 116 TFEU if Member States are unable to agree on eliminating distortion of the conditions of competition in the internal market; calls for the definition of predicate offences to money laundering to be harmonised within the EU and for a narrowing down of the exemptions Member States can invoke to refuse collaboration and the exchange of information; recalls its position on the revision of the fourth and fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directives to decouple tax crimes from the requirement of being punishable by deprivation of liberty or a detention order;

94.  Is concerned by the adoption of citizenship programmes for non-EU residents, the so-called golden visa or investor programmes to third country nationals in exchange for financial investments without proper or indeed any CDD having been carried out; calls on the Commission to assess Member States’ compliance with the AMLD and other related EU legislation when citizenship is granted under such programmes;

95.  Calls on the Commission and the Council to take seriously the ambitious revision of AMLD IV (COM(2016)0450), on which Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs voted on 28 February 2017(12), and which would close many existing loopholes and considerably strengthen the current anti-money laundering legislation by, for example, tightening up the definition of who is a beneficial owner, by disallowing senior managers, nominee directors and other proxy agents to be identified as beneficial owners unless they fulfil the criteria, by granting full public access to beneficial ownership registers of companies and trusts and by implementing a more effective sanction mechanism for breaches of the AMLD; urges the Commission and the Council, therefore, not to water down Parliament’s strong proposal during the ongoing trilogue negotiations;

96.  Calls for increased political and regulatory focus on emerging risks related to new technologies and financial products, such as derivatives, swaps and virtual currencies(13);

97.  Calls on the Commission to assess the possibility of harnessing the potential of new technologies, such as unique digital identities, to facilitate the identification of serious cases of financial crime, while ensuring that this respects fundamental rights, including the right to privacy;

98.  Calls for an urgent assessment by the Commission of the implications for money laundering and tax crimes involving e-gaming activities, virtual currencies, crypto currencies, blockchain and FinTech technologies; calls, furthermore, on the Commission to consider possible measures, including legislation, to create a regulatory framework for these activities in order to limit the tools for money laundering;

99.  Urges that assets generated by criminal activities be confiscated; calls, to this end, for a swift adoption of the regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders to facilitate the cross-border recovery of criminal assets; stresses that the legal instrument proposed by the Commission will allow for better cooperation and easier recognition of such orders, while respecting the principle of subsidiarity;

100.  Stresses that steps are also needed in order to align national strategies with those of European agencies and bodies such as Europol, Eurojust and OLAF; urges that, in order to facilitate this collaboration, the legal obstacles preventing information exchanges should be removed;

101.   Welcomes the recent decision by the Government of Portugal to ban the issuing of bearer shares and to convert the current ones into nominal securities, and urges the Commission to propose EU-wide legislation to the same effect;

102.   Calls for much more stringent scrutiny by the competent authorities in assessing the fitness and propriety of members of management boards and shareholders of credit institutions in the EU; believes that conditions must be put in place to allow the competent authorities to perform continuous supervision of the assessment criteria of both shareholders and members of management boards, which currently make it very difficult to revoke approval once it has been granted; believes, furthermore, that the timetables and flexibility in relation to objecting to acquisitions should be broadened, particularly where it is necessary for the competent authorities to carry out their own investigations into the information provided about events in third countries and in relation to PEPs;

3.2.Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs)

103.  Believes that, by harmonising the status and functioning of European FIUs, the exchange of information would be strengthened; calls on the Commission to launch a project within the FIU Platform to identify the information sources to which FIUs currently have access; calls on the Commission to issue guidance on how to ensure greater convergence of functions and powers of European FIUs, identifying the minimum common scope and content of financial, administrative and law enforcement information that FIUs should obtain and be able to exchange among themselves; believes that such guidance should also include explanations of a common understanding of the strategic analysis functions of FIUs;

104.  Believes that, to be more efficient, all European FIUs should have unlimited and direct access to all information related to their functions from obliged entities and registries; FIUs should also be able to obtain such information on the basis of a request made by another Union FIU and to exchange this information with the requesting FIU;

105.  Suggests to Member States that, when implementing the AMLD, they remove the requirement for FIUs to obtain clearance from a third party to share information with another FIU for intelligence purposes, in order to foster the exchange of information between FIUs; calls on the Commission to issue guidance on general provisions in the AMLD, especially on the need to ‘spontaneously and promptly’ exchange information with other FIUs;

106.  Stresses the need for more effective communication between the relevant competent authorities at national level, but also between FIUs in different Member States; calls on the Commission to set up an EU benchmarking system as a tool to standardise the information to be collected and exchanged and to enhance cooperation between FIUs; points out that this should include the strengthening of FIU.net under Europol, but also of Europol itself, in particular to enable it to extract information and statistics on flows of information, activities and the outcome of analysis performed by FIUs, and of Eurojust competences and resources to deal with money laundering and tax evasion; calls, furthermore, on the Member States to increase human, financial and technical resources in FIUs to bolster their investigation and cooperation capacities in order to properly process and make use of the increased number of suspicious transaction reports (STRs);

107.  Notes that the purpose limitation on the use of the information exchanged by FIUs should be reviewed and unified at EU and global level in order to allow for information to be used for tackling tax crimes and for purposes of producing evidence;

108.  Insists that appointments to managerial positions in FIUs need to be independent and free from political bias, based on professional qualifications and that the selection process be transparent and supervised; stresses the need for common rules on the independence of the institutions in charge of enforcing rules on tax fraud and money laundering, as well as the need for the full independence of law enforcement bodies in the follow-up of FIU reports;

109.  Calls on the Commission to verify whether this obligation is being duly respected in all Member States;

110.  Reiterates its position on AMLD V regarding the creation of a European FIU and the need to ensure an effective and coordinated system for the exchange of information, as well as centralised databases; stresses the need to support the Member States’ FIUs, particularly in cross-border cases;

111.  Insists on the fact that the competent authorities should not wait to be overwhelmed by the increasing use of digital technologies by tax advisers and taxpayers; believes that the competent authorities should develop their own tools and investigating capacities accordingly; believes that it could offer new opportunities to competent authorities with regard to the recurrent issue of resource allocation or to help improve cooperation among them;

4.Intermediaries

112.  Regrets that intermediaries are currently regulated in a non-homogenous manner across the EU; calls on the Council to swiftly examine and adopt the Commission’s proposal on mandatory automatic exchange of information in the field of taxation in relation to reportable cross-border arrangements (COM(2017)0335) with the aim of strengthening the reporting obligations of intermediaries; encourages the Member States to consider the potential benefits of extending the scope of the directive to purely domestic cases;

113.  Underlines the need for this proposal to close the loopholes potentially allowing aggressive tax planning by designing new rules for intermediaries involved in such practices;

114.  Notes that wealth management is conducted in a largely unregulated manner and that binding international rules and standards should be established in order to create a level playing field and to better regulate and define the profession; calls, in this context, on the Commission to take the initiative in all relevant international forums for the creation of such standards and rules;

115.  Acknowledges that oversight should be carried out in the context of self-organisation and self-regulation; calls on the Commission to assess the need for targeted EU action, including the possibility of drawing up legislation, to ensure appropriate oversight of the self-regulation of obliged entities, i.e. via a separate and independent national regulator/supervisor;

116.  Calls on the Commission – in collaboration with the Member States and supervisors – to issue guidance in order to standardise reporting formats for obliged entities in order to ease the processing and exchanging of information by FIUs;

117.  Calls for the regulation of tax intermediaries with incentives to refrain from engaging in tax evasion and tax avoidance and shielding beneficial owners;

118.  Stresses that, if the intermediary is based outside the EU, the taxpayer concerned must be required to send potentially aggressive tax plans directly, before they are put in place, to the tax authorities in the taxpayer’s country, so that the authorities can respond to tax risks by taking the appropriate steps;

119.  Believes that more rigorous rules on the role of intermediaries would benefit the industry as a whole as sincere intermediaries will no longer be placed at a disadvantage by unfair competition, thus separating the wheat from the chaff;

120.  Calls for more efficient, dissuasive and proportionate sanctions at both EU and Member State level against banks and intermediaries that are knowingly, wilfully and systematically involved in illegal tax or money laundering schemes; stresses that the sanctions should be targeted towards the companies themselves as well as the management-level employees and board members responsible for the schemes; stresses that substantial penalties are essential and believes that the use of a public shaming regime for confirmed cases could discourage intermediaries from circumventing their obligations and encourage compliance;

121.  Calls on the Member States to ensure that the sectors most exposed to risks from opaque beneficial ownership schemes (as identified in the Commission’s assessment of the risks of money laundering) are effectively monitored and supervised; calls on the Member States to provide guidance on the risk factors arising from transactions involving tax advisors, auditors, external accountants, notaries and other independent legal professionals;

122.  Calls for better enforcement of the rules related to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion and for it to have a deterrent effect by increasing public visibility, particularly through improved published statistics on enforcement measures involving professionals advising on tax and money laundering;

123.  Underlines the need for greater scrutiny, supervision and coordination of national certification schemes for intermediaries practising as tax professionals in the EU; calls on the Member States to withdraw licences if intermediaries are proven to be involved in actively promoting or enabling cross-border tax evasion, illegal tax planning and money laundering;

124.  Calls on the Commission to assess whether the competent authorities in the Member States have complied with the licensing procedures for intermediaries already provided for in Union law, e.g. in Capital Requirements Directive IV;

125.  Calls for the profession to adopt a methodology whereby lawyers’ professional confidentiality does not impede adequate STRs or the reporting of other potentially illegal activities without prejudice to the rights guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the general principles of criminal law, or to improve the existing methodology to the same effect;

126.  Calls on the Member States to introduce disincentives for EU-based intermediaries to be active in jurisdictions listed in the EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions and the EU list of countries with strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT regimes, for example by way of excluding them from public procurement calls; calls furthermore on the Commission to carry out an impact assessment on the possibility of banning EU-based intermediaries from being active in jurisdictions included in the EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions and the EU list of countries with strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT regimes;

127.  Stresses that, with a view to improving international cooperation, audit and accounting requirements should be coordinated at the global level, so as to discourage accounting and auditing firms from participating in illegal tax structures; believes, in this connection, that better implementation of international accounting standards should be regarded as an efficient tool;

4.1.Banks

128.  Encourages all Member States to put in place, as recommended in AMLD IV, systems of bank account registries or electronic data retrieval systems which would provide FIUs and the competent authorities with access to information on bank accounts; recommends considering the standardisation and interconnection of national bank account registers containing all accounts linked to legal or natural persons for the purpose of easy access by the competent authorities and FIUs;

129.  Recommends that such an account register should record and publish statistics on transactions with tax havens and high-risk countries, and disaggregate the information on transactions with related parties those with non-related parties, and by Member State;

130.  Recognises that banks were found to be involved in four broad activities, namely providing and managing offshore structures, delivering bank accounts to offshore entities, providing other financial products and correspondence banking(14); stresses the importance of making legislation on correspondence banking clearer and stricter in relation to the remittance of funds to offshore and non-cooperative jurisdictions, with the obligation to cease activities if beneficial information is not provided;

131.  Calls for the stringent application of effective sanctions on banks, providing for the suspension or withdrawal of the banking licence of financial institutions that are proven to be involved in promoting or enabling money laundering, tax evasion or aggressive tax planning;

132.  Underlines the importance of better coordination between bank headquarters and subsidiaries, both within the EU and with third countries, so as to ensure full compliance with internal codes of conduct and AML legislation;

133.  Stresses that national banking supervision checks should provide for systematic and random checks to ensure the full implementation of anti-money laundering rules in all banks;

134.  Calls for increased powers for the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Banking Authority (EBA) to carry out regular compliance checks (both announced in advance and without prior warning) across the EU banking sector instead of the current system of checks carried out only when a specific case is under investigation or has become public;

135.  Calls for an analysis of the feasibility of empowering the supervisory authorities to carry out a banking investigation in situations where an account holder is not known by name;

136.  Welcomes the existing analysis of risks and vulnerabilities in the EU financial system; underlines the importance of identifying new technologies and financial products which could potentially be used as vehicles for money laundering; calls, on the basis of this analysis, for money laundering provisions to be included in all new proposals addressing such new technologies, including FinTech;

137.  Calls for the creation of a bankers’ oath, following the Dutch example, in the form of a voluntary commitment by the sector not to deal with tax havens;

4.2.Lawyers

138.  Points out that professional secrecy cannot be used for the purposes of protection, the covering up of illegal practices or violating the spirit of the law; urges that the client-attorney privilege principle should not impede adequate STRs or the reporting of other potentially illegal activities without prejudice to the rights guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the general principles of criminal law; calls on the Member States to issue guidance on the interpretation and application of the legal privilege principle for professionals and to introduce a clear demarcation line between traditional judicial advice and lawyers acting as financial operators;

139.  Stresses that lawyers carrying out an activity that falls outside their specific duties of defence, legal representation or legal advice can, under certain circumstances relating to the protection of public order, be required to inform the authorities of certain information that they are aware of;

140.  Underlines that lawyers advising clients should be held legally co-responsible when designing tax evasion and aggressive tax plans punishable by law, and money laundering schemes; points out that when they take part in fraud, they must systematically be liable for both penal sanctions and disciplinary measures;

4.3.Accounting

141.  Stresses that, with a view to improving international cooperation, audit and accounting requirements should be better coordinated at global level, while respecting European standards of democratic legitimacy, transparency, accountability and integrity, so as to discourage accounting and auditing firms, as well as individual advisors, from designing tax evasion, aggressive tax planning or money laundering structures; calls for the proper enforcement of the recently adopted Audit Package(15) and the Committee of European Auditing Oversight Bodies (CEAOB) as the new framework for cooperation between national audit oversight bodies at EU level, with the aim of strengthening EU‑wide audit oversight; believes, in this respect, that better implementation of international accounting standards should be regarded as an efficient tool in ensuring respect for EU standards of transparency and accountability;

142.  Notes that the EU’s existing definition of the control required to create a group of companies should be applied to accountancy firms that are members of a network of firms associated by legally enforceable contractual arrangements that provide for the sharing of a name or marketing, professional standards, clients, support services, finance or professional indemnity insurance arrangements, as anticipated by Directive 2013/34/EU(16) on annual financial statements;

143.  Calls on the Commission to come forward with a legislative proposal on the separation of accounting firms and financial or tax service providers as well as on all advisory services, including a Union incompatibility regime for tax advisers, in order to prevent them from advising both public revenue authorities and taxpayers and to prevent other conflicts of interest;

4.4.Trusts, fiduciaries and similar legal arrangements

144.  Strongly condemns the misuse of trusts, fiduciaries and similar legal arrangements as vehicles for laundering money; calls, therefore, for clear rules facilitating a straightforward identification of the beneficial owner(s), including an obligation for trusts to exist in written form and to be registered in the Member State where the trust is created, administered or operated;

145.  Calls for standardised, regularly updated, publicly accessible and interconnected beneficial ownership registers at EU level, on all parties of commercial and non-commercial trusts, fiduciaries, foundations and similar legal arrangements to form the basis of a global register;

146.  The EU register of trusts should include:

   (a) the trustees, including names, addresses and the names and addresses of all those on whose instructions they act;
   (b) the trust deed;
   (c) all letters of wishes;
   (d) the name and address of the settlor;
   (e) the name of any enforcer and the instructions they hold;
   (f) the annual accounts of the trust;
   (g) details of all trust distributions and allocations with the names and addresses of all beneficiaries;
   (h) nominee intermediaries, including their names and addresses;

147.  Calls on the Commission to assess to what extent freeports and ship licensing may be misused for purposes of tax evasion, and, if appropriate, to come up with a suitable proposal for mitigating such risks;

5.Third-country dimension

148.  Underlines the need, under the auspices of the UN, for enhanced global cooperation on taxation and money laundering matters as a result of their international nature; stresses that only coordinated and global responses based on cooperation will provide efficient solutions and calls for the EU to be a driving force in working towards a fair global tax system; stresses that any EU action at international level will be effective and credible only if no EU Member State or overseas country or territory (OCT) acts as a corporate tax haven or secrecy jurisdiction;

149.  Notes with concern the high correlation between the number of shell companies and tax rulings and certain third-country tax jurisdictions and EU Member States; welcomes the automatic exchange of information between EU Member States on their tax rulings; expresses its concern, however, that some Member States or some of their ‘tax haven’ territories are issuing ‘oral tax rulings’ to circumvent this obligation; calls on the Commission to investigate further into this practice;

150.  Stresses that the EU should renegotiate its trade, economic and other relevant bilateral agreements with Switzerland to bring them into line with EU anti-tax fraud policy, anti-money laundering legislation and legislation on the financing of terrorism, so as to eliminate serious flaws in the Swiss supervisory system which enable a policy of internal banking secrecy to continue, the creation of offshore structures worldwide, tax fraud, tax evasion not constituting a criminal offence, weak supervision, the inadequate self-regulation of obliged entities, and aggressive prosecution and intimidation of whistle-blowers;

151.  Believes that the EU should speak with one voice through the Commission when negotiating tax agreements with third countries instead of continuing the practice of bilateral negotiations producing sub-optimal results; believes that the same approach should be adopted by the EU when negotiating future free trade, partnership and cooperation agreements, by including tax good governance clauses, transparency requirements and anti-money laundering provisions;

152.  Stresses the importance of strengthening the anti-tax avoidance provisions of the CCCTB to eliminate transfer pricing to third-country jurisdictions leading to a reduction in the taxable base of companies in the Union;

153.  Considers, in particular, that when future trade or partnership agreements are negotiated, or existing agreements are revised, they should contain a binding clause of tax conditionality, including compliance with the international standards of the OECD BEPS Action Plan, and the FATF recommendations;

154.  Requests that the ‘Investment’ or ‘Financial Services’ chapters of future trade or partnership agreements be negotiated on the basis of the positive list principle, so that only the financial sectors necessary for commercial development, the real economy and households benefit from the facilitation and liberalisation brought about by the agreement between the Union and the third party concerned;

155.  Calls for strong enforcement measures in all international agreements on the exchange of information between tax authorities to ensure proper implementation by all jurisdictions and the application of effective, dissuasive and proportionate automatic procedures for sanctions in the case of non-implementation;

156.  Underlines the importance of full effective reciprocity in frameworks such as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) agreement and other similar agreements;

157.  Calls on the relevant Member States to make use of the opportunity afforded by their direct relations with the countries concerned to take the necessary steps in order to put pressure on their overseas countries and territories (OCTs)(17) and outermost regions(18) that do not respect international standards pertaining to tax cooperation, transparency and anti-money laundering; takes the view that the EU transparency and due diligence requirements should be effectively enforced in these territories;

158.  Underlines the importance of clear definitions of ‘offshore jurisdiction’, ‘overseas country’ and ‘outermost region (OR)’, since each of these terms relates to different legal systems, practices and regimes; stresses the need to fight all forms of tax fraud and tax evasion, regardless of where they occur; notes that the current regimes in the outermost regions apply Union legislation and comply with Union and international standards, with their special status as set forth in Article 349 of the TFEU and confirmed by the European Court of Justice in its decision C132/14(19);

159.  Believes that the misuse of privacy and data protection laws cannot be used to shield those engaged in wrongdoing from the full force of the law;

160.  Calls for a global summit on the fight against money laundering, tax fraud and tax evasion to end secrecy in the financial sector, to enhance international cooperation and to put pressure on all countries, in particular their financial centres, to comply with global standards and for the Commission to take the initiative for such a summit;

161.  Invites the Commission to conduct an assessment of the overall cost-benefit and the potential impact of high levels of taxation on the repatriation of capital from third countries applying low taxation; calls on the Commission and Council to assess the rules on the deferred payment of tax in the United States, the potential tax amnesty announced by the new administration and the possible undermining of international cooperation;

162.  Stresses the importance of better bilateral exchange of information between third countries and EU FIUs;

163.  Recalls that the amount of aid in support of domestic resource mobilisation is still low, and urges the Commission to support developing countries in the fight against tax dodging and to increase financial and technical assistance to their national tax administration, in line with the commitments of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda;

Developing countries

164.  Calls for the EU to take into account the specific legal features and corresponding vulnerabilities of developing countries, for example the lack of capacities on the part of authorities charged with the task of combating tax fraud, tax evasion and money laundering; stresses the need for adequate transition periods for developing countries that do not have the capacity to collect, manage and share the required information in the context of automatic exchange of information;

165.  Highlights the fact that, when devising actions and policies to tackle tax avoidance, specific attention should be paid at national, EU and international level to the situation of developing countries and, in particular, least developed countries, which are usually the most affected by corporate tax avoidance and have very narrow tax bases and low tax-to-GDP ratios; stresses that these actions and policies should contribute to generating public revenues commensurate with the value added generated on their territory, to enable the countries concerned to appropriately finance their development strategies;

166.  Calls on the Commission to work with the African Union (AU) to ensure that measures to combat illegal financial flows are highlighted in the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption;

167.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to strengthen policy coherence for development in this field and reiterates its call for a spill-over analysis of national and EU tax policies in order to assess their impact on developing countries in relation to agreed tax treaties and economic partnership agreements (EPAs);

168.  Calls on the Member States to properly ensure the fair treatment of developing countries when negotiating tax treaties, taking into account their particular situation and ensuring a fair distribution of taxation rights between source and residence countries; calls, in this regard, for adherence to the UN model tax convention and for transparency around treaty negotiations to be ensured;

169.  Calls for more international support to be given to developing countries to fight against the corruption and secrecy which facilitate illicit financial flows (IFFs); stresses that the fight against IFFs requires close international cooperation and the coordinated efforts of developed and developing countries, in partnership with the private sector and civil society; highlights the need to help boost the capacity of tax administrations and the transfer of knowledge to partner countries;

170.  Calls for public development aid to be directed to a greater extent towards the implementation of an appropriate regulatory framework and the bolstering of tax administrations and the institutions responsible for fighting IFFs; calls for this aid to be provided in the form of technical expertise in relation to resource management, financial information and anti-corruption rules;

171.  Regrets that the current OECD tax committee is not sufficiently inclusive; recalls its position(20) regarding the creation of a global body within the UN framework, well-equipped and with sufficient additional resources to ensure that all countries can participate on an equal footing in the formulation and reform of global tax policies;

172.  Regrets that, in order not to be branded as non-cooperative jurisdictions, developing countries must pay to be considered as participants in the OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, where countries are subject to an evaluation of their practices against benchmarks they have not been full participants in determining;

173.  Stresses the essential role that regional organisations and regional cooperation must play in carrying out transnational tax audits, taking account of the principles of subsidiarity and complementarity; calls for the joint development of a model tax convention that would help to eliminate double taxation and thereby prevent abuse; points out that cooperation and the exchange of information between the various information services will be essential for that purpose;

174.  Points out that tax havens plunder global natural resources, in particular those of developing countries; calls for the EU to give support to developing countries in the fight against corruption, criminal activities, tax fraud and money laundering; calls on the Commission to help these countries, by means of cooperation and the exchange of information, to combat the erosion of the tax base, the transfer of profits to tax havens and banks practising banking secrecy; stresses that all of these countries must comply with the global standards governing the automatic exchange of information on bank accounts;

175.  Calls on the Commission to include provisions on the fight against tax evasion, tax fraud and money laundering in the future agreement on post-2020 EU-ACP relations;

176.  Calls on the Commission to establish, without delay, additional measures to reinforce EU law on conflict minerals; stresses that these measures must establish an integrated approach which will strengthen the ongoing dialogue with mineral-rich countries and thereby promote international due diligence and transparency standards, such as those defined in the OECD guidelines;

177.  Takes the view that the international community, including parliaments, should take all the necessary steps to establish effective, transparent tax and trade policies; calls for more coherence and better coordination in the international action taken by the OECD, the G20, the G8, the G77, the AU, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB);

6.Whistle-blowers

178.  Fears that the prosecution of whistle-blowers to maintain secrecy can discourage the revealing of malpractices; underlines that protection should be designed to protect those acting in the public interest and avoid the silencing of whistle-blowers while also taking into account the legal rights of firms;

179.  Calls on the Commission to finalise, as soon as possible, a thorough assessment of the possible legal basis for further action at EU level and, if appropriate, to submit comprehensive legislation covering both the public and private sectors, including tools to support whistle-blowers to ensure that they are given effective protection and adequate financial assistance as soon as possible; argues that whistle-blowers should be free to report anonymously, or to lodge complaints, as a matter of priority, to the internal reporting mechanisms of the organisation concerned or to the competent authorities, and, furthermore, that they should be protected, regardless of their choice of reporting channel;

180.  Recommends that the Commission study best practices from whistle-blowers’ programmes already in place in other countries around the world and carry out a public consultation to seek the view of stakeholders on reporting mechanisms;

181.  Stresses the role of investigative journalism and calls on the Commission to ensure that its proposal affords the same protection to investigative journalists as it does to whistle-blowers;

182.  Believes that employers should be encouraged to introduce internal reporting procedures and that a single person should be responsible for collecting reports in each organisation; considers that employee representatives should be involved in the assignment of that role; recommends that the EU institutions lead by example by swiftly installing an internal whistle-blowing protection framework;

183.  Underlines the importance of awareness-raising among employees and other individuals of the positive role that whistle-blowers play and the legal frameworks on whistle-blowing which already exist; encourages the Member States to implement awareness-raising campaigns; believes that it is necessary to introduce protective measures against any retaliatory and destabilising practices against whistle-blowers, as well as full compensation for any damage incurred by them;

184.  Calls on the Commission to develop instruments focusing on providing protection against unjustified legal prosecutions, economic sanctions and discrimination against whistle-blowers, and calls, in this connection, for a general fund to be set up, financed in part from money recovered or proceeds from fines, to give appropriate financial support to whistle-blowers whose livelihood is put at risk as a result of disclosures of relevant facts;

7.Interinstitutional cooperation

7.1.Cooperation with the Committee of Inquiry into money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion (PANA)

185.  Reiterates the importance of respecting the principle of sincere cooperation between the EU institutions;

186.  Believes that the exchange of information between the EU institutions should be enhanced, in particular regarding the provision of relevant information to be made available to committees of inquiry;

187.  Regrets that the Council, its Code of Conduct Group on Business Taxation and some Member States showed little commitment towards the PANA Committee’s requests for cooperation; believes that a stronger commitment by the Member States is key in order to pool efforts and achieve better results; resolves to monitor the activities and progress of the Code of Conduct Group on Business Taxation through regular hearings; calls on the Commission to present a legislative proposal under Article 116 TFEU by mid-2018 if the Member States have not adopted a reform of the Code of Conduct Group’s mandate by then;

188.  Voices its objection to the fact that even documents that have since become public were only partly made available to its committee of inquiry;

189.  Recalls that in December 2015 the ECOFIN Council invited the High Level Working Party on Taxation to conclude on the need to enhance the overall governance, transparency and working methods and to finalise the reform of the Code of Conduct Group during the Dutch Presidency; recalls that in March 2016, the ECOFIN Council invited the High Level Working Party to review the new governance, transparency and working methods, especially on the efficiency of the decision-making process also in relation to the use of the broad consensus rule in 2017; awaits with interest the results of these efforts;

7.2.The European Parliament’s right of inquiry

190.  Stresses that the current legal framework for the operation of committees of inquiry in the European Parliament is outdated and falls short of providing the necessary conditions under which the exercise of Parliament’s right of inquiry can effectively take place;

191.  Stresses that the lack of powers and the limited access to documents significantly hampered and delayed the work of the inquiry in view of the temporary nature of its investigation and precluded a full assessment of alleged breaches of EU law;

192.  Notes that in several recent committees of inquiry and special committees (including PANA), the Commission and Council in some cases failed to provide the documents requested and in other cases only provided the requested documents after long delays; calls for the introduction of an accountability mechanism in order to ensure the immediate and guaranteed transfer of documents to Parliament that the committee of inquiry or special committee requests and is entitled to have access to;

193.  Considers that the right of inquiry is an important competence of Parliament; calls for the EU institutions to strengthen Parliament’s rights of inquiry on the basis of Article 226 TFEU; is of the firm opinion that the ability to subpoena persons of interest and to have access to relevant documents is vital for the proper functioning of parliamentary committees of inquiry;

194.  Stresses that it is vital for the exercise of democratic control over the executive for Parliament to be empowered with powers of inquiry that match those of the national parliaments of the EU Member States; believes that, in order to exercise this role of democratic oversight, Parliament must have the power to summon and compel witnesses to appear and to compel the production of documents; believes that, in order for these rights to be exercised, the Member States must agree to implement sanctions against individuals for failure to appear or to produce documents in line with national law governing national parliamentary inquiries; reiterates its support for the position outlined in its 2012 proposal on this issue(21);

195.  Resolves to establish a permanent committee of inquiry, on the model of the US Congress;

196.  Invites Parliament’s political groups to decide on the establishment of a temporary special committee during the present parliamentary term to follow up on the work of the PANA committee, and to investigate the recent Paradise Papers revelations;

197.  Requests, without prejudice to any other appropriate measure, that, in accordance with Rule 116a(3) of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, the Secretary-General withdraw long-term access badges from any undertaking which has refused to comply with a formal summons to appear before a committee of inquiry;

198.  Calls on the Member States to improve the transparency, accountability and effectiveness of the working methods of the Code of Conduct Group as a matter of urgency;

199.  Asks the Code of Conduct Group to produce an annual report identifying and describing the most harmful tax measures used in the Member States, and stating what counter-measures were taken;

200.  Calls for the necessary reform of the Code of Conduct for Business Taxation Group to be finalised, in a manner ensuring full transparency and the involvement of all of the EU institutions and of civil society; calls for that reform to radically redefine the governance structure and transparency of the Code of Conduct Group, including its mandate and rules of procedure, as well as its decision-making processes and criteria for identifying harmful tax measures adopted by Member States;

7.3.Other institutions

201.  Welcomes, as a first step, the establishment of a single independent European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), and calls on all Member States to join the initiative;

202.  Calls for stronger enforcement powers for the Commission to ensure efficient and consistent implementation of Union legislation in the Member States and stronger scrutiny by the European Parliament;

203.  Calls for the creation of a new Union Tax Policy Coherence and Coordination Centre (TPCCC) within the Commission to address systemic weaknesses in cooperation among competent authorities across the EU;

204.  Calls for a significant strengthening of FIU.net cooperation within the framework of Europol and suggests linking these activities with the proposed TPCCC in the hope of creating a ‘Tax Europol’ capable both of coordinating Member States’ tax policies and of strengthening Member States’ authorities in investigating and uncovering illegal international tax schemes;

205.  Calls on the Member States, while reforming the Treaties, to support the adoption of decisions in the field of tax policy by a qualified majority in the Council and within the framework of the ordinary legislative procedure;

o
o   o

206.  Instructs its President to forward this recommendation and the final report of the committee of inquiry to the Council and the Commission and to the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ L 113, 19.5.1995, p. 1.
(2) OJ L 166, 24.6.2016, p. 10.
(3) OJ C 366, 27.10.2017, p. 51.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0310.
(5) OJ C 399, 24.11.2017, p. 74.
(6) Directive 2005/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2005 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing (OJ L 309, 25.11.2005, p. 15).
(7) European Parliament resolution of 16 December 2015 with recommendations to the Commission on bringing transparency, coordination and convergence to corporate tax policies in the Union; Recommendation A4.
(8) Council Directive 2011/16/EU of 15 February 2011 on administrative cooperation in the field of taxation and repealing Directive 77/799/EEC (OJ L 64, 11.3.2011, p. 1).
(9) European Parliament resolution of 16 December 2015 with recommendations to the Commission on bringing transparency, coordination and convergence to corporate tax policies in the Union; Recommendation B5.
(10) OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, p. 65.
(11) European Parliament resolution of 16 December 2015 with recommendations to the Commission on bringing transparency, coordination and convergence to corporate tax policies in the Union; Recommendation C3.
(12) See report A8-0056/2017.
(13) PANA Committee hearing with Brooke Harrington and other experts on 24 January 2017.
(14) ‘The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the World’s Rich and Powerful Hide their Money’, Obermayer and Obermaier, 2016.
(15) Directive 2014/56/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 amending Directive 2006/43/EC on statutory audits of annual accounts and consolidated accounts (OJ L 158, 27.5.2014, p. 196), and Regulation (EU) No 537/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 on specific requirements regarding statutory audit of public-interest entities and repealing Commission Decision 2005/909/EC (OJ L 158, 27.5.2014, p. 77).
(16) Directive 2013/34/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on the annual financial statements, consolidated financial statements and related reports of certain types of undertakings, amending Directive 2006/43/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Council Directives 78/660/EEC and 83/349/EEC (OJ L 182, 29.6.2013, p. 19).
(17) Greenland, New Caledonia and Dependencies, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Territories, Wallis and Futuna Islands, Mayotte, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles (Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten), Anguilla, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena and Dependencies, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, Turks and Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.
(18) ORs: the Canary Islands, La Réunion, French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Mayotte, Saint Martin, the Azores and Madeira.
(19) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:62014CJ0132&from=EN
(20) European Parliament resolution of 6 July 2016 on tax rulings and other measures similar in nature or effect (Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0310).
(21) OJ C 264 E, 13.9.2013, p. 41.


Annual report on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy
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European Parliament resolution of 13 December 2017 on the Annual report on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy (2017/2123(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0492A8-0351/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Treaty of Lisbon,

–  having regard to the European Council conclusions of 20 December 2013, 26 June 2015, 15 December 2016, and 22 June 2017,

–  having regard to the Annual Report from the Council to the European Parliament on the common foreign and security policy (CFSP),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 December 2017 on the Annual Report on the implementation of the common foreign and security policy(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 September 2017 on arms export: implementation of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP(2),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of 25 November 2013, 18 November 2014, 18 May 2015, 27 June 2016, 14 November 2016 and 18 May 2017, and the Council conclusions on the EU Global Strategy of 17 July 2017,

–  having regard to the 19th Franco-German Ministerial Council meeting in Paris on 13 July 2017,

–  having regard to the informal meeting of defence ministers and the informal meeting of foreign affairs ministers (Gymnich) in Tallinn on 6-9 September 2017,

–  having regard to the meeting of EU Ministers of Defence on 30 November 2011,

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 September 2013 on ‘EU’s military structures: state of play and future prospects’(3),

–   having regard to its resolution of 22 November 2016 on the European Defence Union(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 23 November 2016 on the implementation of the Common Security and Defence Policy (based on the Annual Report from the Council to the European Parliament on the Common Foreign and Security Policy)(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 March 2017 on ‘Constitutional, legal and institutional implications of a common security and defence policy: possibilities offered by the Lisbon Treaty’(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2017 on the mandate for the trilogue on the 2018 draft budget(7),

–  having regard to the document entitled ‘Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe – A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy’, presented by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on 28 June 2016,

–  having regard to the document entitled ‘Implementation Plan on Security and Defence’, presented by the VP/HR on 14 November 2016,

–  having regard to the communication from the Commission of 30 November 2016 to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the European Defence Action Plan (COM(2016)0950),

–  having regard to the joint declaration of 8 July 2016 by the Presidents of the European Council and the Commission and the Secretary-General of NATO, the common set of proposals endorsed by NATO and EU Councils on 6 December 2016 and the Progress report on the implementation thereof adopted on 14 June 2017,

–  having regard to the Bratislava Declaration of 16 September 2016,

–  having regard to the new defence package presented by the Commission on 7 June 2017 in the press release ‘A Europe that defends: Commission opens debate on moving towards a Security and Defence Union’,

–  having regard to the Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence of 7 June 2017,

–  having regard to Eurobarometer 85.1 of June 2016, according to which half of EU citizens surveyed consider EU action insufficient and two thirds of them would like to see greater EU engagement through Member States' commitment in matters of security and defence policy,

–  having regard to the crisis management concept of the Council for a new civilian CSDP mission in Iraq of 17 July 2017 and to the Council Decision (CFSP) 2017/1425 of 4 August 2017 on a European Union stabilisation action in the Malian regions of Mopti and Segou,

–  having regard to the EU Policy on Training for CSDP adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 3 April 2017,

–  having regard to the Council Decision of 23 October 2017 on the position to be adopted, on behalf of the European Union, within the EEA Joint Committee concerning an amendment to Protocol 31 to the EEA Agreement (Union's Preparatory Action on Defence Research),

–  having regard to the Notification on Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) of 13 November 2017,

–  having regard to the joint communication from the Commission and the Vice-President / High Representative of 10 November 2017 to the European Parliament and the Council on Improving Military Mobility in the European Union (JOIN(2017)0041),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0351/2017),

The Union’s strategic environment

1.  Underlines that the rules-based international order and the values defended by Western democracies, and the peace, prosperity and freedoms which this post-World War II order guarantees and which correspond to the foundations on which the European Union is built, are facing an unprecedented number of conventional and hybrid challenges, as societal, economic, technological and geopolitical trends point to the growing vulnerability of the world's population to shocks and stresses – such as interstate conflicts, natural disasters, extreme weather events, water crises, state collapse and cyber-attacks – that need a united and coordinated response; recalls that security is a key concern for European citizens; states that the Union’s external action is to be guided by the values and principles enshrined in Article 21 TEU;

2.  Stresses that no single Member State can alone tackle any of the complex security challenges we are facing today, and in order for the EU to be able to respond to this internal and external challenges it needs to step up its efforts towards concrete strong cooperation in the context of CFSP/CSDP, be an effective global player, which implies speaking with one voice and acting together, and focus its resources on strategic priorities; takes the view that it is necessary to tackle the root causes of instability, which are poverty and raising inequality, bad governance, state collapse and climate change;

3.  Deplores the fact that transnational terrorist and criminal organisations are increasing in strength and number, potentially facilitated by the defeat of ISIS/Da'esh and the fact that its fighters are fleeing, while instability simultaneously spreads in the southern regions and in the Middle East, as fragile and disintegrating states such as Libya give up on large ungoverned spaces vulnerable to outside forces; expresses its continued concern over the transnational dimension of the terrorist threat in the Sahel region; deeply deplores that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's ongoing nuclear and ballistic missile-related activities have generated increased tension in the region and beyond, posing a clear threat to international peace and security;

4.  Stresses that to the east, Russia’s war against Ukraine is still ongoing, the Minsk agreements – without which there can be no solution to the conflict – have not been implemented and the illegal annexation and militarisation of Crimea, and the imposition of anti-access and area denial systems, continue; is deeply concerned that Russia's excessive exercises and military activities without international observation, hybrid tactics, including cyber-terrorism, fake news and disinformation campaigns, economic and energy blackmail are destabilising the Eastern Partnership countries and the Western Balkans, as well as are being targeted at Western democracies and increasing tensions within them; is concerned that the security environment surrounding the EU will remain highly volatile for years to come; reiterates the strategic importance of the Western Balkans for the security and stability of the EU and the need to focus and strengthen the EU's political engagement towards the region, including by strengthening the mandate of our Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions; is firmly convinced that in order to overcome the EU's vulnerability there is a need for more integration as well as coordination;

5.  Deplores the terrorist threat that is quickly expanding both within Europe and beyond its borders; considers that an incomplete answer on the military level will inevitably lead to ever-growing internal security threats; urgently calls for an European anti-jihadist pact that can tackle these threats in an effective manner;

6.  Believes that terrorism represents today one of the key challenges to the security of EU citizens, requiring swift, firm and coordinated action, both at internal and external level, in order to prevent further terrorist attacks and to fight its root causes; points out, in particular, the need to prevent radicalisation, to block any source of financial resources to terrorist organisations, to tackle terrorist propaganda and block the use of the internet and social networks for this purpose, including through an automated removal service, and to improve intelligence sharing between Member States, as well as with third countries, NATO and other relevant partner organisations; believes that the mandate of our CSDP missions should include the fight against terrorism in order to contribute more consequently to deradicalisation programmes, notably EULEX in Kosovo and EUFOR ALTHEA in Bosnia Herzegovina, countries that are confronted with an important number of fighters returning from abroad;

7.  Is deeply concerned about the increasingly deadly terrorist threat in the Sahel belt as well as its extension to Central Africa, and the instability in the East (Syria, Iraq, Palestine); calls on the VP/HR to ensure that an executive mandate is granted to the CSDP missions and to intervene in a decisive and determined manner;

8.  Believes that, under the current EU enlargement policy, a credible accession process grounded on extensive and fair conditionality remains an important tool for promoting security by enhancing the resilience of countries in the south-eastern Europe;

9.  Believes that in a challenging security environment, and at a moment when the EU and NATO are endeavouring to broaden and deepen their cooperation, through Brexit the EU will lose part of its military capability and will possibly no longer be able to benefit from the UK’s expertise, and vice versa; notes that Brexit gives new momentum to initiatives that have long been blocked, and could open the door to new proposals; stresses the importance of continuing close defence cooperation between the EU and the post-Brexit UK, including in, but not limited to, the areas of intelligence sharing and counterterrorism; considers that, if it so requests, the UK should also be able to participate in CSDP missions as part of a new EU-UK defence cooperation relationship;

10.  Welcomes the renewed US commitment to European security; stresses that the EU stands firmly committed to the transatlantic community of common values and interests; is at the same time convinced that an accountable and self-confident CFSP is needed and that, in this context, the EU must become a self-assured foreign-policy actor;

Institutional framework

11.  Believes strongly that, whenever necessary, the EU should take decisive action to determine its future, as internal and external security are becoming increasingly intertwined, and as this has a direct impact on all European citizens; warns that the lack of a common approach could lead to uncoordinated and fragmented action, allows multiple duplications and inefficiency and, as a result, would make the Union and its Member States vulnerable; is therefore of the opinion that the EU should be able to act effectively along the entire spectrum of internal-external security instruments, up to the level of Article 42(7) TEU; stresses that the framing of a common Union defence policy referred to in Article 42(2) TEU has the objective of establishing a common defence and endowing the Union with strategic autonomy to enable it to promote peace and security in Europe and in the world; emphasises the practical and financial benefits of further integrating European defence capabilities;

12.  Underlines that the EU needs to apply the entire tool-box of available policy instruments – from soft to hard power and from short-term measures to long-term policies in the area of classical foreign policy, encompassing not only bilateral and multilateral efforts in diplomacy, development cooperation, civilian and economic instruments, emergency support, crisis prevention and post-conflict strategies, but also peacekeeping and peace-enforcing, also in line with the civilian and military means described in Article 43(1) TEU – in order to cope with the rising challenges; believes that the CSDP should be built on the principle that European security cannot be guaranteed by relying merely on military assets; considers that EU foreign actions should include an assessment of their impact on EU’s people-centred strategic interests of enhancing human security and human rights, strengthening international law and promoting sustainable peace; underlines the need for the EEAS to step up its capacities to better anticipate crises and counter security challenges at the point of their inception; stresses the need for a more coherent and better coordinated interaction between military, civilian, development and humanitarian actors;

13.  Welcomes the visible progress made in framing a stronger European defence stance since the adoption of the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy (EUGS) in June 2016; welcomes, in particular, the launching of a European Defence Fund (EDF), the proposed scaling-up of the Preparatory Action on Defence Research and the legislative proposal for a European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP); calls on the Member States to increase their future financial contributions to the EU budget in order to cover all additional costs incurred by the EU in connection with the EDF;

14.  Welcomes EFTA’s adhesion to the preparatory action on defence research, and welcomes in particular the Norwegian contribution of EUR 585 000 for 2017; expresses its wish that Norway may continue to participate in Union-funded programmes that have defence implications or are in the defence remit;

15.  Calls on the Commission and the VP/HR, to keep Parliament immediately and fully informed at all stages about any conclusion of, or amendment to, international agreements that have defence implications or are in the defence remit; considers that any third-country financial contribution has important budgetary implications for the Union, as a third country could affect the Union's financial interests in a manner well beyond the size of its contribution by withholding necessary export licenses; stresses that where third parties contribute to Union-funded programmes that have defence implications or are in the defence remit, Parliament expects the Commission and the VP/HR to assess the impact of such participation as regards the Unions' strategic policies and interests before making a proposal, and to inform Parliament about this assessment;

16.  Highlights the facts that the Commission and an increasing number of Member States have committed themselves to launching the European Defence Union (EDU) and that there is a strong support for this among European citizens; stresses that this corresponds to a demand from EU citizens and from Parliament, notably through numerous appeals expressed in its previous resolutions; highlights the greater efficiency, and the elimination of duplication and reduction of costs, that will result from stronger European defence integration; stresses, however, that the launch of a real EDU requires continued political will and determination; urges the Member States to commit themselves to a common and autonomous European defence, and to aim to ensure that their national defence budgets amount to at least 2 % of their respective GDPs within a decade;

17.  Is convinced that the only way to increase the Union’s ability to fulfil its military tasks is to significantly increase efficiency with regard to all aspects of the process which generates military capabilities; recalls that, compared to the US the EU-28 spend 40 % on defence but only manage to generate 15 % of the capabilities that the US gets out of the process, which points to a very serious efficiency problem;

18.  Calls on the VP/HR and the Commission to act on Parliament’s calls for an EU Security and Defence White Book in the context of preparing the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), as requested in Parliament’s resolutions of 22 November 2016, 23 November 2016 and 16 March 2017; considers that building the EDU, linking its strategic orientation with EU contributions to capability development and shaping the European institutional framework for defence, are elements that need to be underpinned by an interinstitutional agreement; stresses that with a comprehensive and trustworthy effort on the part of all stakeholders it is possible to increase the scope and efficiency of defence spending; calls for a powerful role in this process to be defined for neutral countries such as Austria and Sweden, without calling into question the neutrality of individual Member States;

19.  Stresses that, in addition to a description of the strategic environment and the strategic ambitions, the EU Security and Defence White Book should identify, for the next MFF, the required and available capabilities, as well as any capability shortfalls, in the form of the EU Capability Development Plan (CDP), and should be complemented by a broad outline of the intended Member State and Union actions under the MFF and in the longer term;

20.  Welcomes the newly demonstrated political will to make CSDP more effective; supports any attempt to unleash the full potential of the Lisbon Treaty by making cooperation between Member Stakes work, and to make the operationally relevant capabilities for fulfilling Article 43(1) TEU tasks available, by:

   (a) urgently installing the start-up fund as foreseen by the Treaty in order to allow fast deployment of operations;
   (b) establishing permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) on those military aspects that are necessary to implement CSDP tasks such as permanently pooled military units;
   (c) reforming the intergovernmental joint financing mechanism Athena in order to operationalise solidarity between those Member States that can only contribute financially and those that can only contribute with troops to a CSDP operation;
   (d) making pooling and sharing of capabilities the rule and not the exception, and moving towards the implementation of a majority of the 300 proposals presented by the 28 Chiefs of Defence in 2011;
   (e) pooling national resources with regard to research, development, procurement, maintenance and training;
   (f) coordinating national defence planning (Coordinated Annual Review on Defence, CARD) as currently planned;
   (g) initiating common rules for military certification and a common policy on security of supply;
   (h) enforcing, on the part of the Commission, internal market rules in line with the 2009 Defence Procurement Directive with regard to national defence procurement projects;

21.  Welcomes the Commission’s intention to propose a specific programme for defence research, with a dedicated budget and own rules, under the next MFF; stresses that Member States should make additional resources available to that programme, without interfering with existing framework programmes funding research, technological development and innovation, as requested in Parliament’s resolution of 5 July 2017; renews its previous calls on the Commission to provide for Union participation in defence research and development programmes undertaken by Member States, or jointly with industry where appropriate, as referred to in Articles 185 and 187 TFEU;

22.  Welcomes the Commission’s proposal for a EDIDP; underlines that any Union action to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States in the defence remit should have the objective of contributing to the progressive framing of a common defence policy, as referred to, inter alia, in Article 2(4) TFEU, and therefore of covering common development, standardisation, certification and maintenance, leading to cooperative programmes and a higher degree of interoperability; calls on the Commission to promote the new EDIDP as widely as possible, and, in particular, to encourage SMEs to participate in joint, cross-border projects;

23.  Considers that exports by Member States of weapons, ammunitions and defence-related goods and services form an integral part of EU foreign, security and defence policy;

24.  Urges the Council to take concrete steps towards the harmonisation and standardisation of the European armed forces, in accordance with Article 42(2) TEU, in order to facilitate the cooperation of armed forces personnel under the umbrella of a new EDU, as a step towards the progressive framing of a common EU defence policy;

25.  Stresses that the use of all possibilities provided for in the Treaty would improve the competitiveness and functioning of the defence industry within the single market by further stimulating defence cooperation through positive incentives, targeting projects that Member States are not able to undertake, reducing unnecessary duplication and promoting a more efficient use of public money; is of the opinion that the outputs of such strategic cooperative programmes have great potential as dual-use technologies and, as such, bring extra added value to Member States; emphasises the importance of developing European capabilities and an integrated defence market;

26.  Calls for the establishment of precise and binding guidelines to provide a well-defined framework for future activation and implementation of Article 42(7) TEU;

27.  Calls on the Commission, the Council and the VP/HR to engage, together with Parliament, in an interinstitutional dialogue on the progressive framing of a common defence policy; stresses that, under the next MFF, a fully-fledged EU defence budget should be established for all the internal aspects of CSDP and that a doctrine for its implementation should be developed within the remit of the Lisbon Treaty; underlines the need for a revision of the Athena mechanism in order to widen the range of operations considered as a common cost and incentivise participation in CSDP missions and operations;

28.  Points out that this new defence budget will have to be financed through new resources in the next MFF;

29.  Believes that decision-making on CSDP issues could be more democratic and transparent; proposes, therefore, to turn its Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) into a fully fledged parliamentary committee, enabling it to gain greater powers of scrutiny and accountability over the CSDP and to play a prominent role in its implementation, in particular by scrutinising legal acts pertaining to security and defence;

30.  Regrets the lack of cooperation and information-sharing among security and intelligence services in Europe; believes that more cooperation between intelligence services could help counter terrorism; calls, in this regard, for the establishment of a fully fledged European intelligence system;

Permanent Structured Cooperation

31.  Welcomes the Notification on Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and its foreseen activation based on the willingness of Member States to make binding commitments within the CSDP framework, thereby implementing an ambitious and inclusive PESCO, and calls for its swift establishment by the Council; underlines that the desired inclusiveness of participation must not compromise either full commitment to the CSDP or a high level of ambition among participating Member States; points to the necessity to set clear participation criteria, leaving other Member States the option to join at a later stage; believes that activities within PESCO should always be in full alignment with CSDP;

32.  Stresses that PESCO should develop within the EU framework and that it should benefit from effective Union support, in full respect of Member States’ competences in defence; renews its call for appropriate PESCO funding to be provided from the Union budget; considers that participation in all Union agencies and bodies falling under the CSDP, including the European Security and Defence College (ESDC), should be made a requirement under PESCO; renews its call for the EU Battlegroup System to be considered as a common cost under the revised Athena mechanism;

33.  Stresses that it is necessary to ease the administrative procedures that are unnecessarily slowing down the generation of forces for CSDP missions and the cross-border movement of rapid response forces inside the EU; calls on the Member States to establish an EU-wide system for the coordination of rapid movement of defence force personnel, equipment and supplies for the purposes of CSDP, where the solidarity clause is invoked and where all Member States have an obligation to provide aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter; welcomes, in this regard, the joint communication on improving military mobility; calls on the Commission to present a substantial action plan to Parliament and the Member States by March 2018 that is fully coherent with ongoing efforts within NATO;

34.  Demands the establishment of a fully fledged EU civilian-military strategic headquarters under PESCO – to be composed of the existing Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), the Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC), and the Crisis Management and Planning Directorate (CMPD) – providing a platform for integrated operational support throughout the entire planning cycle, from the initial political concept to detailed plans;

35.  Encourages the Member States participating in PESCO to set up a permanent 'European Integrated Force', composed of divisions of their national armies, and to make it available to the Union for the implementation of the CSDP as foreseen by Article 42(3) TEU;

36.  Considers that a common cyber defence policy should be one of the first building blocks of the European Defence Union; encourages the VP/HR to develop proposals for establishing, within the framework of PESCO, an EU cyber defence unit;

Defence Directorate-General

37.  Calls for the evaluation, in close coordination with the VP/HR, of the opportunity to establish a Directorate-General for Defence within the Commission (DG Defence), which would drive the Union’s actions to support, coordinate or supplement the actions of the Member States aimed at the progressive framing of a common defence policy, as foreseen by Article 2 TFEU;

38.  Considers that the proposed DG Defence should have the responsibility to ensure open borders for the free movement of troops and equipment, as a necessary prerequisite for ensuring the degree of strategic autonomy, inter-operability, security of supply, standardisation and military certification arrangements required for: EU contributions to programmes under the CSDP and PESCO; EU-funded defence research; the EU’s strategic autonomy; the competitiveness of Europe’s defence industry, including SMEs and mid-cap companies forming the European defence supply chain; and the interinstitutional arrangements in the defence remit, including the EU Security and Defence White Book; stresses that the proposed DG Defence should contribute to better coordination of tasks among the various actors with a view to achieving greater policy coherence and consistency;

39.  Underlines that the proposed DG Defence should work in liaison with the European Defence Agency (EDA); considers that the EDA should be the implementing agency for Union actions under the European Capabilities and Armaments policy, where this is foreseen by the Lisbon Treaty; renews its call on the Council to ensure that the administrative and operational expenditure of the EDA is funded from the Union budget; notes that EDA's increasing new roles and responsibilities should be followed by an increase of its budget, stressing at the same time that the possible establishment of a DG Defence, and renewed efforts to make CSDP more effective, should not lead to resources being diverted to the growth of bureaucratic structures and to duplicating structures;

Coordinated strategic and annual defence reviews

40.  Welcomes the strategic review of the EU’s Capability Development Plan (CDP) due to be completed in spring 2018; underlines that the CDP will serve to foster collaboration among Member States in efforts to fill capability gaps in the context of the EDA;

41.  Welcomes the establishment of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) process; considers that CARD should contribute to the standardisation and harmonisation of the investments and capabilities of national armed forces in an effective manner, ensuring the Union’s strategic and operational autonomy and coherence, and allowing Member States to invest more efficiently together in defence; welcomes the proposal to launch a trial run in 2017;

42.  Encourages Member States to explore the possibility of joint procurement of defence resources;

43.  Emphasises that CARD should be based on the EU Security and Defence White Book and the CDP, and should address the full spectrum of CSDP-related capabilities, in particular those of the Member States participating in PESCO; considers that CARD should deliver a set of concrete proposals to fill gaps and identify where Union action would be appropriate, to be taken into account in EU budget planning for the following year; underlines the need for the Commission and the EDA to work together in designing the annual work programmes under the capability and research windows of the proposed EDF; points out that the EDA should have a distinct role not only in designing the programme, but also in the management of projects financed from the capability window;

44.  Stresses the need for close coordination of all CSDP-related activities, in particular CARD, PESCO and the EDF;

45.  Considers that the Commission should take up the results of CARD and initiate an interinstitutional agreement that establishes the scope and funding of subsequent Union actions; considers that, drawing on the interinstitutional agreement, the Council and the Commission should take the necessary decisions in their respective remits to authorise such actions; calls for interparliamentary cooperation on defence to review CARD, and for the subsequent development of defence capabilities on a regular basis;

CSDP missions and operations

46.  Thanks the more than six thousand women and men who have given good and loyal service in the Union’s civilian and military missions on three continents; values these missions as Europe’s common contribution to peace and stability in the world; regrets, however, that the efficiency of these missions can still be jeopardised by structural weaknesses, uneven contributions from Member States and unsuitability to the operational environment, deploring in particular the limitations in the CSDP missions mandate; stresses, in this context, the need for real effectiveness that can only be achieved with the provision of proper military equipment, and urges the Council and the VP/HR to make use of the possibilities provided for in Article 41.2 TEU to this end; welcomes the increase in Member States’ defence spending in support of our service members; takes the view that this trend needs to be sustained, strengthened and coordinated at EU level; calls for effective measures to be taken to ensure that lessons learned and experience gained as regards the human dimension of CSDP missions are assessed and taken into account when future CSDP missions are designed;

47.  Welcomes the presentation of the first annual report on the CSDP by the VP/HR; believes, however, that this report should not be of quantitative nature only, describing achievements with statistical data and detailed information, but also focus in the future on evaluating the political impact of CSDP activities in improving the security of our citizens;

48.  Calls on the VP/HR, the Commission and Member States to orient CSDP missions and operations more toward the priorities of the EU Global Strategy as well as the local and regional realities;

49.  Believes in the need to contribute further to crisis management and prevention and, specifically, to provide assistance to the reconstruction and stabilisation of Iraq; welcomes the recent decision by the Council to launch a new civilian CSDP mission in support of security sector reform in Iraq, and expects that the EU takes over the international lead in this area, including in counter-terrorism and civilian reconstruction; calls on the EU to ensure that this time there will be better coordination among participating Member States, and with regional as well as local actors;

50.  Welcomes the activities of EU NAVFOR Med and asks the VP/HR and the Member States to increase the support for local security actors on the southern shore of the Mediterranean;

51.  Expects from the VP/HR and the Council that EUBAM Libya will be relaunched at the occasion of the renewal of the mandate reaching out to local security actors on Libya's southern borders; calls on the VP/HR and the Member States to come up with fresh ideas on how to tackle the security concerns in the Sahel zone by linking it to EUBAM Libya within its comprehensive and integrated approach and in support of the German-French initiative; welcomes the Council decision of 4 August 2017 on a European Union stabilisation action for Mali in the Mopti and Segou regions; calls, in this regard, on the VP/HR to inform Parliament how this measure interacts with CSDP missions and operations in the region;

52.  Welcomes the success of Operation EUFOR ALTHEA in Bosnia and Herzegovina in achieving a military end state; is, however, concerned that the political end state has not yet been achieved;

53.  Welcomes the recent establishment of a nucleus for a permanent EU operational headquarters, the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), as demanded by Parliament in its resolution of 12 September 2013, as it is a precondition for effective planning, command and control of common operations; calls on the Member States to staff it with adequate personnel so that it becomes fully functional, and to task it to plan and command executive military CSDP operations such as EUFOR ALTHEA;

54.  Considers that, as a consequence of the UK’s announcement of withdrawal from the Union, the command option of EU NAVFOR Somalia / Operation Atalanta needs to be reviewed; stresses the success of the operation, thanks to which not a single vessel has been boarded by pirates since 2014; welcomes the extension of the operation until 2018;

55.  Notes that only 75 % of the positions in civilian CSDP missions are filled; regrets, in this regard, that the EU staff regulations, which would provide better conditions and protection to mission staff, do not apply to personnel employed by the missions even though they are funded from the Union budget; is convinced that this impedes the effectiveness of the missions; urges the Member States to ensure that all vacant posts in all missions are swiftly filled;

56.  Welcomes the adoption of the EU Policy on Training for CSDP and the important role the European Security and Defence College (ESDC) plays as central training institution embedded within the CSDP structures; calls on the Member States to provide adequate financial, personnel and infrastructural resources for the ESDC;

57.  Regrets that Member States are failing to deploy in a swift manner the staff necessary for the preparatory and set-up stages of civilian CSDP missions; welcomes, in this context, the proposal developed jointly by the EEAS and Commission services for a multi-layered approach in order to speed up the deployment of civilian CSDP missions;

58.  Encourages further efforts to speed up the provision of financing for civilian and civil-military missions and to simplify decision-making procedures and implementation; believes, in this context, that the Commission should introduce, by delegated acts in accordance with Article 210 of the Financial Regulation, specific procurement rules to the crisis management measures under the CSDP in order to facilitate the rapid and flexible conduct of operations;

59.  Welcomes the establishment of the Mission Support Platform (MSP) in 2016; regrets the limited size and scope of the MSP, and reiterates its call for further progress towards a shared services centre that would allow further efficiency gains by providing a central coordination point for all mission support services;

60.  Urges the EEAS and the Council to step up their ongoing efforts to improve cyber security, in particular for CSDP missions, inter alia by taking measures at EU and Member State levels to mitigate threats to the CSDP, for instance by building up resilience through education, training and exercises, and by streamlining the EU cyber-defence education and training landscape;

61.  Believes that the EU and its Member States face an unprecedented threat in the form of state-sponsored cyber attacks as well as cyber crime and terrorism; believes that the nature of cyber attacks makes them a threat that needs an EU-level response; encourages the Member States to provide mutual assistance in the event of a cyber attack against any one of them;

62.  Calls on the Member States to apply full burden sharing to military CSDP missions by progressive enlargement of common funding toward full common funding, which should enable and encourage more Member States to contribute their capabilities and forces, or just funds; underlines the importance of reviewing the Athena mechanism in this regard and of covering all costs related to the financing of military CSDP operations;

63.  Urges the Council to act in accordance with Article 41(3) TEU and to adopt without delay the decision of establishing a start-up fund for the urgent financing of the initial phases of military operations for the tasks referred to in Article 42(1) and Article 43 TEU; urges the Council to resolve current problems with financing hybrid missions; calls for more flexibility in the EU's financial rules in order to support its ability to respond to crises and for the implementation of existing Lisbon Treaty provisions;

EU-NATO cooperation

64.  Believes that, in the current context, the strategic partnership between the EU and NATO is fundamental to addressing the security challenges facing the Union and its neighbourhood; considers that the EU-NATO Joint Declaration and the subsequent implementation actions have the potential to move cooperation and complementarity to a higher level and to mark a new and substantive phase of the strategic partnership; welcomes the common set of 42 proposals, of which as many as 10 seek to increase resilience against hybrid threats, aimed at strengthening both cooperation and coordination between the two organisations; notes that this work will be taken forward in the spirit of full openness and transparency, in full respect of the decision-making autonomy and procedures of both organisations, and will be based on the principles of inclusiveness and reciprocity without prejudice to the specific character of the security and defence policy of any Member State; praises the cooperation being undertaken in combating cyber threats, developing strategic communications and coordinating maritime activities and joint exercises, and points to the excellent cooperation and complementarity of the EU's Operation Sophia and NATO's Operation Sea Guardian; welcomes as well the publication in June 2017 of the two organisations’ first joint implementation report and the progress made in implementing the common set of proposals, and calls for continued progress; stresses the EU’s full commitment to the transatlantic community of common values and interests;

65.  Notes that a stronger EU and a stronger NATO are mutually reinforcing; considers that Member States need to increase their efforts to act both within an EDU and as autonomous regional security providers, and in a complementary role within NATO, where appropriate; notes that, as set out in EUGS, the EU must contribute to: (a) responding to external conflicts and crises; (b) building the capabilities of partners; and (c) protecting the Union and its citizens; welcomes the set of initiatives that are underway to implement EUGS in the field of security and defence, to develop stronger relations between the EU and NATO, and to enable EU Member States to engage in defence research and develop defence capabilities together; is of the opinion that the security and protection of Europe will increasingly depend on both organisations acting within their remits; calls for efforts to improve cooperation in countering hybrid threats, including through the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, and in the exchange of information and intelligence;

66.  Stresses the importance of cooperation and integration in cyber security, not only between Member States, key partners and NATO, but also between different actors within society;

CSDP partnerships

67.  Stresses that partnerships and cooperation with countries that share EU’s values contribute to the effectiveness and the impact of the CSDP; welcomes, in this regard, the contributions of Albania, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Georgia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, New Zeeland, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States;

68.  Welcomes the signature of the EU-US Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) of 7 December 2016; calls on the VP/HR to inform Parliament about how this agreement has improved the conditions for, and protection of, CSDP mission staff;

69.  Invites the VP/HR and the Member States to establish EU military attachés in EU delegations contributing to the implementation of the strategic objectives of the Union;

70.  Welcomes the proposal of the Commission to review the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) in order to support actions carried out under the Capacity Building in Support of Security and Development (CBSD) initiative, which will enable the EU to fund capacity building and resilience and help strengthen the capabilities of partner countries; encourages the EEAS and the Commission to implement the CBSD initiative without delay, to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of CSDP missions and to provide a more flexible and integrated EU approach that takes advantage of civil-military synergies;

o
o   o

71.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Secretary-General of NATO, the EU agencies in the space, security and defence fields, and the governments and national parliaments of the Member States.

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0493.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0344.
(3) OJ C 93, 9.3.2016, p. 144.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0435.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0440.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0092.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0302.


Annual report on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy
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European Parliament resolution of 13 December 2017 on the Annual Report on the implementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (2017/2121(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0493A8-0350/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Annual Report from the Council to the European Parliament on the common foreign and security policy,

–  having regard to Articles 21 and 36 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to the Charter of the United Nations,

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 2 December 2013 between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on budgetary discipline, on cooperation in budgetary matters and on sound financial management,

–  having regard to the declaration by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on political accountability,

–  having regard to the 2016 European External Action Service (EEAS) communication on a Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign And Security Policy and the 2017 Commission and EEAS joint communication on a Strategic Approach to Resilience in the EU’s External Action,

–  having regard to the key principles enshrined in the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy, particularly those pertaining to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, and the inviolability of borders, being equally respected by all participating states,

–  having regard to the joint communication from the Commission and VP/HR of 12 December 2011 entitled ‘Human rights and democracy at the heart of EU external action – towards a more effective approach’ (COM(2011)0886),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Budgets (A8-0350/2017),

Introduction

1.  Is convinced that no single Member State alone is able to tackle the challenges we face today; emphasises that common EU action is the most effective way to preserve Europe’s interests, uphold its values, engage in a wider world as a united and influential global actor and protect its citizens and Member States from increased threats to their security, including in a global digital sphere; is concerned about the EU’s security architecture, which remains fragile and fragmented in the face of continued and fresh challenges every day and in which a ‘hybrid peace’ has become an unsatisfactory reality; urges the Member States to take action and fulfil the wishes of those European citizens who have repeatedly stressed that EU foreign and security policy based on fundamental values and human rights is one of the most important and most necessary of all EU policies; considers that it is high time that Member States implement Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) tools, instruments and policies to enable the EU to respond to external conflicts and crises, build partners’ capacities and protect the European Union;

2.  Recalls the EU’s commitment to develop a Common Foreign and Security Policy guided by the values of democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and compliance with the UN Charter and international law; considers that, in order to live up to this commitment and to contribute to advancing human rights and democracy in the world, the EU and its Member States need to speak with a united voice and ensure that their message is heard;

3.  Takes the view that, in order for the EU to succeed in addressing and overcoming the challenges it faces, and in particular security threats, it needs to be an effective, credible and values-based global player, with a capacity for action and effective dialogue with other global players, which implies the EU speaking with one voice, acting together and focusing its resources on strategic priorities;

4.  Stresses the need for the EU’s external policies to be consistent with each other and with other policies with an external dimension, and to pursue the objectives set out in Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union;

5.  Believes that the core milestones for the European Union to deliver on the expectations of its citizens are:

   coordination of an assessment of profound threats and challenges within the EU and a common approach in how to address them; taking into account in particular the prevention of radicalisation, which can lead to recruitment by terrorist groups,
   consolidation and deepening of the European project and its external action by, inter alia, enhancing the EU’s cooperation and capabilities in the field of its common foreign and security policy, including information warfare,
   cooperation between Member States, partners, and international organisations and institutions protecting peace within clearly defined and carefully chosen conditions to strengthen the rules-based, global political and economic order, including the protection of human rights, and working together with partners to play a leading role in reconciliation, peacemaking, peacekeeping and, where needed, peace enforcement;

Coordination of an assessment of profound threats and challenges: facing the current political and security environment

6.  Emphasises that guaranteeing the security of EU citizens and the integrity of the EU’s territory, stabilising the neighbourhood, especially in the Western Balkans with a focus on more visibility of the EU in this region, promoting reforms to preserve a rules-based, cooperative political and economic international order, tackling the root causes of armed conflicts and enhancing policies of conflict prevention, peaceful conflict resolution and dialogue with pluralist democracies committed to the defence of human rights, are the key conditions for the stability of the EU; calls on more active EU public diplomacy and greater visibility for projects implemented by the EU;

7.  Is of the view that, in an increasingly conflict-ridden and unstable international environment, only a combination of effective multilateralism, joint soft power and credible hard power can be capable of confronting major security challenges, notably the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the violation of the security order in Europe, terrorism, conflicts in the Eastern and Southern neighbourhood, proxy wars, hybrid and information warfare, including digital aggression, and energy insecurity; highlights that these challenges also include the refugee crises in its humanitarian dimension, challenging aggressive behaviour by North Korea, the violation of international law by Russia and China’s growing military power, for which only a strong diplomatic response will suffice;

8.  Is of the opinion that a more effective common foreign and security policy depends primarily on the establishment of common strategic priorities and visions; takes the view that it is necessary to tackle the root causes of instability, spread largely because of failed or fragile states, and of forced and irregular migration: poverty, the lack of economic opportunities and access to education, social exclusion, armed conflicts, undemocratic and inefficient governance, corruption, climate change, increasing sectarianism, the threat of radicalisation and the spread of extremist ideologies; recalls the action plan adopted at the Valletta Summit calling for a shared responsibility of countries of origin, transit and destination; emphasises the importance of breaking the economic model of smuggler networks;

9.  Underlines the need to counter autocratic and nepotistic trends, to intensify support for democratic forces and to fight against Islamist terrorism in the Southern neighbourhood and among the neighbours of our neighbours and partners, and to target those groups which seek to encourage EU citizens to fight for their extremist cause; recalls that the Sahel region and other connected geographical areas are priority regions for ensuring the security of the European Union; reiterates the need for concerted diplomatic efforts on the part of the EU, the US and other international partners, to work with players in the region, such as Turkey, the Gulf states and Iran, on the need for a clear position against religious extremism and terrorism, and to establish a common strategy to address this global challenge in line with the commitment undertaken at UN level to uphold international law and universal values; believes that diplomatic efforts should be accompanied by the wide range of other tools and instruments at the EU’s disposal, including those for the improvement of political, social and economic conditions conducive to the establishment and preservation of peace;

10.  Believes that tackling violent extremism should go hand in hand with upholding universal human rights; stresses that the EU must counter and condemn state sponsors of radicalisation and terrorism, particularly where such support is given to entities listed by the EU as terror organisations; underlines the importance of strengthening cooperation with our partners experienced in combating terrorism;

11.  Stresses that a sustainable solution to the Syrian crisis can only be achieved under the existing UN-agreed framework and needs to be based on an inclusive, Syrian-led political settlement involving all relevant stakeholders; continues to urge all members of the UN Security Council to honour their responsibilities with regard to the crisis; supports the call of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria on the ceasefire guarantor states to undertake urgent efforts to uphold the ceasefire regime;

12.  Welcomes the EU strategy on Syria adopted in April 2017, which includes extending sanctions to persons involved in the development and use of chemical weapons; encourages the further extension of sanctions to those responsible for human rights violations; stresses that all those responsible for breaches of international law must be held accountable; reiterates its call for the EU and its Member States to explore with partners the creation of a Syria war crimes tribunal, pending a successful referral to the ICC; stresses the need for the EU to demonstrate full commitment in assisting the reconstruction of Syria after the conflict;

13.  Calls on all parties involved, within and outside Libya, to support both the Libyan political agreement signed on 17 December 2015 and its resulting Presidential Council, which is the only authority recognised by the international community and the UN; underlines that solving the Libyan crisis is a prerequisite for stability in the Mediterranean; emphasises the importance of the Southern neighbourhood and the need to achieve a euro-Mediterranean space of peace, prosperity, stability and integration; underlines its strong support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with an independent, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with the secure State of Israel; stresses the importance of ensuring coherence of EU policy on situations of occupation or annexation of territory;

14.  Welcomes the continued successful implementation by all parties of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed by the EU3 +3 with Iran; stresses that the continued full implementation of this agreement by all parties is key to global efforts on non-proliferation and conflict resolution in the Middle East; highlights that the JCPOA is a multilateral agreement that was endorsed by a UN Security Council resolution and cannot be changed unilaterally; stresses the security risk posed by Iran’s ballistic missile programme and underlines the need for full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015), which calls on Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology;

15.  Notes that the US Treasury Department has officially updated its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) counter-terrorism list to include the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC);

16.  Expresses its deep concern about the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Yemen; emphasises once again that there can be no military solution to the prolonged conflict in Yemen and supports efforts undertaken by the EU and UN towards achieving the ceasefire and laying the ground for peace negotiations; takes the view that the EU must act to ensure the continued existence of ethnic-religious minorities in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria;

17.  Condemns the repeated use by Russia of its veto powers on the UN Security Council and considers it to undermine international efforts for peace and conflict resolution in Syria and the European Union’s southern neighbourhood more widely;

18.  Acknowledges that further efforts should be made to make legal migration and mobility possible, including at bilateral level, by fostering well-managed mobility between and within continents, and by encouraging policies that promote regular channels for migration while fighting illegal networks that profit from vulnerable people; underlines the efforts taken by individual Member States in this regard and considers it essential to strengthen the legal and secure access path to Europe; regrets, in this regard, the lack of a genuine, balanced and credible European migration and asylum policy, as demonstrated by the ongoing crisis in the Mediterranean, and calls on the Council and the Member States to act accordingly;

19.  Strongly believes that a new approach to the EU’s relations with its Eastern neighbours is needed; believes that supporting those countries that wish to have closer ties with the EU must be a top priority for EU foreign policy; believes that the prolongation of sanctions against individuals and entities in Russia is an inevitable outcome of the failure to implement the Minsk agreements and continues to see such implementation by all sides as the basis for a sustainable political solution to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine;

20.  Emphasises that the possibility of more cooperative relations with Russia is contingent on Russia fully abiding by the European security order and international law; insists that the EU should keep open the option of further gradual sanctions if Russia continues to violate international law; reiterates its commitment to the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and all the other Eastern Partnership countries within their internationally recognised borders; stresses that Russia’s decision of 21 March 2014 to incorporate Crimea into the Russian Federation remains illegal under international law and deplores the subsequent decision by the Russian authorities to forcefully impose Russian passports on all inhabitants of Crimea; calls on the VP/HR and the Council to play a more active and effective role in solving protracted and frozen conflicts;

21.  Deplores Russia’s multiple violations of international law and its hybrid warfare; recognises, however, the possibility of reasoned and coherent selective engagement and dialogue with Russia in areas of common interest, in order to ensure accountability and respect for international law; stresses the need to maintain and encourage the possibility of future cooperation on resolving global crises where there is a direct or indirect EU interest or an opportunity to promote EU values;

22.  Believes that normalised relations are a necessity for both the EU and Russia, and that any future EU-Russia strategy should emphasise reinforced commitment and support for the EU’s Eastern Partners; stresses that the EU should keep the door open for deepening the bilateral political and economic relationship with Russia, subject to Russia complying with international law and subscribed agreements, and halting its increasingly assertive attitude towards its neighbours and Europe;

23.  Reiterates that sovereignty, independence and the peaceful settlement of disputes are key principles of the European security order which apply to all states; condemns unreservedly, therefore, Russian aggression in Ukraine, including the illegal annexation of Crimea and the Russian-sponsored conflict in Eastern Ukraine; calls on the EU, its Member States and the international community to demand that Russia must halt its aggression and release all political prisoners; calls for the international community to play a more active and effective role in the resolution of the conflict and to support all efforts for a lasting peaceful solution which respects the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, in particular by the deployment – with the consent of the Ukrainian authorities – of a peace-building and peace-keeping mission to the whole territory;

24.  Reiterates the need for a strategic refocus on the Western Balkans, recognising that the EU should follow through with its ambitions in the region, as doing so would give a fresh impetus to a credible EU enlargement policy based on the Copenhagen criteria, and strengthen the rule of law and the resilience of state institutions; believes that the stability of the Western Balkans must continue to be a major priority; calls for more efforts in improving the socio-economic and political conditions of the region; is convinced that European integration and regional reconciliation are the best means to address the dangers stemming from destabilising foreign interference and influences, the funding of large Salafist and Wahhabi networks and the recruitment of foreign fighters, organised crime, major state disputes, disinformation and hybrid threats; stresses the need to remain dedicated to fostering highly effective political societies in the region; emphasises the importance for Western Balkans countries to align themselves with the foreign and security policy of the EU, notwithstanding their progress in the EU integration process; encourages the immediate opening of the relevant chapter for all the Western Balkans candidate countries;

25.  Reiterates that once all those criteria have been met, the doors of the EU are open for membership; welcomes recent efforts undertaken as part of the Berlin Process and Trieste Summit to give additional impetus to the convergence of Western Balkan countries towards EU membership; reiterates that special attention and support should be given to the implementation of crucial institutional and political reforms in the Western Balkans and calls on the Commission to rethink the possibility for additional allocation of financial resources for the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), as one of the most important tools for aiding the implementation of those reforms;

26.  Recalls that the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) calls for the involvement of neighbouring third countries; calls for stronger support for the neighbours of our neighbours, on the basis of shared values and interests, in order to tackle global issues and address common challenges; highlights the need to promote the empowerment and protection of women, vulnerable social groups and minorities, in particular in Africa, where close cooperation between European and local SMEs, in partnership with civil society, and where support for building democratic, transparent and effective institutions and the promotion of a rule-based global order, are needed;

27.  Considers international cooperation and development policies to be fundamental instruments for achieving such objectives and urges a more transparent, improved, efficient and effective allocation and use of EU funding, and greater synergies with other international organisations; emphasises the need to address the major security threats in Africa with a view to eradicating the terrorist threat posed by any terrorist group, to guarantee the prevention of the recruitment of individuals, to combat radical ideologies and to address energy security by means of environmentally friendly and sustainable energy sources while at the same time promoting off-grid solutions;

28.  Strongly condemns any attempt by incumbent presidents to overstay in power by violating, evading or unlawfully amending electoral laws, and constitutions in particular; condemns, by the same token, any strategy to abolish or circumvent term limits; urges all governments to take measures to ensure the transparency and integrity of the entire electoral process, and to take all necessary measures and precautions to prevent the perpetration of fraud or any illegal practices; expresses its concern, in this regard, about the political crises, and related violence and violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular in countries in the Great Lakes Region; reiterates its belief in strong electoral observation missions, and, where necessary, financial, technical and logistical support as a means of achieving fair, credible and democratic electoral processes;

29.  Encourages the development of a coherent, robust strategy for the Sahel region aimed at improving governance and the accountability and legitimacy of state and regional institutions, at boosting security, at tackling radicalisation and the trafficking of people, arms and drugs, and at strengthening economic and development policies;

30.  Reiterates the need for an updated strategy for EU-Asia relations; voices support in this context for stronger cooperation within the framework of the Asia-Europe Meetings, including in terms of its parliamentary dimension; encourages support for closer regional cooperation and trust-building measures in South Asia with a view to reducing tensions between India and Pakistan; recommends continued support for EU peace mediation in the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process; stresses that preserving peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region is of substantial interest to the EU and its Member States; considers it vital and of great urgency to develop an updated EU strategy for the North-East Asia region in the light of the continued military build-up and the aggressive and irresponsible attitude shown by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK); condemns the tests and provocations by the DPRK, and its multiple violations of UN Security Council resolutions and international obligations; urges the EU’s diplomatic power to be used to apply pressure on the DPRK to persuade its leaders to abandon weapons of mass destruction; calls for the mobilisation of all diplomatic tools, including sanctions, in order to prevent an escalation of this crisis; calls for the irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula by peaceful means and for the full implementation of all relevant UN Security Council resolutions;

31.  Stresses that preserving peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region is of substantial interest to the EU and its Member States; calls on all the parties concerned to resolve differences through peaceful means and to refrain from taking unilateral action to change the status quo, including in the East and South China Seas and the Taiwan Strait, in order to safeguard regional security; reiterates its commitment to supporting Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organisations and activities;

32.  Recalls that Latin America shares with the EU common values, principles and trust in effective multilateralism and believes that the EU-Latin American partnership is important and should be strengthened in order to jointly address major global challenges; expresses its grave concern about the attacks carried out against members of the judiciary and the democratically elected opposition and civil society leaders in Venezuela; emphasises that respect for the rule of law, the fight against corruption, progress towards democracy, and fundamental freedoms and human rights are cornerstones for deeper integration and cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC);

33.  Reiterates its support for the peace process in Colombia, which is critical for the future of Colombians and for stabilisation in the region; demands that all FARC assets, including the treasure obtained from drug smuggling, be used to indemnify victims of the conflict;

Consolidation and deepening of the European project through enhanced EU capabilities

34.  Urges the Commission, the EEAS and the Member States to adopt an EU comprehensive approach at every relevant opportunity, and believes that coherent, coordinated action across EU polices, while taking into consideration and implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular in the areas of humanitarian aid, agriculture, development, trade, energy, climate, science and cyber defence and security, should be applied in the EU’s external action in a consistent and structured manner in order to harness the EU’s collective force; believes that energy security, the respect for human rights and climate diplomacy remain important complementary aspects of the EU’s common foreign and security policy to be addressed as part of the comprehensive approach, and that the Energy Union should be further advanced;

35.  Recognises that climate change could have a serious effect on regional and global stability, as global warming disputes over territory, food, water and other resources weaken economies, threaten regional security, and act as a source of migratory flows; further encourages the EU and its Member States to consider how national and EU military planning can include climate change adaption strategies and what would be considered an appropriate capability, priority and response;

36.  Stresses that the future of European defence cooperation is significantly affected by the decision of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the EU, and calls for the continued engagement of the EU and UK as major international partners in order to maintain European security; stresses that the presidential elections in the United States introduced uncertainty into the transatlantic partnership and highlights the need for a counterweight for EU defence and the establishment of strategic autonomy;

37.  Takes the view, that in order to make the Common Foreign and Security policy more assertive, effective and values-based, the EU should enhance its energy security, by immediately reducing its dependence, at present, on oil and gas supplied by authoritarian regimes, and by stopping it altogether in the medium term;

38.  Stresses that the current decision-making process for the CFSP, based on unanimity in the Council of the EU, is the main obstacle to effective and timely external EU action; is of the opinion that qualified majority voting should also be applied for the CFSP; takes the view that the EU institutions must improve their ability to anticipate conflicts and crises, including by means of short- and long-term impact assessments of its policies, in order to address the root causes of the problems; believes that the EU needs to be able to react more swiftly and effectively to developing crises and should place greater emphasis on preventing conflicts by primarily using civilian tools at an early stage; calls on the Member States to put into practice Parliament’s recommendations to embrace the principle of Responsibility to Protect; stresses the need to deepen cooperation between the Member States, partner countries and international organisations, and underlines the importance of an effective exchange of information and coordination of preventive actions;

39.  Calls on the VP/HR, the Commission and the Member States to step up their efforts to increase the EU’s ability to confront hybrid and cyber threats, to further strengthen the capacity of the EU and its partner countries to fight fake news and disinformation, to draw up clear criteria to facilitate the detection of fake news, to allocate more resources and turn the Stratcom task force into a fully-fledged unit within the EEAS; calls, in this regard, for the development of joint, comprehensive risk and vulnerability analysis capacities and methods, and for the EU’s resilience and strategic communication capabilities to be bolstered; stresses the role of independent media – both on- and offline – in promoting cultural diversity and intercultural competences, and the need to strengthen such media as a source of credible information, especially in the EU and its neighbourhood, and underlines that common EU TV and radio stations should be further enhanced; calls on the Commission to coordinate better with the EEAS and Member States on those issues;

40.  Is of the view that Europe’s power resides in its ability to strengthen a community of values and respect for the diversity of culture that binds together all Europeans; believes, in this context, that the EU plays a major role as a promoter of democracy, freedom, the rule of law, human rights and equal opportunities, and should continue to promote its values outside the EU; recalls that human rights are an integral part of the CFSP and should form a central conditionality of external policies, and furthermore that these policies must be consistent and principled; highlights that cultural diplomacy should become a substantial part of the EU’s external action and urges the Commission to expand the Erasmus+ programme and foster the development of ambitious science diplomacy; calls for closer coordination with ​the ​UNESCO and World Heritage Committee and with non-state actors and civil society organisations as key partners of the EU;

41.  Points out that it was noted in UN Security Council Resolution 1820 (2008) of 19 June 2008 that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide, and that women must be afforded humanitarian protection in situations of armed conflict;

42.  Considers that the development of a strong defence industry is strengthening the technological independence of the EU; calls for the industrial and technological resources needed to improve cybersecurity to be developed, including through the promotion of a single market for cybersecurity products; calls for significantly increased financial and human resources to be made available within the EU institutions in order to increase the EU’s cyber security and cyber defence capacity; emphasises the need to mainstream cyber defence into external action and common foreign and security policy, as well as the need for an improved ability to identify cybercrime;

43.  Notes that information and cyber warfare, targeting EU Member States and other Western countries, is a deliberate attempt to destabilise and discredit political, economic and social structures; recalls that the security of EU Member States which are NATO members is guaranteed under Article 5 of the Alliance; calls for closer coordination on cyber defence between EU Member States, EU institutions, NATO, the United States and other credible partners;

44.  Stresses the role of independent media in promoting cultural diversity and intercultural competences, and the need to strengthen such media as a source of credible information, especially in the EU and its neighbourhood, and to further strengthen the EU’s capacity to fight fake news and disinformation; highlights in this context the need to develop stronger resilience at EU level against such information spread over the Internet; calls on the Commission to coordinate better with the EEAS on those issues;

45.  Believes that Europe should further strengthen cooperation on common defence, in order to defend its common values and principles and strategic autonomy; stresses the importance of the link between external and internal security, better use of resources and risk control in the periphery of Europe; recalls that the link between development and security is a key principle underpinning the Union’s approach to external crises and conflicts; calls on the Member States to unleash the Lisbon Treaty’s full potential with regard to the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and welcomes in this context the Implementation Plan on Security and Defence; encourages a review of the EU’s approach to civilian CSDP missions in order to ensure they are properly devised, implemented and supported; considers that European Defence Agency (EDA) capabilities and permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) and the EU Battlegroups should be used to their full potential; urges the Member States to provide additional funding to that end;

46.  Believes that the European Union and its Member States must develop effective foreign and security policy, and must work together with NATO and other international partners, the UN, NGOs, human rights defenders, and others on issues of shared concern and in order to promote peace, prosperity and stability around the world; highlights the importance of raising awareness and political commitment for an urgent implementation of an ambitious, effective and structured CSDP; urges the Council, the Commission and the Member States to address the EU’s communication problems by making EU external action more accountable and visible; calls on the Member States and the EU institutions to deliver on defence following the EU Global Strategy and the Commission’s plans to improve EU defence research and capability development;

47.  Calls on the Commission to fully reflect the growing security challenges in its proposal for the next multiannual financial framework (MFF); considers that both the size and the flexibility of the CFSP budget must match EU citizens’ expectations about the EU’s role as a security provider; insists on the need for a global vision for EU policy and instruments in the field of security, including fruitful coordination with the proposed European Defence Fund; calls on the Member States to aim for the target of spending 2 % of GDP on defence, and to spend 20 % of their defence budgets on equipment identified as necessary by the EDA; points out, in addition, that any new policy must be backed by funding from new sources; notes that various Member States have difficulty in maintaining a very broad range of fully operational defensive capabilities, mostly because of financial constraints; calls for more cooperation and coordination, therefore, about which capabilities should be maintained, so that Member States can specialise in certain capabilities and spend their resources more efficiently; believes that interoperability is key if Member States’ forces are to be more compatible and integrated; recalls that CFSP appropriations represented 3,6 % of the Heading 4 commitments in 2016 and 0,2 % of the whole EU budget; regrets that the size and under-implementation of and systematic transfers from the CFSP chapter reveal a persistent lack of ambition for the EU to act as a global player;

48.  Notes that deadlocks within the UN Security Council are impeding action by the international community and preventing crisis resolution; calls once again on the Member States to support reforms in the composition and functioning of the Security Council;

Cooperation within coalitions and with institutions delivering security

49.  Underlines that it is in the EU’s strategic interest to preserve and deepen its transatlantic relations based on respect for common values, international law and multilateralism; calls for the EU to continue to develop its strategic autonomy and create its own capabilities to better address regional and international conflicts that have an impact on the EU; believes that the EU and US should focus on adapting transatlantic structures to today’s challenges, such as defending human rights, tackling climate change, combating international terrorism and corruption, the prevention of radicalisation, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and countering third-party countries’ efforts to destabilise the EU and NATO; further stresses the importance of continued and reinforced cooperation between the EU and US bilaterally and through NATO on common issues; recalls that the EU and the US are each other’s most important partners and that unilateral moves serve only to weaken the transatlantic partnership; believes that Europe must further enhance a virtuous alliance between the private and public sectors and should reinforce the strategic relationship with the US; calls on the Council and the EEAS to consistently raise the issue of US extraterritorial sanctions in their dialogue with the US Government;

50.  Strongly supports the 2016 Warsaw Summit Declaration, particularly on EU-NATO cooperation, and welcomes decisions on closer cooperation between NATO and the EU in numerous areas as well as the placement of US, Canadian and other multinational forces at the Eastern flank of the EU;

51.  Calls for increased intelligence sharing between Member States, increased interinstitutional intelligence sharing, and coordination between the EU, Member States and NATO, and insists that they must continue to cooperate as closely as possible in a complementary manner while fully respecting European core values and norms; acknowledges that information sharing and coordinated action between the EU, its Member States and NATO will produce results in areas such as terrorism response to hybrid threats, situational awareness, resilience building, strategic communications, cyber security and capacity-building vis-à-vis the EU’s partners; believes that further coordination and closer cooperation with other existing multilateral entities such as Eurocorps is needed in order to increase the EU’s security; reiterates that a revitalisation of the strategic partnerships should be a priority for the EU;

52.  Underlines the role of Parliament in shaping a genuinely common foreign policy in line with the expectations of European citizens; calls on the Council to act in concert with Parliament during the main phases of foreign policy decision-making;

53.  Acknowledges the work of the VP/HR and calls for her to continue to ensure that future annual reports will be more concise and forward-looking, focusing on the most important priorities for the year ahead and an evaluation of the measures launched in the previous year, including their financial implications, in order to provide a comprehensive overview on the EU’s performance;

o
o   o

54.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Member States.


Annual report on human rights and democracy in the world 2016 and the EU policy on the matter
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European Parliament resolution of 13 December 2017 on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2016 and the European Union’s policy on the matter (2017/2122(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0494A8-0365/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other UN human rights treaties and instruments,

–  having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) of 18 December 1979(1),

–  having regard to CEDAW general recommendations 12, 19 and 35 on violence against women, 26 on women migrant workers and 32 on the gender-related dimensions of refugee status, asylum, nationality and statelessness of women,

–  having regard to UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 69/167 of 18 December 2014(2), on protecting and promoting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their migration status,

–  having regard to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families of 18 December 1990(3),

–  having regard to UN Security Council resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, 2122 and 2242 on women, peace and security,

–  having regard to the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees(4), and ILO Conventions Nos 43 and 97,

–  having regard to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights(5),

–  having regard to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted by the UNGA on 19 September 2016(6),

–  having regard to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which seek to ensure peace and prosperity for people and the planet(7),

–  having regard to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) of 12 April 2011, which was signed by the EU on 13 June 2017(8),

–  having regard to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, adopted in 1976 and revised in 2011(9),

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

–  having regard to Articles 2, 3, 8, 21 and 23 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, (TFEU),

–  having regard to the EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy adopted by the Council on 25 June 2012(10),

–  having regard to the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019, adopted by the Council on 20 July 2015(11),

–  having regard to the joint staff working document of the Commission and of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy entitled ‘EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015-2019): Mid-Term Review – June 2017’ (SWD(2017)0254),

–  having regard to the joint staff working document of the Commission and of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy entitled ‘Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women through EU External Relations 2016-2020’, adopted in 2015 (SWD(2015)0182),

–  having regard to the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy presented by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) Federica Mogherini on 28 June 2016(12), as well as the first report on its implementation entitled ‘From Shared Vision to Common Action: Implementing the EU Global Strategy’, published in 2017(13),

–  having regard to Council Decision 2011/168/CFSP of 21 March 2011 on the International Criminal Court and repealing Common Position 2003/444/CFSP(14),

–  having regard to the European Agenda on Migration of 13 May 2015 (COM(2015)0240) and the Commission communication of 7 June 2016 on establishing a new Partnership Framework with third countries under the European Agenda on Migration (COM(2016)0385),

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child, adopted in 2007 and reviewed in 2017(15),

–  having regard to the joint statement by the Council and the representatives of the governments of the Member States meeting within the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission entitled ‘The new European Consensus on Development: “Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future”‘(16), adopted by the Council, Parliament and the Commission on 7 June 2017,

–  having regard to the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline, adopted in 2014(17),

–  having regard to the protection of freedom of expression offline and online afforded by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief, adopted in 2013(18),

–  having regard to the international protection of freedom of religion or belief afforded by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief, Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council Conclusions on intolerance, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion or belief, adopted on 21 February 2011(19),

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on Death Penalty, adopted in 2013(20),

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines to EU Policy towards third countries on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, adopted in 2001 and reviewed in 2012(21),

–  having regard to the UN Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime(22) and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings,

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons, adopted in 2013(23),

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on human rights dialogues with third countries, adopted in 2001 and reviewed in 2009(24),

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on Promoting Compliance with International Humanitarian Law (IHL), adopted in 2005 and reviewed in 2009(25),

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them, adopted in 2008(26),

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on children and armed conflict, adopted in 2003 and reviewed in 2008(27),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) 2017/821 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2017 laying down supply chain due diligence obligations for Union importers of tin, tantalum and tungsten, their ores, and gold originating in conflict-affected and high-risk areas(28),

–  having regard to the EU Guidelines on human rights defenders, adopted in 2005 and reviewed in 2008(29),

–  having regard to the EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2015(30),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 September 2017 on ‘Arms export: implementation of Common Position 2008/944/CFSP’(31),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 December 2016 on the Annual Report on human rights and democracy in the world and the European Union’s policy on the matter 2015(32), and previous resolutions on the topic,

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2016 on human rights and migration in third countries(33),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2016 on corporate liability for serious human rights abuses in third countries(34),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2016 on the fight against trafficking in human beings in the EU’s external relations(35),

–  having regard to its resolution of 21 January 2016 on the EU’s priorities for the UNHRC sessions in 2016(36),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 February 2016 on the humanitarian situation in Yemen(37), which calls on the VP/HR to launch an initiative to impose an EU arms embargo on Saudi Arabia,

–  having regard to its resolutions on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law,

–  having regard to its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought which in 2016 was awarded to Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar,

–  having regard to its resolution of 10 October 2013 on caste-based discrimination(38), to the report of the Special Rapporteur on minority issues of 28 January 2016 on minorities and discrimination based on caste and analogous systems of inherited status(39), and to the UN Guidance Tool on descent-based discrimination,

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 November 2011 on ‘EU support for the ICC: facing challenges and overcoming difficulties’(40),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (A8-0365/2017),

A.  whereas Article 21 of the TEU commits the EU to a common foreign and security policy (CFSP) guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, and which it seeks to advance in the world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principle of equality and solidarity, and compliance with the UN Charter, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and international law; whereas the Union is to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights;

B.  whereas today’s worldwide abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, necessitate determined efforts on the part of the whole international community;

C.  whereas respect for and the promotion, indivisibility and safeguarding of the universality of human rights are cornerstones of the CFSP; whereas in its role of scrutiny over the CFSP, Parliament has the right to be kept informed of and consulted on its main aspects and basic choices (Article 36 of the TEU);

D.  whereas the Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy, adopted by the Council in June 2016, affirms that human rights must be mainstreamed systematically across all policy sectors and institutions, including international trade and commercial policy;

E.  whereas increased coherence between the EU’s internal and external policies, as well as among the external policies themselves, is a fundamental requirement for a successful and effective EU human rights policy; whereas improved consistency should enable the EU to respond more rapidly in the early stages of human rights violations and, in certain cases, predict and prevent their perpetration, including in the field of international trade and commercial policy;

F.  whereas the EU’s commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is an integral part of the Union’s external policy and is rooted in the conviction that a multilateral system founded on universal rules and values is best suited to addressing global crises, challenges and threats;

G.  whereas Article 207 of the TFEU stipulates that the EU’s commercial policy is to be based on the principles and objectives of the Union’s external action; whereas trade and human rights can have an impact on each other in third countries, and whereas under a system of corporate liability, as is currently being discussed in the UN, and global value chains, the business community has an important role to play in offering positive incentives in terms of promoting human rights, democracy and corporate responsibility; whereas good governance and public authorities acting in the general interest play an important role in business behaviour; whereas the EU is participating in efforts to draft a binding treaty on business and human rights;

H.  whereas the protection of the human rights of the most vulnerable groups, such as ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, people with disabilities, the LGBTI community, women, children, asylum seekers and migrants, deserves special attention;

I.  whereas women and children face threats, discrimination and violence, particularly in war zones and under authoritarian regimes; whereas gender equality incorporates core European values and is enshrined in the EU’s legal and political framework; whereas violence and discrimination against women and girls has increased in recent years;

J.  whereas states have the ultimate responsibility to safeguard all human rights by enacting and implementing international human rights treaties and conventions, monitoring human rights violations and ensuring effective recourse for victims;

K.  whereas an increasing number of human rights violations amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide, are being committed by state and non-state actors;

L.  whereas freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to believe or not to believe and to practise or not to practise the religion of one’s choice, and to take on, abandon or change a religion, must be guaranteed all over the world and preserved unconditionally, in particular through interreligious and intercultural dialogue; whereas laws prohibiting blasphemy are widespread, with states laying down punishments ranging from prison sentences to lashings and the death penalty;

M.  whereas freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of assembly and association, and the holding of regular, transparent and genuine electoral processes, are essential elements of democracy; whereas in fragile, conflict-prone or oppressive societies, elections can at times trigger widespread violence;

N.  whereas engaging with third countries in all bilateral and multilateral fora, for example during human rights dialogues, is one of the most effective tools for addressing human rights concerns;

O.  whereas appropriate resources must be made available and deployed in the most efficient manner in order to enhance the promotion of human rights and democracy in third countries;

P.  whereas access to water and sanitation is a fundamental human right and limiting this access is one of the causes of geopolitical tension in certain regions;

Q.  whereas cultural heritage sites face increasing threats in the form of illicit looting and vandalism, especially in the Middle East;

R.  whereas education has a crucial role to play in preventing human rights violations and conflicts and helps to boost citizens’ participation in decision-making processes within democratic systems; whereas educational institutions that promote human rights, respect and diversity should be supported by states; whereas communication channels, whose numbers have increased, represent an important tool through which to communicate human rights abuses quickly and reach a significant number of victims or potential victims of human rights violations in third countries, providing them with information and assistance; whereas collecting comprehensive disaggregated data is essential in order to safeguard human rights, particularly those of the most vulnerable groups, marginalised groups and groups that are at risk of marginalisation; whereas the use of appropriate indicators is also an effective way of assessing the progress of the fulfilment of states’ obligations under international treaties;

General considerations

1.  Expresses profound concern about the pushback against democracy, human rights and the rule of law, which continue to be under threat worldwide; recalls that the EU has committed to promoting the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms and values, as well as to advancing democratic principles, which must be enhanced worldwide;

2.  Reiterates its firm belief that the EU and its Member States must actively pursue the principle of mainstreaming human rights and democracy, as mutually reinforcing fundamental principles at the core of the EU, in all EU policies, including those with an external dimension, such as in the fields of development, migration, security, counter-terrorism, enlargement and trade; reiterates, in this regard, the crucial importance of ensuring increased coherence between the EU’s internal and external policies and greater coordination between the external policies of the Member States; stresses that the growing complexity of conflicts around the world necessitates an integrated, united and vigorous international approach and cooperation; recalls that the EU’s objective to increase its international influence as a credible and legitimate international actor is greatly shaped by its ability to pursue human rights and democracy internally and externally, in line with the commitments enshrined in its founding treaties;

3.  Emphasises the importance of enhanced cooperation between the Commission, the Council, the European External Action Service (EEAS), Parliament and the EU delegations to promote and ensure a consistent and united voice in defence of human rights and democratic principles; underlines, moreover, the importance of a strong commitment to promoting those values in multilateral fora, including through timely coordination at EU level and an active approach during negotiations; encourages the EU, in this context, to initiate and co-sponsor resolutions and to intensify the implementation of cross-regional initiatives under all UN human rights mechanisms;

4.  Welcomes the fact that in 2016, the rule of law, democratic principles and breaches of human rights were debated regularly in its plenary sessions, targeted in various parliamentary resolutions, and raised in committee and interparliamentary delegation meetings;

5.  Highlights the work of its Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI), which maintains close working relations with the EEAS, other EU institutions, civil society, multilateral human rights institutions and the EU Special Representative (EUSR) for Human Rights;

6.  Recalls that in 2016, DROI drafted three reports, namely on human rights and migration in third countries, corporate liability for serious human rights abuses in third countries, and the fight against trafficking in human beings in the EU’s external relations; calls on the Commission to take concrete action following these own-initiative reports;

7.   Notes that in 2016, numerous DROI missions travelled to different countries with a view to collecting information and exchanging it with local governmental and non-governmental human rights actors, presenting Parliament’s position and encouraging improvements to the protection of and respect for human rights;

Addressing human rights challenges

8.  Expresses grave concern about the increasing number of attacks against religious minorities, which are often committed by non-state actors such as ISIS/Daesh; deplores the fact that many countries have and enforce anti-conversion and blasphemy laws, which effectively limit the freedom of religion or belief and the freedom of expression of religious minorities and atheists and even deprive them of these freedoms altogether; calls for measures to protect religious minorities, non-believers and atheists who are victims of blasphemy laws and calls for the EU and the Member States to engage in political discussions to repeal such laws; calls for the EU and its Member States to step up their efforts to enhance respect for freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief and to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue when engaging with third countries; requests concrete action towards the effective implementation of the EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief, including by ensuring the systematic and consistent training of EU staff at headquarters and in delegations; supports fully the EU practice of taking the lead on thematic resolutions on freedom of religion and belief at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the UNGA; supports fully the work of the EU Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU, Mr Ján Figel;

9.  Reiterates the fact that freedom of expression online and offline is a vital component of any democratic society, as it nourishes a culture of pluralism that empowers civil society and citizens to hold their governments and decision-makers to account, and supports respect for the rule of law; emphasises that restriction of online or offline freedom of expression, such as via the removal of online content, is to occur only under exceptional circumstances, where prescribed by law and justified by the pursuit of a legitimate aim; stresses, therefore, that the EU should intensify its efforts to promote freedom of expression through its external policies and instruments; reiterates its request for the EU and its Member States to enhance their monitoring of all types of restrictions on freedom of expression and the media in third countries, to rapidly and systematically condemn such limitations and to use all available diplomatic means and instruments to reverse such restrictions; emphasises the importance of ensuring the effective implementation of the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline and of regularly monitoring their impact; condemns the death and imprisonment of many journalists and bloggers in 2016 and calls for the EU to protect them effectively; welcomes the new European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) launched in 2016, with its specific focus on training EU delegations and media actors in third countries, on how to apply the Guidelines; stresses the importance of disclosing and condemning hate speech and incitements to violence, both on the internet and elsewhere, since they constitute a threat to the rule of law and the values embodied by human rights;

10.  Is deeply concerned that civil society, including faith-based organisations, is increasingly under attack worldwide, through, inter alia, a growing number of repressive laws adopted throughout the world, in some cases under the pretext of combating terrorism; underlines that the phenomenon of shrinking civil society space is a global one; recalls that independent civil society plays an essential role in the defence and advancement of human rights and in the functioning of democratic societies, notably by promoting transparency, accountability and the separation of powers; calls for the EU and its Member States to constantly monitor and raise cases of violations of freedom of assembly and association, including the various forms of bans and limitations on civil society organisations (CSOs) and their activities, such as laws whose aim is to shrink civil society space or the promotion of NGOs sponsored by authoritarian governments (government-organised non-governmental organisations (GONGOs)); calls, in addition, for the EU, its Member States and the EU delegations to use all available means, such as human rights dialogues, political dialogues and public diplomacy, to systematically raise individual cases of human rights defenders (HRDs) and civil society activists at risk, particularly those who have been detained or imprisoned for arbitrary reasons and/or on account of their political convictions or social engagement, and to unequivocally denounce the repression, harassment and killing of HRDs, including those active in the environmental sphere; calls for the establishment of a system to effectively monitor civil society space, with clear benchmarks and indicators to ensure an enabling and favourable legal environment for civil society;

11.  Encourages the EU delegations and the Member States’ diplomatic staff to continue to actively support HRDs, by systematically monitoring trials, visiting detained activists and issuing statements on individual cases, where appropriate; highlights the importance of silent diplomacy tools in this regard; welcomes the fact that the EU raised HRD cases in dialogues and consultations at EU level with over 50 countries in 2016; highlights the fact that the EIDHR Emergency Fund supported more than 250 HRDs at EU level in 2016, representing an increase of 30 % compared with 2015; welcomes the establishment and successful operation of the EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism, ProtectDefenders.eu, which has been implemented by civil society and has provided critical support to a large number of HRDs; urges the Commission to ensure the continuation of the programme after October 2018 and to increase its capabilities in order to provide more support to HRDs worldwide;

12.  Considers it deeply regrettable that torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and the death penalty continue in many countries all over the world, and calls for the EU to intensify its efforts to eradicate them; welcomes, in this regard, the revision of EU legislation on trade in certain goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; urges the EEAS and the VP/HR to engage more strongly in the fight against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, including the death penalty, through increased diplomatic efforts and more systematic public positioning; highlights, in this connection, the worrisome conditions of incarceration in some prisons, including the non-treatment of health issues, and recommends that the EEAS, the EU delegations and the Member States use all existing instruments, such as the EU Guidelines on Torture, to their full potential; welcomes the fact that the UN’s resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty was adopted by the UNGA in December 2016 with the support of 117 countries; notes that in 2016, the number of executions carried out globally fell compared with the previous year and expresses its grave concern that the overall number of executions nevertheless remains higher than the average recorded for the previous decade; emphasises that those targeted are often dissenting members of society and vulnerable groups; calls on countries that still pursue this practice to adopt a moratorium and abolish the death penalty;

13.  Acknowledges the potentially great importance of modern information and communication technologies in promoting, defending and redressing human rights worldwide, and invites the EU institutions and the Member States to use their information channels to systematically reiterate within their specific frameworks and remits Parliament’s position on different human rights issues, while contributing to the efficiency and visibility of the EU’s common efforts; expresses its concern about the ever-increasing use of certain cyber-surveillance dual-use technologies against politicians, activists and journalists; welcomes, in this regard, the ongoing work of the EU institutions to update Council Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 of 5 May 2009 setting up a Community regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items(41); strongly condemns the increasing number of HRDs facing digital threats, including compromised data through confiscation of equipment, remote surveillance and data leakages; expresses concern over online platforms deleting legitimate video evidence of potential war crimes as part of the removal of terrorist content and propaganda from the platforms;

14.  Expresses its concern about the increasing privatisation of the rule of law online, where private companies make decisions about the limitations of fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech, on the basis of their terms of service as opposed to democratically adopted laws;

15.  Calls on the Commission to adopt a notice-and-action directive that increases the transparency and proportionality of takedown procedures, while providing effective remedies for users whose content has been wrongly taken down;

16.  Condemns the use of sexual violence against women and girls, including mass rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, gender-based forms of persecution, trafficking, sex tourism and all other forms of physical, sexual and psychological violence, as a weapon of war; draws attention to the fact that gender-related crimes and crimes of sexual violence are classified in the Rome Statute as war crimes, crimes against humanity or constitutive acts with respect to genocide or torture; stresses the importance of defending women’s rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights, through legislation, education and by supporting CSOs; welcomes the adoption of the EU Gender Action Plan 2016-2020 which sets out a comprehensive list of measures to improve the situation of women in terms of equal rights and empowerment; emphasises the importance of ensuring its effective implementation; welcomes, in addition, the adoption of the Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality 2016-2019, which promotes gender equality and women’s rights worldwide; stresses the importance of the ratification and effective implementation by all Member States of the Istanbul Convention; points out that education is the best tool for combating discrimination and violence against women and children; requests that the Commission, the EEAS and the VP/HR step up their fulfilment of the obligations and commitments in the area of women’s rights under CEDAW and encourages third countries to do the same; believes that the EU should continue mainstreaming support for women within common security and defence policy (CSDP) operations, conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction; reiterates the importance of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security; stresses the importance of women’s systematic, equal, full and active participation in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, in the promotion of human rights and democratic reforms, and in peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance, post-conflict reconstruction and democratic transition processes leading to lasting and stable political solutions; recalls that the 2016 Sakharov Prize was awarded to Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, survivors of sexual enslavement perpetrated by ISIS/Daesh;

17.  Emphasises that accessible health care and universal respect for and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, family planning, and access to adequate feminine hygiene products, maternal, prenatal and neonatal health care and safe abortion services are important elements to save women’s lives and contribute to avoiding high-risk births and reducing infant and child mortality; finds it unacceptable that women’s and girls’ bodies, specifically with respect to their sexual and reproductive health and rights, still remain an ideological battleground; calls for the EU and its Member States to recognise the inalienable rights of women and girls to bodily integrity and autonomous decision-making, and condemns the frequent violations of women’s sexual and reproductive rights, including the denial of access to family planning services, contraceptives and safe and legal abortion services;

18.  Strongly condemns the reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule and its impact on women’s and girls’ global health care and rights; reiterates its call for the EU and its Member States to fill the financing gap left by the US in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights, using both national and EU development funding;

19.  Recalls that equality between women and men is a core principle of the EU and its Member States, and that gender mainstreaming one of the Union’s principal objectives as enshrined in the Treaties; calls on the Commission, therefore, to integrate gender mainstreaming into all EU legislation, guidelines, actions and funding as a core EU principle, with a special emphasis on EU external relations policies; stresses the need to reinforce the role of the EU delegations, as well as that of the EEAS Principal Advisor on Gender, by ensuring a specific budget dedicated to her area of competence;

20.  Calls on the EEAS to ensure that the outcomes of the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will be included in its policies, and will provide renewed impetus in promoting ‘women’s economic empowerment’ and addressing gender inequalities in the changing world of work;

21.  Notes the positive contribution of women’s empowerment to achieving an inclusive, equitable and peaceful society and sustainable development; stresses that the focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment is explicit across all the SDGs and that further efforts should be pursued to ensure that women’s rights are fully upheld and that policies promoting economic and social empowerment and women’s participation in decision-making processes are implemented effectively; stresses that particular attention should be given to empowering indigenous women;

22.  Points out that women should be encouraged to organise themselves in trade unions, and that they should not be discriminated against when seeking business financing;

23.  Calls for the EU to support all women’s associations that work on an everyday basis to support women in humanitarian crises and conflicts;

24.  Reaffirms the urgent need for the universal ratification and effective implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and its Optional Protocols, in order to provide children with legal protection; underlines that children are often exposed to specific abuse, such as child marriages or genital mutilation, and are therefore in need of enhanced protection; underlines that child labour, recruitment of children in armed conflicts and early and forced marriages remain critical issues in some countries; requests that the EU systematically consult relevant local and international child rights organisations, and raise, in its political and human rights dialogues with third countries, States Parties’ obligations to implement the Convention; welcomes the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2016-2021); requests that the EU continue to promote the EU-UNICEF Child Rights Toolkit for integrating child rights in development cooperation through its external delegations, and to train the EU delegation staff adequately in this field; reiterates its request for the Commission to propose a comprehensive children’s rights strategy and action plan for the next five years, in order to prioritise children’s rights within EU external policies, welcomes the fact that under the 2016 Development Cooperation Instrument, resources were allocated to support UN agencies in carrying out measures targeted to children’s rights, which must be designed to maximise the effective benefit for children in need, especially in the field of health systems and access to education, water and sanitation; calls for an urgent solution to the issue of stateless children, in particular those born outside their parents’ country of origin, and migrant children;

25.  Condemns in the strongest terms all forms of discrimination, including on grounds of race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, sex characteristics, language, culture, social origin, caste, birth, age, disability or any other status; stresses that the EU should intensify its efforts to eradicate all types of discrimination, racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance through human rights and political dialogues, the work of the EU delegations and public diplomacy; stresses, in addition, that the EU should continue promoting the ratification and full implementation of all UN conventions that support this cause;

26.  Reiterates that trafficking in human beings (THB) means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation; calls for the EU and the Member States to take measures to discourage the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation of persons, especially women and children, that lead to trafficking, while maintaining a human rights-based and victim-centred approach; reiterates the need for all Member States to implement the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings and Directive 2011/36/EU(42) on this subject; expresses its profound concern at the extreme vulnerability of migrants and refugees to exploitation, smuggling and THB; stresses the need to maintain a distinction between the concepts of THB and migrant smuggling;

27.  Condemns the continuing human rights violations committed against people suffering as a result of caste hierarchies and caste-based discrimination, including the denial of equality and access to the legal system and employment, continued segregation and caste-induced barriers to the achievement of basic human rights and development; reiterates its call for the development of EU policy on caste discrimination, and for the EU to take advantage of every opportunity to express its grave concern over such human rights violations; urges the EU and its Member States to intensify efforts and support related initiatives at UN and delegation level by implementing and monitoring the 2030 SDGs, monitoring the new UN Guidance Tool on descent-based discrimination and supporting states’ implementation of recommendations by UN human rights mechanisms on the topic of caste discrimination;

28.  Expresses profound concern that minorities are still at a heightened risk of discrimination and are especially vulnerable to political, economic, environmental and labour-related changes and disruptions; notes that many have little or no access to political representation and are acutely affected by poverty; stresses that the EU should intensify its efforts to eradicate the violations of human rights committed against minorities; stresses that minority communities have special needs and that they should be guaranteed full access and equal treatment in all areas of economic, social, political and cultural life;

29.  Welcomes the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and reiterates the importance of its ratification and efficient implementation by both the Member States and the EU institutions; emphasises that disabilities do not deprive a person of human dignity, which entails a state duty to protect them; stresses, in particular, the need to mainstream credibly the principle of universal accessibility and the rights of persons with disabilities in all relevant EU policies, including in the area of development cooperation, and underlines the prescriptive and horizontal nature of this issue; calls for the EU to incorporate the fight against discrimination on grounds of disability in its external action and development aid policies; welcomes, in this connection, the inclusion of the rights of people with disabilities in the new European Consensus on Development;

30.  Reiterates its support for the systematic introduction of human rights clauses in international agreements between the EU and third countries, including trade and investment agreements; recalls that all human rights must be considered of equal value, being indivisible, interdependent and interrelated; calls on the Commission to monitor the implementation of such clauses effectively and systematically and to provide Parliament with regular reports on partner countries’ respect for human rights; calls on the Commission to adopt a more structured and strategic approach to human rights dialogues within the framework of future agreements; takes a positive view of the GSP+ preference system as a means to stimulate the effective implementation of 27 core international conventions on human rights and labour standards; calls for the genuine enforcement of GSP+ and expects the Commission to report back to Parliament and to the Council on the status of its ratification and the progress made under this scheme; reiterates the importance of the proper implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights;

31.  Reaffirms the fact that the activities of all companies, including European ones, operating in third countries should be in full compliance with international human rights standards and calls for the EU and its Member States to ensure that this is the case; reaffirms, moreover, the importance of promoting corporate social responsibility and of European enterprises playing a leading role in promoting international standards on business and human rights, emphasising that cooperation between human rights and business organisations would empower local actors and promote civil society; acknowledges that global value chains can contribute to enhancing international core labour, environmental and social standards, and represent opportunities and challenges with regard to sustainable progress and the promotion of human rights, especially in developing countries; calls for the EU to play a more active role in achieving the adequate, fair, transparent and sustainable management of global value chains and to mitigate any negative effects on human rights, including the infringement of labour rights; outlines, however, that in the case of business-related human rights abuses, effective access to remedies for victims should be guaranteed; urges the Commission to ensure that the projects supported by the EIB are in line with EU policy and human rights commitments; takes note of the ongoing negotiations on a binding treaty on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights; encourages the EU to constructively take part in such negotiations;

32.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to use all their political weight to prevent any act that could be considered genocide, a war crime or a crime against humanity from taking place, to respond in an efficient and coordinated manner in cases where such crimes occur, to mobilise all necessary resources to bring to justice all those responsible, including through the application of the principle of universal jurisdiction, and to assist the victims and support stabilisation and reconciliation processes; calls on the international community to set up instruments to minimise the warning-response gap in order to prevent the emergence, re-emergence and escalation of violent conflict, such as the EU’s early warning system;

33.  Calls for the EU to provide support to organisations (including NGOs, open source investigation organisations and civil society) that collect, preserve and protect evidence, digital and otherwise, of crimes committed, in order to facilitate their prosecution internationally;

34.  Expresses grave concern over the destruction of cultural heritage sites in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya; notes that of the world’s 38 endangered cultural heritage sites, 22 are in the Middle East; supports the activities of the Cultural Heritage Initiative and its fact-finding activities in Syria and Iraq related to the destruction of archaeological and cultural heritage;

35.  Welcomes the EU’s efforts to support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) set up by the UN to assist in the investigation of serious crimes committed in Syria; emphasises the need to set up a similar independent mechanism in Iraq; calls for the EU and the Member States that have not already done so to contribute financially to the IIIM;

36.  Strongly condemns the heinous crimes and human rights violations committed by state and non-state actors; is horrified at the vast range of crimes committed, including murder, torture, rape as a weapon of war, enslavement and sexual slavery, the recruitment of child soldiers, forced religious conversions and the systematic ‘cleansing’ and killing of religious minorities; recalls that the situation suffered by religious minorities in the territories governed by ISIS/Daesh was qualified by Parliament, in its resolution of 12 February 2015 on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria, in particular in the IS context(43), as a genocide; emphasises that the EU and its Member States should support the prosecution of members of non-state groups such as ISIS/Daesh by asking the UN Security Council to confer jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or to ensure that justice is rendered by means of an ad-hoc tribunal or universal jurisdiction;

37.  Reiterates its full support for the ICC, the Rome Statute, the Office of the Prosecutor, the Prosecutor’s proprio motu powers, and the progress made in initiating new investigations as an essential means to fight impunity for atrocity crimes; calls on all Member States to ratify the Kampala amendments on the crime of aggression and to add the ‘atrocity crimes’ to the list of crimes for which the EU has competence; condemns any attempt to undermine its legitimacy or independence and calls for the EU and its Member States to cooperate consistently in order to support the ICC’s investigations and decisions with the aim of putting an end to impunity for international crimes, including when referring to the arrest of persons wanted by the ICC; urges the EU and its Member States to consistently support ICC examinations, investigations and decisions and to take steps to prevent and respond effectively to instances of non-cooperation with the ICC and provide for adequate funding; welcomes the meeting of 6 July 2016 between EU and ICC representatives in Brussels in preparation for the 2nd EU-ICC round table meeting, enabling relevant staff at the ICC and the EU institutions to identify common areas of interest, exchange information on relevant activities and ensure better cooperation between both parties; notes, with profound regret, the recent announcements of withdrawals from the Rome Statute, which represent a challenge in terms of victims’ access to justice and which should be firmly condemned; considers that the Commission, the EEAS and the Member States should continue to encourage third countries to ratify and apply the Rome Statute; reiterates its call for the VP/HR to appoint an EUSR for International Humanitarian Law and International Justice with a mandate to promote, mainstream and represent the EU’s commitment to the fight against impunity and to the ICC across EU foreign policies; calls for the EU and its Member States to support UN accountability mechanisms and resolutions at UN multilateral fora, including the Human Rights Council;

38.  Urges the EU to step up its efforts to promote the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary at multilateral and bilateral level as a fundamental principle for the consolidation of democracy; encourages the EU to support the fair administration of justice worldwide by assisting legislative and institutional reform processes in third countries; encourages, in addition, the EU delegations and Member States’ embassies to monitor trials systematically with a view to promoting the independence of the judiciary;

39.  Expresses profound concern and solidarity with the growing number of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, including an ever larger number of women, as the victims of conflicts, violence, persecution, governance failures, poverty, irregular migration, trafficking and smuggling networks; stresses the urgent need to take genuine steps to tackle the root causes of migration flows and find long-term solutions based on respect for human rights and dignity, and therefore to address the external dimension of the refugee crisis, including by finding sustainable solutions to conflicts in our neighbourhood, for example by developing cooperation and partnerships with the third countries concerned that comply with international law and ensure respect for human rights in these countries; expresses its profound concern over violence against migrant children, including missing, unaccompanied migrant children, and calls for resettlement, family reunification schemes and humanitarian corridors; is deeply concerned at the plight and rising number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and calls for their safe return, resettlement or local integration; calls for the EU and its Member States to provide humanitarian assistance in the field of education, housing, health and other humanitarian areas that help the refugees closest to their homeland, and for return policies to be properly implemented; underlines the need for a comprehensive human rights-based approach to migration and calls for the EU to collaborate further with the UN, regional organisations, governments and NGOs; calls on Member States to fully implement the common European asylum package and common migration legislation, particularly so as to safeguard vulnerable asylum seekers; stresses that the concepts of safe countries and safe countries of origin must not prevent the consideration of individual asylum applications; warns against the instrumentalisation of EU foreign policy as ‘migration management’; calls for the EU and the Member States to establish full transparency surrounding the funds allocated to third countries for cooperation on migration and to ensure that such cooperation does not benefit structures involved in human rights violations, but rather goes hand in hand with improving the human rights situation within these countries;

40.  Considers that development cooperation and the promotion of human rights and democratic principles, including the rule of law and good governance, should go hand in hand; recalls, in this context, that the UN has stated that without a human rights-based approach, development goals cannot be fully achieved; recalls, in addition, that the EU has committed to supporting partner countries, taking into account their development situation and their progress as regards human rights and democracy;

41.  Points out that the rate of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion is higher among women, and asks the Commission to step up its efforts to implement measures to combat poverty and social exclusion as part of its development policies;

42.  Recalls that criterion two of Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP obliges Member States to examine each arms export licence against the country of destination’s respect for human rights; recalls, in this connection, the commitment made by the Commission in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy in connection to security forces and the implementation of the EU’s human rights policy, including the development and implementation of a due diligence policy in this field;

43.  Reiterates its call for a common EU position on the use of armed drones that upholds human rights and international humanitarian law and addresses issues such as the legal framework, proportionality, accountability, the protection of civilians and transparency; insists once again that the EU ban the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons which enable strikes to be carried out without human intervention;

44.  Considers that the EU should continue its efforts to enhance respect for the human rights of LGBTI people, in line with the EU Guidelines on the topic; calls for the full implementation of the Guidelines, including through the training of EU staff in third countries; denounces the fact that 72 countries still criminalise homosexuality, is concerned that 13 of these countries have the death penalty, and believes that violent practices and acts of violence against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, such as forced outings, hate crimes and hate speech both online and offline, and corrective rape should not go unpunished; takes note of the legalisation of same-sex marriage and same-sex civil unions in some countries and encourages their further recognition; condemns violations of bodily integrity against women and minority groups; calls on states to outlaw these practices, tackle perpetrators and support victims;

45.  Emphasises the fundamental importance of combating corruption, in all its forms, so as to safeguard the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights; strongly condemns any conduct accommodating such corrupt practices;

46.  Recalls that corruption is a threat to the equal enjoyment of human rights and undermines democratic processes such as the rule of law and the fair administration of justice; takes the view that the EU should emphasise in all platforms for dialogue with third countries the importance of integrity, accountability and the proper management of public affairs, finances and property, as stipulated in the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC); recommends that the EU use its expertise to support third countries more consistently and systematically in their efforts to tackle corruption, by setting up and consolidating independent and effective anti-corruption institutions; calls, in particular, on the Commission to negotiate provisions on combating corruption in all the future trade agreements it negotiates with third countries;

47.  Highlights the essential obligations and responsibilities of states and other duty bearers to mitigate climate change, prevent its negative impacts on human rights and foster policy coherence in order to ensure that climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts are adequate, sufficiently ambitious, non-discriminatory and otherwise compliant with human rights obligations; underlines that the UN estimates that there will be many environmentally displaced people by 2050; emphasises the link between trade policies, environmental policies and development policies, and the positive and negative impact such policies can have on respect for human rights; welcomes international dedication to promoting the integration of the issues of environmental and natural disasters and climate change with human rights;

48.  Stresses that land grabbing has increased considerably in recent years in developing countries; considers that the fight against the exploitation and appropriation of resources should be a priority; condemns practices such as land grabbing and the indiscriminate use of natural resources; calls on the Commission to take urgent action in response to Parliament’s many recent resolutions in this field;

49.  Underlines the importance of ensuring that human rights and access to goods and services such as water and sanitation are covered in social, education, health and security policies;

50.  Calls on international institutions, national governments, NGOs and individuals to work in synergy to establish an appropriate regulatory framework in order to ensure that everyone in the world has guaranteed access to a minimum amount of water; underlines that water should be considered not merchandise but a question of development and sustainability and that water privatisation does not exempt states from their human rights responsibilities; calls on countries in which water is one of the causes of tension or conflict to cooperate in the sharing of water so as to bring about a win-win situation for the sustainability and peaceful development of the region;

Addressing democracy support challenges and activities

51.  Stresses that the EU should continue to actively support democratic and effective human rights institutions and civil society in their efforts to promote democratisation; welcomes the invaluable assistance provided to CSOs worldwide under the EIDHR, which continues to constitute the flagship instrument of the EU in implementing its external human rights policy; welcomes, in addition, the European Endowment for Democracy’s consistent efforts to promote democracy and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms in the eastern and southern neighbourhoods of the EU;

52.  Recalls that the experience gained and lessons learned from transitions to democracy within the framework of enlargement and neighbourhood policy could contribute positively to the identification of best practices that could be used to support and consolidate other democratisation processes worldwide;

53.  Reiterates, in this context, its call for the Commission to develop EU guidelines for democracy support;

54.  Recommends that the EU step up its efforts to develop a more comprehensive approach to democratisation processes, of which free and fair elections are only one dimension, in order to contribute positively to the strengthening of democratic institutions and public confidence in electoral processes worldwide;

55.  Welcomes the eight Election Observation Missions (EOMs) and the eight Electoral Expert Missions (EEMs) deployed around the globe by the EU in 2016; highlights the fact that since 2015, the EU has deployed 17 EOMs and 23 EEMs; reiterates its positive view of the EU’s continued support for electoral processes and its provision of electoral assistance and support for domestic observers; welcomes and fully supports the work of the Democracy Support and Election Coordination Group (DEG) in this regard;

56.  Recalls the importance of proper follow-up of the reports and recommendations of the EOMs as a way of enhancing their impact and strengthening the EU’s support for democratic standards in the countries concerned;

57.  Welcomes the commitment made by the Commission, the EEAS and the Member States under the current Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy to engage more firmly and consistently with election management bodies, parliamentary institutions and CSOs in third countries, in order to contribute to their empowerment and thus to the strengthening of democratic processes;

58.  Stresses that enlargement policy is one of the strongest tools for reinforcing respect for democratic principles and human rights in the light of current political developments in candidate and potential candidate countries; calls on the Commission to strengthen its efforts to support the reinforcement of democratic political cultures, respect for the rule of law, the independence of the media and the judiciary, and the fight against corruption in those countries; expresses its conviction that the revised European neighbourhood policy should continue to have the protection, active promotion and enforcement of human rights and democratic principles at its core; reiterates the fact that the protection, active support for and enforcement of human rights and democracy are in the interest of both partner countries and the EU; stresses, furthermore, the need for the EU to uphold the commitment it has made to its partners, especially in its neighbourhood, to support economic, social and political reform, protect human rights and help to establish the rule of law, as the best means of strengthening the international order and ensuring the stability of its neighbourhood; recalls that the Union for the Mediterranean can and should shape political dialogue in this area and push for a strong human rights and democracy agenda in the region; recalls that any country aiming to join the EU has to fully guarantee human rights and strictly fulfil the Copenhagen Criteria, with which non-compliance might lead to the freezing of the negotiations;

59.  Stresses that peacebuilding involves efforts to prevent and reduce conflict and strengthen the resilience of political, socioeconomic, and security institutions, in order to lay the foundation for sustainable peace and development in the long term; underlines that the promotion of the rule of law, good governance and human rights is fundamental to sustaining peace;

Ensuring a comprehensive and coherent human rights and democracy support approach via EU policies

60.  Takes note of the adoption of the EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2016; considers that the Annual Report is an indispensable tool for scrutiny, communication and debate on the EU’s policy on human rights and democracy in the world, and a valuable instrument which provides a comprehensive overview of the EU’s priorities, efforts and challenges in this field and which can be used to identify further ways to address them in an effective manner;

61.  Reiterates strongly its invitation to the VP/HR to take part in a debate with MEPs in two plenary sessions per year, once when the Annual Report is presented and once in response to its own report; reiterates the importance of a continuous interinstitutional dialogue, namely regarding the follow-up of Parliament’s urgency resolutions on human rights; recalls that written answers also play an important role in interinstitutional relations, as they allow for a systematic and in-depth follow-up to all the points raised by Parliament and thus contribute to the strengthening of effective coordination; calls on the VP/HR and the EEAS to provide thorough responses to written questions and to address the human rights issues raised at the highest level of dialogue with the countries involved;

62.  Commends the EEAS and the Commission on their exhaustive reporting on the activities undertaken by the EU in the area of human rights and democracy in 2016; considers, nevertheless, that the current format of the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy could be improved by offering a better overview of the concrete impact of the EU’s actions on human rights and democracy in third countries;

63.  Reiterates its view that the adoption of the EU Strategic Framework and the first Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy in 2012 constituted a major milestone for the EU in placing human rights and democracy at the core of its external relations; welcomes the adoption by the Council in July 2015 of a new Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy for 2015-2019 and the performance of a mid-term review in 2017; calls on the VP/HR, the EEAS, the Commission, the Council and the Member States to ensure the efficient and coherent implementation of the current Action Plan, including through genuine collaboration with CSOs; stresses that the Member States should report back on how they have implemented the Plan; draws particular attention to the importance of increasing the effectiveness and maximising the local impact of the tools used to promote respect for human rights and democracy worldwide;

64.  Reiterates its view that a solid consensus and enhanced coordination between Member States and the EU institutions, as well as genuine collaboration with CSOs at local, national and international level, is required in order to advance the human rights and democracy agenda coherently and consistently; stresses firmly that Member States should take greater ownership of the implementation of the Action Plan and the EU Strategic Framework and use them as a blueprint for promoting human rights and democracy bilaterally and multilaterally;

65.  Recognises the key role of the EUSR for Human Rights, Mr Lambrinidis, in enhancing the EU’s visibility and effectiveness in protecting and promoting human rights and democratic principles around the world, and highlights his role in promoting the consistent and coherent implementation of the EU’s human rights policy; welcomes the extension of the EUSR’s mandate until 28 February 2019 and reiterates its request for this mandate to be made permanent; recommends, in this regard, that the EUSR be given own-initiative powers, higher public visibility and adequate staff and financial resources to work at his full potential; recommends, in addition, that the EUSR increase the transparency of his activities, plans, progress reports and reviews;

66.  Notes that the work and impact of the EUSR for Human Rights can be accessed only partially by reviewing the Annual Report on Human Rights, his social media account and the speeches available;

67.  Supports fully the human rights country strategies (HRCSs), which tailor EU action to each country’s specific situation and needs; reiterates its call for MEPs to be given access to strategy content; underlines strongly the importance of taking into account the HRCSs at all levels of policy-making vis-à-vis individual third countries; reiterates that HRCSs should correspond to EU actions to be implemented in each country depending on specific situations, and should contain measurable progress indicators and the possibility to adjust them if necessary;

68.  Welcomes the designation of human rights and gender focal points by all EU delegations and CSDP missions; recalls its recommendation to the VP/HR and the EEAS to develop clear operational guidelines on the role of focal points in delegations, so that they may improve, act as true human rights advisors and carry out their work efficiently;

69.  Acknowledges that Human Rights Dialogues with third countries can be an efficient tool for bilateral engagement and cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights; welcomes the establishment of Human Rights Dialogues with a growing number of countries; praises and further encourages the involvement of civil society in preparatory dialogues; reiterates its call for the development of a comprehensive mechanism for monitoring and reviewing the functioning of Human Rights Dialogues;

70.  Recalls the EU’s commitment to placing human rights and democracy at the centre of its relations with third countries; stresses, therefore, that the advancement of human rights and democratic principles, including human rights conditionality clauses in international agreements, needs to be supported through all EU policies with an external dimension, such as enlargement and neighbourhood policy, the CSDP, and environment, development, security, counter-terrorism, trade, migration, justice and home affairs policies;

71.  Recalls that sanctions are an essential tool of the CFSP; urges the Council to adopt the sanctions provided for in EU legislation when they are deemed necessary to achieving the objectives of the CFSP, in particular with a view to protecting human rights and consolidating and supporting democracy, while ensuring that they do not have an impact on the civilian population; asks that these sanctions be focused on officials identified as responsible for human rights violations in order to punish them for their crimes and abuse;

72.  Notes the Commission’s efforts to fulfil its commitment to including human rights provisions in its impact assessments for legislative and non-legislative proposals, implementing measures and trade and investment agreements; urges the Commission to improve the quality and comprehensiveness of the impact assessments and to ensure the systematic incorporation of human rights issues in the text of legislative and non-legislative proposals;

73.  Reiterates its full support for the EU’s strong engagement in promoting the advancement of human rights and democratic principles through cooperation with UN structures and UN specialised agencies, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), regional organisations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the African Union, and the Arab League, and other organisations, in line with Articles 21 and 22 TEU;

74.  Stresses that in order to fulfil the ambitious objectives set out in the new Action Plan, the EU must set aside sufficient resources and expertise, in terms of both dedicated human resources in delegations and headquarters, and funds available;

75.  Reiterates, furthermore, that active and consistent EU engagement in all UN human rights mechanisms, in particular the Third Committee of the UNGA and the UNHRC, is of the utmost importance; acknowledges the efforts of the EEAS, the EU delegations in New York and Geneva and the Member States to increase EU coherence on human rights issues at UN level; encourages the EU to step up its efforts to make its voice heard, including by intensifying the growing implementation of cross-regional initiatives and by co-sponsoring and taking the lead on resolutions; underlines the need for EU leadership to push for UN reform with the goal of reinforcing the impact and strength of the rules-based multilateral system, and of ensuring more efficient human rights protection and the advancement of international law;

o
o   o

76.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary-General, the President of the 70th UN General Assembly, the President of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the EU heads of delegation.

(1) http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/ProfessionalInterest/cedaw.pdf
(2) http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/69/167
(3) https://treaties.un.org/doc/source/docs/A_RES_45_158-E.pdf
(4) http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10
(5) http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf
(6) http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/generalassembly/docs/globalcompact/A_RES_71_1.pdf
(7) https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld
(8) https://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/rms/090000168008482e
(9) http://www.oecd.org/corporate/mne/oecdguidelinesformultinationalenterprises.htm
(10) https://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/131181.pdf
(11) http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-10897-2015-INIT/en/pdf
(12) http://europa.eu/globalstrategy/sites/globalstrategy/files/regions/files/eugs_review_web_0.pdf
(13) http://europa.eu/globalstrategy/sites/globalstrategy/files/full_brochure_year_1.pdf
(14) OJ L 76, 22.3.2011, p. 56.
(15) https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/eu_guidelines_rights_of_child_0.pdf
(16) https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/sites/devco/files/european-consensus-on-development-final-20170626_en.pdf
(17) https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/eu_human_rights_guidelines_on_freedom_of_expression_online_and_offline_en.pdf
(18) https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/137585.pdf
(19) http://www.ceceurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/CofEU_119404.pdf
(20) https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/guidelines_death_penalty_st08416_en.pdf
(21) https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/20120626_guidelines_en.pdf
(22) https://www.osce.org/odihr/19223?download=true
(23) https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/137584.pdf
(24) https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/eu_guidelines_on_human_rights_dialogues_with_third_countries.pdf
(25) OJ C 303, 15.12.2009, p. 12.
(26) https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/16173_08_en.pdf
(27) https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/10019_08_en.pdf
(28) OJ L 130, 19.5.2017, p. 1.
(29) https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/eu_guidelines_hrd_en.pdf
(30) http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-10255-2016-INIT/en/pdf
(31) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0344.
(32) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0502.
(33) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0404.
(34) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0405.
(35) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0300.
(36) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0020.
(37) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0066.
(38) OJ C 181, 19.5.2016, p. 69.
(39) http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session31/Documents/A_HRC_31_56_en.doc
(40) OJ C 153 E, 31.5.2013, p. 115.
(41) OJ L 134, 29.5.2009, p. 1.
(42) OJ L 101, 15.4.2011, p. 1.
(43) OJ C 310, 25.8.2016, p. 35.


Hong Kong, 20 years after handover
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European Parliament recommendation of 13 December 2017 to the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on Hong Kong, 20 years after handover (2017/2204(INI))
P8_TA(2017)0495A8-0382/2017

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Basic Law of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Hong Kong adopted on 4 April 1990, which entered into force on 1 July 1997,

–  having regard to the Joint Declaration of the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Question of Hong Kong of 19 December 1984, also known as the Sino-British Joint Declaration,

–  having regard to the joint reports of the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of 26 April 2017 on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region – Annual Report 2016 (JOIN(2017)0016), of 25 April 2016 on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region – Annual Report 2015 (JOIN(2016)0010), and of 24 April 2015 on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region – Annual Report 2014 (JOIN(2015)0012),

–  having regard to the joint communication from the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of 22 June 2016 on elements for a new EU strategy on China (JOIN(2016)0030), the Commission communication of 14 October 2015 entitled “Trade for all: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy” (COM(2015)0497), and the Council conclusions of 18 July 2016 on EU Strategy on China,

–  having regard to the EU’s ‘One China’ policy,

–  having regard to the 1999 EU-HKSAR Customs Co-operation Agreement(1),

–  having regard to the visa-free entry to the Schengen area(2) and the rest of the European Union for holders of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passports and vice versa,

–  having regard to the EU-China dialogue on human rights launched in 1995,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Hong Kong, in particular those of 24 November 2016 on the case of Gui Minhai, jailed publisher in China(3), of 4 February 2016 on the case of the missing book publishers in Hong Kong(4), of 15 December 2005 on human rights situation in Tibet and Hong Kong(5), of 8 April 2003 on the Third and Fourth Annual Reports by the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region(6), of 19 December 2002 on Hong Kong(7), of 26 October 2000 on the First and Second Annual Reports by the Commission on the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong(8), of 8 October 1998 on the communication from the Commission to the Council on the European Union and Hong Kong: Beyond 1997(9), and of 10 April 1997 on the situation in Hong Kong(10),

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on China, in particular those of 16 December 2015(11) and of 14 March 2013 on EU-China relations(12),

–  having regard to Rule 113 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A8-0382/2017),

A.  whereas sovereignty over Hong Kong was transferred from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on 1 July 1997;

B.  whereas the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration guaranteed, and the 1990 Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) stipulates that Hong Kong will maintain the autonomy and independence of the executive, legislature and judiciary for 50 years after the handover of sovereignty;

C.  whereas the EU and the European Parliament remain strong supporters of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy under China;

D.  whereas the EU and Hong Kong hold an annual high-level meeting called the Structured Dialogue, which was initiated in 2005; whereas the 10th annual Structured Dialogue took place in Brussels on 17 November 2016;

E.  whereas bilateral relations between the EU and Hong Kong continue to grow stronger; whereas the EU is Hong Kong’s second largest trading partner after mainland China, and Hong Kong is the EU’s 14th largest trading partner in goods and a key partner for trade in services; whereas future bilateral relations should benefit from Hong Kong’s need for further economic diversification, close links with the New Silk Road and greater integration with the Pearl River Delta region; whereas according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Hong Kong is the world's second largest target market for foreign direct investment;

F.  whereas Hong Kong’s defence and foreign affairs are within the remit of the Government of the PRC;

G.  whereas the Basic Law gives the Hong Kong SAR the right to organise its own external economic relations and to become a member of international organisations;

H.  whereas even after 1 July 1997, existing agreements on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and international human rights agreements have continued to apply; whereas the PRC has also signed and ratified international agreements guaranteeing these rights and has thus acknowledged the significance and universality of human rights; whereas China has established forums for dialogue with the EU and other international partners on matters linked to the rule of law;

I.  whereas Hong Kong is a member or associate member of more than 20 international organisations including the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Interpol, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the International Olympic Committee, the International Chamber of Commerce and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions;

J.  whereas Hong Kong is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

K.  whereas the Basic Law lays down provisions providing protection for human rights and individual freedoms;

L.  whereas Article 27 of the Basic Law guarantees freedom of speech, of the press and publication, and of association, assembly, procession and demonstration;

M.  whereas Articles 45 and 68 of the Basic Law stipulate that the Chief Executive and all members of the Legislative Council should ultimately be elected by universal suffrage;

N.  whereas the PRC State Council issued a white paper on the practice of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy in Hong Kong on 10 June 2014, stressing that the autonomy of the Hong Kong SAR is ultimately subject to central PRC government authorisation;

O.  whereas Hong Kong’s traditional open society has paved the way for the development of a genuine and independent civil society that actively and constructively takes part in the public life of the SAR;

P.  whereas Hong Kong’s civil society has raised public awareness of civil and political rights, religion, healthcare, the environment, climate change, women’s political participation, the rights of domestic workers, LGBTI rights, and academic and cultural freedoms;

Q.  whereas Hong Kong enjoys a lively multi-party system; whereas, over the years, the people of Hong Kong have witnessed mass demonstrations in favour of democracy and the full implementation of the Basic Law, including the 2014 protests by the so‑called Umbrella Movement, as well as on media freedoms, and, among other things, against the disappearance of the Hong Kong booksellers;

R.  whereas during the last 20 years, some journalists and other media workers, often supporters of democracy and expressing critical views, have been forced to resign, moved to cover less sensitive areas and, in some cases, even threatened with violence;

S.  whereas at the end of 2015, four Hong Kong residents and one non-resident associated with the publishing house Mighty Current and its bookshop disappeared, whereas months later, information emerged that they were detained in mainland China in undisclosed locations, and whereas one of the released booksellers reported that his confession of wrongdoing had been forced;

T.  whereas, over the last few years, growing self-censorship has been observed in the Hong Kong media on matters concerning mainland China, as also corroborated by the surveys and reports by the Hong Kong Journalists Association;

U.  whereas Hong Kong offers scope for pursuing high-level training and reaching a high academic level, but academic freedom is in danger owing to repeated interferences by China’s central government, particularly as regards university council appointments;

V.  whereas a poll conducted at regular intervals by Hong Kong University’s public opinion programme catalogues a lengthy decline in identification with China;

W.  whereas in January 2017, the Hong Kong Environment Bureau published the cross-sectoral ‘Hong Kong Climate Action Plan 2030+’, which, following the Paris Agreement, sets new targets for carbon emissions, namely reducing carbon intensity by two thirds and absolute carbon emissions by one third by 2030 compared with the 2005 base line;

X.  having regard to the importance of the port of Hong Kong to the PRC and international trade;

1.  Recommends the following to the Council, the Commission and the Vice President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy:

   (a) to stress with the authorities of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the PRC that in the same way that the EU’s ‘One China’ policy is the cornerstone of the EU’s engagement, fully respecting the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR and the ‘one country, two systems’ principle is of key importance for the development and further strengthening and expanding of present and future relations with the EU, and that intervening in Hong Kong's internal affairs has the potential to undermine that principle and should therefore be avoided;
   (b) to condemn the constant interference of the PRC in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, which may put at risk the long-term viability of the ‘one country, two systems’ model;
   (c) to reinforce bilateral dialogue with the Government of the Hong Kong SAR, not least through the annual EU-Hong Kong Structured Dialogue, on a wide range of topics and policy areas, such as democracy, human rights, the rule of law, trade, investment, financial services, customs, the environment, climate change, research and education, to support the implementation of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, and to continue annual reporting by the VP/HR and the Commission to Parliament and the Council on developments in Hong Kong;
   (d) to acknowledge that, over time, Hong Kong evolved into an open society in which citizens enjoy human rights, freedoms, high standards of public health and safety, transparency, and have a judiciary which is trusted, and where the rule of law and low levels of corruption prevail, and that the people of Hong Kong have a legitimate right to expect to continue enjoying their way of life and these rights and values under a high degree of autonomy;
   (e) to emphasise that respecting Hong Kong’s autonomy is essential for its further positive development and favourable relations with the Chinese mainland, and for the resumption of the dialogues between the mainland and Taiwan;
   (f) to commit fully to supporting Hong Kong’s autonomy, prosperity and the rights and freedoms of its people, and to express firm support for the start of a political reform process which complies with international standards and the Basic Law, which grants the people of the SAR the right to elect and to be elected in the selection process for top leadership positions, and which reflects the majority view within Hong Kong public opinion;
   (g) to call, in this context, on the Governments of Hong Kong and the PRC to maintain their commitment and to build up momentum once again for the reform of universal suffrage in the future election of the Chief Executive and the members of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, in order to have an election system that is democratic, fair, open and transparent;
   (h) to find ways to support the consolidation of Hong Kong’s democracy and its multi-party system and to express concern at the increasing harassment of opposition political parties and the refusal of the Companies Registry to register a number of pro-democracy groups;
   (i) to welcome the record turnout in the last Legislative Council elections in 2016, while regretting that, in 2016, Hong Kong authorities refused to register a new pro-independence political party for the Legislative Council elections and disqualified six candidates with views promoting greater autonomy for Hong Kong;
   (j) to condemn threats to the personal safety of pro-democracy politicians, including abductions and physical violence, as reported by some lawmakers;
   (k) to welcome the release on bail of the three leaders of the pro-democracy movement Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow recently sentenced to jail for between six and eight months for ‘unlawful assembly’, after having been sentenced last year to non-custodial penalties, including community service, for their participation in peaceful protests; to urge the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal to consider the cases of Mr Wong, Mr Law and Mr Chow in accordance with Hong Kong’s obligations under international human rights law, and to urge the Hong Kong Government to revise the Public Order Ordinance to bring it in line with international human rights standards;
   (l) to point out to China that, even though the Basic Law, the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the ‘one country, two systems’ principle are largely respected, there are growing and widespread concerns that the agreed high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong, or the legal value, or the spirit of the Sino-British Joint Declaration have been called into question;
   (m) to express deep concern about the National People’s Congress Standing Committee issuing interpretations, whether unsolicited or otherwise, of the Basic Law prior to court rulings, suggesting that democratically elected legislators should be disqualified, and thus undermining trust in the full independence of the judiciary in the individual cases in question; to recall that the Hong Kong court system and normal judicial process should be the main instrument to resolve disputes;
   (n) to emphasise that the handling of the case of the five missing booksellers has raised regrettable questions about the autonomy of the SAR, as stated in its Basic Law, and about the lack of clarity concerning the role of mainland law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong;
   (o) to express concern at allegations that China’s law enforcement agencies are operating in Hong Kong, which would constitute a violation of the Basic Law and would be inconsistent with the ‘one country, two systems’ principle;
   (p) to underline that freedom of information and freedom of speech have generally been upheld, while expressing concern at the steady deterioration of press freedom in Hong Kong, with growing pressure on the media, both print and electronic, increasing self-censorship with regard, in particular, to covering sensitive issues on mainland China or concerning the Hong Kong Government, and the tightening of control over the sale of sensitive political books by monopolising ownership of almost all storefront bookshops;
   (q) to continue the bilateral dialogue with the Government of the Hong Kong SAR on a variety of policy areas as well as on the implementation of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle;
   (r) to reiterate that any legislation introduced under the Basic Law, including any legislation to be proposed on the basis of Article 23 of the Basic Law such as a possible National Security Bill, must not interfere with the independence and exclusive jurisdiction of the Hong Kong judiciary and should not undermine obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), nor should it undermine freedoms such as freedom of speech, media freedoms, freedom of association and assembly, freedom of demonstration, freedom to form trade unions and to strike, and freedom of academic research and cultural and artistic expression, and should not be used to target human rights activists and government critics;
   (s) to submit to Parliament in the near future proposals for the development of cooperation with the Hong Kong authorities in the area of tax transparency, including Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI), the combating of money laundering and terrorist funding, and the implementation of the measures called for by the OECD in its base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) package;
   (t) to encourage and support the regionally coordinated pro-democracy movements as a key tool to foster Asian cooperation on democracy and human rights issues;
   (u) to urge the Hong Kong Government to take more effective measures against tax evasion and tax fraud, and to take measures to monitor and sanction firms that facilitate tax evasion and fraud through their subsidiaries in Hong Kong;
   (v) to find ways to support Hong Kong’s civil society, in particular organisations that uphold universal values, promote human rights and support the independence of the judiciary and press freedom; to stress that only non-violent forms of protest and dialogue can be a means to engage in disputes;
   (w) to recommend to the Legislative Council of Hong Kong that it carefully examine future legislation on high-speed rail in consultation with civil society organisations and the citizens of Hong Kong;
   (x) to encourage Hong Kong’s academic institutions to maintain the high standards of their curricula and research and to preserve academic freedoms, but to express concern, in this respect, about the procedure for the appointment of university councils and the external interferences aimed at modifying school curricula, which could undermine the independence of higher education institutions; to promote the strengthening of ties between European and Hong Kong academic institutions;
   (y) to call for the timely adoption of an anti-discrimination law;
   (z) to recall that Hong Kong’s society and its people have been heavily influenced by immigration, including refugees, and to call on the Hong Kong Government to bring its refugee and migration policy in line with international standards, particularly when it comes to unaccompanied minor refugees;
   (aa) to point out that, even though recent surveys show that many inhabitants of Hong Kong wish to emigrate, it would be unfortunate if Hong Kong could not keep its brightest and best, and troubling if so many, particularly young people, were to lose their faith in the future;
   (ab) to express concern that the UN Panel of Experts on North Korea has established in its reports that Hong Kong is one of two business jurisdictions in which the largest share of North Korean-controlled front companies have been operating; recalls that joint international ventures with North Korea are in violation of the most recent UN Security Council resolution 2388 (2017) and urges the Hong Kong authorities to address the concerns of the UN Panel of Experts on North Korea;
   (ac) to draw the attention of the Hong Kong authorities to the fact that, according to a study, municipal waste in Hong Kong has increased by 80 % in the past decade, which is more than double that of the population growth, and to assist them in developing an effective waste reduction policy, promoting recycling and other forms of circular economy, and raising awareness of responsible consumption;
   (ad) to underline to the Chinese authorities that full respect for Hong Kong’s autonomy could provide the model for a process of deep democratic political reforms in China and for the gradual liberalisation and opening up of Chinese society;
   (ae) to underline the EU’s commitment to strengthening democracy, including the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, fundamental freedoms and rights, transparency, and freedom of information and expression in Hong Kong;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this recommendation to the Council, the Commission and the Vice‑President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and, for information, to the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

(1) OJ L 151, 18.6.1999, p. 20.
(2) OJ L 81, 21.3.2001, p. 1.
(3) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0444.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0045.
(5) OJ C 286 E, 23.11.2006, p. 523.
(6) OJ C 64 E, 12.3.2004, p. 130.
(7) OJ C 31 E, 5.2.2004, p. 261.
(8) OJ C 197, 12.7.2001, p. 387.
(9) OJ C 328, 26.10.1998, p. 186.
(10) OJ C 132, 28.4.1997, p. 222.
(11) OJ C 399, 24.11.2017, p. 92.
(12) OJ C 36, 29.1.2016, p. 126.

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